Matters of the Heart II: Vasial's Crush (The Keep)or hours, you have been poring over scrolls and tomes, but you haven't been able to make much headway in your studies. With a sigh, you lean back in your chair, stretching your legs and rubbing your eyes tiredly. A knock on the door makes you turn around and invite whoever it is to enter, relieved to get some distraction. A man in expensive clothing takes a few steps into the room, then stops and gives you a grin. "Hello my friend," he says. "We haven't seen each other in some time." You are confused for a moment, then a smile lights your face. "Vasial!" you exclaim. "It has indeed been a while. How have you been? And how's your fiancée? Do you have a date for the wedding by now?" Vasial chuckles. "Ah, that's something you don't know yet. She and I split up." You start to give your regrets, but he waves your words away. "Don't worry, my friend, it is just as well. If we had not split up, I would not have had the opportunity to meet my true love, after all." You give him a curious look. "Your true love? You already found someone else?" - "In a way," he replies, and seeing your confused stare, he continues. "I have not yet introduced myself to her. There are special circumstances surrounding her. In fact," and he gives you a lopsided grin. "That is why I came to see you today. I would like to ask your help bringing me and my love together." "My help?" you ask, astonished. "I don't see why you would need my help, Vasial. You are not a shy man, after all, and have a way with words. I don't see what I could help you with." – "As I said, this is a special case. If you agree to accompany me to the Callisto Islands, you will soon understand why you are suited to help me like no other. Please, in the name of our friendship, will you come and help?"
Matters of the Heart II: Vasial's Crush (Callisto Islands)The journey to the Callisto Islands has been swift and uneventful, if a bit frustrating. Even though you tried again and again, Vasial has been adamant in not telling you anything about the woman you are about to meet. Every time you asked, the man just gave you a mysterious smile and told you to wait and see. After a few days, you stopped asking and waited impatiently for your ship to arrive at Olavu, the main island of the Callisto archipelago and your destination. You give a small sigh of relief as the coastline of the island finally appears on the horizon, and a few hours later, you and Vasial step off the ship with your luggage. Soon after your arrival, you check in at a small inn that looks plain, but clean enough. Judging from the way Vasial is greeted by the landlord, he's a regular customer, and a welcome one at that. You quickly stow your things in your rooms on the second floor, then meet up again downstairs. "Well then," you start. "Where do we meet that lady of yours?" Vasial takes a swig from a mug of beer he has purchased before answering: "There's a secluded bay a little bit down the cost," he answers. "with a bit of luck, that's where she'll be." You shake your head at the man's infuriating vagueness. "A bit of luck?" you ask, exasperated. "You don't even know where the woman lives? But it is no matter," you say, raising your hand to interrupt him before he can reply. "I'm eager to find out what this is all about, so just lead the way, please."
A good hour later, the two of you are following a small path that leads along the rocky coast. After the stifling days spent on the ship, the exercise provided by the hike feels good, although the sun here on Olavu is hotter than at home in the Keep. The heat makes you sweat more than you are used to, as well as make you wish you had packed lighter robes. The two of you continue on in silence for a time, and you can not help but notice the gorgeous view. The sun shines brightly on blue waters, and beautiful beaches can just be seen.
A short while later, Vasial points to a group of large boulders up ahead. "The place we are going to is right behind there. We'll be able to see it once we've made our way around those rocks." He leads you around the huge boulders and through some thick bushes. The vegetation is so dense that you wouldn't have thought it passable, but the man somehow finds a way through. "Here we are," he says, stepping aside to let you have a look. You find yourself at a small incline, thickly overgrown with bushes. At the bottom of the hill lies a rocky beach, only extending a few dozen feet before reaching the ocean that lazily laps at the shore. Larger rocks are jutting from the shallow water, the lower parts covered in algea and barnacles, telling you that the tide is low. On one of these rocks, someone is sitting. It is a bit hard to make out the person, thanks to the distance, but it seems to be a woman with light brown skin and dark hair. She appears to be wearing some odd garment that gives off a greenish glint in the sunlight, and you shield your eyes with your hand, squinting to get a better look. You draw in a sharp breath as you realize what you are looking at; it is no garment at all. The woman's body ends in a long, fish-like tail, completely covered in small greenish scales. You turn to Vasial and give him an incredulous look. "One of the merfolk? Please tell me you are joking! You can't seriously tell me you have fallen for one of them!" The man blushes, a bit embarrassed, but meets your gaze. "It is not unheard of. I am sure you know the old stories." You nod at him and point out: "Yes, of course, but they usually end badly." Vasial merely shrugs and says: "Not all of them. I just need your help making contact. You are a magi, so she is more likely to be willing to talk to you. Please go down there and try, that is all I ask." You stand there for a moment, meeting his pleading look for a while, then you sigh in defeat. "Very well, I will try and speak to her. But I can't promise anything," you warn. "There's no guarantee she'll be willing to even acknowledge my presence." Vasial smiles at you happily. "Thank you, my friend," he says, shaking your hand. "I knew I could count on you!"
