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  1. #11
    Jinn and Jasmine came back to their cruiser. "Computer, Scan this," he placed the standard into a portable scanner, "And then send a photocopy to the Magical Consortium, along with this request: 'We found this standard placed over the ruins of a village in Midrok. We believe it might have magical references. Please advice. Jinn Wesserly, Aldonadi, Elder Ralthaford's faction.' End message."
    "Confirmed," the computer replied.
    "Get Elder Ralthaford on communications."
    The computer "blipped" its compliance.
    "You in, Jasmine?"
    "Yes, sir," she replied.
    Jinn closed the cockpit and took off. "Keep your eyes peeled for anything of interest," he said as they began circling the pastures. They flew around them for a while searching the ground for anything that might be helpful. The computer spoke: "Elder Ralthaford is unavailable at this time."
    "Okay," Jinn said, "We'll try again later. See anything, Jasmine?"
    "Nothing particular. But where are the sheep? They couldn't just vanish."
    "No, they couldn't, but I'm darned if I know. Let's head over to the next town, see if they know anything. We can meet up with Grayden to see if he's learned anything."
    They flew off to the next nearest town, about thirty miles north-west. It was slightly larger, and herds of sheep could be seen for miles out of the town, like fluffy clouds roving along the ground.
    "How can they have so many sheep in the desert?" Jinn asked casually.
    "The oases," Jasmine replied, "The desert has many large springs dotted around the desert. In between the towns, it's a wasteland, but near the cities, there is plenty of land for pasture."
    Ah, that's right; you're from around here, right?"
    "I was born here, as far as I know, but I've been in the Aldonadi since I was five. As far as I'm concerned, that's home, not this."
    "Mm," Jinn muttered, and let the subject drop. He could see, in his peripheral vision, Jasmine rubbing her left arm, where her long-sleeved blouse covered that burn scar. He knew a little of Jasmine's life before the Aldonadi brought her in, and he knew little of it was pleasant. Best not to dwell on it.

    They landed in the town's port, which was only a small, dusty space just outside of town where nothing was growing. All of the cities of Midrok had ports like these, since their villages depended so much on export of wool, although the ports were slow now, since it was several months till shearing time. As they hopped out, Jasmine asked, "Where do we go first, master?"
    "Let's check the saloons," he said, "If there are any rumours floating about, that's where we will find them."
    They made their way down the street, trying to spot the saloon.
    ...to the topTop

  2. #12
    Jinn and Jasmine strolled to one nearby saloon that smelled like a combination of dirty feet and the floor of a doctor's office. The poorly constructed structure looked as though it had been well weathered both inside and out.
    Sud's Pub, what a name. It gave images of quaffing down brewed dish water. It was busy in there, but it wasn't actually busy. Most of the inhabitants were completely silent and the establishment looked as though it was closed for business had it not been for the one dwarf at the bar looking over his stock, and the few horribly tortured bar droids puttering about.
    "Rumor has it you folks are looking for rumors," A voice caught Jinn's attention as he was about to enter the uninviting place. Glancing over was a species he was not familiar with, a plant like creature, about the size of a 12 year old and just as lanky. Atop the head was a growth much like the indigenous vegetation. She smiled broadly, then jumped to her feet.
    "I can help, I know I can. You'll find no one better suited for the job. I'm Pipipsiwa, but everybody just calls me Pip," she stuck out her hand in greetings.
    "Hey," the old man sitting at a table near by addressed her, "What about rounding me up those wild goats?"

    "I'm not interested in doing that now, especially cause these people are looking for rumors... rumors!" she explained as though it made perfect sense and the old man should have seen and understood.
    "You can forget me paying you for the work you've already done," the grouchy old man countered.
    Pip made to say something indicating that she really didn't care, but instead just shrugged. Why use words when she didn't have to.

    ...to the topTop

  3. #13
    (((Sorry, it's been a bit busy for me. I'll try to be more regular, but I can't promise it)))

    Jinn looked at the peculiar, energetic creature, and smiled at her. "Rumour gets around fast here, doesn't it?" he said cheerfully. "Alright then, Pip, what have you heard about the attack on Coum?"
    Several people shuffled their chairs and one person near the door decided that he'd had enough for today.
    Both Jasmine and Jinn took notice, but only Jinn pretended not to care, and quite effectively too.
    ...to the topTop

  4. #14
    Lurker Taerra Firma is offline
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Second star on the right and straight on till morning
    On a bluff overlooking the village, Crypt crouched among the large rocks, letting the deep shadows they cast conceal her from the casual observer. She cursed silently at the sight of the three people wandering around the destruction below. Someone had gotten here before her. That could only make her task more difficult. She hated dealing with sloppy seconds.

    the Gnostic Merchant Cartel had hired her to find out what exactly had happened to one of their main wool suppliers. Normally this type of contract was too low paying for her to take notice, but when she'd heard the rumors that the attack was perpetrated by an Aldonian, she couldn't pass the opportunity up. Any excuse to hunt one of those people down like the criminal he was was a good enough excuse for her.

