It's the tenth of Arodus and the sun sets on another beautiful summer day. The temperatures are still warm this late in the evening, but they are beginning to cool off with each passing day. Knowing that there are only a few days left until fall starts, the mood around town is anxious as everyone begins to set their preparations for the fall harvest.
It's been a year since the raiding of goblins, assault of the giants and scorching destruction of the dragon in Sandpoint. Things have finally begun to return to normal here as everyone puts all of the excitement behind them, all of the construction efforts finally complete.
Sandpoint is a moderate town, not as sprawling as Magnimar a day and a half of travel to the southwest, but still with over a thousand residents, several bustling industries and its own share of local color.
Some of that local color is the Rusty Dragon, one of two travelers' rest stops in Sandpoint. The Rusty Dragon takes its name from the sizable iron sculpture of a dragon that looms over the roof of the building. Time and weather have taken their toll on the sculpture, thus giving the large wooden building its name.
The owner of the Rusty Dragon is the famous Ameiko Kaijitsu, who is the scion of one of the four aristocratic families of Sandpoint. Though she also owns the Sandpoint Glassworks, she prefers to spend her time in the Rusty Dragon, chatting with patrons, swapping adventuresome tales, and occasionally regaling visitors with her musical skills.
Today, as the sun disappears over the horizon, the Rusty Dragon has its share of trade, though it's a bit underwhelming -- a pair of travelers en route to Magnimar and a handful of locals looking for a spicy dinner.
Sitting in a corner of the Rusty Dragon is a young Tian woman. No one else sits anywhere near her table. That probably has something to do with her typical expression: a glower she inherited from her father.
Eating dinner in the common room was, of course, all Ameiko’s idea.
(”Sister, you need to get out more. When was the last time you talked to someone other than me or an employee? Look, have dinner at the Rusty Dragon sometimes. We get lots of fun clientele: travelers, adventurers...you can meet some really interesting people there. It’ll do you good.”)
So now Ruka dutifully trots down to the Rusty Dragon once or twice a week and samples Ameiko’s latest culinary creations. She hasn’t quite worked up to actually talking to anyone yet, but she’s going to get there. Eventually.
Ameiko had said that her friend Sandru would be back in town soon. Apparently their cousin, Kajiwara, was one of the regular guards. Ruka had never actually spoken to Kajiwara before, but Ameiko had, and she seemed to like him. Maybe he would be a good trial run for this whole small talk thing Ameiko was so good at. Yet another thing she’s good at and I’m not.
Ruka grimaces and forcibly puts the thought from her mind. Kajiwara. He was family. She could talk to him. About…something. The Glassworks?
Gods, Ameiko’s right. I really do need to get out more.
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Asuka sits at the table most central to the room, the one that people tend to avoid because it draws peoples' attention. The tengu herself has accented her red feathers and black beak and talons with a loose, flowy outfit that hits hot pink, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo, and violet, and with brown clasps and buttons. Asuka gets the least spicy version of the dinner, not because she can't handle it, but because she can handle it all-too-well, to the point she can't even taste the spiciness. No point in making Kaijitsu-sensei (what she calls Ameiko) spend money on valuable spices if she can't even taste them! It's just basic rules of politeness.
Birds can't taste capsaicin, so I run with it that tengu can't taste spicy things
Asuka periodically waves at Kaijitsu-sensei with the closest approximation to a grin she can manage with her bird beak. Despite having lived here for well over six months at this point, Asuka still acts like a fangirl, her boundless optimistic energy unrestrained by such petty concerns as making herself look like a fool, particularly since she is bad enough at reading situations and people that she usually can't tell the difference.
Notiriously unobservant for a tengu, Asuka is halfway through her meal when she finally notices Ruka also eating. Having not introduced herself yet to the enigmatic Kaijitsu, Asuka picks up her half-finished meal and heads over to her table.
"Hi, Kaijitsu-san! It's me! Asuka Narukami. You know, Kaijitsu-sensei's student? What are you up to? Up to any cool hero stuff? People sitting quietly in the corners of inns are always up to cool hero stuff. It's just basic rules of drama!"
Before Ruka can respond, Asuka has already sat down. If Ruka has heard of Asuka at all--and let's be honest, a tengu dressed like a rainbow in small-town Varisia is pretty heard-able--it would be that she is as colorful a character as her attire might suggest, and that her apprenticeship to Ameiko is self-professed but dubious as far as Ameiko is concerned.
Ruka freezes as the colorfully-dressed tengu approaches. Wait where is she going is she coming here to my table why? Her usual scowl is replaced by an expression of pure surprise as Asuka casually introduces herself and sits down.
Okay. This is it. Small talk with a stranger. I can do this. I can totally do this. Just pretend she's an employee, Father drilled you on how to deal with them. Except you're not giving her orders. Or telling her how to do something. Or...damnit how does Ameiko do this!?
"H...h-hello." She clears her throat and tries again. "Hello. Yes, um, Ameiko's...mentioned you." There had been a lot of cursing and the occasional muttered "idiot" when Ameiko had told the story, but there had also been a fond smile, and six months later Asuka's still living at the Rusty Dragon. Which speaks for itself, really.
"'Cool hero stuff'? I don't...I'm just eating dinner." She gestures to her plate as if it wasn't obvious. "Corners are nice, I like corners, it's good to have your back to a wall, it's more comfortable when people can't walk behind you-" You're babbling. Stop it!
She clears her throat again. "Um, yes, anyway." From the corner of her eye she sees Ameiko giving her what looks like an encouraging thumbs up. Right. Small talk.
"What about you? Any, um, 'cool hero stuff' happening?"
Ruka, I will add you into Atsuii's funeral scene in Kaji's backstory shortly.
Kajiwara stood on the porch of the Rusty Dragon, shaking out the dust of the road from his cloak and making sure his boots were clean before entering. His mother had taught him it was rude to do so once inside, and while she had been applying those lessons to someone's home, he felt that out of respect for his cousin, he should extend the same courtesy to her inn. True, he didn't know her that well, having only spoken a few times over the years, but since no one else in his family seemed interested in putting in the effort...
Once he felt he was sufficiently clean to not track too much dust and dirt into the inn, he opened the door and entered. His eye was immediately drawn to a riotously dressed Tengu seated at a corner table with...was that Ameiko's sister, Ruka? She'd been so small when he'd seen her at the funeral. Ameiko had told him she spent most of her time at the Glassworks, rarely leaving. Apparently his older cousin had convinced her to come out.
He was very confused why she was sitting there with a Tengu. He thought he might get a headache looking at the absurdly clashing colors of her clothing. Of course, the look on her face was somewhat reminiscent of the scowl Lonjiku wore at Atsuii's funeral when he saw Kaji's family, so she might not be entirely welcoming of the Tengu.
Making a decision, he approached the table in the corner. Kaji made a distinct contrast to the Tengu, with his subdued clothing of browns and tans. Offering a formal bow to Ruka, he said, "I am Kajiwara Shogahiro. Am I correct in thinking you are Ruka Kaijitsu?"
Asuka pulls out her journal and begins furiously writing down notes. "Aha! Good for not getting surprised. That makes a lot of sense! I should have guessed. Not getting surrounded is one of the basic rules of being a hero."
Asuka devours another large beakful without even needing to chew it, as is typical for a bird. "Not as much as I would like, but that's okay. I can make do. I always do! It just makes writing harder. I am trying out writing in different languages to see which one I like the best at the moment. Tengu are really good with languages, you know. That's one of the basic rules of being a tengu. I know four at the moment! How many do you know?"
Asuka's attention shifts to Kajiwara. "Hi Shogahiro-san! I'm Asuka Narukami. You can call me Asuka, since that's what people here do. I just like using keigo." Asuka holds her journal up with her inked talon ready to write notes. This Kajiwara seemed mysterious, and mysterious is really just another word for cool, and two cool people talking to each other is always worth noting. "Don't mind me! I'm just writing about a totally unrelated scene in which two cool people meet in a bar. Cool people always meet in bars! It's one of the basic rules of bars."
Bluff: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (3) + 2 = 5
She is preparing to take notes in case either of you do anything cool
Ruka is baffled by the quick shifts in conversation but tries to keep up. "Languages? I only know Common and Tien I'm afraid, I was never as good at scholarship as my father wanted." Her face reverts to a glower at the thought of Lonjiku's 'lessons.'
She's vaguely aware of the door opening, but pays no attention to it. Until suddenly there's a man at the table introducing himself, making her jump again. Oh!
