The brothers and Mara were getting ready for their assignment, having just ended an interrogation a bit prematurely. The Bull had a few last requests for them, however, before they left.
"I don't want you to kill the Lion. Restrain him, and bring him to me. I have a few words I need to say to him."
Torix and Constantine's record with taking people alive was not very good, but it hardly mattered. They'd give it a shot, and Mara would come along. In the meantime, they had to find something to do in Bhangra Baba. They also had to decide when to tell Mara about their relationship. Business, they decided, would be the best way to avoid it for now.
"When should we attack?" asked Constantine. "And where is the Lion's Den?"
Mara showed them the location of the Den, and the trio found that it was heavily guarded. Noon was approaching, and they wanted to get the job done before the day was over. The brothers stepped forward and decided to approach one of the guards up front.
Torix: “You there, guard. Go inside and tell the Lion we want to see him”
Guard: “Umm…Who are you guys?”
Constantine: “We are the van Rijn brothers. And that’s Mara.”
Guard: “…okay. Hold on a second.”
The guard goes inside, and returns after a moment.
Guard: “Why do want to see him?”
Torix: “We’re new in town and we heard about the rivalry between the Lion and the Bull. Thought that maybe the Lion could use hand, if he pays well enough.”
Guard: “Oh! Okay, okay, you’re mercenaries! Hold on.”
The trio looked at each other. Around here, apparently, walking around the city fully armed and armored didn’t necessarily mean you were a mercenary looking for work. The guard came back out and told them that one of the Lion’s lieutenants would meet them in the bazaar in half an hour. It was a start, at least.
They went over to the bazaar to see if they could do some shopping. They found an old elf merchant who seemed to have a pretty impressive array of goodies, and they started talking. Mahmoud, the old elf, showed them the fluff items he had: ornate skulls, fine clothing, etc. Finally, Mahmoud asked them what they did for a living, hoping to find something better suited to their needs. When they told him that they were mercenaries, the perfect item sprung into his head. He searched through some boxes in the back of his tent, and finally found what he was looking for. He opened the box and showed them three sets of weighted bracers which were made to let your swings carry more momentum. The trio recognized the potential of such bracers and asked the price. It was too high for them, but, Mahmoud told them he had a personal debt that would more that cover the cost of the bracers if they would but settle it. The brothers knew a good opportunity when they saw one, so Constantine hastily agreed to help Mahmoud.
Mahmoud told them to go to the tavern nearby, Bobak’s, and tell the man behind the bar that Mahmoud sent them to settle his debt. Constantine was ready to just intimidate this bartender into agreeing that the debt had been settled, but Torix wanted to see what the nature of the debt was before they did anything rash. They talked to the bartender, who was apparently Bobak, and learned that Mahmoud had bought Bobak’s daughter from him on credit and had never paid him back in thirty years. This was not worth intimidating someone over, and they asked what would pay Mahmoud’s debt to him. It had been thirty years, and Bobak couldn’t really think of anything. He told them to come back later to give him time to think.
As the trio exited out into the bazaar they noticed a particularly well dressed elf standing amid the crowd. He was wearing a black fez and the golden robes associated with the Lion. This would be their contact.
Constantine: Hello? Looking for mercenaries?
Elf: Yes? Are you the three that came by earlier?
Constantine: Yes. We would like to speak with the Lion.
Elf: I'm sorry, the Lion is not available. My name is Farid, and I am one of his seconds. Let me take you back to the Den to discuss business with my brothers, Khalid and Wahid.
The trio was happy to follow Farid back to the Den. There, as he had promised, were his two brothers sitting on a couch. In fact, they appeared to be triplets, as they all had roughly the same face. THe only distinguishing features were their headgear; where Farid had a fez, one had a keffiyeh while the other wore a scarf around his mouth.
As Farid sat down, he whispered something in one of his brother's ears. Torix caught only little bits of what they were saying. Something about “it looks like him, but I thought humans only lived like forty years”. Torix was eager to get down to business, which in this case meant a good fight.
