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

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Marrakesh, Morocco, January 23rd 1929

The seven stood on the gently swaying deck. Swaying wasn't exactly the right term, nor was rolling, heaving, rocking, or any other term developed for the naval tradition. Of course the ship was not a naval ship and that may very well have had something to do with it. The open deck rode not water but wind and the ship, the zeppelin, was not powered by wind but by propeller engines the jutted out from the main body below the helium chamber as a triplicate of nacelles. Marion leaned over the rail in a manner that was neither ladylike nor entirely safe. Somewhere, down five hundred feet below in the teeming throngs was a man who might just might have some suitable ancient texts which would tell them more about the Heart of Darkness.

Behind Marion Janos, one arm literally tied behind his back, fenced with Daphne. She was using a wooden sword and comparison to Peter Pan was both apt and humorous. Ben, Catori, and Mia were at the rail beside Marion, though they all stole occasional glaces back. It was hard to not watch Janos in action; his level of physical perfection matched with unparalleled skill made his movements both efficient and beautiful.

The zeppelin turn slightly and a whistle sounded as the motors began to slow. The great ship was starting its descent to the mooring and in another twenty minutes they would be able to disembark to Marrakesh proper. The porter came out to the deck, "Tea is served ladies and gentlemen." Ben had arranged for an light afternoon meal and tea to allow them to discuss their research into the shard now that they were soon to arrive. Prior it had been a topic which was only touched upon briefly lest the obsidian object darken their entire journey.

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Janos stepped back from Daphne and gave her a flourish.

"You are improving steadily, Daphne. It is a pleasure to instuct you, as always."

He smiled at the young student.

"We should stop for tea and cookies. We are at our destination and soon we may be running about this unusual city."

With a wink, he adds,

"Stranger things have happened."

Janos loved riding aboard the Zepplins. He had missed out on the experience in his youth the slept through their rise as a commerical venture that rivalled passanger ships. Besides, ship travel brought back sad memories.

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Daphne giggled with delight and threw her arms around Janos in an exuberant expression of joy. After a brief hug, she bounded to the railing, to lean over next to Marion. She loved being this high in the air, without wings.

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Catori had to acknowledge the Counts skill with the sword, but her mind was troubled with worries. She turned around and stared at the horizon and slowly realization dawned on her. Her people where a dying race. If the white men decided to eradicate them, they wouldn’t pose much resistance to their superior technology and resources. She knew that many tribes retreated further back to the west and north, hoping to avoid the relentless taking of land by the white man. And yet those thoughts seemed selfish to her since they where all having other problems to take care of. Problems of both personal matter and as it seemed to the world as such.

She stole a glance at Ben smiling carefully at him but looked away once his eyes locked with hers. Why did he have to succumb to the temptation of the evil spirit? She was worried about his well being and scared that she had to eventually kill him if the evil spirit took hold of his heart and soul.

As the meal was served she joined the others at the table and put quietly some fruit on her plate. Her face showed hardly any expression but her eyes spoke volumes of worry and a troubled mind.

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"Oh, I gotta. I just gotta." Mia flips a coin over the railing, watching it fall.

Wonder if I could survive that.

"Food looks great." She sits on the table, propping her feet up and rolling an orange out of the basket, peeling it with her thumb.

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Archibald keep his focus on Janos and Daphne during the flight. This being his first trip on a Zeppelin, didn't quite agree with his body. While the view was tremendous, Arch couldn't shake the feeling that if things went wrong he would be as helpless as a child.

He is concentrating so hard that he barely hears Ben announcing that tea is being served. slowly he joins the others, his face a little flush. "How much longer before we land Ben?" he asks while sipping on his tea.

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Marion scanned the city below as if her eyes could somehow pluck out the very house, the very man, who might have the answers they sought. Or, even less likely, the shadowy figures who might already be moving to stop them.

Hearing Daphne and Janos sparring behind her got her to turn around and brought a smile to her face. Daphne had been improving...and not just in her hand to hand technique. She seemed closer to the world now, more engaged with the people in it. She might still not understand things very well...but she seemed to want to, and that was the crucial first step.

The others in their band had grown closer too...friends and companions. It was refreshing for Marion to have them near at hand. For someone who'd worked alone in the past, she was surprised to find herself a social creature at heart.

