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A Leash of Foxes

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
Follow the parade and shadow Dirge as inconspicuously as you can. If he has your gun, you're going to want it back - and he doesn't seem like the kind of guy who'd just hand it over.

You press through the crowd, keeping one eye on Dirge and trying to work out where he'll go once he reaches the bottom of the ladder. The parade is dissolving, and it's difficult to track any one soldier through the chaotic mess of armours and weapons, but you think you catch sight of him heading north. Following is no mean feat – your path takes you past the Charizard cage, around which the crowd is at its thickest – but you push and shove and on one occasion trip someone over, and as you reach the other side you are relieved to see that Dirge has not yet disappeared.

You come closer, then see the militiaman turn to one side, talking to a comrade, and stop.

Damn. Wrong face. That isn't Dirge.

You spend a minute scouring the square, but it's hopeless. If Dirge is still here, you'll never find him among so many faces.

It might not be so much of a problem. He works for Stone, after all, and your note says that Stone is the one with your gun. That much seems clear.

But maybe the note is a lie. You don't even know if it's written in your handwriting; for that matter, you don't even know why it is that you think Elias Dirge took your gun, or how. The event, like everything before you woke in the wasteland, is a blank: all you know for sure is that you have a very strong feeling that Dirge stole it.

It doesn't take much skill to write a false note on aged paper. Is your memory so much more reliable?


Try and get more information about Elias Dirge out of someone- He's clearly going to be important later. Best to do it surreptitiously though, because you might draw unwanted attention to yourself otherwise.

There's no need to be surreptitious. You're at a fair celebrating the triumphs of the militia, and Elias Dirge has his own exhibition.

Near the head of the Charizard, towards the western side of the square, is a wooden stand with an especially large crowd around it and a banner marked DIRGE above. Most of this fair is propaganda, but Dirge needs no exaggeration. The information on show will probably be mostly accurate.

You weave through the crush of onlookers, making your way to the front, and are confronted by the silvered image of Dirge himself, looking straight out at you. A daguerreotype. Rare out here – the equipment is bulky, the plates take a long time to produce and the image has to be stored under sealed glass. You can't help but stare at it for a while. It's so strange, like being confronted with Dirge's ghost; the lack of colour aside, it's too close to life for your liking. Dirge's eyes have the same rich shine as they do in reality, as if he is on the verge of breaking into laughter. You half-expect him to step across the frame and shake your hand.

A group of children jostle past you, and you abandon the daguerreotype for the stall's other attractions. Most look like junk – a broken sword, a flattened bullet, an eager arrow with a tiny shiver left in it – but one is a cut above the rest: the monstrous eye of a psammic requiem, floating in a jar of brine. It stares back at you when you look at it, as big as your head and pale as bones. Requiems are blind, you recall. An eye is an odd trophy to take.

There's a label underneath it that says that Dirge tore it out of the requiem's head with his right hand before plunging his left into the space beyond and tearing at what he found until the monster stopped moving. If you look – and you do, when you read this – you can see the dark marks where his fingers gripped the eye.

The people around you are getting impatient with the way you're taking up space, and before they can shove you aside you take a pamphlet and leave. It's not exactly great literature, but it runs through the salient points of Dirge's life: he came from Hoenn as a child, was orphaned young and ran off to the East with driftsailors from the Argent Peaks. He made his name as a mercenary and adventurer – and here there is a terrible illustration of a young Elias Dirge strangling a Flygon – and eventually crossed paths with Joshua Stone, who was so impressed by him that he made him an officer on the spot. From there, his meteoric rise to Stone's second-in-command took less than six months. In that time he led the militia in fifteen successful engagements with the foxes, including the infamous Battle of Dead Men Walking, and since then has led countless more. His career spans twenty-eight years, during which time he has never been defeated, never lost a battle, and killed more foxes than anyone in known history.

If you believe the pamphlet, anyway. You do, mostly – but that last part is almost certainly false.

At least, you hope it is. Whoever you are, you don't think you want to set yourself in opposition to a man who has never been defeated.

While thinking about this, you hear Dirge's name and turn sharply. A sunburned man with a large belly and larger hat is standing behind a rack of captured fox weapons – horrid things of knotted bone and leather, all strange curves and ugly angles – and asserts that this one is from Dirge's private collection.

“Loaned specially for today, it is,” he says. “Cutlar from the shaman 'e killed at the Battle o' Dead Men Walkin'.”

You shake your head and move on. You aren't interested in fox equipment. It's barbaric stuff, like twisturne; torn out of dark imaginations and brought into the world by acts against nature. Eager arrows, kallyrook, cutlar – it's all the same, all evil.

