Kiyoka

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Re: Kiyoka

Postby Viking-Sensei » July 24th, 2008, 12:15 am

Graybeard wrote:OOC here:

Viking-Sensei wrote:Rokku picked up the odd looking dagger. "Got a dagger. Oh, and here's a map on the floor... looks like this place, but it shows... hang on... looks like there's an underground passage... Oh, god..."


Say what? I thought Grope had palmed the odd-looking dagger. Oh, well, maybe he dropped it ...


Nope, my bad, I completely missed the second dagger paragraph, only saw the part where he decided he "didn't want anything to do with" in the earlier post. I've ammended mine to make it still work.
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Re: Kiyoka

Postby Graybeard » July 24th, 2008, 8:39 am

Out of the corner of his eye, a flare of light from somewhere to the south caught his attention, and Grope backed hastily away from the window. It hadn't been lightning; this coast wasn't prone to thunderstorms (although there was that little moment the previous day). And it had lasted too long to result from a Thundering Metal Thing. The only other possibility was Small One magic, with all that that implied. Time to be cautious for a while, he decided.

He noticed a glow of light from the first floor of the otherwise dark farm house. Could this have been the source of the flash? He didn't think so. For one thing, it seemed stable enough, and for another, the color wasn't quite right; the glow had the slightly bluish color of a light globe, while the flash had been pure white, at least as he remembered it. Besides, hadn't that glow been there when he moved in to check out the barn? He thought so, but he wasn't sure.

Five, then ten minutes passed as Grope remained still; nothing more seemed to be happening. Maybe he'd seen a campfire, magical or otherwise, from one of the mining camps on beyond where the road forks, or something at one of the other houses. He decided to do just a tiny bit more exploring before settling down in the forest for the night. Since nothing seemed to be happening where the glow was, and it was getting too dark to see without a light source, he decided to make a virtue of necessity and check out the room that the light was coming from.

He crept quietly to the house, listening all the time. No noises at all were coming from this house, although distantly he could just barely hear a baby's cry from the tidy house to the north, accompanied by a most incongruous set of chimes. No windows here were lit other than the one with the light globe. He debated internally whether to risk a peek, fingered the Robe for guidance and got an almost frantic endorsement back, decided to chance it. He carefully raised his head above the window sill ...

And in that moment, Grope's world came to a crashing halt, then spun crazily around him.

He was looking into a living room with the light globe on the ceiling, comfortably appointed but empty of Small Ones. A large fireplace stood on the wall opposite him. A boar's head and stag's head, with impressive antlers, were on the wall; a cave bear's pelt served as a rug in front of the fireplace.

And hanging between the boar and stag on the wall above the fireplace, stretched outrageously, obscenely, blasphemously on a frame, was what could only be the hide of another troll.

A very familiar hide.
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Re: Kiyoka

Postby Graybeard » July 24th, 2008, 11:36 pm

As the world came crashing down around Grope's reeling mind, he was reminded, in the corners of his consciousness that remained functional, of another proverb of his tribe. It was usually posed as a riddle:
Q. A child is born. How does the midwife tell whether it is male or female?
A. She counts how many times it cries.

A Small One, or anything not a troll, would probably miss the point, but a troll knows all too well what it means. A male troll, so the saying went, weeps only once, and that is when he is born. A female troll, by contrast, weeps twice: when she is born, and again when her mate dies prematurely in combat. And as with most proverbs, there is more than a kernel of truth to it; an overwhelming majority of females outlive their mates, except when they die together. An overwhelming majority -- but not all.

Well, that must make me a female, Grope thought.

After a time, he composed himself enough to do what must be done. He still wasn't thinking clearly, and made no attempt at stealth or silence as he ripped the large window open and stepped through into the living room, ducking his head to avoid the Small-One-sized ceiling. (Fortunately, nobody seemed to hear; the rational corner of his mind noticed that fact and filed it away for future use.) A quick inspection of the hide confirmed his fears, not that he'd had any doubt; spend three hundred years sleeping with the same bedmate, and every little individual feature of their body becomes as familiar as one's own. He couldn't tell how long she'd been dead, except that it hadn't been recent, nor how and why, although her death was clearly violent. Of course, on one level it didn't matter.

