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Another day, another high noon in the western Lycian city of Tyrol. The place had more of a hum to it than a bustle— although the marketplace was busy as always, the streets lay under the eyes of a cascading series of guards: mercenary guards; bourgeoisie-funded guards; guards paid to protect their clients from those guards... Trust had come to be a luxury in the city ever since it came under the rule of mercenaries (and, by proxy, money).

The only place in the city that felt no change, it seemed, was the Black Bear Inn. An establishment known to attract a certain type of person, the Black Bear was the beginning point for an uncountable amount of hare-brained adventures; even the Syndic of Tyrol knew to respect the dingy building where so many deal, pacts, and other such arrangements had been forged.

Such a place, Nichol reckoned, was now his best shot at finding a way home, and so he found himself once again in its front room, idly sipping on the local flavourless ale. In the past weeks, he'd seen things in the Lycian hinterlands that had temporarily convinced him he was insane. Bloody sorcerers performing unspeakable rituals, a human taking the shape of a dragon... Most damning of the things he'd experienced was the most mundane: his Lycian comrades had abandoned him at the first opportunity, likely as a result of some commander learning of Nichol's Etrurian nationality and deciding to purge him by sending him on a suicide mission. To think, I had the gall to believe I could become a Lycian. Resentment echoing in Nichol's head, he knew he could no longer pretend to be something he wasn't, and the only thing left for him to do was go home. However, that was easier said than done: he had initially intended on passing through the Ostian border to Etruria, but with how heavily it was fortified he'd decided to seek other means of entering, and so he'd stumbled upon this supposed hub for adventurers looking to travel beyond the borders of the Empire... and made no progress finding such an adventure even after a few days' stay. What a farce. Who'd want to travel out of Lycia these days, anyway? I shouldn't've listened to those fools on the road...

"I have roots, but do not grow..." The inn's barkeep started to chant an all-too-familiar riddle once again.
"Mountain, dammit!" Nichol grunted in interruption. "Don't you know any other riddles?"
"Don't you know that ain't the end?" was the bartender's cheeky reply. "Ye see, lad, the treasure ain't above nor below. A different type o' quarry, neither stone nor snow..."
"All I need is a way north," Nichol groaned, no longer caring that he was thinking aloud. He'd tried to get acquainted with the bartender in hopes of finding a lead, but all the old fop had ended up being good for was spouting riddles. Nichol buried his face in his mug once again, just in time to miss the barkeep raising an eyebrow at his words.
He hadn't been out of Arcadia or even Nabata for long. It was risky, hiding amongst a people that he barely understood, but curiosity drove Idalius.

He concealed his identity as a dragon. His pointed ears were hidden beneath his long, black hair. He was very protective of his dragonstone, but people saw it as merely a beautiful blue pendant. As for his dark skin, it was typical of a Nabatan. People knew that the well-spoken, polite young man who frequented their markets was a foreigner from the deserts of the south.

Everything about humanity was quick and fleeting. Idalius had spent a lot of time in the marketplace, listening to them talking, looking at their wares. In fact, he was such a common sight there that he'd gotten a 'job' of sorts. One of them sold meat; he'd shown Idalius how to hunt for food, and now, Idalius brought back meat. At times he had cheated – rather than using his hunting bow the man had generously given him, he'd turned dragon and pinned his quarry down. He had been careful, though, not wanting people in the town to see a dragon.

It was outside of the town that he'd made a humble camp. There was an old cabin, overgrown and claimed by nature. It couldn't have been any older than he was. He had noticed about human's structures, that they were not built to last like they had been in Arcadia. Humans were a strange, short-lived people. They were so fast in how they went about everything. They were so hurried in everything that they did.

One of the few places where they truly relaxed was the tavern. And it was there that Idalius tended to spend a great deal of time. For right now, he was there wondering about what to eat for lunch. He had no interest in the ale; it was far too bitter for his tastes. He in fact preferred coffee. Even when he didn't buy anything from the tavern, he was such a friendly presence that because the customers liked having him around, the barkeep would tolerate him.

He was listening to the barkeep talking to a man with black hair. He'd been musing over the barkeep's riddles, but something stumped him.

"What is snow?" he queried of the man and the barkeep, curious of this word he did not know.
Ambrose arrived in a little place at the far western edge of Lycia. He'd received a little tip that that area was full of unrest, and the closer he got, the more he heard that he liked. His group, a new family of assassins, were in need of more recruits. And areas with turmoil had just the sort of people he needed.