A noise to your right – an especially bold child has bounced a pebble off the Charizard's muzzle. Metal meets metal with an ear-splitting crash: fast as a snake, the dragon whips its head into the bars. The child and her accomplices leap back, squealing, and a stern militiaman comes to chase them away. For its part, the Charizard seems to have spent its rage; its tail-fire seems to be more sparks than flame, and there is something exhausted in the way it at last folds its wings and lets its head droop.

You crumple up the pamphlet and toss it in the gutter. Perhaps it's the brazen artificiality of it all, but this fair is leaving you a little sour.
 
Something's clearly rotten here; Poke around and see if you can find anything else off.
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
Something's clearly rotten here. Poke around and see if you can find anything else off.

Where would you like to start? The children with their pamphlets? The citizens for whom the war is a distant story, a pleasant diversion for an afternoon? The others for whom it is too much of a reality, who have lost brothers and sisters and sons and daughters and friends to something summed up in a whirl of sweetmeats and music? The swaggering militiamen by the Charizard? Their exhausted companions, leaving the square with scarred faces and drawn lips? Their other companions who are not here, the ones from whom the foxes have taken limbs, minds, friends, lives? The fact that these are Stone's people, and this is Stone's fair, and yet Stone is presenting this as as a municipal event? The sparkling veneer of confetti that lies over all this falsehood like the ash over Tarnasshe?

You don't know much about yourself. But you know enough of the world to know that this fair is not a noble enterprise.
 

Deadly.Braviary

Well-Known Member
Well, that's a somewhat cynical view of the world.

Why don't you abandon these thoughts once you're done with whatever anyone else may want you to do, and proceed towards an inn or some such place where you can have something to eat? I imagine you'd be hungry. Afterwards, check if there's a library around town. There's always something interesting to find in a library.

~Deadly
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
Well, that's a somewhat cynical view of the world.

It's a very cynical view of the world. You are not even sure it is your view of the world. Where did those thoughts come from? They floated smoke-like into your head like the rhyme about being bold, and you can't say with any certainty that you agree with them.

Instinctively, you look up, and see on the rooftops a large, scruffy black shape. It is far away and you can't make out the details; it might be a scavenger kite, but you are certain it is not.
Something purple pulses in the bird's breast, and you look away. When you look back, a moment later, it has gone.


Check if there's a library around town. There's always something interesting to find in a library.

The public library is a relatively new invention, and there aren't any out here. You've heard they founded one back in 1853 in Gateon, near the government offices – but here on the frontier? The money is here, but the philanthropy isn't. Besides, no one comes East for books. They come here for gold.


Why don't you abandon these thoughts once you're done with whatever anyone else may want you to do, and proceed towards an inn or some such place where you can have something to eat? I imagine you'd be hungry.

You are a little hungry, yes, but you are also lacking in money.

It is beginning to dawn on you that you had no real plan of action other than walk up to Stone's office and demand your gun back. This is looking less and less like a sensible idea the more you think about it.

But you're not sure you really have a choice.

Wow, I'm sorry. This has been a crazy week, and it's taken me ages to gather together the spare time to write this. However! This next week looks set to be a bit calmer, so let's plough on with these mysterious happenings, shall we?
 

Deadly.Braviary

Well-Known Member
That one word makes me think you've been talking to Jax lately.
Come on people, order him around! You know you don't want Cutlerine to give up on yet another project. :/

How are your skills as a cutpurse? Pickpocketing is a profitable way of making money, if you can do it without anyone noticing you. If you're a bit unskilled on that, maybe you should go looking for something familiar. It's probably one in a million that you'll actually find something, but c'mon, you gotta try.

Oh, and procure a map of the city if you can, or make one. Scourston sounds like a big city.

~Deadly
 

Knightfall

Blazing Wordsmith
(Sorry for not being on top of this. Let's rectify this fact.)

Before trying to become a pickpocket, go check around the taverns. See if there's any small job you can do to earn some cash and perhaps a place to sleep. You'll need both if you are to plan a way to confront Stone at some point.

(Going back a post here). Also, see if you can talk some of the militia men. Perhaps they, in their relaxed state, could reveal some tidbits of info that could be useful to you.

Knightfall signing off... ;005;
 
In addition to any potential theivery of our own, keep an eye out for any other pickpockets. You might get something useful out of them if you catch them- Or you could turn them over to the guards.
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
See if you can talk some of the militia men. Perhaps they, in their relaxed state, could reveal some tidbits of info that could be useful to you.

