Requested by: Eleusynia (via Anonymous)
Subject(s): The Opaline Brigade (Yekan, Awias, and Eleusynia)
Setting: Jugner Forest and Carpenter's Landing
* * * * *
"Ladies," the portly hume greeted his white-clad conscripts, "thank you for coming."
Not long after Eleusynia had returned from her sojourn, it was back to work for the Opaline Brigade. The previous day Yekan had been scouting work leads and came across one which seemed fairly easy and bat-free.
"And thank you for hiring us, Mr. Brutus," Yekan mustered a smile despite the smell of the chocobo stable she descended into.
"Please please, no need to be so formal little lady." A chubby hand went to hold Yekan's chin and rolanberry-stained teeth gleamed under a cloudy day's sun. Yekan smiled with her eyes closed trying to be polite and protect her fragile psyche from the dirty man touching her.
"Mr. Brutus, what is it exactly you'd like us to do?" Eleusynia chimed in to move things along and save her friend. Yekan gave her black mage friend a thumbs up behind her back.
"Well here's the thing. Y'see, I own this here chocobo stable. I care deeply fer my birds and want to see the best for 'em. Some o'them are rescue jobs even."
At that the blonde summoner Awias piped in with an endearing "Awwww." She was cut short when a rude noise and foul smell were emitted from the bird behind her.
Brutus continued, "I hear that th'Orcs is doing some foul things ta chocobos in tha Norvallen arear."
Awias leaned over to Yekan and whispered, "Arear?"
"Shh." Was the reply.
Oblivious, the dirty but seemingly caring man lectured Eleusynia on the job at hand. "I want you girls ta go check things out and lemme know what's goin' on. I'll want proof either way."
"And our pay," wiled Yekan.
"O'course! Half now, half when yahs return. I hope y'all understand. I'm a businessman after all. Didja know I own a farm in Rolanberry Fields? Bah, y'don't need ta know stuff 'bout that," he flashed all three a reddish grin. Awias's eyes opened wide and shimmered, fasninated at the dyed dental demonstration in front of her. Yekan stepped on her foot to nip any potential disaster in the bud.
"Will three thousand each after all's said and done going to be good ferya?"
Yekan and Eleusyina nodded, Awias held back tears of pain after smacking her own face in an attempt to swat a fly on her nose.
"Good, here'sya up front pay. Don'tcha fail me now, ladies. I'll know if'n ya do or not. A good businessman always keeps 'is," he scanned the cute and quivering form of the summoner up and down, "assets in check. Oh, here'ssome passes. Coumaine is tha gal what works my stables out of the Holla Crag. Show these t'her an'she'll hook you up with good, strong birds. She's elvaan. Tall, good shoulders. Hard worker with a back end like a ripe rolanberry and beautiful, firm br-"
"Okthankyousir!" Yekan cut him off to staunch the flow of trauma. She took the money and the ladies exited the fowl pit.
"Heehee, fowl pit...," the blonde Awias chuckled to herself.
"What are you snickering at, huh," chided Eleusynia.
"Nothing, just a dumb joke that popped in my head."
After supplying themselves with gear appropriate for the rainy region, the Opaline Brigade shimmered into existence under the looming crag. On cue, a peal of thunder rumbled overhead and the wind bent the tall grass in rolling waves. The Ladies in White prepared themselves for the job ahead. Awias slipped on her Astral Ring and giggled at the feeling. Eleusynia slung a weird-looking shield over her back, smiling. Yekan...well...Yekan didn't have any fun trinkets from her adventures.
In a gruff tone she ordered her teammates to move along.
"What's gotten into her," Awias asked the black mage.
"I dunno, maybe she is really focusing on the job today," shrugged a response.
Three chocobo tickets and an apology to the elvaan woman later, the Magenificent Three were heading eastward to Jugner. Their arrival came just in time for the sky to open up above them.
"Dammit, this is just classic," fumed Yekan, "can something good happen to us just for once!" If it wasn't for the rain, her friends would see tears of frustration rolling down her cheeks. They rode onward. When the trees thickened, they knew that they had arrived.
"There is some kind of orc camp around here from what I remember," stated Eleusynia, "I think it was called Devry? Devoy? Denoi? Used to be a monistery or something like that. Maybe there is a sign?"
Yekan's bird kwehed sharply as heels dug into its sides. She rode on ahead. Lightning cracked and the black mage and summoner looked at each other with concern. Up ahead out of sight came an echoing "Dammit!" The blonde and the black-haired riders gave chase.
"I can't read it! These signs are so grimy! UGH!"
"Calm down, Yek," Eleusynia tried to settle her friend, "It looks like we may have what we need. Let's see here..." Eleusynia leaned in and made out what appeared to be an arrow pointing north under a swath of slime and the symbols "| a n c i ". "This is it! Danoi! See?" She patted Yekan on her back.
"Yeah, I guess you are right. I'm sorry, Ele..."
"I'm sorry too, Ele," added the summoner.
"I dunno, it just felt appropriate to say."
