Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In Flux ep03 : Shadows of Esteren

In Flux
Episode Three
"Donan's Journal - I Want The World of Stupidity To Die"

My name is Donan Roik.
I am an Investigator.

But it seems outside my usual region, suddenly my official documents of occupation do not apply.  I would have understood that more had I crossed the sea, or flown over the mountains to a whole new continent, but no, all I did was trek with the Varigals.  But I guess there are certain documents that would allow a lowly Investigator from Osta-Baille, Taol-Kaer's captical city to be recognized in a lowly town such as Hassam.  Or at least that's what I recall the name to be.

I digress.  Let me start from the beginning.

We had left Osta-Baille, after the Doyen hires me to learn the truth regarding the matter of the Feondas.  And the strange stories both Rashid and the other Varigal, Niall, have been involved in.    I would rather ignore it all, but I was given carte blanche on all costs, and I could always enjoy a few more notebooks, rare inks and a chance to travel even further.  I've been to Reizh once before, a small inn called the Watery Trunk.  That was a memorable, though brief experience (Alcohol addled most of my recollection, but given I awoke with nary a cloth to wear, I must assume it was majestic.)

But Hassam.  Or was it Hassom.  Oh this place is one I would so desperately desire to burn.    Rashid's journeyman skills proved to be the better between the two, and as we traveled I found myself having to sate myself with my own two hands (and a dab of oil).  Though my travelling companions seem adequate, I understood enough the delicate balance of respect that still existed between each of us.  I did not become an Investigator for nothing after all.    Trees grew sparse as we went further, and I pondered on whether this was another sign of the nature of Flux and how it.. smothered the land.  The overgrowth was soon replaced by roads of brick and the accuracy of the rocks in cut and fit clearly suggested I had returned to a civilized place from the long sojourn between wild woods.   As we approached the town, it quickly became apparent that the lights illuminating the town were not flickering.  Magience was clearly a welcomed commodity here.  And rather than a tavern being a noted location upon arrival, we found ourselves seeing a school. 

Knowledgeable folk?  Literate ones?  Even better.  There wouldn't be a need to play any charade.  A show of papers would suffice.  The Dancing Dove was the label of one locale and I quickly discerned it was the sordid kind of inn where people drank to be laid.  The Traveler's Inn was the second.  Given the smell of Flux in the air, the urge to get indoors was an intention we all shared.    It seemed like a happy community, with people having no fear of laughing out loud.  The colors hinted by the lights seemed to suggest a class status, with the colors shifting from greenish to bluish to yellowish and finally clear white.  We all go to the Inn and I allow the others to charter a room.  I spend a good time studying the people, grasping their mannerisms, noting how they approach others, their tone and voice, I even take an effort to spy how the "richer" or more "respected" are approached by others.  As the others first debate about the costs of staying in the stable, they eventually decide to get a room. Niall purchases some kind of cartridge for his Lighter.  I've slowly started to get a better grasp of how these magience devices work, but I still find it appalling to own one.  Memories from the previous trip, I suppose.  The innkeeper makes a good point to insult the varigals, making a stress about not caring about their charter.  "Everythin is Reizh is discovered," the man boldly says.  And I recall my teachers telling me the first clear sign of ineptitude and voluntary stupidity is the belief that one has learned all there is.

Worse, I recall varigals being messengers and guides.  Not spelunkers.  I wonder if that was what the innkeeper thought they were.

I approach, holding myself the way the esteemed in the place do.  I identify myself as an Investigator, admit I am fulfilling a task, and ask for some level of discretion regarding the presence of the group that earlier checked in.  The innkeeper, due to some logical leap I cannot grasp even until now, deems me a con-man, has his flunkies manhandle me as they accuse me of trying to outsmart them.  And worse, when my official documents of being an Investigator are shown, including the letter from the Doyen of the Varigals, and the letter from the noble Cormarel, the man laughs about them not meaning anything here in Reizh.

It challenges my sanity, I tell you.  The man was such an idiot.  Even worse than the Kethis.  The fight is short-lived and I am thrown out with a bloody nose and all.  To the least, I feel satisfied in knowing that the others will be safe (unless the stupid innkeeper himself starts another fight) since the owner of the place they are staying in is capable of fighting.  But given my disheveled appearance (I guess in the Traveler's Inn, it is customary to insult messengers, attack clientele and threaten those who carry themselves with noble/respectable bearing) I decided to make my way instead to the Dancing Dove to earn myself some loving.   Given the school's prominence in this place, I now fear what manner of education the whole town benefits from.

