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About Howlykin

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  1. When Fates Align

    The man contemplated the empty bowl held in the palms of his hands, letting out something like a prolonged thoughtful grunt. For a moment, one might have thought him to have lost his focus and gotten side-tracked if not close to dozing off. But he raised his head, eyes open, shifting his gaze between Raveena and Aventus. Then he paused. First at Aventus. “Sure… when we’ve some privacy. Would help if you could pay in somethin’.” Was he suddenly slurring his words less? Did he look… different? Did the way he looked at people feel different? Subtle as it was, some kind of transformation was taking place. After Aventus, he turned to look at the Queen, the duration of his silence just about creeping into “awkward”. Yet Caps didn’t seem to drift. He wasn’t groggy or unfocused. On the contrary, since imbibing the drink, since the facts of this city started turning up here, since his soothsaying came into light, he became alert. There was something to his intense stare that made one feel not simply watched, but examined, unraveled, scrutinized on a level beneath the skin and beyond. He was no mind-reader - there was no sense of one’s thoughts being muddled or reined in and directed. From Caps’ perspective, several Raveenas sat in front of him, rippling ever so slightly away from one another. Deviating probabilities. Here she chooses to break the silence and ask him what was the matter. Here her lips are moving again - she is trying to convince him of something. Here she looks towards Aventus again. Here several overlapping Raveenas sit converged on one another and weather his gaze. “I am… thankful for your invitation to the new home. The children need refuge. And I see now that I have taken them from a war zone to a place stricken by a sickness…” The slurring was gone completely. Though his face was still flush with alcohol. He spoke slower, in a measured tone. “You bring many refugees with you… On the Matreyan Exodus… And yet you are willing to take more with you… No. You will need more with you.” He mused, setting aside the bowl he’d emptied, closing his eyes for a moment. “For the time being, my concern are those children. If you can take them somewhere they’d be safer than here, then that is fine by me… As fo-...” He was interrupted. There was a flapping noise from the tent’s entrance and somebody else entered. Caps raised his eyes to see Cass, staring down at the sitting man defiantly. “You are coming too.” She said firmly, then, turning to look at Raveena and Aventus alternatively, as though uncertain which one held more sway here. “Please. If he may.” She repeated while mustering more tact, perhaps a belated effort considering how she’d barged in on them. - Cass… - Caps began, leaning back slightly to look at her. - No! I know what you’ll say! That you just needed to bring us somewhere safe. But you are not just walking out of here and leaving us! - Why not? Is an old bum really that much help? - He afforded her a lopsided smirk. - Come on, Cass. I don’t even know that much beyond here… Don’t know enough guides either... You three’ll be in better hands this way. - But you need this too! - Her tone peaked. She paused then repeated, gentler. - A home… You need one too… Please, Caps. He watched her for a while. He hadn’t known the girl that long, her or the other two for that matter. He wasn’t sure how much they had heard of him back in Palgard just from all the rumors. Now though, she was staring him down. And neither one of her images rippled so much as an inch away from the one asking him to come along. “... Your Highness, let me know what preparations are required… We don’t have much but, well… So long as I’m coming along, I’ll find a way to pull my weight...” @Deus Ex Aizen @Avvercus
  2. When Fates Align

    The man scoffed slightly at the mention of the drink’s effects. He had the decency of wiping his hands on a piece of cloth provided to him along with the food before reaching for the cup. He took it with a slight nod in place of a more expressive show of gratitude. Then with but a brief exhalation he dumped the entire cup into his mouth. He’d only slightly stained his beard with a few droplets, the rest of the drink searing his throat with spirit. He squinted his eyes and shook his head briefly. Somewhere within and beyond, the clouded mind’s veil sharpened to an ice-cold sheet, then flowed, slowly like slurry, in strangely precise patterns. And still, behind the kaleidoscope, most of what he could have revealed stayed. “Good ‘un…” He nodded appreciatively, setting down the empty cup and reaching for a piece of bread. He breathed in the smell of the crust, then tore into it with his teeth. “Good ‘un, tha’...” He repeated, having chewed on the food thoroughly. Piece of bread still in hand, wiping crumbs out of his beard sluggishly, he spoke up again. “Names? Ah… well if’n you’re good with wha’ we get called in th’ streets… Kids know the’r names more. Haven’t needed t’ forget yet…” Another pause as the food came under another attack by him. The warmth of alcohol flushed his face, but he didn’t seem to act that much different than before. “Older ‘un’s Cass… Jus’ Cass… Smart girl, yeah... Kept the others safe n’ sound like… Jus’ didn’t know ‘nough people to help out. There’s Mila… bit of a brat tha’ one… Thinks she knows ‘tall better a’ready… Lumi… Good lad… Young, good lad… Not strong much… ‘least in good hands that one. They all’re… Long as they’re in each oth’r’s. But weren’t in no good place none...” He took to the stew at this point. Seemingly regarding the conversation as near-over as he’s already said all the kids’ names. --- - So that dot up there… Is it… is it really a city in the sky? - Yeah right. Just a bird or… something. - But… what if it’s true? - Well, it might not even be hers! - But… But she said she had three crowns! The two children were still busy discussing the things that queen had told them. In fact they were both pointing at different spots in the sky, trying to spot the distant city suspended in the air by magic and science. It was not as easy to find now, with the one person who knew for sure where it was preoccupied by “grownup talks”. They were all in one spot, seated in the camp, a good distance away from the tent where Raveena had gone with Caps and the other man. While Mila still adamantly refused to believe Raveena was true to her words, Lumi was near-desperately trying to find all the things to believe from the queen’s earlier speech. - It might as well be true. - Cass, the oldest suddenly spoke up, just as she passed them both a bowl of stew that some of the refugees had shared. She murmured a respectful “Thaan'wie” each time with a polite bow, her voice just slightly above the crackling of embers in the campfires. Both of the younger looked to her, both in amazement - though one at the seeming audacity of believing this strange woman who’d brought them here, the other at the unquestionable authority confirming that yes, there was a city in the sky. Soon, however, both were brought to a more even ground, as both became quite entirely absorbed in the food they’d been given. Lumi did find a moment to ask, with his mouth full: “Waif… You mow whaf fey fay?” - A little… I understand enough, but I don’t speak a lot of it… - Don’t speak a lot of “Lumi-with-his-mouth-full”? - Don’t speak a lot of their language… - Cass indicated those around them with a roll of her head. - Matreyan. - Where did you learn it…? - I picked up a little back in the day… - The older girl stood up, two pairs of eyes looking up from their bowls of stew clearly asking “Where are you going?” without words. - Just want to look around. You two stay put. No mischief… I mean it, Mila. --- Back in the tent, Caps suddenly resumed talking: “Caps… Caps is wha’ they call me ‘n the street… ‘S a thing I do… Soothsay a notch.” He explained fairly briefly, and that seemed fine, only he did so preceding the opening of a mouth to ask him to add information about himself by about two seconds. “They come t’ me… Ask’ng what to do… Where t’ go… So’s I tell ‘em, right. Honest thin’ that… Hassle but… honest.” He seemingly didn’t quite realize that he’d started speaking while partially predicting the questions he’ll be asked. “No, don’ know… Didn’ have no plans… The kids? Jus’ needed to take ‘em outta war zone. Outta Palgard… Me? ‘Ell, might jus’ return… Or set up ‘ere for a spell…” He held the bowl with two hands and slowly tilted it, drinking the stew in large gulps. This time he managed not to stain his face, having wiped his beard and lips clean with the same cloth.
