You lie in the back of the wagon, the oppressive heat making it hard to breathe as sweat makes your fur cling to your skin, your tongue lolling out past your lips as you desperately try to cool yourself. Emma likewise is splayed out flat in the back of the wagon, her tails and ears drooping as the vehicle sways with each shift in the road.
Djanna, however, is seated on the driver's bench, humming happily and seemingly unaffected. You've never really felt hate for your sisters before, but... well... maybe it's time you started.
"Ah, just ahead, girls." The driver calls back, the old mule pulling the wagon braying in protest. "Won't be no time now!"
"There's so many people!" Djanna says, the driver's bench creaking under her as she bounces excitedly. "And so many different types! I see some beastfolk, some lamia... ah, there's even a harpy!" A thought of Far-Runner crosses your mind, and you shudder.
"That's fantastic. Really. Do they have shade?" Emma whines, not sitting up, as if moving at all might raise her temperature.
Ten minutes later, the wagon pulls through the gateway into the courtyard of the Orphan's stronghold... such as it is. A collection of a few buildings, some built into the ground, and a walled-off, dusty courtyard comprising the whole of it. As Djanna had said, several monstrous creatures are assembled, the gates guarded by a pair of heavily scaled lizard-like bipeds bearing tridents.
"Ssssss... Tanner! Long time no ssssee!" one of them hisses, clasping the man's hand as the driver smiles, returning the gesture.
You dismount, helping Emma to the ground as Djanna likewise descends, her taloned feet digging into the sandy earth as she seems to revel in the heat.
"Sssss, and what do we have here?" The other guard approaches, turning his head and regarding the three of you with a single eye.
>I'm here to train!
>Hi, I'm Nadia! Who are you! Are you a dragon? You're pretty small to be a dragon!
Welcome to RE: Kobold Quest. Chill out, have fun, don't hang the QM.
Voting period: Ten minutes
Rolls: d100, roll under
Character Sheets: In process of revision
I'm out of practice, and might take a bit long to write, so please bear with me as I get back in the habit.
Down with sinus/respiratory stuff. Hits me like a ton of bricks. Missed my whole work week over it, so debating selling my "skills" to the furries for luchre.
Plz don't bully.
"Hi! I'm Nadia! Who're you? Are you a dragon? You're pretty small to be a dragon, and I've met some! Three! One was a big jerk, but two of them I know are really nice! One's my sister! So I suppose that means two out of every three dragons are nice? Or maybe I shouldn't make such broad statements... wait... what's a broad statement? You're kind of broad. Are you a statement?"
The lizard man eyes you like you've gone barking mad, nictitating membrane sliding over his eye then back into place. "Ssssunstroke..." he hisses softly, forked tongue gliding over his lips. "Come on. We'll go and sssssee the healerssss..."
"Ah, actually... sir... she's fine. She's always like this when she meets somebody new." Djanna approaches as you bound around the lizard man, your tail wagging vigorously, taken in by his size, his scales, and... really, everything! He even smells interesting! "I'm Djanna. This is Nadia and Emma, my sisters."
"Grok," the lizardman croaks, leaning his trident against his shoulder and clasping Djanna's forearm, digging his claws into her sleek scales. She meets his gaze and grips his own forearm, returning the gesture. Grok holds her for a long moment before nodding, satisfied. "You have come to join usssss, then?"
"That would be the intention..." Emma moves beside the lizardman, stopping slightly to stand in his shadow. "Can we go inside where it's not all..." She gestures vaguely at her surroundings, her tails dragging the ground. "...out?"
Grok nods and gestures for you to follow, moving toward a building situated against the opposing wall. You climb down a short staircase that loops back on itself before entering a large, long room that seems like it sits under the courtyard. Inside, several youngsters - human and monster alike - sit at long tables, at work peeling vegetables, sewing, and in a few cases reading from heavy leatherbound tomes.
"We firsssst will go and sssssee the Massssster." Grok says as he shuffles forward, his tail dragging the ground, leaving undulating patterns in the dusty stone. The room is lit by oil lamps, casting dancing shadows on the walls. "He issss the one who decidesss who issss accepted and who issssss not here. I will warn you, he issss... odd... ssssso keep your witssss about you."
