Stone Man Pass

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Re: Stone Man Pass

Postby Graybeard » April 29th, 2010, 8:49 pm

"Big-brain scholars?" Sister Rose echoed. "I'm not sure I understand. Do you mean from the university in Emerylon?" And if so, wouldn't it be interesting if they had one or both of the Codoin sisters along to help? We still need to find out what was going on with Egbert...

"Aye, ma'am, that be soundin' right," the rustic said. "But it be worse than that."

"How so?" Probably just some big-city/small-town thing, Rose thought; there was plenty of that in the countryside. Still, it would be nice to know what they were getting into.

The man shifted uncomfortably on his horse. "Well, ma'am, the rumors be floatin' around ... there be people from Farrel in with 'em." Maybe my fantasy about the Codoin sisters has a chance of working out, Rose thought ... and then he continued. "And there be scarier rumors than that, even. Friend of a friend of mine be swearin' he be seein' somebody from Tsuraky in town." The man's face was completely, utterly clear on what he thought of that possibility.
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Re: Stone Man Pass

Postby Porcelain Fish » April 30th, 2010, 11:32 pm

Maduin lifted his eyebrows and widened his eyes. "No, surely not one of those godless heathens from Tsuiraku," he said, making sure consternation was written large across his features, reflecting none of the amusement that was bubbling up inside. He glanced around and then leaned down, cupping one hand around his mouth, as though imparting a secret.

"You know, I've heard some of them are quite dangerous. Why, one of them might steal your soul, and you just going on about your business for years, never even realizing it was gone until the day you died, and then you'd be scratching your head, trying to figure out where you'd put it, and the whole time that Tsuirakuan's got it stuffed in a little bottle on a shelf somewhere in an enchanted castle."

Maduin straightened with a nod. "You'll know a true Tsuirakuan by his horns of course. Oh, he'll try to hide them, maybe under a hat, or a kerchief, or a great bunch of little bells all strung together, but they're there, thick, black curling horns like a ram's." He made his voice and tone jovial. "Of course, by then it's far too late, isn't it? No, the only way to repel a Tsuirakuan is by making him look at a reflection of himself, and he'll go running, yelping, and whooping away, terrified of what he sees."

He winked. "Well, good luck gentle sir."
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Re: Stone Man Pass

Postby Graybeard » May 1st, 2010, 9:53 am

Complete perplexity passed across the farmer's face as Maduin finished his oration. That was good, Sister Rose thought; it meant that he probably wasn't paying attention to her own facial expression, which was definitely for the best. Maduin had piled it on awfully thick...

The man apparently reached some kind of decision, turned to address Maduin. "Uh, no, soor, I don't be thinkin' so," he said. "That be one o' them rumors they be layin' out to be confusin' us all. My mate be sayin' that the Tsuraky man in town be lookin' close to th' way we be lookin' ourselves. He be short-like and skinny, like he never be workin' a hard day in th' fields in his life, and he be walkin' with a wee bit of a limp. He be havin' real fair skin, no horns or nothin', jest squinty blue eyes and a big nose. My mate be sayin' he got somethin' wrong with one of his ears, like there be magic to it or somethin', but that be about all. But he ain't got no horns or such."

Rose started to say something, but the man wasn't done yet. "I be tellin' you-all this on account of the Tsuraky-ans be more dangerous than we mainly be thinkin'. See, they be spreadin' them weird rumors so's we not be seein' 'em as they really be, and that way they can be passin' 'mongst us without us noticin'. But mark my words, ma'ams, soors: the worst sort of devils be not the ones that be havin' horns. Nay, they be the ones that be lookin' jest as you and I do ... on account of 'cause then all the wicked be on the inside, where ye cain't be seein' it until it be too late."

Out of the mouths of babes, Rose thought as she gave the man a traveler's blessing and bade him farewell ... and only then did she notice the look that had been forming on Argus' face.

Uh, oh.
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Re: Stone Man Pass

Postby Drannin » May 1st, 2010, 11:45 am

Kurou.

Harker shook his head in disbelief (keeping low so that the farmer wouldn't notice him). He looked at Argus in amazement. "How many of your old pals are we gonna run into?" Harker asked a bit nervously. With good reason.

"I wouldn't call Kurou an old pal," Argus replied just as quietly.

Rose watched the farmer recede into the distance, and then turned to Argus. "We're alone. What is it, Argus? Someone you know?"

"Yes," Argus said numbly. "And if I'm right, we are all in very real danger." He took a deep breath. "Arsoro Kurou is one of the scariest men that I have ever met. That should tell you something right there. He's a scholar, specializing in anthropology and archeology. His interests are the secrets of the past.... No," Argus stopped himself. Best to be honest here. "His all-consuming lust is for the secrets of the past, whatever they may be. The man is a genius. Whatever he has an interest in, he excels at. I hate to admit it, but if he had devoted himself to my field, Kurou would almost definitely have surpassed me." That was painful to get out, but might as well be truthful.

"Kurou isn't much to look at. Small, scrawny. Fairly plain. Comes across as pleasant and cheerful, and well-spoken. I wouldn't call him urbane, but certainly cultured. He has a very distinctive smile, gentle and calming. I saw him murder a man in cold blood with that same smile on his face. It didn't even flicker." Argus shuddered at the memory. "His eyes aren't dead... they have this light in them, that's sort of like a cold light. If there's an opposite to a soul, that's what reflects in Kurou's eyes." He looked at everyone.

