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Character Count: 101
Ml: 48 - Fml: 51 - Oth: 2
OR - 14 | R - 17 | H - 47 | G - 23

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Season: Autumn

With the cooling season of Autumn, Ice-types are starting to re-emerge from their hibernation as Ghost-, Normal-, and Flying-types swarm in the largest numbers they will all year. In comparison, wild Fire- and Bug-type populations are falling in number. The migration of Flying-types to the south in search of warmer weather has also started, as Istin City starts to re-freeze and Autumn marks the beginning of Cypwater Point's rainy season. Handlers and Rogues alike should be wary: Ghost-type powers are boosted during this season, at the cost of being more prone to their triggers.

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 A Malady, an Illusion, a Skeptic, Kalliope Tamsin - Closed
Seasle
 Posted: Aug 3 2017, 08:00 PM
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Expert Handler
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Total Posts: 860
Member No. 284
Joined on 28-April 12.


Characters:
Lev Rabuta, Lilith Fauve, Rook

Awards: 3




Kalliope Tamsin, level 6


Bounty

QUOTE
Petra & Sophia Close (Lv. 4-6, Specialty: Manipulation/Evasion)


Spawns

http://files.jcink.net/uploads/harperregion/sprites/123scyther.png
Swarm and Steadfast
Razor Wind and Reversal

http://files.jcink.net/uploads/harperregion/sprites/304aron.png
Sturdy and Rock Head
Body Slam and Dragon Rush

http://files.jcink.net/uploads/harperregion/sprites/331cacnea.png
Sand Veil and Water Absorb
Worry Seed and Smelling Salts


Kalliope's Catch Level: 1 to 21

--------------------
Lilith Fauve

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Kaia
 Posted: Aug 3 2017, 08:25 PM
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Top Handler
*****
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Total Posts: 365
Member No. 2161
Joined on 29-December 15.


Characters:
Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

Awards: 3




Bounty Teams
For future reference
Sophia Close, Level 6


Petra Close, Level 6

--------------------
Namid and his Travels
PCR

user posted image
Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!


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Kaia
 Posted: Aug 7 2017, 09:52 PM
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Top Handler
*****
Background Mods
Total Posts: 365
Member No. 2161
Joined on 29-December 15.


Characters:
Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

Awards: 3




Day One
Hot, hot, hot. Dry as a bone

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This place is hideous. Kazimir huffed. He perched on Kalliope's shoulder, a slight weight she'd grown much accustomed to over the past year. She counteracted his weight with her buckler across the opposite shoulder. It has a certain charm. Kalliope disagreed. They bypassed a straggling cart overladen with rugs. One wheel dug into a rut. No way was it going anywhere. It's bleak and dirty and it's so hot I can smell you. Kazimir muttered, his rich voice in her head. Kalliope rolled her eyes. There are worse things than sweating. She followed the surge of bodies. How anyone chose to spend any time outside in the heat, Kazimir couldn't comprehend.

Navdia was huge. Or at least busy. The dormant volcano rose above the city in all its blackened, stark glory. Nothing grew on the steep climb. Not vegetation, not weeds. If there were pokemon they had to be hidden in the crevices surviving on rocks and sunlight. The city was bleak to the psychic's perspective. One uniform color and style for the buildings. Tan or beige, whatever it was called. He didn't see the bright tapestries nor the little stalls full of potent spices. Locals wore bright wraps and cloaks of all kinds. Two children were dolled up in bright green and yellow matching outfits, their dark skin smooth and perfectly complemented in the bright cloth. They rushed past Kalliope in some made up game of chase, laughing all the way. They circled the stuck cart twice before disappearing down the road. Kalliope grinned. Children had so much energy. I know you hate the heat. But Mother needed us to stop in Navdia on the way home to speak with one of her clients.

Clients was a big leap. Family friends might be too personal. The Tamsin family had known the Cuevas for over a decade. When her father traveled Harper he used to deal in spices during trips to Navdia Crater. The Cuevas had two centuries of spice growing traditions in the desert land, marketing a high demand in their products without having to charge transport fees. Kali's father used to bulk buy crates of the stuff to sell on his trips. They had always been friendly and welcomed everyone like their own family. Kalliope remembered staying with them a few days out of the year and having the most delectable spiced corn tamales she'd ever tasted. But it had been years since her father was active enough to make the trip. Kali herself hadn't been to the oasis city since she was sixteen. I don't see why we need to bother with your mother's business. We have our own job to do.

