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Edric Beaumont

Edric clung to the Elf's words like holy scripture. The blood had been shed decades ago, it's true. But the scars on both sides still ached with the pain and bitterness of grudges unsettled. War did little to solve disputes - it was the town bully pressing your face into the mud until you did as he said. In the grander scheme, it did nothing for the factors that started war in the first place, just delayed it from starting again. Brevyon remembered. The kingdoms overseas remembered. And the Elves, more than anyone, remembered.

At Arendal's use of the word 'possibility', Edric chuckled. It was a coughing sort-of sound, with its intention uncertain. Was it a mocking laugh at what Edric presumed as ignorance? Or a bemused acknowledging of the immaterial?

"Small forts like this rarely have the capacity for tremors that I've been sensing. Seem to find those in cultist lairs and necromantic ritual sites. But here--" Edric stopped. His voice did not trail off as much as it had simply stopped abruptly. He had turned a corner, and seen something to give him pause. Before him laid the Dead Resting. Skeletons, some clad in rusted armor, still clutching onto blunt weapons. Scattered they were: some perched against stone walls, others fallen atop each other, with one or two still bearing the mark of a violent death. That being a blade plunged through now-hollow ribcage, or a dirk through the eye socket.

"Oh." Was all Edric could say.

And the Dead began to shift.

Damon Tardif

"Good. You're awake." Damon's voice met the Rowen mere moments after she descended the stairs. He stood leaned up against one of the hard wooden tables, using his dagger to pare slices from an apple held firmly in his grasp. His motions, even while performing such a mundane task, were precise and dextrous. It was clear that this blade had been used for far more sinister tasks than cutting apples.

"Best to grab a bite before you hit the road. Something small. A full meal will sit in your belly like a rock. We'll stop for proper rations at one of the towns a few miles from here. Best to start the trail early." Pausing to pop the apple slice in his mouth, Damon wiped any excess juice from his blade with a wipe from his gauntlet before sheathing his blade, making way towards the door.

"Whenever you're ready."

Kabal wouldn't pretend to understand Solace's rather insatiable appetite when it came to 'sampling' members of other species, be they male or female. It was a certain kind-of degeneracy that did a good job triggering his gag reflex. To procreate was one thing, sure, but with something that looked like that? Kabal supposed there was no accounting for taste when it came to the preferences of Humans and their sub-types. All this, of course, ignoring his own status as a Near-Human. And woe be to anyone foolish enough to remind him of that fact; lest they receive a swift punch to the throat.

His earlier words to the not-Chiss about appearances was delivered more as a warning than anything else. She claimed to know how to fix the Baradium Fission Device, and that was all Kabal cared about. He could easily repair it himself, of course: technical expertise was one of the many talents of the Ubese species. But he had been cautious up to this point: it was her shenanigans that led them here. She broke it, she could fix it; and if she couldn't fix it, then she would learn firsthand whether her species could breathe in space or not. A hundred credits says they can't.

But while the betting pool was open, Kabal was keen to wager another hundred credits that Solace kicks the not-Chiss to the curb. Kabal prided himself on being an equal-opportunity ethnocentric: most every other species but his own was rather fleshy and ugly-looking, 'pretty' was a relative term. But a bloody face, fat lip, and crooked nose didn't exactly scream 'pretty' in any sense of the word.

While the two wordlessly pushed the lift past the market into the spaceport, Kabal caught the not-Chiss move her gaze towards a window, no doubt eyeing her own reflection. "Don't worry: there's nothing you can do to fix your face anyways." He said in his native language in what was...maybe meant as reassurance? An odd manner of reassurance, if that's what it was, one that would certainly have earned Kabal a slap in the face from a haughtier woman, but haughty women don't expect to be hit back. As noted earlier, equal-opportunity.

Then the not-Chiss decided that this was the time for more chit-chat, beginning to ask pointless questions like 'Who captain?', 'What kind ship?, Do have crew?, yadda yadda yadda. Kabal didn't ask dumb questions like that when he joined the Gray Mariners, and he was being shot at!

