Private Tales Graves Too Horrid to Dig

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Lumen

Paladin
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Lumen’s question experience went much differently than Caeso’s. She was met with resistance and distrust at first. But because of her ability with people, by the end of her meeting she was always offered tea and to hold the baby. She didn’t know how much more tea her stomach could take. And there were several cleaned baby spit up marks on her armor.

Glancing outside the window of her current visit, she saw the beam of light shoot into the sky. “You’ll have to excuse me,” she apologized to the elderly woman, Violet Sensa. Many saw the woman as wise and she was the village apothecary.

“Ehh what’s that missy?”

Lumen frowned as she wrenched the door open. “Looks like trouble.”

“Probably the young pup Boris. He’s a trouble maker that one. Let Mama Sensa come with you.” There was no protesting as she stood with her cane and followed Lumen toward the commotion. Albeit at a much slower pace.

It was in Caeso’s direction. Hopefully Zinnia would see the signal, too. Lumen and Violet came upon the scene. Lumen quickly slid next to Caeso as Violet edged in front of them, tapping her cane loudly on the ground. Her voice carrying with a surprising amount of strength considering her age.

“I am ashamed at the lot of you! Boris Ulthwreath, I was at your birth and helped clean up many a scraped knee. You will all ask your questions in a CIVILIZED manner or so help me!!”

More angry taps of her cane.

To Violet’s credit, there was a pause and quieting hush in the mob. But would it be enough?
 
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Zinnia

Wallflower
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Zinnia took another approach altogether. Talking to people wasn't her specialty, anyone who spent more than thirty seconds speaking with her would know that. Going unnoticed and blending in? That was much more her speed. Wait in the right place for long enough and someone will say something relevant that they didn't think would be overheard.

Hood pulled forward as much as she could and cloak covering her armor and weapon, Zinnia meandered the streets of Pernach. A small town meant lots of gossip, surely. And sure enough, she didn't have to wait long. Two men chatting after stepping out of a bar.

"Did you hear? Another house was hit on Yarrow Street."

"Anyone dead this time?"

"No, no, just windows smashed out, place ransacked."

"What the fuck is this town coming to? Used to be peaceful here."


Right then, Yarrow Street. A bit more wandering. Sure enough, multiple houses with boarded up windows, the remnants of glass bordering the frames like jagged teeth lining a gaping maw. But not every house, just...some. Was there a reason behind that? The houses that had been broken into didn't seem any different than the others, not in any noticeable pattern. Blue house, gray house, green house...all of similar sizes, nothing particularly different.

"Heathens, all of them. This is their punishment for forsaking Aionus."

"You're out of your gourd, Karl."

"Aye? You wanna tempt that? See if your house gets hit next, your son put in a box?"

"..."

"That's what I thought."


Another passing conversation, another time Zinnia had gone unnoticed. Finally it clicked. Dangling hourglass iconography. Not just local customs or a stylistic choice. They were holy symbols. Zinnia had heard Kristen Pirian speak of the deity before, she was certain. The ransacked homes, they hadn't hung the symbols up...but what did that--?

KRAK-OWWWW

Lightning cracked the night, arcing skyward from a place not too far from where Zinnia stood. In an instant her helmet was on and her hammer in her hands. Trouble, and gods was she glad that she'd offered the mortars to her companions. The wallflower rushed off, eventually spotting the mob and the familiar, golden mane of Lumen as she approached.

Zinnia skidded to a stop, hammer aloft, unsure of exactly how to proceed.
 
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Caeso Diemut

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With the backing of the other malcontents in the crowd, and the weight of the dead, and the frustration and despair for a remedy, Boris did not back down from Elder Sensa's chastisement. The hush flowed over the crowd from the suddenness of her appearance, but he relit the aggrieved fire.

"Stay out of this, Violet," Boris half-said, half-growled. "This is about what's best for all Pernach. There's hard decisions to be made."

Caeso took stock of Lumen, of Zinnia, of Elder Sensa. The tide was a little more in their favor for persuasion. It would be best if dialogue resolved the issue at hand, and that the Initiates need not batter the very people they were here to help.

