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  #91  
Old Nov 22nd, 2020, 01:30 PM
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Li Jie. Late Afternoon, 18th of August, 1885. Yellow Ledge, Western Protectorate.
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Jie felt like he’d been floating on a cloud. He slowly dressed, now alone in Posey’s boudoir, having waited for her to depart. He spent moments perusing, but not touching, her personal effects in a kind of wondrous stupor. He reminded himself of those he’d seen in the opium dens of Shanghai and Singapore; staring into space trying to make sense of their situation. Posey hid her feminine side in this room, away from prying eyes, and Jie felt extremely lucky and privileged to see it. It became like a holy shrine for Jie, to Fertility goddess, guardian of young children
and mothers, and is responsible for the dawn.
Bixia maybe, or to some other exotic deity from the subcontinent. In his heart she’d been elevated to a goddess.

Posey had been determined to get back to her post and had left him with a lingering kiss and a look that Jie would never forget to his dying day. Guided by duty, as he now needed to be. He’d given his word to her. He made an effort to snap free of his rapture by removing the silly grin from his face and replacing it with a stern and determined look. He donned his hat and replaced his dao in its sheath before leaving quietly and closing the door behind him.

He skulked past Macino and walked quickly across the road to the Dead Man’s Happiness where he pushed through the swing doors. Last time he’d entered with Gerhard they’d seemed to have made an impression. This time he puffed with confidence and perhaps a touch of chagrin, like the cat that got the cream. The team were at the table they’d sat at before and Knuddelmaus wasn’t far off. What had developed in his absence he wasn’t sure, but he held each of their gaze only for moment before looking down shyly, politely not wanting to give away any hint of what had passed. Even if they suspected…

"I'm sorry..." he gave a vague slash of his hand indicating back down the street somewhere whilst carefully avoiding eye contact. "What have we learned?" It was an deflection but, in all honesty, it was time nearing time for action.

After weathering their chidings the group brought Jie up to speed. Mr. Croup caught his attention most, and Nestor and now Gerhard's words echoed in his ears, "There is always a hierarchy..."

"Demons outwit and deceive common folk. Perhaps one walks among the people here." It was a wild presumption, and one that might not, or ever be revealed. Jie's mind spiralled and obsessed around this point. "Do the moth-demons obey another?" By all accounts, the Demonika Lepidoptera were mindless but voracious and Jie wondered, 'Was there a being that controlled them?'
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Old Nov 25th, 2020, 07:58 AM
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Morning, 19th of August, 1885.


And with a final regrouping and sharing of information night drew to a close for the five would-be saviors of Yellow Ledge. One by one they retire to the rooms provided for them on the third floor to recuperate after their long, uncomfortable carriage ride through the prairies of the Protectorate and reflect on what they were able to uncover.

Why did Henrietta and Rico suddenly disappear?

Where does Brahms' madness stem from? And why was he pulled out of the mine relatively unscathed?

Who is Mr. Croup and how is he connected to what's going on in Yellow Ledge?

What exactly happened in Mine Twelve and could their motley crew actually handle it or were they in way over their heads?

After the saloon had kicked everyone out and the town grew quiet, a lone figure emerged from Dead Man's Happiness. Jie quietly strolled through the town, going up one side of the street and then down the other. To an observer it seemed perhaps nothing more than a relaxing nighttime amble, though what they couldn't see was the tiefling's arcane senses extended outward in all directions. As he walked Jie was probing, searching for any signs of otherworldly presences. After a short time he found himself in front of the inn once more and headed back inside without an uttered word or visible reaction, and the town was still once more...



Morning came to the West and with it a small bustling of activity in Yellow Ledge, though not nearly as much as could be normally expected. Gone were the miners and the foreman, preparing for a hard day's manual labor. So too were many of the townsfolk that depended on Slatterbaugh's men for their business. Alcina and the general store seemed to remain closed. The barn that held the large, covered wagons to ferry the miners out to their quarry was shuttered. Even Gallteeth could not be found unless one shouted at the bar for some breakfast at least three times. The sun had only just begun to peek over the Eastern horizon, and it was early yet, but less than a dozen people could be counted shuffling across the town's single road, going about whatever shreds of business were left to them.

The morning held much of Summer's warmth, similar to yesterday and with a clear sky it should be quite a bit warmer come the nonnday sun. The moderate winds that yesterday could have blown hats off unsuspecting heads had diminished almost entirely, leaving the air still and calm with only the barest hints of breeze. As each member of Slatterbaugh's new band awoke they found themselves fairly well rested; despite the meager accommodations offered by Dead Man's Happiness it was much better than the back of a hot prison carriage. Smells of beer and sweat lingered from the crowds of the night before which may have helped to motivate the group to disembark from the establishment and head next door where Knuddelmaus was already waiting, leaning against a support beam with his characteristic air of indifference.

The smells at Stabledge may not have been much better, although perhaps some would prefer the odors of animals to the odors of "civilization". Manure and musk hung heavy in the air, as the building was mostly open to the outside. The whinnies and nickers of horses, and perhaps other beasts of burden, could be heard from the rear. The shopfront, if it could even be called that, consisted of an oblong space enclosed on three sides with a thatched roof and a hardpacked dirt floor. The roof was high, perhaps five meters, which gave off the forced perspective to any persons of "normal" height (see: Nao, Jie, and Dr. Ouzo) that they had shrunk. The feeling was exacerbated beyond the usual for Rhii, who refused to actually cross the threshold of the building and instead hovered just outside, though still within conversation distance. Gerhard was perhaps more comfortable than he'd been since arriving on this continent, everything seemed to be of a perfect height for him. A small forge and anvil was tucked into one corner of the space, the fireplace cold and the anvil raised up onto a dais that made it near impossible for anyone under eight feet tall to use it effectively. A set of smithing hammers hung neatly along the nearby wall, along with a few small stacks of horseshoes of varying sizes and a bucket of accompanying nails. Several cords of wood and barrels of coal formed a four foot high makeshift barrier where the front-facing wall normally would be, giving the smithing space a small sense of enclosure. The other side of the room showcased various pieces of tack; saddles, stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, bits, harnesses, martingales, and more. Everything had it's place and despite the sheer volume of equipment it was arranged in a way that felt neat and orderly, giving that half of the space a flow that lent itself to walk among the pieces of riding gear for browsing.

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A wide single door split the rear wall into equal halves, and the door itself was split horizontally. The top half was left open and latched to the wall while the bottom gate, still four feet in height by itself, could have been a small door all on its own. It didn't take long for a figure to emerge which immediately gave credit to the abnormal height throughout the place. The woman stood just shy of three meters and almost met Gerhard's eyeline. Her skin was light bronze and smooth and her black hair hung loose, unadorned with braid or tie and fell across her sloping back. She wore a flowing, pale yellow tunic that folded over itself in the front with a deep V that extended past her small bust, bordered with a black and white triangular pattern made from beads woven into the fabric. The sleeves ended at mid-forearm with stringy frills. Other than a thick choker, also made from woven beads, she seemed to wear no other clothing, jewelry, or equipment.

