We stand in the centre of the gutted town, Tarlick near dead silent, save the gusting of the wind, and the occasional whining of the sheepdog, which has taken to following right at my heels after I left his master’s corpse.
Alison showed me where she found the remains of Mr Johnson’s staff, under the wreckage of a candle makers shop, shelves and benches overturned, windows broken, clear evidence of a hard fight.
I even found a boot, one of Mr Johnson’s, one which the dog took one whiff of, before backing away with a whimper.
“He’s not gonna be much use as a tracker.” Alison remarks dryly. “He’s a pet this one, not a working dog.” She squats down, grimacing as she wipes some of the owner’s blood out of his shaggy fur.
“S-so they have Mr Johnson now?” Kara asks, “Down in this Oendal place?”
“It does seem that way…” I nod, holding up the eight pointed sun I found on the corpse, along with the note that the girls found. “Unless this is very elaborate bait to draw us to the wrong place.” Somehow I doubt it, call it a gut feeling.
“How long do you think they’d leave before the trial?” Kara asks, “W-we could still rescue him, right?”
“Hard to say, if they’re going to put him on trial first, he’s got a day at most, a few more if they’re saving him for a big finale.” Alison grimaces. “Their trials are usually done rather quickly, so I hear…. unless they want to torture something out of you. Find the ‘devil’s spot’.” She shakes her head, spitting on the cobblestones.
Night is falling quickly, and the redhead’s energy is flagging, it’s obvious to tell, but she insists on getting the boat back on the river, wanting to push on to Oendal.
>Chase the dog off and go
>Bring the dog, he may prove useful yet
>Take a night here, might not be safe travelling at night.
I squat down in front of the dog, brushing between his ears. “You wanna come with us boy?” I ask. He responds with a happy woof, spinning in a circle a few times, his tail bashing me in the face, before he stops, panting heavily. “That’d be a yes, alright, then let’s get going. If we can make it to Oendal tonight, the better for it.”
Between the three of us, we shunt the wooden barge out onto the river. The dog hesitates a moment, before leaping on, his legs unstable on the boat, he totters about for a few minutes, before cutting his losses and lying flat on his belly.
The river carries us south, Alison guiding us once more around bends in the river, as it narrows and widens intermittently. The sun sets the sky ablaze in pinks and oranges for the better part of an hour, as the seed of worry in my stomach starts to flower, the silence from the other two doing nothing to help.
“You can point us towards their church, once we get there, can’t you Alison?” I ask.
She shrugs, “There’s a few places they might be keeping him. There’s a few churches dotted through the city, some graveyards they run, a few hospices… though the obvious choice would be under the grand cathedral.” She shivers. “Spooky place, gargoyles and suns all over the place. Never been inside. Never much saw the point.”
You can’t say you did either. Dad lost his taste for religion and afterlives after so many years of rooting in corpses, by the time I was born, they didn’t even bother to have myself and the next two brothers up to even be named at a church.
Silence once more fills the air, save for the faint trickle of the river rushing past, the odd grumble from the sheepdog as he repositions… Kara’s leaning over the front of the barge, hugging her arms around herself, her cloak’s hood drawn low over her ears.
>Sorry to drag you into this Alison
>The dog needs a name (Write in)
>Talk with Kara, she shouldn’t have seen that mess earlier.
“Alison?” I call to the girl.
She gives a weary grunt, “Aye?”
I grimace apologetically. “Sorry to drag you into this.” I tell her. “This isn’t work for you.”
She shrugs, “Always wanted to be a spook when I was a kid. It’s something else too see it in person.” She cracks a weak grin, punching me in the shoulder. “Besides, you need some muscle on your side if you’re gonna get the old fart out of there.”
I offer her a weak smile, “Well, thanks.”
She nods, tossing her hat onto the deck, shaking her hair out and slapping her face a few times, “Might as well help, I’ve got nothing better to do, right?” She nods towards the front of the boat, “But I think you’re little girlfriend could use more of a pep talk than me right about now.”
