The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    Christmas in Fortitude is a wonderful thing: trees and lamp-posts dripping with lights, the smell of honey biscuits filling the street whenever someone opens a bakery door, carols and fight songs rising above the rooftops. The cooks and poets work double time, and everyone else takes it easy for a few days. Sometimes, in defiance of the warm climate and prevailing winds, there’s even a dusting of snow! Yes, Christmas is truly magical by the docks of Big Lake.

    Today, however, is not Christmas. Today is Tuesday. And though the preparations have already begun to fill the streets with activity, the actual celebrations are over a week away—an eternity to a secondary-schooler with big plans. The question, then, on this first morning out of school, is: how will you spend it?
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    In time, dear reader, you may wonder if Rinley is weak. If they lack discipline, or willpower, or the strength of character to get their life under control. You may believe they're a creature of short-sighted impulse, little more than a cat in human shape.

    In those moments I want you to remember that on the first day of Christmas Yatskaya Rinley got up, brushed their teeth, walked past a warm kotatsu covered in purring cats, put on their brother's coat, and went straight out into the cold. Yes, you read that correctly! Rinley is so dedicated to their craft that all the temptations of warm noodle soup and two dozen sleeping cats on a day when they have nothing expected of them is not enough to turn them away!

    It almost makes you wish that they were applying that determination to some plan more noble than 'troublemaking, starting with Naomi'.

    The coat's too big for them, but that's the price you pay when you're the youngest. They're dressed in a motley mish-mash of their brother and sister's clothes - coat and jeans from him, blue dress and scarf from her, enormous floppy hat from the Emperor of Big Lake himself (they'd won it in the hundred meter dash. He'd lost. He was a fish).

    They fish around in their pockets for their gear. Carrot. Vampire fangs. Balloon. Onion. Red food colouring. Buttons. Flour. Perfect.

    *

    Naomi, when you wake up, Rinley is standing outside your window next to a snowman.

    They're as still as ice. As pale as ice. You've never seen them so pale - they're not wearing a coat, their bare limbs are pallid, unnatural, bloodless white. Everything on their body is white - except for the bloody pinpricks on their neck.

    Oh no.

    As Rinley meets your gaze, they blink with red eyes - and bloody teardrops run down their face. They smile and their mouth is full of fangs. "Hey Naomi," says Rinley, as smooth and sinuous as a snake. "Valya sends her love."

    Then they lunge to the side, grab the snowman with both hands, plunge their face into his neck and rip out his throat with a huge tearing sound! Blood sprays everywhere! It splatters against your window, against the snow, stains Rinley's face and hands red as they drain the vital lifeblood from the snowman like a feral animal! AAAAAAH!


    It's so convincing it takes a moment to realize that you're freaking out that Vampire Rinley is drinking the blood of a snowman.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-11-14 at 07:19 PM.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  3. - Top - End - #3
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    The Titov family doesn't celebrate Christmas. The Titov family doesn't celebrate anything. Valya was determined to break that tradition. She wouldn't stay at home brooding. She'd go out and brood on the streets! Baby steps, baby steps. Christmas spirit took a lot of practice.

    That's why a black-clad figure now floated through Fortitude. Valya was deeply depressed. Had she enjoyed this season back when she was alive? She couldn't remember. All around, happy people munched upon baked goods. And in doing so, they deprived her of a meal. Vampires fed on ambient negative emotions. There was precious little angst in the air. How could everyone be so cheerful, when life was pain? Valya alone saw the dark side of this winter wonderland. None of these revellers could understand her sorrow; The essential pointlessness of etc etc etc. You get the idea. Vampire teenage poetry is even worse than usual kind.

    She needed to break out of this funk. As usual, her mind turned in one direction: To the person whose cheer was actually welcome.

    "Rinley. Have to find Rinley."
    Last edited by Anyr; 2019-11-15 at 03:19 AM.

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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    Naomi is the sort of sensible that acts on instinct while her head’s full of panicking. So instead of screaming and pulling the covers up to her chest and staring at the gory mess that Vampire Rinley has just made outside her window, she half rolls off and pulls the first aid kit out from under the bed, crosses the room in two strides, throws the window open, and swings one leg out. It’s only then that her brain catches its breath and points out that she will not need to apply immediate pressure to the injury in a valiant effort to save the life of this poor, innocent snowman, for the very simple reason that snowmen are not known to possess a cardiovascular system.