She quickly rises to her feet and gives a bow of her own. Despite her surprise, the gesture is smooth and practiced. "Hello, yes, I'm Ruka. It's...nice to finally meet you, cousin." That's what people say, right?
"Um, please, sit down. You must be hungry. Ameiko is trying out a new curry recipe today; it's pretty good." She gives Asuka a sharp look at the 'totally unrelated' notes she's taking, but doesn't comment. Despite her odd obsession with 'cool' stuff, the tengu seems harmless. If she wants to take notes on their conversation...well, people have stranger hobbies.
Plus she certainly has no trouble with talking to people. Maybe Ruka can learn a thing or two from her.
But in the meantime she scrambles for a possible conversation topic. "How was your trip?"
"Thank you, cousin. I was unsure if you would remember me, as it has been many years since we last saw each other."
Kaji sets his pack, two bristling quivers of arrows, and his bowstave next to the table and takes a seat, glancing at the rainbow Tengu and her notebook.
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (7) + 3 = 10
A faint look of disapproval crosses his features, but he courteously says, "It is a pleasure to meet you...Asuka." Kaji sits quite stiffly - back straight, shoulders back, and hands folded before him. He is very still, as well, as he answers Ruka's question. "The trip was good. The journey from Magnimar to Korvosa to Whistledown to Sandpoint is one of the safer routes, due to the Korvosan and Magnimarian guards who keep the areas safe. We did have to drive off a hungry bear, and there were signs of goblins, but none approached us. The journey was actually rather boring, overall. Ameiko has told you have taken over the day to day running of the Glassworks. Is business going well?"
When Bethana, the halfling maid, comes over, Kaji orders an ale and some of the curry Ameiko's making.
Ruka tenses at the mention of goblins. Of course she knows there are still goblins in the area, but after the raid on Sandpoint any sign of them is grounds for concern.
"It's good that the trip went well. Boring is certainly better than the alternatives. The signs of goblins, where were they? Close to Sandpoint, or somewhere else?"
She takes a sip of her own drink. "Business is going as well as can be expected. We lost most of our employees during the goblin raids and we're still understaffed. Even with the replacements we hired from Magnimar. But we're making it work. Fortunately Cornel survived and was willing to stay on; I don't know what I would have done without him." Realizing that Kajiwara would have no context for the name, she adds, "Cornel's one of our best glassmakers. He's been doing most of the hiring and training while I focus on keeping the books balanced and the furnace burning." A hint of self-deprecation creeps into her voice. "I'm not very good with people."
Realizing what he'd said, Kaji replied, "No, no, not close to Sandpoint. Further south, close to the Mushfens. I doubt goblins would consider causing any worry here in Sandpoint. It is good that you have been able to keep the Glassworks running. Once you have sufficient employees, I am sure the Glassworks will return to its previous levels of production. I must say, I do not envy you the time spent keeping books balanced. My father - your uncle, Hondashi - had rather assumed that would be my role in the family business. It was...not to be."
The Rusty Dragon was not one of her usual haunts. In fact, she avoided the place; while she was curious about it and the people who frequented it, Sister Yannah had cautioned Lor-Sinn against the perils of taverns, inns, brothels and other such places of perdition. "Bad enough your blood is tainted, girl," she would say, "best stay out of trouble and don't go there. Drink only water, eat wholesome food and keep your heart, er... as pure as you can manage.
But Lance had asked to meet here! The youngest member of the Sandpoint guard, Lance Hurn was a gangly, freckled, awkward young man. During spring and summer he was assigned mostly desk duty, on account of his hay fever, so Lor-Sinn didn't get to spend much time with him. She had missed all the clues - the shy smiles, how he would look at her then turn beet red when she looked back, the scraggly clump of wildflowers left in her helmet, how the front desk in the garrison had sprouted lots of clumsily carved hearts with "L+L" inside them - and she would have likely continued to be oblivious if Kilana wouldn't have thumped her over the head one day and rubbed her nose in the obvious signs.
"The boy is smitten with you, devil-spawn. Not sure what for, but at least stop toying with him!"
So she tried smiling back, which had almost given Lance a heart attack - and a good view of her elongated, sharp canines. There was lots of sniggering and mutual elbowing in the ribs from the other guards, and next day she found a folded note in her locker. Meet at the Dragon tomorrow after your shift, wanna show you a trick with my sword. Lance.
She had been a little puzzled by that - if he wanted to train together, the garrison was a much better place for that than the Rusty Dragon, but she was curious as well. It wasn't often that people liked her, as hard as she tried to be good and useful, and now that she thought about it Lance was rather cute, even when he tripped over himself. So it is with a little trepidation that Lor-Sinn steps into the darkened interior of the inn, blinking to adjust from the bright sunlight.
Then blinking some more as her eyesight is bludgeoned with the spectacle that is Asuka. The tiefling spends a few long moments in the doorway, blocking traffic, head cocked to one side and one eye squeezed shut as she tries to count all the colours in the tengu's attire. She is so focused on the bird that she doesn't even notice the two humans conversing quietly at the same table.
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"No," he said flatly.
"Oh, come now, it'd be fun."
"No," he repeated, this time more firmly.
"It's sure to sell, and it'd be a good creative exercise for you, and it'd be fun, and..."
"Creative?" Incredulity and exasperation were now what marked the voice. "Mr Parooh, a map to the moon would be pure fantasy! This is silly, even for you. I am not drawing it, not when we have legitimate orders waiting."
The sun was setting outside The Way North, Sandpoint's own little cartography shop, and while this might mark the end of another workday for most other inhabitants of the sleepy town, this particular establishment was still in full swing. Inside the workshop, the elderly but sprightly gnome proprietor Veznutt Parooh straddled a chair to speak to his naturally taller apprentice, a Samton Verro. They were behind schedule.
"Orders, psh!" the gnome jeered all the while waving a hand dismissively. "Never mind those. They already paid! They can wait. No no no, this, THIS will be a real showpiece, a conversation starter, something you can be proud of. Ah, not that your other work isn't good!" he hastened to add. The cartographer was fond of his young student and said's skill both, and believed in positive reinforcement. "I'd just like to see you move on from the charts and whatnot to something a little more ambitious. Measurements and maths are all well and good, but that's just, uh, simple representation of what's already there. There comes a time when a man has to break away from the established and forge his own path! Let's see a little self-expression! A little pizzazz! A little..."
"Mr Parooh. We've been over this."
They had indeed had this discussion before. Young Sam didn't like denying his master, to whom he was very devoted, anything, but this was for his own good. Veznutt Parooh was a fanciful man, as gnomes were wont to be. He appreciated everything colorful, creative and whimsical, a fact made painfully obvious at any visit to his shop; the library was fit to bursting with treasure maps, each one more fantastical and romantic than the last, all of his own make. Every one of them was fake, of course, as he readily admitted. But while they may not lead one to buried gold, the sentimental gnome assured any customer that every one of them promised adventure and an unforgettable journey.
His apprentice, however, was the polar opposite. His maps were precise, practical and prudent. They could be beautiful, the way anything intricate and technically sound can be said to be. But any artistry Samton worked into his charts always played second fiddle to their accuracy. Sam’s maps promised nothing more than to lead one to their destination.
"Honestly, Mr Parooh," he said, pushing ink stained fingers through his brown hair in pleading frustration, "Why don't I look at the back-orders and you just draw the map?"
"Me? Can't. Too busy. I'm sketching a map to the core of the earth! They're companion pieces, you see! One detailing the surface of the moon, the other guiding you to the center of the planet. Two extremes brought together. Oh, they'll be wonderful!"
Samton burst into laughter. He didn't want to, but how could he not? His master's enthusiasm had always been infectious. Trust a gnome to stack one absurdity onto another.
"Alright, fine." He was smiling in resignation. "I'll get started on the preliminary sketches to... *sigh* ... a map of the moon. But you do the detail work! Please? Those orders are important, sir."
It was a very pleased Veznutt Parooh that left his apprentice at his desk once the two had hashed out the workload. As for Samton, he looked out the window to the sunset and sighed once more. He really didn't like lying to Mr Parooh. He didn't like lying to anyone, but there was no helping it. The truth was that he had already finished the orders. Dutiful to a fault, the teenager had made sure to get these done early in the hope that he would have the evening for himself. He just couldn't tell the gnome why.
