Private Tales Set of Teeth for Hire

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Volker

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The Ring of Teeth was northwest of Vel Anir, out on the sands. The proximity to the Savannah made it welcoming to travelers, but it’s position had a much more interesting purpose. The sands were stained reddish brown in a wide proximity around the sandstone walls of the ring. Such a color was a warning not to get too near, and an invitation for men fond of bloodsport.

Men like Oor.

The wraith looked like a burned corpse himself. He was wizened and grey, flesh as delicate as parchment. His eyes were absent save for a persistent red light, reflected in his chest. It shone through the gaps between his ribs and through thin flesh like a demented lantern. He wore expensive black linen robes, and lounged lazily in his seat.

The Ring had two sections. The first was nearer to the sport in the burning sun, where the sandstone benches only had scant padding to protect poorer rears from the blazing heat. Even the stone was flecked and stained with blood here, reminiscent of battles past.

The second section was nearly fifty feet above the first. Large rectangular slabs jutted outward, covered by colorful cloth above. These were the boxes for nobility and owners. There were refreshments here, nice cushions, and brokers for betting on various matches. Oor sat boredly; Volker was well known on the sands and commanded a high price to challenge.

Below, Volker did the majority of the work. He had to fight for every mouthful of water here. Owners were rewarded in gold, combatants with water. Men who lost a lot didnt last more than a day, lest their owners suffer the humiliation of withdrawal.

Volker was hovering around his latest challenge. The spearman had done an excellent job and Volker was bleeding heavily in one shoulder. But Volker had cut two tendons in his knees, forcing him to fight one legged and lean on the spear. Both were exhausted, sweating bullets and panting like bulls.

Volker feinted a lunge, causing his opponent to stagger and bring the spear around. A knife thrown into his neck, and the other collapsed.

Kiros Rahnel
 
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Kiros Rahnel

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The dry, sun-heated sands was deeply familiar terrain to the travelling priest; rekindling memories his early years when he knew of no other land. A place he’d rather avoid; quite wisely as an outlaw. So, it was better that his destination was closer to Vel Anir than Amol-Kalit, despite his disdain for both. The Anirians may be a blight upon Liadain but they weren’t looking to have Kiros executed; making them a clear preference in his books.

Despite their more welcoming stance, the city still bothered him. A culture ever focused on achieving peace through extermination...perhaps not unlike home. The Kaliti attempted similar solutions and in millennia received nothing but further bloodshed. Killing sand elves was simply something they did back home; for the Anirians the activity seemed to define and consume them entirely. The thoughts and comparison ran through his mind on the lonely travel out through the savannah and towards the sands. Objectively, he couldn’t feel certain whether one was truly worse than the other, but mused that at least the Anirians didn’t hide their true colours.

* * *​

Though he was briefed on what to expect before the monster hunters sent him on his way, he didn’t quite believe them until he had witnessed the spectacle for himself. From his upper seat the good monster hunters had paid for, he had a good view of the battle before him. His eyes remained fixated on the fight, giving the occasional glace around out of concern from the unfamiliar environment. He hardly knew what to expect, but his robes and staff likely made the priest stand out; he considered doing without either but drew the conclusion that it would be better to be visible than vulnerable.

The ongoing battle between Volker and the spearman would rob more and more of the priest’s attention, until it consumed his focus entirely. The hit from the spearman looked nasty, and left Kiros wondering what such an old man could even do in such a state and situation. But Volker fought on, and when he managed to land the crucial strikes to the knees of the opponent, Kiros was standing up out of his seat. By now, he was leering with dedicated interest and watched for the conclusion with anticipation.

The feint that precluded the final blow appeared to come out of the blue, such was the finish that took the robed spectator by surprise. He couldn’t help but let out a cheer of amazement at what he had just seen. He was so consumed with the fight that had just taken place, he hadn’t managed to notice a broker descend upon him from his back. Awareness would come to him as the broker finally spoke. His sudden words caused the priest to make a startled jump in place, before catching himself and turning towards the one who approached him.
 

Volker

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Volker approached his opponent and seized him by the throat with his teeth. He was still alive, but barely. A set of blades rammed up into his ribs caused the final twitch. He dropped the corpse to the ground and looked up at Oor. The wraith was pleased and the crowd was cheering. A runner sprinted out to give him his water, a gourd that he drained eagerly.

He retired to the shade to conserve his strength. There were fifteen minutes between the first fight and the next, to give them time to claim the bodies, refresh food and drink, and give the people time to bet.

The broker who had approached Kiros bowed and smiled. “I noticed you’ve taken a liking to Rheinhard Volker. He comes across the name honestly; the Volkers have been regular attendees here since the Ring was first established. If you would like to meet his owner, that can be arranged.” The man said cheerfully. He had a mischievous light in his eyes, already assessing how likely Kiros was to purchase. His fancy armor and purchase of a box made him a target.