Nao, Jie, and Gerhard immediately recognized the centauress they had passed the previous evening, and she apparently recognized them as well with a small smile. "You are the ones the Baron brought to investigate the mine, are you not? My name is Kraith, I am pleased to meet you." Her face showed little emotion, though it seemed to emanate from a place of serenity rather than any kind of guarded or defensive nature. Likewise, her voice was quiet and calm, and though she seemed to come from the indigenous peoples of this continent she spoke English with technical propriety. "If you are here to acquire beings for mounted travel I can show you who I am caretaking currently?" She gently raised an arm and gestured for the group to follow her back to the stables proper. As she disappeared her voice could be heard through the open doorway, slightly muffled. "There are many that roam the West. Some were here before the Ala aʻe, some came after from far away lands."

The other side of the stables was similarly left open on the back side, which opened out onto the grassy patch of land that stretched Westward and enveloped the dormitories. There seemed to be no individual stalls or enclosures, all the creatures present were free to roam and sleep where they pleased. The group counted half a dozen horses of varying sizes and breeds along with one donkey, although their eyes may have been drawn to several other beasts who likewise were either laying about or ambling through the space freely.

The other that looked most mundane, relatively speaking, appeared to be a mountain goat. It had all the hallmarks one would expect; thick, white, fluffy hair that covered its entire body and hung off its face in a beard. Horns that curled back into a near enclosed circle. Large, black, cloven hooves. The one difference was this specimen was large. When standing at full height it looked Gerhard straight in the eyes, and it appeared stocky enough to bear his weight without issue.

Another could almost have been mistaken for a common dairy cow from behind. It certainly had bovine features, although when viewed from the front its forearms seemed more at place on the minotaur; they were incredibly muscular and appeared to have actual elbows and ended in hands with digits. If evolution had any meaning at all any more this beast could very well be described as the link between domesticated bovines and minotaurs like Knuddelmaus. Though smaller than the goat, the sheer amount of thick, packed tendons gave it a run for its money in terms of potential carrying capacity.

A deer-like creature caught Rhii's attention immediately, who had flitted around the building and hovered nearby in wonder. "This is a creature from the Fae, I'd recognize its coloring anywhere!" Gone was the telltale dryness that she had exhibited yesterday. Her voice now was filled with genuine excitement, though her attention was fully enraptured by the beast and she could easily have been simply speaking to herself, forgetting about her traveling companions. The Fae-deer was similar in size and shape, although true to the pixie's exclamation it seemed as if someone painted over it while on an intense, psychedelic high. Its fur was purple with light tan striations, and its turquoise mane hung long, disturbingly similar to human hair. Its "antlers", if they could even be called that, were flat and more closely resembled two broad leaves whose veins pulsed with internal neon lights. And once one got past all that they could see it was regarding the group with intelligence behind two sets of eyes. Rhii continued to mumble in an unfamiliar language to it for several minutes; in fact she appeared to be having some kind of conversation, though the deer didn't respond in any fashion the others could decipher.

The final pair of creatures were of one species, though what that species was clearly was not of this plane of existence. Part avian in nature, they resembled large reptilian ostriches. The learned among the group might even liken them to dinosaurs; the "terrible lizards" that scholars in London had begun to unearth and theorize about earlier this century. They had long feathers running down their backs and off their heads in bright orange colorations, and their scales were teal on the face and dulled as they ran down their sides and bellies to their legs. Two strange protrusions jutted up from their snouts, their purpose unclear. Their digitigrade legs and forelimbs each ended in two clawed digits. They peered at the newcomers with veiled apprehension, twitching their necks suddenly to keep their eyes on the strangers whenever they moved.

As each member of the group surveyed the creatures around them Kraith continued to speak softly. "Some of these beings may be more compatible with one of you than others, as your Yunwi Tsundi has found..." The centauress nodded in a show of deference towards Rhii. "...and they are all relatively docile, though please keep in mind you are in their home now. Treat them as you would any other host. I am not their master, I merely provide succor and sanctuary to the lost souls who find their way here."



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Map of Yellow Ledge

If you wish to interact with any of these creatures (including the horses) a COM (Animal Handling) test could reveal more about their disposition and potential willingness to partner with you as a mount. The TN would vary depending on which animal you approach. Kraith would also have more information if you ask her any specific questions but the post was already long enough, I didn't want to drown you in a sea of bestiary lore!

 


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Old Nov 28th, 2020, 07:39 PM
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Li Jie. Late Afternoon, 18th of August, 1885. Yellow Ledge, Western Protectorate.
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Li Jie
Before he went to bed, Jie found his now restless feet carry him in a quick loop down the main street. What had initially begun as a quiet moment to reflect on, and give thanks for his tremendous, good fortune in meeting Posey, became an investigation.

’Mr Croup… Mr Croup…’ the name wandered around in his head, poking his mind with needles. ’Was there something we missed? Some clue that the townsfolk gave that they didn’t interpret?’ As an instinct his demonsense initiated, a sense that he ordinarily used to find and track demons. He wondered if demons or evil ghosts were in the town right now? If only he could find some trace of the ‘hierarchy’ Nestor had spoken of.

Attuning his sight towards negative energy, he stalked about, his crazed eyes darting and looking from place to place, examining footprints and mundane items and structures on the street. Sometimes in the past he’d seen a trail of evil energy borne out in ‘fingerprints’ such as something a fiend had touched or passed over. But here there was no clear signal. He gave a disgruntled huff. There seemed to be a pall or haze over the town like a light film of corruption and uneasiness covering everything. It was disconcerting but inconclusive. He shrugged off the feeling, rather returning to pleasant feelings for Posey, before retiring for bed.



’Horns, feathers or hooves?’ Jie scratched his chin under his beard with consternation, which, like an echidna, bristled out becoming as wild as ever. He looked up at Kraith and then to each of the proffered steeds. The creatures were all so outlandish! The goat too large, although the horns kind of appealed; the bovine thing like a demon he might have tracked and fought; the deer garish to his eyes; the feathered bipeds flighty and nervous…

His eyes tracked to the horses. They were tall and graceful, like he’d dreamed of riding whilst travelling to the great American frontier. He approached one which looked like it might not trample him and offered a hand and some quiet mutters to see how it reacted. He then moved to the donkey and tried to pet it. He supposed, like Kraith implied, taking one of her mounts was like a partnership or an agreement. He wondered which would return his attentions.

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Old Dec 1st, 2020, 01:18 AM
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Ouzo, the Night BeforeThe updates from Nao and Gerhard were interesting and Ouzo listened intently, especially at the giant's thoughts on the others’ comments, nodding furiously. Why hadn't Ouzo thought of that before? But when their remaining companion joined them, the conman's numerous drinks made it impossible to not turn and holler.

"Jie! Lowered to wandering the streets to avoid your fate, eh?" Ouzo was fanning himself with a wad of papers while conspicuously holding his other hand out, extended from his person and his strained, artificial breeze, so as to not threaten the infantile embers of his smoke. He was wafting himself with the flyers and notices he'd accumulated from throughout town, few as they were given Yellow Ledge's size, but they made for the only makeshift fan in the growing heat. Better that the townsfolk got out and connected with one another directly anyways. The quaintness of small town life wasn't anything to be taken for granted, after all. "Don't think that being kidnapped is a sufficient excuse out of our rematch!" The pit-stained Spaniard clapped his empty cup onto the table and, without looking, held it up towards Gallteeth for yet another refill.

