'Corporal Jax Fury of the Iron Carnival, yeah, that sure has a ring to it!' Grinning softly to himself, the tall Private moved through the treeline, scanning left and right for any signs of movement.
Camp had been established a little before his patrol, a clearing set deep in a cold dark Forest. The Squad had moved to its jobs, digging a fire pit, finding firewood and water and digging a latrine, with practiced precision. He himself was scouting the area, keeping an eye on the main approaches for any signs of trouble.
Tightening his grip on his Crossbow he crept forward to the edge of the Camp, staring out one last time into the almost darkness, before stepping forward in to the light.
"Area seems clear Corporal!" Saluting Two Bears, Jax took a seat on a fallen log before staring around the Camp.
'The Iron Carnival. Who would have guessed this bunch of rejects and freaks would end up here? Heh! Then again... That is what the Carnival is for aint it? We are the dumping ground for all those outsiders who just don't fit in. And damn proud of it too!'
Sliding the Tower Shield and Greataxe off his back, leaving them propped near by, the Recruit slipped down off his log and sat with his back against it, staring up at the stars now dotting the skies above.
"This is the life..."
We were getting left behind. Said I'd get us started. Hope that's okay! :) We still need to work out nicknames in the Squad Thread but that shouldn't be too hard! :)
Curses, we were starting threads at the same time. Looks like you beat me to it - good thing I checked!
"It's gotta be said, life on the road beats life at sea"
A slim man, skin nearly as dark as the earth he sits upon and surrounded by fine tools, looks over from the other side of the campfire. He wears a heavy jacket over his leather armor, obviously not used to the chill air of Ustalav. Around his neck hangs a bulky face-mask and on his lap sits a partly dismantled machine, all gears and glass tanks. There's no obvious purpose to it - it wouldn't look out of place on a fairground stall as the prop of some charlatan wizard, with it's glowing innards and rune-etched gears - but the ways it's mechanisms whirl as the man tinkers with it makes it clear it has some mysterious function.
"Torque Mitabu, friend. I was going to make introductions on the march today, but this land doesn't seem safe enough for idle chatter."
He puts down the machine and throws another log on the fire. Sparks crackle.
As Tok finished digging the camp's latrine, he looked around at the other recruits. Our name is well-deserved. Though how I came to be placed with these misfits, only Irori knows. My He bring me closer to perfection through my time with this imperfect troupe.
Tok is a little blind when it comes to his own "misfit-ness."
Wiping the sweat from his head with his bright orange and teal scarf, he quietly walks to the campfire and joins the others. He takes a long drink from his waterskin and awkwardly looks the others with a blank stare, saying nothing.
"Seems to me like you've done plenty Hiros. I've got to admit, as the new guy I figured it would be me doing the heavy work for the first few nights. Cheers for taking me at my word when I said I wasn't just idly tinkering in front of the fire"
Torque removes one of the smaller glass tanks from the device and briefly inspects the contents
"Say...Tok, wasn't it? I notice you don't carry weapons. What manner of arcane magic do you practice? I could learn a lot from a battle mage - if you ever feel like teaching of course."
Tok impulsively toys with his scarf before saying, "Weapons are for those who don't trust the perfection that resides inside of them. I am able to do without a large blade, bolt-shooter or wall of wood. Or magics, as you asked." He looks for a moment at Torque, sizing him up. "I could train you, but it would be futile. You would be unable to learn my art. You are far too frail."
No magic and no weaponry...what does that leave? Does he refer to divine power? I'm frail for my lack of faith? No, he talks of power inside himself, not that of some tyranic...divine being. Better not press the issue, he's already starting with the digs.
"Forgive me, from your attire I took you for a mage. I will not be so quick to jump to conclusions in the future. I daresay I will witness your skills first hand soon enough, whatever they may be"
He holds up the tank, the substance inside it glowing faintly, and grins
"And yes, I know I'm not half as formidable as you lot. I know it's a cliche, but I'm here for my brains not my brawn. I'll be on hand if the bad guys get lucky. And who knows, maybe war will make more of a man of me."
Torque shakes the container, and it begins to glow more brightly
"Heh. No, this isn't ale. Come to think of it, I've never thought to try drinking it. It's what I use to heal wounds. Now bare with me, this is a little complex. A man like you who makes a living through combat must have been magically healed by a cleric at some point. What that cleric was doing was transfering positive energy into you. They will say that their god healed you, but that's not exactly the case. All their god did was make positive energy available to them.
