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The Mark


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Trephine slips into the tavern behind a wide-shouldered gentleman who does not notice her. Nor does he notice what he doesn't have any more once she has passed from his shadow.

She looks cold and she shivers. Her face tightens characteristic of discomfort. Her brows are drawn together in dismay. She makes her way to the huge hearth and her shoulders tremble ever so slightly as her back is turned and the view is blocked. She deftly empties his slit-strung purse of all contents and tosses the evidence on the fire while appearing to warm her hands. Her wide floor-length cloak flares to block the view of her hands, but not her legs. Distraction.

Once the cracked leather is charred and turned to ash, she looks to all the world that she is being helpful, rebuilding the fire. She fusses a moment with the poker, looking slightly inept. She struggles a little with the heavy wood. She's just a waif coming out of the cold.

Straightening, she turns and heads for a dark corner, stopping only for a whispered word into the ear of the tavernkeeper. A gentle hand on his forearm, a nod, a tremulous smile and some downcast eyes earn her sympathy and a warm rum toddy in a cozy corner to herself. She pays generously and with gracious thanks from someone else's pockets.


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"Nice one."
The diminuative figure already occupying the shadowy corner reveals his presence. A halfling with weatherstained cloak, a well-loved short shord, a holster with a hand-crossbow, and wearing boots raises both hands to assure his new table-mate of his, er...noble intentions.
"I admire skill when I see it, although I would be leery of disposing of unwanted items into the fire. I've heard rumors of marks lining their purses with dried alchemical fire as an alarm system. A rather showy display from what I've heard."
The halfling sips his drink.
"Name's Fleetwood. Flettwood Coupe De'Ville."


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Trephine's eyes widen in appreciation and she applauds lightly, delighted.

"I love that idea, sneaky powder. What will they think of next!"

She almost regrets that the powder hadn't been in the last purse she'd taken, and immediately starts to think of ways of counteracting it, should it happen.

"What do they use? What color does it make? What does it smell like?"

She smiles and says "Look at me, talking shop when I haven't even introduced myself."

She holds out her hand in greeting. "My name is Trephine. It's always a joy to meet a kindred spirit."


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"Well met Trephine."
"I haven't actually seen the pyrotechnic purse trick myself, but my brother had to spend the gold he had just, ah...liberated by paying for some burn salve and to regenerate his eyebrows. But that is a story for another time."

"Oh look. The gentleman you came in with is offering to buy one of the working girls a drink. This should be fun."


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Trephine's smile begins to droop at the corners and she starts to think maybe this new gentleman is rude. He doesn't even know what's in the sneaky powder.

Her hand is still outstretched, but the fingers are beginning to curl.


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>Fleetwood takes the offered hand.

"Sorry, I was distracted by the unfolding spectacle."
"Oh goody, the bartender is holding out his hand for payment. The look on this guy's face should be priceless."

"So Trephine, are you a local or just passing through?"


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Trephine looks thrilled and claps her hands again. She bounces a little and says "I've got a secret!"

Then she says "Listen, listen. This is good. Listen. Okay. Okay."

She looks both ways and says conspiratorially "My fingertips just happen to be poisoned. Isn't that fun!"

She claps again.

Then her head tilts forward slightly. Her eyes darken to pewter and her voice to steel.

"Just so we're clear here. I mean, you seem like such a nice gentleman. I just want to make sure that you wouldn't possibly try to hurt me, would you? And you wouldn't want to continue to stare at those people like you have the slightest idea what's about to happen? You wouldn't want to draw attention to me, now would you? I'm sure I wouldn't want to hurt YOU."

She leans back and takes a sip of her drink. Her smile is restored to bright spring and she says happily

"I have the antidote. Want some?"


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Fleetwood looks down at his fingers.
"I wouldn't have pegged you for a girl that would poison on the first date. Ah well, live and learn as my granddad used to say."

Fleetwood leans in toward Trephine.

"And do give me some credit, I did not plan to jump out and tell the poor fellow about his recent weight-loss plan. I merely wanted to be sure to observe the poor fellow's reaction."

Fleetwood shifts in his seat and continues to watch the crowd.

"One thing I have come to appreciate is that the gold may come and go, but watching the light in someone's eyes as they come to understand their new circumstances is an experience that stays with you. That's why I prefer the tavern scene. Quick fingers and card games are much more fulfilling than back-alleys and second stories."

"But forgive me, preaching makes for poor conversation."

Fleetwood watches the broad-shouldered gentleman turn the color of his foppish shirt and hears him mumble about, "Being a little short right now and could he run a tab?"

Smiling broadly Fleedwood sips his drink.
"And yes, I would not mind a dose of that antidote."


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Trephine's smile grows throughout Fleetwood's speech.

"Oh good. You looked at me. Thank you. Of course it's fun to watch, but you're facing me, not them. Scoot your chair around a little so it's not so obvious, silly. I didn't REALLY poison you. I just wanted your attention."

She laughs.

"I mean, I'm not CRAZY or anything."

She clinks her glass to Fleetwood's and smiles. "They turn all purple. It's so pretty. Flowers should be that color more often."

She gasps and she gets all excited "Do you...do you think there will be a brawl? I LOVE brawls!"


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"No poison...that's good."
Fleetwood absentmindedly rubs his hands on his trousers.

"Purple is pretty, but I prefer midnight blue myself."

The broadshouldered man leaves, most likely to look for his lost purse.

"If you REALLY want to spice things up tonight, I have just the thing."
Fleetwood pulls out a silver piece and a small whistle."

