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1
STRONTIUM DOGS / Re: Propaganda and Other Images
« Last post by The Dan on February 19, 2018, 05:50:34 PM »
High-Tech 'Grav-Ekranoplans' of Tequila City



Your boat does not look like these boats.
Your boat looks like this:

The Occupational Hazard



Avon Villas Compound 7

2
ORBIS / Re: ORIK WARFORD
« Last post by damo_b on February 19, 2018, 01:54:41 PM »
High fashion clothes for society function.
3
General Wargaming / Re: A Tilean Campaign (Warhammer Fantasy Battle)
« Last post by padre on February 18, 2018, 01:46:13 PM »
(Continued)

“How does it work?

“By an ingenious alignment of dioptrical glasses and prismatical crystals through which both natural and aetheric light are conjoined and congelated, refracted, multiplied and projected. The central glass is mounted upon a helical axle, allowing subtle adjustments of the interspatial lengths, so that the glasses can be arranged perfectly to concentrate and maximise the emitted heat. Or, to put it more bluntly” - here the smile returned, but in a pained form - “it burns people. Let us hope it burns the undead just as well.”



“Unlike my previous creation, this is no automaton, for it requires a team of draught animals to pull it, with all their inherent weaknesses. In truth, the work was done in great haste, which seemed to please Father Carradalio and his strange companions more than care or craftsmanship would.”

“They have found good, strong horses, maestro, and armoured them well.”



“Well they might,” said Angelo, the bitterness plain in his voice. “For they killed all those left in the city who might otherwise have had the skill to ride them.”



Marsilio could see the maestro’s anguish and thought it best to speak an appropriate prayer.

“Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis,” he intoned, quietly.

“Amen,” Angelo said. “I see you know these dedicants exactly for what they are. I confess, I was too afraid to be there today. I thought only to spend some time here, in contemplation, hoping their present satisfaction would mean I was undisturbed. Yet, my part in all this weighs on me. Tell me, what else did you see?”

“They chanted as they accompanied the machine, carrying a holy relic before it …



… and a ragged banner behind.



I saw it pass down the Via del Marcutto, the entire street lined with dedicants.



Father Carradalio himself watched it, standing upon the roof of the Cappella dei Santo Corvo.



His Admonitor was beside him. His hooded guards behind.”

“That is all?” asked Angelo. “They hauled it through the streets. Nothing more?”

Marsilio could not fathom what concerned the maestro. “Just that.”

“Good. Would that I could ensure it was only ever used upon Remas’s enemies.”

Now Marsilio understood. The Maestro felt guilt about gifting such an engine of war to such a faction.

A smile, tinged with regret, returned to Angelo’s face. “Brother, what exactly have you come to ask of me?”

“The arch-lector wants you to leave the city with me. He believes your place is with the true army of Remas, the true church of Morr, and not with an unsanctioned, schismatical and rebellious fraternity of thugs. Remas and Tilea stand upon the brink of destruction, and the fate of every living soul is in the balance. Carradalio and his fanatics are a symptom of these terrible times. They are not the cure.”

“And yet,” interrupted Angelo, “they possess a faith strong enough to make them fearless in battle, and would to die to a man facing any monstrous foe. I myself witnessed their kind in battle at Ebino. Our horse fought bravely, but were finally overwhelmed and fled. Knights, Arabyans, even elves, all galloped pell-mell from the field. Not the flagellants - they strode boldly forth to plung deep into the foe. Not one turned to run. And this was done when the battle was surely lost. They feared neither death nor defeat.”

“Does such martydom win wars?” asked Marsilio. “Their flagellatory frenzies mean that even in victory they suffer terrible losses. And when they look to replenish their ranks, they will discover the realm they themselves ravaged has very little left to offer. I do not doubt they could win a battle. But the war?”

“You have just seen their host swarming on the streets, certainly sufficient to field an army. Everyone knows they are capable of terrible and bloody cruelties. Whatever horrors they face, and whatever horrible deeds they themselves must commit, they will not falter.”

“But do they have the military discipline and cunning to gain victory in a war? Do they even remember Myrmidia’s name? I grant you, their numbers have swollen. Yet to achieve this they have wreaked havoc, divided Remas, slaughtered the best citizens, and destroyed much in the way of industry and husbandry. And all this they did while the ogres burned Stiani.”

“Well, no one can doubt their fervour. They’re willing to do anything for the love of Morr. Father Carradalio seems filled with the spirit of Morr.”

 

“As is the arch-lector,” countered Marsilio. “Perhaps Carradalio even hears the same words when Morr whispers in his dreams? But there is a great difference between the praepositus generalis and the arch-lector. Both have accepted Morr’s command to act, immediately and decisively. In this they are the same. But what his holiness has done in response to that call is not at all the same. As Carradalio fermented civil upset, his holiness led armies against foul foes. As the Disciplinati stirred Sagrannalian schisms, the church’s true clergy inspired soldiers to face almost certain death fighting monsters. For every riot Carradalio’s followers instigated, for every massacre they inflicted, the Reman army fought vampires, ogres and monsters. Carradalio watched the streets of Remas and Palomtrina run with the blood of innocents, while his holiness rode sword in hand at Pontremola, at Viadaza and upon the Via Diocleta. The Disciplinati di Morr have inflicted their frenzied fury upon the weak, while the army of Remas stood firm and faithful, even unto death, against the true foe. You yourself were at Viadaza and Ebino.”

Angelo was not smiling now. He stared into space, at a sight his memory had conjured for him. “Father Carradalio fears what is coming. I know what is coming,” he said.

“As does his holiness. Carradalio, in his own way, thinks to prepare Remas for the fight ahead. But the army, his holiness, yourself, are already in the fight, and have been for a long time. Remas must made strong if it is to survive, by fostering unity, not division. Soldiers, militia, priests and brothers must serve together, under one command, otherwise disorder and disharmony will lead to destruction.”

“And how would that unity be achieved? Is the army to fight the Disciplinati? There’s disorder. And only more destruction.”

“Carradalio holds Remas in his grip. If he took it in the hope of saving it, then there is still hope. If his true intention is tyrannical rule, Remas’ ruin is certain. His holiness cannot accept Carradalio’s secular authority, no matter how complete - not unless the Overlord Matuzzi personally, and whilst under no form of duress whatsoever, asks him to do so.”

“That’s unlikely,” said Angelo. “I was allowed to tend the overlord’s injuries after they took him hostage. However old and frail he might be, there’s spirit enough left in him to hate Carradalio for what he has done.”

“No matter,” said Marsilio. “Even without the overlord’s blessing, his holiness is willing to accept Carradalio’s authority over his own followers.”

“Despite all he has done?”

“Only a fool would refuse the Disciplinati’s fighting strength and fervour in this time of need. All Carradalio need do is declare his obedience to the orthodox and Holy Church of Morr, bending his knee to Morr’s anointed pontiff.”

