It’s about three hours after Teddy and Megana were firmly escorted to the edges of Old Richmond and shown the door. Skirting the military checkpoint wasn’t too hard since they’re on horses and not anything particularly heavy. The road back to Vesper proper isn’t a short one though, since they have to head all the way around the Petersburg Bay. If indeed they’re headed back to Vesper.
There’s a village a few miles ahead called Windsor Hills which is the last settlement before the Richmond perimeter road and the ring of military checkpoints this side of the James that mark Vesper’s border with it. It’s a sleepy little place of just five hundred souls but it’ll have an inn. It’d be a good place to regroup and figure out what on earth Teddy is going to do now that his lead isn’t quite a lead anymore.
“Blood magic,” Sir Mercier mutters aloud.
He ‘reins in’ his metallic mount — Horse, by name. Imaginative, yes — and swings a leg over the droid’s head to slide to the ground outside the Windsor Hills inn.
“That’s the only reason ah can think of, them wantin’ yo’ blood, Meg…” he continues on saying. They’ve already had this conversation, and it is still grating at him. “Ah’m almost certain were demons there… that one with the voices… ah’ll be hornswaggled afore ah deal with any o’ their ilk…”
He turns around with a sweep of his cloak, the visor of his helm gleaming a brilliant amber. “So if *demons* really are consortin’ with the College o’ Free Thought… who’s the mo’ corrupt? The College ‘n Senator Trimble? Or the Thirty? We don’ even know if they’re any *other* players involved in this… ‘game o’ blood.’ Maybe they *weren’t* the College, and jus’ *said* they were…?”
Yes. They’ve had this conversation before.
And it STILL has the knight seriously vexed.
Startled by Teddy’s voice, the Shifter catches herself before she falls off Pony. “I didn’t do-oh.” That again. “Yes there were demons. At least *a* demon.” She pauses to listen to te rest. Yep. They’re totally gonna die.. Megana sighs and nods. “All of them are. Everyone is. Why does it matter? Even if they weren’t they were still assholes.” She glowers and then scowls at her Knight. She still can’t believe they got out of there in one piece. He. Put. On. The. Thing. And she can’t even say anything else about it!Nixi clears her throat from the roof edge where she sits watching Megana and Teddy. She certainly wasn’t there a little earlier. Now she is. What the hell.
“Anything troubling you both or your fanciful steeds?”
Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. That’s the sound of an approaching something and the approaching something is big. Its’ coming from behind Teddy and Megana and now Nix. From the direction of the Richmond that is. They’re in the village. So they should be safe. Ish. Right?
Is that a gleam of metal in the distane.
As it turns out, yes. Yes it is. It’s a vaguely lupine robot about twenty or so feet tall. Bristling with weapons. Headed right for Teddy, Meg and Nix.
Distracted at first by his own ward, Teddy retracts the faceplate of his helm and frowns at her. “What? What d’ya mean, ‘I didn’t d — ?’ What *did* you…” The man’s voice trails off as he hears (and feels) the thudding of heavy machinery on the ground.
Up goes the faceplate, visor glowing, and the Cyber-Knight slowly steps away from Horse (he’d never make it onto horseback before the robot fired) to face the pilot of said robot.
“State yo’ business,” he tells the newcomer. “Are ya friend or foe?”
She rolls her eyes and looks askance at Teddy. For real?? Yeah it’s totally gonna be their friend. Not gonna try and kill them at all. ‘And I can’t say anything! ..Maybe just.. one little thing.’ “Well. At least you aren’t wearing a ‘stupid helm’ this time.” She smirks at her Guardian.Nixi squints off at the approaching armor “I am… nearly positive that is Hunter and he is not very likely to be stomping you flat.” she pauses “Nearly positive.” of course as she says it she fades completely from view going invisible once more.
As the lupine robot approaches from behind the group, a tall blonde woman with large grey wings steps out of the inn. Her silver armour is edged with blue and at her hip is the hilt of a sword.
Looking towards the robot, she smirks just a little and leans back against the door waiting to see how this plays out.
The robot stops. It’s battle scarred. The paint on it is scorched in several places. The twin auto-railguns on the right arm look hot and recently used. There is no way a fight with this thing won’t level half the town.
“Seriously?” Is what comes out of the speakers. “Friend or foe? Get out of the way. You’re in the parking spot and I don’t want to crunch your horse stepping over you.”
