The alerts had gone out to the houses along the Western Marches about three hours ago.
A party of demons had boiled down from the Appalachians and hit one of the Taniguchi holdings on the outer edge. Zelda had fought valiantly in her Puma Mech, but there’d been a lot and assistance had been needed.
Thanks to the response of the neighbouring landholders, the Houstons to the East and the Blundells to the West, as well as a couple of freelancers who just happened to be in the area, the attack had been turned back.
But not before tracts of crops had been destroyed and a couple of the landholders critically injured.
It’s dark now, and there are torch lights flickering at the makeshift ‘command post’ that’s been set up. Kneeling beside one of the injured, is a tall dark haired woman with an asian cast to her features. “How many?” She asks one of the men standing around. “How many were injured this time?”
Ronin heard about the alert, while he as at the bar by the docks and came as fast as his battered northern gun hovercycle could go as soon as he could get himself ready. It is amazing how fast news travels in a bar, even to those who don’t really drink that much but hang out to hear any rumors or news of recent events. The Asian gunfighter, passed a few security check points to get to the command post but his creditials checked out or merely from reputation. Parking his hovercycle, he turns off the engine, steps off and makes sure to secure his laser rifle as well as shotgun to the cycle before stepping away. These weapons ain’t cheap and they’ve been with him a long time. He glances around, removing his Aviator sunglasses tucking them into a side pocket of his black leather trenchcoat. He adjusts his cowboy hat on his head and walks towards the lady that looks like she in charge, waiting patiently before addressing her with a tip of his hat. “Greetings, miss. I’m sorry to hear about the attacks and what happened to your troops. I estimate about 13 wounded from what I saw when I passed the medical tent. My name is Ronin. I hear you may need some assistance?”Of all the days to take a ‘scenic route’ in order to learn more of the local lie of the land. For a would-be scout, such knowledge is rather important. But Valeska’s kindness in showing her the major landmarks in Western Dogwood resulted in Catriona and her companion finding themselves neck-deep in demons. Now, the duo – neither of whom look much like natives of the Kingdom – are to be found in camp, having escorted in some of those wounded. Currently, they’re lurking at the back of the tent, with Catriona (at least) fighting the urge to activate Subtlety and get away from all the heavily-armed potential magic-haters in the vicinity.
Valeska is focused on the bandages she’s wrapping around one warrior’s chest, kneeling down. She seems pretty comfortable wherever she is, even in circumstances which might get her killed. The detour had gotten her mind off of certain information that had been bothering the hell out of her, and this is doing the trick as well. She’s serene as she snips the bandages neatly and clips them. “There you go,” she murmured. Her healing ability is, sadly, magical. She’d have to give herself away to make those cures work particularly well–not to mention wearing herself out–but she can still help out, and help she does, without much question. It’s basic first aid, but it’s help.
“Thirteen…” Natsuki Taniguchi speaks quietly as she closes her eyes for a moment and scrubs her face before gracefully rising to her feet. She’s dressed in a pants suit – casual, yet well made and smart. Well, it was smart … now it’s just wrinkled and mussed. Still, she manages to exuded elegance as she moves.
Her long black hair falls down her back and as she brushes a strand back, reveals pointed ears. A part-elf. In Dogwood. In charge. Interesting.
Holding her hand out to Ronin, she offers a tired smile “Natsuki Taniguchi, Estate Manager for House Taniguchi.” Gesturing, she enters the tent and shakes her head again as she takes in the wounded. “Thirteen. Mostly landholders, by the look. What’s the status on Lady Taniguchi?” She asks Valeska.
Valeska will know that Zelda had given chase to the fleeing demons. When she’d last been seen, she was whole.
“What’s the status of these people, please?” That’s to Wraith.
Ronins offer of assistance hasn’t been missed though “Are you able to chase demons, Mister Ronin?”
Ronin regards Natsuki for a moment with a careful glance, then clasps the Elf’s hand with his calloused one in a firm hand shake. “Pleasure to meet you Lady Natsuki Taniguchi, despite the rather unfortunate circumstances.” He releases his grip quickly, as if not wanting to cause any discomfort to the Lady’s hand. He glances at Valeska when she’s addressed by Natsuki, taking note of appearance and listening to the conversation with a respectful expression. Wraith gets a similar glance and then he replies to Natsuiki when spoken to once more, “Demons? I’ve dealt with their kind before and I can fight them but I’ll need a tracker if you have one since I’m not familiar with these lands.”Wraith’s eyes narrow momentarily as she spots that ear. She’d heard rumours of a half-elven aristocrat in Dogwood, but had thought she was having her leg pulled. Then the part-fae speaks to her, and she starts a little. “I, ahh…. Better than they could be,” she offers. Which is true, for at least those she and Valeska brought in. Psychic healing might not be trusted in Dogwood, but it did at least give her the chance to surreptitiously ensure that all of her charges were on the right side of the odds for survival before she delivered them to their liege’s men. “We” – she nods to Valeska – “could potentially help with either the tracking or the healing. Though I think that everyone here should be stable for the time being.” They smell, frankly, too tempting to be right at death’s door… which helps to explain her being too flustered to give the elf her name.