“And just like that, all his past transgressions will be forgiven?”

The maestro was being facetious, but Marsilio chose to ignore the fact. “And the praepositus generalis and his dedicants will be declared to be true servants of Morr, accepted into the fold of the church, that they might pursue exactly that which it they have always declared to be their sole, true purpose – to defeat the evil foe.”

“So why am I to come with you now?” asked Angelo.

“In case it all goes wrong,” said Marsilio.

4
General Wargaming / Re: A Tilean Campaign (Warhammer Fantasy Battle)
« Last post by padre on February 18, 2018, 01:44:36 PM »
(Note: I have no idea how to get the full pictures to show on the screen, rather than only the left hand side! Hopefully you've got bigger computers than mine!!)

The End of Spring, IC2403

4. The Machinery of Government
(The City of Remas)


After a momentary delay in an ante-chamber, whilst word of his visit was sent aloft, a servant had led Brother Marsilio up the stairs and let him into the studio, opening the door in silence. Upon entering, Marsilio was pleased to discover a spacious, brightly lit chamber, infused with an aura of calm. It contained several well-stocked bookshelves. Manuscripts, maps and books littered a large, central table and intriguing technical schemata adorned the walls. One might expect such a profusion of papers to create a cluttered effect, but here they advertised the operations of a creative mind, the product of orderly, organised thought. After the tension of the streets, with every interaction, even the merest, momentary glance, either fearful or suspicious it was a blessed relief to step into this room.

The occupant, hunched over the table whilst perusing a thick tome, was so deep in contemplation that he did not look up. Marsilio stepped in, lightly, and used the opportunity to take a deep breath, soothing his excitable heart. A combination of nervousness, the disturbing world outside, and the climbing of the steep stairs, had worked together to put a strain upon his sanguine organ. The air tasted of books - of paper and the mite-ridden dust raised whenever it is disturbed after a long slumber, of old leather bindings and the mould harboured within. There was peace even in the smell of the room. Marsilio had not thought he would find such calm in any part of the city, such was his fear of being discovered at least as an emissary from the arch-lector, at worst as a prospective thief. His enjoyment lasted no longer than that breath, however, for upon remembering he must now reveal his true purpose, the fear returned.

The leaded glass of the windows was thick enough to dull the sound of the street below, so that when Marsilio’s next step drew forth a groaning creak from a wooden board, the noise was startling enough for the maestro to look up from his studies.

“Oh, good brother. Forgive me my distraction, please. The written word entrances me as well as any enchantment, conjuring a tumbling torrent of ideas in which I am like to drown. Who knows how long I would have splashed helplessly in those scholarly waters had you not saved me?”

Maestro Angelo smiled, apparently enjoying his little joke. “Come hither,” he instructed, “so that I may see you a little better. My eyes grow lazy when reading so long.”

Marsilio walked over to the table. The maestro wore a tight-fitting hood and a surcoat of Reman livery, with a heavy silver chain about his shoulders. His neatly trimmed beard had almost succumbed entirely to grey, but it was his widely spaced eyes and flattened nose that drew people’s immediate notice. He was clutching his book in one hand, as if the weight were of no consequence.



“It is you who must forgive my intrusion, maestro. I am Brother Marsilio, and I am here upon a matter of some import.”

“Isn’t everyone, these days?” said Angelo with a smile. “Death hangs over us all. Not that it ever leaves mortal man’s side, but of late it has inched a good deal closer, and now we smell its foul breath each and every moment. Do you know, it has even found its way into my dreams?”

Marsilio was not surprised. He knew that Angelo had been present at the Battle of Ebino when the arch-lector Calictus had died, his army scattered, and all at the hands of monstrous legions of undead.

“If you please,” offered Marsilio, “I could offer a prayer to help you sleep a little easier, for Morr rules over our nightly slumbers as well as out eternal repose.”

“Why not, brother? Of late, it seems the only prayers spoken are meant to disturb, not soothe.”

Maestro Angelo now gave Marsilio a piercing gaze, studying him intently.

“You were not sent by the Praepositus Generalis,” he said.

“No, maestro. I think all his fanatics are out upon the streets, to witness your new machine. Indeed, I hope that is all of them, for if there are more then surely the entire citizenry has succumbed to the fury.”

Angelo smiled at this. He was not a handsome man, not least because his flat nose looked like that of an experienced pit fighter, being the result of a famous injury received in youth during a somewhat impetuous experiment to test human flight by the use of artificial wings. Marsilio had noticed one of the large papers upon the wall showed just such an artefact.

“I have come from the arch-lector, his Holiness Bernado,” continued Marsilio, hesitantly. “I was sent … sent to ask you  …”

Here he faltered, and Maestro Angelo’s smile grew broader.

“There is not much that is easy these days, brother, not even the asking of a question, eh? You need not rush. First, I would like to ask you a thing or two, if you will oblige me.”

“Yes, maester. Whatever you wish to know.”

“I heard Duke Scaringella died upon the Via Diocleta, but what of our army? None have returned to the city. Is it decimated?”

“No, it survived almost wholly intact. The arch-lector has command of it.”

“So easily? And he a churchman?”

“He had precedent enough,” explained Marsilio. “His holiness led several parts of the army before, as well as fighting by their side at Viadaza and upon the Via Diocleta. He has both the soldiers’ respect and their willing obedience.”

“Their obedience? I heard our soldiers razed Frascoti, looting it as thoroughly as Razger’s Ogres would have done had they not rushed by so hurriedly.”

Marsilio had not realised the depth of the lies being told in the city. “That is not true, maestro. We have set up camp there, to defend it and the rest of Remas from any further aggression by the Razger’s brutes. The people there have not been harmed. They’re thankful of our presence. Some of our soldiers are themselves Frascotans.”

“I do know our Pavonan allies are not with the army,” said Angelo. “Duke Guidobaldo brought his wounded son here, and his army too. Was there no room at Frascoti? Or perhaps there was some disagreement between him and the arch-lector?”

“None that I know of. The Pavonan army was very badly mauled, and their departure was not considered a great loss to the defence of Frascoti. Besides, in such times, why shouldn’t Duke Guidobaldo keep the last of his soldiers near?” Marsilio paused, then asked. “You mentioned the duke’s son. How fares the young Lord Polcario? His holiness bade me ask.”

“Oh, sadly he has lost an eye, but otherwise should recover well enough. I myself have visited him, advising his doctors as best I could,” said Angelo.

It cheered Marsilio to know he could can return with at least one happy thing to tell the arch-lector.

“One might ask,” said Angelo, fixing Marsilio in his gaze, “why the duke and the arch-lector would want the Pavonan army camped so close to the city. Their presence is generally considered unwelcome. What few Pavonan soldiers have snuck into the city, breaking their agreement, have been dealt with roughly, in accordance with Carradalio’s orders. It seems he does not trust them even to enter the city singly.”

