Ms Zaffre opened the door to The Wicked Scepter and walked in with Juniper and Grace following behind. The place was a dark place with a few candles lighting the area. There was a large, open area that served as a common room that was covered in open books and scrolls.
“Hello Ms Zaffre, did you find what you needed in the market?” A teenage boy, about the age of Grace, looked up from a stack of books as Ms Zaffre entered.
“Yes I did,” She said as she strolled into the place.
The boy stood up and noticed the other two people standing in the doorway.
“And who are these two?” He asked.
“They are about to tell me,” Ms Zaffre said. “Go put on a pot for tea, Miles. We have company.”
Ms Zaffre lead Grace and Juniper over to a large dining room table covered in a variety of strange plants and other substances as well as more, open books.
“Petrov,” Ms Zaffre said clapping her hands and in a small poof of blue smoke, a translucent spirit appeared beside her.
“Please clean up this area. We have guests,” She said.
The translucent spirit nodded its head and began moving plants, ingredients, and books to the nearby counter to de-clutter the large table.
“So like I said. I believe we needed to talk,” Ms Zaffre said taking a seat. “Please, sit down. Relax. I’m not going to bite.”
“Yes, of course,” Juniper said and she pushed Grace towards a chair.
They both sat down as the young man reappeared with a kettle of boiling water. He had bright, blond hair and wore a thick, purple robe.
“Here you go, Ms Zaffre,” Miles said.
“Thank you Miles,” Ms Zaffre said.
She looked up at Grace and Juniper.
“Would you two like some tea? It’s made from the best tea leaves this side of The Gaea Mountains,” Ms Zaffre said.
“No,” Grace said in a low voice.
“We’ll both take some,” Juniper said giving Grace a side eye.
“Wonderful,” Ms Zaffre said. “Petrov, pour them both some tea.”
The translucent spirit moved around the table pouring tea for all four of the people inside The Wicked Scepter.
“Now both of you tell me about yourselves,” Ms Zaffre said. “Why are you here?”
“Well you see, Ms…Ms Zaffre. My name is Juniper Duskmere of Perralyth and this here is Grace.”
“Hello,” Grace said.
“We are a part of an adventuring party that has traveled down The Vern Road from Bishop to here in Xylon. We all kind of had our own issues to explore in the city,” Juniper explained.
“And why did you come to the city?” Ms Zaffre asked.
“Well…I…” Juniper glanced over to Miles.
“It’s alright. This is Miles. He is my apprentice and if you trust me, then you can trust him,” Ms Zaffre said.
“And why should we trust you?” Grace asked.
“Grace?” Juniper turned her head toward her.
“It’s alright. She is quite smart to ask questions like that,” Ms Zaffre said. “Of course I did make sure that you didn’t get a hand sliced off by Hector or arrested by the city guard. Also I did pay for the ring in your pocket.”
Grace froze for a moment. Then she slowly reached into her pocket and retrieved the ring. She placed the golden ring on the table in front of herself.
“How did you know?” Grace asked.
“Well I do have magical means of discovering things, but with this I just took a guess. I know Hector can be quite a hot head, but he never blindly accuses people of being a thief if he doesn’t have a good reason to,” Ms Zaffre said. “Now, Juniper. Why did you come here to Xylon?”
“I came here because my brother, Julian Duskmere, is some kind of trouble and I’m not sure all the details and how to help him,” Juniper said.
Ms Zaffre nodded.
“My brother Julian had a beautiful wife and a nice life in Perralyth, but one day he left it all behind. He just left in the middle of the night without a word. I tracked him down to Ty’rria where I found out he was somehow mixed up with some dark magic and worshipers of a demonic force. I tried to stop him, but he disappeared through a dark portal and he was gone. I wasn’t able to find anything else about him there, so I traveled onward to Bishop. I believed that someone here in Xylon might be able to find out what is going on with him and how I can bring him home,” Juniper said.
Ms Zaffre thought for a moment.
“I do not know the specifics of the cult you speak about, especially one in Ty’rria. But it does sound like your brother is mixed up with some bad people. Dark magic and deals with devils and demons are very serious things and are not to be taken lightly. I can ask around to some people in the city and get back to you if I learn anything.”
“That would be much appreciated.”
“My initial guess is that the portals you spoke about were rifts between our mortal realm and a darker world. It’s possible he was taken, or willingly went, to a place like a Devilish City in The Nine Hells or The Demonic World of The Abyss. If that is true, he could be anywhere and almost impossible to track.”
Juniper’s expressed saddened.
“Do not give up, Juniper. If your brother does return to the mortal world, I would be able to use Scrying Magic to find out his location.”
“You would do that for me?” Juniper asked.
“Well you two do interest me,” Ms Zaffre said. “Plus I believe there is someway you two may help me.”
“How?” Grace asked.
“First let me ask you about your reason for being in the city. Why are you here, Grace?” Ms Zaffre asked.
