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"It helps us narrow things down a bit, yeah," Rua replied with a nod of his head. "In any case, let's copy down what we can from the codex, add it to whatever Oracle gave us about them."

He turned to Terrel. "After that, though, where do we go? We can try an information broker, maybe, see if they've found out anything new," he asked of her. "Or would you rather try and party up with a few other people?"


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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Narhari watched Syn, as she replied to him. Everything she did, seemed to scream out that she was out of place. The woman was clearly uncomfortable, and not even with the situation at hand. It appeared almost as if she were uncomfortable in the virtual skin which she wore; which wasn't all that strange, but was seemed like it would be uncommon in anyone even within the game in the first place. Still, Narhari felt similarly.

He raised an eyebrow as her companion spoke in her stead. He still did not know her name. That would need to be remedied. "There are places to buy weapons here, but nothing like that. And, on this continent, it would be hard to find anywhere. Magic, and magically forged weapons, are the most common thing around, and if something like that will do for now, I can lead you two to the market." He paused, then looked at the red head specifically. "I am Ajax, by the way."

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The short, red-headed Lace grinned vivaciously to Ajax. "Hi, Ajax." She replied with a lilting tone. "It's nice to meet you." She ended with a toying smirk.

Syn on the other hand, had perked her ears. Lace hadn't said a thing about weapons in the city. Not once. And yet Syn knew her friend had played this game far, far longer than she.

So Ajax knew where weapons were . . .but she only knew his name. And she rather doubted Ajax was his real name. So not even that. On the other hand, her mind reasoned as she stared solemnly to him, her expression unnerving more out of habit than actual intent, he seemed nice enough. And She was relatively sure she and Lace could handle one man, even if they were unarmed.

"What's the price of this guide-service to a market?" She asked bluntly. Eyes twitching a moment later as she softened her tone. "Habit. I'm not used to people who don't mention price right up front."

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"Can't say I know anyone to really trust over something like this," Terrel admitted, not wanting to go the step further and say that there was no reason they should trust each other either. She didn't trust him, and she doubted he trusted her, but for now they might be mutually useful. Well, he'd be useful to her, anyway. She had no idea what kind of quest this would shape out to be, but she'd be damned if she wasn't going to at least try.

"Maybe we should go check out this prophesy? Seems like the only concrete thing he gave us, ironically. Maybe it's a bunch of nonsense, but it's a place to start at least. I'm afraid I don't have the kind of coin for paying off an information broker, though."

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He raised another eyebrow as the redhead replied. Still no name; that was fine, he supposed. Then, Syn spoke. She was a rather intense woman, so when she amended her question almost apologetically, Narhari had to laugh. "You're fortunate, then, to be surrounded by people so blunt about their intentions. But," he raised his hands up into the air, "you've caught me red-handed. There is a price, so to speak. I hope to try and convince one, or the both of you, that Oracle is probably right, and that the Arcanum Relics are likely the key to our freedom, or are deeply related to it."

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Ding! Marcus blinked. He'd never been in a party before. The invite was awfully intrusive- it hovered in front of his face and dinged every few seconds, demanding a response. How rude. Marcus accepted quickly, mostly to shut it up, and shrugged. "Sure," he said, "let's go." He glanced nervously around, as if expecting giant winged warriors of red-tape-bearing-death to pop out of the refreshments bar and start berating them. "Before these Angels show up."

The two left the Oracle and his trouble behind. The pub was a seedy sort of place with a cracked sign, a beer-soaked welcome mat, and the stench of cigarette smoke. Marcus wrinkled his nose as they approached and wondered whether this was really the right group to get involved in. "They chose here as a good place to stop? Seems sorta shady to me." He glanced sideways at Stark. "You guys aren't, uhm, criminals or weirdos or anything, right? I mean, no offense, but I don't know anyting about you, and I don't want to get mixed up in the wrong crowd."

Edited by Quill on December 28, 2013 at 21:07:55

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Rua scratched the back of his head for a moment, thinking about it. "Well, I'm not even sure what to make of that," he admitted. He opened up the game menu and returned to the PM inbox, bringing up Oracle's message once more, bringing it back to the copied "prophecy". "I haven't heard of anyone named Kasdim-Ur, so no clue if he's an NPC or a player."