When Archie asks Ben when they're landing, she gives her brother a questioning glance, showing that she's curious about that too...though by no means impatient to leave the breathtaking skies.

She leans over to nudge Daphne gently with her shoulder and asks, "Where's Spot?"

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Ben turned and looked around at the Indomit and saw the smile on Daphne's face. He had to admit, to see Daphne so carefree was worth at least 1/10 of the purchase price. The chance to have a relaxing air-cruise across the pacific was worth at least another 3/10, and the rest? Well, he was sure the zeppelin would pay for itself in short time.

It didn't, however, escape Ben's notice that Catori was seriously troubled. For the entire trip Ben had been trying to subtly get Catori to open up, but it seemed that whatever was troubling her was not to be discussed with him. Despite Ben's sharp mind, it didn't occur to him that there may have been a reason for that, that reason being him. He had intended to talk to one of the others and see if anyone else might have more luck...

Ben looked at his watch, then looked down to the ground. "I suspect that it shan't be long now. Not more than half an hour or so before we touch ground. It will be good to see Marrakesh again - I've not been there since I was a boy!"

Ben looked back towards Marion, and gave her a mischievous smile. "So, who, exactly, is this mystery friend of yours we're looking for? I must admit, I've not met a great deal of your company for a while. I recall you mentioning once that that's because they weren't typically the type of people you take home with you."

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Catori watched Ben carefully and realized that he must’ve noticed by now that she was watching him. She couldn’t hide her feelings as good as she wanted and if it was only worry she was sure she could handle it better. But there was something else that stirred in her. A feeling that came from deep within her and gave her goose bumps whenever she was near him. She dreaded what that meant. She was falling in love with a white man and that clouded her judgement. Suddenly her appetite had vanished and she stood abruptly up and went back to the railing setting her eyes on the horizon. What am I going to do? Father? Please help me, I feel lost., she thought.

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Ben had, for the most part, been oblivious to Catori's keen observation of his figure for the morning, but noone could possibly have failed to notice her walking to the railing. It frustrated Ben a great deal, that Catori remained such a mystery, how little she seemed to open up, how... contradictory her behaviour seemed to be, but then Marion would probably say that that was why Ben and Catori were getting so close - How do you get the attention of a man who can understand anything you can say? Obviously you don't say a thing he can understand.

But of course, Ben would barely be able to explain to himself the attraction. Was it love? Love comes in all sorts of forms, but one thing that love needs to grow is attention, and Ben's attention was squarely focused on Catori, and had been fairly consistently for the last 2 months. Ben didn't know it yet, but he was on course, full steam ahead, for Catori. It was only a matter of time before he realised it, or alternatively, someone else felt charitable and told him.

Ben turned to Catori, unsure of what to do. This had played out more than a few times during the cruise, and each time he'd been rebuffed. Should he try again? Maybe be a bit more... polite? For the moment, he was paralysed with indecision.

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Catori closed her eyes wishing for one moment that she’d be back with her father and walk the earth of her homeland. But then she wouldn’t be here near him. She hoped Ben wouldn’t notice that her feelings for him were growing from day to day and along with it her fear that he was losing his soul. If she could she would take his place but most importantly was to get rid of the evil spirit, lest it destroys what was most precious to her. She didn’t notice how a tear ran down her cheek and got angry at herself for the inner confusion she was experiencing. Why couldn’t she just free herself of this struggle and focus on her task?

She turned around to face Ben, her mouth half opened just saying his name barely audible “Ben…”, her eyes were still wet from the tears she just shed.

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Mia looks at the duel playing out between Janos and Daphne, thinks for a moment, then gets up. She walks over, clearing her throat gently. "S'cuse me, but that looks like a lotta fun. Mind if I cut in after one of you's done?"

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After he and Daphne had parted ways with a hug, Janos turned to face Mia.

"Most certainly. Do you have a favored weapon you wish to try? I'm willing to give anything a shot, once."

His eyes appraised Mia's confident manner and sturdy frame. It wouldn't do to be easy on her, just because she was a girl. No, Ms. Foster was certain to be as challenging as Daphne was - certainly not a girl.

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Originally Posted By: SalmonMax
[Marion] leans over to nudge Daphne gently with her shoulder and asks, "Where's Spot?"

Daphne pointed up and to the right, where the hellhound could be seen tearing through a cloud. "He happy," she said with a smile. She was glad that his wing had healed.

