Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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Coleman, Jackdaw!

The word is flotsam.

The waters are so still that if you squint, you can almost trick yourself into thinking that there’s nothing but a glass plain between you and the Tyrian Spire. Flies the size of pocket-watches hover here and there, and the shores of the Flood here are choked with rusted, mildewed junk, caught in nets of thin wire and thick linen ropes. Not that any of those are yours for the taking: the nets and everything dredged up from the Flood belongs to the salvage-caravan of Beasts here. All around you, their wagons and tents squat, decorated with iron charms and net-charms and icons of the Flood made from glass and her waters; if you want supplies, you’ll either have to deal with them or go well out of your way to dredge something up from the Flood yourself — and she’s less likely to let you get away with all your fingers.

This is a problem, because Sasha needs Floodproofing. It’s either figure out a way to get the egg across without being lost underneath her placid waters, or pull up stakes and take your chances with the Houses of Parliament, which is a much more perilous route.

***

Ailee, Lucien!

As soon as you step into the cramped wagon, the door low enough to make Lucien duck underneath, all eyes turn to you. The locals are somewhat piscine in appearance; their eyes are large and pale, their whiskers droop in a manner reminiscent of catfish, and their fur is slick and dark, sticking close to their bodies. The smell suggests the drinks here are stale and watery, but only a fool turns down a chance to refill their canteens in the Heart.

Then a small, slavering thing the size of a terrier bursts out from behind a stack of crates and propels itself at high speed, all four paws tucked into its body as it leaps, shooting like a cannonball right at Ailee’s torso. This thing is a missile of pure bloody-minded intent, emphasis on bloody.
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Thanqol
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Emerald fire coils and burns. Binding symbols ignite all along soft white fur. The lanterns gutter, the world grows darker, and twisting tendrils of energy from beyond surround her. An Emperor might not have the power in their finger that Ailee does then - see how she gestures with her entire body, slender frame ignited with the might of the Heart itself, a posture for directing armies to their deaths. Her enunciation is perfect - breath from the base of the diaphragm, neck straight and sharp, each movement of the jaw expertly rehearsed, the flash of teeth in between each syllable dangerous and intimate. She speaks with her entire body and soul and the cosmos hears her command.

"CURIOSITY," she declares with the authority of King Dragon, and points at Lucien.

The dog changes targets.
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Balmas
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It's always hot inside of the train, but especially at feeding time. The small kobold cranks a lever back, sending a stream of coal chunks rattling down into Sasha's gullet, to a purr of general approval. Coleman quietly pushes the lever back into place before she can guzzle too much, and sits back against the hatch to think.

It's not the first time the Knights have dealt with the Flood. And much as he hates to admit it, the Flood is one of the more dangerous threats a Train crew can come across. Hadn't Mister Conagher hammered that lesson home, dozens of times? Approached the mechanics, with their huddles and fireside horror stories and whispered conversations in cramped compartments, and told Coleman that they were mostly true? For all their might, for all their boasting and posturing--and oh, how the effort of saying it had cost the old man--Trains weren't invincible. The overconfident Red Racer, burst apart when the engine demanded they power through and white-hot boiler met ice-cold flood. The Lord Eber, left ironically high and dry when the Flood mired their coalbox. Crews shredded by abrupt coral storms, mighty engines overturned and capsized by waves. Crews that approached the Flood incautiously stood a good chance of not leaving. Leastwise, not in one piece.

Sasha whines beneath him, and he pats one of her steam gauges absentmindedly. Probably wondering why they aren't moving.

And Sasha is right, he decides, and starts the elaborate dance of the drive levers. They won't get her floodproofed by standing around here, and he's not going to risk Sasha on a shortcut. One massive steel hand swings down to Jackdaw, an unspoken offer of a lift, and then he's off. Got to be a merchant here, or several, who have the tar and materials he needs.

[12 on Look Closely.
-Tell me about the Beasts. What are they doing? What will they do next?
-Tell me about the Junk along the lake's shore. How could it hurt or help me?
-What will happen if I act meekly among the beasts?
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Count Numbers
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Of course, Ailee, of course.