Yekan smiled, "Let's get going and maybe get out of this rain." As they continued on, the wind and water pounded the forest including the sign. Under the muck the words "Carpenter's Landing" became more legible next to the northward-pointing arrow and a new word "Davoi" appeared next to a southern one.
Soon Yekan, Awias, and Eleusynia came up on a small spring. In front of them lay a winding cave. The chocobos fidgeted and wouldn't budge further. Relenting to the birds under the auspice they reached their goal, the women now stood wringing their clothes inside the cave.
"Here we are," joked Yekan.
"Here we be," said Eleusynia.
"Here for you are the-," Awias was interrupted.
"Magenificent Three. Well well well," came an unfamiliar voice from behind. Three heads turned and met three others. "I've always wondered when we'd run into you lovely ladies." The remark came from a hume male - ninja by his outfit - who was flanked by two more ninja, galka and elvaan respectively.
"That bastard!" Yekan exploded.
"What, who are these guys," pleased Awias.
"Brutus couldn't trust us to do the job ourselves? What are we, yesterday's mushpot? To make it worse, it's you guys!"
The ninja hume smiled and walked up to the summoner, taking and patting her hand in reassurance. "Don't worry little lady, let me introduce myself. My name's Ishido, leader of the Sixblades. This tall drink of water to my right is Samalis and the big quiet guy is Babagana. It is a pleasure," he kissed the top of her hand and she blushed.
Yekan pushed Ishido back. "Hey buster, this is our job. Did Brutus put you all up to this too?"
"I'm sure I don't know what you are talking about."
"Don't play dumb with me!" Her advance caused Samalis and Babagana to take a step closer. Yekan stopped at the signal.
"But there's only three of you," Awias was ignored. Even Eleusynia was tense. She heard about the Sixblades. They were mercenaries like the Opaline Brigade, though their jobs and techniques tended to be a little more...unscrupulous. The OB always considered them to be rivals but also enemies. Things between them had been tense. She felt safe, though, with the shield in her posession.
Awias summoned Carbuncle to her side, and it growled at the elvaan in front of it. Samalis bent down and asked, "Cute. What's its name?" The blonde turned on heel and pouted, "I'm not supposed to talk to you because Yekan doesn't like you."
A second later she heard a chitter and turned back around, seeing her summon rub affectionately against the black-cloth of Samalis's pant leg. Awias let a smile slip out and held back a laugh. Yekan wasn't laughing, however.
"Out of the way, stupid ninja, we have a job to do and you aren't gonna stop us from doing it."
"I can't do that," replied Ishido cooly and stepped in her way.
"Can't say I didn't warn ya."
With that signal from Yekan, Eleusynia cast stun on the hume. He fell down, being caught by Babagana who stared at the powerful black mage that shocked his leader. She was strong with magic, he could feel it...his hair stood on end as she passed by into the cave with her friends.
"Let them go," smiled Ishido, "maybe they'll do our job for us, haha, or at least make it easier. Sounds like that old oaf Brutus wasn't bluffing after all."
"How do you think they found out that the breeding project was being held here instead of Davoi," inquired Babagana.
"Who cares? They're cute!" Samalis motioned playfully.
"Never discount the Opaline Brigade," came a strained voice as Ishido stood up, "On the surface they may seem like they have no clue what is going on, but it seems I was mistaken. Women are such fascinating creatures."
Yekan was leading the way through the cave system back in her foul mood. "So this is 'Danoi', huh Ele," prodded Awias.
"Yeah, seems like it. I've never been here before so I don't know much. I sure think we are in the right spot, though!"
"Hey, pipe down. I don't want the men to hear us and think we are unprofessional." Yekan shot a glance back with her hot-headed words. The sound of rain came from ahead of them and they could see some lightning flashes on the walls ahead. "We're close to Danoi. Let's get our info and proof and leave. I have some words for 'Mr. Businessman' when we get back."
Nothing but a bog, some large beetles, and an old abandoned boat lay in the swampscape that lay in front of the Ladies in White. Yekan sizzled red.
"What's the matter? Not what you had hoped?" Ishido strode up behind her. "Come on boys, let's get on that ship and go down the river a ways."
"Oh no you don't! We saw it first!" The waterlogged white mage sloshed forward. Her friends actually cast sympathetic a look back to the Sixblades while following behind, trying to talk her down.
"Yekan, you don't know anything about boats, come on!" The level-headed black mage tried to talk sense to the white one as she boarded the barge and climbed to its pilothouse.
Yekan was about to respond when she saw Samalis show Awias how to take the mooring ropes off the dock. The boat then listed when the large galka, Babagana, stepped on board. Ishido saluted the captain behind her wheel and then walked on, too. There was just no helping it. Yekan wept openly in the cabin. She felt so helpless, so useless. Fate's playtoy. She tried so hard and got nowhere. She had nothing to personally show for it...no rings, no armor, no spells, no nothing! Just aggrivation. The weight of leadership constantly pounded her down into a humble pile of humanity.