    (Except for the Astounding Nightmare Snowpeople, who live and breathe in defiance of God herself, and who we will not talk about any further, other than to say Rinley would be fending one of them off with a garden rake at this hour of the morning, rather than biting their throat open.)

    The brain continues to treacherously notice things just a little too late. Things like: gosh, the cold air is bracing, and you would much rather be under your duvet. Things like: you are sitting in front of Rinley, half in and half out of your house, in your jammers. The Disney Princess jammers Mayu got you last Christmas, in fact. Things like: you seriously just grabbed the first aid kit which you are now hugging for moral support after seeing Rinley tear out the throat of a snowman.

    “H-hey, Rinley,” Naomi says, her voice breaking like a backstabbing traitor. “...ice of you to drop by?” Uuuuuugh that was so weak. Invite them in! But wait, is that, um, would that be overly familiar, should you just ask them to wait in the living room or would that be rude after they showed up just to exsanguinate a snowman for you, or at you? This kinda feels more like an at you situation, y’know?
    freedom in the flame

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    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

  5. - Top - End - #5
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    "Naomi this is no time for jokes," said Rinley with a seriousness they had not earned and did not deserve. It was a Principal Entropy kind of line, delivered with the same mirthless inflection as he would use. It was very unfair. They grab Naomi's hand and yank her fully out of the window. "Ah, good, you're packed!" Rinley says brightly when they note the first aid kit, barely pausing to grab their coat off the snowman.

    And suddenly they're off! Marching through the snow, dragging Naomi behind, princess pajamas and all. "So I was thinking!" Rinley was saying. "It's the first day of Christmas which means everybody will be outside, which means that Valya will be out and about, which means the Titov family mansion will be empty and unguarded! With my cunning disguise -" they gestured at the vampire fangs and the puffy white flour that is serving as extremely improvised makeup. "- and your moral support, we'll break into the building, make our way into the deep and dark depths of the Titov family crypt, and then..."

    That was a very Rinley And Then. It could mean anything from 'stake the elder vampire and free all her descendants from the ancient blood curse' to 'fill the crypt with balloon animals'. The important thing was that let's doing!

    The only important step in this plan is 'don't run into Valya Titov, especially not with two lockpicks jammed into the front door of her house' - and really what are the odds of that happening??????
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-11-15 at 05:17 AM.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    Ack ack ack Rinley! Please be considerate of the fact that someone here is only wearing fuzzy socks! This is pretty solidly boot weather, or at the very least a sensible pair of shoes! Also, please be considerate of the fact that Naomi has a suspiciously sweaty hand.

    “Wait,” Naomi says, doing the hop-and-skip of trying to both keep up with Rinley and minimize the amount of time she spends with her feet in direct contact with the snow. “Rinley, you do know there’s only one vampire in that family, right? And you don’t have the height for Valya, unless you have some heels in your bag— also the crypt is, well...”

    The crypt is a bad place. It’s the kind of place adults don’t talk about to kids, but it filters down how very important it is never to go into that horrible place. There is something down there that makes the Titovs necessary.

    But saying that to Rinley wouldn’t be cool.

    What’s a girl to do?
    freedom in the flame

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

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    Fortitude is a slow place. People around here tend to take their time. Valya had mixed feelings about that. A minute ago, she'd sedately stalked the streets. But now she wanted something. She wanted Rinley. Vampires don't understand casual desire. Was Valya supposed to wander towards Rinley's house? Absurd! The need burnt too much. Her form suddenly blurred, and shot upwards.

    Valya soared through the skies of Fortitude. Gravity was just a polite suggestion. She could ignore it when inconvenient. The same applied to speed limits. In a trice, she'd made it halfway across town. She soon landed in front of the Yatskaya residence. Was Rinley within? Her eyes examined the nearby path. There, in the snow! Fresh Rinley prints. The hunt was on. Valya floated a bit, so as not to disturb the trail. The dark figure followed in her prey's wake. Soon, precious friendship would be hers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Ack ack ack Rinley! Please be considerate of the fact that someone here is only wearing fuzzy socks! This is pretty solidly boot weather, or at the very least a sensible pair of shoes! Also, please be considerate of the fact that Naomi has a suspiciously sweaty hand.