He reached down to his haversack. Samton pulled out his drawing pad and looked about to make sure Parooh was nowhere near before opening it - gnomes could be sneaky on account of being so small. On a page intentionally hidden near the back was an illustration which he now spread onto the desk. Sam rather liked illustrating. In addition to map making, his apprenticeship to the gnome had earned him a not insubstantial gift at drawing. This drawing, however, was not what one might expect from Samton the realist, Samton the practical, Samton the rationalist, Samton who everyone knew as a level-headed and responsible young man. Oh, no. He'd never live it down if Parooh saw this.
It was an illustration of a winsome musclebound tengu riding into battle on two horses, one foot on each saddle, whilst holding no less than six swords. It was completely ridiculous. It was outright dumb. And it was awesome. It was this drawing that Samton had hoped to finish tonight. It was all the fault of that tengu, Ms Narukami, honestly. Sam had happened upon one of the sample chapters of her writing she handed out for publicity on occasion, and although he, like so many others, had initially dismissed her prose as nothing but fanciful nonsense... he had been unable to put it down. Yes, it was very silly. Yes, it was ludicrously exaggerated. Yes, it wasn't the sort of literature clever youngsters such as him were supposed to read. But it was also so. darn. cooool. The drama! The excitement! The larger-than-life personas! It was unlikely anything young Sam had every read before and he was hooked. He had read everything Narukami had published to date, and eagerly counted the days to every new chapter. So taken was he with the story, that he had begun illustrating scenes from it.
Another big sigh escaped the apprentice. He'd best get started on Mr Parooh's assignment. The moon would probably be out soon. Perhaps he should take a walk - go moon watching. The job might be absurd, but Samton was a meticulous worker; he didn't believe in half measures. If he could work in just a little accuracy, maybe the map would carry some smidgen of intellectual legitimacy. Siiigh. Sometimes Sam wished all he had to contend with was an Iron Oni - evil overlords might be awful and all, but they were simple. You knew where you had those.
Asuka listens intently for news of any action on the caravan route and she quickly notes Angry raiding bears! and Goblin stealth operations? her eyes go wide and she furiously writes Trained bear shock troops (druids?) working with goblin stealth operatives!!!
Asuka has difficulty following talk of “employees” and “production” and instead fixates on how “Glassworks” sounds like it should be much cooler, like a place where creatures made of glass work making glass objects. Or would that be like people making objects out of flesh? I mean that’s basically what a tannery is, isn’t it? People with skin making skin into objects. Unsatisfied with that explanation, she leaves the question of what they make open.
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A creaking door would've drawn anyone's attention to the front entrance once more, soon after the horned individual arrived but no one entered after her. Instead some shuffling could be heard from the egress to the kitchen in the back, as Ameiko seemed to move awkwardly out of the way of a fast moving mane of Red Orange curls bouncing past, visible just inches above the bar.
Turning into the view of any watching, Poppy, a freckled gnome garbed in a cerulean vyshyvanka with copper trimmings and a leather apron which she promptly wipes her hands on before spotting the new arrival.
Though she may be one of the shortest individuals in the room, the living matryoshka doll clears the distance between her and Kaji's table, with the bearing and confidence of someone much larger. Though she wasn't specifically an employee of Ameiko's, Poppy often offered her services in the kitchen in an ongoing bid to convince the Tian adventurer that her customers would appreciate the delicacies of monster parts. To date, she's had middling success. Or as Ameiko said "Not everybody in Sandpoint is dying to try a Displacer Beet Salad!"
BUT, despite them being intermittent friends who knew each other only through Sandru, Ameiko let her occasionally dabble with recipes. This time around it was a traditional Rusty Dragon curry dish with diced Garden Ooze bulbs, instead of the normal greens. The trick, she had learned through trial and error, was to scrape/queeze out the acid with gloves and a rolling pin before stirfrying it.
Bobbing and weaving through tables, Poppy passes by the tiefling waving a menu at her expectantly with a flour covered hand and hurriedly announces through an Ustalavian accent, "Velcome to Rusty Dragon."Bethana vill be vith you shortly. Pleaze take seat.". Balancing ale & curry in her arms, Poppy arrives at the most currently crowded table at the inn, almost not noticing the rarely seen Ruka over the immpossible to miss, Asuka. Weilding a stony expression (betrayed only by the eager arch of her outsized eyebrows), she asks pointedly to Kajiwara while withholding his order, seemingly on the condition of his answer.
”I must say, I do not envy you the time spent keeping books balanced. My father - your uncle, Hondashi - had rather assumed that would be my role in the family business. It was...not to be."
Ruka blinks in surprise. She knew very little about her cousin or his family, and it hasn’t occurred to her that Kajiwara might not be following his family’s wishes with his current line of work. ”To be honest, I’m not particularly well-suited to it. As I was telling Asuka earlier, I was never the scholar my father would have wanted. It’s been...difficult. But someone had to step in, and it wasn’t like Ameiko-“ was any help, she was about to say before cutting herself off.
Ameiko had good reasons for avoiding the Glassworks. Ruka knew that. Understood it. The horrors Ruka had heard about Ameiko had lived through. But underneath it all there was still that old resentment that once again her sister had left her alone.
...”had the time, given her duties here,” she finishes weakly. Hurrying to change the topic, she asks, ”So your father didn’t want you to be a caravan guard? Is he okay with it now?”
The short, red-haired gnome was known to Kaji as an associate of Sandru's. Poppil...Poppo...Poppy, that was it! He answered the question, "Yes, Poppy. We just came in a little bit ago. I am sure Sandru will be available. He was with Koya last I saw."
To answer Ruka, he carefully chose his answer. "Following the death of our grandfather, my father and I spoke and we...came to an agreement, whereby I would guard the family's goods to their destination. In this way I would work for the family business, while still getting a taste of the adventuring life I desired. It was not what my father envisioned for me, but it was closer to what I wanted to do." And now I plan to back out of that deal and become an adventurer. I just need to figure out a way to tell father without antagonizing him too much.
Asuka notes Poppy moving over to the table and pumps her fist. The plot thickens! “He’z back” is such a mysterious (cool) intro. It has tension! Implies story! Reveals character! All in two words. Well, two and a half maybe with the contraction. The Ustalavic accent clinches it. ”So cool....”
She realizes she actually said that out loud and perks up. ”Hi there! Don’t mind me. Just writing. It’s what I do! Well, that and gardening! But I like writing better.”
”Oh! Can I have those nuts I usually have? The fresher the better!” Poppy knows from experience—whether from serving her before or from a heads-up from the other inn staff—that the “nuts” Asuka is talking about are coffee beans.
The fiery-coloured gnome waving a menu at her snaps Lor-Sinn out of her reverie and she remembers why she's here in the first place. Taking a few hesitant steps away from the door, the tiefling scan the mostly empty room, clearly looking for someone.
"He's not here yet. I'm probably early. Or he's late. Or something happened to him." The last thought sends a twinge of alarm through her; Lance wasn't the most competent of fighters, and Sandpoint had been beleaguered by many attacks in the last few years. But surely if goblins or dragons had attacked again, she would have heard it? There would have been more running around and screaming, and less of this... whatever it was that was happening here. People talking, she supposes. About family, and writing, and nuts. Speaking of, she wouldn't mind some food. She had been patrolling for the last few hours, proper patrolling, not what some of the guards were doing, propping up a wall by a tavern or a shop. Walking in full gear for hours does tend to work up an appetite, and Lor-Sinn gingerly takes a seat at an unoccupied table, hands between her knees, looking around expectantly.
Ruka raises her eyebrows at the tengu. Is everything 'cool' to her? She feels a slight pang of disappointment at that.
She's also starting to feel increasingly uncomfortable with the number of people at the table. Despite having been (mostly) focused on her writing, Asuka is far from unobtrusive. Talking to Kajiwara has been surprisingly easy, but it's still more conversation than she's used to with a near-stranger. Now Poppy is here too. Probably not for long, it seems she just wanted information on Sandru's whereabouts, but still...
Ruka realizes she's starting to tense up and tries to relax. It's fine. It's just conversation. It's fine. For the first time she regrets her decision to sit in the corner. Corners are great for keeping people from getting behind you. They're less great when you're feeling surrounded.
Hoping to distract herself, she latches onto the first topic of conversation that occurs to her. Family. We've been talking about family.
"What about you, Asuka? What does your family think about you being here?"
