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Gahh, transcribing an interview took way too friggin long, and I knew it wasn't gonna be quick. I knew there was a reason for preferring quantitative data...
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Going to a hated event might build my fortitude or something, but the though of seeing those f*rs' faces...Yeah, no thanks.
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Why do I have a cold again when I've had one just last month?
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2 yrs ago
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Jandar Varan
The attic, Root's Teeth, Dhemlan Terreille

Jandar followed the Opal witch, not particularly caring what Gendry thought of it all or whether he was following closely or not. The Kaeleer native noticed that it grew progressively dustier as they proceeded up a stairwell toward the attic, and automatically checked for tracks. As the witch opened the heavy door, they got a good look into the attic, but there was only the loud sound of rain and a bunch of deserted furniture around. There were absolutely no signs of life - not any recent ones, in any case. Jandar nonetheless entered the room after the witch, glancing around.

“I’m not up ‘ere to get to know ‘er,” he mimicked mockingly, a ‘you dolt’ implied with his tone only. “I’m searchin’ for the damn pouch. Not sure why you so scared when it's my neck on the line,” he grumbled sourly. Though he’d addressed Gendry, Jandar had not even turned to look at the other male, instead thoroughly inspecting the attic visually, then moving to quickly check through the furniture (with a focus on the already disturbed chests and the old sleeping places), knocking on the walls and floor here and there to see if there were any lose floor-boards with hidey-holes beneath them.

All in all, the search was rather superficial and quick, however. “Weren’t any tracks – wif all the dust we’d’ve seen some if anyone’d been ‘ere,” he explained. He causally moved around the room as if looking for any signs that would indicate otherwise. The meandering, minute-long trip of this final check-up led him seemingly naturally very close to the Opal witch, where he stopped for a bit right in front of her. “Lucky for us you ain't cleanin' the place no proper, eh, witchlin'?” he asked mockingly, gazing at her steadily. He gently placed a hand around one of her wrists (his left on her right), as if he either wanted to measure her pulse or was simply keen on touching her.

“Plenty 'elpful, that,” he uttered entirely nonchalantly, though his neutral tone was belied both by the intensity of his gaze as he met her eyes directly as well as by an incredibly subtle gesture – his last three words were accompanied by a light tap-tap on her wooden tray (with his left thumb) followed by a jerk of his whole left arm into a shrug that he hoped would indicate to her he wanted her to have a go at Gendry. Though whether the witch would understand that or not was questionable. Now that her wrist was free once again, he moved behind the witch in a slow, predatory, almost sensual manner. Standing behind her, Jandar placed an encouraging hand on the witch’s back, his gaze flicking to check on Gendry and what the Prince was doing, then to the attic's exit with a mild frown as he considered the time that yet remained for him to try and discover the pouch's contents in private.

“Time to go to the next place, innit?” He slowly breathed out a sigh, his breath disturbing a few of the female’s hairs due to how close he was standing to her. “Let’s go to the next ‘idin place, eh?” As he said this, he cocked his head at Gendry, then the stairs, as if encouraging him to ‘go on, then’ – and it honestly would be incredibly helpful if the Purple Dusk Prince would be the first one to head down, though Jandar couldn’t count on that. The worst that could happen now…well, actually, in this very moment, there was the possibility of the witch attacking him rather than Gendry, which would endanger them both significantly more than they already were. Jandar could only pray to Mother Night that the Opal witch would do what would be the most beneficial to him, and subsequently to her as well. He gave a reassuring push to the Opal witch's back, then stepped away to give her some space and let her do as she would. Yet, he was keeping a close watch on the situation, tense and ready for any hints of trouble, whether that would be trouble to him or trouble to the Prince. If there were no trouble yet, he could still simply head to wherever the witch took them next, and craft another plan.
If I have the time, I think I'd like to do a giant salamander.
Jandar Varan
A stairway, Root's Teeth, Dhemlan Terreille