Something's immediately wrong about this. The bloody terrier-thing reveals itself for our entry? And it hasn't attacked the piscine locals yet? I might be about to shoot somebody's overly-excited pet that was just interrupted eating offal.

[Rolled a 7 to Look Closely - and I'll think I'll add quickly to that. Three questions, and a hard answer.]

Lucien uses the moments it wasn't going for him to scan the room quickly. Why did this thing wait for us, and not attack them instead? What's their reaction to this happening? How dangerous does the terrier really look? In short; Is this an ambush, or a misunderstanding?

He has two pockets to reach for - One has snacks in it, the other the pistol. He turns his shoulder to the terrier-thing and twitches towards one of them. If he's not sure about this, if he's about to learn something the hard way, he'd rather take the bite than make the shot. It's easier to treat a wound than raise the dead - unless the locals look just as hostile.

[Just in case my hunch is wrong; I rolled a 6+0 on Overcome.]

And if it is a bad bite... well, someone is going to have to be very sorry to him about this. Ailee, at the very least.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by TheAmishPirate
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Coleman, Jackdaw!

The word is flotsam.[


It...might not be?

She'd never seen a ship on the Flood, or anything that might be a port; wouldn't really be the Flood if there was anywhere permanently safe, right? Ha ha ha ha ha. Ha. Hrm. Well. A-anyway, it's probably closer to detritus than flotsam, if it's not coming from shipwrecks. Which is important, because ships only carry so many things, whereas, wagons and trains and...well, wagon trains carry all sorts of things, so that's why the Beasts are able to make such a living here, though they do have to stay on the move, what with the...well, the safe land always changing, and...and...

Y-yes. It just might not be quite the word.

The waters are so still that if you squint, you can almost trick yourself into thinking that there’s nothing but a glass plain between you and the Tyrian Spire. Flies the size of pocket-watches hover here and there, and the shores of the Flood here are choked with rusted, mildewed junk, caught in nets of thin wire and thick linen ropes. Not that any of those are yours for the taking: the nets and everything dredged up from the Flood belongs to the salvage-caravan of Beasts here. All around you, their wagons and tents squat, decorated with iron charms and net-charms and icons of the Flood made from glass and her waters; if you want supplies, you’ll either have to deal with them or go well out of your way to dredge something up from the Flood yourself — and she’s less likely to let you get away with all your fingers.

This is a problem, because Sasha needs Floodproofing. It’s either figure out a way to get the egg across without being lost underneath her placid waters, or pull up stakes and take your chances with the Houses of Parliament, which is a much more perilous route.


And Sasha is right, he decides, and starts the elaborate dance of the drive levers. They won't get her floodproofed by standing around here, and he's not going to risk Sasha on a shortcut. One massive steel hand swings down to Jackdaw, an unspoken offer of a lift, and then he's off. Got to be a merchant here, or several, who have the tar and materials he needs.


And up she goes! Scamper scamper scamper on the hand, up the arm, atop Sasha, and curled 'round the smokestacks with her cloak pulled protective over her and her precious pack. Because books? Books do not mix well with water any more than Sasha does. Maybe even less! Though, she can always dry out the books, and, true, she doesn't need all of them, but, no, she'd be sad to lose them! Very much so! No thank you!

From her perch atop Sasha, she watches the camp they're tromping into. Beasts! They have such an expressive language, yet so curt! It's not often they take to writing, but the few who do, ohhhhhhhhhhhh goodness. Goodness gracious.

She practically vibrated in place as she took in the sights.

[Rolling to Look Closely: 3 + 4 + 2 = 9 Asking:

-What is going on here? What do my senses tell me?
-Is something hidden or out of place? If so, what looks suspicious?
-Tell me about the literature here. How could it hurt me? How could it help me?

One answer is found out the hard way.]
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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Lucien!

The creature comes to a halt bare centimeters from your ankle, still slavering. It then puts its paws firmly on your trousers and starts clawing its way up you, sniffling and snuffling. From this distance, you can see that it’s as hairy as a mop, and has at least six gripping limbs. And, for that matter, a pointed nose like a weasel. And teeth like a saw. If it decides to clamp down on somewhere sensitive, you’re in danger of losing it for good.

