Private Tales Set of Teeth for Hire

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Kiros Rahnel

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“So a call for aid results in extortion. If the monster hunters demand our money by the end of a sword; so be it.” the elder replied. The threat veiled behind the words was obvious enough to Kiros; while the money might be secured, the threat to his job and livelihood remained. While the absence of debt would prevent the loss of his life at the hands of collectors; such a damning report would likely see him ejected. He didn’t care for it. The idea of forging a false report by force hardly sat well with him either; they’d need to hold the village to their word after the job was done and they were far away. Despite the threats; he felt it was not something he could count on – there were simply too many people involved to keep a secret. One fool’s slip of the tongue would condemn the innocent remainder to death; and there was always such a fool.

But it was an improvement; the debt of failure was the least desirable of all options. Losing his job was hardly better, but ample savings would blunt the financial strain. For the meantime, the guilt of secrecy was something he could live with. He had done so for years already.

“So it is.” came the emotionless and stern reply.

“We can’t know exactly. Seems the approach comes from different directions as of late, but we mostly get sightings up north now. Sometimes we can see them in the distance, but-” and the child fell silent; for the best, for none would be able to hear him after Kiros’ loud, stunned utterance.

Them!? How...how many?”

“...Only two.” the child answered. Kiros' response would be bellowed out in address to the village as a whole.

TWO!? You spoke of one! You paid for one!! We are prepared for ONE!!”

We only had enough money to pay for one!” came the protest from the elder.

“Unfit to lead a fly to shit!!” Kiros spat, growling out his words. He nearly drew his staff back to take a swing at the foolish old man whose inept decisions wrought disaster upon his own flock. Thankfully, he managed to hold back his rage before it took over with hostility he’d no doubt later regret. A situation such as this called for measured action, not angered venting.

“And if you will not pay us the proper rate for our work....so be it.” He uttered in a tone of spite with eyes ever locked on the nervous elder.

“I truly ought leave you to your fate. It would be legal to do so.” he added with a scoff. Consequence was no longer his burden; but that of the village. He did not care for threats and he did not care for lies; and now, the irritated and fed up priest held the cards. He’d waste no time in playing them.

“My plan will cost you an additional ten thousand pieces you do not have. Fortunate for you, that my wise companion offers one within the range you can afford. And you will make clear your error to the hunters, lest you be denied further protection!” While not a power he wielded directly, it was far from an empty threat. If there was one thing the monster hunters loathed more than slayers who reneged on their duties, it was customers that reneged on payment.
 
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Volker

The Man of a Thousand Souls
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Two. Not one but two. Tackling a manticore alone was difficult. Tackling two was nigh suicidal. Volker gave the elder a hard stare but said nothing. These people not only had started a fight they couldn’t win, they would have happily suckered in monster hunters who had came prepared to deal with only half the problem. How many people would die due to sheer incompetence on their part? Selfish, foolish people.

Volker set off north, expecting Kiros to follow him. The plan had shifted drastically in such a short amount of time. Instead of driving away one manticore, it was a mated pair angry over the loss of kittens. He waited until they were out of earshot of most of the villagers before speaking to him. “This will be extremely difficult.” He said quietly. “A mated pair carves a territory together. It would be wise to get these people moving sooner rather than later. If we return and they have not taken our advice to pack, I advise we take what gold we can by force and leave them to their fate. They cannot dispatch a message without the gold to pay a messenger.”

Kiros Rahnel
 

Kiros Rahnel

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At Volker's words, he gave a nod. A comfort that the man seemed held wisdom enough to be a slayer himself - had he bid on a mercenary of more typical skillset they would no doubt be dead. 300 gold, what was once a scam, was now a bargain. The impulsive choice in companion had upgraded his situation from definite death to probable doom.

Given the events described to both of them, the village was essentially cursed by nature itself. The priest's prior threat to turn tail and leave was an empty one. Entering the village was one matter, that was easy. The manticores were on a mission of vengeance, however and they don't draw distinctions as people do. Departing the settlement would mark them at members of the village in the eyes of the beasts, and ideal targets for revenge. Perhaps Volker held an answer for that though – his wisdom seemingly eclipsed that of Kiros.

When Volker stepped off, Kiros wasted little time in following.

