[GhostL] Prologue - A Hand of Cards (All)

RusRus
edited August 2013 in In-Game
She held a winning hand. This troubled her. And it wasn't because The Minstrel of this particular deck of Akaros playing-tarot happened to look like Wilkvelm. The same soft eyes. The same curve to his neck. Her poor lost Wilkvelm. No. A strategically stacked deck was more likely than this particular hand.

The cook, the copper-greaser and the tower-scout, she trusted none of them. Sure, the bet was just for copper chits. As an imperial hound she really was not supposed to even have such currency. But it was the only thing the locals would play for. And here, at charge-station 34, miles from Tyrmoor, this was the only entertainment to be found. Training bulls now bored her.

They were setting her up.
She leaned back in her chair. The cards cool in her hands.

Above them a bright, red bulb started to blink.
"Curses! Voiceline." She jumped from the chair. Every minute of energized voiceline cost a salary of chits. More if it came from as far as Imperial city. She ran. She took her cards with her, just to spite them.

She pulled her thin, brittle hair back and up, even though it was just a voice call. Look the part, play the part. The habit saved her much grief when dealing with command. She placed the receiver to her ear. The static crackled bright. She could hear the man shouting on the other end, but he must have had his hand over the microphone, as it was just a mush of mumble.

"Hound sergeant Moreana reporting, sir,” she said.
"Sergeant, this is General Krinos. You are to add a second bull team to the approaching Tyrmoor to Arvaedh line."
"But sir, all I have are trainees, fresh bulls. Untested."
"You think I don't know this, sergeant? Get it done."

The line went dead. As the electrical signal of the voice faded, the wailing of some ghost, tangled in the thin cooper line that ran under the rail,registered in the ear piece as though from a great distance. The faces from her hand of tarot glared at her.

Curses. The general might send her out again for such a slight. He was probably writing the transfer orders now.

The ghost continued to call out to her; moans urgent and demanding. The crackle of static growing strong from its rage.

She set the receiver down and shivered once.
---

When the train arrived and the ghost burst from the side window and ripped Hound Moreana in half, most of the bull trainees panicked and scattered like rabbits.

Yet you, you kept your wits. At that very moment a strong memory flooded your mind and from it you found strength and insight. From Moreana's hand fluttered some Tarot. And that was enough of a trigger to get you thinking.

Moreana had gathered all the trainees well after two AM. An imperial express train, bound for city up north with special cargo. This was it. A chance for all the new bulls to prove their meddle. On an imperial train, even. Great careers are born this way, and all the trainees knew it.

“Four lucky recruits will make this run.” She said as she walked the platform of charging station 34, the tarot cards danced in her hands. The remote vastness of the dead lands loomed, the railway a thin silver thread spinning to the black horizon. With no electrical tower shield the outpost felt particularly exposed to the wandering spirits.

A low, deep klaxon rolled out of the night before the single arc-light headlamp of the imperial train cast its beam upon the group. She started repeating the protocols for ghost clearing: anchors draw it in, hooks and nets to drive and capture, and keen observation as ghost were inherently unpredictable.

But she didn't get to finish reviewing the protocols did she?

What did you remember and what from that memory did you immediately apply to this situation?


-Arden-McKeel (Spider) - Something about the insignia on the train triggered a memory for you, didn’t it. It was that night after a lively bout of drinking. There had been a brawl, is it always a brawl with you? Why did you get into a fight that night? Who won? The bouncer had removed you from the pub, what was the name of that pub? The city of Elysia, right?

At any rate, a procession caught your eye and your curiosity and you followed a band of militaristic scientists to the shore. The oceans had vomited forth a leviathan that night. It’s massive corpse resting on the brine-grey beach, it’s impossibly large eye full of sorrow. What else about the corpse struck you?

The scientific crew shared the same insignia on the train, that’s right. And you saw Polonia there, with them, what was she doing?

What happened? Did you see them actually harvest Lighting-oil? How do they harvest that stuff anyhow?

What was so significant about that night to carry such meaning for you? Did you see something? Someone?

