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[5E IC] The Further Adventures of James and Illeana

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rednblack

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« Reply #30 on: (16:36:49/02-10-16) »
"There are several options for making a metahuman immune to age, some more invasive than others."

"Oh," James says, letting the weight of what Illeana's saying wash over him.  His head spins a little when she runs through his options for eternal life.  Does he want it?  Could he handle it?  What about his augmentations, should another crash occur, or the dragons smashed them back into the stone age, or if the sixth world gave way to the seventh?  Neither he nor Illeana know what became of her during the fifth world, or even if she was alive at that time.  Would she have effectively hibernated?  Carried on with business as usual? 

When she finishes her list, James can tell that she's gauging him, perhaps wondering if he's willing to be hers forever, in the sense of that word that vampires would use and not in the sense that he's said it before. 

"Umm, wow.  Ok," James manages to stutter.  He pictures them against the backdrop of a city-scape, towers pushing impossibly high into the clouds, cars flying by as he soars upwards in his jetpack, shooting amorphous blobs of pure energy from an apparatus attached to his wrist, Yeah, real sci-fi stuff.  In the next instance, they're surrounded by the crumbling ruins of civilization, waves crashing against what was once Atlanta while two groups of metahumans square off with their atlatls and axes.  And finally, they're in a high mountain cabin, James drinking pine needle tea while Illeana fashions him a coat out of bear skin.

"So where do we start?"
« Last Edit: (17:01:29/02-10-16) by rednblack »
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #31 on: (18:58:09/02-10-16) »
Illeana's demeanor is very serious. She's not her usual playful or jubilant self. Her gravity adds to the weight of the topic. There aren't any charts or graphs for this, nor is there a script.

"The first thing you need to do is decide how you want to die."

That was quite the ice breaker,
Illeana thinks to herself, but decides to roll with it.

"If you want to die in bed, peaceful and asleep, surrounded by loved ones, then you want to die of old age. Leónization aside, these options all require you to die violently, or of some dread disease, or some other equally unpleasant outcome.

"The upside is that you can live for centuries. The downside is that you can live for centuries. Not everyone likes what the world has become, but if you want to live forever then you have to be a part of it, whether you like it or not."


James notes that she's not including herself in the conversation, as if she's not a given. He asks her why.

"Forever is a long time, James," she smiles, perhaps a bit sadly. "We've known each other for six months now, only five of which we can actually remember. It's been a great honeymoon, but let's not pretend that honeymoons last two years, let alone two hundred, or two thousand."

James' thoughts return to his depictions of the future. He looks down at his hands and wonders what cyberlimb technology might look like in twenty years, let alone two hundred. It's hard -

"It's hard to wrap your mind around, I know," Illeana says, practically robbing the thought straight from James' head. He looks up, surprised, wondering if she has some new mind-reading magicks.

"Your aura is swirling," she explains. "As well it should. This is one of the most important conversations of your life."

Less melodrama, she thinks to herself. But is it melodrama if it's true?

"We all die. It's not if but when, and don't let any elf or dragon tell you otherwise. My path is set, but yours is still open. You can't live forever, but you can live a long, long time. Just know that the true price isn't paid until the last day."

rednblack

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« Reply #32 on: (14:01:33/02-11-16) »
"Forever is a long time, James," she smiles, perhaps a bit sadly. "We've known each other for six months now, only five of which we can actually remember. It's been a great honeymoon, but let's not pretend that honeymoons last two years, let alone two hundred, or two thousand."

James finds himself getting defensive.  It isn't as though many relationships today last forever, or even hint at the promise of it.  But there is still a romance around monogamy and pair-bonding, the promise of forever.  But maybe it was only a short and brutish life that made that promise possible.  Maybe it's palatable because it's all the forever we have?  And that wouldn't be true for James anymore if he drank from that fountain.

"Why me, then?" James asks.  He knows the question is a trap at worst and a request for validation at best.  How silly it would be to start a fight over possible fights, fights that didn't even exist yet.

"It's hard to wrap your mind around, I know," Illeana says, practically robbing the thought straight from James' head. He looks up, surprised, wondering if she has some new mind-reading magicks.

"Your aura is swirling," she explains. "As well it should. This is one of the most important conversations of your life."