He tore off a strip of Zhbrigeeul's hide and began to chew.
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Introducing someone ... new

Postby Graybeard » July 25th, 2008, 12:59 pm

Inside the house, the baby was crying in his crib. She stopped pruning the grapes and hurried back inside, dropping her pack at the door and removing its contents, including the gun (safety first). Nothing wrong here, just the usual baby things: full diaper and empty stomach. She changed the diaper and nursed her son for a while, murmuring quiet, happy, motherly sounds to him all the time. As usual, that made him sleepy again, so she put him back into his crib and read him a story, a goofy little thing involving a wandering troll child. Zachary gurgled happily at the ending, just as he always did. She laughed along with him, then said, "Now sleep, baby." He smiled and closed his eyes. The golden child, she thought, as his breathing became easy.

That done, there was a chance for some inside work. Her husband was in town overnight for business -- not a big deal, happened all the time, he might even be gone two nights -- which gave her a good chance to catch up with some bookkeeping, since he was notoriously bad at it. The vineyard and its associated winery in town were doing well enough, making enough money to provide some nice things for Zachary (and to keep up appearances, which was nearly as important). Of course, things weren't going nearly as well with her husband's consulting work, but on the other hand, expenses were down too, and that wasn't a bad thing. (Was it?) The books, at least, were just about balancing, which is all that can ever be hoped for with a startup. She hadn't had a job in some time herself, but of course, after Zachary was born, she hadn't really been looking for one. She paid some bills, then put the books away, those for the vineyard on a shelf in the living room, those for the consulting business in a more ... secure ... location.

Zachary was still asleep, and the daily chores were largely done, so with the house empty, she had a chance for some private time practicing on her mandolin. it was a good thing to do; she loved the music (even if it left her husband bored to tears, which is why she preferred to practice when he wasn't home), Zachary seemed to like it, and the dexterity that the instrument required could only help her out in her other lines of work. She'd completed a difficult set of etudes for the first time without error just the previous day, and was running through them again, smiling to herself for her achievement, when a set of chimes rang from the master bedroom. She frowned; hadn't they turned that ringer down so that it wouldn't wake the baby? (As it had, although he rapidly went back to sleep.) She'd have to fiddle with it some more, although Tsuirakuan magical gadgetry was usually beyond her.

She closed the door and went to the desk where the crystal ball was glowing, pulsating in time with the chimes, and passed her hand over it. There wasn't really any need to check on who was calling, since there was only one person who knew their comm code and had the special access that caused this particular set of chimes to ring. Still, she checked the image as the haze in the ball cleared, even though she knew who it would be.

As it was. Faye's image appeared, and the ball said, "Hello, Layla."

"Hi, Mom."

[OOC: I hereby claim Layla as a "secondary character" as defined by Viking-Sensei.]
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Re: Introducing someone ... new

Postby Graybeard » July 25th, 2008, 10:31 pm

"So how is my favorite grandson doing?" Faye asked. Layla started to say "Wonderfully," which would have been the truth -- he'd been happy and healthy for the entire six months of his life -- but remembered the code: a positive, cheerful answer to that question was their private way of saying "I'm in danger, send help," and that would have entirely the wrong outcome. Instead, she thought a moment and replied, "Well, he has a bit of croup, nothing serious." That meant "I'm alone and able to talk freely"; if Arty had been there but no one else, she'd have answered that Zachary was just a wee bit colicky, and so on. "And how are you, Mom?"

The same convention applied at the other end; Faye replied, "Oh, you know, the rheumatism is getting worse." That was good, Layla thought; no known eavesdroppers there either. Faye continued, "Shall we go secure?" Layla confirmed and pressed the carefully concealed button in the crystal ball's stand. The ball went cloudy for a moment while the scrambler spell engaged, then Faye's image reappeared. "Okay, let's get down to business," she said, "but I do want to see that grandson of mine before we hang up." Layla beamed; Gewehr Wraith or not, she was still a new, proud mom...

