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A Needle in a Haystack (Sunrise, Jarek, Glen)

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Glen drops to his knees, panting and out of breath. In the cold light of day, every door is a reminder of his failure.

Fuck. Useless. 

He draws himself back to his feet and pulls up his hood. He starts the long, slow walk back to the laundry. Anyone who approaches him is met with a withering glare and cold, stony silence.
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No one makes eye contact with the armed stranger, and the crowds melt away now rather than touch him.
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Glen mutters into his hood about how now they will leave him alone, but he doesn't stop to talk to anyone. He goes back over every twist, every turn, every move he made, dwelling on every misstep, every wrong move, until he arrives back at the laundry. He makes his way back up to the roof if he does not see Sunrise and Jarek downstairs.
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Sunrise, once Glen has disappeared around a corner, makes her way back down the stairs (in a calm, civilized manner) in order to meet him at ground level when he returns.

She gives him a sympathetic look. "No luck?"
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Glen shakes his head. "No. She disappeared into a housing complex. And the locals swarmed me, so she had a long head start." He frowns. "I'm sorry. That was an enormous waste of time and effort, and on top of it, I failed."
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Jarek tries to maintain his pursuit from above once Glen has safely landed, but the rooftops don't cooperate and he loses track of both of them before long. He finds the quickest way back to the ground, via a drainpipe, a couple of upper landings, and a stack of crates that were not quite as stable as they looked. When the teetering boxes are steady again, he makes his way back toward the laundry, sweeping the streets with a glare, daring a clue to pop into view.

He can't sort out what just happened. Someone took an interest in them dropping by Sunrise's friend's place, made a random dash for it, magicked herself to safety when they were at risk of catching up, and the whole neighbourhood swarmed Glen to slow him down? The best sheephound Jarek knows couldn't move a herd faster. That couldn't have been planned, could it? So it was spontaneous, a pack protecting one of its own. Here in the slums where they said no one could count on anyone.

By the time Jarek overcomes his iffy sense of direction, Glen has already met up with Sunrise on the street again. "Either I've been fed a bunch of malarkey about how cutthroat folks are around here," Jarek remarks in a low voice, "or that lady's some kind of folk hero."
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"You flushed her out at least," she points out. "She's not following us anymore, and that's one less spy they can use against us. If we hurry, maybe we can find a lead before they have a chance to regroup and try something else."

To Jarek she adds, "Maybe. Or it just could be that she's a local and he's not. We take care of our own against outsiders in these areas."
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Glen can't help but grin a little, a tiny sliver of his usual warmth returning. "You believe that she was following us now, huh?" He winks, gaining back just a little more of himself as the anger and frustration to thaw a bit in the presence of his friends.
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She grins and rolls her eyes. "Yes, okay, she was worth following. If only to get her to go away. Now, can we go find this person?"
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Glen nods, taking the brief pause as an opportunity to pull out a plain handkerchief out of his pocket and mop his brow of some of the remaining evidence of his gut-busting sprints. "Yep. Hopefully Old Hacari can help us. But we should be careful. She might have just been following us because we were strangers, but now someone knows what we look like. Just... keep an eye out." He stuffs the handkerchief back in his pocket. "Onward." And he starts walking with them in the direction of Old Hacari's, keeping an eye out for any oddities once again.

Perception 14
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"I will point out," Sunrise says quietly as they walk, "that we're in the slums. Tiefling slums. You two are strangers, and non-tiefling strangers at that, and this isn't my neighborhood; most people, if they recognize me, will do so for my performances. And we're all of us armed. ...Some of us... more obviously than others," she adds diplomatically. "My point is that people are going to be watching us, and some of them will be hostile. That doesn't necessarily mean they're a threat. Just something to keep in mind."
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Glen responds quietly as well, "I understand that. I will similarly point out that we are dealing with a powerful crime family that probably has reach into this area, especially as they're likely combing the city looking for the same people we are. Some of the people watching us very likely are or could easily be threats, to us or to the people we're looking for. You're not wrong at all. I just think the picture is a little bigger and things are a little more complicated than us just being outsiders."

At the comment about his weapons, he shakes his head. "I understand your concern about being obviously armed, but it's tough to hide a bow at all, and I couldn't exactly put my sword down the leg of my pants." He chuckles a little. "Seriously, though, I brought my weapons because I don't want to end up with a Redfang's knife between my ribs - or, worse, one of yours - and having lost Rik's family. I don't see a better way to mitigate that danger."

He frowns a little. "I'm sorry if I am making this more difficult. I couldn't catch that girl, and now I'm drawing far too much attention." He looks at them earnestly. "Tell me truly, should I just go? I can go back up to the roof and just try to keep an eye on you both. Honey can come with me, and I can relay messages to you through her."
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"No," she says firmly. "I'm simply offering perspective. Yes, we have real threats to keep an eye out for, but just be aware that there's going to be a lot of false positives." She shakes her head. "Please stay."