“She’s not..” I start, well..., “I’ll go talk to her.”
I lean out over the front of the boat with her, budging her arm. “You alright?”
Her eyes are shut, and there are tear tracks lining down her cheeks, but she takes a slow, steadying breath and nods. “I think so. Just… need something else to think about right now.” She throws a glance your way, before nodding to herself. “Thanks for checking on me Leon.” She murmurs, her head lolling to the side, resting against my arm, startling a little as the dog lets out a louder than normal woof.
I gulp as she steps closer, her leg pressing into the side of mine as well, as her shivering lessens a little. We- I haven’t really talked about the two of us, not since that night in the garden, under the full moon.
The boat rocks a little, as it skids over a rock, passing through some shallows, as I spare a glance down at her, white hair gleaming in the moonlight, one hand dangling idly out over the river.
>Grab the hand
>Best stay away from the edge of the boat, never know
>Dogs don’t bother you, do they?
Rolled 9 (1d20)
Will Leon contain his spaghetti? Going from past experiences, not always so well.
Its probably going to pass with that 17 guys. It's just par the course for Leon to spaghetti around Kara. More than anyone really.
I think that was still technically a pass? Hard to say when the dc isn't shown or told after.
The only question is what happens this time? We also had a similar roll when asking about lapine breeding habits.
I clear my throat, reaching out a hand, I take hers in mine.
She leans in a little closer, a smile quirking her lips slightly. She turns to face me, lips parting, “Leon, I… wanted to say... you’re-” her words are cut off as the surface of the water breaks, teeth rushing upwards.
I whip my hand back, but that just leaves them to sink into Kara’s wrist, the beaked mouth laughing, as slimy green hands wrap around her arm and tug her overboard.
She sinks like a rock with a loud splash, her foot kicking me in the stomach in her quick disappearance, tugging her down.
“Kara!” I scream, leaning back over the side of the boat, Alison quickly digging the barge to a halt, the moon reflecting brightly off the water, as a stream of bubbles leaves the only sign of the girl behind.
The dog bounds overboard, barking up a storm as it dives down.
I toss my bag and cloak, diving overboard in a second, eyes straining and stinging in the blurry dark of the river, before I feel my hand wrap around something fuzzy. If I really squint hard, I can make out a white blob, sinking lower, as I struggle to keep hold, my grip almost slipping as it struggles in my grip.
I jab at the water blindly with my staff, an angry stream of bubbles rising, before the white thing in my grip stops sinking, rising quickly for the surface again.
I wrap an arm around Kara and desperately kick upwards, breaking the surface with a shock, the dog we’d brought along baying fiercely as it paddles along the surface.
Kara quickly crawls her way onto the riverbank, and I’m right behind her, as more splashes sound out along the river, Alison screaming, as more of the creatures pull themselves up onto the boat, four in total, babbling to each other.
“Hyoo-man?” One says aloud, pointing to the girl. “Hyoo-man!”
>Salt time, toss it
>Get back on the boat, time to split some skulls
>They understand english? See if you can reason with them
I reach into my pocket, hurling a handful of salt at the deck of the barge, the creatures rounding towards me as they feel the grains hit the skin.
They stop in their tracks, sniffing at their arms, where the fine salt has stuck to them… it doesn’t seem to be causing them any pain, but if anything it’s holding their attention faces lit up with curiousity.
That’s when the dog bounds onto the boat, snarling and baring it’s teeth, it charges into one of them bowling the beast over in a snarling ball of anger.
The others pile onto the two, and laughing gleefully as their tussling knocks the boat about on the river, Alison fighting hard to keep the bargepole stuck in place.
A few seconds later, a horrible whine of pain emits from the pile, and the kappas seperate, looking guilty, as the dog whimpers, they put as much distance between themselves and the creature, as it snarls at them, teeth snapping, one of it’s legs held up from the ground, if not broken, at least badly injured.
Alison’s hand is drifting towards her weapon at her hip, as the creatures keep their distance from the dog.