The Dancing Dove is atrocious.  The women dance on long poles.  Glowing lights glimmer in the night.  Even the jewelry the women wear illuminates as they move.  It is a spectacle, beautiful perhaps to most, but given my taste of Flux in the far north, all I could think of was how all these people were acting in such baser mannerisms due to their exposure to the Flux itself.  Remembering how Liam and his wife Gilana were when Flux poisoned her and I shudder at the thought I stood in a room filled with similarly tainted people.  It does not help that most of those who seem drawn to me are either far too young, too boring, too desperate, or act like two-dimensional attempts at attempting to be a predator given their lack of actual experience.  Thankfully, I find a fellow predator in the midst and he returns my hints with a smile.  I remind him I am not here for pleasure and he admits how, "It would have been interesting to have played the investigator and the investigated."  The line reminds me of Rashid, who would have said, "Role-playing costs extra" so I end up smirking.  Needing to explain the smirk, I just say aloud, "I don't do that."

But we enjoy our time.  I fulfill his expectations and cross a few more lines he'll tomorrow regret so much that feel nicely patched up in all ways.  I do wonder when he will realize I got him so overwhelmed he was calling out his own name, "Davon" over and over as I toyed with his buttons.  A Vitalist Magientist.  That name goes into my notebook.  Never know when I will need to speak to one again.

I return to the others, contemplate on burning the Traveler's Inn down, but decide the innkeeper can be made to suffer in other means at a later date.  If anything, Donan never forgets a face.  Or a name. Rashid shares how he does not like roads.  "Too perfect," he admits.

I don't like roads that lead you barbarians.

27 days pass and we reach Baldh-Ruoch.  The city was enormous, with so much presence of magience that I felt literally ill.  Pillars of smoke rose from many towers.  I questioned how wealthy we were at Osta-Baille.  We easily gain entry (and I think the burly guard even tries to throw me a flirtatious line) and we find a good place to set camp.  Or rest for the night.  Glenn and I talk about food and I always ponder on whether or not this huge man was once born a woman.  His dedication to preparing our stores and wares is just... so much like a domesticated wife.   I ask about Circe.  About Kethis.  And in the end, we realize we all share one truth in common: we fear her.   I still feel tempted to do something to Hassam.  Purchase the whole town or something.  Have it transformed to a park.  With a few choice words, I know I can convince people that it has been over-ridden by Feondas or something.  But I guess deep down I'm not as evil as I wish I could be.

I notice a hawk flying in the sky.  Someone must have sent for messages and thought the varigal took too long.  So much financial options to abuse.

Abuse. I must do that more often soon.

We map out the need to find the Master Proval.  He was, or perhaps is, the Dean of the Vitalists. The man supposedly has not been in touch for a long time.  The messenger also delivers a green bottle as a gift to Rashid from the Tarish.  Interestingly, the green hue matches the artwork in the book I had been handed by the Doyen.  Niall is visibly unnerved by the book and refuses to even touch it.

"There is coin to be had in Raizh," someone remarked, and all I recall is Glenn excitedly replying, "Corn?"  Niall and I remain aghast.  Glenn has such a powerful mother-instinct, he probably can get pregnant with the right motivation.

Niall chooses to stay in the other room with Glenn.  Rashid is forced to share my room.  Or at least I think that was the decision.  There's a visitor the Varigals seem to know and uninterested I allow them to handle things.  I pull out the book and study it.  The iconography on the cover is similar to the Temple Gilana worshiped at.  The Temple of Soustraine.  But reversed.    I admit to the others that I feel the problems that once plagued Naill now affect us all.  Glenn reaches to tap my shoulder and say something, but I grab his hand and remind him I do not like being touched.

I opened the book.  The first two pages are blank.  "We got into something deep, didn't we," I muse aloud.  "We?" Rashid asks.  "Oh, does we cost extra now?" I hiss back.  "Demon books cost extra," Rashid clarifies.

The green bottle seems to resemble the green hues in one of the art as well.  Deep down, I trust my gut and recommend to Rashid to drink the contents of the bottle.  He eventually obeys (they all do) and his eyes suddenly glow extremely bright.  I call out for the others and start gathering in Glenn's cup the green fluid that begins to leak out of Rashid's body.  Niall, worried to the highest of mountains, draws his crossbow.  Glenn readies his cudgel.  Rashid later explains he was seeing the events of the memories he had lost unfolding in his mind.  Some kind of fluid had been injected into his arm.  But even as the long-armed vitalist attacked Rashid, he survived the encounter thanks to...