"I bet," he says, and steels himself with a drink of chicory, and flexes his cyber hand.  "My body, as it were, I worry about it."  He pictures himself broken, his ancient ware useless, not even sputtering, while he lies wasting away.

"We all die. It's not if but when, and don't let any elf or dragon tell you otherwise. My path is set, but yours is still open. You can't live forever, but you can live a long, long time. Just know that the true price isn't paid until the last day."

"It's not the dying I mind, not really.  Going a bad way, well I think some of what Ares taught me is still stuck in here somewhere.  A bad way's the only way I think I'd know how to go.  It's the forever.  I mean, if we part ways, everyone I could meet, everyone I could care about, they'd all grow old and . . . disappear.  It sounds lonely.

"I'm not sure that's awful.  There's so much I could do, so much I could see and experience, but . . ."
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #33 on: (00:18:37/02-12-16) »
"Why does anyone like anyone else?" Illeana asks, a small smile breaking through. "I'm a magician, not a psychologist. Evidently we liked each other 'before', and we like each other now, so maybe it's meant to be."

James knows the Illeana fully accepts reason and logic and the scientific method, but he also knows that her alternative world view - Hecate and the astral realm included - makes her open to less scientific concepts, like Fate and Destiny. She had often admitted that her magic was more of a gut feeling - like hunger, or danger, or even love - than it was something that she could grasp intellectually.

There's a tingle in James' head that he's come to associate with the nanites. He wonders if they have a say in this; indeed, he wonders if they're the ones in the driver's seat. Do they fear Illeana because she's not one of them and never will be? Or do they like her because she helps keeps James safe? The spiraling concept of the nanites thinking about themselves through James leaves him existentially dizzy until he lands on Descartes' cogito ergo sum and he feels grounded again.

Illeana interrupts. "I hadn't thought about Ares conditioning you for death. That's a good point. It sounds like you've accepted it, and made peace with it. I'm not sure that I have yet.

"There is so much we could see and experience. That's partly been the reason why I've been so consumed with my studies. I don't have the same limitations as most magicians; I'm not racing against life's clock. My memory won't fade, my thinking will remain fresh. It's strange to think about, but in a hundred years I could be one of the most powerful people on the planet. I like to imagine all the good I could do."

She drifts off for a second, lost in the thought of the rights she could wrong and the lives she could improve. Hecate calls her to it.

She returns to the present.

"There are pros and cons to each approach, naturally. Everything has a price.

"Convincing vampires to turn people is not easy. They do not appreciate the competition. They dangle the prospect of power and eternal life over their followers for as long as they can. Strange to say, but it would probably be easier to abduct a vampire and infect you manually. That said, I don't know what the healing factor would do with all that."
She points at James and swirls her finger in a circle, encompassing his whole body. He realizes she means his cyberware. "You would need the best implants on the planet if we don't want them to be rejected. Otherwise, I presume your body would spit out your limbs and grow new ones. You've had work on your nervous system done too. I don't know what it would do to your mind if eighty percent of your body decided to regrow itself. I assume it would be... traumatic. This is the riskiest approach.

"Renfield isn't as extreme but we shouldn't take it more lightly. It would leave you dependent on me forever, or at least until you found another vampire to provide it for you. You would be immune to aging, and even stronger and faster than you are now, but you would be trapped. Not only would the dynamic of our relationship change, but if anything were ever to happen to me, it would condemn you too. This is not my preferred option, but I can't make the choice for you.

"Then there are spirits. This is still new to me, but in theory we can bind a spirit's essence to yours. Spirits never die of old age, so neither would you. Again, we might be in uncharted waters as far as spirits interacting with mundanes, but it's the option that leaves you most recognizably 'you'. As such, I like it the best, but it's the one with the least obvious path forward. It would basically be to search and research. It's something you cannot help me with, not directly anyway, even though we do it for you. For us."


She looks at him to see what he thinks.

rednblack

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« Reply #34 on: (10:48:37/02-12-16) »
It takes a bit of explaining on Illeana's part, but eventually James comes to the realization that she does not think that there is a literal fountain out there in the swamps that he can just take a drink out of.  "So what happens to the spirit if we bind it to me?" he asks.  "If I'm still me, is its essence what transferred, like a bank account?"

He professes his ignorance on Renfield, and asks her to explain.