-Adric-Brogan(Rook) - Something about the lighting rolling off the train triggered a memory, or maybe it was the tarot in her hand, the one of The Child. Or a mixture of both.

It was when you went to the Skovolan cemetery with, was it your younger brother? A younger cousin? It was family, though, right, and just the two of you made the trek to the graves of the fallen from the emperor’s purges. Rows upon rows of stones upon a field where the grass grew thick and green-blue. The sky, so cold that day, so crisp; a rare day without moisture and the sky seemed like the perfect lense and everything relentlessly in focus.

In the distance you saw Arcy, right? At a funeral, they were burying someone there. You watched them ignite the oil, burn away the soul with an electrical flourish as the soul ceased to be. Then they dropped the corpse in the ground. Do you know who that was? You didn’t go talk to them though, did you? That would have been rude. No you were there for some other purpose.

Why were you there? What happened? What was that conversation you had that was so meaningful, so significant?

-Arcy-Haig(Owl) - Something on the expression of the ghost’s face triggered a memory, right? They day you finally decided to join. You were on your way to the recruitment station. You had nowhere else to turn. What had gone so bad, why then? What was it that made going to the recruitment station your only option?

As you approached the recruitment station that is when she emerged from the shadows, she shuffled right up to you. “Don’t go,” she said. An old Iruvian sage, she had the dress, the style -- it was obvious to you. What do Iruvian spirit sages look like? Why do they dress that way?

Such a person did not belong in that city, were you in the Imperial City then or was this elsewhere? Had you ever had encounters with Iruvian sages as a child?

Tell us, what argument did she make? Why did you turn her down? When did she make the exact same expression that the ghost made? What was that expression?

Why was this so significant, so meaningful?

-Polonia-Booker(Anchor) - Moreana called out the name Laudius, didn’t she. Your cousin. And that triggered a memory of the duel in the Akoros senate chamber. You were there. They had selected blades, and it got bloody quick. One of them died. How long had it been since there was a duel on the senate floor? Ten years? Fifteen? Why were you there? What was the argument about? Who fought? Why was it worth death, isn’t the Senate just a symbolic group given the power of your Immortal Emperor? It’s not like what they recommend matters, the Emperor will do what he wishes, right?

You saw Adric there, in the crowds didn’t you? Who was he with? Why was a Skovlan allowed on the senate floor?

And, of course, your cousin was there. He laughed. He broke the horrible silence after the one duelist fell dead and bleeding with a laugh. What kind of laugh was it? How did it make you feel? What happened next?

Tell us about these events and why they meant so much to you?

Comments

  • Polonia

    "Laudius..." she whispered. Laudius. I guess there could be another Laudius in the empire, but not here, not connected to this. It's my cousin. Not a cousin I know well, mind, but I've seen him at the important functions. I knew he had pull with the Corps, and that's why I avoided him. I wanted to do this on my own merits, for once in my whole pampered life. I thought I had really earned this, but he's been pulling the strings all along? Damn him. I'll show them all what I'm made of.
  • edited August 2013
    [Arcy-Haig (Owl)]
    Posted By: Rus
    Something on the expression of the ghost’s face triggered a memory, right? They day you finally decided to join. You were on your way to the recruitment station. You had nowhere else to turn. What had gone so bad, why then? What was it that made going to the recruitment station your only option?
    I faced exile for crimes against my hometown, rebellious acts designed to uncover the more insidious influences of the Imperial state in Cloudspire. Corruption lies just beneath the surface, and we wanted to flush it out.

    Exile from Cloudspire doesn't mean banishment; I can return, just not as an Iruvian. I'm an outcast. Any citizen of Cloudspire would have to be looking for trouble to associate with me - except on the lines.
    Posted By: Rus
    As you approached the recruitment station that is when she emerged from the shadows, she shuffled right up to you. “Don’t go,” she said. An old Iruvian sage, she had the dress, the style -- it was obvious to you. What do Iruvian spirit sages look like? Why do they dress that way?
    Our sages dress in plain grey robes, hoodless and held with a golden chord around the waist, with a golden circlet resting on their wise brows. All symbolic, of course. Something about the value of the body and the mind. It's probably not even real gold, but that doesn't matter, I guess. The point is, when sages speak, Iruvians listen; when sages act, Iruvians follow.
    Posted By: Rus
    Such a person did not belong in that city, were you in the Imperial City then or was this elsewhere? Had you ever had encounters with Iruvian sages as a child?
    I had made my way to the recruitment station in the Imperial City because I had heard that's where the best assignments are given. I didn't give much credence to those claims, but I'll take any advantage I can get, imagined or otherwise. The Imperials don't allow the sort of "hokum" that sages bring with them inside the walls, so she had definitely taken a risk to be there.