Mother didn't go into detail in her letter. Only that Mrs. Cuevas hadn't been comfortable going to the Guardians with her information. But she thinks we can help. Kalliope patted Kazimir's head. It's important to pay back the kindness of others when they need you most. Mrs. Cuevas has always been kind to me. Kalliope didn't mention the tapestry Mrs. Cuevas sent at the beginning of the year but Kazimir sensed her thoughts anyway. He quieted down and continued their trip silent the rest of the way. The further the pair got into the city itself the tighter the streets became. Sandstone rose up around her like the walls of a maze, turning her this way and that. But Kalliope had a decent memory and traced the old way to the Cuevas' residence with little assistance.

The estate itself was on the northern edge of town, directly along the slope of the volcano's base. The main house spread out in a single story. Kali knew the rest of their home was built into the side of the volcano, hollowed out downward into a large cellar where they dried their varying spices and cultivated new sprouts. Much of the land behind the manse was owned by Cuevas and carefully designed to house some of the rare spices they grew. Kalliope knocked on the mesquite door, a pale silver color worn by time but well varnished to shine. A plump woman answered. She spotted Kalliope and enveloped the redhead into a tight hug, bending Kalliope down toward her level. "Oh, child, look how you've grown! And grown." Mrs. Cuevas eyed Kali's height and winked. "Still a bean pole I see. Don't the Guardians feed you proper girl?"

Kazimir, annoyed by the woman's sudden approach but wary, glared at her. Mrs. Cuevas met his gaze and made a little o with her full lips. "And who is this handsome lad?" She inquired, reaching one hand out to offer. Kazimir didn't move. He was distrusting at the best of times. "He must be yours. He's very protective, too, I see. You have always had a habit of gaining the loyalty of others." She winked. Kalliope grinned.

"Mrs. Cuevas, it's great to see you again. This is my partner, Kazimir. He's very clever and strong but he doesn't like people very much." She stroked his vivid green hair and shrugged her non-occupied shoulder. "He might warm up to you. Maybe. If you feed him." Her face broke out into a grin and she embraced the older woman once more. "I've missed you these years. We received your gift. Thank you so much for your kindness." Kali squeezed, her eyes tightly closed. When she straightened, the expression was gone.

"Of course, child." Mrs. Cuevas responded soberly. "Your family has been good to mine these last years. I hope you've found comfort in the gift." She shook her head. Her dark eyes tightened. Kalliope noticed the lines around them, deeper than before. Her mouth, too, was tight with lines. But she was distracted by a sudden grin. "But come in, dear. You must be starving from your trip. And please, call me Rocio. Your father was never big on formalities, I see no reason we should change now." She swept Kali and Kazimir off into the house. Within the interior walls of the hall were bright with paintings as well as sconces built into the stone. Only two of them were lit this early in the afternoon, the rest remained dark and hid the brighter color schemes of the portraits. Rocio led them to the parlor and tucked them into plush seats while she brought out refreshments. Kalliope stared at the walls, memories flooding back.

She and her father singing ballads with the Cuevas. Warm fires during the early spring weather. Playing games, dancing, laughing. Munching on raisins and nuts. The mural before her was the same as years ago. The colors hadn't faded one bit. Kali always assumed the image had been embellished by the artist, Rocio's husband. He used to tell the same story every year when she visited. Kali figured he took inspiration from the Crater Lake mythos running rampant in Navdia Crater. She didn't believe in the albino gyrados nor the shiny milotic being centuries old, and she certainly didn't believe Silvestre saw them leaping out of the lake in a gleeful celebration as was painted on the wall. Nothing that huge could be hidden in the depths of Crater Lake and seen only rarely when chosen. But she liked his excitement when he told the story and how he looked at Rocio with all the love while he told it.

Kazimir examined the image balefully. He didn't know the story nor the reference, he simply thought it was strange to decorate the walls of a desert home with water pokemon. Besides the mural, small plants were kept in painted pots - also by Silvestre - to keep the house lively. Rocio returned with a platter of sweetmeats and two clay bowls of fresh water. Both Kalliope and Kazimir sipped and ate their fill while Rocio spoke.

"I apologize for dragging you out here. I'm sure you have more on your plate to handle than to indulge an old woman's concerns."