Boris cast his gaze over Caeso, Lumen, and Zinnia. The outsiders. The Dreadlords. "Why should we trust you?" he asked for the third time. "Our children are going missing, turning up dead, and what's the best Vel Anir has to offer? One man. One man who up and leaves us to our fate. And now you."

"Not even the Lord Mayor is aware of what truly happened to Dreadlord Muldoon," Caeso said. At least, so far as anyone knew, this was the case.

"The Lord Mayor!" Boris spat. "Fucking sycophant to Vel Anir is what he is. And he don't seem very worried about his three boys. Makes a man wonder."

Lumen Zinnia
 
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Lumen

Paladin
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Lumen saw Zinnia join them from the corner of her eyes. That girl was fire. Helmet with hammer. She looked like an old Anirian God that scrolls were written about. The yelling from Boris brought her attention back into focus.

"Makes me wonder, too," Lumen said quietly, raising her hands in a sign of placation and stepping up side-by-side to Violet. "We just got here. Give us a chance to help you. If Dreadlord Muldoon did leave I can promise you we won't do as he did. I'm Lumen," one hand fell to her chest as she introduced herself. Then her thumb hooked behind her at Caeso, "That's Caeso and even though he might seem a little proud at first," a small wince and apology in her fellow initiate's direction," he has the most determination for justice more than anyone I know. And once he's on your side, you have him for life."

Lumen pointed to Zinnia next. "And that's Zinnia. She's one of the smartest in our class. And her heart is bigger than that hammer of hers. Give us a few days. Work with us." Tawny-eyes finally settled and locked onto Boris.'
 

Zinnia

Wallflower
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It was just...people. Townsfolk. No monsters, no warriors, just regular citizens. Scared. Angry.

Zinnia lowered her hammer, clicking it back into the holster across the small of her back. She strode as carefully as she could to join Lumen, not wanting to provoke anyone into lashing out. Pride and admiration swelled in her heart for her friend as she spoke to the crowd. She was braver than Zinnia was, that was certain, and for her to say such things...

"Th-that's r-right..." She stammered, cursing herself. She wasn't going to inspire anyone with her horrible stuttering, but she had to try to help...right? "L-Lumen looks out f-for all of us b-back home, and sh-she'll look out f-for all of y-y-you, too! And s-so will we! J-just let us help!"
 

Caeso Diemut

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Some in the crowd fell into a considering silence at Lumen's words. Some in the crowd giggled cruelly at Zinnia's stuttering. Caeso shot a cross look toward the chucklers, and those who met his gaze quieted.

Boris flicked his dubious eyes around to the three Initiates before settling back onto Lumen. "We gave Muldoon a few days, same as you're asking now. You know what happened? He's gone and Frederich Koningfair is dead."

This galvanized those who had been considering back into discontentment. It was plain to see, and Caeso stepped in immediately to try and counter it. "What would you do, then, if we acquiesced to your implicit demand and left Pernach this instant?"

"We'd sleep better knowing you did it for sure!" Boris interjected quickly, eliciting a few scathing laughs from the crowd.

Caeso pressed on. "Would you cobble together what weapons and farming tools as you have and strike out into the night, ragged band of men-at-arms as you are? Do you even understand the nature of the creatures you would place yourselves up against?"

"Everything dies," said Boris. "We could kill those damned bloodsuckers. But the Lord Mayor won't let us strike out! No! Just wants us to sit here, hands under our asses, while you Dreadlords supposedly take care of it and while our kids keep getting killed!"

Lumen Zinnia
 
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Lumen

Paladin
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"Fine," Lumen's voice rose and seemed to hold the weight of Zinnia's hammer in her tone. "Let's all strike out together, then. But maybe just a few of you should join us so you can leave others behind to protect your families. Otherwise, you're just asking for something to happen while you're all gone trying to play the vengeful hero."

Lumen pointed directly at Bori. "Bring the five strongest fighters and let's go check out the groves." A glance to Zinnia and Caeso. It was just a delay tactic but it would buy them some time. The problem now was that if they ran into trouble, they'd have to protect these villagers as well as themselves.

Still, Boris hadn't agreed yet. Could still be an all-out riot on their hands.
 
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Zinnia

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"V-vampires don't die, sir." Zinnia chimed in, finger raised thoughtfully. "That's...k-kind of...the point..."