Was the maestro trying to get military intelligence from him? And if so, then perhaps his allegiance did indeed lie with the fanatics. “I will not lie and claim to know that which I do not,” he said, “but I do not believe the Pavonans’ proximity is a tactical ruse. I know the Duke wanted the best doctors to attend Lord Polcario. And as a healthy, strong Remas makes a better friend for him in his time of dire need, then why would he do anything other than foster harmony between the divided factions of Remas. I greatly doubt he intends to fan the flames of civil war.”

“He does not need to, that fire burns well enough without any help,” mused Angelo. “He does not appear to be in any rush to return to his own ruined realm. Carradalio sent a father superior to minister to the duke’s army – one Rosello di Franchi, a Pavonan himself, although of a somewhat dubious background. By Rosello’s leave Duke Guidobaldo’s soldiers can forage to feed themselves, but must in return attend the father superior’s services, and harken to his sermons. Perhaps Carradalio thinks thus to bend the Pavonans to his will rather than their own lord’s? Even to make dedicants of them?”



Marsilio frowned, for this all sounded very familiar. “He sent just such a man to our army at Frascoti, who preaches fulsome praise for our victory and our brave defence of Remas, ensuring all and sundry hear his words, from the greatest to the least. Of course, woven amongst his words are all the old Sagrannalian heresies.”

“Well, Carradalio successfully wrested control of great and ancient Remas. Why stop there? His star is in the ascendant and the gods obviously favour him. Both armies have good reasons to hear his message: the Pavonans share his predilection to worship Holy Morr Supreme, while many amongst our own army have friends and family in the city.”

“Of that I am not too sure, maestro,” said Marsilio. He had heard the sermons himself, and seen the soldiers’ disdain. “It seems to me that our soldiers do not enjoy being preached to about the war by those who have not fought in it. Do I take it from your words that you do not like Father Carradalio, then?” he asked the maestro.

A reluctant grin spread upon Angelo’s face. “Now there’s a real question. Affection is not required for respect. And in a time of war, men of action are required. He is definitely that. He and his followers can stir a pot to the very dregs. They can turn a whole city upside down.”

“You have made a war engine for them,” said Marsilio. “I saw it myself on my way here, being pulled through crowded streets. I was surprised you were not with it. You rode your steam engine before Calictus.” 



Angelo shook his head. “I could not bear to accompany it, to be in those crowds. When I returned to the city I found what I found, whether I liked it or not. Yet Remas is my home. I offered the Praepositus Generalis a new engine to buy his favour, so that I might not suffer whatever ignominies he would otherwise demand of me. The work was as nothing compared to my steam engine, but he does not know that. In truth this engine was already almost completed, having been laid aside when I commenced work upon the last. The glasses were ground, the mounting done. All that was required was to assemble the parts. I had originally envisaged it as armament for the steam engine, but then Remas acquired a remarkable artillery piece, and when I saw what it could do I chose instead to mount that.”

“However it was made,” asked Marsilio, “will this new engine not wreak destruction upon the foe?”



“Oh, I assure you, it is capable of truly awful effect. As to how reliable it is, I cannot say. The artillery piece depended upon the quality of the black powder and the expertise of the gunners. This machine relies on the vagaries of the winds of magic, and the mathematical cunning with which its glasses are deployed.”

“It looks impressive, I can assure you.”

The maestro narrowed his eyes, then asked, “Did you see who rode upon it?”

“Two men, both in clerical robes. One fellow, an old man, bald on top with tufts of hair sticking out from the side, was holding a skull aloft.”



“Oh yes, he came with them for the machine. I showed him as best I could how it should be used. I heard they tested it yesterday upon a blaspheming heretic – some drunken fool who questioned aloud whether Morr had abandoned us. They tied him to a stake at a hundred paces distance and in a few moments burned his body to ashes from the neck down. Only his head remained, and that fleshless.”

“Thus the skull?” suggested Marsilio.

“Aye, thus the skull,” said Angelo.

(Continued below ...)
5

The journey there should have been uneventful, but following the instructions led them to an unused platform, and down onto the rails. There was some apprehension, but considering it was a party hosted by a couple of the Rivers, if they’d found themselves ankle deep in sewage, they wouldn’t have been too surprised.

Ahead of them was light, and for a second, a brief panic as they considered approaching trains. No squeal of tortured rails though, just some light-hearted laughter and frivolity. A few steps up and they were on another platform, this one well lit, but obviously not in regular use. The lighting was provided by the kind of temporary fixtures one would see on a building site at night, with generators whirring away to keep the power flowing.

After a few minutes, a train approached, slowing to allow them and a dozen others to board. Yanni and Jake both knew the city well, but when asked by a curious Irishman, all they could do is shrug, offering guesses that were swiftly proved wrong as they went past stations in use, without even slowing down. “I couldn’t even tell you which line we’re on, the stations don’t make sense. If we were to head straight up and hit the streets, I’d only be fifty/fifty on where we’d poke our heads up”, said Jake, straining to see things through the dirty windows.

After twenty more minutes of this, occasionally slowing, some sharp turns, and zero trolley service, they pulled up at another clearly abandoned station. As they all disembarked, the sounds of old fashioned music drifted along the platform. The station itself looked like it hadn’t been used in decades, but the music was anachronistic. The heavy strings and accordion were soon mingled with a thrumming bass note, and the beat dropped into some kind of hard-core mashup that made the eyeballs swell with pressure.

Alsandair smiled at them all, clearly in his element, but was taken aback when his gaze lingered on Frederick for more than a passing moment. Gone was the wastrel he called a friend, and what looked like every warning poster of a kiddie-fiddler brought to life was looking back at him. “Jesus”, he whispered, “it looks like him and Reynard would be bosom buddies with him dressed like that.”

Yanni must have overheard, and replied, “yeah, but only really small bosoms. I mean, like pancake flat mate.”

They both smiled to each other as a heavy on the door gave them a once over, but didn’t ask for an invite, identification, or even to look in their bags. Either he knew what he was looking for, or there was an assumption that anyone who got this far, was supposed to be here. His job was just to look imposing, and he did it with vigour.

Once inside, it was clear this was an invite only affair. Even those who looked like common or garden humans weren’t in the slightest bit fazed by the variety of individuals in attendance. Alsandair could see trolls, boggons, Sidhe, Pixies, and countless others he wasn’t even sure he had the right name for.

No one was surprised when he made a beeline to the bar, ordering a round of drinks which managed to get added to a complete stranger’s tab, and sent back to the group. As he sipped his Red-Stripe, he started chatting with the barman who looked in charge. He was a friendly type, and once he got over the blatant Nazi and Nationalist tattoos that covered most of his exposed skin, him and Alsandair became quite friendly. Friendly enough at least that the Irishman could stow his pack behind the bar all night and help himself to a couple more cans while he was at it.