  3. The time had come for patience and ceremony, and Xaprychor the younger King, the King in the Deep, had both. Even as his brother, true to his habit, made his sibling wait - the delay of his arrival only let the anticipation build. Both that of Xaprychor and of the crowd before the castle, drawn here by their expectations - the Kings had to meet here. It was only right. In time, Xaprychor was joined by others who would await their traveling King’s arrival as well. He was, perhaps, somewhat distant for a Nymerian, or perhaps discerning, but he dignified his peers with graceful, ceremonious nods, some with a brief epithet. “Charming as ever…”, “How good of you to join…”, “Yes. Take your place here, the King on the Waves is bound to arrive soon...” And so on and so forth, greetings trailing off into pauses. His eyes scanned the crowd. Rxychra wouldn’t dare make them wait, would he? When the moment came, the crowd stirred of its own accord, much like a wave, some flowed to the front, then drifted back slowly, like saltwater cascades drawn back into the mother sea. Some yearned to touch him, then, some satisfied, others, perhaps, overwhelmed, retreated to let their other peers do the same. Xaprychor watched them shower Rxychra with adoration, yet he himself was calm, or so it seemed. His brother ascended the steps and he simply waited. He came closer, his familiar face, his strength - all apparent. There must have been a speech to say here, words of grand, ceremonious welcome to offer his brother. Yet as Rxychra came closer and paused before Xaprychor, the younger King spoke and but one word drifted out of his mouth. “Brother…” A moment that felt as long as his brother’s absence, yet at its conclusion, Xaprychor had not even realized when he ended up in Rxychra’s embrace. The impassive mask of his well-regulated emotions waned for but a short while. Long enough for his eyes to close as his lips to ease into a peaceful smile. He repeated with certainty. “Brother, you have returned…” Someone else in the crowd repeated similar words. Then they echoed once more, more and more voices picking up the chant. He has returned. He has returned! And the triumph of Nymeria rippled the water, a thousand bodies glistening and thrashing in joyous prelude to festive revelries. Music came after, drowning the throes of triumph. The two brothers finally separated, though for a time their arms held. Rxychra had his chance to greet the others, though only briefly - for as much a celebration as it was, much work remained to be done. “Come, brother mine. The throne room awaits.” Xaprychor invited and he gestured gracefully towards the main castle gates. Not all Nymerians would get to follow them there, but even with their celebration taking place outside, the castle was far from vacant. Dancers melded into a graceful flurry of fin, skin and veil. Honor guard stood watch, polearms clanging sonorously against the floor as the procession headed by the two Kings entered. They were the spark this day needed for the true magnitude of a festival to unfold and one could tell that nobody was holding back anymore. “You no doubt have much to tell of your travels, Rxychra?” With his more typical demeanor reclaimed, though still eased by their reunion, Xaprychor’s tone regained some of its solemnity. “The surface world… I must say I have not shied away from my own… forays… On my own? Don’t be ridiculous. There was work in the capital. It was done by willing volunteers of the Land Invasion Unit… Their armor proved strong enough for brief excursions. I have only bettered the efficiency of their water reserves with the tests they provided… Oh nothing. Not a great lot of news to share… They have fascinating capabilities, some of them, but ultimately, I see not how they would resist us.” His passion for his work invaded his speech, he seemed to display a subtle satisfaction whenever he saw approval in his brother’s eyes. They sampled the food. They sampled the guests. There was much to experience here - anyone unaccustomed to Nymeria would be overwhelmed by the excesses of this day, but not they. Knowing the time he had spent apart from home, Xaprychor did give his brother time for others. Whether to speak, to embrace, to kiss or to merely acknowledge in some way. His patience had been rewarded by this day. A boon he would be willing to share with the deserving, of which many were now here. Members of the royal family, the sons, the daughters and siblings. “The Deepwatch, of course, has been productive as well. In part, your return is celebrated with this wild abandon due to their efforts. Our people are assured no more knives remain at our backs.” Rxychra was not without the attention of women as they drifted across the throne room, though Xaprychor remained relatively indifferent. For a moment he seemed to take note of his throne between the flashing scales of his Nymerian brethren in the room. “All is well, brother mine, you are home, after all… Yet there is something else I have waited for. With your return, we can finally plot our next move… I saved you the liberty of announcing it, brother mine. I know you are eager to step away from excursions and to a more… decisive approach. Your men have not been idle, and neither have our labs. We have nursed to life numerous means of combat and conquest.” He should have been there for a longer time, and should have wanted so much more to be heard by his brother. Yet in the midst of their conversation, muted somewhat by the sound of music from every which corner, Xaprychor was approached. A cloaked figure clad in the more subtle variant of the Deepwatch regalia. The hooded creature leaned over to the young king and whispered. He reacted with a mere nod, despite the magnitude of the news. He should have been by his brother’s side the whole day. He should have listened to every speech at the festivities, seen every competition and sampled the joys of this day to the fullest. Instead, he excused himself at some point and withdrew. A quarry awaited. Rare and still drawing breath, in an enclosure in his lab where water pressure was less punishing, so that the lessers of Nymeria’s dominant species from dry land could survive. If his estimates were correct, his men would have released the new subject into it only recently. Was it still disoriented? Was it already used to the appliances used to keep it alive for Xaprychor’s ends? He pondered and even on his way to the lab to meet his involuntary “guest”, Xaprychor would hear the songs of celebration turn to songs of long-awaited war. Rxychra’s time to announce the Land Invasion has come and hidden beneath Xaprychor’s collected demeanor something pulsed with the sense of a long term plan’s pieces falling into place.
