The next morning is rather straightforward: You awaken, you remember yesterday, you feel like crap. This doesn’t really make for a great morning, but it is what you’re left with. Your companions fare about the same, all shuffling about in their night clothing, apparently too concerned with their own thoughts to remember you’re in the room until Ophelia, who has yet to learn her lesson, looks at you and breathes out, “Oh Gods damnit.”
You give them some privacy and order some breakfast, simple fare for the part of town, and the gruff innkeeper moves to serve you. As she turns to enter the kitchen, she stops and turns to you, giving you an odd look. You cock your head and ask, “Uh… can I help you?”
“No, not really. Just wondering what you did to that poor Fullvora kid.”
“You… you knew who he was?”
“Kid, I know who everyone is, Shady.” She shakes her head and moves opens the kitchen door. “He looked pretty grim when he left. Better not have done anything too crazy, or you better do something about it, eh?”
“Yeah… I guess.” You say, looking down, remembering what Clint had done last night. You should probably find him and speak about everything that happened, because you’ve been there, you’ve been there, and recently. If you didn’t have Saya, Ginelle, Ophelia… hell, even Abigail, around you don’t know where you’d be. That thought dug into you and as the innkeeper reappeared, you asked her for some paper, to which you wrote down two letters, one to be delivered to the Monster Embassy, the other to House Fullvora. You look at the last letter for a long moment, but decide not to send it, not yet. You’ll have to check something out before you resort to that.
Thanking the woman, you head upstairs and place a large platter of food for your ravishing, ravenous, Monster companions, who dig in, including Abigail. You sigh and drink some water as they do, feeling that at least you could do something nice this morning.
You watch the little Fairy shove a berry into her mouth, which seems to expand her whole body before she swallows and it comically hits her belly then… she deflates. Seriously, what the hell is up with fairies? She seriously isn’t what you thought a fairy would be, that’s for certain. You shake your head and sigh out, “Abigail, I’m sorry.”
She pauses, another berry pushed to her mouth and she blinks, jaws distended. She slowly retracts the berry and cocks her head, looking confused. “Eh? Sorry? You feeling alright?”
“No, but that’s part of this. I’m sorry I didn’t pay more attention to you beforehand.”
Abigail blushes and waves a hand toward you, “Oh my Tobias, so forward with your giiirrrrlllfrriieeend right here!” She giggles before looking at Ginelle and frowning. “Oh, right. Well, whatever brought this on?”
“Last night. You tried to warn me, but I wasn’t listening. This could have been avoided if only…” Your eyes drift to Ginelle, but you quickly look away. “Anyway, I don’t want to run into that again, I want to be prepared.”
Abigail’s eyes sparkle. “Oh ho ho, so you’re jonesing for another hit of that power, huh? I thought it was pretty wonderful too.” She flexes one of her tiny times, smirking, “Oh yes, that’s right.”
“Yeah… not really. Still not a fan of murdering people.” You say, and the others nod.
“Nor should you be.” Ophelia says, looking down at her plate, her ears drooping. “But last night was… scary. To see what an Illusionist can really do when their chains are broken…”
“I’d say it’s what happens when the chains come on.” Saya says, shrugging. “From what Tobias says, the madness they go through… I can’t imagine it.”
“You don’t want to.” You say, scratching at your arm, which is uncomfortably warm. “You really don’t. What we’re doing… it’s helping them, in a way.”
“Is it really helping them though?” Ophelia says. “Are you sure there isn’t anything else that could be done? Surely you don’t… don’t have to…”
“If they’re already past the brink, what can be done?” Ginelle says, not looking as disturbed as the others, but you can tell that she’s not happy-go-lucky either. “It seems the least cruel method.”
“She’s right you know.” Abigail says, flitting back with that paper she wrote of the names of Illusionist targets, dropping it to the table and tapping a name. “You can’t fall into the trap of letting them go. You saw the devastation one could cause. Now look.”
All of you look down at the table and frown as you see the indicated name: “Helen Pillona.” The four of you pull back and look at each other, confused. Saya sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. “I have no idea who that is.”
“Me either.” Ophelia says, nodding her head. You look to Abigail and she shrugs.
“I don’t know either, I just know the names.”
“Well… can’t you work like a compass or something? Show us toward her?”
“Uh…uhhh.” She rubs her head before looking off to the side and pointing before shrugging. “I dunno, somewhere over there?”
Saya cocks her head. “Uhh… well being a circular city… I still guess that way would point more toward the middle district? It’s kind of…not helpful.”
“Well fine, guess I won’t try to help.” Abigail says, huffing and crossing her arms.
You roll your eyes and pat the little fairy on the head, causing her to look utterly confused before crouching down and pulling her little hat. “Ahhhh, what are you doing?”
“Making sure you understand that your contributions are appreciated.”
She looks at you, horrified. “Oh by Jackor, have you gone insane already?”
You smile broadly at her, “I don’t know, have I?” The others chuckle softly, although they sound a little strained. It’s enough to make Abigail shiver before fluttering into the air. “I get the picture you bitches.” She moves to fly off but stops and swoops to grab her berry, shoving it in her mouth and saying to you, “Ohf, youse bashtard.” That said, she flies off again, leaving you to your devices.
“Well, that was fun.” Ginelle says, smirking. “But, I guess we should figure out our next move.”
“Yeah, I suppose so…” You say, looking at her. She gives you a curious look before smirking and shaking her head.
“Hey now, don’t give me that. I’m not 100% yet, but… I’ll be fine sticking around.”
“What about Clint?” Ophelia asks, and Saya gives her a dark look, making the bunny very confused.
Ginelle chuckles, “There’s nothing with Clint, he was just nice to me when I needed it, that’s all.”
“If you say so.” You say, looking down at your hands. “I was hoping to speak with him again today, after all that happened last night. I was wondering if you’d like to come with?”
Ginelle blinks, a little taken aback, but she stutters, “Uhm… yeah, sure I can, but what about…?” She gestures to the others, but you shake your head.
“I believe The Monster Lady will wish to speak with Saya today anyway, and Ophelia, you have more play dates, right?”
She huffs, “They aren’t dates you know, but yes, I do have a few things to do, especially after last night.”
Saya nods her head as well, “Yes… There will be fallout, and I have things to tell Mother.”
“Good.” You say, standing and nodding to Ginelle. “Let’s be off then, I have a feeling I’ll know where to find our good friend.”
Clint strums his guitar, had pulled low in the overcast morning. Though it’s high noon, the sun is obscured so you can’t see much, which helps hide the man’s face even further than his hat pulled low. As you approach, the plays one last, mournful tune before laying the guitar down and leaning his head back against the statue of the Hero.
“Howdy.” He says, looking very tired in his leathers. “I should have expected to see you here.”
“Creatures of habit, we humans are.” You say, nodding your head, and he smirks before sighing out,
“A shame you brought the little lady here to see me like this, I’m rather embarrassed.”
“Don’t be.” Ginelle says, shaking her head. “I see Tobias look depressed every day.”
“Wow, thank you Ginelle.” You say and she chuckles, to which Clint joins in.
“Still able to smile huh? Well there’s always some silver lining to everything.” He takes a deep breath before looking up at the sky. “Rain huh? Seems fitting, given everything.”
“You…freed him last night, didn’t you?” You ask quietly.
Clint doesn’t say anything for a long while before he swallows harshly and says, “Yeah. Yeah I did. Got to say my goodbyes and everything.”
“You did the right thing, Ginelle says, walking up and putting a paw on his shoulder.” He reaches out and takes her paw in his hand, squeezing it while keeping himself from crying.
“I know I did, it just hurts, you know?”
“I do.” You say, in a soft voice. “I know exactly what it’s like to lose a father figure to this.” You lean down , getting eye level with the man before saying, “I know that what you need now is to not be alone.”
“Yeah. That, and a good bottle of whiskey.”
He snorts but a smirk touches his lips as he does.
“So, when he let me down, he said to my mother, he said, ‘No, I don’t know where your shoes went!'”
You and Ginelle break into laughter, the latter slapping the bar, her nails digging into the wood slightly. Of course, being that there are other Monsters about, this doesn’t really seem to be the first time it’s happened. You point your glass toward him and he clinks it with his before Ginelle slams her drink in, and the three of you laugh before downing your drinks, breathing out as the harsh liquor flows through you.
Clint clinks his drink down on the bar before sighing out and shaking his head. “Gods, that was one hell of a summer. Ol’ Uncle Horatio, he know how to have fun.”
“Sure sounds like it.” You say, feeling the inebriation. It was your idea to come to a bar, but damn, you didn’t expect to drink so much. You blame Ginelle and Clint, both of them could put it away like nobody’s business. Well, he seems happier anyway, telling tales of his Uncle’s escapades from when he was young. Apparently Horatio was quite the guy, and the stories bitterly remind you of Richard, but you endure.
Clint sighs and taps the bar and the Kobold bartender walks over, pouring him another drink with a smile on her face. Of course, when Ginelle asks for another, the smile turns positively murderous, though she still pours the drink. Clint picks his up and swirls it about for a few seconds before speaking again, in a softer voice, “I miss him.”
“I understand.” You say, and he nods his head.
“They would have killed him themselves, you know? What he did… the petitions started immediately. Five dead, twenty in conditions that will take the Hospitaliers months to re-habilitate, the rest shaken to their cores. One of them was a High Lord too…” He takes a drink. “We have to pay a ton for this, and answer to a tribunal from the Crown about why we hid such a dangerous sorcerer.”
“That sounds… rough.” Ginelle says, but Clint shrugs.