He read it for a bit, then frowned as he considered it. What it said made him think that Kasdim-Ur was of the latter group. "The first passage just sounds like a fancy way of saying what the hell happened to us."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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Sark let his face turn reproachful at the sight of the pub as well, not terribly fond of its lavishness either. This seemed like the sort of place you dusted your seat off for broken glass before you sat down; half the women would sound like chain smokers, and you'd certainly want to bring your own mug before drinking.

"Criminals?" Sark echoed the question thoughtfully, "not in the strictest terms, though I can't say about the rest of these chaps. Only just met them tonight, I'm afraid. Of the four of them, though, I'm fairly certain that only two of them knew each other going into this mess. The venue really is quite reproachable, though..."

His voice trailed off, and he took a step back away from the place, deciding not to go into it just yet. Instead, the man selected the party chat, speaking to all five members by voice--it would sound as if they had an earpiece in, though Marcus would be zoned out for feedback.

"Say, gents, why don't we take this party somewhere a little more hospitable? My stomach's not quite the combustion engine it used to be," Sark said cheerfully over the channel. It really did look like a date for tetanus and diarrhea.

A man responded gruffly but not with hostility, "Told you the pretty pants wasn't going to like it, lads. This ale tastes like something my wife would make anyway." A few other voices agreed begrudgingly, and a few moments later four people filed out of the pub. Because they were in a party together, their names were above their heads.

Barver took the lead, a thick man with a shortsword and a shield on his back. Gwendle and Mak followed in line, a hunter and ranger respectively, if there was a difference. Lastly, a lithe but surprisingly hairy man exited the pub, sniffing at the air and running a finger across his teeth as if he were trying to get something out of them.

The man named Barver spoke first, addressing Marcus, "So you're the healer, eh?"

--

Terrel frowned at that, not sure what to think either. "Do you think we could look for this prophesy here? If we could find a copy of it, maybe we could find out when people first ran into it. I mean, if it's several months old at least, that's kind of creepily on point, isn't it?"

Edited by Ribitta on December 28, 2013 at 14:00:55

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Well, at least Sark disapproved. Marcus didn't like to admit it, but he edged a little closer to the man as the others filed out of the pub. They definitely seemed... not too nice. Their party chat had made Marcus feel pretty uncomfortable, and if Sark hadn't kept a firm grip on them he would've immediately fled. "They're not going to stab us and take our stuff in the night, are they?" That was whispered- no need to let the scary dudes hear that. He nodded quietly at Barver's question and swallowed, not really saying anything.

The last one, Bratislav, spat on the cobble-stones. "You're a pretty one," he said, leering at Marcus. "Good to have you onboard." His shirt was emblazoned with the words, 'Serbian Pride,' and something about him made Marcus' palms go really sweaty.

Edited by Quill on December 28, 2013 at 22:06:45

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Sark couldn't help but raise his eyebrows in questioning of Bratislav. He'd definitely been the last one to eek into the group before the healer. Even still, never knew with a shapeshifter would come in handy in this. Sark was no expert in Ymaggion, but he'd played enough to know what he was doing. Plenty of regions were still horrifically dangerous, but with a group and some thoughtfulness, he figured they could survive.

If not for what Sark held, Barver likely would've been in charge. But he wasn't, and that made Sark need to cover up a satisfied grin. Thankfully Barver was still fairly laconic, so there wouldn't be too much angst over anything. It could prove to be an interesting trip nonetheless.

"Well," Sark said, placing his hands together happily, "now that we're all here, I don't see what should delay us. I've already contacted a friend of mine, and we all have places on a ship leaving port in roughly four hours, assuming there are no issues with that. If you don't have food to eat for at least a couple of weeks and a bedroll to go with it, it would be a good idea to pick those things up before you leave." He paused, glancing around to see if there were any questions.

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"Assuming that wasn't just bull that Oracle tacked on for dramatic flavoring," Rua said, his voice flat at the idea--didn't look like he put much stock in what Oracle had said at the gathering of trapped players. "Then yeah, it would be creepy. But it's worth a shot."

He looked around the main chamber, at all of the other shelves and books on them, and the people picking through them. He grimaced distastefully at the idea of searching through this huge database.