Jandar smirked cockily in reply to Erkyn’s warning, but said only “’Course.” He ignored Travin completely, though was honestly glad the most vicious lackey wasn’t the one accompanying him. Instead, he had a slightly violent somewhat reluctant Gendry, a Purple Dusk Prince who grabbed the Opal witch forcefully by the wrist and led her to him. Jandar intercepted the witch by gently holding onto her shoulders, staring at her briefly, intensely wishing he had a telepathic crystal jewel bit on hand. He then glared at Gendry as he barked “Enough! She’s mine to mark,” he trailed his hands down her arms possessively, checking if her wrist had been damaged discretely, noting she was still holding onto her wooden tray. Jandar released her, cocked his head at her, but made no mention of the potential weapon. “This place got a loft or the like? You’ll show us the best hidin’ spots first. Then we can…check on any suspicious fellas roomin' 'ere,” he added, gazing at the Opal witch as if challenging her to oppose his plan.

His mind was already racing to think of a way to get rid of Gendry inconspicuously, however, whether that would be by inciting the witch to whack the male somehow or by enticing the Prince to leave on his own out of boredom, or perhaps by suggesting they split up later on. For now, however, he simply waited for the Opal jewel witch to lead them up to a potentially secluded attic, which just might give him the opportunity to knock out the guard set to dog his every step and make it seem like an accident. If he didn’t manage to do any such thing, he could still pretend to have found the pouch whenever the other two were looking elsewhere. It would be optimal if he did find a way to turn Gendry away from the search for long enough to explain the situation to the witch and have an opportunity to inspect the leather bag which was turning out to be even more precious than he’d initially assumed. He also hoped that by the time the trio was forced to search the stables the fool lad would have had the wits to escape. He wished no ill to the boy, despite the fact the blonde child was the sole cause for this whole mess.

“Sure, we can even dig in the direction of the settlement…but not too close to it. We’ll have to hide the entrance as well…” she trailed off as she focused completely on digging faster. Even with the three of them co-operating, it would take a good chunk of time to make something suitable for all three of them. What Asteria wanted to work on in the mean-time was interacting with the system as Ed had done. From what she’d seen, he’d merely commanded it to deactivate his berserk skill and it did exactly that. In that venue, if she wanted to know what her current skills were or possibly even find out her own rate of progression, she simply had to will it. Taking half a minute off from digging, she cleared her throat with a dry “Hkh-hm!”, then said in her most assertive, domineering tone of a voice, the kind she’d used once upon a time when facing down opposition in court with what she knew was a winning argument, “System: Show current skills!”

Whether that worked or not, she’d return to work on digging out the hole and aiming to expand it a tunnel or at least what would be the beginning of one. She soon noticed one problem – the earth they were digging out was making quite the pile, not exactly the most of unobtrusive of things. So, setting her plants (which were slightly worse for wear, but would do well enough to experiment with when she had the time) next to the ant’s carapace, Asteria left the digging to Mother Rat and Ed while she used her paws to flatten the mini hills they were creating. She did her best to spread the earth and rocks naturally between the vegetation. It was harder creating patches for already growing plants, but she’d rather do that than have a human noticing their building attempts. As Ed had suggested, investigating them was perfectly fine as long as the villagers weren’t aware of them, while drawing attention to themselves would be unadvised. Whenever she finished spreading the freshly dug out earth, Asteria would go back to tunneling.

Seems intriguing. I'll be keeping an eye on this at the very least.
Jandar Varan
A stairway, Root's Teeth, Dhemlan Terreille

Jandar stayed still and silent in the patch of darkness at the entrance, listening to the confrontation as he got a handle on his panic. Well, here he is, the fool who let himself be stolen from, threatening others for his own carelessness, of course he is. Hell’s fires, if this thing is so important– he cut off the exasperated thought, sighing silently. At least there’d been no signs of what he’d had suspected would be happening…yet. Nonetheless, he’d have to handle this delicately while keeping up his act, playing the self-serving peasant hunter. Outnumbered as he was, revealing he already had the documents would be a death-sentence or worse, however, so he had to come up with a better alternative. His ears perked at Lord Erkyn’s suggestion that the witch do her best to get the stolen pouch back – he could use this! – though his mood soured immediately as Travin suggested mind-breaking. That would not do.

