A Wolf at the Gates

Esplandia

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Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

― Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

He wretched again, dry heaving mostly, as there wasn’t much left in his stomach. Even today, where the sea was calm and the boat's rocking was barely perceptible, he could still feel the knot of sickness in his gut.

“Aefter faef daes sus tu gyet saesic?”* his bunkmate asked, following a deep laugh.
Richard Sheridon took two deep breaths to calm his stomach. “I don’t understand,” he said weakly.

“I’m wondering why you’re still sick?” he repeated in Mercanti. “First time at sea?”

“I…” Richard paused to burp, getting another laugh from his bunkmate. “It’s been awhile.”

“You’ll get your sea legs soon. But your sea stomach may take longer” He slammed his palm down on Richard’s back and laughed at his own joke. Richard gagged again, but this time nothing came up. Really he only got sick in the mornings, and would usually feel better in an hour once he’d been moving around. Still he took a pill for the motion sickness, hoping it’d work faster.

He shaved, still feeling queasy, while his bunkmate went about his own morning routine. Richard was disgusted at how pale he looked, how sunken his eyes seemed. He thought he’d be having the time of his life, but so far most of his trip had been spent in misery. After he finished shaving he took some scissors, trimming his hair, which was already getting long enough that his natural curls were starting to show back up. It wasn’t a perfectly straight haircut, but he felt it gave him a bit of a roguish look and since his employers hadn’t complained yet he wasn’t going to waste part of his pay on getting the ship’s barber to do it.

“Come,” his bunkmate said, as they both donned their work uniforms, “Let’s get something to eat. It’s not good to throw up on an empty stomach.”

Braeggo Targaldsen was, if anything, a friendly face. Richard was glad they’d been assigned the same room. He was a stocky man, standing a head and a half shorter than Richard. He had long dirty blonde hair and a similarly long beard. Both of which he kept up in very neat braids. He was from Icenia, having proudly proclaimed himself an Esplandian the day they’d first met. “Jewel of the West,” he said of his homeland. “But now there’s a war and I have no interest in killing Kaludgarians.”

“Were you in the military?” Richard had asked.

“I’d been out for three months, but that just means I’d be the first one they’d recall. Where are you from?”

“Out east,” he’d answered. It wasn’t really true, but he didn’t want to get into the particulars of his family, and how his father had dragged them from country to country, most times illegally. So instead he lied. “The country doesn’t exist anymore. It’s hard to talk about.”

Braeggo had only nodded while giving him a sympathetic look.

But they’d been out to sea for a couple days and the Esplandian hadn’t brought the subject up again.

Braeggo led Richard to the crew galley, ribbing him a couple more times for his weak stomach. By time they got chow Richard’s stomach was feeling better and he ate a bowl of oatmeal and two eggs. Braeggo had been right about eating something and by time they were on duty Richard’s seasickness was a distant memory.

The Jade Princess was a cruise liner originating in Ascalon, sailing northward around Craviter before returning via the Meterran Sea. The cruise was two weeks long with nine stops in Iteria and Craviter. Richard wasn’t an experienced seaman so his job was simply cleaning up litter and mopping the decks. Braeggo was working as a porter below decks, so they wouldn’t see each other for the rest of the day. But the two of them would go above decks for a few minutes before they were expected on duty. Braeggo would smoke while Richard just watched the shoreline pass by to the portside. Sometimes it was just a hazy blue-green line on the horizon, sometimes it was close enough to make out features. Today though it was much closer as the ship rounded Kasu on their way to the channel between Fuss and Itlakan.

“So will you be jumping ship once we return?” Braeggo asked, taking a long drag on his cigarette. “Sea life doesn’t agree with you.”

Richard just shrugged. “I don’t know what I’ll do. I don’t have anywhere else to go.”

“Me either. I thought this would be perfect. Having naval experience working on a civilian boat. But I can’t stand waiting hand and foot on the rich and snooty.” He finished his smoke, crushing the butt and putting it in the garbage. “Well, see you after my shift. Have a good one, Richard.”

Richard returned the sentiment, but took an extra few seconds to look at the coastline, before heading to start his own work.


Hymn to the Sea -James Horner


*Trans: You're still sick after five days?
 
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Arc

Papers, please.
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Vasiliy Petrenko was already awake before many of the other passengers; 5:30 in the morning was his usual time to get up just as it was back on his family's property in the Arcanstotskan countryside thirty miles southwest of Liyev. He had been an early bird his whole life.

He won a spot on the cruise in a bet with some friends and had hoped it would help him sleep in a bit later and relax; to throw off the stress of family drama after his sixteen-year-old sister was caught with alcohol and a small amount of cocaine. Instead he could never shake his anxiety that something bad might happen back home and he wouldn't be able to do anything about it. He took a hot early morning shower to help ease the anxiety and planned to make a cup of coffee after he finished washing up.

Vasiliy stepped out of the shower, dried off, and tidied himself up a little; combed his hair and put on a bit of deodorant. He slipped on a white shirt and into a pair of shorts before sliding his feet into a pair of sandals. He put on his watch and grabbed his lighter and a small box of cigarettes to go smoke outside on the deck.

The morning air was cool and it was only just starting to get brighter outside as the sky transitioned from black to a deeply darkened blue. It wouldn't be long before the sun would begin peeking over the horizon with its light of gold to cancel out the early morning blue. Vasiliy took in a deep breath and let it out before pulling out a cigarette and putting it in his mouth. He brought his lighter and flicked the flame on, bringing it to the end of his tobacco product while using his other hand to cover around the tiny fire. With his cigarette lit, hit slipped his lighter back into his shirt pocket and took in a breath of smoke as he looked out to the brightening horizon.
 

Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
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Slaz had been planted at the lounge bar since boarding, and he didn't plan on leaving his seat any time soon. He had fallen in love with the warm light of the room, and endless stream of fruity drinks that nobody could judge him for enjoying.

It was nice to get away from the dreary weather and nonstop politics of Yamantau, and from what he had heard on the news, it looked like he would be lucky enough to avoid the fast approaching conflict with Epiphani. It felt good to not have to look over his shoulder. He smiled at the bartender as the young blonde put a Mai-Tai down in front of him, finding the tiny umbrella quite amusing.

Back home, Slaz was a force to be reckoned with, standing well over six feet tall, and weighing in over three hundred pounds. His tattoos often confused with prison tattoos, he was often given a wide berth when he walked the streets. While most men would enjoy that feeling of power, Slaz did not. At his core, he was a very caring, sociable man, who had never once raised a hand against another man in anger. Sure, growing up in Yamantau, he had to fight, but survival was different than rage.

He suddenly realized that a pretty brunette a couple seats down was trying to talk to him. "I beg pardon, I am...how you say....little deaf." Slaz chuckled, turning his one eyed gaze towards her. The woman smiled and pushed her hair behind her ear, moving over to the empty seat next to him. "I said I like your tattoos." she said, raising her voice slightly. Slaz flashed a debonair grin as he nodded. "Thank you. I am liking your face." he replied, before realizing how odd the compliment sounded. The pretty brunette laughed sweetly as she swished her drink around, taking away some of the embarrassment Slaz felt. "I'm sorry, Mercanti is not mother tongue." Slaz admitted shyly. He wasn't good at small talk either, and it was showing.

"So what brings you here from....." the brunette began, trying to ask where he was from without asking. "Yamantau!" Slaz said happily. "Wow, quite a ways to come for a cruise." she giggled. "Ehhhh, yes. But was time for vacation. Too much work makes man crazy, yes?" Slaz said, turning his body to face her a little more directly. "So..what do you do?" she asked, leaning in a little closer. "Iron. I work foundry all my life. Well...not so much now. I am head of Ironworker Union Local 342 now. Sit in office above foundry floor, drink coffee, smoke cigarette, sign papers. It pay more, but...not as enjoyable as work iron." he chattered. He loved his work, and he loved the things it had given him. "I figured it was something like that." the brunette laughed. "Oh?" Slaz inquired, curious. "You don't get muscles like this just pushing papers." she said, running her hand up his arm. It finally clicked for Slaz that this pretty girl was hitting on him. "No, you don't." he said, flexing his muscles ever so slightly. "So..what's your name, handsome?" she asked, still running her fingers up and down his massive arms. "Evgeny Slazorozili, but my friends calling me Slaz, and yourself?" he asked with smile. The brunette smiled and pulled hia head down to her mouth. "I'll tell you later, cabin 446." she whispered before leaning back. Slaz nodded excitedly as he straightened up. "Good. Hopefully I'll see you later." she said, before sliding off the stool and sauntering away from the bar, out of the lounge, Slaz's eyes glued to her rear as she left.

"Bartender, I will return. I need cigarette. Keep tab open, please." Slaz called to the bartender, who gave an "OK" hand gesture. Slaz rose from his stool, and exited into the morning sunlight. He hadn't even realized what time it was. He approached the railing and lit a skinny cigar, letting the rich smoke fill his lungs as he contemplated just heading to cabin 446. "Mama would not like it." he muttered to himself, still trying to make up his mind. "Ehhhh, yes. No? No. Yes. Nooooo. Yes." he babbled, taking steps back and forth between the lounge door and heading towards the cabin. "Yes." he finally said, flicking the remainder of the cigar over the side.

His massive frame took up most of the hallway as he walked, occasionally he would need to squish against the wall to let others pass. "Must be the security guy." he heard some passengers mutter as he walked. He shook his head, annoyed, but carried on. He had been mistaken as a plain clothes security guard since departure, and it was starting to get on his nerves.

Cabin 446. He knocked on the door and waited, the door eventually swinging open, and the brunette pulling him inside by his shirt. "Miranda." she said as she pulled him down to plant a kiss. Slaz kicked the door shut behind him.

About an hour later. Slaz emerged from the cabin, and made his way back to the lounge, taking up his seat again, and ordering yet another fruity drink, a fuzzy navel this time. He smiled at the bartender, who returned the smile with a knowing nod. "What? I am on vacation!" he laughed.
 
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Kyle

Keep pounding.
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Björn retired to his quarters, done with the work for the day. His quarters were essentially the top bunk of the double-bunk bed in the storeroom that doubled as his quarters. That’s where grunts like him were relegated to. It doesn’t matter, he’s used to it.

The world had been unkind to Kveldúlfur “Björn” Björnstad. His father, a dockworker in Keris, was killed by the Social Commonweath secret police when Björn was an infant. His mother had to prostitute herself to make ends meet for him and his siblings. When the Syndicalists seized power, people of Björn’s social class were glorified. Things became better for him and his family. Growing up, he learned of Syndicalism and imbibed it thoroughly. All those bourgeoisie, landowners, nobles, capitalists – they must be reined in by the glorious Syndicalist system of equality and justice.

That was why when the reactionary Framan Ríki Eining ("Front of National Unity") took large parts of Prydania in 2013, Björn enlisted in the youth brigades of the People’s Militia. He wasn’t forced into it like what most outside observers thought the child soldier Björn was. He went to war, he killed some, nearly got himself killed; but being the junior member, he was the grunt of the troop.

Björn was captured by the FRE/FNU during the campaign to capture Keris. He was imprisoned with the adults. Being the youngest prisoner, he was thoroughly abused by fellow prisoners. A few months later, King Tobias III of Prydania issued a general amnesty. The hardened Björn, now seventeen, was released from prison.

He came back to the outside world with no family left. His mother died after being gang-raped by General Krummedike's filthy foreign soldiers during the Battle for Keris. His siblings perished in a Xentheridan bombing. His Syndicalist past earned him instant ostracism and disdain from society. His lack of education ensured that he had no job prospects.

His life being directionless, Björn lived day-by-day as a petty thief in Keris’ streets. He had been sentenced to prison multiple times. Indeed, prison became a ‘hotel’ for Björn, for at least he had food and lodging while incarcerated. Outside, he didn’t have anything, or anybody. In his multiple prison stays, Björn became even more and more withdrawn and angry at the world.

One day, Salvar, a fellow prisoner and the closest person he had to a friend, told him about Beaconsfield, the world beyond, and the riches to be had. Salvar counselled Björn to try his luck in the Prydanian capital too. Salvar’s advice gave Björn hope. He could keep that anger for himself for now.

After being released from prison one wintry day, Björn hitchhiked his way to Beaconsfield. To take off the baggage of his Syndicalist past, he went by a new name: Thorbjörn Brustad.

Björn found work scraping rust off ships’ hulls at Beaconsfield’s harbour. He also then ventured into all sorts of odd jobs on ships, including being a deckhand. He became very careful not to descend into his old life again. His plan was to go on board a ship and escape the hell called Prydania.

And now he was here. He was invited to join the crew of Jade Princess after someone resigned. He was the newest, and still the grunt. He did the odd jobs and the work that other people didn’t like or want to do. He tried to be polite even though he knew that people were looking down on him. He tried to do a good job so that he won’t be thrown off the ship.

Saintonge. Goyanes. Highton. Sil Dorsett. Ulstome. Places Björn was trying to go to. He had heard so many stories about these countries at the harbour of Beaconsfield. Places where Prydanians were rebuilding their shattered lives. Björn hoped to reach these fabled lands to restart his life. He will get there or die trying.



Post pre-approved with Prydania.
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
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Kal rolled over in bed, as the sun peaked through his cabin's window, and he rolled back to face away, hiding himself in darkness for a few minutes longer. It was no use though. He was awake. The problem was the bed. It was too damn comfortable. He sank into it, head resting on a pillow that was akin to a cloud, while he clutched another to his chest and yet a third one between his legs. It was almost heavily. It should be though, given how many krossar he spent on this trip. And he wasn't even in one of the top tier rooms.

It was a happy sort of feeling of spent money though, like the treat he'd given himself was worth it. Well it wasn't supposed to be just for himself...but his better half and him had split up just before it was time to go.
He sighed. It still hurt to think about, so he forced himself not to. Beautiful ocean scenery, nice accommodations, plentiful booze...what more could he need to sooth that pain?

He showered and brushed his teeth, noticing just a bit of dirty blond stubble.
"Heh" he smirked. He stayed clean shaven for work- it was the company's regulation- but he'd let it grow out on the trip so far. He liked it. Gave him a real "lounging in paradise" vibe.

"Let's see Ulvestad..." he muttered to himself as he went through his clothes, settling on black swim trunks, sandals, and a button down cotton shirt. Nice, light relaxing. Like the room. Like the food and drink.

He tried not to let his recent break-up get to him, in part because even that couldn't damper the real reason he was here.
He was a warehouse worker, working for Polykor's Prydanian branch. He'd gotten the job after Keris' liberation. He was, before then, co-signed to ship building. Welding specifically. And before that? His parents had owned a farm- not that he really remembered it. Or his parents.
The Syndicalists overran the countryside down the Landerne River that flowed through Keris down to the south. This was early in the coup, when Kal was only two. He'd only find out later that they had shot his parents. His own memories of his parents and the farm were blurry.
Instead he remembered the Child Developmental Centre in Keris. He'd been lucky. Had he been older he'd been put in a Agricultural Homestead- basically a labour camp. Instead he'd been put in the Development Centre. Under the harsh instructions of Syndicalist Party instructors.
He'd been deemed as having no potential for anything but manual labour and co-signed to grunt work building ships for the Syndicalist Navy. And unlike the pre-Syndicalist Coup union workers on the ships and docks? He had no freedom.
He did his duties. He lived in his cramped barracks. He was issued ration coupons rather than compensation. And he had to wait at least five years after he turned 18 to even earn the right to request a transfer. It had been explained to him it was necessary to break the old landowning class of their "privilege." His protests- that he barely remembered his parents or their farm- earned him more than a few beatings through his childhood and adolescence. Beatings he learnt to endure if you found the absurdity in the situation.