She trailed off, realizing this was not particularly helpful and probably felt like she was rubbing something in. That wasn't her intent.
"Th-the point is, maybe y-you should work on d-defending the town instead of s-sending everyone out on a w-wild goose chase? D-do you even know w-what you're looking for?"
The last real angle she could take to help ward off having civilians with them on their hunt: appeal to experience. Zinnia really didn't like the idea of having meat shields with them.
"I...l-look, having extra b-bodies around to help us sh-should we come to a fight is h-helpful, but I'm afraid a vampire m-might tear you all apart. W-we've been raised to f-fight. We have m-magic. You don't."
 

Caeso Diemut

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Boris looked back at the other men in the crowd once Lumen and Zinnia each had their say. What passed among them was an unspoken agreement, expressions and glances conveying the unanimous decision among them. If fear was in any of their hearts it was suppressed. Even putting aside the anger and frustration and grief all at the core of their situation, there existed a masculine need among them to not back down. They had each implicitly asked for this, and to back down now would be the height of cowardice, a ruination to any credible claim of being men.

Boris looked back to the three Initiates. "With your blessing, the Lord Mayor won't be able to stop us from going out now."

Then, specifically to Zinnia and with a jabbing finger, Boris said, "And we'll show you that we don't need magic to protect our homes!" He turned, gesturing to the four other men he selected in the unspoken agreement. "Come on. Let's get armed."

The crowd, thus placated, started to disperse, a giddy excitement of gossip among those who were staying. At last, this vampire menace would be done!

Caeso watched them go, then glanced over to Lumen. "A better result than having a wave of discontent boil over into a revolt in all Pernach."

But then a knowing look to Zinnia. Caeso was fine with letting Boris and some of the townsfolk come along, but he thought it would end just as Zinnia was predicting: five more dead, no matter how much they tried to protect them. The vampires, cruel creatures as they were, would sniff the townsfolk out as the weakest and kill them first. Such was likewise Caeso's reckoning.

Lumen Zinnia
 
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Lumen

Paladin
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"I tried, lass," Violet Sensa said before hobbling off back to her home. For a moment, Lu's gaze watched her carefully, just to make sure she'd make it back. A sigh as she disappeared from view. Head shook, tawny-eyes settling back to her classmates as she stepped close to them. Voice low.

"Something isn't sitting right with me about what that townsfolk said. The mayor and his three boys. I have a bad feeling that his three boys might be involved. It might make sense as to why the menace is focused on this town and hasn't spread to any of the surrounding villages. And perhaps why the victims are children. What do you two think?"

They didn't have too much time to talk. But she was going to try and take advantage of the moment.
 
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Zinnia

Wallflower
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So the civvies were tagging along. Not good. Maybe the lesser of two evils, but they represented a huge handicap in the event that the group was assailed by a monster. Zinnia, at least, was concerned with keeping them alive. Just because they were foolish didn't mean they deserved to die. Nonetheless, Zinnia deflated visibly as the men asserted their usefulness and ran off to "prepare."

"N-nothing they can b-bring will ready them f-for what's coming, if we r-really are dealing with v-vampires..." She thought aloud.

Lumen stepped in afterwards, voicing her very legitimate concerns. Zinnia raised her brows.
"That's...oh. Oh no. W-we should look into th-that as well."
 

Caeso Diemut

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Something isn't sitting right with me about what the townsfolk said.

Was there a better summation of their time thus far in Pernach? The strangeness of the vampires' tactics, the Lord Mayor's ostensibly helpful but subtly cagey demeanor, these comments made by Boris and the other upset Pernachers, all of it contributed to the feeling of a mission that would be less than straightforward.

"I think you may be right," Caeso said to Lumen.

Zinnia added her piece, and Caeso nodded.

"While the esteemed Lord Mayor may have something to hide, the boys, perhaps, will lack any such inclination, for the dealings of their father may well be above their understanding. But they might yet possess some insight, unwitting or not."

Caeso brought a fist up to his chin.

"The key would be speaking with one of them—preferably the eldest—alone, striking up an innocuous conversation."

