Kenata village. The small Xiadom village on the outskirts of the Kaerul Hills, bordering the Fell Woods. This small enclosure is surrounded on all 4 sides by stone walls, standing nearly 35 feet tall, with a reinforced door made from wooden poles facing the south, along the only route the go by the village. Inside the stone facade are several small buildings, clearly of Xiadomian design, the walls made little more of light wood and paper, with thatched roofs. Many of these homes bear symbols on their outer walls of protection by the House of Yasu. In the center of the small village are 3 larger buildings, The village center and Smithy, the local Inn, for those few travellers that pass by and into the Fell Woods, and the home of the Head of Kenata Village. Few children play in the walkways that have been ground into the soil through continuous foot traffic, and there are several stands located around the village center, selling all sorts of trinkets and common Xiadom food items. In the office of the Head of the Village meets a grouping of six individuals, varying in race and class, seated in wooden chairs around a table, at the head sits the Head of the Village himself, and old Xiadomian with long gray hair and a matching beard, his hands folded and set atop the table as he speaks to the adventurers.
With little noise, Sanroku Ichiyama
raised his head from looking down upon the table. With the clear air of old age coming from his clearly decrepit voice, he spoke to the mixed gathering that surrounded his meeting table, "You have all been called here for a dire calling of need on the part of Kenata village. This village is in a time of need, and with little militia to spare, I have posted notices along several roadsides calling any warriors to come to the aid of my ailing village, and you five are the only ones to respond to my notices and for that, I wish to thank you," he simply concluded, leaving out any reason for them currently being there, he just wanted to make sure the people that were about to do such a large favor for his village were comfortable.
With a slight twitch and flicker of his wings, Akira
sat back in his seat. The room was far too cramped for him, the chair backs were too high for his wings to comfortably fit over the chair back, so he had to strain his muscles to fit his wings around the chair back. With a few quick motions, he used his hand to gently brush a few stray hairs out of his face before finally settling into a place as comfortable as he could find to sit without saying a word.
sat in the chair at her father's side, legs and arms crossed and back straight as she stared at the tabletop. She was here mostly because her father wished to instruct her in the ways of leadership, and felt that experience was the best teacher, but also because she had requested it. Still, the atmosphere was tenser than a bowstring, and as one foot twitched idly while she waited, she wondered about just how much of a learning experience this was going to turn out to be.
watched the old man intently, his hands resting on his knees as he sat, rather uncomfortably, in his chair. Unused to such a scenario, he had reverted to a taciturn character. His katana rested before his feet, sheathed and bound out of respect but, obviously to anyone with experience, very easy to draw from the angle it was set at. His mouth was set in a deep frown, for he was unsure why he'd actually answered this summons; he was unlikely to find the man who'd murdereed his blood brothers in such a remote village. Then again, he was more likely to be able to do so with a full purse, and he was never one to turn away from someone in need.
A strong tigress sat in the chair across from the Kinata elder. Her back was straight and gaze astutely directed to him. Her paws were crossed gently in front of her chest, claws extended. She made note of the others that had answered the summons and silently took them all in. Aiya
twitched her tail as she waited for the meeting to begin.
While waiting for the village chief to speak, Enryich
had been idling away by drumming his gloved fingers on the table and spinning his hat around his other hand. He was mostly oblivious to any tension in the air aside from his own restiveness. He had made several rounds of looking at all the people around the table in turn, his eyes sliding off the pretty Xiadomian lady a bit more quickly than the others. He felt like he stared when he looked at her.
When the chief spoke, he abruptly stopped his fidgeting to listen.
Enryich nodded to the chief's words and spoke quietly. "Them notices weren't what brought me here, but I'll still help you if I can. I've stayed here a month, can't just walk out now you need aid." He stopped for a moment, then, "So, uhm... what was it that you needed us for?"
"Well, as this is true, three of you have made residence here in Kenata village, this bears little in the way of your task. The six of you are here to retrieve a lost shipment of potions that were on their way here from Xiadom. These potions are in high demand in the village, as many of our children have been stricken with a life threatening illness. The small caravan of riders was ambushed by a group of petty criminals who take up residence in the Fell Woods. These bandits go under the cover of similar red cloth masks and call themselves the 'Redclaws of the Fell'," Sanroku
said, nodding his head to mention of the thieves. With that, his lips curled into a smile as he fell back into silent reserve.