He never got to the point he could request a transfer out of Keris from the Syndicalist Council. Keris was taken in the final month of the Civil War, sandwiched between Krummedike's FRE forces from the south and east and Kanadians from the west. Býkonsviði fell soon after Keris and just like that...Syndicalism was swept aside after fifteen years.

The months after the end of the war had been chaotic. The new government had set up programs to help people find work. At first Kal thought it was more of the same- they suggested a job in a warehouse- still just good for manual labour.
It turned out to be different though. The new government official in charge of his case had told him that Pokykor- a Goyanean telecom company- was going to invest in rebuilding Prydania's infrastructure. They had secured a number of Keris' warehouses in preparation for the expansive operation. They needed people to work them who knew what they were doing.
Kal was seventeen when the war ended and was enrolled in a training program. He learnt about Polykor, what they were doing, and what his role would be. And then he turned eighteen and began to work for them.
In time he earned enough to rent an apartment outside of the government housing blocs that had to be established after the War. That was two years ago. Since then he'd been promoted to assistant supervisor of his warehouse. And the government formally returned his family farm.
Kal had no sense for farming though, and had quickly sold it to another local farmstead looking to expand. The promotion and the profit from his family land had earned him a nice bit of Krossar. Some he put away, but some he wanted to use to treat himself and his better half. One bad breakup later though, and here he was. Enjoying that by himself.

He didn't mind really. Sure he found himself a bit lonely, but he could still enjoy the relaxation.
He put on a pair of sunglasses and made his way onto the dock. His phone buzzed just as he sat down.

"Damnit Agnar" he chuckled. It was his boss.

"Can't believe your didn't take me after the breakup! Srsly man have fun and enjoy the rest of the trip."

"haha yeah, and let things fall to hell at work? Come on :P Thanks, talk later!"

He sighed though, unbuttoning his shirt to relax. It was mildly overcast, which helped. He'd lounge, maybe hit the pool, and then? Bar time!
Truth was that even without the ex he still enjoyed it. You got through the Syndicalist beatings and forced labour by gritting your teeth, enduring it, and recognizing how absurd it was in your own head. It had kept him sane, and able to thrive when actually treated fairly as an employee. Not as some pariah who had to be worked nearly to death.
Still, he had pent up anger that he could vent by cutting loose. And so he did.

For now, however, he was going to enjoy the sun and the clouds.
 
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Kanada

TNPer
Illuminated only by the soft moonlight, and up to his shins in freezing swamp water, Gustav shivered. In his right hand, he gripped a metal detector, which he slowly crept left and right, just above the water line. When he glanced behind himself, just for a moment, and he could see the single-file column of infantrymen, slowly following him. Depending on him, and placing their trust in him that he wouldn’t miss anything. He trudged forward another step, and swept the area in front of him. A beep sounded in his headphones.

It was a low battery warning. His music had been suddenly halted, and he was thrown out of his trance. He wasn’t ankle-deep in a frigid swamp in Eastern Prydania. Gustav was sitting on the edge of the pool, feet dangling into a heated pool. In his right hand, he held a fruity martini with a tiny umbrella and a bent straw. When he glanced behind him, there was only a passing couple on a stroll, arms linked.

He felt silly, but also a little sick. Not sick from the motion of the boat, but from the poison in his own mind. And he felt silly because he hadn’t gotten a cabin on this cruise to stew in his own thoughts and regrets. He had gotten onboard to get drunk and leave his thoughts. But Gustav hadn’t done much partying, nor much getting blackout-drunk. If anything, the peaceful ocean ambiance and the peaceful rocking of the boat had done nothing but make it easier to slip into abstraction.

Gus drank from his cup, and tried anchoring himself in the here and now. He remembered walking to the pool as soon as he had left his cabin. He remembered arriving and requesting a drink from the bar. He remembered being handed a colorful drink from a pretty, brown-haired waitress while he waited by the poolside. Instantly, Gustav looked over at the bar. There was a bored looking man cleaning glasses. No young waitress.

As his mind started to wander again, Gustav forced himself to stand up and return to the table where he had placed his towel, phone, and slippers. Once he had finished his drink, he set it down, along with his headphones.. Gus stared at the pool for a small while, before taking off his shirt and jumping in.The water was a lot more pleasant than swamp water. It provided a warm shield from the brisk morning winds on deck. Gustav closed his eyes and allowed himself to remain submerged for a while. After an eternity, he brought himself back to the surface. Taking a deep gasp of air, Gustav wiped the water from his face.

Standing near the edge of the pool was the pretty, brown-haired waitress, with her hands clasped behind her back. She spoke to him in Mercanti, with an accent he couldn't locate, "Would you like me to refill your drink, sir?"
 

St George

Minister
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Let's be honest, I never wanted to go on a cruise. Cruises don't suit me. The sea doesn't suit me. People don't suit me. The idea of being stuck on a boat with 300 other people in the seas around Arrandal did not appeal. But you can hardly sell a ticket with your name on it to one of the schmucks who work in the steel mill with you can you? When I asked to exchange it for cash the factory manager just laughed. It was a fair reaction, to be honest. Actual currency was hard to come by, even a couple of years after the Civil War ended. Whether that was due to speculation and hoarding or an actual shortage was a topic of much debate.

Not by me, of course. It was clear to me that it was the former. People are assholes. Of course they're going to hoard money if they can. What else are they going to do with it? Spend it? Not even Kosh is selling their crap in Keltivr in large numbers at the moment. And after what the banks did during the Civil War, no one trusts any of those degenerates either. So people hid what little money they had and didn't spend it. Hell, I've got at least one emergency fund stashed away. So I couldn't get money for it or exchange it. And that's how, three weeks later, I end up here. On a cruise. With like hundreds of other people.

I hate people. People suck.

Not all people, obviously. Individual people are fine. Sometimes small groups of people can be. But people in general, people in large groups are just awful. Doesn't help that I don't look like the cruise passenger of the day is supposed to look. I'm a bit too... industrial. When I went to present my ticket I was asked what department on board I was working in. The eyebrow raise of the attendant was annoying, but I said nothing. Right. Cabin, stow my stuff. Bar, have a drink. I'd dug into one of my rainy day funds but screw it.

I was here to 'relax'. So let's relax.
 
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Nogori

TNP’s Greedy Capitalist
The early morning sun peaked through her curtains as Dr. Bourdon’s alarm clock woke her up. After decades of sleepless nights and running on 6 hours of sleep per night 7 days it week, it got old. Sometimes you just want to relax and that’s what this whole entire trip was about. No kids. No husband. Just Lisette and the premium deep soak tub in the bathroom.

She woke up and got herself into her morning robes. She had decided to stay in a presidential suite because why not? She had the money to spend and taking vacations was one of the least of her priorities.

After slipping into her robes she put on some coffee and jumped into the shower, a cold shower, the hot bath would wait until later tonight. Getting out of the shower she picked her outfit for today; a blue power pantsuit fit for a woman of her status. After getting dressed she grabbed a book and left her suite going to the ship’s restaurant, finding a nice table to sit down at with a view where she read her book and drank her black coffee.
 

Esplandia

Factbook Addict
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His dreams had been unsettling lately. He supposed it had something to do with having chosen to leave his parent’s legacy behind and strike out on his own path. But they were becoming more and more strange lately.

He dreamed of the drowned girl again. She was sitting at the foot of his bunk, kelp clinging to her hair, water dripping from her clothing. Her eyes, shining with the green of deep water in sunlight, were sunken into her face. He wanted to cover his eyes, but he was paralyzed by the vision. She opened her mouth as if to speak, but only a deep gurgling sound came out. He felt that almost there was a pattern there, perhaps even speech, but his mind couldn't comprehend it. And then out of her mouth came a long black snake, slick with slime. It waved back and forth, before slithering out onto the bed, coming directly at him.

He opened his mouth to scream but instead found himself now awake, sitting up in bed. He was sweating, and his heart was pounding. The girl and the snake were gone, but he still looked around the room to be sure. He turned the light beside his bunk on to dispel the shadows. But there was nothing. He climbed out of his bunk, quietly so as not to wake Braeggo, but when he checked, the upper bunk was empty.

He splashed some water on his face from the sink in the head. He felt the dream fading, but his adrenaline was up so he decided he’d go up on deck and get some cool evening air. The ship would be arriving in Norvalle in the morning, one of the tops on their trip. He was seriously considering hopping ship there, to hell with his contract. This sea voyage was proving to be unhealthy for him.

The deck was deserted, mostly. The passengers were sleeping, aside from the few nightowls or the late night drinkers. He decided he’d avoid them. A strong wind was blowing in from the east and from time to time lightning would flash way off on the horizon. Yet it was still warm. He got a drink from the bar, a cold beer, and headed out to find a place to sit by himself. He wondered where Braeggo had gone.

He liked Braeggo, he realized. And as the night’s cool breeze fluttered over his skin, cooling the queasiness in his gut, he considered sticking around for the whole trip and then maybe striking out with the Esplandian. Running away every time things got difficult, that was his father’s trait, and not his own.

A couple were arguing loudly near the pool area, so he moved to the other side of the boat. He didn’t want to be seen and have to pretend not to notice the nasty words, to give them a polite smile to assure them he hadn’t overheard. So he avoided the couple and made his way forward. He found a quiet spot on the port side. He could see the lights of towns twinkling away on the shore.

He sat in the chair, drinking his beer and before he knew it he was asleep. And this time his sleep was free of dreams, and no drowned girl showed up to trouble him. He woke to someone shaking him.

Braeggo stood over him, a worried look on his face. “Why are you sleeping?” he shouted.

Richard rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “What…” he began to say, but then lightning struck the water just towards the stern of the ship, and the second or so it lasted was enough to illuminate the ocean, which now had massive rolling waves. Richard realized the wind was also blowing fast, and that he was drenched from the spray of the waves crashing against the boat. He could see the crew rushing about, quickly gathering up or tying down anything that could be blown overboard.

“We must get below,” Braeggo hollered over the wind. “How you can sleep through this?”

Richard was wondering the same thing. Had he been that tired? He followed Braeggo, but as another lightning strike flashed to the stern side of the ship, he saw something that made his blood run cold.

A towering wave bearing down on the ship, blocking out the sky, and riding on its crest a black serpent bearing down straight at them. He only had a moment to react. He grabbed Braeggo’s arm with one hand, and then a safety rail with the other. The wave struck the boat, water rushed over them. His arm felt like it was nearly torn off as the water attempted to pull Braeggo from the boat with it. But the Esplandian was able to grab onto the rail, even with the water slamming against them.

And then the wave was gone, as quickly as it had come. But it had already done its damage to the ship. The ship was listing to its side now, and the ocean was slamming into the deck. Braeggo and Richard helped each other stay up on the precarious angle of the deck.

They turned to make their way along the deck when something struck the ship. The resulting jolt rocked the ship, and loud ripping and tearing sounds could be heard even over the storm. Richard and Braeggo were tossed away from the ship and were thrown into the stormy seas.

Richard kicked his way back to the surface, gasping for breath. As lightning lit up the sky he saw the ship broken in the middle, its bow and stern rising up in the air as water filled the middle part, and towering over it all a great black serpent hunched up to strike again. The light faded again to black, before another lightning bolt lit up the sky a moment later. This time the serpent was gone, as if it had never been there, and Richard wondered for a moment if he’d actually seen it. Then a wave crashed down over him and he was pushed down below the surface, his lungs filling with water as he tried to kick against the wave.


Storm Is Coming (extended version) - Junkie XL
 

Arc

Papers, please.
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Vasiliy had already crashed out on his cabin bed by the time the waves and storm had started to pick up. He was having those weird dreams again, the ones he had started having after coming onto the boat; it was a full-moon night and he was running through a forest and away from something or someone. Behind him was the sound of hissing, distant howling, and footsteps giving chase. Vasiliy could hear the footsteps getting faster and louder behind him as he would slow down, much to his horror. It was only once his pursuers sounded about right behind him and his legs about to completely halt that Vasiliy would finally awaken.

Vasiliy’s eyes shot open, his heart was pounding against his chest as he gasped for a breath. He shot up from his bed into a sitting position while his eyes darted around the room, making sure he was in the clear. Waves were knocking against the ship as it rocked against the waves. A nasty storm had rolled in. Vasiliy rolled off his bedside and unto his cabin floor. His stomach couldn’t handle the motion, and he spewed forth his earlier dinner from his mouth unto the sheets and papers that now littered the floor. Though nauseous, Vasiliy managed to climb unto his feet. He took a step for the door but fell to the side upon his first step. Once again he pulled himself to his feet, this time managing to stumble over to the door and open it. A loud crackle and the roaring claps of monstrous thunder could be heard just outside. Another wave nearly knocked him back unto the ground, though he managed to stay upright this time. A loud noise could be heard that sent chills down Vasiliy’s spine; a sort of ripping, tearing noise of a particularly metal tone. Suddenly the ship was ripped apart in two pieces and Vasiliy was swept into the waves.

Struggling for air, he kicked against the waves as he desperately tried to swim for the water’s surface and as the pain in his chest worsened from a lack of air.
 

Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
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Slaz tried to steady himself as the waves continued to hammer the ship. He braced himself against the wall as he felt the ship starting to keel, and the all too familiar sound of shredding steel filled his ears like the growl of an ancient beast in the deep. He clenched his jaw and gripped onto a nearby door frame as the floor began to slope beneath his feet. He could feel his grip beginning to fail already as his body shook. "Up or down….make a move." he said aloud, the screams of the passengers trapped behind the door he clung too filling his heart with dread.

If he went down, he had no idea how much water the ship had taken on, and he couldn't hold his breath forever. If he went up, he would have to fight against his own weight, and the ship's slow descent into the frigid waters.

"Fuck it." he grunted, pushing off the door frame, and beginning his scramble up the steep incline, his boots giving him a little extra grip on the carpet that lined the hall. Every so often, he would stand in another door frame and take a moment to gather his strength. He could see water coming in below him now, no time to waste. Other passengers had begun to fight their way up the hallway, some almost immediately failing in their endeavor.

Slaz could see the stairwell that led up to the deck ahead, maybe another thirty yards. The incline was treacherous now, and the added obstacle of passengers tumbling down made his flight to freedom from this would be watery grave even more perilous. Still he persisted, pulling himself up as the ship sunk lower, and the water grew higher.

He braced as the ship rolled. Had it finally torn in half from the pummeling of the waves? The incline seemed to lessen as he found himself standing on the wall now. He would have to hop between doors, and pray the walls were strong enough to hold his weight. The water was approaching quickly now, filling the cabins that now lay on their side. There was no hope for those within, but there was still hope for Slaz. He reached the stairwell, and looked up. He would have to climb the outside of the staircase and hopefully open the door. He was soaked in sweat, his arms and legs trembled from the great effort he had already made.

He jumped, grabbing onto the outside of the door way, and pulled himself up and in. The ledge at the bottom of the wood and glass railing looked like it should hold him. He carefully placed his feet onto the ledge, and began to shimmy up, using the stairs themselves as hand holds. By the time he made it up, his body was screaming for reprieve. He breathed a sigh of relief as he stood up, and his head was against the door.