“I-i-i-it’s almost like… they’re pl-pl-playing.” Kara points out, teeth chattering a mile an hour. She’s not the only one either, the cold is setting into your bones, and fast.
>Alison, shoot them!
>Approach the creatures, (Write in)
I look around for something, hoping that the dog doesn’t try to attack again, as you think. They want to play, I can think of a game, to distract them…
I clear my throat, stepping forwards, ignoring the almost burning cold setting into me. “Hey, everyone, what say we have a friendly little game?”
Oh! I point at a gnarled dead tree, “First person to reach the top of that tree over there is the winner, okay?”
They cluster into a circle for a moment, as the dog starts to whimper louder, licking at it’s paw in distress. He’s not bleeding, at least not obviously, but it clearly hurts him a great deal.
At last, the tallest of them steps forward. “I am honourable Kappa, Shisa! I challenge Hyoo-man to tree climb.”
Alison eyes the creature suspiciously, but her hand drifts away from the weapon. “And if we win, you’ll stop messing us around?” She asks.
They confer in a huddle for another moment, before the tallest one steps forward again, coming up to my waste. “Yes! And if we win…. we get to taste Lapine blood.” He points to Kara. “No kill, just a few drops. Arashi says it a rare treat!” He points to another kappa in his group, who nods proudly. The tallest rubs its stomach fondly. “No kill, just taste, we climb now?”
I glance at Kara, who’s still shivering, but she gives a very reluctant nod.
>Not under those rules, no
>You know what lapines are?
I lean down to their level, “You know what a lapine is?” I ask them.
They nod, seemingly unconcerned. “Yes? Hyoo-man was one who give Arashi the meal. Why would we not?”
“The hell’s a lapine?” Alison demands, looking over to Kara.
I ignore her, staring at the creatures. “Tell me… this river, is it where you normally live?”
They huddle back together a moment, murmuring among themselves, debating back and forth. “No.” Shisa announces finally. “We come from a lake by Yonushi, one day, we wake up, we in river. Not a bad river. Lots of people come past. We play a lot! Many farmers. We take their food. Especially… hehe…. cucumbers….”
They collectively rub their stomachs at the name of the vegetable, licking their beaks. “So soft, yet crunchy.” Arashi mumbles.
My teeth are starting to chatter now. I’ll need to get my clothes off soon, if I don’t want to get sick…
The kappas meanwhile, seem equally cold, but are jumping backwards and forwards, their excersise keeping them warm.
>Alright, let’s climb then
>Would you leave us alone if we got you enough cucumbers to last all winter?
I take a moment to think about it. “H-h-how about…” Shit, need a plan, shouldn’t have started talking before I had one. They’re all looking at me expectantly.
“What?” Shisa demands tugging roughly at my pants leg.
Ah! “We can’t- that is, we can- uh, we can get you enough c-cucumbers to last you all w-w-winter? Right? And i-in re-return…” The chatterings really kicking in now. “Y-y-y-you-you g-g-guys can leave us a-a-alone, r-r-r-right?”
Another huddled debate, as they stamp their feet to keep the cold away, as I finally strip my sodden cloak and shirt off, shivering in the night air, before they turn back to me.
“No! We want lapine blood!” The kappa leader demands, stamping his foot. “We climb now! We can get cucumbers on our own!”
Alison banks the barge on the shore, tugging her over shirt off and draping it over my shoulders, before tossing a blanket to Kara. “Let me do it, I’ve got longer arms than these little punks.” She croons, patting my head. “You two need to get a fire going if you don’t want to turn into a block of ice." She peers at the tree, gulping quietly. "Just like getting up some rigging is all." She nods to herself.
I look up to the tree, gulping as it’s full height finally becomes apparent, it’s at least three stories to the top, every branch bare, lifeless.
>I’ll do it, it’ll keep me warm
>We’re not betting Kara’s blood!
I give her a smile, “Thanks Alison.” I quickly leap off the boat, ignoring the burning cold in my bones, I take off at a run, scooping up firewood from the riverside, as Alison and the kappa approach the tree.