"You ask too many questions. CR90 in the hanger. Come now, or test your luck with the guards." He replied sternly, clearly exasperated by the day's events. Events that were nowhere close to concluding, as he would shortly discover.

Which hanger? Was the last thing Kabal picked up from the not-Chiss, to which he angrily replied, "This one!" Pointing off haphazardly towards one of the hangars, which promptly exploded into a cacophony of intense blaster-fire that crescendoed with a not-so-distant explosion: thermal detonator, N-20 Baradium-core by the sound of it, military-issue. A gunfight - a gunfight, while Kabal was out shopping and playing with aliens.

Swearing loudly, Kabal began pushing the cart with all his might towards the direction of the hanger, assuming that the not-Chiss would follow behind. Practically sprinting into the hanger, Kabal came across what looked almost like a crime-scene in the making. The dust still-settling from the recent explosion in the grenade pit, blaster scores marking parts of the hull and loading ramp, Solace pressed tightly against some unseen individual while holding a vibro-blade. Whatever else was happening inside, Kabal had next-to-no-idea.

Words were being exchanged, some voices familiar, others totally foreign. Great...more strays. Well, if today was Bring A Creature to Work Day, Kabal could at least contribute to the offerings.

"Bring bomb." He announced in Basic, unsure if he had spoken loud enough for anyone to hear him. As if on cue, the repulsors that had been engaged to one-hundred percent lift had finally been overtaxed by Kabal's marathon to the hanger, promptly giving out and dumping the bomb once more unceremoniously onto the ground.

Edric Beaumont

"Military structures: secure, strong, fortified. Easy housing for ghosts...Maybe just one." Whether there were ghosts that truly inhabited the place or not, the air around them was discomforting, compounded by an eerie silence as the light cast by Edric's spell created dancing shadows across the walls. The front door had led them to an entrance hall: wide and gaping, creaking and groaning like a titan still-sleeping. A short straight path led to a fork that split off into three separate directions, areas to wander. The presence, however, was felt all around. By going in deeper, Edric was certain he could hone in on it, track it down to its source; put a stop to whatever-it-was. All the while deciphering what had caused it.

"Holes would be problematic, my Elven friend, yes. Levitation isn't my forte." Whether this was a wry comment or genuine note, even Edric seemed uncertain.

"What say you, then? Do you believe in ghosts? Foul things inhibiting old crypts like these? Military forts teem with negative energy, the kind they'd thrive on. You've been around sometime. What do you remember of the war?" Edric seemed to have grown bored with the first question by the time the second left his lips. His brain was rapid-firing now, trying to make sense of each individual fragment floating, making a more complex maze.

But more than anything else: he was curious, curious over these circumstances, his new friend. Elves were an uncommon sight back home even before the law made them abhorrent to the gods of men. Tales of their magical prowess, cultural achievements, and historical contributions were nevertheless still whispered with a hushed reverence. And Edric was speaking to one. Perhaps one who could shed more light here than even he.

Damon Tardif

Damon was pleased to see the seriousness with which the woman accepted his conditions. No haggling, no inane questioning, simply resolve. It was a refreshing experience, particularly in an occupation where dealing with anyone for more than a few moments was uncommon at best. Group work wasn't particularly Damon's cup of ale, though he'd seen the effectiveness of hunters who partnered up to take on bigger scores. Another set of feet would just get in the way, he decided.

But in this instance, it seemed that Damon had little choice in that decision. Whatever the case, five-hundred gold pieces in his pocket was nothing to scoff at, especially for finding a corpse. Whether the woman was truly aware of the odds stacked against her or not, there was something to be said for determination: something admirable.

"We do." Damon replied, meeting her hand with coarse leather gauntlet, giving a firm shake that sealed their agreement good as blood. He would leave the word games and double-dealing to the clever nobles and cunning princes that hunted different prey. Here in Warren, a man's handshake wasn't just his word, but his name and honor. Word travels fast in small settlements like these; those who'd dare commit a sin of bad faith would feel the sting of retribution for years to come.