He fought with the heavy door for a moment, finding it incredibly difficult to summon the strength to push it open wide enough that it would fall to the other side. With a loud grunt and hearty push, he almost burst into tears as he heard the heavy clunk of the door hitting the wall. Pulling himself up through the door, he found himself on the side of the stairwell, looking out over a scene of absolute chaos. The waves still churned and slammed the ship, throwing him off balance.

He lay against the cold steel of the wall for a moment, before making his way to the edge and peering over. It was a straight drop down across the deck, and he knew there was a good chance that the boat would pull him down if he jumped, but what choice did he have?

He looked around for another option. The side of the ship. If he could make the jump to the railing, he may be able to jump to the water from there. He readied himself to make the jump, before another wave slammed hard against the twisted husk of the ship, sending him slamming down instead. He desperately clawed at the window frames and door handles as he slid down. "Shit! Shit! No!" he cried, before hitting the frigid water, the shock of the cold taking his breath away for a moment before he fought his way back to the surface. He had to get as far away from the ship as he could. He paddled desperately, barely keeping his head above the water. He turned as he heard yet another gut wrenching shriek of tearing metal as the stern began to slip under the waves, to its final resting place. The lightning that lit the sky fully illuminating the scene, Slaz was for once, at a loss for a plan.
 

Kanada

TNPer
Gustav was laying on his bed, above the sheets, seemingly unbothered by the barrage on the ship. Next to him was a book with his thumb stuck in to keep the page. He was drifting asleep while reading and looked rather comfortable. A hypnic jerk caused his eyes to flutter open, and he nearly fell out of his bed. He wiped the sleep from his eyes and he could hear the groaning of steel. Intrigued, Gustav considered going above deck to see the situation, but as he stood he realized something very strange. He realized the floor beneath him was at a severe slant, and he found it very difficult to remain standing up, and soon Gustav was gripping his bedpost to remain upright.

To his horror, the Kanadian saw the floor beneath him begin to strain, splintering apart. It seemed like slow motion but happened in the fraction of a second. The ship screamed as it was torn in two, and water flooded into his cabin with such force that he was thrown against his wall, and blacked out from the intense cold. His limp body was forced out into the sea by the rush of the water, and by pure luck, he had spun towards the surface, rather than below the ship's path.

Luckily, his blackout was only for a moment. Quickly regaining consciousness, Gustav was completely submerged in freezing water. He didn’t know how deep he was, and he didn’t even know which direction was up. He cracked his eyes open for just a moment, but it remained pitch black, and now his eyes were stinging. In a brief moment of brilliance, he cupped his hands against his mouth and exhaled as hard as he could. He felt the bubbles of air run down his chin, and Gustav readjusted himself. Once he had been turned around, he began swimming as hard as he could. He had no clue how deep he was, but he told himself that he just had to keep going. He was beginning to feel the pull of the ship below him, and it became more difficult to swim by the second. A piece of debris cut against his calf, and the salt water made the wound sting. For a brief moment, the idea of sharks flashed in his mind, but it was forced out by his desire to not drown. His lungs screamed for air, and he felt as though he was going to implode. At the very last moment, when his arms felt nearly useless and his thought was turning fuzzy, he burst above the surface, and he spent a few moments treading water and gasping, screaming on the out-breath.

A wave nearly drove him back under, but Gustav fought his way back up. He attempted to open his eyes and look around, but every time he wiped the water away from his eyes, the rain and waves just covered it back up. For a split second, he could see a hardwood flooring plank nearby, and he blindly grabbed in its direction. His left hand gripped around successfully, and his right hand came straight down on a nail, and the force nearly drove a hole clean through. Gustav yelled, eyes stinging with salt and tears. He pulled his hand free, but with no other option, he had to grab the plank again. This time he hit no nail, and he managed to prop himself up. Now in a much safer situation and with his core out of the freezing water, he could look around. It was so dark he could barely see anything, but the occasional flash of lightning showed him his surroundings. He could see a few people, but he wasn’t sure if they were alive or just bodies. There was debris everywhere. He couldn’t see any lifeboats.

Out of his shivering lips, Gustav couple barely mumble a prayer, “Ström herra ole kanssamme, sillä ahdistuksen aikana meillä ei ole muuta apua kuin Sinä... Ström herra, armahda meitä...”

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Translation: "Lord of the Powers be with us, for in times of distress we have no other help but You. Lord of the Powers, have mercy on us.", which is an Orthodox prayer in times of trouble.
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
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Kal was didn't pay any of the commotion much mind. He was trying to catch some sleep when the boat started to rock. It was, of course, concerning but he pushed it out of his mind. Boats rocked. Sometimes they hit waves. He'd never been on a boat before this one, but hey. It made sense, right? Just some rough weather. He'd always found it easier to sleep to the pitter patter of rain anyway. He just closed his eyes trying to think of that.
The howl of the wins and the sounds of water grew more and more intense though, until suddenly a crack of lightning forced him awake. He got up to check the window to his cabin...and the floor was wet.

"Fjandinn*" he growled, still groggy. He needed to get out...he slipped on his shoes and sweat pants, along with his shirt. He briefly considered grabbing his bag but no...his heart was racing and his mind was going a mile a minute but he remembered the safety tips. Only take what you needed if there was an emergency. The sound of cracking wood and metal convinced him he needed to get out. He grabbed his phone and bolted. The halls of were already flooded to his ankles. The deck! He needed to get to the deck. The halls were a chaotic mess, but he knew where he was going. He bolted up to the deck, only for the wind and rain to assault him. He raised his hand to his forehead as he squinted. He hadn't even gotten his barrings though, before a wave crashed into him and the ship began to tilt. His heart was ready to pound out of his chest as he tried to balance himself, sure it was just more rocking...only it wasn't. The ship was sinking.

Kal managed to grab the railing in a split second before he fell, unsure of what was happening. The wind, the water...he couldn't see anything. He just had to work with an idea of where he was...he was grabbing the railing... the ship was sinking... he had no idea what he was doing, but he made a split second decision. He pulled himself over and tossed himself overboard. If he was going to go down it was better to be overboard than going down with a ship on top of him.

The water chilled him to the bone as he hit the water. The cold and the impact was enough to cause him to go prone for a few moments, stirred to action only by the threat of salt water flooding his lungs. He thrashed, grabbing an errant piece of wood that provided just enough ballast to avoid going under, seeing lightning strikes illuminate the devastated ship...he couldn't tell who was alive and who wasn't but he clung to that wood for dear life....the storm wouldn't last forever....if he could make it through to the end of it without going under then maybe, just maybe, he'd have a chance.




OOC note: The following is a post for @Kyle's character Thorbjörn Brustad. The character is Prydanian and Kyle gave me permission to take the character if he could not keep up with the RP. I've taken him in light of Kyle's absence and will return Thorbjörn to him when he returns. @Esplandia and I have already discussed the matter.

Björn was sound asleep when the crack of lightning jolted him awake, the blaring of the emergency alarm leaving him no doubt as to what was happening.

"Did we hit something?" he called out in Mercanti to another staff member frantically trying to get dressed.

"Yeah a Messiah-damned lightning bolt!" he called back.

Björn's blood ran cold, even before he noticed the flooding. He was at the bottom of the totem pole here, and he knew enough about ships to know what that meant in a crisis. He frantically got his shoes on before grabbing a flip knife from his bag. Literally everything else was expendable. He hopped down from his bunk, making a splash as he landed before taking off, pushing past his fellow ships staff. He needed to get up above deck. Immediately. He was a dead man if this thing started to go down with him below. That's what happened to people like him, on the lower rung. The first to go.

"Where do you think you're going?" a burly looking man with salt-weathered features barked as Björn tried to push his way past him.

"We need to get up top!" Björn protested, only for the burly man to scoff at him.

"Not before me" he growled, grabbing Björn by the shirt. He was getting ready to toss him back when the man suddenly went limp, feeling the burn of cold steel in his gut....
He looked at Björn with a wide, panicked look as Björn pulled the knife from his gut, giving him a look that could only read "what did you expect?"

He didn't wait much longer though, taking off for the top deck. No one was going to give a shit over one dead body. His increased adrenaline didn't impact his focus, forcing himself up the stairs as the ship began to capsize.
This was it....he had one chance before the ship was too vertical. He ran, leaping over the railing, hitting the cold water below...




*Fjandinn= fuck
 

Nogori

TNP’s Greedy Capitalist
Lisette had attempted to try and sleep during this fiasco but the strong winds, rain, and constant waves bashing into the side of the boat was not allowing that to happen. This weather was extremely odd, she had monitored the weather all week to make sure that there would be smooth sailing and nothing had called for storms this magnitude. It had just appeared like a ghost locomotive ramming into the side of a truck on train-tracks that no one had seen.

Laying on her bed, attempting to read “Une Analyse des Conceptions Matérielles du Système Capitaliste” by Cyrille Baillairgé, another huge wave had hit the ship, causing her to drop her book and lose her page. “Dieu” she said with annoyance. She got out of her bed to look outside to see the conditions of the water and as soon as she did she was met with a booming lightning bolt that had hit the ship. Lisette started rubbing her eyes contemplating what had just happened when the floor started to shift underneath her teeth.

It went slowly from being tilted to completely being upright with her balancing herself on the frontal walls, struggling to keep balance. She managed to get to her large steel door which took extraordinary strength to keep open at this position due to gravity (thankfully she went to the gym regularly) and lifted her leg on the trimming, allowing her to push herself up. She stood there on the trimming looking down and up. In front of her was located a large hallway, the hallway which had previously been used as a way of entrance into getting into her room was now a massive obstacle to cross with certain death at the bottom. Looking down, the ocean had already started to consume the lower portion of the now splintered ship and if she fell she would most certainly get crushed beneath the ship’s downward path.

She breathed to calm herself down. In and out, in and out, in and out, and then on the next in she took the jump across the large pit and dropped until she was able to catch one of the railing bars. She swung there for a second and pulled herself up and found footing so she could get balanced. She swung around the side and looked at the black abyss below her, waves hammering the remaining portions of the ship. It was useless to climb to the top from here because regardless she would be going into the water one way or another. From her perched spot above the water she leapt off of it and dove into the uncertain death pit beneath her.

Lisette went deep into the freezing cold black water until she was able to get herself back up to the surface. The water felt like thousands of cold little needles stinging all around her. She couldn’t be in the water for too long, her body would eventually give out and she would drown or the waves would kill her before then. She didn’t bother looking around for anyone, she could barely keep herself alive right now she didn’t need someone else to look for. She looked up to the stars and tried to remember which way took her to land went towards it.
 

Esplandia

Factbook Addict
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Richard’s head hurt. It felt like someone was drumming on the inside of his skull with a sledge hammer. He coughed, making the headache worse. He forced himself to sit up and open his eyes. He was sitting on a rocky beach, looking out towards the ocean. The waves crashed against the shores under a gloomy cloud covered sky.

All at once the memories of the shipwreck came rushing back. He stood up, after fighting a wave of dizziness, and nearly blacked out.

Styllekt,*” he heard someone say, recognizing Braeggo’s voice. “You nearly drowned.”

He came over and helped Richard stand. The terrible winds and storm had passed, but the weather was still bad. The sun could barely be seen through dark obscuring clouds. Behind them a tall rocky cliffside towered over, with dark pine woods at the top, like disapproving sentinels watching over the shoreline.

“Where are we?” Richard asked.

“Craviter,” Braeggo said matter-of-factly. Then he burst out laughing. “I might as well have said ‘Dry land’. I’m guessing with the cliff and rocky shores, Montani or Arrandal.” He looked up towards the forests atop the cliff and the humor disappeared from his face. “I’m hoping it’s the former and not the latter.”

Richard looked around at the forlorn shores. “Why? What’s wrong with Arrandal?” he asked.

“Efel balocraeft,” he said. “Bad magic,” he then clarified.

Rain had started to drizzle and the wind was again picking up. Braeggo pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, but the ocean water had completely ruined it. Richard had left his in his footlocker in his room on the Jade Princess, and it was now at the bottom of the ocean. They headed north along the shore, hoping to find shelter. They noticed that debris was washing up along the beach. Luggage, deck chairs, and parts of the ship were bobbing up against the rocks. Richard didn’t see any bodies, and wondered if there were any other survivors.

The memory of the wreck was still bright in his mind. Especially the vision he’d had of the giant serpent. He wondered if Braeggo had seen something similar, or if it had all been in his head. “What do you think happened?” he asked after a few minutes of traveling in silence. “To the boat, I mean.”

“I think we hit something,” he answered. But then he stopped, a thoughtful look on his face. “But the way the boat buckled and split in the middle, it was more like something hit us.”

“What do you think it was?”

Braeggo shrugged and started walking again. “We may never know. We’re just lucky to be…” He stopped mid sentence, coming to a stand still. He gestured ahead with his nose up the beach. “Looks like someone’s heading our way.”

Three figures were making their way towards them along the beach. They were obviously not from the ship. They were dressed in rain slickers, and they were wearing strange wide brim hats that Richard could only describe as folksy.

They moved down the beach pretty quickly, almost jumping from boulder to boulder. When they got closer Richard could see that they were children, likely in their early teens; two boys and a girl.

One of the boys called out, not in Mercanti but in their own language, and Richard was surprised that he could understand it. “Are you from the wreck?”

“Yes we are,” Richard hollered back, finding that he could also speak their tongue. He knew a few languages, traveling across the world had forced him to learn to be passable in quite a few. But he didn’t remember learning this one. Had he learned it really young?

Braeggo raised his eyebrows at Richard, likewise surprised he could speak the local language. “Ask them what country we’re in,” he said.

Richard repeated the question to the youngsters. “Arrandalska,” the boy answered. “We were sent to find any more survivors and take them back to the village.”

“There’s other survivors?” Richard asked excitedly..

“A few,” the boy nodded. “Iadzia will take you back.” He motioned to the girl that was with them.

“But I want to come with you,” she cried.

“Do as you’re told,” he commanded. “Somebody has to take them back while we look for more, and you're the youngest.”

She folded her arms, sulking, but she didn’t argue again. The two boys said farewell and continued off down the beach. The girl motioned for them to follow. Richard updated them on the situation, and he was also excited there were more survivors.

The village was located in a narrow valley between the towering cliff faces. It was quaint and picturesque, as if the two men had been transported a few hundred years back into the past. There were no modern buildings, everything was made of wood and brick, with slate roof tiles. The windows were thick glass, as if made using ancient techniques passed down from generation to generation.

They were met at the edge of the village by a dozen elderly men. They introduced themselves in Mercanti. There was a handful of the village council, as well as the constable, who acted as the spokesperson. “We’ve found a few other survivors,” the constable said. He was a weathered man, with a thin braided mustache and a shaved bald head. “They’re all up at the inn. I assume you’re cold and hungry.”

As they were led up to the town, the constable leading and the girl Iadzia tagging along, Richard and Braeggo took the opportunity to ask a couple questions. “What’s the name of this village?” Richard asked.

“Rekinzatoka**,” the constable answered. “But don’t worry, there haven't been sharks in these waters for centuries.”

“Have you alerted the authorities about the wreck?” Braeggo chimed in.

“Not yet. I’m afraid the storm knocked out the phone lines. We sent Ioan to drive to Constanczja to raise the coast guard.”

“Phone lines?” Richard was incredulous. “Don’t any of you have cell phones?”