    “Wait,” Naomi says, doing the hop-and-skip of trying to both keep up with Rinley and minimize the amount of time she spends with her feet in direct contact with the snow. “Rinley, you do know there’s only one vampire in that family, right? And you don’t have the height for Valya, unless you have some heels in your bag— also the crypt is, well...”

    The crypt is a bad place. It’s the kind of place adults don’t talk about to kids, but it filters down how very important it is never to go into that horrible place. There is something down there that makes the Titovs necessary.

    But saying that to Rinley wouldn’t be cool.

    What’s a girl to do?
    "Oh, heels! Good idea!" said Rinley. "Pit stop!"

    One of the handy things about Fortitude is that people take their shoes off before they go inside - a cultural trait Rinley approaches with a take-a-penny leave-a-penny attitude. Rinley has a weirdly good awareness of the shoe sizes of everyone in town for this reason, but in a pinch a bit of crinkled-up newspaper can buff out an almost-fit. They wheel Naomi to a brief stop outside Washide Ilya's house and pull off their boots to borrow her heels - and pushes their boots over towards Naomi.

    "Seriously, Naomi?" they ask. "You went out in the snow without boots? You're such a goofball, what would you do if I wasn't looking out for you?"
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-11-17 at 04:00 PM.
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    “I— you— excuse??” Rinley! “Someone was too impatient to let me put them on,” Naomi says, with a petulant little huff. But she can’t refuse a gift from Rinley! Even if she has to loosen the laces in order to get her feet to fit.

    Snow crunches unpleasantly inside the shoe. This would have been much more pleasant if she’d gotten Rinley to stop and think for once. But that’d be as hard as getting a cat to do tricks.

    And now Rinley is... oof. Hello, height.

    “All right,” Naomi says, brushing herself down and trying not to think about the tactile sensation of Wet Sock In Boot, “I suppose your heart’s set on this, isn’t it? As Guardian of the Hearts of Fortitude, I will help you into the depths of the Titov shrine... if that is what you really want.”

    Hint, hint. You probably actually want to hang out with Valya. Orrrr... dare we hope... you want to have a good time with your bestest friend, Naomi Vasili, Defender of the Hearts of Fortitude!
    freedom in the flame

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Colossus in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    "That is why I like you so much," said Rinley, affectionately booping Naomi's nose. "Everyone else I try to bring on an adventure spends the entire time like 'I'm scared Rinley' and 'this is dangerous Rinley' and 'it's ten feet tall and is going to eat us Rinley'," that was not a very charitable impression of Washide Ilya, Rinley! "But even though you're a huge scaredy mouse, if I'm around to give you a little push you can be almost as brave as me!"

    They were, however, impatient - and so they dropped to one knee to tie the laces on Naomi's other boot while she was still fiddling with the laces. It's a Rinley Knot, which is the kind of knot that tries to get fancy, forgets a couple of steps, tangles into an impenetrable and squirmatious mess, which they then tie a simple bow tie over the top of to make it look like it was intentional. They pause for a moment when their hands notice a strange feeling inside Naomi's boot and thoughtfully squeeze her foot a few times to confirm that is in fact snow slush and not weird alien fluidfoot.

    "Come on!" they say, rolling back to their new imposing height and starting off again - although helpfully slowed a little from before due to the demands of walking in heels down icy streets.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-11-17 at 09:38 PM.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

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    Valya's progress slowed for a while. Tracking someone's footprints across town took time. At one point, she even lost the trail. Then she realised that her prey had cunningly switched shoes! Did Rinley know that they were being hunted? Fascinating! Such tricks wouldn't deter Valya for long. She relentlessly followed through the streets: Streets which became more and more familiar. Until, at last, she reached...her own house? Huh. Turns out she could have just sat at home. Well, no matter. Time to go greet her dear friends.

