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Adventure! RPG: Dark Tidings - Chapter 3: Shadows of the Past

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"Then you are a half-dead beggar," Daphne said, turning to Spot. She growled in guttural Daemon, asking the hellhound to come and give the man's hand a good sniff - and a lick, if he liked.

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Ben pretended to understand what Daphne just said, and then shook his head at the man sadly, almost as if his fate was already sealed.

This was not the first time Ben had worked with this sort of feint before - being such a polyglot meant that even people who had only just met him could never know just what he understood and what he did not. The simple resigned shrug of the shoulders completed the image that Ben had now written off the man's life.

Ben did have to admit to being a little hesitant about pulling the feint without prior warning though - especially with the group of people he was with. Daphne, certainly, was a wildcard, and he had no desire to actually kill anyone today.

Well, here's hoping, Ben thought to himself as the action went on.

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Spot trots over and 'tastes' the man but he simply steels himself and grimaces. Through clenched teeth, his face resigned to pain, he spits out, "Do what you wish, I'll not talk."

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"Marion, if you want to spare this man, let us know now. He has passed on living as far as I'm concerned."

Janos leveled his sword. This wouldn't be the first helpless prisoner he had put down. Some times you could leave prisoners behind you when you had to travel swift and light. That, and the jackals had to learn they meant business.

But, Marion and Ben were squeamish. They were civilized in a way he had once been, before the War had crushed that out of him. Now, his people came first - damn convention.

Better he struck the blow and they had their cherished illusions as to what a beast Daphne really was. Janos knew.

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Arch looks at the poor beggar and shrugs, as if to say 'tough luck'. "I suggest you speak now, cause my friend here will surely make you wish that you had died."

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"Kill me then! You cursed sons and daughters of the devil. Kill ME! I'll not talk to you, you western pigs!" Despite Daphne's foot stamping down on his wrist he gathered his legs beneath him and lunged at her catching her knees with the mass of his body and sending her tumbling to the ground.

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Janos slashed down rapidly like a serpent. His sword slashed along the man's back, so as not to impact Daphne. It was a quicka and efficient action. Only at the last minute did he edge away from mercy.

Click to reveal..

(15:51:03) ChatBot: (Adrian_being_Taxed) rolls 16d10 and gets 7,3,2,5,3,8,6,9,3,2,10,2,10,1,1,​8 = 6 successes.

Doing 18dice of BASHING damage. No, he's not killing the guy, giving him the death he so richly deserves. He's leaving him to the mercy of his fellow denizens of the back alleys.

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The blade, blunted by forces unseen, swatted the man down with a whip like crack. His shirt split as he fell, dazed, to to a heap, and a wicked red welt began to form almost immediately from Janos' attack. A cry of pain and then a groan as it set into a deeper more chronic ache was all the noise the man made.

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Ben looked at the man, now strewn on the floor. This is past the point of pointlessness, Ben thought. This man will not give us anything but an excuse to kill him.

Ben had a complex relationship with death. In his four years of Inspiration he had been to many place, with many different people. He had encountered much danger, both human and otherwise, and a lot of good people had fallen in those journeys, too many in Ben's mind. A lot of bad people had fallen too, more than a few by Ben's hand, either directly or indirectly.

But Ben was not built for killing. He hated when a situation escalated to kill or let die, and he gained no pleasure in killing another, even if that other had killed another, or otherwise deserved it. Ben was not a pacifist by any means - Ben was well aware that violence was often the only solution. But death? Rarely was the taking of a life worth the benefits to him. So when a situation escalated, Ben's mind was always thinking, planning, calculating. Feints, maneuvers, workarounds, anything to make sure that his allies stayed unharmed, his objectives stayed achieved, and his enemies stayed neutralised without the need for lethal force.

Ben was actually mildly surprised that this situation hadn't hit a lethal note just yet. Arch was a man of combat, he had the will and drive to take down his enemies, Ben had seen that during their partnership. Arch was no cold-blooded killer, but he was a fighter. And Ben had seen men like Janos, men of war who did not share Ben's distaste for death. To them, the cost of life was far cheaper than it was for Ben.