The patrons are staring grimly at you with those pale, bulging eyes, and it doesn’t take you long to realize why. Behind the bar is a pinboard covered in pale red rat tails. (Some of them bear delicate scales, like that of a lizard.) This creature is a ratter, whatever it is. And the smell of Ailee is driving it wild. You’ve got very little time in order to convince the proprietor that Ailee is not a rat, that the ratter should please be called off, and that you require help removing it from your person because it’s just been enchanted, before it decides to sink its teeth into the seat of your trousers, or worse.

***

Ailee!

Fascinating, isn’t it? Maybe if you wait, you’ll find out more about what this thing does when it’s curious about something.

***

Coleman!

The Flood pulls machinery off walls and tears down ruins and eats everything in its path. That means the junk’s materials of the Heart, touched by the Flood, useful for all sorts of things. Most practically, since you don’t want someone to fall achingly in love with an unattainable ideal or drown on their own spit, is that by sympathy you might be able to trick the Flood into thinking Sasha’s already part of her, or one of her worshippers. Adorn her in nets and set her out on a barge, and you might get through without any trouble.

As for the Beasts? This is a lull period for them; most are gathered to drink, with some careful sentries perched on their wagons or cleaning junk or drawing up their nets. By and large they’ve been marked by the flood, most looking like overgrown catfish or frogs, no matter what sort of critter they used to be; their horns are small nubs or coral-like prongs. The Powers of the Heart don’t much care for stagnation in the face of their overwhelming nature.

Meekness is the wrong approach; they’ll assume you want to join them as a petitioner. Polite assertion; make clear you mean to pass through, having given and taken in equal measure.

***

Jackdaw!

The word is market.

Each net belongs to a Beast. This means that each Beast interested in barter has a stall connected to their wagon. Ring the bell and summon the proprietor if you want to make a deal.

As for what’s hidden... well, certain wagons have more than one purpose! That big, oval one, for example: that’s a communal tavern. That one with a cog and hammer hung over the door: that’s a tinker-den. That warped and water-soaked one: that’s a shrine to the Flood, and outside it are strips of paper and pages nailed to the slats and skinned spines hung like gruesome trophies, their lettering washed away.

There’s got to be something left, right? Because otherwise this is just a horrid waste of paper and intention and words. You causally sidle away from Sasha and start pawing through ruined pages, and soon enough you’re noticing the pattern. The intentional streaking of ink. The swirling coils. The dreadful dark.

You are loved. You are alone. Come to my arms. Fill your pockets and come as you are.

In me the drowned are loved forever.


It doesn’t make you take leave of your senses, but it hooks in you and won’t leave. In me the drowned are loved forever. The water caresses the shore, lying against the stones like a lover. In me the drowned are loved forever. You ache with the need to be held, to be in Her embrace, to slough away worries and flesh and loneliness—

A bead of water drops on your nose, making you squeak. The pages are dizzying to look at now.
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Count Numbers
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Would you believe that owl is the squab of the Underneath? It'd be a lie, but it sounds like it could be true, and if you say it with enough confidence, and bring enough salt and pepper with you...

In one of Lucien's pockets - unfortunately, his pants pockets - he has some sticks of owl jerky. That's probably what the ratter is snuffling. This thing might have teeth like sawblades, but the strips are hard as boot leather. It might still buy some time.

It's a shame, really. Anything short of doing that to the meat wouldn't be enough to disinfect- wait.

As he holds the strips out over the creature's weasel-nose; "Ailee, I think they think you're a rat. Would you please, without making any sudden movements, grab the flask from my shirt and souse yourself in it? This rude little thing doesn't like the smell of you, so it might be better to smell like something else for a bit."

Then, louder, to the bartender; "This is all going to come across as a good joke I'm sure, but if you can't bring him to heel before he starts biting, the Archmage might have to ruin it for everyone. So let's call it now, while we can all still laugh about it?"

It seems too slow to get pedantic on the difference between a mouse and a rat, if they'd care about that anyway. Let's speak softly and carry a big stick instead, if Ailee's already gone to all the trouble of showing off.

EDIT Wait. If these are catfish, and the tails have scales, does that mean they hate... ratfish?
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by TheAmishPirate
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That one, little drop of water nearly sent her crumbling down.