"You, uh, you can get started on that," he said, turning back to the terminal while waving it off at Terrel. "I'll copy down the codex info on the Relics."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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"A ship?" Marcus blinked and looked up at Sark. "Where are we going? You know where one of the-" he glanced around, as if fearing someone would overhear them and get ideas, "one of the Relics are?"

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"I uh," Terrel said slowly, not much wanting to admit that she was trapped in a game and unable to bloody read. "Right, yeah, I'll get on that," she said, collecting herself. There were a bazillion books in this stupid place, and it was unlikely she'd find anything before Rua was done. She could at least make an attempt or try and flag down a librarian or something. Better than admitting the truth. Without another word, she wandered away from the terminal.

--

Sark shot Marcus a wink in the dark, "I wouldn't say that, but I've got a better place to start than most of the chaps in that room, I'd say. The boat's going to take us to the independent ocean kingdom of Aube. It's near Valtheran--about a ten day voyage, if this ship is as fast as he promises." The man paused his mouth, inclining his head towards the rest of the companions to follow him as he broke into a walk.

"It's good time, really, for sailing almost halfway around the world," he said jovially, but he let his voice fall to a more serious tone after that, "but if it's too far for you to commit... Well, now would be a good time to decide. Before we're on the boat, I mean." Sark chuckled at that thought, for some reason.

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Syn sighed. Magic. That had been something Lace definitely "hadn't" mentioned until firmly after she was . . .whatever it was. Jacked into the matrix. Swords she could handle, standard combat-training plus a helping of years served made her at least vaguely familiar with most sorts of weapons. But this game was all about skills and stats and as far as she could tell, not so much about what you knew on the outside. Syn was quite positive that if she tried to gut someone here, it would register as a "crit-hit", or something like that. And then they'd use their super-powered Mace of god's Judgment or some such weapon and turn her into a puddle, or a newt.

To her side, her partner whispered something into the teenager's ear, sending her scampering off before smirking to Ajax once more. And for yet another moment Syn was glad she had Lace to do the talking as her red-headed companion spoke.

"Kasdim-Ur, prophecy, and us not being able to just respawn if we go splat. Ajax ..." Here Lace's voice took on a curious, almost protective tone. "What I wanted to be a fun jaunt in a fantasy land for my girl has suddenly tossed her into a deathtrap. Why would I want to risk my life, and that of my girl, on some crazy prophecy? At the moment? I'm waiting to hear back to see if we can get shipping to a city with a bit more tech in it. Get geared up properly."

She tilted her head, mouth smirking, her eyes deadly serious even as Syn rolled her eyes at Lace's sudden speech.

"Dramatic much, Lace?" Syn could be heard to mutter under her breath.

Edited by Ajax on December 29, 2013 at 2:47:27

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So. The woman's name was Lace. And she was just as sharp as Syn. "You're right. Risking your life, for something that might not even be true, would be foolish." Narhari nodded in ascent. He met her steeled gaze equally. "That's not what I'm asking for. There are many different ways to search for the Relics, and while some do certainly have their dangers, there are ways to look that will not compromise safety." He paused, collecting his thoughts.

"The Arcanum Relics have been spoken of since the beginning of this game, and yet no one has found them. Despite the efforts of a significant number of people, searching through monsters, bosses, dungeons and what have you, not one has been found, as far as I learned. So, then, perhaps some lie within a city. I feel that the chances of at least one being within a major city is fairly high, considering there are seven. All I'm asking is for the both of you to keep yours eyes and ears open."

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Lace kept her head at the off-kilter angle, looking to the man, standing almost an equal height with him, it was easy to see eye-to-eye. Her constant mirthful smirk took on a lopsided skew, further enhanced by her head's angle.

"Keep in touch, sort of thing?" She asked with a tone that seemed almost to hint at secondary, possibly lewd meanings. At her side, Syn rolled her eyes again.

"That is to say," Lace continued on, her tone growing more serious again. "We see something, we let you know. You do the same with us?"

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"Something along those lines, yeah." Narhari grinned back. "Though, of course, communication doesn't have to be limited only to just the Arcanum Relics. Anything related to, or important for our survival, or even just important information in general, is fair game. Friends with benefits, so to speak." He rather enjoyed this game of cat and mouse, Narhari decided. A lot of his work had involved subtle interaction with others, and he missed that.