Dashing to the table, mindless of the drama occurring between Ben and Catori, Daphne grabbed a piece of ham. Running back to the railing, she tossed it into the air and whistled. Spot twisted in midair and then shoot down after the piece of meat, disappearing for a moment before arching back up, chewing happily.

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"I like a gun, you know? But I figure that's not gonna do too well with us strapped to a big balloon and all. So you pick what you think I'll be good with."

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"Hehe," Janos snorts, "I'm a fair shot, but I'm not much for bouncing bullets off my chest. Why don't we start with something basic."

He reaches into his kit and pulls out to half-staves. The Count offers one to Mia then steps back.

"I present you with the club. It represents most impliments you can find just about anywhere. There is nothing fancy about it, but it can kill you just as dead as a gun or a sword."

He waves it back once or twice.

"We can start with some simple strokes. The overhead stroke," he demonstrates, " has a lot of power. Get your body behind it and you can crack someone's skull."

"A side swing has less power, but if you target the forearm, or wrist, it can do the job just as well."

"Striking lower, go for the knees."

Janos grins to Mia.

"Now, you start out with some practice swings and I'll block them ... as best I can. Two high, two sideways, and two lower. Get used to the feel of your club hitting mine. You need to get used to that impact, or you will lose your weapon in combat."

He steps back again and holds his club in a relaxed position.

"I'm ready."

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The sight of Spot flying around the balloon suddenly hit Ben's attention, as he looked out. Something tickled at the back of his mind as he looked out.

One could expect that a life of adventuring would have honed Ben's ability to realise when the supernatural was inappropriately placed in life, but in fact it almost seemed that the opposite had happened - It took Ben quite a bit longer to realise that certain strange happenings could possibly cause issues with the general populace. Admittedly, Spot had become a rather common sight, and at Abel manor (or out at sea), Spot flying around was never much of a problem. However...

"Um, Daphne? Don't suppose you can call Spot back to the deck before the very large city below happens to see him? As quickly as you could?"

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Ben’s sudden change of focus snapped her back to reality. For a moment she had almost allowed that weak moment to take over and cry on Ben’s shoulder but he… turned away. Catori wiped her face dry and took a deep breath looking away quickly unless he did notice that something was going on with her. She needed distraction and her eyes found the fighting Count and Mia - the perfect solution for her predicament. Slowly she walked over to them and watched the ‘duel’ trying to shake off what had just happened. She did wanted to cry on Ben’s shoulder and that started to make her angry. She was getting weak – the white men’s complacency and luxury was getting the better of her but she needed to fight against it. She mustn’t succumb.

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Mia's unpracticed swing comes at Janos in a wide arc and he easily avoids the blow, stepping just out of the swing. Marion and Daphne observe the bustling markets of Marrakesh as Ben walks over.

Originally Posted By: Ben
"Um, Daphne? Don't suppose you can call Spot back to the deck before the very large city below happens to see him? As quickly as you could?"

As if to answer Spot comes gliding down to the deck and alights. Drawn by the smell of ham he offers a sulfurous bark while staring somewhat pointedly at the food.

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Arch was glad to hear the news that they'd be landing soon. He watched as the reporter lady took some practice swings with the staff. He couldn't help but muster a laugh at the sight, which for a change took his mind off his uneasiness of flying. I may need to have Janos give me a few lessons to. I'll talk to him about that after we land though."

Spot's arrival interrupted his thoughts. The demon dog was a curious member of their party. He wondered what was in store for it once they landed. Surely he couldn't walk about the city with them. "Daphne, Archibald calls out, you given any thought about what Spot's going to do once we reach the city?"

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"It might be a fair point," Ben chimed in. "In New York or Boston, anyone passing by would just dismiss Spot as a rather curious breed of dog, since they couldn't imagine him being anything else, but I rather wonder about the people in Marrakesh - They might actually think Spot's what he really is, and that might cause more than a few problems for us once we disembark."

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Quote:
Ben looked back towards Marion, and gave her a mischievous smile. "So, who, exactly, is this mystery friend of yours we're looking for? I must admit, I've not met a great deal of your company for a while. I recall you mentioning once that that's because they weren't typically the type of people you take home with you."


Marion was quiet for a bit, just listening to her friends as she stared pensively out over the side of the ship.

