Fable - Ask Sinister Tricks and Scary Treats

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Zaire

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I didn’t know this area was called Eagle Head,Zaire said plainly to whoever would listen out of the six initiates chosen to go on this “harrowing” expedition. “Or Eagle Eye. But, I really don’t like geography. Can’t wait for the day when someone makes a map that tells you where to go. They’ll be rich.” If Zaire could handle the pressure perhaps he would try his hand at such a great idea, however, he felt far from passionate about making such a thing. Not like he had much time to waste on a passion project in the first place— even if it would make him rich.

The boy had his hands shoved into the pockets of his breeches, leaning back lackadaisical as if he and the other initiates weren’t about to enter Nalaikh, a city far from Vel Anir and hardly anything like it. For one, as far as Zaire could tell, there was hardly any sort of delegation on who could be where. The moment they had stepped into Nalaikh, Zaire had been assaulted by the images of humans and elves philandering about unburdened and even stranger races milling about. One person had looked like a giant bipedal lizard and was harping about how he sold the best apples. Zaire couldn’t help but thinking that he should be selling crickets instead.

Speaking of crickets, the street food was interesting. Almost anything and everything could be found cooked on a stick. Starfish on a stick, eel on a stick, sparrow on a stick (ooh crunchy), cockroach on a stick (crunchy but gross), bearded striped dragonflies on a stick, and plenty of normal meats and vegetables on sticks as well. Walking through the street, hot grills filled with smoldering wood could be found in the center, allowing patrons to buy raw items on a stick to then grill to their liking. As they walked by, plenty of people were hunched over, turning bugs or fish or whatever poor thing happened to be skewered.

Zaire wasn’t sure if he should be worried that his mouth was watering from the smoky yet sweet smells.

Lanterns hung decoratively around every step, hanging from storefronts and wooden beams, on homes and fences and walls. Certain streets, especially ones that led to marketplaces or vendors, had lanterns hanging from strong twine that would cross-cross above everyone’s head. The light kept the main streets brightly lit, with only the entrances of alleyways holding the foreboding shadows.

More importantly than all the interesting scenery was the fact that the initiates were the youngest around by far. Plenty of adults looked at them, eyes wide with worry, one old lady had even told the children to hurry back inside.

I guess they’re taking that curfew pretty seriously for kids,” Zaire murmured, partly to himself, partly to others. “Boooo,” he moaned, “listen to mommy and daddy or the Doll Maker will get you!” Pivoting on his heel, he turned around, making an ugly face and with clawed hands, reaching out to scare whoever was behind him.
 
They were headed for Owl's Head. A peninsula of Arethil just northwest of Dornoch that bore a shape resembling an owl. Marcella would've found it all very exciting, it was the furthest she'd ever been from Vel Anir, had Proctor Amicus not given her a lecture prior to their depature.

She'd made it very clear that the only reason she was being sent on this mission was because her class didn't have anyone else capable of healing injuries. "If you delay them, or inconvenience them, or mope so much that team morale slips, I will," there was more but the subsequent panic attack blocked much of the lecture out.

"Um, I think it's Owl's Nest," Marcella offered as they waltzed down the streets of Nalaikh.

Oh. Shoot. No, that wasn't right, it was definitely Owl's Head but it was far too late to correct herself. She'd just let it lie and there was probably, maybe, a decent chance no one would correct her.

All of the lanterns were adorning the streets were both breathtaking and a bit unsettling when one considered the variety of stares the group of initiates received. Why were they all staring at them, why were they staring at her? Maybe they could all realize just how much the rest of her class hated her? That was why they were staring. It had to be it.

Zaire's voice permeated the silence and the stares. Echoing the various murmurs and rumors they'd heard about Nalaikh prior to arriving. "Maybe the Doll Maker will give us a gift." A free doll would make the entire expedition worth it.
 