“Ummm… I’m not… I don’t…”
“Grace, you seem like someone who is surrounded in secrets. Almost a dark aura surrounding you,” Ms Zaffre said. “Would you say that is accurate.”
“I…I like to keep some things to myself,” Grace said.
“I too like to keep some things to myself,” Ms Zaffre said. “But sometimes you get further in life by giving information instead of taking things.”
Ms Zaffre glanced down at the ring.
“If you spend your whole life only taking things, you might end up isolating everyone around you. You do not have to be an open book, but you cannot hide from everyone. That’s how you end up alone,” Ms Zaffre said. “At least tell me how you became a part of this group.”
“Alright,” Grace nodded. “I was traveling in a caravan towards Frost Haven from Augendale when we were attacked by bandits. The rest of the people were killed, but the bandits chained me up. They planned on leading me through the Ollick Forrest to Perralyth where they were going to sell me into slavery. However they were intercepted by Juniper. She killed them both and saved me. Then we traveled to Bishop where we met up with the other members of the group.”
“So you traveled The Vern Road before?”
“Just the one time prior,” Grace said.
“Why were you traveling to Frost Haven?” She asked.
Grace grew quiet.
“That’s a secret,” Grace said.
“Very well,” Ms Zaffre said. “One last thing. I sense that you have another one present here in this room, do you not?”
Both Juniper and Grace looked at each other.
“Maybe in your bag,” Ms Zaffre said glancing at Juniper.
“Oh…uh… no you must be mistaken,” Juniper said grabbing her bag.
She felt Piakol, her Dragon companion, squirm around in the bag.
Ms Zaffre’s brow narrowed a bit.
“Juniper. I want you to know that certain beings or creatures give off a feint magical aura. Very skilled Arcanists, Wizards, and Sorcerrers will pick up on that magic. They could identify it and know if it is a friend or a threat,” Ms Zaffre. “Another thing is that this city does not look kindly on beasts that might be a threat to them. They will hunt the creature down and kill anyone who stands in their way.”
Ms Zaffre stood.
“I do not share this thought process, but I do understand that Xylon is on the edge of greatness as it rises from a war-torn world. The three regions of the Confederacy are all struggling over things like money and power and any feeling of a threat could lead to paranoia and violence. It doesn’t take much these days to stir up a mob,” She said. “Now this can potentially be a safe space for magical people and creatures as long as I know that we share a common interest Do you understand?”
As Ms Zaffre stood in front of them, there was an aura of great power that both Juniper and Grace picked up on and it frightened them both a little bit.
“I understand,” Juniper said raising her bag and resting it on the table.
She unclapsed it and raised the top, as Piakol poured out onto the table. He looked around confused and spread his limbs and flapped his wings.
“What is going on?” Piakol asked, speaking in Draconic.
“Hello, Pickle,” Juniper said, in common. “This is Ms Zaffre. She is a friend who is offering to help us.”
Juniper looked up at Ms Zaffre.
“Hello, Piakol.” Ms. Zaffre said. “You are quite impressive for such a small dragon.”
Piakol let out a small snort of fire before turning back to Juniper.
“Are you sure we can trust her?” Piakol asked in Dragon-tongue.
Juniper just nodded.
“Well then, I do believe that Piakol would not be welcome within the city walls and I’m sure he hates staying in that bag. If you are both ok with it, Piakol can stay here. The magical aura of the place will mask him and he will be able to fly around here. I will feed him and give him a place to sleep, as long as he promises not to get into any trouble or burn anything down,” Ms. Zaffre said.
“Pickle? Is that something that you would want? Do you want to stay here for a little bit? It would just be a day or two. No more,” Juniper said. “And I’ll come visit. All the time.”
“Alright,” Piakol said. “If that’s what you request of me.”
Juniper ran her hand down Piakol’s scales.
“She’s right that you can’t fly around outside and I know that the bag must be tight for you. Here you can fly around and stretch out a bit,” Juniper said.
“Do not leave me,” Piakol said.
“I would never,” Juniper said.
“Piakol can stay here with Miles as I go out and investigate a few things for you, Juniper,” Ms Zaffre said. “You can stay here if you want.”
“That is a generous offer, but we must get back to The Pilgrim’s Rest to meet up with the other members of our adventuring party,” Juniper said.
“Very well. I hope to see you both again soon and by then I should have some information for you,” Ms Zaffre said.
Both Juniper and Grace stood up from the table.
Grace turned back to Ms Zaffre.
“Yes?” She asked.
“Go ahead and take the ring with you. Let it be a reminder that you sometimes need to open up to others and show them sides to you, you’d rather hide away as well as a reminder that the next time you decide to steal something, there won’t always be someone there to have your back. Your actions do have consequences, so be very careful with sticky fingers.”
Grace nodded and quickly pocketed the gold ring.
Then both her and Juniper left The Wicked Scepter and traveled back towards The Pilgrim’s Rest, but they went around the market district, making sure they would not pass by Hector and his jewelry shop.