“Giving chase, and whole,” Valeska says, but she looks to Ronin thoughtfully. “This is Cat, and I’m Valeska. And she’s right. I happen to know this area well, and I’m a good tracker. Cat’s an outstanding scout. And both of us know our way around a fight. If it’s tracking demons you need well…we can offer our services indeed.” She pauses to wash her hands, but then offers one to Ronin by way of greeting.
The rumours that Wraith has heard are indeed true. The part-elf granddaughter of a Dogwood Knight. A Dogwood Knight who’s second marriage was to a full elf – and they had a child. The Taniguchi clan had fallen from grace with that scandal and lost their lands. Until the fallen knights son (from his first marriage) had redeemed them.
“Miss.” Suki corrects Ronin with a gentle smile. “Miss Taniguchi. Lady Taniguchi is my cousin, a Dogwood Knight. I’m simply the Estate Manager.”
“Thank you, Valeska and Cat.” she inclines her head to both Wraith and Valeska for their updates and their assistance, gesturing to a grey haired man who is lingering. “Tea for our helpers, please, Richard. And arrange to get the injured moved out.” Considering the group and the offers, she frowns. “This isn’t the first attack we’ve experienced in recent times. Just … the most blatant. If they continue, there’ll be no crops …” the three can draw their conclusions on what that might mean – to the holders who work the land, to the Taniguchi’s and to Dogwood in general. Cause it’s not just the Taniguchi lands that are impacted.
“Pardon me, lady Taniguchi but I was taught that the term “lady” is a polite way to address a woman regardless of a title or nobility. Miss is also acceptable. So if you prefer miss, then so be it.” Ronin replies in a respectful tone, not seeming to be bothered by Elf ears, the rather graphic injuries to those around him or by the two other ladies who are present and now identified as trackers.
Ronin then turns his attention to Valeska after she washes her hands and then extends one hand towards him in greeting. He tips his hat tatttooed Atlatean and grasps her hand in the same firm grip as he did Lady Natsuki but holds the handshake a bit longer. “Nice to make your acquaintance, miss Valeska and same to you, Cat. I guess I’ve got my trackers then. Good. We can get started as soon as the two of you are ready.” He then regards Lady Natsuki once more after her comment about the crops. “Understood. Now, I don’t mean to be rude but I’d like to discuss the terms of job before I set off. What is the primary goal and are their any secondary objectives? Is this a rescue mission to track down your Knight cousin or simply demon hunting?” he says this matter of factly and with a neutral expression.“I believe that Lady Taniguchi is the renowned Puma Knight,” Cat risks saying. “I suspect that any retreating raiders will be doing their best to steer clear of her and her steed. But….” She looks to Valeska, nodding slightly. “We should be able to track demons, unless there are key differences between different groups involved.” She quite literally has the scent of some of those involved, after all. “But I apologise. Should there be any specific requirements, Estate Manager, then Master Ronin is indeed correct to ask.”
Here, Valeska just listens and waits. The two have asked wise questions. It would be unwise to interrupt the flow of the answers with unnecessary babble. Speaking when she has something to say and only then has always served her well. Still, that attentiveness is almost palpable, something that can be felt as a contribution to the conversation in its own right.
Ronin gets a warm smile from the, normally, rather flirtatious Taniguchi. “That may be the case, Mister Ronin, but the Dogwood Nobility would not be happy to hear me addressed as such. Let’s just say it’s … safer this way.” She might be tolerated in the nobles circles, but that doesn’t mean they have to accept her.
“Just so, Cat. Lady Zelda is the Puma Paladin and I believe that she’ll be quite alright.” That won’t stop the part-elf from worrying, but Zelda really does know how to look after herself.
As they talk, Richard returns, with tea for all present. He also hands Natsuki her tablet … which she spends a few tapping at before displaying the screen to the three. “Right now, we’ve little to go on. As I said, the attacks have been sporadic and today … the most blatant. All we know at the moment, is that they come from the Appalachians and that the Psi-Stalkers can’t keep them at bay is equally worrying.” Gesturing to the screen of her tablet “This is a map of the border of our lands and this is where the attacks have been reported. It might give you something to go on…”
“If you wish to assist, find them. Find out if they are the same group or if I’m just jumping at shadows.”