Oor withdrew Volker from the next match. While the Volkers were strong, they weren’t invincible and he needed rest. Let them crow over another victor and he would send Volker back in to put him on his back. His charge arrived, unarmored, blades around his thigh. Oor clicked his tongue and Volker leaned down to let him put on the heavy steel muzzle. It was an attractive steel cage of whirling patterns. Oor noticed the brokers nearby relaxing slightly at the sight; Rheinhard’s reputation for killing without blades was well known.

Sit for a moment, you’re in the next round.” Oor rubbed his head like one would a prized pit bull, and gestured to a set of cushions. Volker gratefully sat, and enjoyed the shade and cool breezes. Oor had paid for minor enchantments, including one that swirled cool air around the box. It made Volker steam like a horse hot from a race.

Kiros Rahnel
 
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Kiros Rahnel

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If the sudden throw of a dagger was a surprise, the sight of the man lunging in with a savage bite was pure shock. Kiros hardly knew what to make of it, yet continued to give the violent display his full attention. As brutal and unorthodox as the coup d’grace was, it was at least swift. The priest hardly had time to muse on such thoughts however, once the broker had made his presence known.

“Oh, I’m but a spectator; I’ve heard tale of this place and came to witness it for myself. I’m on travels further north to recruit another.”
came his reply, and no doubt the broker beamed at the statement he could turn into a hook for his sales pitch. Kiros feigned disinterest, largely out of cultural habit from the haggling at the marketplace; and much like those shrewd merchants, his apparent attitude did little to dissuade the broker either. Soon enough protests about purchase turned into protests about price, essentially confirming the sale to the broker. The priest might haggle still, but by now it was clear that so long as the price was fair, he would make a willing buyer.

“Perhaps the inquiry would be worthwhile.”
he replied, with conveyed acquiescence that was unlikely to fool the broker. But business as usual; better to play along and pocket the commission without issue.

His introduction to the elder warrior was startling; but it was an attitude this very place had primed him for since his arrival. That Volker fought as man and was handled as animal was the cause of unease, a sensation heightened when the priest noticed the reactions of other brokers. Perhaps he was initially right to feel cautious, but he had asked to be brought here after all. Even if persistent needling by the broker was the primary cause of it.

“I am impressed with this one.” he spoke plainly and with noble tact; as if he were back home. And not so disgraced as he was.

“And I have been further advised that his services are for sale....” he continued, the broker’s commission nearly confirmed. Kiros himself still wasn’t sure about the purchase, but by now he was in too deep.

“Perhaps I can discuss a purchase?” he’d ultimately ask, speaking with a tone of interest that masked his inward concerns.
 
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Volker

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Oor looked at the broker who brought Kiros up and made a note of him. He’d tip him a few gold later. There was always a bonus if someone actually hired Volker. The wraith sat up and gestured to the cushions next to him. “Please, sit.” He said idly, looking down to the next match. “You’re seeking to hire a Volker then? For what purpose, sexual, service, or combat? He is available for all three.”

Volker sighed and looked out across the sands. Another negotiation for his hide. “Three hundred gold pieces a day is my price. For that you get the services of one of the finest Fae killers anywhere. That doesn’t include room and board; he has no need for either. He will feed himself and can just as easily sleep outside.” Oor said simply. “Though he is older he is fully capable of bringing down combatants half his age.”

Oor glanced at Kiros expectantly, and gestured toward Volker. “Examine him if you need to. Rheinhard, you will not move.” The last was said in a cold, stern tone.

Kiros Rahnel
 

Kiros Rahnel

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Kiros nodded politely at the gesture and offered seating, settling down to ease himself upon the cushions with his continued attention directed towards Oor. His first question was met with another tactful nod of the priest’s head, but the next caused him to react with a pause. The candid offer came as a surprise, but Kiros was too well mannered to express it. But before he could formulate his response, Oor would continue; spelling the price and terms of service to the listening and prospective priest.

“The last purpose you mentioned – I need a fighter”
he responded in unfazed tone. A conscript’s background belied his formal manners and the bluntness of the offer didn’t terribly shock him; though he was certainly taken aback by it.

The invitation to examine him caused Kiros to briefly consider his spell of insight; though he’d readily recall that prospective targets didn’t often take to the spell all too well. So, he simply examined the older man, without much idea what he was even looking for. Though he refused to invoke the smell, a cursory look didn’t give much sign of anything magical to the observing mage, anyhow.