He rode in on a black horse, his dark stormcloak cast back to reveal the armor and sword he wore. Risky, considering his open dislike of the Lycian government, but here, the 'rightful' government had been overthrown by disgruntled mercenaries desirous for either more pay, or more glory, or perhaps just more credit for their achievements during the war.

He found himself at an inn, and despite his enthusiasm to speak with the city's new rulers, decided to fill his empty stomach first.

Ambrose entered the inn and made it to the bar to the sound of someone asking what snow was. At first he thought, What a dolt! Who doesn't know what snow is? But upon further investigation, he retracted the thought. The youth's skin was sun-bronzed where it was exposed, and wore loose, flowing clothes, ideal for retaining moisture in the arid desert. But who would be so daft as to make a life in the swirling, shifting sands of Nabata? Still, he couldn't begrudge the man his origins. He looked to the bartender, who shrugged.

"I'll have some seasoned steak, simmered fruit, and a mushroom kebab, if you've got those things," Ambrose ordered his food. "And a cup of wine, if you've got it, or cider if you don't."

The bartender nodded and poured his drink (a rose-colored wine that was a hint sweeter than he preferred), before going to the back to tell his cook what to make.

"Snow's what colors the tallest mountains white, lad," Ambrose said, turning towards the desert-dweller. "What's your name?"
As the newcomer approached the bar, Nichol finished his mug and slid it over for a refill. Not only did the man look like he'd been traveling awhile; Nichol hadn't seen him in the tavern or the market previously, making this a potential lead. Granted, men in armour weren't an unusual sight in Tyrol— although Nichol hadn't equipped his own set since his arrival, for he had quickly found that people who looked like Imperial soldiers were not at all a welcome sight here. Still, he had nothing to lose trying to start up conversation with anyone who even vaguely looked like someone who might be traveling northward.

"Ghastly stuff, that's what it is." Nichol's definition of snow was more of an opinion. "Cold; wet; gets everywhere." With that, he leaned against the bar to turn to the newcomer. "This fellow here's, ah..." It occurred to Nichol that he'd never bothered to learn the name of the fellow in question. "... One of the regulars!"

Now that he thought about it, why would a Nabatan stay in this place for any longer than a day?
Idalius had spent a lot of time watching people here, learning, listening to their conversations. He'd done quite a bit of work at this inn before, cleaning tables and helping out for a small amount of pay. The innskeeper liked what he did; Idalius was very attentive to his duties, moreso than most, perhaps. And in doing so, he learned a lot of things. Such as about food.

The man who had arrived, he seemed to have quite an appetite. He answered the youth's question, though it was a bit cryptic. Come to think of it, Idalius had never looked at the tips of the mountains or considered them. The other man said that it was wet and cold, and got everywhere. Didn't sound pleasant to him…though the same could be said of sand, at least the last part.

The other man said that Idalius was one of the regulars. The manakete nodded. "I am," he replied. "My name is Idalius, and I am from Nabata." He held out his hand. This was how they greeted one-another, yes? "I work and eat here a bit. I am pleased to make your acquaintance, sir." He spoke in a very formal tone; the common tongue was one he'd learned mostly from books, and from a mentor.
"Idalius," Ambrose repeated. It was an interesting name. The mercenary reached his hand out and shook the man's. "Call me Fred."

The two unclasped their hands and Ambrose looked over at the other man. A large stein of cider landed near Ambrose, and he nonchalantly picked it up and took a hefty draught of it. He swished the beverage around in his mouth. It let the taste linger for longer, and let the mercenary enjoy it more. He examined the third man.

He looked weary and worn, and perhaps even worse for wear for his stay here. He didn't recognize him, so they couldn't have met before. "Tell me, young man, what is your name?"
"Nichol." Clasping his hands in a salute in lieu of a handshake, Nichol smirked as several of the pub's patrons turned their heads to do a double take: he was immediately aware of how many people in the room had been harried by soldiers in the past. "Pleasure meeting you."
"Might want to go easy on the... humour, lad," the barkeep cautioned Nichol as he pushed back the newly-filled mug of ale.
"No worries!" Nichol crowed. "I'm Etrurian."
"Thought ye were from Thria," the barkeep muttered.
"Thria as well, yes." Nichol's speech was momentarily muffled by his mug. "Say, Master Fred, are you any good at riddles?"