    Rinley and Naomi's own hunt had gone far. They'd made it all the way to the Titov front door. Now their mission could truly begin! They just had to avoi-

    "Welcome."

    The voice came from right behind Rinley's ear. Something sharp brushed against their skin. Fangs? Yep, fangs. Fangs that were way too close.

    "Why are you here?"

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    Naomi’s heart skips a beat, but— again— she’s not the sort to scream and throw herself into Rinley’s arms, which is a great disappointment, especially to herself. Like, that’s the perfect excuse to get clingy! But the rest of her just goes: well, I guess Rinley’s plan is busted already.

    “I’m sure Rinley can explain,” Naomi says, trying not to look at Valya. If she looks over, reveals she was startled, Valya has won. Besides, what’s more interesting is the roofing tiles of the shrine. Someone hasn’t been keeping them repaired, have they? For shame.
    freedom in the flame

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anyr View Post
    Valya's progress slowed for a while. Tracking someone's footprints across town took time. At one point, she even lost the trail. Then she realised that her prey had cunningly switched shoes! Did Rinley know that they were being hunted? Fascinating! Such tricks wouldn't deter Valya for long. She relentlessly followed through the streets: Streets which became more and more familiar. Until, at last, she reached...her own house? Huh. Turns out she could have just sat at home. Well, no matter. Time to go greet her dear friends.

    Rinley and Naomi's own hunt had gone far. They'd made it all the way to the Titov front door. Now their mission could truly begin! They just had to avoi-

    "Welcome."

    The voice came from right behind Rinley's ear. Something sharp brushed against their skin. Fangs? Yep, fangs. Fangs that were way too close.

    "Why are you here?"
    Do not jump. Do not scream. Do not freeze. You are a puppy in the den of a wolf and the only thing that might save you is the wolf forgetting what it is.

    "Did you know that there are tunnels under Fortitude?" lied Rinely with the oily speed and grace of a lizard reacting to the rock it was sleeping under being moved. "Hundreds of them, you see - the rats don't dig them, they only find them. Something - or someone - else has been digging them," escalate into mystery, create a plot hook, how was Naomi so calm was she made of stone!?!? "And we have tracked," Rinley went on, "the mysterious locus of these subterranean tunnels... here!" Now! You've got it! Reverse it all, put it back on her! "Are you, Titov Valya, responsible for the tunnels that emanate from underneath your family shrine? Or are you just as much a victim as the rest of us!?"
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

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    Valya didn't actually suspect foul play. She was just greeting a friend. It's hard to tell whether a vampire is trying to be scary: Because everything they do is scary. It never occurred to her that someone might misinterpret the situation. So she listened, bemused, while Rinley spun a yarn...

    ...Or rather, what Rinley thought was a yarn. Because there really is a vast network of rat tunnels beneath Fortitude. And the Titov shrine really does have a mysterious underground locus. Only the part about them being connected was (probably) false. But Valya didn't know that. To her, this seemed like a plausible revelation. A flurry of questions came from her mouth (which was still very close to Rinley's neck).

    "You have proof of this? Did you bring the proof? Who else have you told?"

    Again, Valya wasn't trying to intimidate. She cared for Rinley very much. Her friend was perfectly safe. She only seemed on the verge of silencing a witness.

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    Naomi lays a warning hand on Valya’s shoulder. Valya gets so worked up, everything has to be at an 11 all the time, and even for a member of the boisterous Vasili clan, it can be a little much.

    “I’m sure Rinley wouldn’t,” she manages to say, before the enormity of the lie crushes her. She tries again. “Rinley came over to my house first thing. Look, if there aren’t tunnels, just tell them so and we can be on our way, and also the vampire makeup was not my idea, I just want to be clear about that.”
    freedom in the flame

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

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    Rinley had again iced up, the ice-cold realization that they had made a terrible mistake running through their veins, unable to even look around while struggling for words even when Naomi threw her under the bus -

    Wait!!!

    Naomi!!!