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”I don’t know how they feel yet. I got here by accident, you see. I sent letters to the Pathfinder Lodge in Magnimar for them to forward on to my Uncle Reiji and Granduncle Ginko for them to forward home since they are both Pathfinders and know how to find people and stuff. Uncle Reiji tends to forget things and Granduncle Ginko never does anything quickly, but they are both good birds, so I know they’ve sent word along! That’s just basic rules of being family.” Despite her enthusiasm and optimism, Asuka does recognize that her relatives are not necessarily the most reliable, and letters are notoriously unpredictable even when they aren’t being forwarded multiple times. The more she thinks on the matter, the more she misses Mom and Mother. The more she thinks on them, the more she misses Tian-Xia. Varisia is cool, but she needs to find a way back there sometime, once she’s gotten an adventure to write about properly. There aren’t exactly a ton of powerful wizards hanging around who could teleport her, she doesn’t have near enough money even if there was, and finding a wizard who knew Tian-Xia enough that they could reliably go to the right place would be even harder.
Reiji and Ginko are PFS characters of mine. Reiji is a level 12 bladebound/kensai magus who tries his best to embody the kinds of heroes Asuka likes and Ginko is a level 7 animist/speaker for the past shaman who worships Ghenshau, the empyreal lord of simplicity and placidity, and moonlights as a tea critic.
The front door slams open and Sheriff Belor Hemlock arrives, accompanied by a young, skinny town guardsman. While the sheriff goes to the "Help Wanted" board and places a scrap of parchment up against the board, the guardsman scans the room as if searching for something. Not finding whatever it is he was looking for, he follows behind the sheriff. "But why?"
Belor hammers the parchment to the wall with a small stubby peg, using the butt of his dagger as a mallet. The loud pounding draws everyone's attention even though that was not Belor's intention.
The sheriff says to the guardsman, "Lance. I appreciate your enthusiasm for protecting the community, but it's not going to help us at all if you disappear into the swamp like those other folks. People have a tendency to underestimate goblins. This may not be a dragon or a giant or anything like that, but I certainly wouldn't recommend this task without a full complement of trained soldiers, or at least some irregulars. Your duty is here [i]in town, alright? You need to protect Sandpoint from problems on the inside, not venturing out into the unknown. Look. That's the end of it."
Ameiko enters the room when all of the pounding begins, catching the tail end of whatever this discussion is, pours a pair of mugs of local ale and comes around to hand one to the sheriff and the other to the guardsman. She glances at the poster and says, "Goblin bounty again? I thought that was all taken care of after the unpleasantness."
Sheriff Hemlock shakes his head ruefully as he accepts the mug of ale from Ameiko. He speaks in heavily accented Taldane, influenced by his Shoanti origins, and says, "Apparently the goblins in the Brinestump Marsh got their hands on a shipment of fireworks. They've become emboldened by their success and they're preying on travelers along the road there -- hells, even one of the caravan masters reported a run-in. A group went in the Brinestump to look for the goblins three days ago, and we've heard nothing. Looks like we have no other choice -- ten gold pieces per goblin ear, three hundred more for bringing in the head of the chief."
Lance pouts, resting his elbow on the table and placing his chin in his palm, all the meanwhile sipping his ale.
Ameiko sidles around behind the bar and leans on it. She chuckles and replies, "That explains the sparks and explosions in the sky last night. Looks like the goblins were having a party."
Sheriff Hemlock grunts and takes a gulp of the ale. He wipes his mouth and says, "Well they're sure pulling one over on us. Nobody even has a map of the Brinestump anyway. They could be anywhere. I don't suppose you want another adventure?"
Ameiko seems to think about it for a second, but then she stands and holds up her hands defensively. "Oh, no! I'm a respectable businesswoman. I have responsibilities here." She waves to indicate the Rusty Dragon. "Why, if I were going to take up a life of adventure, I'd have to sell this place! And then where would you get free ale?" Her eyes twinkle with the teasing.
The sheriff finishes the mug of ale and puts it on the bar. "Well," he says, "If any swords-for-hire come through here, now's the time. I can't have Sandpoint under siege again as happened to my predecessor." He points with his thumb at the half-orc and says, [b]"Already have one volunteer," he says shooting a glance at Lance, "but I'm not one to recommend that a good man abandon his duty and post here in town. We'll need to come up with someone else to step up for this task."
Lance appears to be frustrated now, quickly downing the remainder of his ale and asking for another. Ameiko pats the boy on the shoulder and grabs another one and drops it off for him.
Kaji listens to the conversation between Sheriff Hemlock and Ameiko carefully. Goblin hunting? This could be a key to more adventure. And if they've been attacking caravans, I can justify this to father as acting in the interest of ensuring goblins don't steal our goods.
Kaji prepares to get up and volunteer before pausing and looking at Ruka and Asuka. He figures Ruka will say no, and he hopes Asuka does, given that he isn't sure how effective she would be, but it's always polite to offer. "It occurs to me that if these goblins are attacking caravans, the degree of threat this creates to my family's business requires me to look into it. Would either of you care to come with me to do so?"
Already on edge, Ruka jumps as the door slams open. She starts to relax as the sheriff walks in, and then immediately tenses again when she hears the topic of conversation. "I wonder if this has anything to do with the goblin signs you saw near the Mushfens," she mutters to Kajiwara.
Ameiko seems to be taking it lightly, (it seems like Ameiko takes everything lightly), but after everything that had happened Ruka is reluctant to ignore anything related to goblin activity. Particularly ones bold enough to start attacking caravans. Besides, they had to get the fireworks from somewhere. What if someone was helping them? Like Tsuto had?
While she's thinking, Kajiwara stands up and...says he'll look into it? And asks her to come along? (Well, her and Asuka, but close enough.)
Ruka wrings her hands together for a second before nodding. This is why you've been training. To make sure you could help if anything ever happened again.
"I'd...I'd be honored to accompany you, cousin. We can't allow these goblins to continue rampaging unchecked, and you definitely shouldn't go alone into the marsh." A ghost of a smile flits across her face. "I've been practicing. With a nodachi. It was one of father's old heirlooms from Minkai. I'm-" pretty good, she thinks, but that sounds too arrogant. "I should be able to watch your back."
As the sheriff enters the tavern, the tiefling wearing the Sandpoint guard's attire hurriedly rises to her feet, looking around panickedly and making as if she is about to dive under the table. Realizing that the furniture is probably not a very good hiding spot, she settles on snapping her heels together and giving Belor Hemlock a sharp salute.
"Good evening sir, nothing to report, all is quiet here, sir!" Only then she seems to notice the guard accompanying the sheriff and she breaks into a grin. "Lance! I had been waiting for you! Ready to show me that trick?"
Then her brain catches up with her ears.
"Goblins?" She fairly bounces on her toes. "Oh sir, let me go teach them a lesson, sir, I'm good in the wilderness!"
Asuka listens eagerly to this talk of goblins and firework and “The Unpleasantness.” Such a mysterious (and therefore cool) name for whatever happened could only be a kind of dramatic understatement! She would need to learn more....
Asuka’s thoughts are still on her writing when Shogahiro-san asks for her and Kaijitsu-san to join him, and it takes her a moment to realize what he’s asking. When she does, she grins and jumps up out of her chair, knocking her journal to the floor (which she then pauses to pick up), before standing in a heroic pose, fists on her hips, while she finally gets to use the line she’s been saving.
”A Narukami never shies away from the call of adventure! We are the lightning flashing bright and strong, banishing the darkness for even a single moment, the thunder of our triumph resounding far and wide!” Asuka beams, completely proud of herself. Her favorite reading of “Narukami” is “lightning-god,” so naturally she needed an appropriate intro.
Seeing the strange looks she assuredly is getting for such a display, she turns back to Shogahiro-san and sits down. ”So yes, I would very much like to go, all things considered.”
Two more guards enter the room and take a seat in the back of the room. They acknowledge Belor and try to waive down Bethana.
About this time Ameiko catches sight of Kajiwara for the first time, not seeing him when the sheriff first entered. She gasps as she realizes she has family here that she did not properly greet or prepare for.
"いとこ！ あなたがこの日に到着することを私は知りませんでした。 あなたが言葉を送っていたら私はあなたのために何かを準備していたでしょう。 あなたがアジアンに会えてうれしいです。"
Ameiko bows to Kajiari before looking to Ruka whereupon she begins to admonishes her sister "ルカ！ Ka原が到着したとはどうして言えないのでしょう！ 私は自分自身をより見栄え良くし、彼のために何かを準備していたでしょう。 確かに彼は長い旅行をしましたか？"
Turning back to Kajiwari she asks "ルカを服用してもよろしいですか？ 彼女は若く、冒険したことがない。 彼女にはそのような経験はありません。"
Shooting a quick glance to Ruka, she turns back to her cousin and asks "「失礼です。何か手に入れられますか？すぐに部屋を用意し、休憩できるようにします。」"
Lance is sipping his drink when the tiefling calls his name. He freezes instantly, spilling some of his ale onto his shirt. With the mug still at his lips, he looks around with his eyes only as he tries to pinpoint who is talking to him. After a few awkward seconds of silence, he sets down his mug and looks in her direction. "Uhm."