  4. When Fates Align

    The admission of her title caught Caps somewhat off-guard. The slurry of tired, alcohol-tinged thoughts sparked with brief concern. Royalty? Out here? Improbable, but, what if it were true? What would this mean to them? A guard captain, and just an average one, was the highest title they were counting on meeting. And even then - only by proxy, via Deckerd’s smile and the safety of his wagon. This plan wasn’t working out. “It can’t be as bad here as back home… right?” Lumi’s question prevented Caps from going too deep into contemplation, but the soothsayer had no answer to give him. For the time being, following this woman was the only choice they had. As far as choices went, this was one fine gift horse. So they followed along. Throughout the journey, there were questions. Most came from Lumi - those were colored with the amazement one would expect of him at this point. Mila was more stinging - every question was a challenge. As though she was ready to catch Raveena lying. Like if she was really a queen? Where was her crown anyway? Was the city really in the sky? Who put it there and how come it wasn’t falling? What was she doing down here if she had a whole city in the sky? Did she have wings? Has she met other queens? Do other queens even know her? What about princes? Or knights? Died, really? How? Was she dead right now? It seemed these two could have kept her occupied with storytelling for the entire evening. But when Cass finally spoke up, this almost seemed a sign to the two younger urchins to let their big sister have her turn. “We need someplace to stay. If you could point us at one, we could probably manage from there. We are not looking to become a burden, especially if you have a migration to get ready for.” Out of all of them, her mind was perhaps the clearest. Lumi’s was innocent, young and, for some reason, warm, as though an unknown hearth nestling within him. Mila was mischievous, she warranted eyes on her, although she’d probably still find some means of getting her way. Caps appeared fatigued. No, not just that, deliberately fatigued. Like someone constantly forcing himself to remain in a certain state, or instead, perhaps, constantly preventing transition to what could be considered a state of greater clarity. When Raveena asked for the details on Palgard, the whole group exchanged glances. Caps spoke up, with hand raised “Yeah-yeah… I’ll tell you… Not a whole lot t’ tell, but ah… it’s prolly what you’d expect eitherhow...” He took a breath and exhaled, closing his eyes for a moment. “If you could let ‘em stay somewhere for a bit. Ain’t no story they need t’ hear twice.” “We don’t need to just be shooed away you know!” “Don’ be fussy about it… It’s a camp, there’s torches not bein’ thrown atcha… Food too prolly… If y’ got any to spare?” Despite the slight protest from Mila, even she had to admit her hunger. What she didn’t admit, her stomach did for her, with the perfectly human reaction in the form of a growl. Lumi and Cass proved far easier to persuade and soon the three left, leaving Caps there to answer the questions on Palgard. “Can I get somethin’ to drink…? Beer’ll do...” He requested. His mind was cloudy, with many a vision in it. No lies - just never anything beyond what was asked. As if every word he said timidly drew itself from the haze, binding into a chain, forming a sentence, giving an answer. No more, no less. “Palgard’s… notta good place fer now… There’s the whole… torch n’ pitchfork. And tha’s the better way of it. Rifle n’ flares in the worst offit. Honessly, I ain’t no one ta tell y’ how’s it goin’ among ‘em. The sides I mean. Ne’er joined neither none of ‘em… Knew those kids though. Good kids, all… Lil, on the mischeivous side, but eh, who wasn’?” The first laugh he’d attempted since the start of the conversation. It did not come particularly happy. “I was as much on th’ streets as ‘em… Came a time e’en that got dang’rous… They needed out, I knew how...” He coughed, his voice coming out an obviously dry throat. He hit his chest with a fist a couple times, silencing the cough, although perhaps the fist pounding was more of a placebo.
  5. A strange state it was. One of mixed preparedness and a distinct recognition of one’s own comparative inaction. He would have had himself in the deeper levels, the organic floodlights cast over his latest – victim? Subject? Labor? Riddle? Matter of perspective really, but now was no time for either of them. His hands looked like ones that could make music. There was a kind of dexterity to the very build of his long, slender fingers. And yet those hands were not at work. His mind raced with thoughts, ramifications and designs. He was almost uncomfortable not feeling a life pulse under his fingertips, so responsive to his touch, and to his sting, and to his blade. But today was different. Somewhere below, there were many-legged crustaceans scurrying across the walls of labs, in the spots of light from tanks in which beings, things, survived or gestated or simply stored. Somewhere down deep were rooms, flooded but ready to be drained again, to clear space for things that could not breathe submerged, and a slab waited, with restraints to keep them from squirming. But he was not there. Today was an exception. One of the few things that warranted an interruption of his labor, a pause in his designs. Urged by the long-awaited arrival, he had ascended here. Finally his brother was returning. Here in one of the hallways adjacent to the throne room and far from where his work awaited, the King in the Deep glided across the floor, followed by a small retinue. - Does my liege wish to meet his brother in the Throne Room? – One of them asked, leveling with the younger King. - No. We enter the Throne Room together. He deserves my welcome, not the sight of me reclining in my throne upon his arrival. – Water carried sounds differently. Nymerian language was suited for it. His speech was surprisingly soothing. There had been rumors that he could sound no less enticing than a Psyren. Also there had been rumors that he may have sired them. The first was conjecture and the latter was glaringly false. Even the younger of the two kings predated the oldest Psyrens, yet, to his remorse, he was not the originator of the Psyrens’ impressive skill. He was unmistakably his brother’s flesh and blood, yet distinct. Less muscle, more grace. Less scarring, more regal bearing. Less open smile, yet so much more scrutiny in those eyes of the same silver. And beyond that, there was more. Even his clothing seemed to blend into his body, making it hard to tell if he was indeed covered or not. Where his kind had evolved, he reaped the fruit of centuries, perfected it and made it part of himself. The changes were subtle. There was an art to seamlessly modifying himself without turning into a blatantly different looking creature. In a fashion those beyond the castle were starting to imitate, glowing bacteria underneath the upper layer of his skin covered him in tiny spots, glistening like stars. Where most would opt for tattoos, Xaprychor instead had his skin adapt a flowing pattern of dark pigmentation, accentuating muscles and joints and creating a dark backdrop for the glowing pigments. But he kept his face clear, as though for the sovereign’s familiar visage to remain immediately recognizable to the people. Although, who could tell what more had been changed about him? - And your escort, sire? - Shall be stationed here and await our return. – There was something chilling about the fact that even repetitive questions wouldn’t cause a hitch in Xaprychor Alrandwe di Firdana’s even tone. He was the one who could praise a warrior, condemn a criminal and make a stinging retort to an unruly courtier all in the exact same manner of tone. Yet those on the receiving end would end up elevated in the first case, doomed in the second and shamed into bitter silence in the third. There was also a hidden falsehood to his refusal of an escort. What some perceived as arrogant refusal to be accompanied, Xaprychor himself viewed as an acceptable test to the camouflage developed and implanted in his lab. Then again, perhaps even this time hidden escort would be unwarranted. He was, in a fashion he himself acknowledged as completely irrational, strangely eager to demonstrate to his brother his findings and creations. But to do so by flaunting a stealthy escort as though plotting an assassination would be far too vulgar an act for their reunion. And yet, he had to admit, to test the camouflage against one of the royal bloodline, would be a worthy test. - Another day. – He uttered, as though to put an audible full stop to this train of thought. - My liege? - Nothing… – He waved off the retinue and they each floated aside, leaving him to his thoughts. It seemed ridiculous, yet Xaprychor was realizing more and more that he was anxious. Would his brother admire his work? Would he see how the court dancers now shimmer with brighter colors? How some have veil-like fins, rivaling the mantles of surface kings? How his Land Invasion Unit was outfitted with armor that embraces them like a second skin and turns them to armored monsters to counter any army? Would the iridescent shimmer of the mother-of-pearl in the palace please him after having basked in the long lost sunlight above the waves? Would he know his brother toiled, and hunted down the dissenters, and held the kingdom in line for a decade alongside the rest of the royal family? And wouldn’t we tell him about the dreams of our Old Adversary and reminisce of the ink-black blood flooding our lungs and forcing us into a long rest? He paused and turned his head. By now he had floated into the throne room. Servants flitted about, preparing for the festivities within and without. And behind them all was the throne. The skull. A small fish floated into one of the many empty eye sockets. It never came out again. For some reason Xaprychor couldn’t place, the fish seemed distinctly ugly to him. He smirked. This throne was a symbol of their glory. A thing thought beyond death struck dead by him and his brother. And from its fall came Nymeria, a people born out of intended slavery and grown into a mighty Kingdom that soon all will see. With his mind filled with anticipation that almost threatened to spill into a smile, the young King floated through the main gates. It was time to see his brother.