"Basically, Arsoro Kuou wants to know. He wants to know for the sake of knowing. And if you're in his way, he removes you. Just like that." Argus snapped his fingers. A cold breeze seemed to blow over them at Argus' pronouncement.

"You almost sound scared of this guy," Brad quipped, sounding very uncertain.

Argus shrugged. "I'm more scared of his drive and amorality, not to mention how he uses his genius, than his magical powers. But you know what? I won't temporize here." Argus nodded. "I'm scared of Arsoro Kurou. Take that as you will."
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Re: Stone Man Pass

Postby Sareth » May 1st, 2010, 11:52 am

Lillith had fallen into an almost alarming fit of laughter as the man had retreated. She'd somehow managed to keep it quiet enough that the man had probably not heard her, and she'd had the grace (relatively speaking) to fall into the bed of the wagon so that her shaking couldn't be seen. "Oh... Oh goddess..." she gasped out between paroxysms of laughter. "They're real... Rose almost had me convinced they didn't."

The tone of Argus' voice when he started talking sobered her up quickly, however. As he relayed his tail, the girl climbed back up to her seat. She listened closely, then gave a small mou. "Well, that's easy enough. We can just avoid him. Right?" Her voice took on a questioning tone that spoke to the experience of having yet to have a simple plan come off without a hitch.
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Re: Stone Man Pass

Postby Graybeard » May 1st, 2010, 12:30 pm

"Well, that's easy enough. We can just avoid him. Right?"

"I'd certainly think so," Sister Rose answered, hoping she sounded more confident than she felt; Argus' outburst had been more than slightly unsettling. "We're probably a pretty interesting sociological study in this wagon -- a couple of Veracian clergy, two Tsuirakuan mages, an expatriate elf, a half-elf priestess in training, and a girl who's been living off the land. Sounds like the kind of thing you'd hear in a joke that starts with 'this guy walks into a bar' or something ... but I really don't think we'd be the kind of study that would attract the attention of someone like the man Argus describes." The Artifact of Absonial, on the other hand ... but I can't tell her about that, at least not yet. Indirection will have to do for the moment. "As you've probably gathered, I have a quick errand to do in Gervasiel at the request of my superiors. After that we can head north, and be shut of this Kurou character, and for that matter, whatever was troubling that farmer. I'm curious, though: why were you laughing so hard?"
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Re: Stone Man Pass

Postby Sareth » May 1st, 2010, 1:01 pm

Lillith started giggling again. She forced that down. "I'm sorry," she said, her voice struggling against mirth. "It's just that you and Miguel are so... so nice and normal! Brad too." She nodded to the infatuated man. "When I left home, I was convinced that Luminositans were all a bunch of parochial, isolationist bigots." If Lillith recognized the irony in her own statement, she certainly didn't show it. "But then I met you, and the only Luminositans who seemed to come close to my expectations were those Millinarians and all. I started believing that all Luminositans must be like you. But this guy..." Lillith started laughing again. "I know I shouldn't laugh, but he was just... so... And Maduin... and..." She collapsed into the bottom of the wagon, a giggling and shaking ball of mirth.
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Re: Stone Man Pass

Postby Graybeard » May 1st, 2010, 2:10 pm

Sister Rose nodded; that was what she'd been guessing might be behind Lillith's mirth, and to be honest, it hurt a little bit. And as usual when Lillith said something like that, there was a grain of truth to it.

"Oh, there are plenty of parochial, isolationist bigots in any religion and any culture," she replied, as soon as Lillith's giggles died down. "And that guy may have had more of a reason for it than most. The weight of the Mage/Priest Wars fell disproportionately on the unlettered folk of the countryside who supplied the cannon-fodder conscripts, rather than on the priests. Between that and lack of exposure to the outside world, it'd be easy enough to develop an isolationist view in a place like Gervasiel, let alone the farm land that he probably came from, judging from his accent. At least he was savvy enough that he didn't buy that delectable fantasy that Maduin was laying down. There are people in the countryside, and some in the cities for that matter, who'd have swallowed it hook, line and sinker."

She paused to negotiate a tight turn in the road, then continued. "You have to remember, though, that every other religion has the same issues to some extent. If you were the only --" she struggled for a moment, looking for a term that captured her understanding of Lillith's beliefs -- "priestess of the spirits of nature that I'd ever met, I'd probably wonder why our church was so down on them, knowing how devoted you are to bringing peace and harmony to the world. But the Albigensians, who started that incident that I've mentioned I was in, were nature worshippers ... and there was damn little peaceful and harmonious about them." She shuddered as she steered the wagon around the next turn.
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Re: Stone Man Pass

Postby Porcelain Fish » May 1st, 2010, 3:25 pm

An act of will and a moment's concentration, and then Maduin fished a small glass bottle of perfume out of his bag, an impish smile crossing his lips.

"Well," he said brightly, two large black, illusory horns curling out of his golden-brown hair to either side of his head, holding the bottle up "I tried to warn him, didn't I? Anyone know of any enchanted castles nearby?"
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Re: Stone Man Pass

Postby Drannin » May 1st, 2010, 4:46 pm

Argus chortled at Maduin's antics. "Sorry, I stay away from enchanted castles. They're more trouble than they're worth." He paused. "And I would know."

Argus then turned to Rose. "Rose, forgive me if I'm prying. This may be something that you don't want to discuss. But you've mentioned these Albigensians more than once. Who were they, exactly?"
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