He looks around the room to see if there another Lance, but finds none. Looking towards her he stumbles over words. "Uhm. I don't know what you're talking about. I think you have the wrong person." he responds, looking away.
Meanwhile, Belor is cautiously optimistic. "Splendid! All of these volunteers! This is going to go quite well." he lies as he looks around at the room full of people who have never adventured before.
One of the two new guards that enters the room snickers to himself quietly.
Asuka waits until Ameiko finishes talking to her family, not wanting to interrupt her personal affairs. The moment Ameiko finishes speaking, though, Asuka waves excitedly.
Kajiwara nods in acceptance of Asuka - although her...dramatics...do cause him to wince a little. He notes the guardswoman - a Tiefling of some kind - who also volunteered. The Sheriff apparently didn't have an issue with her volunteering, although he did with the young half-orc.
When Ameiko comes over, and speaks to him, he returns her bow with one of his own and says, "問題ありません、いとこ。 私はあなたに余分な賦課を加えたくありません。 ベタナとポピーは私が世話をしてくれたことに気づきました。 ルカが私に同行したい場合、彼女は歓迎されています。 家族と時間を過ごすのは良いことです。気を変えて来たいですか？"
"It is no problem, cousin. I do not wish to add extra imposition to you. Bethana and Poppy have seen to it I was taken care of. If Ruka wishes to accompany me, she is welcome to. It will be good to spend time with family. Would you wish to change your mind and come as well?"
Lor-Sinn looks confused at the young guardsman's denial, but whatever she was about to say gets interrupted by the sheriff giving her permission to go goblin-hunting into the marsh. Or at least that is how she chooses to interpret his words.
She beams, standing at attention even more attentively than before. "Yes, sir, thank you sir, I will not disappoint you!"
Only then does it occur to her to look around and see who are the other volunteers. "Oh hi, yes, what a great gathering of people! Are you ready to go? The Brinestump is not very far!"
The slight smile that had briefly appeared on Ruka's face disappears immediately, leaving her scowling at Ameiko. Although her sister had been teaching her the language and she understands it well enough, she's still not familiar enough with Minkaian to actually respond in kind. Which Ameiko knows damn well.
Her humiliation deepens as Kajiwara responds fluently. Of course he would have been able to pick up the language. Even Asuka knows it! While I...don't. Not yet.
Unable to respond in Minkaian, she settles for Common. (She could respond in Tien, but that would only further emphasize the fact that she's not using the same language her sister did.) "Kajiwara just arrived as I was eating dinner. I suggested he eat something as well, because it was a long journey." Her tone grows icier as she continues. "As for my youth and lack of experience, you were far younger and had even less the first time you ran away. I believe I will be able to handle myself just fine." She turns to the sheriff, her lips set in a thin line. "I would be pleased to volunteer for this expedition. Let it not be said that the Kaijitsu's care nothing for this town."
Despite her newfound determination, what Lor-Sinn says does make her pause. "Perhaps it would be better to wait until the morning? Rather than try to navigate the marsh in the dark."
Outside the Rusty Dragon Inn stood a very pensive, very nervous adolescent clearly and obviously deep in thought. Rationalist though he might be, if the mind truly was a piece of machinery then sparks would be coming out his ears right now. Young Sam had just come from visiting Mr Gandethus, headmaster of Turandarok Academy and one of his two parental figures, to borrow his spyglass - the youngster remembered the wizard using the Kaijitsu made tool in a lesson on the refraction of light. It had been his intent to borrow the instrument for the night to go moon watching; Samton had been on his way up to the Old Light, determined on working in at least some accuracy to Mr Parooh's silly lunar map, when he had heard voices from the tavern. They were difficult to ignore, but then the Rusty Dragon was often home to commotions of one degree or another; trouble always seemed to follow owner Ameiko Kaijitsu. Samton really hoped the poor woman would find some peace now, especially after the recent events.
But lo and behold, trouble had now found him. Well, perhaps that was a poor choice of words. It would be more accurate to say the young man's conscience was troubling him. Sam had overheard everything from Sheriff Hemlock. Goblins were threatening people again? Volunteers were needed? Samton keenly remembered Sandpoint's last goblin struggle. And all the struggles that followed. He had been too young to be of any use then. This was not the case now. Now he was... well, 'strong' wasn't strictly true. 'Capable'? No, that'd still be saying a bit much. 'Skilled'? Eh... 'Proficient'? Yes, he'd settle for that. Samton Verro now had some 'proficiencies'. Point was, if he could help his hometown in any way, shouldn't he?
The wizard shook his head and gathered his thoughts. No, not only should he do this, this was a job he wanted to do. On a pragmatic, professional, and even intellectual level he wanted to join in on this expedition. Pragmatically, it was in his interest to see the goblin menace culled before they became a major problem. This was in the entire community's interest. Furthermore, drawing a decent map of their den could be of use to future goblin exterminators decades from now. Professionally, he could certainly use the promised bounty; experimenting in the arcane was not cheap, and even putting aside his magical side-ventures, Sam felt that he owed Mr Parooh a good original map for the shop. A proper map, that was. And intellectually, well... There was something inherently noble and right in charting the unknown, for no other purpose than knowledge - knowledge for its own sake.
Sam realized what he was doing. He was compartmentalizing all the reasons he should go to the marsh as a means of conquering his nervousness. It was so like him, trying to win over emotion with logic. But the young man was not so dishonest that he couldn't admit that he had another, very emotional, reason for going. An image flashed before him: he had just returned to town, victorious, with a necklace of fresh goblin ears hanging around his neck. At the back of a throng of admirers was Shalelu, hailed goblin slayer, looking upon him with great approval...
Sam smirked, wryly. A pipe dream, nothing more. His magic was not weak, but he was no fighter. The most he could do was empower others. The elf warden wasn't getting a bouquet of green ears from him any time soon.
Well. It was decided then. He was joining the expedition. Samton was not one to deliberate once all the signs were clear - it's wasn't in his rationalist nature. It would be morally and intellectually dishonest to do so now. The only remaining question was how to go about this. Should he just stroll right in there and engage the Sheriff? What if he was turned away? Aw man, that'd be embarrasing...
Sensible though he was, young Sam was still just an awkward teenager.
Poppy's focus leaves her momentarily at Kaji's response in the affirmative, as a thoughtless grin crawl across her face. He's back. It had been too many months since last she'd seen him and she had so much to say. Big idiot. She nods absentmindedly at Asuka's mention of her favorite snack and places Kaji's food on the table, before heading back into the kitchen. She takes off her apron and places her chopin's over her leather shoes in a rush to get going when the Sheriff's incessant banging wakes her from her daydream.
Poppy soaks in the conversations unfolding around her as talk of goblins and fireworks turns to enlisting adventurous pledges. Poppy often travelled in larger caravans and the like for protection but occasionally she'd wander from town to town on her own, as she'd been planning to do before this most recent troubling news. She could always just wait for Sandru to finish here, but his next route took her back the way she had just come and sometimes it took him weeks to leave, while she had a already been in Sandpoint for a quarter month.
But... Maybe this was a problem worth approaching head on. She had never ventured into Brinestump, neither had many adventuring types to her knowledge. Though she'd heard rumors of a menagrie of beasties that lurked within and her stock of parts was running terribly low. Plus, if all else failed, she could join up with Sandru's company just up until they hit a metropolis. Maybe sticking around in Sandpoint wouldn't be so bad...
Ah, hell. Poppy briskly exits the kitchen, nearly a head taller thanks to her platforms, carrying a small bowl of coffee beans to her aureate avian ally with a nod of recognition.
"I vill join you all, if you'll have me. Maybe Brinestump vill have more beasties to spice up Ameiko's cooking?", she announces with a toothy grin, winking back at the bartender. "Vhen do ve leave? Morning, Da?"
Ameiko is stuck between trying to be nice to her cousin and grant his wish to allow Ruka to accompany him while balancing the fact that she wasn't old enough to be adventuring. When she tosses a barb out at her about her misadventures previously, she straighten her back and thins her lips as she wishes to lash out with a response.