's face settled into a deep frown at the mention of the name. Against all reason he had secretly hoped, until he heard that name, that he had somehow magically caught up with Balta's Swords and was about to track down their vagrant leader. However, it seemed he must wait a little longer for that day. Settling his hands on the table as he leaned forward, his armour creaking slightly at the change in stress, he almost whispered, "All well and good, sire," He used the general word out of ignorance, not knowing the proper way to address this person, yet emphasised the man's superior social rank somehow, "and I hate to jump ahead of you, but how many are there? This seems a rather small, if obviously skilled, militia..." His gaze flickered over each of the others in turn, weighing up their different uses in the situation; not an expert on tactics, he yet retained a vestige of the lessons taught to him in his youth.
merely listened to the exchange of conversation. She was one of little words. Her gaze went back to the village leader after the man's inquiry. He had a point. This group sounded larger than hinted if they needed any able-bodied soldier.
"Raiders? Thieves? PESTS!" Ryuse
hunched up in his chair, bringing his knees to his chest, and huffed. His eyes darted from side to side under the wide brim of his straw hat, appraising those gathered at the meeting. Though not much had been said thus far, Ryuse found himself excited and eager for what was to come. He hadn't been in Kenata Village for very long, but he still felt for the children that had fallen ill and had decided that he would do anything in his power to help. "I'll help squash the pests! That's what happens to pests! They get squashed!!" Ryuse quieted himself quickly and looked down at the table. He smiled inwardly, however. He enjoyed playing the fool. Deception, after all, was a powerful weapon.
's face brightened to hear Ryuse's response, "Why thank you, brave Panther. And Sire is such a harsh term. Call me Sanroku," the old man said, shifting his gaze to Tyza, taking a short break to regain some energy, "The group that you will have to retrieve this crate from should be small in numbers, no more than four or five. The Redclaws don't enjoy the company of each other all that well, but they all respond under one man, so depleting one of their smaller groups should come to no trouble for a group of well skilled individuals, as I hope you all are. Your biggest trouble may be accessing their keeps, as they are all placed well into the trees on the Fell woods, and I don't mean just deep within the forest, but into the heights of the trees."
shifted his wings, knowing now he would certainly have to enter the Fell woods. He placed the palm of his left hand on the hilt of his sword, gently applying pressure to the weapon, to add some weight to it so he could feel it there, his eyes shifting around the group that gathered in the hall before speaking up in a low voice that seeming just barely pierced the silence, "I'm Akira Varius, Mage of the winds. We may as well get to know each other if we're going to risk our necks together," He then fell silent again, knowing that the potential of death could weigh heavily on some.
The tigress looked at Akira with amusement. To her, trees would be no issue. "If a scout in the trees is required, my expertise will not be shorthanded." Glancing at Akira, she grabbed her claws together and smirked. "As for introductions. I am known as Aiya." She bowed her head lightly and straightened back up.
"Oh! Oh! I'm Ryuse!" Ryuse
jumped up and waved his hands for a moment before returning to his crouched position. His voice after that was soft, "The sword is my specialty..." The panther tucked his head between his knees and used the brim of his hat as a shield to hide his face. Now he would hear who everyone else was that would be going on this mission.
“Enryich Marsh,” Enryich
said, meeting all available eyes around the table and trying to peer under the brim of Ryuse's hat. Interesting way for a swordsman to behave,
he thought. “Archer and scout.” He tried to doff his hat but then realized it was still covering his other hand, so he instead lifted that hand with a crooked smile.
He'd meant to ask a couple of questions from the mercenary and Sanroku, but let the others finish their introductions.
Kiruthianasis, formerly Akako", said the mercenary, his voice still low, "Sword for hire." There was a hint of the ironic in his tone, belying his once greater heritage. There may have been a hint of bitterness but his face showed nothing of his emotions, hiding his impressions of the others also, though his gaze rested on Enryich for a moment longer than the others, sensing something interesting about the individual.
looked on in minor boredom. Personally, she could care less for aid in a mission. She preferred the solo workings in battle. 'Team effort' was lost on her. Working with others meant the underlying need for trust, something she had given up on. "I can
scout. Though I much prefer the title 'assassin for hire." She eyed Enryich. She gestured an outstretched paw to Sanroku. "If we could continue with the task at hand? What is the time frame we're looking at?"
"Well, fortunatly, we have 3 days before the situation is seeming to become even more grim. The slightly unfortunate fact is that it is nearly a days away from here where the band is suspected to make camp. Also, I'd like to introduce you to my daughter, Eri. She will also be joining you on this mission," Sanroku
sid, motioning gently with his left hand to Eri, who had thus far remained silent through the introductions.
lifted an interested eyebrow at hearing Tyza's name. A Rysallean name? I'll have to ask about that later.
When Aiya spoke, Enryich spread his hands and opened his mouth to tell her that he knew she might well be the better for scouting with her ability to scent. But when she steered them back to the main topic, Enryich closed him mouth and had to hide a smile. He'd grown up with catfolk and was used to solitary tigers. Never show need and never need others,
a friend had described it to him. Very well, they'd decide who scouted which way later. Assassin, though? His light mood was chilled at that.