Loaded with fizzy beer, he took in the crowd and just caught sight of Jake disappearing into the gents. Yanni was on his way to the VIP area, and Alsandair could see at least two Rivers he recognised up there, along with some quite obviously important Sidhe of the Seelie court. Harun was working the room, and if he had to guess, Alsandair assumed he was following up on the rumours that Habibi Lal would be performing tonight.

There was no sign of Frederick or Erasmus, but party animals they were not. Instead of wasting effort hunting them down, he spotted Calliope, and made his way through the crowd on the dance floor to say hi and was soon enjoying her company so much he almost didn’t notice Jake had re-joined the throng.

Once you noticed something like that though, you couldn’t ignore it. He was stripped to the waist for one, and his Fae mien was on full and proud display. So full and proud in fact, that as the light caught him, Alsandair could see that he wasn’t actually wearing fluffy shorts. Thankfully, the lights dropped before any more of Jake started moving in time with the music.

With the house lights off, a single spotlight illuminated a unmoving but still somehow sensual figure on the stage. The sounds of traditional Indian music began to fill the space, like a breathing entity, pulsing and pushing everyone in time with the fluid musical rhythm. It was a time signature that Alsandair couldn’t place, but it didn’t stop him moving with it. The entire room seemed to be moving with him, and it was only after a dozen seconds that he realised Habibi was moving too.

It was slow, but every movement was perfectly timed. She was like a liquid snake, like zero-G fluid suspended by vibrations. A second later, the world erupted, and Alsandair suspected that he would open his eyes onto another time, but instead the world reappeared, the music had mingled in a crash of bass and synth, and it had electrified the building. Habibi was moving quicker now, but no less sensual for that.

Her movements seemed to bring about a change in rhythm, rather than dancing to it, and the crowd writhed along with her. It was the most sensual moment of Alsandair’s life, bar none, and in the back of his mind he couldn’t help but feel sorry for whomever was near Jake right now.

The music rose and fell, the tribal beats mingled with electro-swing, and not a beat was missed, but plenty were dropped. It felt like it had lasted for hours, he was so exhausted keeping up with the momentum of it, but when the lights fell away again, he knew it had ended far too soon. Calliope’s arms were draped over his shoulders, her head on his chest, not caring that his shirt was sticking to it, muscle definition obvious as his chest heaved, dragging in as much oxygen as he could.

A hand trailed down from his shoulder as she looked him in the eye, a wicked smile on her face as the fingers found his waistline, a nimble thumb popped the top button open as she kissed him. The last thing he saw before his eyes closed was Jake, surrounded by trolls. Why does it look like he’s licking them, was his last thought on the matter?

With the house lights back on, and music flowing from the DJ booth, the trolls were indeed surrounding Jake. They were laughing at his antics, but in a friendly way, calling him their little ‘Tanngrisnir’ and plying him with drinks.

Frederick was in the shadows, sipping from a virgin Cuba Libre, nothing but contempt in his eyes as semi naked flesh gyrated in front of him. He longed for the night to be over already, and after seeing Habibi on stage, he was sure the best plan would be to leave early. The Clurichaun and Satyr were clearly busy, he had lost sight of Erasmus, and Yanni was still in the VIP area, so no one would miss him if he slipped away quietly.

He had been impressed with the ease at which Yanni had strode through the crowd of hangers on when approaching the roped off area. True, he could have made his own way in just as easily, but not being noticed was his speciality. Assured self confidence at that level was a sure way to get yourself perished, but the Sidhe looked good while doing it. Digging his mobile out, he began composing a message informing them of his exit, smirking as he made out Reynard dancing away with a young lady.

All that jumping around, and Spector’s quarry was here all along. He also appeared to be dancing with a girl far too young for him, who bore a striking resemblance to a face on a missing persons report. Another lost soul, he thought, as he replaced the phone and snuck towards the doors.

Yanni had calmed down now, as his mobile thrummed in his pocket. Although he was still breathing heavily, he knew he had been more controlled than most. Looking around, a lot of the Sidhe in attendance were still ruffling their metaphorical feathers up to get attention. He knew he had been doing something similar, but with a woman like Habibi Lal on the stage, it was to be expected.

His brow furrowed a little when he read the message, but he wasn’t too surprised that Frederick had left early. This wasn’t exactly his scene, and that’s without Yanni knowing that the homeless Sluagh had his own reasons to avoid a certain dancer.

Still, he was here for a reason, and after brushing past Uncle bailiff with no more than a word from Chelsea, he was in front of the most important of people. His courtly training took over, and he went into autopilot at that point, going through the motions, showing deference and courtesy to those of better breeding than himself. He may have been a touch more old-fashioned that some of them were expecting, but after an invitation to attend a particular Saville Row tailor, he knew he had impressed.

He wasn’t one to push his luck though, so bowed deeply and returned to the dance floor, wondering why on earth a bunch of trolls in heavy metal battle vests were letting Jake slap them with his cock.

He also sees Alsandair, red faced with the uniquely captivating Ms. Lal at his back, long bejewelled fingers hanging over his shoulders, whispering into his ear. “My friend, it has been too long, but I see from your response that you recognise me now?”

“I do now, aye”, he responded, still out of breath, with Calliope having only just buttoned him back up less than a minute ago before seeking out libations, “but if you’d have asked me a week ago…”

“Do not worry, little Clurichaun, all shall become clear and return to you. What is the last thing you remember of me?”

“I met your father”, he said, “Joseph, or was he your uncle? He said he was father to someone, but it sounded like a load of shite to me.”

“Hmmm, I remember that meeting. Do you remember where we ended up?”

“Hanging out with a druid. Again. I swear”, he continued, mind suddenly jogged, “if there were a few of those folks around right now, they’d be pissed about what I found out about today!”

She was already away though, leaving him swimming in a sea of exotic scents, and was soon all that Jake could think about. He had been happy with the hills and mountains he’s made friends with. They loved dancing with him! They had such stories to tell, such songs to sing! The grey one was fucking gorgeous too and loved it when they got to feel his cock on their rocky features. He’d never gotten hard over geography before, but it felt so good!

Then there was a Goddess, she glowed, inner and outer light, from within and silhouetted from behind. The lights made her many limbs look electric, and he wanted nothing more but to bury his face in her chest and spend a lifetime gently lapping the sweat that flowed there. It would taste of ambrosia he knew, and great gin. He could live off it. Forever.

He hadn’t even noticed that she’d moved on saying barely a word; he was lost in her, lost in the heavens that exploded in her eyes and from the waterfall that ran from between her legs. The trolls laughed on, stroking their goat boy and pouring spirits into his mouth as he hungrily swallowed, not caring for the pills that had been dissolving in the bottle.