A far-away feeling in the pit of his stomach alerts James that he should eat soon.  He doesn't feel hunger the way that normal people do, or so he thinks, and he's pretty sure he doesn't feel hunger in the way that Illeana does, judging by how it affects her.  For him, it's more like a  status update, an alert that needs to be taken care of eventually.  "We should get breakfast," he says.  It's always "we," even though she'll mostly be watching him eat, but the company is nice for both of them. 

Later, over pastries and more coffee, James thinks about becoming a vampire, how he wouldn't be able to eat anymore after that.  He wonders if it would be any great loss.  His olfactory sensors are top of the line, but he's fairly sure he doesn't taste like most people either, as filtered as his sensory input is.  He changes the subject for awhile, letting the gravity of everything nestle in, diffuse itself and become more easily digestible. 

"If we go the spirit route, where do we start?  I'm assuming that has something to do with where we are now?"
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #35 on: (14:28:15/02-12-16) »
"The spirit gets something out of it too," Illeana says. "You would be like its own personal safety deposit box.

"As long as the spirit formula remains intact, the spirit cannot be permanently banished or disrupted, no matter what. It would be immortality for each of you, in a way.

"It's not a thing to do lightly. Not all spirits are magnanimous, or have humanity's best interests at heart. As someone who did a tour with Firewatch, you know that better than most."


The conversation continues over breakfast. Another outdoor café, one where their conversation is lost in the surrounding hum of other diners and the city.

"We either need to find a free spirit or conjure one ourselves."

She's using the royal 'we', James notes.

"It's not a small task. With study and practice, I could conjure one in time. First, I need to learn more about a spiritual art called invocation. MIT&T is at the forefront of research on invocation. Their studies are specific to the hermetic tradition, though some of their alumni have started their own invocation courses tailored to Wiccan practitioners."

She raises a knowing eyebrow. James detects the invitation to go to Boston and investigate the Natelys.

"I've always wanted to see New England in the autumn," she contines. "Particularly Salem. It's a bit of a holy spot for Wiccans, you see.

"Most admissions deadlines passed months ago, but I think I can make a compelling case. My fake SIN says that I have a degree - with honors - from Universitas Carolina Pragensis, in Prague. The thing about my SIN is that it's so good that I'm not sure what's real and what's fake. Maybe I really did study there and accumulated the credential, or maybe it's part of a very believable backstory. I do speak some Czech, after all, so it seems plausible."


James interrupts. "Charles University? Isn't that where -"

"Schwartzkopf teaches, correct," Illeana nods. James has heard of Schwartkopf, a Great Western Dragon, one of the more benevolent ones. He takes students and gives lectures on magic, in stark contrast to, say, Sirrurg the Destroyer.

"Schwartzkopf's ongoing work is the Unified Magical Theory," Illeana continues. "The synthesis of Wiccan and shamanic traditions to be effective even without religious beliefs."

"Wiccan traditions?" James jumps in. "Do you think it's possible that you studied with him?"

Illeana nods with raised eyebrows. "Kinda blows your mind, doesn't it? Again, I don't know. Maybe it's all part of a very good fake SIN that fits together like the stones of the Great Pyramids. Or maybe it fits because it's true."

James lets out a low whistle, and exhales. Suddenly he leans forward and slaps his hands on the table, causing the plate of pastries to jump.

"Wait! Schwartzkopf was mentioned in the files that Cannon provided to us about the list of potential groups tracking us. The files said that it's possible that Schwartzkopf has alerted one of his magical groups - Benandanti XXV, I think they're called - to acquire the artifact and/or anyone who may have come into contact with it."

Illeana gives a wry smile and nods. James realizes that he's just catching up to what she's already thought of. "You're absolutely correct," she confirms.

James sits back, overwhelmed at the thought that he's been thrust into a world of Great Dragons. It was one thing to sell the obelisk to the ASPS, which had a financial relationship with Hestaby, but quite another to be sleeping with someone who might have studied with a Great Dragon, a dragon who might want to make his acquaintance.

"We're getting ahead of ourselves,"
Illeana says, trying to slow down a bit. "If we want to go this route, then we need to find some MIT&T graduates and figure out where they are teaching. I'm betting there are some in the greater Boston area. Then I need to apply, possibly with a significant donation to the institution to apologize for missing the admissions deadline. That gives us two months to find our way up north.

