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The Witch’s Trail (Fantasy, Horror, IC)

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Naval Monte
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Posts: 13558
Founded: Sep 04, 2014
Civil Rights Lovefest

The Witch’s Trail (Fantasy, Horror, IC)

Postby Naval Monte » Tue Nov 10, 2020 2:35 am






Collab with Naval Monte and Menschenfleisch

Robaiziche Commonwealth, Raven's Ash- Northern Vesperia, 2520 PE

You are entering Raven's Ash; the frontier town of the Commonwealth. Enjoy your visit


Dried paint crossed out the final words of the rickety sign. The paint might have been red once, maybe a decade or two ago, but like old blood exposed to the air for so long and with all blood cells now deceased it had a rustic brown color. The sign in general had seen better days. The wooden pole was badly rotten and was only being held in place on the moist ground due to divine intervention. The sign itself had many splinters coming off as pieces of it had fallen off or were eaten away.

As Alex looked behind the sign she would find rows of buildings made with the traditional timber framing that was popular throughout Vesperia. White walls interlaced with brown and black woods in straight patterns with some bending into slight curves. With some buildings that go above two storey she saw the upper halves extend outward to overhang from the lower half and from the narrow streets of the town. The tile roofs also overhanged as well, some sagging due to years of accumulation of water from the constant rain that shower the town. Even some of the little homes appear to be crooked as the wet ground was making the foundation of some homes sink into the ground.

The gray sky cast a dim and gloomy atmosphere in the dingy and rustic town. As the woman crossed through the open iron gates past the stone gatehouse she would catch the glimpse of the volunteer guards looking at her, giving her a disapproving glare. The woman simply rolled her eyes as she walked down the narrow and windy streets of the town.

Alex would hear merchants from stalls by the streets calling out for customers to buy their wares. She heard the clanging of a blacksmith's hammer hitting against metal as he tempered the steel, she would smell the conflicting aroma of fresh baked goods from the bakery close by and the smell of liquid feces sledging down the street.

The streets themselves were crowded as most who walk down were visitors like herself simply paying the small town a visit before they make their way on their journey to parts unknown. Most were merchants trying to make a sale before they moved on to the next market in the nearest town. Others were religious pilgrimages going through a spiritual journey and others were scholars searching for more knowledge. A few she saw were mercenaries and hunters looking for clients who would hire them. The plates of armor and the weapons strapped around belts on their person gave them away to her.

A few Alex wasn't entirely sure on what they were. She suspects that they were most likely farmers, artisans, and other people who lost their livelihood due to the golem workforce and are now searching for a new place to live and work. Their clothing told her the story of their hardship as dirt and grime coated them as much as their sweat. The clothing that wasn't obviously sewn shut to close up tears made in their trip still had holes open to expose their skin for the world to see.

"What does that damn sow think she's playing? Does she want someone to burn her alive?" Alex heard a voice from the crowd say. She can see the suspicious glares she was getting as she continues on within the town. She knew that her chosen attire would draw controversy in most parts in Vesperia and she knew that in this town all her dress and hat would draw immense ire from the residents.

"Where are those damn inquisitors and woodsmen when you need them. That harlot is asking for those lunatics to come down and take her away." the woman shrugged at the responses she was getting from the people. She didn't care for what others in the previous towns thought about her so why should she care now in this place?

Alex would brush aside a lock of her hair as she moved onward. "Keep cursing me you ingrates. I'm getting more amusement from your reactions than fear." Alex chuckled to herself as one woman turned her head up away from the woman. Alex would ignore the gesture and other less flattery ones thrown at her by a few people that decided that glaring at her wasn't enough.

"Where is that tavern? I have a few coins I'm willing to spend so I can get something to eat and to rest up for the day." she muttered as she tapped her chin with her finger to recall where the tavern once was. This wasn't her first time visiting this particular town but she will admit that she doesn't often come inside the town due to always walking past it to try and reach her actual destination.

Alex would let out a long sigh as her shoulders sagged. "Great job Alex. You forgot where the tavern was. Nice to know all of that education was well spent." The arcanist was feeling reluctant to ask anyone for directions for the tavern since she knew that she was more likely going to be pointed to the gate house or jail to the town than the tavern.



"You’re not lost are you?" A young woman approached Alex from behind. Not the best conversational tactic by the girl's own admission, but it caught her attention quite neatly. She witch turned to see a woman whose youth poured from all her orifices. Figuratively. Black hair, ponytail, green eyes, easy smile; her coat and green scarf made her look all the less formal and fuzzy around the edges, like a slightly overripe peach. She gave Alex an easy smile which conveyed so much apathy, so much casualness that it could've only been rehearsed.

The arcanist turned around and looked up to see the maiden who approached her. Alex wondered if perhaps the young woman before her just entered adulthood because she was a reservoir of youthful energy. It almost made her feel jealous. However something about the maiden was off as the smile she gave her didn't feel genuine. "I'm looking for the nearest tavern but I got myself lost." she replied back. She would look at the scarf. "I take it you are from out of town such as me?"

"'Course not. Haven't found a person in this town who looks like they've formed a happy memory since birth. Now, I'm not the best judge of character, but do I look like I’ve had chronic depression before the second trimester?" She gave a short flourish with her hand to punctuate the sentence. It dislodged the musket on her back, previously hidden behind her head, revealing the end of the barrel to Alex. It swayed hypnotically, an instrument of death not too far off. "You look like you need a stiff drink. Lots, judging by how much of a tolerance for alcohol someone of your age and demographic must've built up by now. That being said, I'd like to buy you some wine. (not gay, just so you know). It's not necessarily a social calling - I'm heading to the Shadowlands, you see, and you look like you know your way around."

If the young woman was expecting Alex to react to fear when she put the barrel of the musket on her face she would find the woman giving her a blank look. "Do you even know how to use that thing properly?" the exasperated woman uttered as she placed her hand on her forehead.

"Don't answer that." she quickly said as she placed her hand off her forehead and moved it to her hip. "I don't know how you found out but you guessed correctly. I know my way to the tavern. I was doing the whole clueless tourist act to get some people to come by and see if maybe I can have them join me in my journey. I rather have some company for my next journey and it seems my wish has been granted since we're both going to the same place." The way the woman was speaking to her was soothing, very so. Her tired mind and aching body was starting to feel the effects as she let out a yawn, covering her mouth. "So what's your name? I'd rather get to know who my drinking buddy is today?" she asked her as she began to lead the young woman to the tavern.

"Jacquelyn Vanth," the woman whistled, ducking under the doorway to accommodate a weapon almost as tall as she was. The stench of malt and aged wood buffeted them as soon as the door opened. The interior was at once suffocating and too cold. Drinkers of all demographics and ages were packed at their tables like sardines, enjoying... well, cautiously imbibing cups of mead. Most were not local, the town was a bit of a jumping off point for all sorts of journeys. Expeditions into the Shadowlands, for one thing, but also archaeological operations in a site on a foothill not four miles from the heart of the town. Soldiers tended to pass through too. Something about a campaign in the South.

The two sat down at a table designed for five. Their dramatic underuse of space was exacerbated by the dramatic overuse of it all throughout the room: some benches had ten or more people gathered around them. Jacquelyn didn't wait to get an order from the counter, she withdrew a long bottle of absinthe from a pouch at her hip and placed it on the table alongside a few glass decanters that were most certainly not designed to contain healthy amounts of liquor. The liquid within the bottle didn't slosh or lap against the edges of its container, it just sat there rather impassively. "Hm. Some of the alcohol must've dropped out. Sorry, you're meant to keep these warm so that doesn't happen."

It was a simple chemical property. Solvents would dissolve more solute when they were warmer. In this case, there was so much bloody alcohol in the drink that it'd precipitated out just from being exposed to cold air. There was sediment at the bottom. At least a fistful of solid ethanol! "You're looking a little bit pale. You drink, don't you?" Jackie asked with far too much innocence as she poured out a full glass of absinthe - good lord did it smell strong - and downed it in a single gulp. She even licked her lips afterward, tongue darting out like that of a serpent. "Come on. Don't be shy. It's genuinely good stuff, and I received it as a gift from my workmates. A little easy on the taste buds if you ask me, though."

Alex looked at the concoction before her dubiously. "I think I will take my chances with the mead in this place, no offense." The arcanists waited for a bar maid to arrive so she could make her order. "My name is Alexandria Ashwood. I almost forgot to introduce myself on the count of you pointing a musket on my face. It isn't the first time that has happened unfortunately." the woman shrugged as she placed her hat down at the table. "I enjoy a good drink but I rather not trust my life with a drink I'm not too familiar with." she would let a small smile grace her visage. "I have a daughter waiting for me back home and I want to see her again. You have kids Ms Vanth?"

Jacquelyn tched at Alex’s refusal to drink. “Your loss. And nope, I don’t have kids. Never plan on having them either. Besides, unless I had a child when I was fifteen, they’d be less than eight years old right now. I’d hardly head to the Shadowlands while they were that young, would I? I might be a colossal disappointment but I'm not a neglectful disappointment at the very least." She patted down her rifle to keep it steady. Sitting with it on her back was a chore to say the least. "Besides, I hardly pointed it at your face - it came loose is all. Now, you mentioned you were going to the Shadowlands and that you were hoping for travel companions. I have no friends (obviously), so I'm willing to be your plus one."

Alex chuckled. "I will humor you by allowing you to accompany me. Just keep any musket related incidents to a minimum around me. I want the Shadowlands to be the final stretch for my journey and return back home alive thank you very much." The women would see a barmaid arrive at their table. The maid looked tired as she looked at the two strangers. "What do you two want?" she asked them.

“The most aromatic meat you have and some whisky, if you don’t mind.” Alex voiced. Jacquelyn was uncharacteristically solemn as she made her own order; “Just biscuits, please. Anything will do.” Their orders were short to come out. Alex was the recipient of a spiced tartare and a short glass of orange liquor while Jacquelyn got a slightly torn paper parcel of hardtack. There were a few faded words on the back: “n vy comm ssi n, eat by” and the rest was cut off.

“What’re you heading over for anyway? Not much money to be made from the venture, and if it’s stories to tell your kids that you want then just read a few penny dreadfuls and pull the tales from those. Shadowlands is a piss poor place to earn a tale, if you make it back alive.” And there was that silky voice again. She switched between cadences as quickly and as smoothly as blinking. It was like two personalities were sharing the same body and taking turns to talk.

Alex gave Jackie a smile. “It’s simple, my siren voiced friend. I’m not searching for gold, I’m looking for knowledge.” A glint appeared in her eyes when she mentioned knowledge. “The Shadowland witches have access to Old Magic, a lost art in thaumaturgy. I wish to find out some of their secrets and use it for my own research. Perhaps there are spells and rituals that were lost to us when Modern Magic was made. I wish to discover those lost secrets and bring them back.”

She would grab the knife and begin to cut her meat. “Plus I want to bring back something for my little girl because she loves it when I bring her things from my journeys.” the woman stabbed the blade into the piece of meat she cut off.

“Her smile just warms my heart and brings joy to my tired old heart. I’m willing to risk life and limb for that.” she would bring the piece of meat to her mouth and bit down on it.

“That’s heartwarming and all,” Jacquelyn began, squinting, “But siren voiced? I’m… I don’t know how to tell you this but I’m not gay.” she glanced around. “Like really, I’m not. Why does everyone I meet think I’m gay?” Alex sighed slightly. ”Maybe they’re saying it pejoratively,” she thought. “Whatever,” Jacquelyn shook her head to clear her thoughts. “Search for knowledge. Not a rare ambition, I’ll admit. Thaumatology is one of the worst things to be interested in, though. Bet you wish your interest lay with something easier to investigate, like herpetology. Me, myself, I’m not sure what I want. Following in someone else’s footsteps, I guess.”

Alex was now intrigued by the woman she was sitting with. “Interesting. Did they enter the Shadowlands and never came out?” she asked as she cut another piece of meat and ate it.

“Not at all,” Jack responded. “They sailed into a weft in reality in the sea. The person I’m talking about was a Frontier Captain, you see. Sayuri Kataigida. I served aboard her ship, saw things that’d put The Shadowlands to shame, or so sailors would have you believe. I’m sure thaumatologists would say that the things prowling in The Shadowlands would drive the most hardened sailor mental. It’s a dick measuring competition, it is. Anyway long story short: they disappeared, I woke up on a beach in the middle of nowhere and now I’m stuck having to scrape by on land. I feel like I should live up to The Captain’s exploratory legacy. Except I can’t afford a boat nor do I have the charisma to pull together a crew, so The Shadowlands will have to do.”

“Interesting. Did your captain sail to one of those areas at sea that sailors say that should be avoided at all costs because those waters were haunted or cursed?” Alex asked as she grabbed her glass of whiskey and began to drink from it.

“Nope,” Jacquelyn scoffed. “Because the places we sailed had never been heard of before so there was nobody to tell us to avoid them. Theoretically we were just exploring but it didn’t feel like an aimless expedition: it felt more like a continuous journey down a… tunnel, of some sort. At first all we had to contend with was the storms and pirates. Later we started finding sea monsters, then illogical weather patterns, issues with time, our skin turning to glass, et cetera. And when I say issues with time, I do mean it. On my first trip I kept a journal. I measured the passing of at least seventy days. To the outside world we were only gone for two. Had to replace the whole hull of the ship, too; about half of the planks had been replaced with frozen corpses during the trip. Wasn’t even the weirdest thing we saw. But enough about me and what may or may not have been a series of eidetic hallucinations that occurred within the bounds of a five year long continuous schizophrenic break; you’re not going into the Shadowlands alone, are you?”

Alex was silent after hearing Jacquelyn’s story. She was mesmerized by the anomalies she heard from the woman and wished she was around to witness them with her own eyes so she could record her findings. For now second hand sources will have to do since Jacquelyn most likely can’t remember where she went to find that area.

“No, I’m not. Going in there alone is a terrible idea.” she replied back as she put down the glass of half finished whiskey. “My idea is to find the right amount of people and hire them to join me in entering the Shadowlands.”

“Well good luck with that,” Jacquelyn tilted her head and lifted one corner of her mouth into a smile to blow anyone’s socks off with the sheer concentration of smug. “Looks like you’ve got your first partner. Cheers.” And she spilled her drink when she tried to raise it to Alex’s glass. The witch giggled at the small mistake as she tapped her glass against Jacquelyn, bringing her glass back on the table as she returned to her meal.
Last edited by Naval Monte on Tue Nov 10, 2020 2:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
Naval Monte- The Mediterranean crossroads of mind-controlling conspiracies, twisted dimensions, inhuman depravity, questionable science, unholy commerce, heretical faiths, absurd politics, and cutting-edge art.

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Menschenfleisch
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Posts: 671
Founded: Nov 01, 2017
Father Knows Best State

Postby Menschenfleisch » Tue Nov 10, 2020 4:04 am

Fairview General Mnemonic Incident - All Compiled Documents
Subject: REALLY IMPORTANT NOTICE - I COULD LITERALLY DIE IF YOU FUCK THIS UP. Please title your support requests properly.
From: Jacquelyn Vanth (aty. Associate)
To: Ana Just because the other Ana quit doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still use my full name.

I received a written correspondence from the secretary of one Sergeant Caitlin Wandmarcher of the 6th Midnight Battalion on the dawn of the New Year. I unsealed the letter in my home and learned that one of the soldiers under her command - a rider known as Warren Davids - had been afflicted with dreams of a disturbing nature ever since his campaign in the Levant (Eastern borders). She was willing to remunerate me a considerable sum if I would help to treat his nightmares. I departed to his household at noon on the following Friday whereupon I was greeted by the man alone on his doorstep. He looked ragged and fatigued but nevertheless he had an air of playfulness about him. He was an unremarkable specimen with a middling physique and some atrophic scars on his arms where his flesh had been gouged out and never regrew. His home was filled with clockwork paraphernalia, for he fancied himself a tinkerer, and I spied a great number of dice and gambling chips spread out on his cabinets and beneath the furnishings. He invited me to sit in his lounge and provided me a cup of oolong, which I was happy to accept. This paragraph is almost free of errors. Did you write the first three lines while in a disorderly state of mind and write the rest on the next day, after you had recovered?

I learned from the client that for a number of days he had been suffering persistent nightmares wherein he imagined that he was in the middle of a vast forest with no end or slope, where the wolf would hunt him and attack him. Each time he had the dream the forest grew slightly darker and the ground grew slightly redder, and on many occasions he discovered his own blood under the shade of the trees. He worried - though he admitted that it was a paranoid delusion - that eventually, the wolf would succeed in killing him and that he’d then never wake up. When I asked him whether he had attempted to fight back he answered that on some occasions he dreamt that he was armed with a sabre or shot and that while he had never wounded the wolf, it had acted to fend off his attacks. When prompted, he could not name any childhood event or trauma which could explain his recent turn toward disturbance and insomnia.

I deduced two things from that conversation. The first was that the wolf could be combated, judging by his description of how he had managed to stay its teeth before. The second was that the scenario was one with continuity between iterations, which I surmised from his ability to sometimes find his own bodily fluids in the woods. Therefore I decided to resolve the situation by killing the wolf in his nightmares. Long term treatment in this case would’ve been ineffective due to the fact that his dreams were worsening over time and therefore, a rapid and instantaneous resolution was preferable to a slow and potentially taxing burn.

Entering a client’s nightmare to resolve the scenario in person is universally the fastest way to prevent its recurrence. However, it is extremely dangerous both for myself and the patient. If I were to fail to resolve a nightmare the effects could be catastrophic, and in this case, I would imagine that they would be lethal to my psychology. Therefore I would like to request your assistance in ensuring that my sanity and identity remain intact throughout this case. There is a notebook in my locker containing a set of key memories that you should ask me to recall following my insertion into the client’s mind, a set of mementos that you should ask me to identify and a journal that you should have me read in the event that my mind turns out to have been entirely eradicated. I understand now why you switched into such a formal tone after the introduction. You don’t need to butter me up like this to receive my help, Jackie.

- Sincerely, Jacquelyn Vanth You already wrote your name at the top of the letter.



Object Case Report ‘Vanth-11’, for the Office of General Esoteric Inquiry and Equity
- DVT. Secretary General Kyle Hearse Esq. of the Department of Inorganic Thanatology, 37 Altrician Way, Farkirk

Prescript: This transcript was obtained while Ms. Vanth was in a stupor, having lost several weeks’ worth of recollections during the resolution of the client’s recurring nightmare scenario (RNS). Attached is her testimony of the events that occurred while she and the client were asleep.

Vanth was unable to recall whether she retained her identity while inside the dream or not. The recount is therefore largely free of any reference to her mental state or thought processes.

- Humbly, Attache Asakku

My eyes open slowly and without snapping. There is no crust around my eyelids, I must not have slept for very long. It’s cold. I am cold. There are dusty gray boards above me with dark fissures wracking their bottoms. The grain of the wood is demarcated by pallid scars. They swirl, forming the whorls and eddies of a stagnant sea. I kick off the blanket that weighs on me and sit up to the sound of roaring water. The bedframe groans beneath me. It is smooth and worn, with only the posts at each corner having chips taken out of them. There is a musty smell. Sterile. The dust around me is long dead and hardly disturbed. The back of my neck prickles. I already miss the feeling of being in bed, of my own body heat seeping up through the mattress, dutifully returning to me in my time of need. I look back at the pillow, the white envelope that my head used to occupy. It is dented and impossibly well-fitted to me. I can see the contours of my hair in it.

The covers are odourless and pale. They are clean but receptive to my body. Like kind strangers, aloof but willing to accommodate me. I peel them back and set one corner to another. My own body is revealed. The aggravating contour of my shins, the atrophic patches on my arm. I clench my hands into fists. I can almost hear my fingers creaking as they twist. I am dressed and modestly so. The person that I was before sleeping was kind and unwise enough to throw an eye-wateringly white shirt over our shoulders and to pull up some colourless trousers. A green scarf hangs heavy over my neck. My shoes, gleaming oxfords, taunt me from the other end of the room, next to the door. I look over the side of the bed with apprehension. The floorboards are pitted and layered with fine wooden grit. They look ready to kill. And if not that, then colour my feet gray. To save myself a great hassle I throw the blanket over the floor. At once with a whump and whiff a cloud of savage smoke rises up. I choke, cough, splutter, fall back and bury my face in the pillow. It smells like me. Of worn-down skin and tears. When my eyes and nose stop stinging I put it down to survey the damage. As the adage goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. I never had the opportunity to appreciate how pristine a condition the bed was in until it was caked with drab stains. The covers, once soft, are now coarse and grainy to the touch. The windows through which milky light used to pour are now clogged. It’s a shame. If they’d been left alone they probably would’ve delivered a striking effect. I might’ve even likened them to portals to heaven. But oh well. It would’ve been a cheap prosaic diatribe anyway.