The loudspeaker cuts off before it can pick up some of the muttering that follows but the robot starts to maneuver again. It looks like the pilot intends to park it next to the inn.
The Cyber-Knight lets out a breath, and rolls his eyes behind his visor… yet there is only the slightest shift in his shoulders to betray his irritation.
Which is… considerable.
“Don’ have time fo’ this…” he mutters, audible enough for Megana (and likely Nixi if she is still there) to hear. He glances at the spot where the Cheshire dragon had last been seen… and scowls.
“Fine,” says he, stepping to the side. ‘How does anyone hunt in one o’ those things? Whole Earth ‘n half the ‘verse’d hear you comin’, ya little seagull perched way on high…’
That is how Teddy is thinking at the moment. “Rough day…” is what he says aloud.
‘Teddy’ll care though. Of course. Half of these people are probably friends with those College terrorists.’ The Shifter mentally rolls her eyes. Still havta save them won’t we? But it just wants to park? Maybe someone’s in there. Huh.’ What is it..what is it..what..who? She watches with rapt interest, finally noticing the D-Bee that’s also watching. “Ooh Pretty.” Maaaaybe this town won’t be so bad after all. Also that redhead is here! And not the redhead she’s trying to avoid…there is one of those too isn’t there?..something something, i screwed up lady, and had to apologize.
Teddy’s voice pitched low in her ear draws Megana’s eyes back to him. “I’m hungry! I know you’re hungry too. You only get this kinda grump when you need to eat. C’mon.” Besides, she knows he’s eyeing up the wolfbot. He likes that kinda thing, annoyed inner grumpling aside. Megana can’t read his thoughts, but she hardly needs to at this point. Brown eyes widen. “Oooh what demon lords? Uh. I mean. What?! Demon lords!!”“He’s not so little.” The blonde says in an amused tone as Teddy grumps at the robot. “And I wouldn’t say he hunted exactly. From what I understand things that come through the rifts on this world might be rather dangerous… ” She waves a hand in the Robot Wolfs direction.
Nix isn’t wrong. The Gunwolf is a relatively new assault bot designed by the famed Great Lakes area weapons manufacturer Northern Gun. How exactly Hunter has one is a good question but the bot is built from the ground up to take on big threats. Large demons. Rampaging dragons. That kind of thing. It’s quite good at it too.
The bot shuts down and after a minute or so a hatch on the top back opens and a tall lupine D-Bee emerges to climb down. He’s eight feet tall at least, dressed in a olive drab jumpsuit and as soon as he gets to the bottom he takes his helmet off and tucks it under his arm. His left arm is cybernetic, well the hand is at least.
The wolfen waves to Nix whom he recognizes and to the winged woman. “Hey you two.” The other two, Megana and Teddy get a bit of a look.
“Sorry I’m late Ardul. Had to hold up. Vesper had a brief lockdown near the borders. Something about the daughter of one of the shipping magnates turning up dead.”
At least it’ll be interesting. ….’how often do you see that on a headstone? …They died with interest!.. that doesn’t sound right… I need food. That is a lot of armor and firepower though…I wonder why he’s here.’ Megana smiles up at Nix. She likes that one. “So like..if no one is gonna try to kill us or take us hostage or.. *Squinty pointed look at her Guardian but she doesn’t say it. Not a word!* “Anything else… Hi! It’s nice to meet ya!.” The Shifter waves at the two D-Bees.Ardul pushes herself upright, wings flexing as she straightens, watching Hunter as he arrives. “I’ve not been long here myself, Hunter. Only just got in from the job I went out on and the patrons here have kept me well entertained.” Whatever that means.
Turning her grey eyes on Nix, the winged woman regards her a little coolly before looking to Hunter and then back again. “I am a Iyesgardian.” Which Hunter might work out is likely what they call people from her city. “I don’t expect you’ve heard of it.” she gives a nod to Megana at the greeting, but it’s Hunter who commands her attention.
“A brief lockdown? Does that mean they found what they were looking for?” Ardul is making assumption but an educated one. “That sort of action in the wake of a murder normally means they fear the murderer will flee.”
“Do you think?” Hunter glances back up at the big lupine bot and then at down at himself. “Huh. You know that’s never come up before.” The wolfen’s tone is one of amusement. It’s totally come up before.