"In the meantime, we can do whatever we want. We can splash around in the swamps, researching and learning just in case the academic route doesn't pan out, or we can hit the road again."
She raises her hands a bit to indicate the open world that they have in front of them.
« Last Edit: (13:56:08/02-13-16) by Tecumseh »

rednblack

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« Reply #36 on: (11:38:13/02-15-16) »
James lets out a low whistle, and exhales. Suddenly he leans forward and slaps his hands on the table, causing the plate of pastries to jump.

"Wait! Schwartzkopf was mentioned in the files that Cannon provided to us about the list of potential groups tracking us. The files said that it's possible that Schwartzkopf has alerted one of his magical groups - Benandanti XXV, I think they're called - to acquire the artifact and/or anyone who may have come into contact with it."

Illeana gives a wry smile and nods. James realizes that he's just catching up to what she's already thought of. "You're absolutely correct," she confirms.

"And if he knew you, and he knew about the obelisk, that could be dangerous."

"We're getting ahead of ourselves," Illeana says, trying to slow down a bit. "If we want to go this route, then we need to find some MIT&T graduates and figure out where they are teaching. I'm betting there are some in the greater Boston area. Then I need to apply, possibly with a significant donation to the institution to apologize for missing the admissions deadline. That gives us two months to find our way up north."

"What kind of a donation are we talking here?" Jame is sure that their war chest can cover it, but if he's got to start thinking long term, as in very long term, he'd better start learning how to be smarter with his money. 

"In the meantime, we can do whatever we want. We can splash around in the swamps, researching and learning just in case the academic route doesn't pan out, or we can hit the road again." She raises her hands a bit to indicate the open world that they have in front of them.

"So long as we're here," James says with a smile, extending his arms around him to the bayou.  "I could stand a behemoth hunt.  Or a smuggler hunt to be honest.  What about these shamans you were talking about?  Do you have a line on any of them?  Any that we should maybe meet, or try to at least?"
« Last Edit: (16:25:32/02-15-16) by rednblack »
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #37 on: (15:31:14/02-15-16) »
Despite the daylight hours, firecrackers and sparklers go off at regular intervals. James isn't sure whether it's the usual festive spirit of the French Quarter or if there are some traditionalists celebrating the old Independence Day. The CAS folks do consider themselves the 'true' Americans, now that the Yankees have gone and defiled themselves with the Canadians.

"I don't know what kind of donation we're talking about. I was hoping you could help me with that. The first step might be to find out if the alumni working with Wiccans are still in an academic setting or if they've gone freelance. Normally I would presume that the population of Wiccans isn't dense enough to support dedicated instructors, but, as I said, any town or city within 50km of Salem is going to have Wiccans.

"If the teachers are freelance, great, problem solved. If they are with academic institutions then we might have to figure out the admissions process. If the professor has any say over the matter, then a relatively modest sum might be sufficient. But if we have to pay off a university, then it won't be inexpensive.

"There will be money-making opportunities in the area. There's an Awakened drug called Hecate's Blessing that's made out of the sap of the Awakened maple, of which there are many in New England. Hecate's Blessing is a drug, not an magical compound like Little Smoke, so I can't cook it up myself. But I can harvest the raw reagents needed for a chemist to make it."


She holds up a finger, as if she's had a thought.

"Speaking of magical compounds, if we're going into the bayou then I need to make you some Rock Lizard Blood. That one I can make for you. Despite the name, it comes from the pulp of North American weeping trees. As luck would have it, this place is silly with them. It will make you immune to diseases and toxins while we're out mucking around in the swamp. No VITAS for you!"



A few days later, after Illeana has cooked up some Rock Lizard Blood - a rich, red liquid that lives up to its name - James finds himself standing on a dock on the edge of the swamp, baking under some intense July sun while renting a fan boat.

James slaps a mosquito on his neck. He removes his hand to find a splotch of smashed bug.

"Here," Illeana says, pressing the red tincture into his hands. "Sip this. I saw one place retailing it for $5,150 CAS, which converts to ¥1,700 a dose, so do us both a favor and don't get addicted."

James gives her a look. At ¥1,700 a dose, James wonders why Illeana doesn't set up shop down here as a full-time alchemist. She could be making good money.