Vague idea of a plan formed, Jandar stored the leather pouch the Shalador Warlord had 'lost' into the Void and undid his invisibility while under the shield of the doorway’s shadow, squared his shoulders, and confidently proceeded toward the stair landing the group was crowded at. “Fellas, fellas,” he rumbled, shaking his head slightly as he approached casually, though momentarily rose his hands in the universal sign of peace, I’m unarmed. “Any louder an'de whole inn woulda’ been listenin’ in,” he grinned irreverently. “Now, ‘fore you go turnin’ the pre'y wi'ch to a mindless pet…” now that he was relatively close to the Green-jeweled Warlord and the Opal witch, he blatantly scented the air around the witch, half-closing his eyes and smiling as if he enjoyed what he discovered.

Mmm, jus’ fear, no guil’, Lord. Say, if your papers are so impor’an’ as all ‘at, I’ll find ‘em for you,” he practically radiated self-assurance, the kind the other Walord may not be able to pass upon in his desperation. “The wi'chlin’ can show me every hidden nook an’ cranny,” he leered at her at this, “an’ I’ll sniff out the prey, ge'cha stuff back ‘fore the storm’s end,” Jandar stated to the Shaladorian with an arrogant tilt of his head. “Then you gimme a proper paymen’, the girl keeps ‘er darlin’ li’l mind whole,” he cast a dismissive glance her way accompanied by a somewhat condescending and patronizing smile, then turned back to the green-eyed Warlord with all the professionalism of a working-class hunter.

“You can even ‘ave one of your guards,” his tone turned derisive as he rose a mocking eyebrow directly at Travin, “go along wif us. If you fink it’ll ‘elp,” he shrugged at Erkyn in a what-can-you-do manner, though the smile playing about Jandar’s lips conveyed the confidence he had that he could handle the matter on his own – or rather, with just his own skills as long as an inn’s employee showed him around, as he’d mentioned. “’Course, I’ll need ‘a know wha’ we’re lookin’ for. Scrolls? Le’ers? A bag?” he drawled, rolling a shoulder slowly, showing that he cared only to the extent that knowing would help in his search, and get him the gold he desired. “Oh, a scen’ of yours migh’ ‘elp ‘swell. Ey, no strange looks, Lord, ain't no one as good as me at findin' trails, not even a pricey huntin' 'ound. I’d bet my life on it,” the last was said with more seriousness than any of his previous words had been, and the heavy but serene gaze he set on Erkyn just dared the male to accept the challenge – because he was willing to accept and prove it.



Jasilkal's sod house was a rather decent one by Occ standards. A room or two smaller than Master Makumu’s, of course, and more sparsely equipped, but the laboratory in the main room (which also served as the kitchen, dining room, and sometimes bedroom), the inside part of her garden in a side room (for the more delicate of herbs which required bi-weekly enhancements by Makumu to grow in these parts), and the study-cum-storeroom (also a napping location) were serviceable enough. The outside porch and garden (for the local foliage) were where she usually conducted her business, i.e. listened to requests and handed out the requested concoctions. The hill where she and Makumu resided being almost two miles out of their home village (Asen) meant that she occasionally ferried bulk orders there and back – and, yes, it did make it seem as if she’d never graduated from the fetch-girl duty, but this setup had its advantages as well.

Part of her day routine involved waking up before dawn, collecting several vials of morning dew to store for later use (in purification-potions and experiments on inducing youthfulness), gathering any of the common plants and animal-parts she needed to replenish her stock, meditating at dawn to greet the coming-of-a-new day, tending to her gardens, finishing off certain yesterday’s potions and putting to simmer the bases of others she’d complete later today. The rays of sunrise were an ingredient of sorts she could expose certain potions to (those for encouraging bone health, chasing off nightmares, and boosting energy, for example), and though she enjoyed the early morning, she knew the heat would later on would be likely near unbearable.

