You are Irue Valen, blood heir to House Valen, and... You don't really have time for this. It's now roughly midday in the town of Carona and you just got out of your meeting with the Shrine. You had made the decision to trade your knowledge of the Ice Queen's Atelier to the Shrine in exchange for cultivating a stronger relationship with them, as well as gaining their support in your activities, giving you quite a few more options in regards to how you handle your problems here.
It was an odd feeling, suddenly realizing you have a powerful political force backing your actions. While this, by all rights, shouldn't be an alien concept to you, the last few months of your life had been a jarring crash-course in reality for you. A reality where in you had no real authority anywhere, despite your position in House Valen.
Still, it wasn't something you could become complacent over. They promised support, not to do things for you. Even if they had, it wasn't something you think you could have accepted with a clear conscious. You were here to get your Testament back, and everything else was just another step towards that goal. If you had to forcibly depose the Mayor and overturn an underground freedom revolution, burning Carona to the ground in the process, then it was a... hehe... Sacrifice you were willing to make.
Hahaha... Ah. Sacrifice. That was a good one.
Seriously, fuck this town.
You take a breath at the top of the Shrine stairs and look out over the bustling afternoon activity of Carona. You have no money, so buying resources was still out of your reach, but you did have quite a few things still on your mind. Jill had said she would help you look into getting your Testament back, so you should probably check in on her later tonight, just to make sure she hadn't gotten herself into any trouble. While you had successfully pulled the Shrine into helping you intercept the invitation to Roderick you had 'helped' set up, you still had the lead regarding Taggart to follow in hopes of finding your way into the metaphorical underground.
You hoped it was the metaphorical underground, anyway. If there were any more things actually hidden under Carona, then you'd have to step up your dreams of purging this place with fire to something more deeply penetrating. Like... More Fire.
And then there was the matter of your peasant knights. Something had started to make its presence known around Carona, and whether it was dangerous to them or not, you wanted your knights both IN side and AT your side in case a fight broke out. The backing of the Shrine is a great boon in that regard, but it's not the same as having your own people with you. Getting them inside was another thing on your To-Do list.
You have a day and a half left.
Your current face is that of an older Irue, with braided hair and a conspicuous lack of red eyes.
>Find that bastard, Taggart.
>Investigate the disappearances of the wall guards
>Head to the Pub
Where things are said:
Where things are asked:
Current Abilities - http://pastebin.com/PchcdWpw
Basics of Mana - http://pastebin.com/V9b1DMrS
A List of Forgotten Things - http://pastebin.com/kPEscJ3h
Kara's Day Out - http://pastebin.com/8ZbiSKLs
Adventures with Asche - http://pastebin.com/RNviCBJu
The Reclaimed Doll - http://pastebin.com/n6miP1qT
In Your Shadow - http://pastebin.com/EfeeHFAE
Like before, you actually have a way to get your knights in immediately. Can you figure it out?
Your eyes fall on the walls surrounding Carona. The reports of guards being straight up snatched out of their posts had become increasingly concerning, especially given your past experiences with Nightgaunts. While they had been your first and most obvious suspect, your chance meeting with Maran had moderately shaken that initial belief. She seemed nearly certain that the Nightgaunts weren't involved in this, and given her previous familiarity with them, you weren't exactly in a position to disagree.
...It did leave you suspicious as to just what her connection to them was, exactly, but that was just another bullet on the list of things you wanted to wring out of Maran's neck if given the chance.
You found yourself walking towards the outer walls, taking advantage of the relatively light shift of guards during the middle of the day to climb the stairway leading up to the top walkway so you could stare out into the verdant greens beyond Carona's boundaries. The huge forest looming not far away was a familiar sight to you, one that you had spent nearly every day of the past ten years viewing from one angle to another... But never from the outside. As imposing and uninviting as it looked from out here, that forest was your home.