Each breath I take probably cuts a week off my lifespan. I dread to think of what my lungs are like now. Not that they would’ve been a pretty sight even in the healthiest of times, that is. The door handle turns easily. The joints have turned to dust and a mere skeleton of brass remains inside the mechanism. Yet in spite of the state of its internal apparatus the door swings on its axis freely, not once threatening to burst from the frame and topple on me. It’s weightless. Does it even have joints? Everything that I do is effortless. I’m sure that if I pressed my hand into the wall it would sink in and that I could gouge fistfuls out of the glass as if it were putty. Even the light is thinner than usual. My feet glide across the floor and into the next room. It is not as sparse as the one before but it is not readily brimming with character either. A tall rack stands watch over an unlit vertex from which I liberate a dark riding coat. I appreciate its soft grip on my elbows and wrists more than the protection it affords against the cold. The centre of the room is occupied by a long desk and a chair, so meek and vanishing that I might’ve missed them at a first glance. There is a cup of tea, a quill, an inkpot and a linen bundle on the tabletop, arranged in a pleasing but chaotic manner.

I throw a sidelong glance at a window in quarters, divided by two thin beams. Outside I see water crashing against rounded stones. The sky is eaten up by a chalk cliff that curves with shapely contours toward me. A brook curls around the building and out of view. The ground is matted by grass that gives off the faintest impression of green. I wipe my hand across the glass. The scene smears. The ground loses definition while the water flows sideways across the pane. The world is the shade of blanched ash. If there is a sun then it is wrapped inside a morose thicket of clouds. A yolk within an egg. I smile at my own analogy. The chair makes hardly a scrape as I pull it back. The floor is as smooth as marble in spite of its knotted and jagged appearance. The quill is dirty with stains and the pot is filled with scabs of dry ink. The tea just tastes like burnt water. It would’ve done more good clearing the soot from my face than it does sitting pretty in my stomach. The package is the only thing of worth. It’s straight backed, weighty and about as long as my arm thrice over. The cloth rustles pleasantly beneath my fingers when I unfurl it.

Little steel pellets wink at me as the light spills across them, five in all. Their surfaces are faceted and dull. I’d take a grindstone to them if only I had one. There’s old blood in the cracks and miniscule splinters of what I can only assume to be bone. The rest of their features are obscured by hardened dirt. An equal number of canvas cartridges lie beside them. A furtive quantity of black powder lies within each. I smell that which is swaddled deeper in the bundle before I see it. The aroma of carrion is unmistakable. Thicker, more pungent than words could ever give it credit for. A few scraps of gristle poke out of the corner of a paper package. Its corners are creased and its body is slick with grease. Its scent has all the sting of ammonia and all the acidity of sulphur so it brings tears to my eyes. I roll it to one side and pull away the rest of the fabric.

A languid beam of wood glances up at me. It is bedecked with bronze, which sprouts from it like a fungal infestation. A musket lies there. Its grip is worn, its wooden frame is dry and has the colour of whisky. I try the trigger. It’s tempestuous, sometimes sliding easy and other times catching on some internal irregularity, juddering to an indignant halt until I ease the pressure of my finger and allow it to return to a standing position. At the very least there’s a click when the trigger agrees to perform as it should; the flint still sparks. There’s a sash beneath it which I fold over my arm, carrying the implement on my back. There is one last item, a curious long object bound in red ribbon. A tiny portion of it sticks out at one end, a leatherbound rod with unmistakable dimples in it. It’s been clutched before, so tightly that the pads of someone’s fingers were branded upon it. When I look at it my eyes wander and my thoughts cloud. Something previously inconstant and distant leers at me from within. Wind glides across my shoulders and suggests the weight of cold fingers. I want no part in it but my hands move on their own. With dreadful familiarity I slide it onto my belt and place a metal link around the end. It is fastened to me now.

There is nothing else to observe. When my rifle is loaded I make my way to the exit and step outside. I lose focus for a second and no longer. When I come about I am alone in a field. There is no house nor door behind me. The sky above me is dark and starless. The ground underfoot is damp and slimy; so thick with vegetation that it has congealed. My feet sink almost two inches deep into a mire of weeds and thorns. My musket digs into my back, the stock jabs at the back of my thigh as I stand there, enraptured by the darkness. Pylons of wood stick from the ground at odd angles. They are knotted, elongated, tortured. In the halflight the hollows and little gaps in them appear as if moaning faces or outstretched fingers. Above me, black silhouettes rustle and keep the light of the moon away, yet it pierces the canopy in many places and makes the earth glister wherever it lands. I step up to a tree and run my fingers across its trunk. They come away wet. I sniff and am appalled. It reeks of a surgery. Bones glitter in the grass, buried half-inches deep.

The world is silent around me but for the gentle creak of wood and the lullaby of the leaves. I peer cautiously into the shadows surrounding me. There are clearings throughout the forest where the trees shy away from one another and the grass is a little cleaner. One of them has an odd twinkle in it. As I approach, the source of the glimmer becomes apparent. A tooth sits in the ground, buried up to the pulp. I pull it from the mud and clear its surface with the palm of my hand. I feel a prick and then warmth on my wrist. A shallow wound runs beneath my fingers, cut by the triangular tooth. It is sharp, and it scintils in the moonlight. I wander for a time, enjoying the smell of wet grass and the gentle blue glow that sometimes makes its way through the ceiling above me. The wind is light, even tender. When I am afforded the opportunity to I look up past the trees and at the moon, a pearl amidst a sea of ink. It locks onto me, demanding my attention. The cold digs into my skin, becomes harsh and agitated. The air tightens around my neck, my eyes water and blur. My fingers are numb, my breath sharp and painful. My hairs prickle and provide a sensation like teeth are sinking into my skin. The light is ravenous. The moon is hungry, so hungry…

The whisper of bending vegetation grows loud and close. It is muffled but not far. I tear my gaze from the sky and throw my package of carrion upon the ground. It bursts when it lands and showers my shins in gore. A fat tubey organ lolls, like a tongue, to one side. Hearts and livers, all brown and coagulated. I scrape jellied blood off my hands as I run into the bush. I throw myself low and upwind then orient myself toward the clearing. A curdled mass of meat stews beneath the avaricious moonlight. Already it is shrivelling, as if the moon were sucking the moisture from it. I dig the stock of my weapon into my shoulder and aim it just above the meat, where the eye of a beast would be if it were to eat from the pile. Nettles snap from nearby. From behind me. A monstrous presence is at my back, I feel. Something that couldn’t tell the difference between myself and the carrion, except that I was larger and more succulent. A thing pads toward me while I lock my limbs and harden my lungs. I don’t dare to breathe. I can hear the rise and fall of its chest, the bristling of its fur. The Wolf. Its footsteps are quiet but heavy. Like the boom of depth charges.

It comes up up and up, ever closer, slinking toward me… then past. I catch a good glimpse of it as it passes into the light. It’s massive and featureless. Dark in the same way that my eyelids are dark when they’re drawn down. It’s a contorted absence of light; a hole in reality’s canvas never painted over. I could pour the whole ocean into it and it still wouldn’t be full. Hungry, so hungry… my belly aches and my tongue moistens all on its own. The animal is formed from jagged angles. It has a shape but it presses against it at all times. It has four legs then two, then sometimes a hundred dispersed throughout the sky. It is as if a thousand inkblots are constantly disappearing and reappearing over one another, leaving the boundaries and orientation of the wolf impossible to ascertain. It spits in the face of geometric certainty. The only constant is its eye, a baleful orange orb stuck in the corner of its skull, with no pupil or iris. The beast lowers its shaking jaws to the meat.

It has its back to me. That is not to my advantage. Its head is hidden behind the bulk of its body, preventing me from taking a clean shot. It’s just as well. I doubt I would’ve been able to hit its eye in the first place. I shift the barrel ever so slightly to one side. It raises itself up right as I pull the trigger. For the first time in eternity the forest is lit up by a brilliant conflagration. A blinding cloud of fire and smoke jets from the end of my weapon and roils in the air. The crack of burning powder buffets my ears, echoes endlessly between the trees. My shot punctures the animal’s flank and sinks through its ‘flesh’. The thing reels but does not fall. Emptiness weeps from the wound, consuming the air and deleting the grass at a mere touch. I worry that even if it doesn’t catch me, its blood will annihilate some portion of my body. It stumbles once, twice, each time losing a little more of its balance. I see it begin to keel to one side. If it falls, it will never get up again. But it plants its feet in the dirt and stabilises itself. Its jaw is open. Long tendrils of black saliva dribble from in between its teeth. It slowly turns its head toward me and starts pulsing.

Its boundaries leap toward me then back again. It expands to the size of a house then returns to its usual shape twice in a second, doing so the rhythm of my own heartbeat. Ba bum. Ba bum. With each pulse it becomes a little larger, its fur stands a little more on end. When it finally snarls and orients itself toward me, it’s as large as a horse. I don’t hear its call. When it opens its mouth to bay, all that happens is the forest ambiance goes deathly silent for a moment. The wolf doesn’t produce noise, it eats it; drowns it in impenetrable quiet. It leaps faster than anything of that size should be able to. I throw my musket out in front of myself so as to offer it up to its jaws. They snap shut, moving parallel to the gun. If it had been a normal wolf - albeit one of tremendous size and ferocity - its mouth would’ve been forced open. Instead my weapon disappears entirely and blots itself out of existence at mere contact with the animal’s tongue and palate. It’s on me in the next instant. It plants its paws on me, holds me firm to the ground. Its foot sinks into my chest. There is no pain, just a faint sizzling sensation inside my head. My skull feels light and weightless. Colours and objects swirl around me. I enter a waking sleep. Delirium. I think my lips pull themselves back into a smile but I am unsure. I am preoccupied with dreams of butterflies and long, straight lines. I drown in irresistible sopor; the narcotic of oblivion. I am dimly aware that the wolf has my head between its teeth, but… what is a wolf anyway? And what’s “I”?

My knuckles graze soft velvet ribbons. Then they land on whatever is inside those ribbons, imprisoned behind layers of fabric. Instantaneous clarity suffuses me, burns within my blood. My sinews are alight, my vision is aflame. In one motion I take hold of the long object I stuck to my belt, draw it from its woven container and slash the wolf across the neck with it, using my free hand to lift its head and expose its neck. The beast is slightly less surprised than I am. It takes a step back and a crescent of liquid nothing falls out of its throat. It opens its mouth as if to howl only for a gurgle to come out of its throat. It chokes, hacks, spits up a gallon of water. It struggles mightily, chest heaving in panicked attempts to breathe. More water, more salt; it just keeps coming out from the back of its mouth. It drowns on dry land.

The vast hound doesn’t even remember that I exist in its last moments. At the very end, it can think of nothing but its urge to breathe and the unbearable pressure inside its body. I look to my left, at the thing that I am holding. At the end of a hilt bound in leather there is a razor of memory and pain, something fashioned out of my fears. It is a blade of sharpened nightmares. Of my nightmares.



[Template] - Debrief and Identity Reacquisition Session Log

If you want to verify the contents of the transcription yourself, it’s been preserved by the Caddybird in the general aviary. Ask after the head falconer.

- Attache Asakku



A (Asakku): What’s your name?
V (Vanth): Ana…
A: I’m only following the instructions you left me before you entered the client’s mind.
V: I know, I know. Sorry. My name is Jacquelyn Vanth.
A: Profession? And for how long?
V: Freelance somnophysician of the Department of Psychological Affairs, a subsidiary office of the OGEIE.
A: And what does the acronym stand for?
V: I don’t know.
A: Well that’s fair enough, hardly anyone bothers to remember it. I’ll put you under short term memory loss and general malaise.
V: Fair enough.
A: You look distracted. Is something bothering you?
V: (sighs) beyond my whole body being numb and not being able to see colours? Nothing at all. Please, let’s just get this over with.
A: Describe your profession.
V: That doesn’t sound like something I’d ask you to get me to recall.
A: It’s not a question from your past self. It’s for the performance assessment committee. Your job isn’t exactly common, so details about it are scarce.
V: (I’d better not get fired for this). I help to treat outstanding mental disorders by entering my client’s mind while they’re in a state of sleep. I usually help to stop a person’s recurring nightmares. For example, there was a child who kept dreaming of being trapped in a burning house so I entered his dream and helped him escape. In order to enter someone’s mind I have to be asleep at the same time as they are, as well as within a few dozen yards of them.
A: Can you explain the two rooms that appeared at the start of your last dream report? The bedroom and the armoury.
V: They’re my own dreams. I’m a lucid dreamer, so I can force things to manifest. If I recall directly, I modelled both of them after rooms in my own home. I generally take advantage of my own dreams to arm myself and obtain equipment. When I left the second room, I transitioned into the subject’s dream. That’s the point at which I briefly lost focus.
A: What are the risks inherent in your chosen field?
V: I’m at risk when I’m within someone’s nightmare. When I took on the commission that I just mentioned, I burned my hand in the dream. After awakening, I developed tremors in my index finger and thumb. And in my last job, the subject of the client’s fears - the wolf - consumed a fair number of my memories.
A: What else are you capable of?
V: Moving throughout the combined mental landscape of all conscious thought without needing to constrain myself to a singular consciousness, I guess. It’s… hard to explain, but I can also enter a plane that’s shaped by the general human zeitgeist without needing to enter anyone’s dreams. My job rarely requires that I do that, though.
A: Does your sternum still hurt?
V: It never hurt. There’s just a persistent discomfort. Like someone stuck a hook into my sternum and is pulling on it.
A: Do you have any other outstanding physical conditions that have come about as a result of your work?
V: Tremors, night terrors, insomnia, occasional hallucinations, sleep paralysis, bouts of vertigo, an aversion to fresh fruit. I could keep going.
A: Understood. How do you view your occupation?
V: As a source of income. It’s no worse than being a soldier. At least I get to slowly lose my faculties over time, rather than suddenly being deprived of a finger or my life without a moment’s notice.
A: Not very favourably, then. How do your actions affect your patients?
V: When I eradicate someone’s nightmares - I tend to call it a ‘resolution’ - said nightmares stop recurring. It can help them to overcome their fears or to have more restful sleep. I perform other tasks too, like repairing the damaged psychologies of the clinically insane, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy on most of the commissions that I’ve taken related to that field.
A: Alright. Onto your personal questions, then. Where were you born?
V: An island off the coast of Carmina. I spent my childhood in a military academy as part of a eugenics programme. I was never privy to the details.
A: Who were you raised by?
V: Nurses and orderlies. I didn’t learn any of their names, confidentiality was strictly enforced to prevent details about the project from leaking after its completion. I was intended to serve on the front line of the Carmine army, after all.
A: Here it says that you were raised by Captain Sayuri Kataigida.
V: I must’ve phrased the question poorly. The Captain came later; she picked me up after I escaped from the academy. We spent five years together at sea, or so I’ve been told; it felt like much longer. We were frontier sailors, meaning we often entered areas where the consistency of time was less than ideal. She taught me much more than how to be a mariner.
A: Who is your best friend?
V: Hm… Kyle Hearse.
A: Who do you most respect?
V: Captain Kataigida.
A: Who are you most reliant upon, professionally?
V: What? That’s definitely not something I would’ve… oh, you slippery fucker!
A: Frankly, I’m disappointed you didn’t say my name sooner.
V: As if I’d ever want to give you the satisfaction. Besides, most of what I’ve forgotten is recent and I only met you last year.
A: A likely story. If it would be to your liking I could end the session now. You’re clearly still yourself, even if your short term memory is suffering somewhat.
V: Anything to escape the stale air and old paper.
A: Alright, let it be known that this is the end of the transcript.

Afterword: The subject expressed limited acute mnemonic decay and discomfort. Her general sense of dysphoria is, as always, still present. She was allowed to return home under the belief that exposure to a familiar environment would hasten her recovery.
Special Field (if any): Predicted Time of Recovery: Two workdays.



The sun was rising and songbirds chirped from the windowsill. Jacquelyn’s mind clawed its way up the walls of a well toward the light of consciousness. It was a well travelled path, one that grew harder and more exhausting to traverse with every morning that passed. Oftentimes afternoons. Maybe one day she’d go to sleep and never wake. The thought had crossed her mind more than once before. A few months ago she’d wished for it, been tempted to bed by the idea of illucid bliss. Now she was terrified of being a prisoner in her own dreams; driven by anxiety to sleepless nights whose hours were whittled away by exercise and literature. The sound of creaking wood and gentle wind grew louder and more immediate. Her waking self finally made itself known.

She knew the usual rigamarole. She shuffled upright and rubbed not weariness but brine out of her eyes. She dabbed out the interior of her mouth with a wet cloth to clear any salt crystals from it and threw it back into the pail under her bed. Her bedroom was considerably more furnished than its representation inside her dreams. Her bed was flush against a corner of the wall, an iron frame with a roughshod mattress that she’d bought on the cheap. Sleep always came easily to her regardless of where she chose to do it, and she never lay down for leisure anyway. A desk sat near it with a stack of fantastic texts atop. There wasn’t a single page of political theory in her entire home. A rickety cabinet hid itself away in a dark corner. Dress shirts and linen socks lay in bundles sorted by age. Oldest at the bottom, most recently worn at the top. Most reeked of the ocean. The items within the closet weren’t in much better condition. Streaks of starch were abundant throughout, where the creases in her clothing had prevented the water from circulating during the wash. Of the coloured overgarments she owned, most of their collars were bleached by salt. In particular there was a black riding coat whose fringes were a little white and whose edges were comfortably frayed, lending the whole garment a frizzly texture like horsehair. She chose that to wear and paired it with a green scarf, an item she hardly did without.

The walls were covered in high shelves weighed down by mementos, gifts and other things with great value but no reasonable application: a dactylic bone pulled from the limb of a dressweaver (an aquatic spider that spat thousands of its offspring onto passing ships, not someone who made dresses) held together with iron ligatures; a line of untouched vintage whiskeys from her colleagues that she had no heart to drink; an old gold crest bearing the insignia of the B.S. Meta, a birthday gift from The Captain. It was always The Captain to her, never Sayuri Kataigida. She didn’t feel comfortable using her name, as if the Captain elevated herself above Jacquelyn’s level just by existing. And it was close enough to the truth; Jack really owed the Captain everything. There was one thing that she kept on the end of the shelf, far away from everything else. A three foot tall rectangular frame with a triple-layer of burlap over it to protect the inside from the light of day. She peeled back the coverings meticulously, shielding its interior from the sunlight. She steadied the frame with her hand, even though it sat on a flat incline. She spied behind a pane of protective glass green eyes and a kind, easy smile. High cheekbones, orange hair that seemed to glow. The Captain, rendered in canvas oils. She was grinning but the picture did her no justice. In person she was a living flame, something so vivacious and colourful that even a painter’s saturated palette couldn’t hope to capture her essence, even for a moment.

Jacquelyn rinsed out her mouth with weak brandy, ran some water down her face, sprayed some perfume in her hair. She couldn’t keep it from weeping seawater but she could at least try to suppress the nauseating smell. It had a different scent on different days. Sometimes it was lovely and fragrant, like the royal beaches or the deep and sterile sea, where coral particulate tinted the ocean vapours pink and gave it a lovely floral edge. But most of the time, it just reeked of the water left in the wake of war: soot, blood and shredded steel. Carmina smelled more and more like that every day. The looming giant of industry was visible from her window. Not too far in the distance a wall of smoke encircled the heart of the city, produced by the factories and workhouses in the outskirts. She lived in the ridge where the city centre - a forest of baroque rooftops and bohemians - collided with the cramped and impoverished suburbs. Some academes likened Carmina to an egg with a golden yolk and pale white, yet to hatch into a fully realised industrialised state. Most, when prompted about the future of the nation, simply shrugged and went back to scraping by. She firmly sat in the latter camp. She knew that she was nearer to the trappings of high society than the working class, though. She lived an easy life, employed by the lawmen and granted more amenities by her profession than a factory worker could even begin to expect. She had friendly colleagues, a stable income, avoidable occupational hazards. While it was true that she could die or be reduced to a gibbering husk at any time, she wasn’t at much more risk than a soldier. She got to work from home too, which was a great advantage.

Her kitchen and lounge doubled up as one room. There was a singular table in the middle of it all; a familiar emplacement with a flintlock, a biscuit tin of paper cartridges and a set of glass bottles atop. The gun was a refurbished antique. She’d replaced the flint at least two dozen times while at sea as overuse had always blunted it to a smooth finish or too many impurities had gotten into the cracks for it to work as intended anymore. She hardly got to use it in her waking moments nowadays. She had all the comforts that could be expected of a home. Running water, a spice rack, a lockable pantry and enough chairs to host as many people as were in her largest social association; that being her workplace. None of them ever really came around, though. One was too busy, one was too rich and another was too averse to the taste of tea to be hosted at her home. The rumble of chairs scraping across the floor emanated from downstairs, on the ground floor. She lived above a violin artisan’s shop. The daytime hours were filled with the screech of strings and the occasional well-played ballad and the night was occupied by the constant clicking and hammering of minor carpentry. Sometimes the smell of rosin and linseed polish wafted up through the floor and threatened to suffocate her. The latter especially resembled the stench of a fishmongers’ market, bringing back memories of tedium that she preferred not to relive. She’d made a suggestion in passing a month ago that he should switch to using walnut oil instead but alas, no such luck. There was a schedule to the racket, at least. She lived far from rail tracks and so her only exposure to the scream of locomotives was when she heard them rumbling distantly at midnight, when the carpenter went to bed without fail. She had to admire the man for his self control.