Ouzo, That Morning
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Wasn't it only the day before that his last hangover faded? Yet here it was again. It must have been Jie's fault. Ouzo followed along with the others towards the stables, saying little throughout the morning.

As they arrived, he glanced to Knuddelmaus, who was leaning casually by the doors, and muttered to the minotaur matter-of-factly, "You know I knew you were one of Slatterbaugh's when I first saw you at the bar." Then without waiting for a response, he took the last drag of his smoke and frantically wafted the smoke away from him, as if it weren't sunk deep into his hair and clothes. He almost flicked the the butt away before glancing to the stablemistress inside, then looked in one direction for a place to throw the butt, then in another, then at the butt, before begrudgingly tucking it into one of his inner pockets.

When Kraith met their group, Ouzo gave his best smile. "And I am named Ouzo; you will find me most cordial," the defamed doctor gave the better part of a theatrical bow, evidently pleased with himself and pausing only to glance at each of the others to see if they reacted to his pun, particularly Knuddelmaus. "Yellow Ledge is fortunate to enjoy your presence, as are we, Kraith of Stabledge. Though I hear you know of this place before this place was known as Yellow Ledge, yes? So many of us are transplants to the new world; I cannot imagine what it is to have the world transplanted around you." Ouzo studied her intensely for a moment, though if anything, he was most intrigued by the stillness that seemed to be her inner peace. Usually there was some sort of tell. Some sort of indulgence or taint or vice, but this one was so... so casually stoic. But then Ouzo snapped from his focus and continued, "I do not suppose, if you are so willing to share, if there are any stories of these caves, of the good Baron? Stories of this land before it was Yellow Ledge? Deeper understanding of these places can only help in solving their mysteries, no ni na?"

Later, as they were introduced to the various mounts available, Dr. Ouzo eyed the powerful bovine-like creature, walking on its knuckles as much as its hooves. A wispy grin cut across his face. "A stubborn-looking one, that. One might even say, stubborn as an o-" He looked in Knuddelmaus' direction then, deadpan as if abruptly interrupted, before returning to Kraith and her menagerie. "Well, certainly an independent, regardless. This nudillos, with the two horns and walks on the fists... what is called? The species as well as its name?" Ouzo found himself Ouzo rolls a 16 on COM/Animal Handling towards the bovine-mount!approaching slowly with his arms outstretched to his sides, as if to put openly on display. He'd never had a mount of his own before. Not like any infamous riders from the legends or bounties.

In truth, this one and the giant goat seemed like they had the most attitude, but this one made for the better joke at their newfound minotaur companion. Ouzo found himself drawn to that notion of stubbornness for some reason, though without any desire to tame or subdue. It was difficult to not find a kindred spirit in those most lost and ferociously independent.


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Old Dec 1st, 2020, 07:39 PM
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Stables
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Nao was impressed by the size of the stables, though when she saw Kraith again up close the reason was immediately obvious. She gave the stable mistress a smile, then blinked as the wording of Karith’s explanation of the mounts caught her attention. Caretaking? Lost souls? Were these more than mere animals or was that just Kraith’s belief system?

She opened her mouth to ask and found that Ouzo had again beat her to the questioning. She snorted quietly in amusement when he said he was cordial. She doubted Kuddlemaus would appreciate the Spaniard’s wit. Still, Ouzo had some pertinent queries so Nao was free to ask about the mounts specifically. She knew of horses but the fae deer and the feathered lizards were intriguing. ”Pardon, Stablemistress. Do you know how fast the deer and feathered lizards are in comparison to horses? How did they get there? How intelligent are they? Any idea how comfortable they would be to ride?” She almost added something along the lines of Karith being her own mount but thought better of it, as it could be taken for sexual innuendo. Nao felt that Kriath was a woman who deserved more respect.


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Old Dec 3rd, 2020, 07:02 AM
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Morning, 19th of August, 1885. Yellow Ledge, Western Protectorate - Gerhard Eisenhand
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ᚠᛟᚱ ᚦᛖ ᚠᛁᚱᛊᛏ proper nights sleep he had gotten in several days Gerhard was relatively well rested, though some minor kinks and aches from their passage to the town still lingered. The tell-tale perfume of drinking and packed, sweating bodies was strangely comforting to Gerhard despite the already baking sunshine pouring down on them.

"You are the ones the Baron brought to investigate the mine, are you not? My name is Kraith, I am pleased to meet you." The centauress was welcoming enough and perhaps on any other day might have been an eye-catching sight in and of herself. In the presence of her assorted beast of burden however, Gerhard's attention was very quickly drawn to the far more unusual of the creatures before him. Fae-deer, reptilian bird-like beasts, something very much resembling a bestial cousin of Knuddelmaus and a magnificent six-legged beast that seemed to be a cross between bear and goat.

It was rare for Gerhard to find anything comparable in size to himself, even in the days some twenty or so years hence since the world had been changed. That alone made the goat-creature intriguing to him, while it's sheer existence here in the middle of the desert prompted a number of questions to come to Gerhard's mind. He rounded on the beast with confidence and looked it right in the eye. With a gentle clicking of his tongue and an outstretched hand he made it clear he was in charge before stroking the creature's horn.

"Ja. You do very nicely."
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Old Dec 3rd, 2020, 07:44 AM
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Morning, 19th of August, 1885.
"And I am named Ouzo; you will find me most cordial... So many of us are transplants to the new world; I cannot imagine what it is to have the world transplanted around you... I do not suppose, if you are so willing to share, if there are any stories of these caves, of the good Baron? Stories of this land before it was Yellow Ledge? Deeper understanding of these places can only help in solving their mysteries, no ni na?"

Kraith nodded in passive reflection, looking at the land around her and either through ignorance or indifference seemed to take no notice of the subtle joke. When Ouzo met the minotaur's eyes for recognition the stoic, statue-like Knuddelmaus raised a single eyebrow, but gave no other acknowledgement. "Earth Mother is in a constant state of change. Try as we might to leave our mark, we are but instants in time. It is each of our duties to show respect to her and leave this existence at least having attempted to improve our environment and those we meet along our journey."

The centauress blinked the reverie from her eyes and spoke with a more deliberate voice. "But you asked for stories. Of Slatterbaugh I have none. I can only tell you that the times one of his men has treated me or my charges with disrespect Slatterbaugh has made amends. I judge him to be a fair and just leader of his tribe, if harsh. I have many stories of this land before it was called Yellow Ledge. My tota told me many, many tales before our tribe left for Nui ʻAkoakoa..." The centauress furrowed her brow and searched for the English equivalent for a moment. "The... great gathering of our tribes to the Northeast. I would be honored if you would hear one. Let me see..." Kraith found a spot nearby to tuck her legs underneath her body and assume a comfortable position. Some of the animals even gathered around, apparently familiar with this ritual. After thinking for a moment, she nodded. "Yes, there is one that is said took place in this land, even in the very cave you seek. I shall tell you the tale of The Peace With The Snakes..."