For now, however, it was pleasant, and the pre-dawn chores completed, she shouldered, saddled, and otherwise tied the various crates and satchels of supplies onto herself, adjusted her clothing by buttoning it to the side, tucked her legs alongside her tail, and slithered the two whole miles to Asen. It was convenient at such times to be an Occ; they could both walk straight on their legs or snake their way on their bellies and tails akin to the way their serpentine ancestors did. It was a shame they could not run on all fours as their Gegherun cousins could, but having a pair of dextrous hands with their opposable thumbs capable of the most delicate and meticulous of works more than made up for it. Jasilkal took the collection of vials, jars, flasks, tins, pots, and all the rest to the inn her mother was in charge of. Kaarmuken’s inn was a convenient location, not only because it was where she usually had her breakfast and lunch, but also because it was simpler for her to conduct her business in a single stable location within the village than going house-to-house. The inn, after all, was a sizable and well-known location, and any Occ who had a need of her services or wares knew where to find her.

Indeed, Kaarmuken’s inn was where a distressed Piyaskal, an amber-eyed yellow-brownish scaled Occ male and one of the many hunter-scouts of Asen, came running not half-an-hour after Jasilkal had her breakfast, babbling about Aldabukil having been bitten by a bronan that morning when her team was out on its usual patrol. Jasilkal thought it was odd such a reclusive and lethally venomous snake had been close-by at all, never mind the likelihood of it attacking, but kept her thoughts regarding the possible reasons to herself for the time being.

“Slow down. Where is she?” Jasilkal interrupted the male Occ’s panic – ascertaining the patient’s state was the priority.

“Oh-h, we, we’ve taken her to Elder Lerdinan already,” he reported in a slight stammer, regaining his breath in deep gasps, though he was visibly attempting to calm down.

“Good. But then what is the issue? The Elder is the best physician in the village,” Jasilkal asserted confidently, though she would eagerly offer her services if they were needed.

“Ah, well, only that- the ritual, um, it would help for it if there was a practiced Alchemist attending.”

Jasilkal clicked her tongue, slightly annoyed at the flattery, but also aware of a good opportunity when she saw one. “Certainly. Let me grab my things – you will help me carry them to Lerdinan’s.”

She took the kaolinite and zeolite to stop the female’s bleeding, the valerian and willow leaves for pain relief, and… “Mother! Quickly mix me some beef, beans, kale, yolk, and nuts!” she hollered across the rowdy inn (there had been a momentary pause at the news, but people were already loudly speaking over each other), and Kaarmuken answered just as loudly.

“Already on it, Jal!”

Ahh, of course she was. Her mother was ever the capable woman, Jasilkal acknowledged wryly. She hung her satchel over her shoulder and handed the excess healing supplies over to Piyaskal for him to carry. The unappetizing slushy mixture of high-in-iron-content foods arrived moments later, delivered by the familiar form of soot-scaled Kaarmuken in a wooden bowl.

“Thank you,” Jasilkal nodded curtly, accepting the puree-filled bowl and spoon, then hurried to Lerdinan’s sod hut as fast as she could while carrying something spill-able, followed by Piyaskal who carried the rest of her gear.

Nonetheless, they made it to Elder Lerdinan’s place minutes later, finding Aldabukil already abed and bandaged – the leeches had apparently made their work already. She hurried over, setting the food on the floor next to the female, and plucked the necessary plants and vials out of her satchel.
“Chew this and this, drink this, you’ll get fed that slop by Piyaskal while we’re making the anti-venin. Try not to move too much, and Piyaskal? Notify me immediately if she starts to run a fever or needs the opium-pellet.” She then turned to eye Elder Lerdinan expectantly.

