For those used to either Vesper or Dogwood, Fairbrook – an industrial city-state north of Dogwood – is… primitive. What technology exists within it is bought from it’s southern neighbor. The locally produced stuff is no more advanced than steam engines and gas lamps and that gives the city a somewhat… dirty. Not as dirty as it might be were it bigger but still.
The meeting place is by the river. The name of the river has since been forgotten but it serves as one of the main transportation arteries to, from and in the city. The dockside warehouse is dirty… but then everything else is here as well. The agents in question are no doubt inside. Making Varos come to them.
He’s been in worse places, and even when one might think they’ve found some place to claim as ‘worst,’ there usually seems to be somewhere vying for the title just around the corner. As with all his missions, Varos has done his best to gather what information he could about the town. You hear about places but it’s always different to be there for yourself. Words don’t do justice for describing things, and smells and sounds are additional layers to a picture only to be completed through the eyes of others.
It’s probably the furthest he’s ever been away from Vesper, or at least, the furthest he’s ever been so far as he can remember. It’s not a place he would have ever decided to vacation in, and he’s only glad that he doesn’t necessarily need light to see for the overall dingy impression he gets of his surroundings. The layout he’d learned of the place had been a general one, probably not updated all too recently, but then it doesn’t seem like this place tends to update itself very often. It’s a strange, strange place all the same.
He doesn’t come in armor, dressing for travel, not to be noticed, but to blend. His attire’s a mix of neutral grays and dark browns, a heavy and somewhat raggedy-ended cloak concealing most of him, its hood pulled over his head. The visor he wears is a dull, beaten thing of pewter, treated so it won’t reflect the light, with four eye-like slits carved into it, backed in black.
Coming towards the river, he turns his head and his perceptions towards the warehouse just before him, frowning. He wants to get as clear an idea as to what and who’s waiting inside before he actually sets foot within.
Don’t come in armour. That had been the instruction if she was going to accompany Varos. That had worried a certain blonde winged warrior but then … there was a sensitivity to the mission. Ardul is dressed in leather leggings and a tunic, the silver cylinder strapped to her belt. It’s not much of a disguise, as these things go, the Iyesgarthian can’t hide the fact she’s a soldier, or the wings, really.
“What do you think, Mister Jenek.” she murmurs softly. “That looks like a perfect place for an ambush.”
Hunter is still in armor, though that armor is a red dyed raptor leather duster. He thought about bringing something a bit less obvious but there aren’t that many wolfen around so what the hell. He likes this duster anyway. It’s been with him for a while. And red goes so well with his fur color.
Whatever is in the building the answer is ‘at least one psychic.’ Varos knows this because there’s a difference between his sight not finding anything and his sight being blocked. This time it’s definitely being blocked by someone with the ability to shield minds. Which means that someone has done some research on Varos. Possibly of an intensely personal nature.
There is one obvious entrance to the building. A side door that is ajar. The rest of it looks locked down pretty tightly.
“What I think? I don’t like this one bit,” Varos replies, although the smirk he wears seems at odds with his words. It’s not a happy expression, however. He doesn’t like what he’s sensing in there, or not sensing, rather. He might just be a little gladder for his present company.
“I know they’re expecting me. They aren’t expecting you. Of course, I don’t know if they might already be aware that you’re both here, but it’s probably better to assume that the moment we entered this town, they might have known.”
He turns his head towards Ardul. “I won’t disagree on that opinion. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of information on who I’m meeting to know what to expect.” Sighing, he shrugs and starts to go ahead. “I won’t tell you what to do, but I’ll ask you not to accompany me.”
It’s him they want, after all. But he didn’t say they couldn’t come in on their own volition, if they so desired.
Ardul rather likes that red leather coat that Hunter wears. So much so, she’s had the tailor repair it the few times it’s been damaged badly. And she really hadn’t expected him to do without it. Unfortunately she’s nothing quite so … dapper … when not in her gleaming silver armour. The only adornment she wears is the beaten metal cuff on her right wrist, the one with Wolfen symbols covering it – she’s never without it these days.