She had her sights set on Yanni, and he wasn’t complaining at all when they met on the dancefloor, exchanging a couple of cheek kisses that should have been chaste, but were decidedly not. Before they could exchange more than rudimentary pleasantries though, Harun was at his shoulder, speaking loud enough to be heard over the music, “I don’t suppose you can do anything to control the Satyr could you”, he asks?

Yanni looks over to see nothing had really changed for Jake, but in an effort to avoid future issues made his way across and could be overheard asking, “you’ve got your cock out, haven’t you”, before the lights started to drop again. Harun stared for a second longer than was strictly appropriate into Habibi’s eyes before smiling, a little awkwardly and making his way to the stage. She smiled at his retreating frame, slender yet powerful, as he strode onto the stage, taking up an instrument and strumming it once, silencing the crowd in a heartbeat.

A spotlight lands on him, making him glow yellow, like a desert at sundown. Other Eshu appear behind him on stage, a variety of string instruments already in hand. The swell of music drags Alsandair back to the world, his head swimming from pleasure and drink, as the floor fills once more with dancers.

He knew what to expect, to certain degree; Harun could use his music to transport you, to create worlds for you to visit, and as he felt the first sting of sand blown onto his face, he closed his eyes and let himself be taken away once more from this trivial impersonation of the real.
6
Yanni and Alsandair were at quickly at Jake’s side, “Not sure that was the best decision you’ve made my friend”, admonished the Sidhe, whereas the Clurichaun was still hopeful no real damage could be done if Jake had indeed kept his real name a secret.

It never occurred to him that the nature of the transaction would require nothing but a true name to be given, but his happiness was enough to cloud not only his limited reason, but also his attentiveness. As they strolled towards another stall whose owner was packing up a selection of wooden dolls, none of them had noticed that the old woman had slipped a business card into the hands of Frederick. He palmed it with obvious experience, and it vanished into an inner pocket with no one any the wiser.

As the group closed on the dollmaker, Alsandair had to double take on what he thought he was seeing. By now, he should have been used to experiencing things beyond what could be considered normal, but sometimes things still put him off his stride. From a distance, the wares on display looked like finely crafted wooden dolls, sitting at their rest, dressed in clothing that gave them a distinct, ‘The Hills are Alive…’ kind of vibe. The only issue was that they weren’t sitting still.

They looked so very much like real children, that they even seemed bored with being made to sit still for so long. They were twitching, fidgeting, and Alsandair did not feel comfortable as he looked at them. He found himself bending down as he approached, snapping his fingers in front of the face of a highly Aryan looking boy doll. Rather than flinch away, it slowly turned its head around until it could see the dollmaker, and raised an eyebrow, looking like this had been the twentieth time it had happened today, and sharing a glance of resignation with its boss.

The boss in this case seemed as unwilling as the potions vendor to split from narrative convention and was doing a surprisingly good job of looking just like Rumpelstiltskin. “My name’s Hubert”, he introduced himself, “and who might you fine gentlemen be?”

Before anyone could speak, Jake had already introduced himself. On any other day, Alsandair wouldn’t have flinched about giving a name up, but after one less than strictly kosher encounter, he was feeling apprehensive, and Jake just handing his name out willy-nilly wasn’t helping.

Thankfully, Frederick was at hand, and his no-nonsense approach was perfectly suited here, “Tell me about your wares, Hubert.”

“Of course, good sir, of course”, his obsequious attitude was perfect, and barely looked rehearsed at all, “only the finest wood, with ancient rituals and bindings to make your very own poppet, that will last longer than even your friends, the Fair Folk might be on this planet.”

“This isn’t a sale opportunity Hubert, so if you could refrain from flowery conjecture, I would greatly appreciate it. Tell me about these rituals and bindings, and you’ll still make some coin.”

A smirk had spread across the dollmaker’s face at this, and he stood up straight when being addressed with such directness and managed to stand taller than Alsandair. “No need to be so curt young sir, I’m a happy to discuss my trade with anyone interested. Even happier if my time is paid for.

“The spells involved are simple enough, but only work on living wood. All you need to do is keep the spirit of the tree in there, and when it’s reshaped – that’s the real hard part, the bit that only artists like myself can manage – the wood spirit animates the doll. I think they quite enjoy having limbs that can do more with than just wave at the wind.”

“Hmmm”, breathed Frederick, “A truly noble art form. Are you aware of the doll that currently resides in the household of Lady Effra?”

“I am, I am. I’ve seen it not too long since, but there’s been some after market modifications that I can’t say I’m a fan of.”

“Indeed. You said your work will last for a very long life time. From what we have seen, this particular doll has already aged significantly. Tell us who purchased this one from you.” Frederick stared up at the doll maker for a few seconds before realising his error, “please.”

“Not sure if that’s any of your business young sir”, the dollmaker replied, before Yanni stepped that little bit closer.

“He did say please. Would you prefer it if I was the one asking? I’m not so polite.”

With eyes moving so quick in their sockets it looked like they were seeking a way out, he started wringing his hands together, “Of course good sir, happy to help the fair folk, happy as a lamb. If you could just, you know, keep my name out of the rest of your investigation? I’m small time, and the last thing I need is the court of the Rivers paying my operation any interest at all.

“It was a woman who bought that doll. She was a looker too, but with a sharp face, striking. Mid-thirties, if I was to guess, but someone looking at your friend here”, he indicated Frederick, whose scowl was only worsening as Hubert rambled on, “might guess at him being only nine, so best not to read too much into that.

“She had an accent as well. Not some sexy one like French or Italian though. More eastern European, maybe even Russian, but I couldn’t be sure.”

“Thank you”, replied Frederick, his tone so cold you could have preserved meat with it, “anything else, before we head on to carry out further, investigations?”

Hubert couldn’t mistake his tone for anything other than a threat, and his Adam’s apple bobbed as he thought quickly. “I did a bit of looking into her myself, now that you bring it up. I heard she’s been working with someone else. Not a nice chap from what I’ve heard.”
“I’d always rather deal with the organ grinder than the monkey Hubert”, said Frederick, “Tell us about him.”

“I wish I could good sir, but there’s really nothing to tell. I’d guess he was doing the same kind of thing the Issacs get up to, but even that’d be a guess. I cannot tell you even a single thing about the way he looks though.”

“Really? ‘Cannot’. I think you mean will not. Does he pose a greater risk to you wherever he is, than we do while standing…”

“Easy there Fredrick”, interrupted Yanni, “We’re just asking question, and Hubert here has more than earned the tenner he’s getting. Of course, if wants to make that twenty, he might have something else to tell us”

“Honestly sir, if I could I would, there’s simply nothing I have to tell you.”

Yanni nodded and pulled a crisp note from his wallet and handed it over, while Frederick continued to stare daggers. “I’d advise you all to be careful in this one. What I do is hard to undo. You can’t just decide you don’t like one of the dolls being the way it is after the tree’s spirit makes its home. Whoever did this is a force to be reckoned with. Like I said, keep my name out of it, I’d be best pleased.”