Glancing from side to side, you can see a nearly straight shot up and down the wall, and there are thankfully few guards manning it. While you can't claim to be a local by any means, the general look of the few guards you do see along the wall isn't exactly... Domestic. You get the feeling that pretty much everyone posted to wall duty is on a mercenary's payroll.
"Hey, you're not supposed to be up here."
A voice grabs your attention as you start to become lost in thought, and you turn to face one of the approaching guards with a raised brow. He starts to go on about restricted areas and protocols, a lot of things you frankly just glaze over as you stare at the man in front of you.
He looks familiar.
It's a thought that sprung to mind when you saw him, and something that nags at the back of your mind as he speaks. You feel like you recognize his voice too, but...
But he's so generic. There's no distinguishing features of this guy you can put a name, yet you're almost certain you know him.
"I can escort you back down the wall, but I'm going to have to insist you leave."
>I know this guy. (Where do you know him from?)
>Allow yourself to be escorted.
>Bluff him. You look important, and he's just a rank-and-file.
>Ask about the disappearances on the wall.
So we know this guy!
Neither of these answers were correct, but I did recall that Irue recognized this person the previous time they saw such a generic face, so I'm just going to assume they recognize them again. That's my bad, I forgot a detail!
You continue to stare at the guard until it finally clicks. You recognize this painfully generic man! You had seen his face yesterday, after you had assumed the most unassuming appearance you could from the Diary of Reflections! It was a little awkward running into him so soon after- wait. He wasn't just some generic guy, he was one of YOUR generic guys. This was one of your peasant knights.
"How did you get here?" You narrow your eyes at him, finally turning your attention fully on the guard as you promptly reverse the typical positions of guard and civilian by advancing on him imperiously. There's a shine of confusion in his eyes as he takes a half-step back upon your approach, but he's already trying to pull his composure together and tell you some nonsense about needing to leave the area. "Don't give me that, where are the others?"
"Others? I'm sorry, I'm not sure what you-"
Ah, right. He wouldn't recognize you, would he? You click your tongue irritably and cross your arms in thought. It seems your peasant knight was starting to become flustered at being ignored so readily, but you needed time to think. They were all trapped outside, how did this guy even get up here? What was he doing up here? Did he have information about the others?
>Arrange to meet him later, you've got questions.
>You want answers NOW. Have him escort you, then drop your facade.
>Bring up Dullem, check for a reaction.
"For the last time, please don't make me have to force you to leave."
You ignore your peasant knight's continued attempts to convince you to leave peacefully. You give him points for being this dedicated to not being a jackass, considering how most of your experiences with guards in Carona have gone, but it doesn't mean much considering he's not actually a guard. Just as it seems he's finally come resigned himself to having to manhandle you out of the premises, you figure it's time you chose a course of action. Specifically, you just quirk a brow at his approach and ask whether Dullem would approve of what he was doing.
...That hesitation is more than enough. "How do you know Dullem?"
You can't help the self-assured grin rising across your face as you hold your chin up. "He's the captain of my knights." You reply confidently, finally starting to feel the ground under your feet. "Yes, I don't look familiar, there's a reason for that, but I'm very busy and don't have time to go over it right now. I have questions, and you have answers, understand?"
...Your peasant knight doesn't seem convinced, and frankly you get the impression that he's a little wary of you. It would be easy to just drop the facade and show him, but that would probably attract too much attention. Oh well.
"First of all, what are you even doing up here? Last I checked, everyone was trapped outside."
"..." The peasant knight glances up and down the wall, scrunching his face up as he seems to come to a decision. "We are still trapped outside. Most of us, anyway. A few of us have managed to get in, but it's not pretty."
You tilt your head. "What do you mean?"
"We're... Infiltrating. Or we're being forced to infiltrate, rather. To find you."
You frown at that. "Find me...?"
"Dullem's plan-" Dullem was alive? "Ever since he came back out of that mineshaft with the others, we've been trying to get into Carona, it's the only thing keeping that monster controlled."
He's glancing back towards the forest as he talks, and you notice his eyes have never really stopped moving. You wonder if getting a debriefing from your knight in broad daylight, in the middle of his infiltration, is really a great idea. Granted, the later it gets, the more guards there will be on the wall...
