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Library:Devink - Illusive Centipede

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The Willow Tree was a reputed and well-famed establishment in central K'alak Muul. It was, essentially, a tea house were the public servants employed in the nearby ministries and agencies came after work to enjoy a cup of Ochranese tea, a shot of black drink, or a gourd of Reze mate. A semi-isolated isle of the building had a bar dedicated to the service of chocolate in all of its forms : from its distilled alcoholic liquor to the traditional beverage, spiced and perfumed in a myriad of different ways depending on the origin of the bottle. This separation could be easily explained by the drinking culture of the Divine Kingdom : tea was best enjoyed alone, but publicly. Black drink and mate meanwhile were best appreciated among friends. As such all of these beverages were sold in the "common hall".

Chocolate was a different matter. At least at the Willow Tree. It carried an aura of seriousness, of important matter that needed to be discussed as it should : at a separate table, with grave faces, one hand holding a cup of chocolate (Never lifted from the table if it isn't for a sip) and the other a smoking Ayeli cigars. As such the "Chocolate room" of the Willow Tree had a tense, smokey atmosphere, with separate stalls for conversations that required absolute secrecy. The staff had both the training and the experience to keep their eyes and ears open only for the clients' orders and nothing else.

One hand rose up from a small figure sited in one of the more isolated table, in one corner of the wood-laminated chocolate room. No cigar in its hand, but many rings shining in reflects of gold, platinum, and jade. Facing him a taller, older man, with a paler skin (although it wasn't saying much), an upturned nose, and an highly relaxed sitting posture contrasting even further with the man who just silently demanded for two more cups of chocolate. When the waiter arrived with the drinks he also proposed the taller figure a cigarette -not an Ayeli cigar for once- which the man gratefully took and brought to his always-grinning lips. The other one simply did not smoke.

"Carry on wayward. An uncooked egg sing a tune and silence remain. Which is the way to go ?"

There there were. The gibberish words of the Language of Zuyua. The reason why the two men did not both to reserve one of the isolated boot for their meeting. By speaking these discrete codewords, they preserved the secret of their conversation. However, it betrayed them to everyone as high-ranking Chajal K'uh, royal servants of the Divine Lord who were trusted enough to have received the privilege to learn and speak a coded language otherwise reserved to the ruling dynasty. Attempts by anyone else to pierce the secrets of the code were considered to be state treason and dealt with accordingly.

"Barbed hook and wooden spears. Colorful flowers remember passions or do they bring the axe ?"

The red man flinched at that unintelligible remark, re-adjusting his dark cloak on his shoudlers. Every word were from Mutli and the grammar seemed to make sense. But it was part of the language of Zuyua' subterfuge : it wasn't merely encrypted Mutli, but a collection of wordplays, puns, namesakes, injokes, and references that worked sometime within Mutli alone, or between Mutli and another language, or within that other language only. What exactly was that other language the code worked with was a mystery for the unitiated, even the spies and agents who risked their lives to decrypt it.

"The Illusive Centipede does not crawl, it stalk. The egg crack itself playing the next tune. What is the mystery of the moon, if not the deer hoove ?" Somehow the tall man nodded as if he was fully aware of what was the Illusive Centipede' doings. He took a small sip of his chocolate beverage before resuming the conversation, no longer smiling.

"You're stressed. It's normal. No one in your shoes would be calm given the situation. But you know why you've been chosen, and you know what we expect of you. Illusive centipedes do not crawl, they stalk indeed. They should be your source of inspiration for the next few days. On these words..." He finished the rest of his chocolate, and rose his hand in the peculiar gesture that demanded not another drink, but the tab.

A few minute later, the stern-looking dark-red man was left alone at the table with his chocolate and his thoughts. He knew what was to come, he had done hundreds if not thousands of similar operations. Under the cup left by his partner, there will be a small piece of paper. He will take the paper without being noticed when he'll leave the Willow Tree. He'll walk for a few minutes before taking a glance at his watch and at the paper at the same time. He will read the address on it. Then, he will destroy the paper : either by throwing it in a water-filled drain or through some other method that did not involve trashcans.

He already knew the business at hand. It was worth 500 million latin solidii and possibly three human lives. Relatively little considering his line of job but still, there was no simple nor ingrate mission when in service of the K'uhul Ajaw.

He exaled, finished his drink, and began the hunt of the illusive centipede.