Still, 300 gold was a fair amount. A bit more than he expected to pay; but it’s not often he’s able to see what his purchase is capable of before he makes it. The wounds he bore were genuine, allying any concerns that he was the victim of a ruse; a fair concern, given the disparity between the man’s age and battle prowess. He could do well with someone less impulsive than the usual younger hires, often signing on out of a thirst for coin and bringing their impulsiveness with them. With this man, Kiros hoped, the job might go smoother than usual.

Committed the purchase, he briefly debated between haggling and confirming the offer. Noting that the latter might have him leave this place sooner, he decided it was a bargain.

“300 gold? Considering the time to journey along with the task; I would require him for three days.”
He replied, already reaching for his coin purse. This trip was already going to be significantly less money than usual; but getting the task done quickly might make up for that. Hiring help here had already cut a day off his plans to complete the job he was contracted with.
 

Volker

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Oor chuckled. “A fighter it is then. Keep note that he and I are bonded by the Well. If at any time he suffers a wound too serious to recover from, I will either recall him or pick him up.” He said. “I can lose a client. I can’t lose the Well. There is more than one man at stake here. That understood...he is yours for the time being. Four fifty now to have him today; I will heal him and have him bathed.”

The wraith stood and extended a hand to the cleric. He had every confidence that a man who purposefully sought a cursed human had a hint of what he was doing. People paid for confidence and privacy. Whether Kiros was hunting orphans or monsters, Volker would do his duty faithfully and well. There was a reason he had been allowed to age this long.

Volker stood and nodded to Oor. “I will meet you at the entrance.” He told Kiros.

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Kiros Rahnel

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Kiros nodded, listening attentively. He could likely heal his wounds himself, but that was a power he wasn’t quite comfortable revealing at the moment. Valuable skills make valuable slaves, and while he had no suspicion that Oor sought to take a slave; he might be. If he was he surely wouldn’t give sign of it, nor could he expect warning; enslavement was hardly a lengthy or formal process, after all. Sometimes sprung long before one becomes aware of it.

He had already fallen for it once. He’d be damned if he’d allow it to happen again.

Better to conceal what value he held until he was either far away from this place, or knew it better. The former option looked all the more appealing at the moment.

Counting out the money, he shifted the coins in his hand with a metallic clatter; once he was confident he held the proper sum he reached out to pay Oor half of his requested price up front; 450 pieces worth. From what heft remained in the bag, the priest was clearly good for the remainder. The advance on his pay had yielded a fair sum; Volker had cost him most of it, but there was an ample and encouraging amount of coin awaiting the task’s completion.

He hadn’t so much as rented his services it seemed, but rented his time, and that time was ticking away now. It was one downside; with the others they could take their time; they were paid by the task after all. With Volker, a day’s tardiness held significant financial cost; and he hardly wanted to lose out on the potential money.

Turning to his hireling, Kiros gave his greeting and response:

“I shall see you there Volker. And you may call me Kiros.”
he introduced himself. He may be years removed from nobility, but he held his manners. Even if this fellow he hired didn’t look like he even knew manners; considering his appearance and recent activity, that wasn’t an assumption Kiros would make.
 

Volker

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Volker nodded to Kiros curtly, and moved to head downstairs. He waited silently until stalls were available to bathe in; though the Ring had no lack of water very little of it was wasted on the combatants. A thirty second shower to scrub the dried blood and sweat off of his body, and that was it. He wasn’t comfortable feeling naked for much longer than that anyway.

Bathed and in a simple linen shirt, pants and soft boots, he painstakingly stitched up the now clean hole in his shoulder. It was knitting together slowly, but he’d have to watch it for a few days. Oor only expended as much energy on him as he deemed appropriate.

Volker spent the coin for a few liters of water, dried meat, and a packet of dates. Sugar, protein, and water were one’s allies in the desert. He came to Kiros fully kitted, silent and waiting. The muzzle detached from his face like some great metal tick, folding itself up and vanishing. He was officially on the job and the timer had begun.

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Kiros Rahnel

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Inferring from the nod that this man had better manners than he appeared, he still couldn’t help but feel a continued sense of unease. But such straightforward and quickly acquired aid would make the job efficient, a thought that Kiros held firmly in mind throughout.

As his companion bathed and prepared himself, Kiros rose from his seated position and posture with his cautious noble’s etiquette. Before he made his way back to the entrance, he’d turn to Oor with his farewell before departing.

“A pleasure doing business.” came his polite goodbye before he gave a nod and turned away, moving towards the entrance with eagerness to leave. He had a moment to check his own kit, and he was well prepared. He had an ample allowance of gold, and remained well stocked up on food. Despite his former worries, he must admit he was doing well with the Monster Hunters. Much better than as a shopkeep; with most of his earnings pilfered by taxes and requisite bribery.