Eleusynia left the pilothouse to try and save OB's face. Awias and Samalis were already fraternizing with their bare feet dangling in the water. Ishido didn't seem like much of a threat right now, so she went to go keep the large, quiet galka distracted. Those are the ones you have to keep your eye on, anyway. She tapped him on the back just as he shoved off the boat from the dock.
"What's your angle, huh?"
Babagana remained silent.
"Oh, I see how it it. Fine, don't talk."
Two galkan eyes regarded the fiery black mage as she went on and on about the situation.
"...and another thing-" Eleusynia stopped. The shield on her back sent vibrations through her body. She didn't know what was happening...until she saw Babagana draw his two katana and stab downward. She opened her eyes when she hear a juicy squeal. There by her knees twitched a clot monster sliced into three equal parts. Babagana wiped his blades clean and resheathed them, her shield no longer resonating. "I...er...thank you." She looked away sheepishly after having reemed out the ninja only to be saved from becoming a victim to a fearsome monster. Babagana simply nodded.
Ishido had been piloting the barge down the river the whole time. Yekan composed herself and stood next to him in angered silence. "I have to give you credit," he said, "you all did a good job coming all the way out here to Carpenter's Landing." He tried to leave a door open from which to gather information.
Yekan was shocked to hear she wasn't at their goal of Danoi but she didn't want to relent to this bastard. "Yeah well, there is a reason we are so highly sought after."
"I guess so. Hmm. So what do you think about this situation?" In an odd twist, Ishido didn't realize he was actually the one spilling the beans.
"I think it is complicated. I'd like to find out what the deal with these chocobo are."
"Don't you think it is a new way for orcs to wage war?"
Yekan played it cool and started to ease up, mentally grinning. "Could be, though there are deeper purposes behind it. This goes deep. Deeper than the Sixblades will ever be able to dig." Ishido was eating the bluff up as he steered all six passengers to the hidden isle in the Phanauet Channel.
Samalis was having a blast giving affection to Carbuncle. Awias kept looking over at him and smiling. She'd laugh as fish would nibble her toes in the barge's wake. To the ninja, she seemed so pure and innocent and childish. "Do you think this kind of chocobo breeding is wrong?"
"Haha, what now?"
"The breeding. You know, how the orcs are breeding the fastest chocobos...trying to get new species that have higher endurance. Our research shows they even have one that can run on shallow water and over steep mountains. This could allow them to raid San d'Oria or even Jeuno at their leisure!"
Awias knew she was on to something and let him go on.
"Well this was a wonderful conversation," satirized Eleusynia to the silent Babagana, "but I see we are pulling up to an island. If you'll excuse me." She went to prepare the barge to dock. Babagana smiled at the woman. He was impressed. She talked and talked but it wasn't trite like Samalis or business like Ishido. She actually had intelligence to her. He was honestly impressed.
The Opaline Brigade and the Sixblades stepped off the rickity raft. Together they snuck around following Ishido and Yekan (technically Ishido, but Yekan kept pace well). There ahead of them was a small camp of orcs and dozens of cages containing chocobo...not all of them yellow in color. Under guard there was a red and a blue one even!
"How horrible," sympathized Awias.
"Silence woman," Babagana said sternly. Eleusynia smiled as she was going to respond similarly.
"This is all I needed to know," whispered Yekan, "but I need proof. Samalis, come here." The elvaan looked to his hume leader who nodded back. "I want you to go in there and grab a notebook or something...anything that is describing what is going on here."
"You heard the lady," said Ishido finally understanding the Opaline Brigade's role. The elvaan sighed and cast mystic ninjustu, turning invisible and creeping off. He was gone for about ten minutes when he came back, handing a book to the hume white mage. She flipped through it a bit and smiled, content.
"Let's go home then, ladies." She intended to keep it that way even for the menfolk. Eleusynia nodded and wryly smiled. In a vortex of violet light Awias then Yekan disappeared. She caught Babagana shaking his head but smiling before she too disappeared.
"Well gentlemen, shall we get to our true work since the Magenificent Three is conveniently out of the picture?" Four other blades matched Ishido's two and the three ninja crept to the orcish camp...
Back in the smelly pit, Yekan handed over the lab journal to Brutus.
"Hmm interesting interesting. Thankye ladies, this'lldo much to help save these precious creatures, yup!" A meaty hand gave the women the rest of their fare plus a bonus of a thousand each as well as an apology for hiring the Sixblades to keep an eye on them. Yekan turned with an honest smile on her face, her own precious gift from this job well done. For once she outsmarted someone, a rival group's leader at that, and she felt great.
"Come on girls, to the Merry Minstrel! Drinks on me!" Awias and Eleusynia cheered, happy to see their friend content once more.
As the women left the stinking pit of large birds, Brutus beared his rolanberry-colored teeth in a menacing grin. He flipped through the book in his posession and muttered to himself.
"Now all I must do is wait for the Sixblades to return from destroying the camp - orcs, birds, and all - and the secrets to chocobo breeding will be all mine...all mine alone...hehehehe...". He walked inside his office in the stables to review the notes and take stock of his fold.