“This is politics though, part of the reason I left. Couldn’t take all the false faces and the backstabbing, found things far more enjoyable trying to live for… something.” He waves a hand. “I helped people, you know? Kept them safe enough to build themselves up, yet the moment I come here, my Uncle he…” He rubs at his eyes. “I wish he’d told me…”
“Would it have changed anything?” You ask, and Clint looks up, staring into your eyes before looking back down and whispering,
“No… I guess not.”
“What will you do now?” Ginelle asks, and he shrugs.
“I don’t know, try to skate through all of this for now, maybe just return to the West if I can.”
“If you can?”
He smirks, “The real reason I was brought in wasn’t to see my sick uncle, but instead to take his place when he died, since everyone was banking on him doing so.”
“You… sound like you don’t want to.” You say, and Clint slams down his drink.
“Hells no I don’t want to! I don’t want to be trapped in such a life, I want to be free to do what I’d like, to help fight against all these injustices in this world the way I’m best at!” He puts a hand to his chest, “The Nobility is important, but tell be Tobias, tell me, do YOU miss it?”
You don’t even hesitate to say, “No, I don’t.”
He sits back and breathes though his nose, nodding. “Of course not, why should you?”
You look down at your glass before squeezing it and sighing. “Clint… it might not be the best time, but I’ll ask once more, then let you be.” You look up at him, your eyes confident. “Will you join us? Help us with our task and help others like your Uncle?”
He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath before tapping his glass a few times. Ginelle puts a hand on his shoulder and says, “Clint, you don’t have to feel pressured to this. I won’t blame you if you don’t want to be part of this, it’s… it’s very dangerous, people like us without the defenses that Tobias or Saya have… it can go very wrong, very fast.”
Clint lowers his head and looks you in the eyes, a strength smoldering in there you hadn’t seen before. “You know what? At first, I was amused to see what kind of trick a Shady was trying to play on me, especially as you became more insistent, but after last night…” He shakes his head, “You’re a good man, Tobias Shady, and I’m sorry the rest of this damn city can’t see that.”
You blink in surprise as he thrusts out his hand toward you. “Let’s do this then.” You look down at this hand before taking it firmly in yours, both shaking while looking each other in the eyes.
“You got yourself a deal.” You say, and he smiles pulling back and nodding to Ginelle.
“Looks like I’ll be traveling with your group again. Maybe I can treat you to a proper dance at some point.”
Ginelle blinks a few times before blushing at looking toward you, then down at her glass and downing it. You roll your eyes before waving toward Clint. “We’ve found another rogue Illusionist in town, name is Helen Pillona, you know her?”
“No, can’t say I do.” He says, rubbing his chin before pulling out a pocket timepiece. He clicks his tongue before standing, not looking phased at all by his drink as he puts coins on the counter. “Afraid I must be going, nobility waits for no one.” He grabs his rifle case and his guitar before looking outside and frowning. “Damn, raining. Well, if you find her, let me know. Might be able to solve this from a distance, though in his weather…” He shakes his head before nodding and leaving out into the pouring rain.
You and Ginelle look to each other before shrugging and heading off back to the inn, running through the rain to get there as dry as possible, though it didn’t help. Even though you tried to help cover her with your Jacket, you both got soaked, and you entered the inn dripping water everywhere, much to the innkeeper’s chagrin. Sheepishly, you climb upstairs and into your room where Saya sits, going over a letter. She frowns as you enter and sighs, waving it toward you.
“I asked some people to do some digging, and I found Ms. Pillona easily enough, but you won’t like this.”
You frown and take the letter from her, scanning it before dropping it to the table and leaning over, placing your elbows on it as you groan out, “Why? Why can’t we get a fucking break?”
“What does it say?” Ginelle asks, looking the letter over. Saya sighs and takes it back before neatly folding it and sliding it into a pocket.
“It says that she runs an Orphanage for Monster girls in the outer district.”
Ginelle visibly deflates, her expression becoming somber as she gently puts a paw on your back, though you barely feel it. Jackor, you piece of shit, you knew you’d get the last laugh in this assignment, did you?
“Orphanage, why did it have to be an orphanage?” You groan, banging your head on the table. Saya gently pats your back, saying kind, soothing words, but you don’t really get much from it. You sigh and gently turn about to put a hand on hers before shaking your head. “It’s fine, it’s fine… sort of.”
“Doesn’t sound fine.” Ginelle says, scratching her head. “What’s an orphanage anyway?”
“It’s a place for children who don’t have parents.” Saya says, and Ginelle’s expression becomes instantly crestfallen.
“Oh… oh wow.” She says, slumping down into a chair. It’s… kind of strange to see her so emotional over something like that, but everyone has their own problems, right? You merely rub at your forehead before groaning again.
“Damnit, if it was just about taking out the orphanage director, this would be easy, but the children… I don’t know what to do with them. They literally have nowhere to go.”
“I checked about and all the other orphanages are full to capacity.” Saya says before sighing. “There’s also the issue with murdering someone known to people in the area. As far as I know, you don’t actually have a sanction, do you?”
You look at her sheepishly before grumbling out, “Not really…”
She pinches the bridge of her nose and sighs. “Damnit Tobias… alright, you need to go speak with the Royal Accountings then.”
“That sounds really, really boring.” You say before shrugging. “Can’t I just go speak with the King?”
Saya looks shocked. “T…the King? Are you daft? Of course you can’t go speaking with the King! You’d get laughed out or even killed, especially after what happened yesterday!”
“Maaaaaan.” You say, hanging your head. “I know you’re right but… ugh.” You put a hand to your head, thinking about where the Royal Accountings was. Let’s see, it’s near the Castle, around the Royal Mail and…
You blink a few times as you think about that. The Royal Mail, huh? Ginelle cocks her head, giving you and odd look. “Uhh, Tobias, are you okay?”
“Hmm? Oh, sorry, I was just thinking about a friend of mine who works at the Royal Mail.”
Saya raises an eyebrow. “Friend, huh? Only people who work at the Royal Mail are harpies and the like.”
You wave a dismissive hand. “It’s not like that, but you’re cute for thinking it. She’s just a friend from Kasin. Been abit since I’ve talked to her, maybe she’ll be around.”
Ginelle shrugs, looking to Saya who was looking to the side and muttering to herself, “Cute…” The Badger shrugs before waving a paw. “Well, we at least have that to do, but what about the children? I’d hate for them to be homeless but… if she snaps like he did, they might just be dead soon.”
“I know, I know…” You groan before rubbing your forehead. “If only we knew someone with a large house that liked kids.”
Saya rubs at her cheek, “Uhhh, well, there’s always Madam Xanthia, but that’s-“
You stand up quickly and grab her hands, eyes sparkling, “Xanthia you say? The Shoggoth who took a plasma blast and survived?”
“Y…yeah?” Saya says and you smile wider.
“She might come here and take care of these children?”
“Cause that would-” You blink a few times before cocking your head. “Sorry, what was that?”
“I said no, she wouldn’t.” Saya sighs before shrugging. “She’s kind of… attached to the Juliant Manor.”
“Well, it’s not like it’s going anywhere…”
“No, I mean she’s literally attached. She’s rooted to the grounds of that manor by the same magicks that brought her into this plane of existence.”
“That’s… what?” You say, blinking a few times. “Plane of existence?”
Saya waves a hand, “I don’t understand it, you’d have to ask a scholar like fucking Patricia or something. All I know is that she isn’t of our world, which is why Shoggoths are so rare. Regardless, she can’t go anywhere outside of that manor.”
“What if you summoned her here then?” Ginelle says to Saya, and the smaller Monster opens her mouth before frowning and closing it, her brows knit in concentration.
“She got you there.” You say, chuckling, and Saya elbows you in the ribs, causing you to wince and step back, rubbing at your chest. “Owwww.”
“Shush you baby.” She says, rolling her eyes. “Look, this could feasibly work, I guess, but to summon her would be… I can’t even fathom what that would take to do.”
“Well shit.” You say, sighing. “What about your Mother?”
“Oh hell no. She’s already in a political morass, I have no idea how she’d cope with orphans also.”
You rub your forehead. “Ooookaaaaay… what about people who leaned under Xanthia, like you? They should be fine, upstanding people now.”
“Yeah, fine upstanding teenagers and people in their early twenties.”
“You’re really bringing me down here.” You say, huffing.
“I mean… it’s not an easy situation, is it?” She says, patting your head. “We’ll figure this out though, alright?”
“Alright…” You say as you feel her cool fingers run through your hair. It feels really, really nice. “Well, let’s run by the Accountings then, get this settled. We can think on this later after we case the orphanage.”
“You make it sound like a robbery.” Saya says, chuckling.
“Well, we are robbing them of their caretaker.” Ginelle says, making the rest of you look down, a little depressed. Well, all of you expect for Abigail who breaks into a fit of snickering.
“I hate that Fairy.” Saya says, frowning toward the little flying pest who makes rude gestures toward her. “I really, really do.”
“It’s a temporary thing.” You say, swiping toward Abigail who flies out of range before chuckling. “Ah, whatever.” You stand up and stretch, heading for the door. “Let’s get some lunch and get this over with.”
“Welcome to the Royal Mail!” A cheery human woman says, her smile wayyyy too broad. You look behind her at the desk to see people carrying mail and other packages, preparing to sort them/ attach to Harpies, Crows, and even a few Thunderbirds, along with other, exotic flying beasts. Is… is that a Manticore?
“How can I help you?” The cheery human says, snapping you back into reality.
“Oh uh, right, I was wondering if a certain Crow was here, her name is Clarissa.”