From her experiences, Ardul recognises the look that Varos gives her. The smirk interpreted as just what it is. She’s serious, but then she usually is – Hunter is the only one who’s ever really seen her relaxed and those times are fleeting at best.
“You asked us to come with you, I’ll not leave you now and I agree that know we’re all here. Still…” she glances to Hunter and looks at the roof of the building. “… I could provide overwatch and come from the top if needed. That is, if you agree, Hunter.” That might prove redundant if they know they’re all there but could it hurt?
“Oh I don’t know. I think I might take a walk, Ardul.” Hunter rumbles. “Say, oh, around the back of that warehouse? Might be scenic. Never know what’s around the corner.” He might, of his own free will and volition, just sort of amble on behind the building and see what’s there. Perfectly unrelated to anything Varos might be doing of course.
Hunter sticks his hands in his pockets against the wind and nods to the other two as he starts to ‘take that walk’.
The inside of the warehouse is dim but not dark. What electricity is generated here doesn’t usually go to places like this so the lamps that are burning use natural gas and the smell of it pervades the room. The flickering light reveals a path cleared amid all the boxes and crates that leads to a chair. There’s a man, or possibly a rather large woman, sitting in the chair, head bowed and long hair hanging limply about his or her face. To either side there are two… guards, possibly. Both in featureless porcelain masks, both hands folded in front of them as they watch.
“Come in Mister Jenek. We’ve been expecting you.” The voice… doesn’t sound quite… right. It’s hoarse and raspy and sounds… forced. “And your lovely companion as well…”
The exchange amuses him, and he finds himself liking the odd pair that’s accompanied him all the more. To Ardul he simply shrugs, but at least with her he’ll have eyes to better see some things.
Inside, he doesn’t lose his smirk. A clear path to his appointment. Thoughtful. He takes a moment before starting forward towards the voice he hears speak up. His brow does furrow beneath his visor, uncertain of what to make of the odd tone. Something’s not right.
He gauges the distance he keeps from them roughly, by any subtle creaks of the flooring, the way it might betray the weight of something in the center of the room as opposed to the crates to the side. He listens for breathing, for anything to use as some sort of demarcation. It’s not a situation he’s unprepared for. It’s just a slight spin on the things Saphra’s trained him for.
With the invitation extended to Ardul, he doesn’t glance back at her. “She’ll come if she wants to,” he replies, finally stopping some several meters from the chair, its occupant and the two flanking it. He nudges back his hood with a hand.
Ardul would have gone ‘for a walk’ with Hunter, they certainly are an odd pair at that. “Be careful.” she tells him, running a hand down his arm as he goes. “I want you in one piece …” Then she turns and flanks Varos as he heads to the warehouse.
The smell makes her wrinkle her nose and be thankful that she doesn’t have as keen senses as her Wolfen companion, still her hearing is better than average, as is her eyesight and when her eyes adjust to the gloom, she peers into the room. “I’ll not leave you…” she reiterates, standing just behind the tailor and to the left, when he stops.
His ‘so’ has her grey eyes rising to the figures before them and she waits, to see how they’ll respond.
As Varos and Ardul approach the figure raises its head. It’s a man… or… was. The skin pallid, wet and cracked. There’s some kind of… lichen or moss growing in those cracks. There’s also moss growing where there should be eyes and running in veins through the hair.
“So…” The voice still sounds forced but it’s clear why now. Every movement of the form before them is like a poorly controlled marionette. Jerky and imprecise. No fluid grace. The form before them is clearly alive… but how is not quite clear.
“You have come, I take it, to take up our invitation and turn yourself in thus avoiding any… unfortunate business with your business associates Anyn and Raksha? Lovely young ladies. Quite capable I hear too. It would be a shame to see their potential wasted.”
It’s through Ardul’s eyes that Varos properly sees the person they’re meeting, if that’s even the right thing to call them. Nodding at Ardul’s words, his attention however remains trained upon the seated figure and its flanking field goal posts. He barely manages to suppress a shudder. There are some things he might have preferred not to have been able to see, and this decaying thing he’s speaking to is disturbing to say the least.