The Peace With The Snakes
 


The centauress spoke for many minutes. After she had finished Kraith let silence hang, eyes closed, for a full minute before speaking. "Most stories are tales of morality. It is up to each of us to determine a story's significance in our own lives, though I can tell you my interpretation is that peace is hard to establish and easy to shatter. In any case, I thank you for listening to my story. It is good to share the tales of my people, I had not had the opportunity to do so for some time."



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The dino-birds trilled oddly at Jie before he could get within arm's reach, signifying unease at his proximity. Conversely, the donkey barely registered his presence, allowing the petting hand without so much as a glance in his direction. Then he came upon a horse; a mare with distinctive coloring. Dark brown that faded into freckles over a white midsection with larger brown splotches at the rear. She seemed open to Jie's cautious, mumbling approach, and even sniffed at his hand when offered.

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"pronounced "show CHEAT".Xochitl seems to have taken a liking to you, pouli'ahe." Kraith moved up behind Jie with a small smile, letting him and the horse get acquainted. "She is an Appaloosian. When the Nez Perce were run out of their home, after the daimonio arrived, they did their best to convince their horse siblings to follow them to Nui ʻAkoakoa. Most abided, but some were either lost or left of their own accord. Xochitl is one of the latter. She has a wanderer's spirit and the heart of a filly. I am not surprised she has shown interest in a foreign adventure seeker, you can show her many interesting journeys."



"Pardon, Stablemistress. Do you know how fast the deer and feathered lizards are in comparison to horses? How did they get there? How intelligent are they? Any idea how comfortable they would be to ride?"


Kraith's mouth widened in another small smile. "You have many questions, sister. The colorful deer is indeed from a land outside our own, perhaps she is a child of this "Fae" as your Yunwi Tsundi claims. I regret I have not seen her running at full speed; that one's emotions run deep and do not ripple the surface, as some have said about me."

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When Nao approached the Fae deer and attempted an interaction Rhii turned her head from the 'conversation' she was having and gave a snort. "She says don't even think about it. This one isn't for riding." The pixie quickly whipped her head back to the deer and gave a wordless expression, as if she was being admonished. "Alright... Alright! Nao... she said it's through no fault of your own, she just doesn't prefer to let people ride her. And she said it... nicer... than I did."

With a lingering gaze on the pixie and her interactions with the deer, Kraith moved on to the dino-birds that Nao had also asked about. "Ahh, these are tükahui, at least I have taken to calling them such and they seem to tolerate the term. The male responds to Apai and the female Dootí. These two are full-blooded daimonio, straight from the bridge that brought all the other ones. Why they left their tribe and sought refuge here with me I do not know, but they seem quite reluctant to return over the mountains. Their fastest run is quicker than that of a horse, though they have less stamina."

They each trilled at the yokai hunter's approach, similar to when Jie got close. Not violent, but apprehensive to be sure. "I am not surprised, they do not seem to want to take to any riders. Perhaps they were mistreated by their former... masters?" The word leaves Kraith's mouth with distaste. "You are welcome to try, if you wish? Though they might be... uncooperative."

Just then Nao felt a tug on her shoulder, slight at first then another, more insistent yank. Turning she found a tan-colored horse with a light mane, a piece of her shoulder armor held in between its teeth. The centauress' smile returned, even expanding to show teeth this time. "Well... Jamul seems to have taken a shine to you. He came to me not long ago from further East in the Protectorate. I think his former rider may have been a careless vagabond of sorts and Jamul found them... unworthy? Jamul showed up with his tack half hanging off his back and spatters of blood across one of his flanks. He seems no worse for wear, though. A fine companion with a strong spirit."



When Dr. Ouzo approached the bovine with fully opposable thumbs Kraith seemed hesitant to let him get close, then donned a curious look as the beast seemed amenable to the spaniard, if not quite as openly friendly as Xochitl or Jamul. "Interesting..."

"This nudillos, with the two horns and walks on the fists... what is called? The species as well as its name?"

"Nudillos... hmmm... that is appropriate." The amused hum seemed to be Kraith's version of a laugh. "And independent, yes. This one is... a mixed breed. There is daimon blood in him, but whether he was born this way or assumed the transformation later in life I do not know. He has no name that I can discern and he... resists my attempts at understanding him." Kraith clopped over to a nearby basket and pulled out an apple, handing it to Ouzo. "Please, if you would do me a favor?"

left-aligned image
The bull-demon took an indecisive step towards Ouzo. Then another. And another. Each one was tentative and not straight-on, but before he knew it the beast lurched forward with lightning speed, closing the remaining distance and snatching the apple in its jaws with deadly precision. Its horns nearly took the man's head off, but either he was incredibly lucky or the beast deliberately avoided injuring Ouzo.

The stablemistress watched the exchange with a calculating gaze, perhaps the most emotive she had been thus far. "Interesting indeed... Tell me, Ouzo, do you intend to bring this "Nudillos" to your business at the mine? If so, then perhaps I have a proposition for you... for all of you." She looks around to the others, including them in the conversation before landing on the doctor once more. "This being found its way here, into my stead, looking for refuge. Of that I have no doubt. Whether it was in danger or it was simply lost, I do not know. However, its presence has been a constant disturbance to the others here. Should you return in good health and should the two of you get along, I would ask you take this one with you when you leave Yellow Ledge. It is a... unique responsibility, I know, but I think it would be better for all those here, perhaps even yourself included." She finished with a questioning glance at Dr. Ouzo, adding after a silence, "I would even allow your companions to make permanent the relationships they have chosen, should they wish to do so."



Once the companions had introduced themselves to the creatures that would bear them further West this day Kraith looked them over and nodded. "I would be happy to loan all the tack and riding equipment you will need for This is purely narrative, and requires no Resource test.a deposit, I would just ask you return it in serviceable condition. Should any of you wish to invite your new acquaintances with you on a more permanent basis there will be This would entail a TN7 (Routine) Resources test using 3d6 + your Resources score.
Per the rules, anyone with a Resources score of 3 or higher would automatically pass without needing to attempt the test.
a small fee to purchase the equipment. If Ouzo agrees to my proposition and takes Nudillos away from here, then the rest of you are welcome to your new friends as well. If not..."
The centauress gets slightly uncomfortable as her back legs twitch and clop in place. "I am afraid I will have to ask for additional payment for them. I do require the currency of the day to survive, after all." You get the distinct sense Kraith would be a poor businesswoman if she depended on commissions. She quickly changes the subject, relieved to dwell on the petition no longer. "Please let me know if you require assistance preparing your mounts, or if you have any further questions. Perhaps another story?"


OOC
Map of Yellow Ledge

Dr. Ouzo uses the stunt "Read the Room": Kraith's Attitude is revealed to be No modifier to Social testsNeutral (11)!
Dr. Ouzo uses the stunt "Let's Make a Deal"!
The group's successful Animal Handling checks have raised Kraith's Attitude to +1 to all Social testsOpen (12)!