Positive energy comes from another plane of existance - basically a massive resevior of the stuff that's...simulataneous infinitely far away and exactly where we're standing. That's not important. What's important is that this stuff is why life exists. Your body works because it's full of positive energy. Add more positive energy and it works faster - when you're magically healed that's your body working a thousand times faster so that your wound heals in a heartbeat.
Now, here's the clever bit. Gods supposedly have the monopoly on positive energy. Arcane magic doesn't have the raw power to channel the stuff in from it's home plane. But the thing is, it's right here, all around us. If it wasn't we'd all be dead. What I do is draw positive energy out of my body when I sleep so that I can add it to the positive energy inside you lot when you're wounded - or return it to my own supply at such a rapid rate that it causes accelerated healing in the process.
It's a lot like water in the desert, really. The gods can decide when it rains, but if men dig deep enough in the right place they'll find water that's been theirs all along.
Now, the exact method I use to get it out of me is very interesting. But...I see you've probably had enough. Just remember, it's exactly what clerics use, just gathered differently. Like drinking from a spring instead of a cistern"
With that, he takes a new device, some sort of gauntlet wrapped in steel-and-leather pipework, and screws the tank into it in a socket near the elbow. The glowing substance drains out of the tank and the pipes of the gauntlet bulge with liquid.
"That's tomorrows supply all ready if we need it. Tonight, I'll gather some more for the day after. Sadly it goes bad pretty quick - you can't stockpile it. Yet."
Jax listened to the exchange with a smile playing across his lips. 'Misfits and freaks one and all. Praise the Gods for that!' Sitting up once more he looked between the man, Torque and the Dwarf Tok before speaking.
"Heh. Well me and the big guy here," he slapped Gremm on the shoulder companionably, before continuing. "We may have to use these here blades and Bolts and we may not be as smart as you guys but I think that suits us just fine, don't it Big Guy?" he grinned at Gremm before pulling a pipe from his pack and thumbing it full of tobacco.
Leaning forward to light the pipe off a thin strip of tinder from the fire, he listened intently as the man Torque answered Toks question. he did not understand a lot of the more complex parts of the exchange but he understood enough to get the grasp of it.
"Damn good of the Corporal to finally find us a Healer, and one so well spoken. Last Cutter I was saddled with smelled like an Orc and... funnily enough he looked like one too. Mean old bull of a man he was. They used to call him Two-Rinse because after he had got his hands on ya ya had to clean the wound twice yourself or catch something!" Jax nodded softly, taking a draw out of the pipe and exhaling a cloud of smoke thoughtfully. "Jax Fury is the name. Welcome to the Carnival!"
Looking at Gremm Jax grins. "Your Ma was a smart woman Big Guy. Mine was not sadly. Taught me no such thing. My packs a damn mess!"
"I was taught about this positive energy you speak of - only I was taught to call it 'ki.' I've never heard of wounds being healed by it, but I am still walking the path to learn more. I would like to discover more about how you use this energy - though I would prefer to do it around this campfire, as opposed to on the battlefield."
Turning to Jax and Gremm, Tok says, "I mean nothing hurtful by my words. I'm sure your 'tools' will be of great value to you, once it comes to that."
"Hurtful?" Jax grinned and shook his head softly. "Nah. Ain't hurt Master Dwarf, just was including me and Big Guy here in your conversation. Butting in as it were!" He grinned around the long stem of his pipe before exhaling a ring of white smoke. "Gotta have a bit of gentle ribbing round a Camp fire right? Best way for a man to know his Squad, a bit of harmless banter!"
Jax nodded softly, chewing thoughtfully on the stem of the pipe, before adding in a whisper. "Best not try any of that on the Corporal though. Old Two Bears don't take kind to no ribbing!"
Torque briefly slips on the gauntlet, flexes it's well articulated fingers and puts it away again. He turns his attention back to reassembling the pump-like device
"When it comes down to it Jax, we're all here to let you front liners do your jobs. Two-Rinse? Heh. Sounds like the sort of sawbone who'd fit in just fine back home. There's a reason why I worked so hard to get this stuff figured out"
He turns to the massive fighter looming next to him.
"Can't say I agree with you Gremm, be prepared was the motto I grew up with. I wish I could get this stuff to do more than just stitch up wounds. Still, each to his own, though you know this soldiering game better than me"
He pauses for a few moments and his smile fades.
"Ummm...I've just had a thought. What...happened...to Two Rinse?"
"Heh. Funny story that..." Grinning around the stem of his pipe, Jax stirred the fire a bit, causing a fresh branch to catch and splutter to life. "See there was this Sergeant, name of Short-Fuse and he got cut up bad in an engagement against a couple of them Skeletons. Now we had wrapped him up well, bound the wound after someone had sewed it up with gut and we dragged him back to Camp. He was going to live, he'd just have a scar, that was it. But old Two-Rinse, nah that wouldn't do for him. He claimed he had a salve would cure that in an instant."