    Sages don't come around very often. I had seen one proclamation that had the whole city work together to take measures against a threat from Sevoros. Being so far away from that nation, it seemed to me to be foolish, but I was soon proven wrong. They attacked exactly when the sages had predicted, coming out of nowhere in the middle of a cold winter's night. Without the sages' foreknowledge, our city would have been taken, along with every other major settlement in Iruvia.
    Posted By: Rus
    Tell us, what argument did she make? Why did you turn her down? When did she make the exact same expression that the ghost made? What was that expression?

    Why was this so significant, so meaningful?
    She told me not to join up because my future lies along a different route, that exile wasn't the end. "A branch of a tree may be broken, but the tree does not wither. It finds a way to grow." Like I said, when sages speak, Iruvians listen. But I'm not Iruvian any more, and I see no other path. She was insulted by my refusal to go with her and seek this other way. Her face hardened, just like this ghost's face, and she spoke what I can only assume is some kind of ancient curse on me, something no Iruvian would take lightly.

    Damned if I do, and damned if I don't, I suppose.
  • Arcy-Haig, one more thing. Arden walked passed, didn't she, just as the sage finished cursing you, what did that sage say to Arden?
  • Posted By: RusArcy-Haig, one more thing. Arden walked passed, didn't she, just as the sage finished cursing you, what did that sage say to Arden?
    She spat out, "This one's stubbornness will be the ruin of all who are unfortunate to be near her," and stalked off, vanishing as quickly as she had appeared.
  • red
    edited August 2013
    Arden-McKeel (Spider) - Something about the insignia on the train triggered a memory for you, didn’t it. It was that night after a lively bout of drinking. There had been a brawl, is it always a brawl with you? Why did you get into a fight that night? Who won? The bouncer had removed you from the pub, what was the name of that pub? The city of Elysia, right?

    At any rate, a procession caught your eye and your curiosity and you followed a band of militaristic scientists to the shore. The oceans had vomited forth a leviathan that night. It’s massive corpse resting on the brine-grey beach, it’s impossibly large eye full of sorrow. What else about the corpse struck you?

    The scientific crew shared the same insignia on the train, that’s right. And you saw Polonia there, with them, what was she doing?

    What happened? Did you see them actually harvest Lighting-oil? How do they harvest that stuff anyhow?

    What was so significant about that night to carry such meaning for you? Did you see something? Someone?
    Always a brawl? Please. How terribly boring. Sometimes it's a foot race. Sometimes it's a contest to see who can hang the longest off the old bridge over the Delipth River. You get the point. I just like to have fun, alright? Skies above, you sound like my mother.

    Anyways, that night. At...that one pub. Elysia, yeah. It was called...something Boar. Alright, let's be honest, I don't remember. So there we were, having a good time until Clard showed up. Clard was a friend of a friend, and turns out he's not very friendly. He'd had a few drinks and decided the best way to prove his manhood was to pick a fight. Nobody else seemed up to the challenge, so I ended up punching him square in the jaw.

    It was a pretty great brawl. I won't lie. And as far as who won, well, the bouncer kicked us out pretty fast. But I will say that I wasn't the one on the ground spitting blood.

    Those scientists looked like they were up to something. That's why I followed them. But I wasn't expecting to see that monster stranded on the beach. I'd heard the tales, I'd seen drawings, but I'd never seen a creature like that in real life. I swear it stared straight at me the whole time. Turns out lightning oil has to be harvested while the creature is still alive. It was horrible, the way they just drilled right into the thing's head as it groaned and shrieked. I watched it slowly die as they pumped out more and more of that oil. The whole place was crawling with scientists and soldiers, but as I was slipping away, I saw Polonia in the shadows. He was watching, hidden like I had been. I don't think he saw me.