And Daphne? Ben had an inkling that Daphne's child-like exterior was just that - a candy-covered shell hiding a very dark centre. Ben had encountered a demon from Hell before, on a previous adventure, and that had taught him that Hell had a habit of leaving a mark on it's inhabitants. No amount of civilisation was likely to excise that mark. Ben simply hoped that no situation would require that Daphne take advantage of that mark. A naive thought, maybe, but Ben was smart. Perhaps he could delay the inevitable.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," said Ben, seriousness and a slight hint of boredom in his voice. "I think we're done here. I believe we had an errand to run, I think it's best if we work to get it done before dark."

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Daphne rolled to her feet and came up, prepared to attack, only to find that there was nothing for her to react to anymore. Scowling, she climbed to her feet. "Just leave?" she asked, confused. Why would they do that?

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"Yeah. We're not gonna get anything out of him, we're gonna cheese off the local cops something fierce, and Ben's right. Faster is better for what we came to do."

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Marion had stayed where she was, watching the man with narrow eyes as he defied them.

"We'll leave him," she says after a moment. "It won't make any difference. He's a walking dead man. But this way his blood won't be on our hands."

Then she did something odd. She took a small knife from its sheath on her boot and nicked her thumb with it. She then spat on her thumb and said a few words in what sounded like Latin. Finally she smeared her thumb against the man's forehead in a quick, somewhat vicious stabbing motion.

For a moment the bloody mark stood out...then it seemed to sink into his skin and vanish.

Marion glared down at him for a moment, then looked at the others.

"Lets go, before what passes for police finally arrive. They're no softer on foreigners than they are on muggers here. Ben, lead the way."

(OOC - Using the Marked Man knack on the mugger. Spending 1 inspiration to roll 4 dice. She will then know his location for 1 week per success.)

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Catori watched warily what transpired but kept her discomfort to herself. Her eyes remained focused on Ben glad that no one got hurt. This event would sure cause after effects of some kind and she didn't like the idea of being swamped in this place.

Without realizing it herself she remained closer to Ben than before feeling safer around him. Everything seemed to be fine for now and making a quick exit was critical now.

"Lets go!", she hushed the others in an unusual display of action on her behalf.

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Finally released the man scrabbles to his feet and tears off down an alley. Marion can sense him as he goes and like a compass could easily point in his direction with barely a thought or effort. Ben consults the map once more and they all head off again. Within twenty minutes they come to a stop outside a small shop. There is no sign and only the various wares in the windows give away that it is in fact a shop at all.

Upon entering they find themselves assaulted by incense and tobacco smoke. A spindly man sits at a counter in the back, cloaked in darkness and wreathed in blue-gray smoke from a nearby hookah. He says nothing.

The shop itself looks like it was cobbled together from all manner of Hollywood tales of wizards and witches. Books and scrolls line multiple shelves while a half dozen others are filled to the overflow point with jars of every size and shape. Plants and nets filled with various dried produce hang from the ceiling. Along one wall are stuffed a solid row of small cupboards which appear, due to being partially ajar, to likewise be filled to the bursting point.

As the group enters deeper into the shop the keeper finally stirs. Setting down the hookah pipe he leans forward and you can see that one of his eyes is covered in a milky film and the other appears to be yellow where the white should be with a deep crystalline amber iris. "Salaam and good evening. How may I serve you?"

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Janos moves into the story first then stands aside as the others enter. When the last one crowds in, he sticks his head out the door to see if he can spot anyone watching the place.

Click to reveal..

Awareness Test: (09:19:24) ChatBot: (Adrian) rolls 6d10 and gets 2,4,7,7,5,10 = 3 successes

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Arch settled in the shop and allowed Janos to survey the street. Just as I would have pictured it. Arch turns to Marion "Is this the guy were here to see?"

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Marion sauntered up to the counter with a wide smile on her face and leaned forward a little.

"Fazil," she said with a teasingly reproving tone. "What's with that welcome? You don't recognize your old friend? The one you sent to the old shrine at Likham without warning her about the dybbuk first?"