By all accounts, Volker appeared healthy and healed when Kiros saw him next; the priest couldn’t know the wounds beneath his linen shirt remained in a state of healing. The neutral expression he had turned to brief bewilderment at the mask’s sudden disappearance. No other surprises followed, and after a still moment he’d infer this was part of the contract. He well hoped it was; even though he didn’t know why the man was made to wear a muzzle, it’s sudden disappearance was another disturbance to him.

“We’ve the day’s travel north, Volker.” he informed his companion.

“I aim to move quickly; but if you need rest, inform me.” he added with polite brevity.
 

Volker

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“I will.” Volker nodded to Kiros. He had a grim set to his face. It was another job. He was exhausted from fighting and could have slept the day away nursing bruises. Instead they were to walk. He walked quietly alongside Kiros for a few hours before he spoke. He didn’t pause in stride or even turn his head to look at the other.

“My usual rate is 100 gold per day.” He said. “And you received me injured and tired. You have burned a day of usefulness with your eagerness. It is no wonder he has made three days of work off of you, and will make three more when I return. Know this; if you are as foolish with a weapon as you are with your purse, I must know. It takes a few days to carve a body.”

Volker eyed him for a moment, then turned his eyes back to the road. “What are we hunting?”

Kiros Rahnel
 

Kiros Rahnel

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He trekked on with his companion; the long silence was hardly a bother. Conversation leads to introductions which leads to personal questions, and that he wouldn’t need to deflect such inquiry was a refreshing change. He had some curiosity about his newly hired companion, yet he wouldn’t bother to sate it with questions. Partly out of his own desire for secrecy, and largely because what little he already knew of Volker gave him cause to be careful about learning more.

They had travelled a fair distance by the time Volker would speak again; bringing Kiros to stand still as he absorbed the man’s words. At least he spoke with candid honesty, though it was clear why he had waited to do so. In such a rush to leave he expected to be gouged, albeit not by such a great amount. He could only suppose that it seemed apparent to Oor that he’d not be repeat business. Were it the case, the concern would be well founded; even at the reasonable price of 100 pieces he couldn’t he sure the bargain would be worth another uncomfortable trip to the Ring of Teeth.

“It ought not concern you; from your seller himself you are guarded from death. Unless that too was spoken as a lie; I doubt mine worries you.”
He responded with defensive non-answer. It wasn’t type of question he should answer, especially given the statement he had followed it up with. The expression Kiros returned was one straightforward.

“The task is slaughter; not butchery.” he responded, remaining silent as Volker did. He considered laying his blessing of healing on him; but the conversation caused him to reconsider.

“A large beast; by all evidence and accounts a Manticore. First we’ll reach village of Lehset; recent victims of it. I wish to be certain the danger is what it’s claimed to be.” He replied, already stepping off behind him.

“There was reasoning behind my request that you make your need for aid known.” came the dry words from Kiros as he continued the trek onward, holding his staff near the top. With soft spoken word in Kaliti tongue, the priest worked his healing magic and wove a soothing sensation over his companion. Wounds, once stabilized, began to shrink and heal as the spell patched wounded flesh with renewed. It would do nothing for his fatigue; but upon the spell's end Volker would find his pain and soreness relieved.

“Be healed.” he explained his actions with simple declaration. He too eyed Volker strangely, still unsure what to make of the man; other than to remain cautious in his presence.
 

Volker

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“Until I breed another to continue my line. Yes, you are correct in that.” Volker said, albeit a bit balefully. He resented the cycle. Soon he would be just another corpse in the head of his son, and his sons after him. An unbroken chain of men unable to move on as they were meant to. “Your death does not worry me. I would strip the flesh from your bones and bury what I do not eat. Rest assured you would not be wasted.” He said, as though it were any sort of comfort.

He moved along amiably enough until he felt the magic move over him. While it healed his wound and lifted a bit of his fatigue, he felt the Well respond to it. The uncomfortable shifting, like standing on a table with only three legs.

Volker moved swiftly, one of his blades centimeters away from Kiros’ eye. “I have enough done to me without my consent.” He growled, his tone low and dangerous. He stayed stock still for a few seconds, then sheathed the knife and began to walk once more. He shook his head a bit, shaking off the last of that uncomfortable feeling. The curse was strong on him, strong and deep, as though someone had enchanted an entire town and shoved that magic into one man’s head.

Kiros Rahnel
 

Kiros Rahnel

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The statement brought the priest further veiled concern. This one seemed ever candid; at least he claimed he'd wait until Kiros was dead before he'd do such a thing. The priesthood had still sworn to do worse, not that the thought brought him any comfort in his current company.