With that, he turned his back, and went about packing his wares away while the dolls stared at the gathering, unblinking.

“There’s hardly a soul left in here”, said Alsandair, “think it might be time to scrub up and get ready for a party!”

“Another fine example of evening where the only goal is to get inebriated and spend time being visible. Two things that I literally live for”, replied Frederick, sarcasm dripping from his words.

“There’s still one last thing before we head off”, said Yanni, “I think I’ve just seen Zack up in the bar. He knows damned near everyone and is friendly enough with the Issacs that he might have heard something about their friends and enemies.” He led them back up the stairs to see Zack helping pack away the packaged food, most of it unsold.

“Hey there Zack, you got time to sit and chat a while?”

“For my favourite publican? I’ve got all the time in the world. Al, big man, want to do a friend a favour and take over? Just pack up anything left for me. The demon trap’s got everyone spooked, and the quicker they put some distance between themselves and the splash zone, the happier they’ll be.”

Alsandair smiled, patting Zack’s back as ducked under the counter to lend a hand. He did his best to follow the conversation, but he could see what was left of a case of very nice lager and had to make sure no one was spying him out as he slipped a couple into his pack while working.

His ears pricked up when he heard an unfamiliar phrase though; Night Witch. He lifted his head over the counter to pay more attention, and even heard the woman’s name: Varvara Sidorovna. She was indeed a Russian, and an old one too. At least as old as the one that Zack called the Nightingale. He may look like a well maintained fifty-year-old, but the stories were that he’d be a front-line mage during the second world war, and since that’s when the legend of the Night Witches started, it made sense.

From a distance, Alsandair could tell that Zack wasn’t happy to be giving up all this information. There’d been rumours for a while about how close he was getting to the Issacs, and how much of the Demi monde he was exposing to them. The Rivers were right to be keeping an eye on him, but who knew what their motivations were.

Eventually, it became clear there was nothing else to be gained from pushing the lanky Londoner, and everything was stowed away anyway. They had a gathering to get to, and it was the other side of London, in a far nicer district.

If they set off fairly sharpish, they’d have time to freshen up, then tube it across London, and no doubt arrive unfashionably early. Erasmus was far from enthused about the idea, Much happier to return to his workshop and continue his experimentations. Frederick looked like he was seriously considering tagging along with the Knocker, much happier surrounded by the trappings of science.

In the end though, they decided that finding out about the matter at hand was more important, and that hopefully Frederick could get more answers about himself and the very nature of the Fae and their place in the Demi monde. The only one of the group not to be in attendance was Spector. He’d spent a fair amount of time already today talking about his meeting with Reynard and didn’t want to miss the chance to talk to him about any other children that might be missing in London. The last they saw of him, he had leapt onto a balcony, pulled himself up, then sprang across a gap between buildings and was away.

“I swear, he just does it because he can”, said Frederick, “he has enough money to spend on gadgets and gizmos, that he could surely afford a cab, or even an Oyster card, and get around much quicker and easier.”

“Not everyone’s so happy to have their feet firmly planted on the ground, Frederick”, replied Alsandair, smiling happily to himself. “Mind you, if any of the door staff at this wee gathering are of the human persuasion, you might have some bother getting in. I just don’t think a fake I.D. is going to cover it.”

“Agreed”, he said, looking down at his clothes and general shabbiness. “Still, one of the few benefits of this whole ‘magical creature from beyond time an reality’ thing, is the ability to stop people seeing me as nothing but a helpless child”. He had maintained a steely glare at Alsandair as he said this, his meaning clear. Alsandair just smiled back though, seeing nothing wrong with looking after his friend, even if he was a powerful and dedicated Fae.
7
“You all right there, Irishman?” Looking up, Alsandair was relieved to recognise Oberon, beer bottle in hand, staring down at him.

“Again”. He asked? The big man nodded and offered his free arm, which Alsandair grasped in turn and was lifted from the floor with alarming ease. With a pat on the back, the freshly opened bottle was put into his hand. “That one seemed like it was forced to me, caused by something else, something big, sharp, hairy, and smelly. Did you hear anything yourself?”

A heavy nod was his immediate answer, “It looks like you all got hit pretty hard by that one, you might want to take those seats again. The youngster will have to wait a moment more to be about his business, at least until the ringing in your ears stops”. Alsandair was perfectly positioned to see Oberon’s face light up in a wicked grin when referring to Frederick as a “youngster” – even though he kept his voice perfectly even – and Frederick’s face to curl into an evil snarl as he sat down huffily onto the bench.

Erasmus was stood by the balcony, either using the rail to steady himself, or to keep an eye on how the rest of the market dwellers had reacted to whatever the hell it was that had affected them. “Looks like it’s early closing today”, he said, indicating with a gnarled thumb over his shoulder as he approached the table, “is that normal, or tied into what sent us on another of increasingly frequent jaunts”?

“I’m not sure why on earth you lot were as affected as you were by that, but I’d guess that Peter and his colleagues have been playing around south of the river. If I was to make an educated guess, I’d say that was a demon trap that someone just activated.” Oberon took a deep swig of his own bottle, doing his best to keep half an eye on the gathering around him as a questioning look passed across all their faces.

“Any second now”, said Frederick, the contempt clear in his voice, “Mister Oberon is going to honour us with some vital piece of information regarding what on earth a ‘demon trap’ is, and will do his heroic best to not come across as highly smug for knowing something that we don’t. How about we speed that up, so that we may indeed, be about, our business.”

“I didn’t mean to keep you waiting Freddy, but I’d hate to talk to you like a child, and would rather give you time to show knowledge of such a thing, before wasting all our time by explaining things you might already know about.” If it were possible, the air between the two of them seemed to waver with heat caused by their hatred.

Spector was sat on a bench between them, eyes flickering back and forth. “So, south of the river then”, he put in, clearly trying to defuse the situation, “so what’s south of the river then? Well, there’s MI5, and I think Effra hails from down there. Do you think this could be connected to anything we’re investigating?”

 His interruption appeared to do the job, as Oberon turned to face to Pooka, “South London is a large place Spector. From the shock waves, it felt at least a couple of miles away, and somewhere high up. Top of a tower block maybe.”

“No real way to know where it happened”, said Harun, not even a hint of impatience in his calm and silken tones, “but perhaps it would be beneficial if we were to know what had happened. With our memories coming back to us in such an interesting fashion, we will no doubt soon come across them, but until then, what exactly is a demon trap?”

“I’ll tell you what I know, but if I’m honest, this shit is something the humans came up with. You all smelt the wet dog, heard the snarl in its throat, and felt cold sharp steel, a razor, fresh from the strop. That kind of thing has a name the Issacs gave it, vestigate, or something. Means that if you know what you’re looking for, you can detect the type of magic, maybe even get clues as to who cast it.