The constable gave Richard a peculiar glance. “Cell phones? We don’t have cell phones. There aren’t any towers for miles around. This is Arrandal.”


Vespertilio - Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard


*Translation: Calm down
**Translation: Shark Bay
 

Arc

Papers, please.
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Vasiliy's eyes opened to see a ceiling. An old ceiling. He was in a room that looked like it was out of a history book; nothing he saw around him looked to be modern. He found that he was lying on a mattress that felt hard and old, the smell of which reminded him of his grandmother's house.

He tried to sit up but he was hit with a wave of piercing pain. He let out a shriek of pain before dropping himself backwards unto the mattress where he would lay as still as he could, waiting for the pain to subside. Eventually the pain died down, allowing Vasiliy to slowly lift the blanket off his body to reveal a large bandage extending across his side above his waist, and another across his right arm's bicep. Must have gotten cut on some debris, he thought to himself.

A woman burst into the room, no doubt expecting something to be wrong. By the look of her, she seemed to be at least a decade older than him. She was wearing an old dress which also looked like something you would have expected to see at least a hundred years ago. Old, yes, but clean as well.

"I heard screaming, are you alright?" She asked him in Mercanti. She looked surprised to see him awake. "I am okay," Vasiliy replied in a heavy Obshchiy-Yazk accent. His Mercanti was rather poor. "Where am I?"

"Rekinzatoka, on the coast of Arrandal. We found you unconscious on the beach and we brought you here, along with other survivors from the wreck. You were cut up very badly." Vasiliy nodded. "Spasibo*. Thank you for saving my life." The woman smiled. "You should stay in bed and get your rest. Those wounds need time to heal."

"Where are you from?"

"Arkanskaya."

"I'm sorry?" She didn't seem to speak Obshchiy-Yazk, much to Vasiliy's frustration, though he managed to keep it hidden.

"Arcanstotska," he repeated in Mercanti.

"Oh," she whispered to herself. "You stay here. I'll go bring you something to eat and drink," she explained before turning and walking out the door.

Vasiliy gently lowered his head backwards unto his pillow. What a shitty vacation, he thought.
 

Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
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Slaz sat quietly outside the entrance of the inn, his head against the wall as he savored a cigarette that one of the locals had been kind enough to give him a few minutes before.

He had woken up on the beach, surrounded by worried fishermen. It took some doing, but he had finally managed to explain that he had been on the Jade Princess when it went down. The fishermen had brought him to the inn sometime just after sunrise. Since then, a couple more survivors had come in, mostly unconscious. He looked down the road as he saw two men he recognized as crew members walking with some older locals.

"Good." he sighed, letting a puff of smoke out through his nose. He pulled the blanket around his shoulders a little tighter, and readjusted on the bench, noticing a group of young children that stood a few feet away, staring at him.

"What?" he grunted at them. One of the children, a small girl, approached him and pointed to the tattoos on his arm. "You are dirty." she laughed, examining the image of a cathedral on his forearm. Slaz slowly extended his arm, and let the blanket drop away so she could see the rest of them up to his shoulder. "Its a...a..drawing? I guess, but it never goes away, little one. They all mean something different." he tried to explain. The other children flocked in, shoulder to shoulder asking too many questions for Slaz to keep track of.

"Hang on, hang on." he chuckled, trying to quiet them down. "Here, look." he said, adjusting so that he sat sideways to the children.

"This one, is where I'm from. Yamantau." he said, pointing at a faded Yamanta seal on his upper arm, surrounded by equally faded bullets arranged around the seal like a wreath.

"This one, is for my mama." he continued, moving his finger across to his bicep, to the side profile of a woman wearing a purple headscarf. "Every boy should love his mama." he said sternly, looking around at the young boys of the group.

"What is this one?" the first girl asked, pointing to a hammer on his forearm.

"That is for my work. I am a forger of iron, and steel. The hammer is the only thing I know from sunrise to sunset." he beamed.

He let the children examine all the little details. Eventually, they went on their way, leaving him in peace. He liked this place, felt at home here. The gloom and the old buildings gave him a shroud of odd comfort. He had lost track of the two crew members, meaning to ask them if they had seen anyone else, but he figured they were likely inside. He groaned as he rose from the bench, clutching his ribs. They were still mighty sore from his tumble down the deck into the water. He paused before opening the doors to look up at the cliff faces that surrounded the village like ever present guardians. A feeling of great unease washed over him as he scanned the tops, there just seemed to be something strange about them.

He shook the feeling from his mind and pushed into the inn, finding a warm place next to the fire. Hopefully later, he could find a place that would take a fistful of tarkoes for some tobacco and some rolling papers or a pipe, maybe a jacket would be good too, but for now, he was happy just to be warm, and alive, even if it meant he was stuck in Arrandal.
 

Kyle

Keep pounding.
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One post for me and @Prydania ! Post drafted together :D

Björn’s chest heaved violently as he woke up. He found himself coughing up remnants of seawater from his lungs. He turned to his side to spit out the salty phlegm on the sand.

Sand. He was on dry land. Björn laid again on his back, looking at the leaden skies above. The last thing he remembered was the capsizing ship and how he dispatched a man.

He killed again. Björn sighed. He told himself he won’t do it again. He tried to avoid hurting the people he was mugging in Keris. He tried to live a decent life in Býkonsviði. But the last moments he remembered… it was a life or death situation, that that guy was about to throw him to death in the decks below. It was either Björn or him.

Björn looked at his wet clothes to see if there was any trace of his deed. He was wearing an opened navy blue zip-up hoodie over an old red Miðland Fótboltafélag football shirt, faded camouflage cargo pants, and boots. There was no blood spot to be seen. The sea washed away his crimes.

Björn removed his waterlogged boots and poured the water out of it. He tied the shoelaces of the boots with each other so he could carry the footwear. He then slowly stood up and took off the heavy sodden hoodie off his body and wrung water out of it. He then slung the outsized jacket on his right shoulder. These weren’t originally his clothes anyway, and neither did he care about Midland’s football team. The hoodie he bought for pocket change at a thrift shop in Býkonsviði. The old Midland football shirt was given to him as a donation for prisoners who are about to be released; some charitable organisation realised that some of those ex-convicts like him had little to no possessions.

The pants, though, were his. It was the last of the military gear he was issued with in 2016. Consequently, the pants were now a bit too short for him. His football shirt was a size small, hugging his lean body. The hoodie was a bit too big. Maybe it was time to get new things.

Björn surveyed the beach around him. The narrow beach abutted a rocky cliffside. Maybe there was civilisation up there. Down by the shoreline were evidence that the Jade Princess was a total wreck. Washed up on the shore were parts of the ship, chairs, tables, beds, luggages, and other stuff. No bodies, though, or they would’ve stank by now.

He walked along the beach, spotting a muffin still wrapped in plastic. It was one of the things being sold at the ship’s shop. He bent down to pick it up. The plastic protected the pastry from the water. Maybe he should get everything he could from these debris, before trying to find a way up the cliff. Spotting a tote bag, he stuffed it with food that was still passable. His standards were not that high. He had rummaged through dumpsters in Keris back when he was homeless.

As he picked up a still-puffy packet of crisps, he noticed a black thing underneath it, partially hidden by sand. After putting the crisps in the tote bag, he brushed off the sand. It was a wallet.

Of course there will be a lot of these kinds of things here! Björn almost laughed out loud from his luck. He picked up the wallet and opened it. In it was an identification card for a certain Kaldor Ulvestad from Prydania. Björn smirked. Filthy rich Prydanians are getting on cruises nowadays, huh? Must be one of the bourgeoisie or capitalists. Too bad the guy was probably gone now.

Björn leafed through the wallet and found plenty of money. He sniggered at the guy’s fate and his apparent luck. He put the wallet in the tote bag.

Beachcombing Björn went through the debris, getting wallets, food, and even opening luggages for stuff that might be useful. His trusty multi-tool pocketknife, the only thing he had with him, helped him with it. Björn didn’t think much about taking things from the debris. If there were other people in this land, they’d probably take some of the things here too. Besides, the owners of the stuff were probably dead. If they were alive, that thing that they have called ‘insurance’ will pay them for their losses.

After two hours, he now had two tote bags filled with food and a small copper pot, plus a new backpack that he filled with a blanket, some good (but mostly wet) clothes for his size, tools, stuff that can be fashioned into hunting weapons, and other things that he fancied. Of course, he also took money, which he put in a fanny pack that he also salvaged. The subsequent wallets he just took the cash, and then left the wallet at the beach. They’ll think the sea took their money too.

One can never be too prepared. If there was no civilisation above those cliffs, he would have to hunt for his food; if there were, he could use the money.

Björn found a heavy black messenger bag. The contents could be interesting. He opened it to see a large rectangular thing that looked like a screen with a keyboard… oh it was a laptop. Of course Björn knew what a laptop is, he just hadn’t used one. He had stolen one back in Keris and knew that their resell value depends on whether it still works. The laptop was still dripping water. It was probably a goner. Björn threw the laptop on the beach and took the bag.

Björn then turned to an adjacent luggage and pried it open. More wet clothes that he didn’t like and not his size. He pushed the clothes aside and found a pair of blue fancy sneakers and a pair of sandals. Now those footwear, he liked. Those went into the bag. Then there was toothbrush, toothpaste, toiletries… Björn just tossed them aside. Castaways don’t need any toiletries! Well, except soap. He couldn’t find any, maybe the seas dissolved them. But this one, still had a few wrapped in a resealable bag!

More haul for Björn then. Björn had opened another luggage. There were wet matches along with three packets of cigarettes. The matches were useless now but can still be dried. Björn was about to take them when he saw two lighters. Those were better.

Björn was putting the lighters in his bag when he heard someone speak in a familiar language.

Hvað ertu að gera?!“ The speaker had a hint of indignation at his voice. Maybe he disapproved of him getting stuff from the debris.

Björn looked up and saw a clean-shaven tall blond-haired guy walk towards him. The guy looked familiar. At least Björn knew he was Prydanian because he spoke the language.

Björn zipped his bag close to prevent the guy from seeing what he had accumulated. He did not want to speak to him. He just wanted him to be out of the way. Like back in Prydania, Björn didn’t enjoy dealing with people. He won’t certainly start enjoying it now, just because they’re both castaways.

The guy reached Björn and noticed his football shirt. “You are Prydanian?” The guy said excitedly. His initial outrage at someone stealing was eclipsed by the elation of finding a fellow countryman.

“Yes I am,” Björn said curtly. He took a step forward. He was in no mood for small talk, let alone having to share his discoveries with someone else.

“Kaldor Ulvestad. You can call me Kal,” the newcomer introduced himself, extending his hand for a shake.

Björn’s eyes widened. So this was why he looked familiar. His face was on the ID in the wallet! Björn mentally debated whether he would give back the guy’s wallet or not.

“And your name is…?”

Björn was still unable to decide when the newcomer prompted for his name. “Uh… Thorbjörn Brustad,” Björn muttered, passing the tote bag to his left hand so he could shake Kal’s hand. “Björn for short.”

“Why are you stealing?” Kal asked.

Björn resisted the urge to maul Kal’s punchable face. Nevermind he couldn’t do it anyway because he was carrying all that stuff. “This is not stealing,” Björn declared. “The owners of this stuff are probably dead anyway.”

“But you’re stealing from the dead.”

“Not that they can complain about it,” Björn countered. “It’s for my survival. They’d understand.” Björn saw a baseball bat-length piece of wood jutting out of the sand and took it. Would be useful against enemies. And maybe against Kal too. “If I were you, I’d comb this beach too for useful things,” Björn advised him. Maybe he could get Kal to become an accomplice too so he would stop complaining about whatever the morality there is in salvaging things.

“Listen, if it isn’t us who will take the stuff, somebody else will,” Björn told Kal. “The food will just rot. Me getting them means they’d be put into good use.”

“But it’s still stealing!”
“I call it scavenging,” Björn asserted. “The owners are probably gone.”
“What if they are still alive?”
“Their so-called insurance will cover it, yes?”
“What if they want their stuff back?”
“Then I’ll return them,” Björn sighed. “Just to show you I am sincere…” Björn fished from the tote bag the only wallet he kept. He handed it to Kal. “I am returning your wallet, because you are still alive.”

“You took my wallet!?” Kal was indignant as he snapped his wallet from Björn’s hands, like a snake pouncing on its prey. Björn might change his mind and not give it back. Björn looked like some sort of a lowlife, like one of those homeless people in his country. But he was on a cruise ship… so that meant he had money?

“I didn’t take your wallet,” Björn corrected Kal. “I found your wallet.”

Kal grunted at Björn as he shuffled through his wallet to examine its contents. None of his money, IDs, or credit card seemed missing.

“I think I deserve a ‘thank you’,” Björn said with a cheeky smile.

Kal thumbed through his waterlogged wallet and stuffed it into a pocket.

“Thank you,” he said, trying to sound pleasant. This guy had a way about him that made him want to roll his eyes, but he was the only person he’d seen so far since coming ashore. And he was from home. Not just home, but home-home. He had a Keris accent. He couldn’t be from any further than Landerne. The Midland jersey was odd but he didn’t really care to focus on it.

Kal looked around. The beach they were on seemed barren and rocky, with a grey overcast sky. He’d almost mistaken it for stretches of Prydania’s northern coastline, but he knew they were nowhere near Prydania. He wasn’t sure where they were, or where anyone else was. He’d met a couple decent folks in the bars, had a good time. He didn’t find any of them though. He found a Prydanian - and it happened to be a rather contentious one. Still, Björn was in the same situation.

He blushed at not knowing where they were supposed to be. “Do you have any idea where we are?” he asked Björn. “I lost track of where we were on the route. Too much partying,” Kal groaned.

Björn snickered, judging Kal: a stupid rich kid blinded drunk from partying.

“Still, we’re lucky to be alive, so there’s that I guess,” Kal said, “Come on. There’s got to be some sort of civilization somewhere around here.”

“So it’s ‘we’ now?” Björn asked, somewhere between bemusement and annoyance.

“I really don’t see why not?” Kal replied with a shrug as he began walking up the beach. “We’re either going to find some place to call someone or not. Either way, we’re going to be better off together.”

“Yeah but I thought I was a thief,” Björn replied with a bit of indignance.

“You gave me back my wallet,” Kal shrugged. “And hey, what are the chances the only person I meet would be another Prydanian?”

Björn just rolled his eyes at the wallet remark, but shrugged as well. “Yeah, I don’t think there were many on the ship,” he just sort of said matter of factly.

“Yeah, and one from home too. Didn’t expect to see anyone else from Keris,” Kal said just as matter of factly. This guy was from Keris or the nearby Landerne River valley. His accent was unmistakable.

Björn, though, froze. He had no desire for anyone to know he was from Keris… what his past was. “I’m not from Keris,” he mumbled.

“Huh... I could have sworn with your accent…”

“I’m from Býkonsviði,” he said briskly in a tone that very much suggested that he didn’t want to talk about it. It took Kal aback a bit, but he nodded.

“Alright man, sorry. My mistake.” He hadn’t made a mistake. That was a Keris accent, as obvious as his own. Still, maybe he moved? Got transferred? Who knew. The Syndicalist era and War saw a lot of upheaval. People moving all over. He decided not to pursue it. He just waved Björn to follow him.