It hurt. Oh, stars and moons, it hurt. A gaping, raw hole in her chest...no, an impossibly heavy stone she could barely hold, her knees ready to buckle...no, an uneasy tension running through her whole body, over her fur, and it wouldn’t go away no matter how tightly she hugged herself or how fiercely she rubbed at her arms...no.

No.

Cold. Soaking, freezing to her heart. Icing it over. Icing her over. Until even her thoughts could hardly move. And Jackdaw - lost, little Jackdaw - stood alone in a market crowded with unfamiliar faces, and wept from the familiar cold.

But. Ah. Wouldn’t you know it? Somewhere in the midst of all that, her clever paws got a hold of one of those precious, little slips of...of loneliness. (No, that’s not it at all. Too weak, much too weak.) And. Well. Her clever paws did what clever paws were wont to do when they had caught hold of something special; tuck it away in one of the countless pockets lining her cloak.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Thanqol
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"They think I'm a what," Ailee politely requests clarification. "You want me to do what."

She takes the flask anyway, because now she knows where your flask is and she never misses an opportunity - but she takes a pretty dramatic slam from it instead of splashing it on herself. The tendrils of electric green energy around her become bladed, opening up with beautiful violet eyes like peacock feathers as the essence of Pride rises to the fore.

And then, voice raw and husky from the drink, she speaks in a tone that passes beyond conscious understanding. Her language embeds itself in the mind of the terrier and bar patrons alike and if they are not capable of understanding it drags their very consciousness up through as many spheres of enlightenment as necessary to ensure they can understand.

"I am not to be trifled with," she says in that terrible language. "Control yourselves."

[Talk Sense: 11; Holy Command ensures that everyone and everything understands me.]
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It is difficult to stop a train once in motion, because the train doesn't want to stop. It wants to move, wants to run, wants its full head of steam to burn off in glorious motion. There's a reason that the natural state of two engines meeting is either a wreck or a race, with no in between.

So watching a small train navigate through a tent city is not dissimilar, to the casual observer, to seeing an iceburg slowly glide into a crowded marina. There's the shock: "That's a train." The dawning realization: "there's a train, and it's coming this way. The horror: "It's coming, and it's already too late to get out of the way." The scramble: "Forget the tent, grab the kids and move." And most of all, the confusion as, to continue the metaphor, the iceberg miraculously dodges all the rowboats around it and carefully taps against the dock, and a hatch flips open.

Coleman makes sure that the freshly polished badge of a Vermissian knight is the first thing out, gleaming in the glow of the mirrored pond, followed by the rest of him. He ignores the gawping, the spoken and unspoken questions, and deliberately lays out a small blanket and some trail rations. "A good place to stop," he announces to the air. "We thank you for sharing your space. Very kind of you. Now if only we could do something to show our appreciation, and possibly do some business."
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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Ailee, Lucien!

The strike of the bartender’s open palm on the countertop is very controlled. “There aren’t many laws here,” he says, and someone like Jackdaw would perk up at the way he enunciated that word, chose it over rules, would ferret at the implications until they unfolded into a possibility. “But we kill rats.”

The terrier sulkily whines and drops back down onto the floor, circling the both of you, clearly still wanting to bite and tear and hunt, but it can’t. It’s a good dog(?). A good dog(?) controls itself.

“And you,” he says, pointing an accusatory webbed finger at you, Ailee, “are a rat. A tall one, a magic one, but a rat none the same.”

“Here to sneak your friends into the food?”
“Here to poison our water?”
“She’s a new sort. They finally figured out how to be like us.”
“She’s the Arch Mage, you foam.”
“Those eyes...”

“So go back and tell your masters,” the bartender says, nestling a crutch under one arm and pulling himself up, “that there’s nothing here for them.

***

Coleman, Jackdaw!

You get what you need at a significant discount, Coleman! These folks want you to be on your way as quickly as possible. It shouldn’t be any trouble at all to assemble a rudimentary barge out of what’s available, and then waterproof Sasha on top of that.

Pay a price, Coleman, seeing as you’re doing this the proper and civilized way, and offering up proper trade. Listen to Sasha’s contented rumble as you take the soft way through.