Jax nodded softly, tapping out his pipe before reaching in to his pack and dragging out two freshly killed game birds wrapped in oil skin. he began to speak again as he set about plucking the birds.
"Now the Sarge, he accepted the old Cutters help, he was a vain man was the Sarge, vain and a little bit dense from the blood loss. So away Two-Rinse goes and he whips up his miracle cure, comes back about a bell later with a bowl of this black goo. Smelled like goat piss to me!"
The first bird plucked and half way through the second, Jax looked up, meeting Torques eyes over the fire as he continued to work, without watching what he was doing.
"So Two-Rinse had his magical formula, rank thing that it was and he set about applying it to the gash in the Sergeants side. All was ticking along fine, spirits were up, we had survived an engagement with them damn dead ones. That is when the screaming started..."
Jax smiled a slow, malicious smile, his eyes glinting sharply, his canines flashing in the firelight.
"Heard it from the other side of the Camp. All that screaming. All that blood. Two-Rinse, in a fit of madness, had mixed up his pouches. Them were no hers. Them were a lethal cocktail of the finest poisons a man can buy or find. The Sarge was smoking from the wound and bleeding from the ears and eyes, coughing up great gout's of the stuff. He was writhing in pain and crying and cursing till..." Eyes locked on Torque, a feral grin splitting his lips, Jax slammed his knife down on the birds neck and the head popped off to roll at his feet.
"Quiet. Not a noise in the camp!" looking down at the birds, Jax busied himself with cleaning them out, before speaking again. "Of course it had not been madness that had taken the Cutter. No. The poor man was in need of Optics. He was old, too long in the tooth for the soldiering. They paid him his Signing Out bonus and let the old lad go. Haven't seen him since!" Nodding softly, still not looking up, Jax spitted the two birds on a stick and set them over the fire to cook before sitting down and dragging out his Waterskin.
Torque stares at the bloody knife in the hardened fighter's hand.
Nice subtle way of showing me what will happen if I screw up. Even so, they're taking the syphon-tech remarkably well.
He looks back at Jax's face and tries to figure out if he genuinly finds an accidental poisoning funny, but his predatory grin is unreadable.
"Ah...right. He was in your old unit. I got it into my head that I was his replacement after he met a gruesome end. At any rate, I pity that sarge. Where I come from we know all too well the mess that can be made when the desperate try to get mixtures to do the work of magic."
The clockwork contraption is finally assembled. Torque stands up and places it back in his tent. He's back a few moments later.
"You won't be getting any of that trouble from me. Hard to mess up applying positive energy."
He turns, with some relief, towards the dwarf...ki user? Now it sounds like he's got some new angle on internal positive energy. An enigma, to be certain.
"I've never heard of it being called Ki, but it sounds like you and I could be talking about the same thing. In all honesty I'm still learning it's secrets myself. Seems to me like we're heading to the same place from opposite directions"
He thinks for a moment about what he just said, and glances briefly back at the knife
"But that doesn't mean I don't know what I'm doing, of course. I've used this stuff three dozen times and seen it used ten dozen. It's just got more potential to it, is all I'm saying."
A bit behind, but I'll catch up- so those who didn't join in immediately were lagging behind a bit? Anything I should know?
Acune walks into the camp, obviously having been traveling fairly fast to catch up, but having made an effort at dignity before walking into the firelight. She looks like a typical half-elf, grey-eyed and brown-haired, attired in a mixture of distinctly Varisian garb (simple, but dyed subtle yellows and golds conspicuous in the grim setting) and leather armor. With an unreadable expression, she nods in greeting and apology to the corporal and takes a seat near the fire. A couple of starknives hang from her belt and she carries a quarterstaff still updating equipment.
Laughing softly Jax reaches out to turn the Game Hens where they roast over the coals. "I don't feel sorry for him. Not one bit. That grizzly old son of a Goat lead twelve men to their deaths that day. It was the Poison or a knife in the night from one of the Squads he halved. None of us blame Two-Rinse. He was old, everyone knew it. The Captain shoulda been rid of him long ago. Your alright Torque. As I said, damn fine having you on board!"
Looking up from the food roasting on the spit, Jax nods in greeting as the Half-Elf strides in to the clearing and takes a seat by the fire.
"Hungry Recruit?" he grins at the woman before tossing her his waterskin. "Wet the cords and sit back. These birds are nearly cooked and then we can dish em out!" He nodded softly before thumbing his pipe full again and lighting up, a halo of smoke rising above his head. "Don't suppose any of you have any fruit or cheese to go with this? Anything other than damn rations?" A lopsided grin crossed his face as he looked up hopefully.