"To be honest, most of us didn't even think you were in here. I don't know how you got in here, or what's up with your hair and eyes, but its hard to believe you're actually still alive."
>How many others made it inside?
>How are you getting inside?
"Wait," you hold up a hand to forestall any further ramblings as you sort through what he just said. "One thing at a time. What monster? Does it have anything to do with the guards being abducted lately?"
"We ARE the abductions." He admitted, "That thing you were riding back at Lord Caylen's, the huge wooden golem, its... It hasn't gone mad per-say, but that quiet girl you kept with you is the only one it will listen to, and that's not a good thing! She's been furious ever since they crawled out of the mineshafts without you, and Dullem's doing everything he can to try and keep her controlled, but since that thing is listening to her..." The knight swallows, a shiver running down his frame as he glances back out at the forest. "Dullem claims she was using it like a divining rod. That it could sense you. Once she found out you were in Carona, it was everything Dullem could do to talk her into letting him plan an infiltration rather than just storming the town."
You blink. "So, the abductions...?"
"It's the wood golem. That girl has been using it to rip people off the walls, and whoever she finds wandering around outside of Carona. We're keeping them prisoner and using their uniform to sneak back inside. After the first few spilled the story about mercenary guards, Dullem was willing to take the chance that the guards weren't acquainted enough to notice new faces."
Oh.. Well, at least it wasn't Nightgaunts. You're not entirely sure how you feel about the fact that Ari has evidently commandeered the wood golem into a homicidal crusade to get you back, though. On one hand, you didn't think Ari was even capable of something that... Ruthless. On the other hand... You vividly remember just how vindictive she had become upon discovering a doppleganger - you - had replaced Irue.
...The more you thought about this, the more you started to realize it wasn't terribly surprising to you.
"How many of you are inside?" While the manner of infiltration was admittedly a little horrifying, you DID need to get your peasant knights inside. If Ari had been working on getting it done already, then you suppose you should be thankful.
"A handful, at most. Dullem won't let too many of us slip in per day, in case we catch unwanted attention."
You feel it pertinent to inform him that the town is already swarming with unsettling rumours about guards being ripped from the wall, or patrolling inspectors being dragged away into the woods.
"He's doing the best he can, alright?" The generic knight snaps, realizing a moment later what he'd down as he runs a hand through his hair and sighs. "Sorry, sorry, it's just... It's been stressful since that girl took over. None of us know what she's thinking, and the last time we saw wood golem, it killed a lot of people. Dullem's doing what he can to keep everyone calm."
But this was good, right? If they were slowly infiltrating, then it's something off your back. "How long until everyone makes it inside?"
"...Honestly? maybe a few weeks. A month. I don't think the girl's patience will last long enough to make it happen. If something doesn't change soon, I wouldn't be surprised if she just broke down the wall herself."
You take it back, that's not good. You don't have weeks to wait, and even if you did, you've seen what the wood golem is capable of; Having Ari assault Carona with it would be... Unfortunate.
"How DID you get in here, anyway? Most of us thought you were dead."
"Got teleported." You respond absently, thinking over your options. "It's a long story, but I wound up in an Atelier and it eventually sent me here. I got some neat stuff out of it, too."
You ignore the dumbfounded expression on your knight's face.
>Have him gather the ones already inside and meet you somewhere tonight (where?)
>Have him pass on a message to the outside. (What?)
>Ask if he can get Dullem inside by tomorrow. You want your knight captain with you.
>Have him pass on a message to the outside. (What?)
That were alive and kicking.
>Have him gather the ones already inside and meet you somewhere tonight (where?)
Jill's place or near there
You nod to yourself. Alright, you've got enough information for now. "Just to be sure, you can get messages back out to the others, correct?" The knight's affirming nod was a little hesitant. Seems like he really didn't fancy the idea of having to go back out there unless he had to. "Smile, you're about to become a herald of good news." You turn your own smile upon the knight, but if anything it seems to make him less inclined to become cheerful.