No sooner did he cast the spell than he found it had done nothing for the man, having outright refused it's effect - only the undead were unable to refuse a blessing. When imbued upon the living such effect required consent, be it conscious or unconscious. All his spell weaving had done was bring Volker discomfort, and that discomfort waved away any other arcane effect. Academically wise in the ways of his magic, this was something the priest knew; but never had he witnessed refusal firsthand.

The gruesome words of his strange companion had made him cautious, and the direct refusal of healing had placed Kiros on even further guard. Anxiety had primed for him for reaction before the Volker's actions became readily apparent. Fortunate too, as the older man seemed to move with speed that defied his years; with dexterity far beyond his own.

That he was prepared provided the priest counter to such quick action. Extending his staff from from his defensive casting grasp on it Kiros stepped back, bringing the staff against Volker's forearm in the process. The strike was light; far to short to even leave a bruise but the leverage would be effective at parrying the threatening strike. The knife in his hand took his full awareness, as did his innate instinct to keep it away from his flesh.

With another step back, Kiros held the staff out laterally from his body with the end against his shoulder in a high guard position. One that, notably, provided cover to his neck though the arm that held the staff at the base - he remembered well what he had witnessed in the ring hours ago. Frankly, he was doubtful this was a fight he could win. If this was how he'd meet his end, he could only agree with Volker's assessment of 'fool'.

"My blessings cannot affect one who wills it not."

Kiros held his position; stern and defensive, but non-aggressive. Reluctant to either fight or display weakness, he was fearful that either might result in the end of his life; confirming the given verbal explanation. Yet the spell that caused the sudden hostility had ceased entirely; and Volker was likely to feel that his refusal had been the cause. Whether that changed his stance however remained to be seen; particularly now that weapons had been brought into play.
 
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Volker

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Volker felt the strike to the arm, and allowed Kiros to move back and away. He watched him guard, noticing he protected his throat. Wise. He sheathed his knife and turned to continue walking as though nothing had happened. He’d made his point. The heavy curse on him did not like being messed with. It was why he couldn’t ingest alcohol. One of his remnants was an alcoholic, and it had caused strange phenomena like giant geese in the Arena, flooding in the Library, and lightning storms in the blackness. Magic tended to produce similar results, making him feel as though someone had thrown a heavy cotton blanket over his brain.

Kiros had clearly intended to help, but Volker had to make that point clear. He was the guardian of not only his own life, but a community of nearly seven hundred others. He disliked agitating them. They all needed to work together (or at the very least not sabotage one another), for the sake of survival.

With that in mind, Volker paused his walking and closed his eyes. He didn’t need to be in control to keep close to Kiros. What he needed to do was review manticores with Nestor. Might as well let out a member of the Well who never got any time.

Instantly his body language changed. A wide grin split his face and he raced in a circle around Kiros, almost giddy. “Hey! I’m Aluid.” He stopped in front of the priest, hands behind his back. “So we’re after a manticore right? Big cat? They never let me do anything. Why are we walking? Can you not afford a horse?”

Aluid shrugged. “Horses don’t like us anyway, Mom says they can smell the crazy. What’s with the stick? Did you and Rheinhard get into a scrap?” He giggled, actually giggled. “He’s got no sense of humor. Yarel does but they don’t let him out either. Oh my gods, I am so happy to feel the sun again! Can we go swimming? Or eating. I haven’t had fruit in a hundred years.”

Kiros Rahnel
 
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Kiros Rahnel

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He remained perfectly still and unmoving for a moment, desired personal space deftly and desperately measured out by the staff extended horizontally from his body. A steely gaze ran down his staff, locked on the man who had just expressed desire to butcher and consume his own flesh. Alone in the desert with a cannibal of unnatural toughness, Kiros prepared himself for what he assumed would be his own unglamourous end. Better to die here today than risk capture and extend the process into however many days of torture this man was capable of.

But Volker made no such further motions or gestures to imply hostility, sheathing his weapon while Kiros remained at his stance of readiness for a moment longer before he slowly turned his staff back to an upright position. While not quite sure what to make of it, he’d have little choice but to accept it; that his companion sought not to assail him was, without question, for the best. It definitely remained unnerving that he simply continued on, as if his recent display was normal social behaviour.


As his companion stepped on Kiros followed behind, pondering the situation in which he found himself. His hireling needed to rest and would require sleep, and furthermore he was injured; yet would refuse healing. Kiros could only assume this had all been a scam. Given their recent altercation had let him remain with his life intact, it was probably for coin and not his body or soul; coin which he had already given Oor. Summarizing his thoughts he could only assume Volker would be long gone in the morning, having cost him 450 pieces for a day’s worth of discomfort.