“Very capable, the both of them. If they knew what I was doing, they would probably have gutted me,” he grins. “And then they’d give you a turn. That’s not to say I can’t help but feel I might like to do the same, but to be fair, I don’t take kindly to associates being threatened.”
He’s careful about not taking in too deep a breath in here, not all that crazy about the smell either, although it’s at least not like the sewers.
It’s testimony to Ardul’s training that she doesn’t flinch as the creature becomes visible. It’s the movements that make her wonder just how autonomous this being might be. “I didn’t get your name.” she says quite clearly, a tinge of ice colouring her tone.
As she speaks, she looks around the room they find themselves in, peering into the dark corners and shadows, making sure they’re truly alone with these three. Somethings off, and she knows it, but she can’t quite put her finger on it … yet.
She’s also left the communication unit that she and Hunter use open, so the Wolfen can hear the exchange.
“I am the Host…” The man-fungus-thing says. It rises to a number of wet squishing sounds. He-it is tall. Taller than Ardul and much taller than Varos.
“No. I imagine not. But here you are. We’ve a suitable crate for you…” An open box is indicated. It is a crate. Varos is apparently meant to get inside it at some point before the lid is shut over him. “I take it you’ve already come to terms with the nature of this agreement? Or do I need to spell it out?”
With Ardul keeping an eye on the peripheral, Varos can keep his own attention on what’s before them while passively seeing what the winged woman sees of their surroundings. But once they are directed to look towards the crate, the visored clothier’s grin drops away completely.
“…you’re not kidding,” he murmurs, finally appearing to look a bit disturbed as he’d been feeling, although in a different way than in reaction to fungi-man. He forces a laugh. “You want me to sit in a box?”
Ardul used to dealing with taller beings – Hunters far taller than her, after all. She looks up as the Host rises and resists the urge to put her hand on the cylinder at her hip. No need to broadcast anything yet.
“I haven’t come to terms with them yet.” She says just as frostily as before. “Why don’t you enlighten me and tell me what your interest in my companion here is and why you want him to …” her eyes cut to Varos for a moment “… sit in a box. Also. Host to what?”
“How did you think you were going to be transported. You didn’t think that we were going to make use of you here, did you?” The Host says with a wet laugh that devolves into a cough. For all that he’s grown through with moss, he looks fairly… sturdy. Solid. Strong, even.
“Not that manner of Host, winged one. I am the one who is many. The Host.” Ah, as in a host of annoying mossy parasites perhaps?
“If you have not come to terms with the offer then why are you here?”
Hunter has probably found the back by now. What he’s doing on his stroll isn’t clear but Ardul can hear scraping and clicking, like metal against metal albeit in very small pieces.
Varos has mastered the art of delivering dry looks despite having no visible eyes. “No one said anything about being transported, much less in a box.” He frowns, but keeps his arms loose at his sides, on the off chance he might need to have the comforting feel of a knife in his hands, his whole form practically swallowed by the cloak he wears.
“What sort of use are we speaking of? If I’m being hired for a job then I like to know details, and I don’t fancy the idea of being treated as cargo.” He takes a step back, if only because the coughing from the thing is little more disgusting than the laugh that had come from it. “Mister The Host, are you the one trying to secure my services, or are you here in Von Nasher’s stead? You ask why I’m here? I’m here for answers.”
There’s little for Ardul to do at this point except be ready in case of trouble. The Hosts name means little to her, but she stores the information for later. Never know when that might come in handy.
The scratching sound has her head canting ever so slightly, not noticeably though. Metal on Metal, might not be good. “Who else is here?”
“I am an agent of the Baron…” The Host says looking and sounding displeased. “As you know there is a price on your head or specifically… your eyes. If you save us the trouble of continuing to hunt you, we will save you the trouble of watching your friends get hurt because of your recalcitrance…” Mossy not-eyes bore into Varos.
And then the Host smiles. “However if you wish to make another deal… perhaps trade a pair of Iyesgarthian Wings instead, perhaps the Baron might be convinced that he doesn’t need your eyes after all.”
The question of who else is here gets a blank look and Ardul hears a ‘click’ and a satisfied gruff over the comm.