"I need you to get word back to Dullem and Ari. Tell them I'm alive, you've found me, and I'm busy. Time is running out, so I can't come out to see them myself, but I need them to be ready." You raise your finger and stare him dead in the eye as you repeat yourself emphatically. "I NEED them to be ready. Not to come charging in until the right moment. Tell this to Ari specifically, if she wants to help, she has to wait."
The last thing you need is for word of your survival overexciting the erstwhile master of the wood golem. You've still got questions about why the wood golem is even following Ari's whims, but it's not something you can find an answer to right now; As long as it's not going to go unexpectedly berserk, you'll take what you can get.
"Also, gather everyone already inside. I had hoped to have more of you, but, like I said... Time is running out. I want everyone to meet me at this location tonight for a debriefing, because I'll need your help." You turn over the address of Jill's apartment to the generic knight, having reluctantly decided that it was as good a place as any to use as your base of operations for now.
"...You managed to get a house here?" The knight mumbled incredulously to himself as he received the information, and you... Don't really see a need to correct him right now. If he just assumed you were scarily hyper-competent, that was fine, too.
After you finished relaying the orders to your knight, you wave off his awkward attempt at a stealthy salute. He IS still in the middle of an infiltration after all, and you're probably pushing your luck by having stayed talking with him for this long.
With that done, you've managed to alleviate a few of your worries. More than that, there's an inexplicable feeling of lightness, like a weight had been lifted from your shoulders. Ari and Dullem had survived the cave in, evidently thanks to the wood golem. While its only interest had been protecting Ari, you suppose it would be rather difficult to only save one person from a collapsing mineshaft...
You can't help but wonder how many of them made it out of that shaft. You were under no delusion they all could have survived... There was good luck, and then there was impossibility.
Still, even a few is better than none. Dullem and Ari's survival at the very least was heartening. With that, your lost Testament count had already decreased by one, and these guards were an unexpected but sorely appreciated boon. You felt your momentum building as you turned away from your knight to let him get back to his guarding. At this rate, you were feeling more and more confident about your plans to rescue Rinnier.
It's nearing sunset now. Your opportunity to meet with Taggart has passed, but Jill's shift at the pub should have started not long ago.
>Head to the pub, see if Jill had found anything out and warn her about the knights
>Drop back by the Shrine to talk to the Jinn and Undine representatives
>Use the Diary of Reflections to infiltrate somewhere. (where?)
>Tell the knight something else before you leave. (what?)
You leave your knight to his job and make your way back into Carona proper. Given how late it was starting to become, you figured it wouldn't be long before Jill's shift at the pub started. Given that you had just directed a variety of infiltrated knights, presumably dressed like town guards, towards Jill's apartment tonight, you figure the polite thing to do would just be to warn her ahead of time that she'd be having extra visitors.
Beyond that, you may as well see if she had made any progress locating your other Testament. It had been nearly a day since you last saw her, so if she didn't have results soon, then you'd... Well, nothing would change for you exactly. It wasn't as if you had been relying on her help in the first place. You take a moment to dip out of sight as you got closer to the pub, prying open the frosted covers of the Diary of Reflection and letting your reflection ripple away to reveal a pair of familiar red eyes sharply staring back at you; This was the proper face of Irue Valen, and the one that Jill would recognize. If you were going to chat with her, wearing this identity again was a necessity.
...Still, slipping this appearance back on felt... Strained? Comfortable? Stiff? You weren't sure how to describe it. Your fingers traced the cool, watery pages of the Relic in your hands for a few moments longer than necessary before you shook your head. You closed the book once more and slipped it out of sight. You needed to go.
You emerge back into the streets of Carona as night begins to fall, slipping your way through the crowd until you reach the familiar pub that you had been visiting daily since you arrived. While you didn't particularly care for Carona, you have to admit that if something were to happen to this town, you'd feel a bit bad about losing the pub and its employees.