    How dare you!?? After all I've done for you!?? You betray me like this? You do dirty by a friend - a good friend, a best friend, even - like that!??! Ack! Betrayal! A dagger in my back! Instead of heroically defending your poor, innocent, pure-hearted best friend forever against a predatory monster, you undermine their perfectly reasonable lie with something as suicidal as a truth-adjacent statement!??!????! When I'm dead and a vampire I'm going to spook you for real and you will have no-one but yourself to blame!!!

    Rinley lets the perfectly justified righteous outrage obfuscate the fact that they are shaking in terror before the terrifyingly beautiful avatar of death so that they can push on into further lies.

    "The rats! The rats told me!" Rinley squeaked out. Valya can't kill all the rats, right? "They wanted me to investigate further, that's why I'm here! But if you want me to turn around and tell them that they were wrong I can certainly do that too ha ha ha ha," yes, see how useful I am, I can go and lie to people for you, that's exactly the kind of person who's worth having their blood on the inside.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-11-21 at 10:43 PM.
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    "The rats, hmm?"

    There was a long, thoughtful pause. Eventually, blessedly, Valya stepped away from Rinley's neck. She spoke in what she thought was a reassuring way.

    "I see. You and the rats shouldn't concern yourselves with this any more. I'll handle everything. Just forget all about it."

    Valya was terrible at reassurance. Oblivious to this, she changed the topic. She'd finally noticed the unusual fashion choices of her visitors. Eyes flicked between Rinley and Naomi. Valya's mind searched (in vain) for some rational explanation.

    "Rinley, why are you dressed as a vampire? You should be careful with outfits like that. Some of this town's other undead could take serious offence.

    And are those princess pyjamas? Bold choice. I'd have thought you'd be cold. But then, I don't feel the cold any more. Maybe I'm misremembering."

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    Everything about this situation is working Naomi over. She can't help but shiver, just like Rinley. Well, maybe not just like Rinley. It's like comparing a bamboo shoot and the branches of an oak. Either way, it's one heck of a reminder that Valya's her scariest peer.

    [Take +1 Shiver XP there, Valya. You're one spooky vampire.]

    Now, she should stand forward-- she should defend her fashion choices-- she should insist that Valya invite them inside, even if that does increase the risk of meeting other Titovs today, because it is indeed hecking cold and she is, yes, still in her fuzzy Disney Princess jammies, and though they are warm they are not "run around outdoors" warm--

    But that's when she hears something. It's far, very far away, but it has all of her attention all of a sudden. Valya, you would likely notice that she's gone all white as a sheet, and not just with cold. The goosebumps she's got from dealing with you? They've grown their own goosebumps. She can feel the scrape of the wheels as a physical sensation, running all down her back. Far off, far off and away, on the very edge of perception, there is a train whistle, which almost sounds like the Arcadia Express. All aboard, all aboard.

    She lets go of Rinley, and stands stock-still, like a prey animal that has seen its death's slavering jaws open wide.

    [Flipping our card from I'm Here to I Am Under Its Shadow. 1/21 XP.]
    freedom in the flame

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    Okay great! I, Rinley, have successfully upgraded this situation from 'will die right this second' to 'will die an indeterminate amount of time in the future, after Valya checks and discovers the lie and then comes to murder me, possibly in my bed, which is an image that has no right to be as hot as it is'. Rinley turns to Naomi and holds out their hand for a high five to celebrate the victory, a perhaps incomprehensible gesture if you're not sufficiently Rinley-brained.

    Except Naomi is actually pale and shivering and - oh yeah, actually. She looks really cold. Guilt, a Forbidden emotion that spends much of its time asleep or locked up in a cage of smug contentment, scratches at the base of Rinley's ribs. There can be none of that! It is extremely important that they deal with guilt as quickly and decisively as possible, otherwise they won't get anything done and all the cats will make fun of them. Nothing gets as much mockery from the cats as feeling guilty about something.

    "Um, excuse me Valya," said Rinley, with a newfound sardonic confidence. "She is obviously extremely cold and it is incredibly rude that you have not yet invited her in and provided her with a nice warm fire to warm herself up by. I can't believe you sometimes." Things not to do: reply to the question about the vampire makeup. If you pretend that people don't say things then sometimes those questions go away and you don't get seductively murdered by attractive vampires.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-11-24 at 05:56 PM.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    Valya and Rinley had some things in common. They both found it difficult to really see people. Even close friends got filtered through a lens. So when Naomi froze in terror, Valya paid it little mind. Cold and fear were abundant out here. Naomi's complex crisis got filed in a simple box: Labelled 'excuses to lure people inside'.

    That was the key point here. Rinley and Naomi wanted to visit! The vampire's mood received a much needed boost. Life wasn't pain after all. It was filled with loyal friends! A welcoming smile spread across Valya's face. She beckoned the others to follow. If Naomi didn't respond, she'd get pulled in the right direction.

    "Of course you can come in! Warm your fragile human forms by the fire. I'm sure we can start one somewhere..."

    The group passed through a crumbling gate. The whole estate was crumbling, actually. There was a pervasive air of neglect. Even the plants had lost their will to live. The Titov estate is inviting, in the worst sense. It wants you. It needs you, to keep itself alive. Most people can sense this, on some level. Visitors like Rinley and Naomi were rare indeed. Valya eagerly let her friends into the building, via a side entrance obscured by weeds. Once they crossed the threshold, the door locked itself behind them. No going back. They soon reached a dusty chamber, dotted with moth-eaten furniture. In one wall was an old, but functional fireplace. Valya, the attentive host, set about warming her guests.

    "Here we are. Make yourselves at home. Stay as long as you want. Forever, if you like."

    Spoiler: OOC
    Show
    Valya's mood card flips to 'life is joy'. That's not necessarily a good thing.

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Colossus in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    "I," said Rinley, "need to powder my nose."

    And with that they turned on heel and walked out of the room, leaving Naomi alone with Valya. Best buddy Naomi would be able to warm up and also distract Valya, and Rinley would get a chance to catch their breath - and then go poking around! They did not wait for directions to a bathroom, they just tromped off all alone into the deep dark corridors of the Titov family mansion, looking for anything secrets-y. Staircases leading down, perhaps? Ancient and spooky shrines? Buried treasure???

    (Things that were Forbidden:
    - Calling this a terrified retreat from Valya rather than a bold exploration
    - Worrying about abandoning Naomi to Valya
    - Obsessing over that 'stay forever' bit.
    - Valya generally
    - General spookiness
    - This is so dumb, you are so dumb, you are absolutely going to die, oh hey the front door is locked, you're so dead, you're so very dead and it's all your stupid fault)


    It was okay they still had their vampire makeup they'd be just fine.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    Breathe, Naomi. Even if you’re breathing in dust and the particular smell of Someone Else’s House, just breathe. There’s nothing on the tiles, nothing curling up on the roof waiting for you. The roofs would tell you. It’s all right. Just breathe.

    “Have you seen anything weird lately, Valya?” The incongruity of asking that while bundled up in a moth-eaten old blanket and sinking, slowly but inexorably, into the couch cushions. “Like, while you’re...” Walking around is inaccurate. Flying isn’t a thing people do, so it would be rude to bring it up. “...out and about?”
    freedom in the flame

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    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

  23. - Top - End - #23
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    Valya reluctantly let Rinley go. The living needed their bathroom breaks. Besides, all the exits were locked. Her precious friend couldn't escape. Meanwhile, Valya tended to the room's remaining occupant. Fire? Check. Blankets? Check. Companionship? Check (sort of). Now Naomi could relax.

    ...Naomi didn't seem relaxed. She was scared. Once again, Valya missed the significance. Everyone was scared of her. She did her best to lighten the mood.

    "Anything weird? Yes, actually. Just today, I met a girl in princess pyjamas! She was being dragged through the street, by someone in vampire makeup. You should have seen it. Oh, wait, that was you! How embarrassing."

    No dice. Naomi still looked frozen, by something deeper than the cold. Valya floated uncertainly around the huddled girl. She didn't join Naomi on the sofa. That thing was infested with itchy bugs! This time, Valya took the question seriously.

    "What else? Well, there's a disappearing street. I sometimes see it when I'm up high. But I can never find it again on the ground. And the night creatures are more restless than usual. Something's stirring them up."

    She wasn't sure how to help. She wasn't even sure whether to help. Haunted Naomi had a certain appeal.

  24. - Top - End - #24
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    Rinley, you walk for a long time through the corridor - you don't know what kind of architectural plan this shrine was built on, but as long as you walk it keeps going in the same direction without so much as the interruption of a bathroom. Do the Titovs never have to pee? you might wonder, but then remember - Valya the vampire, the sister of hers who was made out of Outside-dust... maybe not. Still, not very hospitable of them.

    Eventually the passageway widens, and you can see from where you stand that there's a ton of natural light filtering into the room beyond. You had thought the Titovs were philosophically opposed to windows, but this looks like an atrium anyone would be proud of, with sunbeams enough for the whole Yatskaya family to take a nap in. From around the corner, you can hear the clanking of metal and the hiss of a low flame, and then the rhythmic noise of a knife against a cutting-board.

    When you peek around the corner - because of course you do - you see a beautifully-furnished kitchen. Copper fixtures, polished limestone countertops, the whole deal. The only thing out-of-place is the woman fluttering around it, who looks like a witch out of a fairy-tale - shriveled and gaunt, eyes like jade chips in the sunken mass of her face, and the whole thing swathed in an enormous fur coat. You might recognize this apparition as Nirmala Titov, or you might not. Either way, as you watch, she pulls down a jar from a shelf, inspects it for a moment, then smashes it on the counter and scoops the whole thing, glass and all, into a saucepan. Hand dripping red onto the floor, she turns and fixes her eyes on you. "Valya!" she says. "I almost didn't see you there! Come and help your mother."
    Icon of Ilsensine by Grinner.

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Colossus in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    Quote Originally Posted by Plerumque View Post
    Rinley, you walk for a long time through the corridor - you don't know what kind of architectural plan this shrine was built on, but as long as you walk it keeps going in the same direction without so much as the interruption of a bathroom. Do the Titovs never have to pee? you might wonder, but then remember - Valya the vampire, the sister of hers who was made out of Outside-dust... maybe not. Still, not very hospitable of them.

    Eventually the passageway widens, and you can see from where you stand that there's a ton of natural light filtering into the room beyond. You had thought the Titovs were philosophically opposed to windows, but this looks like an atrium anyone would be proud of, with sunbeams enough for the whole Yatskaya family to take a nap in. From around the corner, you can hear the clanking of metal and the hiss of a low flame, and then the rhythmic noise of a knife against a cutting-board.

    When you peek around the corner - because of course you do - you see a beautifully-furnished kitchen. Copper fixtures, polished limestone countertops, the whole deal. The only thing out-of-place is the woman fluttering around it, who looks like a witch out of a fairy-tale - shriveled and gaunt, eyes like jade chips in the sunken mass of her face, and the whole thing swathed in an enormous fur coat. You might recognize this apparition as Nirmala Titov, or you might not. Either way, as you watch, she pulls down a jar from a shelf, inspects it for a moment, then smashes it on the counter and scoops the whole thing, glass and all, into a saucepan. Hand dripping red onto the floor, she turns and fixes her eyes on you. "Valya!" she says. "I almost didn't see you there! Come and help your mother."
    Rinley takes a moment to feel a fierce sense of pride in their disguise. They're so vampirey that they fooled Valya's own mother! Also, look how smart you are, now you know that if you eat any food given by Valya there's pretty good odds you'll die in agony from all the glass wrapped up in the cooking, that's really useful information and only a smart person who doesn't panic and run away gets the opportunity to use it. A smart person recognizes that running right now is a die tired situation.

    "Of course, mom!" said Rinley, stepping into the kitchen and watching the soup gingerly. "What are we cooking today?"

    Rinley could feel a Story coming on, in the same way that some people can feel a sneeze sneaking up on them. They just need to make sure it's aimed correctly.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  26. - Top - End - #26
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    Something’s stirring the night creatures up. Oh, by the Lake, that’s the last thing Naomi needs to hear. Maybe it’s not anything of the sort, maybe it’s something completely unrelated to whatever’s haunting the rooftops, but in her heart Naomi doesn’t expect that to be the case. These things must be connected.

