The Face: 3. Visage

Chapter 3: Visage

            In the doorway stood the man wearing the gold cloak. It was an exceptionally crafted piece of clothing, gold thread spun through violet fabric giving the man an elegant, almost royal look. His features were regal as well, as though he was a lord or a prince. Loran didn’t know why his memory had been jogged when he had seen this man in the lower passages but now that he was standing face to face with him, the connection was fading.
            “Please, come in. We were just getting settled,” his voice was smooth and silky, every syllable purposefully and perfectly formed. “I’m glad you were able to find us, we had thought you lost in the labyrinth below.”

            Loran entered the room and the man closed the door behind him. In front of him, his companions sat, staring back at him. They were all present except for Façade. In his place sat a different dwarf who looked extremely grumpy. Loran assumed that Façade had been sent away, his task complete.
            “So, what business could the Mages Guild have with the Wardens of Opheon?” Eldaran dived right in.
            “First, pleasantries. My name is Aeral and I am the current Wizenmage of the Mages Guild. I know of you Eldaran and you Vera,” the dwarf’s nodded towards each in turn, “I do not know your companions, however.”
            “The name’s Jax. Grew up in the slums of Thebes. I knew Eldaran a long time ago and we recently just reunited”
            “I’m Syre. I also knew Eldaran, though not too long ago.”
            “My name is Loran. I guess I’m here because the guild told me to find these folks.”
            Everyone in the room turned towards the handsome man in the gold cloak expectantly.
            “Ah, well. I suppose you could call me Visage. I am here at the behest of the Mages Guild,”
            “Indeed you are. Now that’s out of the way. I suppose all of you are wondering why you’re in my office at this time of night,” the dwarf’s voice was gravelly and came with the weariness of great responsibility, “I’ve brought you all here to propose a mutually beneficial business partnership.”
            “You sent an envoy to find us and he led us in the middle of the night through the streets and under the streets so you could propose a business partnership?” said a bewildered Vera, “Why did we have to come now? Couldn’t this have waited until the morning?”
            “No, time was very sensitive. Have any of you heard of the Consortium?” Aeral said looking specifically at Eldaran and ignoring Vera’s questions.
            “No, should I have?” said Eldaran.
            “I was hoping…” Aeral’s voice trailed off, “No, I suppose not. The Consortium is a crime syndicate of sorts. They have just recently started operating in the surrounding area. They have a tremendous amount of influence and we wanted to ensure that our meeting was not revealed to them. It was imperative that you were brought here under the cover of darkness using the most secretive of routes. I’m sure you understand.”
            “Alright, what do you want us to do about them?” asked Vera.
            “Well, this is a bit embarrassing for the guild to admit, but we have…misplaced some of our magical artifacts,” Aeral said uncomfortably squirming in his seat.
            “You mean they were taken from you, by the Consortium,” stated Syre.
            “Yes, we believe agents from the Consortium infiltrated the tower and stole a number of items from our vaults. Two planar disks, three talismans, and an orb are missing. We do not know what they plan to use these magical devices for, but, as we are entrusted with their care, we desire their safe and prompt return.”
            “And how are we supposed to accomplish this?” Vera asked skeptically.
            “I’m glad you asked. The Lord Argus and Nochtra Seafell are hosting a gala tomorrow night at their estate. I’m told this gala is a front used by the Consortium to recruit new members into their syndicate. Several well-known, noble families from the surrounding area will be in attendance. We have acquired a number of identities for each of you to assume at the event and, as luck would have it, it is a masquerade.”
            “Excellent, now the fun begins,” Visage broke his silence. He seemed to enjoy the idea of an extravagant night at the Seafell estate behind a mask.
            “Quite. Now, two of you will portray Tascal and Reena Sorin a brother and sister who are emerging merchants from the continent Maurogi. Three of you will portray Lord Vestivar Plum and his two bodyguards. Lord Plum is a prominent and affluent business man who is notoriously paranoid. I suppose one of you could portray an attendant to the Sorins or Lord Plum if none of these roles fit you. Don’t worry, your actual identities should be perfectly safe behind your masks. I’ll leave you to decide how you want to divide up the roles. When you are finished knock on the door and Flandon will show you to a safe house the guild has prepared for your use. Thank you and good luck,” Aeral bowed stiffly and exited the room through the door.
            Once the door had closed Eldaran spoke first, “Did you hear anything about payment for our services?”
            “No, I suppose we could ask him about it later,” replied Vera, yawning.
            “Does anyone care about how the guild came to acquire these aliases for us? Have they kidnapped these people or did they just steal their invitations?” asked Jax.
            “It does not matter how they acquired them, simply that they were provided for us in confidence. So, how do you all want to divvy up the roles? I’m particularly intrigued by Lord Plum, he sounds very like a very fascinating character,” Visage was on the edge of his seat, smiling in excitement.
            “Well, since I’m the only girl, I suppose I’ll have to play the sister,” said Syre.
            “I think Jax and I would fit well as the bodyguards. I don’t think either of us has any experience with the wealthy and events like this. Best to keep our mouths shut as much as possible,” said Eldaran, Jax nodding in agreement.
            “I guess I could be an attendant to one of you. Visage what do you think?” Loran said.
            “Excellent!”
            “Well, I’m not sure how well Syre and I would work together. I’m not sure we would, uh, be compatible as siblings,” said Vera cautiously.
            “An elf and a human sibling pair wouldn’t be very believable at all. I suppose I could play the brother. I would give him an element of authenticity and verve. This shall be fun, indeed. Though we will have to do something about your wardrobe my dear,” Visage said to Syre.
            “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” asked Syre defensively.
            “Let’s just say it’s not very becoming of a young, up and coming entrepreneur. I do believe something more elegant, more sophisticated would do nicely,” replied Visage, positively enjoying himself.
            “Not a dress. I hate dresses,” Syre made a face that one might make if they were eating rotten vegetables.
            “Yes my dear, a dress!”

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