    Below, the woman was trotting back to her cruiser, a sword in her hand. One of the men reached down and picked up a pole with a bit of fabric attached. She frowned, and zoomed her bionic eye in on the scene. The black and crimson symbol didn't look familiar. She snapped a picture for further analysis later. Then she panned up to examine the men, and the woman --- no, girl --- with them. All three carried swords. She growled in disgust. More Aldonians. Just what she needed. She recorded their images to look up later.

    She waited as the three left and flew away before making her way down the the village herself. A quick tour showed her that anything useful had been taken or destroyed by the group that had just left. She couldn't even read the tracks that might have given her valuable information on the number of attackers, as they had been mostly obliterated by injudicious stomping. "Typical," she muttered, "and useless." They couldn't have done a better job if they had been trying to cover up all the evidence.

    She examined the new-built cairn as well. It didn't take her long to remove enough stones to let her examine the body. The nicer clothes, plus the fact that the Aldonians had bothered to bury him, even though they left the rest of the corpses for the carrion, led her to the conclusion that he had been an Aldonian as well. That explained the extra sword the girl had been carrying. Was he just another victim? Or had he been party to the attack? His body was far less decayed than the others, so had the attackers hung around long after the attack, among their dead victims, until this one showed up? It all seemed very odd. She put the stones back and dusted herself off.

    None of this took more than half an hour before she ran back to her hover-cycle. She had plenty of visual records of the village which she could examine later. Now she needed more information. The two cruisers had headed Northwest. The databank on her bike indicated it there was a town about thirty miles that direction called, amusingly, Culver's Folly. The Aldonian's had probably headed that way for more information. It was as good a place to start as any.

    She revved the engine, and the cycle raced over the parched earth. The bluff dropped off two hundred feet in front of her, but she just went faster. She sailed off the edge, and two "wings" popped out from the underside of the bike, allowing the vehicle to glide to the desert floor. Once she hit, they folded up again. She put a pair of shades over her eyes and pushed the speed. The wind tore at her hair and whipped her half cape behind her. She knew she should be wearing a helmet, but she wanted that feeling of the wind on her skin. The adrenaline rush of knowing that death was one wrong turn away. Besides, if she did wipe out she had a 50-50 chance of landing on the titanium skull. And if she didn't, well, she wouldn't care then would she?

    As the cycle ate up the miles she just hoped the Aldonians were still there.
    ...to the topTop

  5. #15
    (((Moving along, then...)))

    A man cleared his throat from a table not far away, "Whacha wanta know about that acursed place for?"
    "We're trying to figure out what happened, so it doesn't happen again," Jinn replied calmly.
    Another man spoke up, saying, "They say the town was attacked by devils. The wicked spirits of the land come up from the grounds and killed everything and everyone."
    "That's not pos--" Jinn began, but was cut off by another man and his theory.
    "I heard it was a fleet of robots gone rogue what swept in like, and they tore the place apart with their bare hands. Tore the people too."
    "I heard the robots were people once, that's why they gone haywire like."
    "Now listen--"
    "I heard it was a bunch of them were-people. Never did trust them much, roamin' around the land without livin' anywhere. No connections; no loyalties. I heard they done eat all the sheep and some of the people, and I tell ya we're next if we don't stop 'em."
    This met with a sort of half-cheer, they way that cockamamie ideas that blame someone for a catastrophe do. The people may have gone for their pitchforks, if another voice, a clear, commanding sort of voice, had not said:
    "I heard it an aldonadian. He came into the village, and just started cutting people up, claiming that he owned the city, and they better submit or else. Just one man did all that, s'what I heard. Or two, maybe," he added in a very insinuating tone.
    Everyone in the room looked at the two aldonadians.
    "Now, stands to reason," said the speaker as he stood and began walking toward them, "If they want to come and attack our town, they come figure out what the people heard, see if they'll be ready for a fight, or if they can just stroll right in and cut the people up."
    Several of the men stood up from their tables.
    "An interesting theory," Jinn said, holding up a non-combative gesture, "But if you're thinking of doing what I think you're thinking of doing, it wouldn't be a smart move. If I am the guy, I'd just cut you up too, right? but if I'm not, not only will you be attacking an innocent man, there's a good chance someone's going to get hurt."
    "That's what we're counting on, partner; that someone being you."
    "Jasmine, get out of here."
    "No," she said, drawing her sword, "You're my master and my partner; I'm not leaving."
    The men hesitated now that there was a sword out, but they were determined to have their fight. They kept advancing, while Jinn and Jasmine fell back.
    "Look's like we don't have much choice," Jinn said with a small smile, "Jasmine, subdue them. No exceptions. If you get beat up, you fail. If you wound anyone too much, you fail too."
    "We need to know how to strike without killing, Jasmine, you know that. Here's a good field test for you."
    There was a moment's tension. No one moved. They were just waiting for the spark to light the kindling.
    ...to the topTop

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