Torix: Where is the Lion?
Farid: He is… out on business. Before we discuss terms, this is Khalid (guy with keffiyeh) and this is Wahid (guy with scarf).
All say they are pleased to meet each other.
Farid: Anyway, as I said, the Lion is out. However, if you wait we may be able to find a job for you. What is it you do exactly?
Constantine and Torix: We're problem solvers.
Farid: And the girl?
Mara: Same as them.
Khalid: Wait a minute, don't you work for the Bull? Why is she in here?
Constantine: (putting on his best face) She wants to distance herself from the Bull. That's why she came with us. She just wants money, not all the attached strings the Bull gives.
Farid: All right then. Would you like somethig to drink?
Constantine: Yes, please.
Torix looked at his brother, thinking “What kind of world is it where people sit down to drink together before they kill each other?”
Farid snapped his fingers and an attractive elf girl came out with a kettle of tea promptly. She poured everyone a cup. As she walked away, Farid spanked her. A string of crude remarks ensued, and Mara patiently tolerated them. Now that everyone was in a good mood, Torix tried to see what it was the triplets were talking about as they entered. After a series of questions TnC found out that the elves thought Constantine looked like someone they knew when they were pirates.
Constantine: So this guy looked like me…Did he happen to use two scimitars?
Khalid: Well, yeah. That's not uncommon among pirates.
Constantine: Do you remember his name by any chance?
Khalid: Oh sure we do, we elves live longer than you, its only natural. His name was Prospero. Prospero…uh,well he never told us his last name.
Torix: It was van Rijn. Prospero van Rijn was our father.
Farid: Oh! That explains everything!
TnC engaged the elf triplets in a conversation about their times aboard the pirate vessel. They served on the Derelict Saint under the command of Captain Black John Dalton. His first mate was someone called Crazy Henry (who the brothers assumed was Black Henry). To their surprise, they found out that the elves had aslo served with Mad Seamus. This discover was very surprising to the brothers. They wanted to know more, but they had to get back to Bobak, so they promised the triplets that they would be back.
They returned to the bar and asked Bobak what he had come up with. Bobak put on a big grin, and asked “Have you ever been in a pit fight?”Little did he know how fortuitous his decision was. The brothers told him they were famous (more like infamous) for their exploits. It was an excited exaggeration. They were able to talk Mara into doing it because it was still fighting for money. Bobak told them to come back to the bazaar at sundown, and to be ready for a great fight. Torix was already pumped. Constantine had an idea, though.
He was impatient to get his end of the bargain from Mahmoud, even though the debt wasn't settled. The trio came up to Mahmoud's tent/store and called to him. He invited them in. Constantine told him that his debt to Bobak had been repaid, and that they were eager to recieve their payment. The old elf asked for some help looking though the boxes. Constantine filched an expensive-looking sliver sash from one of the boxes, and almost stuck his hand into a box full of animal traps. Finally, he found the bracers, and the trio strapped them on and took their leave.
Mara reminded them that they should keep the Bull updated on thier mission, so they decided to walk over to his estate. When they told him that Farid had told them that the Lion was out on business, the Bull became very concerned. “You don't understand. We never leave the city. Ever. Something is very wrong here. Find out more.” The trio left with the intent to do just that.
They went straight to the Lion's Den and were let inside to speak to the elf triplets. Only two of them were there. Happy to see them agian, Farid and Wahid knocked on the of the wall. Mara and TnC could hear some muted laughter, then Farid came through one of the side doors, tying his belt. When they were all settled in, Farid spoke up.
Farid:So, you have returned. What can we do for you?
Torix: You can start by telling us the truth, where is the Lion?
Khalid: We already told you, he's out on business.
Mara:Don't lie to us! From what we hear, neither the Lion nor the Bull ever leave the city, no matter what “business” they have. That's what seconds are for.
The triplets looked at them, knowing that they couldn't get out of this by lying agian.
Khalid: We can't tell you. We may have served with your father, but that doesn't change the danger involved with knowing the truth.