Enryich nodded to Eri as acknowledgment. He'd expected her to speak her own name, but maybe she had reasons for her silence so far. He spoke to Sanroku. "I can't say I've ever heard of this Redclaw bunch. Do they use druids -that's, mages of any sort, or just the usual swords and bows?" If the Redclaws kept to groups no larger than their own band they should fare well enough. He'd never fought druids, though, and didn't know what to expect if they met any.
Ryuse shifted impatiently in his chair. "Enough! We have a task! Let's get to it! There's some Redclaws that need to be relieved of their possessions!" Ryuse shoved his Katana into his Obi before letting his arms fall to his sides and resting his chin down on the table. He blew upward so that his hat moved out of his vision and he could see the others. He caught sight of the girl whom Sanroku had introduced as his daughter. Why was the village chief allowing one of his family to come on a mission of this sort? He concluded that the girl must be a formidable fighter if she were here at this meeting at all. Ryuse let the matter drop and waited for things to move along. He didn't like the fact that they were on such a tight time frame and felt uncomfortable just sitting at the table talking.
Looking quizzically at Ryuse, Aiya nodded. "Agreed. If we only have that short of a time space to work with, we need to move quickly." She leaned forward onto her elbows and shifted her weight. She nodded to Sanroku and got to her feet. "Every minute we aren't vying after this medicine is another breath these children don't have left." She stretched her back and looked around the table. Her tail swayed back and forth.
Akira looked around at everyone before popping up from his seat as well, not just because he was anxious, but also to relieve his wings from the torture that the chair was conveying to him, "We need to get going after all. You're absolutly right." His wings twitched in anxiety, hoping the rest to follow Aiya's lead so they could quickly head out.
Eri watched the others stand up, taking note of each of their responses to the challenge set before them. None were balking, even if it was probably a fairly easy seeming task by some standards. She glanced at her father from the corner of her eyes, noting his response as well, and waited just a bit longer for the official dismissal, and any last words.
Enryich slipped off his chair with a soft sigh. "True enough." There was indeed some urgency to their task. Well, if everyone else at the table was confident enough in their fighting ability that they didn't even need to know what they were facing, maybe there was something for him to learn there.
Anyway, Enryich was glad to change indoors for outdoors. He walked to the door and plucked his bow off a weapon rack on the way. He stopped by the door to wait for the others.
Tyza stood without a word, retrieving his katana and adjusting his bamboo hat on his head to shield him from the elements. Adjusting the katana on his belt, sheathing it with a certain amount of reverence when he'd checked the blade for nicks, then finally spoke, "I agree. Who is leading? I don't know this area."
Sanroku stood slowly, with a great amount of hesitance to allow for his old body to shift. A smile drew over his face, "Whoever leads this small expedition is up to you. However, I do have a small gift for whoever does lead," He said, pulling out a small scroll from the sleeve of his billowing tunic, "This is a map of the nearby area, the main roads are clearly marked, as is roughly where my riders expected the "nest" is. There is also a little help that I will be able to supply you with for doing this for me," and with that, the old man pointed to a crate in the corner of the room, "There are several potions within that crate, potions that simply will not cure the illnesses of our youth. I wish you to take them with you to protect your health on the journey."
Aiya stepped forward from the door. Her eyes were thin yet alert. "I offer my services to help lead if no one will stand. If another so wishes, please let yourself known, and I will be a scouter for you." She raised her chin proudly and lightly puffed her fur and chest.
Ryuse tucked his Katana into his obi and strapped his tri-staff onto his back before getting up by rolling backwards out of his chair. The chair clattered to the floor and the Panther rolled to his feet. His hat was over his eyes from the fall and he looked ridiculous. "I'm...ready to leave...Ready to hunt Redclaws!" Ryuse fixed his hat and looked upon Aiya who had volunteered to lead. Her offer had surprised him as she appeared to be more of a loner than a leader. Still, if she wished to lead, Ryuse wouldn't object. Instead, the panther walked over to her, and put his face right in front of her upper paws. "What's wrong with your claws, Tiger lady? You were flexing them earlier."
She saw it as a win-win situation for herself. If Aiya led, she wouldn't be taking orders from anyone. However, if someone else led while she scouted, she wouldn't need to remain with the group. She could be by herself. She took a step back and bristled as soon as the panther drew to her paws. Her muzzle wrinkled lightly and her eyes narrowed. Aiya snorted and turned to the door, fixing her blades to her back sheath and knives to her waist. Useless bag of fur. She thought to herself.