Djanna nods, eyes forward as Emma unabashedly looks about the room, tips of her black tails twitching as she takes in her surroundings. The smell of fragrant herbs and sweat hangs in the air, and though it is significantly cooler down here, the room still feels too close for comfort. Your ears perk up as you hear a few people whispering about you in the dark, their voices young.
"This place seems kind of weird..." Emma whispers, falling back to walk near you. "I thought this was supposed to be some kind of... I don't know... army or training camp or something? The place seems practically abandoned..."
"Maybe they're all... having a nap?" You shrug, ears pricked.
Grok leads you to a door at the other end of the hall, knocking three times before swinging it open. The room inside is well-decorated, with several low benches arranged around a table, a heavy rug dominating most of the floor. A pair of crossed tusks... no, fangs... dominate the opposite wall.
"Wait here..." Grok instructs, herding the three of you inside. "The Masssster will be with you sssoon."
>Talk about... (Write-In)
>Ask about... (Write-In)
"Well... I suppose we just have to wait, then..." You make your way to a bench and settle down, bouncing one of your legs nervously. Emma and Djanna share a worried look between them.
"Nadia... are you all right?" Emma asks, moving to stand beside you. She lays a hand on your brow, her opposite on her own forehead. You raise a brow curiously as Djanna begins looking about the room, as if seeking something dangerous. You tilt your head in confusion, and Emma gives your forehead a light swat before going back to checking your temperature. "Stay still.."
You whimper, tail swaying, thumping the edge of the bench. Djanna looks behind the massive fangs, frowning. "I don't see anything odd back here..."
"What are you guys doing?" you finally ask, tail thudding dully against the bench.
"You must be sick. Its not like you to be patient..." Djanna says quietly, frowning down at you. You whimper, hunkering down in your seat.
"Yeah... but you're not running a temperature... so it's not sickness..." Emma says, pulling her hands back, mouth twisted in concern.
You whine, tail wagging getting harder.
"Could you please stop?" The bench asks. "Your tail is tickling my nose."
>Attack the bench!
>Defend the girls!
>Question the furniture!
You bolt upright, Emma already pressed against the opposite wall, the bench between you and Djanna, the dragon girl's eyes wide as your fur stands on end.
"Your fur is quite soft. It's not often that I find my discipline tested, but in this case, well..." The bench begins to shift and creak, the dark wood slowly lightening as the shape changes to one vaguely bipedal, taking on definition and shape. Emma growls low in her throat, ears up and tails twitching as Djanna opens her claws, ready to strike. Soon, before you stands a stooped figure, windburned skin sagged with age, whispy white hair hanging about his head like mist. He smiles slowly at the girls, blind eyes half-lidded.
"W-w-who are you!?" you demand. "Why did you make me sit on you!? Are you a bench-man monster... thing!?"
The man laughs softly, his voice reedy. "Oh, my, child, no. Please, please, calm down and have a seat. I am Dal Shai, the Master of the orphans, and one-time Master of the Shifting Fang style of martial arts... in my youth." He takes a seat on one of the benches flanking the table, gesturing for the girls to do the same. Emma doesn't move, and Djanna edges away from the old man, but doesn't take a seat.
You eye the bench suspiciously before kicking it once. It creaks under the assault, and one of the nails comes loose... but it doesn't scream in surprise or pain. It must be very strong...
>What are you?
>Are you strong?
>If you're so strong, why aren't you tall?
"Wait... but if you're strong... why aren't you big!?" you demand, pointing a finger at him, punching the bench again for emphasis... and to make sure it's not going to start humming a tune on you.
The man grins and begins to stretch, his heavy robes shrinking somewhat as he grows. Soon, he towers over you, that same smile on his face, blind eyes staring into the middle distance. "Is my strength more believable now?"
Your tail has never been more rigid, your senses never more focused. He... he's bigger than Garush! Than Baltas! And he just... grew! Like...
"Tell me your secrets..." you whisper, eliciting another chuckle from the man as he shrinks down again.
"Dohohoho! I am a doppleganger... a very, very old one. We change our shape at will. My strength does not come my size, child, but from the fluidity of my movements and my ability to change and adapt."
Wait... so... he's not big and strong? He's... your head hurts.