The Kethis appeared, attacked Rashid's attacker, and seemed to even be in pain as it did so.

Of course, there was only one expected way Rashid would react to all this:  "The Charter has been violated."

The lady friend of Rashid and Niall breaks into the room, panicked and all.   She speaks about defending her people and warns us not to do anything stupid.  (I hold my tongue and opt NOT to remind her she broke into my room.) Niall keeps the crossbrow trained at her, until she shows she is unarmed.    I decide to step out and leave the varigal to discuss these matters between them.  Glenn and I just stay outside.  But eventually, I decide I've had enough stress, and invite Glenn to join me for a night of de-stressing and wenching.  Niall opts to join us.

I realize however Rashid may opt to leave, so I "hire" him to bring me to Porval.  If anything, I am happy that Rashid can be that simple to handle things with.  Niall, I hire, until he reclaims the book.  Or I die.  I almost internally die with that statement.  I sound so much like a folktale villain.  Maybe I should grow warts on my nose too.

We return, with Glenn drunk. Neil and I laughing about him not charming the city girls well. Too preoccupied over milk, bread, recipes and cows.  I drunkenly awaken to Niall coming up to my bed and placing the odd book on my lap.  He walks away.  Then returns and throws another book.  And another.  I probably was just imagining things and drift back to sleep.

Breakfast.  The meal goes well and Niall looks bothered.  I try asking him about last night but he doesn't answer.  We finally make our way to Proval, who as it turns out, was expecting us.  Mayla informed him that we were coming.  During our visit, a golden needle of some sort launches into the room from outside, but Proval casually blocks it from hitting him.  This happened the moment I inquired about the Flux.  Porval tells us this has been happening, and his body begins to "shrink" as his massive original six foot four frame withdraws to barely six feet.  He reveals a hidden passageway for us to take to continue our conversation.  I peer out the window, flashing the golden needle in my hand, and try to spot the attacker.  Finding none, I slide the needle into my clothes to keep it safe.

We make our way down the passageway and I start sharing what I know of the events that have transpired.  Porval soon reveals that he is related to Gilana and Cormarel.  And that Cormarel was once a Demorthein apprentice.    For Proval, however, science comes before anything.  He does not believe in our concerns about monsters and curses, and even claims that Cormarel is a paranoid sort, but shifts gears the moment the book is mentioned.  I bring the book out for them to see.  Oddily to the others, they can see something else in the first two pages.  For me they remain blank.    Frustrated, I start saying the word Feondas.  I even state it twice to threaten Porval to talk.  After all, if he truly does NOT believe in them, there's no harm in stating the word right?   He counters by saying Kethis twice.  The book's temperature drops.

I personally am now confused if Porval is truly a man of science.  Or a man hiding his fear through science.  I confirm if Niall has his crossbow ready (It is).  I confirm if Rashid recalls the way out (He does.)  I feel so tempted to say the word one last time.  I am sick and tired of these.. things.  So exhausted with being hounded by some supernatural mystery I cannot fathom.  When Niall admits something to the extent of the book supposedly "talking" to him, I throw the book at him out of anger.  Porval tries to claim he feels the whole thing is a politically motivated act.    Niall refuses to keep the book and throws it at Porval.  "My duty is done," I tell Porval," and remind him to reach out to his sisters.  Their problems have been making all of our lives hell.   I ask Master Rashid to escort me to the city limits.  I tell them the job is done.

Outside, I soon learn the others are thinking of heading off as well.  In some cases, by calling it all off, the group has still decided to travel together.    Rashid writes a letter to Mayla to bring to someone and I cannot be bothered to find out what it is about.  I just feel tired about it all.    When we set up camp outside, amusingly I catch Rashid burning something in the fire.    It turns out to be the damned book.  Somehow it followed him  to us.    He opens it to the first page.

I avert my eyes.  But somehow I can imagine it might say something as pitifully frustrating as, "You called."

The book seems to target literate people.  That seems to be the closest pattern I can find.
Neil seems to have a fitful dream.
But I leave him to sleep.

I am still dreaming of how to make Hassam burn.
Maybe, I should visit there again, and say that blasted word from noon until midnight.

But that inkeeper.
Oh, if I ever see him again.

Just you wait.


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