Watching the Panther roll from the chair, Akira's eye twitched, if he really is as loony as he's acting, we're in for some trouble with Him, he thought quietly to himself. His quiet reserve was slightly broken by him shifting his sword belt and adjusting his epee. With a slight cough, he walked to the door, facing towards the exit, he gave a glance to Aiya before flaring out his wings, quickly brushing one against Ryuse. He finally spoke out of his silence in another low tone, "I care less who leads us, we just need to grab that map and some of those potions and be on our way. Would someone be so kind as to grab me a few mana potions if there are any?"
Enryich turned away from the door. Ryuse's antics made him worry about how he'd fend for himself, or his allies. Stick your face in front of a tiger's claws and ask what's wrong with them?
"I don't want to lead, I can't read maps. I'd like someone as knows the land lead us," he said, looking at Eri and Akira in turn to see if either would take the task. He trusted Aiya to be good at her own trade, but doubted she was much more fit to lead a party in this land than he himself was.
After gauging the two locals' response to his suggestion, Enryich slung his bow over his shoulder and went to the crate to see what potions they'd been given. He smiled his thanks to Sanroku as he passed him and peered inside the box curiously.
In the crate sat a small wooden divider, with small vials sitting in twelve of the sixteen slots. Half of the vials were just slim, small tubes with stoppers in the top and the other half were larger vials, also stoppered. Some of each size were filled with a thicker, red liquid, and the rest filled with a thin, blue liquid.
After fitting her weaponry, Aiya walked up to Sanroku. Graciously, she took the map from him and turned to the quiet Eri and energetic Akira. She extended the map in her paw and looked from one to the other. After a few seconds she leaned over and placed the map between them. Silently, Aiya turned around and walked over to the box of potions. She knelt next to them and grabbed out a few vials for her own use, gently stuffing them into her sack. She tossed a few blue vials over in Akira's direction, hoping he was a good catch. She attempted to distribute red and blue vials evenly amongst the others present, setting them at their feet or tossing them around. Unfortunately, blue was a bit harder to pass around. She made a gut decision and ended up placing most of the blue with Akira. Aiya then used the crate to get to her feet and walked to the door.
Ryuse snatched up whatever vials he was offered, stuffed them into his sash, and bolted for the window. Instead of waiting for the others, he opened the window and jumped through. Outside he waited for the others next to the door. He took a moment to compose himself. He wasn't sure what the others thought of him just yet, but he hoped they thought him to be a mad panther who acted mostly on impulse. If he could get them to believe that, then he would have the element of surprise if they found themselves in battle. The less they expected of him, the better they would fight on their own. Then he could show his true nature as a warrior if the situation called for it.
Eri watched the catfolk leave, a small smile on her face as she unfolded herself from where she sat. Standing gracefully, she bowed briefly and silently to her father before taking up the map. "Come, Akira. Let's go find ourselves some Redclaws." She said, her voice low and lilting at the same time. Tucking the map into her belt, she joined the others at the door.
With a quick and silent bow, Akira motioned to Eri before turning to the door and pressing it open, "Well, Shall we go then?"
Enryich took two vials containing healing potion for himself, one large and one small. The mages could take the mana potions, so he left those be.
He then headed out the door and took his bow in his hand. If there was waiting to be done, he'd rather wait outside. He didn't hide his anxiousness; the rest might be familiar with such fighting but he was not. Still, he was glad to be out.
Aiya nodded to Akira and quickly exited the room after presenting a courteous bow to Sanroku. Her armor shifted back and forth across her shoulders. It seemed a latch loosened itself in the period she leaned against the chair. Annoyed, Aiya pulled tight the leather and found her way outside. Out of her peripheral, she saw Ryuse waiting patiently for the group to emerge. She rolled her eyes and let out a breath of mild irritation. She was hoping he was more than a circus act. He performed foolish habits and gestures, but all the while gave off a different aura. Aiya wasn't one for judgment calls, though there was something strange about him.
Ryuse saw Aiya exit the building and immediately fell back into his facade. He slinked to her side and put his face right next to hers. "I saw that look...what's the matter?" Ryuse knew that annoying the tigress was a mistake, but he wanted her to know that he wasn't afraid. Perhaps then she wouldn't think of him as useless. The look he had seen her give him when she exited the meeting room had said as much. Without waiting for an answer, Ryuse moved ahead with head lowered and arms at his side. "Come! We have a job to do!"
A deep growl echoed from the tigress's throat. Aiya took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly, letting her muscles relax. She turned and leaned against the door frame. They were now starting their task. The Redclaws would soon find out what consequences their actions would harbor. She watched Ryuse walk off with a bounce in his voice. There was definitely something off about him. It wasn't normal, his behavior. She raised a hand to her jaw. She jerked. A loud pop emitted from her jaw and lower neck. Aiya licked her muzzle and opened her maw a few times. That was better. Footsteps trailed toward her from the building. It was time.