“Come on. Let’s get going,” he said before he found a washed up granola bar still in the wrapper. He was starved. And yeah, he’d just given Björn crap for scavenging but it was a single granola bar. He reached down, shed it of its wrapper, and munched down.

“Heh, you learn quickly,” Björn chuckled, patting him on the shoulder as he walked past him.


* * *​

And Kal did indeed learn quickly. Björn found Kal’s backpack, but not his luggage. Kal had another tote bag and stuffed it with food. That was the most he would scavenge. He was not going to scavenge personal stuff.

Björn, on the other hand, had the fanny pack full of cash, the backpack, the messenger bag, two tote bags of food, and a medium-sized toolbox, probably from the ship’s engine room. The two searched for a way up the cliffs.

“You can bring that all if we are going to scale up the rocks?” Kal asked Björn.

“We will find ways,” Björn assured Kal. All he will need was rope. Björn would have Kal go up first with the rope, and then Björn would tie the things below so they can pull it up the cliff.

Such search was no longer needed as the two Prydanian men found two boys walking down the beach. The boys ran up to them. It seemed that they were looking for them too.

“Oh look, people!” Kal said ecstatically. “We’re not alone!”

The boys looked like they were from some rural Prydanian hick-land from the early 20th century, dressed in rain slickers and wearing strange wide-brimmed hats. At least they were not savages or headhunting tribes. Björn was at least comforted by the increasing chance that there was some sort of civilisation above them.

“Hello!” Kal, ever the personable of the two, greeted the boys.

“Good morning, sirs,” the boys said in accented Mercanti. “Are you from the ship?”

“Yes we are,” Kal answered. “Where are we?”

“Arrandal. We were sent to find any more survivors and take them back to the village,” one of the boys answered.

“That’s cool!” Kal remarked. “Björn, there is a village nearby!”

Björn, however, was distracted by something else. “It’s still morning?” The dark skies made him think it was early evening.

The boys smiled. “Yessir, it’s almost noon. Come with us, we will bring you to the village so we will be back before lunch.”
 
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Kanada

TNPer
His memory of the night had been compressed to a foggy nightmare. Endless kicking in harsh waves, with debris battering him all round. Every other breath was interrupted by an assault of saltwater. Once Gustav had kicked for what seemed like eons, he came close enough to the shore for the waves to help him, and he was slowly brought to shallow water. His feet could touch the sand, but his legs wouldn’t support him, so he dragged himself out of the water on his knees, passing out once he had reached dry ground.

A heavy shove to put him onto his back had awoken him. His eyes fluttered open, and he coughed until his lungs hurt. Gustav turned up onto his side and heaved the contents of his stomach, which was mostly saltwater. After a long moment of recovery, he looked up above him at a small collection of villagers, who seemed unsure of whether they should talk to him. Gustav looked at his right hand. There was a bleeding stab wound in the flesh of his palm between his thumb and index finger. It had not pierced all the way through, but it made it excruciatingly painful to make a fist.

Having learned it in secondary school, and assuming that he was not in Kanada or Andrenne, he attempted to speak in Mercanti, “Where am I?”

Now realizing he was incredibly thirsty, the words that came out of his throat sounded garbled and dry, and it caused him to cough.

One older man responded, “Arrandal. Come now, we can treat you in the village.”

With their help, he attempted to rise to his feet. His legs were so sore and wobbly from the swimming that he could barely support himself, and he was practically carried back.

Gustav was set on a bed and had his hand and leg bandaged. Feeling much more comfortable, he could bring the strength to talk with the lady about to leave his bedside, “When can I phone home? I need to let my family know I’m okay.”

She stared at him for a few seconds before responding, and Gustav couldn't tell if it was pity or confusion, “The telephones aren’t working. You’ll have to wait until the storm has cleared.”

“Okay,” he murmured, laying his head back on his pillow. The nurse closed the door behind her, and Gustav suddenly felt very alone.
 

Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
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Slaz had enough of sitting around the inn for a while, and decided to try to find a store that would take his money for a change of clothes.

The village still held a very quaint charm for him, aside from the cliffs that added somewhat of a claustrophobic oppresion. He pulled the blanket around his shoulders once more as he peered about, before spotting what he believed to be the store, an old wood building with various goods and wares in the window.

The bell above the door jangled as he entered, ducking his head to avoid the frame as he did so.

"Hello?" Slaz called to the seemingly empty room. "I uh, I am hoping you are selling clothes." he continued, cautiously moving forward, hoping he hadn't just invaded someone's home. A kindly older woman emerged from behind a shelf full of canned vegetables and gave him a welcoming smile. "Oh, hello." Slaz said with a small smile, clutching the blanket. The young girl that had been so curious about his tattoos soon joined the older woman. "You came from the ship, I assume." the older woman said, moving towards him. "Uh, yes. I...well...I have lost most of my belongings...but I am hoping you will he taking what money I have." Slaz remarked hopefully. The woman moved forward and placed her hand on his arm, her warm smile returning.

"I think we can waive the fees, considering the circumstances. Take what you need, and meet me at the till after." she laughed, motioning to some clothing that hung on the far wall. Slaz nodded happily and made his way over. He grabbed a pair of sandy colored heavy canvas work pants, a pair of boxer shorts, a black shirt, and a pair of black leather boots before turning to the counter. The young girl stood in his path, holding a neatly folded light grey wool sweater, the intricate knit work on it made it reminiscent of the kind that old Yamanta sea captains wore. "To keep your drawings warm." she giggled. Slaz knelt down and let her place it on top of the pile. "Thank you, little one." he beamed, before moving on, placing the pile of clothing on the counter.

"Uh...if I may, and it is not too bad of trouble, do you have tobacco here?" Slaz asked shyly, already very aware that this woman and her little girl had already been far kinder to him than most would. The woman nodded and reached under the counter, producing a large pouch of tobacco, and a distinguished looking wooden pipe. "This will do?" she asked. Slaz nodded happily, leaning on the counter. The woman went about writing up a sales receipt, before pausing. "What's your name?" she asked, the pen hovering over the paper. "Evgeny Slazorozili, Slaz if you prefer." he answered quickly. She quickly scrawled "SLAZ" on the paper before pushing it across to him. "There's your receipt just in case." she laughed. "Thank you, Mrs…" Slaz said, waiting for her to complete the sentence. "Miss...actually. Crina." she laughed, holding out her hand. "A lovely name for lovely woman." Slaz said with a grin.

"Crina...is there a place for me to change, maybe? These clothes are rags, and not very comfortable anymore." he asked her sheepishly. "Restroom is right over there." Crina smiled, pointing to the back corner of the store. Slaz nodded happily again, and hurried to the back. He was all too happy to strip out of his ruined garb and slip into the fresh change of clothes. It already felt better to pull on the clean shirt, no longer having to use a blanket as a coat. He rubbed the wool of the sweater between his fingers, amazed at how soft it was. "Such a sweet kid." he mused. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, and couldn't help but laugh. "From shipwrecked to sea captain." he muttered in Yamanta.

He emerged from the restroom a new man, happy to be warm and comfortable, and approached the counter again, taking the pipe and tobacco, and slipping them into his pockets. "Chances are, you'll see me again before I leave, Crina. Thank you, for everything." he said quietly. "Actually, do you have paper and pen?" he asked.

"Yeah, here." she said quickly, handing him what he asked for. Slaz quickly jotted down a few lines before handing it back. "If you want, we can keep touch after I am gone. I don't think it would be right to forget such kind people." Slaz babbled. Crina laughed and tucked the paper into her pocket. "Yeah, that sounds good." she laughed. "Ok, well...I should probably get back to the inn, see if any more have come." Slaz said, feeling quite embarrassed before rushing out the door. "Lighter is in the pouch." Crina giggled as Slaz moved towards the door. Slaz gave a nervous thumbs up, and exited.

"Mama would like her." he told himself, taking the pouch and pipe from his pockets, packing the dark tobacco into the bowl, it smelled of caramel and rum, much different from the bitter, acrid smell of Yamanta cigarettes. He went to light the pipe, pausing to look at the lighter. It was quite ornate, with a gilded heart near the top. He smiled as he lit the pipe and slid the lighter back into his pocket, clenching the pipe between his teeth. He had come here by chance, but he was already beginning to like it. The people, the place, the sea, and the trees. It felt like he could call this place home if it weren't for his commitments in Yamantau.

A wreath of smoke surrounded him as he made his back to the inn as he puffed at the pipe, nodding to the locals as he passed, a toothy grin peeping out from his thick black beard. He went to snuff the pipe out on a post, and felt a bulge in the back pocket of his pants as he leaned over. He pulled at the source of the bulge, producing a black wool watchman cap. He smiled wide and shook his head. "They are too kind." he thought, pulling the hat onto his head. It was warm, and just as soft as the sweater. Regardless of how it started, to Slaz, today was a good day.

He pushed back into the inn, and took a seat by the window. Hopefully he would soon get a chance to speak with the other survivors.
 

St George

Minister
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Ya ever regret every decision ya ever made? I know I do. As I woke up, on a beach in twelve-damned Arrandal, I regretted every decision I have ever made. I coulda been a boxer, a fighter. Stay in school, get a degree to go along with the brain damage. But nah. Ma was Kilith. Da was Umbrial. This was enough for a friggin' documentary. That I got paid for. So at the time, I took that money, convinced it would last forever. I was a moron. I stay in school, don't do the documentary, don't run out of money and have to join a militia during the Civil War, probably die in the purges and then I don't have to work at a steel mill and win a cruise and end up here.

IN FUCKING ARRANDAL.

Brennivín is some strong stuff, I tell ya. About six or seven... or was it eight... drinks in, barman said it was closing time. I paid him an extortionate amount to take the bottle with me. I had almost gotten back to my cabin when the ship went down. Gotta love Arrandal engineering. Bloody morons probably over boarded the ship. Or... I dunno... made it not float right. That's a thing. I'm drunk out of my mind, so how I made it to the beach I have no idea. I vaguely remember grabbing the ship railings as it listed, then dropping off into the water. I guess a combination of the waves and drunken determination got me to the shore.

And hey, I still have the Brennivín.

Ok, time to get up. Everything still work? No. Head hurts. Arms aching. Did I mess my knee again? Stretch, Lucuious. Sore, but otherwise fine. As I'm doing all this, Brennivín in hand, the locals swarm. Takes a while to realise where I am, but then I recognise the local language. And swear. Several times. Being in the militias helps you pick up a few choice words in a number of languages.

I can speak a bit of Arrandal's brutish tongue. It's better than Rhuvish to be honest, but still. Harsh on the ears. They explain that there's a village nearby, where the other survivors are. I could probably just try and find my way to the border, but they don't answer when I ask how close it is to Keltivr. Might as well go and see if the barman survived. He was alright. Maybe he's got some more Brennivín. Anything to take my mind off of being here. In Arrandal.

Bloody hell why did it have to be Arrandal?
 
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Esplandia

Factbook Addict
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Braeggo had decided to keep quiet when Richard started speaking the local language. There was definitely more to the young man than he was letting on, but it was obvious he wasn’t willing to talk about it. And Braeggo liked him, so he wasn’t gonna push it.

Braeggo found the whole village, it’s quaint and rustic aesthetic, a bit unsettling. It seemed a place out of time, the sort of place people would go to to get away from their modern life and their modern problems. But Braeggo had felt nothing but unease since he’d crawled ashore, pulling an unconscious Richard with him. There was something...wrong...about this whole place.

When the constable explained that there were no phones available to call for help, he was in no way surprised. They were brought to the town’s inn, a three story wood and brick building with a gray slate roof. The second floor had a balcony that’s wrapped around the entire building. The entered through the front door into a large gathering area furnished with rustic furniture. A few townsfolk were moving back and forth helping a handful of people whose clothing was different that stood out. These were the survivors of the Jade Princess. They were sitting around mostly, or milling about looking disoriented. One was sitting on a couch, propped up by pillows, looking more battered than the rest.

The first thing Braeggo noticed was just how few of them there were. If there were more survivors they hadn’t come ashore near Rekinzatoka. “Here’s the rest from your ship,” the Constable said motioning for them to take a seat in the gathering area. “We’re hoping to find more,” he added apologetically and how few there were.

Richard stepped into the room, but Braeggo didn’t follow. His feeling of unease was growing. He’d looked closely at the faces of the locals and noticed that they all looked haggard and tired, more so than would be expected from providing aid to a handful of people pulled from the sea.

So before anyone noticed him he stepped back outside. Perhaps he would do some exploring. He meandered the streets of the village, getting a few greetings from the locals, but most just ignored him. He saw a large man who must have been a survivor by the clothing he was wearing enter a store. The village seemed peaceful, and the people a friendly sort, but he couldn’t help but notice how everyone seemed on edge, their gazes darting to the rough hillside and cliffs surrounding the village.

A group of three men passed, two carrying poles with strange hooks on the end and one limping from a recently bandaged wound. Each of them had pistols tucked into their belts. One nodded an absent greeting to Braeggo, and then they turned down a narrow street. Braeggo, his curiosity piqued, followed a few moments behind.

After having noticed the three armed men, Braeggo found that on closer inspection each local he saw was armed in some way. Firearms tucked into belts, a handful of sabers strapped to sides, sticks with sharpened tips, and even crude clubs. But the uninterested way many greeted Braeggo was enough to convince him the weapons weren’t because of the shipwrecked survivors.

Braeggo followed the three men to the western edge of town. A makeshift barricade was being constructed here. A thick mound of dirt and rocks had been recently dug and sharpened poles were being driven into the side facing away from the earthworks, pointing towards the wooded ridge beyond. Someone noticed him looking and asked him a question in their language. But Braeggo didn’t understand, so he pointed at the obvious defensive structure that was going up and asked in Mercanti “Are you expecting an invasion?”

Another man heard him, and putting aside the sledgehammer he’d been using to drive a pole into the ground he stepped over to Braeggo. “You one of strangers from sea?” he asked.

His accent was so thick it took a few seconds before Braeggo registered what had been said. “I am. And while I’m grateful for your hospitality I am wondering, can you tell me what’s going on here?”

The guy said one word “Krewstryzga*”, and pointed off to his left. Braeggo looked and on a cross was the corpse of the largest, most monstrous looking wolf he’d ever seen. It was twice the size of a man, and had long powerful hind legs for walking upright. The claws on its hands were like knives. But it wasn’t like any wolf he’d ever seen. It appeared more human-like than wolf, as if a cross between man and beast. Braeggo had heard stories of such beasts and knew right away what it was. “Werekunhusksaeg**,” he whispered in both fear and awe.


Dracula - The Beginning - Wojciech Kilar


*Arrandi: werewolf
**Vestrutaggen: werewolf
 
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Esplandia

Factbook Addict
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The village inn, like everything else Richard had seen in the village, was rustic and homespun. The chairs were hand carved from rough lumber, the upholstery and curtains, even the tablecloths, all the rough work of hand instead of the fine precision of a machine.

It felt odd to him. In a way it felt familiar. Not that he’d been here before, but that he knew of the people and their struggles. An old wall phone hung in the main hallway. While the constable spoke to the other survivors of the shipwreck Richard walked over and picked it up. He attempted to dial a number, but all there was was an empty silence. So the lines had been knocked out by the storm.

Richard hung the handpiece back up and returned to the common area. He noticed Braeggo was gone, and considered looking for him. But as he was stepping towards the door a man rushed in. He looked haggard and spent, as if he had been running a long way.