The woman thinks for a moment before pulling out a list and reading over it. “Hmmm, Clarissa, huh? Kasin route… no, she’s not here until 2pm.”
You pull out your [Pocket Timepiece] and frown. “It’s 1:59.”
“Well, that’s not two, is it?” She smiles broadly, making your eye twitch.
“No… but it will be in…” You make a few gestures before snapping your timepiece shut. “Now.”
You look over far past the woman to see a small, black winged form land down inside the loading area, sighing as she deposits a bag full of mail and parcels onto a table for sorting before rolling her neck and walking toward you, though she doesn’t seem to know you’re here. She walks down past the receptionist, sighing.
“Hey Tobias.” Clarissa says, walking a little more before stopping in her tracks and flipping out, her eyes going wide. “Oh my Gods, TOBIAS?”
“Hey th-gah!” You cry out as she jumps you, wrapping her wings around you in a tight hug.
“Oh my Gods, Tobias, I never thought I’d see you again! What are you doing here? How did you get here so fast? You were in Loveura and…” She blinks a few times before pulling back, her cheeks flushed red. “O…oh, sorry about that I just… uhm” She looks off to the side, scraping her taloned feet along the ground.
“It’s alright.” You say, chuckling. “I missed you too.”
“You did? I mean uh, of course you did!” She smiles before looking behind you to Saya and Ginelle. She blinks a few times before cocking her head. “Uhm… who are?…”
“Ah!” You say, waving your hand toward your companions. “This is Ginelle, a friend a met outside of Loveura, and this is Saya my-“
Clarissa’s eyes go wide as her jaw drops. “S…Saya? Like… like the storybook, Saya?”
Saya rolls her eyes, “Oh Gods, not you too.”
Clarissa beams before shaking Saya’s hand the best she can with wing-hands. “Oh wow, meeting a celebrity like this! And with a friend of mine, oh wow, this has been one wild day!”
“You’re a little more spunky than usual.” You say, chuckling. “It’s nice.”
Clarissa blinks before looking down and blushing. “Oh, well uhm… I’m just a little excited is all, and I can get like this when… uhm.” She looks around again before frowning. “Hey… where’s Richard?”
Everyone gets quiet and Clarissa’s eyes go wide. “Oh…oh no.”
“He’s alive.” You say, raising your hands. “He’s just… a little sick right now. We’re trying to help him.”
“Oh! Is there anything I can do?” The adorable little Tengu asks. You rub your cheek, feeling like you should give her some kind of task, anything that might be useful, or else you might break her poor spirit. Of course, as you look to all the mail, you think of something, an idea coming to your mind.
“Hey… Clarissa, how long do you think it would take you to get to Fort Carlsbad?”
“Huh? Oh, well that’s not my route, but I dunno.” She scratches her chin, “With the right winds, maybe a little under a day? If I hit crosswinds, a little longer.”
“What about the Juliant Manor?”
She blinks a few times before frowning. “Why would I want to go there? Only creepy Phillis, the Black Harpy ever bothers to run that route.” She looks at you critically, adjusting her red, “Royal Mail” cap. “What’s this all about?”
You scratch your cheek, “Oh well, you see, I kind of wanted to deliver a letter to Madam Xanthia there, you know, I thought of you as the fastest person I knew, so I came here to…”
“To use me.” She sighs and slumps her shoulders. “Of course you did.”
“Hey now!” You say, putting a hand on her wing. “I didn’t mean it like that! I really did want to see you again, but this is kind of really important. I wanted to ask someone I trusted before I went off and entrusted something to someone else.” You look into her eyes, unconsciously putting on the charm. “Please, for me?”
She looks at you with an expression of awe before mumbling to herself and nodding. “I guess… for you.” She takes a deep breath and holds out a wing. “Present the letter!”
You blink a few times before coughing. “Oh uh… I need to write it really quick.”
Clarissa looks at you dumbly for a few moments before putting a wing to her face and sighing, though when she lowers her wing, you can see a smile.”You don’t change, do you?”
You wave goodbye to Clarissa as she takes your letter off to Xanthia, and she takes off, quick as a wink, leaving you there to watch her go. As soon as she’s out of sight, you feel a great pain on your arm and you gasp, looking to Ginelle, who has an annoyed expression on her face. You’re about to say something when you feel another pain on your other arm, and you turn to see Saya, also looking annoyed. You stare dumbly at the two women, who both huff and look away from you in unison.
“Uhhh, I just uh,…” You say, rubbing your shoulders, which hurt like hell. “I don’t think I did anything bad, right? She seemed happy to take the letter.”
“Hey, dumbass.” You hear from your jacket pocket. You look down to see Abigail who says, “They’re mad because you didn’t tell that poor girl you’re involved with someone.”
“Oh for fuck’s-” You say before cutting off and shaking your head, addressing the two. “Look, it didn’t come up, alright? I’ll explain things tomorrow after I’ve spoken with her, alright?”
The both glare at you and sniff before walking outside, looking none so much like dignified ladies, though technically one of them was. You look after them dully before rolling your eyes and following in pursuit, off to the Accountings…
“We have been here three hours.” You say, your head in your hands.
“Yes.” Saya says, her legs crossed, reading over some papers.
“We haven’t moved at all.”
“I do not believe so.”
You groan and look to Ginelle, someone who could offer support, but find she’s not standing next to you anymore. You blink a few times and look around, but Saya says, “She left to go find something better to do.”
“I envy her.” You say, bitterly, but Saya merely shrugs and pats your head.
“There there my little baby, things will be fine.”
You desperately hold yourself from making a joke about babies and wanting to suck breasts, and instead look off to the side. “Is this really necessary?”
“It’s called bureaucracy for a reason.” She says, flipping a page. “Just be patient, it will work out in the end.”
You groan again, but as you do, you hear someone say, “Number seventy-four!”
Excited, you look down at your number to see… Number Ninety-two. Oh Gods, this is where you’ll die, isn’t it? Not on the battlefield, not going insane through combat, but going mad inside the Accountings. You wish you were near a wall so you could slam your head into it, but before you can decide to get up and kill yourself, a man in an official looking suit, flanked by another, shorter man in robes, walks up, adjusting spectacles on his face. He looks at you curiously before wrinkling his nose and saying, “Tobias Shady?”
“I am here to speak with you about your… situation.” He frowns deeply though, “If you think you try any of your tricks, however, you will be punished accordingly.” The man next to him cracks his neck and you get the distinct feeling that the rings on his fingers aren’t just for punching people. They’re for punching people with MAGIC. Still, this beats the line, so you nod your head and rise, motioning for Saya, but the man shakes his head.
“No, just you.”
You and Saya exchange glances before she nods at you and you sigh, holding her hand before being led to a corridor by the two, and quickly shuttled into a small room with only a desk and a few chairs. You frown at the little lantern in the center, but sit down in the relatively dark room as the man sits across from you, folding his hands on the table, just staring at you. You look about the room but find nothing else there, so you just… stare back.
This goes on for a good eternity before the man leans back and says, “You have the eyes of a killer.”
“I don’t think I do.” You say flatly and he smirks.
“No, you don’t, but you should if you want the role that Richard Dennerman had, then you’d better.”
You grit your teeth and say, “I don’t want this fucking job, but I don’t have much of a choice in the matter, and I know that you need someone to keep things like Horatio Fullvora from happening.”
The man narrows his eyes. “You think you’re the one in charge here?”
“I think I’m the one who knows a thing or two about Illusions.”
He sniffs before leaning back again. “Perhaps so, perhaps so. What proof do you have that you’re the student of Dennerman anyway? How do we know he’s…indisposed?”
You reach into your jacket pocket and pull out Richard’s letter, looking it over before gently putting it on the table. The man reaches over and takes it, carefully reading over the words before sniffing again. “This is his handwriting, yes.” He sniffs the paper then before nodding his head, “This also is his scent.”
“That’s… how do?…” You start to say before the man crosses his fingers and speaks.
“Fine, we know of your involvement in the Fullvora incident, how you likely subdued him, and had a hand in his eventual murder.”
“Uh well, I didn’t exactly.”
“We will pay you accordingly.”
“I murdered him, yes.”
The man smirks and pulls out a coin pouch, plopping it on the table. “Think of it as an advance. Since you are no longer in Kasin, we will keep the money here for you to retrieve or have sent wherever you choose based on mail correspondence.”
“Oh, that sounds good, so-“
“However, I will not tolerate sloppy work. Your job is to end problems before they get out of hand, you understand? It was something Richard was generally good at doing.” He looks at you critically, “Can you do that?”
You gulp under his intensity. “Of…of course I can! I actually have someone I have to remove from the Outer district as we speak.”
He smirks, “Good, good. As far as your information about this… ‘Fiora’ you spoke of in the report you submitted, while disturbing, it is also something we will need to discuss further before making rash movements. Your contributions in this are noted, however, and we will take this into consideration when formulating a counter action.”
“Can’t you like… I don’t know, do something a little sooner? She has kind of some crazy plans going on, so maybe-“
He leans forward, tone going cold, “We will take this into consideration and contact you with further information.” He takes an envelope from his pocket and hands it to you along with Richard’s letter. You take them slowly and he nods to you to leave, which you do, slowly. As you open the door, you hear him say, “Oh yes, Tobias?”
You turn around slowly to see him giving you a cold stare, “The name is Specialist Anderson. Don’t forget it.”
“So then he said, ‘The name is Specialist Anderson. Don’t forget it.'”
Ophelia sighs and shakes her head, “Sounds like an asshole.”
“Yeah, but he’s an asshole who pays well.” You say, holding up the bag which contains a decent amount of silver coins. “If this is the stipend, this should do very nicely.”