“Mmmm, no. I don’t think so. She had been attending a class at the Acvademy, radio said. Something went wrong. Something about some kind of… magical power drain? I expect people will be buzzing about it back in the city.”
It’s entirely coincidental that the wolfen brings this up within earshot of three people who had heard of a previous fatal magical power drain. But then coincidence is a funny thing, isn’t it?
“Hello, miss. Didn’t catch your name.” That’s to Megana.
Megana thinks its bad news. Like really bad. Murder kinda just..happens in Vesper. It happens most places really but Vesper.. some people will do anything to get ahead, or when they’re bored, or angry or.. to lock down the city over a single death? It seems strange to her. She doesn’t think its something that would usually be done, unless the target was someone or related to someone important.
The Shifter knows little about shipping though and hasn’t a clue how important the daughter of a shipping magnate would be…. Oh. Oh crap. Megana blinks and stares at the Wolfen. She’s willing to believe that this guy showing up and talking about it is coincidence but how the woman died.. not so much. “Dammit.”
She looks over but Teddy’s gone to get them a room. Whoohoo an actual bed! But he’s asking for her name. Her first instinct is to lie but that second her guardian reappears that’ll get blown right out of the water. “Megana. And that was my Guardian Teddy that’s wandering about here.” She normally introduces him with his title and full name. He’s drilled that into her. But they are being watched by.. someone. She’s at least gotta try to to keep them a little anonymous.“It’s unlikely you have.” Ardul murmurs to Nixi. “I’ve only been here a few days myself…” Which means she was dropped through a rift. “… and little is known about this world, where I’m from.”
“I don’t know about the ‘bot…” her grey eyes flash with mischief as she looks back to Hunter “I think the bot is better looking. But I’ll allow, it does look a little like you.” But the response of the other two to Hunters news has her looking at them “You know something of this?” she asks before glancing to the wolfen “Magical power drain? I’m given to understand that’s … very difficult to achieve and … frowned upon, here?”
Hunter doesn’t know thing one about magic. He’s simply here to end his patrol and eat. And to that end he gestures in the direction he’s going and sees if the others are going to follow. “Aren’t you a little old for a guardian, Megana?” She doesn’t look like she needs one. Then again looks can be deciving.
Nix gets a rather curious look as she murmurs. “Another one?” What’s ‘another one’? Another death or something else?
That is all unsaid though as she just slowly nods to Ardul “Sure.” and a smile from Nixi and then looks to Hunter. “Mhm. Seems so. String of those really.” not that descriptive “So.. is someone buying food.. I could use food…” always hungry.
The Wolfen’s question gives her pause. Normally her answer to that would be a resounding “Hell yes!” Except… except… It’s Teddy. All her grumpling aside she wouldn’t have it differently and the conversation from earlier is still fresh in her mind. “We’re family.” Megana smiles and shrugs. She chuckles at Nix and nods. “Cmon. I think we can manage that. I’m hungry too.”“A string of deaths? That sounds serious.” Ardul casts a look at Hunter. “Well that’s something, I suppose. Was there anything else mentioned on the radio…” she snorts as Nix asks about food and inclines her head “I’ve a table reserved inside. We were going to eat together before Hunter had to head out.”
Stepping out of the way to let the others past, the winged woman frowns at Shifter “On my world, when one comes of age, if you remain with your Guardian, you become Companions.” The capitalisation of the ‘C’ is audible.
“Sure Nix. Feel free to join us.” Megana might join as well, Hunter won’t complain too much. Food here isn’t //that// expensive. It’s kind of bland but it’s not expensive. It’s a trade-off.
The inside of the inn is lively enough for such a sleepy little town. There’s a good crowd and a lot of conversation. A lot of the patrons appear to be locals and they’re probably regulars. The little group is quickly shown to the table and given menus.
A string of deaths is kind of ominous. Not much for Hunter to do about it, his work lies in other directions. But it’s still kind of ominous.
“Only that we were to hold positions for a border lockdown. That was rescinded about an hour ago. I don’t think they caught anyone though. They just didn’t think any kind of lockdown was going to be effective. Girl was said to be completely drained of magic. I’d say it was a psi-stalker if I didn’t know any better. Certainly sounds like one of them.”
Talk of the border draws her attention back, that and the scent of food she didn’t try to cook herself. It was her turn tonight. Yippee no food posioning for them! Of the oft repeated refrain of “That shit ain’t edible!”