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Daphne sauntered into the shop, Spot skulking at her heels. Realizing that Marion was dealing with the man who demanded things for taking his things, she began to poke around the piles of things. There were some very interesting smells in here...

Click to reveal..
Abuse me, Jim. laugh C'mon... you know you want to.

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Mia coughs a bit at the thick haze inside of the shop. She lets Marion handle the talking while she pokes around at the various trinkets.

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Originally Posted By: SalmonMax
"Fazil," she said with a teasingly reproving tone. "What's with that welcome? You don't recognize your old friend? The one you sent to the old shrine at Likham without warning her about the dybbuk first?"


The man looks at Marion, his rheumy eye seems to never quite be pointed directly at her however and the second never blinks. "Marion Abel. Perhaps next time you will think to pay the full price for the information you see and not cheat the provider. I see you have friends, associates, and ..." He gasps and stares at Ben, and the box and then at Archibald carrying the urn. "You carry items of great power. What is it you seek? Or perhaps you are here to sell??"

Meanwhile the others have explored the shop, finding items as mundane as simple mortal and pestle and various herbal ingredients, to oddities like a mummified monkey paw, its wrist bound with brass, and a jar with what appears to be human eyes floating in some green liquid. Live insects and animals in jars or cages cower away from the explorers and an entire wall of shelves contains jars of powders and other goods that are labeled only in Arabic. The store smells like a dump, and Spot whines pathetically next to Daphne, occasionally tugging at her hand clearly wanting to escape to the relative fresh air of the street. Mia removes the stopper from a clay pot and finds the inside to be filled with blood.

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Marion's mouth quirked in a rueful smile. "It wasn't that I was cheating you," she sighed, then shook her head. "Anyway...I'm sure there'll be no more misunderstandings. Fazil, I'm looking for a library...a very special one, and a very old one. The Library of the First Temple."

She paused for emphasis, then said, "The library of Solomon."

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The Arab looked at Marion for a long moment, his jewel eye remained fixed on her face though the rheumy cataract covered eye swept the room as though to could still see and observe her companions. "Then you are a fool and I wish you a fool's luck. No one has ever found Solomon's Library." Fazil pauses, and his gaze switches, with the milky eye now locked with Marion's and the other searching her companions. "I suppose that even a fool must have a reason to come here apart from a social visit. Perhaps one of your friends desires to do business with me? Young lady, that is genuine virgin blood! Guaranteed to keep you youthful!"

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Mia quietly stoppers the pot and replaces it. "Naw, I've had enough of getting dipped in funny liquid. Fazil, who else has gone looking for the library? We can follow in their footsteps. See where they lead."

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Fazil focuses on Mia and lets out a wheezing cough that sounds much like a hyena. "There has been one such expedition that I can tell you about." He takes a long pull from the hookah and quells a slight wheezing cough. "I am a businessman not a librarian however. Perhaps we could come to an agreement." His crystalline gaze settles on the box and the urn each for a moment. He does not say anything, waiting instead for an offer from the group. As he waits his eyes study each in turn once more.

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"I think that you'll find out that we are more than capable of finding the library. Our unique abilities should prove invaluable during our trip." Arch's hand grasps the urn slightly harder as he noticed Fazil's eyes linger on the urn. "What type of agreement are you suggesting?"

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Fazil rolls his eyes, "The kind where you give me something in return for something you want from me. Marion, your taste in companions seems to have shifted. This one is rather dull is he not?"

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Marion chuckled. "I think he was trying to inquire about the type of payment you're interested in, if clumsily. But while his tongue sometimes fails him, I've yet to see his aim do the same. We all have our gifts, Fazil."

She glanced around the shop, playing for time as much as anything, then looked back at its keeper.

"As far as payment goes...we will see you compensated more than fairly for this information. There's money, of course...money's always useful...but before we discuss price, I do have something else to offer."

"Solomon never put his greatest book in his library, you know," she tells Fazile. "When you and I first met, I was younger, less wise, and pursuing his great work...do you remember? The book that would be his magnum opus; the collected secret lore of the ancient world."