  6. When Fates Align

    It was clear from the moment the guards found them when inspecting the wagon that things were no longer going to go smoothly. Caps could see the irony, although his form of appreciation of said irony was more akin to cursing repeatedly in his mind. A soothsayer failing to see the peril of their road. A failure to predict that this would happen. Curses. Yet, something felt off. As if for all the imposing nature of the guards lining them up, they felt like minor, irrelevant figures to the situation at hand. As if these people barring entry to the city just would not decide a thing about the fates of both him and the kids. It was not clear enough to formulate any words of comfort for at least Lumi. The two girls seemed to be taking the situation far better by comparison. Mila due to having been caught in the midst of various mischief enough times not to find this case particularly jarring. Still, their ragtag bunch could stand the girl not aggravating the guards. Cass, perhaps, too had gone through experiences that had strengthened her character enough not to bend under the pressure. Looking at her with a sideways glance, Caps was not sure just why with a big sister like her there was even a point to dragging himself along for the ride. It was a shame there had not been time to toss more bottle caps for a prediction. Else, he would have perhaps foreseen some of what happened next. The two women that approached were clearly of a high station and it wasn’t just the harsh tone of one of them. This kind of unrestrained application of force and… encouraging speech must have been accompanied by a rank high enough to withstand potential repercussions. Feeling the guards were sufficiently distracted by the need to stand at attention to not mind some more movement from the refugees, Caps put a hand on Lumi’s shoulder. Between the initial shock and the tall woman screaming, the boy shuddered and wheeled around, almost as though he might have suspected a guard had stepped behind him for an ambush. Caps mustered a slight nod, to which Lumi sheepishly nodded back, even suddenly realizing he had been crying and promptly smothering tears across his face with the back of his palm. It was probably not a big improvement to his appearance, but, with some effort, he slowed down his sobs. Still, he stood just a bit closer to Caps throughout the rest of the scene. This brief exchange happened just in time for the other woman to approach them. She spoke, she examined them thoughtfully, and the scrutiny, though not entirely pleasant under the circumstances, was also more nuanced than whatever the guards could have thought of. “Some saint. It’s just a big stone oaf…” Predictably, Mila was the one to respond to the woman’s mostly rhetorical question, though only quietly and only speaking after her Grace had walked past her. Just then, the guards were questioned once again. Predator’s Keep was fully aware of Palgard’s strife, which was to be expected. Exactly how open they would be to refugees from said strife was the other, less obvious question. This was their opportunity to figure that out. Perhaps they wouldn’t be turned away after all. Perhaps these two or precisely this one was the decisive factor in them getting through this situation. Caps, being the clear eldest of the group, was about to respond to her questions, at least partially, since, truth be told, he had little idea just how long they’d been cooped up in the wagon, when the commotion continued with another stowaway. Caps never did wonder if they were the only ones with the bright idea of trying to get smuggled into Predator’s Keep. The stranger the guards led out of another one of the wagons provided a visual confirmation. He was stopped abruptly, even though he had apparently recognized the woman responsible for their… salvation? More reasonable treatment? Delay to them being deported? And the language she and the man who had stopped the other stowaway. Greevios? What language was that? With the situation once again taken out of their hands (but then, was it ever there to begin with?), Caps saw little choice but to wait things out. Regardless of the relation between this stowaway and the woman, they were being invited along. This, in a way, did count as getting into Predator’s Keep. They were also promised food. “Really…?” Lumi asked, a near perfect mixture of hope and disbelief. “Unless they poison i…-Ow!” This time Mila was cut off with a slight nudge with Cass’ elbow. The three orphans and the soothsayer with the aching head followed the more powerful people along. And hopefully it would end in time for Caps to get a drink. @Avvercus @Deus Ex Aizen
  7. When Fates Align

    “Uncle Caps…? Uncle Caps?” A small voice called to him under the hum of the engine giving motion to the wheels somewhere under the floor. The room, or rather compartment they were in, rocked slightly as they passed uneven terrain. Here and there were roped boxes and bundles of goods. As he so often did, he felt an aftertaste of booze in his mouth and a slight chill, forcing him to huddle in his jacket. A futile attempt – the tattered fabric was rough and poorly insulated, and chances were the cold was not even due to the room’s actual temperature. “Uncle Caps?” The voice repeated with the same questioning tone. It sounded almost apologetic, though for what the man could not be certain. Hours ago, hours, which by now, he assumed, may have coiled together and fused into the stretch of time some would take for an entire day, give-or-take the extra duration that would be taken up by sleep, they had boarded this wagon. Magic-propelled as most on this continent were, it was owned by someone willing not to ask much, and more importantly not to ask for much. Considering his price-range being somewhere in the vicinity of the high-end of nothing the latter was imperative. They had boarded this wagon. They? Him and… “Uncle Caps!” A tug on the edge of his sleeve, the small voice trying to speak up louder, the merciless realization that there was no more slumber – he was waking. He was waking to find someone here in this wagon. Right. It really wasn’t just him. A small child retracted a skinny hand from the edge of Caps’ sleeve and looked at him with big bright eyes, holding his hand to his chest as though the now woken soothsayer could grab it as payment for the offense. “Wha…? We ‘ere yet?” The man mumbled, slowly unfurling from his huddled position. “We’re still on the road… Mister Deck Card said it’ll still be a little while…” “He’s Deckerd, lad…” Caps corrected in as amiable a tone as he could muster against the dryness of his mouth. The child still held his hand close to himself, so Caps figured he needed to make a better effort. Leaning to the side, he examined the dimly-lit room. The boy looking at him was not the only other passenger. Two more were in the corner, or three more, depending on your perspective - namely if a backpack resembling an imp-like creature with an exaggerated large head would deserve mention during a headcount. “Cass and Mila are still asleep…” The boy spoke, perhaps noticing where Caps was looking and choosing to comment. The old man nodded. Perhaps he should have given the boy a pat on the head or something of the sort. But with the youngster looking at him