“It might’ve beed but we’ve been hearing otherwise. That it’s some kinda device.” Megana isn’t usually so forthcoming but she isn’t actively fighting the whole looking into it plan, she might as well be helpful. She’s a lot of things lazy isn’t…is only sometimes one of them.Nix settles in and peruses the menu now leaning back in the chair in a distinctly lazy fashion. “Hmmm” she notes as she peruses “Why can’t it be a psi-stalker?” she asks curious looking up from the menu. Ardul gives Hunter a searching look as they make their way through the dining room. Gesturing to the table she’s reserved, she considers “Meaning they didn’t think they could detect who drained the magic or there are other ways out of the city …?” That’s as much a question as it is statement. The winged woman might not know much about magic, but she certainly seems to be familiar with security protocols.
“You said there’d been a string of deaths, Megana? Is there anything that connects them, do you think?” she asks and then gestures to Nixi “That’s a good question. Yes, why not a psi-stalker?” At least she seems to know about them.
“I didn’t catch your name…” she says to the redhead.
“Well it could be but you’d figure in Vesper if it were a psi-stalker, someone would have caught him by now. Vesper knows how to deal with things like that. They’ve had hundreds of years of practice. Mages who can cast tracking spells. That kind of thing. Doesn’t make much sense.”
Hunter orders. Bronto roast. It’s popular here partly because the meat is so plentiful, especially in winter after the trappers come in and sell all their stuff.
“This is Nix. Ardul. She gets around it seems. I’ve met her before.”
“Crazy bastard.” She’d like to lay hands on that guy for causing the events that have gotten her tangled up in this whole mess. “No one sane would want anything to do with any of this.” Megana orders two of the roast plate as well. She usually goes with whatever is popular wherever they are. She’s not a fussy eater at all. Maybe someday she’ll put that together with all the food poisioning…. The Shifter nods at Nix. “We met too, the other day.”There is so much perusing, though when Hunter orders the Bronto Roast, Nix settles the menu and orders a double helping of the same. Seems reasonable. Meat is good for a carnivore. She looks to Ardul “What he said.” then looks around “I’m good at meeting people. I’ve found them to be interesting and worth meeting.” “Nix. Pleased to meet you.” Ardul looks to the redhead as she takes a seat next Hunter, adding her own order of the roast and a stew. Seems the blonde has an appetite. “And what’s a Nix?” If she realises it’s rude to ask, it doesn’t show. But then again, she might just be trading on Nix’s introduction to her.
“Really…” the blonde murmurs as she considers Megana’s answer “… maybe there’s some connection between the deaths apart from the way they occured. What do we know of the girl and her father? A shipping magnate could well control a considerable fortune and on my world, certain business people wield a lot of influence with the crown and the government.”
“Mmmmhmm. And what else do you do, Nix? If I may ask?” He’s seen her meet people and while it’s unlikely that he necessarily would meet her doing anything in particular the wolfen pilot can’t help but be a bit curious. She’s going to be busy shortly devouring bronto though so the answer might not be forthcoming for a bit.
“Against the Thirty?” That’s back to Megana. “That’s insane. And probably futile.” For a number of reasons. “And how exactly do you know all this?”
“He’s got vows and oaths and doesn’t like to see people get murdered without justice. Me, I just like to kill things. Or tame things. Or make things my bitches.” She shrugs a little. “I don’t even remember how we heard about it…but we travel a lot and you pick up things that way.”Arduls grey eyes cloud for a moment as Hunter mentions the Thirty. “It be insane, Hunter, but stanger things have been known to happen.” There’s a degree of bitterness in her voice. Seems she might have some experience with insane plots. “Maybe the deaths aren’t connected though. But I don’t believe in coincidences.”
“You seem to have picked up a lot for just travelling.” The blonde inclines her head to Megana “Maybe you’ll find out more then. See if there is a connection and what it is.” It doesn’t seem that the winged woman is going to involve herself in this one, though.
“No justice comes on this world without something like that.” The wolfen nods toward a hanging over the back bar area of the inn. “Nothing worth having is taken or maintained without it. Sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you.”
Hunter’s radio goes off and he makes a face. “Excuse me. I need to take this.”
The wolfen rises to step outside. “Enjoy your meals.”
Returning to Vesper from North Richmond, Teddy and Megana stop in Windsor Hills and get news about another death.
November 25, 2409