This is not the time nor place, behave yourself. You are the adult here.
To Ruka she responds "あなたは家族の前で私に無礼です。 あなたの未熟さに失望しています。 今夜遅く話しましょう。"
With a deep breath she nods to Kaji "お望み通り、いとこ。 しかし、彼女はほんの一握りになると期待しています。 私は彼女をあなたの世話に任せて、あなたがこの負担に備えることを願っています。 私は彼女が彼女の本であるので、彼女が彼女のノダチで良くなることを望むだけです。"
She bows to Kajiwara and storms off into the backroom, clearly frustrated. Though her words are laced with anger, it's obviously she does not really mean the words she voices but too frustrated to address the situation properly.
Unfortunately for Asuka, Ameiko is so caught up in her family business she misses the wave from the friendly Tengu.
Belor's expression is one of confusion as he watches Ameiko depart to the kitchen. Bethana sees what's happening and lies brilliantly ."She left some food on the stove is all. She'll be back shortly."
Below nods and turns to face his new group of goblin exterminators. "Well this is fantastic news! I did not expect such a quick response. Is everyone here willing to go?"
Lance starts to raise his hand but when Belor shoots him a look he tentatively lowers it. He looks away from Lor-Sinn and ignores her completely before storming out of the Rusty Dragon. Two other town guards in the corner of the room burst out laughing with Lance departs, drawing the ire of the Sheriff. They quickly stop laughing and look away as he begins to announce. "Well then! I would recommend the morning. Get a solid nights rest and set off first light. Keep your wits about you, those damn green things are always out for mischief!"
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Ruka visibly flinches when Ameiko starts berating her about disrespect. For a fraction of a second, it's not her sister in front of her, but her father. He's angry with me again he's always angry with me nevergoodenoughI'msorryI'msorryI'msorry...
Hearing Bethana and Belor start talking, she forces herself back to the present through sheer force of will. Father's dead. Because of goblins. And now they're attacking people again. So I'm going to help. I don't care what Ameiko thinks. I don't.
No matter how hard she tries to tell herself she doesn't care, her head stays lowered and she can't meet anyone's eyes. "I won't be a burden. I swear it. I'll meet you here in the morning. It was...it was good to meet you, cousin." She bows quickly and rushes out of the tavern, leaving her half-eaten meal behind her.
Focus. I need supplies. I need to let Cornel know I might be gone for a few days. He can handle the Glassworks while I'm away, I'll just make sure to finish the last of the paperwork tonight... She remembers Ameiko saying that they'll talk later, and she bites her lip so hard it bleeds.
No. Ameiko had no right to order her around. Ameiko had no right to lecture her about disrespect. Ameiko had no right to call her a burden, not when she'd run from every responsibility she'd ever had while leaving Ruka to pick up the pieces.
So Ameiko could damn well sit in her precious tavern until sunrise. Ruka had more important work to do.
Asuka is honestly ready to run out right this minute and start fighting goblins, but she recognizes she is probably the minority. So instead, she decides the next best thing is to plan, which means gathering everyone together. She rushes to the door, and—standing with it open so people inside and outside can hear—calls out. ”If you’re after the bounty, come here and group up! We’re making a posse!” She turns to a nearby patron she’s never spoken to before. ”I’m using that word right, right? ‘Posse?’” Before the person can answer, her mind jumps again and she retreats inside to await the group gathering.
When people have finally gathered, Asuka raises her talon and calls for attention. ”Everyone that is going to fight the goblins! We all here? Well, if anyone is absent, I guess we can catch them up later. Hi there! Asuka Narukami here. The time for organizing ourselves is now. Introductions and explanations of what we do, logistics, and—most importantly!!!—a name for this group. That’s just basic rules of groups!” A thought draws her attention and she draws her katana from inside her multi-layered robes and brandishes it. ”Oh, yeah! I’ll go first. I fight with the audacious style and fiery passion of a true warrior! My blade moves too fast for anyone to predict, striking from where least expected as I flutter about the battlefield. But do not mistake me for a flighty bird! My resolve is irrepressible, my will is of steel, forged from the finest iron.” As she lists things, she goes through various poses of questionable combat effectiveness. She then sheathes her sword and bows before sitting down and calmly—yet eagerly—awaiting similar displays from her new comrades.
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Outside the Rusty Dragon, Samton the eavesdropper was still locked in deliberation and so was startled terribly as the inn door suddenly flew open. Out rushed a raven-haired figure clearly none too pleased about something or other, which made what followed all the more unfortunate as she and the young wizard were immediately locked into that most awkward of dances, the sidewalk shuffle. Running almost headfirst into Samton outside, he, mindful as he was, stepped to his right to let her pass. She moved to her left to do the same. They remained in each other's way. Sam stepped to the left, nodding in apology. She moved to her right. They were in each other's way again. This tiresome ritual, so common wherever pedestrians meet, continued for another few agonizing seconds before Samton decided to just stand still and let the young woman pass. She did so.
"... Sorry," he offered rather lamely after the affected girl was already out of earshot.
Had that been Ruka Kaijitsu, Samton then realized? He was vaguely familiar with the young woman, as one was with the few noble families in a small town, especially on account of the them being the same age. They didn't exactly move in the same circles, however. What was she so upset about? The young man had noted that the serious little face had been more severe than was usual. Was this related to all the Minkaian earlier?
The cartographer-in-training flinched again as the door behind him once again burst open, this time with even greater force, and a very colorful tengu craned her vivid head outside.
”If you’re after the bounty, come here and group up! We’re making a posse!” She turns to a nearby patron she’s never spoken to before. ”I’m using that word right, right? ‘Posse?’”
"Uh..." was all he managed in response as he realized this walking kaleidoscope was addressing him. But reticent as he was, Sam's keen mind was naturally predisposed to answer any query. "Posse: a body of men in a county whom the sheriff can summon to enforce the law. Um... Yeah, you're using that exactly right."
She seemed pleased enough at this, and rushed back inside the tavern. Well. If he was looking for an invitation to join the expedition, this was certainly it. Hold on, said Samton's internals. Had that been Asuka Narukami?! Well, yes, it must be, she wasn't exactly the most anonymous of figures. Sam was her biggest fan! Was she going out to the marsh? The wizard now found an all new and somewhat selfish reason to join the goblin slayers: protect his favorite author so that she might finish her story. Sam stepped into the inn to see the tengu climb a chair to deliver a bombastic introduction and call to action both. Yup, this was definitely the writer behind such ludicrousness as the Six Swords Final Heaven Blast. Taking in everything she had to say, questionable martial arts showing included, the quiet, thoughtful young man definitely didn't find such ridiculous displays of bravado and self-celebration very liberating and empowering. Nope. Definitely not.
This was it, however. Volunteers were literally being asked for, so he wouldn't find a better opportunity to join in. Steeling his nerves, Samton simply raised a hand.
"Hi. I'm, uh, I'm Samton Verro. I..."
I wield the powers of the arcane! I can rearrange the fundamentals of the universe in seconds! I am capable of manipulating matter and energy on a subatomic level by speaking! A mere flick of my finger is sufficient to undo all matter! I shelve physics texts under 'Fiction' in the library, I consider the laws of thermodynamics loose guidelines at best! In short, I am grasping the reins of the universe's carriage, and every morning I wake up, look to the heavens, and shout, 'Giddy up, boy!' Few may ever grasp the complexities of what I do, but know that I will fight for justice! I am a wizard, and I break more natural laws before breakfast than of which most are even aware !
"I know some magic. Oh, and I might be able to help navigate the marsh."
Kaji was going to tell Ameiko he didn't find Ruka's reference to her going adventuring all that disrespectful - after all, he somewhat envied his cousin for having been so bold to do so. However, before he could respond, Ameiko stormed off to the kitchen. He only had time to offer a bow to her back.
"It was good to meet you, as well, cousin," Kaji says and bows to Ruka's back. Ameiko and Ruka are not close - but then, neither are Juba and I. Grandfather said he was never close to his siblings, as well. It must run in the family. He did find it curious why Ruka had not responded in Minkaian - he would speak to her tomorrow. Perhaps she needed some assistance with the language.
His reverie was interrupted by Asuka - who, apparently would be joining them, worse luck - shouting that they were gathering a posse and that everyone who was going should meet up. Covering his eyes with one hand and rubbing his temples slightly at the exuberance, he looked up just in time to watch Asuka draw her katana and strike various poses with it - some of which looked like they were actually good form, others of which looked cool but left the wielder open to attack. In no less than three of those poses did Kaji see a way he could remove her blade from her hands quickly.