almost as though Caps were a dragon he just woke, perhaps such a gesture would be a poor choice. Careful conversation was a better course of action for this hungover dragon to take, so Caps patiently addressed the boy. “So what’s it y’want, Lumi?” Hearing his name, the boy perked up. “Could you… do that trick with the bottle cap again?” “… What?” “You know…” Lumi reached behind his own ear, brushing fingers against dry, straw-like hair before opening his palm like something was in it. His palm was empty, but the gesture was clearly-enough a reenactment of the “coin from behind the ear” trick. Or, bottle cap, in this particular case. “Really, kid?” Caps responded, to a slight sulk from the boy before him. A moment of silence later, the man shifted slightly, eliciting a grunt. His back was sore after sleeping against a hard box. Before Lumi could muster the courage to look up at Caps and ask for the trick again, the man waved an empty hand in front of the boy’s eyes. Almost immediately the child’s careful curiosity culminated in an intent stare. Caps took his time to make a few more motions, lacking the flair of a stage magician and resembling more of an attempt to wave off a pesky fly. Still, he ended up reaching forward as though to pluck something off the tip of Lumi’s nose, then opened his greasy palm to reveal a worn bottle-cap. To Lumi, the clumsy reenactment of the oldest trick in the book served as a source of astounded glee. Then again, neither he nor his peers napping in the corner had much experience that could make them connoisseurs. The boy let out his breath once he’d stilled his excitement enough not to wake his companions. “What’s on it?” He asked in a hushed tone that almost let the engine noises drown out his voice completely. “Hrm… Got a light?” The boy seemed hesitant, but curiosity made for powerful motivation. He cupped his hands to his chest and whispered something. This time the engine’s hum prevailed completely, though Caps knew better than to press either way. Sometimes more than adults, children had secrets they held dear and believed in. And these three were as far from an exception as could possibly be. Gingerly, carefully as though cradling a sparrow in his palms, Lumi opened them. In his hands was a tiny flame, like the smallest candle-light glowing with nary a wick. With just as much care, the boy held the tiny flame over the bottle cap. Both he and Caps looked at it and, as one, saw the image. The bottle cap was worn and weathered, but what could be made out was the image of a locked gate. Suddenly the wagon stopped, causing the boxes to rattle and jerking the bottle cap out of Caps’ hand. It bounced across the floor and rolled underneath one of the boxes. Lumi gasped and cradled his tiny flame close to his chest, even hunching his whole body over it, fearful for its life. The other two passengers too felt the sudden stop. The older girl was wide awake first, as though she could spring to action were it not for the constraints of their cramped accommodation. Held in her arms, the other girl looked around frantically as though the stored cargo in their wagon could suddenly leap at them now. A small window slid open above them and in looked the owner of the wagon. “You sit tight. Find some tarp to cover yourselves with. It’s an inspection. They’re not even that careful at it. Tarp. Cover. Sit tight. Quiet.” The last assortment of words was practically hissed disparately, but there was little room to misinterpret. Even so, Caps couldn’t help but feel Deckerd sounded more concerned by this inspection than he had when assuring him the journey to Predator’s Keep would go without a hitch. The tension in the cargo compartment as they covered themselves up with tarp and hid among the crates was almost tangible. Caps felt if he held his breath, he would hear not only his own heartbeat, but a trio of smaller ones somewhere close. And then all at once, all four heartbeats skipped their beats when the tarp was yanked off them and sharp light assaulted their eyes. The guards were fairly unceremonious. To be fair, the ragged man and three urchins seemed rather undeserving of ceremony. They were pulled out of the wagon, in the case of the children they were literally lifted and passed along. Soon all four were lined-up outside their wagon. The vehicle barred their way behind their backs and a trio of guards – their front. Behind them, two more questioned Deckerd, who flailed his arms and walked back and forth from one guardsman to the other with such intensity his long coat flared in the wind. “I have no idea who they are I tell you! Stowaways! You know how Palgard is!” The stowaways themselves were not being questioned, at least not for now. Lined up all together and out of the dark, they were finally exposed with all their distinctions. Caps of course remained the tallest and the obvious elder. Next to Caps Lumi sobbed quietly, a lanky boy no older than 13 with pants rolled up past his skinny knees, with soot-stains on his pale skin and a shirt with a row of disparate buttons and some stitching all over. Mila, the younger pony-tailed teen of the two girls, blew a raspberry at one of the guards. She wore torn jeans and a dusty cardigan over a simple white top. On her back was an imp-shaped backpack, facing the wagon with an ever-present grin. Cass, every bit the big sister the two younger urchins took her for, stood stoic with a quiet defiance in her eyes. She had something of a young adult in her, though her age was somewhat difficult to determine. With hair styled into a sort of lengthier pixie-cut, wearing a leather jacket and, somewhat strangely, a black newsboy cap hanging on the belt of her patched jeans, she almost seemed as either the more groomed, or just the better scavenger of the group. With Deckerd still trying to disassociate himself from his passengers and no interrogation coming just yet, Caps found himself struggling between an intense headache and the lingering image of the locked gate from the bottle cap left somewhere in the wagon.
  8. In Need of a Drink [artifact]

    True to his word, Caps was tired and devoted utterly to the consumption of the drink. Ruiser actually had to pick up his hand, which was calloused but so inert as to be completely limp in the knight's grasp. The coin found its way between his fingers and the man looked at it for a while. It was almost as though to him it seemed like another bottle cap to read, yet his fatigue left him unable to discern it. So he continued to glance unfocused at the coin, then once again raised the bottle to his lips. Finally, as a response to Ruiser's thanks, he nodded and waved vaguely with his bottle. "Yeh... Hope it does ye well, what you've heard 'ere." Another gulp from the bottle. The beer is more than halfway gone from its vessel, the bearded man follows Ruiser with his eyes as he leaves. "Tenth." He calls as the knight is almost out of the alleyway. "Dragons fly pretty fast... Could do good to someone whose time's runnin' out..." The words come out of nowhere and are not quite as full of the imposing certainty he'd displayed while soothsaying in this same alley by candle-light. He follows up with nothing more, and the knight is free to go. Just as Caps was now free to dose off in the empty alley till sunrise and beyond.