Any anticipation of reward evaporated from his mind. What musings his mind worked during the continued travels would be broken however by his companion again, this time speaking in a chipper manner of speech clearly not his own. The priest could only watch with further looks of confusion as Volker raced around him, with his staff held close to his body in the same prepared guard position he had it in when he invoked his earlier spell.

Ever more confused, Kiros simply marched onward. The town was but a bit further away, and the sooner he was there the safer he’d feel. With what energy he had, he’d answer some of the new personality’s questions.

So we’re after a manticore right?

“Yes.”

"Why are we walking?"

“To get there.”

“Can you not afford a horse?”

“It was eaten.” Which was true, the poor thing had lasted only a few months in his care before it was eaten alive by a hungry beast. Granted, the other statements held nothing but truth either, they were simply more boring answers.

“What’s with the stick?“

“It’s my magical focus.”
No clue if the he even knew what that was. He could only assume he was still speaking the the same person as he had before. Perhaps appeasement would get him to calm down, or at least prevent a recurrence of his agitation.

“Did you and Rheinhard get into a scrap?”

“...And you are not he?” he finally inquired. Aluid had finally gained enough of his attention that Kiros broke his steadfast focus on arriving at his destination alive to actually made inquiry.
 

Volker

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“Nope!” Aluid grinned widely. “He’s technically the host but he’s off researching manticores to find out if one of us has killed one before. Then he’ll do a whole lot of boring shit about killing. But until then he’s left me with you. Probably because Klaus would rape you, Ferenzi would bore you to death, and Nestor hates walking. Are we going to a town? Can we get some food? And this shoulder does hurt a bit. It takes a lot to get rid of us though. Oh, oh, there was one time where Gere was in a fight with this big burly bastard and he got his belly cut clean open and had to hold his own guts in!

Aluid stuck out his tongue in distaste. “So really a poke in the shoulder won’t do much. We’re bred to be tough. How did Nestor explain it? So like dogs and things. You breed one of those big fuck off pit dogs over many generations to be big, nasty and not keel over on you, but he started as something else. Or something. I don’t know, I don’t understand half of what Nestor says.”

He was walking backward now, facing Kiros. “He says it’s because we’re stupid but I think it’s because he’s a prick. At least we have gold right? We should drink. It’s super funny. It makes the Well all wonky and people get so upset.” Aluid had a mischievous light in his eye. “Why are we even after some big manky cat? He’s got the same right to be here as anyone else.”

Kiros Rahnel
 

Kiros Rahnel

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He continued to give his attention to his companion’s words, though his mind was split between him and his own preparation for the task that laid ahead of them. His blessings were a tool that would necessarily need to be placed aside, yet also primary part of his common strategy in dealing with such beasts. Volker fought with great unnatural skill in the ring and was mightier than his size implied. The problem however, is that a manticore is precisely as ferocious as it’s size implies – which is to say ‘extremely’.

Perhaps Volker would have to be bait; a thought he neither relished nor carried much sympathy for. Being bait was simply a needed role, one that fell onto him often enough. He couldn’t be sure his new hire would be as accepting of the role as he had been.

He paid attention to Aluid’s roll call of the others and could only silently agree with the new personality that he’d rather not meet any of them. A disturbance that the man held so many personalities. Or at least seemed to, the concerned priest still not quite sure that he wasn’t being led on. The one he had hired was a unique one indeed.

“You are truly mercenaries then, and complete your tasks?” Came his inquiry. The kid had a nonstop mouth, but what he spoke implied that Volker was, in fact, intended for his stated purpose. Maybe he would remain in his company still once the sun rose the next morning. Kiros wasn’t sure if felt much better about that.

“Such is the issue. It kills all others.” came the explanation. He’d be annoyed if an adult spoke like this, but such attitude was somehow much less grating coming from a child. At least, Kiros allowed himself to accept that it was a child. Perhaps it felt like a stretch to do so, but it certainly seemed to make the situation more bearable than it had been.
 

Volker

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“Oh yes, trust me, we’re so eager to run off from the tiny scraps of freedom to get a muzzle slapped back on and turned out to fight for money.” Aluid said sarcastically. “What do you think? Of course we’ll stay. If we don’t the punishments aren’t worth it. We always finish the task and that’s why we’ve got the reputation.”

He rolled his eyes. “People are so weird. They’ll go about smashing each other up in huge wars but the minute a cat kills ten people it’s a problem.” Aluid shrugged. “Maybe it’s just cranky. Brade’s good with animals, maybe it’s got a mate or eggs or something.”

Aluid danced ahead of him a few paces. “Ever tried talking to it? No one talks to us because they’re scared of us. I mean, Klaus once set a man on fire for asking directions so I understand but maybe there’s another way. You didn’t answer me anyway. I’m hungry. Where’s this place we’re going to? Rheinhard would go hunt something but I’m not as adverse to spending gold as he is. If you’re going to be a slave and if your master is dumb enough to give you a wallet why not have fun with it?”