“Good luck human.” The kappa chuckles, sticking his hands to the tree trunk, as I finally set the wood down, digging a pit for the fire, I strike flint and steel, snapping my fingers in Kara’s face as her eyelids start to close.
“Come on, stay awake!” I plead with her, striking flint against steel again, the sparks taking in the kindling thankfully.
The fire blooms, and I sit as close as I can too it, seating Kara with me, just as another kappa calls the race to start. Shisa spits in his hands and on the soles of his feet, and starts scaling the tree trunk vertically.
Alison watches him go for a moment, jaw dropping at his advantage, before gritting her teeth, leaping at a low hanging branch and hauling herself up.
Despite his easier route to travel, Alison scales the tree at a much faster pace than the kappa, balancing expertly along narrow branches and hauling herself upwards, like she was born to do it. Hell, she probably would make a good rigger on a sailboat like that, the way she climbs.
She breezes past the little creature, hauling herself up to the top most branch and sitting atop a level spot, grinning cheerfully down at her foe. “I win, fish brain.” She laughs, the kappa scowling, but conceding the win, the two slip their way back down the tree.
Kara sits her head in my lap, having pulled her cloak off when no one was looking, the thick blanket pulled over head, hiding her ears, as she starts to drift off, satisfied that we’ve won. “Yayyy, Alison.” She murmurs, exhaustion in her voice.
I sit up a little straighter as the older girl returns to the group, the kappas behind her, water splashing down the creatures faces, as I finally notice the odd bowl shaped indents in the top of their heads, filled with water.
“You worthy foe indeed.” Shisa commends Alison, clapping his hands in front of his head. “My offering to you.” He tips his head and lets some of the water splash out near her boots.
She recoils, kicking some drops off, before getting out a quiet. “Thanks, I guess.”
With that, the creatures start to waddle off, pushing and shoving each other playfully, as the fire slowly brings the chattering in your jaw to a halt.
>Good riddance, let them leave.
>Ask if they’d mind you taking some notes on them, in a few weeks
>Tell them you'll try to find them a way home, when you're not busy
>Ask if they’d mind you taking some notes on them, in a few weeks
>Tell them you'll try to find them a way home, when you're not busy
>Check up on the dog, see how bad the injury is.
I call after them before you leave. “Hey, you guys! Mind coming up to Arling in a few weeks? If you let me take some notes on you.”
They turn back, “Why should we?” One demands, hard to tell which.
“We’ll…. help you get back home to your lake?” I suggest.
They huddle once more, before finally, “Deal!”
With that they waddle off into the river, slipping into the water with a series of loud splashes. Well, that part was simple at least.
“Those things were idiots.” Alison groans, rocking back on her heels. “But… at least nobody got hurt this time.”
Oh, wait! I ease Kara’s head off my lap, returning to the barge, I find the dog, lying on his side, whining pitifully. “Hey boy…” I breathe gently, reaching a hand out for him to sniff. “How you holding up?”
He growls for a few moments, and I consider pulling my hand back… but he leans forward and licks my hand, returning to his whining.
I heft the dog up, groaning with effort, I set him down as soon as possible as he desperately struggles to be free, before limping his way closer to the fire.
Looking closer…. Well, I’m not so familiar with dog’s skeletal structure, but I think one of his knees popped out of the joint. It’ll have to be set, as soon as possible
Grimacing, Alison holds him still for me, as I do my best to pop the joint back in place, the dog letting out an ear shattering, horrible howl of pain, before I release him, making pathetic dog noises, as he lets his limbs go limp.
“Sorry boy.” I tell him, as Kara stirs, awoken by the animal’s scream.
His tail thumps weakly in the grass, as he lays his head down, letting out a low pained whine. But…. by the looks of it at least, his knee is properly reset. I give the dog a good pet, reaching into my bag and feeding him a scrap of some jerky I’d brought along, which he thankfully gobbles up.
“Good boy.” I whisper, patting his stomach reassuringly, as he licks my fingers, rolling on his back.