"A tale of nightmares...We've been bid to great danger, without preparation; under false pretenses. That man has gone senile!" He uttered in reply just as silent. His normally steadfast tone was present, but ever crumbling into one of fear, worry and fret. An apt time for such emotions if there ever was one. Yet he couldn't turn back as those in the elder's care, or lack thereof, deserved none of what they suffered. If it wasn't pity that Kiros felt for those victims of poor leadership and uncaring guardian, then it was kinship.

If he would need to stake his life to right this - so be it.

"And I fear your wisdom is correct. If they will not pack they will not listen and will not help. Naught we can do for those who refuse to aid themselves.

And the innocents he has failed...none deserve care so fickle. I know well of this."
Came the words, uttered in a tone of sympathy and quieter than his last; thoughts of his own uncaring deity cementing his stated belief.

"I've no doubt you think of me as a fool.

I've no doubt my life has likely been declared forfeit this day.

But if I can deliver the undeserving from this...I must."


It was unguarded honesty.
 

Volker

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Volker looked back at the village. “They are frightened and deep in poverty. Their ignorance has driven this, and one mistake has snowballed into another. That is why they lied. They hoped we would go after the manticore blindly, encounter two, and get two kills for the price of one.” He said softly. “We will have to be careful how we drive the manticores off, and hope they are prepared if we fail. It is likely we will be racing the clock.”

He admired Kiros’ foolish commitment to saving them. For some reason, he felt a kinship to the innocent people misled by the village elder. He felt he had to save them. Volker sighed. Such altruism was admirable but ultimately useless. “You should not give your life to those who would not give theirs for yours.” Volker said quietly. “The life of a slave is one of survival.”

He turned and gestured to the higher ground. “We will need to start from the location where the trespass first occurred. The nest.” He suggested.

Kiros Rahnel
 

Kiros Rahnel

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He listened on silent as Volker spoke; wise words that he could well agree with in a state more calm than his prior outburst. Shocked fear had brought forth Kiros's anger, and now that time had purged it from his psyche that former fear took it's place once again. Emotion had fuelled words spoken with more conviction than he truly held, yet he could hold little comfort in abandoning the village either.

"You are right - what else was the elder to do? Were his position mine...I could not honestly deny I might do the same. Nor could they know the consequences of their culinary mistake. Villagers can not be expected to hold the professional wisdom we do." Kiros looked down as he spoke, his slow and quiet words tinged with a tone of regret. Both at his words of anger, and the impulsive words of bravery spat from his lips; describing values and bravery he wished he held moreso than what he actually possessed.

If his calmed state brought him to question his hasty attitude, Volker's next words would serve counter argument.

"Servitude is not-" he began to protest - as much to convince himself as much as to convince his companion. The comparison however was too apt. Even if Volker knew nothing of the priest's god nor his true attitudes towards her, he spoke a degree of truth he could not deny. Holy or not; both men had been brought under the yoke of the divine and become their property.

"It's perhaps 'slavery' by a kinder name." he admitted, without the heart to lie about his own situation through outright deception. Few could hold empathy to his particular situation he felt; and that Volker could had lowered the priest's guard.

"I could perish here, as I well could have on many a geas. I have, by reluctant requirement, staked my life for one I care not about. I will be made to do so again. If I decline to aid those who deserve it today, I merely preserve myself to later aid one who does not. Here I am given choice. An uncommon freedom I feel reluctant to take for granted." He spoke in solemn but determined tone, eyes towards the ground as he reflected upon his views. He took a couple paces around before coming to a halt, facing his companion as he continued on in his response and sentiment.

"Slavery is social position, not identity. It is what we do that defines us. And if all I do is preserve myself for the next unwilling task forced upon me, then a slave is truly all I am. Naught but mere object, as all keeping my safety secure accomplishes is the preservation of Another's property.

If I exist purely to survive; I do not truly live at all."


He nodded at the plan Volker had laid out.

"Apt. We'd best move quickly." he agreed.
 

Volker

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To exist purely to survive was no existence at all. Volker looked at Kiros strangely. Unbeknownst to the other, he had been doing such a thing his entire life. Most of his ancestors had been as well. Survive, keep your mouth shut, and disobey as well as you can when you can. The Volkers were kept in line not only by the bond caused by Oor holding his leash, but by the idea of survival. Kiros made a good point. He was surviving and surviving well, being one of the few Volkers to reach beyond middle age. But was he truly living?