Then, just when it seemed she wasn't going to answer, she turned her head towards Ben and said, "His name is Fazil Abdulaziz. He's a specialist in rare books and scrolls, especially those with an occult bent." She smiles. "And no, I don't think we'll be taking him home. For one, I doubt all the angels of Allah could drag him out of his store. For another..."

Marion sighed. "Even by my standards, Fazil is...eccentric. But if anyone would know about lost libraries, he would."

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"We could claim that he is a rare breed of the western territories of my homeland. Should it raise questions you could blame it on the savage woman that travels with you.", it was obvious that she was referring to herself. Giving Daphne a side look she added, "Of course only if you agreed, Daphne."

Catori didn't wait for a reply and walked back to the served table. "But I think we have greater troubles to worry about than Daphne's hellhound. We should device a plan but that is just my opinion."

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As the zeppelin descends a few deck hands emerge and toss stay ropes over the rails to the ground crew below. "Shouldn't be lone now Mr. Abel, perhaps a quarter hour at most." Below on the ground people are moving into position to maneuver the ship to the primary masthead while others wheel out a set of disembarkation stairs. The sounds and smells of the market are now strong enough for everybody on board to catch them when the wind shifts. Spot sticks his nose over the aft rail and appears ready to leap into the air to chase some new scent.

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Jonas backs away from Mia.

"Well, time for us to get ready to disembark. We can practice again tomorrow morning if you like."

The Count towels himself off, which really isn't necessary, the morning air up here being cool enough to keep anyone from sweating too much. He puts on his shirt, tucks it in, and joins the others at the rail. Slipping his sword into his too-short back sheath, Janos then puts on his jacket.

"Arabic, eh? I have always wanted to learn that tongue. A Turk I once knew said it would carry you from the markets of Marekesh, clear across Africa and half of Asia to the Mosques of Dehli - a truly amazing feat."

Turning to Ben and Marion, his face gets serious,

"What do you think are the odds that they will be on to us here?"

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Daphne looked to her pet, then called to him in the rough Daemon language. Slightly sulkily, the big hellhound moved away from the railing and came to sit next to her. "<Soon enough,>" she murmured to him in the choking nether language. Her hand stroked his head gently.

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Catori's eyes followed the hellhound for a moment and once the creature returned to Daphne she just shrugged. Looked like everything was under control, she didn't have to get more involved. Taking an apple she cut it into several slices and munched them down while she waited for the ship to land. No one was really listening to her anyways. Maybe her time was yet to come.

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Ben turned to Janos. "I guess it really depends on how reliable Marion's bookkeeper is. They seem to be one step ahead of us, we just seem better at catching up to them. Well besides the fact that we've got the two shard on board here? If they have any knowledge of where we're going, I suspect they'll be here."

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"Catori is right. We need to come up with a plan in the case we run into more of those creepy thugs. It doesn't seems that we can kill them by any normal means, so how do we go about solving that little mystery?"

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"Burn," Daphne suggested, her voice normal. She grabbed some ham and split it with Spot, who whined with pleasure. "Anything bad should be burn. Burned. Burnt?"

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"Burned," Marion says absently, fondly, as she reaches down to pet Spot's shaggy head.

"Catori has a point as well. Lets decide how this is going to work, because we may not have time to work it out as we go. I think we should stay together this time. We'll keep the shards with us. As for Spot, he has two options. One, stay on the ship. Since the shards won't be there, it should be fairly safe."

She takes a breath and goes on.

"Two, he comes with us and we'll have to cover his wings somehow. I have some ideas for how we might do that."

"If something happens, and anyone finds themselves lost or cut off from the rest of us, head back to the ship. Unless there's some kind of big landmark we could use as a meeting point if anyone's separated..."

She looks back out the airship's window and looks for some distinctive, tall feature they could use for a regrouping spot.

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A quick sweep of the city shows one building which stands above all others, the Mosque. Its gilded spinnerets atop graceful turrets can be seen from anywhere in the city. It would certainly be easy for the group to use it as a rally point of sorts but given its distance from the airfield it was not exactly the best stop if a hasty retreat from the city was needed.