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Marcus shrugged. "Nowhere better to be," he said, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Why not?" They headed to the boat, which was pretty nice looking in Marcus' eyes. He didn't have any sort of naval experience, besides this one ride in the real world that'd left him vomiting horribly for the next few days, so he couldn't really tell if it was a quality ship or not. It looked clean, at least. He glanced at the others in the party. He wasn't sure whether he wanted the ship to have alcohol on it or not. He knew they'd be irritable if they were forced to be sober for the whole ride, but he feared that they'd be dangerous when drunk. Especially the Serb. Marcus wasn't sure why, but that dude just set his teeth on edge. Maybe it was the weird way he kept leering at him.

"So," Marcus said to Sark, "ten days. That's not bad at all. I've heard rumors of pirates living in the seas between here and Aube- are they true?" If so, he hoped the ships had some sort of cannons on them. None of their companions looked intelligent enough to be magically proficient, and he couldn't see any kind of heavy artillery on them. If pirates did attack, they may have to get up close and personal... didn't sound too fun.

Edited by Quill on December 30, 2013 at 2:38:06

Edited by Quill on December 30, 2013 at 2:39:14

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"Keep a finger on each other's pulses, eyeah?" Lace smirked. She hadn't actually expected the man to reply with such a flair. She could feel Syn's growing annoyance with their banter. Truthfully, she knew her partner could keep up with them, if she let herself go. But Syn was all about control, fine-tuned, carefully crafted deathdealing. One of the reasons Lace rather loved her friend.

With her ever-present smirk firmly in place, she extended a simple hand to Ajax. "Ajax, I think we've ourselves an understanding. Share info at the least. Maybe more." She ended with a playful glint in her eyes.

For her own part, Syn nodded in agreement. The room around had almost cleared, and she felt very much the obvious target, naked without a weapon. She badly wanted this entire stupid game to be done. Lace seemed to think it wasn't a bad idea, and Ajax seemed . . . a kind enough fellow.

Her own terse, to-the-point voice added on as she glanced around once more, ever-scanning for threats. "Information at the very least." She agreed simply.

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"Glad to hear it then." He nodded at both women appreciatively. "I believe that you have both met my price, so I suppose we should leave for the market, then. The angels have yet to arrive, though I suspect they all went after that crazed man, so waiting here any longer is likely just a waste of our time." Narhari sighed unhappily at that. He'd hoped to learn something new, accepting Oracle's invitation. Still, at least he wasn't leaving empty handed. He began to briskly walk towards a door, motioning for Syn and Lace to follow.

"Market's this way."

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Wasn't much longer before Rua had the data copied down into a private message. He tapped in Terrel's handle, found a match, and sent it her way with a title of "Copied Relic Info." Having got what he came for, he killed his search on the terminal and went after Terrel.

He found her staring between two particular aisles, looking utterly lost. The swordsman could hardly blame her, this place was immense with its massive shelves that required wheeled ladders to use, and a right pain in the ass to browse when you're looking for something specific.

"You find anything about the prophecy yet?" he asked, coming up behind her.


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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CAPCOM: We put the "No" in Innovation.

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The two women easily fell into step behind Ajax, heading out into the sunlight. Syn to Ajax's right, Lace to his left, each trailing a few steps to the rear. Lace appeared relaxed, breathing in the air and the scents of the city. "Always loved Minervum. Feels like I'm getting smarter just by standing in it." She commented with a giggle.

To the side, Syn's eyes scanned the clean-swept streets, boots scraping against the seemingly ever-pure cobblestones. Perhaps one of the benefits of the game, or maybe just . . whatever the magic in this city was supposed to do. But towering buildings, the streets, even the people seemed cleaner. At least compared to the other city she'd first seen.

The design of the city reminded her of some of the older European cities from the . . .real world? That didn't seem quite right, now that she was most definitely mortal in this. Making it just as real . . . Her mind finally settled on calling it the "other" world. "Reminds me of a cleaner Budapest." She commented softly, pronouncing the name with the "pesht" sound at the end.

Lace, seeming ready to laugh at most anything, chortled merrily at that. "Have you ever been to that city, Ajax? Syn won't admit it, but she loved it there."