You see a suitably merry-looking militia member – a man in the ceremonial silk-over-steel armour of the southern lands, a bottle in one hand and a meat pie in the other – but as you approach, you realise you have no idea what to say. All you can reasonably ask for are directions; anything else would be suspicious, and there is a glint in the man's eyes that tells you his intoxication has not put his wariness to sleep. Members of the militia on active service don't tend to last without sharp instincts.

Even with a less wary individual, what could you say? Asking for help finding money is bound to fail, and this is a difficult environment in which to attempt small talk. Trying to convince them to take you to Stone would be pointless, too; footsoldiers are hardly likely to have immediate access to their commander. Even just walking into his office or calling at his house would probably be more effective than that.


Procure a map of the city if you can, or make one. Scourston sounds like a big city.

It is fairly large – for the frontier, anyway. The settlements of the west put it to shame, and you hear the major cities back in the old country have populations in the millions.

Still, you find you have no need for a map. The more you walk around this place, the closer its streets press against your mind; you feel like you are putting on a uniform that you last wore many years ago. Scourston may not be your town, if you have one. But it is a town you know far better than you thought.


How are your skills as a cutpurse? Pickpocketing is a profitable way of making money, if you can do it without anyone noticing you. If you're a bit unskilled on that, maybe you should go looking for something familiar. It's probably one in a million that you'll actually find something, but c'mon, you gotta try.

You find that you aren't that desperate yet. Are you a killer? Undoubtedly. But a thief? Definitely not.

The discovery is reassuring. It might be nothing, but it might be some proof that your past life was less criminal than you feared. You'd rather you had been a mercenary or a gunslinger-errant than a mere mugger.

But then again, does that matter? You are nothing now; your history didn't worry you so much before you realised your skill at separating lives from limbs. It's not that you lack a name, or a past, or a gender, but that all of these things are constantly shifting and pacing beyond your reach, like whispers behind a door just a quarter-inch too thick to hear through. Among the people of Scourston, you feel like a ghost. They have lives, interests, names, loves, hates. You have half-remembered knowledge of the frontier and an exceptional knack for murder.

You teeter on the brink of nonexistence. Does it really matter if you were a good person or bad, when now you are no one at all?


In addition to any potential thievery of our own, keep an eye out for any other pickpockets. You might get something useful out of them if you catch them- Or you could turn them over to the guards.

You'll watch out for thieves, but you aren't sure you'll spot any. This is their territory, after all; even with your emergent knowledge of it, they have the advantage here.

You may just have to be thankful that you have nothing for anyone to steal.


Go check around the taverns. See if there's any small job you can do to earn some cash and perhaps a place to sleep. You'll need both if you are to plan a way to confront Stone at some point.

Enough of the fair. You came to this city with one goal in mind, and it's time to start working towards it.

Southwest is the way to go: down to the docks and the freight yards. It takes no skill to haul sides of frozen meat from the airgalleys or casks-of-thunder from the trains, just strength, and you think you have enough of that to be of service. There are plenty of ways to hurt yourself there, and so there is always work available.

You retrace your steps down the main thoroughfare, taking care not to turn left towards the Gold District, and cut back down through the markets. The squares and side-streets are by no means deserted, but there are fewer people around than there were before; you see shuttered shop windows and locked-up stalls. The Peak beer-seller from earlier is slumped in the shade by his barrow, whirling a cluster of unmelting ice crystals around his head on a cord. A southerner in a close-wrapped headscarf is yawning behind his display of amber, flicking through a dog-eared pamphlet. You pass the coffee-house where you saw the militiaman and the soldier. Now there is only one customer, a woman with abstruse tattoos and a fat black cigar. She blows her smoke disconsolately skywards as you walk by.

You wonder why she is unhappy. You wonder what the southern man's pamphlet was about. You wonder how the Peak man ended up selling beer in a place his skin can't handle. There are so many stories here, you think to yourself. Every face has thousands of days behind it.

West of the markets is government territory, and you are back to the architecture of the elite: monumental buildings faced with marble and moulded decorations. Above the rooftops you can see the dome of the City Hall; at its apex is a statue of a god or hero whose name escapes you. Probably Lily would know. Isn't that what they teach in a classical education?

You pass through quickly, without looking too much at the wealthy patricians who make up the better part of the pedestrians here. The thought that struck you when you spoke to the rangers, that you might not be in good standing with the law, has been reawakened by all these emblems of civic authority, and you want nothing more than to be through this place and back among people you can blend in with.

Imperceptibly slowly, the city shifts between skins around you. Stone turns to brick; glass to wooden shutters. Marble cladding falls away. The carriages vanish; the rapping of bootheels turns to shouting and shanties, and the violent mechanical outbursts of thundertrains.