At a crossroad, she hesitates. "Over there, I think?"
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Glen lets himself relax a little, and nods. "Got it. Thanks."

He looks around the crossroads, remembering very clearly the directions and how they got to where they are. "Yes, definitely over there. It was: out to the main street, a block south, take a right, third flood above the grocer. We should be nearly there."
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She nods. "Full speed ahead, then. Let's go climb some more stairs." Giving him a ragged grin, she adds, "My calves are going to hate me in the morning, you know."
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Glen grins, gently clapping her on the back the way in a chummy way, but without the force of a Jarek bro-pat. "You should come to morning maneuvers with me some time. You haven't been sore until you've been doing calisthenics before the sun comes up. It's a good sore, though. Makes you feel alive." The camaraderie and friendly ribbing help to put him more at ease, the wall of frustration and self-doubt continuing to thaw.
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She sniffs in feigned primness. "I'll leave pre-dawn calisthenics to you big strong men. The only sweating I intend to do is that caused by stage lights." She grins. "Does it count as participating if I sit nearby and watch admiringly?"

When they get to the grocer's she stops, looking up at the building. "Well. Let's go meet Old Hacari."
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Glen allows himself a short, loud laugh. "Sunrise, I can tell from looking at you that you'd probably put a bunch of my recruits to shame at morning maneuvers. You'd like it, I think, and Vice-Captain Imokina would like you, too. But that's all for another time." He looks up as well, looking to see if there are exterior stairs or if they'll have to go from the inside, as in the launder's.

"Let's do it. You want to take the lead again?"
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"I can do the talky part, sure," she agrees, and points. "Stairs are over there."

Before stepping on them she hesitates and lifts her skirt off the ground. "...Watch your step," she says with a grimace. "I'm not sure I trust these stairs. And maybe don't touch anything."
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The place Verity has directed them to is... a hole.

There is no other way to describe it. The 'grocer' downstairs is selling off-the-shelf about-to-go-bad perishables which smell stale and sour and unwholesome but may well be the closest thing to "fresh" dairy many of the slum inhabitants can get for their families. People file in and out of the store on the ground floor, clutching their purchases closely to their chests. The trio of adventurers receive looks here, too, although now the focus is less on their weapons and more on the richness of their clothes: even 'dressed down', the three are clearly disproportionately wealthy to many of the locals.

They see several people among the crowd who are obviously stricken and going through varying stages of the plague.

The stairs up to the third floor are filthy and rotten, creaking at their every step. When they knock on the flimsy door made from wood so thin it might as well be tissue paper, it wobbles on its hinges. An elderly voice, tinged high and with an odd note of hysteria, calls out to them. "Come in, come in! Don't mind the cats!"

Inside, it is dark and musty and warm. An elderly tiefling woman with skin like slate ash putters about, carefully not tripping over the dozens of cats which take up every available surface. She grins when she sees the visitors, her expression lighting up. "Hello, helloooo, my dears. Come in, what seems to be the problem? Knocked up, dear?"
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"No, ma'am," Sunrise says with a smile. "Actually, we were hoping you could help us find someone." Quickly, she sketches out their cover story of the missing brother. "My friend Verity said you're the best with babies," she says, a little shyly, "so we thought, if he'd ever had an emergency, he might have come to you. Have you seen any half-orcs with twin babies?"
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"A half-orc boy with twin babies?" Old Hacari hoots with laughter, doubling over. "Ahahahahahaha! Haha! Ha. Hahaha. No. How silly of you, dear."

Then she gives a sharp look at one of the cats, which is silently grooming itself in the middle of the floor. "What? NO. Shut up."

Looking back up at the visitors, she smiles benignly. "My memory isn't what it used to be, dears. Come in, come in, let me sell you a cat while I think on it. Maybe. Maybe."
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Glen watches carefully, a little wary and a little amused by the woman's strange behavior. He's slightly on edge, but he figures maybe all outsiders get this odd treatment. He sizes her up, trying to determine if it's an act and her true intentions. "We don't need to buy a cat, ma'am, but we know your time and expertise are valuable, so we are more than happy to pay you for your thoughts." He reaches into his pouch and pulls out three gold coins and holds them out for her to inspect and take.

Insight 18
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Hacari swipes the coins out of his hand so swiftly he feels only a soft breeze kiss his now-naked palm. Laughing again, she pockets the money. "Don't be silly, lad. Ha. Nice boy like you must love cats. You're not allergic, are you? Well, only one way to be sure."

Without pausing for breath or thought, she scoops up a startled cat and hurls it directly at Glen's face.

[OOC: Dex check to catch or dodge.]
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100 Re: A Needle in a Haystack (Sunrise, Jarek, Glen) on Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:53 am

Sunrise, by contrast, is already cooing over the cats and trying to coax them over to be petted. "Oh gosh, how angry do you think Veshti would be if I brought home a kitty - oh dear goddess!" She muffles a combination squawk and laugh at the sudden flying cat at Glen's face.
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