Breakfast was brown rice and sauteed onions, much preferable to hardtack and jerky. She approached the open window as the pot boiled over a woodfire: the day was clear and brisk. She discovered a letter sealed with wax slid underneath her door: a beautifully folded communique from Sergeant Wandmarcher, written in cursive and finished with a flourish of glistering yellow ink. An aureate scut, the nobility called it, but even the stuffiest members of the upper class just called it a golden tail. Its meaning was obscure and reserved for the rarified minds of court. Jacquelyn knew the connotation behind it well, for she’d learned it as a child: the letter was an invitation. It was written like a published schedule - the like which physicians and other busybodies often left at their offices so that clients could find them even if they weren’t in - but it was in reality a tact request that Jacquelyn find the Sergeant at any one of the locations on the itinerary, almost certainly to receive her payment. Such things took a great deal of foresight and time to create, it was a given that Wandmarcher was someone of either great repute or vast fortune. The latter conceit seemed more likely, and it had almost certainly come about via a vast inheritance. No promising soldier or person without tycoons for parents would frequent a place with a name as vague and deliberately opaque as ‘Argos Kali’. Far from being fashionably obscure it just made the establishment - whose address placed it squarely in one of the most respectable districts in the city - sound like the site of some ancient disaster or a seedy place where men in need of shaves went to be baked into pies. She sighed at that last thought. It was a reference that hardly anyone would understand.

She was as prepared to depart then as she would ever be. Judging by the time she’d be able to arrive only a little after the appointed hour too; fashionably late, as she often tried to be and rarely was. She opened the door downstairs, still looking over the letter, took one step and immediately kicked a child in the shin. The kid flinched less than Jacquelyn did. She put down the card and squinted quite subtly. “What the fuck are you doing here?”, she exhaled. The subject of her inquest, Ana, spoke properly without seeming formal, simply without being condescending; “I came to ensure that you were doing well.” The girl was of moderate height and slim, and she had uneven blonde hair that she ran a razor through herself every quarter year. Her skin was pale as milk, irises rich burgundy. Long red scars ran up and along her forearm, straight and surgical. Rougher, whiter, newer abscesses streaked across her cheeks and over her neck. And those were just her more human details. Her fingers were long and tapered off into hard claws that she concealed beneath long gloves whose fingers and palm were backed with leather. They unfortunately resembled evening gloves, even though their purpose was to hide away the remnants of old wounds and what could be charitably called odd fingernails. She had on a brown jacket, a gift from Jacquelyn (afforded by Kyle’s money) a plain shirt (she wore it often around the office, foregoing collars which were universally too high for her) and steel toed boots (was that a jam stain or crusted blood?) into which she’d tucked her pants (a worn patch on the knee. She’d been tapping it against the underside of the desk again). The most notable aspect of her appearance, however, was a wrongness. It was difficult to describe; most would, when asked to point out her most distinctive feature, point to her being ‘out of place’ or ‘odd’ without being able to place why. If pressed on the matter they’d say that she stood out more than her surroundings as if superimposed onto their vision. It drew eyes, funny looks, more than a smattering of inconspicuous sidelong glances and hushed, morbid whispers.

Jack was - though she’d never admit it - not quite used to Ana’s features. Every day the scars on her face seemed a little more livid and her eyes a little redder. But she’d beat the shit out of anyone who spoke ill of the girl and then feed it back to them, one fistful at a time. It was hardly a time to make her feelings clear, though. She let out a short sigh... “I have a function to attend, I won’t be long.” ...and tried to push her way past the young attache but it was to no avail. She might as well have tried to walk through the walls of her home. “I sent you that letter,” Ana asserted, grabbing the woman by her wrist with just enough firmness to deliver the information that yes, she could hold her in place for as long as she wanted, if it became necessary. She didn’t want to make it necessary, did she? “Well thanks but I need to go.” “You misunderstand, I’m accompanying you for as long as it takes you to recover.” Click. Jack knew what the whole situation was about now. “On whose orders?” She delivered the query with a practised feigned ignorance. The girl relinquished her grip and looked to one side. “Mister Hearse’s.” A bold faced lie. Kyle was a smart man, no, the smartest man. He’d never waste the time of his most talented assistant on ensuring Jacquelyn’s safety. It wasn’t that she didn’t think he’d care, it was that she knew that he’d have ascertained in his own mind whether she needed help or not. Nonetheless, Ana had come over without being told by anyone to do so. “Alright,” Jackie surrendered. “I guess you can stay.” The girl straightened her posture, tightened her jacket around her neck and nodded, barely managing to keep down a sigh of relief.



Sergeant Wandmarcher belonged in the Argos Kali. The thought occurred to Jacquelyn almost as soon as she caught sight of the woman alone at the head of an unclothed table with a thick book and cup of coffee in front of her. The smell was most disagreeable and brought a thickness to the back of Jackie’s throat. The building itself was a coffee house. Painfully systematic, with geometric furnishings and walls regularly plastered over with paintings and diagrams, the sort of thing which belonged in a university lecture hall or a surgeon’s office before a place of leisure. The carpet was at once coarse and sterile, as neatly pressed and folded as the uniform at Wandmarcher had draped over her shoulders. With a flat red breastcoat, black undershirt, white gloves and high leather field boots, she looked as ready to march onto a battlefield as participate in a parade. Her facial features were keen, her eyes slanted ever so slightly so that regardless of her angle and expression she appeared to the outside observer to be scowling in their direction. Her dark hair was up in a bun behind her head, held in place with a thin medal ribbon. As Jacquelyn entered, the sergeant raised her head slightly, fixed her with an inquisitive glance, and then returned to scratching at the margins of a surgical textbook with a quill. “Sergeant Wandmarcher, I take it.” Jackie began. Finally, her client closed the book and slid it under the table. “You must be Ms. Vanth, associate monitor of the OGEIE. Congratulations are in order for the resolution of your last commission.”

She chose that moment to pull out a chair and sit. Ana stood at her right hand side, hands clasped neatly over her lap. “Do pardon me the esteem, it was only another task. You are a woman of action, I see; a military career suits you well. Therefore let us move onto the more pragmatic affair of finance and discuss my payment.” The sergeant curdled in her seat, mulling over her next words for some time. “Ms. Vanth, I must admit, my interest in you was not limited to the services you could provide. When I called upon you it was partially for the purposes of academic inquest. Somnotherapy is a skill most uncommon and something that no academy in Carmina could teach. If I were not myself in a position where incredulity was a professional disadvantage, I would take you for a charlatan or a chemist working under supernatural pretenses. Yet here you are before me speaking in no unreasonable terms while a parchment sits in my pocket from Private Warren Davids whom you treated, telling me of the miraculous recovery he made after your visit. So tell me, and speak simply for I have a layman’s ear, what unknown capacities that a scholar of your trade might possess.” Jackie half opened her mouth as if to make a reply but sensing that the woman was about to go on a tirade at Wandmarcher for speaking at such length and with such prolixity, Ana interrupted on Jack’s behalf. “Such details are dispensed at the discretion of The Office, for whom myself and Associate Vanth operate on the behalf of.” Short and crisp. The sergeant, to her credit, showed no symptoms of a fraying patience.

“You must understand,” Jacquelyn continued the line of conversation. “To dispense such information would jeopardise not only myself but The Office, and all others who exist in my hemisphere.” The sergeant half raised an open palm, keeping her wrist on the tabletop all the while. “I understand. I was not optimistic that you’d surrender even that much information. So, you desired to speak of payment?” Jackie seized the initiative. No, she jumped the initiative in an alleyway and threw it over her shoulders and eloped into the night with it a furious sprint. She had an opportunity to bargain with the sergeant now, having ascertained that she knew little to nothing about how somnotherapy worked and held her last patient in great esteem. She’d provided a crucial piece of data by revealing that Warren was in the military. They were almost certainly colleagues, probably even subordinate and commander. “Well to be frank I mistook you for a brisk woman at first favoured by her heritage. Now I understand that you are diligent in study, and in esoteric fields no less. You do not have the hallmarks of one coddled by their forebears or high society yet you indulge in trappings - such as the one that swirls in that cup before you - which I would not expect of someone with only a career in soldiering to be able to support.” The sergeant shrugged and took a long draught of her coffee. Jackie winced. She could practically feel it burning her throat from across the table. “I attended the martial academy with a few friends of mine. A few went on to serve in the 6th Midnight under my command. Private Davids was one of them and as his superior, I have a duty of care for the man. While on service in the Levant - the Eastern lowlands, I assume you know - we lost one of our rank. Shaken by the event, we agreed at a whim that we would leave each of our inheritances to a private bank account whose capital value we would not withdraw but whose interest we would equally benefit from. The bank, of course, provides greater returns per capita on larger sums, and so the lump balance that we began with produced as much money as the common wages of ten factory workers at once. It is somewhat morbid but the reason that it produced such a return was because many of those in my unit perished during the fighting and all of their liquid capital was added to the account. They didn’t have anyone other than their comrades in arms to donate their worldly possessions to; we were our own family, you see. Most of us hadn’t any familiarities beyond the army nor had any of us any compunction or time to pursue a spouse. Therefore I benefit from regular payments from my investment as well as a healthy stipend from the army’s financiers. A discretionary fund.”

Jacquelyn leaned forward, placing a mask of faux awe on her face. “Then all of you must be very rich! Fate once provided me an opportunity to serve in the military. Well, to tell you the truth, a conspiracy of men tried to force my hand, and it was only through providence and kindness that I was delivered from such a destiny. Now, though, hearing your tale, I regret my decision to leave!” Wandmarcher dared a faint smile. “Twelve thousand gil would turn even the most labour-averse person to self perversion, wouldn’t it?” Jack stifled genuine shock. Twelve thousand gil was more than an entire factory floor of fifty men could hope to earn in a year. The next Jacquelyn spoke, it was with a low and deliberate rhythm, leaving no room for her emotions to make themselves known. “Well, for treating your man and coming to harm myself, I would usually charge eight gil.” It was an extremely reasonable price for an upper middle class associate to charge. Most educated workers - architects, accountants, university lecturers - made two or three gil a day and Jacquelyn rarely had more than three jobs a week. It was damn near impossible to operate more than that, actually, since it usually took at least a day or two to recover from a commission. However, the operant phrase was ‘upper middle class’. Jacquelyn’s living costs were barely above those of a skilled labourer. She usually a quarter of what she was charging Wandmarcher, and in addition to that, she received a regular wage from the OGEIE. The Sergeant didn’t even hesitate to open her wallet. She placed one coin, two, three on the table, counting them out in single units. She was up to five when an urchin burst through the door - the only other soul in the coffeehouse besides Wandmarcher, Jackie and Ana - sweating and heaving. “S-sergeant!” He stammered, grasping his chest like his heart might fall through his ribs at any moment, stubby fingers filled with soot. He was probably a chimney sweep or an oddjob trying to make ends meet for his family. Jackie shook her head to clear it of such inferences. They were of no importance at the present moment. The child took a moment to compose himself before squeaking: “Private Davids is suffering from lunacy, your presence is urgently requested!” Wandmarcher stood and locked eyes with Jack, carefully sliding her money back into her wallet. “It would appear that your treatment was not as effective as advertised.” Ana spoke up immediately: “We will accompany you to the home of the Private. Consider this a pro bono act, a form of restitution.” Jacquelyn nodded along, rather less preoccupied by the urgent situation than she was by her frustration at having nearly been paid only for something to have gone wrong. And now, in order to protect her own reputation, she’d have to sacrifice at least an afternoon trying to resolve the bloody mess! She sighed lightly and tailed the Sergeant as she stepped outside to hail a cab.

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Menschenfleisch
Diplomat
 
Posts: 671
Founded: Nov 01, 2017
Father Knows Best State

Postby Menschenfleisch » Tue Nov 10, 2020 4:04 am

Warren’s house was as Jacquelyn remembered it, two storeys of handsome oak panelling and cream plaster all ensconced in a shell of cast tan concrete. It led out onto what might’ve once been a trimmed lawn. The hedges still retained their rectangular shape but it was plain to see that they hadn’t been manicured in just over a month. His townhouse was between a multi storey hotel and a pharmacy; the whole street was the abode of the rich and refined. Dainty young ladies and dashing men strolled down the street in flowing dresses or waistcoats while horses trotted through the middle of it all, pulling covered carriages piled high with goods or sheltering those who were feeling too weak to set out on their feet that day. Hardly anyone paid attention to the house with a policeman by the door except to fake sympathetic shock or to field theories about their presence. Had the man cheated some young girl of her dignity? Had he made compromising overtures to the queen? That sort of thing. Every house on the street was almost identical and collectively gave the impression that the street continued forever, recurring over and over unto infinity. There was a jug of milk on every doorstep, a few neatly folded parcels in every lavishly painted mailbox. Petunias seemed to be in fashion, for they glowed brilliantly on every lawn. This was the sort of neighbourhood where nobody knew their neighbours, as everyone in this sector of the city had a distant profession of some kind. Surgeons, jewellers and industrialists: they all had their own affairs to attend to in every district of the city. There was little time to fraternise. It wasn’t a surprise, then, when Jackie learned that Warren was on death’s doorstep as they arrived. An anonymous call had been made from the hotel next door to a passing group of constables on horseback; a great deal of screaming and ruckus had been emitting from Warren’s home since noon. It had taken almost ten minutes of ongoing commotion for someone to finally take action, and when they had, it had only been to try to get him to shut up. Well, it was more consideration than was given from neighbour to neighbour in the factories, Jackie reasoned. Out there a corpse might be left alone for a week just because it was in an inconspicuous place and hadn’t gone rancid yet.

The police were already inside Warren’s home when Jack and Ana got there with their horses - four in total - tethered out front. The animals whinnied and panted, quite tired. It took a great deal of cajoling just to earn their entry. A combination of Jacquelyn’s white lies and obfuscatory speech, Wandmarcher’s stern authoritative tone and Ana’s formality were only barely enough to get them allowed into the house, and that was only after Ana asserted that they were there on behalf of the OGEIE. The Office was not viewed favourably by the police, who saw it as being synonymous with a civilian militia; one which just so happened to receive state funding and which poached unique and often necessary talents from the broader justice system. A rule of thumb was that the OGEIE held precedence in cases where a crime was perpetrated via magical or ill-understood means and the police were given preferential treatment if the incident was mundane or if it had anything to do with politicking. The police commissioner was a master of tact and always had been, whereas the OGEIE had no figurehead with which to smooth over relations with the public and any political rivals that they might’ve earned over the years. After they entered they found the place in a surprisingly orderly fashion, with no upturned chairs or broken windows. A few broad shouldered men milled around, not doing much of anything except polishing their flintlocks and truncheons. They were the first responders, of course. They’d sent for a physician to treat Warren, although he hadn’t arrived yet. The event was being treated as just an accident, albeit one preceded by a great deal of screaming and howling. On the group’s way to where Warren was they passed through the dining room. Jacquelyn, desperate to find some way to convince Wandmarcher that Warren’s current condition wasn’t her fault, strode over to examine it.

There was a vase of flowers - petunias, of course - on top of the canary yellow tablecloth alongside two cups of tea and a plate of hard cheeses. “Odd,” Jacquelyn murmured. “Hard cheese usually goes with sweet liquor. It’s not good for tea.” She placed her hand on the side of the cup nearest to the entrance to the house, which was still mostly full. “Is this strictly necessary?” Wandmarcher scowled. “Surely this has no bearing on your work?” Jackie tched. “If you don’t want to know the truth behind what happened, then go ahead and call me off. But I knew, even before we entered, that something more than just naturally occurring nightmares were going on. Recurring night terrors don’t just arise out of the blue like that, not without some impetus like a trauma or injury. And besides, you nearly made me miss the point: the cup is still warm. Someone was here recently,” The leaves at the bottom of each cup were oddly engorged, not dry as they should’ve been after just one brew. She couldn’t spot any tea canisters on any of the shelves and a quick diversion to the pantry revealed nothing there but endless rows of whisky and honey spirits. The leaves had obviously been brought into the house by whatever guest Warren had invited inside, and the guest had partaken of far less cha than their host. Ana, having picked up on where Jackie’s suspicions were, sniffed one of the cups. “Bromide salts. A strong, over-the-counter sedative. The effects can persist for a few hours.” The girl used to be a part of an infamous drug manufacturer’s staff. She’d delivered parcels for him so that he could continue to sell poisons, opioids, anything that someone would pay a buck for. “So, it would appear that a guest visited on the hour and put Mr. Davids to sleep. Or rather, tried to. He was screaming not too long ago.” In three inferences she’d proven that there was some amount of foul play at work. “I’m beginning to piece together a timeline of events. Please don’t interrupt.” Wandmarcher was content to stand by, herself puzzling over the details which Jacquelyn had picked up on. Jack had begun her examination with the intention of leading Wandmarcher on a wild goose chase - thereby absolving her of blame - but now she was convinced that there really was foul play involved in whatever had happened to Warren. Her intuition was sound, she’d honed it to a fine edge on the seas, where the tiniest details - a black spot in the water, the smell of salt in a freshwater river or a score in the surface of a tree - could mean the difference between life and death. When the mist clouded one’s eyes and the monotonous roar of the wind clogged one’s ears, instinct and deduction were the only ways to regain the sensory advantage against whatever might be lurking in the dark. “Stop it,” Ana whispered. “Stop what?” Jack retorted. “Aggrandising your past. I know that look in your eye; you were coming up with a melodramatic internal monologue to connect your present actions with your history, weren’t you? You don’t need to justify everything that you are and meticulously pinpoint precisely when every aspect of your personality germinated.” The associate turned her head away. “Maybe,” she muttered.

They entered the bedroom where Warren was to be found. Only one constable had been left to stand over him, a spritely looking lad with a straight jaw and far too stiff an upper lip. When the trio stepped into the room - unaccompanied, of course; nobody liked them enough to guide them around the scene - he wasn’t sure who to salute, so Jacquelyn simply waved him off. He refused to budge, citing a regulation that she’d never heard of. She didn’t bother to respond, her request had only been nominal to begin with. “He was like this when we got here,” the man tried to contribute. “What were you doing just before you arrived anyway?” Jacquelyn asked offhand. “Merely on patrol, ma’am.” They were interrupted by Warren shaking in his bed. The covers had been flung halfway across the room or entangled between his limbs, hopelessly ensnaring him within a web of linen. His eyes were shut and every now and then he seized, shivering in his sleep. “I didn’t know the man was a somnambulist,” Wandmarcher remarked dryly. She meant it as a turn of wit but Jackie was genuinely appreciative of the intelligence it contained. As Ana checked Warren for wounds so as to ensure that he didn’t harm himself, she spoke thusly with a dry and bored tone: “It’s somewhat abnormal to see constables carrying flintlocks. They’re expensive and far from standard. And beyond that, I’ve only known policemen to equip themselves with horses when responding to urgent matters, such as when pursuing armed fugitives or breaking workers’ strikes. Yet these four came to the home of a man having convulsions, something so trivial that they’d usually pass it over entirely.” Jackie shrugged and picked at her nails. “Yeah. Kind of odd to think that they would’ve sent for The Sergeant, too. I assume it was them because who else would’ve known where she was and to hire an urchin to find her?” The policeman beside the bed shifted uncomfortably at overhearing their speech. “Summoning a physician to the bedside of a man having nightmares is somewhat of a passive course of action, as well. It’s not their usual response.” “Well, what was standard about them to begin with?” They shared a relatively simple dialogue. Each of them had independently come to a conclusion about the policemen in the house. Namely, that they weren’t policemen at all. “Well there’s nothing for it,” Jacquelyn sighed at last. “I’ll have to enter the man’s mind. Ana, pass me some of that tea, would you?” She poured out the liquid contents of the tea and chewed up the leaves instead, with the intention of ingesting a much greater quantity of the drug than could be absorbed via the fluid, after which she sat down next to Warren. Her eyes quickly drooped and then shut.

A few minutes passed during which Jacquelyn shuddered and stirred, sometimes juddering and letting out a distressed murmur. Warren would occasionally spasm, shortly after which she would tighten her fingers around an invisible trigger. ‘Wolf’, she whispered under her breath. Ana took that time to examine the desk that was beside the master of the house’s bed. There were two inkpots in need of refilling, one brimming with carbon black and the other with yellow turmeric spice pigment. There was a separate quill for each. There was a stack of papers after the pots. She glanced them over. “Dear ____”, they all began, with names filling in the blank space on each of the letters. All were addressed to Caitlin Wandmarcher, Dorothy Sauvetre, Weston Mikhailov or Sofia Ramirez. All of them had an error of some kind. On some the writing was illegibly messy, on others there were misspelled words. Warren wasn’t the most skilled writer, then, for he’d clearly had to rewrite each of his letters several times over to iron out those mistakes. She wasn’t surprised; literacy was not an oft practised skill. Most people hired scribes to write notices of any import. Oddly, she noticed that all of the letters addressed to Caitlin Wandmarcher had a golden tail on the last word. When The Sergeant noticed her perusing the documents she chastised the girl: “really, you must stop rifling through the private writings of my friend! Those are not for your eyes.” Ana put the sheets back where she’d found them, careful not to add any creases. “Of course. My apologies.”