And then you are there, in streets packed with the heaving iron bulk of the trains, their treads crunching the dirt as if crushing teeth. Their crew hang out of the windows or loll half-out of the roof hatches, laughing and yelling with delight at finally arriving. One train judders past with a broken track and one snapped-off pylon slathered in insulating wax; its windows are shut or shattered, and those of its crew you do see look more relieved than joyous.

Just a few streets away the massive wooden spire of the skydock shoots up towards the heavens, airgalleys hanging in mooring cradles on its flanks. Huge draught Drifblim throng the air around them, free of their reins and grazing on the plumes of acrid smoke from the bone-fires below. Sometimes a gust of wind catches them and the smoke, and all wave abruptly sideways – but they are too well-trained to stray far from the dock, and float back again moments later.

You wander down the street, past brawny dockers and ragged urchins, and turn a corner into a lane too narrow for the trains to pass. This takes you to a square fronting an enormous building of iron and brick, from behind which comes a cacophony of shouts, thumps and metallic groans. The sign across it tells you that this is a TR I S E, which, after mentally resurrecting the soot-buried missing letters, you take to mean a train shed.

There is a small crowd of hopefuls gathered before it – men and women (and one or two who could be either, or none) who have probably been waiting all day, and have not yet been lucky enough to be picked. Occasionally, a foreman pops out of one of the doors and summons one with a pointing finger and a sharp bark of command.

Across from the yard is a shabby saloon, its doors battered, its sign long gone and the posters stuck to its walls faded and peeling away. A dirt-stained child sits on the step, apparently engaged in a staring contest with a dark, scrawny Rattata in the gutter.

There are opportunities for work here.

There are posters here.

There is a possibility of food and drink here.




Note: As a matter of fact, Deadly, I have spoken to Jax relatively recently, but that kind of 'however' is in my lexis anyway. It's just a thing I do without thinking when I'm not writing so formally. Which is more and more frequently these days, as I get better at separating the 'writing' part of my brain from the 'talking to people' part.

Knightfall, there's no need to apologise. None of you are under any obligation whatsoever to engage with this story. If it does end up failing, I'll probably cram the bits of it together into a slightly more conventional format and rewrite it; I've spent some good ideas on it and I want to get my money's worth. Metaphorically speaking.

Also: '
yet another'? Ouch. I thought I was pretty good at not giving up on these. I've only left three of my stories unfinished so far: one because it was awful, one because the plot idea was never going to work, and one because the philosophy it embodied and affirmed was horrible and just plain wrong.
 
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Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
Posters, mm. They might even turn out to be Elite 4 posters. Or just Koga posters. Wink wink.

Orre is a young nation, and has no official League, let alone an Elite Four. At the moment, it has no unified Pokémon battling infrastructure at all: there are several competing systems, from the fledgeling Colosseum network to the Gyms in Phenac and Starbourne to a string of dojos. Perhaps in a hundred years' time, there will be some kind of order. For now, there is nothing.

As for the frontier, well. There isn't much call for recreational battling out here. Pokémon are needed to tame the land and combat its attendant monsters, not to mention fighting the foxes. Besides, no parent in their right mind would send a child out across the wasteland alone, not if they wanted them to come home alive.


Go check them out.

The sun has bleached them, as it does everything left out here, and many are illegible. One advertises in a mixture of block capitals and pictures that the army always needs new recruits; another, pasted half over it as if in competition, says the same about the militia. Another promises that DR BENSON'S NERVODINE will provide relief from ALL NERVOUS AILMENTS, including SPASMS, ACHES, SLEEPLESSNESS, NEURALGIA and ST. VITUS' DANCE. A fourth has a drawing of a revolver in coloured ink, and, beneath it: STOLEN! $10,000 REWARD! Anyone with information to contact Miss NOUR ZAVARAT at 34 Vitric Avenue.

You pause. The gun is a strange one – it has a long barrel and an eccentric seven-chambered cylinder, and unless you are mistaken the butt is made out of stone. Odd, multicoloured stone, to judge by the inks the artist has used; you can see red and green and blue in there, held in tight at the edges by a silvery metallic frame.

You let out a long breath, and listen to it shiver as it passes your lips. This is your gun. There can be no doubt about that. If you close your eyes, you can see the stone butt before you, iridescent, the colours swimming deliriously across its surface like the bloom on a Murkrow feather. This Zavarat, whoever she is, took it from you, or Dirge did, or―

No. The memories slither out of your grip like a fistful of sand. You have no idea how Zavarat fits in with all this. You are no longer certain that it was Dirge and not her who took the gun; you are even beginning to doubt the truth of that note. Is it not your handwriting after all? Does Stone really have the gun? Or has it been stolen from him now? If so, why is it Zavarat asking after it and not him?