The constable saw him and quickly excused himself. He pulled the haggard man to the side and began whispering. Richard, pretending to be uninterested leaning against the wall, overheard the whole conversation.

“Why are you back?” the constable asked.

The man shifted uncomfortably. “They blocked the road,” he said. “Caused a landslide as I was heading up the valley. If I hadn’t put my truck in reverse I’d be buried in rock and mud.”

The constable gripped the other man’s shoulder tightly. “And you’re sure it was ‘them’?”

“Yeah. The scarred one was standing above the ridge. Looking down at me as I ran away.”

The constable released his shoulder. “Alright Ioan, go find Alvys, let him know what’s happened.”

The haggard man, Ioan, turned to leave. But then he stopped. His gaze passed over Richard, but Richard pretended to be watching the other survivors. “What do we tell them, Herakles?” Ioan asked, speaking of the survivors of the Jade Princess.

The Constable, Herekles, made a sideways glance towards the common area. “I don’t know yet. But they’ll know what’s happening here come nightfall anyway. Now go find Alvys.”

Ioan left and Richard took the opportunity to approach the constable. “Herekles, right?”

The constable put on a smile. “Yes. And your…?”

“Richard. Everything alright?”

“I’m afraid not. The road out of town has been blocked by a rockslide which means we can’t send for help. Listen, there’s something you and your fellows should know…” He then led Richard into the common area and gathered everyone’s attention. Then in a shaky voice he informed them all that the town was not as safe as they presumed. That in fact they were under siege by a pack of werewolves being led by a pair of vampires.
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
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Kal was a bit unnerved as he and Björn followed the kids back up the beach. Everything seemed just off to him. The children were friendly enough, but their garb struck him as old. And the horizon...he’d grown up in Keris, and was no stranger to stormy weather by the sea. Still, something about the grey skies stretching towards the horizon was...off. Like there wasn’t a storm system rolling through. That it just….was. A sort of low, rumbling greyness to the sky that looked like it could periodically explode into a tempest at any moment. The wind added to the feeling of unease. It wasn’t harsh. It wasn’t even powerful enough to be an inconvenience, but it was constant enough to cause a chill in their seawater soaked clothing.

He looked over at Björn, who was walking along with him. He was a rough guy, to be sure. He had something of a chip on his shoulder too. He didn’t ask why. It wasn’t his business, and he’d been helpful.

“Are you doing alright?” he asked Björn as they followed the Arrandali kids up the rocky beach.

“Yeah,” Björn replied briskly.

“Arrandal is an ally,” Kal said with a nod. He wasn’t much for politics. His upbringing had given him an inversion to them. Still, he knew that Arrandal and Prydania were both Bergum Pact members. “So it should be easy for us to call the Prydanian consulate and get home as quickly as possible.”

Björn scowled just a bit. He joined the Jade Princess’ crew to get away from Prydania. Start a new life somewhere else. Fate, however, seemed to conspire to send him back.
“Yeah...great,” he replied, trying not to sound too angry at the prospect.

They began to approach the village’s outskirts, only to notice something strange. It wasn’t readily apparent to either at first at a distance.

“What are those people doing?” Kal asked one of the children.

“Protection,” the child replied.

“It’s a barricade,” Björn said, holding his hand up to his eyes. He’d been trained in their construction when he joined the Youth Brigade of the Peoples’ Militia, and had even helped build them himself during the defence of Keris in the latter days of the Civil War.

“Protection from what?” Kal asked as they got closer, but Björn didn’t wait for the child to answer.

“I told you we should've gotten more stuff. We need weapons,” Björn said.

Kal vaguely recalled that there were some rumblings out of Aydin. Had a war broken out? Surely they would have heard about it on the ship. And this was far too close to the coast.

“What are they protecting against?” Kal asked again. Neither child seemed willing to answer though.

“They probably don’t know much,” Björn mumbled in Prydanian, sure the Arrandali kids couldn’t speak it.
“Let’s just get into town, call the consulate or whatever, and get out of here. Leave whatever these sveitalubbi* are dealing with to them. It’s none of our business.”

Kal turned to Björn and bit the inside of his lip. “Sveitalubbi” meant “redneck,” “hick,” basically a rural person. It had taken a derogatory turn in Prydania since the Syndicalist coup though. The Syndicalists glorified the industrial working class, who lived in mining towns and the big cities. They were deeply distrustful of rural farmers, who they viewed as land-owning “petty bourgeoisie.” It was a driving force behind the collectivization of the farmlands and the “conscription” of many a farmer into the mines, factories, and shipyards- little more than slavery in a gambit for ideological orthodoxy.
And it was in this environment that sveitalubbi became an attack. Kal was only two when his parents were killed and his family’s farm seized. He’d grown up in Keris, but it was still a term those in good with the Syndicalist Party would toss at him, and those like him, as an insult.

He thought about saying something, but opted not to. With any luck they’d call the consulate and get out of here. Björn was already prickly enough. Kal didn’t need to start this argument with him now. So he just glanced at him for a moment, before turning back.

“What?” Björn asked, catching the look.

“Nothing, just looking around” Kal replied as they approached the barricade. The fact that all the men were armed was alarming….but there were no police, and no soldiers. It just added to the eerie feeling. The feeling that not all was right here. A few of the men working on the barricade looked up. Not unfriendly glances, Kal noted, but weary ones.

Björn had noticed it too. It reminded him of his time in the Militia, just before the Battle of Keris. The War was truly lost for the Syndicalists at that point, but they fought on. That determination didn’t help the morale though. The looks on the faces of these men were the same sort of looks he saw on the faces of his comrades in the Militia and Syndicalist Republic Army. Exhausted from years of fighting, and facing down a last stand they knew they couldn’t win. Björn could see the look of concern on Kal’s face. The way these men stared at them made him concerned too. He endeavored to keep his own worries hidden though.

The kids took them to an inn, where they found a collection of other people clearly from the Jade Princess based on their clothing. Kal breathed a sigh of relief and thanked the kids.
“More survivors,” he said, briefly scanning the first floor of the inn.

Björn was not interested in a chat at that moment. He wanted to get a room, shower, change his clothes, eat a proper meal, and beachcomb some more, in that order. The Prydanians approached the front desk of the inn.

“Do you have available rooms?” Björn said curtly. “I want a room for one.”

A room for one? Kal looked at Björn. It would probably be cheaper if they shared a room. Kal sighed. Good thing he had his credit cards back anyway… thanks to Björn.

Björn noticed Kal’s look. “Look man, I ain’t sharing a room with someone I barely know. Sorry.”

Kal frowned as Björn turned to ask about room rates with the innkeeper. He couldn’t really place Björn… his treatment of Kal was even more fickle than the mad Keris weather. Björn could be nice to him one moment; indifferent and prickly the next.

Kal then asked the innkeeper: “Do you accept cards?”

“I’m sorry sir, “ the innkeeper said in thickly-accented Mercanti. “Our phone lines were out, so we can’t process cards.”

Kal exhaled heavily. He had to use cash. Which he had… again thanks to Björn.

“What currency do you accept?” Björn said as he discreetly leafed through the wet banknotes in his fanny pack. Money he pilfered earlier. He didn’t have a lot in his own wallet.

“We accept everything,” the innkeeper said, bringing out a small cardboard sign with exchange rates. It stated they prefer draaks. But there were exchange rates for drams, settis, livres, aldes, mudras, rilvas, piaras, krans, krossar, and geads, with small cutouts of flags beside them. Björn chuckled a bit as he saw the flag beside the Prydanian krossar: the red-white-purple flag with the Syndicalist emblem on it. Who knows when that exchange rate was last updated.

“I’ll pay for one night for now,” Björn said. He did not expect to stay here for long. Although the phone lines being out… it was an ominous sign. It meant they couldn’t call the Prydanian embassy.

Björn put down a strange green banknote with unreadable lettering on it. He did not know what it was, but given how funny-looking it seemed to Björn, he wanted to be rid of it as soon as possible.

“This is not enough, sir,” the innkeeper said in a soft voice to avoid humiliating Björn. “This is just one mudra.” The innkeeper then pushed buttons on his old calculator and showed Björn the amount.

Björn took out the sheaf of strange banknotes from his fanny pack, separated a few more, and put it down in front of the innkeeper. “This enough?”

The innkeeper counted the money. “No.”

“F*ckin worthless bills,” Björn muttered as he slapped all the strange banknotes on the table. “Here, have everything.”

The innkeeper’s eyes widened as he saw the money.

“That enough?” Björn asked.

The innkeeper took the money and summarily counted it. “Yes sir, this is more than enough… I will return the excess - ”
“Don’t bother about it,” Björn said dismissively, waving his hand as if swatting a fly. “I might extend my stay. If my credit runs out, just tell me and I will give you more money.”

Kal sighed seeing the old Syndicalist Republic flag on the exchange rate sign. It was just one more thing to bug him since getting to the inn. No phones so no consulate. No phones also meant his cards were useless. And Björn had decided to be prickly again, meaning he’d have to bear the full cost of a room. He wasn’t going to start something over a flag on a cardboard sign though. He mostly just wanted some sense of peace.

“Take care, man” he said to Björn as he left the counter with his room key, giving him a very half-hearted wave of the arm. That guy… he shrugged. He had more pressing things to worry about.

“A room if you have it” he said with as pleasant a smile as he could muster.

“This is the most visitors we’ve had in a while, we have room.”

Kal nodded, and eyed the exchange rate. He had a variety of currencies. He’d made sure of it for the various ports of call along the cruise’s route. Still, the majority of his money was in Prydanian krossar. The good news was that Arrandal, like Prydania, had just recently stabilized. That meant that things weren’t too expensive, even by Prydanian standards.

“Hey man,” Kal said to the man at the counter.
“I was drowning a few hours ago, my head’s in no condition to do the math. How much is it going to be to get a room for two nights in Prydanian krossar?” That seemed long enough to either get the phones working or at least find some transport to some place where there was communication with the outside world.

He handed over a few soggy bills after getting his answer, offering a “sorry” to the man for the state of the money. He took his key, and his belongings Björn had helped him scavenge and headed off for his room.



*sveitalubbi = redneck, hick

OOC note: co-written with @Kyle
 
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Kyle

Keep pounding.
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Björn got a nice room in the upper floors, with a view out to the fields and forests behind. He locked the door behind him as he laid his wet stuff on the wooden floor.

He unpacked his things. The preserved and bagged food, he put inside the compartments of a small wooden sideboard at the foot of the bed. Atop the sideboard was a cathode-ray tube television, the type with dials to switch channels and antennae that you manipulate to have better reception. Even Prydania doesn’t have a lot of those things now. He wouldn’t even steal one because they’re being junked nowadays.

The perishable food he laid to the table by the window. From his window, he could see the townsfolk working on the barricades at a distance. Björn huffed. Not his concern right now.

He stored the toolbox beneath the table, along with the copper pot he thought would be of use if there was no civilisation. He opened his fanny pack and counted the banknotes. Drams, draaks, settis, livres, krans, krossar, geads. A lot of the first three. But most were sodden paper, except the livres, which were made out of plastic. He had seen some back in Prydania and thought they were funny. Now, the livres are trumping all the wet banknotes. Björn put the wet bills, his phone, and his wallet inside the dresser drawer and locked it. Some of the livres stayed atop the dresser. He will use them later while the others were still drying. The phone… it was probably dead.

He put the sneakers and his boots on the windowsill to dry. At least he had sandals to wear later.

The wet clothes from his backpack and the messenger bag, he chucked in a basket for collection. The innkeeper said they had laundry service. Good thing there was a wise guy from the ship who packed his luggage smartly - his clothes were in those vacuum-packed bags. At least he had some dry clothes to change into.

Björn took a quick shower. At least the inn had toiletries. Björn wasn’t going to steal someone else’s toothbrush among the luggage.

After drying himself, he opened the vacuum-sealed plastic bags to look for clothes to wear. The bags were wet on the outside, but it protected the clothes inside. Björn sniffed the clothes. Freshly-laundered scent. Whoever owned these stuff had a good choice of detergent.

Björn took out the clothes. There were two pairs of jeans, two cargo pants, two trousers. He set one pair of blue jeans aside on the bed to wear. The others went in the closet. A few pairs of shorts. Swimming gear. Printed T-shirts. A football shirt or two. A few tank tops and basketball shirts. Nothing much for cold.

“Ah there we go,” Björn mumbled as he picked up one of the last few pieces of clothing inside the bags. It was a red ice hockey jersey. The long sleeves would probably be good for cold, especially if he wore something underneath. “Hnappdal. Ninety-five,” Björn read the name and the number at the back of the shirt. The name sounded Prydanian. But when he turned it over, the team crest looked different. Not Prydanian. Probably Santonian?

Björn chucked the shirt to the closet. He’ll use it when he needs to. And the last piece inside the bag was a grey hoodie. What luck he had. Björn mentally thanked whoever owned this stuff. He was a saviour.
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
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Kal's room wasn't anything special, but when you're used to barracks in a Syndicalist "workers' collective" anything will seem nice. He groaned as he closed the door behind him, setting his bag of scavenged food on the floor as he began to undress. He needed to get this wet clothing off of him. He stripped fully, tossing his clothing over a desk that occupied a corner in his room. He looked around for a moment and rolled his eyes as he realized Björn may have had a point; he was smart to scavenge clothes. All he had were the soaked garments he'd tossed across the desk. No matter though. He was exhausted. He set his currency out to dry and then tossed himself onto the bed. He didn't even bother with the covers. He passed out almost as soon as he hit the mattress.

He didn't sleep long despite his exhaustion. He got cold and kicked the covers up, but doing that had woken him up enough that passing out wasn't happening. He glanced at the old style clock on the wall. He'd gotten an hour. At most. He sighed as he looked out the window. Still the same grey skies. He was used to those back home, but something about this grey sky set him on edge.

Kal pulled himself out of bed yawning. An hour wasn't much but did help. Truth was he was a bit anxious. He was in a holding pattern. He HATED that. He couldn't call the consulate. He couldn't even use his cards. He didn't know what to do other than to wait for the phone lines to be repaired or make some plans to get somewhere where he could use a phone. It was all so....up in the air. He didn't like that. Lack of structure tended to make him nervous.

He sat in bed for a moment as his mind turned to Björn. He was a confusing guy. He could be pleasant enough. Even helpful. And then he could be downright unpleasant.
"He must be going through some stuff" Kal muttered to himself as he rubbed his eyes.
Why did he care though? Fact was he was the only other Prydanian he'd found since the ship went down but beyond that...he seemed like he needed help. Kal had grown up with other people at the mercy of the Syndicalist Party. No one was there to help them before the FRE and Kanadians got there. They had to help themselves. You saw someone hurt or in trouble, you helped them. And they helped you. It's how you survived and kept your humanity in a situation like that.
Björn...whatever his deal was...he needed help. Kal wasn't going to push it, but figured if he was the only other person from home here, then he'd do what he could to help him. Fuck, he owned it to him for helping him scavenge.

Kal yawned as he stood up and stretched. His socks were still wet, he left them where they were. His pants and shirt were still wet, but not as much.
"Body heat will have to do the rest" he muttered as he slipped his pants and shirt on, and then slipped on his shoes. The bills from his wallet were drier at least. He needed to get out of this room....the inn lobby was at least some place to go. Maybe he'd hear some update on the phones. Or a ride elsewhere...
 