Releasing the woman's grip, Damon moved to stand, making way towards the counter to secure lodging for the night. That, in and of itself, would be a fight even he wasn't looking forward to having. Though general order had returned to the tavern following Damon's dramatic entrance, the discord was far from settled.

"HAVE YOUR FILTHY HIDE IN MY GOOD BED!?" Damon was unsure if he believed in the old tales of phantoms, but if he did, he'd bet a year's wages that Myrna had banshee blood in her. Choosing not to speak in the midst of her rant, Damon stood still-as-stone waiting for her to get it out of her system.

"Last I checked, if you'll be pardoning me, dogs slept outside! ... You drink my mead, frighten my fine payin' customers, make poor Agnes white as a ghost, I've half a mind to tan your backside like your Pa should've!" Damon placed a single pouch of coins on the counter.

"Now who do you take me for?! Some brainless floozy you can just toss coins at until you get your liking? If you think I'm going to--" Damon dropped a second pouch onto the counter, almost immediately drawing Myrna's lips shut as she realized that this much gold being offered for one night's stay was practically a steal.

"One night, Hunter, one night. If I hear any commotion before daybreak, I'll--"

"All I need." Damon finally said, rapping the counter with his knuckles before heading towards the stairwell, not bothering to look back at his new partner.

The lack of a working comlink had kept Kabal properly out-of-the-loop to any of the goings-on back at the ship. But he marched with all the puffed-up pride of a conquering hero back from war. And behind him was his prize: pushed by the two clearly-struggling Gand who were not even remotely equipped to bear weights of this kind - even on a repulsorlift. But Kabal was a harsh taskmaster, and any unnecessary stops resulted in a string of Ubese curses that quickly got the Gand moving again. For all his gripes of language and comprehension, there was a certain simplicity to shouting and swearing. Curses were something unequivocally understood no matter the language they were spoken in.

But not even the clumsiness of these small, stupid bugs would deter Kabal's victory. The baradium fission device was his: any planet he deemed unfit to exist was now at the mercy of his very sensitive trigger-finger. Of course, Kabal had to begrudgingly acknowledge that the rest of the crew may have some mild complaints about that - especially Airus. Even after being onboard the ship a year, the bleeding-heart doctor tried appealing to Kabal's better nature every other day, it seemed. Moral types didn't belong on a mercenary crew, Kabal decided: and the blind one, especially, shouldn't gripe about having to witness mercenary wetwork.

Fighting back against the zoo of aliens still occupying the green ring, Kabal was pleased to see that it wasn't hard to force people to make way when you're carting a nuclear bomb. Even the dullest-looking creatures had enough sense to keep a wide berth. At least, that's what he thought.

There was a flash of blue as a figure sprinted past, directly towards Kabal's treasure. Without even stopping to account for the obstacle, the figure leapt over the bomb, prompting the two Gand to crouch with arms thrown over their heads. The bomb wobbled precariously, threatening to topple over from the disruption of pace. Kabal was left with a choice: to either keep the bomb steady to avoid breaking it - and the planet - or to rush down the blue freak that very nearly cost him his superweapon.

Before he could decide, it turned out the Chiss wannabe had a friend, one far less nimble than they were. Running full-force into the repulsorlift, the bomb throttled violently, the cart it sat upon trying desperately to stabilize itself. But it was all for naught. With a final lurch, the repulsorlift turned on its side, toppling the baradium fission device onto the ground with a sickening crunch.

The commotion of the surrounding crowd came to a screeching halt. Nothing stopped a sales pitch better than the threat of planetary annihilation. The device started to hiss violently, leaking coolant as it was apparent something inside had broken. Kabal's stoic gaze was centered on his precious nuke, completely unaware of the melee between the not-Chiss and her assailants in the background.

For a few moments, he was silent, looking upon his glory in ruin as the bomb continued to bleed. The crowds in the green ring had started to scatter, reasonably wanting to get as far away from a volatile bomb as possible. The Gand took this as sign to cut their losses, sprinting away as fast as their stubby legs allowed, tripping in their own clothing as they hurried to escape whatever was about to happen next.