“Do you think we could take him in?” Kara asks. “Marmalade won’t like him probably… but I’d feel bad leaving him to fend for himself, he did TRY to help us.”
>Alison, could you take him?
>I’ll ask the spook, when we’ve saved him
>We’ll give him to a kennel in Oendal or something
I watch his tail thump weakly a few times, “We can ask Mr Johnson, after we get him free. It’d be indecent to just turf him after all this.”
She smiles, nodding a little. “Good, he’s… not like the dogs I’m used to dealing with.” She mutters, as Alison curls herself up in some blankets, determinedly falling asleep in just a few moments. “We didn’t have any back home… but the hunter’s did. They’d set hounds after us, flush us out and split us up.”
Glancing over at the older girl, already loudly snoring, she sighs and pulls the blanket back, letting her ears spring free. “They’d chase us apart, away from home, then they’d tear into us, or chase us back towards the hunters in a loop, so they could bring us down.”
That kind of reminds me of something… the dream I had, last week. Running through the forest, tugging a woman behind me, the baying of hunting dogs, those men with the long sticks…
She shivers and scoots a little closer to the fire, before I notice her clothes, splayed out on the grass beside her. I gulp, thinking about if she’s got anything left under that…
>Tell her about the dream
>Don’t want to scare her, get some sleep.
>Wanna share blankets? We’ll both be warmer that way.
I glance at the few remaining blankets, before motioning at her. “We’d both be warmer if we shared these, together.” I point out.
She nods in agreement, ears twitching a little. “Good point Leon!”
I stir the fire, to keep it going a while longer, as she unrolls the thick layers around her, revealing… well she still has an undershirt on underneath, covering down to her thighs, but the sheer fabric hugs her skin tightly, two pointed mounts sticking out from her chest, as the wind gusts into the opening she’s made.
“Brrrr, hurry.” She insists, as I kneel down and lay beside her, tossing my own blankets over the top of us.
Rolled inside the toasty confines of the blankets, she turns to face me. “Kara? I have to tell you about something… Last week, when we were sleeping in the yard, I had this dream.” I wave towards her, “What you just described… it felt like I was in that! I was there!”
She tilts her head, “But, how?”
I shrug, “I’m not sure, but… there were dogs- hounds, barking everywhere, there were giant men, with flashing sticks, like larger versions of Alison’s, and… I was dragging a woman behind me, and the dogs caught her, dragged her down, and she was shot… I kept running without her for a few seconds, before I was cut down too… and that’s when I woke up.”
She purses her lips, looking worried. “That’s… that sounds about right.” She murmurs. “But what was that? Was it… a premonition? Or far sight? Or just a coincidence, or maybe you saw something from the past, or….” She cuts herself off, shaking her head. “It doesn’t matter right now.” She tells herself, we can think about it after Mr Johnson is safe.”
The fire pops, and she startles jumping ever so slightly, her small body pressing closer to mine.
A long silence falls between us, as I think of something to say… “Leon?” she breaks it first. “Do you still want to take some notes on lapines? You passed out last time, and only came back around after I’d transformed…” She grabs my hand gently, pulling it over her back. “Your notes aren’t really complete, if you don’t touch…” She guides my fingers down, brushing through a patch of soft, thick hair, just over her lower spine, “That.” She nods, eyes closing, ears flexing and twitching about ever so slightly. “What’s your- um- analysis?”
>Soft texture, like cotton, fascinating, will require more study
>Well, I’d need a proper look at it, in the light.
>Not now, Alison’s right there!
>Kiss the bun
I run it softly through my fingers, “Soft texture, like cotton… Fascinating, very fascinating, it’ll require more study.”
She snickers a little, even as a flush starts to rise on her cheeks. “You have such a way with words Leon. You kn-”
I cut her off, leaning down, I press my lips to hers finally, squeezing her closer to me, her hips shifting and pressing closer, as I continue to run my fingers through the soft hairs.