"You're sure you can drive one of these things?" Illeana says, jutting her thumb over her shoulder in the direction of the airboat. The transaction complete, the obese proprietor of the rental shop gives a wave and waddles away along the dock.

James nods confidently. "You got a line on anyone we should try to meet out here?" he asks, repeating his question from breakfast the other day.

"No," she says, shaking her head. "The problem is that the people we want to meet are the ones who least want to meet us. It's possible we'll run into some swamp folk who've never been out of the Bayou. Might not even speak English. You don't speaking any French, do you? No? Just Spanish. Hmm.

"I might have to communicate via assensing, once I've convinced them not to kill me. Full disclosure, they're almost certainly going to try, but luckily I am exceedingly difficult to kill."


She smiles at James and throws their gear onto the airboat.

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« Reply #38 on: (14:20:57/02-23-16) »
"I might have to communicate via assensing, once I've convinced them not to kill me. Full disclosure, they're almost certainly going to try, but luckily I am exceedingly difficult to kill."

"I'll try and stay out of the way then," James says with a grin, checking their gear one last time before pulling the air boat away from the dock.  He gives a brief wave over his shoulder at the proprietor who is already walking away cash in hand.  Piloting the craft south and east away from Morgan City, James notes that they lose their Wireless connectivity almost immediately.  Not much for infrastructure here.  He pulls a map up on his AR overlay, and does his best to plot a steady course to Lost Lake, where they'll begin to head north again into the heart of the swamp waters.  He's thankful for the Rock Lizard Blood, especially the way the mosquitoes are on him.  He doesn't have much skin left, but they're making quick work of what's there. 

When they've gone far enough, James changes into his chameleon suit both for the armor and the protection against the bugs.  He even keeps his hood on until Illeana's spirit is able to arrange for some cloud cover.  "I wouldn't mind a spot of rain," he says, figuring a little wetness would drive the mosquitoes away.  As he drives, James thumbs a small cypress carving that Illeana made for him, one of her healing preparations.  He has two more in his pockets, both set to go off as soon as he touches them, made out of soap from the hotel. 

When the pair reaches Lost Lake, they're thoroughly away from civilization.  The cloud cover gives the landscape an impression of being somewhat muted, but it's still beautiful in its own way.  Not an ideal vacation destination as far as James is concerned, but not without its charms either.  Wouldn't be so bad, really, if not for the flying things, and the stingy things, and the kill-you things, the latter of which is no doubt close by but has yet to surface.  James sets the craft due north, but keeping a steady bearing once they hit the interior of the bayou is futile.  Not much in the way of visual landmarks either.  No wonder they're out by their lonesome. 
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #39 on: (17:04:51/02-23-16) »
James finds that piloting the airboat is not difficult. He knows a bit about boats - probably from some marine ops he did for Ares - but the airboat sits so high on the water that it feels more like driving a car.

The sun is hot and sticky. James glances over to Illeana and sees her sitting unhappily in a long coat.

"Didn't you bring your swimsuit?" he asks hopefully.

Illeana scowls, looking out over the sun-bleached reeds. "I'm worried about the mana around here," she says. "Remember that I said the Mississippi is semi-Awakened? It's like a giant mana line. Academically, they call them Type D, which stands for 'dragon lines'. They're common around geographic energies, like fault likes or geothermal vents or rivers and lakes."

James can detect one of Illeana's interminable lectures brewing. He quickly asks a question in an effort to derail her. "They influence the health of plants and animals, don't they?"

"Yeah, and the dual-natured too," she grunts. "But that's not why I'm concerned. I'm worried about a mana surge that might overload and pop my protective spells. If my protection to the sun disappears while I'm bareskinned, I'll have about one second to get over the edge of the boat and into the water if I don't want to die an agonizing death. Then I'd be sitting on the bottom of the lake until nightfall, praying that the same surge of mana doesn't undo my spell that allows me to breath underwater. So, as a precaution, I'm wearing the coat."

"So why don't you change the weather?" James suggests, not really knowing if Illeana can do that but remembering the role that weather magic played in the the war between the NAN and the old USA.

"Hey, yeah!" she says, sitting up optimistically. "That's a great idea!"