"Nonsense, I'm happy to visit. And if I can help you out in the process, I'll do so." Kalliope replied. She swallowed a delicious, fried bit of flavor and continued. "Mother didn't tell me much, only that you didn't want to go to the Guardians yourself."

"That's not entirely true." Rocia dropped her eyes. "I have been to them on more than one occasion. They say there's nothing to be done. I took the risk, I need to accept the consequences." She sat back. Her shoulders were rigid, hands perfectly flat on her lap. "Let me explain. About four months ago I convinced a client of mine to accept a new contract. We give them ten crates of spice for a certain payout per month. However, they live in Doran and they're very superstitious. The product can't go through the normal routes through Cypwater. They fear some sort of demon or other will infect the product with mold and it'll spread. Strange but we could work around that." She sighed.

"Instead of going the long way, I started shipping through Route Ten. Before you say anything, I know. It's dangerous and only rogues with nowhere to run go there. But we had no choice. It's a really lucrative deal and if we build up enough trust with our client, we can start exporting exponentially. It could mean a lot for our future. I hand-picked five couriers for their speed and strength. Two of them have psychic types to dispel some of the ghosts' more disturbing illusions. They would take two crates each and run the trip on their mounts, cutting time more than half. The first two shipments went splendidly. They relaxed and took the long way home in a circuit. By the time they returned we could send them out again with another shipment." Rocio's fingers bunched together. "It should have continued to succeed."

The older woman's chest swelled with a deep inhale. Her dark eyes closed. "Last month they left ahead of schedule. It would have taken a maximum of three days. A week went by, then two. We received word the shipment never arrived. Our clients were furious and threatened to tear up the contract. We've placated them for now and have a double shipment set up less than two weeks from now. However, we can't seem to figure out what happened to our people. I can't send them into a dangerous situation without knowing what happened to the others. Will you please help us? I can't ask the Guardians, they'll tell me to go the long way and stop acting like spoiled rich folk with nothing better to do than waste their time." Rocio's mouth twisted. Her fingers slowly spread out flat, though her shoulders remained tight as barbed wire.

"Of course I'll investigate for you. Can you draw up an exact map of what route they took? Their names, descriptions and mounts would also be helpful. Any information you can give me." They went to the study to discuss details. A little more than an hour passed before Kalliope had everything they needed.

"I'll lend you a mount to make the trip easier. She won't fight for you or obey any orders but she'll keep you out of danger if she senses it and can fend for herself if need be." Rocio took Kalliope's hands in her own. "Thank you. I know this is a lot for me to ask and you might not find anything at all."

Kalliope waved off the thanks with a shake of her head. "I'm here whenever you need me. I'll do my best to find anything I can." Rocio let her hands go and smiled.

"Well, before you go gallivanting into the mountains, let's feed you up and give you a good rest. Our guest bedroom is plenty big enough for you and your partner." Rocio offered. "You can wash up as well. It's been a heat wave the past few weeks, you should cool down when you can."



NPCs

--------------------
Namid and his Travels
PCR

user posted image
Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!


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Kaia
 Posted: Aug 8 2017, 07:35 PM
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Top Handler
*****
Background Mods
Total Posts: 365
Member No. 2161
Joined on 29-December 15.


Characters:
Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

Awards: 3






Day Two
Unrelenting heat
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Kalliope and Kazimir were gone before sunrise. Rocio explained all the details of the usual route, supplied the information for each courier and their team, and described the size and weight of her crates. After making a mental map of the trek and going over every detail five times so she committed them to memory, Kali and Kaz took a much needed rest. They didn't wait for Rocio to awaken, merely packed a bag of food supply - which Rocio offered the evening before - and headed to the Guardian Headquarters. They might have brushed off a spice merchant as there are many reports of stolen goods in a year and one theft in a dangerous location was a very low priority but Kalliope figured she should check anyway.

There weren't many folks in the main entrance. Two or three greenhorns running around with messages or early morning tasks and a supervisor of sorts. The man sat back at his desk and nursed a mug of something vaguely resembling coffee. "Excuse me, sir." Kalliope bowed politely. "I have a few questions. Do you have a board for cargo theft or bandits?" The supervisor, perhaps around thirty and a bit grizzled this early in the morning, closed his eyes slowly. When he opened them, his stature shifted. Relaxed posture went pin straight and he rose to his full height - he was pretty tall - and led Kalliope down one of the halls.