Lore Entries Unlocked

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Old Dec 3rd, 2020, 09:26 PM
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Morning, 19th of August, 1885. Yellow Ledge, Western Protectorate - Gerhard Eisenhand
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ᛗᛖᛁᚲᛜ a show of getting to know the goat-bear and raking his fingers through it's thick white fur, Gerhard took the time to listen to the centauress' story. Having lived through times when peace was indeed easily shattered, Kraith's interpretation of the tale struck a bittersweet and familiar chord in him. For the briefest of moments Gerhard's thoughts turned once again to his homeland, and to the companions he had left behind there. Though the times were less prone to turmoil than they had been during his younger years, a part of Ragnar gnawed at the worry that some disaster on the borders with him stuck in this land of endless sun and sand. His reverie was broken by sight of Ouzo's head narrowly escaping removal by the excited bull-demon creature. With a smirk, he called out to the 'good doctor'.

"Yours looks fairly large Doktor. " Gerhard let the comment hang for a moment before continuing with a smirk."Mine's bigger though. Perhaps that is best. You don't seem to control what you have already anyhow!" Gerhard laughed raucously at his own comment before giving the goat-bear's horn another rub and taking a closer look at the menagerie around him. Of the mounts that appeared even moderately responsive to their actions, only his own and Ouzo's seemed liable to be able to protect themselves or their riders. 'Without knowing how the mine is, there is no guarantee we can rely on them there... Gerhard's thoughts were, as ever, considering possible eventualities and how circumstance could be leveraged. Right before him was a potential answer to his concerns about their own numbers and the possible number demons they might find in the mines. Giving a final scratching of the hair on the bear-goats neck and a parting murmur, Gerhard strode over to Kraith with a thoughtful look on his face.

"Fair Kraith, think I have a proposal you like." Gerhard indicated Ouzo with a nodding gesture of his head and continued. "That one is... sly. He too clever for his, or anyone else, good. Resources: 6Wat zeg je to my paying for everyone equipment? Baron already struck deal met mig, so if you trust hem you can trust me I think. " Gerhard reached up with one hand to stroke at his beard as though the idea were only just coming to him. "Derfor! I have idea. How about deal? I pay you extra for the... the... what you call them. " There was a pause as Gerhard recalled the word he had heard her use for the reptile-birds earlier. "Those Apai and Dootí. I am curious to know if can be trained; I pay either way but, if I can train I keep, if cannot I return safely to you. I think works well for both of us, ja?"

Gerhard looked at the two creatures and spoke once again with a open expression on his face. "You have word, I won't train to be ridden." Looking back at Kraith, his tone changed to a more matter of fact tone. "Regardless of that, I do wonder about the goat-bear schepsel. It seems better suited to cold weather than this desert, and what is it called?" Gerhard was trying to keep his curiosity in check, but the large creature was deeply intriguing to him. It seemed more suited to his homeland, or even lands further north. If it was a singular or a member of some new species, knowing more about it could open up some possibilities for his return to Tyskland.

On his way over to Ouzo and the horned demon-bull, he stopped by the cache Kraith had plucked an apple from and withdrew three more. One he stowed away in a pocket and held the remaining two in his large hand, one amongst his fingers and the other in his palm. With a wry look on his face and an easy air, Gerhard strode up to Ouzo and brushed past him gently, his empty hand extended slightly with the palm up and the apples in his other hand visible but held back closer to his body.

"
Dice COM (Animal Handling) w/ Apple (+1):
3d6+3 (4, 2, 2)+3 Total = 11
Hej der store fyr, vil du have et andet æble?"
He spoke with gentle voice, entirely in what seemed to be his native tongue rather than English. If he could get the beast to at the very least be bribed to be more calm the same technique could work on the reptile-birds. Gerhard had no idea how the creature would react, but hopefully through some combination of his own size and and the apple it might show some interest. Afterwards, he could only crouch down near the lizard-birds and extent one large hand gently.
Dice COM (Animal Handling):
3d6+2 (4, 2, 2)+2 Total = 10
Whether that would be enough to earn their attention or not was truly a mystery to him.
OOC- Tame the Beast Att. #1: I have an apple, would you like the apple? Come and take the apple... Maybe where there is one, there is more...

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Old Dec 7th, 2020, 07:59 AM
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Li Jie. Late Afternoon, 18th of August, 1885. Yellow Ledge, Western Protectorate.
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Li Jie
Jie knew but didn’t always ‘get’ Ouzo’s wit although he always good-naturedly went along. The joke might be on him at times, but he was glad. To have found a constant friend, no matter how wayward, was a blessing in this strange and dangerous land. One thing he insisted upon though, was sobriety, until after this affair with the mine and its unwelcome inhabitants. This way he felt better equipped to complete the task. The power of the woman who’d taken him was overpowering and now his promise was his life. She held his thoughts constantly and the others could see it.

Kraith spoke philosophy like a scholar. Her comments were deep and insightful and Jie instantly snapped his complete attention upon her. Everyone in his path might teach him something. He felt like a blank page upon which the coarse ink of this place might etch a fable. She echoed his thoughts as if in earnest response, ’…improve our environment and those we meet along our journey.’ His eyes lit up in fascination as she reclined and began her tale.

He sat on the dirt and straw, listening attentively to the tale and making comparisons to similar stories from his culture. It’s simplicity and moral struck him; he’d love to spend more time listening to the centaur. He always reflected on how strange life was now. The woman, part horse; him, part demon, conversing of traditional lore of times past. Times that were now ruptured. Surely things weren’t the same… but then, weren’t these themes universal and enduring? No matter what had changed, people’s hearts were still at the centre of motive and compulsion. Like Posey and himself. Passion and seeking another of the same heart. Like the demons and himself. The evil of the world and those resisting it, seeking peace and order. He mused upon these concepts for a time after the tale was complete.

"Thank you, Kraith. My people, far away, seek answers to eternal questions through tales of… great chiefs… their stories told parent to child over generations. Like your tale of the Piegan and the Snakes. I agree, peace is hard to create and easy to destroy." ’Although I fear the demons will not ever be our allies…’ he thought to himself cynically. "When we return from the mines I would like to tell you a story of my people… if you would like that..?" His natural doubt returned after the words flitted from his mouth. Most wouldn’t find philosophy and fables in his eyes; rather they saw madness and anguish while Jie saw fear reflected. Perhaps it was easier with beasts.

’Showcheat seems to have taken a liking to you, pouli'ahe.’

Jie knew she was speaking in a language he didn’t know but the sentiment of what he heard stuck to him. "Showcheat." As if the horse had cheated to win a race. ’Smart and cunning. Yes… That what the beast seemed. I’ll ride and protect her. "Thank you twice." Jie indicated the horse with pointing lips before beaming at the centaur. "I’ll make sure she is safe."
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Old Dec 8th, 2020, 01:08 AM
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Ouzo, Before and After the Peace With the SnakesAs Kraith delved into her story, Ouzo grinned. "There it is. No hunger for vice like the rest of us but a desire all the same." Something clicked. Her desire was perhaps as basic as any vice - the desire to be witnessed. To be heard. Deducing this, he was comfortable enough to listen to her story genuinely. Though given its length, his hangover, and no (clean) place to sit, he spent the time shifting his weight back and forth between hips before finding something else to fidget with: a long piece of hay, held between pointer and middle fingers, but flicking at it with his thumb. By the end of the story, it'd been snapped into countless tiny hay-bits and scattered to the barn floor.