“Demon traps are old inventions, a lot of people will tell you it was the vikings that came up with the idea, but they could have learnt it from an earlier source, and there’s no real way to look into it. What we do know is that there’s no nice way of making one.

“You need to have a creature at the point of death to imbue one with power. The more effective you want the trap, the more violent the death. Vikings used wolves.” He took a long swallow from his bottle at this point, licking his lips before carrying on, his voice steady though shallow, “They’d not use little ones, or older creatures, but big, terrifying brutes, and they’d chain them up, and torture them slowly, killing them by inches. They’d die in a pool of red snow, still snarling to the last, blood and saliva dripping over sharp fangs when the spell was cast.

“When they got the spirit trapped, they’d just find somewhere to hide it near their settlements and long halls, and whenever anything supernatural stepped on it, snap. Bang. No more creature of the night.”

Even Frederick seemed to struggle to take this revelation in his stride. The pause that followed it was a lot longer than could be considered comfortable, but the Sluagh was the first to break it, “If one of our kind was to step on it, we’d be destroyed? Smoking boots left, or something equally ridiculous?”

Oberon took another sip before putting his bottle down with a shake of his head, “In your current form, it’s not likely. You’d certainly die, the Fae bit of you, and it would be painful. Like getting ripped from this plain of existence by a pack of rabid wolves. The body you wear, what you show to the mortals though, that would probably remain. Probably. Human magic is less than one hundred percent predictable.”

“From what I can gather”, put in Erasmus, “based on my own research, the Issacs use science, hence the nickname. Science, surely can be relied upon”?

“These are the same species of people who use science to put thermonuclear reactors on fault lines. They’re humans, and as much as they try to quantify the forces they seek to control, they lack a baser understanding of the nature of the universe. Maybe one day though…” mused Oberon, slightly wistfully.

“Thanks for the skinny”, said Spector, “But I’ve got somewhere I need to be, and it looks like the market is really packing up. If anyone needs me, I’ve got a meeting at The Intrepid Fox.” He stood with a nod of thanks towards Oberon, as Harun spoke.

“Sorry, slipped my mind, but who are you meeting?”

“Reynard. Might some info on the rivers, but asking around, he seems to be a name that keeps cropping up with regard to missing children, so I thought I’d best introduce myself.”

“Wait a second”, asked Yanni, a smile of disbelief on his handsome face, “You’re meeting a man – or Fae – called Reynard, at a pub called the fox? If his last name is anything even remotely close to ‘Vulpine’, I think we might need to get the pun police involved. Do I need clarification that he’s a Pooka?”

Everyone around the table was smiling at this, but Oberon was looking a little strained, while Alsandair like he was struggling to see the joke. His head spun suddenly though, and he stood quickly, knees jostling the table and making the near empty beer bottles dance. “Watch yourself!”, exclaimed Jake, grabbing his bottle before it toppled.

Alsandair was already up, and heading down the stairs, seeing a billow of silk and a beringed hand closing a door ahead of him. He’d heard the bells though, even if no one else had. He’d smelled something familiar too, and the combination of jewellery and scent had him convinced it was Habibi Lal. He pulled up short of the door, fingers almost on the handle.

He wasn’t even sure why he’d ran after her. Maybe the shock of seeing a memory brought to life in a market in London? Maybe just seeing her again. He couldn’t deny that she was a fine-looking woman, but she seemed otherworldly. Like she was more woman than he had any right to be in the same room as. He turned around to see Oberon looking down on him with an amused smirk.

“You know the lady Lal? If the rumours are to be believed, she’ll be at a gathering of the Demi monde this evening, one that your friends have been asking about. If you’re so desperate to spend time with her, be patient my friend”. With a friendly pat on Alsandair’s shoulder, he turned and strode through the emptying hall.

The lack of shoppers and rapidly thinning throng of traders made it easy to spot a couple of said friends, even being as short as he was. Yanni and Jake were stood at a stall not too far away, the Formica table top covered with jars of potions and vials of powders.

Yanni was stood, arms crossed, disapproving gaze locked on Jake’s back. The Satyr was staring longingly at the various oils and unguents. The old lady working the stall looked like so many caricatures of a wizened old witch, face so deeply wrinkled, it was like a three-dimensional map of Scottish Highlands. Unlike the tall imposing figure from fantasy literature though, she was short and almost round. Her dark hair was turning grey and cascaded down her rotund frame.

If anything, she was regarding Jake with even more hunger than he was showing towards her wares. “We’ve got whatever you need young man, good for whatever ails you.”

“Well”, he smiled up at her, “I might not be looking for something to clear my mind. Maybe quite the opposite. Something to open my mind to the universe, to make me feel the dedication of a serial killer, the libido of a werewolf on heat, and the tenderness to match.”

She raised an eyebrow and held his gaze, and when she spoke, there was no softness of the little old lady she was pretending to be, “that’s a hell of a shopping list. I think I might have something for you, but this kind of thing isn’t for everyone, and you must know it won’t come cheap.”

“This isn’t my first trip on the merry-go-round ma’am. If you can deliver, then just name your price.”

“I like a man who knows what he wants, but I prefer one who knows to do what he’s told. I can give you all you want and more, and I just need a couple of insignificant things. Would you be willing to part with a lock of goat hair”?

“For a high as good as you say? Snip away my good woman”. He lowered his head down, and with quick efficient movements, she slipped a pair of long scissors from a hidden pocket, plucked a few strands of hair clear of his unkempt beard, and clipped them free, pocketing them away almost faster than the eye could follow.

“One more thing, then everything you desire will be yours; tell me your name.”

At this, Yanni’s eyes snapped back to the conversation, and as he was closing on the exchange, Alsandair visibly paled. Since he’d awoken to his life as a Fae, he had been as careful as he could. He had known from the first instant of the rules that govern gifts, of the secrecy to do with a true name, of how favours asked for must be obeyed if accompanied with respect and an offering. These weren’t memories as he would usually think of them, they were part of who he was. He knew that for Jake to give up his true name, along with a piece of himself was hazardous in the extreme.

Even if he had known this old woman, trusted her to keep hold of the offering but never abuse it, the risk would have been extreme. Yet here he was, staring at her with a look of serious contemplation on his face, lips curled at the ends in a hungry smile. “Think on this one friend, and think hard”, Yanni said, every ounce of his authority he could muster.

“I can quit any time I want to Yanni. For a high like this, a bit of beard hair and my name isn’t asking too much.”

“Do you have any fuckin’ clue what you’re giving up there big man?”, Alsandair asked. “There’s things you can do when you have someone’s name, and things you can do when you’ve got hair of someone. When you give them both up, you’re opening yourself up to all manner of unpleasantness.” The old woman was staring at the Irishman, but he held her gaze, “and there’s nothing you can offer me that’d be worth the price darlin’. I can get my high from any number of reputable vendors in this fine city”.