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Nalaikh - or, Bürgediin Nüd, in the native tongue - loosely translates to the term "eagle eye". Cartographers and historians tend to disagree over the reasons why the city was so aptly named, whether it was down to the positioning within Eagles Head or due to the large fortified tower from which messenger eagles were flown across the Dynasty.

As the second largest city of the Erdeniin Dynasty the city is home to several races that inhabit the Steppes including, but not limited to, centaurs, orcs, giants--


BoOooOOO!
Houri blinked and looked up from the pamphlet she had picked up on their way into the city from a gap-toothed man in a hat that said 'guide', to stare at Zaire's attempt of scaring. Whilst the Dreadlord perhaps didn't react in the way the other initiate wanted the small child who had been next to Houri promptly burst into tears, turned and ran back to the comforting skirts of her mother. Slowly, the older initiate frowned and removed the lollipop said child had given her from her mouth.

Instead of berating him however she simply said.

"Bürgediin Nüd. It means Eagle Eye," pointing behind the group to the looming tower that seemed to climb like a beanstalk into the sky. Every now and then a bird was released from the top. "After the tower," she had read enough history books and geography books to know historians were always smarter. "And the Doll Maker is no joke. If this killer comes to Vel Anir and steals initiates faces, what would they be capable of then?"
 
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"And the Doll Maker is no joke. If this killer comes to Vel Anir and steals initiates faces, what would they be capable of then?"

"Anything," Raena answered Houri's most likely rhetorical question. It was a frightening thought but, at the same time, weren't they murderers with powers? Yes...yes they were. She did not voice that thought though.

Raena had been voluntold by Proctor Harkenov that she would be joining this little mission and you didn't tell Proctor Harkenov no. So...here she was on this mission with some of her fellow Initiates and no idea why it was important she came along. Perhaps she would find that out soon...maybe...hopefully.
 
This will be a good mission for you. They need someone with your durability. Go.

The waifish, pale girl with snake eyes and a forked tongue scratched at her wrists nervously; dead skin peeling away to reveal hints of scales beneath the raking attentions of clawed fingers. She'd taken care to wear a hood and cloak for this, but it only did so much. The moment her eyes got noticed, Vasha watched as vaguely curious or worried expressions among the civilians promptly switched to alarmed and suspicious.

For all the different races they had here, she belonged to none of them.

As the others spoke among one another, Vasha turned her head slightly toward Raena in particular as she responded to Houri, and Vasha's scratching increased for a moment before she forced herself to pocket her hands. So that was why the Proctors had sent her, perhaps. For her endurance... but also as a failsafe.

A monster to kill a monster. If things truly went out of control, and if Raena was right...

Vasha grit her teeth and fixed her gaze on the path ahead. No. She wasn't going to lose control. No one was going to die here or lose their face. Least of all her. This was the first scary step towards her goal. She had to be able to meet the challenge head-on.

If she couldn't, then everything she had worked toward was for nothing.
 
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Perhaps Vasha's inclusion was also valuable for quite a different reason: she undoubtedly drew eyes away from the party's sixth member. Had she not—or had the lanterns along the street illuminated them perhaps a bit more brightly—the small, thin figure following along in the shadows of the others would doubtless have commanded a considerable degree of interest and probable concern from the onlookers.

As it was, however, the combination of deepening shadows, a petite frame, and the characteristic floor-length leather coat Delilah always wore when out traveling served to deflect unwanted scrutiny ... at least, for now. Listening to the disquieted conversations of the others, the one-eyed girl pulled a small rolled tube of some unidentifiable leaf wrapped in paper from one of her coat's numerous hidden inner pockets, a wry smirk twisting her dark lips.

At Raena's discomfiting response to Houri, the smirk widened ever so slightly, and Delilah finally deigned to speak, her dry voice as cheerlessly amused as ever. "Tsk ... gettin' cold feet from walkin', are we?" Lifting the roll to her lips, she bit down on the end, her one eye drifting lazily towards Vasha. "Careful with that kinda talk. You'll spook th' lizard."
 