Acune nods gratefully at Jax before taking a drink. "I'm afraid I don't have much, but-" she shrugs off her pack and rummages inside it, "I do have something to help flavor the meal." She brings out a small packet of spices. "Nothing special." More searching turned up a very very small block of cheese. She walks over and gives him her findings and returns his waterskin, obviously reluctant to try tossing them over, then returns to her seat.
"Did I miss anything important, being late?"
Smiling up at the Half-Elf, Jax takes the offered spice and cheese with a gracious nod. "More than enough. Thank you!" Grinning to himself, Jax takes the spit off the fire, long enough to dust both birds with the spice, before closing the packet again.
"Not much, truth be told. You missed an engaging conversation between Tok and Torque there and a small story about folly from yours truly!" Nodding softly he turns to his pack, drawing out seven tin plates and lay them carefully on the log behind him, laying the cheese on top.
Returning the spit to the fire and taking a strong pull on his pipe, Jax stands and walks over to the Half-Elf, handing her back the spices with a gracious nod.
"So Recruit, you got a name?" moving back to his seat he turned the spit once more, before sitting back down.
"Welcome to the Iron Carnival Acune. I'm Jax. Pleasure!" nodding to the woman, Jax pulled the spit out of the fire a little more, letting it cook over the coals at the side, so as not to burn the meat.
"Torque Mitabu, medic and inventor, at your service."
The slim Mwangi human introduces himself from across the fire. He looks somewhat out of place next to hulking Hiros and clearly-lethal Jax. It's obvious - to an inquisitor at least - that he's glad to see a fellow squad member who doesn't look as hard as coffin nails.
Nodding softly Jak takes the spit off the coals and sets it before him between two logs, allowing the now crisp birds to hang free on the length of wood. Taking the plates down he sets about carving the birds, picking every bit of flesh of the carcasses, with practiced ease.
Dividing the meal in to seven, adding a little more to one plate than the others, he reaches back in to his sack and draws out a loaf of bread wrapped in oil paper, before dividing that out. Adding Acunes cheese to finish it off, Jax stands, handing Gremm the plate with the extra meat, before handing Acune hers. Moving to Tok and Torque he hands the men theirs before going to search for the Corporal, leaving two tin plates sitting near the fire, keeping warm.
Returning a moment later he scowls. "Dig in Soldiers. It ain't every day I cook!" Laughing softly he moves back to his seat, tapping out his pipe before reaching in to his bag, dragging out an apple and beginning to munch away on it.
'Way to win a Squads heart? Cook em a damn fine meal!' Laughing softly his gaze returned to the stars once again, lost in thought.
Acune finishes her portion quickly and neatly, though clearly enjoying the meal. After living on dried meat, occasional watercress and biscuits it's pleasant to have a good meal among company. After cleaning off the plate as best she can, she returns to her seat and lapses into watchful silence. She rather gives the impression that this is her usual state.
Nodding to the Dwarf and smiling, Jax takes a last bite out of the apple, which is now nothing but core, before tossing it in to the fire. Adding some more wood from the pile he sits back, studying his new Squadmates.
Acune smiles and shows the backs of hands, in case anyone hadn't seen the symbol. "I am still very much a follower of Desna. Faith is, by definition, somewhat difficult to explain. But I wasn't born a devoted follower of The Song of the Spheres, despite the influence of my parents; it took a series of unfortunate, unlikely, and enlightening events to lead me to my faith. It also involves a demon, which is why I had thought to travel to the Worldwound before deciding the pay was better here." She returns to her silence if the conversation doesn't continue from there; not really a meek silence so much as a disciplined one.
"Faith is one of those things that shouldn't be explained. I know I am butting in here yet again and for that I am sorry but... I feel like I need to talk till the rest of our Squad arrives!" Grinning a little, Jax looks down at the fire for a moment. "If you have been a soldier for all of your adult life, like I have for instance, you learn to appreciate Faith for what it is, a belief in something greater that needs no explanation. I myself am a dedicated worshiper of Gorum, which is no surprise, and frequently offer a prayer to the big man before battle." Nodding softly, Jaxs takes a drink from his waterskin, before offering it towards Tok.
Male Human (Tian) Barbarian (Urban Barbarian, Spirit Totem) 3
"Am I too late for food, been doing some scouting." A short man enters the firelight wearing a wooden mask of a leering fox with its tongue lolling to one side. He pulls up the mask revealing a trim bearded young Tian face.