"So. You wish to join us?" The old man looks to Djanna, the dragon girl crossing her arms over her chest nervously as Emma creeps over to join you, hiding behind you and looking at the man nervously. "It is not unusual for young ones to come seeking us, but typically they do not come in groups. You are lost children? Your parents are gone?"
Emma twines her fingers into the fur of your back, and you can feel her wilt against you. Djanna shakes her head. "The circumstances are difficult, but no, our family is well. He said he sent a message ahead?"
The man snaps his fingers. "AH! You are Garush's foundlings! Why did you not say so!? He told me many things about you! Hmm... a nervous child... a shrewd dragoness... and... you are Nadia." Dal Shai points a long, withered finger at you, as if stating some universal truth.
"H-how did you know!?" You lean back in shock, digging your nails into the bench. Come on, reveal yourself!
He simply grins.
>How do you know Garush?
>So we can join and get strong?
>Wait, I want to know... (Write-In)
"Wait, wait, wait..." You raise a paw, leaning forward. "...why were you a bench?"
Dal Shai nods, smiling. "Ah, I had wondered if you would ask. It gives me a chance to observe newcomers. They are often nervous... or angry... or ill at ease. Many have lost their families, or are alone in the world from birth, and come to me by chance, or word-of-mouth. Taking a form where I may observe without being observed gives me a chance to evaluate them... to see if we may help them, or not."
"You turn some of them away?" Emma asks from behind you. Dal Shai sighs softly, nodding again.
"Some we must. They are too angry, hearts too full of hate. We cannot help them, and those I send to the Great Temple in the west. There is the best place for the healing of the heart and the soul... not here." Djanna frowns, listening intently.
"And... what about us?" You ask eagersly. "Are we good enough?"
"It's not about being 'good' eno-" He looks to you with a patient smile. "I think yes, you are. You have your hearts and minds about you. For Garush to vouch for you says much, likewise. We would love to have you... but the question is, what is it you want of us?"
You tilt your head in curiosity. "Huh?"
"Well, everyone comes to us for something... power... to make something of themselves... to be tested. There must be a reason for you to be here."
Djanna nods, her tail swaying thoughtfully.
"I go where my sisters go." Emma says without hesitation, stepping away from you, hand still on your shoulder.
"And what of you?" Dal Shai looks at you, smiling. "What is it that you desire, Nadia?"
"I wanna... I wanna learn how to control my power." You whisper softly, staring at the floor. Emma perks her ears curiously, and Djanna's claw-tapping stops.
"Oh?" Is all Dal Shai says.
"I... I hurt my sister." You look back at Emma, eyes wet and full of regret. "An' I get a bit reckless an' sometimes I hurt people I don't mean to... an' sometimes things get out of control..." You reach out, taking Emma's hand gently in your own. "I wanna protect the people that mean the world to me. I got a long way to go to finish my trials, an' I don' think things are gonna get any easier."
The old doppleganger nods, stroking his chin. "Truth speaks simply, and to seek control instead of power... you are wise beyond your years, Nadia." He grins and rises, old bones creaking. "You may, of course, join us. And what of you, the quiet star-breather who lurks in shadows?" His blind eyes seem to focus on Djanna.
"What do you mean? I go where Nadia go-"
"Do not presume because I'm old, my dear, that I am foolish," he grins, the expression taking on an edge. "I may not be young, but I am sharp as when I was new. A dragon in my midst, for the first time in so many hundreds of years, and a newborn at that... strange times, indeed. Strange times..."
"...I suppose if I'm being honest, I want to learn how to be stronger..." Djanna frowns. "...I am weak, and my spirit too. I need to be braver, because these two... I need to be more help to them."
Dal Shai nods, his expression guarded. "Well, then, I suppose I would be glad to accept you as well. And as for y-"
"If you try to keep me out, I'll just sneak in." Emma says bluntly.
"Fair enough!" the doppleganger laughs. "We'll see you set up, provided bunks and clothing. Your days will be hard, here, but what you gain cannot be measured on a money-changer's scales. Or can it..." He shrugs. "Anyway, allow me to introduce you around."
Sorry to cut it here, folks, but I'm still recovering. We'll go again later this week. For now, I'm going to lie down and try not to hack up a lung. I appreciate your time, your patience, and your continued readership.