Scarcely had she been five minutes gone by when the three policemen from downstairs turned the door handle and strode into the room. Wandmarcher, who had taken residence in a seat near a vanity, stood at once in protestation. “Do not wake the woman,” she began, only to be cut off by the sound of a flint being pulled back and the glint of iron in one of the officers’ hands. “Wasn’t planning to,” he snapped. The man was bushy and stout. His forehead had rolling creases on it, like foothills, and his moustache was so thick with cream that it looked like he could top a cake with it. The man who’d been standing over Warren’s body to begin with laid hands on Ana and held her in place while his compatriots surrounded Wandmarcher, holding her at gunpoint. “What’s going on!?” the attache yelped. She made an attempt to shrug the man’s hands off but he didn’t let go. She was only a child. “Dealing with business’s what’s going on here,” the apparent leader of the ‘constables’ scowled. “Twelve thousand, filthy big sum of money, right? ‘Specially for a pampered little totty like you.” “Born with a silver spoon in ‘er mouth she woz,” one of his lanky allies added. “What in the blue hells,” The Sergeant hissed. “How do you know about the twelve thousand?” “None of your business. But I’ve been told I can get a share if I just put a bullet in your head.” The head constable prodded her chin with the butt of his gun. Wandmarcher hesitated for a moment before making a quiet request. “Please, move the child outside. She ought not to see this.” The head constable snapped his fingers at his lackeys. While one of the policemen drew the curtains, the man holding Ana in place took her wrist and made to drag her toward the door. She didn’t budge. “Shit you’re heavy,” the man grunted. In response, she lowered her head a little. “Let go.” The man continued to pull. At first he gave her just a few tugs but nothing came of it. He eventually graduated into imparting a more determined, sustained vector of force. Even then she didn’t move an inch. “I don’t think you understand,” she continued. “That wasn’t a request.” Her glove came off and the faux officer stumbled backward, collapsing against the wall. She held up her now bare arm and flexed her fingers. Her claws grazed each other, clicking like spiders’ legs. “I was hoping to extract more information. There’s no point in continuing the ruse if it might lead to The Sergeant’s death, though.” She glanced at Wandmarcher. “Throw a bedsheet over Jacquelyn, would you? I’d be much obliged.”

She swept through the chest of the man who’d grabbed her with the hand which still had a glove on. Her blunted fingers gouged out his flesh and parted his bones. While his lungs and heart mushed together and blended with his flesh, forming red paste with vivid pink streaks, his ribs and sternum were thrown out of his body and shattered against the walls. A few shards of his broken bones perforated the skin of those standing nearby; they lodged as deeply as bullets. A shower of viscous gore smeared the walls, the roof, the floor, all eyes. Someone tried to squint through the pink mist and levelled their flintlock at her. She grabbed their hand and clenched her fist tightly. The gunmetal shrieked and tore while the man knelt and screamed as his fingers were squashed flat against the grip of his weapon before his bones - and the weapon - burst. She tore the rest of his limb off by the wrist and tossed it to one side; a mangled, inextricably tangled mass of steel and meat. After that she reached through the front of his skull, grabbed his brainstem and squeezed. A moist pop and gurgle followed while the back of his head swelled then caved in. A few fistfuls of mucousy, rosy tissue poured out through the front of the man’s absent face as he toppled over. The last man - besides the leader of the fake constables, whom she allowed to live while he cleared his eyes and cowered - she disarmed; she grabbed his truncheon off his belt and brought it down on the crown of his skull. He split into two halves- well, more like he swelled and ruptured in the way that an egg might rupture when squashed between a person’s palms. Gallons upon gallons of blood and liquefied muscle spewed from where he used to be. They thoroughly painted the room an arterial red.

She must’ve cut a demonic figure, that child, as she towered over the last man. Splinters of his comrades’ bones stuck from his face and tenderised giblets hung in strips from his nose and chin. His hair was thoroughly matted with blood. Had he peed his pants, or had someone’s bladder just happened to rupture when they’d died? There was certainly shit and bile amid all the other stuff that she’d spilled. She took hold of his collar and peeled his eyes open with her fingers. She drew herself in so that he could look nowhere but into her eyes. “Give me a name.” If there was one thing to be criticized about Ana’s method of interrogation, it was that it rarely produced legible results. The man blubbered, gibbered, cried for a bit in shock. It was honestly quite pathetic and she was remiss to hold her face so close to his when he was spitting so much and leaking such an amount of snot. “I don’t know!” He squealed, “I never learned their name! We communicated through proxies - I can provide ten gil for you, please, have mercy!” She tapped him on his temple, causing only nonlethal permanent brain damage during the process of putting him to sleep. Wandmarcher was left to scrub her face, hands, really her whole body clean while Ana pulled back the sheets that’d been put on top of Jackie. “Tell me, Sergeant, did you really not know the men in Warren’s house were impostors?” She wiped some grime off her eyelid. Hairs that were not her own clung to her coat in clumps. “I entertained the notion but for the most part I took them for poorly trained and overly rich men, the ones who receive an appointment in the constabulary through the virtues of their forebears.” Ana lifted her index and raised it over her shoulder. “But consider that the horses that they were riding were exhausted. They were travelling at great pace when they arrived at the house. So, therefore, they could’ve only been rushing to it for some reason or another.” “Maybe the horses were exhausted by something that occurred before we arrived here and they were just on their way back to their usual patrol grounds when they were hailed to this home?” Wandmarcher suggested in retort. “The man who stood beside the bedside told us he was on patrol. It’s standard protocol worldwide for police patrols to be changed at noon, six in the evening, midnight, et cetera. It’s a simple schedule which allows both the animals and riders to be well rested. It’s a holdover from the civilian militia model of law enforcement. We arrived just barely after midday - it wouldn’t have been possible for the men to have tired out their horses in just a few short minutes of riding. Add to that the fact that the man beside the bed tried to justify his continued presence in the room with a regulation that doesn’t exist. He must not have realised that I work for the OGEIE: we’re as familiar with the law as any field officer.”

Wandmarcher slumped in her chair, stewing in the remains of the thugs who’d tried to kill her. Her eyes were wide, breathing shallow. She’d lost many of her men in war and yet she’d yet to reconcile herself with the possibility of death. “It would appear that I am in the presence of consummate professionals.” She exclaimed at last. “So what conclusion do you make of this?” Ana tilted her head slightly. “It’s simple. Because there’s nobody who could’ve sent for you at the Argos Kali - the constables had no way of knowing where you were and Warren went to sleep at noon just after having tea with some mysterious guest, the child who was sent to summon you must’ve been hired by someone who wanted you to be in this building when the so-called constables arrived. The constables were ordered to kill you. The conclusion is obvious: someone who knew your schedule and knew about your shared bank balance must have hired both the urchin and the fake policemen in order to set up a trap. Furthermore, the fact that they wanted you and Warren - co-owners of the bank share alongside your other former military associates - dead means that they’re trying to funnel ownership down to a single person. The puppetmaster, so to speak, must be one of your former subordinates.” Wandmarcher followed along, nodding. Ana continued. “So here’s the timeline of events as I see it. This morning you posted your schedule at your home or your office. The person who wants you dead saw it and decided to kill both you and Warren simultaneously, knowing that if any harm came to Warren then you’d come to his aid immediately, thereby exposing yourself to attack. They came into Warren’s house, sedated him - Jacquelyn will explain why he’s convulsing once she’s awake - and immediately hired a messenger, the child, to make you come over. The child reported back to their mysterious client, whereupon they learned that you were not coming alone; you were bringing Jacquelyn and I, who were not expected to be there. The puppetmaster likely initially intended to kill you themselves but realising that three persons were coming over, not one, they corresponded with some criminal associates - the faux lawmen - and had them ride at great haste to the house in order to pose as the police, putting the advantage in both arms and numbers in the puppetmaster’s favour. Thereafter, they planned to execute you, Jacquelyn and Warren in short succession and to flee to some place beyond the reach of the true police force. And we know that the fake constables’ patron is still at large because you didn’t recognise any of the policemen in the house.” The Sergeant pinched her chin. “Well that train of logic is all well and sound but it’s not of great import. The fact which catches my concern is that someone who served under me in the military is currently trying to dispose of competing interests in the matter of the twelve thousand so that they might withdraw all the money.” “Or have the interest to themselves, yes.” Wandmarcher grimaced. “The day grows darker. Will Private Davids live?” The man groaned as if to punctuate the point. Ana shrugged. “It all comes down to Jacquelyn.”



I open my eyes. Grit bursts from the ground before me. There is a whiz, a deafening crack beside my head. I instinctively duck and place a hand on my ear. When my hand comes away it is slick with blood. Fluid roars inside my skull and pours, hot and sticky, from my ruined eardrum. I am surrounded by the boom of cannon and the distant rumble of cavalry, like a rolling storm on the horizon. I kneel in the dirt. It’s harsh and coarse with a chalky texture. It’s dark. A haze of soil and black powder encircles me. There is a constant cacophony of blasts everywhere I turn. My knee feels wet. It’s inside a foul puddle and behind me is its source, the guts of a bisected man. His intestines seep into the earth in the form of a pulverised heap and behind his body there is a streak of blood, a trench of earth and then a single blackened cannonball nestled inside a bank of ochre sand; the projectile that tore the man in two. His skin is black and sleek like a beetle’s carapace. I can make no features out of it, not hair nor facial features. The silhouettes in the smoke are indistinct hazes as well. They are soldiers of painted porcelain with limbs that swivel on ball joints and flesh that must split at the strike of a hammer rather than gouging. When I sniff the air it is not sharp or thick or sulphurous, it is cruel. It is clear fire, and I am inhaling it. I expel it with coughs and hacks but I can only go for so long before needing to draw breath again. I lie there for a very long time simply writhing in pain at the mere agony of existence.


Around me, horses with white alabaster skin scramble through the fog of war. Their riders carry lances or sabres and swipe at random. At times they catch a rifleman on the shoulder or neck whereupon their brittle bodies shatter and spill all-too-human organs on the ground. But they have no bones, curiously enough. I imagine that they are merely mannequins with no use for their innards: they’re merely puppets with useless hearts and kidneys squashed inside them. Some wear blue longcoats and turquoise pantaloons. Some are dressed in red robes and shirts. If allegiances exist amidst the carnage then I am unaware of them. Blue and blue, red and blue, red and red; they all come to blows with one another. An occasional musketball whizzes through the air above me and agitates a column of the suspended dust. The ground all around me is soon decorated with broken glass and brilliant china. It is when my chest stops heaving and my limbs stop convulsing that I finally garner the sensibility to stand. Immediately I heard a most abnormal sound through my remaining ear, something in between the low murmur of cannonfire and the pitched squeal of horses and clashing metal; laboured breathing. None of the dolls on the battlefield need to breathe, as far as I can tell. I push through the haze which seems to beat on my back and drag me down. I occasionally have to pause and shrug it off, though it does nothing to lessen the feeling of having a lead cloak on. Bullets fly all around me and I keep my head low. I am a marksman, I know the devastating power of a well trained musket.

I find a man lying with his head tucked between his knees beside a dead, gnarled oak. Its bark is mottled grey, its limbs are twisted and end with black stumps as if cauterised with a hot iron. I have not seen any features of the landscape beside this. He has a dark complexion and hair stained grey with ash. It takes me a moment to recognise him through the visual clutter between us. Warren. He judders violently and rasps with every breath while his hands press down on his head. He is shrinkingly small, smaller than I knew a man could be. His limbs are tucked so tightly together that he resembles a crushed sculpture more than a real person. His musket lies discarded next to him. The bayonet and barrel are clean, unused. His red uniform, too, is mostly untattered. It’s suffered a few stains from the air and nothing more. I extend a hand to help, for I came into his mind to save him in the first place, but as I draw near he looks up and falls backward, gibbering. I glance first behind myself to find the source of his fear but spy nothing. I then examine my own body and see nothing out of the ordinary. I am wearing what I was when I last fell asleep: a green scarf, trousers, shirt, et cetera. A bundle of ribbons is tied to my belt and a gun is slung by a sash over my chest. I don't quite recall what the former object is nor what it does but it stings just to think about it.

“I am here to help,” I call out. “I am Associate Jacquelyn Vanth, are you able to stand?” It is a vain attempt to communicate. I am a lucid dreamer, fully in control of my faculties while in an unconscious state. This man has no such skills; to him I must appear as some hazy figure bleeding from the side of its head, or perhaps something entirely else and distorted. He is hardly capable of stringing two sentences together, let alone making an objective assessment of his surroundings. He fumbles for his gun but his fingers are clammy and clumsy. All he succeeds in doing is knocking it around a bit and getting dirt under his nails. Thank god for the sopor of sleep; he might’ve shot me otherwise. I am left wondering how I am to resolve his situation. Generally in these circumstances where it’s not possible to stop the traumatic event from occurring (I could hardly kill the battle now could I?), the best solution is to remove the dreamer from the situation. However, I do not know how far the battlefield extends or in which direction I should go to leave it. I briefly question why his nightmare scenario is now a battlefield and not a dark forest as it was when I last treated him but it is of no consequence to me. I only need to save his life today. I remove the knife from his belt and take hold of the man. He allows me to prop his arm over my shoulder but doesn’t make any attempt to help, either. He’s bloody heavy and his wanton twitching makes it hard to keep a grip on his skin. The dust helps me in that regard as it soaks up all the moisture on his skin and grants me a stronger grip.

I drag him through the haze and keep our profiles low. It wouldn’t do to get caught in the crossfire. We are hardly attacked, perhaps because we are not seen as threats. Even so the battle thickens around us until I must pull Warren up so that his shins aren’t cut to shreds by the fragments of ceramic and discarded blades on the ground. The earth is almost invisible beneath a coating of blood. Entire battalions of cavalry thunder toward one another and blind me. Dozens of soldiers materialise and slash at one another with blades, and when they are disarmed or thrown, they beat each other with their fists until cracks run over their knuckles and heads and blood spurts from the gaps. I spot another tree, not dead but with leaves. Its stomach explodes and splinters fly outward as a cannonball shears it in half. Fortune shines on me and none of the shrapnel pierces my eyes, though my arms and torso are not spared. The trunk lilts to one side and intercepts the trajectory of a band of dragoons whose steeds trip on the branches and throw their riders forward to break. The din is utterly overwhelming, resembling the sound of cabinets full of bowls and cups being emptied onto hard concrete over and over and over. The dust in the air isn’t brown anymore but red and black. Wherever I turn my head I see at least eight or nine infantry engaged in fighting of a kind. A bayonet charge of a hundred men looms out of the fog and briefly sweeps away the conflict as all in their path are impaled by their bayonets. A battalion of grenadiers in their path loose bombs at the incoming assault but some throw too far. A bomblet plants itself quite close by, near enough for me to make out the smoking stub of its fuse. I pull my quarry in and shielded him with my back. Flakes of iron bounce off my coat like hailstones; only a few pierce my garments, leaving red pox-welts on my skin. An artillery projectile lands some twenty feet away and smashes the corpses on the ground to smaller and finer flakes. It turns the dead into further missiles; razor thin blades of earthenware. A particularly large piece glides through the band of muscle above my clavicle and sends a spout of blood onto her cheek. I’m going to die by a thousand cuts if this goes on for much longer, to say nothing of the defenceless Warren.

I lurch forward with my cargo and see more trees. Two now, each with thick green leaves and a rich hue to their wood. They’re tall and mighty, looking to be sturdier than steel. What are these doing here? There’s a gargantuan clamour from behind me and the body of a rider is thrown to the floor to my left. Spurred on by the ever worsening disaster at my heels, I push onward. The trees soon grow dense and the floor of ochre soil and china gives way to grass and leaves. A mounting dread builds within me and my fear is only deepened once I realise why, for then I know in my heart that I have walked into the dragon’s maw. I turn and see nothing but trees and faint dappled light. The wind ruffles my hair, as comforting and soft as a lover’s fingers. It is cold and the moon is out. A thing on four inky legs prowls out of the night. It annihilates all that it touches, making no sound as it moves. It has a single orange eye on the right side of its face and a white scar on its neck, the only part of it that doesn’t frantically twitch and glitch. When it sees me its eye widens in surprise. I’m less than shocked to see it. “I knew you’d appear eventually,” I mutter, and memories of a blade of nightmares surface. I grab the bundle at my side and unsheathe an edge of my fears. Saltwater pours from my mouth, squeezing between my teeth without foaming or shooting. I am distantly aware that I am crying salt. It doesn’t matter to me much. All that I care about is killing that bitch of a wolf.

I already have an idea of what - or rather who - the wolf is. The nightmare about being on a battlefield was Warren’s; a non-recurring scenario generated by his own mind through natural means. The nightmare about being in a forest, though, is clearly the result of an external influence. When the forest first manifested it wasn’t Warren going from one dream to another, it was us crossing into the domain of something rather more sinister than just an anxiety native to his subconscious. Rogue nightmares - fears that jump between people and afflict each with a chronic phobia of some kind - are common. Infectious ideas even more so. But this wolf is different, it’s running away from me; fears don’t do that, they just act in the way that they would be expected to act until they’re destroyed or they move on. This wolf is intelligent and it knows it can’t win this fight. I tear through the brush while it bounds over creepers and thorns. Sometimes it passes through a tree and causes it to collapse so I shear through the trunk with my blade to keep it from getting in my way. I start to think of myself of the wolf, as the hunter, rather than the intended prey. The chase goes on for as long as it takes for two parties to come to separate conclusions: one to realise that they’ve lost and the other to internalise the fact that they’ve won. The latter would be me, because the wolf wasn’t expecting me to be here. It thought that I was dead. Why? Because it expected a band of fake constables to have killed me already.

It stumbles on a rock in the middle of a clearing. Its foot leaves a deep impression in the stone but it trips nonetheless. As I loom over it with my sword and prepare to kill it - for good this time - its skin tears away. Its black makeup breaks up into choppy blocks and rapidly disperses, revealing to me that there was a woman inside all along. She’s tall, fair, strongly built. “Mercy!” She cries, and I press my blade to her neck but no further. She pushes the back of her head into the ground so as to be as far from the edge as she can. She must remember the last time she was struck. I can’t imagine what nightmares she would’ve suffered afterward, what recursive hallucinations of drowning she might’ve endured. Well actually, that’s a lie. I can easily imagine them because they’re constantly happening to me. “I knew it,” I growl. “Another somnophysician, just like me. I know that there are only two other living women from the 6th Midnight; Sofia and Dorothy, which one are you?” The woman grit her teeth in slow, resigned panic. She was only now aware that the jig was up not just in the dream but in the real world. “How did you narrow down the suspects so quickly?” I shrugged and lifted my sword a little. She lifted her head in fear that the weapon could clip her chin. “It was simple really. Nobody knows about the twelve thousand gil except for those in the 6th Midnight - Wandmarcher is a miser and smart soldier, she would never dispense knowledge about the account - and if you were just a hired thug then you never would’ve continued to pursue Warren’s death after the first time I ‘killed’ you. Honestly, it’s kind of amazing that you pressed onward with your plans even after I slit your throat in the dream. Takes dedication, that. But back to business.” I step closer and angle the blade downward toward her sternum. She flickers as she tries to return to wakefulness, but it is of no use while I am before her. Each of us have the ability to force an already unconscious person into an indefinite sleep and therefore we both possess the ability to restrain the other forever in the dream. Fortunately for me, I have the upper hand on the mental plane. “I know your body is near Warren’s house. Somnophysicians can’t project their minds very far. Tell me where it is.” “The hotel,” she admits through a tight jaw. “Which room?” She is reluctant to answer so I nick her shoulder. She coughs up seawater and salt crystals grow around her eyes. “Forty seven!” She rasps when the ocean stops pouring from between her lips. I let go of her mind at that point and we simultaneously both make a clamber for consciousness. The world around me grows transient and watery.



“This was an attempted murder. The suspect is in room forty seven in the hotel next- HOLY FUCK WHAT THE UNLIVING SHIT!?” While Jacquelyn leapt to her feet and tried not to touch any of the bloodstained walls Ana leapt out the window - and through a pane of glass - and bounded across the street. She clambered up the side of the hotel, scaling four storeys like it was nothing, and entered a room with drawn curtains. There was a gunshot, a sound resembling the rev of a chainsaw (pardon the anachronism) and a massive outpouring of blood and broken glass out the shattered window. Wandmarcher turned as pale as a sheet. Ana crawled back into Warren’s bedroom a moment later looking no different than when she had left, since she’d already been absolutely matted with gore. “I didn’t tell you to kill the suspect!” Jacquelyn shouted. “I didn’t,” Ana retorted politely. “When I entered she was in the middle of waking up and reaching for a rifle positioned by the window. I don’t think it’s a mistake that this room is most easily visible from the room she was sleeping within. I responded with the appropriate amount of force.” A moment of silence. “... and I may or may not have beaten her until her bowels emptied themselves.” And at that Wandmarcher vomited on the carpet and passed out.



It was later in the day as Jacquelyn waited outside a laundry for her clothes to be starched and cleaned that she finally regained the patience to talk about the case. “What was her name anyway? The suspect, I mean.” Ana looked up from the bucket between her legs within which she was soaking her hands. It wasn’t water but vinegar: ten rotations through and the blood still hadn’t come out of the creases in her claws. “Dorothy Sauvetre. It doesn’t matter, at the end of the day. Regardless of whether we had known if the attacker was in Wandmarcher’s unit or not your actions within the dream would have uncovered the subject.” Jacquelyn sighed, closing her eyes in exhausted agreement. The conversation almost petered out before Ana came in with a question of her own. “What does ending a letter with a golden flourish mean, by the way?” Jack’s interest was piqued. “Well what context did you see it in?” Ana thought for a moment, trying to deduce how much information she needed to convey in order to give her partner the necessary details. Ultimately, she decided that she didn’t know and so... “I saw it on some scrapped drafts in Warren’s bedroom. I’ll recite it verbatim. “Dear Caitlin Wandmarcher. I write regretfully to inform you that I will not be able to attend the showing that the 6th Midnight have scheduled for the weekend, for I have important business to attend to in the matter of my property in the city centre. I shall be at home on that day awaiting a clerk an hour before noon should you need me. Best wishes, Warren Davids.””