When Kraith offered that the story was open-ended in its morals, Ouzo started in to make a joke about some of its events, but then Jie thanked the stablemistress. The thanks was particularly heartfelt and eloquent so Ouzo decided to keep his mouth shut and nod earnestly alongside Jie's words. Strange. His friend didn't seem to share in Ouzo's hangover. Did he have some sort of secret herbal blend to counteract it? The occult investigator was always full of such clever wisdoms and charms. No... now that Ouzo thought about it, Jie didn't drink as heavily as him the night before. Not into the early hours. Then... who was Ouzo drinking with all night?

Ouzo and the Nudillos
right-aligned image
When Kraith gave him the apple, intended to test his own mortality and the devil-cow's disposition alike, Ouzo barely moved a muscle before the beast approached. It pounced on the small fruit and nearly decapitated the fell doctor. He remained there, frozen in place with his arm outstretched and a look of resigned terror dilating his face. "Si. Yes. I think... I think that all should be... yes." Was all he said in answer to Kraith's offers, meekly.

His expression changed only slightly when Gerhard stepped forward and failed in offering more apples, and the Nudillos' razor-sharp horns whipped past Ouzo's face once more - his brow remained raised as the terror shifted into a thought-provoked calculation. His grin returned. "Es y esta, Gerhard - it seems however gallant, Nuds knows when your apples are bad," the delivery of the "bad apple" joke was botched in translation, but to be fair, he was distracted by trying to appear calm after nearly dying. Twice. From watching a cow have a snack, of all things.

No need to tame such a beast. Not in the traditional sense, anyways. A pang of seriousness came over Ouzo as he placed a hand on the devil-cow, still within arms' (and horns') reach, and then "Te conozco. Más que extraños, fugitivo y tocado por demonios..."whispered something.

He quickly discarded the thought and looked away, only to spot something strange on the ground. Dark and solid, like rock, but pure black. The Spaniard knelt down to investigate. There were multiple of them, in several places peeking out from the straw. Minerals? "Say, Gerhard, you are familiar with the hammer and the forge, no? Are these mining towns so rich in mineral that the hooved beasts here can merely kick at the earth and turn up ore? What sort of pistol or blade are smelted from the rock under a building? It would seem that... oh. Ahm, I... oh. Nevermind." Realizing his error, he took a step backwards as if he could distance himself from the very ground, his attention fully occupied by it.

Ouzo frowned.


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Old Dec 8th, 2020, 08:05 PM
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Stables
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Nao listened with rapt attention as Karith recounted her story of the Piegans and Snakes. She had the cadence and rhythm of a storyteller and Nao could practically imagine the scenes. She sighed happily when the story came to an end and chuckled softly at the centaur’s comment of morality. Nao happened to agree. Peace was fragile and took a whole lot of work. A bittersweet look stole over the shapeshifter’s face. I’d do the work gratefully if I had a tribe to belong to. But for now I have a job, and that will have to be enough.

Luckily, the Stablemistress seemed amused by Nao’s questions rather than annoyed and dutifully showed her around to the various creatures. Nao’s eyebrows rose when Rhii told her the deer would not be ridden but she did not take offense. Her mouth curved up in a lopsided smile and she addressed both the Fairy and the Deer. ”My apologies, I was more curious than anything. I am glad you have found something of your home, Rhii. And I will of course respect your wishes, good creature. I shall leave you two to your conversation.”

She had the same reaction to the dino-birds and informed Kraith, ”I do not wish to force any creature. I know what it is to have control and choice taken from me.” She stopped and blinked, considering something the Centuar had said. ”Bridge? Other ones? Are you speaking of the event that changed our world? What do you know of it?”

She was interrupted in her excited queries by a yank from behind and turned to find a beautiful Palamino horse trying to get her attention. ”Jamul, are you? How could someone mistreat such a handsome Prince as you? Hai, we could work together very well.” She stroked the horse’s nose and patted the side of his neck. She returned Kraith’s smile with a wide one of her own. ”I am familiar with horses. My family owned several. I shall not need any assistance but I would love to take Jamul as my traveling partner. I have missed having a trusted mount in these weird, wild West Lands. Many thanks Stablemistress.” Nao gave Kriath a bow of respect. ”And if my companions are willing to tarry a little while longer, it would give me great pleasure to listen to another of your stories. I am something of a collector of stories.”


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Old Dec 8th, 2020, 08:49 PM
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Morning, 19th of August, 1885.
right-aligned image
"Thank you twice." Jie indicated the horse with pointing lips before beaming at the centaur. "I’ll make sure she is safe."

Kraith met Jie's eyes, staring directly into them. Reading him. She didn't show fear or surprise at the wild, untamed soul of the prospector-turned-demon hunter. Rather, she seemed to simply accept what was there. Perhaps she was used to communing with wild animals and there was a parallel with Li Jie. Regardless of the reason she calmly nodded her head, half bowing and half acquiescing. "Yes, I believe you will. I would be honored and fascinated to hear a tale of your own in exchange. It is not often stories of old make their way across the oceans. May you return safe and successful out of the danger you seek."



left-aligned image
"Hej der store fyr, vil du have et andet æble?" He spoke with gentle voice, entirely in what seemed to be his native tongue rather than English. If he could get the beast to at the very least be bribed to be more calm the same technique could work on the reptile-birds. Gerhard had no idea how the creature would react, but hopefully through some combination of his own size and and the apple it might show some interest.


The bull-demon swung its head in Gerhard's direction, continuing to lazily chew the last remains of the apple or taken from?offered by the Spaniard. He simply stared and, after a final swallow, let loose a nonchalant belch in the jötunn's general direction before taking a few sluggish steps around Ouzo, putting the doctor in between Gerhard and Nudillos. And when Ouzo spoke to him the beast shuffled and issued a small grunt, responding to Ouzo's touch and his voice. The first impression it made was of an animal, with an animal's self-awareness. It certainly didn't show any obvious signs of demonic aggression or minotaur-like intelligence.

Afterwards, when the doctor examined and then immediately and vocally regretted his examination of the “mineral deposits” a single, solitary yet solid hoof stomp could be heard throughout the stables. If one was perceptive enough they may have caught a small plume of dust settling near Knuddelmaus’ left leg. His face, however, was staring off into the horizon, seemingly not paying attention to the goings on in the immediate vicinity...



"I do wonder about the goat-bear schepsel. It seems better suited to cold weather than this desert, and what is it called?"


left-aligned image
The stablemistress looked up at the large beast while speaking to Gerhard. "My people call this animal tatokala, however I believe the English would label it as a mountain goat. Then, the beasts that have undergone such drastic transformations in the wake of the loli nui gain the title of "dire". So the 'dire mountain goat' would be known as tatokala weliweli in my language."

"Derfor! I have idea. How about deal? I pay you extra for the... the... what you call them. " There was a pause as Gerhard recalled the word he had heard her use for the reptile-birds earlier. "Those Apai and Dootí. I am curious to know if can be trained; I pay either way but, if I can train I keep, if cannot I return safely to you. I think works well for both of us, ja?"

right-aligned image
Kraith looked over the coinage the runenkrafter offered, her eyes widening slightly. "Well, affording them does not seem to be an issue. Let us see how they respond to your presence?" When Gerhard knelt and extended a hand the tükahui recoiled, shrinking their necks and trilling for a third time. The centauress watched the reaction with her usual serenity. "They do not seem to regard you as a threat. Nor are they particularly comfortable in your presence. With understanding, attention, and time that could change. If you are truly committed to their well-being I would part with them for your asking price, however I would ask you leave them here until your business at the mine is finished. Putting them into potential danger before they have accepted you would put undue strain on the relationship and would not end well for anyone, I fear."