"We do. There's so much we have a whole room dedicated to robberies. You lookin' for warehouse theft?" He gestured to an open doorway to the right. Within were a number of wooden tack boards riddled with information. A stack of scrolls sat on the only table, covering half the six foot length surface. Kalliope pursed her lips. Might be harder than she thought.

"Actually I'm looking for theft specifically located on Route ten. I know it's a dangerous stretch of land in the first place but surely there's information to be studied." She turned in a circle, observing. One board was dedicated to open bounties. Another referred to problems of a more general nature--vandalism, break ins, general thievery. Another had a list of known pickpockets and problem folks but it was scattered in a heap rather than organized. The man cocked an eyebrow.

"Sure we do. It's more common than you think, foolish merchants trying to cheat the system by traveling that way. More often than not they lose whole caravans, numerous lives, and more product than they can afford to waste." He pointed to the table. "We have a few mentions there. Some of the bounties are also related to Route ten. If you got questions, come see me. I'll leave you to it." He disappeared without much fanfare. Kalliope went straight for the table. Over thirty scrolls. She frowned. This would be a pain.

It's too much to hope that you taught yourself to read isn't it? Kalliope asked, only sort of joking. Kazimir hopped onto the table, gave her a dark look under his bangs, and lay down. Wake me when you find something useful. Kalliope sighed and settled into the chair. She spent about two hours combing through information. There were tons of robberies, a few murders, and very little detail. Ten killed and burned, three caravans stolen. One man with a single letter was robbed of everything he had except said letter. There were over three dozen cases all in the past two months. Kalliope narrowed her information down to groups of three to ten carrying either minimal loads or a drawn cart that disappeared. She guessed they were all taken down by different groups of people but plausibly could have taken Rocio's product.

There were twelve cases in this likeness, not including those who didn't survive to tell their stories. Most of these were filed from relatives. Not very many survived. She used a scraped piece of vellum and a borrowed combusken quill to scribble the bare bones information and where their bodies/victims were discovered. Once she filled every inch of the page with information, she folded it up and tucked it in her bag. Most of her items had been left at Rocio's, with only her swords, bow and arrow and buckler. She kept a few potions and pokeballs just in case as well but for the most part she traveled light. Everything was placed in the rapidash's saddles. Intnerestingly, her name was Raina. She was a sturdy, quiet mount who would take Kalliope the length of the crescent range if need be.

Kazimir wasn't a fan of riding side saddle.

They left town before most folks wandered the streets, then took off in a sprint the first fifteen miles of the route. Volcanic scenery shifted quickly to dense, dry mountain scapes and overlarge stones jutting up in every direction. One particular mountain was almost completely compiled of stone and boulders. Kalliope was careful to keep an eye out for falling geodude or the dislodged boulders near mobile rock types. But everything went smoothly. They slowed to a canter further along the route. Nothing. A lot of rocks and dirt. The weather only grew hotter as the hours passed. Sitting on a fire type didn't help but at least the breeze made from sprinting helped. Kazimir was motion sick and spent much of the time hatefully thinking up rude names for the rapidash, none of which he shared with her.

They traveled seventy miles before dusk and found nothing at all. No evidence of anyone being attacked, no scuffles, no burnt earth or battle ruined landscape. Today was a bust. Raina assisted in making a fire for the evening and Kalliope called out Erebus to watch over them as they all slept. Even the night passed by without any trouble. When they began again the next morning, their journey took them south rather than east. The weather wasn't any cooler. In fact, it felt as though the sun burned hotter than the day before and baked into Kali' skin with little remorse. By midday Kazimir was ready to call it quits. Take a break before I puke my guts up. He pleaded. If this thing doesn't stop moving I don't know if I'll survive.

Despite only traveling another twenty miles from camp, Kalliope acquiesced. She left Kazimir with the rapidash and went off-route to see if she could find anything. Mostly pokemon tracks, faded with time or fresh marked but of little consequence. The area was more at home to recluse pokemon and ghosts than herds. She didn't see more than two or three sets of similar markings and no evidence of humans. Closer to the foot of the mountain, about a mile from the route, Kali spotted something bigger than the usual pokemon rabble around here. Deep grooves in the earth, nearly ten feet wide. They dug into the ground in one crooked line then another about twenty feet away. A few more leading up the mountain.