  9. In Need of a Drink [artifact]

    The man continued to speak for a while, and to roll the bottle caps. Like coins of no worth, they bounced across the inscribed cloth and drew strange patterns. Circles, spirals, winding branches. At certain points it would almost seem like the scene was making either Caps or perhaps his onlooker delirious. How else could he describe the change in Caps' tone and the puzzling statements he would make? How else could he explain why at times it seemed as though the caps split mid-roll, spread so strangely across the square of fabric, danced and spun and lingered on their edges for too long. No, not too long - just enough to be seen. Enough to signify. "A man who comes armed..." Caps spoke firmly, and a cap with the symbol of a black sword, "Sable Blade Stout" rolled by. It danced just as Ruiser was looking at it, then fell upside-down, hiding the sword. "... Will find no friend in his steel." "Another thirsts..." A bottlecap with a chalice on it rolled by, past a field of crudely drawn skulls, bounced off an image of multiple dog-heads and to the image of a full, ripe fruit. "... Not for blood. Not for gold. An object of a quarrel. Looking for something else. Looking as he drifts apart from a pack. Either his pack or perhaps never his at all." "Of course there are many ways to explain this... What does a black blade mean to you? What does it mean to another? What would it mean to someone cut down by it? Were you a hero to them? A monster to them? A protector? A conqueror? Nevermind. This one's upside-down now - the blade doesn't work. The blade doesn't solve this!" He spoke, he answered more questions. Never an exact answer, but sometimes a nod or a nudge towards answers Ruiser had perhaps considered himself, but didn't exactly confirm. The second bottle Ruiser had given Caps stood on one corner of the cloth, keeping it spread across the cobblestone. The man who had so eagerly gulped down the contents of a bottle previously didn't even seem to acknowledge the alcohol filling the other one. Candle-light glistened in droplets of condensation on the murky glass. But it shone bright as coals in the eyes of the soothsayer. As Ruiser mentioned there was something else, Caps flung another cap almost at the same time. It let out a dull clink, hitting one of its twins - the one with the chalice. It bounced off and continued on its path. Ruiser would be able to make out the image and brand before he even finished his question. The cap was inscribed with the head of a dragon. "This one knew. The one after the treasure. Didn't know it was yours, but knew the heat and took the burn. Another hallmark of his quest. Quest you stood in the way of." The bearded man traced his neck, as though suddenly stricken by heat and trying to make room for air. Yet, eerily, strangely, in doing so he traced the exact part of his dirty skin where the hunter fighting Ruiser had a burn, one that perhaps the knight had not immediately given attention to. The wax of several candles had melted into puddles with the weakly flickering wicks still struggling not to suffocate their tiny specs of flame. Caps looked through the dimming light. "More things are found at the bottom of this cup... this chalice, than you may know. Even friends. But think. What's the chalice for? Why did you take it? And why now do you keep it?" A piercing gaze of his eyes, but the flames were dimming and so was the zeal of the homeless soothsayer. He lowered his head, seeming suddenly fatigued, his eyes soon hidden under messy strands of hair, oily with sweat. "I'm tired..." He mouthed, reaching at last for the last bottle of beer and taking a slow, lengthy gulp. "Ye' bout done now, righ'? Tha's good 'nuff for one evenin'... Nothing more no caps'll tell ya..." He was slurring his words again, a completely different man from the moment ago when he was tossing his bottle caps and giving his warnings. He sat there then, bottle in one hand, sluggishly gathering his bottle caps and gingerly folding the cloth band. He stored it in his pocket, patting it lightly. From then, his attention was on the bottle of beer alone. Somewhere on the roofs a small head, probably a street urchin's, hid quickly behind the edge of the roof before the grown-ups could notice them snooping. Caps paid it no mind, either used to the occasional uninvited audience. Or perhaps knowing it to be the very prophecy of the bottle caps beginning to play out through an unwitting orphan's curiosity...
  10. In Need of a Drink [artifact]

    The candle was too small a source of light to truly take in the entire pattern. The brighter spot of light helped make out childish imitations of people, of buildings, of beasts most artists had hopefully only heard of in tales rather than lived to see. There were portrayals of skulls, if that is what the shapes resembling upside-down gourds with two large circles for eyes and a triangle for a nose represented. There were cats and rats, mostly possible to tell apart due to the difference in size rather than the artist's talent. More difficult to make out initially, but possible now that Ruiser bothered to examine the wall closer, were occasional elements drawn in pale yet unmistakably colored pigments. Those served to draw wings, clouds, clumsy collections of letters. Perhaps during the day this grand tapestry would be easier to take in. Throughout the brief recollection of Ruiser's tale, Caps would let out an occasional grunt. A sound that, perhaps, was supposed to signify that the man was still listening to him. Were it not for this dubious courtesy, it would appear the homeless man was busy doing something entirely of his own, unrelated to either his visitor or the questions he had. It was most alike to a man setting up for a game of chess or checkers. He sat down, he carefully removed the bandana from his neck and unfolded it. He placed it down on the cobblestones, then started reaching around for items to pin it down. A rock for one corner. One of the candles set in a cracked and wax-stained saucer for another. As the flickering flame was drawn closer to the bandana, it, along with its other brethren Caps had lit, illuminated the patterns on it. The bandana was certainly strange - a frayed yet decisively square piece of fabric, and the patterns on it were images that seemingly had been deliberately stained onto its surface. There was no artistry to it, but the intricacies of the lines, the circles and the cryptic images betrayed a definite purpose. Caps reached to the right, fumbled slightly, almost sprawling on his side at one point, but soon drew back with a large rusted rivet in his fingers. Another would-be weight for his bandana. Then he rummaged in his pockets. There was a slight jingle that, were it not for Caps' appearance, one could mistake for that of coins. Instead, he began taking out bottle-caps. Some from an inner pocket, some from an outer, some from a pouch and some simply from whatever crease of fabric it had been tucked away in. "Drink..." He demanded suddenly and looked at Ruiser for the first time since he'd started setting up the scene. "Come on... I saw you brought it..." He still seemed tired, but somehow managed to come across as demanding nonetheless. Regardless, things weren't likely to proceed until he received his drink. He took the bottle, held it by the neck and then with slight pressure from his thumb popped the cap clean off. It spun through the air. Caps took the first swig just as it fell squarely in the middle of the spread out stained cloth and started bouncing. He took another, almost forcefully, as the cap rolled across the patterned fabric. Finally it stopped, and on top of the cap was a slightly ornamented number "10". No doubt nothing but the brand of the brewery? Caps lowered the bottle to the last unoccupied corner of his bandana, then lifted his eyes from the bottlecap with the number. He spoke and there was a strange certainty in his tone. For one - he was no longer drunkedly drawing out his words. "What did you take from that cave, Tenth?"
  11. In Need of a Drink [artifact]

    For an ambusher, the man seemed far too slow. Every turn of the head, every slight adjustment in the seat. Almost so slow as to suggest listening carefully would let Ruiser hear the sound of Caps' eyeballs rolling every time he turned his glance from one thing to the other. As he listened to his early morning visitor speak, at least nearer to the end of the speech, where the purpose of the visit was being revealed, he did so with a strangely deliberate stare. The kind a drunken man directs at an object they aren't sure was there. When Ruiser produced the bottle, Caps wasn't so much excited, impressed or even underwhelmed by the particular brand of liquor. He just reached for it with a casual gesture, as if it were simply standing on the shelf. But with the bottle out of reach, his hand swung through vacant air and returned to its owner empty, eliciting from him a slight grunt of disappointment. "Yeah... Yeah, fine..." He droned, and got up from the seat, nearly stumbling into the aisle but supporting himself against a neighboring seat's back. Whether this was all just to follow the liquor or to actually respond to the man's request was anyone's guess. He walked forward with large steps, breaching the protective distance between himself and Ruiser, but soon stumbling past him and to the door. Before he could leave alone, he looked over his shoulder with a pause. "Well, go on then... Le's us find a better place for it..." For a guide he did not seem the most agile, his broad gait not matching the lingering disorientation either from the late hour or from regularly imbibing alcohol. Despite that, he did seem to have a direction, away from the street cluttered with vehicle debris, but down streets most would still not traverse at this hour. Despite the apparent perils of such a trek, they encountered no resistance. They didn't encounter a lot of people either. A couple of still-awake street vagrants greeted Caps as he passed them by, then returned to huddling around a fire set in what seemed to be an ancient artillery shell case big enough to replace a drum some others would have used. A passer-by in coat decent enough to suggest having a home to go to recoiled to a wall as Caps moved past him, glanced incredulously at Ruiser for following the homeless man, then hurried on, seemingly regretting taking a shortcut through the slums to get wherever he was going. Finally they reached a cobblestone alley and Caps gestured with a swing of the arm, broad like a rag doll's, for Ruiser to follow him there. A moment after Caps stepped into the shadows he seemed to almost disappear. There was a sound of rummaging, then several quick scrapes of a match against the striking strip. What began with a single flickering flame soon split into several candle-lights. Slowly they cast their illumination on more and more parts of the dead-end valley. They illuminated a makeshift tent of ragged tarp. They illuminated the walls on which children must have painted with coal judging by the caricatural shapes. In this dim light they seemed strangely macabre, perhaps from blending with shadows. They were perfectly innocuous by day. Hopefully. With a few passable light sources lit and with both of them at the place Caps had insisted on reaching, he sat down outside of the tent. Most candles were on the ground, within arm's reach from where he sat. Low enough to make every object and the man himself stretch upwards into a shadow. "Well go on. What else? Wha' man you wanna know 'bout? Who he's is to ya?" Caps asked and, near simultaneously, pointed at the spot across from himself. It wasn't a very broad alley, so Ruiser would probably have to stand or squat by the opposite wall.
