Undead Reckoning

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WolfofWords
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Re: Undead Reckoning

Post by WolfofWords »

Talbot set his bag down on the dresser and laid the rifle on a little desk near the window. He eyed the bed and contemplated getting a little shut-eye before dinner. However, he instead sat down at the desk and carefully unwrapped the rifle. He started to fully examine the rifle, something he had initially been reluctant to do. He turned it over and over and studied all of the markings. The feel of it was still so familiar after all of these years. There was the stamp of the Callan Army on the walnut stock, slightly worn from use. He had personally filled in his own engraved initials with paste and then revarnished over it before selling the rifle.

Somebody had obviously cared greatly for the rifle as it was in great condition. Of course, Blackrance may have had the thing refurbished and cleaned before having it mailed. Everything was shiny. The stock had been oiled and wiped down and the iron and steel had been similarly oiled. It looked exactly the same as when Talbot had been issued the weapon after boot camp. Touching it definitely conjured up a lot of bad memories but there was also security there. He remembered falling asleep in the camps of the battlefields with the rifle firmly in his hand. A soldier could not be caught without their weapon, especially when the fighting got more bitter and bloody. The rules started flying out the window.

Talbot laid the rifle back on the cloth and wrapped it up again. He moved over to the bed and removed his boots before laying down. He stared at the ceiling for a while and did not remember falling asleep. He had intended only to rest his eyes but he was out like a light. He did not dream exactly but instead had a vague feeling of anxiety. It was the feeling he always had on the morning that a battle was to begin. He had no intentions of joining any battles but the dream on the train had already unsettled him. He should not have touched the rifle. It awakened something in him that was dying slowly on its own.

He woke up at the sounding of a bell from below which he guessed was the signal for the evening meal. He slowly sat up and rubbed his eyes before slipping on and tying his boots. He rose from the bed and entered the hallway. He turned slowly and locked the door and then looked at the door opposite his. He waited to see if Mr. Seneca would open the door and head down to dinner but the door did not move. He made his way down the narrow steps on his own but had to stop and make way for an enormous Dragonborn who grunted and kept moving. As soon as he passed, Clarity's door opened and she caught sight of the large gentleman and she shared a look with Talbot. This was evidently the guy who had been arguing with the staff earlier.

Talbot spoke softly after a moment. "Black scales?" he said more as a statement, barely a question. "Watch yourself. The chromatics have bad reputations. He's huge too."

Clarity pointed at the horns sprouting from her head with a flat look. "Careful how quickly you judge by appearances, Mr. Hawkwing," she said. "You'll embarrass yourself."

Talbot did feel embarrassed. "Thank you for setting me straight," he said. "I apologize. I should know better."

"I'll forgive you this once," Clarity said. "If you keep an open mind, we won't have this problem again. I also told you I can take care of myself."

"You did," Talbot said. "I guess my machismo is showing."

"Your gallantry and chivalry are appreciated but not needed at the moment," Clarity said.

The conversation was suddenly interrupted when another door in the hallway opened and a slight blonde human woman stepped out. She looked at Talbot and Clarity and smiled a thin-lipped smile. She was wearing a plain and simple dress and a heavy chain around her neck. Something was hanging from the chain but it was tucked into her dress. "Good evening," she said and her Ganarastavan accent was immediately apparent. "Are vee going down to dinner now?"

"That's the general idea," Talbot said. "We were just about to go down if you want to join us."

Clarity cleared her throat. "My name is Clarity Havenwood and this is Talbot Hawkwing," she said. Her breeding definitely included more refined manners.

"My name is Ana Koryana," the woman said. "It is nice to be meeting you."

"It's nice to meet you as well," Clarity said. "That's an interesting necklace."

"Thank you but it is not a necklace exactly," Ana said. She pulled out what was evidently a symbol of The Defender. "It is a holy symbol."

"Weren't all of the gods killed years ago?" Talbot asked.

"I still believe," Ana said. "and my belief is rewarded vith power. The gods are still out there somehow."
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"Loki said nothing. He tried to look ashamed and succeeded simply in looking pleased with himself." - Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology

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Re: Undead Reckoning

Post by WolfofWords »

Clarity thought about that statement as they started down the stairs. "Very interesting," she said. "I suppose if the stories are true and the gods were destroyed, all of that energy would have to go somewhere. There is no way to destroy energy like that and the Riders were at least semi-mortal and they could not absorb that much energy. What vessels are the gods in now? Maybe they have no vessels. Maybe that means they are more powerful than ever."

Ana shrugged with a small, unbothered smile. "I have not given it much thought," she said. "It is enough zat I have faith, no? I am more focused on doing good in the vorld."

"Now that's an attitude I can get behind," Talbot said. "You've just got to leave the world better than you found it." He could guess that Clarity's intellectual curiosity was not satiated but then again how did she expect to test any theories when it came to deities from the beyond?

"Vat do you do for ze vorld, Talbot?" Ana asked with a curious smile. "How do you make it better?"

"I'm a carpenter," Talbot said. "I share a shop with two partners back home."

"A noble profession," Ana said. "Vhat brings a carpenter all ze vay out here for zis endeavor?"

All three of them stopped outside of the dining room as Talbot turned toward Ana. He was not about to get into it with a complete stranger even if Ana was a woman of the cloth. His past was painful and he still did not know why he had discussed it with Clarity. Something about her inquisitive eyes, maybe.

"I wasn't always a carpenter," Talbot said. "I'll leave it at that for now. Lord Blackrance wanted me to come out of retirement but we have a difference of opinion. I came to tell him no face to face."