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Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
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Slaz paused as he heard the words "vampires" and "werewolves". He had heard legends of vampires in the far reaches of Yamantau, but had always dismissed them as just that, legends. He pushed his way past the men in the doorway and back outside, heading up the street, following a group of men carrying . He could see the barricade at the end of the road, with the grotesque creature hanging high above it.

"Waratija."* he muttered quietly, looking on, awestruck, the sight of the beast sending a chill down his spine. There was another man there who he recognized as one of the crewmen who had recently arrived, looking on with the same awe and fear. Slaz looked between this man and the barricade, and back up to the monstrous wolf.

He walked over to the crewman and gave him a hard pat on the back. "Come, let us help." Slaz smiled, pushing up the sleeves of the grey cable knit sweater before grabbing one of the large sharpened poles and carrying it over to the barricade. He placed it against the embankment and waited as one of the locals drove it into the mound of dirt and rock.

"These poles, they leave much to be desired. Do these people not have a blacksmith to make stakes of iron?" Slaz thought, before looking back up the crewman. "You gonna get in here or what?" he laughed.
___________________________________________________

*Waratija: Wolf demon/man wolf/night beast
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Býkonsviði
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Kal made his way to the lobby, his still somewhat wet clothing feeling uncomfortable. He had food in his room, and he could let his clothes dry out there but...he needed to get out. He needed to feel like he was getting out. He wouldn’t hear anything about the phones from his room. Besides, it would do him good to socialize. Maybe someone had a plan to get somewhere where they could call for help? At the very least the company would be comforting.

The lobby was...bustling, maybe? It seemed bustling for a place like this. He looked around for a spot to sit down. Most of the tables had people in them. He looked for Björn but didn’t see him. Instead he saw a man who seemed pretty heavily bandaged, sitting by himself. There were free chairs at his table and, if anything, this guy seemed like he could use the company as much as he could.

“Hey, the name’s Kaldor,” he said in Mercanti as he pulled up a chair. The man’s bandages also made it clear he was from the ship.
“Mind if I take a seat?”
The man looked up at him, holding a cup of water, generally looking pretty miserable. “Feel free,” he said, gesturing at the chair opposing him. “I’m Gustav,” he said, naturally sticking out his bandaged hand for a handshake before suddenly remembering that it probably wouldn’t be the best idea. After slightly smiling to himself, Gustav continued, “Kaldor. That’s a Prydanian name, isn’t it?”

Kal nodded “it is, but you can call me Kal if you like” he said with a wave in lieu of a handshake as he sat down. The man’s accent was familiar but he couldn’t place it right away. His name was Nordic though.

He glanced down at the menu for a moment and then looked up again.
“You’re Kanadian?” he asked, the accent clicking. To most people the accent might have read as Andrennian, but where Kal was from it was a Kanadian accent. Right around the border. He smiled at the revelation. He liked Kanadians.
“I am,” Gustav responded with a grin, now speaking in his mother tongue. Kanadians and Prydanians could understand each other just fine, despite some minor differences. Also, Gustav had spent nearly a year fighting in Prydania, communicating with the locals. He was excited, as he hadn’t met anybody on this trip who was from so close to home, “I’m from Askerhärd, near the border. I suppose that’s why your name seemed familiar... There were a lot of Prydanians in my hometown, especially when I was younger.”
“I spent nine months in Prydania with the Expeditionary Corps. Where in the country are you from?”
“Askerhärd eh?” Kal replied. He knew of it. Some of his friends occasionally made the trip out there now that the war was over and the border was no longer monitored like a DMZ. He never did though. He was still...getting used to being on his own, outside of the collective. This trip was actually a huge deal for him, personally. And of course the damn ship had to go and sink. Well… at least it was a new experience.
“Yeah, I’ve heard of it,” he said with a smile before he gave the waiter an order. He just asked for eggs. Eggs were good. Everyone knew how to do eggs.
What really caught his attention was Gustav mentioning the Expeditionary Corps. The Kanadians were involved in one major push during the War…
“If you were in Prydania then you'd probably have been to my home town” he remarked with a smile.
“I’m from Keris. I don’t know how involved you were, but…” he felt a swell of emotion for a brief moment.
“You and your countrymen helped liberate a lot of people. Me included. Thank you” he said in a voice that both managed to be sincere and cheerful.

Gustav was silent for a moment, thinking of how to respond. He had heard so many thank-you’s and god-bless-you’s during his march east that he had mostly stopped caring. It had just been his job, after all.
“I’m glad to have done it,” Gustav said simply, before realizing Kal may want to hear more, “I spent the end of the war in Keris. I’m a combat engineer, so I spend most of my time either using explosives or getting rid of explosives… Did you manage to leave the city before the fighting began?”

Kal shook his head. “No,” he said, thinking back to the end of the War.
“I was a captive in the Workers’ Collective. I was restricted where I could go under the best of times. We were all…” he paused for a moment. The memories of hiding out in the barracks, the memories of not knowing if they were going to be shelled into nothingness, or if it was worth the risk to try and get out, into a war zone. He remembered, being seventeen and terrified, uttering the Lord’s Prayer as he lay in his bunk, as the world shook around him and explosions rocked the sky above.

“...well, we were kept in the restricted zones near the docks. I remember that we were all afraid that a shell could hit us at any time, but instead the guns went quiet and a Kanadian soldier opened the door to our barracks. And freed us.”
He smiled and chuckled a bit to himself.
“We could hardly believe it. I felt…” he thought back to how he felt. Dirty, a bit too skinny thanks to a lack of food. Disheveled in an ill-fitting uniform. He felt utterly pathetic and helpless before the professionally dressed Kanadians, but he was immensely grateful.
“...like we had saviours” he remarked before blushing.
“I’m sorry man” he added with a chuckle. “I didn’t mean to lay that at your feet” he ran his hand through his hair nervously.
“I’m just grateful is all. A lot of memories coming back at once, you know?”

Smiling at Kal, Gustav nodded as he apologized, “It’s okay, I understand. I’m glad you made it out alive. What a coincidence, huh?” The Kanadian took a long drink before continuing, “It was a few years ago now, but I can remember it all like yesterday. The swamps and fields... Goddamn, those Syndie bastards fought hard. In Keris, I could have sworn every roof and window had a machine gunner.”
He thought back to the frontline fighting he had to endure during the city’s battle. The constant scream of jet engines and violent rumble of artillery provided the soundtrack for a several week long struggle between the liberating force from the west and the crumbling Syndicalist army. With their heavy artillery, air support, and superior equipment, the Kanadians helped the Loðbrók loyalists win the day. Gustav had been one of the hundred or so Kanadians who attended the celebration ceremony, where the Prydanian cross flag was raised over the old city square.
Gustav realized he had been drifting off, and brought his attention back to the table, “So, how’d you go from huddling in a bunker to sailing along the coast of Craviter in a luxury cruise?”

Kal was about to answer when he spotted Björn. He went to wave to him but was cut off by the waiter delivering his food. He quickly did a brief prayer and crossed himself before he began to eat.

“Heh” he replied after the first bite in response to Gustav’s question.
“The Syndies tried to indoctrinate me for years, and then worked me like a dog when I got old enough” he shrugged. “I didn’t have very many marketable skills when I got out. I couldn’t even go back to my family’s farm when the new government gave it back. I don’t know a lick about farming. But the government set me up with a social worker as part of a program to help saps like me find work. They set me up with Polykor, who needed warehouse workers. So a few years later, a promotion, and one sold farmstead later and I figured ‘why not take my girl on a nice cruise?’” he explained with a smile.
“We had a bit of a fight” he chuckled nervously, running his hand through his hair. “We split, but the tickets were paid for so...I figured why not? Turns out she was the smart one eh?” He took another bite.
“What about you?” he asked after he swallowed.
“You still in the Army?”

In response, Gustav shook his head, “I got out of there as soon as I could. Got discharged a few months after returning home. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I hated being in the army, I had just had enough with it. I couldn’t see myself staying and trying to move up the chain. Now I’m a production line manager for an arms manufacturing company, Kejserlikan. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, they started selling to the Prydanian military after the war ended,” Gus leaned back, “They love hiring veterans, and since I was also an engineer, they snapped me right up. Not a bad job. It got me this cruise, which was nice before… all of this happened.”
Kal shook his head.
“Sorry, I really don’t pay attention to politics. Just seemed...nauseating after the war. The current government doesn’t make you think about politics all the time. That’s one of the many things that’s nice about it. But a line manager eh? Yeah. I’m an assistant warehouse manager myself. This was supposed to be my getaway” he chuckled.
Kal smiled to himself and ate some more. He was happy to have found someone else to talk to. He held his cup of coffee up.
“Ralte!” he said in a friendly voice.

OOC Note: co-written with @Kanada
 
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Kyle

Keep pounding.
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Björn went out of his room clad in jeans and a black printed T-shirt. He was hungry. He went down to the inn’s common room, which doubled as a bar, dining area, and restaurant. The common room was half-full when he arrived. He saw Kal talking to a guy in bandages. Björn’s ears perked up as the guy, probably Kanadian, talked about shooting Syndicalists in Keris. Björn clenched his fists as anger crept up inside him. The waitress approached him to ask for what he wanted. She was a bit apprehensive about Björn because of his irked facial expression. Was it because she was slow in entertaining him? The inn was never this full, and she was the only one tending to the restaurant.

Björn managed a smile as he reined in his emotions. He asked for a corner table, out of Kal’s sight but within earshot. He ordered something he doesn’t know, basing his choice on the faded pictures in the menu. He hoped it was good. He paid for his meal with an yellow banknote, immediately after it came. He told the waitress to keep the change. It was peanuts anyway. He already had huge amounts of cash. He could salvage some more later. He would then find a way to get out of Arrandal and into Sil Dorsett, which he knew was near.

Björn resumed eavesdropping at Kal’s conversation. Kal tried to say hello, but the server came with their food. As the server put their food on Kal’s table, Kal made a sign of the cross to say grace before meals. Björn smirked. It just confirmed that Kal was a Courantist. His name - Kaldor - was an early Prydanian Courantist saint.

As Björn waited for his lunch, he learned more and more about Kal and his new friend. Kal worked at Polykor, but his family used to have a farm. Hah, that sveitalubbi. He even had money for a cruise for two. Too bad Björn's movement wasn’t able to take down all those bourgeois and those landowners.

The failure of his movement was apparently partly due to the other guy. Björn was right that he pegged him for being Kanadian. And not only that, he was a Kanadian soldier who helped occupy Keris. Someone who also shot at and bombed his comrades. This was potentially someone whom he fought against during the battles for the city... his city.

Björn's thoughts were interrupted as his food came: a slab of hearty steak. It was one of the more pricey things on the menu. Björn figured he could have some nice food that day, now that he had a lot of money. With his steak knife and fork, he cut off a piece of meat and dipped it in the gravy. Björn temporarily forgot his anger as he savoured the first bites of his meal. This was something he never had tried, especially not in the wretched country where he came from.

The good taste of the food was not enough to stop bringing back bad memories to Björn. Kal's conversation with the Kanadian incited a cascade of painful recollections in Björn. Björn was captured by Kanadian soldiers after the machine gun nest he was manning was neutralised by the Kanadians. Björn was badly injured, but his best friends and comrades Leifur and Sjafnar died in that barricade.

And then after he was freed from captivity, he found out that his family was gone, wiped out by the backsliders and their foreign imperialist handlers. Björn's grip on the handle of the steak knife tightened, as if he was preparing to use it to stab someone. He inhaled deeply and started cutting off more pieces of the steak, channelling his anger towards chopping his food into bite-sized chunks. It’s not as if the steak was tough. It was medium rare.

A few minutes later, some Arrandal folk went into the common area to talk to survivors like them. The constable, who introduced himself as Herakles, was talking about the town being under siege by a pack of werewolves being led by a pair of vampires.

Björn laughed. Is that… why were they erecting barricades? Against… werewolves? What paranoia this town is in. Björn never believed in those mythical things. Those stories were just told by people in authority to scare children who didn’t know better. Just like how priests and churches would scare gullible folk about the fires of hell. Just like how the purportedly “free” Prydanian government threw him in jail to prevent him from getting what he deserved in life.

But apart from his laughing, Björn did not say a word as the people talked about what to do next. Having finished his lunch, Björn stood up from his table and started to walk out of the room. He was going to beachcomb this afternoon anyway.



Approved by Kanada and Prydania. :)
 
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Esplandia

Factbook Addict
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Richard listened to the Constable fill everyone in on the situation. The others, the survivors, seemed either bemused or confused by the report. It seemed utterly incredulous, but something tickled at the back of Richard’s mind. He tried to force it out (was it a memory?) but nothing came forward.

The constable finished explaining, and then he asked if anyone had any questions. No one asked anything right away. There were some shared glances as they tried to figure out if this was real or some kind of unfunny joke.

So Richard decided to ask first. “Why haven’t you gone for help before this?” He knew the road was now blocked, but surely if this had been going on they’d have tried before now.

The constable turned to address him. “They first came last night, and left as the storm descended. We sent for help this morning, but the road has been blocked.”

The constable turned away as another question was asked.

Richard made his way to the front desk, still listening to the conversation. He asked the woman there if she happened to have a map of the area. She produced an old, folded paper. He thanked her and opened it up, studying the nearby area.

Braeggo looked at the man who’d spoken to him. He was a large man with tattoos covering his arms. “Eh?” he asked, not having really heard what he’d said.

“You gonna get in here?” he repeated. He was helping the townspeople with their defenses. He was wearing clean new Arrandi clothes.

“You speak Mercanti? Most the others around here don’t.”

The man laughed and informed him he had been on the Jade Princess, and that the clothes were new. He introduced himself as Szlaz, and Braeggo gave his own name.

Braeggo felt dumb for thinking the man was a local, but he’d been washed off a ship less then a day ago so he was allowed to be a bit dumb today. He studied the barricade they were building, realizing it would be inefficient against armed invaders. He looked back at the corpse of the beast. Did they use weapons?

Probably not, but we should, he thought. “I’m going to see what they’ve got in the way of an armory,” he told his new friend. “They’ve gotta have some firearms somewhere.”

He headed back into town. He could see a clock tower standing a few stories taller than the rest of the buildings. He figured it was a town hall. As good a place as any to start.
 

Kyle

Keep pounding.
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Björn went back out to the beach with a borrowed wheelbarrow and knapsacks. He was going to beachcomb during the first half of the afternoon. He thought that he would help the townspeople in their folly tonight. It might bring him some goodwill for him from the townspeople, so that they will help him later on escape.

Björn scoured another part of the beach, a different area from where he took all those stuff earlier. From the wallets he took the cash and put them in an opaque plastic bag. He scrounged around for things that might be useful for defence.

There was a black jerrycan tumbled over on the sand. That was a good sign – jerrycans usually contain fuel or gasoline or chemicals. Björn went over and picked it up. It was three-fourths full. What luck. Björn opened the cap and smelled its contents to determine what it was. The acrid sweetish odour of the liquid inside assaulted his nose. He knew what it was. Gasoline.

As Björn was putting the jerrycan of gasoline onto his wheelbarrow, he caught sight of another jerrycan. This time it was red. Björn sniffed. It was liquid paraffin this time. He thought where this could have come from. Maybe it came from those fire-breather people who perform aboard the ship, this was the fuel they use. It was still useful. Flammable fluids, good.