Next, he turned his attention to a youth about as old as Ruka, who introduced himself as Samton Verro. "It is good to meet you, Samton Verro. Your magic should be useful, as will your ability to navigate the marsh. I am Kajiwara Shogahiro. I have some skill with the bow, as well as some familiarity with tracking. I have worked to guard caravans for several years, which should be useful."
Once he'd introduced himself, he went over to Sheriff Hemlock and said, "Greetings, Sheriff Hemlock. I am Kajiwara Shogahiro, Ameiko and Ruka's cousin." He offers a formal bow to the Sheriff. "Will you tell me where the caravan was attacked by the goblins? The best way to find them may be to track them from that site."
The sheriff watches Kaji's bow and waits until he dones before shoving his hand out to shake the archer's. "Sure thing, son. Lots of rumors and whispers of goblin activity to the south. For certain though, the caravan was attacked on the Lost Coast Road south of here somewhere between Sandpoint and Brinestump march, just past Ashen Moor."
Descending the steps from the upper floors, a tall blonde-haired elf of quite some fame descends and joins the conversation. She heads towards a table and signals Bethana for a drink. "It's the Licktoads Belor, I already told you that. I don't know why you don't believe me."
Shrugging, the sheriff counters "Not that I don't believe you Shalelu, everyone knows your our resident expert in these matters. Just that no one brought me any proof quite yet. Right?"
Shalelu rolls her eyes "I told you what it is, that should be proof enough."
Turning towards Kajiwara she explains "If you're looking for the source of the attacks, head towards Brinestump. That's where you'll find them."
Lor-Sinn looks confused at Ameiko's younger sister as she challenges the plan of going right now, then the likely reason for that dawns on her. "Ah yes! You don't see well in the dark, do you?" She scratches her head for a moment, thinking. "And we should probably pack a few things." What does one pack when going to fight goblins? "Goblin lure? Anti-mosquito netting, I think." Her mind wanders to that one time when Shalelu and her ventured into the marsh and how she spent most of the time swatting at the annoying insects. "Smoke bombs!" Excited, the tiefling makes her way towards the door, not pausing to consider where she would acquire smoke bombs in Sandpoint, nevermind at this hour in the evening.
On the way, she almost bumps into the tengu, who is holding some sort of speech while waving their sword about. "Can you kill mosquitoes with that? There are lots of mosquitoes in the marsh. And water, but not the kind that you can drink. And trees, and moss. Mosssquitoes, ahaha!" Lor-Sinn starts laughing at her own joke.
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Poppy watches as Ruka exchanges strained words with Ameiko before storming outside and couldn't help but wonder what she had missed while in the kitchen. Regardless, she seemed to be still joining the makeshift group tomorrow so Poppy saw no reason to pursue her.
Poppy took note of Shalelu's instruction, bolstering the Sherriffs previous mention of Brinestump when he'd first arrived and began mentally preparing. I'll need some long boards to tie to the wagon wheels in case mud becomes a concern. WHEN it becomes a concern, as it is a Marsh. We'll need a little extra wood for torches to aid her vision deficient acquaintances after dark. Poppy then overhears the horned ones quip about insects and makes a final mental note. Bug repellent. Definetly need bug repellent.
Suddenly distracted, Poppy turns her attention to the other younger adventurers as they discuss what they could offer to the cause. All in all, it seemed like a talented bunch, many of which thankfully knew how to navigate more treacherous terrain. The cadre seemed to not hear her previous statement over the general excitement of introductions and plans. It was very much contagious. Was this how Sandru use to feel? She couldn't help but smile at the groups enthusiasm. She'd seen many brave hopefuls set out on perilous journeys and had never envied them before, so why now? Their faces either bright with excitement or shimmering with steely resolve. Caught in the moment, she felt what could only be a genuine experience of yearning for glory and fortune. A chance to finally finish her cooking volume! A call for something more! Or maybe it was just indigestion. Time would tell.
Poppy, taking a note out of Asuka's book, suddenly climbs up on a nearby chair and raises her unsheathed spatula in the air in mock triumph. "My name is Poppy Cotton of Cotton's Coach Cookery, wielder of savory spices and champion of second breakfast! I am no hero, nor adventurer. I have no skill vith longblade like Asuka, nor vith bow as dear Kaji claims. And my current magics are more trix zan true enchantment. But I can promise you one zing, you vill not go hungry for true flavor as long as I draw breath. Death to trail rations!", she declared half jokingly to her new allies.
Focused as she was on blood-sucking insects, Lor-Sinn had neglected to introduce herself, and Shalelu's appearance further distracts her. Her armor and weapons clinking as she moves, the tiefling makes her way towards the elf, moving to wrap her in a hug and not paying any mind to the fact that she was busy conversing with others.
"Shae-shae, you're back! We're going into the marsh to kill goblins! Come with us!" Delight and affection light up her face as she beams at the ranger. The tail end of Poppy's introduction elbows itself into her awareness and she lifts a finger in the air. "Ah, yes, food! I'll go pack some for... When are we leaving, sir?" She turns to Belor expectantly.
Belor shrugs "This is not a dire emergency that requires your immediate departure. I would get rest, pack supplies and depart for the old fishing trail that leads into Brinestump to the south at first light."
Shalelu seems a little stiff during Lor-Sinn's hug, but she weathers the encounter and regains her personal space before responding. "Good to see you. I'm afraid I'll pass on this particular hunt, I've just returned and have a few errands to attend to. Perhaps if you make a second venture I may have some time to come with you."
Knowledge (history): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (10) + 5 = 15
"We'll need some climbing gear as well - the Brinestump Marsh is surrounded by a forty-foot high cliff, and many of the fishing trails that lead into it are overgrown. We may find ourselves needing to climb."
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Asuka makes notes in her journal of peoples' various skills. She tilts her head inquisitively at Samton. "What kind of magic? Blow up stuff? Make everyone super buff? Summon angels in armor?"
But then, Poppy's display completely takes Asuka by surprise.
Asuka stands up and applaudes Poppy, an honest-to-goodness tear in her eye. She has never seen someone else take to her style of introduction so readily and earnestly, and it is a refreshingly new experience, one that validates everything that Asuka believes about being a True Hero. Asuka knows that a lot of people think her way of doing things is "weird" or "nonsensical" or "stupid," and she usually does a good job of not caring about it, but an actual kindred spirit? And a cute girl, too.
"That was SO COOL." Asuka runs over and hugs Poppy. "We're going to be good friends! I know it." Asuka raises her wing and a taloned fist. "Death to trail rations!"
Asuka is roused from her excitement by Kaji's mention of the Marsh.
Knowledge (untrained): 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (11) + 0 = 11
"I remember Brinestump from when I first came here! There was a halfling there who pointed me towards town."
Poppy gives a playfully dramatic bow at Asuka's clapping before jumping off the chair. She had hoped that the good humored jest might relieve some of the tension left in the wake of the warring Kajitsus. Plus she admired the poet's spirit and leaving her hanging just felt wrong. Some of the others seemed a little awkward around her, but Poppy found her openness refreshing.
Her dry humored expression shifts suddenly at Kaji's mention of the terrain of Brinsetump.A cliff? She turns and addresses him with a hint of disappointment in her voice.
"That means ve'll have to leave my kart in town, da? Ve might-"
Before she could finish, Poppy abruptly found herself with a face full of feathers and fabric. She was suprised by their softness though they were tempting a sneeze something fierce. And although the Tengu was not of a particularly towering stock, she still stood roughly a foot taller than Poppy, leaving her slightly smothered. Unaccustomed to having such an energetic invasion of her personal space, the gnome returns the gesture with several small stilted pats on the back and a hidden grin. "Vell, who am I to argue vith varrior instincts? "
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"What kind of magic? Blow up stuff? Make everyone super buff? Summon angels in armor?"
The young man shrank a bit beneath the tengu's questioning; it was a wee bit intimidating to meet one's favorite author, and then feel you were being evaluated by her. Samton was immediately caught between the dilemma of not wishing to exaggerate his meager abilities, but also knowing that he had to appear at least somewhat capable. He didn't want to be turned away, after all. Regardless, Sam wasn't particularly good at either evoking things to smithereens or conjuring celestial hordes. Transmuting matter, however? That he could rightfully claim a certain knowledge of.