It's enough to give you a headache, although the heat might have something to do with it. You take a swig from your canteen, but it does nothing to relieve the pressure at your temples.


After that, look around for food.

The inside of the saloon is dark and smoky. Indistinct shapes move about in a fug of tobacco and sporehoney fumes. A couple of people look up as you enter, but no one's gaze lingers. You don't look so different to anyone here, and the desert woodsman on your back makes people wary of talking to you. No one carries such a clumsy sword unless they know how to use it properly.

Someone at the bar, you notice, has just traded six houndtooth bullets for a plate of beef and false-cactus root. It's an odd gesture, but it sounds familiar, and after a moment's thought you remember how it works. Silver dollars are the currency of Orre, but the Peak folk trade in colourful cotton quatchli, and the southerners use bright gold darics. The only constant here is the bullet, and houndteeth are made of rare enough materials that they're easy to sell on for whoever you trade them to.

You have a look in your pouch, and work out that you have sixteen houndteeth to your name. Whether or not you choose to spend them on food now or try to earn some real dollars unloading cargo in the thundertrain shed is up to you.
 
OOC: Waitwaitwaitwait, Phenac? Orre? This in Orre? Well. Time to start looking out for anything that looks like a Shadow...

IC: Go get some actual money first. While eating now would let you work a bit harder or longer, those bullets will probably be useful later. Best to save them for when you can use them. Afterward, go have a look at this place that's offering a reward for your gun, see if you can recognize the person who is offering it.
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
Go get some actual money first. While eating now would let you work a bit harder or longer, those bullets will probably be useful later. Best to save them for when you can use them. Afterward, go have a look at this place that's offering a reward for your gun. See if you can recognize the person who is offering it.

Agreed, get more money. Oh, and rip the (sounds Warhol-esque from the description) poster of the revolver off and keep it with you. This is getting interesting.


You leave, and wisps of smoke crawl out with you. The air outside is hot, but it's cooler and clearer than that within, and for a moment you feel light-headed. But it passes, and you step off the stoop with clear vision and only a lingering smell of honey fumes in your nose.

The posters have been on the wall so long they are either stuck fast to it or dangerously loose; the poster with your gun on is one of the former, and it takes a good couple of minutes of gentle easing before it comes away. You hold it up to the light and look at it for a while. The paper is thin as fine muslin, and the sunlight shines straight through, setting the inks ablaze. For a moment, the gun seems to be shimmering before your eyes, half-in and half-out of reality, and you think you hear a sound that you cannot describe―

And then it's gone. You blink, dizzy, and fold the poster up to put in your pocket. Perhaps you inhaled more sporehoney than you thought.

You return your attention to the TR I S E, and join the crowd outside. It's a thin group now – the afternoon is wearing on, and most people have either got work here today or gone to try elsewhere – and you stand out in it. The people around you do talk to each other, and joke and laugh, but there is something desperate under their bravado. The longer they stand here, the less likely they are to eat tonight. Of course, you're taking the same risk, but for some reason you are not afraid.

You are beginning to realise that though you may sometimes be alarmed, there is very little that really scares you. After all, it's not as if you have anything to lose.

It is a long wait until the foreman next appears. The sun is low in the sky and the shadows are lengthening by the time he does – if they are a he; the foreman is corpulent, pear-shaped and has greasy hair pulled back into a ponytail. They could be anything at all.

Whatever they are, they single you out immediately as different from the rest.

“You,” says the foreman, eyes narrowing, finger jabbing. “It's your lucky day.”

You follow them into the shed, and have to fight through a wall of hot, dry air: the building is full of the heat of heavy machinery. It is vast, and darkening now as the sunlight starts to fail. A small army of children are racing around with tapers, making the switch in lighting from skylights to lanterns. But there is enough light for the trains to gleam – the trains, vast segmented things crouched low on their caterpillar tracks like enormous iron cats, their engines still, their great doors slid open like wounds in their sides, and all around them their parasitic crew scurrying, roaring, hefting, tossing. Casks-of-thunder and crates of ore are stacked on trolleys and whisked away through a heady stink of oil to who knows where. Clusters of Magnemite whirl and intermingle near the roof, forming temporary Magneton of three, four, five, even six orbs before splitting apart again. They do something to them to stop the Magneton cohering properly, you recall. It wouldn't do to have the thundertrains' power sources getting absorbed.