“I suppose.” She says, shrugging while wearing her improvised hood. “So, why are we wearing this ragged clothing, in the Outer District, at night?”
“Because” Says Ginelle, moving through the streets without difficulty, though it has begun to rain some. “It’s ‘casing.'”
“Do you know what that means?” Saya asks, and Ginelle shrugs, smiling,
“We’re scoping this orphanage out to see what kind of person Helen is.” You say nodding your head. “And Ophelia, you can go back if you want to.”
Ophelia shakes her head and shivers against the rain. “Well… if this is important, then I might as well go. Besides, you never know when you’ll need a wrench. Or a screwdriver. Or an aetheric conversion grenade.”
“Something I wish I had.” She says, smiling broadly, though the only way you can tell is by her white teeth in the darkness. This part of town had very few lamps and lanterns at night, being that it was fairly poor, all things considered. Still, you trudged on through the wet streets, your clothing covered by ragged linens and canvas you found lying around with minimal piss on it.
“Sounds pretty cool.” You say, referencing the map you were given, though it isn’t very good, considering the small price you paid for it. “What about like, weapons like Clint’s rifle, only more magical?”
“What does that mean?” She says, cocking her head.
“I mean like, you know, weapons that utilize the magic of a caster, or something to shoot… magic.” You frown then as you realize what you’re saying. “That’s stupid, isn’t it?”
“Maybe a little.”
“Okay, okay, but have you ever built a rifle before or…or like, a smaller version of a rifle? Something you could draw easily?”
She sighs and shakes her head. “No, I’m afraid not. Parts for such weapons are only manufactured in Sanctifrond by the Royal Foundry. We can make larger weapons, but small scale things are only for the military or the connected, and no, we aren’t that connected to get such privileges.”
You smirk, “I bet you really want to though.”
“Oh my Gods, I would do anything to make one of those.”
Saya coughs, “You might not want to say that in this part of town. Or really any part of town.”
Ophelia looks about, blinking for a moment before blushing. “Oh… sorry. I wasn’t think about, you know… lewd stuff is just…” She blushes and pulls her hood lower, and you chuckle before stopping an at intersection and looking at the map again. You look to the right and off a makeshift street sits a small, unassuming building with the soft glow of light coming from a window.
You nod to the others and all of you slink down, moving toward the building, pausing as you reach it. You hear a soft sound coming from one of the closed windows, one of the few you notice with anything resembling glass, the others just closed by shutters. Slowly, you creep toward the window, keeping out of sight, as the sound comes to you louder, sounding like… a song?
You frown as you get right under the window and hear lyrics to a common children’s song from a woman’s voice, sounding fairly young and hale. Before you can identify it further, the song cuts off and you go quiet as you hear some rustling and then nothing. You look to Saya who nods her head before you slowly look up into the window, surveying the room inside.
This particular room appeared to be a bedroom, where multiple beds of Monster children slept, though they didn’t look overly comfortable, they’re something. The children are all fast asleep, their little expressions too hard for you to make out, even with the candlelight, however you do notice a central figure sitting in a rocking chair, the only holding the candle, and the source of the song, you’d bet.
The woman appears to be in her early thirties, her face serene and calm as she rocks gently in the chair, her outfit of rather pious robes making her look far older than her years. Her eyes are closed as she sways front and back, and you hear a slight humming coming from her as she sits with the children, gently getting them to sleep. Honestly… it looks like what you’d expect an orphanage to look like, nothing out of the ordinary. You frown and slip back down, nodding to your companions to move away.
“So, what do you think?” Ginelle asks, and you shake your head.
“Looks normal to me. Maybe she’s not that crazy?” You look to Saya who seems concerned, and you frown, saying, “What’s up?”
“It looked normal but it felt… tense, somehow. Are you sure you didn’t sense anything?”
“No, not really.” You say, frowning. “Tense, huh?”
“Yeah, like I got this feeling that something wasn’t…” She shakes her head, “I don’t know. Look, I’m going to check around the place, get some better information if we have to infiltrate it, but…” She sighs, “I don’t feel too good about it.”
“Alright, good luck.” You say, as Saya vanishes into the night to look the place over again, though the rain is really picking up. You shiver despite the season and make to move to a more hospitable area when a gust of wind knocks over some refuse, causing a horrible clattering noise, and the door to the orphanage opens, Helen standing there with the candle held high. She looks about before spying your rag-tag little band. She gasps and waves a hand toward you.
“You poor things! Hurry up out of the rain! Come inside, come inside!”
You freeze up as Helen addresses you. The rain picks up again, as the wind howls, and you shield your face as you panic slightly. She didn’t see your face, did she? No, there’s no way she could have, it’s too dark, the rain too fierce. Still, you can’t help but turn around, pulling Ophelia and Ginelle in close to you.
“Let’s get out of here.” You say to them, hurriedly pushing them along. Thankfully, neither protest, but they look at you with confused expressions as you slosh through the muddy streets. You hear Helen crying to you from behind you, but her words get lost in the rain and you’re reasonably certain she isn’t following you, though you don’t look back until you’re two streets down and around a corner.
Once you’re certain you’re gone, you sigh deeply and slump against a wall, rubbing at your forehead. Ginelle looks around the corner and shakes her head before turning back to you and frowning. “What was that about?”
You shiver, mostly from your soaked clothing. “I… did you feel that place?”
Ophelia cocks her head, “Feel? Uh… what?”
You wave a hand, “The whole place just felt… wrong, the calmness mixed with the knowledge that she’s insane, it doesn’t… it just doesn’t add up.” You shake your head, “Going in there would have been a mistake.”
“You could have just killed her then and there.” Ginelle says, shuddering. “Would have been nicer than being out here in the rain.”
“Ginelle that’s…” Ophelia sighs, and you know her ears would be down if she wasn’t wearing that hood. “I wonder sometimes if we’re too callous about murdering people.”
“I’m not callous about it.” You say, frowning. “I don’t like this, I really don’t. You think I want to kill the owner of an orphanage? You think I want to scar those children forever?”
Ophelia blanches before looking down and whispering, “No…”
You put a hand on her shoulder and shake your head, “Ophelia, I know what you’re saying, I really do. Just… it has to be done.”
“I know.” She says, pulling in on herself. “I don’t like it though.”
“You don’t have to be here.” Ginelle says, but Ophelia shakes her head.
“No, no I know what I got myself into. This is all to stop Fiora, to make sure things don’t happen like yesterday, right?” She looks up into your eyes, her expression pleading for something.
You close your eyes and nod your head. “Yeah.”
Before anything else can be said, you hear a wet, thudding sound and look to the side to see Saya rising from where she dropped down, a puddle of water being disturbed by her fall, though she doesn’t look perturbed in the least. You look up to see the housing complex next to you that she jumped from, mildly surprised when you see that it is five stories tall.
Saya shakes some mud off her before frowning at you. “Would you mind telling me why you left me alone there?”
“Tobias is afraid of the big, bad nanny.” Ginelle says, but you wave a hand.
“We’ll discuss it all later. Let’s get back to the room so we can get out of this.” You look up at the sky and see a bolt of lightning, quickly followed by the crack of thunder. “I think we dodged a magic missile, so to speak.”
“Do you know the worst part about being a male in a group of very attractive Monstergirls?”
“Nope, sure don’t.”
“It’s the fact that, even though we’ve seen death together, saved each other’s lives, and have this sort of deep connection, they won’t let me stay in the room while they’re changing.”
“I mean, I’m not a sack of shit, so I don’t know, but it sounds rough.”
You look down at Abigail, giving her your nastiest glare as she looks over her nails, her last, very biting, comment lingering in the air. You lean your head back against the door and sigh. “Yeah, yeah, whatever, but come on. Dripping wet bodies full of youth and vigor…”
“You’re only digging a deeper hole.” She says before pointing at the door. You look behind you as the door opens, an annoyed looking Ophelia standing on the other side. You blink once before smiling at her.
“Hey there, all changed?”
“You’re quite the pervert sometimes, you know that?”
“Some people find it flattering.”
“Smart-ass.” She says, sighing, though you think there’s a hint of pride in her voice. Ah, Monstergirls, there’s some things that are constants. No matter how prudish they are, no matter if you turned them down before, they all like knowing men think they’re attractive. This may actually be true for women in general, now that you think of it.
Despite her little show, she leads you into the room where the other two women sit, rubbing their hair with towels. Now that you think about it, only Ophelia had her hair up in a towel, though she’s the only one with long hair as it stands. Saya and Ginelle each give you knowing looks and you cough into your hand before sitting down in a chair and smiling broadly.
“Sooooo, how is everyone feeling?”
“Cold and wet.” Saya says flatly, and Ginelle nods her head.
“Ah, indeed.” You scratch at you face before sighing. “Damnit, fine, let’s just get this out of the way. Saya, what did you find?”
She shrugs, not taken aback in the slightest. “The building isn’t as old as I thought, but it’s still pretty cheap. There’s multiple little leaks around the periphery, but it’s mostly sound. There’s one door on the back, one in the front, and about ten windows, only three of them with glass. It’s a two story building with a little attic atop it, with a locked window that could easily be entered.”
“So…” You begin, and she nods her head.
“It would be child’s play, forgive the metaphor, to get in there and assassinate anyone.”
You nod your head, “It seemed that way. Hell, she even presented herself to us, but…”
“But you’re worried about the children.”
“Of course I am!” You look down, feeling a familiar sort of pain. “I don’t want those innocent kids to suffer not having anyone around for them.”