"Um, I can't promise to make anyone... 'super buff' - not yet, anyway - but yes, I can enhance others, actually. I mostly work with transmutation. I can't promise to be much use myself, but I should be able to make everyone else that much better."
That wasn't too self-aggrandizing, was it?
"It is good to meet you, Samton Verro. Your magic should be useful, as will your ability to navigate the marsh. I am Kajiwara Shogahiro. I have some skill with the bow, as well as some familiarity with tracking. I have worked to guard caravans for several years, which should be useful."
"Nice to meet you, Mr Shogahiro," the wizard said with a strangely relieved smile. He extended his hand, clearly anxious to be polite. "I, uh, look forward to working with you."
A caravan guard? Well, this was reassuring. All credit to Ms Narukami's skill at writing, but Sam was less confident in her sword arm, doubly so after her earlier display, unfortunately. It was good to know they would be travelling with someone experienced. And a gnome chef, apparently? Samton's misgivings about the expedition, so recently assuaged by Kajiwara, flared right back up again as a Ms Cotton suddenly loudly and proudly declared that she would be joining the group and adding to it neither spell nor sword, but good food. Well. At least her enthusiasm couldn't be faulted. What had he gotten himself involved in?
These concern had to make way for now, however. As it did every thought in the young man's otherwise busy head. And all the air within his lungs for that matter. Samton was left stunned as he spotted... her. How could he not see her? She was the center of the universe, after all. The entirety of the Rusty Dragon Inn, patrons and all, had helpfully faded away. There was only her, descending from whatever corner of Heaven she shad sprung from down a staircase floating in the void. The golden hair more precious than any dragon's hoard of feeble yellow metal. The graceful limbs so gorgeous the earth felt it a privilege that they walk upon it. The cobalt-blue eyes, like twin polar stars reflected in mountain lakes. The adorable nose. Shalelu Andosana. Gods. Shelyn must be crying herself to sleep every night, the ugly bint, ashamed that a mortal walked the material world more beautiful than her.
But lo, a serpent slipped into Sam's silly little garden. The rose-tinted goggles were fortunately shattered as Lor-Sinn the tiefling invaded the dreamscape by embracing her mentor. The wizard had to blink a few times as he returned to the material plane. His rational brain loudly admonished him for going into a daze at the mere sight of his infatuation, even as his lungs reminded him that breathing was quite important for survival. Brain and body both, however, could not stop the cold dagger of jealousy sink into the heart; what he wouldn't give to be able to touch the elf. Heck, Sam'd settle for the ability to speak with her. As it was, the love-struck young man could barely look at the ranger.
Know (geography): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (9) + 8 = 17
Hm, what? Right. The expedition. Yes, treacherous territory. Possibly more so than the goblins themselves. They would have to prepare. He would have to prepare. Oh my, how would Mr Parooh take to the news that his apprentice was taking an extended leave for goblins slaying?
The sheriff claps his hands together and announces "Right! Sounds like you lot have some goblin exterminating to do tomorrow, yes? Get some good rest and take care of yourselves, I don't want to have to send Shalelu here out to rescue you!" He laughs and slaps the table and starts to walk out. Halfway there an idea pops into his head and turns around to add "Oh! If you are indeed heading out to the swamp tomorrow, make a map of it for me and I'll get the mayor to pay you handsomely. It would be well to have something to go off of should this happen again."
With that final piece he turns and departs, heading out the door.
Later that night Ameiko shows Kajiwara his room and makes sure he has everything that he needs to be safe and comfortable, going out and getting whatever additional items he might require. With a final bow she bids him goodnight and leaves his room. She pauses in the doorfame and turns back to whisper "ルカの世話をしてください。 それは以前の私たちの交流からは明らかではないかもしれませんが、彼女は私にとって世界を意味し、私は彼女に何が起こっても耐えられません。 私は...別のものを失うことはできません。"
Her reception with Ruka is not quite as warm however, still frustrated that she is going on this adventure despite her protesting that she is not ready. She doesn't take to words with her like she said she would, instead giving her the cold shoulder to let her know she is frustrated with her decision. She avoids her for the remainder of the evening.
She gets word to Poppy that she'd like her to arrive extra early tomorrow to work out a special meal for those seeking to head to the swamp.
Going to roll you on to the next day. Feel free to wrap up your evening and start the following day in your next post.
The next morning Ameiko helps Poppy serve her breakfast for the group, free of charge. Any frustrations or leftover items from the day before are gone, and she's in an unusually chipper mood. "Morning all! Get it while it's hot! Depending on how long you're going to stay out there in the swamp, you're going to need a nice warm meal to remember."
Asuka wakes up especially early that morning—an “early bird,” if you will—and gets to her morning training before heading out, performing drills with her waster.
CMB vs DC 15: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (20) + 4 = 24
Her outfit today is of a loose shirt and slacks underneath a suit of leather lamellar armor. The shirt is orange and the slacks are magenta. Both shirt and slacks are split into three horizontal stripes that increase in lightness until coming together at her pure white belt. A bandolier with alchemical items and a finely-crafted backpack give her the impression of someone who is actually ready to go do some adventuring.
Asuka gleefully sits down and begins chowing on the food. ”Thank you, Kaijitsu-sensei! Itadakimasu! I will prove how cool of an adventurer I am today.” Asuka winks at Ruka and nudges her. ”Kaijitsu-san, too!”
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Ruka yawns as she walks up to the Rusty Dragon. While she’s habitually an early riser, she’d been up late the night before. By the time she’d tracked down Cornel, filled out all the forms that required a Kaijitsu signature, and gone through the manor shoving everything that looked remotely useful into her bag, it had been well after midnight.
(Were they going to need a shovel? Charcoal? The lockpicks she’d found in the Glassworks after...well, after, and had been teaching herself how to use out of morbid curiosity? Ruka doesn’t know, but if they do, she’ll have it covered.)
All the miscellany has definitely overloaded her poor backpack. Odd shapes bulge out the sides, the shovel handle is sticking out the top, and she’d had to sit on it to get it to close. (Probably squashing her trail rations in the process.) Fortunately Ruka’s stronger than she looks and can easily manage the weight. What’s really slowing her down is her armor, which restricts her movements more than she’s comfortable with. I need to get better-fitting armor. This wouldn’t do for a long journey.
Of course, there’s also the nagging fear that she’s going to get there, fully equipped, only to find that the group had decided to wait a day or so before leaving. Or worse, that they’d ended up leaving last night. It’s an irrational fear, (surely no one would have agreed to go traipsing through a marsh at midnight, no matter what that guard had suggested), but it’s there nonetheless. Maybe Ameiko had convinced Kajiwara that she was (just a useless stupid burden) not going to be any help. She certainly hadn’t done anything to prove otherwise. Not when a few harsh words had her fleeing like a frightened rabbit.
Focus. You’re a Kaijitsu. Act like it.
Despite the worry tying knots in her stomach, she holds her head high and keeps her face impassive as she enters the Rusty Dragon. She immediately sees Asuka gobbling up some breakfast, and at least one worry is assuaged. They were still here. And judging by Asuka’s gear, they were planning on leaving today.
”Good morning Asuka. I hope I’ve not kept anyone waiting.” Asuka doesn’t seem like she’s rushing, so Ruka tentatively sits down and gets some breakfast of her own. Her shoulders tense when she sees Ameiko, but she doesn’t say anything to her sister. She’s not sure what she would say.
Lor-Sinn had spent the previous evening packing and chatting with Koya, doing her best to be prepared come morning. As soon as there was enough light outside, she had hoofed it to the garrison for some early morning archery practice - something she did every morning for at least an hour. Then it was gathering the last bits and pieces of her kit and striding through the front door of the Rusty Dragon, jingling and clanking with each step. Aside from the scale armor she wears, the tiefling now has a buckler strapped to her left forearm, a longsword belted at her hip, her bow and quiver on her back, and an overstuffed backpack slung over one shoulder, with a bear trap hanging on one side of it and a coil of rope on the other.
"Ahhh!" She inhales deeply, savoring the breakfast aromas. "That smells delicious. Good morning! Who else is excited for our goblin hunt today? Is there any herbal tea?" She stops to cock her head at Asuka's unusual way of addressing Ameiko and Ruka. "Why do you call them that? Those are not their names - well, only half of their names as they are both named Kaijitsu. Are those other words extra names? Secret names? Are you writing a book about them and you named their characters San and Sensei? I think that would be confusing for readers, because those two words sound very alike."