"Hey, take a seat where ever! We're a bit busy tonight, so I'll be right with you- Oh, Hey!"
A familiar voice greets you as you open the door and step inside, hair blowing back briefly as the rush of warm air and the scent of freshly cooked food wafted past you immediately. You take a moment to orient yourself as your eyes adjust to the firelit lighting of the pub, and you wave at the server that had greeted you.
"Man am I glad to see you," unfortunately that server wasn't the one who had come to see. "I was supposed to get off almost two hours ago, but Jill's running late."
You blink at Jack, but before you can answer, he's already apologizing as he moves off to attend to some of the more rambunctious tables. "Look, we can talk in a bit! There's an apron in the back, help me out for a bit!"
>Grab the apron, get to work.
>Head to the back and look around
>Go check Jill's apartment
You blink a few times and navigate your way through the crowd as you make your way into the back. The apron you used last time is sitting primly folded and awaiting use just like Jack had said it was. You glance around briefly, but another call for drinks from outside puts an end to your short-lived plan to look around. You slip the apron on and make your way back out into the pub floor only to be immediately assaulted with orders and demanding customers.
You hadn't planned to spend your night flitting between tables with hot plates of food and heavy drinks, but it's too late for that now, you suppose. In short order you're catching orders and dragging tankards around for refills in such quantity that you don't even remember what tankard was supposed to be filled with what. After you managed to overcome that hurdle, you're left at a complete loss as to where you were even supposed to take it BACK to.
You managed to pass a question to Jack as you worked, and it was an action you regretted ever since.
It wasn't a conversation that the two of you were having, per-say.
"Is this normal?"
So much as every few minutes the two of you would pass in close enough proximity to yell a short, quick response to the other person over the clamour of the customers. You don't know how Jack was doing, but keeping this conversation in mind while you tried to remember who ordered what and navigate this throng of people was running hell on your nerves.
And Jack was, as you were finding out, a pain in the ass to get information out of. You hoped Jill inherited the family information trade business. Jack could be the cook.
"Well she's not usually THIS late!"
"Why is she so late?"
"If I knew that-"
Whatever Jack was saying was lost as he passed out of earshot and some table smacked their tankards together and cheered. This was more concerning primarily because they were directly beside you when it happened, and while you didn't startle it enough to drop the food you were carrying, a fair bit of the ale did slosh onto you. No apologies were provided, but quite a few laughs were had. By people other than you.
Your work continued further into the night. The later it got, the more Jack started to slow down. You suppose it made sense, considering he had been working since the morning shift, but it meant more and more pressure was getting put on you to handle everyone. Perhaps the only upside to this was that the customers were also starting to taper off and quiet down, leaving a steadily softening din of murmurs within the gradually emptying pub around you.
How long had you been doing this? Once you started working, time flew past. You can barely remember the night until now, but since you've started to get some time to yourself, it was certainly catching up to you. You breathed a sigh of fatigue, slumping back against the bar counter next to Jack. "Thanks, I don't think I could have handled all of that on my own." Jack groaned, his body seeming to relax as you got comfortable in the seat next to him. "You're a real life saver."
"Nn." You grumble your own acknowledgement wordlessly, "What time is it?"
"I'd say... About midnight, maybe. Nearly closing time, at any rate." Jack murmured, "Figures Jill'd pick the one heavy night to not show up."
You pinched your shirt gingerly and pulled it off your skin as you glanced down at it. It was still damp, and perhaps more annoyingly, it smelled like ale. The good news is that you had managed to acquire a little bit of pocket change tonight. Nothing worth noting, at least not for anyone of your position, but the heavy weight of coins stuffed into your apron jingled merrily as you shifted the cloth aside.
"Sounds like you made out like a bandit tonight." Jack laughed, "Seems like you're pretty popular though. They started working you way harsher than me."
"I guess." You mutter non-committally. It was, unfortunately, true. As the night wore on, requests for you to just hover around a table had gotten more and more frequent. You feel a little bemused at using the sacred power of a Relic, formed as the legacy of an Aeon, to score a few extra coins on your tip as a server at a pub...