“This way,” barks the foreman. You follow them between the Angel of the East and the Dustbiter, weaving adroitly through the morass of labourers surrounding them, and come to a shabby three-carriage train at the far end of the shed. It is called the Nenive, and it has just arrived, by the look of things: the doors to the street beyond stand open beyond it, and its crew are still in the process of opening up the cargo bay. “Volunteer,” the foreman tells someone who you assume is in charge, and waddles off back into the chaos without another word.

You look at the someone, who looks back. He is very short, but looks exceptionally strong. The veins on his arms stand out like wires pushed under his skin.

“A'righ',” he says, without preamble. “Chuck youse sword over there, get youse a trolley and take the casks-o'-thundae to the Lemaigne warehouse.”

You think you know where that is. Various companies have different holding facilities tacked onto the edges of the shed; you remember seeing a sign that might have said Lemaigne on your way here. You nod, and take up a trolley.

The next few hours are hard.

The Lemaigne Bros warehouse is not far – just a few hundred yards away. You find it easily. And casks-of-thunder are not heavy; electricity is weightless, and these casks are cheap, not solidly built. Your strength and stamina are more than up to the task of moving such small burdens such a short distance.

But you did not know that it would hurt.

The casks are badly made; perhaps that explains it. Perhaps it would have happened anyway. Regardless, they make the air around them charged, pregnant with potential like the sky before a storm. You can feel it as a vibration in your bones and your organs, each piece of you quivering individually like a tuning fork struck against a tabletop. It is almost nothing at first – just unpleasant. But after the first few minutes, it becomes an ache, and by the time three hours are past, it is agonising. You are leaning heavily on the empty trolley on the last return trip, barely managing to avoid crashing into anyone or anything, and you can hardly hear the short someone's expressions of thanks through the painful buzzing of your ear bones in your head.

Yet you manage, and within a few minutes of finishing your task the pain has faded to nothing at all. It seems it does not linger long when the casks-of-thunder aren't nearby.

The foreman takes some hunting down, but you eventually corner them between the Desert Serenade and the Swan of Araby, and are pointed in the direction of a thin-lipped individual in a small adjoining office, who gives you a handful of silver dollars. It isn't much, considering what you've done, but casual labourers are cheaper than draught animals here. You were lucky to get this much.

Outside the shed, night has fallen and the lamps have been lit – although there aren't many in areas like this; occasionally, the searing magnesium-lamp headlights of a thundertrain bathes the alley in blinding white, but for the most part, the labouring district is dark. The crowd outside has gone, but a new one is starting to gather. You suppose these must be the workers of the night shift.

The little saloon is still open, and it's busier than ever. You don't, however, have any trouble getting a seat – not with a sword that size. You part with one of your coins and receive a bowl of generically brown stew and a pot of beer. These, you soon discover, are indistinguishable from each other in a blind taste test, except that in one of them the lumps feel like they probably shouldn't be there.

You don't linger over your meal. It fills you, hopefully with something that won't kill you, and you leave, spitting out the taste in the dust. After that, the sporehoney fumes are almost welcome.

Vitric Avenue, you think, is right on the borders of the Copper and Silver Districts – a place dominated by the shops that vend jewellery and trinkets from the more respectable kind of glassworks. You can't imagine what the sort of person who lives there would want with your gun. You're beginning to see why Stone might want it – it is made of stone, after all, and strange stone at that – but a shopkeeper? There must be an explanation, but you can't yet see it.

At any rate, you are glad to leave the docklands. As you head north, the mechanical squalling grows fainter, and the pedestrians grow much fewer. Crossing the deserted market squares, you become aware of a growing sense of peace. The air is cooling. The moon is bright. You are fed and watered. There may be mysteries to be solved, but for a few minutes at least, the world is quiet here.

When you near the central road, you are jerked out of your reverie: the traffic has slackened but not stopped, and there are still carriages and carts rattling to and fro. A few streets further to the north, however, all is quiet again, and you pass very few people on the way through the southern tip of the Copper Districts. There are none at all in the two Silver streets you pass through, and Vitric Avenue, when you reach it, is similarly deserted. Many of the shops, however, still have lights in the windows – electric lights, you notice, thinking of the casks you moved earlier. The low cost of casks-of-thunder makes them cheap to run, but the installation costs, and that of replacement parts if the circuit should break, means that they are restricted to the wealthier sort.