Saya’s expression slips for a moment before she sighs and leans back, rubbing at her forehead. “Well, like I said before, the Monster embassy can’t do much here, and the fact that they’re in the outer district means no one in the inner districts will care. The only thing we can do is… wait for a reply from Xanthia, I suppose?”
“I suppose.” You say, looking outside and frowning. “Though with that kind of weather, I hope Clarissa is alright.”
Ginelle snorts, “Speaking of this Clarissa…”
You groan and rub at your forehead. “Look, she’s just a little shy and I may have been one of her only friends, alright? And maybe Richard kept trying to play matchmaker, alright? She’s a nice girl and I don’t want to-” You cut off as you feel a furry hand on your head.
“It’s fine, we’re mostly teasing you.” Ophelia says, her tone mostly convincing. “Still, you should break it to her gently when she returns. Maybe a little more gently than last time.” She coughs into her hand and looks to Ginelle who rolls her eyes.
“Does she like mead?”
“I uh… I don’t think she drinks.”
“She’ll be fine then.” The badger says before leaning back and stretching her muscular body on the bed. “So we’re in a waiting pattern then unless you want to get Clint to pop her between the eyes at distance.”
You wave your hand, “Same problem, though that might be effective.”
“Not in this weather.” Ophelia says, sniffing. “The weapon is effective, but with that much electricity in the air, not to mention the wind, there could be interference.”
“Really? That’s kind of… a design flaw.” Ophelia shrugs and is about to go into a tirade you might find incredibly interesting at any other point. “Bottom line though, is that I’m worried for those kids.”
She pauses and then sighs to the side before rubbing her neck. “I suppose. I just hope she isn’t hurting them.”
“Well, we can always go observe in the morning, see how things are. The kids have to get some time outside, right?”
“Yeah, that sounds about right.” You say, nodding your head. “And hopefully if the storm is abated, Clarissa will be back by tomorrow, so we’ll know what to do!”
Everyone nods their heads in agreement. You have a plan tomorrow and everything will be ooookay.
“Is… is she having those kids play in the…?”
“The rain? Yes, they are playing in the rain.”
You look upon the scene with a hint of worry as you lay underneath a rough cloth next to Saya, both of you observing the Orphanage. The rain didn’t let up last night, and even though it’s roughly around noon, the sky is still dark, the rain still falling under the cloudy sky. For all sane people, going outside would not be smart, but clearly, something else is happening here.
You look out from your hiding spot, watching the small play area behind the orphanage as the children, their clothing stuck upon their little frames, play about in mud, or on the swings, apparently unconcerned by the rain in the slightest. They honestly look like they’re having the time of their lives, as if it was a clear summer day and they weren’t, well, orphans. The most distressing thing, however, is likely Helen, standing in the middle of them, her own clothing soaked as she watches the children play, a small smile on her face. It doesn’t look… natural.
You crawl back some in reflex before shuddering. “Yeah, this isn’t good. Sure, Monsters are hardier than other children, but they’re going to get sick from all of this, not to mention what’s happening inside…”
“Wait.” Saya says, putting a hand on your shoulder before pointing. “See that little girl over there?”
You look where she’s pointing to see a dog-like Monstergirl with tanned skin. An… Anubis? Those are very rare in this part of the world. How did some end up here, and not be adopted? That’s… that’s really sad. What makes it even sadder, is that she’s the only one who isn’t playing with the others, instead she’s sitting off to the side, trying to hide underneath an overhang in order to keep herself dry, though she shivers and looks a little pale to you.
“I thought so.” Saya says, shaking her head. “This is getting to the kids, isn’t it?”
“I mean…” You say, looking at the poor little girl as two others approach, a Catgirl and an Arachnae who try to get her to play, but just sort of end up bullying her before running away, giggling. You grit your teeth, wanting to just jump in there and help her, but you restrain yourself. “We… can’t do anything yet.”
“I think we’ve found out enough. Let’s get back and meet Clint, Ginelle should have spoken with him by now, I’d imagine.”
You give one last look to the children playing, their minds clearly addled, before you shake your head and follow Saya from your vantage point. As you leave, your cloaks pulled down, you pass by a strange looking woman, or well, you think it’s a woman, clad in a long overcoat. She passes by you without looking at you until she reaches the orphanage, stopping to knock on the door. A moment later, she steps inside, though you know that no one actually answered the door, before disappearing inside.
“Saya, did you see that?”
“Hrm. Maybe it’s a potential parent?” She says, shrugging. You both know that’s not true, but what can you do about it? It’s going to be hours before Clarissa arrives and you need to go speak with Clint and the others. Best to just let it go, for now and wait for your plans to come together, right?
You frown and shake your head. This person, or Monster, whatever they are, just isn’t worth the risk. Hopefully nothing bad will happen to them, but running in there without a plan is a bad move, even if you feel like you’re drawn in there, like some kind of Leyway stuck on its tracks. Well, you’re not going to be some machine, no, you’re going to come back with a plan indeed!
You watch for a while longer, looking for signs of any issues within the orphanage from the woman, but you don’t see or hear anything. “Come on.” You say to Saya, who nods her head, keeping up with you as you trudge back the long way to the inn. You could stay there, but the others were expecting you there anyway, so staying here wouldn’t exactly accomplish anything. So you keep moving, though Saya looks a little lost in thought, and you have to pull her out of the way to keep her from running into an ass.
“Oh…sorry.” Saya says after the cart driver, his donkey snorting in annoyance, drives past. “I was thinking about those kids again.”
She looks down, a little blush on her face. “I mean, I might be like this, but I’m still a woman. Seeing those little kids so happy down there, even in the rain… I don’t know.”
You feel heat come to your own cheeks. Oh geez, that’s one hell of a conversation, and the two of you haven’t even kissed. Wait, can Saya even have children? Hrm…this seems like something you might want to get into later. Instead, you just nod your head blankly and try to change the subject.
“Yeah, they are kind of cute, though I feel bad for that little Anubis.”
Saya smirks and gives you a side-long glance.”Oh? Some fatherly instincts stirring within you? That’s kind of cute you know.”
Your blush gets even worse and you pointedly don’t look at her, “Aww come on, I’m just worried about her health. No child should look like that, and besides, she didn’t seem to be having as fun as the other children.”
“Think she could be immune to the illusions?”
“I… doubt it, but she could be. I don’t know much about her species, but she might be able to.” You shrug. “Of course, it could also be the fact that she looks sick.”
“Maaaaybe~” Saya says, sidling up to you, pressing herself against you. “But I still think it’s cute you’re so concerned about those kids. I’ll even forgive your behavior earlier because of it.”
“Behavior ear…oh, Ophelia blabbed, huh?”
Saya chuckles and takes your arm in hers. “No, but I figured you’d be saying something like that.” She looks up at the rain and then pulls down her hood again. “Not quite romantic weather, but let’s enjoy the walk, shall we? The orphanage will be there when we get back.”
“So, let me get this straight.” Clint says, his boots up on the table in your room. “You want to kill a lady who runs an orphanage?”
“Yeah, we think she might be harming the children.” Saya says, prompting Clint to rub his forehead before sighing.
“Well that’s just a fine howdy do.” He stretches before setting his boots down to the ground, his leathers creaking some. “So, you want me to shoot her then?”
You see Ophelia mouth the words, “Howdy do?”, behind Clint, but you just ignore it as you nod your head. “It might be the best way. Getting in close could be incredibly dangerous.”
“Makes sense.” He says, rubbing his chin before looking out your window. “Of course, we may not be able to get the best shot in this weather. It’s unpredictable, something I personally don’t like about my poor instrument.” He pats his gun case, which he’s keeping next to him, a little out of Ophelia’s reach, though she slowly shuffles toward it every so often, prompting him to gently move the case every now and then.
Ophelia huffs, crossing her arms and stamping one of her rabbit feet, causing Ginelle to snicker at her a little. You roll your eyes before shrugging and saying, “It’s fine, we’re waiting for a friend to return with a letter with information on what we can do with the children. Once they’re taken care of…” You make a gesture of a rifle shooting, and Clint nods his head.
“Doesn’t sit right with me just letting those kids stay there if something like that’s going on.”
“Me either, but what else can we do about this? Someone went in as we left anyway, maybe they’ll be able to take one of those kids out of there.”
Ophelia frowns, “Someone walked in there? Isn’t that… dangerous for them?”
“I guess we’ll know later on if that’s the case. Hopefully they’re still uhm…” You look sheepishly at everyone else. “Sane.”
Ginelle shakes her head, “Someone should watch the place then.”
Saya nods her head, “I agree, but what about Clarissa? We need that letter, I should think, but even without this weather, she won’t be back until a few hours, and the weather itself…” She looks outside as well before shaking her head. “Well, who knows.”
“I can wait for her, I guess.” Ophelia says, shrugging. “I have some papers to fill out anyway.”
You nod to her. “Thanks Ophie. I think Saya and I need to go, in case something happens, so I’m sorry Ginelle, but can I ask you to go with Ophelia?”
The Badger’s face becomes crestfallen. “Oh… okay.” Clint pats her on the back, though you noticed Ophelia looking a little shocked, possibly because you used a nick-name. Aww, it’s kind of cute really. You look to Clint who shrugs at you.
“Guess I can go too. Might help to have some overwatch for you.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Saya says, nodding her head, though she seems rather annoyed about having to go back out into the rain. You give her shoulder a squeeze and whisper,
“We’ll go out for a nice dinner after all this is taken care of, alright?”
She smiles at you before rolling her eyes, “Well, if you insist.”
“Children have gone back inside.” Saya says, hiding in your spot again. You nod your head, looking out at the empty play area, and into the orphanage, as far as you can see anyway. It had been about two hours since you left, but you’re glad they’re not still present out here, because the rain hasn’t stopped yet.