Tha normally taciturn and serious minded, Asian gunfighter’s lips curl up just ever so slightly in response to Natsuki’s warm smile and he nods to the Elf’s comments about Nobility politics.
He quirks an eyebrow slightly at the mention of the Puma Paladin but doesn’t comment about whether he’s heard of her or not.
Ronin, graciously accepts the tea cup with both hands, bowing his head slighlty as he was taught by either family customs or from his time as Gunfighter. “Thanks.” He turns the tea cup around in his hands, looking at the liquid as if he’s studying tea leaves or something and then blows on the top of it gently to cool it before taking a small sip after he’s inhaled the fragence. “Nice brew. I haven’t had something like this in a long time. What is it called?” He then nods once more after Natsuki explains the map, then walks around to take a look at it, motioning for the two trackers to come take a look as well. “So this is a recon mission then? Plain and simple. We’ll find where the demons are holing up and report back, their numbers, composition and any vulnerabilities we can find.” He then glances towards Cat and Valeska to see if they have any comments.Catriona offers Richard a sincerely grateful smile and inclination of her head, tucking into the tea with more enthusiasm than she might normally evince, employing the hot, aromatic liquid as a barrier against the array of distracting scents surrounding her. Then, in response to the mute invitation of the tablet she moves closer… and finds her attention split between the map, her tea, and the close proximity of a kind of being she simply can’t recall smelling before.
“This should help a lot. Thank you,” she says, darting a glance to Valeska to check that the guide can actually measure her knowledge against the representation on the screen.
Valeska does much the same as Ronin in regard to the tea, and she sips it quietly. Valeska studies the map for a long moment, then nods her head. “I can work with this–it’s a good start. It can be tough terrain, but it’s still within areas I’ve walked and travelled. But if there aren’t any more questions we should leave sooner rather than later. The thing about trails is they have a time limit, and the sooner we get on it the more likely we are to be successful.” She glances to the other two to see if they /do/ have more questions.
“We can offer some recompense, of course.” Natsuki looks between three adventurers. “I would be most grateful for the assistance.” The tea gets a look at Ronin’s question and Cats obvious appreciation. It’s not common in the area – as the lands don’t really support the growing of tea “Midnight Dreaming. That’s what I call it. It generally helps me sleep.”
If she notices Cats discomfit in the tent, she doesn’t comment on it. There’s wounded and there’s been a battle.
“Miss Taniguchi, the transports are here. They’ll take the wounded now.” Some will be returned to their dwellings, others to a medical facility (likely the manor as facilities this far out from the city are unusual).
With practiced efficiency, the Taniguchi staff start moving the wounded away.
“My thanks then” ‘Suki addresses the three “and if you wish to be gone, I’ll not detain you further. Return to the manor when you’re ready.”
Something tells her though, that these three are likely to be scouting the mountains for a while.
“Hmm…you throw in a dozen tea bags of Midnight Dreaming then and you’ve got yourself a deal, miss Natsuki.” Ronin replies with a slight smirk and a mischievious tone. He watches at the wounded get carted away and waits for the staff to clear out before answering. “Yes, we will be heading out now as miss Valeska stated, time of the essence for tracking the demons down.” He nods to Valeska and Cat, as he moves away from the Elf, adjusting his cowboy hat and finishing off the rest of the tea, savouring the lasts sip before putting the cup back down gently on the table. “Valeska, Cat, I’ll be waiting by my hovercycle. Good day to you Lady Natsuki and we’ll be seeing you soon.” He doesn’t pause to see her reaction to him calling her a lady once more and then exits the tent to head back to his vehicle.Catriona offers the not-exactly-a-noble a half-bow and a wry smile… before looking back to the others, her expression pensive. So much for a brief detour before seeking aid for a technological query in Dogwood… but should they manage to earn a favour from a noble house, that could be worth a vast amount at present. She ventures a smile for Valeska, then looks to Ronin as he implicitly tangles with the Kingdom’s aristocracy en masse over their etiquette. Then she chuckles softly. “So…” She arches a brow at Val. “D’you want to perch behind him, be carried by me, fly, or run at your own pace?”, she asks dryly.
“I have to be on the ground to track,” she says, “And I’d like to conserve my strength. Let’s meet up with him, but you can carry me to the trailhead. After that, well, we’ll have to see what we find when we get there. Good day to you, Miss Natsuki. I shall hope that we return with good news.” She drains her tea–it seems criminal not to drink it all–and waits for Wraith before proceeding herself.“I, ahh, have their scent, I think,” Catriona says sheepishly. “And can see in the dark. Though I suppose your talents might let you do that, *and* track them come to think of it.” She, too, polishes off her tea, before heading out to join Ronin.
A demon incursion on the borders of the Western Marches have plans being made
December 19, 2409