Jackdaw, as soon as you pocket it, from a wagon just a way over you hear, faint but distinct, the command to control yourself. How does she know?? Does she have eyes on the back of her head?

Decision time, Jacks. Add something to your collection that might be just the word you’ll one day need, or buckle under Ailee’s overbearing demands?
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Count Numbers
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Oh, thank God. They crossed the line first. I can relax again.

Lucien's going to watch Ailee's back and keep his eyes peeled. Sudden moves from the others, hands reaching under countertops, people trying too hard not to make sudden moves, that sort of thing.

He feels he no longer has a dog in this fight, as it were. But he will take his flask off Ailee and make a show of tucking it back into his shirt, keeping his hand near the hidden revolver. Probably won't need it. This is mostly listen and think time.

All yours, "Archmage". Have fun.
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It's perhaps unexpected that Ailee doesn't immediately open up with her full arsenal of terrifying, forbidden spellpower - but the keen eared observer would notice instead the brief little pleasured flick of her ears at the word 'tall'. It puts her in a good mood, and so the verbs stay in the dictionary.

"I see," she said, all sweetness. "So your cunning frog brain has identified me as some sort of spy, then? Someone who has come here with subtlety in mind? I look to you -" she rolls her bare white shoulders, feeling a crackle of energy go through her fur markings, "- like someone in disguise, desperately hoping that your sharp eyes wouldn't detect my -" she waggles her ears, bold and large and uncovered, "- true nature? Well, I am shocked and impressed! You'd better go! Get the town's mage! You'll surely need the most potent sorcerer of this little burg to figure out what to do with a cunning trickster like me, won't you?"
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Balmas
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Coleman, Jackdaw!

You get what you need at a significant discount, Coleman! These folks want you to be on your way as quickly as possible. It shouldn’t be any trouble at all to assemble a rudimentary barge out of what’s available, and then waterproof Sasha on top of that.

Pay a price, Coleman, seeing as you’re doing this the proper and civilized way, and offering up proper trade. Listen to Sasha’s contented rumble as you take the soft way through.


He has knowledge and tools to trade, approximate knowledge of many things. And that's useful, since Gargling Joe's had that wagon with the bad axle, and oh, could you take a look at this coffee pot that Rufftuff dredged up? And he can, of course he can! He's made do with less.

But they want Sasha out of the camp.

They strike a compromise, eventually. He's not willing to work where he can't see his train, can't keep an eye on her, ensure she doesn't start to wander. But that means that he does his work at the edge of camp. As he picks apart the coffee machine, Sasha clicks, groans, and twitches, settling but still uneasy. Small catfish children make a game of getting as close as they can before the train moves again, sending them scattering. Let them play, and maybe the elders will come around.

Speaking of elders... He looks across the coffee machine at the bewhiskered fish in front of him. "Where'd you pull this from again?"
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by TheAmishPirate
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Jackdaw returned to the present with an undignified yelp. Had she just been crying? In the middle of the street?! Get a hold of yourself, Jackie! You can’t just wander through the streets of an unfamiliar town, falling to pieces. You should know better than that. There we go, shake your head clear, stand up a little straighter, smooth out that coat, wipe those eyes dry. Make yourself at least a bit presentable.

Somewhere, somehow, she could still feel Ailee’s withering glare bearing down on her. And she deliberately chose to ignore it. This was important, after all. This was a special thing to borrow. She...no, she didn’t have one like this. Nothing so sharp, so aching, so heavy. She needed this. It was important. Leelee didn’t understand.

...oh no! No, not quite - oh dear. Not in a bad way! She didn’t mean that she refused to understand. That’d be silly. She hadn’t even had a chance to explain anything yet, how could she preemptively refuse? Well, okay, you could preemptively accuse if your prejudices and biases were stacked up so high and so securely that there was no way you’d ever understand something of a particular sort. But, no, she wasn’t like that! She wasn’t saying she was like that! She was just saying that Ailee maybe jumped to conclusions before she’d had a chance to explain how marvelous this find was, in the least bad way possible.

...well, maybe not the least bad way, sometimes, but-

Hey, where’d Coleman go?
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Lucien, Ailee!