Fists clenching at his side, Kabal's head turned towards the one who ran into his cart and, without a word, sprinted full force towards him. Perhaps under calmer circumstances, Ahln would've asked himself how much power a five-foot-five, hundred-and-twenty pound alien could possess. He would have found his unasked question answered when Kabal tackled him full force, raining down blows wherever his fists landed. Taken by surprise both at the act itself, and Kabal's surprising ferocity, Ahln fell prone on his back, completely dazed as the Ubese kept hitting and hitting and hitting.

With head pounding and blood spewing from both his mouth and nose, Ahln had hardly any resistance left in him as Kabal picked up a rock lying nearby, raising it up over his head. There no way of knowing what Ahln was thinking in his last moments, and frankly, Kabal didn't care. He held position for a second more, then brought the rock down.

With every hit, there came less resistance: meaty thunks turned into nauseating squelches as flesh-and-bone eventually gave way. Kabal wasn't sure how much time had passed, but by the time his rage gave way to fatigue, what was left of Ahln's visage was a fine pulp, staining the snow red.

Slowly sanding to his feet, Kabal dropped his gore-stained rock, looking up to see the not-Chiss staring back. How she dealt with the other men chasing her was uncertain, but enough to earn Kabal's curiosity - and cautiousness. Debating whether he had been too hasty in dropping his weapon, Kabal was prepared to reach for the rock when he was interrupted by the woman speaking: in Ubese. He froze stiff, taken aback by this discovery, unsure what entirely to make of it.

The only other non-Ubese he'd met able to speak his language was Sable, but it was clear this one was no droid. Her accent was imperfect, with a slight hesitation on the filler words and the odd enunciation error; it was rusty, but it was Ubese.

Kabal silently looked the woman up-and-down, indicated by the slight incline of his helmet. Whether he was checking for weapons, valuables, or something else, his motive was completely uncertain. The woman wasn't Chiss, Kabal had come to that decision with some confidence, but she looked Human and was blue, which was close enough in his book.

"We'll ask the Captain." Kabal replied in his native tongue as he moved towards the bomb, placing a single hand on its cracked surface. Whatever reaction was taking place inside after the bomb fell over were quietly dissipating. The bomb was broken, but stabilizing.

"Help me lift it, then we'll make for port. Captain may like you, depends how pretty she thinks you are.


'Specialist ordnance.' seemed to Kabal a roundabout way of saying 'big explosives.' Basic was a frustrating language that seemed to have ten different ways to say the exact same thing. Ubese was a far superior dialect, one that Kabal missed speaking greatly. He tried where he could, of course, but slurs and curses aimed towards his fellow crew members just couldn't compare. Planets like Anchorage served as a grim reminder of just how isolated he was. Even on Tatooine, the rolling dunes and desert plains felt much closer to home than desolate ice caps and frozen fields.

His initial confusion regarding Solace's words was quickly alleviated by her elaboration of acquiring a baradium fission device. Those weren't just explosives, they were planet-busters - superweapons; banned even by the Empire after enough bellyaching by the gutless pacifists on Alderaan. Kabal inclined his head down towards the table as Solace slid the handful of credits towards him. There was a pause as he seemed to process the exciting task assigned to him. Almost warily outstretching his glove-less hand, thin chalk-white fingers closed around the credits, drawing them into one of the compartments on his woefully light bandoliers.

With a lone nod, Kabal was off, swiftly departing from his seat and out the door, pushing past a few displeased spacers trying to come in. Kabal gave no quarter and offered no mercy; anyone in his way would move or be moved. How one as small as he could shove with the strength of a larger man was puzzling--and shocking to those on the receiving end, but Kabal had disappeared into the streets long before anyone had the chance to find out.

Outside, the frigid cold met him like a punch to the gut, freezing the air in his weak lungs. Furiously planting bare hands in the folds of his clothing, Kabal pressed on, eyes peeled for any diminutive insects running around carting a nuke. The assortment of alien features all seemed to blend together into a repulsive kaleidoscope of too-many-limbs, enormous eyes, unnatural colors, and foul odors that only enhanced Kabal's biases. He had no point of direction other than the green ring, but with a baradium fission device on the line? Kabal would find it.