”Bridge? Other ones? Are you speaking of the event that changed our world? What do you know of it?”

Kraith closed her eyes in a half-nod. "Indeed. The loli nui, or 'Great Change', that formed the bridge and brought the daimonio, among others apparently." She inclined her heard towards Rhii and the fae deer. "I was but an unborn child in my mother's womb at the time. When the Change took me and gifted me with this form, it also took my mother's life. Unable to withstand the shape I had taken, she died. It was truly a blessing that I was able to be saved, although my father..." A look of sadness passes over her, though not one filled with regret. "When my people made the decision to join Nui ʻAkoakoa I stayed, of my own choice. They did not mistreat me, but the connection I felt to this place, this land right here, was stronger than that of the tribe. I was still quite young at the time, my tota and I spent many long nights arguing about the choice, but in the end she stayed with me until her passing three years ago." If anyone moved or spoke with sympathy she gently held up a hand, waving them off. "It was a long time ago. Perhaps when you return I shall tell you one of the stories my tota told me of the daimonio's arrival. I could spend many hours speaking tales, and time is a commodity for you if you are to save the entire town before nightfall, yes?" Her small smile suggested she thought she had made quite the joke.

Late Morning, 19th of August, 1885.After assisting with the preparations; fitting each mount with the proper tack, ensuring they had their fill of water and feed, and supplying the group with one day's worth of food for each animal, Kraith bid them farewell. The mid-morning sun was already beating on their backs, warming them as the group headed West. They made for an odd-shaped caravan; the giant Gerhard on a similarly giant mountain goat completely dwarfing the 'normal' sized Jie, Ouzo, and Nao on their 'normal' sized mounts. And Rhii, all but imperceptible until you were nearly upon them and could spot the flitting fae moving between them, perching on this mount or that one.

Your mounts made short work of the trip, each one accepting and even perhaps forming the beginnings of a bond with their rider in what seemed to be a unanimous agreement of the group and their combined character. Horses, dire mountain goat, and even bull-demon responded to voices, pats, scritches, treats, and any other form of affection or guidance with eager gratitude. Surprisingly (or perhaps not), Knuddelmaus ended up eschewing a mount of his own. His hooved feet and athletic build allowed him to keep up at a trot with seemingly little effort expended.

left-aligned image
The ride out to mine twelve was uneventful and relatively short. A well-worn set of wagon wheel ruts led away from the dormitories and the landscape stretched outward in all directions; mostly flat scrub prairies with the occasional rolling hillock and the ever-present Rocky Mountains looming on the horizon. The dry dirt was broken up by scattered patches of hardy grasses, stout bushes, trees, and the odd cactus, a few of which still clung to late blooms of the yellow flowers you witnessed upon your arrival yesterday.
right-aligned image
Shortly after Yellow Ledge had disappeared from view behind you, Rhii asked the group to come to a halt. She moved a few dozen meters away where six or seven cacti clumped together. She moved from one to the other, studying the yellow flowers. Every so often she would grab a bloom with both hands and, using her whole body and a flurry of wingbeats, pluck it from its host cactus. Rhii succeeds on a TN9 INT (Medicine) check!The whole process took close to thirty minutes, but by the time she returned the fae seemed quite pleased with herself. "What? I, uh, depleted my medicine bag while Ouzo and I were examining the sick giant." She spared a quick menacing glance towards the doctor, silently warning him off clarifying any further. "But I think these flowers actually might be a 2 Stunt Points used on Jury Rig to replace Rhii's expended medicine bag!passable substitute! In the hands of an expert like myself, of course."

As the morning wore on the warmth turned into heat and a sheen of sweat settled on your skin underneath your clothing. For the most part the scenery was still and quiet, though the perceptive among the group might have heard the odd insect clicking or possibly even seen actual wildlife; a lizard basking in the sun here or a hawk circling overhead there. It took Closer to one if you didn't include Rhii's side trip.less than two hours to reach the ravine that held the mine’s entrance. The ravine ran roughly Northeast to Southwest; as you approached you could see it was over fifteen meters wide at your current position with a rocky cliff face that dropped several dozen meters down at a near-vertical angle. The bottom may have once been a riverbed, but was now dry and scattered with rocks ranging from small pebbles to large person-sized boulders. The wagon tracks turned right and ran alongside the canyon for another ten minutes while it shallowed out until the tracks turned sharply into the canyon and back in the direction you came, now enclosed by its rising walls.

right-aligned image
A small campsite emerged from around the bend, followed shortly by what could only be the entrance to the mine. The camp was deserted at first glance; the firepit sat cold, a number of bedrolls lay around it, several travel packs appeared to have been opened, their belongings scattered across the space. Rails emerged from the mine and curved away from you, further down the canyon a short ways where they stopped next to a large pile of rubble mounded up against the cliff face.

The mouth to mine twelve was about five meters wide and three meters tall; too low for a jötunn like Gerhard to enter without ducking and while the shaft seemed to broaden past the framed wooden beams that mark the entrance, it looked like he'd have to watch his head while inside. Less than a dozen meters in the group could just make out an overturned mine cart and a fork in the rails, one section continued straight ahead and the other branched to the left. Beyond that the tunnel quickly faded into darkness. Rhii hovered at the entrance, peering in. "Sure looks dark in there. I bet none of you giants brought any light with you, did you? Lucky for everyone I can summon a few fairy lights. If you ask nicely." She glanced back over her shoulder at the group with a smug smirk, suggesting she was only half kidding. She held the look, however, insinuating that perhaps she did want to hear someone utter the words before she drew on her arcane abilities.

All seemed quiet at the mine's entrance. At present, anyway...


OOC
Map of Yellow Ledge

@Oghain If Gerhard chooses to purchase the dino-birds his Resources roll was definitely successful, and in this instance his Resources score would not drop from the purchase. However, due to his failed Animal Handling roll he wouldn't be able to use them effectively at the mine, since at present they don't really "like" him. Training would entail at least two advanced tests (pg 121), each one consisting of multiple rolls. The whole process would cover days or even weeks of behavior modification during downtime, and almost certainly additional purchases for shelter and equipment, but if he wants some trained war beasts that could certainly be the end result!

@everyone this post encompasses a couple hours of travel time, I shot us forward right up to the beginning of this adventure's final act! YAY! If anyone wants to do anything during the trip that's more involved than a narrative summary (skill checks, side conversations, etc...) please feel free to do so.

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Last edited by MoldyNolds; Dec 16th, 2020 at 12:33 PM.
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  #103  
Old Dec 11th, 2020, 02:36 PM
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Li Jie. Late Afternoon, 18th of August, 1885. Yellow Ledge, Western Protectorate.
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Jie bowed his gratitude and respect to Kraith. There was a promise in his eyes of a tale in exchange if they returned safely from the mine. Jie was finding more and more interesting folk every day and fostered a hope to surround himself with them in the future and learn what he might. His thoughts shifted briefly to Nestor and the “Groveland Academy of Spell Studies”. Perhaps he might study in the future..?