In a different sort of story, the broom closet would be full of awkward, blushing movements; you’d press one hand against his chest, you’d let her press herself into your negative space. The air would be thick with things left unsaid up until this point.

This is the sort of story in which the broom closet is cramped, handles are jamming themselves into unmentionables, it smells like dead fish, and there is a sack over Ailee’s head. Presumably once the “town’s mage” was fetched, the closet door would be opened and the sack would be removed.

But at least the terrier is not also in here.

Lucien, you’re sitting next to an explosive which just hasn’t gone off yet. Once Ailee processes what just happened, she’s going to unleash her dread powers on everything around her, and you are at ground zero, as it were.

Ailee, a minute ago you were preening and then someone pulled a sack over your head and shoved you into a closet where a dustbin is trying to assassinate you, given its insistent thrust against your ribs. Are you going to take this lying down?

***

Coleman!

The handful of children don’t quite look like catfish. Maybe not yet. Maybe not ever. Maybe by the time they grow up, the Flood will have impressed otterishness upon them. Or turtleness.

Not like you! You grew up under the auspice of a train, from the moment you (one assumes) hatched. You’re Claimed, and the Heart works its changes on you slowly. When the powers of the Heart seek your heart, they find steel and fire and steam there.

Do the oldest members of the crew change to be more like the train?

“It came from the water,” Rufftuff says, stroking his whiskers. “That was a good day! Positively bedragglement it was.” He leans in close. “Silas tells me this is for crushing drinks out of things. How does it work?”

***

Jackdaw!

A Beast lights out of the settlement’s tavern like he has a fire lit under him, and scampers past you over to the shrine-wagon, where he rings a bell. Curiosity provokes you to linger and watch.

“There’s a rat-queen in Silas’s place,” he burbles to the wizened figure who slides back the door. (From the shape of her tail, she used to be a vulpin like you, once.) “She’s challenging you! You have to come!”

“Let me get ready,” she croaks, and shuffles back inside. And this is when you put three and one together. Uh-oh.
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First thing's first, if his hands are unbound he's going to remove the hood.

Party's over.

Talk Sense: [(5, 5)+2 = 12]

"Listen! Things just got made simple for us. It's a lot easier talking sense into a mage than a mob. They didn't lock us in with the bloody dog-thing, did they? Let's see if we can't ask why they're all scared of rats in the first place..."

Pause. Think.

Door will open outwards. Easier to break open, means we can't hide Ailee behind it when it's opened, means that the 'jam a chair under it' trick would work against us. This is a wagon, so there's also down through the wooden floor? It'd be too dark to see under there. I'd have to trust Ailee not to just run while I'm distracting them, though... I'll take those odds.

"I've got plans. The folk are mad, but they still want to talk. Absolute last resort, I think we could fight our way out of here, but I don't know how we'd get much further than the door. Do you want to do this the honest way, or chance some parlour magic?"

Moment of truth; Do we chance Ailee hiding under the floor, or is it better to keep her front and center with her hands up while we talk fast? Pretending she escaped is going to make them angrier, but it buys time since they're already angry. It'd probably be easier on Lucien to be honest, but probably safer for Ailee to hide.

I think this officially counts as certain that something's gone wrong? What's the safest way out of here, and the quickest?
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Jackdaw!

A Beast lights out of the settlement’s tavern like he has a fire lit under him, and scampers past you over to the shrine-wagon, where he rings a bell. Curiosity provokes you to linger and watch.

“There’s a rat-queen in Silas’s place,” he burbles to the wizened figure who slides back the door. (From the shape of her tail, she used to be a vulpin like you, once.) “She’s challenging you! You have to come!”

“Let me get ready,” she croaks, and shuffles back inside. And this is when you put three and one together. Uh-oh.


Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, that's bad. That's very bad. That's very, very, very, very full of excrutiating amounts of not good.

Not for Ailee, no. But for this poor old lady who's about to get her head bitten, screamed, and/or punched off.

Jackdaw didn't have much of a plan. In fact, it barely qualified for the word. "Desperate hunch" might be a bit closer. She idled around outside until the shrine-wagon's owner stepped out, then fell in behind her with whatever other curious onlookers were tagging along. Just a normal, everyday traveller caught up in the hubbub, who also could give Ailee some furiously insistent eye contact before she shouted at this lady.