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"Just stay alert everyone," Lumen intoned. Hand resting on the sword hilt at her side. A circular shield strapped to her back, as always. Armor looking pretty dang radiant.

She held two juicy meat sticks in her free hand. She'd just bought them from a half-orc vendor. Being around all these different races didn't seem to bother her as much as it should have. A light elbow into her fellow initiate, Vasha Drurcius. A measured glare at Delilah Bryndel.

"Want one?" Lumen offered to Vasha. She took a bite of one of them. "Mmmfff, it's pretty dang juicy."

Zaire would not be surprised she'd gravitated toward the meat.
 
Well, it looks like he didn’t manage to scare Houri. Which was probably for the best, after all, it was Houri. He had meant to scare Lumen instead. Or if he could have spooked out Delilah that would have been cool, too. Instead he had just frightened a little kid, like a jerk. If it weren’t for his deep skin, others might have caught sight of a blush that blazed on his cheeks and the top of his ears.

Zaire turned back around, catching sight of Lumen chowing down on what he hoped wasn’t fried griffin or charbroiled dragon or whatever these weirdos were cooking up in their stalls. He brought both of his hands to link behind his head and he leaned back into his hands, his elbows up in the air as he walked.

Why would they steal an initiate’s face? They want to get the shit beat out of them by Proctor Lamartine? To take one of Proctor Palahniuk’s crazy ass tests?” It’s not that Zaire couldn’t figure out why having a bunch of faces wouldn’t be useful but he couldn’t help but feel it was dumb to be worried about something so far from Vel Anir. It’s not like they didn’t have the strongest battle mages in the world.

“Rakesh! Rakesh!” Zaire sidestepped out of the orc’s way, or at least tried to. The orc was, as all orcs tended to be, massive like a mountain. He didn’t have green skin though, his looking more gray and blue like the ocean on a early spring morning. “Children! Have you seen a young orc boy, tusks aren’t more than a half-inch still. He uh… he… might be around your age? Thirteen, right?” Zaire’s eyes narrowed in annoyance.

We’re a lil busy right now so…

“If you see my son, really, you can’t miss him, almost six feet with small tusks and green eyes and red hair and— he’s not even old enough to grow a beard, you see, we’re the only Yakaz Orcs you’ll find here, you’ll know it’s him when you see him.”

Zaire sighed.

“Just keep an eye out for me. Please. If the doll maker gets him… I…” it was strange, Zaire realized, to see an orc look distraught. But more importantly, he had mentioned the doll maker. He frowned, and couldn’t help but think how gross it was for someone to want to be a orc.

Marcella Houri Raena Mirrsyn Vasha Drurcius Delilah Bryndel Lumen
 
"Careful with that kinda talk. You'll spook th' lizard."

A low growl throbbed in her chest in response, but was quickly cut off as Vasha jumped at the light elbow to her flank. Head snapping around in Lumen's direction, her slitted gaze locked on the offered meat skewer and flicked fairly quickly from combattive to confused. The smell was incredible, however, and she wordlessly took the offered snack and bit into it, ignoring the living piece of charcoal behind her.

Sadly for her, Vasha didn't quite catch the blush that changed Zaire's skin an amusing strawberry cocoa in tone, her reptillian senses single mindedly focused on the meat she was biting into and trying to decipher what it could have come from when the orc started shouting ahead of them, and then approached the group.

Swallowing a chunk and licking her lips, Vasha raised her head and turned her full attention to the creature, pupils dilating slightly as she took in their conversation. A lead. And a good one.

Large body. Gray-blue skin. Half inch tusks. Green eyes. Red hair. Resemblance to... parent? Mother? Father? She decided it didn't matter and stepped forward next to Zaire. Vasha's face was starting to itch, her sulfur-yellow eyes turning a faintly cloudy blue as scales edged around them, but she held off the reflexive desire to change just yet. She needed something important first, and she needed to be able to speak for this.