    The next day it was reported that a dead leviathan had washed up on the shore, and that a known group of rebels had stolen the precious lightning oil from the creature. The Emperor was ordering their immediate arrest and trial. Which is quite funny, really, since I watched the Emperor's scientists harvesting the oil. Since I saw General Krinos there, in the flesh. And I'm not the only one. Polonia saw it too.

    But I've kept quiet so far. It's always good to have a wildcard up your sleeve, you know.
  • edited August 2013
    Adric-Brogan(Rook)

    It was Timoth who stood with me that day, in the garden of the dead. We were honoring the family, laying spurs upon each headstone, markers and tokens for those who have passed on. It is a reverent exercise and one I no longer have the patience to ask Arcy to participate in. But Timoth, he is a stout fellow and solemn. I hope he is allowed to work the lines after his name day.

    The memory was triggered by the light, glinting off the spur on the headstone for Brogan Wester, my many times great grandfather, one of the Purified. I have told Arden about him many times, but she never listens. The olde times bore her, she lives in the now. Another way we are so different. Broken halves I say. Well, not to her. She might punch me again. I swore never to strike her after name day and I will keep that promise.

    When we were children, we had some good tussles. Do you see this scar under my left eye? Arden sent my head through a window. I called her a skinny runt. She is skinny, even now. She needs to eat more.

    As Timoth completed the ritual, I saw Arden standing at the grave for Orlence. And yes, I stayed away, for one because I didn't approve of Arden's dalliances with the boy, he was trouble. And secondly, I was a suspect in his murder, so I felt it would be inappropriate. I've been cleared of charges, of course. But still, the family would be rightfully upset if I showed up to watch his soul burn. I mean, I did break his hand, after all. It looked rather painful.

    The conversation? Yes, that talk. Timoth asked me to write a letter of recommendation, for him to join the Bulls. I agreed, but since I've got some time before he applies, I advised that I need to gain some rank to give my letter more weight. I also, to my dismay, promised that I would convince Arden to write a letter as well. I don't know how I'm going to convince her of that.
  • edited August 2013
    Polonia

    14 years. It grinds the proceedings to a halt, and solves nothing. I don't understand why the preening idiots still have the laws on the books, but I guess Laudius does. He accused someone, I don't even remember who, of "insulting his family's honor" after a vote went against him. That gets thrown around a lot, and smoothed over before (or more often by) the next vote, so nobody expected it to go anywhere. Nobody expected the sheer bloody-mindedness of Laudius. My mother wept. "What kind of monster would kill over this?" she wondered. More an idiot than a monster. His family could have been allies, but they've hated us ever since. Even after he cut that poor boy to ribbons, he could have apologized for "doing what he must to protect his integrity" or some other crap. But he laughed. Laughed and walked away. I knew then I wanted nothing more to do with this life of empty privilege and murderous decadence. This world could be so much better if those with the resources to make it so would but use them, but we laugh away our days in palaces, hiding behind lightning cages, while the vulnerable work to keep our shambling corpse of a "society" perpetuating itself, all on the diminishing hope that they could live here, one day.

    And don't give me that "Immortal Ever-Radiant Emperor of All That Is" claptrap. The Golden Throne runs on lightning oil, and his loyalists can only strong-arm so much of it. Anyone paying attention can see his "Impartial Decrees for the Goode of the Realme" favor those who already have everything they need, and the rich get richer, as usual.

    I'm not sure why Adric was there. It was a day given over to ceremonial proceedings, so maybe he was in attendance for something else, and just happened to catch the duel? It looked like he was with his family; they had his hair, at any rate. I'm trying to remember what else was going on that day. A new bridge was being officially commemorated that day. There was also an official Ceremony of Reconciliation to mark the Empire's "Dearest Apologies" for the persecution of someone they've posthumously exonerated. We'd save a lot of taxpayer money on reparations if we'd stop having witch hunts in the first place.
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