Björn pushed his wheelbarrow to another area as he salvaged money and some other things. His eye glimpsed a shiny thing embedded in the sand, the incoming tide lapping it up. Björn bent down to pick it up and inspect it. It was a silver chain necklace with two silver medallions in it. He had seen these things worn by Courantists in Prydania. They were becoming popular nowadays, because now they can openly practice their religion.

One of the medallions showed a knight on a horse, throwing a spear into the mouth of a mythical creature. A dragon, maybe? Björn turned it around and it indicated it was Saint Michael the Archangel. Björn smirked. No angel saved whoever’s neck this used to hang from.

The other medallion showed a man and a stag. In between the stag’s antlers was a cross. The latter part was suspiciously like the symbol they use for Prydania nowadays. Björn flipped the medallion over and it said it was dedicated to Saint Vortgyn I, the first king of Prydania and patron saint against werewolves. What superstition. Björn had a sudden urge to throw out to sea the medallions, those symbols of oppressive gods and oppressive Loðbróks. As Björn was about to hurl them, he had a second thought. These were real silver. He could sell these.

Björn pocketed the medallions. He could get a good price for them in silver. Björn paused for a bit as he pondered the word. What was it that they say werewolves were afraid of? Silver?

Björn chanced upon a mess of broken and intact dining plates. This was probably the place where the dining room stuff got washed ashore. Björn picked up one of the plates. It was one of those custom-made expensive and exquisite Hainaut porcelain plates. This was the cutlery for the first class passengers.

And now he might have more silver around this area. Silver spoons, silver forks. After a few minutes of uncovering and shifting things around, he finally found what he was looking for: two sealed containers of silverware, which floated because of the air enclosed within the containers. Björn took out a spoon. Now this was the real thing. He would know, because as a thief, he used to be able to spot which are real precious metals and which are fake. Björn happily put all the utensils he could find in his knapsack.

Then Björn saw a big toolbox. It must’ve come from the engine room. Near it were two fire axes. Surprising that they did not sink to the bottom of the sea, must be the balsa wood and polystyrene foam they were attached to. In any case, a weapon is a weapon. Björn put them all in the wheelbarrow. Come to think of it, anything can be a weapon if you’re holding it right. Björn filled his wheelbarrow with more things he thought would be useful for the villagefolk.

Within two hours, his knapsack, wheelbarrow, and moneybag were all full. Time to go back to the inn.



OOC Note: Post approved by @Prydania .
 
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Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
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Slaz looked up at one of the villagers who was also working at the barricade, he could see the man was tired, and had likely been defending the village all night. There had to be something more he could do to sure up the reinforcements.

"Hey. Hey, pal. Yeah, you." Slaz said to the tired man, who was pointing to himself as if asking if Slaz was talking to him.

"Blacksmith?" Slaz asked. The man gave him a quizzical look. He obviously didn't understand. Slaz grabbed a hammer that was laying on the ground and acted out beating steel on an anvil for a few seconds before the man got it. He led Slaz down the street to what looked like an old garage and pulled the doors open. The forge had not been used for quite some time, but that mattered very little to Slaz.

The man left him standing in the middle of the old shop as he got to work. It took a while to get the forge going, but soon enough, it was ready. There was plenty of materials too. Slaz found a long piece of what looked like wrought iron gate in a pile of scrap in the corner, turning it over in his hands, he knew what to do. It looked like there would be enough materials in the shop to make something mean.

Slaz took off the sweater and long sleeve shirt and laid them neatly on a nearby bench, donning the apron and gloves like his grandfather had, the man who taught him to forge and bend metal to his will. The hammer and tongs felt good in his hands as be pulled the pieces from the forge and struck upon them with the hammer, feeling the metal move under his fierce blows. He would need 3 pieces of metal for each weapon, but if he could pull it off, there would be no saving whoever was on the receiving end.

It took about an hour to get the crude shape of the first one, but after that, it went quickly. He inspected his creation with great pride. He had seen this design before, but this one was a little better. Three blades that twisted to a point at the end of the shaft. Anyone or anything on the receiving end would have a wound that no surgeon could close.

He began to daydream of the possibilities of it. If he could make them small enough, they could be fired from a black powder rifle, or pushed into a suitable rifle cartridge. With a notch on the end and some fins, fired from a bow of some kind. Stick a handle on it, you have a devastating close quarters tool. For now though, the pikes where it made up half the length would have to do. Anything caught on them would tear itself apart in the struggle to get loose.

As he tossed the last one into the pile, he looked around the shop again. "If I had some better sheets of metal I could make armor. Might not hold up for a long time against those beasts, but it could absorb a blow or two." he thought. "I'll have to ask someone about that."

He loaded the pikes into a cart that sat outside before dragging it to the barricade. The villagers were still hard at work as he dropped the cart, catching their attention. He took the heavy iron pikes and began driving them into any spot he could. Eventually, there was a row of them all the way across. They were crude, as he didn't have much time, but they would help.

Slaz stalked back to the forge with the cart, and began searching for more materials. "I should ask the constable about more materials."
 

Esplandia

Factbook Addict
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Richard found Braeggo at the town hall. A few villagers had seen him go in and kindly pointed Richard the way.

Richard had left after asking a few questions, not wanting to hear the ongoing arguments. It was a lot to take in about vampires and werewolves, and he wanted to inform Braeggo about what was going on.

It was obvious his crewmate had already gotten the information as he was busy trying to open display cases to get to antique firearms.

“So you’ve been told?” Richard asked.

Braeggo looked up from fiddling with a lock on a glass display of old flintlock rifles. “They have a Werekunhusksaeg nailed to a wall.”

“A werekun...a what?”

“I don’t know your word. A wolf man.”

“The constable just informed us what was going on. Vampires and werewolves. It all seems like nonsense.”

“They have one nailed to a wall,” Braeggo said. It was obvious he was agitated. “I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here.”

They stared at each other for a few minutes. Richard looked at the case he had been trying to get into. “Those probably won’t fire,” he said. “And where do you expect to get powder and bullets for them?”

“I’m not gonna stay here if I can’t defend myself.”

“Which is what I wanted to talk to you about. We owe no obligation to these people. We could make a break for it. There’s supposed to be a large city on the coast north of us.”

“Just abandon these people?”

“Go to get help I was thinking.”

Braeggo took a seat on a nearby bench. The look in his eyes was one of disappointment. “I didn’t take you for a coward, Richard.”

The words were like a slap to the face. His anger rose up in him. “You already ran away from one fight and you’re going to call me a coward?”

“I ran away from a stupid, pointless conflict,” Braeggo said calmly. “I didn’t want to kill innocent people. But this is different. I can’t walk away and let these people fight a...a...supertnatyural enemy.”

Richard let his anger subside. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have said that.” He walked over and took a seat on the bench next to Braerggo. “I don’t want to kill anyone. Supernatural or not. I can’t…” He sighed. “I swore off violence.”

“You’re like, what, eighteen?”

“Twenty-one,” Richard corrected.

“And you’re already swearing off violence? Let me guess, you have a dark past.” He laughed derisively.

“Three people,” Richard said quietly. “I’ve killed three people.”

Braeggo went silent. He looked at Richard with open curiosity. “Is that why you were running away aboard the Jade Princess?”

“I wasn’t running away—”

“Of course you were,” he said in frustration. “I knew that the moment I met you. Doesn’t matter though. We can’t turn away from these people or else we’ll be running for the rest of our lives. So you don’t have to kill anyone, but you can still help with the defense. Now…” and he stood up, going back to the case, “let’s get these firearms out.”

“I already said they won’t work,” Richard reminded him. “But the constable did mention they had some guns at the jail. I’m sure he won’t mind us grabbing a few.”


Monsters in Your Head - Kari Kimmel
 

Esplandia

Factbook Addict
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The weapons at the town jail were antiques. Probably fifty years old or more, but after checking over them Richard and Braeggo found they were in good condition. A deputy had protested them when they just walked in and went straight to the armory. But Richard had explained to him that if they wanted help then they were going to take them, all the while Braeggo stood by looking scary and tough. The deputy decided it was best not to argue.

Braeggo took two pistols and a shotgun. Richard took a pistol and a rifle. They made sure to grab up the bullets they needed for each weapon and then headed out. They didn’t really have a plan, and it was obvious the townsfolk didn’t either.

Their defenses were adequate, but everyone seemed to be running about without instruction.

“You were military,” Richard said, “Maybe you should take command since you’re the only one here with experience.”

Braeggo wrinkled his brow in disapproval. “Not combat experience. Besides some of the other survivors look like they’d be a better fit to take charge.”

They made their way towards the edge of town where Braeggo had seen the crucified werewolf. They came across a group of kids. They were busy boarding up windows along one of the streets. Richard recognized one of them as the girl that had led them back to town. She was hammering away at a board as they approached.

“Hello,” Richard said in perfect Arrandi. “Your name is Iadzia, right?”

She looked at them suspiciously. “What do you want?”

He didn’t want anything. Aside from the constable, who he didn’t even know his name, the girl was the only other person he’d really interacted with since they arrived. He had just wanted to say hello to a friendly face, but the look of distrust from the girl shattered that illusion.

“I was just wondering if there was somewhere to get a bite to eat,” he answered, thinking quickly.

The suspicion left her face. “Yeah, there’s a cafe over on Kolzt Street.”

“Is it open?” Richard asked. With everyone running about he was wondering how many shops and stores had even bothered to open their doors today.

“Why wouldn’t it be?”

He decided not to answer that. “Which way is Kolzt Street.”

She gave him a series of directions, but said with such speed and enthusiasm he had to ask her a couple times to clarify. She got tired of repeating herself. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll show you.”

She tossed down her hammer and motioned for them to follow. “Where we going?” Braeggo asked in Mercanti.

“Get some food,” Richard said. “Maybe there will be some people who know what’s going on and we can start figuring out how best to defend this town.
 

Esplandia

Factbook Addict
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The rain had started up again, a cold freezing drizzle. The townsfolk had to endure it as they continued to build up fortifications. From high up along the ridge, hidden among the pines, a set of wolf eyes watched. They were most interested in the newcomers, those that had washed up on the shore. So they sat and watched, until they’d seen enough and then silently turned and dashed off into the woods.

The creature, a mix between a wolf and a man, ran up the hill. Hunched over it ran on its hind legs, sometimes using its forelegs to hurl itself over rocks and fallen logs. It came to a cave hidden among a rocky outcropping and ran inside.

The cave was spacious. Dozens of men sat or lounged about. They all came to attention as the beast entered, but then relaxed when they saw who it was. The werewolf made its way to the back of the cave where a large scarred man was conversing with a woman.

They looked up when the beast arrived. The scarred man held up his hand, palm outward and the werewolf came to a stop.

It stood there snarling and stared at the woman. She appeared young, but her eyes told of age and deep wisdom. She reached out and scratched the werewolf’s snout with one hand, and then behind his ear with the other. She spoke soothing words to him as she did. “Let the beast rest,” she spoke in a warm and comforting voice. “It’s time for him to rest. Come out again, Byrzups. We need the man now.”

With her words the beast began to change. He began to shrink. His claws retracted inwards, his paws turned to hands. The thick coarse fur thinned out into curly human hair. His snout pulled inwards forming a nose and mouth, his large fangs being replaced by rows of uneven teeth.

The werewolf howled in pain as the transformation occurred, but soon the wolf’s howl turned into a man’s voice. The man, now fully reformed, slumped forward but was caught by the scarred man. He looked up feebly at the woman, a smile of recognition playing on his hairy ugly face. “My lady,” he said weakly.

“You have a report?” she asked.

“Speak quickly,” the scarred man ordered. “Before the memories are lost with the beast.”

“They build fortifications for our return,” he said. The woman and the scarred man knew this information and they urged the man to continue.

“What of these newcomers?” she asked.

“They were pulled out of the sea,” the werewolf answered. “Their ship sank in the storm and these are survivors. Some of them seem to be soldiers, or veterans at least. They have joined the townsfolk in preparation for their defense.”

She thanked him and told him to find somewhere to sleep and rest. The werewolf thanked them and went off to get some food first.

The woman turned to the scarred man. “Did the gods decide to send these fools a group of heroes?”

He shrugged in response. He was not a man that put much stock in God, or gods. Fate or luck, it was all the same to him. “They are nothing more than castaways. I would not read much more into that.”

She paced back and forth in the small corner they were standing in. A fearsome glint in her eyes. “You may not believe in the gods, Zakvhar, but I have lived far too long not to believe there is always some greater power at work.”

He didn’t answer. He had learned long ago that he would never win an argument with her. He merely waited for her to finish and give orders. She continued her pacing, a finger curled over her lip as she pondered.

She gave Zakvhar a sideways glance. “You think this whole operation is foolish. What do you believe I should do? Abandon this affair as nonsense?”

He knew her question was a trap, but he was always as honest with her as he could be. “You know my opinion on the matter,” he said. “But I know you can’t be dissuaded. So we must now plan our assault.”

“It will be tonight,” she said. “We can’t let them dig in more than they already have. And we will have the advantage in the night. They will be tired and weary.”


The evening came, bringing with it lightning and wind. The rain had increased from a drizzle to a downpour. Richard leaned against the railing of a porch looking out towards the wooded hills. He and Braeggo had helped build up some of the defenses after they’d acquired some firearms from the constables office.

They’d handed them out to some of the other survivors from the shipwreck, as well as any townsfolk who seemed keen to use them. He didn’t know if they had any experience, but armed civilians were better than unarmed ones in this case.

Braeggo had aired his displeasure with the fortifications. They’d tried to build them around the whole town, but there was just too much area to cover. “They should have built up barriers around that old town hall building. That square and the houses around it would be much easier to defend.”

Richard had half-heartedly agreed. He had no experience in military planning. Plus the townsfolk, especially the elders and the constable, seemed uninterested in taking advice from outsiders.

“Well if things go south, and I’m sure it will, we fall back to the townhall and make a stand there.”

Braeggo gave him a thumbs up. “Seems like a plan. If we get separated that’s where we meet up.”

The pouring rain started to slow as the last rays of light disappeared behind the towering hills and cliffs. No doubt the attack would come soon.

He left the porch and made his way up to the fortifications. A dirt mound with sharpened sticks pointing out towards the hills. He had a pistol tucked into his belt, and carried a rifle casually in his arms. They were antiques, guns that had probably last seen service in the fascist war. But they’d still kill.

It had been a while since he’d held a firearm and he felt a strange feeling. It felt natural. He had been raised for this, to use weapons. It made his blood run cold thinking about what that meant. But he couldn’t help enjoying the familiarity of it.

A shot rang out from along the fortifications. There was some hollering that followed, causing a commotion. Braeggo and Richard hurried over to investigate.

The constable was yelling at a young man holding a rifle. “Where’d you get that firearm? And what the hell were you firing at?”

“I saw something moving out there,” the young man said abashedly.

“Of course you did, it’s dark. Hold your fire unless you can see what you’re shooting at.” He took the rifle and gave Richard and Braeggo an angry stare. He knew damn well who had handed out the firearms. He didn’t say anything but stormed past them along the wall of dirt and spikes.

Braeggo gave Richard a sly grin and tugged at his braided beard. And then a dark shape rose up over the barricades, sailing over the spikes. A dark shape of fur and teeth and claws. Richard reacted fast and pulled Braeggo out of the way. The werewolf missed severing his spine as it sailed past.

It landed beyond the barricade with an inhuman howl, and the howl was answered from the darkness all around. The attack had begun.
 
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