With spring promising to be just around the corner, foot traffic through the city has begun to pick up a bit more as merchants and travelers alike hope to get in before the true rush. Gran’s is usually always busy in some way or another, a popular stop-by for out-of-towners and locals who know where the good food is at.
Kaji’s been busy himself, if not exclusively around the bed and breakfast. He’s back from a mission out of town and dove right back into things, confident that if his friends needed him for anything else they’d let him know. Otherwise he knows that with Gran having been missing for a concerning while now, he was one of the trusted few to help take care of things.
Today the young man’s bustling about between the kitchen and the common room, his jacket tied by the sleeves around his waist as he’s been moving about enough to keep warm and hasn’t had the time to hang it up. He’s setting down drinks at a table before whirling about to address another patron for their order.
Yup. Just another day.
At some point between coming and going, Kaji would notice a new face in the common room. She’s rather plain, except for the mismatched clothing and the palpable sense of grime that pervades her and her possessions. The deep set sort of grime that suggests this is no short term condition. Add to that that she’s currently wandering along the side of the room currently, her head tilted towards it, her nose twitching as she takes in quick, testing sniffs. She progresses steadily, pausing every few moments for a more focused sniff.
New faces are pretty much the norm around here, but usually they take a seat or ask about lodging. Kaji ducks in and out of the kitchen a couple more times to take in new orders and bring out ready ones to the tables, but it’s about then that he finds this particular guest’s behavior a bit curious.
He casts a glance around, but it’s not like they’re completely full that she couldn’t have taken a seat if she’d wanted to. Taking a moment to catch his breath, Kaji rakes his fingers through his hair, reminded every time he does so that he really needs to get it trimmed at some point. He starts in the direction of the newcomer.
“Erm…” he begins, head tilting, brow arched. “Can…I help you?”
Xeenia seems, for a moment, to ignore the question, the woman dropping to a knee, a hand on the floor. Her head dips low and she snorfs along the ground for a few moments. The posture is almost feral, ignoring the simple fact of what she’s doing. After a few moments she pauses and her head lifts. “Where did the Gran live?” She rolls upward smoothly, turning to face Kaji, her expression expectant.
Kaji waits, hesitant to ask again. He feels a bit awkward standing there, but he’d really feel better knowing what the woman’s doing poking about rather than leave her alone.
Hearing a few calls from other tables he turns and holds up a hand, smiling apologetically before glancing towards the kitchen, hoping someone else might come out to help handle things.
The question catches him by surprise, and it takes Kaji a moment to realize who’d asked it. He turns back to face the stranger, blinking. “Uh… Gran? She lived- er, lives here,” he says, a puzzled expression crossing his face. “Are… Do you know her?”
“There are too many scents here,” Xeenia states, as if that should be obvious. “I will not find her so easily if I cannot take her scent. Her rooms are where I need to go.” Of these little details, she is quite confident. Her husky voice firm on the subject. She glances towards the kitchen, then back to Kaji. “You can show me where the rooms are. Where her scent is strongest.”
Hopefully she doesn’t get offended as Kaji stares a bit at her as though she’s speaking a foreign language. In a way it isn’t terribly far off a comparison. He feels like he’s coming into a conversation that’s already been in progress.
“Wait, you’re trying to find her?” he blurts. “Who even are you?” Wait, she might take that the wrong way. Kaji shakes his head, holding his hands out as if physically trying to smooth everything out. “Look, I’m glad to hear that someone’s trying to find her- I haven’t seen her in months now,” he says more quietly, although just loud enough to carry so it won’t be lost in the general ambiance of the common room. “So if you want to help look for her, I’ll try to get you what you need. But it’d be nice to know who I’m working with, and how you know Gran.”
“I do not know her. Perhaps I will not find her. But if I am to find her, I need her scent.” If Xee finds any offense at Kaji’s response to her, it doesn’t show. No visible anger, no sense of offense or anything overtly negative. “As to me, I am no one important. I do not know if you can work with me, however.” The last dropped casually, without a hint as to why. It doesn’t sound like an outright rejection, at the very least. More just a vague observation.
Kaji scratches his head. It’s not that he doesn’t understand what she’s saying, it’s just so strangely straight-forward. “Well, I was just being- know what, never mind. Not saying I’m against lending a hand if possible. Gran’s done a lot for me. I’m worried about her having been gone so long.”