“Oh, I know that. I want to know why,” Varos states. He doesn’t like that pause from the Host, but he’s come to figure that such an oddly specific request wouldn’t have been made if the Baron didn’t know exactly what he was capable of. That part still bothers him.
His response at the Host’s suggestion for an alternative deal is absolutely frigid as he takes a step forward, sweeping a hand out in a cutting motion to accentuate his words. “No deal. She’s not part of this.” He may not know Ardul very well, but he hadn’t brought her to barter. “…if it’s me you want, then I’ll get in the damn box.”
The satisfied gruff over the comm has the Valkyr sighing internally. It was Hunter she heard.
The Hosts blank look gets a raised eyebrow. “I was just wondering if it was only you three here. Someone as important as yourself would surely have more … attendants …. ” she covers smoothly although her wings move restlessly at the mention of them.
That he-it knows she’s an Iyesgarthian means they’re fairly well connected – it’s not that she’s kept it a secret but still. Her hand falls on the tailor’s shoulder, stopping him moving towards the box if that’s what he was going to do. “So the Baron is simply paying you to deliver Mister Jenek? How much? Maybe I could offer more than wings …”
What? That’s a good question but if these are just bounty hunters then they might negotiate, surely.
“Oh the Baron is paying for so much more than that, Iyesgarthian. And I can know other people who would pay quite well for more than just your wings as well…” The Host smiles a very mossy smile.
“Did you hear that, Boxy? He said he’d go?” The box actually growls. Which is not at all a pleasant sound.
“Well then Mister Jenek. Your chariot awa-”
A beam of ruby red light goes through the Host’s chest. It looks down as if confused why there’s a hole where there wasn’t before.
“Huh.” Comes Hunter’s gruff voice from behind the big chair. “People usually react more noisily to that.”
The guards turn. Hunter guns both of them down in less time than it takes to blink.
“That’s more like it.”
The whole point of his having people he didn’t usually associate with accompany him out here was in hopes of avoiding getting them so personally caught up in things. Perhaps he should have done a little more research on Ardul and Hunter, but Varos is still upset at himself for the unwanted attention on Ardul now. At her touch he turns his head towards her, looking about to object.
Instead he’s whipping his head back about to ‘glare’ in the Host’s direction, although hearing the sound come out from the box is a little more than unsettling. Wait, is that thing alive?
A not-so-new viewpoint enters his range of psyvision unhindered, and a soundless laugh escapes Varos as the two guards go down. He pulls away from Ardul, his cloak swirling as he comes in low at the Host, a red shape coalescing around his forearm into a curved, scythe-like blade that he swings outward at the tall thing’s legs.
“I’m sure they would. I’d be insulted if they didn’t.” Ardul answers dryly, giving Varos’ shoulder a small squeeze before looking at the growling box in some surprise.
That’s not good.
“About time you got here.” another dry response follows Hunters actions as the blonde unclips the cylinder from her hip and spins, the energy blade humming to life as it scythes through the air at the box.
It’s a little unlike her, really, to act without knowing more but something tells her that box isn’t good and is better of firewood, or something.
Varos rather easily cuts the Host’s legs off above the knee which is odd. Beings from other worlds are often quite tough. Ardul’s choice to prioritize the box becomes prescient when it actually leaps at Varos only to land on the other side of him as splintered kindling.
The host laughs and coughs wetly. “Oh… it’s going to take a bit more than that Varos. You agreed to go. And the box will see to it…”
And indeed, the box starts putting itself back together.
Hunter shoots it. Twice. Planks burst and explode from the heat… and just start to… come back together after a few moments.
“Sooooo… That’s not good.”
Varos frowns. Well, he can’t say that it hadn’t come out as intended. Given the thing’s form, he’d wanted to keep it from going anywhere so he could figure out how to get the answers he wanted from it. He’s never really learned how to torture lichen, though….
There’s also that close *whoosh* past him that sounds disturbingly wooden. Any praise he seems about to give Ardul as she seemingly takes out the box fiend fades as quickly as the smile on his face as he hears the scraping of splinters and wood drag itself back together. As Hunter shoots at it, Varos brings up an arm, but the thing just keeps trying to reform itself.