He glanced between Lumen and Zinnia. It was simply a raw fact of the matter that Caeso ought to automatically rule himself out for such a task; he figured one of the boys would be far more open with Lumen or Zinnia, for they could muster friendlier faces than he ever could. And, if they got to the eldest son, it needed to be considered that, depending on his age, he might well be charmed and eager to please either Lumen or Zinnia, enamored by the mere fact that one of the girls even wanted to speak with him—an advantage Caeso could not possibly replicate.

"This is something we could pursue, especially if we return tonight without any finding anything of note in the Grove."

Lumen Zinnia
 
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Lumen

Paladin
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Lumen shared a look with Zinnia. Was Caeso suggesting what she thought he was? There were shouts and whoops around them as some of the townsfolk men returned with their pitchforks, some ratty-looking swords, and make-shift bows.

"First this," she motioned around them. "Then let's find them and have a chat." A quick nod to Caeso. "Maybe you can distract the mayor while Zinnia and I take lead?" Her hand fell to the hilt of her sword.

"LET'S GO KILL SOME FUKING MONSTERS!!!!!!!!!!" Boris yelled, holding up his sword that looked like it still had rust on it. But the handful of men with him cheered. There was one portaly woman as well, waving a cast-iron skillet. They began charging past the initiates.

"Kriff help us," she muttered, eyes darting between Caeso and Zinnia. "Let's try to keep them alive." Turning, she jogged to catch up to the mob, staying on their right side, eyes alert in the darkness. With a smooth hiss, she drew her sword and readied her shield.
 

Zinnia

Wallflower
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None of this was settling well with Zinnia whatsoever. Sure, she'd been involved with investigations before--even ones involving bloodsuckers, oddly enough--but those had been relatively straightforward in their resolutions. The villain that was Drederick had practically thrown himself at her group's feet after just a brief bit of investigation. This was shaping up to be much more complex.
"R-right...nothing like the idea of v-vampiric children, k-killing other kids..." She muttered to her fellows, gut churning at the idea. She didn't much like the idea of 'taking the lead,' either. Of the traits that Zinnia demonstrated, 'charming' was not the first that came to mind. "W-well, j-just covering all the b-bases anyways, right?"

As the new mob began to form, Zinnia deflated.
"R-right...with any l-luck at all, the s-search will turn up empty h-handed tonight..."
 

Caeso Diemut

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All three of them shared the same sentiment when the rabble of Pernachers returned, fire in their veins and shoddy weapons in their hands. Hopefully turning up empty-handed tonight would keep the rabble alive, allowing for that fire to cool over the long hours of a fruitless pursuit.

Lumen went jogging after the rabble.

"Never have I wanted to find nothing more." Caeso jerked his head toward the departing group. "Let us go."

Seemed the more pertinent business could be with the Lord Mayor's sons. But that, unfortunately, could only happen after this and with the right timing.

* * * * *

THE GROVE


Two full moons threw down their thin light from the cloudless sky, and at least there was that much to be thankful for. Lessat and Pneria's watchful gaze saw the band of Pernachers and the Initiates south of the town and through the heavy forest and finally to the dense Grove.

The very ground they walked on became spongy and soft, a carpet of moss. Greenery of all kinds clung to the thick trunks of the larger trees here. Scattered among the behemoth trees were smaller, gnarled ones, twisting and turning almost like dancers from the far West in Amol-Kalit. A lazy, gurgling stream fed a few small ponds found throughout the basin of the Grove. It was nature undespoiled. Almost magical, in its own way.

One thing Caeso noticed: "Quite a lot of mushrooms."

"They're not the edible kind," Boris said. "They're the kind that mess with your head and leave you sick. Everybody in Pernach knows."

Caeso had his swords out, and he flicked his eyes left and right as he walked, taking in his surroundings. The rabble, for now, at least were sticking loosely together and not wandering off, trying to play the hero.

"Hardly the typical lair for wretches of the night," Caeso said to Lumen and Zinnia, stepping over a large fallen log covered in moss.

Lumen Zinnia
 
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Lumen

Paladin
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Lumen took a breath and centered herself. Magic swept forward and then back. "I"m not sure if vampires would be colder than us or not but I'm not sensing any other clusters of warmth nearby. Beyond this group." She stepped over the same fallen log as Caeso.

"And I'm not sensing any significantly cold spots but...it's hard to tell on a night cool like this already."