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The Marrakesh central market was alive with activity. Booths of all kinds competed with hawkers walking through the crowded streets. Thousands of people jumbled together, some selling, some buying, and some taking. The shard in the box was gripped tightly in Janos' hands, his sword hidden in plain sight in its scabbard. Likewise Ben clutched the urn, wrapped as it was in plain brown paper, as though any number of thieves or hooligans might reach out for it. Marion had hid the Grand Grimoire in her satchel but it was slung forward across her chest rather than over her back. Of all the items in the group's possession the Grimoire was potentially the most valuable and dangerous item in the wrong hands.

At the head of the group beside Marion Archibald strode with his hand on the crossbow hidden in his jacket. The heat was excessive but the ability to conceal his weapon was worth the discomfort. At the rear of the part Daphne led Spot on a makeshift leash. The hellhound wore a blanket to cover its wings but still drew many odd and frightened looks based purely on its size and ferocious appearance. For her part Mia tried not to goggle too long at any one thing. She'd convinced her editor to allow her this trip on the promise that she'd write a travelogue about it when she returned. Now that she was here, in the very heart of a city so unlike Boston, that she began to see the appeal in such an article.

Marion looked down at the scrawled note in her hand and then up at the street signs once more. With an inward sigh she called to Ben and the two of them attempted to get their bearings. The nature of the market combined with the narrow streets and haphazard layout of the city were conspiring to turn them round again and again. They'd disembarked fully an hour before and yet still had not found the proper street. Ben consulted the map and the signs and pointed down the street on their left.

The group pushed forward through the throng and after a few minutes the push of people began to thin out even as the odor began to increase. Spot made as though to cover his nose as the smell of waste and decay washed over them as the continued down the street. Hawkers gave way to beggars and booths of merchants gave way to ruffians who eyed the group from the shadows between buildings. Nevertheless the pushed onward as Ben consulted the map regularly and insisted they were headed in the correct direction.

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Ben looked around, watching as the affluence of the market slowly petered out. "You know," Ben said offhandedly to Marion, "Your bookkeeper certainly picked an interesting quarter of the city to make his home in. You'd think he'd go for something slightly more upmarket..."

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Janos keeps to the middle of the party, partially because Ben had the map and was in the lead, and partially because he fully expected these jackals that were eyeing them to take a bite out of the party somewhere along the line. Beyond that, he was just about totally lost now and he doubted he could find his way out of this maze if push came to shove. He resolved to take his flight to the roofs - the streets looked narrow enough to leap - to get back out of here. At least there was good ole Spot in the back. He could be counted on to take a quick bite out of anyone who would dare take a hand to Daphne.

Now, if Abel could just find the damn book-collector and mystic, Janos could finally feel safe enough to put this damnable shard down. He held it in a death grip, while dreading the boxes touch. It was conundrum, hating the object, but hating anyone else having it more. The Count's free hand took comfort in touching the handle of his blade.

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"I swear. Civic planner for this city ought to be strung up by his what-not." Mia had her notepad out, scribbling furiously in shorthand. "It's like they didn't put any thought into this at all - no, no figs for me, thanks." She waves off a passing hawker.

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Marion laughs as she ducks nimbly around a woman bearing a large basket perched precariously atop her head.

"Marrakesh wasn't planned at all," she says with a grin. "At least not these parts. The inner city and palace sections maybe, but most of this...this all grew out of merchants setting up stalls to get in on the trade. As more and more trade starting coming through, more and more merchants came, and stayed longer and longer. Eventually they started building houses near their stalls...and the city just kind of expanded outward. It's a very...organic theory of city design."

She then glances at Ben. "That said, I'd like to find him before nightfall. You're sure this is the way?"

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Laughing at the bright clothing and merchandise, Daphne snatched a fig out of a basket. Remembering at the last moment that she was supposed to exchange money for items not owned by Ben or Marion, she quickly handed over one of those rectangles of paper for the piece of fruit. She didn't expect to get anything back, and the wise vendor realized it, taking the American dollar for a fig worth maybe a penny.

"Best lost ever!" Daphne laughed, popping her expensive food in her mouth and chewing vigorously.

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The city was a total wonder to Archibald. He had only read about cities like this in books that Bannister had given during his school days. He watched everything with amazement from the vendors to the common folk they were weaving themselves through. The only thing that bothered him was that there was to many people in the street and with that came a the danger of an ambush. Shaking his head, Archibald's face takes on a stern look as he follows Marion and Ben.

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