"I picked up this little bugger last Autumn and have been saving it for a rainy day. Once it hears the whistle it starts biting with needle-sharp teeth. Not enough to seriously injure someone, but it will definitely get your attention."

"What do you think?"


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Trephine is curious and looks closely. She points to the silver piece from what she considers to be a safe distance.

"What is it, what does it do?"

She's getting more excited.

"It bites? Who will it bite? Will it bite me?"

She gasps.

"If it bites me I'll have to kill it."

She pauses.

"Maybe not. I might like that. Can it be tamed? Where did you get it? I want to know everything!"


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Fleetwood leans closer.

"From what I was told, it's a tiny little mimic-like creature that makes itself look like money. A vengful wizard either created them, mutated them or summoned them to act as last ditch guardians of his hoard."

Fleetwood glances around to make sure the serving wenches aren't within earshot.

"This one is under an enchantment to stay sleeping until it hears the whistle. Only dogs and elves can hear the whistle, and even then they can't tell where the sound is coming from."

Fleetwood palms the coin.

"My plan was to give it or slip it into some yahoo's pocket or gambling pile, sit back, blow the whistle and watch them dance."

"Shall we try it?"


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Her mouth forms an "O"

"That's so pretty. Giving money away that isn't money."

She looks both ways in overblown conspiratorial zeal and then says "Yes! Yes! Yes!"


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"Excellent. I knew I would have fun tonight."

Fleetwood scans the crowd. He sees what appears to be a nobleman's son drinking with his friends. He notes the number (six) of expensive bottles of Dwarvish wine that litter the table. He sees the fop call to the barmaid for another bottle. She rolls her eyes and heads to the back room for the bottle.

"Be right back." Fleetwood says as he slides over to the bar. He catches the barmaid coming out with the wine and orders an ale. She gives him the ale and Fleetwood pays her.

"Miss me?" Fleetwood asks Trephine.

"Now if I read those fellows correctly, they will demand their change for the wine instead of giving it to the hardworking barmaid as a tip."

Fleetwood watches the barmaid pass over the silver piece he used to pay for the ale.

Fleetwood holds up the whistle.

"Care to give it a try?"


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Trephine is smiling as Fleetwood saunters back and greets her.

"Missed you terribly. Don't know what I've ever done without you."

She links her arm through his and blows on the whistle, leaning her head on his shoulder to watch.

"Do you think there will be screaming? That would be perfect."


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There is a crash as the fop lands on the table, scattering empty bottles, chicken bones, playing cards, and coins everywhere. The table collapses and the stricken man rolls around on the floor like he is on fire.

Which is what his companions must have thought because they start throwing their drinks on the poor fool.


People nearby scramble out of the way, some making signs to ward off evil spirits.

The hubbub of the crowd turns to raucous laughter as the fop strips off his pants and starts jumping up and down on them.

The bouncers at this point grab the pantless fool and drag him screaming outside.

"That will teach the boy two very important life lessons. Always tip generously and change your codpiece every day."


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Trephine takes out some opera glasses and watches the scene with an expert's love for something well done.

"Look...right there, did you see that? Broken glass. That's so nice. I love this part, right there. Look, betrayal. Humiliation. It's so beautiful. I...I..."

She puts the glasses away and she has tears in her eyes. "I always cry at these sorts of things. It's just...just...there are no words."

She closes her eyes and tilts her head back with a completely replete smile.

Then her head bolts forward and her eyes widen even more. She says
"There's only one thing that could make this any better. Something on fire. Can we light something on fire? It's not art until something's burning!"


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"Ah well...the fire in your eyes is enough for me."

Beads of sweat appear on Fletwood's brow.

"How about some Gnomish firewater, or, or some Longbottom pipeweed..."

"Is it hot in here or is it just me?"


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Trephine's fingers start to itch for setting fires and her eyes splash through with mischief.

"Wait here."

She slips through the crowd, demurely excusing herself from each excited patron that she encounters, looking all the world like a woman trying to escape all the crass and loud rabble.

Hardly anyone pays the awkward child notice.

Her hands slip and steady, ease and excuse, and she leans over the bar, asking to buy a bottle of gnomish firewater. Snagging a napkin she waits and pays graciously and pretends not to notice when she's shortchanged. Nothing but a clueless smile marks her brow.

She steps away into an easy shadow and slips the cork from the brew, twists the napkin into a handy wick and slides it into the neck of the bottle.

Lighting it deftly from a stolen flint and steel and tinder pouch she got along the way, she places it back on the shelf, right next to the other bottles. Lots of them. Then she grabs a twin with the other hand and heads back to the table.

She greets Fleetwood and hands him a packet of Longbottom pipeweed and a bottle of Gnomish firewater.

She sits back and grins, watching the bar intently.



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Fleetwood watches in horror as the flame wicks its way into the bottle.


Fleetwood jumps behind Trephine just as the telltale green explosion from Gnomish firewater goes off.

BANG! BANG! BANG! Secondary explosions rock the liquor display as patrons fall over themselves in a frenzy trying to find the door.

One drunk elf is yelling at a human whose clothes are on fire to "Drop, stop, and roll"...or something like that.

A half-orc near the front crashes through the window making an alternative exit.

One unlucky halfling has become a doormat complete with footprints due to the crush of patrons fleeing.

The bartender and two barmaids beat at the flames with aprons and brooms, cursing.

Fleetwood, pale as a ghost, pops the cork on the unignited bottle of firewater, slams a drink, and puts some pipeweed into a unicorn-shaped pipe with shaking hands.

"Got a light?"