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Lace was right. Minervum was a lovely city, though just the fact that it was so nearly perfect seemed to take away from the fantasy. Still, he enjoyed the time he spent within its walls.

"Budapest? No, though I've heard a lot about it. I used to travel but... I guess I got tired of it." Not entirely true, but close enough. It wasn't exactly easy for him to travel these days; perhaps that was, in part, why he had accepted this job. Project Epsilon was sort of a way to scratch that itch.

"The closest I've been is the edge of Italy. Sounds like you both enjoyed it. You'll have to tell me about it, sometime." he said to both women, though from how quiet Syn had been, he doubted she would do so. He wrote himself a reminder in his invisible journal. He liked to talk about the "outside" world whenever he got the chance.

Sometime during their conversation, they'd begun to make their way into the market district. Colorful powders and strange scents from magical catalysts wafted through the air, though none were unpleasant.

Edited by WillowtheWhisp on December 31, 2013 at 19:32:45

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Terrel almost jumped at the sound of Rua's voice. She'd been touching the spines of these books and having them be read aloud to her ears only, so she could figure out what they were about, and he'd spoke right as she was about to touch one. Nearly gave her a heart attack. Frowning to appear more collected than she was, the woman shook her head. Near as she could tell, this aisle was either about cooking or witch hunting, neither of which sounded useful to them at all.

"Not like this," she admitted, perusing the spines of the books as if she could read them like that, "I bet we could be here for the next year and still not really find anything, without knowing where to look." Bloody books.

---

Sark smiled widely at the ship before them, lit up by torches and lanterns in the darkened night. "Pirates?" he echoed, bringing a hand to his face thoughtfully, "can't say for certain, I fear. The passage is fairly clear, though; I doubt it will be the least of our concerns, when going for these relics."

The man glanced at the time, conveniently located in the corner of his display. They still had a good three and a half hours left before departure. Speaking to the whole group, now, he gave them a sendoff of sorts.

"Well, my friends, I suggest you double check your supplies at this point. Markets are south of us, and there's a good lawyer who can set up a Will for you to the north, if you feel so inclined," he said, winking good-naturedly at that last bit. "As for me, I'll wait for you on this here boat."

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"Wouldn't surprise me," Rua said, stepping back and shifting his weight to one foot. "Well, we can flag down someone who works here, or maybe get someone or something to search for us."

Rua scratched at his neck nervously. "I think I can do something like that, but I don't know if we're allowed to have pets in here," he admitted.


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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Terrel raised an eyebrow at him, glad the conversation was no longer about books for a moment.

"Pets?"

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"I've got a game pet that luckily has a search skill, but I kept her in stasis in case things got ugly back at that place," he explained to Terrel, shrugging. "And I didn't bring her back out from my inventory because I don't know if there's a pet policy here."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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CAPCOM: We put the "No" in Innovation.

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"Well," she responded with a shrug, "easier to ask forgiveness than permission, right?" She was no good at finding stuff in a place like this. Besides, if Rua did get into trouble, then she'd finally be able to do something useful.

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"True enough," Rua agreed, bringing open his game menu. A few quick presses, and he removed an item from his inventory and tapped it with a finger. The gemstone dissolved, turning into a flash of light.

Rua held out his arm underneath it as it solidified into a sinuous form. The phenomenon blinked out almost as quickly as it had formed, and in its place was a tiny, six-limbed dragonet. The beast preened its greenish-brown scales for a moment, then looked about at Rua and Terrel with blue-green eyes, as if nothing were out of the ordinary for it.

"Meet Relayia," he introduced to the girl. The dragonet chirped at her name being spoken, and stretched out her wings and tail to balance itself on Rua's arm.


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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CAPCOM: We put the "No" in Innovation.

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Terrel wasn't the type to scream, but that thing certainly made her jump. A bloody dragon? Baby or not, they weren't exactly what you'd call commonplace, especially up here, from what she'd heard. It didn't seem... dangerous, and he'd only mentioned it having a searching ability, but suddenly the idea of a "no pets" rule seemed much more relevant.

"Where'd you even find that thing?" she managed to ask after a moment of recovery, but the words all of a sudden seemed too harsh. Could it understand her? Would it set her hair on fire if she wasn't reverent enough toward it? Hopefully Mr. "Dragonheart" here knew what he was doing.