"Ah, don't worry so much." Jack waved his hand casually, "You've had a serious look on your face all night, it doesn't suit you." You make a face at that, which only serves to elicit a smile from Jack. "It's Jill, right? Don't worry, it's not the first time she's ditched a shift."
"..." You contemplate denying that you were worried about her, but there's no actual way you could phrase that without sounding distressingly cliché. "If you say so."
"If it'll make you feel better, I'll tell her you worried when I see her later tonight."
"What? I know where she lives. Just because it's not unusual doesn't mean I'm not mad, I'm gonna go give her a piece of my mind after we close."
>Tell him you'll go in his place.
>Volunteer to come with him.
>Lie. Put in a good word for Jill being missing tonight.
"I'll come with you." The words come out of your mouth quicker than you meant them to. You shrug off the questioning glance he shoots you, rapidly trying to come up with an excuse that had nothing to do with a retinue of your knights crowded into his sister's apartment. "...I'm worried about Jill." If you ever need to tell someone a lie, thread it with the truth. It was a simple piece of advice, but it was accurate. However, you decide to leave it at that.
Why were you worried about Jill? It didn't matter. Let him come up with a reason on his own. Any lie he tells himself is far more likely to be believed than one you tell him. A simple omission of information coupled with a vague half-truth and he'll take the rest of the steps himself.
"If you wanted to spend more time with me, you don't have to be coy about it."
...Or he'll completely misinterpret it. You level a flat stare at Jack as he laughs and holds his hands up defensively. "I kid, I kid! Don't be so serious!" You sigh, one hand tracing the ridge of your brow to ward off this headache of a man.
The rest of the night moved slowly, probably because you had less and less to distract you from your thoughts. When the pub had finally closed, you couldn't drop the apron off and get outside quickly enough. You were the heir to a noble family, and no matter how romanticized the commoner's life might be in those trashy novels Asche had laying around - which you didn't read, for the record - this was not the life for you. This kind of menial manual labor for worthless peasantry pocket change was a waste of time.
"Hey, ready?" Jack interrupted your steadily worsening spiral of thoughts as he emerged from the front door. You nod absently, glancing around as you half-expected to meet Maran again, but the troubling woman had thankfully chosen to not show her face tonight.
It takes you a while to get to Jill's apartment, and you're unfortunately stuck with Jack's small talk in the mean time. Talk about his day, talk about Jill, talk about the family business. From one topic to another, his smooth baritone never stopped. You weren't sure whether you found it relaxing or grating, but if nothing else, it was consistent.
As you got closer to Jill's apartment, your eyes started to wander. You had told your knights to meet you here tonight, so they should be lurking around somewhere... You had hoped to catch them early and perhaps signal them to lay low until Jack wandered off, or maybe split off to talk with them, but you didn't see anyone you recognized. For that matter, you didn't actually see any guards at all.
"Welp, here we are." Jack murmured, fishing a set of keys out of his-
"Those aren't keys." You comment blandly, watching as Jack knelt down and slipped a pair of oddly bent wires into the lock of his sister's apartment. "Of course they're not keys, Jill hasn't trusted me with a key to her place in years." He replied amiably, one eye squinting in the darkness as he fiddled with his instruments. "Course it never really stopped me, so I don't see why she had to make it harder. She's a right pain in the ass, sometimes."
You tilt your head at the impressive display of sibling love before you as Jack deftly picks the lock of Jill's apartment with a casual smile. You get the feeling it's not just his sister's door he could crack open if given the time and opportunity... "Shall we?" He wrapped his hand around the knob and clicked it open, easing the door open quietly as he stepped inside. "This is your first time at my sister's, right? Sorry about the mess."
You don't feel the need to correct his assumption, but snort lightly at his given assumption that the place would be a mess. It HAD been a mess the first time you came, but it was the principle that amused you.