You look over across the way, to another building, and see the faint hint of Clint, hidden there, his weapon readied to fire at any time. You feel a little safer with him present for some reason, and you look down over the orphanage itself, homing in on one of the few windows again, candle light shining softly inside. You’re surprised to find that it’s the bedroom again, the children all asleep in their bed, from what you can see from your vantage. Try as you might, however, you can’t see Helen though.
“Saya.” You say quietly. “Can you…?”
She rolls her eyes and nods her head before slipping out of your cover and almost gliding down to the floor, stalking in the darkness to check the windows. She makes a negative sign to you before moving toward another window on the other side, pausing there for a moment before finishing her loop. She returns to you and shuffles under the cover, getting close to you while shivering.
“Well?” You ask, and she furrows her brow.
“That woman is still there, and it is a woman. I’ve never seen her before though, but she and Helen seem to be talking with each other about something, and Helen doesn’t look like she’s fully in charge of the conversation.”
“That woman is still here?” You say, a little surprised. “Did you catch what they were saying?”
“No…” She says, shaking her head. “They were talking too quietly, but it seemed serious.”
You rub at your forehead, “Damnit, I wish we had an in to all of this, but I don’t want you in there unless I can help you, and honestly, I don’t know if I can hide through all of this.”
Saya looks a little sick before saying weakly, “There was… one child who wasn’t asleep.”
You look at her, a little taken aback before drawing in a sharp breath, “The Anubis?”
She nods her head gently. “She was curled up in her bed, shivering, but she looked more frightened than sick at that point. I…” She closes her eyes for a moment. “I think she might be willing to speak with us.”
You nod your head slowly and look to the window overlooking the bedroom. Taking a shuddering breath, you steel yourself before signaling to Clint, then the two of you crawl down to the orphanage window. You crouch down as Saya gently works the window up, apparently the place was too poor to have locks for them, not that the glass-less windows could stop much either.
Slowly, she crosses over the threshold and you peek inside, keeping a watch for anything as Saya creeps toward the little Anubis. You can’t make her out very well in the distance, but she seems afraid of Saya for a moment, your girlfriend gently placing her hand over the girl’s mouth and whispering a few things, the little girl looking visibly more relaxed. She looks over to where you’re crouching before the two of them slowly walk over to you, and you get a better look at the girl.
She looks as though she can’t be more than about nine years old and has long, black hair that would be gorgeous if it didn’t look so unkempt. Her light brown skin seems odd in this country, but most of it is covered by loose fitting, rough spun cloth that drapes her form, unable to fully hide her large, black canine paws on that serve as her hands and feet.
She gives you an odd look, her piercing red eyes seeming to judge you, even though her face looks a weary and sick. Her dog-like ears twitch atop her head and you see a slight swishing of a tail before she gently nods her head toward you and says, her voice slightly accented, though you don’t know from where, “Hello.”
You smile at her and say back, “Hey there. My name’s Tobias, and this is Saya.”
“She told me.” She mumbles before saying, “My name is Akela.”
“That’s a really pretty name.” You say back to her, nodding your head.
She looks to Saya before looking down, “She said you wanted to talk to me, about… Ms. Helen.”
You frown before nodding your head, “Yes, we did. Akela, have you noticed anything… odd about her?”
Akela gives you a strange look, furrowing her brow as she seems to go over your words critically. “Who are you?”
“We work for the King.” You say quickly, before Saya can say anything. “We heard that there might be trouble here and wanted to come help you.” You lean in a little closer, “It’s very important that we learn what’s happening here, please.”
Akela frowns, but she appears too tired to summon up much strength, instead putting her paws on her arms and looking down, shivering somewhat. “Ms. Helen has… been different lately.” She pauses for a moment before going on. “When I first came here, after I was freed from some very… bad men, I was very scared, but Ms. Helen was so nice to me, she was nice to everyone who lived here.”
She takes a deep breath, “But as of a few days ago, things have been different. She’s been serving different food, having us play at different times, and sleeping more than usual.” She shivers some. “Everyone seems to like it though, a lot, but for some reason I… I see it, but I can’t…”
Saya gently puts an arm around her and the girl looks visibly more relaxed, nodding up at her before continuing. “I don’t know what it is, but some of us have gotten sick from it, I know, though they don’t seem to notice much, and just keep playing.” She rubs at her eyes before shuddering. “The worst part though is the nightmares.”
“Nightmares?” You ask, confused as you look over the other children. They look peaceful in their beds, but… as you look closer, some of them are sweating and appear almost feverish as they lie there, looks of pain on their faces. You look back to Akela who nods her head slowly.
“They’ll wake up screaming sometimes, but Ms. Helen will come back in, smiling as gently as can be, and help them back to sleep. In the morning we just… forget the nightmares.” She sniffs, “Most of them, anyway.”
You look to Saya who hugs the poor girl, and you wish you could too, but climbing inside would be too much of a risk. Akela sniffs back tears, but folds in Saya’s embrace. You hear the muted sobbing as Saya gently strokes the girl’s hair, soft words of comfort coming from her lips. In that moment, Saya looks incredibly motherly, and it makes you heart pang from seeing it, though whether in emotion or some kind of lust, you’re not certain. Eventually the girl backs up and nods her head, rubbing at her eyes as she mutters, “Thank you…”
You both smile at her, though you ask, “Akela, do you know the lady that Ms. Helen is speaking with?”
Akela frowns, her ears swiveling for a moment. “Oh, that’s Chalan, she’s Ms. Helen’s friend who started coming by a few days ago. Some kids say she might take some of us away with her, but I don’t think so.”
You frown deeply then. “A few days ago, like when this all started?”
The little Anubis blinks, the connection coming to her as well. “Oh. Possibly.”
You and Saya share a look, but before she can say anything else, one of the children, a little harpy, starts screaming at the top of her lungs, which is pretty powerful for a songbird. You and Saya panic mildly, and Saya sends Akela off to her bed before she leaps out the window, shutting it quickly as footsteps sound from down the hall. You watch from the corner of the window as Helen appears, this Chalan in tow, the two of them moving to the Harpy to calm her down.
You feel a subtle shift of power from Helen then, and you know she’s using an illusion on the poor girl, sending her slowly back to sleep, a content look on the poor girl’s face as she drifts off. Helen sighs and tucks the Harpy in before looking back to Chalan, who nods and pats Helen on the shoulder. She seems to say something, but you can’t hear it. You try to press closer to the window, but you quickly pull back as the woman flips about, almost exactly where you’re hiding, and you quickly slink away from the window to where she can’t see you, even if she looked down.
You slowly lick your lips and motion to Saya, the two of you crawling back to your vantage point and hiding there, hearts pounding furiously in the afternoon rain. As soon as you’re certain the coast is clear, you sigh out deeply and rub your face, slick with rain and sweat.
“Shit, that was a little frightening.”
“That woman didn’t look at all affected by illusions.” Saya says, concerned. “The hell is she?”
“I don’t know, but going in there without a plan would be insane. We’re going to have to wait Chalan to leave, or for them to go to sleep. I think trying to kill Helen while she’s awake would be a very bad idea.”
Saya sighs and leans into you again. “I think we’re going to be here awhile then.”
“Has it been awhile yet?” You ask, blearily as you continue to watch the Orphanage. The rain stopped about an hour ago, but the skies are still dark as it approaches night time, and in the summer air, the rain has turned to heavy humidity, making it unbearably hot.
The children had awoken from their midday nap a little while after you went back to your roost, and they went out to play a little bit more outside before being ushered in, presumably for dinner. That Chalan was there the entire time though, and even though Clint gave you a signal he had a clear shot, you signaled him to stop. Killing her in full view of the kids wouldn’t do, not now anyway. You wonder dully if Ophelia and Ginelle would be here anytime soon when you notice something at the front door.
Saya notices as well, and you watch as the door opens, and Chalan walks out, carrying a bundle in her arms without much effort. She looks about for a moment and walks off, Helen closing the door after her, and you watch the woman carefully, staring at the bundle. You hear Saya gasp as you see what it is also.
In Chalan’s hands is one of the Orphans, a little Catgirl, who is sleeping in her arms. You and Saya both look at each other in alarm, but before you can act, you hear a gentle beating of wings, and you turn to see Clarissa, of all people, land deftly on the roof next to you. She looks about down on the street for a moment, frowning as she’s unable to find you, until you hiss her name and she homes in on you, her eyes going wide.
“Woah, what are you doing there Tobias?”
You quickly motion for her to be quiet and to drop down onto the roof, which she does, crawling up to you. She stops as she notices Saya next to you, her bird brain working feverishly until you cut her off, saying, “I thought you wouldn’t be back until later. Didn’t the rain slow you down?”
She sniffs, a little too loud, “Hah, a little thunderstorm can’t keep me down. Besides, I’m the fastest flyer they have! Well, except for Jillian. I don’t like to talk about Jillian.” She mumbles off to herself before pulling out a letter from her bag, which she hands to you. “Your friends said you’d be around here and I flew as fast as I could. They said they’ll be here as fast as they can, which is pretty fast considering one’s a bunny and they can hop, hop, hop, right?”
You gently tune her out as look at the intricate wax seal, the letters, “XJ” on there, and you motion to Saya to watch Chalan as you pop the seal and read the contents, your eyes going wide as you get the gist of it. You put it down to say to Saya, “She’ll take the kids!”
Saya look back at you, smiling broadly. “She will? Ah, Xanny.. . I mean uh, Madam! I knew she wouldn’t let us down.”