With that, he pulled his new hip flask free, unscrewed and flipped the lid open, taking a deep pull of Jameson’s. He had hoped that Jake was sensible enough to listen, instead he leaned close to the old lady, and Alsandair was just about able to hear him whisper his first name. He didn’t hear anything else, but his heart lifted a little.

Alsandair was the name he had used for many a year, but it wasn’t his true name. If someone wanted power over him, they’d need more than that and his family’s surname, and with any luck, Jake was clever enough to keep his true name a secret.

She seemed satisfied though, and from another hidden pocket produced a small crystal vial with a white powder inside. Even with the glare of the fluorescent lighting inside the market hall, it looked to everyone like the powder was glowing slightly, but each of them could see a different shade to it. For Alsandair, it was a light green, it was a deep red for Yanni, but Jake saw only pure whiteness.
8
CHANGELING / Re: A cracked, leather-bound journal
« Last post by BioSpark on February 16, 2018, 02:43:17 PM »
I awoke on the ground among the discarded cigarette butts and general filth of London's finest.  Still mercifully intact, I was a spectacle for but a moment.  No harm done I'm quite sure.  On to home and the familiar sensory assault that is the modern Thames for tonight I would lay among the refuse yet again.  Home sweet bloody home.

The old homestead was as I left it.  A barren tip, to be sure, but sheltered from the wind and rain.  An old friend sat in his usual spot.  I once shared food with the chap.  Now I realised there was something about him that I had never noticed.  Never been permitted to notice.  I have known the old bum for years now but today he appeared in the form of a troll.  I honestly could have been sick.  He happily, brazenly asked if I had awoken without even the slightest hint of an apology.  I told him exactly what I thought of him withholding vital information about my identity from me but he responded that to learn too much too quickly would have been damaging.  Damaging.  To get forced to relive life and death situations, to be told be a complete stranger that your entire self image is a lie you have been forced to tell yourself, to believe in magic and fairy tales, these things are perfectly healthy but to be told gently by one that you once trusted to share a living space with, that you broke bread with, to be told the truth about yourself for one blasted moment, that would be damaging?!

No more.  No more trying to make sense of the thoughts of these beasts.  Yes, I shall try to steer them toward rational, clear discourse but only as a means of furthering progress towards our band's mutual goals.  Serving nobility in this community may provide us with power or at least a life of relative comfort and I will continue to play along whilst there still remains any benefit in doing so.  I will attempt to comprehend them no longer.  Better to seek counsel from Mr. Patch, frankly.  That so many believe that they are helping, easing us into a new life on their own terms, they are as delusional and wrapped up in their own affairs as the mortals they seek to protect.

I was invited to walk.  I believe my companion sensed he had touched a nerve and wanted me to see something.  Fine, a walk in the dark with a now-untrustworthy chaperone into the unknown, therein lies the start of many a well known tale.  We arrived at a quiet place and bore witness to an old man, perhaps older than I, rummaging through bins and muttering incessantly to nobody in particular.  This, I was told, was an Autumn person.  A fey who had given over to mundanity and banality to the point where his fey self had died, left or similar.  It would seem that having your fey self blown out of you is deadly but for it to wither and die is a process which can be survived, were one to consider this wasted husk "surviving".  I questioned this, would succumbing to banality render a man incapable of caring for himself and perceiving the world about him?  After all, a complete lack of perception of one's surroundings seems more suited to the whimsy of the fair folk, something I would associate with going too far the other way from banality towards glamour and losing touch with reality entirely.  But no, apparently the loss of self had broken him emotionally, driven him to drink, driven out his family and left him a shell of his former self.  A thick sense of energy lay about his person, a dull sensation.  It felt like a creative block, of a conversation where no participant can find the words, of a song half finished.  This man WAS banality, he generated it, so strong a force now that even humans would be affected by it.  Fey could scarcely approach at all.  I asked would it not be better to end his suffering?  No.  Apparently we should care for these pitiful souls.

I do not consider myself a complete monster.  A realist or at worst a cynic.  However, I have enough problems with basic survival on a day to day basis and have no intention of becoming a minder to any who were not able to cope with their own sense of humanity, something they were born with and coped with for many years before their transition.  I was warned that this represented a choice, a end to a path.  The concern was palpable, sickeningly sweet and, unfortunately, appeared sincere but again, no.  This doesn't represent an ending.  It represents weakness, woolly thinking, a person so devoted to this world of dreams that they have forgotten how to live.

I did not sleep in the company of the troll that night.  I spent my evening behind the Carp's Tongue, listening to Oberon and his ever-present self-importance.  It is believed that our voyages into memory are not accidents, that the wild hunt are in some way forcing them.  For what is not certain but there was mention of our past selves' involvement in ancient history and how we may be tied to locating an artifact of some significance.

Our end goal now appears to be finding the wild hunt, finding the Russian witch who is binding dryads to poppets and stopping them by any means necessary.  I swear, if we find those responsible for causing our complete lack of self control, for forcing us to relive pain and suffering, I shall return the favour tenfold.  Those who so clearly wish to live in our past may soon be entirely unable to picture their future.

Al appears to be taking a personal interest in my wellbeing.  I cannot determine if this is because he pities me, because he's naturally outgoing or because he finds entertainment in the stark contrast in our demeanours.  Behind his harmless, happy-go-lucky outer self, I wonder what exactly he is thinking.  I wonder if I would care for it.  I shall have to keep as safe a distance as is practical for a time until I can be quite sure about him.

One item of note.  Gerald, on being given a simple information gathering task, revealed that he knew the Russian was a mage.  A mage?  However does he know of magic?  Naught but a teacher, he, and firmly rooted in reality and learning as a result.  Not without imagination but still, how to handle this?  To belittle him would be folly, no doubt his sources are reliable and to disagree would either put me at a disadvantage or cast suspicion.  To allow this kind of thinking to go fully unchecked could be incredibly dangerous.  Can't have someone like that knowing any dirty secrets, not the one person in this city who would most benefit from seeing me dead.  Or worse.
9
STRONTIUM DOGS / Re: Soundtrack and Trailers
« Last post by The Dan on February 12, 2018, 08:03:59 PM »
Welcome to Tequila City....

Paradise City, Guns n' Roses
Tequila, the Champs
10
STRONTIUM DOGS / Re: The Roll of Honour and Infamy (Dramatis Personae)
« Last post by The Dan on February 11, 2018, 07:46:21 PM »
Meanwhile in Tequila City....

Jon 'The Don' Tubson
Owner of Crocket's Casino
...and two robot alligators




Vanilla Slice
Albino Amazon S/D Agent
Jon The Don's Bodyguard




Ivan Smirnof
Owner/Manager of Traditional Russian Family Mutel
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