Moving with mechanical precision, the barkeeper served the Courier, then Hat Kid, then Bowser. While he said nothing, he made it clear by writing figures on a chalkboard behind the counter that the new customers had just started their very own tabs. If they didn't pay today, they would need to settle the tabs some other time. Hat Kid, though got her water for free; if anything, Fire Man seemed eager to be rid of the stuff for more than a few seconds. When the Courier got his booze, he found the top of it momentarily alight, no doubt thanks to the server's fiery personality. The koopa king's order required that the robot master duck into the back room for a while, but he reappeared with the food soon enough. Before Bowser was placed a pair of perfectly standard burgers, exactly alike and lacking heart, as well as a bunch of fries stacked like logs.
All the while, 6's poker game with the dogs proceeded in an interesting fashion. As it turned out, the dogs' understanding of the game and their ability to play it left a lot to be desired. Things took a while to happen, and while the long-necked pup cheated unabashedly by looking at other players' cards, he didn't seem to spend even a solitary moment considering his own hand. The pot, a pile of dog treats, drifted the practiced Courier's way steadily.
Outside, the sudden influx of new arrivals only halted Hammerhead's activity momentarily. With Gene having broken the tension, the party of young men parted ways with the white-haired swordsman and his friend, and the Regalia pulled out of the station to head northward. For better or worse, the adventurous foursome would be heading to the Dead Zone too. The punk watched them go with a resigned, mildly exasperated look while Gene made his case. When he finished, a honk resounded from his friend's van, since he'd been about to get in before Gene stopped him. Glancing at the God Hand, he told him, “Never heard of this Angra demon. But like I said, if you and your friends want to be heroes, be my guest. I've got business to attend to.”
The woman leaned out of the window. “Great job Nero” she said, grinning, “Y'ain't talked a single soul outta runnin' in there 'n gettin' killed. But hey, didja consider that this whole worlds collidin' dealeo might mean there's more people who can slap demons around?” She turned her eyes on Gene. “Maybe we don't gotta do this thing alone. If we got people kickin' though the fodder, ya got a clear shot at that throne-sittin' sonuva.”
Nero's face darkened. “I'm not gonna hang back and let other people do my work for me. When I send that bastard to hell, Dante's gonna eat his words.”
Gene listened in on what the country chick was saying, pondering her words. Seemed like she was at least open to the idea of inviting more people along to head to that Qliphoth place, though the white haired punk, Nero apparently, was still reluctant. Almost sounded a bit bitter even. "Oh come on, uh, Nero! I don't doubt that you can kill demons by the dozen, but you said it yourself, the place is dangerous. Having some back up wouldn't be too bad, right? And hey, that 'throne sitting guy' is all yours once we get to him. What do you say?"
Looking downright annoyed at this point, Nero seemed ready to just walk away, but after a moment he sighed instead. “If you're that dead-set on it, fine. But Urizen's all mine. Got it?”
Gene grinned, practically ready to break out into song and dance at that. But he kept his composure, instead giving a nod as a reply. "Got it. So uh... When we heading out?"
With a shrug, Nero replied, “Right now. If your buddies are headed to the city, tell 'em to get moving.”
Gene nodded, prepared to go tell his companions about the journey to the Qliphoth, only to suddenly remember something...hey were heading to the Land of Adventure. “Oh crap oh crap oh crap! Play it cool Gene, play it cool... You can figure this out! It's not like this little adventure will take that long, right? Just in an out, twenty minutes tops! ... Hopefully.” He continued on his way to where most of the group was holed up, and spoke up so they could hear him. "Hey, guys, it's me, Gene, you all know me... I don't wanna say well, but a bit. I met this dude named Nero, and he's planning on heading to the Dead Zone to take down this spooky thing called the Qliphoth. I'm planning on going, so if any of you wanna join us, you're all free to!" Well, he hoped that at least some people would accompany him. He didn't imagine they'd appreciate it if he just up and left them without saying a word.
The sudden activation of a dormant robot master following an examination from Tora, Poppi, Linkle, Din, and Blazermate led to a brief but furious brawl, thoroughly messing up the interior of the garage in which it took place and leaving Poppi barely functional. Cid and Cindy were taken aghast, especially by Tora's involvement, after he seemed so enthused to be at Hammerhead. Peach, while clearly lacking patience, apologized on behalf of the miscreants and offered to cover the damages out of the royal treasury, but once he came to understand the situation, Cid waved her offer off. “Accidents happen,” he assured her. “All the same, iffen yer crew's done refuelin' 'n such, y'might roll on t'wherever yer headed.” His dubious glance at Junior and friends' repaired Brother Grimm made it clear that the heavily-armed cohort made him uneasy.
In short order, the heroes would embark once again, albeit with a few losses. Most of the rabbids elected to continue no further, being far from home and uninterested in a long campaign. The Buckler, by far the most intelligent among them, knew that the long, dangerous journey would sooner or later spell the end of the whole rabbid pack. As such, only two ziggies and three jumpers remained with the heroes, but the others' departure didn't mean that the separate crews might not meet again someday.
Land of Adventure
With the details he'd gleaned from the guildmarm in mind, Geralt set out from Lumbridge not straight north, but northeast. His journey brought him within visible distance of the no-man's land where the Land of Adventure came to an end and a dusty scrubland began, and where no herb-rich castle in the woods would be found. In just about an hour and a half, though, the directions provided to him guided him to the top of a hill that overlooked a sea of pines. It continued northward for a long way, stretching all the way to a shadowy region far removed from the Land of Adventure. When he looked to the right, he spotted a stone structure a short way up the side of a small mountain, it being part of the range that formed the shifting land's northern edge. The easy slope, with sparse trees and boulders but abundant in smaller plants, would be no problem to navigate, even now that the sky had grown cloudy and gray. Geralt's only major challenge would be the strange monster that he knew lurked within. Before heading there, he would no doubt be able to scare up some wild wolves in the pine forest to kill for their fat.
When he eventually did approach the castle, it would become apparent that the edifice was on the smaller end in terms of scale. The trees closest to it looked dead, gnarled and gray, and as Geralt grew closer, he could make out a few puzzling details. In terms of design, it bore a gothic appearance, but sported a number of amenities he couldn't place. Its walls featured lanterns instead of torches, but without any sign of flame. Instead, immaculately rounded bulbous glasses lay within. While his angle obscured much, he could spot a large balcony on the second floor without any kind of door or window, instead leaving much of the second floor open to the air. Farther up stood only a couple spires, their spiky tips pointed skyward. A chorus of strange noises could be heard from the second floor. While one was probably no more than the suppressed burning of a forge, the other -a sort of low, humming roar- confounded his experience. Most poignantly, Geralt couldn't see any living thing, but signs of life he found aplenty. Long, deep claw-scratches in the wall and inhuman footprints in the soil confirmed that he'd come to the right place.