"I tried to change his mind," Clarity said. "It didn't take." She shrugged and shot a mischievous smile at Talbot. The look irked him for a heartbeat.

Ana's smile was more beatific and kind. "I respect that you are a man who has left violence behind," she said. "A man of peace. However, peace is not alvays the answer."

"It's my answer," Talbot said. "I've already lost enough to battle. I support the mission, of course, but I don't have the heart to join in."

"Perhaps your heart may yet change," Ana said with a smile. "Only you can decide your path."

"Maybe," Talbot said. "Anything is possible but I just don't see it. You'll just have to take care of this without me."

The door to the dining room burst open and Titus was standing there looking frustrated and a bit desperate. "Could you come in to eat?" he asked. "He's getting impatient and I really don't want to piss him off anymore."

"Who?" Talbot asked. As soon as he asked he knew it was a stupid question. It had to be the Dragonborn from earlier.

"You'll see," Titus said. "Quickly, please." He held open the door and the three all looked at each other and then entered the dining room. Seated at the head of the table was the giant Dragonborn who practically glared at them.

"Finally!" he yelled. "They said they would not serve the food until you came. Sit down."

"Such manners!" Clarity said. "We were having a lively discussion. We apologize if we kept you and Mr. Mapleburrow waiting." The four of them moved to seats around the table. Talbot made sure to sit closest to the angry dragon man. He was sure Clarity would disagree but he did not want either lady to be harmed if it came to a fight. He had a feeling it would not and that the Dragonborn was more bark than bite.

As they all sat down at the table, the Dragonborn slammed his fist on the table. "Food now!" Titus flinched a bit at the sound and Ana got very still. Neither Clarity nor Talbot reacted and Talbot fought the urge to roll his eyes. No need to rile the guy up any further. There was definitely movement in the kitchen.

"What do we call you, sir?" Clarity asked. "We haven't been formally introduced yet." Titus was not about to make any introductions in that moment. He was rattled.

"The name's Rahj," the Dragonborn said gruffly and when Clarity arched an eyebrow at him he looked remorseful for a moment. "Rahj Blackscale."
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"Loki said nothing. He tried to look ashamed and succeeded simply in looking pleased with himself." - Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology

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Re: Undead Reckoning

Post by WolfofWords »

Pepper and a young man that Talbot did not recognize started carrying a veritable feast into the room on platters. It all smelled very good and it was far finer food than Talbot had expected this far out in the frontier. There were several whole roasted chickens, steamed carrots, toasted mushrooms, brisket, and mashed potatoes. Rahj immediately reached out and palmed one of the chickens, whistled, and then threw the chicken out of an open window. Something very large and hairy jumped up in the window and snagged the chicken. There was a deep growling sound from beneath the window. Everybody stared at Rahj who shrugged.

"They won't let me keep Sandor inside but he still must be fed," the large Dragonborn said. He then set about devouring whatever food he could reach.

"Um," Clarity started, seeming to be at a loss for words for once. "Is Sandor your dog?"

Rahj grinned and began to speak with food in his mouth. "Ha!," he cried out, letting out a single barking laugh. "In the desert, we have pets far superior to your dogs. It's an insult to call Sandor a dog."

Clarity seemed to think about that, almost as if she was deciding which part of the statement she was most interested in. "I'm sorry," she said. "Did you say 'out in the desert'? Do you mean to tell us that you have lived out there? Is this a recent occurrence or have you lived out there when it was still dangerous?"

Rahj frowned and looked at Clarity as if he was deciding whether or not she was being ignorant or insulting. Talbot immediately realized Clarity's mistake and he looked around and saw that Clarity was the only one not in the know. She had an innocent look on her face which must have convinced Rahj that she was merely ignorant.

"Your government has always hated my kind," Rahj said, his voice a low growl that almost harmonized with the growl from Sandor outside. "They made it real hard to find land of our own. Our scales are resistant to magic and we went out into the desert to settle where other mortals were too scared to go."

"That is impressive, Mr. Blackscale," Clarity said. "I apologize for my ignorance, I had not known that the government had dealt you such a poor hand. It is shameful. I am sure that everybody in this room does not share in such prejudice."

Rahj grunted. "Thanks," he said. "We made it work out there but the government and all of the business types want back out there now that it's safer. I'm sure they'll take our land too."

"I hope they don't," Talbot said. "I never did cotton to how that worked out. You all should get first dibs, of course."

"Blackrance is going to go to the government about it," Rahj said. "He understands what it's like since he's drow. It's the only reason I agreed to guide all of you out there."

"You've talked in person to our illustrious patron?" Clarity asked. "I have only communicated with him via correspondence myself since I was out of country."

"He sent me a letter too," Talbot said. "I haven't met him."

"He came out into the desert," Rahj said. "Faced me like a man alongside that one." He pointed at Titus who nodded.

"I accompany Lord Blackrance on most occasions," Titus said softly. "This is a rare moment when I am not by his side."

"He came to see me at church," Ana said. "He vas very polite and convincing."

"So only half of us have met him," Talbot said. "Wait, that reminds me. What about the other one? The person across the hall from me? What is their deal?"

"Mr. Seneca has a complex situation so he and Lord Blackrance agreed that he would not meet you until Lord Blackrance could be present," Titus said. "Everything is going according to plan."

"You do realize how suspicious that is don't you?" Talbot asked, his eyes narrowing.

"I am very aware," Titus said with a smile. "I can only operate according to Lord Blackrance's wishes unless there is an emergency."

"A lot of rules go out the window in an emergency," Talbot said with a sage nod. "I remember that."

"I'm sure you do," Titus said.
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"Loki said nothing. He tried to look ashamed and succeeded simply in looking pleased with himself." - Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology