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Emerald City

Saturday, May 16, 2020

 

10:54:2APM

 

"How are you liking Emerald City, Miss Adrianna?"

 

Vicente Cruz sat beside your dining table, a folder full of official papers laid unopened on your table. You had heard a knock on the door and when you opened it, he had introduced himself and his partner, Daria Bell, as officials from the government agency handling your refugee status. He had flashed his badge and asked that you let him inside.

 

"We heard about the commotion you caused a few days ago. Nothing too serious? Everything turn out alright?" Daria piped up from behind Vicente. She began to count with her fingers. "No one hospitalized? No charges for assault or disturbing the peace or--"

 

Vicente, his eyebrows twitching in what you assume to be irritation, motions for her to stop.

 

"That's enough, Daria." Then he returns his gaze to you. "But why we are here is somewhat because of that... incident, Miss Adrianna."

 

From out of the folder he draws a document and slides it towards you, a primer of Emerald City University's Cryptozoology program. It boasts its curriculum and faculty, including among them some of the country's leading Sasquatch experts.

 

"As you might know," Vicente continues after you finish reading. "Emerald City has a bit of a reputation for, how would you say it, weirdness? There's an undercurrent of the hidden and the odd in the city and its surroundings, even if most people could go about their lives not really seeing anything explicit to validate their beliefs." He gestures, palm up, at you. "You yourself is a prime example. A refugee from a world where dreams are made real, and who can dream up monsters and creatures from nightmares and fairy tales."

 

"Oh, don't string her along, Vicente. Just say what you need to say to the poor girl."

 

Vicente, for his part, ignores his partner's comments and continues as if she had said nothing.

 

"So perhaps you would like to be part of a community made of beings like yourself? The flotsam of space or other dimensions. Humanity can never really understand us. They see us as a phenomenon to study, or bedtime stories to frighten. Sometimes, they hunt us, believing us a threat even when we have called this Emerald City home longer than any of them. Longer than this country even."

 

Over his shoulder, Daria is beaming at you.

 

"We're extending you an invitation. What do you say?"

 

Daria says and this time Vicente is nodding thoughtfully. Then visibly his features begin to change, melting back into flesh that slowly turns a bright orange. Soon, his face is blank save for solid white eyes and a mouth, which opens as he speaks.

 

"Don't be alarmed, Miss Adrianna. I just wanted to show you who I really am." He slides his hand, orange like his face, forward as if to reassure you. "Like you, this isn't the dimension where I was born. And even then I was from another planet in the galaxy, not that Earth."

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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A line of gremlins danced across the table as the visitor sat, putting the files down, and asked her how she was finding Emerald City. "It's fine. Different than London was, but that's hardly surprising. This world's London is different than mine. The variety of heroes is interesting." She followed a group of bats with her eyes. "It's strange looking at the world and knowing that all of these are my dreams, no one else's." She frowned thoughtfully at the mention of the incident with the purse snatcher, and the asking if everything turned out alright. Shouldn't they know this?. "As far as I know everything turned out fine there. It was a mistake to use the Carnifex, I assumed there was more danger than there was. I'm not used to petty crime. Normally I only heard screams during bombings, or later the Terminus invasion." Her hands shook as she took a sip of the tea she'd dreamed up as she mentioned the events.

 

The Dreamer refocused quickly onto what Vicente was talking about to draw her mind away from the invasion when she saw a twelve inch Omegadrone appear and start fighting a three foot dragon. She took and flipped open the book that Vicente slid to her, quickly flipping through the pages, shooing a tiny Sasquatch that appeared on the table and tried pushing the book. Some of the pictures she saw looked like things that she had dreamed up before, others were nothing like anything she'd seen in her own dreams, and some were entirely outside any dreams she had seen.

She raised an eyebrow as Vicente began explaining about the weirdness of Emerald City, hidden things no one else sees and used her as an example. She flicks her eyes to Daria when she talks and back to Vicente as he continued unfazed.

 

A community of beings like herself, individuals from space other dimensions that made their home here? She narrowed her eyes as he continued, talking about humanity hunting them. Did he not consider her human? Was there some added part to the definition in this reality that she was unaware of? Regardless, one thing was certain, she didn't think these two were actually from the government. This was further confirmed as Vicente shapeshifted into something orange and claimed to be an alien from another reality. She doubted this was a dream, she hadn't really ever imagined aliens, and for the most part her dreams didn't encourage her to do things like join secret societies.

"You certainly have my attention and interest. I would like some more details before I agreed though, you haven't even given me the name of your group."

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Vicente smiled, clearly enjoying haven taken your attention.

 

"In English, you can call us the Forest Clan. It's an inconspicuous term for a people who want to be left alone."

 

Slowly, he begins to transform into his human guise again. "Perhaps more than a name you would like to see for yourself? It'd be quick, less than half an hour's drive from here."

 

Behind him, Daria takes out a car key from her pocket and jangles it. Vicente gathers his documents and stands up, waving a hand at the doorway. "You don't need to hide your dreams there, Adrianna. It's something we're very much used to."

 

***

 

Soon, you find yourself in their car, a black van that has seen better days. Daria is behind the wheel while Vicente talks to you from the shotgun seat. You are seated behind them in a space specifically designed for persons with disabilities.

 

"Let me be honest with you," Vicente says as he locks eyes with you through the rear-view mirror. "While we like to talk a lot about being independent and hidden, the truth of the matter is we still need friends and allies among the citizens of Emerald City. Even if you don't want to be a part of the Clans per se, participating in our society, someone who understands what it is like is a someone I can rest easy entrusting our secrets to and exchanging favors with."

 

"Seatbelts, Vicente," Daria says and her partner buckles on a seatbelt without a second thought.

 

"Like, can I ask you a question?" Vicente twists in his seat to look back at you. Outside the van, you have definitely passed Emerald City and are now in the surrounding wilderness and you feel the well-paved asphalt give way to rough gravel. "Do you consider this Earth to be your home? Is there anything you need to make your transition easier?"

 

Smoothly, the car pulls to a stop on the side of the road where a small path begins and snakes deeper into the forest. Still, Vicente waits for your answer.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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The Dreamer nodded when Vicente offered to take her to see what he was talking about. "I can come along." She placed the cryptozoology book on her lap and wheeled after them, and smiled wryly as Daria talked. "I can't even hide my dreams now, but I suppose that's a good thing."

 

She had been relieved at the accommodations in the van. A small ballerina danced on the dashboard while a small train flew overhead. She nodded understandingly as Vicente explained the Clan's need for allies even if she didn't join. She followed the train, contemplating what she should ask about this 'Forest Clan' while some branches began to form in the top of the van.

She refocused on the front seats when Vicente addressed her again. "I don't really feel at home, but that's been getting better. I have some places I go to donate things I dream up now, like that shelter a few blocks down from me. It's nice being able to help again like I did back in my dimension. It's nice having a return to normalcy like that. I can't think of anything to make it easier right off the top of my head though. I know I've changed since I was with my family. I don't really know which way to go from here, but I don't know where I'm going so asking for directions isn't helpful." The Dreamer looks down at her hands as she says this, missing the grinning cat that floats past, watching the pair.

Edited by Kaede Kimura
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"You thinking of going public now? With your dreams being unable to hide and everythin'?" Daria says as you walk to the care. She throws you a smile to show she's teasing you. "What'll the news call you? Dreaming Girl?"

 

"She'll do what she wants and I'm sure she could give them her own name," Vicente says as he walks beside his partner. You can almost hear him suppress a sigh.

 

The three of you are nearing a parking lot now. A few cars litter other parts of the parking lot but for the most part you have the space to yourselves and are quickly approaching their old black van.

 

***

 

Vicente has a thoughtful frown as you answer his queries.

 

"I can sympathize at least," he says as he returns to his seat. "It's been-- oh-- about two decades since I got thrown into this dimension. I'm sure you'll have it figured out soon, Adrianna."

 

The car pulls over and Daria turns the key, letting the engine purr to a stop.

 

"Okay. We're here," she says with finality.

 

Where 'Here' is is a bit more confusing. You aren't far from the city but you are in a side-road not well-travelled, facing an even less travelled dirt path. Daria and Vicente get out of the van, and while Vicente pulls aside a old wooden barricade, Daria opens the door for you.

 

"Yeah, so I meant to say we'll have to trek for a bit," she tells you. "Not yet here."

 

And so the three of you do for a few minutes until you reach a seemingly empty clearing in the woods. A lone oak tree stands tall in the middle of the clearing but aside from the birds in its branches and the three of you, nothing else living stirs.

 

Vicente approaches the oak tree and rests a hand on its trunk. A moment later, you see a slight shimmer around the tree. Visibly, it spreads outward and things appear in the clearing in its wake. You see trailer homes and satellite dishes, a radio playing the Saturday noontime program. A grill is on, its burger patties sizzling. But among the very normal appliances is a very abnormal group.

 

What looks to be a dwarf, beard decorated with bells and all, flips a burger patty as he listens to the radio program. A door opens and someone walks out, a mobile phone in her hand. She could be mistaken as human but you see the cat feature's on her face, the whiskers and cat eyes that glow a slight green tinge. She waves at Vicente before walking away, phone held high.

 

"Obviously, this isn't all of the Forest Clan," says Vicente as he walks back towards you, now in his alien-looking orange form. "This is kind of like an outpost for those who go into Emerald City regularly."

 

"We'll say hi to Ermdum, Erm for short, and Angel." Daria places a hand on the arm of you wheelchair and slides a bracelet away. Her transformation is similar to the shimmer of the clearing and soon a grizzly bead in office attire towers over you on two legs. "Then we need to show you something. It's important."

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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"I am not planning on going public with my identity and powers, you do not need to worry." The Dreamer gives them a polite smile. "I do think I might try to become a hero though."

 

 

The Dreamer gives a brief smile at Vicente's reassurance about figuring out life in Emerald City. She wasn't as certain in some ways, since she would always have to maintain control of her dreams. Without any other hyperlucid dreamers it seemed like stopping damage she might do would be significantly more difficult. If she dreamt up a fire, there was no one who could simply dream it away in response. Although there seemed to be heroes who could potentially respond well enough. "I hope so,  it has been a large change from what I am used to.

She followed them down the path, watching dreams of birds, faeries and small creatures frolic gaily amongst the branches. The grinning cat floated behind her during the walk.

The Dreamer looked around the empty clearing that she had been led to. She didn't significantly respond when the illusion was revealed, although someone closely watching her posture would have seen her grip on her wheelchair tighten slightly. Her dreams were less subtle, several fae and birds rushing to interpose themselves between the light and their Dreamer, while the gnomes, gremlins and goblins began to tug on the chair trying to move her out of the clearing and away from the light. Clearly the dreams did not fully trust the pair. Inside the Carnifex ex Imaginatio stirred.

 

After the light show, The Dreamer gave a polite applause, not appearing outwardly perturbed. "That was a most impressive display. Certainly it must be helpful to avoid detection." She looks out at the individuals in the clearing. "Was the cover only lifted for us, or was it lifted in general?"

She nodded along at the explanation as Vicente returned. She was glad this was not the entire clan, given that would make their clan a mere four people strong. She smiled politely, "Of course, having a place to stay is always useful if one needs to do business away from home." Or if they need a staging area for an invasion. A hidden army at the doorstep of Emerald City. The Dreamer had never led troops but she had heard her grandfather speaking with many officers about the defence against the invaders, and later the Terminus. Right now a small chair appeared on her left forearm with a nobleman in a suitupon it talking about what the leaders ought to be doing with this staging area.

The Dreamer was not yet certain of their true intentions so would not mention such things, but was quietly memorising everything she could, and had one of the pixies pull the arm chair general away If they were not planning offences it would be impolite to imply that she believed that they would, and if they were, they might take issue with her realising that she had figured them out. "It is quite pleasant, it seems relaxed.

 

When Daria lays out a course of action The Dreamer nods. "Lead the way." The cat looks around, grinning still before vanishing.

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"The glamor charm is only lifted for us," Vicente says, clearly speaking from memory. "It has something to do with beliefs or something similar. The specific mechanics escape me."

 

The introductions are brief - an exchange of names, an acknowledgement by the dwarf then the lady with the caat features. Your dreams provoke a few questions born from their curiosity but they do not gawk as most civilians likely would have in the presence of powers.

 

"So are they, like, alive?" Angel asks as she reaches out to pet a bird. "They're kinda cute but also kinda sad if they're alive only as long as you dream them, don't you think?"

 

After the introductions, Vicente and Daria lead you to the front porch of a trailer home. They sit down by a patio table. Daria motions for you to join them as Vicente places his folder on the table, taking out several other documents.

 

"We need your help," he finally says. "You'll have to forgive us for the rush introductions. Usually we'd ease someone into our community, but we are pressed for time. Have been pressed for time for about a month now, and I hope you believe that we are who we say we are."

 

"A bunch of fairy tale characters, non-humans, and genetically modified humans," Daria says. "Sharing a community to provide security and comfort, and all that."

 

Vicente slides forward a printed internet news article. There is a picture of a middle-aged man of Hindu ethnicity staring . The title of the article is, "Man, 57, Murdered in Apartment. Murderer Still at Large."

 

Vicente continues. "You may have heard about this in the news. About a month ago, Yatin Basu was found dead in his apartment, shot in the head, with signs of struggle in the apartment. What the article doesn't mention is that the ECPD know the identity of the killer, a Advay Upal, who was considered a friend of Yatin, and are on the lookout for someone like him. It's a small-scale manhunt. The crime isn't so public, the murder typical, the victim a mild-mannered immigrant."

 

Vicente slides a picture forward. It shows a different middle-aged man of Indian ethnicity. He taps the picture. "This is Advay. Now what neither the ECPD or the media know is that both Yatin and Advay are Naga in disguise, half-human and half-serpent people from Hindu myths. They were both members of the Forest Clan and so we take this crime much more seriously than Emerald City does. We've been searching for Advay for weeks now and have placed his location in Sub-Terra, right under Emerald City."

 

He slides another document. This one is a photocopy of an old, weathered page. "There are vast caverns and hollow spaces under the Earth's surface and maybe it's a little hard to wrap your head around but I've been told by smarter minds that it has much to do with interdimensional faults and magic. Of course, the dwarfs and other-dimensional aliens in the Forest Clan exists so perhaps it can't be too far-fetched now can it?"

 

Vicente takes a deep breath and Daria takes up the slack, placing a large paw on his arm.

 

"You'd think, 'So why not go in there and apprehend the criminal?' right?" She looks at you with her beady bear eyes. "Thing is another clan claims Sub-Terra and the Undercity as part of their domain. The Rock Clan has always played fast and hard with the rules to seem like the strongest of clans and this ain't no different. They've risked exposing us to the humans for the sake of territory and they'll risk letting a murder of a Forest Clan member by a Forest Clan member go unanswered just so they can get their hands on Advay first!"

 

A small growl escapes her throat but she visibly cools down quickly. "They think Advay and Yatin has knowledge of dangerous and powerful magic, you see. And knowing Finnegal and his council, they probably want to unlock those magic so they can lord it over the rest of the clans."

 

"Which is where you come in, with your consent of course," Vicente says as Daria finishes. "You aren't a member of the Forest Clan. You aren't one of our allies in Emerald City. You're new, someone the clans do not know. And in my opinion that is your greatest asset, but more than that I've read your files. I know you are a exceptional young woman. What you've done in the defense of Earth S-Omega-1 is both sad yet inspiring."

 

He looks you in the eyes.

 

"War is all you've known. We won't drag you into another conflict unless you say yes."

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The Dreamer nodded along with the explanation of the glamour. It was even more valuable if they wanted it for an invasion, but she would keep that thought to herself. "I am sure it helps greatly in staying hidden." Was all she said that could be related to those thoughts. During the introductions she applied all of the politeness and grace she had been taught, and she answered their questions with a reasonable amount of detail.

"They are essentially alive, although they will disappear once they aren't being dreamed about. I can't say I know what happens if they disappear, I know that the powerful dream constructs like the Carnifex continue to exist when not physically dreamed of, but I don't believe anyone proved if dream creatures like these stay around afterwards. I would like to think they do, but even if they do not, I think it is better to have lived for a short time than never have lived at all, no?"

 

She followed Vicente and Daria, getting some assistance from her dreams to get onto the patio, but managing it in the end. She wheeled up to the table upon being invited, and listened to Vicente's explanation quietly. She shrugged at the end of it and Daria's interjection, "Given my life it is not so hard to believe that you are who you say you are. I am curious about why you need me though." When Vicente slid the paper over to her she quickly skimmed the article as he explained. She wasn't sure she liked his ability to call any murder typical, but given context she wasn't going to call him out on it. She picked up the second picture, committing the murderer's face to memory. One of the faeries pulled a face at the picture, before quickly zipping away.

"I was not aware of caves below the city." She followed along with the explanation, and shrugged at the final question. "No, I do not suppose so."

The Dreamer leaned back in her chair as Daria explained, her brow furrowing and a scowl coming across her face. As the bear woman continued, the dreams around her became more and more agitated. They stopped short of anything that would interrupt Daria, and began to vocalise their anger at the picture of Advay and down towards the ground. They fell silent when The Dreamer, her eyes hard and angry replied.

"While you know my files you clearly do not know me, or you would be aware that there was no way I would turn you down. I promise, as the last True Dreamer, I will help you to the best of my ability."

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You see Vicente breath out a sigh of relief as you accept his request.

 

Then almost immediately he is sliding even more documents and pictures at you.

 

"Now we have a lead for you. I doubt it would lead to much but it will get you acquainted with the Rock Clan's territory better." Four pictures are scattered before you. You see a woman with a glass eye and roughly cropped hair, brunette. Then a blonde man with glasses and a goatee. The other two pictures depict identical gargoyles with red runes marked on their foreheads. Vicente goes on to explain "The crew of The Vindictive. They're a rough and tumble bunch, quick to pick a fight and to skirt around the ECPD and the Clans..."

 

***

 

The Sunken Bazaar, The Undercity, Emerald City

Sunday, May 17, 2020

 

05:50:55PM

 

In the end, Vicente's briefing was quick.

 

Alaynah Potts, the Captain of the Vindictive, had a job to smuggle something out of the city tonight. It was most likely nothing as crime continued in the Undercity and Sub-Terra, even with the Rock Clan clamping down hard in their perceived territories, but Alaynah was someone the Forest Clan had yet to check-up on. So the task was up to you. If you're lucky, you'd be able to catch them red-handed and take them to the authorities, ECPD or Cryptid Clan.

 

So now you find yourself in an alleyway off the Sunken Bazaar in the Undercity.

 

Everyone in Emerald City knows of the Maze, an old portion of Emerald City that was paved and built over. Now it serves as a tourist attraction with a spooky theme. Long abandoned hotels and storefronts lie abandoned. Old cobbled streets are wreathed in shadow, lighted only in gas-lamps. Beyond that preserved portion of Emerald City's history is the Undercity where criminals and outcasts are hidden away, living lives in warrens far from the eyes of law-abiding citizens walking the streets above.

 

Yet these Underdwellers, suspicious and reclusive as they are, manage to thrive in the tunnels. One only needs to find the Sunken Bazaar to see the community they have built among themselves.

 

It is a mostly-permanent marketplace, about two city blocks long and a handful of alleys shooting off along its length. All manner of goods are sold as electric lights dimly illuminate the stalls, carts, and storefronts which clog the thoroughfare. Many of the Underdwellers scurry about their business, hidden under cloaks and hoods, exchanging whispered words and cash. Some of the cloaked figures merely merely watch the proceedings from alleyways or high above in old apartments. They are enforcers of the Rock Clan, you are told, here to watch their territory.

 

For the goods and services sold here make profitable business, under the reinforced walls and rafters of the old city, especially the illegal and unsavory ones.

 

The storefront you are surveying is no exception. A thick haze chokes the inside, making it hard to make out anything through the storefront windows save for the red light that suffuses the whole shop.

 

But soon enough you see Alaynah, carrying an empty duffel bag, walk towards the shop. Behind her are two hooded figures, more than a head taller each and large. The trio say nothing to each other as they slip into the store, tendrils of haze snaking from the open entrance before the door shuts.

 

The haze quickly swallows them from your sight.

 

What will you do?

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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  • 2 weeks later...

The Dreamer surveys the warren of the undercity, observing the hustle and bustle of the underground community below Emerald City, she had dreamed up her approximation of a kitsune mask like she'd seen at festivals in her home dimension and on the television since she'd taken up residence in Emerald City. Someone familiar with actual kitsune masks would recognise that there were inaccuracies to the real deal. She hadn't been aware of the Sunken Bazaar before this, but now wasn't the time to indulge in her curiosity, she had a serpent to hunt, and would have time afterwards to look through the Bazaar on her own.

She wheeled across the street and into the store.

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Wisps of smoke ooze from the doorway as you approach and fill your nostrils with the smell of incense. The smell hits you even harder as you push at the door, chimes tinkling to announce your entrance to those inside, but the smoke here is damp and heavy and seeps easily into your clothes.

 

The shop is composed of one small room, illuminated dimly by a single light bulb that gives the whole thing the feel of a darkroom. Shelves line the walls and various items fill the shelves, from scrap and junk to books and  memorabilia. Charms, much like dreamcatchers made of feathers and bone, hang from the ceiling and an assortment of knives are displayed along the one shop window. Beside the window are sacks piled up together, unlabeled but packed with powdery substances of differing colors and sizes. And behind the counter are dozens of photographic film, strung across several wires that cross almost the whole length of the counter. Those photos each have a person captured on them, their poses and the angles suggest as if they were taken without the subject's knowledge.

 

Alaynah's companions look up from your side as you enter, and you catch a glimpse of hard faces underneath the hoods and shadows. They do not say anything but continue to stand as if waiting for something.

 

Alaynah herself is right in front of you, unaware of your entrance as she leans over the store's counter and hands a wad of bills to a man behind the counter. The man wears an apron, once white but now dirty with grime and burn marks, and even in the dim lighting has a pair of aviators on. Dark, greasy hair runs down to his shoulders and he wipes them away from his face as he accepts the cash and in return hefts Alaynah's duffel bag, now full, across the counter. Alaynah in turn, hands it over to one of her companions.

 

Then with a gesture from the man, one of Alaynah's hooded companions crosses the counter and exits the shop through a door behind the counter. Alaynah follows and shuts the door. Only then does the shop owner turn to you.

 

"Yes? Is there something you need?"

 

The lone hooded figure still seems uninterested with you. It holds the duffel bag easily in one hand as it browses the shop's contents.

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The Dreamer looked around the shop, noting the chime with a detached glance. She gives the entire shop a lazy once over, noting the many items, wondering if the dreamcatchers actually stopped nightmares, after all, magic was apparently real. She watched the people go around the store, pondering how to broach the reason she was here. Should she tell them she was working for the Forest Clan? Maybe profess to being independent. Should she offer pay up front, or let them make the offer? Maybe she should try to obligate them through a sense of justice, or try to intimidate them? After all, she was capable of some rather impressive displays of power, capable of creating very large objects. If she offered pay, should she generate some possible payment methods right now, or use it as a display of power? Would they believe that her dream items were permanent?

As she pondered this people left the room, but The Dreamer wasn't too bothered, as long as one of them was here she could talk to them. She was broken out of her thoughts as the shopkeeper talked to her. She hummed quietly at the question, deciding to go straight for the throat of the issue. Besides, if she had to, she could just create a diamond the size of a truck or something.

"I am here to speak to Alaynah and her crew." She looks at the hooded figure, pausing as she concentrated on creating some new dreams and fitting them together with the help of small dream creatures. "I am here to ask some questions, and can pay..." She smiles behind the mask as she let that last part hang in the air, cocking her head while she continued with the dreaming and watching the hooded figure. After a few more seconds The Dreamer produced a silver letter opener and sheath with the handle ending in an ivory dragon clutching a polished green emerald the size of a large marble from some folds in her dress. She lets the silence hang for a bit longer, before continuing. "I can pay handsomely in fact." A dreamed crow which was blind in one eye on the back of her wheelchair cawed raucously like a sinister laugh as she continued staring at the hooded figure.

Edited by Kaede Kimura
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You see a gleam in the shopkeeper's eye as you show what you can pay to him. He takes it with one hand and inspects it in the dim, red light of the shop.

 

"Very nice," you catch him mutter. Then he puts it down on the counter and looks down at you. "You're in luck, missy. Mixnes' standing right ove' there. Or was it Nixnes? I can't ever tell."

 

He points to the hooded figure, which was once idly browsing the store's goods. It looks up, alerted by someone calling its name. Its hood and the dim lighting makes it hard to see what is underneath all the clothing.

 

"I--" it begins, voice low and gravelly. 

 

But before it could say anything else, the door behind the counter bangs open and Alaynah strides out, followed by her other hooded companion, carrying a luggage bag in each of its large hands.

 

"Alaynah," the shopkeeper says, gesturing to you with a cock of his head. "This one 'ere says she wants to talk to you or somethin'."

 

Alaynah regards you with her one good eye, her expression critical. 

 

"Tell her I'm busy." She turns away, her longcoat swishing as she strides towards the store's exit, her hooded companions following in her wake. She calls back to you. "Schedule a time and place with Brixton if you're still interested."

 

Then she exits the store, leaving you and the shopkeeper, Brixton, alone with the tinkling of chimes.

 

"You 'eard the lady," Brixton says, procuring a pen and a sticky note from under the counter. The pen clicks audibly. "So time and place?"

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Dreamer smiled behind her mask as the shopkeeper examined the letter opener. She did have to admit it was a good piece, and unless she missed her mark should be worth no small amount of money, although it was of no matter to her, given she could dream of dozens like it. She was glad that her estimation of a good payment method for the man would be something he could turn around and sell in his shop, and she was perfectly happy to give it to him in exchange for what she needed.

Her smile quickly turned to a scowl behind her mask as Alaynah left, taking the hooded man with her, but she would simply have to change up her plan. Schedule a time and place... She didn't know what times or places would be best, which was annoying. The half-blind crow crooned as she thought over the issue. She turned her mask back to the shopkeeper, Brixton. "Of course. What would be the soonest possible time? Place is of no import, provided it can be reached." The crow walked behind her head, vanishing from reality. "If there is any way you can expedite the meeting I would be perfectly happy to pay you for the trouble." She cocked her head as she asked, the shift of her head revealing a large snake coiled around the back of her chair.

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GM

 

"Hmmm." The shopkeeper hummed as he rubbed his chin in thought. "I can't rightly say, missy."

 

Then as if coming to a decision, he leans forward. His voice is low as if he were whispering a secret. "Next sure meeting I can give you with 'er is in two weeks time, I think. Alaynah's a busy woman and, between you an' me, I 'eard she's got a job on that'll keep 'er busy for the next week or somethin'. Bought a load of my stock she did! So you's can say she's indisposed currently."

 

He straightens, then begins to write on the pad. With a more normal voice he continues to speak to you. "'Course, if that ain't to your liking, I can always refer you to other 'ssociates of mine. Depends on what you want to get done now, 'innit?"

 

"What's I'm gonna call you though?" He points his pen at you, waiting for an answer. 

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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The Dreamer breathed deeply behind her mask, taking in Brixton's explanation. She had the information which she had been given regarding their smuggling operation tonight, and needed to wrap this up, hoping to follow the criminals. "I understand, Alaynah must be a busy woman. Two weeks sounds perfectly fine." She kept her voice friendly, no use burning a bridge if she didn't have to. The snake began to wind its way around her arm, towards the rest of the chair, but she ignored it. She shook her head at the offer to refer her to someone else.

"No thank you, I am perfectly willing to wait. Thank you for your time." She began wheeling her way towards the door after she finished, but paused at the question, thinking it over and realising that she had not in fact provided him a name, alias or otherwise. "How foolish of me, it slipped my mind. Please, call me Trickster. I look forward to that meeting."

With that she wheeled her way out of the shop, looking around for any sign of where Alaynah and the others had gone.

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Posted (edited)

GM

 

You hear Brixton writing your name down as you exit his shop. The chimes tinkle, the red mist disperses, and you are once more in the Sunken Bazaar avenue.

 

It doesn't take long to spot Alaynah and her crew among the market-goers. For all its vaunted ability to bring the denizens of the Undercity together, it is still a dark and damp place to be in. The Undercity does not have the crowds or the population that the surface city has, and it is a trait the Undercity denizens like. They are a secretive lot.

 

Alaynah's two companions tower over all others, and even hooded that makes it easy to spot them. Both of her companions carry the heavy luggage they had exited the shop with. They are heading away from you, dozens of yards away, and through sparse market-goers of the Bazaar. Then they turn a corner and disappear from your sight, down one of the alleyways that branch off from the Sunken Bazaar's main thoroughfare.

 

What is your next step?

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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  • 2 weeks later...

The Dreamer wheeled out of sight quickly, dreaming herself a winged steel mask, and quickly redesigning her dress with the assistance of her dream creatures. Her torso was covered with a breastplate while the skirt had numerous small scales allowing it to shift while still appearing armoured. Finally she dreamed up a steed to bear her in her pursuit of the group, a saddled griffin which she mounted as quickly as she was able. She had her dreams hide her wheelchair as her mount sauntered out into the street and over to the alleyway.

Quietly she hoped that they had not gone too far in the time it took her to dream up the new gear.

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Posted (edited)

GM

 

A fully armored rider on a griffin steed is bound to get attention anywhere, especially in the dank  Undercity. Stares follow you as you saunter toward and down the alleyway. One of Alaynah's hooded and large companions takes notice of you first, and they quickly point out your presence to the others. They look back and see the panoply of a warrior, ready for battle, but they do not yet do anything.

 

They take a turn down another alleyway, and you follow. Half a minute later, they step down another path, smaller than the last two, and you follow. Then after another minute again, they turn down a corner and you follow around the bend.

 

Alaynah and her companions stand further down the path. She looks up at you on top of your griffin and you see her one good eye narrow, an eye patch covering the other. "What. Do. You. Want?"

 

She bites out each word. Beside her, her companions have put down their luggage and stare at you from beneath their hoods. You see bits and pieces of gray, hard skin underneath shadow. One of them cracks its knuckles, cracking like rock against rock.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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  • 2 weeks later...

The Dreamer pulled the griffin to a halt in front of the group, armour gleaming in the dim light. "I am seeking information about a naga called Advay Upal. You may know him as the murderer of Yatin Basu. I was told you and your crew would be useful to speak to. I am willing to compensate you handsomely for any information or assistance you can offer, and would prefer for this to end amicably, but I am not willing to wait, and will do whatever is necessary to secure your assistance."

The Dreamer focused on the Carnifex ex Imaginatio, bringing the dream monster to the fore, and manifesting it into the real world. Quickly she spoke along their mental link, her lips twitching in distaste at the meeting of their minds. I am seeking their cooperation and want you to threaten them to secure it. She quickly relayed what she had said to them to the demon.

The Carnifex grinned evilly, enormous antlers rising from the sides of her head instead of her normal horns. She towered over The Dreamer and her mount. "And she doesn't need all of you to answer a question, people have many pieces they can live without."

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Posted (edited)

GM

 

You answer, stating your purpose and what you would go to achieve it, but every word seems only to make Alaynah frown even more. As you finish, she scoffs, hands on her hips.

 

"I don't know who you're talking about." She shakes her head. "Sorry, but whatever information you think you could have found with us isn't here. So maybe you and your griffon should go and leave us in peace."

 

She gestures and her colleagues move to collect their dropped luggages. She glances towards you, looking you from head to toe. "And what's with the armor and the mount? Are you one of those costumed heroes from Freedom? Long way to travel for one murder."

 

Her colleagues set with their luggages. She gives you a nod and turns to leave, but freezes as the Carnifex rises over you, issuing its threat with all the glee in the world. If your softer approach doesn't elicit the proper reaction, then this does.

 

Alaynah's eye widens as she places a hand on a huge revolver holstered on her belt. Her colleagues look to the Carnifex then to their boss for guidance and ready for a fight or to run, their baggage still in their hands.

 

"What the @#$% is that?" Alaynah's voice voice trembles slightly. "Jesus. You stay the hell away or I shoot. You got that?"

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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"I am afraid that I am unconvinced of your ignorance. You either know about the matter, or you know who does." The Dreamer said, steel in her voice, "I can of course provide details to jog your memory. Advay Upal and Yatin Basu were members of the Forest Clan, before Advay killed Yatin. Since then, Advay fled into Sub-Terra and the Rock Clan is searching for him for their own gains." The Dreamer smiled gently, before continuing softly. "To be fair to you, I will answer your questions, the armour is useful, the griffin is a helpful mount, I am not from Freedom." Feel free to say something suitably unpleasant to answer what you are.

Glee poured over the mental link from the Carnifex at the open order. "I am the monster who will eat your fingers one joint at a time every time you refuse to provide the information we seek."

The griffin sauntered a few steps forward while the dream demon stayed in place. "And I am not afraid of you shooting me." 

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GM

 

Alaynah's face remains stony, if nervous, as you say the names of who you seek and why. But her fingers stray even closer to her revolver.

 

Before you can finish your bluff, Alaynah pulls out her revolver and in one smooth motion that belies its size, shoves it straight at you. She pulls the trigger and with a bang the revolver fires, the huge barrel smoking. The bullet smashes against your summoned dreams towards your chest. But the bullet stops short of harming you and you see the color in Alaynah's face drain.

 

Her one good eye shifts towards the Carnifex, as if to measure what the monster will do with its master attacked. She mutters what sounds like "Move" to her companions and as one they turn tail and break into a sprint. For all the baggage her colleagues haul, they are able to keep up with their boss, and the shadows quickly swallow them whole. Their footsteps fade with each passing second.

 

The streets and alleys of the Undercity are cramped and the routes forgotten by all save for the dwellers of the Undercity, the criminals, and the forgotten. In these shadows one could hide until the tides turn red and the city above rots. You could lose Alaynah here, until she brings her head above again for another job in a week or a month's time. But by then the trail towards the murderer you seek would be cold, another murderer walking free from justice.

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The Dreamer suppressed a flinch at the gun firing, while the Carnifex snarled in response. She had a brief moment of hesitation as the group fled, having not expected them to run so easily. Quickly recovering and turning to the dream demon. "I want them alive, they need to answer my questions." It grinned and leaped after the group while the griffin took to the air in pursuit. The Dreamer had to admit, they were fast and good at vanishing through hard to fly through alleys, and the gap between them grew. She heard a snarl as the Carnifex dropped from the sky near her, causing the ground to shake, and resolutely urged the Griffin on.

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Posted (edited)

GM

 

Again, the Carnifex rushes after them, leaving you behind with your Griffin.

 

After a few minutes of chase, you hear a crash and a rumble, as if an old structure was tumbling apart. It ceases quickly and when you turn the corner you see a what looks to have been a wall, now turned to rubble. Dust still billows from the rubble, indicating it had been made only a second ago. Alaynah and her crew have their backs to the wall, hemmed in by the Carnifex. Their clothes are matted in dust, and you see Alaynah has blood seeping from a head wound. The woman raises the huge revolver at the Carnifex as a fit of coughing comes over her. Her aim wobbles and her shot is wide, the bullet ringing off the walls of the Underdark.

 

She groans and pulls out a fistful of bullets, struggling to reload the weapon through her daze.

 

Her two companions fare better and both stand as the Carnifex approaches. Their hoods are gone and you can clearly see their stone-like skin and glowing red orbs for their eyes. They look like matching gargoyles, straight from a gothic cathedral, save for the glowing crests on their foreheads. The twins raise their fists, ready for a fight and to protect their boss.

 

Your arrival does not go unnoticed, and one punches their fist with a sharp crack, sending a puff of dust in the air.

 

What do you do?

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue
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