Number 34 is one of those shops that has the lights on. There is a sign in the window that says it is closed, but through the glass you can see a woman in dark blue robes moving around, tidying away the merchandise. Is this Nour Zavarat? You don't think you recognise her, but you aren't sure. You can't seem to get a good look at her face from here.

Note: Scizorstrike, this is sort of Orre, as has been hinted. We're actually far to the east of Orre as it is shown on the map, during a period of Orrene expansion. Also, it's unlikely that any Shadow Pokémon will turn up. I think we're about 140 years too early for that.
 
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Deadly.Braviary

Well-Known Member
Examine the exterior of the shop and look around the neighbourhood. Loiter like a bad omen. Look shady. Do so for about ten minutes. Then, and only then, enter the shop.

Side note: C'mon guys. This is not the kind of fic anyone wants to see die out. Poor Cutty's taking the time to translate orders into pages of narrative and churning out award-quality work. We can not afford to lose such a great fic so early. My point is: POST.
Plus, you can have fun screwing around in the desert and mess up Cutlerine's no-doubt-meticulously-planned story. :D

~Deadly
 

Pink Harzard

So majestic
Occ: I love this fic, but sometimes I don't know what our character must do.

Once you are in the shop, look around some more. Scan the goods in the shelves.
If the woman complains about entering a closed shop, you tell her you where just attracted by the atmosphere of the shop.
Do flirty if neccesary, but keep that trick as a last resort. Woman can be pretty dangerous.
 
OOC: Yeah, but my brain jumps from "Orre" to "Shadow Pokemon" basically instantly- and there has to be some reason why Cipher went back to make more.

IC: While lurking, keep any eye out for any other suspicious types- or worse, guards. We're probably not the only people hiding in the dark, are we?
 

Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
Lots of OOC comments here, so I thought I'd deal with them properly rather than in my notes.

Occ: I love this fic, but sometimes I don't know what our character must do.
I can see why you might feel that way. Perhaps this will help you see things from a more useful perspective: this is not a story set in a world. This is a world that contains a story. The wasteland, the Argent Peaks to the north, the city of eyes to the south, even the semi-mythical Qhara.Qhouroum to the east - all of this exists already, all around you. It's full of stuff to see and do. I'm holding half a continent and dozens of named characters in my head and in my notes, and I'm offering it to you to explore and act in as you wish. The main story has a lot of interesting stuff in it, true, but to get the most out of the East it's best to roam a bit. So, if you don't know what to do - just pick something that's come up that sounds interesting, and investigate. I've made it my goal here to reward that sort of thing with lore, with stories, with weird headcanony stuff about nineteenth-century East Orre. There are potential stories everywhere, some that I've prepared already, some that I won't even think of unless someone says something interesting. This is not one story. It's a multiplicity of narratives, many of which influence each other. It's all about your choices - in fact, your choices will determine everything, from who wins the war between the Golden and the Orrenes to the fates of individual people. And not every significant moment is set up as a binary choice, either; Lily was important, but you've already done at least one other thing that will make an enormous difference down the line.

Basically, don't worry about feeling directionless. You'll find stories whatever you try to do. If nothing else, I'll end up pushing you towards them.

OOC: Yeah, but my brain jumps from "Orre" to "Shadow Pokemon" basically instantly- and there has to be some reason why Cipher went back to make more.
There might be. But if there is, that reason lies in the distant future. This is the 1860s, and anyway, we aren't even in Orre as you or I know it. This is a different place, with a different spirit. If you were to travel west back into Orre proper (which is about the only thing that I won't let you do in this story), you'd see that the frontier is very much alien to the people of Phenac and Gateon.

Side note: C'mon guys. This is not the kind of fic anyone wants to see die out. Poor Cutty's taking the time to translate orders into pages of narrative and churning out award-quality work. We can not afford to lose such a great fic so early. My point is: POST.
Plus, you can have fun screwing around in the desert and mess up Cutlerine's no-doubt-meticulously-planned story. :D
You won't lose this, I hope. I didn't create all these stories, all these characters, and all these places for nothing. I'm not going to let this drop unless there's absolutely no alternative. I'm heavily invested in this world and in this project; I'll go pretty far not to let it die.

Also, screwing around in the desert is actually playing straight into my hands, as my response to Pink Harzard probably makes pretty clear. It'd be pretty difficult to force me into inventing totally new content for this world that wasn't already waiting to be adapted. Perhaps you take that as a challenge. I guess I'll wait and see.

... As for your current commands, consider them pending. I'll update properly in a few days' time.
 
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Cutlerine

Gone. Not coming back.
Examine the exterior of the shop and look around the neighbourhood. Loiter like a bad omen. Look shady. Do so for about ten minutes. Then, and only then, enter the shop.

