Madame Leora's soft pink eyes narrowed as she read the report before her. Her tavern was unusually quiet for the time of day, so she had taken the opportunity to finally look at the encrypted message she had received from Alita - who was still held up in Bitzaron. Leora had agreed with Alita's stance against the Elders decision to follow The Departments orders, however she wished to aid in secret - and thus she operated by passing on information from her establishment under the guise of keeping out of it.
The sound of her taverns door opening caught her attention and she looked up from the report as she sneakily slid it below the bar all in one swift movement. She openly smiled her signature warm and welcoming look and began her usual spiel.
"Hello and welcome~!" her voice a calming sound as she nearly sang her greeting. Nee'la stepped in, her scaley belly reflecting some of the firelight inside as it peered from beneath her traveling cloak. She was followed by a slightly larger Tsabhua whom Leora almost did not recognise under his hood but was clearly Nee'la's mate, Remi. "ah, Nee'la, Remi. Welcome friends! I am glad you could make it. Care for a beverage?" Leora flicked her ears softly in excitement, causing her golden hoop to catch the soft light and glisten.
"Thank you, Madame" Nee'la responded, approaching the bar and resting her arms upon it whilst Remi scanned the empty room before choosing a place near the roaring fireplace to settle down, warm up, and get dry. "What news?" she continued as Leora brought out pitchers and began filling them.
"Bitzaron is open to visitors, especially merchants. Also it seems there may be more ... friends ... for you out there than we had initially thought." Leora looked into Nee'la's eyes knowingly.
Nee'la nodded, taking in the information. "And our reason for being summoned?"
Leora chuckled softly "Summoned? Oh my dear, no. No one is summoning you, you requested-"
"Yes yes I know..." Nee'la looked away sheepishly, almost blushing. Her attempts to be mysterious were always lost when it came to The Madame. But I suppose that is to be expected when she was known as a whelp around Or'sol. "Just... what is our assignment?"
Leora slid over the pitchers filled with drink, beneath one was a piece of parchment subtly poking out. Nee'la thanked Leora for the drinks before picking them up and heading to the space Remi had claimed, passing him one and setting down the other after a long sip so that she could better read the note.
"Head to The Hills. Nostal requests help. Blocked stream. Rolling Mists friend." the letter read.
Nee'la looked over her shoulder to Leora, a question about to be thrown across the room but suddenly the door opened and more patrons walked in gaining a sing song greeting from The Madame. Fixing a blocked stream? Surely this is not going to help answer the mystery surrounding The Department. Feeling slightly insulted by the physical labor asked of them, Nee'la shoved the note towards Remi who made a grunt as her hand impacted his chest. He took the note from her, reading it from above his pitcher as he gulped it down.
"Looks like we have our assignment..." Nee'la nearly growled at him, her voice laced with sarcasm before she too lost herself in her pitcher.
"We must help where we can. Maybe we can ask Novato for assistance? Especially since we need to find two others based on the note.."
Nee'la glared at Remi, hushing his ramble. Remi seemed to have an answer for everything, even when she just wanted to be mad for a little while.
Eventually she signed in resignation "You have a point. Novato is a surprisingly good tracker for one so young. He certainly could be of use. He has been very clear in expressing how eager he is to join us."
Remi smiled, chuckling softly into his pitcher as he took another swig of the warming fluid. Novato was barely younger than they were and yet Nee'la always treated him as if he was a whelp - she took her role as Auntie a tad too seriously when it came to Novato.
Nee'la yawned, her eyelids feeling unusually heavy despite her later than usual wake up. Her blinks were slow and cumbersome, almost threatening her with staying closed despite her feeling quite refreshed. The drinks from the prior night must have had more of an effect on her body than she thought it would, although the loud and very talkative Novato all but bouncing around her as she walked certainly was not helping matters. Remi, noticing her lethargy, enjoyed the scene very much.
"...and did you know that the Jaebo in Mireh are very different to the Jaebo found in Issiq! They can have pups together but struggle to live in one anothers climates..." Novato did not appear to pick up on his Aunties misery.
"Novato." Remi piped up at last, thinking he may as well save Nee'la from her apparent torture.
"Yeah?" Novato basically swung around to face Remi who was following behind, eyes wide with eagerness to continue his knowledge dump on the older two.
"I think it might be about time for your tracking skills to come in handy. Which means we do not want to be prematurely discovered..." Remi let his thoughts trail off slowly, hoping Novato got the hint.