After painstaking minutes of wandering, refusing to ask for any aid or directions, Kabal spotted one of the Gand in the distance: a diminutive sort, smaller even than he was, lugging around a cart-full of miscellaneous blaster parts and ammo casings in a hand-pulled wagon. Increasing his pace to harass the insect into telling him where the fission devices were, the Gand, unaware, turned a corner and disappeared into the crowded sea.

His frustration only growing in the meantime, Kabal was about to break in a full-on sprint when a guttural voice called out from behind him, slicing through the muddled chats and conversations of everyone else around: "Come for th' baradium, have you, Stranger?"

Kabal froze, turning around on his heels to look up at a tall, imposing sort, garbed in enough layers to draw uncertainty whether he was human or not. The man was arrayed in a long, heavy cloak that draped down to boot-clad ankles, hood-and-cowl obscuring all but his eyes and the bridge of his nose. Hunched over with the weight of a backpack upon his shoulders, the man met Kabal's blank visor with a gaze piercing enough to make even the unflappable Ubese mildly uncomfortable.

Taking Kabal's silence as answer, the man laughed heartily: a raspy, gurgling sound that wheezed and popped like a machine booting up after decades of disuse. Recovering after one last chortle, the man spoke once more: "My little Beetles have done a fine job in rounding up prospective customers, and you seem a discerning one, at that!" With a sweeping theatrical motion, the man opened up his cloak, revealing a baffling assortment of holsters and ammo pouches, all full to the brim. Hold-out blasters, heavy pistols, carbines, grenades, bombs, slugthrowers, the merchant carried enough on his person to arm a sizable militia, and that didn't even take into account what he carried at his stall. Rifles, light-and-heavy repeaters, flamethrowers, grenade rifles, portable rocket launchers, and, above the rest like a deity enshrined: a baradium fission device, dwarfing most grown men in size. Despite the array of outlawed and invaluable weaponry that'd make even the Empire blush, no one else around seemed to look at or even take notice of the merchant and his stall.

”Lot of good things on sale, Stranger.” The merchant acknowledged in what was the greatest understatement of the era. Beneath the frozen expression of Kabal's mask was pure, unadulterated desire. His own stash, carefully acquired over months of scavenging and hoarding, couldn't begin to scratch the surface of what the merchant had before him.

”How much?” Kabal asked, pointing up at the baradium bomb in hushed reverence.

”No set price, Stranger. Show me what credits you're willing to part with, and we'll see from there.” The merchant's tone was the growl of a seasoned businessman, keenly aware of any tricks of the trade. Even Kabal, for all his lowly opinion of humans, knew there'd be no lowballing this one.

Reaching into one of his pouches, Kabal procured the full amount of credits Solace had given to him, holding them out for the merchant to take.

Shoveling the whole pile in one hand, the merchant held up a single credit to his eyes, appraising the quality. After a moment or two more, he nodded decisively. ”This'll do, Stranger. Bomb's yours.” With a snap of his fingers and a command issued in an alien tongue, two Gand mysteriously appeared from the swell of the crowd, hopping up on the stall to carefully load the bomb onto a cart.

”My Beetles'll help carry the weapon to your ship, Stranger. A pleasure doing business with ya -- thank you.” Once more securing his cloak, the merchant humbly bowed. Kabal, not saying a word, turned to leave, leading the Gand back towards port. Then he stopped. Somewhere in the deepest pits of his shriveled heart was a small shred of decency urging him to, for one of the first times in his life, thank another creature. But by the time he turned around to respond to the merchant, he, and his stall, had disappeared, leaving nary a trace but a single wanted holo-poster against the wall, with the biggest bounty Kabal had ever seen: ten billion credits.

Only taken out of his surprise by one of the Gand gently tugging against his sleeve, Kabal, after slapping the bug's hand away, continued on back to the ship, carrying with him the most valuable haul of his career.
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