Her tongue jabs at my lips a moment, her head tilted to avoid our noses from meeting, as her tongue dabs at mine, licking briefly before darting away.
Her soft scent fills my nose, leaving me light headed, my vision swims in front of me, her ears twitching and going fully upright, as her tongue darts against mine again, her soft hand tracing over my chest, feeling my ribs, before coming to rest over my heart, her tiny palm thumping gently onto me with every heartbeat, as my tongue follows hers back to her mouth, swirling and dancing together, despite the inexperiance, the sweet flavour of her flooding into my mind.
I want her, to have her fill every sense to the brim and-
The dog lets out a loud fart in it’s sleep, rolling over. “Wassat?” Alison groans, stirring in her blanket.
Kara pulls away, a trail of spit still hooking her lip to mine, her breath coming a mile a minute, my own matching hers, even as her nose starts to wrinkle.
>“Just the dog, go to sleep Alison” don’t stop
>Continue touching tail, but time to sleep
>Let it go, it’s off your chest for now
>Let it go, it’s off your chest for now
Rule Number 1!
Marmalade will look at us in disapproval as she smells Kara on us.
We have to save our master from religious zealots, now is not the time for fooling around.
I stare into her eyes for a long moment, flexing my fingers through her tail, “Nothing, let’s all just get some sleep.”
I nod to Kara, and she nods back, pulling a face as she pulls a blanket up to cover her nose, then her entire head, not wanting to risk her ears being seen in her sleep.
I duck under the sheets with her, pressing my lips to hers for one last brief moment, before I let her sleep, gently continuing to run my fingers through the fine hairs, the warm mass of the flesh under the tail solid against my palm.
Mr Johnson wouldn’t be happy if he could see me right now… but having her here, face pressing up against my chest a little, her toes innocently doodling against my legs, her heat melding with mine… it feels right.
I have to wonder a little as my brain starts to shut down for sleep, if we do find a way to send her home, a safe one… would she take it? Would she leave me to be with her people? She turned down Letuh’s offer once, but it had been questionable in safety at best.
She starts to thrash a little in her sleep, but I brush against her tail again for a few moments, and she calms down, still once more.
I awaken to something fluffy brushing my face, grinning to myself, eyes still shut, I lean out and squeeze it softly, only… the textures wrong.
The dog whoofs, indignantly, pulling it’s tail from my grip and scampering around to sniff me, as I sit upright. Kara’s heating some breakfast over the fire, while Alison is checking the barge, pale grey, winter morning light shining down on us, the wind gusting hard.
“Morning.” She chirps, leaning over to press a kiss to my lips, before shoving a mug of hot stew into my hands. “Eat quick, Alison wants us to move quickly. Says there’s a snowstorm coming, and she wants to be in Oendal, before it hits.”
The two quickly shove the barge onto the river, while I chug my breakfast, kicking some dirt over the fire and breaking camp, I make my way back to the barge, taking a seat, only for Kara to sit herself across my lap, earning a few smirks and raised eyebrows from our vessel’s captain, as we continue down the river.
After just a few more hours, the temperature has dramattically dropped, and barring a certain… issue, I’m glad Kara is sitton on me for heat, as the city of Oendal reveals itself finally, the barge flowing on and on, it’s grand buildings, building off of other buildings, stuck to others like parasites, gothic spires and gargoyles leering ever outwards, the whole city giving off a grimy, soot covered feel, even from a distance, the steel grey storm clouds above turned black from the perpetual haze over the city, grand stone houses and towers dominating it all, with slated roofs in dark blacks and angry reds.
Seems like a charming place, very friendly.
“Well lovebirds, welcome to Oendal.” Alison sighs.
>End of Spook Quest 11
What a cheerful looking place, I'm sure nothing bad will happen here.
Thanks for running, Chucks.
happiest place on earth, dont you want to praise Oenda guys?
you'll see anon
been in the plans for a while, let's just say theres more than just breaking the spook out to solve here
Yep. Nothing but us rabbits here.
Boy do I love carrots.