"It's dark in here." Jack muttered as she slowly felt his way through the interior ahead of you. "Guess she's not home yet?"
You suppose it was dark for him, but the lack of light wasn't any particular problem for you. You watch him wander off towards what served as a kitchen, muttering something about trying to find a light, as you let your eyes roam over the rest of the apartment with a frown. There's bread on the table, a few articles of clothing tossed around haphazardly... No, now that you look at it, isn't there actually a mess here again? Jill just cleaned this last night.
Glancing back towards what you remember to be her bedroom, you feel your body lock in place rigidly.
A pair of yellow eyes locked with yours as their owner mouthed a silent greeting once they realized you had seen them. Jack was murmuring off to the side about trying to find a lamp, but your mouth had already run dry as you realized the situation had changed.
Kara was here.
>Stay calm, get Jack to leave.
>Alert Jack immediately, make a fuss about it.
>Motion for Kara to meet you outside, leave yourself.
You let out a breath, raising your hand towards the outside as you jerk your chin in emphasis. You almost feel exasperated at the casual shrug you receive in return as the demihuman pushes off the wall with a lazy smile and navigated her way easily through the pitch black apartment. You suppose someone like her wouldn't have any problems with the dark either.
It doesn't the two of you long to quietly maneuver your way out of Jill's apartment and leave Jack stumbling about inside on his own. You kept your eyes on the demihuman girl as her tail flicked back and forth half-heartedly as she wandered after you. She looked... The same as you remember her, honestly. No better, nor worse. Her clothes had changed since then, trading out the ragged cloth of a slave for more baggy clothing and loose hanging pants, but her absent minded attitude and completely relaxed atmosphere was as off-putting as it ever was.
"Yo 'Rue!" She waved again, speaking up softly as her eyes lit up. "S'been a while, huh?"
"Months." You answer dryly, "What happened? There's no way it took you and Asche this long just to find the Tiers."
"Nah, of course it didn't." She admitted easily, "Took us 'bout a week or so..?" One ear flicked as she wondered aloud, trying to think back on the time. "Some stuff happened though, so we kinda got busy."
>What other stuff? Where's Asche?
>Cut to the point, I already know you betrayed me.
>Where's Jill? How did you find this place?
"Enough stuff that kept you and Asche in Carona all this time?" You cross your arms disbelievingly and stare down the demihuman. Your frown only deepens as she refuses to meet your eyes, almost reflexively dropping her gaze to something interesting on the ground.
"Some old favours." She explained, "Couldn't really say no, y'know? An' Asche volunteered to help, so we've been stuck here."
"Where is Asche, anyway?" You narrow your eyes at the vague answers, pointedly keeping your voice down so as to not alert Jack as he stumbled about the apartment not terribly far away. "She should still be with you."
"Asche is a bit tied up. Part o'the reason I came out here to get you, actually. She'll probably need your help."
"What's happened? What's going on?" You take a step forward, reaching out to grab Kara's shirt a split second before you realize what you're even doing. In a split second your pulse had quickened, eyes dilating painfully in the dark for reasons that had nothing to do with available light. Kara, for her part, doesn't seem to concerned over the fact you had nearly tried to haul her up by the lapels, but she still won't look at you properly and its starting to piss you off.
"Y'know there's some stuff going on in Carona now, yeah? Real hard t'understand stuff." You nod, briefly going over the litany of annoying things in your mind as you waited for further explanation. "Well, I'm no good at that kinda stuff. S'too complicated for me. I do the heavy stuff, not much thinking involved there."
"What does this have to do with Asche?"
"I'm gettin' there! Look, we both know I'm not good at that complicated stuff, but Asche is, yeah? So she got wrapped up in a bunch of stuff, and now she's kinda... stuck. I can't help her, but maybe you can."
Stuck...? How is she stuck? What did she even get wrapped up in? This Mayor business? If the Mayor laid a finger on Asche....
"Is Asche okay?"
"Ah, yeah, she's fine f'now, pretty sure." Kara nodded quickly, "She jus' can't leave. If she leaves, someone gets hurt."