And, well, if all else fails, stand close enough that Ailee wouldn't try anything?
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Balmas
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Coleman!
Do the oldest members of the crew change to be more like the train?


Coleman's heard it called the Blessing, the Ascension, the Touch, and more. Every crew has their own name for it, but Mister Conagher always called it the Becomin'. You stop being part of the crew, and take on, just for a little bit, part of that train.

You have to. It's part of survival. Firemen rinse the coal off their claws, and find more coal growing underneath. Brakemen perk up and rush to their wheels a split second before the whistle blows, listening to something only they can hear. Conductors' scales glint with steel, perfect for repelling owls and unruly travelers alike.

And Engineers get the Becomin' the worst. Mouths that open to reveal a gaping, cherry-red furnace, or which speak in nothing but creaks and whistles. Joints which require oil and a bit of a runup to get going. Eyes which see nothing but the track, minds that forget how to be human. Mister Conagher even, if you spike his coffee enough, will agree to tell stories about his predecessor, who--well, Coleman had sampled some of the coffee himself, and so wasn't entirely sure on the details. The old kobold had pulled them together, named Mister Conagher as the Mighty Natascha's new choice, and walked off to the engine, and was never seen again. But Mister Conagher had said the engine had been somehow more than it had been before. And at night, in those long shifts shoveling coal, Coleman had always wondered whether that one set of dials might look, if you squint, just a bit like a face.

Privately, Coleman always thought it sounded wonderful. One of his fellow knights had told him a story about an engineer that, one day, just opened the firebox and crawled in. Regina had described how merrily the old lizard had burned like he was supposed to be horrified, but... Well, it sounded almost comfortable. Like a great hug, or being wrapped in the best blanket ever.

“It came from the water,” Rufftuff says, stroking his whiskers. “That was a good day! Positively bedragglement it was.” He leans in close. “Silas tells me this is for crushing drinks out of things. How does it work?”


"Bigger passenger trains have things like this," he said vaguely. "Because they don't know how to make things the old-fashioned way, you see. Here's how it works, see? Next time you head up to Detritus, ask around after Joed. He'll make you do a task for him, but he's the best source of the plant you need. Do an extra good job, and he'll even grind the beans for you. You add water to this bit, along with the beans, and heat it up on the fire."

Coleman pauses, uncertain. The Mighty Natascha has a coffeepot, of course, tucked away in the caboose, but it looks nothing like this.

"Then you add half a crushed eggshell in this top bit," he decides, "and add some cold water. You can drink most of the pot, but you should always throw away the last cup. Or feed it to a passing train, as tribute, makes the cabin smell lovely."
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Thanqol

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"DO YOU THINK I NEED EYES TO KILL YOU!? DO YOU THINK I'M SOME ASSHOLE HACK WHO HAS TO AIM THEIR MAGIC? BY THE TIME I'M DONE THERE WON'T BE ENOUGH LEFT OF THIS TOWN TO FIT IN THIS CLOSET -"

First thing's first, if his hands are unbound he's going to remove the hood.

Party's over.

Talk Sense: [(5, 5)+2 = 12]

"Listen! Things just got made simple for us. It's a lot easier talking sense into a mage than a mob. They didn't lock us in with the bloody dog-thing, did they? Let's see if we can't ask why they're all scared of rats in the first place..."

Pause. Think.

Door will open outwards. Easier to break open, means we can't hide Ailee behind it when it's opened, means that the 'jam a chair under it' trick would work against us. This is a wagon, so there's also down through the wooden floor? It'd be too dark to see under there. I'd have to trust Ailee not to just run while I'm distracting them, though... I'll take those odds.

"I've got plans. The folk are mad, but they still want to talk. Absolute last resort, I think we could fight our way out of here, but I don't know how we'd get much further than the door. Do you want to do this the honest way, or chance some parlour magic?"


Ailee abruptly started when the hood was taken off her head. "This is the worst kidnapping ever," she seethed. "Fine. We'll do things your way, let's see if we can come out of this with enough of the bar intact to forget this entire fucking experience."
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