She made sure to stick close to the villagers that seemed the least able to defend themselves. Although with this group it was hard to narrow that down. Two twigs snapped in the distance and a flock of birds took tot he moonlit sky.
 

Zinnia

Wallflower
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The grove was...surprisingly beautiful. Cast in the bluish hues of the pale light of the moons, this place felt like it held some inherent magic to it, as though faeries could creep from their corners and flit about them at any moment. As ever, being out in such a natural environment somehow felt much more...well, natural for Zinnia. Like weights were being lifted from her shoulders and she could breathe properly. She never could place why that was.

Of course, the mention of mushrooms and the subsequent explanation of their effects quickly quashed any relief Zinnia was experiencing.
"Ohhh, nonono. R-remind me to k-keep my distance from those, p-please..." She requested to no one in particular. Zinnia had had quite enough of tripping out at Lumen's Friendsgiving affair, courtesy of Zaire. A second round was nowhere in her future, at least preferably.

And Im not sensing any significantly cold spots but...its hard to tell on a night cool like this already.

"If the o-one Aelita and I were s-sent after is anything to g-go off of, their hearts don't b-beat and their b-blood runs cold...I g-guess...s-sorry, I know that's not very h-helpful..."
 
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Caeso Diemut

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"Any word spoken from experience is not wasted," Caeso said to Zinnia.

And this was one of the larger problems with fighting vampires, was it not? That, as all the tomes have said, a variety of strains each with their own characteristics existed. They might be fighting the same kind as Zinnia and Aelita had previously, they might actually be fighting ones who could feign warmth as Lumen suggested. But they simply did not yet know until they could kill, capture, or at least witness one of them.

Caeso made to speak again, but the sound of the twig snapping and the flight of the birds on the far side of the Grove grabbed his attention. The dozen Pernachers all stopped as well, hushed words among them: "Hear that?" "What is it?" "My father's trusty axe never fails, let's have 'em then."

Once the birds had all departed with their roused squawking and calls, the otherwise still and calm night air carried indistinct sounds over to them, sounds so light to the ear that they were little more than suggestions, and one might be well within their reason to think them a product of paranoia.

Caeso leaned a bit closer to Lumen and said in low tones, "Do you sense anything there?"

And there was, indeed, a warm spot in that far distance. A warm spot shaped distinctly like a wild animal; a bear, having been roused from its slumber.

Lumen Zinnia
 
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Lumen

Paladin
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There was something about being around Caeso that felt familiar. The good kind. The kind that she could trust no matter what. She doubted he would ever share the sentiment or agree. He'd talk about being strong to defend yourself. Being ready by your own strength. He was very much entrenched in the old ways. Who wouldn't be among their class?

Perhaps not Zinnia.

Her magic slipped forward again - toward that flock of startled birds. Then her head shook, eyes locking on Caeso's in the dark. "Nothing monstrous." And so, the villagers poked around the forest for the next few hours. Lumen wanted to shout and tell them there was nothing out here. Not the monsters they were looking for. But she knew that would be of little use.

They'd have to come to that conclusion on their own.

But she could make them more uncomfortable as they looked. Perhaps to encourage their retreat back to the safety of their homes. Very subtly, she began dropping the temperature around them. Until they began to shiver and after a little longer, the first of them muttered about wanting to go back - to return to their families and homes. And they began to retreat the way they'd come.
 
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Zinnia

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Any word spoken from experience is not wasted,
Zinnia quietly tugged forward on her hood so that the flushing heat she felt in her freckled cheeks would go unseen. It was always odd, yet welcome when such words met her ears. As long as Zinnia was of use...

Tension built and held for only a moment as Caeso and Lumen analyzed the presence in the darkness. That it was apparently only wildlife came as a relief. The rest of their wandering hours Zinnia spent inbetween a state of high alert and enamored wonder. She soaked in the sights the grove had to offer, still curious about how oddly at home the place made her feel. Something to ponder over another time, it seemed.

Her words might not have been wasted, but the night was. When at last the remains of the civilians retired Zinnia couldn't help but huff in frustration.
"I'm g-glad that nobody died, b-but I'm afraid of how much t-time we just burned. It's the m-middle of the night now, I d-doubt the L-lord Mayor's kids are even still aw-wake."
 
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