“I didn’t read the details, but we can do this now. We have to be able to do this.”
The both of you look at each other as the night begins to come upon you. You both feel the twin anxieties of this mystery woman stealing the child away, her form fading quickly into the night, and the assassination laid out before you. Both of you steel yourselves for what was to come, and you knew that it would be one hell of a ride.
“Uhm.” Clarissa says, looking at both of you oddly. “What are you talking about?”
You watch the woman, Chalan, move farther down the path away from you, and you grit your teeth. You don’t know a damn thing about this woman, but she seriously sets your teeth on edge. Anyone who randomly goes into a creepy orphanage and leaves, unscathed, while carrying and innocent child is not really a good person in your books. To that end, you look back at the sky, then down to the orphanage and frown.
“Still some time I’d imagine until Helen will be asleep…” You mutter, sort of tuning out Clarissa’s questions. You watch Chalan walk for a little longer before you make up your mind, and you turn to Saya, saying, “We need to learn more about this Chalan woman.”
Saya nods at you, as if expecting you to say something like this. “Fair enough. You want to wait until Helen is asleep then?” You nod at her and she turns to regard the strange abductor before sighing. “Alright, I suppose we’ll need to head out soon if we want to follow the woman.”
“Follow someone?” Clarissa says, leaning in to be part of the party. “I can follow anyone anywhere! Well, as long as they don’t go inside or anything.”
You look to Saya who seems a little annoyed by the sudden appearance of the Crow, but she sighs, throwing Clarissa a bone, so to speak. “Alright, how about you carry me over to the side there so we can follo-oh!”
Her words are caught in her throat as Clarissa hops in the air before picking Saya up in her taloned feet and leaping off into the air, your girlfriend yelping at first as they dropped from the rooftop. You looked over the edge in a panic, looking for the two, but your fears are allayed as you watch them slowly ascend, Clarissa looking only mildly burdened. She sticks up her nose and tries to flex a wing while carrying Saya, though it sort of falls flat as she does her best to maintain her flight. Obvious, Saya was light or Clarissa was stronger than expected, because after the Wizard’s work, most Monsters got much weaker.
You look to Saya who has her arms crossed, her face looking less than amused. You smile to her gently and she scowls at you. You wave gently and say, “Having fun up there?”
“It’s a lot more fun when I’m flying with my own wings.” You and Clarissa blink at that, a little taken aback, but she just rolls her eyes and points to Chalan. “Come on, we need to go. You coming?”
You nod at her with vigor before turning to Clint, who, you’re pretty damn certain, is smiling like a fucking idiot, and making a gesture to him. He gestures back in what you assume is the affirmative, and takes up position on his rifle again. He’s clearly not going anywhere, and that suits you. Oddly enough, you trust him to take the shot if he felt it best, and that gave you a morbid sense of ease as you waved Clarissa and Saya to go on ahead of you as you start your descent.
It takes you maybe five minutes to make it down, but that’s enough time for both Chalan and your companions to vanish out of sight. You do your best to retrace their steps, looking up to the sky to see your flying friend, but you begin to panic as you can’t find her due to the tall tenements and other shanty buildings. As you turn around the corner of a specific building through, you feel something pull at your arm, and you whip about, preparing to cast one hell of an illusion, stopping short as you see Saya standing there, finger to her lips.
You nod your head quietly as she points down the street and you look to see an indistinct shape moving in the darkness and move, clinging to a wall, something else. It couldn’t be… Clarissa? You frown, but Saya pulls you to follow her, trailing in the darkness as you hop between cover, slowly coming closer and closer to Chalan, eventually passing under Clarissa, who waves at the two of you before dropping down, fairly silently, and speaking in what passed as a whisper for her.
“I heard her whispering to that kid! Or herself, anyway, she says she’s heading to a safe house!”
You and Saya exchange looks before nodding. You put a hand on Clarissa’s shoulder and give her a brief smile. “Thank you for keeping an eye on her, it means a ton to me.” As you say that though, you think of something else, and smile widely. “Actually, I have one more thing you can help with.”
Saya stepped forth from the shadows before Chalan, startling the woman, and almost causing her to drop the child in her arms. She frowned, staring at the young woman before her, obviously wondering if she was some kind of vagrant that lived here. Saya didn’t make a move, merely standing before the woman, her body posture relaxed, yet brimming with a hidden sort of danger that made Chalan click her teeth.
“Out of the way little girl, before I decide to move you out of the way.”
Saya smiled, the shadows seeming to coalesce around her for the moment, and Chalan frowned deeper as she took a step forward, prepared to remove this insolent little threat, when a sound of rushing wind came behind her. She turned around to see you standing behind her, a cloak of blackness draped around you as you stood up, the dark streets obscuring you, wings appearing from behind you as you held out a hand and said, “Chalan.”
She grit her teeth then before hissing out, “Who are you? If you’re looking for a fight, I swear to the Gods that-“
You step forward, darkness coalescing about you as you say, your voice deep and rough, “SWEAR TO ME.”
She steps back, startled again, and is completely taken unaware as Saya slides up behind her, a knife coming to rest against her neck. She stands stock frozen then, not daring to move an inch as the child in her arms continues to sleep peacefully, as if she had no care in the world. You walk up to her, darkness covering your form, as far as she could tell anyway, and you gently put your hands on the girl to take her from the woman.
“No!” She hisses, suddenly lashing out with an arm toward you. As far as you are concerned, the blow should be way off target, your illusion keeping her out of reach, but as her fist clouts your mouth, you begin to think that maybe, MAYBE, you might be wrong about that.
As you fall to the ground, Saya moves to cut the woman, but she cracks her head back against Saya’s skull, stunning your girlfriend for a moment long enough to drop down, her body posture becoming incredibly tense as she holds the child in one hand, her other hand open and… rather much larger than you’d expect from a human hand. You look at it curiously, wondering why it’s twitching so strangely when Chalan hisses, “Who are you?”
“Cut the shit Chalan.” You say, standing up straight, clenching your fists. “Or should I say, Fiora?”
Chalan looks surprised for a moment before a sly smile comes to her face. She chuckles then, her voice rich and melodious, though utterly devoid of any real mirth. “You think I’m Fiora? Truly? If I were the lady, you’d already be dead, or worse.”
Your eyes narrow as she sniffs, gathering herself while keeping a good distance between the two of you. “Your illusions are admirable, but ultimately useless, Tobias, and yes, I do know who you are.” She looks down at the child in her arms with a sense of disdain before dropping the girl, rather forcefully, to the ground. She smirks as both you and Saya step forward, looks of concern on your face as she chuckles. “I don’t even need this child. Take her, if you’d like, but I don’t have time to spend on you. I already did what I needed to the poor owner of that orphanage, the results will be clear as day soon enough.” She shrugs then, “I can’t really afford to get hurt here, so I think I’ll leave the child with you. I’m sure we’ll cross paths again.”
She smiles maliciously, “And when that happens, I’ll kill you for the glory of the Goddess and my lady. Until then, ta-ta!”
You make to strike toward her, but she seems to… you don’t really know how to describe it fully, but she bends unnaturally, her legs seeming to swell before she leaps down the street far, far farther than any human should be able to, then running off out of sight. You don’t bother chasing her, even with Clarissa flying you, you’re certain she’d find a way to lose you. Instead, you just look down at the poor Catgirl, gently scooping her into your hands as she cries softly in your arms.
You look down, thinking her words over as the little girl drifts back to sleep in your arms. Your companions walk back up to you, concern on their faces, yet you just shake your head and sigh. “Well, this could have gone a lot worse.”
“I suppose.” Saya says, looking concerned. “I don’t like this Tobias, I don’t like it one bit, and we still have to do… you know.”
Clarissa cocks her head, looking utterly confused. “I still have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Breaking into the orphanage was easy, distressingly easy. You moved in as soon as you were certain everyone was asleep, and Saya helped you crawl in through the window, the two of you walking through the little hallways of the orphanage, doing your best to keep quiet. Ginelle and Ophelia had returned by that point, but you instruct the two of them to look after Clarissa and the little Catgirl, who still slept, although fitfully. You’ve done some fairly terrible things in their presence, but… there are some things you’d like to keep from them, preserve whatever goodness is in their hearts as long as you can, though if they choose to follow you down this path, you’re not certain how long any of you can keep out the darkness. Richard… how did he do it?
As you walk through the dark orphanage, you feel a certain sense of dread the farther you go, as if something malign is crawling over your skin. You know, from an intellectual level, that it’s due to residual illusions being cast from the woman, causing the children’s nightmares, and your own dread, but you can’t seem to fully dispel the feeling. The atmosphere of this place at night is just… just too much.
Still, nothing attacks your thoughts, nor that of Saya’s and you make your way upstairs, moving toward a door with a sign on it proclaiming, “Ms. Helen’s room!” You stop before it, feeling a little pang of guilt before the two of you nod your heads and slowly open the door.
The room is pitch dark, yet you already know something is wrong. The bed is empty, the sheets untouched, and you and Saya immediately move to fight positions as you scan the room. You hear soft, scraping sound, and from a table in the corner, a light appears, cutting through the darkness, almost blinding you from its sudden appearance. You blink a few times, taken off guard as the light moves gently to a lantern, the device flaring to life as the fire from the match begins to drink of the fuel there.
“I thought something felt strange.” Helen says, waving out the match before putting her hands in her lap. She sits at the table calmly, wearing a nightgown, though she obviously had no intention of sleeping. You pause, looking to Saya for a moment, before turning your attention to the woman, who smiles demurely. “Are you here to rob this place? There isn’t much to take, you know.”