"oooh yes! Of course. We need to be quiet!"
Remi nodded in reply, Nee'la sighed in relief as her shoulders dropped and she hid her head further into her cowl.
However, it did not take long for Novato to start his ramblings again, causing Nee'la to groan audibly. Eventually she snapped and loudly proclaimed "Look, I-" but she was cut off by a strangers voice.
"You certainly hold a lot of knowledge, little green one." The sudden appearance of a sandy and blue coloured Tsabhua caused Remi and Nee'la to grab for their weapons, stances readied. The stranger chuckled softly, raising a hand in a gesture of peace "I mean no harm, and I apologise for alarming you." Her voice was gentle. Remi relaxed slightly but Nee'la seemed to be less than trusting today.
"Who are you?" Remi asked, removing his hand from his weapon and softening his stance slightly.
"I am called Rolling Mists."
Nee'la relaxed at that "Rolling Mists? We received a communication which claimed you would be here." She relaxed her own stance as she talked, however her eyes remained locked on the stranger out of caution. "My name is Nee'la. This is Remi and Novato." she gestured to the other two as she made introductions.
Rolling Mists smiled softly "You three are here about the blocked stream also?"
Nee'la nodded "Yes, we were told about a stream being blocked though we are not too sure how it affects..." she trailed off, still hesitant to open up entirely to the new comer.
"Come, follow me. Nostal has been awaiting you." Rolling Mists turned and started to lead the group along the path, the way they were already traveling.
Nee'la turned to Remi with a questioning look, but opted to follow the Tsabhua claiming to be Rolling Mists, nodding to signal Remi to follow. Remi gently ushered Novato to move forward so that he may take up the rear and keep an eye on everyone.
It was not long to travel before Rolling Mists turned off the path, climbing up the slope and leading them to the top of a hill. The sound and scent of water wafted down the slope to them - this must be the destination they sought. Nee'la barely had a chance to catch her breath at the top of the hill when a large grey Tsabhua came rushing at them from the direction of the stream. His eyes seemed wide and intense with worry.
"There you are Rolling Mists!" his voice laced with exasperation "where did you disappear off to? You know we need your help! This is dire! The stream-"
"Yes yes, Nostal. I understand. However the others-" she turned and gestured to Nee'la, Remi and Novato "-were close by and I thought to guide them."
"Others?" Nostal moved his gaze over the group, an expression of almost surprise over his face as if he had no idea they were even there.
"We received communications, instructions to render assistance at this site-" Nee'la started before Novato waved his hands and shook his head, cutting her off.
"No time for that. Yes I remember sending out a message for help. Come, quickly, we MUST fix the river!" Novato hurried off, adjusting his ill-fitting pack as he went. Rolling Mists turned to Nee'la, mouthing a "sorry" with a shrug as she followed the intense Tsabhua bull.
Not surprisingly, it was quite hard for the group to keep up with the taller Tsabhua whose stride was long and gait was fast - Remi had even opted to carry Novato on his back since the whelp was seemingly struggling with not even being given a chance to catch his breath.
"Look!" Nostal called as he pointed to the mostly empty stream ahead, turning to see how far behind the group was "Hurry! My word you lot are slow!"
Nee'la glared at him, already having grown a dislike for the bossy bull, but knowing better than to voice her displeasure at his personality.
"The stream is not flowing. Something must be blocking it!"
"And it is usually flowing, quite rapidly at this time of year." Rolling Mists added.
"Yes yes it feeds in to a number of tribes down stream, they are all distressed! No fresh flowing water!?" Nostal flailed his arms around, gesticulating in exasperation.
"That certainly seems like a problem." Nee'la agreed, finally having caught up to the taller two Tasbhua. "I suggest we go upstream then. It is as good a place as any to start."
"Oh yes, up stream. Why did I not think of that." Nostal's voice was laced heavily with sarcasm, a fact which caused a very angry look to shoot across Nee'las face.
"Well, do you want our help or not?"
"No please, sorry. Help. We need the stream back to health!" Nostal's eyes widened as the threat of them leaving became apparent to him.
"Very well then." Nee'la turned to Remi "Let us head out then."
Remi nodded, adjusting his pack and his hold on Novato.
"I am coming with you too. I wish to see for myself and investigate this mystery" Rolling Mists added in, her expression gentle - a stark contrast to the very wound up Nostal.
"Of course. We can use all the help we can get." Nee'la smiled back. She was beginning to warm up to this new companion of theirs.
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