Illeana gets to her feet to summon. She raises her hands in a V and says something in Czech or Romanian or something weird.

Almost immediately, a hand reaches up out of the water and grabs the edge of the boat. James' initial reaction is "kill it with fire!" but Illeana seems to be unalarmed, so James takes it in stride. A large humanoid covered in slime and aquatic plants pulls itself out of the water and steps onto the boat. It drips scummy lake water everywhere.

Illeana converses with it in another language. James wonders why a spirit in Louisana would speak an Eastern European language, but then he figures that most of the real communication is being done astrally and that the spoken component is just out of habit.

The swamp creature nods and slips back into the water. Almost instantly, James feels a cool breeze kick up seemingly out of nowhere.

"I asked him to whip up some cloud cover," Illeana says, turning back to James. "And to watch us and the boat. He'll make sure we don't hit any submerged logs."

The cool breeze is a relief. Illeana gladly removes her coat. Conversely, James uses the opportunity to put on his chameleon suit without worrying about heat stroke.

Puffy white clouds slowly start to form while James keeps a lookout for telltale signs of human activity. "Head over there," Illeana says, pointing toward some thicker tree cover along the shore.


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« Reply #40 on: (01:04:03/02-24-16) »
"There," says Illeana, pointing to some broken reeds that suggest that someone has been through here.

Once he has a starting point, James has little trouble picking up the trail. He follows the lead deeper into the bayou.

The tree branches start to join together high up in the canopy. The water spirit continues to generate a cool wind and mist. Now, in the absence of the sun, the effect goes from cooling to chilly.

Through the creeping fog, James spies a hut.



He slows the airboat so that the fan isn't as noisy. He coasts toward the hut, which is more intricate than it first suggested. It looks handmade.

An old dwarf sits on the porch in a rocking chair. The dwarf's hair is completely grey, with skin like tanned hide from the southern sun.

<<@Illeana [James] He must have been one of the first dwarves to Awaken in the early part of the century.>>

<<@James [Illeana] He's not magically active and he's not registering as a threat. But note the shotgun.>>

The dwarf continues to rock. "Strange weather," he finally says by way of greeting. His voice is deep and distant. He looks around at the mists slipping around and underneath his house.

"Mm, yes, strange," Illeana agrees.

James knows she's not much of a liar so he decides to speak up. "Nice to -"

"Wouldn't go any further," the dwarf cuts in. "Just wouldn't."

James presses him. "Why -"

"Folks go in, don't come out," the dwarf interrupts again. James realizes that the dwarf has never directly made eye contact. He keeps rocking and staring up and over James' head, not unlike the woman did at the seance.

"What's -"

"Witches,"
the dwarf says.

Perhaps the dwarf meant to be mysterious, or cautionary, but his dramatic declaration has the opposite effect on Illeana. She brightens visibly, with widened eyes and an intrigued, "Oo!"

She really has no poker face whatsoever, James thinks to himself, shaking his head slightly.

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« Reply #41 on: (12:07:00/02-24-16) »
"Uh, hoi," James says when the spirit climbs aboard.  He doesn't mind the scummy lake water in the boat so much as how the thing looks.  It's all muck and twigs, and matted grasses, its hands gnarled vines.  Yikes!  He's glad when the spirit dips back into the water, and the cool breeze is even more welcomed.  He pulls the hood from around his head and stretches out his neck to the wind.  "Oh, yeah, that's just wiz."

James pulls back north through the trees, and picks up speed a bit now that he doesn't have to worry about high-centering the water craft.  He's in his rhythm with peeling the boat to and fro through the swamp, when Illeana tells him to check off the port side.  "Good eyes," he says when he finally sees the broken reeds.  From then on, it's slow but easy going.  This trail has been used recently, and probably not for the first time.  A fog thickens around them, forcing James to slow even more to keep tabs on the trail, and when the hut comes into view, James shifts to the lowest gear, inching forward.

As he makes out the dwarf, James stays impassive.  Bound to be somebody out around here.  We could do a whole lot worse than an old dwarf.

<<@James [Illeana] He's not magically active and he's not registering as a threat. But note the shotgun.>>

<<@Illeana [James] Roger that.  I'm on him.>>

The dwarf continues to rock. "Strange weather," he finally says by way of greeting. His voice is deep and distant. He looks around at the mists slipping around and underneath his house.