  12. In Need of a Drink [artifact]

    The people encountered throughout the search for Caps were a varied lot. One would even refer to them as "colorful", were it not for the muted and faded colors of the scrounged, the scavenged and the carefully preserved, perhaps from a better life. Young, old, some with blunt and simplistic speech, others betraying a past eloquence. But each had something to say on the man in question, although different things each. Some grumbled something about hexes and witchery, some respectfully praised, some, with suspicion, asked why the man known as Caps was being looked for. Regardless, they would point to a variety of places eventually. The one display of direction was given by a woman with greasy stains on her face as though she'd been digging around in the abandoned vehicles. It was a dismissive wave of her hand at the end of which was indeed the very man in a jacket with a strange bandana, this time around tied around his neck. The smell of alcohol was easy to sense from him, although, to his credit, his outfit lacked any of the more embarrassing stains one would expect to accompany a drunk such as he. He was sitting inside a vehicle that at one point must have been used in the public transportation. Now it was like a row of seats, of which he was slumped against the back of one which sported the most of its leather covering. He turned his head slowly, directing not so much his eyes which were still staring at the sky where the vehicle's roof used to be, but his ear at the man who came here. It wasn't until he was spoken to that he devoted his attention to the visitor. "How early is it...?" He asked with a squint, his head somewhat sideways as he eyed his visitor, examined him. He slurred his words slightly when he spoke, but not to the point of being incoherent. It was a good thing as leaning closer to hear his voice could make one more vulnerable to the smell of his booze-tinged breath. It almost seemed as though Caps was trying to figure out whether the man was real or not. Caps himself was not quite as old as the rumors would suggest. He was perhaps in his forties, the evaluation made more difficult by skin that perhaps looked more wrinkly with the dust staining it, and the beard that served to add more to the confusion. Granted it was not the age of the man that mattered. It was the skill. Still, beyond his distinctive bandana, the creases on which for now prevented a more careful observation of the patterns on it, he looked no different from some of the other vagrants in the street. He waited for the question about the time of the day to be answered, then nodded slowly. "Right... right... that early..." And he paused, staring into the back of a passenger seat in front of the one he was occupying. Just when it seemed he had completely dismissed the stranger's question, he spoke up again, looking up at the man who disturbed him, this time straight at him with both eyes. "Yeah. Caps' me... What's you want to know?"
  13. Can I list Caps in the "utility character" list I'm putting together?: 


    1. Howlykin


      Yes, absolutely! He's quite fitting as a Utility character ^^

  14. Hello there, your friendly newbie Howlykin speaking! I have finally submitted a complete profile for my character, Caps, to the Profile Database. What he needs now, is a story to become part of. Now you might be wondering "Caps? I've never heard of this strangely-named fellow! What is he about?" Well, friends, aside from what you'll see in the profile linked above, you should know the following: Caps can be your character's plot-device! As a soothsayer, Caps is liable to provide a vital piece of information to your character concerning a quest, aspiration or a way out of a nagging issue. The way it'll work is we'll discuss OOC with you (and/or any other involved players) where you want to steer your story, and we will come up with a "prophecy" together that will suitably affect your progression. So if your character's waiting for that sign of fate - a homeless soothsayer just might have all the sign-language you need. Caps aids fellow homeless! If your character is homeless or you'd like to play a character interacting with various types of the downtrodden, Caps, being homeless, is entirely available to take part in your detective or story-based RP that focuses on what's happening in the poorer districts of a city. He can also guide you through said parts of the city, which would make for extra interaction and set up connections that can be revisited in future RPs. Caps has a troubled past! Specifically, he supposedly played part in an innocent village (Or city. That's not specified intentionally) being bombed to oblivion. So if in your character's backstory somebody in power really, REALLY wanted to get rid of you and would trick a military pilot into bombing an innocent village (or city) to achieve it - you might just be the person from his past! Drop me a line and we'll see if our characters' respective backstories click together well. Caps was once part of a sinister military project! If your character is involved in secretly developing super-soldiers, researching lost military programs, or is generally prone to exploring very, very shady and very hidden old archives, they might just know some extra bits on what Caps really was like in his prime. This is a crucial plot-point, so please drop me a message to brainstorm this kind of connection in advance. Caps is my first character on Valucre! While I'm not new to roleplaying in general, I am new to roleplaying on Valucre! So I welcome all feedback, positive and negative, on this first one of my characters. If you have an opinion and want me to hear it, message me on here or on Discord, where I am known as Howlykin just as I am on here. This has been your friendly newbie, Howlykin. Stay tuned!