Faye briefly filled her daughter in on the session of the Gewehr brain trust, at least that part of it that Layla had a need to know -- which didn't include the fact that Mr. Gabriel was her father and was asking about her. "The Council wants to keep the Kiyoka enterprise in business for a while longer," she added, "but they're starting to get pretty anxious about the losses. They understand that the material you have to work with is sub-standard and that you and Arty are the only full Wraiths on site. Still, they're assets of a sort, and we don't want to just throw them away, right?"

"I've worked with better," Layla agreed. Truthfully, she'd rarely worked with worse. Of the entire crew, only Curley and Louie had shown any sign of potential to grow into anything but a meat shield, and they both had their shortcomings, to put it mildly. And the way they'd "decorated" the house next door was ... unsettling. But her mother was asking, "Can you fill me in on the latest losses among those clowns?"

"Well, things are still a bit uncertain," Layla said. "Arty thought he had a line on someone who might have been responsible for the ones last week, but he wouldn't give any details -- opsec, you know." Faye's smile looked just slightly forced, so Layla continued, "I think he said something about someone called 'Jamie,' don't know whether that's a man or woman. That mean anything to you?"

Now that got a reaction, Layla noted; her mother's face went blank, in the way that Layla knew meant that she was hiding something. She decided not to push it and went on. "Arty took just about the whole outfit into town yesterday to try to find this guy and take care of him, but I haven't heard anything back yet. Well, no news is probably good news in this case, or at least not bad news." By this cryptic remark she meant that they'd cultivated a "source" in the town militia who would probably let them know if things had gone too badly wrong -- probably. Her own opsec concerns meant she wouldn't tell even her mother about the details; tit for tat, she reasoned.

Faye nodded. "Just take care of yourselves, kiddo. I want that grandson to grow up in a family that doesn't have his mom and dad represented by a tombstone. If anything happens that puts you at risk, get out of there, and I'll put up with the crap from the Council about pulling the plug on the operation. Got that?" She was all serious this time, and Layla gulped and nodded. Faye said, "Good. Now why don't you go get that little boy so that I can see him, before we get on to the financial report?" Glad to change the subject, Layla agreed and went to retrieve her sleeping son.
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Re: Introducing someone ... new

Postby Graybeard » July 26th, 2008, 12:01 pm

Layla broke the connection, her head still spinning from talking finance with her mother. The baby was back asleep after his moment on camera, so she decided to go for a quick run to clear her head. She had other motivations for a run, too; she'd get a chance to inspect the main compound as well as the decoy fortifications, and she thought she still needed to work off a bit of pregnancy fat (although any red-blooded male watching her run would definitely have thought otherwise).

Nothing seemed to be happening at the farm house and barn, as far as she could see from the road. This was probably a good thing; if the rank-and-file troops had come back to their quarters but Arty hadn't returned, that would be something to worry about. With none of them back, the elimination of the mysterious "Jamie" was probably just taking a little longer than anticipated -- maybe Arty was finally getting those cowboys to move carefully and actually plan, she hoped. She was only a little less sanguine about the voices she heard at the decoy compound as she passed by, although she couldn't see anything through the hedges. Probably just Kiyokan kids out on an adventure, she decided; the voices sounded Tsuirakuan, which was good, since most of their known enemies weren't locals. This had happened before, and they wouldn't hang around long. The place was just bristling with non-lethal but pain-inducing traps, and as soon as the kids triggered one, they'd run away in terror. The traps in the emergency tunnel, now ... those were definitely not non-lethal, but any stupid townie that wandered in there and got killed definitely had it coming. She made a mental note to check the tunnel the next day, hopefully with Arty along for some extra muscle (not to mention that a few minutes together in the dark, out of earshot of their son, might be ... stimulating...), although she didn't expect to find anything amiss.