With that in mind, Jie paid close attention to how Kraith fitted the saddle to Showcheat, murmuring queries as he sought to understand better the use of tack and bridle. Afterward he clumsily hoisted himself up on high as the horse skittered cautious circles with Jie calling "āi yā!" nervously. With Kraith’s help they managed to calm the mount and Jie bent to look sidelong in its eye. Showcheat returned his look with one that said, "I can’t promise I’ll go easy on you…" Jie had thought horses dumb animals before witnessing that mirthful look. The horse then shook its head and mane and trotted proudly out into the hot sun with its new cargo.

Jie enjoyed the motion and movement and being on their way to their important destination. He smiled as Rhii worked hard to replenish her medicine, considering if he’d dismount and help pluck for her but he was too worried about getting back up into the high saddle again. By her own account the mogwai knew what she was doing so he left off.

Descending into the ravine Jie couldn’t help but think of similarities between here and the goldfields in Australia. It was dry and harsh, the soft ancient earth crumbling under the impact of the climate. They’d mined silver here before and the prospector in Jie envisaged his kin here toiling away to make their fortune. Things had changed now though, and people made their fortunes mining Hellstone; a much more involved and specialist operation. Jie would learn as much as he could about it.

He dismounted and was grateful for Showcheat’s steady calm during the process. Stooping to check the camp, he drew his dao and used the point to move some of the belongings about until, assured of nothing directly harmful, he took a knee and jumbled through some of the items. He knew they’d been discarded in a hurry but wondered whether they’d been left sloppily opened or had been opened since the attack. He searched for other signs or factors that might better prepare them for the coming confrontation.

Down on one knee he was inspecting a discarded canteen with an insignia when he noticed a movement from under the nearest pack. Like lightning, a rattlesnake that had been warming itself in the warm burlap, darted out and sunk its fangs into Jie's forearm. It all happened too fast for him to react to and he dropped his dao with jingling rings and crab-walked backwards out of range. He brought his arm up to inspect the two neat puncture marks. Instinctively he sucked at the wound and spat on the ground. He gave Rhii and the others a worried look, waiting for the venom to affect him!
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  #104  
Old Dec 15th, 2020, 03:04 AM
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Ouzo, the Ride Out
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The turn of events that lead Dr. Ouzo to ride a demon-cow towards a demon-infested mine alongside companions that included demon-kin would have been strange, if his life up to that point had any real sense of normalcy to begin with. At least this chapter in his life was somewhat themed.

Still, he tried to enjoy their journey to the mines all the same. It was easy enough, considering that he rarely shared anything more than information and drinks with Jie. If nothing else, the ride together seemed to make real that they were in this mess of an adventure together. Gerhard, Nao, Rhii, and even Knuddelmas seemed capable enough, and certainly not boring (at least if Ouzo could help it, on the latter's part). He offered the minotaur a ride atop Nudillos at least once, if only so as to not leave him feeling left out, though the baron's agent showed himself to be a competent traveler on his own.

Riding atop Nudillos wasn't entirely unlike riding atop a horse, though the cow's excitement to run free outside of a pen lent it to long strides. Combined with the noticeable size differences between its arms and legs, most of Ouzo's attention was given to clinging onto the beast as opposed to appreciating the wind or the passing landscape. Smoking was similarly difficult, though not impossible.

Ouzo, at the CampsiteThe campsite seemed to be vulnerable to anyone approaching from the ravine's edge, as if giving clear shots to anyone sleeping below. But given the sparse population in this area, and widespread news of the demon attacks, it seemed likely that no one would come near the place.

Ouzo hopped off from Nudillos and gave him a pat, signalling comfort and pause, and set off to join Jie in looking through the campsite. But when a snake pounced on poor Jie, Ouzo's first instinct was to backpedal. Where the investigator drew a blade, the fell doctor merely stripped his coat off his shoulders and wielded it like a net, scanning for the snake's whereabouts. ”Jie! Friend Jie! Are you dying? Are you experiencing hallucinations? Madness?" He called to Jie, though he didn't dare go to him, with his nervous glances at possible snake hiding spots throughout the campsite growing more frantic. "Miss Rhii! Jie's been bitten. A snake. Your flowers, your magicks, anything to help?" He asked without looking away from each crevasse and shadow, much less from the ground just underfoot, ready to fling his jacket and leap back atop Nudillos.

Later, once the scene had calmed, Ouzo returned to the business of poking through the campsite for any clues. "Mierda... Who puts a mine out here in the middle of nowhere anyways? At least the snakes in the city have manners. And smiles. ... Odio el desierto, he muttered, continuing to hold his jacket out from him. Any satchels he flipped open or sleeping bags unfurled were done so with the toe of his boot, careful to keep as much distance from everything. Snakes and demons moths and who knows what other hell fauna could still be out there...

Ouzo, Entering the Mines"Two paths into the mines. We know the route to their newest digging site and place of the attack would have us turn right, no? A little side tunnel just before it curves back south. If such directions even exist that far underground..." He leaned to try and to peer deeper into the darkness, though it may as well have been just for show, to punctuate the challenge of navigating inside. "Do we think there is any value in one of our ever-so-strapping companions to turn the mine cart back to its feet? " Ouzo looked to the others for input, thinking out loud.

When Rhii chimed in about magical lights, Ouzo offered, "These fairy lights... can you cast them far from your person, miss Rhii? Remember, si, what was said about demon moths, and their draw to such light in the darkness."


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  #105  
Old Dec 15th, 2020, 07:32 PM
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Journy to the Mines
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Listening to Kraith explain her birth and transformation gave Nao very mixed feelings. Their stories were similar and also different. Nao wished she had had a choice of whether to go or stay with her family, but they had made it for her. She took a deep breath and straightened, thanking the stable mistress and taking her cue from the Centaur’s attitude. She snorted in amusement at Kraith’s “joke” and promised to be back to hear more stories.

Saddling Jamul also brought back memories of happier times before her change. She still remembered how to do it, and it seemed Jamul approved because he didn’t even try the usual tricks she remembered her family’s horses playing. He was extremely responsive to her commands as well, and after a while she relaxed enough to enjoy the ride, watching the scenery and also keeping an eye out for unexpected trouble. She was amused both by Kuddlemaus not needing a mount, and Ouzo’s continued attempts to elicit a reaction from the minotaur. When Rhii stopped for flowers, Nao was a little impatient but when she learned it was for restocking the fae’s medicine, she was glad she hadn’t complained. What was a healer going to do without supplies? she thought, slightly alarmed. Better try not to get injured, if at all possible.

Nao later wished she hadn’t tempted fate with that thought as one of the first things to happen upon reaching the campsite was that Jie got bitten by a snake. While she was worried for the amiable Chinaman, she couldn’t really help him aside from looking around the rest of the camp to make sure no other snakes were hiding. She found Ouzo’s reaction both amusing and endearing. So the smooth talking Spaniard is afraid of snakes? Makes him more human somehow.


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