You close your eyes, wishing the woman had been asleep, so damn wishing that, before you open them again, steeling yourself as you step forward and say, “No, we’re not here to steal from you.”
“Oh, are you here for the children then? You look quite nice, but I’m afraid they’re all asleep. I’d have to ask you come back in the morning, yet all of them are quite wonderful children, you’d make them quite happy to take them as daughters.”
You walk up and take a seat at the table she sits at, her posture not changing as you look into her eyes. Her expression seems… distant, as if she’s here physically, yet her mind is wandering places, not fully in the conversation. You frown at you look at her, yet she makes no obvious moves to attack you, or do much of anything, which is far worse in and of itself, you fear. You take a shuddering breath and say,
“Yes, we met one of them, the Anubis. She’s quite an intelligent little girl.”
Helen smiles widely, “Ah, Akela. Tragic, what happened to her, but she’s been doing well here. Still, I don’t think she’ll really open up until she finds parents who love and protect her.” She turns her gaze to Saya, giving her a wan smile. “You’re infertile, is it?”
Saya’s eyes go wide and her knuckles go white against the knife in her hands. You always sort of suspected this may be a sore spot with Saya, but… you didn’t think she was so concerned about it. Being the only one of her kind, unable to know if she was able to produce children or not… it must be terrifying for her. You want to hold and comfort her, but before you can, Helen swings back to you, that smile never changing.
“And you, so locked into your conventions of adventure, that you’re afraid to settle down. Or are you afraid of the fact that you’d hurt any family you’d have? That somehow you’d do something so horrible that you’re scared of truly being intimate with anyone?”
You feel something in the pit of your stomach as her words sink into you, and you grip your hands into fists, knowing this is an attack on you. You can even feel the subtle way her words worm into your mind, trying to pry open insecurities, making you vulnerable, yet she managed to read you like a damn book without even trying. She didn’t guess at this, no, she must be lucid enough to know what she’s doing from years of reading people and children, figuring out how they work. Magic isn’t everything, is it? Yet if you allow it, it will be what destroys you.
You grit your teeth, putting a hand to your head as you say, “Helen… do you know what’s happened to you?”
“Happened to me? No, I’m afraid I don’t.”
You lean across the table, trying to pull this to your advantage. “Do you know that you’re an illusionist?”
She cocks her head, looking a little lost in thought. “Chalan said I was something like that, that I had some magic within me. I didn’t pay it much mind, at first, but the more she pressed, the more it made sense, all the strange events over the years.” She shrugs, smiling. “Ever since then, my children have been so much happier, don’t you agree?”
“No.” You whisper, hanging your head. “No, they aren’t better at all. You’re hurting them Helen, you’re sick.”
She falters for a moment, a little confused. “I… no, they’re happy and fine. Certainly, one of them has a little nightmare every now and then, but they laugh and play like never before, eating the meager food I can produce as if it were gourmet!” She leans forward, her eyes a little wild now. “They are happy!”
“No!” You say, growing angry. “They aren’t, and I hate to say it, but it’s because of you! You can’t even see that they’re getting sick! Their little bodies can’t sustain what you’re doing to them.” You look down and take a shuddering breath. “Why couldn’t you just have been asleep?”
Helen’s eyes go wide then and she stands, but before she can do much else, Saya appears from behind, putting the knife to her throat, the pressure making the intention clear, and Helen knew it. She begins to cry slightly, her body shaking as she knows her death is coming for her. Looking into your eyes, she whispers, “What will happen to the children?”
“We’ve made arrangements for them, don’t worry.” You hang your head and wave to Saya as you whisper, “I’m sorry.”
Helen drops to the floor a moment later, blood spilling from the wound in her neck, pooling down her throat as she drowns on her own fluids. You can’t watch, feeling like you’d vomit if you did, until her thrashings quiet down and eventually go silent. You take a shuddering breath, feeling the oppressive atmosphere vanish around you as it happens. A moment later you’re left in a dimly lit room with your girlfriend and corpse, the two of you just staring dispassionately at her.
“I hate this.” Saya whispers, and you nod your head slowly, rising to comfort her in your arms.
“Me too.” You say before sighing. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
“What about the children?”
You frown and take out Xanthia’s letter, reading it carefully.
It is a pleasure to meet a companion of one of my oldest students, and I am quite happy to hear she is doing well. I trust the two of you have been observing proper etiquette for a young lord and lady? Ah, but to see the youth of nobility in love again! Still, I do so assume you’re treating her kindly.
As to your inquiry, I feel for the plight of such children in a situation as thus. I understand implicitly what you are dealing with over these past twenty years, I have grown to understand the dealings with children in such situations. I would be quite humbled to care for such young ones, until such as time as they find families of their own may occur.
You are correct that the distance is a concern, as I am unable to leave the grounds of my Lady’s manor without certain rituals beings observed. Of course, you could transport such children to my estate, or you may follow the following:
- Obtain fresh blood, the fresher, the better, especially if obtained from an unwilling source. Human blood, mind you!
- Paint the blood in a circle around a corpse, preferably one that the blood came from, and draw lines of force connecting in a star shape through the circle
- Draw the following runes:
A string of things that make your eyes water follow and you feel yourself start to gag as you read through it, getting to step 4 with your lunch intact.
- Speak the words, “Shogala noct hi’gnath, umphalanos, Xantharis, undai.”
Then I’ll appear! Well, hopefully this reaches you well, and I look forward to meeting you!
You look up at Saya, seeming a little sick, yet she shrugs, looks over the list, and begins the preparations, using Helen’s corpse. You feel something is terribly wrong with all of this, like you’re breaking some kind of natural order, but before you can get too concerned, you feel a warmth stirring against your chest, and Abigail bursts forth from your tuxedo, glowing brightly in the night.
She whirls in the air before smiling brightly before you. “Oh ho ho! You did it, you did it again, you sick fucking murderer!” She holds out a tiny hand for a high-five, yet you just stare at her, your eyes hollow. She blinks for a moment before rolling her eyes and sighing. “Ugh, you’re no fun. Well, whatever, let’s have your prize then.”
She zips to you and kisses you on the lips again, and you vaguely are aware of Saya shouting, “What the fuck?!” as you feel power flow into you again. It feels familiar this time, and yet different, as if some power from before was mixed with that of something greater, something larger than you can fully comprehend. It washes over you, yet sticks near your throat, where you feel a gentle warmth pulse, and you feel… commanding, in a way. Silly, you know, but something feel s like if you gave an order, people would listen!
>You’ve gained <Battle Voice>
>The Order and Law of Solos, honed into a precision instrument through the strength of Sveth, your commands carry extra weight, as others instinctively recognize your authority and are more likely to obey you.
The warmth fades about your throat, and you look back to Abigail. Alright, now you’re sure, she definitely looks larger than before, almost two feet tall now, though as you’re about to say something, she seems to shimmer and become her normal size again. You give her an odd look, and she just smiles at you before patting your cheek and flying back into your suit. You look down at her, frowning, before looking back to Saya, who has an annoyed look on her face, her hands covered in blood.
“Uhhh. How’s it going?” You say, but she merely sniffs and continues drawing eldritch runes in the blood of your murder victim. What a catch.
Soon enough, it’s done, and you both stands back as Saya chants the words, an unease coming over both of you as the lantern goes out suddenly, the room being intensely dark. The shadows seem to… stretch and grow in the room, and you wonder briefly if you made a horribly mistake. Of course, when the tentacles burst from the circle of blood, you don’t really have a chance to go back.
They seem to appear from nowhere, purplish tentacles made of a dripping goo that rips at the corpse, dragging it down into the floor, a pool of the goo appearing there for a moment, devouring the corpse. You begin to feel sick as the process occurs, though Saya takes your hand, giving you a reassuring smile. It helps… some, yet this is all clearly fucked up. Still, you watch as the corpse is finally taken down into the dark, and a moment later, a form seems to coalesce in the goo, a face, tearing forth, it’s features indistinct and terrifying.
You hear the sound of screaming, as if from a distance, as the face pulls itself up, the sound growing louder in your mind, until you have to put your hands to your ears, though it doesn’t much help. You feel yourself begin to sweat as shoulders and arms appear, pulling out of the murder, resolving into something vaguely female, yet not becoming anything fully recognizable until it reaches the torso, when features begin to appear, almost too rapidly. In one moment, there was a horrifying mass, the next, a pretty looking maid, smiling at you with a large and gentle smile. The creature opens her mouth and says, her voice far, far sweeter than it should have been.
“Saya! Tobias! How good to see you!”
Saya smiles and walks over to the summoning circle, Xanthia holding her arms out to hug to the girl. She beams and says, “Madam Xanthia! I’ve missed you so much!”
“And I, you! Ah, it has been so long, hasn’t it? You’ve grown up so nicely, my lady.”
Saya waves a hand, her body language utterly at odds with the entire situation. “Oh, you don’t have to call me lady, we’ve known each other long enough.”
“I apologize, but you know I must.” She smiles and looks to you, “Ah, but you must be Lord Shady. A pleasure to meet you, and thank you for summoning me here.”
“Uh… I uh…” You gulp before shuddering and reaching to your rucksack, fishing something out. “You uh… ate her corpse and uh…”
“Ah, well, that’s just part of who I am.” She nods her head, beaming wider. “You’re not afraid, are you? I would understand if you were.” The random eyes appearing and vanishing, along with the various mouths on her person sort of… reinforce all of this, but you just take a deep breath and hold out your copy of [Wizardquest]. Sure, there’s a lot of shit going on, and you need to figure out what your next steps will be after all of this, but for now…
“Would you sign my book?”