Hearing that made him more determined than ever to be free. “A slave is not all I am, but it is all I currently am. I hope to change that.” Volker told him soberly.

With that, the older killer began picking his way up the rocks to the nest. It was a perilous journey; birds didn’t make their nests on outcroppings like this lightly. It was difficult and one had to know where to place a hand or foot. Volker was strong, and experienced, but even he had to move slowly and test handholds with a sharp tug before trusting his weight to it.

Kiros Rahnel
 
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Kiros Rahnel

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He listened with empathy at Volker’s statement; one he himself too knew all to well. Existence purely for subservience was all She had truly intended upon taking him on as Her priest, and all She beheld him to. His own motives and goals were none of Her concern, only his continued survival to remain a tool to be used on the otherwise unaffectable realm of mortals. Of whatever wisdom divinity conferred, neither empathy nor consideration were among them. That he desired to be more than he was gave her not the slightest concern.

Survival had brought him here in the first place – Kiros was merely chasing coin for food and shelter.. That his life would be in peril here was a given, but He was no stranger to deadly risk, Her bidding often required it. It was a rare circumstance when he had been given the chance to make such a difference on his own terms.

“Then we seek the same; to shed our status and become our potential. And brother, I see much of it in you.”
came his reply, now hewn with determination for far more than mere money. He had misjudged Volker; the reserved Kiros would have claimed they were nothing alike hours ago. Their many differences seemed superficial in light of this moral tenet they shared that outweighed them. 'Brother' was not a term lightly thrown around by the priest, and if Volker was to join him in existential quest he was certainly nothing less.

"Let us fulfill it this day."


He soon followed along, wedging the base of his staff into the more stable stony outcroppings to aid his ascent up the ragged terrain. More than just an arcane focus, it served well as a walking stick and climbing aid. Noting that Volker climbed carefully with a sense of aptitude at the task Kiros watched him intently, making sure to seek the same handholds and stepping stones he had carefully deemed appropriate.

Still, nervousness wracked the priest, he could only hope the two beasts would give their task no interruption. The nest was not be much further away, and there remained much to do in preparation.
 

Volker

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Volker looked at the priest. He spoke strangely. Brother?

“I am not your brother.” He told him simply, and climbed. It wasn’t so much a rejection of brotherhood that the priest offered, so much as Volker was a literal creature at the worst of times. For the man who had handed his handler gold to call him brother was a bit of an irony. After all, Kiros was contributing to Volker’s slavery...while at the same time sparing him the fate of every Volker who had come before him by giving him work. When the work declined, and men started to look over a Volker for a younger model, that was when they knew their heads were on the chopping block.

Perhaps brotherhood wasn’t completely unwarranted.

Volker immediately ducked into the bushes and crouched low, lifting his nose to the air. The scents were fresh, but the nest empty. No doubt the parents were continually checking it on instinct, or attempting to make another egg. Either way, parental confusion or drive, they had been here recently. Volker waited patiently for the priest, knife drawn and buried in the thick brush.

Driving off such a pair wasn’t going to be easy. But first they had to wait and see if the beasts would show. Volker rolled in the dirt as quietly as he could to cover up his scent.

Kiros Rahnel
 
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Kiros Rahnel

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His family and peers long left behind, and a deity who was anything but he had come to seek kinship where he could. More accurately, he come to accept it where he found it – and battle so happened to be a common location. While he couldn’t choose his relations or place in the world, and sometimes even whom he fought beside, he could freely chose whom to consider close. One of the few freedoms the priest held to himself, and one he valued dearly.

But Volker too held such freedom, expressed in what Kiros could only interpret as his denial. If not kinship, then may he have respect; that he was here and present beside him was enough for Kiros. He met his response not with expression or word, but a simple nod of his head. Comradery was both plenty and enough for the priest acting in such dire circumstances.