He tosses down the mask and his satchel. A brilliant colored silk robe covers his armor, a large sword slung on his back. An assortment of tattoos visible on his exposed arms up to his wrists.
"More new blood? We should be up to strength soon. Not that I've been a Carnival member that long. Nine Tail is the name."
Male Human (Tian) Barbarian (Urban Barbarian, Spirit Totem) 3
"Nothing Two Bears seems concerned with. Of course while you are out there, it seems like something is lurking behind every tree and fog bank. Lovely country we seem to have gathered in, but at least the pay is good."
"If the Corporal is happy then I'm happy. Corporal wouldn't let us get eaten or cut up, not till it was worth his while anyway!" Laughing sharply, Jax tossed another branch on to the fire, before returning to honing his blade.
Here we go, people are swapping faiths. Desna sounds harmless enough, but Gorum? Isn't he the god of getting-yourself-stabbed-to-death? Never mind. This is definately not the time to start preaching secularism.
"Evening friend, I'm Torque. I won't be filling the lines myself but I will be a step behind them keeping you all patched up."
He turns to the silent half-elf
"I see you go as lightly armoured as I do. I proved earlier tonight I'm hopeless at judging people's skill-sets" He smirks at Tok before continuing "Do you have some manner of magical power or are you simply lethal with that longbow?"
He looks back at the exotic-looking newcomer
"As for you, I don't profess to be an expert on blades but I see you favour those of the same scale as Gremm's. Any battles we fight are going to be over quickly, eh?"
He glances briefly out into the shadows. Mist has risen between the boughs of the anicent trees that surround the camp
"And I've got to agree with you about this country. But hey, we're hardly lonely defenceless travellers. It sounds like Acune at least has beaten horrors worse than anything you're likely to find lurking in a forest"
The large fur cloak covered bulk that is Corporal Two Bears continues to sit calmly by the fire idly chewing on some of the dry jerky they'd been issued. Two Bears isn't much of a talker but when he does people listen. Clearing his throat Two Bears makes sure he catches the attention of the squad before speaking, his deep voice easily carrying through the quiet night air.
"Got caravan duty tommorrow. It's easy work but you never know when something is going to crawl out of Virlych and have a go at eating us, so I want everybody paying attention. I catch you slacking off you'll wish something had eaten you!" growls Two Bears before settling into silence.
"Why Corporal I never knew you cared!" Grinning softly, Jax stood and saluted, before slamming the Shortsword back in to its scabbard and grabbing his still loaded crossbow. "I've got first Watch!" Nodding, he turned and sat on the log, staring out in to the gloom. In a bit he would circle the camp, but for now, he sat.
Acune lays out her bedroll safely close to the fire, and, not bothering to remove her leather armor, crawls in, laying her bow, quiver and quarterstaff close to hand. "Mitabu, I am not a cleric, but Desna does aid me in battle," she says quietly in answer to his question. "Good night." She closes her eyes and is quickly asleep.
Gremm stands at attention as Two Bears begins speaking. Afterwards, an obvious look of nervousness is on his face. He sits back down beside the fire and sighs.
"Well, I guess this is it then? I'm mighty sure we can handle ourselves, but I'm worried we might be seeing more than just a bandit hungry for a few silver. I mean, it might be just me, but I'm shaking in my boots."
"Bu-but, don't mind me! I'm just kind of blabbering because I'm not in my right mind. This is just the first I've been away from home and, you know, I'm just a tad homesick."
"Peace, Gremm. This is no time for cowardice or homesickness. Find courage in your size - and the strength of those around you. Plus, should you be cut up or bludgeoned mercilessly, our friend with the gadgets will make you feel positive about it."
Seeing that Two-bear is preoccupied with more important matters than easing the concerns of recruits, Torque turns back to Gremm.
"I've got to admit Gremm, I had you down for a veteran so you at least look the part. Tok's right, there's not a lot a sword or arrow can do that I can't undo just as fast. I was going to ask if either of you had much experience fighting off bandits on roads like these. It seems Gremm is just as clueless as me, how about you Tok?"
"Well, actually, I used to keep bandits away from our merchant wagon when I would travel with my father. I'm not warried about any lowly thieves. I'm more worried about the things I've heard of in stories about Ustalav."
"I am walking with Irori towards the perfection of my art - but I haven't yet faced true tests. I did encouter a number of bandits in Varisia, but nothing of the sort we're sure to encounter in the coming days. I'm sure our large friend is correct - there are far more dangerous forces in Ustalav than bandits.
But don't fret, gadget-man. We have all been tasked with keeping an eye on you. Despite your obvious lack of physical value, your mental abilities have won someone over. We will keep you safe."