    So she solidly brushes herself down and tries to focus on something that’s not a creeping sense of dread. Easier said than done when Valya’s in the room. And when she feels weirdly itchy.

    She needs to get her hands dirty with something! Fix something. Yeah. That’s the ticket. Anything in here look like it needs the expert hand of the Bride of the Near Roofs, Valya?
    freedom in the flame

    Spoiler
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    She needs to get her hands dirty with something! Fix something. Yeah. That’s the ticket. Anything in here look like it needs the expert hand of the Bride of the Near Roofs, Valya?
    Anything? More like almost everything. The whole room is falling apart. Its owners clearly don't care about maintenance. There's dust galore. The carpet is more moth than fabric. Every piece of furniture (including the sofa on which Naomi sits) seems held up by sheer will. Want a TV to repair? There's one in the corner. Take your pick.

    Not all of the Titov estate is like this. Some parts still receive attention. Particularly nostalgic rooms can overcome the Titov haze. And when a family member overdoses on Outside dust, their psychotic break sometimes makes them clean things. So, you know, things could be worse.

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    A TV. Yes. Not that there’s that much to watch in Fortitude if you’re not part of RatFlix (the rats bring you movies they think you’d like), but, hey, that’s no excuse to leave something broken. When Naomi’s feeling lost, there’s two things that always make her feel like the world is understandable, and she’s not sure she’s up to tackle Valya’s heart without some warmup.

    “This is one of the Russian sets, right?” She scoots down and runs her fingers along its seams, looks for the screws: there’s always ways to take something apart so you can set it right, and usually they don’t even call for a sledgehammer. “Here, do you know where your dad keeps the screwdrivers?”

    [Consider this an invitation to Shared Action: television repair! Naomi’s gonna need Valya to hold things, pass her tools, and talk to her while her hands are occupied. I’ll even spend Will to do it Right, if the offer’s accepted.]
    freedom in the flame

    Spoiler
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    Valya blinked. She peered at the TV, as if seeing it for the first time. A completely unimportant item. How had Naomi got onto this topic? Oh well. Valya would play along.

    "Er, yes, it's Russian. One of those old models, with the static that makes you hallucinate."

    The sort of thing that nobody wanted fixed; Nobody except Naomi. She was apparently on a mission. Valya found herself being sent out for tools. Screwdriver screwdriver screwdriver. Now where woul-Ah! That's right. She floated out of the room, in no particular hurry. Her supernatural speed didn't actually get used much. Fortitude was a slow place. When not hunting Rinley, Valya moved at the town's pace.

    The vampire returned, some time later. She carried a metallic, rusted toolbox. It looked even older than the TV. Many of the implements within were completely unrecognisable. Surgical instruments for aliens? Torture devices? Perhaps best not to enquire.

    "Here you go. I'm sure father won't miss them. He barely even noticed my death."

    She held the box out to Naomi. If her friend took it, she'd discover that it was very heavy. Oh, right. Valya belatedly recalled that humans had noodly muscles. So many little details to remember.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: By the Docks of Big Lake IC

    Naomi laughs, loud and bracing, hardly ladylike at all. Full of delight at having something to do with her hands. “Right, right. But I bet this thing couldn’t get your granny’s mind wandering with a blown fuse.”

    By the time Valya gets back? Naomi’s working to undo the guts of this behemoth, this aged leviathan of the televisual arts, so that she can set things back in order. There’s already grease on her fingers, and lines smeared on her pink pajama bottoms.

    “There— whoop,” she says, as the box clangs the floor. With both hands, she manages to scoot it close enough to the TV to be within easy reach. “It’s hard to take care of these things properly, isn’t it? Dust collects on the inside.” Contextually: she’s not talking about the ordinary sort of dust. “You really have to set aside an afternoon to clean your electronics out,” she goes on, blissfully not thinking about creepy things. “Here, can you reach that?”

    That’s the rhythm; in Fortitude, things are best when you’re working together. A vampire and the Bride of the Near Roofs, working to mend an old busted TV: that’s the sort of thing you only see when you’re in the shrine families.

    Now, once we’re done here— one imagines that there will, naturally, be a need to grab some water from the kitchen and refresh.
    freedom in the flame

    Spoiler
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

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