Was she an inch taller now?

"Scenth. Give me something with his scenth." She demanded with a soft, raspy voice. The predatory look in her gaze had increased tenfold now. A great cat looking down upon a wolf as it buried its head in a carcass, unaware of its rival.

They could catch the Doll Maker out while they were potentially distracted by prey.

Marcella Houri Raena Mirrsyn Zaire Delilah Bryndel Lumen
 
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A measured glare at Delilah Bryndel.

A violet spark flickered ever-so-briefly in the hollow of Delilah's missing eye, and—seemingly spontaneously—the end of the rolled leaf in her mouth slowly began to emit a faint wisp of lavender smoke. The girl breathed in with an air of languid relish, before taking the roll back between her fingers and blowing a small smoke ring of the same lavender shade towards Lumen's glare with a mocking one-eyed wink. This accomplished, she turned away without further comment, apparently content with the irritated reactions she'd earned already.

“Rakesh! Rakesh!”

Delilah glanced back ahead of the group to look toward the oncoming orc, then toward Zaire. At his futile attempt to sidestep outside the newcomer's attention, a certain hint of wry amusement flickered across her face. This should be good. Taking another pull from the still-smoking roll, the girl listened to the panicked parent's desperate requests and Zaire's less-than-enthusiastic responses with a certain phlegmatic disinterest.

At the mention of the doll maker and Vasha's subsequent agitation, however, Delilah's attention seemed to sharpen slightly. Refraining from interjecting on the interaction just yet, she instead took a couple steps forward around the group's edge for a better view, her one eye glinting with characteristic vindictive fascination as she looked between the other girl and the orc.

Marcella Houri Raena Mirrsyn Zaire Lumen Vasha Drurcius
 
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It was difficult to tell what was worse. The putrid smell of the meats that Lumen munched upon or the somewhat terrifying sight of a fully grown orc bleating about his lost son. The concept of both food and orcs was being shattered in a singular moment in this strange city.

"Um."

Soft eyes glanced back-and-forth between Vasha and the orc parent. "If we see Rakesh then we'll uh," god orcs were just so big. It was almost intimidating to talk to them. Marcie had already realized she was going to be a level four Dreadlord when she graduated. Sure, her magic had other uses but she simply lacked the nerve to become a warrior or a torturer.

Staring up at the big, fully grown, adult orc in front of them she tried to steel herself but utterly failed. "We'll tell Rakesh that uh... um... maybe come see, uh, you."

Near the end she simply trailed off into mumbles hoping that Zaire or Lumen or Delilah or someone else at all would speak up. Maybe the orc would just produce a thing with the kid's scent.
 
Do you think we come across that inept?

Don't be ridiculous, Houri is far more mature.


Houri tried to ignore the internal argument between Sura and Ahdvi and focus instead on the despairing state of affairs unfolding in front of her. Zaire attempted to take the lead, bless him, when the orcish woman ran up to him in a state of embarrassment, then the pile on by the others left the poor woman looking a little bewildered. She shook her head slightly.

"Well, it sounds like you guys are busy so..." she casually half turned and begun to walk off in a seemingly random direction, waving casually over her shoulder. "Meet at the inn later."

Houri had no intentions of being side tracked for a bleeding heart, they had a murderer to find.
 
Lu huffed the lazy-purple ring of smoke away. A shrug at the others and the distraught orc, knowing Vasha could more than handle herself with Zaire and Delilah.

Marcella...Bless. The girl reminded Lu a little of Zinnia.

And for a moment, she had a hard time picturing the healer torturing half their class. A final bite, chew, and swallow as she finished off the meat stick. And she discarded the rubbish in the proper receptacle because she wasn't an animal and littering was illegal in most town propers.

"I'll stick with Houri. Meet up later." One of the first classes they took was on the dangers of splitting the group. She'd gotten an A in that class so there was no way she was letting Houri go off on her own. And it had nothing to do with her (old) crush on Houri's brother.
 
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