Constantine: Fine. But you served with him, you know that he had a sense of honor. We inherited that from him, he wouldn't let this secret out, and neither would we.
Torix: You need to trust us on this one. We might even be able to get him back for you.
The elves looked at each other, then spilled the beans. The Lion had been kidnapped. They found the Kaiser's personal seal on his bed, and their best intelligence was that he was in Vista as a prisoner of the human army. More confused than surprised, the brothers and Mara said that they would bring him back to Bhangra Baba.
This was big, so they went straight to the Bull pen. The trio told him what had happened. The Bull was surprised as well, and said that they would need to leave immediately. Torix reminded his brother and Mara that they had a pit fight to win first. They told the Bull about it and informed him that it was an opportunity to make some money. The Bull agreed, and gave them a package which he instucted them to present to the bookie on behalf of the Bull. It was light (it didn't feel like it had money in it), so they weren't sure what it was.
Mara and TnC found Bobak at the bazaar soon enough. They got everything striaghtened out about bets and setting the stakes, then they were led to the arena.
It was impressive, a box-like depression in the ground with moving pillars and traps. Probably of dwarven design. They were lowered in on one of the pillars, then thier enemies were set free. Four large lizards, and a huge elephant. The battle was bloody and exhilirating. Mara's ferocity was disturbing, Constantine's footwork was fantastical, and Torix's strength was animal. Everyone who bet against them got back exactly what they deserved: nothing.
Bobak talked to them after the fight, he had a business proposition for them
Bobak: Amazing! I've never seen anything like it in my whole life! And that means a lot coming from an elf you know! I've been thinking, what if you three and I made a business out of this. Bobak's Brawlers. How do you like the sound of that!
Constantine: Um…yeah. We have other plans.
Torix: Besides, we're mercs. This is fun, don't get me wrong, but like my brother said, we have other plans. Sorry.
Bobak was crushed. Once a bartender, always a bartender I guess…
They picked up their share of the winnings from the bookie, and took the Bull's package too. They brought it back to him and said they'd won (not like it was totally unforseen). The Bull opened the package, and took out five pieces of paper. He put two of them on the table and commanded Mara and TnC to follow him. They marched over to the Lion's Den and the Bull told Mara to stay outside.
The Bull approached one of the guards, who was dumbfounded by the sight of the Bull.
Guard: Um…I can't let you inside.
The Bull: (drawing his scimitar) If you value your lives, filth, you will get out of my way before I kill you where you stand!
Guard: Okay… just relax.
The guards bolted, and the Bull told TnC to flank him. He pushed open the heavy doors, and they walked inside. He threw the three pieces of paper onto one of the tables in the Lion's Den as the three seconds stood up.
The Bull: I'm offering you these three estates in case I don't come back. Let it be known that the last act of Zero DelToro towards Maurice DeLeon was one of friendship.
He turned around and left.
They had gone back at the Bull pen, and they were preparing to head out to Vista. Constantine noticed that Toophan Ali was still eyeing Leyla Miramar, who Constantine felt protective of. He reminded her that since they were going to Vista she might as well come along to see if that Kayvaan Salazaar fellow was still around. She agreed. They set out on their wildebeests, except for the Bull, who had an immense riding bull.
There was an annoying silence as they traveled through the desert at night. Torix sensed that this might be a good time to break the news to Mara. He looked at Constantine, and there was a moment of clarity between the brothers. They were going to tell her.
Constantine: “Jacques sends his regards.”
Mara: “What? Jacques?”
Constantine: “Yes. We met up with him in Quixote, actually. He told us that we could find you in the Rainy Desert.”
Mara: [Confused look]
Torix: “(Torix tries a new approach) Umm…yeah. So when we were talking to Farid, Wahid, and Khalid…Um…”
Constantine: “Well up until a while ago, we thought our father was dead, but it turned out he faked his own death-”
Torix: “Before things got crazy in Eisenreich, we talked to him, and he gave us his journal.”