She couldn't help but grin impishly. "I found it, Fazil. I found it, and I will trade you one answer to one question from within it's pages for your answer to our question about the library. What do you think?"

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Fazil's messed up eyes bored into Marion's. After a long moment he cried, "Bullshit. The Grande Grimoire is a myth. Never existed. I've seen no less than three supposed copies and each was quite clearly incomplete." The shook his head and took a long drag off the hookah, "You'll have to do better than that."

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"I'm putting some trust in you with this, Fazil...though I suppose the people who'd be most interested in this already know..."

Marion undoes the clasp on the Grimoire's case and pulls the scaly red leatherbound tome out to place it on the counter...though she keeps both hands on it and a spell ready on her lips, just in case.

"I won't bore you with the details of how I got it...unless you'd rather hear that then take a look inside. Assuming, of course, that we have a deal."

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"By Allah it is beautiful. The symbols are exquisite." Fazil stares at the book openly and though the others do not know what he is talking about, to them the book is rather plain though festooned with metal hinges and a clasp. Marion however has seen the book through magical sight and knows what Fazil sees. The cover of the book is crowded with symbols, runes, and wards, all of which glow with power when viewed properly. There can be no doubt, this tome is indeed powerful. "Fine. My question is answered first however or we do not deal. Agreed?"

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Marion nodded, leaving her hands resting on the book...loosely so as not to imply that she thought he was a thief, but firmly enough to establish her ownership.

"Agreed."

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"Marion are you sure it is wise to agree to this deal? You may know this man, but I don't, and he seems to eager to seek it's knowledge."

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Fazil glares at Archibald, "The deal is done. Our word is our bond." He lays a hand on the massive tome. "I would seek the answer to my question. Or will you back out of our deal?"

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Marion gives Fazil a hurt look. "The book's right here, Fazil. Do I look like I'm going anywhere with it?"

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Janos spares a look into the shop.

"We are losing the light outhere folks. Let the man have his turn at the book. Marion hasn't steared us wrong yet. Let's get a move on."

He returned to watching the street. Janos was happy that they had attracted no more attention, but he feared it couldn't last. They were lugging around the Lodestone of Evil after all. The veteran of the Great War kept his hand on the hilt of his blade.

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Fazil nods, and grabs the book spinning it towards him and flicking the clasp open as though it were not even locked. Marion's eyes grow wide with astonishment, she'd never seen a spell so expertly cast before. With the clasp undone Fazil's hand floats over the closed cover of the book for a moment and his eyes roll up into his skull. The jewel eye rotates fully revealing a new iris, one of blood red ruby, that begins to glow. The book suddenly opens of its own accord and Fazil, his cataract clouded eye still fluttering toward the roof of his skull begins to read the open pages under the red glare of his mystic eye.

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Marion draws back a little at Fazil's display, but then she leans forward, fascinated. Clearly there was much more to this peddler than she'd guessed. She found herself wondering what answers the man (?) sought in the Grimoire, and whether or not that was something she really wanted to know.

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Fazil closes the book with a thud. His eyes close for a moment and before everyone's eyes his complexion becomes less sallow and the lines on his face smooth. He opens his eyes and the cataract is gone, the deep rich brown that stares out from under his heavy dark brow seems perfectly healthy. The other eye has returned to the amber jewel that Marion has always known it to be. "The last expedition was not British as one might expect. Nor was it French, German, or American. The last man to search for Soloman's Library was a Russian. His name was Nikolai Strakovski if my memory serves and I am not aware that he was ever seen again. Only one of his party, a native guide, returned from the deep jungle. The man's mind was addled, he spoke only gibberish and perished soon after."

Fazil leans forward, "Gibberish to some is often telling to others yes?" He nodded, a sly smile on his face. "The man was speaking in tongues. It was a dialect of Aramaic. I recall distinctly, he kept on shouting that the darkness was coming, though I never understood what he meant."

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Marion carefully kept her face still, though her heart leapt. Obviously there was great danger on this path, but the link to the Heart of Darkness seemed clear.

"I see...cryptic, but interesting. What deep jungle was the expedition bound for?"

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