“Ah, Jasilkal. Good. Help me set up the transmutation circle for extracting the venom from the critters here,” she pointed to a glass-full of leeches. “I will be the one providing the magical forces, of course, but my eyes weren’t what they used to be…”

The younger Occ nodded, ignoring the chatter as she made the necessary preparations. Sometime during the work, her younger brother Karjuuvos (ochre-mint in his scale-tone) popped in at one point to check in on his hunting pals, but Jasilkal waved him off with a “Later.”

Later was when she had another hearty meal just outside her mother’s inn, listening to her friend Uruzik’s story time to unwind. Her brother re-joined her as she was finishing her early lunch to discuss the stray bronan. “We could be the ones to relocate it,” he enthused.

“Hm. I wouldn’t mind getting some of their venom, if they were willing to co-operate,” she answered in a more sedate manner, though the glimmer of interest in her eye belied her aloof attitude.

“You and your research,” he teased mildly. “But I’ll go find father to convince we’re a decent team for the mission. Will you stay here for a while?”

Jasilkal shook her head in the negative. “No. I’m mostly done with the trade for today. I’ll haul the rest back, notify Makumu, and prepare a sedative for the snake. Capture me some mice, will you? We’ll meet at mine.”

“So confident we’ll be the ones who get to go?” he grinned, bouncing off the chair to leave.

“Of course. You have looked after me since you were eight, as you say-”

“Since I was seven! Don’t forget that whole ‘I’ll dive to the bottom of the lake’ scheme of yours!” he exclaimed in mock outrage.

In any case, she stressed, “Jardaskul knows you can be relied upon. You are now a man, finally,” she teased in return.

Karjuuvos huffed good-natured.
“And you can officially patch up any scrapes and heal any injuries now, right?”

“Don’t forget the poisons. Any stray Stodman tries anything, I stab them with a laced knife, they get the seizures, the hallucinations, the frothing…” she trailed off in a smirk, which was returned by a fond shake of her brother’s head.

“Alright, alright. We’re the brilliant-sibling combo, and everyone knows it. See you in a bit with the mice and all,” he waved to her and Uruzik both, then weaved his way through the streets of Asen.

Uruzik was too preoccupied by the children enthralled by her retelling of Rralsmanul to say anything, but she did give her a pointed look. Jasilkal nodded once, earnestly. Yes, she would take care. She was old enough to take the necessary precautions and ensure both her and her brother’s safety – and with his expertise to help, they should be alright. Besides, if they didn’t discover any clues of the bronan snake today, they would most likely return to Asen.

After all was said and done, Jasilkal met up with Karjuuvos at her sod hut at the hill-side, her usual satchel across her shoulder, her knives and trowel tied belted to her hip alongside some vials and cloth pouches.

“Hey, are these fine?” the younger Occ greeted her, two mice held by the tail and squeaking incessantly.

“More than. I’ll feed them enough of the drug to calm them down but not incapacitate, and coat them in the liquid I measure out for the bronan if we happen to find it.”

Her brother nodded, tossed her the mice, and adjusted the bow and quiver slung over his back; he'd also brought his hunting knife. Jasilkal dosed the mice in a minute amount of sedative, and stored the now quietly chattering duo into one of her cloth pouches. The Occ duo then straightened in tandem, their strides matching each other’s as they made their way southwards, intending to investigate and possibly find the stray venomous snake and relocate it farther from their settlement, or else return to Asen by nightfall.

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@Admythaus Yeah, I assume you mean we shouldn't just have highly-skilled NPCs tag along, but if I did have her brother accompany her temporarily, all he'd have skills-wise is survival 1 and basic weaponry (bow) 1. And even that's kind of an advantage, so...I'll see where my writing takes me.
@Admythaus Hey, so I just thought of this, but if Jasilkal decided to wander farther than usual (i.e. in the unexplored map sections), could I send a NPC (her brother, I'm thinking) with her? Or should I stick with her going by herself? I'm fine with both, and may actually decide on the latter regardless of your answer (tbh, because writing about her brother as well may be too much of a chore lol), but I'm still curious what your take on the idea is.
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