“…is that ever an understatement,” he mutters at the Wolfen’s words. He points towards the lamps lining the walls. “I wonder how fireproof the thing is…”
Ardul had noticed Varos’ attack and she makes, seemingly, short work of the box she turns to look at the man. Anything she’s about to say though, is cut short as the splinters can be heard dragging themselves together and Hunter shoots the box this time.
“I’m not sure what I’m more worried about. That The Host is still talking despite Hunter shooting it and you cutting it legs off or …” she spins, kicking some of the splinters away, slowing the things reassembly for a moment “… this. Try the fire but what are we going to do about that…”
She points to the Host who seems to be laughing at them “Back home, I’d suggest a cup of cupric sulfate to get rid of it.”
“Burn me too, if you like…” The Host laughs. “It doesn’t matter. This body is just a means to an end. I can get others. I am endless…”
“Don’t mind if I do then…” Hunter goes looking for something flamable. If Varos and Ardul want to burn the box they’re going to have to get on it. And fast.
Why, exactly, was Varos supposed to get into a living box? What was going to happen to him when he did? Was it simply a matter of being taken somewhere? And if so… where?
There are way too many questions than he started with and Varos hadn’t counted on some kind of sentient, regenerating box to be part of the whole thing. He grins almost maliciously in Hunter’s direction as he leaves the Wolfen to deal with the Host. “Well, I was going to see if it’d answer some things but at this point I just want it to shut up.”
He nods at Ardul and then moves- towards the box as it reforms again, snatching up one of the twitching splinter shards as he keeps moving towards the crate stacks. He gets about half way up towards the nearest lamp before pausing. “-er, this whole place might just go up in flames-” he realizes, if the permeating smell had anything to say about it, and if not, well, there’s still too much tinder. But he doesn’t seem completely adverse to setting the whole warehouse aflame. Just…not with them in it.
“Kill them then.” The blonde says coolly. She’s all business and there’s no hesitation in the decision she’s made. “But get a sample of that bo…” she stops as Varos is ahead of there and takes the lamp from him.
“You and Hunter go. I’ll set this alight and follow you. I’m fastest of all of us here, I believe.” That’s possible, isn’t it? She’ll wait till the other two are clear from the area, and drag the remains of the lichen lord towards the splinters, before setting the pile alight.
The she’ll fly as fast as she can get to out of there.
Hunter returns from opening one of the gas lines. He nods to Ardul having heard her plan. “Hope you got what you were looking for, Mister Jenek because I think it’s time for us to leave.” The building, the street and probably the city. They don’t want to answer any… questions, really.
“We’ll wait for you outside, Ardul. Don’t dally.” Because it’s about to get real hot in here. The fires consume the bodies. The only real question is… what is Varos going to do next?
“I’m glad we’re all of a like mind in this,” Varos says almost too cheerfully as he passes off the lamp. He nods at Ardul, casting a wary look in the direction of the twitchy crate and Host pile. “Me too….” he says almost under his breath in response to Hunter, moving to dash back towards the door. As far as he’s concerned, they’ve probably overstayed their welcome in this city. That warehouse was such a fire hazard though!
He trusts the two to be out after him, Ardul sounding confident enough that he’ll leave her to do the deed. Varos tugs his hood back over his head as soon as they’re outside, continuing to move so they can put some distance between themselves and the soon burning warehouse. Looks like it’s back to Vesper for them. His hand eases slightly around the chunk of wood he’d collected, wondering if it would provide any further clue. He’d hate to come back with only a scrap of firewood for their efforts…
Ardul waits till the pair are clear, kicking splinters around to stop the box reforming. It’s not easy and even less so once she tries to light the fire.
Her wings flare out as the flames catch and she moves, incredibly fast. Not quite fast enough though, to avoid the backdraft from the explosion when it goes off, and she tumbles to the ground at Hunters feet, wings drooping on the ground around her.
“I… didn’t dally, Hunter…”
It’s time though, they leave this town and be on their way.