Aluid didn’t stop chattering the entire way to the village. It was either complaining about the other remnants, or the weather, or asking about the manticore. Questions were constant and never ending.

Kiros Rahnel
 

Kiros Rahnel

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"I thought myself the victim of a scam, in honesty." Came the reply. It seemed they could get the job done, and the discomfort would be only temporary. The money would be temporary too, though it would last much longer than the three days it would take to earn it.

"We've received payment to make it our problem. I suppose villagers don't care for being eaten." he replied to Aluid, delivering the words with a deadpan tone.

"Manticores don't lend themselves well to negotiation, no." he added in response to Aluid's naively innocent suggestion. The kid wanted food; he also admitted to breaking rules and preferences the other personalities preferred to keep. Given the hostility with which former aid was rejected and the described reaction of the one named 'Klaus', Kiros thought it best to keep his food to himself.

"We'll be there soon; but another two hours." He replied.

The rhetorical question was met with silence, as if the statement was challenging Kiros' own relative frugality. He had his vices, but the meagre lifestyle he lived left little to spend his earnings on. Coin was power however, and it's possession opened valuable possibilities for a man looking to escape his own enslavement. Such was motivation enough for Kiros. He knew not how to free himself, but knew well that any such opportunity would need to be seized with immediate haste; there would be no time to earn needed resources after the fact.

The entire way there Kiros kept up the answers to the incessant, unending questions. The answers he gave got ever less detailed, until he fell back to giving simple, one word replies. Even a simple answer seemed to placate the childish persona at least.

Finally, they arrived with the evening sun as backdrop to the small, nondescript village. And as soon as they did a figure rushed to call out for them.

"Monster hunters! You're the monster hunters, yes?" Came the words, filled with both worry and hope.
 

Volker

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“A scam?” Aluid laughed. “You really haven’t heard of the Volkers then. We’ve killed most anything between the lot of us and we don’t give up.” He puffed his chest out a bit. Then came the crushing news

“Two hours?” Aluid complained, head flopping dramatically back on his shoulders. “We’ll be dead in two hours.” As Kiros fell back to monosyllabic answers, Aluid grew bored with him. Thankfully about a mile from the village, Volker had finished his investigation and returned to control. He straightened up, and his body language shifted into that of a man in complete control.

Manticores were ferocious creatures, but they were animals at the end of the day. Magic animals, but still animals. He had worked out a tentative plan with Nestor, and was ready to put it into effect. First, he needed food. Aluid’s running and jumping about had burned more calories than he’d have liked to out on the sands. At least he had found out more about Kiros. He was patient, at the least. Patience would lend well to this.

“Yes.” Volker told the villager simply. “Where is it, when did it attack last, has it nested nearby and if so where?”

Kiros Rahnel
 

Kiros Rahnel

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"We've no clue where it is. It last struck the village 3 nights ago. There was a nest, yes; we found it a week or so ago tucked away in an alcove over in that valley." the villager pointed out, extending his arm westward.

"Destroyed the entire nest while it was out hunting elsewhere. We thought that would be the end of it, but ever since it's attacks have grown worse!"

Kiros held his tongue, but could only gaze downward in withheld derision as the villager recounted their efforts. Likely they tried to save on coin by tackling the issue themselves; a foolish attempt at bargain that had claimed their lives as added price.

"And eggs or young? What was done with them?" He wasted no time in following up with further question.

"It had a couple of eggs. We took them back, had them made into a stew for the vil-"

The villager ceased his words well before Kiros had even interrupted him, his clenched teeth and infuriated glare nonverbal cue enough for the man to bring his sentence to an immediate and sudden halt.

"You did...What?!?"

"We ate the eggs." Came the reply, tense but straightforward

He gave his no reply with words, but his reaction was visibly apparent when his stoic expression furrowed into a scowl of anger. The ring had been a tense experience, and the subsequent travel had done little to ease his nerves. To hear a tale of such carelessness delivered so casually, and in further effort of misguided thriftiness rendered him unable to disguise his ire. Such foolishness only brought suffering - and whether through ignorance or indifference, they seemed as uncaring or selfish as Itra. He expected nothing from Her, but to see Her faults and failings take place in another mortal caused him unreasonable ire.

Still he spoke nothing and simply took a breath in effort to relax himself and still his disturbed emotions. His grip on the staff left his knuckles pale and white. Interruption would follow immediately.

"We had to tend to our hunger..." he added in sheepish attempt to appease the visibly infuriated priest. All interrupting his attempt at meditation did was bring his restrained anger to the surface with a bellow of pure rage.

"...Perhaps you ought tend to your fucking idiocy!!" he shouted out, bringing the man and entire village to sudden silence.
 
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Volker

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Volker listened as Kiros shouted, and felt a little surge of pride from Aluid. He’d been right. No animal just up and attacked for no reason. These people had killed the manticore’s young, and she was taking her revenge. Obviously if they had stumbled across the nest before an attack had arisen, then they had been the ones to initiate the war. Not the cat.

Volker stepped beside Kiros and looked at the villager. “By attacking the manticore first, you have robbed her of her children. You murdered them, when previously she had existed in your presence peacefully. If it was an alcove above the village, she sought to share a nearby source of water or game, and felt comfortable enough to lay vulnerable young near you. Instead of monitoring her, and perhaps shifting herds to encourage her to hunt elsewhere, you barbarously slaughtered her children and let the scent of them waft to her.” He told them.

“If I were to roast your own children in front of you, your rage would be immeasurable. Even birds can feel and mourn the agony of children lost. We should not help you. We should be aiding the manticore in wiping foolish and evil creatures like yourselves from the earth.” Volker’s voice had grown cold and still.

He glanced at Kiros and drew one of the longer blades. “The village must abandon this territory to her. As customary with Fae, offerings should be left behind as apology. Either that, or we should make sure their mistake is not repeated.” His implication was clear.

Kiros Rahnel
 
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Kiros Rahnel

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While Volker continued with an explanation that carried more content, Kiros paced about and uttered foreign, hostile sounding words in his foreign Kaliti tongue. Words that were intended for none but himself in attempt to vent his anger.

“We too mourn for our lost young; and did not pay you to lecture us!” spoke up one of the other villagers defensively at Volker’s words.

Kiros snapped back with continued, unrestrained anger.

“Of no fault but yours!
Were we paid in the first fucking place,
at the first fucking sighting;

you would hold them still!”


"Stop shouting; we need help!" came a voice rest belonging to a girl of age far more innocent than the rest. Perhaps it was her plea, or perhaps it was Volker's grisly hinted at solution that cemented the need to still his emotions and bring himself to carry himself as professional once more. With the loss of anger came some regret; they may be a village of fools, but they were also a village in mourning. Scolding them could accomplish nothing that cruel consequences had not already done.

"Let me change what I am able to; and recognize what I cannot." He reassured himself with the thought, but a personal prayer; he knew better than to trust Her for wisdom. What was done was done, they had an angry manticore on the loose; one that would likely display viciousness far and above her peers at that. It was already the cause of great loss of life, and here it remained threatening more. Kiros recognized only that they were in need of help; judging whether they truly deserved it was not a duty the priest considered his own.

"An obvious truth on reflection, young one...You need not aid learning lessons consequence has already taught, but in protecting what life remains." He spoke the words with fretful tone, despite the calmer content they carried with them.

He looked to Volker after his comment, taking a pace away from him once he drew his weapon. Already a wanted murderer in his own country, he didn't need to be made outlaw here as well.

"I can be no party to further senseless loss of life." he made the warning and declaration of his principles clear. Out of fear and concern, villagers shifted towards him despite the verbal bashing he had just laid upon them.

"...So what, you're telling us we just gotta move? We paid for extermination, sold farming supplies to raise the funds! Five thousand pieces we paid! All for you to tell us to fuck off elsewhere?!" came the return from another, a man notably older than the rest.

"Sure, we'll move. If that's the solution you offer; we're no other choice. But you go and tell the monster hunters that we won't pay for a job not done. You'll receive no payment from us!" he protested.

Kiros groaned internally. He was looking at a total of fifteen-hundred pieces originally – twelve-hundred should their task take an extra day as Volker had warned it might. Were the village to refuse payment, Kiros would be left on the hook for six thousand pieces he did not have...
 

Volker

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Volker took Kiros’ direction and sheathed the weapon, eyeing the men who had spoke. “You have done this to yourselves. Were the world a just place I would leave you to your suffering.” Volker snorted. He looked at them, a scowl on his face. “We will aid you in moving, but understand we are helping you bind a self-inflicted wound. You will pay us, and in return we will ensure that your new home is secure and the manticore will not follow you there. Return home, and begin packing your belongings. The priest is right. Had you contacted us upon first sighting this would not be necessary.”

He folded his arms. “We will attempt to drive her off and convince her she no longer needs this territory. But in the case we are not successful, you will need to move quickly. Refuse to pay, and there are worse things than manticores in this world. There are things that creep in the night and children who vanish. Sleep will become a distant memory. Your livestock will die and your barns lay fallow. Do not threaten us with nonpayment again.”

Volker eyed them for a moment. “Now. Which direction is the nest in?”

Kiros Rahnel
 
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