Jacquelyn froze for a split second. “It means he invited The Sergeant over to his house today about half an hour before we met her to collect our payment and only one hour before we arrived at his house. You know what this means, right?” Ana searched Jackie’s eyes for jest but found none. Tentatively, she voiced what she believed: “Wandmarcher was the one who put Warren to sleep? She was involved in the conspiracy to have him murdered?” Jack nodded. “She probably came to his house at eleven, fed him the sedatives and arrived at the Argos Kali at 11:30 as appointed. That’s when the urchin arrived to tell us to go to Warren’s home, as well as when Dorothy started attacking his mind.” Ana considered the point for a bit. “There are some details I can’t wrap my head around, though. Why would Wandmarcher want you there to save Warren’s life?” The older woman had an answer ready immediately. “To kill off Dorothy. Think about it. Wandmarcher and Dorothy Sauvetre were both offing the people in their unit so they could gain a greater share of the money in the bank. Wandmarcher probably reasoned that sooner or later, Dorothy would kill her, either to get rid of the only other person in the conspiracy or because she suspected that Wandmarcher was going to make the first move. Therefore to protect herself, she needed some way to kill Dorothy. Getting a rival somnophysician to do it was probably the easiest way she could think of. It explains why she was so inquisitive as to the nature of my abilities when we first met, too: she was curious as to whether I could actually help her get rid of her problem.”

“And the constables in the house? Weren’t they going to shoot Wandmarcher?” “They were almost certainly dispatched by Dorothy on short notice after the urchin told her that two strangers were accompanying Wandmarcher to Warren’s house. She wouldn’t have known that I was a somnotherapist but it’s possible that she suspected it. The men were probably only there to kill me to ensure her own safety but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had been ordered to shoot Wandmarcher as well. Wandmarcher must have ordered you out of the room so that they could shoot me without you seeing it; without being in the room you would’ve heard only one gunshot and you would’ve assumed that it was aimed at Wandmarcher, not me.” So there it was. Jacquelyn had just been a pawn in a game that Wandmarcher had been playing against Dorothy, her partner in an attempt to murder one of the people who shared the interest from the twelve thousand gil bank account. Both of the girls suspected that Warren had only been the most recent target of their efforts to kill off competing parties: it was likely that many other members of their unit had perished over the years, either in battle or during peacetime, due to the machinations of Wandmarcher and Sauvetre, but they really had no way of knowing. “Should I find Wandmarcher and punch her until she pisses?” Ana queried, making an unusual break from her formal tone of voice. “Nah. It’s none of our business. Record everything we’ve uncovered and send it all to Kyle. If you beat the tar out of her she’ll have the public’s sympathies and will most likely receive a lenient sentence from the jury. Have Kyle take care of it, though, and he’ll have a case put together in a week that’ll have her imprisoned for a millennium.” Ana nodded. It was sound logic. They’d yet to find anyone that their shared superior couldn’t persecute in a court. He could probably turn a courtroom against someone for giving money to a charity.

The attache suddenly perked up. “Are you still heading to the Shadowlands, by the by? If I remember correctly, you mentioned that the train would depart at three in the afternoon today. Or should I say departed?” Jacquelyn tensed up. She’d been so absorbed by the day’s events that she’d completely neglected to prepare for her trip. “Oh for fuck’s sake-”

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The Peninsular
Spokesperson
 
Posts: 160
Founded: Apr 04, 2017
New York Times Democracy

Postby The Peninsular » Tue Nov 10, 2020 4:49 am

"'Rural charm', huh?", Jean de Vitt mockingly said to himself as he passed the sign at the entrance of the town. His horse, seemingly disapproving of the sight before them, neighed a little, though Jean determined that was more likely due to the weather conditions. The horse, much like himself, was used to warm temperatures and oceanic weather - the locals might have called it 'normal', but to Jean and his steed it was decidedly very chilly.

The young journalist wasted no time looking around the town. After all, being the co-founder of an ideology prosecuted in some states, travelling tended to be risky, and even though he doubted anyone in the region would ever recognize him, prudence was the better part of valor. Pulling his dark blue coat together and the black tricorn down into his face, he rode up to what looked like the local inn. Some of the people did watch him with some suspicion, after all, his clothing was distinctly of a Bretinnic style, and his horse was quite a fine one - a cross between a smoky black and a gray one, formerly a possession of his father. Just to be safe, he secured its leash especially tightly to a pole in front of the tavern.

The inside of the inn was little more friendly-looking than the outside, with most of the benches positively creaking under the weight of the people sitting on them. Counting the somewhat limited supply of coins in his purse, Jean decided that a drink or two to brighten the day were a good investment, and strolled over to the bar as non-chalantly as he could manage. The innkeeper, an older man built like a bear, regarded him with a raised eyebrow. "You another of them archeologists?", he asked disparagingly, to which Jean shook his head. "Do you have grapewine?", he asked, before the man could make another comment.

"Wine, eh? Sorry mate, no can do. Them mercs drank it all already.", the innkeeper responded. "How about some mead? Best in the region." Jean shrugged. He wasn't a great fan of the drink, and mead was about as rare in Bretigny as good fruit-gnaule seemingly was in the north. After a second of deliberation, he simply nodded and gave the innkeeper a coin, to which the man responded by slamming a rather giant mead-tankard onto the counter. Without another word, Jean took it and decided to look for a table.

There was only one he could find that hadn't been occupied yet, in the only corner of the bar that wasn't bursting at the seams. The table, a construction for four, was placed directly next to another table of five - currently only occupied by two women, one of which he registered as quite attractive, regardless of the rather large musket swinging about on her back. Letting himself fall into a chair which gave him a view of his horse through the window, Jean put down the tankard and instead diverted his attention to one of the books he'd brought, titled 'De monstres et de la sorcellerie'.
10000 Islands

The Constitutional Federation of the Peninsular is an FT nation.

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Nagakawa
Diplomat
 
Posts: 607
Founded: May 01, 2019
Left-wing Utopia

Postby Nagakawa » Tue Nov 10, 2020 7:34 am

Who am I?

The clatter of pans coming from downstairs. The cold, frigid air that stung the deepest chambers of the nose.

I am Leliel.

Yes, my name is Leliel.

But why is that? Why this name?

Why these thoughts? And what comes after all this?

Why the hell can't I? Do those wounds hurt that much?


The dusty walls of the tavern room began to puff open like noxious pastries in an evil oven, and as the ceiling spiralled into an uncontrollable dark whirlpool, Leliel grunted furiously and clambered out the bed, seizing the pillows and hurling them viciously against the walls in a fit of volcanic rage. She could feel magma welling up her gullet. Letting out a bloodcurdling cry, she raised her fist and struck the wall, multiple times, until the skin hung off her knuckles in ribbons and streaks of blood smeared the faded stone walls.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

In. Out.
In. Out.
In. Out.

The raw, skinless knuckles on her left hand soon began to sting. The frigid air bit beneath the flesh, straight to the bones.

Good. All the better.

I can still feel
something.

Chattering sounds rose from the tavern below, the owner of which had granted the wounded Leliel safe haven in his spare room. It had been two days since she had arrived. She had not slept more than five hours since then.

Perhaps there was no use trying.

...

Leliel Luria Orev was not a stranger either to superlative ecstasy or to superlative agony. Her life had been a long series of great pains and tortures, followed varyingly by periods of pure-hearted triumph, debauchery, and base enjoyment, in a cycle that would repeat itself like the seasons. Yet there were many little things that remained constant all through. Little things that through thick and thin kept one anchored to reality, to the world outside of the spacious yet limited confines of one's mind. Little things like the everyday sound of life; the rustling of the wind; the incessant croaking of the crickets in the night; the sweet, acrid smell of old books, and the sharp pain of old wounds itching to be torn open and the constant throb of one's own heart.

Little things that, combined together, often drove one to the brink of madness.

"I'll take a pint of malt liquor." With her left hand, wrapped in bloodied bandages like much of the rest of her body, Leliel took the glass and stumbled over to a nearby table, dragging her wounded right leg along with her to an empty table, whereupon she heavily took a seat and gargled her first mouthful of the fiery liquid.

Her vision blurred, and her one eye dilated, Leliel leaned on the table and rested her chin in her hand.

Who... am I?

All too often, Leliel had tried, perhaps far more than was necessary, to separate herself from the sensations of her physical body. The mind, she would tell herself, was an entity separate from the corporeal world, an existence unto itself. In moments of deep, cutting pain far deeper than any ordinary person could bear, she had managed to separate the pain of her body from the pain of her mind, repeating over and over again that there was a distinction between the suffering of the body and the suffering of the mind, that everything that had a beginning would eventually have an end, until one day her mind had separated itself clean from her body, the gap bridged by the fire of alcohol and the water of tears. And, all through this senseless rumination, this one particular question continued plaguing her endlessly. A question she would ask herself every time, in the middle of the night, in the quiet little moments of each day, when the pitter-patter of her pursuers’ footsteps had all but faded away into the dense vegetation of the boundless forests that surrounded her into the horizons that lay too far into the distance for her mortal legs to carry her beyond.

Before her mind could once again wander, Leliel took a second sip of the malt liquor, indulging herself in the cathartic liquid embers that swirled around her mouth in six clean sweeps, the fumes bursting forth from her nostrils, before then swallowing the liquid and letting out a satisfied grunt. The liquid was strangely thick- a tannin-like membrane had formed over Leliel’s tongue. Whoever had distilled this liquid was clearly not particularly interested in its purity.

Not that purity had ever been something in which Leliel had had much interest. Alcohol was, to her, a functional product.

Why am I here, again?

As the question crossed her mind, somebody walked past her table. Two, actually. Rather too close for comfort. A tall, handsome man with long hair tied into an elaborate bun, accompanied by another man of roughly the same age, though of more ordinary countenance. The first had his hand round the waist of the latter.

When Leliel looked up at the tall young man, she found him looking down at her.

He cast her a forced smile of contrived politeness. She returned the gesture.

The Shadowlands call to me. Soon, when my wounds have fully healed, I shall make my way there.

The Shadowlands call to me. There, I can find solace. But who am
I?

Grunting and slapping her hand on the table, Leliel lifted her glass of malt liquor to her mouth and took a third gulp. The taste of the drink had gone from sweet and slightly grainy to outright putrid. A trick of the mind, perhaps, forcing the body into a cloying sensation when it had felt that it had had enough. She swirled the liquid round the inside of her mouth, down below her tongue and up against her palate, six times, and then swallowed. About half of the glass was left. The empty top half of the glass glimmered with the sticky, sickly-sweet residue of the shoddily-purified spirit.

Sitting at the table adjacent to hers, Leliel saw a pair of women. A small, well-built, pale-skinned woman, roughly in her late forties or early fifties or so. Perhaps there were more than just two- perhaps there was only one. It did seem like this woman was having a conversation of some sort. So there was probably more than one. She wouldn't know. For the past two days, she'd struggled to even sleep, couldn't eat even a single piece of preserved fish cake. Now, on an empty stomach that tried in vain to rage but could only claw at the walls her withdrawn, umbral psyche had built for it, Leliel took her fourth shot of the liquid and gargled it in her mouth. Six times. And then swallowed.

The peripherals of the room became a blur. In a nearby table, a man dressed in a peculiar amount of blue sat. He'd mumbled something to himself. She didn't care.

Leliel... you are a Raven. How can you let your guard down like this?

Shut the hell up, she mouthed, allowing the fumes from her throat to rise. She took her fifth shot of the liquor and chewed on it. Six times.

It's not like you to be like this, Leliel.

A little voice in the back of her head told her, perhaps it was okay to just stop. It was okay to give up.

If you don't like the pain, you can just make it stop.

If you're tired of running, you can just sleep.

Sleep.

And hopefully you never wake up again, you worthless fucking piece of trash.

"Hnnnngh!"

A final few drops of liquor remained at the bottom of the glass. Just enough that one could dip their pinky in and submerge the entirety of the distal phalanx. This last volume of liquor soon found itself inside Leliel's mouth, which by now had been dried out by the alcohol.

The usual. Six gargles. Then a swallow.

With the glass empty, Leliel had become thoroughly inebriated, but her mind only continued to wander beyond what she felt comfortable with. Letting off another quiet grunt, Leliel began to chuckle to herself, leaning back in her chair and tipping it backwards. Her mind had been intoxicated somewhat, but her reflexes, sharp as ever, forced the chair back forward just before it pivoted beyond the point of no return, and the front two legs slammed hard into the floor with a hard thud. The sound, probably audible to the adjacent tables with the man in blue and the dark-haired woman who most likely had some other people at the table with her, was otherwise drowned out by the din of the tavern.

With a sigh, Leliel again leaned forward, casting a cursory glance in the direction of the other woman, and buried her face in her hands, brushing her hair out of her one eye and rubbing her face over and over again with her palms.

"I'm such a fuck-up."

...
.____________永 河 帝 國____________.
.____________自 他 共 栄____________.

Population: 89 million (2020)
Landmass: 328,036 km²
Capital: Inada
Most populous city: Rushima
Government: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Monarch: Tomohito
Prime Minister: Hideyoshi Kaburagi (Republican)
Chief Justice: Hideki Motobu
GDP (PPP): $4.917 trillion
HDI: 0.902 (very high)
Currency: Nagakawan yen (¥)
Internet TLD: .nk
Country code: NGK
Driving side: left
Call code: +133
National flower: Paulownia fortunei
National bird: Red-crowned crane
National sport: Judo

—___盾 鎧 斬 機 ● 疾 破 轟 喰___—
.._..Behold the power of the Monado!.._..

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Laiakia
Spokesperson
 
Posts: 114
Founded: Nov 25, 2019
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Laiakia » Tue Nov 10, 2020 12:57 pm

Iosef Strana was walking down the soggy road to the town. He was clad in a dark robe and hood, with some straps belonging to a canteen over his shoulder, and the canteen itself resting on his hip. He was humming a melody as he walked, but was keeping an eye on his sides just in case. Eventually, he passed the worn-down sign and stopped, eyeing the town with sadness. He sighed and murmured to himself.

“Look at these pitiful, people.. Abandoned to live in these horrible conditions while the bourgeois live with luxury! Some day, comrades, we will throw our shackles away.”

He then started walking inwards to the town, pushing his way through people. His hood and cloak caused some whispers by people passing by, but Iosef cared not for their opinion on his looks or mannerisms.

After looking around the town for a while, Iosef eventually found the tavern. As he approached it, he noted the different horses that were tied at the entrance. If things went bad in the town, he may just have to steal one. Not like he’d have a problem with it. He proceeded to chuckle to himself and entered the tavern, drawing the attention of some of the closest patrons. Keeping his head down and hidden, Iosef moved silently to a quiet corner of the tavern and sat down at an empty table, resting his right arm on the table while having his left one on his lap, close to his sword and ignoring everyone in the tavern. A few minutes later, a barmaid approached him.

“What’ll it be?” she asked.

“Vodka. The strongest you have.” he answered back. The barmaid looked at him hesitantly before nodding and moving away as a few of the nearest patrons stared at Iosef and talked amongst themselves. As the barmaid returned with a small glass and a bottle, Iosef nodded politely at her and took the bottle, drinking straight from it the moment she turned away.

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Ceystile
Diplomat
 
Posts: 589
Founded: Jan 29, 2019
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Ceystile » Tue Nov 10, 2020 3:07 pm

“Strange...don’t think I’ve ever been to this place.”
Khimaera Black, better known to her friends as Kim peered at her now slightly damp map from the golden frames of her glasses, a swath of blue and gold and brown amongst the blacks and grays of the town, as if it were raining watercolors instead of normal rainwater. She almost felt as if she were in some sort of impressionist painting. At least a decent tavern shouldn’t be too far from here, if what the map says is correct.

Her childhood friend and employer, King Alexandru of Kemwar had insisted that she at least take some soldiers to accompany her, because the Shadowlands were dangerous. But she had decided to keep the party to a minimum, it’d be a lot easier to gather information and navigate lesser known places without a posse of royal guards. But His Majesty had offered to provide whatever she may need to make the journey: “Anything for my godson”, he had said...and for that she was grateful. It’s really funny how relationships work, sometimes you and a former lover could be the best of friends...it helps if you were friends already. And sometimes you can break up with somebody and not even want to be on the same hemisphere of the planet as them, like her ex-husband. Oh they were on cordial enough terms now, she couldn’t take that away from him. The man was an excellent father, in fact their son was in his care now as she went to go follow this lead. He had never been cruel, he was a decent sort. She appreciated that, she even liked his husband...an unbearably sweet man who ran a bakery. They were good to Hermes, and deep down she couldn’t help but love them for that. But she hated the way things fell apart, it was fresh and still stung and that was something she just couldn’t help.

Enough moping. She mentally chastised herself, shaking her head hard enough to send raindrops flying. Straightening up, she followed the map until she came upon a building that looked rather warm in the cold surroundings. Small, wooden but the noise and the slightly acrid-sweet smell of wine made it unmistakable that this was the place she was looking for. Resting for a while couldn’t hurt, but she couldn’t afford to take too many breaks. Her reason for making this journey was far too important to allow distractions. Shaking the water out of her coat, she slipped it back over her shoulders and made her way to an empty stool near the bar.

“Excuse me my good lady, I’d like one spiced red please.” While she waited for her order, her eyes fell to a table with two dark haired women sitting in it. The first, a woman in a very conspicuous traditional witch’s garb seemed to be a couple of years older than her, but still bursting with energy and vigor. Kim admired the woman’s bravery, such an outfit was sure to attract the wrong sort of attention. And a younger woman in a green scarf that matched her eyes, they were having a very animated conversation. She couldn’t help but allow herself a smile watching them, being that carefree even with an atmosphere like this was something she could admit she envied. Turning back to the bar, she dug into her satchel and pulled out a book with an unmarked teal cover, starting to read. It was Hermetic Alchemy, Volume XII but of course having a title visible like that may very well cause an uproar.

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Britanania
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 25282
Founded: Feb 15, 2011
Father Knows Best State

Postby Britanania » Tue Nov 10, 2020 8:26 pm

Outside Sopdet, South-central Vesperia. 2520 PE

The sun rose over the hills of the Monastery of Aquinum, part of the Schola Ordinalis. Inside the ancient halls, the students and ordained clerics of the Eklessia said their morning prayers as the bells rung, ending the great silence of the night. The monastery housed well over 200 souls, among them seminarians but also full-time clerics who lived in perfect rhythm, as they had for centuries. Indeed, tradition held that Enas Himself founded the monastery during His reign, and best records indicate that it has been in continuous use since at least the time of the Mordian Empire. The monastary boasted an impressive number of alumni, including nearly a dozen Magnaae Pontifices and many more heads of the inquisition.

Inside one cell, a young woman dressed in a black habit who knelt in her cell and prayed

"Iam lucis orto sidere,Domine precenur suppluces, ut in diurnis actibus nos servet a nocentibus..."

The doors to the spartan cell opened slowly, but the young woman continued to pray, seemingly unaware of the new presence inside of her room. Only when completing her morning office did she rise to meet the man who entered. She recognised him at once and prostrated herself on the floor. This was no ordinary cleric--this was the Generalis Inquisitor, the second most powerful man in the entire Eklessia and one of her superiors. He spoke to the cleric in a clear, commanding voice.

"Orire, Soror Venusta", he commanded. "Missio tibi habeo." The woman nodded in understanding.

"Missionis accipio," Venusta replied, not even giving him a chance to finish his pitch. The Generalis gave a slight chuckle. Venusta was one of the bright young stars of the Inquisition, and this was a mission that she perhaps was best suited for.




Robaiziche Commonwealth, Raven's Ash, Northern Vesperia

The Inquisitor walked through the iron gates of the town and pulled down her hood, revealing her blonde locks and delicate features. The young woman cut a contradictory image, between her black travelling coat, beautiful features, and the glum town. Not that it mattered to Venusta Navi. She was used to travelling, although this was admittedly the furthest from Sopdet she had ever been. She pulled out her map once more to confirm her location and made her way to the local tavern to settle down before making her way into the Shadowlands.

Venusta knew, of course, how unusual it must look, for a young woman to be unaccompanied, but the Inquisitor long ago shed such fears or thoughts. She was capable of handling herself, and she took her seat at an empty table of the tavern, taking off her cloak and taking some time to rest before heading back out.
Christus vincit; Christus regnat; Christus imperat
"All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven"--Ecclesiastes 3:1
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The Order of the Sovereign Heavens
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Founded: Oct 19, 2020
Ex-Nation

Postby The Order of the Sovereign Heavens » Wed Nov 11, 2020 4:34 am

He sat in a room. A friendly room. Inside the room were a great many people, friends, colleagues. They were sitting around, all of them with finest Tór Galiean red in their cups, from the vineyards on the foothills of the southern mountains, enriched by the warm sun in the south of the continent. He looked down. His own goblet was filled with wine. For some reason, he felt excited. He looked up, and the others in the room were all expectantly waiting for him to take a drink. It was tradition, he knew. And of course, after he drank, they would drink too, and they would all raise their rapiers into the air, celebrating a coming of age. It was a joyous occasion that the Rapier Clique was all too ready to celebrate, a wonderful time in a military cadet’s life when they were finally considered men. Merely a few more years of cadetship, and then he would be in the army. An officer in His Majesty’s service.