Constantine: “Right. And it turned out that he had another life before the one with us, Torix and me. He was a pirate, as you heard from the elf triplets, and as we found out in his journal. We also found out that we have a half-sister. We…um”
Mara: [Starting to see where this is going, but still unbelieving]
Torix: “-We know it’s you. You are our half-sister, Mara.”
Mara: “…Huh. Well…Okay. Wow. How?”
Constantine: “Apparently, when he was ashore he had a relationship with an elf woman. Her name was Tara. Tara Danesti.”
Leyla: So it runs in the family, huh?
Constantine: Don't laugh, Torix! Are you okay Mara?
Mara: “… (Looks at TnC, stunned)…I’m sorry, it’s just…it’s…Okay. This is a lot to take. So your father, our father…huh.”
Torix: “We know how you feel. More or less.”
Mara: “Okay, okay. So we’re related. But, why did you go looking for me?”
Constantine: “Well, last time we saw our father, he was in a very powerful position. He was a revolutionary. After he faked his death, he searched Alfenne for you. After he failed, he went out into the plains and joined a farming community. He met someone there, someone who changed him. He was called The Man in Gray. There was an uprising, under this man’s influence, which failed. But Prospero took up this man’s quest, and his title, and moved back into the city with the intention to start another revolution. This also failed. With our help he had gotten so close to taking power. But, one of our comrades betrayed us and took power instead. In all the chaos we lost track of him again. Anyway to make a long story short, our father is a great man, a revolutionary, and if he is still alive, he would very much like to meet you.”
Torix: “I don’t think that revolutionary is the right word, it’s more like…terrorist.”
Constantine: “Don’t call our father a terrorist!”
Torix: “It’s not like he was a kind of terrorist that just kills people and takes hostages for sport. I’m not saying he’s an anarchist. He just…well, he knew that sometimes you just have to make moral sacrifices to make the world change for the better. And that is the van Rijn legacy. That was pretty well said, I think. I am done talking now.”
Constantine: “Yeah, so this is what kind of blood flows through your veins. Half of it, at least. But not that that’s a bad thing…”
Torix: “Okay, I’m not done talking. Mara, now that you know you’re a van Rijn by blood, I will ask you to join my brother and me in our quest to find our father and see him into the position he sought as Kaiser of Hommeland. Well I don’t know if he wants to be called Kaiser, but whatever. What say you? Will you join us as a van Rijn?”
Mara: “I think I will. I’ll join you. It sounds more exciting than the work that I’d be doing if I stuck around here.”
Torix and Constantine look at each other approvingly, knowing that their father would be proud, if he’s still out there.
The Bull asked why they had waited to tell her this. TnC said that they had to find the right moment, and that that was their first good opportunity. They the Bull what had happened between him and the Lion.
The Bull:Well, I guess it all started when we were deep in the desert this one time. He tried to eat me.
The Bull: He tried to eat me.
Torix: Eat you?
The Bull: Am I not saying right or something? Eat me. HE. TRIED. TO. EAT. ME.
The Bull: Well we had no food, and we were going a little bit crazy because we didn't have any water either. That started it, but we did far more terrible things to each other after that. We were friends though. I guess we still are, in our own twisted way. Look over there! Do you see it!
Everyone looked. Sure enough, there was the familiar glow of fires. It appeared to be a large camp of human soldiers. They were going to have to change their route. Constantine said that they (he, Torix, and Mara) could distract them while the Bull and Leyla went around the other side. It was agreed.
They dismounted their wildebeests, and snuck up to the perimiter. Constantine charged in, impaling one of the guards on his rapier. Mara followed suit, and so did Torix. Chaos followed, each of them fought countless men, and killed them. The camp's lieutenant, named LaGrange, tried to reason with them, but they killed him without hesitationl. They ran off into the night when they felt their work was done, leaving a copy of their wanted poster stuck to a wooden post in the camp. Torix saw someone doing light signals, and recognized the pattern as the one for “friend”. They figured it was the Bull and Leyla, so they headed in that direction.