Kiros eyed Volker’s next actions pecurliarly, looking on as he ducked low to the earth in and sniffing around search of signs he himself was unaware of. He might question a man of lesser experience, but his companion knew what he was doing, he had demonstrated as such thus far. The priest didn’t know how to search as well or through the same means as his companion, and so simply followed his lead. While Volker concerned himself with tracking the beasts, Kiros kept an eye out in event that they found the pair first. A potential disaster they would best be on the lookout for; if he was anything, it was cautious.
 

Volker

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Volker frowned at Kiros. He had hoped the priest would follow his lead. That smell would draw the monsters right to them, and Volker worked best as an ambush predator. He gave him a look and picked up a handful of dirt, showering Kiros in it. He made sure he got where scents were strongest; around Kiros’ face, behind his ears, at the nape of his neck.

Volker put a hand to Kiros’ mouth just in case he thought of objecting. They didn’t need to smell like human right now, and they were washable. Volker would smear himself in whatever he needed to get an advantage over the manticores. They weren’t stupid beasts. He made sure he was satisfied with how filthy Kiros was, then tipped himself back into the dirt and made sure he had a good layer. Good. Even he didn’t smell Kiros or himself.

Now, they needed patience. Volker settled in to wait.

Kiros Rahnel
 

Kiros Rahnel

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Kiros caught the frown but made no inquiry, merely shooting Volker a confused and inquisitive look in return. He held no idea of the purpose behind what Volker was doing, so foreign was his strategy to the monster hunter. Covering one's scent was only ever very, very briefly touched upon during his briefing for the role, and the only advice the hunters had for him was that 'It can't smell you when it's dead.'

Not particularly helpful learnings on the current expedition.

Blinked his eyes in confusion at the first showering of dirt; but on seeing Volker follow up with another he saw the deliberateness in his action. After his bout of confusion he was agreeable to the whole ordeal without making a sound, still not knowing why he was covered in dirt. But if Volker felt it wise then it must be so; in his short time with the man, Kiros had yet to witness him take needless action. Once he was done, he even shot Volker an inquisitive nod as if to confirm that whatever was needed to done was accomplished.

Held as still as he could during the wait, not a motion or sound. Eyes scanned the skies and horizion for any motion while ears kept attentive for any audible sound

* * *​

The snap of a large branch was the first sign, and the motion of trees off in the distance the first sight. Already still, Kiros remained frozen as the sound met his ears. Looking towards the direction gave him not sight of the beast, but sight of swaying branches through the brush in the distance; a telltale sign that something large was moving through; and it could only be one of the manticores.

It didn't seem the two had met it's notice, at least yet.

But the beast was dangerously close to. It had a pace about it; like it was searching for something....Kiros found it very disconcerting, to say the least.

Volker
 

Volker

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Why did the man seem so confused? Didnt he know the first thing about hunting? Even boar hunters wore the skins of old kills to prevent their quarry catching on too fast. At the very least the other man didn’t make a peep, and the reason for the dirt would soon become clear. Volker sat and waited, and if he noticed the snapped branch he gave no indication. The man might as well have been a statue. Still, barely blinking.

The manticore was close, but it couldn’t smell them. Volker watched it search. It was upset, probably by the loss of its chick. He watched, quietly, empathizing with the creature. If he had his way he would have left the humans to the mercy of this creature. They shouldn’t have done what they had. Perhaps destroying the nest, and any sign of the egg, might help? Who knew if Manticore nests were permanent or if they were seasonal?

Kiros Rahnel
 
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Kiros Rahnel

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He looked. He wondered if Volker heard the branch, but given that he did it was a safe assumption. Much safer than making a sound or disturbing the brush to give their position away. The head of his staff was held in his hand, palmed. Better that the glint of bronze doesn't give their position away - camouflage, at least, was a concept the priest understood.

The beast approached, closer and closer. Far too close for Kiros's comfort. Tactical stillness turned to frightened stillness as the beast passed by, only to stop. Almost as if it were looking for something it could not find. It's behaviour seemed to connotate the concern it held in the area, and an exploratory step into the brush the two hid in brought the beast close enough to be smelled.

Volker's expertise had paid off, for if the manticore was aware of their presence, they would know. It gratefully wasn't; and after a few moments with it's curiosity seemingly satisfied the beast took off again. It headed not towards the town, but another direction entirely. It might be the nest; it was the closest thing to a clue they held to the location of the monster's lair.

Volker