“Go on, Sov,” one spoke, a voice familiar, yet distant, “You’re old enough now.”

Sovadien grinned, ear to ear, as he imagined the taste of finest red wine. It was funny, he almost felt as if he knew what it would taste like. Like he'd drunk it before. But he perished the thoughts. He raised his glass, then brought the goblet to his mouth, and tasted the liquid... But instead of a sweet Tór Galiean red, it tasted vile. He looked down; the liquid was a brighter red now, and opaque. Blood! There was blood in his goblet! He looked at his hands; they looked older, as if he was an aged man, and they continued wrinkling, getting older by the second. He looked around the room again, in a frenzied fear. The others at the table all had blood running from their faces.

“Go on, Sov,” the same one spoke, bleeding down his nose, his eyes, his mouth - he was choking on his blood, “You’re old enough now…”

Sovadien looked up at the doorway - there stood a young lad, in cadet uniform. His face was obscured to Sovadien, but he knew who it was. As his throat became ever more feeble, he attempted to shout out to the figure… He tried to call out his name, but the sounds would not come out, and he felt as if he was suffocating in his seat.

“Go on, Sov,” the boy yet again spoke, now with the appearance of a bloodied corpse, “You’re old en-”

The boy couldn’t finish - a cannonball flew through the room, exploding all within it, the metalware ringing off of itself as the room tore itself apart. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, as he looked one last time towards the figure in the doorway...



Kingdom of Tór Galiech, Calthán, Tholondíl House - Southern Vesperia
Four Weeks Ago

Sovadien shot awake, seizing as he heard the Calthán church-bells toll. He looked around the room. It was darkened, but recogniseable. His father’s room. Or rather, his room, now that his father was dead. Sovadien's lack of love for his father was obvious, even before he died. Sovadien remembered back to the days of playing in the fields around Calthán. He and his elder brother, Uturien, often gallivanted around the village, and were a common sight to see as they played, Uturien atop his horse and little Sovadien atop a pony. How much the folk of the village simply tolerated them and how much they relished in the young nobles playing, Sovadien did not know, but he knew that, in that time, he felt freer than he ever had before. Uturien and Sovadien play-fought in a paddock that was used primarily for grazing sheep. But inevitably, no matter how much Sovadien protested, the elder Uturien decided that it was time to head home. And Sovadien did protest. Because Sovadien felt little warmth from his home. The three eldest brothers of Sovadien's - Ysilien, Cagrósien and Tholorien - were all much beloved by their father. Even Uturien, who was only slightly older than Sovadien himself, was respected by their father. But the Earl Thuordian Tholondíl, though not at that time cruel to his youngest son, showed disinterest in Sovadien's growth and development, coolly brushing him off if ever he tried to show something he was proud of. But that ambiguous coolness soon changed into unambiguous hatred.

It wasn't his fault, of course. Sovadien and Uturien once again roamed around the village, and Uturien sent the young Sovadien into the baker's shop to purchase two rolls of bread, one for each of them. But as he handed over the money, a scream, a thud, a crack... Sovadien could still remember that bone-chilling crack. As if the morning's nightmares weren't chilling enough, having to think about that memory once more. Red ribbons lay strewn across the pathway; red ribbons and an orchard's apples. That was truly the moment when coolness became hostility. From then on, Sovadien was punished for every little thing he did, everything he didn't do, everything he couldn't have helped... From then on, Thuordian Tholondíl hated his youngest son. And Sovadien reciprocated. He resented his father greatly, but if anything of any substance were ever discussed, it soon fell by the wayside, as both hated the other too deeply to care why.

Sovadien shook the grogginess off. He wasn't entirely sure why the bells often brought that memory with them. They could just as easily have brought with them the legitimately sad affair of his mother's death soon thereafter, the emotionless memories of the elder Tholondíl's funeral, or even the frankly boring affair of the funeral of his other elder brothers and his sister. Or indeed, any of the numerous other days on which Sovadien awoke to those bells. No, the bells so often brought with them memories of Utty alone. Perhaps it was only natural, then, that whenever Sovadien awoke in Tholondíl House, he felt as if he was a stranger there. Like it was not the place in which he belonged. Indeed, it may not have been. Sovadien donned his morning clothes and descended the stairs, being met by his butler. Sovadien wasn't sure if he enjoyed having a butler. In fact, he was fairly sure he did not. But regardless, he had one, and to remove his butler from his post with no hope for other employment would have been a cruelty Sovadien could not hope to abide. The best he could do was treat the man with the dignity he deserved, as well as the dignity he assumed he hadn't been given by the rest of his family.

"Good morning, Earl Sovadien sir," the butler spoke in a monotonous voice that betrayed very little. The man was either perpetually bored or perpetually depressed, perhaps both. That was part of the reason why he didn't enjoy having a butler - the sheer state of butlers in Tór Galiech. Nevertheless, Sovadien picked up his own tone as he descended the steps.

"Good morning, Fealain. I trust you were up early this morning as usual," as he adjusted the sash around the front of the jacket, he muttered under his breath "Contrary to my requests..."

The butler nodded slowly. He moved in front of his Earl, opening the doors into the dining room. Breakfast, a hearty meal of lamb sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms and wine-sauce, was already prepared for him, and lay steaming on the table. Well, yes, while having a number of servants, cooks, butlers and cleaners under his command was not the most enjoyable for the somewhat modern-thinking Earl, he did enjoy the meals that were prepared. They were a luxury he could abide. As he sat down, the butler seemingly produced from thin air a large wad of letters, all addressed to 'Earl Tholondíl', or 'Master of the House'. Sovadien thanked the butler for the letters, and the butler vacated to allow Sovadien to read.

The first one was fairly uninteresting. Some local lord getting married... He could never remember if it was the Earl Sacratíl or Earl Goronníl who had married six times, but it was probably this one again, as the quality of paper was very low. That, coupled with the impersonal manner of prose, prompted Sovadien to place the letter firmly in the 'ignore' pile. Next, there was some issue regarding a farmer who had lost a single pig... The letter had evidently been written by a local magistrate, why he did not just deal with the issue baffled Sovadien. Perhaps he wished the Earl would give out charity. Indeed, it was not unknown for Sovadien to do so, but this was a very minor matter indeed. Sovadien quickly shuffled the pile, trying to find something of any interest. However, one off-white envelope stood out to him. Turning it over, he read the address.

Sov
The Earl
Tholondíl House
Calthán

Sovadien furrowed his brow. "Sov". He hadn't been called that in a very long time. He thought back. Why would anyone who called him that have been contacting him now? Unless...

No, surely, it couldn't have been. They hadn't spoken in years, decades. But there the letter sat, as if it was beckoning him to open it. He brought the knife under the fold cautiously. He did not want to break the seal, or crumple the envelope, or the precious letter inside, one bit. The knife finishing in abortive, hesitant slices, Sovadien opened up to see inside. With trembling hands, he produced another off-white letter. He opened it up and started to read.

Sov

It has most deffinitely been a while, and I would not be suprised if you do not reckognise my hand, or in deed, me. Years ago, the both of us were in the rapierr clique. I was three years your juneor. I was also there when they kicked you from the group. I always felt that was unfair. You may remember me as Cuthy - that's what the boys called me.

In any case, I didn't do well in the army after all. I now work for the Customs sirvice. But not long ago, someone in your employ came to my office stating that you had been looking for Tuillien. Your man was turned away, for some reason, and my manajer soon after told me to burn some records. I don't know why he wanted them gone, but I looked over some of them.

Pay close attenson to the name of the captain.

Cuthien Tirolloch Noisís

Sovadien sat back in his seat, pondering. There had indeed been a member of the Rapier Clique called Cuthien - not particularly the brightest of the bunch, nor maybe the most promising for an army career, but to have been in the Clique at all, he must have shown some promise to someone. Or perhaps it was just that his loyalty and dutiful nature made him an excellent errand-boy. Nevertheless, Sovadien peered into the envelope again, and there, the thinnest parchment he had ever seen lay folded inside the envelope, with scrawly text on its front. He opened it out, and read over the text, heart still racing.

Export or Outgoing Transport Record __2507 PE, 5th Month, 26th Day__

Ship Name: _____Mercatís ______
Ship Type: ______TRCLIP _______
Ship Operator: ___Vaesís_______
Ship Captain: __T. V_"__________
Ship Nationality: _T-GLN_______
Arrival Location: __Witches' Gap ___
Arrival Country: __ Witches' Gap ___
Expected Arrival Date: ____--______
Expected Return Date: ____--______
Oth: _____________________ SCC _____
Departure Location: __Cón.___
Load: ______See attached______
Dock: ____________37 _________
Master: __________ -- _________
Fee: ___________Ş2.-- _________

Sighted by: ____________________________ -- ______________________________________
EOTR-F

T.V. In this context, it had to mean T. Vaesís, and that could well have meant Tuillien Vaesís. While he was in Cónalarn, searching for him, he had heard word of a Dugatís-Vaesís Trading Company, but that didn't seem to be what this meant. This specifically mentioned Vaesís as the sole owner. But so much of the form had been left blank - the dockmaster, the customs officer who'd sighted the document... Ominously both the arrival and return dates. And where exactly was 'Witches' Gap'? Sovadien had to travel to Cónalarn himself to sort this out. He had to find out whatever he could, and solve this mystery. He might as well pack his bags then and there.

In fact, he would.



The butler was startled awake by the sound of Sovadien's bags hitting the floor in front of him. The butler made every attempt to look as if he were awake, though it was in vain. The Earl had seen him sleeping, though thankfully for the butler, he didn't care about someone 'sleeping on the job'. The butler looked Sovadien up and down, seeing him in his travelling clothes, with bags, packs, gloves, a tricorne hat... He was ready to leave.

"Fealain, I'm going. You can look after the house as you see fit until my return. Get some rest, but I've ensured that pay shall continue as normal according to the details of this document," he passed the butler an envelope sealed with the Tholondíl crest. The butler spluttered.

"B-but, my Earl... Sir... Where are you going, and why-?"

"I'm going to Witches' Gap, Fealain. Wherever that is," he picked up his bags again and made a move for the door, "And I may be some time."



Kingdom of Tór Galiech, Cónalarn - Southern Vesperia
Three and a half Weeks Ago

Of course, prior to leaving towards this 'Witches' Gap' place, Cónalarn was Sovadien's first destination. More specifically, to visit his old friend, Cuthien Tirolloch Noisís, and find out what exactly most of the document meant. The more Sovadien thought, the more some of the jargon could make sense - 'TRCLIP' could mean 'Trade Clipper', 'T-GLN' could mean 'Tór Galiean'... But beyond that, the missing portions and the other jargon, including this mysterious 'SCC', seemingly deliberately left blank, made no sense to him. A number of questions passed through his mind as he neared the customs house, until finally, he entered into the door, almost expecting to see Cuthien already there. But there were two men in the room, both in faux-military uniform, and neither one of them Cuthien. Sovadien approached one.

"Greetings, I wonder if you could assist me. I'm looking for Cuthien Tirolloch Noisís, I've been told he works for the Customs Service now."

The middle-aged man in front of Sovadien looked up at him, his eyes going wide, perhaps in surprise; "I'm sorry, sir... Cuthien died last week."

The news was stunning. Gripping onto a table, Sovadien felt his knees weaken. Not only did he lose someone who he had once considered a friend, and indeed who had been much better at considering Sovadien than Sovadien had of him, but his source of information, the one way he might possibly find out more about Tuillien... All gone. It was a crushing blow; "How did he die?" Sovadien finally managed to splutter.

"They don't know," the man responded, "They found his body by the docks, but the water had gotten to it," the customs officer paused for a moment, "Did you need his help with something?"

Sovadien sighed, "Well, yes... You see, he sent me this letter, an-"

"Perhaps I'd better help this one. You go on your break, Vasti," the second man interjected, interrupting Sovadien and startling the other officer slightly. The first officer looked between the other officer and Sovadien, finally shrugging.

"I'm not getting involved in whatever this is," he said, putting his hands up in mock surrender and removing his jacket, placing it upon the coat rack, "You have ten minutes."

As he went through the door to the back, the second officer turned to Sovadien and began to speak softly.

"I'm sorry for your loss. But as it turns out, Cuthien died protecting whatever information he sent in a letter to some Earl. That letter, I'd wager," he pointed to the envelope in Sovadien's hand, to which Sovadien promptly responded by stowing it in his coat, "I hope the information was worth it. What did he send you?"

Sovadien fumbled around the now-hidden envelope, producing the thin document from inside of it. He placed it onto the table, "This is what he sent me. But I don't understand a lot of it."

The customs officer reached for spectacles, and placing them on his face, looked over the document, squinting his eyes as he did so. He paid quite close attention to the information on it, spending valuable seconds on each portion of the text. Finally, he removed the spectacles, sighing as he did so.

"I'm not surprised you didn't understand. The information here is submitted in a very non-standard manner. There are sections missing, what is there is contradictory..." he reached for the top-righthand side of the page, feeling it between his thumb and forefinger, "It even says there ought to be an attached load list, but nothing has ever been attached to this document. If I didn't know better, I'd say someone didn't know how to fill this out."

"If you didn't know better," Sovadien repeated.

The customs officer nodded, "This has been filled out by a professional. And so, the information must be willfully hidden," the officer shrugged, before continuing, "But I can tell you what I know;" he pointed to each item in turn, "The ship is a trade clipper called the Mercatís. It wouldn't have been operated by Dugatís-Vaesís Trading Company - we note them down as 'DVTC' - so this must have been a privately operated ship, operated by whoever this 'T. Vaesís' is."

"I can only hope I know who that is."

"I can't help but feel you'd rather not," the man pointed to the righthand column, "This information has me concerned. The additional information section has 'SCC' written on it - 'scuttle craft', in layman's terms. There's no arrival date, either there or back. This is a highly unknown, highly secretive one-way trip. As for the destination, Witches' Gap is the name of a port on the far northwestern edge of Vesperia. By all accounts, the only reason one would sail there is, well... To enter the Shadowlands."

Sovadien looked down onto the paper, "So that's where he is."

The customs officer laughed, surprising Sovadien, "Haven't you heard the stories? If he made it there at all, through Witches' Gap or any other route, he'll likely be dead by now."

"You don't know Tuillien Vaesís," Sovadien retorted.

"Be that as it may," the customs officer responded, before looking down to the paper himself, "This explains why whoever Cuthien crossed wanted this information to go nowhere. I think - and I may be wrong about this, but I think this Vaesís person was working for the Underground. And I think our office here helped to cover his tracks."

"The Underground?" Sovadien scoffed, thinking to himself, what a needlessly foreboding name, "So, what, this 'Underground' kills people to keep them quiet? Kills people like poor Cuthien?" The customs officer nodded slowly, and Sovadien shook his head in disbelief, "Look, forgive me for not believing you fully in all of your claims, but I do need to go to this 'Witches' Gap' place," he placed the document back into his envelope, "How can I get to Dock 37 from here?"

The customs officer smiled smugly, "You can't. It doesn't exist."

Sovadien became somewhat exasperated, "Then, how can I get a ship to Witches' Gap?"

"No-one will want to go there," the officer scoffed.

"Then HOW..." Sovadien caught himself, and quietened his tone, "How do I get there?"

The man on the other side of the desk sighed, belaboured, "Look, I will warn you against this once and once alone; the Shadowlands is a place few ever brave, and even fewer ever return from. I wouldn't advise anyone goes there."

"If this man is there, I have to," Sovadien stood up straight. The officer sighed.

"You can't get there by sea, but you can go there by land. Travel to the Robaiziche Commonwealth, then to the crossroads town on the Robaiziche frontier called Raven's Ash. It's right on the edge of the Shadowlands," the officer began to write the information on a scrap of paper, and handed it to Sovadien, finally saying, "We didn't have this conversation."



Robaiziche Commonwealth, Raven's Ash - Northern Vesperia
Present


So there he stood. In the centre of the town of Raven's Ash, in the Robaiziche Commonwealth. Right on the edge of civilisation. On the edge of sanity. It had taken him a little over two weeks to make the trek to the far northern regions of Vesperia - given the fast transit, the job was mostly a simple one, and he relished the ability to be on the move again. From the Robaiziche capital to Raven's Ash, however, was a different story. A slog, hard miles won through long hours' travel. But finally, he was there. Finally at his destination. Before the greater journey, at least.

Looking out through the town, he saw the lined merchant stalls, as they tried to sell him wares of many kinds - trinkets some, others food, the rare few having useful travel equipment. Walking down that street, though the general atmosphere of the town was so different to Cónalarn, Sovadien could not help but feel the same feelings as then. The days when he would search the cobbled streets of the Cónalarn traders' district, hoping beyond hope to find Tuillien there.

The questions the customs officer had raised still burrowed into Sovadien's mind. He wasn't sure if, or why, Tuillien would join this 'underground' that he spoke of. But he spoke of it as if it were a tangible entity, something real, and perhaps even to be feared. Surely, though, here in the Shadowlands, there were worse things to fear. But beyond that, the question of whether Tuillien was even still alive played heavily on his mind. He had long since given up hope before the letter came, and with that, questions of a similar nature to these had gone too. But now they were all back.

Perhaps a drink, a rest, a meal even... That would relax the nerves, and he would be able to go onto the road with increased vigour. He walked through the tavern door and into the warmth inside. Approaching the bar, he put down his bags gently and spoke to the tavern-maid.

"Greetings, madame. I would like to request your finest cider."

The barkeep evidently had little time for the pleasantries. The number of people within the tavern seemed to exceed what she was expecting, as she sighed with exhaustion and moved to pour the cider. Sovadien looked more closely. In all of his travels, Sovadien had learnt that most taverns were somewhat similar, and this one was no exception. There were five men in a corner playing some foreign game of chance, another two men arm-wrestling, some people reading books, one man drinking a curious clear liquid from a bottle... A charming display of civilisation. But then there were some unusual looking characters - one woman was dressed as one might expect a witch to be dressed, another in a black travelling coat that seemed out of place. Sovadien himself, in his own khaki travelling jacket, with a rapier and some packs by his side, appeared to be ready for travel too.

And then there was a woman sitting, mumbling to herself, whose chair slammed down making quite a sound that not many noticed. The girl seemed much more drunk, and much more depressed, than even the most drunk and depressed individuals in the tavern. As the barmaid brought Sovadien's cider, he turned back to her.

"And some water, please."



Water in one hand, cider in the other, with packs and bags across his back and sides, Sovadien moved over to the table where Leliel sat, massaging her face in an oddly numeric manner, cursing to herself and keeping her face low, as if expecting danger. Sovadien announced his presence with a cough, holding both cups tightly to prevent spillage, before finally speaking to the girl.

"Greetings. Is this seat taken?"
Last edited by The Order of the Sovereign Heavens on Wed Nov 11, 2020 4:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Naval Monte
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Posts: 13558
Founded: Sep 04, 2014
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Naval Monte » Wed Nov 11, 2020 9:00 pm

Robaiziche Commonwealth, Raven's Ash- Northern Vesperia, 2520 PE

Alex would take a big chug down her fifth or fourth (Alex honestly lost count how much she drank) mug of whiskey as she drank the mug practically empty save for a few stubborn drops clinging to the glass even as they slowly slide down due to gravity. The woman would remove the mug from her lips, letting out a sigh that sounded like a moan of contentment. "This is the life Vanth. A nice drink and a warm meal with company. Sometimes the most simplest things are much better than riches or fame. Don't you agree?" the arcanist gave the former soldier a big smile, her cheeks having faint hints of pink gracing them, her eyes being glassy.

Alex would look down at the drink that Jackie offered and shrugged. "It might be the whiskey talking but now I feel confident on trying out your drink." she would reach up and grab the container. "I heard Carminan drinks are wonderful, like drinking the very soma of the gods. Let's see if these lauded tales have any validity to them." the witch looking matron would open the container and begin to take her first tentative sips of the drink. She can feel the drink splashing in her mouth and it quickly going down her throat, leaving behind a bitter warmth as it went down to her stomach and spread throughout her body.

Alex's eyes widen as she brought the container away from her lips, coughing loudly as she did. "Bloody Infernum! That drink has a mean punch." she coughed again, using her arm to cover her mouth. A few people would look over at the table as the saw the wannabe witch coughing to herself. A few sneered at her, some commenting on how she couldn't stand her own potion and that was why she was coughing.

Alex would slowly come down from her coughing fit, seeing the smirking face of Jackie. The older woman glared at her. "I'm not going to concede to defeat so easily Ms. Vanth. I have dealt with far more challenging things before, one bottle won't best me so thoroughly." The witch look alike boasted as she puffed her chest like an arrogant noblewoman wanting to assort her dominance over those she deem as her inferiors.