She turned around at the next farm house (the old woman who lived there, she noted, was pacing the widow's walk with a light globe in hand) and returned home to find the crystal ball ringing with the particular chimes that denoted a "business" caller -- business for the winery, that is, not their ... other ... line of work. That was odd; it was well after closing time for any normal business. She pushed the control to suppress display of images for the moment, triggered the device, and answered, "Good evening, Rising Moon Vineyards, this is Andrea, how can I help you?" (Rising Moon Vineyards ... how boring, she thought; she'd wanted to call their business "Bad Ass Wine," but Arty had vetoed that. She did remember to use her nom de commerce rather than her real name, at least.)

"Andrea, it's Sergeant Ohta." Uh, oh. Ohta was their "source" in the Kiyokan militia, and she could hear stress in his voice -- lots of stress. "We need to talk right away. Can I come out? I can be there in five minutes."

She thought quickly. He hadn't used the code to say that he had company or was being pressured, but just to be on the safe side, she said, "Um, how's your wife?" He wasn't married and Layla knew it, but the "She's fine, now can I come out?" answer meant that he was alone -- or so he said. She consented, quickly broke the connection, and went to set up some of the house's less visible, and more lethal, defenses, just in case he wasn't alone or had gone bad; it felt like that kind of situation.

As it happened, he didn't need the full five minutes to get to the house; he got there in four. In the fifth minute, Layla could see enough to know that he really was alone, severely upset, and not a threat to her.

And by the seventh minute, she was sobbing uncontrollably, as Ohta told her what had happened in town the night before.
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Re: Kiyoka

Postby Viking-Sensei » July 27th, 2008, 3:59 am

(OOC - I'm really not sure what to do here, GB - I want to help, but I'm at a loss as to how my characters can interact with this situation in a meaningful manner... so, in lieu of that, I'm going to position them right in harm's way and let your plot roll over them.)

The tunnel took them, not surprisingly to the farm house next door... Rokku continued to insist that this wasn't part of the game and that this was some sort of secret tunnel, and that perhaps their 'investigations' into this murder mystery had led them into the midst of some secret organization of terribly armed and hostile individuals, however Kureji suspected that the tunnel was probably just some sort of shortcut, perhaps harking back to a day and age when the two houses had been owned by the same individual or two generations of the same family and they didn't want to have to walk the whole way around every time they wanted to visit. The rotating death blades (blocked by Rokku casting Frost Bolt) and the flame throwers ("It's only a little burnt fur, I'll be fine!" Says Locke) apparently didn't even register on Kureji's weird-o-meter.

They continued to argue the point as they approached the nice non-run-down non-corpse-ridden house, however Rokku noted a pungent smell whaft past him on a couple of occasions, although he couldn't quite nail down the source. "So what do we do now, Kureji? Harrass these innocent people who may have nothing to do with your insane "Murder Mystery" quest?"

Kureji smiled. "Exactly."
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Re: Kiyoka

Postby Graybeard » July 27th, 2008, 10:23 am

Dejectedly, Grope finished the first part of the ritual for the dead. The problem, of course, was that a Priestess was needed for full consummation of the ceremony, and he most certainly didn't have one handy any more. Well, not much to do about that except try to make it back to the troll homelands with enough of his mate's mortal remains to do something. To be sure, he had another, powerful reason to go back there now...

But then something extraordinary happened.

He'd moved outside the cramped house for the rituals; it didn't seem right to do them in a Small One's place, rather than the unconfined outdoors where a troll belonged. He'd also stripped off the Many-Fathers-God-Wisdom-Robe as the ritual required and was holding it in his right hand, with a swatch of his mate's hide in the other hand. He rubbed them together, just as a Priestess would have, but hopelessly, without her magic to meld the two -- and that was when he noticed the faint magical glow from Zhbrigeeul's hide and his left hand.

Almost refusing to dare to believe what he was seeing, he murmured the litany as though he was the Priestess -- and miracle of miracles, the Robe and the hide merged! And the glow of weak magic remained on the Robe, and on his hand, and in his mind! He'd heard of such a thing happening, once a generation or so, when a particularly powerful female troll-shaman (and Zhbrigeeul had certainly been that) predeceased her mate, but he had never, in his four-hundred-years-plus of life, imagined that it could happen to him. Somehow Zhbrigeeul was reaching out to him from the Beyond, with her incomprehensible powers ... and her love ...