He looks around, eyes glancing towards the stairs that lead from the common room to the ones available for lodging. “Come on. I’ll take you up to her room,” he says, casting a look towards one of the other workers to catch their eye, hoping they’ve got things covered in the meantime. Then he starts up the stairs.
“Good.” Xeenia does seem pleased. And she will follow closely behind Kaji. “Whether you can come depends. I travel quickly. If you are with me, I would have to be slower. I was directed north. At least to the old world capital. Perhaps further. That is why I need her scent. The tracks will not be fresh. Nor the scent. But with both, perhaps I will discover her trail. Perhaps not.” There is a pause before she adds, “Anything unique about the Gran and her things will be useful.”
Kaji nods slowly as he leads her on up. “I can see how that’d be a concern. But if something’s happened to her and you run into trouble, it’s better traveling with more people than solo,” he reasons. “I’ve been to D.C. before, but that’s admittedly with some kind of transportation.” Both back in his own time and here. He’s not sure he wants to try taking his mobile fortress apartment out on his own either. Maybe he should ask for a skybike for a birthday present or something.
“Anyway. I can see how it’d be better to go by foot if you’re tracking her by scent. You’re… not human, are you?” He hopes she won’t take offense, but to be fair there’s a lot of human-looking beings about, and he’s not met any humans that have that good a snoz that they can be their own bloodhound. And then there’s her strange manner of speaking. It might just be him having watched too many movies.
They go up one more floor to where the more private rooms are, where Gran and Slaine stay, and where he used to stay before his recent move out although he still has a few of his things here. Kaji walks over to one door and opens it cautiously, as though expecting Gran to be inside all this time. He steps in to look around. “So. I have never been in here before and have no idea what to even look f– oh hey!”
Turning in his inspection his expression brightens as he sees the older woman’s coat hanging there. He’d seen Gran wearing it plenty of times. “This…should work, right?” he asks as he steps over to unhook it, shaking it out. He blinks as something falls from it.
“Let your mind fly free,” Xeenia answers when it comes to her nature. Casually. Again, not a hint of upset. Odd that she might be, offense seems a hard thing to provoke in her. She lets him speculate about travel, content to follow and start to watch him. Openly. WIthout a hint of concern for being found out.
She has no hesitation when it comes to entering the room. No concern for being seen, pausing several steps in. She closes her eyes and lifts her head sightly, drawing in air through her nose in a slow, lingering sniff. When he notes the coat he’s picked up, her eyes snap open and she looks over. An instant later she is in front of him. Not figuratively. Literally she winks from one point to the other with no in between.
Xee will snatch the coat from him and unceremoniously push it up against her nose, noisily sniffing along the collar to start. Her eyes lidded as she focuses on her attempt to isolate and memorize the scent of Gran.
“Hocrap!” Kaji jumps in surprise when Xeenia’s suddenly just /there/, and it’s a good thing she’s grabbed the coat from him because he nearly drops it in the process. “Well that’d explain how you can travel fast…” he mutters, watching her a moment before he turns his attention to the floor.
Is that…a letter? He stoops down to pick up the parchment- two separate items. His eyes shift from one to the other, a frown tugging at the corners of his mouth. The letter he slips into the pocket of his dangling jacket. The other piece of parchment he studies, glancing back over at Xeenia.
“Hey…I found something. It looks like a map,” he says, holding it up.
Xeenia seems fixated on what she’s doing as Kaji inspects the objects. Almost huffing on the coat as she memorizes the most prominent scent present on it. At the word ‘map’, however, she drops the coat and snatches at the map that he holds up. “I like maps. I want a map of all of the land. With many details. It’s hard to fit it all in my head at once from the ground.” Provided he doesn’t play keep away with her, she will immediately start to inspect the map. She’s a bit rude, isn’t she?
It seems after her thing with the coat that Kaji isn’t startled when Xeenia snatches the map from him. His hand remains where it is, fingers splayed once he’s relieved of the parchment before he finally lowers it with a shrug.
“I dunno if anyone makes maps as detailed as they used to be,” he says, thinking back to the ancient atlas that they’d first consulted at the library. With writing and reading being pretty much a lost art these days, Kaji wondered if cartographers made more money selling to collectors. “Maps used to be so easy to get.” He sighs, wishing once again that the internet still worked. Then again, that probably wouldn’t guarantee that Google or anything survived.