Yet when Alex would look at the bottle on her hand her rumbustious smirk and demeanor of prideful arrogance turn into a frown as some of the uncertainty she was feeling from within was now slipping through the cracks of the mask she placed before Jackie, even as she spun the bottle around it just seem to make sure look more anxious on following through her action. She can feel the water churning from within the bottle, hearing it splash against the walls of its prison as droplets broke off from the watery mass and came down upon the body. Alex's throat was still hot from the first sip she had and her taste buds was now starting to recover from the previous attempt to drink it.

Alex would close her eyes and take a deep breath, gathering as much air into her lung until she filled them into their max capacity, before exhaling it all out. The mage would do this a few times as she tried to steer her nerves. When she open her eyes she had what was a serene but blank expression on her face as she look at Jackie.

Without warning she would place the bottle close to her lips and begin to drink the entire content of the bottle. Unlike before where she cough at the first drop this time she was forcing herself to drink down every drop as moved the bottle further up and pulled her head back. Jackie would see the matron's neck make subtle movements that act as telltale signs of her drinking down everything within the bottle.

In the few seconds that lasted for Alex to finish drinking the bottle would end with Alex moving the bottle, taking a big gasp for air as she would move her hands over her head. "FINISHED!" she would move the bottle upside down to show that she was indeed done drinking from it as not a sign drop came down from the bottle.

"I don't like bitter drinks and that stuff also burn but it has a pleasant taste the longer you drink it." she told Jackie as she placed the bottle down. she would place her arms on the table and lean forward, her smile growing as the blush on her cheeks not only grew in size but was now a healthy and vibrant shade of red. "You got anymore of that drink Jackie dear? Maybe we can have a small drinking game? Perhaps we can wager on some of money to make it interesting?" Alex would giggle at her proposition.

The arcanist and natural philosopher knew that the beverage she consumed had a high level of alcohol contained and that it was most likely going to impair her judgement, a dangerous setback to have if she was to enter the Shadowlands now. There was one thing she can do as a woman of science to remedy the situation she has found herself in.

Get another mug of whisky.

With that logical deduction in mind she would ask for a refill from a close by barmaid. Just as the barmaid arrived to take the mug from Alex would the arcanist and maid hear a woman at the counters screaming as she almost fell off her seat.

“Looks like someone is having a bad trip. Poor thing. Maybe she took that detura or something like that. I almost lost my mind when I tried it out for my study.” Alex shivered as the memories of what she experienced after smoking the plant came to her. “I’m never trying Detura again. The nightmares and being drive towards the edge of madness weren’t worth the research materials I gained from that.” the woman’s had a glassy look as she was having flashback to that terrible experiment.

But it seems providence was on her side as from the corner of her eyes she saw a flash of gold appear before her. Following where she saw the flash of gold her breath was taken when she spot a woman lush, curly, golden locks of hair, eyes as blue as the sea, and smooth skin as white as alabaster.

Even if the traveling cloak hide much of her feature the arcanist still found her beauty just by her face alone.

Looking at the woman like a lovestruck adolescence who finally realize that members of the opposite sex are attractive to them she would look like a complete fool to Jackie and the barmaid once she arrived to give Alex her drink, one that was promptly ignored by the natural philosopher.

Alex’s brain would finally send down signals to tell the rest of her to get a grip of themselves, her mouth now close and the woman shaking her head. She would grab the mug and just like before she would instantly drink down all of the content of the mug until there was nothing left, slamming the mug on the table.

“That woman has to have elvan blood in her, even if it’s a little. There is no way a regular human can be that beautiful.” she told Jackie as she licked her lips, taking some drops of whiskey that was on her. “I’m gonna try to talk with her. Get to know of our elf.”

The matron would get up from her seat and walk to where the blonde beauty was, stumbling only once on her way to the other table.

Alex would flash the woman a charming smile. “Hello there love. I didn’t think a woman of high status like yourself would be so keen to enter a place full of ruffians and scoundrels.” Alex would let out a chuckle. “You can call me Alex. Alexandria Ashwood.” she would give her a bow. Looking up she would ask “What is your name dear?” her smile returning.

However as she was still in her bow the arcanist would not see one man, a traveler who had too much to drink, walking close by her. The drunken man would look down the woman and a lecherous smile would appear on his face.

Without warning Alex would let out a yelp as she felt a pair of hands on her, mostly on her waist. She would hear someone laughing close to her and smell the stench of alcohol.

“The lord has blessed me today. I’m gonna have a magical night.” the man laughed, unaware of the woman shaking under his grasp, even more unaware that she was shaking not out of fear, but out of pure rage.

“UNHAND ME, YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT!”

Alex would strike at the man at the neck with her elbow, hitting him directly on his adam’s apple. The man would let her go as he grabbed his neck, wheezing for air as he did so. Alex would quickly turned around and before he can even comprehend what was happening he would feel immense pain come from his crown jewels. Between his legs was the pointed boot of Alex, striking hard on his manhood.

The man was silent as his eyes bulge out of their sockets. As she put her boot down the man would cover where she struck as she walked to a table to grab a bottle as the man double over in pain.

Once she was close she would raise the bottle over her head and swing down on the man’s head, shattering the glass and spilling ale all over him. The drunk would collapse on the floor, moaning in pain as he covered his slick and bloodied head. Alex would drop the broken bottle and walk back to the table that Venusta was at.

She would lean over and place both hands on the table, giving her a wide, albeit strained, smile. “Sorry about that. Where were we?”
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Theyra
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Democratic Socialists

Postby Theyra » Wed Nov 11, 2020 9:52 pm

Njulgu Rantala

Almost there, almost to the Shadowlands, was what the young man thought. Arriving at the entrance of the town with a small caravan that luckily for him. Was looking for guards, and Njulgu managed to get hired. Njulgu needed the money since he did not have any on him when he fled from Ikaakila. They did not encounter any bandits or anything dangerous on the way to Raven's Ash, which suited Njulgu just fine. He was used to killing caribou and not people. Never has he taken a human life before, but he does not have to worry about that now.

After collecting his pay from the caravan leader, Njulgu went into town. He was still wearing his brown hood, which gathered some eyes but, for the most part. The townsfolk paid little attention to him, which has glad for. It helped that Njulgu was hiding his pagan necklace, and he went on to explore the town. He mainly gets the chance to see life outside of Ikaakila, something he did not expect to do. Just staying at his corner of the world until the end of his life was what he thought would happen. It would leave a bitter taste in his mouth as the thought of it. That the time he gets to leave Ikaakila and see the world. Only when Ikaakila was attacked and fleeing at his parent's behest that he gets this chance. For all Njulgu knows, he is the only survivor, and his father's knowledge about magic is lost.

Sadness started to grow in him that gave way to a cold rage. Why, why could that vicious lord not leave them be? Just because they believed in the Old Gods was enough to warrant their extermination. We were not bothering anyone and certainly out of the way of anyone. Njulgu clenched his fists but soon realized that he needed to calm down and stop dead in his tracks. Him getting angry over what happened at Ikaakila will only draw attention to himself. So he started to calm himself down and breathed in and out calmly until stopping once he was calm and went on exploring the town.

It is a long shot, but he hoped to see another anyone from Ikaakila while on the way to the Shadowlands. Maybe even see Ervá but, so far. No one and he should not be surprised. Njulgu knows his hope is a long shot, but that does not stop him from hoping. Praying to the Old Gods when he could that others had survived and would doing well. That and praying, he can see them again.

As he turned the corner to where most of the merchant's stalls were. Njulgu heard a small growl coming from his stomach. Njulgu stopped and looked down at his stomach. Since he last ate, it has been a while, and he now has enough coin to buy something to eat. So he looked around and found a tavern. Entering hearing a woman yelling, "UNHAND ME, YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT!" Njulgu watched with a surprised expression on his face as the woman seeming defended herself. Okay, do not mess with that person, he thought. When it was all over, Njulgu slowly made his way to the tavern keeper. "So what do you have to east here?", speaking with a clear accent.

Tavern keeper spoke, "Well, we got steaks, roast chicken, some version and soup. Which one suits your fancy?

"I will take some chicken and some ale."

"Coming right up," and after some time, the tavern keeper produced a plate of roasted chicken and some ale. Njulgu paid some gold and looked around for a table.

There weren't any empty tables, so he went for the least number of people on it, which was one in the corner with a man that was reading a book. As he got closer, Njulgu could see the book's name was 'De monstres et de la sorcellerie.' Njulgu had no idea that said and was not going to figure out what language it was. "Mind if I sit here, sir? Njulgu asked the man and spoke with an accent. Standing diagonal to the man. Hoping that the man speaks the same does not speak a different language.

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Britanania
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Father Knows Best State

Postby Britanania » Wed Nov 11, 2020 9:54 pm

Raven's Ash, Robaiziche Commonwealth, Northern Vesperia

Venusta was looking at her map, plotting her next movements when she heard someone talking. It took the inquisitor a moment to realise that the woman was talking to her and that she was using the common tongue of this part of the world. Venusta put her map down and looked at the woman in question, noticing first her fine clothes and eclectic style and then general appearance.

The woman introduced herself as Alexandria Ashwood. Venusta scrunched her eyebrows.

That...seems familiar... the cleric thought as she inspected as she bowed down. Her attire certainly pointed to someone with money, not someone who would frequent a tavern as this. Her accent also seemed off to Venusta, not like the locals; clearly, she wasn't from around her, and her pale face seemed flushed. She had been drinking, that much was obvious, and Venusta further noted the woman's matronly and zaftig figure. Alex was certainly carrying more weight than most people. That, combined with her slight drunkenness and attire told Venusta that this was a woman who clearly enjoyed life and had the money to afford a comfortable lifestyle.

A noble? Unlikely, she wouldn't be at a tavern. An academic? That makes sense. She looks like the kind used to sitting, reading, and enjoying good food and wine.

Venusta opened her mouth to reply when another person patronised Alexandria, causing the woman to react violently.

Defintely not a noble, she decided.

"Si, um, I am called...Venusta..." she said in a heavy accent. "e tu...are a professoressa, non? Um, how you say, philosopher?"
Last edited by Britanania on Wed Nov 11, 2020 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Naval Monte
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Founded: Sep 04, 2014
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Naval Monte » Wed Nov 11, 2020 11:40 pm

Britanania wrote:---


Alex's cheeks would turn a more vibrant shade of red and her blush would spread as she watched the blonde moving her eyes throughout her form. "She's checking me out! She thinks I'm attractive as well!" the arcanist was feeling her pride swelling with the revelation that this angelic woman also found her fascinating.

The woman would be brought back to reality as the woman finally spoke to her... in a heavily thick accent that affected her English. Venusta would see the eyes of the woman seem to be glinting as she moved even closer. "Normally I hate hearing someone speaking in broken English but your accent makes me not only forgive you for that but it also makes it adorable." the woman gushed as she placed her hands on her cheeks.

"Are you from Sodpht? Your accent sounds similar to those from there." when Venusta asked if she was a philosopher the woman would place her hands on her hips and nodded. "You are correct, I'm a natural and arcane philosopher. But I'm also a philosopher when it comes to the humanities as well." she would take a seat across from Venusta. "Right now I'm not working for anyone. I'm currently traveling around on my own to collect more information about the world before I return back home and see my daughter." she would give her a smile as her eyes were half closed. "Are you interested on hiring a philosopher for your services?"
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Menschenfleisch
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Founded: Nov 01, 2017
Father Knows Best State

Postby Menschenfleisch » Thu Nov 12, 2020 3:06 am

Jacquelyn Vanth

Jacquelyn had men watched men die at sea. She had seen them spit clods of brain from their mouths, hold their own guts in their hands. She’d seen every reaction to death that could be imagined: panic, fury, denial, resignation, bliss. She’d burnt every last innocence from her mind, scoured her soul for imperfection, made every crease in her character and body smooth. There was nothing that she hadn’t experienced, no nightmare she hadn’t confronted. And this woman, this fucking slag, terrified her. It was like staring into the eyes of god and being found wanting. Oh god oh fuck, she couldn’t even breathe. She stared, glued to her chair, as the witch somehow took the ten steps needed to cross the room to hit on a woman in the corner - an inquisitor of all people - and then, as promptly as she’d decided that she was apparently gay, sterilized a man with her boot. This woman had just drunk a kilogram of alcohol - how was she alive? How hadn’t she burnt to a crisp and been ejected from reality for such a sin against biology? How?! So many iterations of ‘how’! She stood up very slowly and raised a tentative hand. “Someone call a physician...” she just barely managed to murmur.

But none were forthcoming. It was up to her to save Alex’s life, apparently. Or failing that, conceal her role in the woman’s untimely death by renal failure. She stepped up behind her and laid a hand on her shoulder, careful not to provoke a reaction. She didn’t anticipate wanting children any time in the next fifty years but she wasn’t exactly hoping to get kicked in the crotch either. “Ma’am,” she half whispered and half wheezed, “Are you sure you’re alright?” And if she made any attempt to conceal her fear then it was a piss poor one. The girl glanced at Venusta. "Sorry. I am so, so sorry."
Last edited by Menschenfleisch on Thu Nov 12, 2020 3:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Laiakia
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Founded: Nov 25, 2019
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Laiakia » Thu Nov 12, 2020 6:17 am

Iosef Strana

Taking another swig from the almost-empty bottle of vodka, Iosef was interrupted by a woman shouting “UNHAND ME, YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT!” Iosef chuckled seeing the drunkard getting beaten up and returned to his bottle while examining the many patrons of the tavern which he had previously ignored. There were a couple of people that caught his attention, obviously the short lady that had wrecked the poor sod’s nuts, a presumed man in a dark blue coat and tricorn.

Iosef was taken out of his thoughts by a heavy hand on his left shoulder and the arrival of a couple of men that sat down around his table. Iosef turned to look at the man holding his shoulder, and found him snickering at him.

“Say, that’s gotta be the worst cloak i’ve ever seen! What’s the matter? You scared of the light?”

Iosef grabbed his hand and brushed it off from his shoulder.

“Fuck. Off.” The men chuckled at his comment, and as Iosef was reaching for his bottle of vodka, the man grabbed it.

“What’s your problem, mate? We just want to know where you got that fuckin’ cape, but maybe we’ll leave you alone if you give us some.. cash?” The man then lowered his voice.
“Or perhaps you want us to announce your little bounty to the fine people of this tavern, Iosef Strana? It took us quite a long time for us to track you down.” Iosef sighed and stood up shakily due to the amount of vodka in his system, but nonetheless hiding his sword under his cloak and putting his hand around the man’s shoulder.

“I’m going to give you one chance before I throw you out that window, and if your goons here don’t buzz off, i might have to get violent with them too, yes?” The men all stood up at this comment in an attempt to seem intimidating, drawing the attention
of the closest patrons.

Iosef only shook his head and took out a single cigar and put it in his mouth. “Your loss.” He said. He then grabbed his lighter and lit the cigar, blowing some smoke into the man’s face. He then proceeds to pocket his lighter with his right arm, and quickly draws his sword with his left hand and puts it over the throat of the apparent bounty hunter. This caused the other men to all pull their swords out.

Iosef slowly backed towards a window as the man struggled to break free. Iosef chuckled at the nervous looks on the other men’s faces. He quickly looked back and stopped right in front of the window, smiling towards his hostage. He then proceeded to grab the vodka bottle, smash it against the bounty hunter’s head and then throw him out of the window with his head first, causing a very loud crashing noise. He then pointed his sword to the other men.

“C’mon then!”

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The Peninsular
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Posts: 160
Founded: Apr 04, 2017
New York Times Democracy

Postby The Peninsular » Thu Nov 12, 2020 12:28 pm

Jean glanced up from his book momentarily as the young man asked him. "Hm? Oh, no, go ahead. And don't call me 'sir', please.", he simply said and pointed to one of the seats, examining the man for a short moment. Judging by looks, Jean decided, he was probably an outdoorsman of some kind - possibly a hunter, given the bow and arrows, which even some Bretinnic hunters still liked to use. Nevertheless, there seemed to be nothing of particular note about the fellow, apart from maybe his slightly timid behavior. Returning to his book, currently in a chapter concerning particular kinds of monsters (although he was starting to doubt the accuracy of some of the author's claims), he tried to refocus on memorizing the knowledge which might help keep him alive out there.

This attempt at concentration was thoroughly foiled by a sudden commotion in the tavern. It wasn't initially as loud as the prior instance of noise (he had heard something about 'unhand me' in the background, but had decided to ignore it), but Jean's sixth sense quickly kicked in when he looked over his shoulder and saw what appeared to be several thugs standing up at once. The Bretinnic journalist had witnessed enough bar brawls in the past years to know that this was not good news, and, sure enough, the man they seemed to be picking on suddenly mentioned something about 'throw you out that window'. Putting the book down, Jean slowly shifted in his seat, determined not to be stuck in it at the outbreak of a possibly dangerous brawl not far from him.

This proved to be an intelligent decision - only a few seconds later, the unmistakeable sound of swords being drawn reached Jean's ears. He jumped out of his seat, his own hand on his saber's grip (revealing the extravagant De Vitt logo, but that was the least of his concerns), just in time to see the the thugs' target drag one of them towards the main window, weapon drawn. The inevitable sound of glass shattering followed, and it seemed this would no ordinary brawl, this would be a sword fight.

Jean, for his part, was torn - the cloaked man was badly outnumbered, but involving oneself in an impromptu sword fight was also not the best decision. As such, while he drew his own saber in quite an extravagant fashion, he quickly took a defensive stance, deciding to not intervene... yet.
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Ceystile
Diplomat
 
Posts: 589
Founded: Jan 29, 2019
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Ceystile » Thu Nov 12, 2020 3:08 pm

Kim paid for her bottle when it finally arrived, smelling the heady spicy-sweet scent of the mulling spices before taking a swig. Hey, at least the wine here was good...she preferred Kemwari but she wasn’t going to be picky over something as irrelevant as wine. If you didn’t like a wine, you passed it off and got rid of it to buy a new one. Alchemical ingredients on the other hand? They took a lot of effort to get a hold of, many were expensive or rare, perhaps both so wasting them was always a major loss and a headache.

Her brief peace was shattered however when she heard a ruckus occurring a couple of feet from the bar. The woman in witch’s garb had been accosted by some clearly drunk, clearly predatory man and for the briefest of seconds Kim wondered whether she needed to help. But soon enough that decision was made for her, the witch certainly knew how to defend herself. An admirable quality, and then she started chatting up a blonde woman dressed in black like it meant nothing. Well, she was here to gather information about the Shadowlands after all, may as well start looking around to see if anyone here knew anything. The witchy woman appeared to be her best lead, but she was currently engaged in a conversation right now and it’d be horribly rude to interrupt...perhaps later. Now, who to ask...the young woman in the green scarf didn’t seem otherwise occupied, instead she was just accompanying the witch. She had the look of an explorer, maybe she could help. Taking the bottle with her, Kim straightened her jacket and approached Jacquelyn.

“Excuse me young miss, I hope I’m not interrupting anything.” Her common was very good but still accented. “But, I was wondering if perhaps I could sit with you?” Yes, asking about the Shadowlands directly would be far too abrupt off the rip.

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Naval Monte
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Founded: Sep 04, 2014
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Naval Monte » Thu Nov 12, 2020 7:14 pm

Collab with Naval Monte and Menschenfleisch

Jacquelyn and Alexypoo | The Tavern

Frankly, the speed at which the situation was devolving was the most astounding thing that Jacquelyn had seen in the last decade. The power of the seas and the thunderous might of the wind was nothing compared to humanity’s ability to degenerate. How had three minutes of light drinking precipitated in a drunk witch rupturing a man’s balls, a pug fight and the drawing of swords? Alex was at least no longer hitting on Venusta but Jackie wasn’t sure that the woman could stay coherent for very long. She was half tempted to draw her gun and just put a hole in all of their skulls but no, because her calmer half - Ana - was away, she had to be the diplomatic one. She reached into her coat pocket and withdrew a small metal pin. It was a flat relief which depicted a rose viewed from above with a set of letters inscribed at the bottom; “Custos tuus”, the most generic motto of any law enforcement agency to have ever existed. Specifically, it was the motto of the OGEIE, a semi-officially recognised law enforcement agency which dealt with events concerning magic and areas of expertise beyond the purview of the police force, a group that she just so happened to work for. She strode into the middle of the room and held her badge up beneath the light. “Everyone get back in your seats! I am an agent of the Office of General Esoteric Inquiry and Equity, if you continue like this I will place you under arrest!” That was a bold faced lie. She had no authority here and even if she’d been officially enabled to exert The Office’s influence, she had no way of enforcing it.

Jacquelyn turned her head toward Kim at her approach. She looked the girl up and down, seeing the bottle in her hand. “I’d be happy to sit down and have a drink under any other circumstance,” she whispered, “but now is not a good time.” Whereupon she looked back toward Iosef and his hunters and spoke even more softly; “I swear to god, if I have to say that I’m not gay again...”

“You know Jackie. If you keep saying that people may think you are in denial over your true feelings.” the giggling witch said. “Shut it!” Jackie snapped, suspiciously defensively. One barmaid leaned to another; “she’s definitely in the closet.” “Mm, yeah. ‘Ve you ever seen a more bent bint?” Jacquelyn’s face flushed red. “I’m supposed to be a goddamn associate of the OGEIE! Why aren’t you people listening to me?!” One of the locals raised a hand. “Well for one thing you look barely older than my teenage daughter.” Jackie couldn’t help but smile. “Aw, thank you.” And then adopted a face of apoplectic rage. “But your daughter’s not getting any older if you question my authority one more time! Everyone stay where you are!”