"Mm, yes, strange," Illeana agrees.

James knows she's not much of a liar so he decides to speak up. "Nice to -"

"Wouldn't go any further," the dwarf cuts in. "Just wouldn't."

James presses him. "Why -"

"Folks go in, don't come out," the dwarf interrupts again. James realizes that the dwarf has never directly made eye contact. He keeps rocking and staring up and over James' head, not unlike the woman did at the seance.

It's like he's not even seeing me, James thinks. 

<<@Illeana [James] You sure this guy doesn't have any mojo?  Look at his eyes.>>

"What's -"

"Witches,"
the dwarf says.

Perhaps the dwarf meant to be mysterious, or cautionary, but his dramatic declaration has the opposite effect on Illeana. She brightens visibly, with widened eyes and an intrigued, "Oo!"

She really has no poker face whatsoever, James thinks to himself, shaking his head slightly.

Alright, this is what we came here for.  James feels himself tensing up, and takes a moment to scrutinize his surroundings. 

"Witches, eh?  'Preciate the warning, sir, but would you mind if we came up?  I'm not much on my sea legs to be honest with you." James motions to the hut.  "If you don't mind my asking, what people go in and never come out?"
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #42 on: (00:34:01/02-25-16) »
The old dwarf holds up a hand as James moves toward the dock.

"Nuh nuh nah, sonny," the dwarf says, eyeing James' attire suspiciously. "I got trust issues." He continues rocking, the old wooden chair creaking and causing the aging boards of the deck to creak too.

"The folks that go in, they look like you. Young, funny clothes, loud boats. I tell them all the same, just as I told you. They don't listen, doubt you will either."

<<@Illeana [James] How do you want to play this?>>

<<@James [Illeana] I'd try my feminine wiles, but since I don't have any I'll use magic.>>

"Please?" Illeana says, glowing suspiciously despite the clouds and fog, as if they had parted and the sun had settled only on her. "We're friendly."

The shotgun is in the dwarf's hands in a blink, clearly a well-rehearsed maneuver.

"Nuh nuh nah, young lady," the dwarf scolds. "That'll be enough of that. That's what the witches do, or try."

<<@James [Illeana] Unbelievable! It just bounced right off his forehead! Imagine taking a shot with one of your Light Fires and having the bullet bounce off him like a BB off a troll. There's probably a reason he's survived here as long as he has.>>

James studies the shotgun. It's a mess, frankly. It's a double-barreled street sweeper, a jury-rigged shotgun often used by street scum and cheap criminals. The weapon’s design has been made popular by several trid combat shows and can easily be downloaded off the Matrix and built by an amateur gunsmith with the appropriate tools. They usually function similarly to an old-fashioned musket and must be manually loaded for each shot with condensed black powder cubes.

The optics in James' eyes whir as his vision magnification kicks in, zooming in on the barrels. His vision enhancement tidies up the image so that James can study it. He sees the barrels are crammed full of small, hard junk, including broken glass, screws, nails, metal bits, and other debris. It's woefully inaccurate while simultaneously being almost impossible to miss. James is almost positive it wouldn't kill him, but nor does he fancy spending the afternoon picking crap out of his epidermis. The dwarf's message is clear.

"Time to go," James says, steering the boat away.

Illeana crosses her arms over her chest, put out by being deflected by a mundane.

The hut recedes in the distance as the boat descends deeper into the bayou.


rednblack

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« Reply #43 on: (11:34:06/02-25-16) »
"Please?" Illeana says, glowing suspiciously despite the clouds and fog, as if they had parted and the sun had settled only on her. "We're friendly."

The shotgun is in the dwarf's hands in a blink, clearly a well-rehearsed maneuver.

"Nuh nuh nah, young lady," the dwarf scolds. "That'll be enough of that. That's what the witches do, or try."

James resists the urge to put his head in his hands.  Wiley old coot.  Smart too, or at least capable.

"Old timer, we don't mean any--" he starts.

"Nope," the dwarf answers.

"But if we could just--"

"Nuh nuh nah."


The dwarf keeps his shotgun trained on the pair.  He can't blame him, really.  He lifts his hands in a gesture of surrender.