“Anyway, that looks like the area you were talking about. It includes D.C. anyway.” It’s a pretty rough map, speckled with symbols for the pertinent landmarks. A name’s written at the top of the map. He’s pretty sure that Gran wasn’t the one who made it though. “You ever heard of a Gnatstown?”
“No. I don’t know many places,” Xeenia admits. “The land is new, but every day I unravel more of it’s secrets.” She turns the map this way, then that way. Scrutinizing it thoughtfully before she looks up to Kaji. “I will go soon. If you wish to come, you should figure that out on your end.” She starts to stuff the map into her bag, as if it were a foregone conclusion that she’d keep it. “I will come back before I go. But you should be careful of the mountains.” What?
“Ah, wait wait wait!” Kaji flails, one hand jamming into one of his jacket pockets for something while the other moves to grab the map back. See, two can play this game!
“If you’re going to take it then at least let me copy it or– here, this is faster.”
He pulls out his cellphone from his pocket and thumbs the camera app on. If he’d succeeded in retrieving the map he’ll drop down to the floor to put it there so he can get a steadier picture. He’ll give the map back once he’s done.
“I know the mountains are pretty crazy, ‘specially with those spots that have d-shift.” He’s not sure he’s confident enough to ever go off on his own though. It sounds kind of a bad idea. “Unless there’s something else you know about..?”
Xeenia pauses at the insistence that she wait. Giving Kaji a thoughtful look. She slowly extracts the map after a few moments and holds it out for him to take. The thing he takes out gets a thoughtful stare, as does he as he proceeds to prepare it for a snapshot. “There are things in the mountains. Leaving behind them empty settlements. Coming closer to this place. Eventually, you will not have to go to the mountains to see them.” Plainly stated in her direct way.
Oh, that’s not ominious at all. Kaji frowns. There’s been a lot of things happening lately that it’s hard for him to work out which of them might pertain to whatever Xeenia’s describing before nodding grimly.
“Hopefully not too soon,” he says as he gets back to his feet once he’s checked to make sure the picture taken had been clear enough.
“You’ve seen them?”
“I walked through the ashes of their passing. I saw the evidence of their will to destroy. I smelled their stink in the air and saw the tracks on the ground,” Xeenia states. “And from that The Blood allowed me to imagine their form. To hold them in my mind’s eye. Great creatures with large heads and horns. I will know them when I set eyes on them.” Her husky voice rings with a casual confidence.
It’s not much of a description, but it still makes Kaji shiver. He puts his phone away, folding his arms. “Unfortunately I think whatever they are will have to be dealt with soon.” If they were heading to Vesper? Yeah, there’s no other way around it.
“Well, if they can be avoided for now, I think that’s the better option. You be careful out there. I don’t know if or when I might be able to join you in looking for Gran, but if you find anything, please let us know.”
Xeenia holds out her hand for the map. “As you might be able to guess, I can avoid most trouble as I wish.” She tilts her head slightly. “I do not know that they come here in particular, but they grow closer to this area. That is what the pattern shows. What they want, besides to destroy, I know not.”
Kaji returns the map after looking at it again and at the back of it to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. He even holds it up to the leylamp in case there’s any secret messages.
“There’d be nothing to stop them if they decided to come this way, and even if they don’t, they’ll be causing trouble for someone else.” He shakes his head. “Maybe they just want to destroy everything.” Some things do, unfortunately.
Xeenia now stuffs the map away and rolls her shoulders slightly. “There is a lot of everything. It would take much time to do that.” Not that she seems overly concerned with wide-scale destruction. “I will now go to investigate this scent in the local area.” She turns, starting towards the door.
Time spent destroying things doesn’t really make the situation much better. He frowns again as he bends down to pick up Gran’s coat to hang back up before looking over at Xeenia again as she makes to leave. “Er…all right then.” The young necromancer gives a little wave as he watches her go.
“Oh. Um. The name’s Kaji, by the way.” Just in case she had to ask for him or something.
Surely she heard him. But she heads right out without glancing back. On her purposeful way to do whatever it is she is intent on doing. Strange woman. Of some sort. Probably not human.