Carefully, you make your way down the incline and across the beach. The mermaid doesn't seem to notice your approach, and you continue until you are close enough to the water that the waves almost reach your shoes. You clear your throat, then start to speak: "Excuse me, please," you venture. "May I speak to you for a moment?" She turns around slowly, looking at you coolly. If she was startled by the sudden noise, she isn't showing any sign of it. "Why would I want to talk to you, landdweller?" she asks, raising one eyebrow. You introduce yourself, giving her your name and title, then continue: "I came here from the Keep by request of a friend. He would like to meet you, and asked me to talk to you on his behalf." She smiles thinly, playing with a strand of dark hair. "So why would I want to talk to him?" She asks, looking rather bored. "I… had hoped you'd just agree to talk to him, to be honest," you admit. "That wouldn't require much effort, after all." She gives an amused laugh. "Interesting, but not good enough," she replies, continuing quickly when she sees your face fall. "However, since you are from the Keep, you could help me with a small matter, and in return, I would agree to talk to that friend of yours." Stepping back from an oncoming wave, you consider her words. "Looks like no one is doing anything for free these days," you mutter with a sigh, then ask louder; "What is it you want me to do?" The mermaid flips her tail into the water briefly, then replies: "My city needs to stock up our Capricorn flocks, but seeking out the wild herds is a bothersome task. It would be easier on us if you would supply us with a few eggs. One each of the Amethyst, Tidal, Meridian and Hallow variant should be enough. If you bring those to me, I'll happily speak to your friend."
"Do you have the four eggs the mermaid requested?" Vasial asks. You shake your head. "Then there's no use returning there for now. It was one each of the amethyst, tidal, meridian and hallow capricorn, right?"
You and Vasial slowly make your way back to the secluded bay. Luckily, the beautiful mermaid is there when you arrive, sitting elegantly on her rock. You both descend the steep incline, but Vasial stays back while you approach her. "I have what you asked me for," you declare, taking the eggs out of your backpack and carefully unwrapping the soft cloth that kept them protected. The woman takes one of them, the meridian you notice, and holds it up to her ear, as if listening to something she can hear from within. After the inspection, she places the egg gently back onto the cloth and smiles for the first time since you met her. It softens her face, and you feel a moment of hope for Vasial. "Yes," she says to you, "these look very healthy. I am sure they will make a good addition to our flocks. Thank you!" And with that, she wraps the cloth securely around the eggs once more. "Is that your friend who wishes to meet me?" she asks, nodding in Vasial's direction. "Call him over to us, then. I will keep my part of the bargain." You wave at Vasial, beckoning him over and he quickly approaches, wringing his hands nervously. You note that his hair is freshly combed, and a fresh flower adorns his buttonhole. With a smile, you introduce him to the mermaid, then make your excuses and leave. After all, you don't want to get in his way, even though you don't expect that he will have much luck winning the heart of this lady.
In the evening, you are sitting over your dinner when Vasial enters. He immediately makes his way to your table and takes your hand, shaking it vigorously. "I really have to thank you, my friend! This is the second time you helped me a great deal!" The man is quite shining with joy. You quickly offer him a seat, then ask: "Your day went well, then?" You try not to let your curiosity be obvious, though you are wondering if the wooing was successful. "Indeed it did, indeed! The two of us get along very well, and she has agreed to meet me again. I will be staying here on the island for a while, to get to know her better. Luckily, I have already made arrangements back home in Arkene, so my business can get along a bit longer without me. Will you be returning to the Keep?" You nod. "Yes, I will leave tomorrow morning. I have to return to my duties. I am glad I could help you, and good luck, Vasial." He shakes your hand again. "Then let us celebrate tonight. Everything will be on me. I owe you something, after all, and this is the least I can do."
A few weeks later, you are sitting on the shore of Lake Lakira, relaxing after a long day at the Keep. Suddenly, the water in front of you ripples and to your amazement, the mermaid you met on your journey surfaces. "Well, that is a surprise," you declare, after you politely greet her. "I didn't expect to see you again, my lady. How are things going with my friend Vasial?" The woman smiles and tilts her head. "He's not bad, for a landdweller," she replies, with a wink. "I consider him a friend by now, although his hopes for more are in vain. But I didn't come here to talk about him," she continues. "I didn't have a chance to talk to you again after you introduced him to me. The capricorns you brought me have hatched and are cared for well in our city. They look to be very healthy specimens. We are thankful for your help, and from now on, you will be considered friend to the merfolk." You blush and bow deeply. "Thank you! I realize this is a great honor, and I will do my best to live up to it." She grins, paddling around playfully. "Good, I hope you do. We might be asking you for help now and then, so perhaps it's not as much of a privilege as you think it is." She waves away your protests. "Well, I have to leave again. I'll visit you again when I have time. Farewell!" With those words, she turns around and dives down into the lake again, leaving you standing there. The last thing you see is a long tail disappearing, then you are alone. With a chuckle and a shake of your head, you turn toward the path that leads to the Keep. Befriending a mermaid; that was quite an unexpected outcome to what seemed like a simple request in the beginning.