While lurking, keep any eye out for any other suspicious types - or worse, guards. We're probably not the only people hiding in the dark, are we?


All is dark and quiet. It's hard to tread softly here; the street has been cobbled, in imitation of the ancient cities of the old country, and boot-heels clatter on the stone like horseshoes. Nevertheless, it is possible, with effort and practice. There could be someone lurking in the shadows. The contents of these shops are valuable, after all – but not as much as the jewellers' shops a couple of streets away. It would make sense for an aspiring thief to set their sights in that direction. Unless, you realise, the security here is slacker, and you can see why it might be.

You walk up and down the street – casually, but not so slowly that you give the woman in Number 34 a chance to leave. As far as you can work out, there is no one here. No one who is so unskilled as to let you see them, at any rate.

Returning to the shop, you see that the woman is still there – still tidying up. You frown. She has been tidying a long time, and things don't seem to have become much more organised. Does she suspect something?

It's a risk you decide to take. After all, she's a shopkeeper, not a mercenary. This is a different order of being to Lily you are dealing with.

You try the door, and it opens with a jingle.


Once you are in the shop, look around some more. Scan the goods in the shelves.

If the woman complains about entering a closed shop, you tell her you were just attracted by the atmosphere of the shop. Do flirty if necessary, but keep that as a last resort.


As you step in, the woman looks up sharply over her shoulder, half-afraid, half-irritated. Perhaps the best way to describe what you see in her eyes would be wary.

“We're closed,” she says, turning towards you and straightening up. One of her hands rests on the counter between the two of you; the other is reaching beneath it. She has a weapon, then. It might be best to speak truthfully.

You tell her that you are not a customer.

“Then what are you?” Her voice is rich and warm and revels in the sound of the words it forms. It marks her as a southerner, like her robes and her skin.

You inform her that you are here about the gun, and she narrows her kohl-rimmed eyes.

“We recovered it already, thank you. Sorry to disappoint.”

It was your gun, you say. You recognised the picture.

The woman stares at you for a moment.

“Your gun,” she repeats. “It was yours?”

You nod. She takes the derringer she has been reaching for from beneath the counter and aims it at you.

“I think maybe you should leave,” she says, but you can see the round black eye of the derringer wavering. And you know you could―

―take two steps forward, one to the left, grab the outside of her elbow and force it away, thrusting the gun out of her hand and her head down into the countertop

―reach out and take her wrist, twist it until the tendons groan and she has to let go

―flick the gun upwards, fast as anything, and vault the counter, feet up high to connect with her belly

You blink slowly, and force it all back down into your head.

Be bold, be bold …

You have lost your memory, you say. You woke in the desert and all you had on you was a note saying that Joshua Stone had your gun.

… but not too bold.

You came here, saw the poster and decided to investigate. Nothing more than that.

The woman stares at you. Her face twitches. The gun wavers.

“Hm,” she says at last. “You're telling the truth. I think.”

You say nothing.

“Miss Zavarat!” she calls suddenly, and follows it up with something in the mellifluous language of the southern lands. From upstairs, someone calls back in the same, and she addresses you again. “Go through,” she says, lowering the gun. “But if you – what is it they say? – if you try anything – well. Don't. Miss Zavarat is more dangerous than me.”

You assure her that you only want information, that you will do nothing to harm anyone, and she gives you the tiniest of nods.

“Upstairs,” she says, jerking the derringer at a side door. “Don't keep her waiting.”

You thank her and go through the door. Beyond is a narrow corridor that leads to your right, and a narrower staircase winding upwards; you take the stairs, and emerge into another narrow corridor that is almost identical to the first. There are several doors here, but one is open, and you knock on it as you peer through the gap.

“Come in,” says someone. “No sudden movements, please.”

The drawing-room beyond is not large, but it is comfortable, and tastefully furnished with chairs and sofas in wine-coloured upholstery. Electric light-globes peer like bulbous eyes from wells in the ceiling, casting a warm glow and the faintest of hums over everything. Beneath them, in an armchair by an occasional table, is a woman.

She is tall and straight-backed, and the lines on her dark face count out her years, and her battles. Like the woman downstairs, she is a southerner, and is wrapped in robes and scarf; unlike her, however, her clothes are made of shimmering cloth that wavers gently under its own power. Gardevoir silk, you think, flayed from the hips and dyed a deep, dark green. Rare, expensive – and incredibly dangerous, if she can use it properly.

You rather suspect that she can.

“Sit down,” says Nour Zavarat, watching you closely. “I think you and I both have some questions to answer.”
 
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