Alex for her part was finding Jackie’s embarrassment an amusing spectecle as she covered her mouth, barely containing her laughter. As soon as the arcanist was able to regain some control she would finally speak.

“I thought this town would be a rather dull stay but you and those drunken idiots have made this visit very enjoyable.” she would reach inside one of her bags and begin to search through several items within. The noises in the bar eclipse the noise within the leather bag as Alex was searching for something.

“Ah, here it is.” she would take out a vial containing a substance similar to Mercury in both appearance and consistency, as well as a few gold coins.

The matronly scholar would get up from her seat and gently grab Jackie’s free hand, giving the vial and coins. “I believe these can help you in bringing peace to this establishment if diplomacy proves to be impossible.” she would cover her hand with her own for a few seconds. Jacquelyn was receptive to the gift but not so glad to know that she’d been handed a weaponised chemical of some kind whose properties Alex had neglected to tell her. “Uhh, sure,” she muttered as she tucked the vials into her pocket. “But just so you know, I’m not high maintenance.” The gold coins were a little bit of an enigma for her. Did Alex think she was a lady of negotiable virtue? She didn’t really want to think about the meaning behind the gesture.


“Just don’t be anywhere near the vial if you throw it at them. Also do warn the man being accosted by those ruffians to get away before you throw it. You don’t want him to be hit by it as well.” she warned as she let go of Jackie and returned back to her seat. The witch looking scholar would look at Kim.

“I love your hair. Did you use some alchemical dye or potion for it?”

The men after Iosef were left at an impasse as they realised that their leader was… well not dead but he might as well have been. Now there was an agent of the OGEIE in their midst among several other armed parties who looked to be gearing up for a fight. They stood by for a few seconds, each quietly weighing up the odds, before one man out of the three pushed his way to the front and drew a claymore as tall as he was. He let the tip of blade fall under its own weight and it cut deeply into the floorboards, leaving an inch-deep gash in the wood. He locked eyes with Iosef. “Fucker, you stop running your mouth or I’ll gag you with my six inches, you understand?” Alex guffawed from the back. “You’re gay too? So many people uncloseting themselves today!” He back at her: “I’m not gay! It’s a figure of speech.”

The bounty hunter’s friends drew their own weapons, one arming himself with a cavalry sabre and the other with a shortsword. They weren’t particularly threatening; they wore thin leather cuirasses and padded trousers but their builds left something to be desired and their weapons were too chipped to be anything other than second hand. Their leader had most likely formed the vast bulk of their power. The man at the front though, with the claymore, looked like a circus strongman. His sword was well maintained too, its straight edges preserved by careful and even sharpening. He looked all around at the tavern’s patrons. “I’ll buy you all a round if you don’t get involved. Two, if you sic this bastard.” he raised his blade high above his head and charged Iosef.

“I will charge more if all of you idiots stop trying to measure which of your artificial dicks is bigger and calm the Infernum down!” Alex howled. The leader of the group grunted at the woman’s comment. “Can someone shut her gob! That witch is starting to annoy me.”
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Theyra
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Founded: Aug 29, 2015
Democratic Socialists

Postby Theyra » Thu Nov 12, 2020 10:21 pm

Njulgu Rantala

"Thanks, was all he said before he put his plate on the table. Sitting down and took a sip of his ale. That was certainly better than that guy from the last town, he thought. Apparently not liking company and he started to eat. Njulgu had only taken a single bite out of his roasted chicken when he heard the commotion and saw the man with him draw his sword. Turning his head to see the was happening.

Bounty hunters and Njulgu was not sure of what to do, really. This looked like this was going to be bad. Not a simple brawl after a guy got tossed out a window. Njulgu thought about helping the outnumbered guy against the bounty hunters but, it is rather cramped to be fighting with a bow. He could get a quick shot off and then switch to his knife. But, he used to skinning animals with it rather than use it to fight. So he was not sure of how effective he can be in this situation. So Njulgu chose to remain where he was and to intervene at the moment.

That was until two women started to join in verbally and tried to end things peacefully. Njulgu felt that things would not go that way after a man was tossed through a window. Things have surely escalated past a peaceful solution. More so, knowing that they are bounty hunters and probably will not give up their prize so easily. Still, if they moved against the women, then Njulgu was tempted to join the fray. Even though he never fought a human before. Njulgu was not one to let things slid like this. So he prepared himself, Njulgu slowly went for his knife and placed his hand over it. Waiting to see what the bounty hunters will do next.

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Laiakia
Spokesperson
 
Posts: 114
Founded: Nov 25, 2019
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Laiakia » Sat Nov 14, 2020 9:51 am

Iosef Strana

Iosef watched as more and more attention was drawn towards this little scene. Eyeing first the man in the tricorn who drew his sabre in quite the extravagant manner, then turning his attention to a woman that claimed to be part of the Office of General Esoteric Inquiry and Equity. Twirling his sword slightly as he contemplated his situation, he was quickly interrupted by one of the bounty hunters that drew a claymore and stuck it in the floorboards. As he locked eyes with Iosef, he stared right back and gripped his sword harder.

“Fucker, you stop running your mouth or I’ll gag you with my six inches, you understand?”, the hunter said.

Iosef gripped his cigar and took a slight puff from it. “You want a tour out’a the window too, mate?” The bounty hunter snarled before Iosef heard someone speak from the crowd, sadly he couldn’t see where the voice came from.

“You’re gay too? So many people uncloseting themselves today!” Iosef chuckled at the comment as the hunter replied.

“I’m not gay! It’s a figure of speech.” Chuckling, Iosef took another puff and eyed the other hunter’s weapons. None of them seemed particularly threatening, but they would probably hurt if they ganged up on him. Taking a good look at the man who stood in front of him, Iosef threw out a comment.

“You sure like a long, sharp sword. You compensating for som’thin, mate?” The hunter angrily looked at Iosef before he turned his attention to the tavern’s patrons, something that caused Iosef to take a nervous glance around.

“I’ll buy you all a round if you don’t get involved. Two, if you sic this bastard.” Taking a careful glance at the people around him, Iosef twirled his sword once more as the hunter charged at him with his claymore.

Quickly dodging left and allowing the hunter to stick his claymore into the wooden wall, Iosef quickly followed up and hit him on the side with his hilt, causing the man to grunt. The hunter recovered rather quickly and elbowed Iosef right in the face, causing him to recoil and grab his nose in slight pain.

Taking advantage of this, the huge man broke his claymore out of the wall and turned around, already swinging his large sword at Iosef who managed to barely get away by hopping backwards, which angered the large man that promptly exclaimed; “Stand still, you worm!”

Iosef said nothing and simply stood and grasped his sword with his left hand, awaiting another strike. This blow would come rather quickly as his opponent approached quickly with heavy stomps and swung again. Iosef would duck, allowing the sheer force from the swing to cause his opponent to become slightly off-balance and caused his sword to almost hit and shatter a nearby table. Iosef quickly utilized this and finally swung his sword at the man, aiming for his neck.

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The Peninsular
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Founded: Apr 04, 2017
New York Times Democracy

Postby The Peninsular » Sat Nov 14, 2020 10:32 am

Jean had observed the fight cautiously for a few seconds, weighing his options. On the one hand, he could simply not intervene - after all, he didn't know why they were fighting, or who they were, anyway. On the other hand, judging by their fighting styles - one relying on overwhelming force and the other adapting to be more agile - somebody was going to die if nothing was done. This possibility greatly concerned Jean on two levels - firstly, death was generally a bad thing, even more so when it occured in the likes of a (mostly) peaceful tavern, and secondly, in case of an investigation by local authorities, he would almost certainly be called up as a witness - and he was not about to hand his identity to governmental agents, no matter how remote the region was.

While the two men were engaged in their duel to the death, Jean started moving closer in a manner that blindsided both of them, thinking about how he could break them up. Just as he had worked out something resembling a plan, though, the inevitable happened. The man with the claymore had overshot his target, leaving him defenseless from the side, and his opponent was fully intending to exploit it, with his blade ready to swing at the man's exposed neck.

With a loud clanging sound, two blades clashed, just centimeters from the mercenary's neck. Using his duelling experience, Jean had caught the cloaked man's sword with the tip of his saber. As the blow had been stopped, he then countered, applying a sweeping motion that deflected the blade to the side, a popular maneuver in the Bretinnic fencing technique. His intervention, meanwhile, had brought him close enough to knee the large mercenary in the groin. The man, already off-balance from his previous charge, was now thrown off completely, stumbling forward and landing on the next table - conveniently letting go of his claymore in the process.

Assuming a renewed stance at an angle to both combatants, with his saber poised to prevent the mercenary from retrieving his sword, Jean did his best to steady his voice and make it sound as authoritative as possible. "Excuse me, messieurs, but nobody's killing anyone here!"
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Ranoria
Post Marshal
 
Posts: 19290
Founded: Mar 29, 2013
Left-Leaning College State

Postby Ranoria » Sat Nov 14, 2020 8:27 pm

Esther Strathos
Raven's Ash- Northern Vesperia, 2520 PE


He might have given the city a chance if it wasn't just that. Everything he had grown to hate about Redwater seemed to be exaggerated here, the darkness, cramped space, and crowds of people he didn't care to try and get along with. Esther shied away from those that got too close to him, twisting his body to avoid bumping into people or rubbing against the filthy buildings in Raven's Ash, even when they weren't close enough to risk that contact.

The young man pulled his hood just a bit farther over his head to help conceal his scowl, eyes flicking from building to building, looking for an escape from the throng. And soon enough, he found it. The first bar he saw, he slid between a couple residents and ducked into the door. . .only to walk into a more precarious situation.

One man stood near a window, shattered glass at his feet, and it appeared that a group of men were after him. Esther almost spun on his heel to leave, but shrugged. Hell, he wasn't entirely sure who the bad guys were, but it looked like the man next to the window was in trouble. Esther's feet moved before the more logical parts of his brain could tell them to be frozen with fear, and before he knew it, his fist connected with a ruffian's chin, knocking the man out cold.

Esther watched as the man dropped like a cut tree, and shook his now aching wrist, before his eyes turned, more wary than aggressive, towards the rest of the man's party.
Fan of football, the Murican kind. But soccer is cool too! Just not really my thing. C(:^D/-<
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Menschenfleisch
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Founded: Nov 01, 2017
Father Knows Best State

Postby Menschenfleisch » Sun Nov 15, 2020 2:01 am

Winter

When Father White returned to reality the first thing he saw was the ceiling. Damp rock with black mold at its edges. The air around him was suffocatingly musty. “You’re awake.” A woman’s voice filled his ears and made them ring. His heart leapt even though he didn’t understand why. The next breath he took was longer than the rest. “Reverend Albert White. It is good to finally meet you.” He made an attempt to sit up. Nothing happened. It was as if he was trying to move a nonexistent third arm: he didn’t even feel an iota of resistance or effort. For all intents and purposes, it was as if his limbs simply didn’t exist. He could still feel them, though; feel the rock beneath his wrists. He glanced upward and saw the crown of the woman’s head. Brown hair, all smooth and thin. He made an attempt to speak but his tongue refused to move. He was a spectator within his own body, not even trapped or restrained. It wasn’t that any force he exerted was futile, it was that he could exert none in the first place. His own breath came to him slowly and involuntarily. His eyes stung and wouldn’t close. “I’ve always had a fascination with the flesh. I feel in good company, although your obsession was rather more… carnal. You were raised amongst the rose gardens and chambers of the royal court, where you frolicked amongst palm fronds with your peers. Children you were, ten or less. But you had the benefit of insight which others lacked, a morbid curiosity for the world beyond the marble walls. You thought the hills and skyline beautiful, wanted them for your own. You lived a sheltered life.” The shuffling of paper reached his ears, as did the woman taking a deep breath. “You exposed yourself to the truth too early. You ran away from home, not telling anyone where you went. Your expectations were of adventure and fantasy, brought about by the books that you squirrelled away beneath your bed from the library. But you were lost. The fine silks were torn from your back, the scorn of the city levied on you. When your mother found you a month later, you hadn’t eaten anything in two weeks. She took you for dead, almost left you in that ditch.” The man felt his jaw twitch. Just a single speck of motor control, but it was enough to convince him that whatever the woman had done to him, it was wearing off now. “You were a quiet boy after that. Loathed the world, the ugliness that you had seen. Deprived of your innocence, you cried and screamed in the night, wishing that your childhood could be returned to you: those halcyon days of unsullied bliss. But wherever you looked you saw reminders of the poverty and deprivation of the city. In the eyes of the adults, in the imperfect fringes of the tapestries, in the dried inks of the paintings that hung on your wall. You knew every brick in the palace to have been touched by a hand that’d undergone great suffering. The universe, to you, seemed dark and pernicious.”

He managed a wheeze. Just one. He held his breath for the following moments, suddenly aware that the woman might reapply the drug if she knew its effects were waning. She continued to talk, and he allowed himself a few silent gasps. “There was one thing that still remained pure to you. Your peers, whose joy and unremarkable conversations took you back to when you hadn’t known. You developed a fascination with them; your tutors noted that you became more effusive than ever with your colleagues. But you hardly spoke with your teachers, barely even your parents. They took you for a recovering child and for a time, you were happy. Relief was always one door over, with the playmates of your youth.” His fingers twitched and scraped across bubbled granite with a dull ‘scrr’. “But over the years, sadness and experience infested your friends’ eyes too. You couldn’t look at them any longer, for you saw too much of the outer world in them. You tried to foster friendships with the younger initiates but you were never permitted to become anything more to them than tutors. You couldn’t ever be friends, couldn’t ever be their equals.” The woman stepped over him, auburn hair falling over her shoulders. Her eyes were… empty. Dead above him with a thousand yard stare. And when her lips moved, it was slowly and methodically, with a stern angle accompanying every syllable. “You have a more intimate relationship with children now.” She raised a long needle above his face and, with dreadful certainty, placed it over his eye. He could hardly see the point and already, tears streamed from the corners of his eyelids. A muted psychosomatic pain filled his left eye. He squirmed in place and burbled, lips trembling and blubbering. “P-p… pl-...” The anticipation sent his blood to a boil. His heart raced, all his nerves were attuned to a fine point in preparation for what was about to happen to him. This couldn’t be happening, he was- he wasn’t this bad, wasn’t so cruel as to deserve whatever this was! The needle shook gently above his orbit and he saw it in double: one eye saw just the point, the other the wickedly long shaft which seemed to spiral away for miles and miles; the doctor seemed to him titanic, larger than the earth when he looked out toward the horizon. He squeezed his eyelids shut but his eyes still tingled. The smell of urea came to him from his own crotch, and soon thereafter, a suffocating warmth.

He felt an incredible weight on his eyelid a moment before it was forced upward and the needle came down, straight through the centre of his vision. A searing white starburst became all he could see. He felt it slide through him, felt pockets of cells and miniscule cavities inside his eye bursting as it pierced them, causing his sclera to deflate. The muscles of his iris contracted around the needle, squeezing it tight. Vitreous humours from the inside of his skull welled up and wept outward. They were hot, warm, sticky, and they crawled down his cheek and curled around his nose. Each moment was longer than the last, he was agonisingly aware of every single membrane and structure that the pin breached on its way downward. From far away the sound of chatter reached his ears but he didn’t comprehend a single word. All that he knew, all that he could be aware of was the needle in his head. It passed down and down, stimulating nerves in places where he’d never felt anything before at all. One nostril was sealed shut by the force of the needle from the inside of his head. It breached the back of his eye only then, with a sound and feeling like biting into an apple. ”... won’t find you… convenience...” Crunch, crunch, scrape. It displaced some of the denser clods of flesh inside his skull, pierced some others. Then it bumped against something and stopped, pushing the back of his skull into the table from the inside. The woman raised a hammer and brought it down on the end of the needle with an easy motion. It burst through the rim of his eyesocket and travelled a further inch. He thought he’d known pain until that moment. A jet of blood and water shot from his ruined orbit and splattered on his cheek. It clung to him as mucous would. ”... cure… afraid...” He tasted steel.

The needle came out and blood came in to fill the gap. It made a deafening slurp and then burbling came to him from the wrong side of his ears. It emanated, muffled by the sides of his head. Where before there had been an unbearable force pressing against him from the interior now there was a vacuum, a hole in him into which blood and snot and pureed nerves poured. The woman came over with a ring in one hand and forced his iris to dilate with her fingers, stretching the band of muscle until it snapped - as a tightly fastened pen cap might snap off its body - and came out of place, swimming around beneath the film of his cornea. She inserted the ring to hold it open. Then came a metal wedge and it went down and down through the hole, prying apart shelves of flesh that’d stuck together and squeezing shut the ruined capillaries on the sides of the incision. Inch after inch of himself was violated by its passage. Something shot up through what was left of his vision and struck the figure of the woman which towered over him. His own arm, raised to his defence. He tried to shut his eyes to dull the pain, to do something about the irrepressible agony within him, but the lid’s movement was halted by the cold metal of the scissors inside his brain. He grabbed the doctor with whatever awareness of his surroundings he had left and threw her against a wall. She fell and there was a muted crack; nothing could overwhelm the roar of blood in his ears and the lurid squelching within his skull. A few pieces of the doctor’s scalp skittered across the floor toward him, the back half of her head split as if a melon against the wall.

A voice came from behind him. It was impossibly sharp, impossibly crisp. He understood what it meant before he even heard what it said. “Such a shame. It’s hard to find lookalikes nowadays.” He turned and saw nothing but red eyes and blurs. The world was an ocean of rotten pigments, everything but those eyes. They were clear and easily seen. He could make out every band of muscle, every miniscule blood vessel running across its edges. “What was she trying to do to me?” He slurred. Or perhaps he just drooled and vomited at his feet. Warm urine ran down his leg. ”Open your eye.” The woman crooned. His body seized up, like it had when he’d been on the table. Suddenly he was relegated to being a spectator in his own mind while his arm rose of its own accord and seized the end of the scissors inside him. He tried to speak, struggled to stay his hand, but he might as well have tried to hold back the tide. “Part your fingers.” And pain finally overcame paralysis as he screamed and screamed while he widened the blades, cutting through ligatures and muscle. The left side of his face fell slack as some vital bundle of nerves was severed and his lip fell down, reducing his scream to a moist grunt. “Turn it to your left by twelve degrees.” And it was like he was dragging a tool through wet mud, sloshing and all. “Finish the lobotomy.” And Albert White was no more.



A woman, no, a doctor walked into the tavern with a messenger bag slung over her shoulder and no weapon anywhere to be seen on her. The moments she took to look around the room were the longest in Jacquelyn’s life, who could not help but stare at the woman in the doorway. Her eyes were just so distinct, she felt like she could see the individual cells within them. When Winter spoke, it was like she gripped the musketeer’s heart with a cold hand. “Is something wrong?”

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Britanania
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 25282
Founded: Feb 15, 2011
Father Knows Best State

Postby Britanania » Sun Nov 15, 2020 9:10 pm

Raven's Ash, Robaiziche Commonwealth, Northern Vesperia


Venusta looked at the matronly philosopher with an inquisitive gaze.

Why is she so interested in me? the blonde thought, feeling a little uncomfortable with how Alex was beaming at her.

"Si, corretta, I am from Sopdet," the inquisitor admitted. No use hiding that fact, between her accent it was obvious to anyone listening she was from the former capital of the Mordian Empire. Venusta opened her mouth to answer Alex again when another woman came, almost dragging the zaftig philosopher away with an apology. She waved a hand.

"Non, non, um, no apologia required," she said with a forced smile, admittedly glad that someone was taking the seemingly drunk patroness away. By then, however, all infernium appeared to have broken as not only were brawls breaking out across the tavern but members of the law enforcement agencies were showing up as well.

The Inquisitor gave a slight frown, but at present, she had nothing to worry about, and she hoped things would start to settle down.
Last edited by Britanania on Tue Dec 01, 2020 2:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Christus vincit; Christus regnat; Christus imperat
"All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven"--Ecclesiastes 3:1
"Great Britain is a republic, with a hereditary president, while the United States is a monarchy with an elective king."
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Ceystile
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Posts: 589
Founded: Jan 29, 2019
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Ceystile » Tue Nov 17, 2020 5:13 pm

“No.” Kim chuckled somewhat nervously when the witchy woman asked her about her hair. “No dye, it was actually born this white. Couldn’t tell you why, probably my father...I never met him so I can’t really say. I do love your outfit, a very bold choice. Most people wouldn’t have the guts to wear it at a time like this, with paranoia and whatnot flowing as thick as butter.” She then heard the young green-eyed woman decline her offer to sit and drink, she understood but was disappointed. No matter, she’d have to simply get the information from elsewhere. “I understand, thank you for your time anyway” She gave Jacquelyn a look, she certainly seemed to be one of the youngest of the bunch.

“I’m sorry, you remind me a lot of my son...he’s about the same age as you actually, but you look a little older. Very well, may we run into each other again some other time.” She then turned from the group, walking off to go and try to continue her hunt.

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