  15. Birth Name: Unknown Legal Name: Unknown Alias: Caps Alignment: Neutral Homeless Personality: Varies depending on state of inebriation Appearance: True Age: 42 Apparent Age: 40-s Race: Assumed to be human Height: 176 cm Weight: 200 lbs Skin Color: Slightly tanned Eyes: Blue Hair Color: Light-brown Hair Style: Messy mid-length with untended facial hair Build: Of stocky build, left in disrepair due to recent years spent living on the streets Tattoo: Unknown Dominant Hand: Right Biographical Information Date of Birth: Unknown City of Birth: Unknown Hobbies: Drinking, loitering, bottlecap and coin tricks, other hobbies unknown Current Occupation: Homeless soothsayer Associations: Local urchins and the impoverished Current Location: Slums of Palgard Abilities and skills Soothsaying The skill that earns Caps the overwhelming majority of his reputation is his abilities as a soothsayer. It is the very reason he is sought out among the other homeless in the street, and why said homeless direct others to him. The clarity of his prophecies tends to vary, but have invariably come true according to clients and, in rare cases, witnesses of the events unfolding. Precognition Demonstrated in rare cases when Caps was witnessed about to face any danger. Some dissuade rumors of his precognition, blaming it on sheer luck. But the way he had dodged ongoing traffic, a rare collapsing building and on an isolated occasion – an attempted mugging, makes even the skeptics wonder. Martial Training Limited to the aforementioned isolated case of an attempted mugging, Caps had not only swayed out of the way of blows with suspicious precision, but also managed to disarm his attacker. Though he had only held the knife for a mere couple of minutes, his grip was clearly that of a person trained in holding a weapon. The full extent of this skill is uknown. Inventory - Ornamented bandana (alternatively worn as a neckerchief). An attribute of his most frequent method of soothsaying; - Handful of bottle caps. Frequently traded or otherwise replaced with new ones; - Worn jacket. Vaguely military. No insignias remaining. Attempts to trace back to a uniform pattern inconclusive; - Bottle. Beer or stronger liquor when available. Easily and frequently discarded for a new one; Public Knowledge There's word on the street that a man in the city slums knows how to predict fate. He's not in a salon or a carefully-draped room with a crystal ball. In fact he is more often found slumped in a corner where those left without a home nestle. It is there that he dwells, dirty, reeking of alcohol and the street. With an unruly mop of light-brown and gray hair, and an even unrulier beard, yellowish from bear spilled on it. Dressed in whatever rags he found or used to own, drab, torn, patched all over, often accompanied with a heavy woven cloak. It is out in the very streets that a client willing to give him enough for his next drink could receive eerily poignant advice on the future. Time passes and the mysterious soothsayer rolling bottlecaps in some alleys across an ornamented handkerchief continues to earn his bread. Many laugh at the stories, but some say when soothsaying, it’s as though he’s a different person. Voice clear, powerful, gaze piercing as though no secret could escape his scrutiny, no twist or change. Friend of urchins, they call him. Drunken wiseman, some say. And rarely, very rarely, some people in the street cozying up by a fire lit in a barrel would say: "Wha', him? Eh, some kinda military used ta be. Now just... here. Drinking his arse off... Tells good fortunes though, that guy… Caps." You’d think he would be dead or dragged away for vagrancy if not his unlicensed practice of strange magic. Yet for some reason they don’t come after him - the guards who might drag him in for being an unlicensed practitioner. As though someone, somehow, might need him to stay around. Some have asked the other vagrants why they hadn’t ratted him out. Invariably, save of course for the fact that many in his vicinity are no more innocent than he is, they claim he pulls his weight enough to earn safe haven. They say other pariahs sometimes receive advice from him. Some of the hovels, they claim, were patched by him in his more sober moments, while he’s at his most quiet and seeking distractions other than those found at the bottom of a bottle. “Does nobody harm. Rolls his caps, earns his keep. Ne’er stole nor broke nothin’. Caps we call him…” And he doesn’t ask nor give any other name. “Caps” is what the other homeless know him as, and the name to which they refer any would-be seekers of hints of their future. “Caps” is also what the urchins call him, asking him for a nursery rhyme, or “Uncle Caps” when offering to trade an especially shiny bottlecap. Some say “Caps” is for the bottlecaps. While others claim “Caps”, in his “some kinda military”, was no less than a “Cap’n”. A claim he does nothing to sway in either direction. And why would he need to? After all, those who come to him do so for their fortunes, rather than to discover his. Limited Knowledge Studying the claims of this man’s origin and enterprise is as uncertain a task as it is incredibly vexing. No records, nothing but words of mouth, oft coming from mouths lacking teeth, hygiene or occasionally even clarity of mind. Caps himself does nothing to help either. When the man’s sober he’s too reclusive. When the man’s drunk, well, suffice to say no reliable information can be gleaned from him then. Never mind the last investigator coming back shaken by dire predictions and cryptic guidances that he felt inclined to follow to the letter. Never mind the fact those guidances served to secure him against a particularly unpleasant ploy by a dishonest colleague that could have cost him his career. So what if his drunken predictions come true? Rather than the future, it’d help if Caps for once would gaze with such clarity into the past and bring something out to the light. What can be said is borne of only the most careful, incessant observation. The garb? It’s patched and worn, but its origin seems to be military enough to support him being from “some kinda military”. It’s too hard to say if it ever was standard issue, specialized for some regiment, or even just stylized to follow a military-style fad then thrown out and picked up by that booze hound. Sure, there are many ways he could end up in that attire, and it’s not exactly feasible to come lifting a sleeping drunkard’s cloak just to get a better look. Now once, just once, witnesses saw a thug attempt to attack him with a knife. You’d think a wreck barely able to stand on his two feet would end up bleeding on the cobblestones in seconds, but no, that he did not. In fact “Uncle Caps”, after swaying, as if from his inebriation, ended up narrowly dodging both clumsy swings, then grabbed his attacker and left him with a broken arm, the knife ending up in the hands of the defender. It’s the way he held the knife, it did not connect. He knew how to hold it far better than his attacker did. Grip neither too loose, nor too tense - ready, flexible, trained. Trained! From where in the world would this drunk have this training? There is more to him, but he wouldn’t tell. Whether that’s ground to approach him? Far from a certain decision. It is our office’s conclusion that for as long as he does no harm, he’s as close to a law-abiding citizen as can be expected of a homeless oddball. - Inspector Karan Valsis. Palgard Department of FIST Lost Knowledge In Terrenus military, there have been various efforts made to form regiments possessing a unique edge over the competition. Far from the worst attempt was the program that involved drafting a series of recruits with a natural gift for precognition. Given training and instruction, particularly in piloting a variety of vehicles both specialized and general issue, enough cadets have graduated to warrant the formation of a single clandestine unit. Their machines were specifically constructed and optimized for above average maneuverability - a trait that the pilots, capable of predictively analyzing enemy flight or attack patterns, utilized with horrific efficiency. One need only imagine a pilot capable of outmaneuvering an opponent both by virtue of the machine, and that of knowing in advance where an opening would present itself. There are few who would be able to detail the full extent of their capabilities, fewer still would be able to replicate the technology they had been using. Were the archives still intact, there would be many facts both impressive and eerily threatening. Standard weapons and piloting training aside, two unique traits stood out compared to the others: · The main skill of the pilots, to varying extent, was their precognition. At the peak of their concentration, achieved through a combination of training, meditative practices, and through spell-laced drugs imbibed at regular intervals, the pilots would be constantly aware of all movements in their immediate vicinity up to fifteen seconds in the future. · In addition to their training in piloting an impressive array of vehicles, the pilots were also specifically instructed in the arcane principles of engineering. One unique skill borne of this instruction was the direct invocation of spirits aligned with a given machine using select key phrases uttered in an Ancient Terran dialect. Notoriously difficult to master as no phonetic records of the dialect exist, leaving only a few words possible to replicate in present day Terrenus, it nonetheless serves as a “skeleton key” to machines. Bypassing standard procedure, the pilots would invoke the spirits in the machines directly, assuming control. While impressive, the project no longer exists, the reason for this obscured. It is said that the fault lay in the chain of command that, at one point, became compromised, and the orders given to the squadron as a result lead it to casualties and subsequent ruin.