Clearly the proverb was wrong: some male trolls could weep three times. But only the lucky ones.

And now, he realized, he could visit the homelands in peace, to do the next thing he had to do. He didn't bother to tidy the scene in the house, but made his way quickly past the barn (were those Tsuirakuan voices he heard in there, coming from the first floor where the underground passageway opened? he really didn't care any more) and to the forest -- just in time to hear a scream and loud sobbing from the small house next door. It sounded as if something had happened to the family of the young woman he'd seen there, and it wasn't good -- but he reminded himself that getting too involved in the affairs of the Small Ones was a mistake.

He was going home, and that was enough for the moment.
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Re: Kiyoka

Postby Graybeard » July 27th, 2008, 11:40 am

(OOC: Sorry to jump from character to character here, but I'm trying to give Viking-Sensei something to work with...)

"I'm terribly sorry, Andrea. If there's anything I can do to help, just say the word. And I'll try to find out what I can about the sunsabitches that did this." Ohta turned from the door, mounted his bicycle, muttered a Speed spell, and pedaled off into the night, back toward town.

Mom, Layla thought through the dizziness and the grief and the rage. Her mother would know what to do. She quickly went to the bedroom, secured the door, and punched the emergency code into the crystal ball communicator.

Faye looked like she'd been interrupted in the middle of a particularly raucous party, but it didn't take her long to grasp the situation as Layla explained it as best she could, through her tears. Layla could see her calculating coldly behind the mask, and when she spoke, it was pure business. "Okay, Layla, it's time to close this operation down. I'm pulling the plug on it, on my authority, and if I have to wrestle the Council in hell over it, I will. But you get your ass out of there. I want you and Zachary on the way back here immediately. Clear?"

Layla's world spun just a trifle more slowly -- still out of control and full of horrors, just a bit less so now that her mother's commanding presence was taking over. How could she be so strong, Layla wondered, then decided she probably didn't really want to know. But one thing bothered her ... "Okay, Mom, we'll bolt as quickly as we can. But I've got to have revenge. I've got to find the cock suckers that did this and kill them slowly and painfully. You understand that, don't you?"

Faye understood, all right; did this silly girl think this was the first time someone in the Gewehr had had their main squeeze killed? She glared back at her daughter, summoned a memory of how she'd phrased it when it was a 10-year-old rather than 25-year-old Layla who needed some limits set, and said, "No, you listen to me, child, because I'm only going to say it one more time: you get your ass out of there. Take what you can that's yours, and I'll send some people to clean up the operation over in the farmhouse and the decoy, nice and permanently. And once you and that grandson of mine are back here and safe, then we can talk about revenge. Is that clear? Completely clear?"

It was.
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Re: Kiyoka

Postby Graybeard » July 29th, 2008, 8:49 am

It was amazing what a good night's sleep would do for one, Grope thought as he struck camp. That, and the knowledge that his mate was with him now, at least in the Robe. Was she still there in the weird, un-male-troll-like magic as well? He decided to test it out. He still had a bit of pain and itching from where that envenomed bolt had struck him, nothing debilitating but a mild annoyance. He touched the wound with his other hand as he had seen (and felt) his mate do, and thought, heal. And Growf be praised, it did. The itching stopped and he could see a scar form -- an unexpected bonus, trolls' attitudes toward scars being what they were. At the same time, he felt a weird, visceral fatigue, and he knew that he couldn't do this healing magic again for a good while. Well, a little healing capability was better than none ... even if the rest of his tribe would be anywhere from shocked to horrified that he had it.

And now, time to go home, and get on with the next phase of his recovery: taking another mate.

He'd camped deep in the woods, but not so deep that he couldn't hear the weirdness coming from the farm house during the night. Idly, he hoped that that young mother was all right; the screaming and sobbing hadn't sounded good. However, the Small Ones' problems weren't his own, he reminded himself. He loped back toward town.
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