"There's a hostage involved in this too...?" You scowl, "Who?"
"Those Tier people ya sent us to find. We got there in time to save most of 'em, but... Well, bad things happened. Most of 'em got taken prisoner, and Asche went with 'em."
"And you couldn't just stop them?" The accusation in your voice was clearly reflected in Kara's hanging head as she continued to find anything but your eyes to be interesting to look at.
"..." Her lips moved, but you missed the content.
>Fine. How can I help?
>Take me to Asche, we're cleaning up tonight.
>Let me gather my knights, then we'll make our move. (Set a schedule with Kara)
>How did you find this place? Where's Jill?
The two of you lapse into silence, with only the distant background noise of Jack idly talking to... You suppose he still thinks you're in the room. When it becomes clear that Kara isn't going to say anything else, you can't help but sigh.
You reach up and set your hand on her head in what you hope is a reassuring way. Even with her head bent down, she's still a fair bit taller than you. Honestly it was a little awkward, no matter how you look at it, but you had already taken the step and so you kept going. You run your fingers through her hair and easily locate the unusual structures situated atop her skull, navigating by touch to scratch at the base of her ears. Dogs like that, right?
"Alright. You did good, Kara. I'll take it from here." You feel oddly reliable actually saying that out loud. "I need you to tell me what's going on so I can start figuring out how to help."
"..." Even though you're attempting to reassuringly pat the taller demihuman's head, she still won't meet your eyes. "'Kay. I'll tell ya what I know."
"Before that, though..." You stop petting her, letting your arm drop back down as she straightens her neck and flicks her ears around briefly. "How did you find this place? Do you know what happened to the girl who lives here?"
"Ah, that? That's easy." Kara smiles, puffing up her chest proudly. "I followed my nose."
You stare at the demihuman blankly. You really shouldn't be surprised about this, but...
"You caught my scent and tracked it back to here?" She nodded once with a smile. You had been walking across this town for days and it took Kara that long to find you? In a locked apartment? That had been trashed? "What about the girl that lives here?"
"Prolly' with Asche by now." Kara shrugged, "Actually smelled you on her, s'why I was able to find you."
...You gave her one condition. Just one. You SPECIFICALLY told her not to get into trouble.
You close your eyes and will away the frustration building up. Of course she got herself in trouble, you knew she was going to get herself into trouble, you damn well knew it was going to happen. It's why you made every effort to not involve her.
At the very least she had actually succeeded in her goal of helping you reunite with Kara, and subsequently Asche if you played your cards right, but you found yourself unable to be as happy about this as you really should be. "So if we find Asche, we'll find that girl, right?" You ask as an aside, "Because her brother is in that apartment right now, and he is not going to be happy when he finds this out."
"Y'want me to get rid of him?"
"No... No, that's not... Find Asche, find her, right?"
"Uh... Yeah." Her answer is slow, as if she's not quite sure. "Probably." But it's the best you can get right now.
"Alright, tell me everything you know." Your mind was already beginning to turn as you assembled the different pieces of information and your own resources into a manageable state. "I'll get this figured out-"
"What in Shade's Domain!?" You glance between Kara and the apartment as Jack's voice rings out in alarm. "Ah, he prolly found the guys I beat up." Kara shrugged in explanation.
"When I got here there were a bunch o' guards lurkin 'round. I didn't wanna deal with them, so I beat 'em up and tossed them inside." Kara casually admits to attacking your knights and tossing them into the apartment. "They kinda smelled like you, so I didn't kill 'em, but I don't think they'll be waking up for a bit."
...The little mercies, you suppose.
And we are archived.
Going to call the thread a bit early, even though I'm still capable of writing fine. I need to double check some things before going forward from here, so I don't screw something up.
We're getting pretty close to the end of the Carona arc! A lot of your previous choices made through the Quest are starting to come together and/or bear fruit.
I'll lurk the thread for a bit to try and answer some questions if I can.