<<@James [Illeana] Unbelievable! It just bounced right off his forehead! Imagine taking a shot with one of your Light Fires and having the bullet bounce off him like a BB off a troll. There's probably a reason he's survived here as long as he has.>>

<<@Illeana [James] Interesting.  If pa here is mundane, I wonder if ma is a mojo slinger, wherever she may be.  Think we may be at a dead end here.>>

"Time to go," James says aloud, and slowly puts his right hand back on the controls of the air boat.  "Thanks for your time, sir, and the warning.  Y'all stay safe now."

"Oh, I'm not too worried about me, son." the dwarf answers as they back up and begin their way through the bayou. 

Once they're a suitable distance away, James says, "My clothes may prove problematic out here.  Think you can make me look like I belong?"

"Maybe," Illeana says.  "How do you want to look?"

"How about like him," James answers, jutting his thumb backward toward the hut.

"You're a little tall for that,"

"I could pilot this thing on my knees," he says, and she laughs.

"He is a known quantity around here," Illeana says, thoughtfully.  "Of course, I'm not.  If anyone sees me with him that may lead to more scrutiny.  I can disguise your aura to a degree, but if it doesn't hold, I'm not sure what that will mean."

"Hmm," James says, practically a grunt.  While they discuss whether one of her physical mask spells would be of any use, James lets the craft idle while he unzips his duffel bag and retrieves his Ares Desert Strike.  He inserts a mag of APDS, and wracks a round, then puts his clothes on top of the rifle, both to disguise it for an initial glance and to protect it against water that may come up around the sides of the boat.

As they continue their way through the swamp, James stays on the trail, and notices how the fog seems to thicken.  "Weird," he says.  "With this wind, I'd think that the fog would burn off, but it's strong as ever."  He thinks about the Mississippi being semi-awakened, and what that means.  Is the fog magical?  The plants themselves, or just the water beneath them? 



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Tecumseh

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« Reply #44 on: (01:15:06/02-26-16) »
The pair press deeper into the swamp. James keep an eye open for wildlife. The signs are abundant. Perhaps the most concerning are large globs of sticky goo attached to trees, the mark of a shambler. James points to one such snotball.

"Shamblers spit that to immobilize their prey. If the initial attack doesn't suffocate the victim, it has the ability to engulf it with water and drown it, like a spirit. Oh, and paralyzing touch, like a cockatrice."

"Oo!" Illeana coos, perking up with interest.

"Is that going to be your response to every lethal threat we face?"

"Pssh. I ran from the juggernaut, same as you. Steer us over there so I can collect a sample."

James reluctantly complies. The submerged roots of the tree concern him, but he trusts that Illeana's swampthing will keep the boat from inadvertantly grounding.

"They have an allergy to sunlight, but with a canopy this thick, plus these clouds and this mist..." James says, leaving the thought hanging.

Illeana casts a spell, flaring like an old-fashioned flash pan from a camera 200 years ago. "For the wood allergy," she explains, looking back at James.

Illeana pulls out her silver knife and begins to scratch at the glob. "It's hard," she says, "like resin."

She continues to scrape while James observes their surroundings. The cool wind and mist have made things downright cold.

"So you want me to make you look like the dwarf?" Illeana asks as she gives up on the soft silver knife in favor of one of her throwing knives. "Give me your best impersonation."

James can lie like a rug but can't do an impersonation any better than a random person off the street.

"I don't think we'll be fooling anyone," Illeana says, flipping the throwing knife over her shoulder in frustration as the shambler deposit looks completely unaffected.

James scans the waters again. He sees the eyes of an alligator poking out of the water, studying him from a distance. He turns back around to see that Illeana has unsheathed her claymore and is posed to strike. She lays into the tree with a CHOP-CHOP-CHOP like she's some sort of bizarre lumberjack, until she's roughly carved out the wood behind the shambler blob. She stabs the sword into the battered wood and pushes on it, using it as an expensive crowbar to detach the sample, which lands in the bottom of the boat with a hollow THONK.

The noise disturbs something in the reeds. There's a small hiss from a patch of dry land behind the tree that Illeana just assaulted. She looks up from her hardened reptile booger and sees some baby alligators.


"Ahh, they're so cute!" she chirps, obviously delighted. She bends over to get a closer look. James' enhanced vision sees some freshly hatched shells not far away.