But no human tracks. Not useful for the mission. It made sense larger pokemon would make their home in the crescent range, far away from human interference. She walked back to Raina and Kazimir and loaded up. They moved at a slower pace. If the couriers could make the trip from Navdia to Doran in a little over three days of hard-paced running, it might take Kalliope a week to investigate. This was day two. Two through four were the most important places to search, after consulting the Guardian's well of information. Most people were attacked a few days out of Navdia. On slower mounts or carrying carts, this was around the right place.

Six dead, a whole caravan stolen. Three younger handlers severely injured and robbed of everything but their clothes--except one skinny kid whose clothes were, in fact, stolen. A merchant couple testing the route's difficulty. The man died and his wife only survived by accident. The reports of their attackers were difficult to surmise. No one saw their faces, only that they were shorter than average, slender of build, and masked.

Sounds like they were idiots for going this way. We don't know that's what happened.
Kazimir pointed out. All we know is they disappeared. Maybe they stole Rocio's goods and booked it. Kalliope shook her head, going over the information mentally. Impossible. The product shipped wasn't incredibly expensive. The Dorani client wanted to test out six months of deliveries before they paid for a more expensive delivery. If they wanted to disappear with the goods, they would have waited three more months.

So they got lost.

Also impossible. They memorized this route by map and geographical landmarks. Not to mention they completed the trip twice over already on fast mounts with minimal stops. She refuted. Kazimir's annoyance painted her mind a grungy yellow.

If you're going to shoot all my ideas down stop bothering me with questions. He huffed. Kalliope hugged him and rested her chin on his head, her cheek pressed to his horn.

Don't be mad. Your input is helping. Everything we can rule out narrows down what really happened. If they were ambushed and robbed we would find bodies or marks of an attack.

Except this happened how many weeks ago? If their corpses are laying somewhere, we're not going to find them. If they were hidden, we'll never find them. Kazimir pointed out. He seemed too pleased to poke holes in her ideas. This was a wasted venture.

Five human lives and almost twenty pokemon lives who have gone undiscovered is never a wasted venture. We weren't doing anything else anyway. They deserve justice if they were killed and they deserve to be rescued if they survived.

Survived? Why would bandits keep them?
Instead of explaining, Kalliope pictured slave auctions in her minds. Chains, malnourished and dirty people whose lives were taken from them yet they were forced to keep on. Children sobbing and older folks killed to be replaced with a new generation of slave. Slave collars, brands--Alright, alright. I get it. No more of that. Kali sensed he was rattled. She soothed him with a stroke of his vivid hair.

We should keep trying until we're absolutely sure we won't find them. Their lives matter. Kazimir grunted his agreement and they pressed on.

--------------------
Namid and his Travels
PCR

user posted image
Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!


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Kaia
 Posted: Sep 11 2017, 04:21 PM
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Top Handler
*****
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Total Posts: 365
Member No. 2161
Joined on 29-December 15.


Characters:
Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

Awards: 3




Day Three
Midday, hot as magmar

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The trio trekked for another couple hours at a slower pace. They made time better than if they'd walked by foot but nowhere near Raina's full potential. Signs of passage by other travelers littered the road. Fire pits filled with ash, deep grooves where a heavy caravan cut into the dry, cracked dirt a dozen feet from the main road. The road itself was just traversed enough as to pack the ground tight. A few old ruts from a caravan, rarely lasting more than a couple dozen feet. Most likely they were created during a particularly heavy rain--rare in these parts. Kalliope wasn't a tracker by any means. She was quite out of her depth in that department. On the other hand, Kalliope was determined. She wouldn't stop searching, come what may. Kazimir was largely uncommunicative - very much out of character - and Kalliope spent much of her mental capacity searching the road and the surrounding area for anything out of the ordinary.

It didn't look like they would catch a break until just after the sun reached its zenith.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Empty road, lack of vegetation. Foothills leading into steep mountains reaching high enough to hide behind clouds. Well, they would be if there were any clouds in the sky. Kalliope spotted it by chance. A sudden flash of silver in the distance, away from the road. She halted Raina and climbed off, drawing her blade. Kazimir followed in her wake - more to get away from the rapidash than anything. Less than a quarter mile from the route a belt lay half buried in the dirt. Copper chased with silver in the shape of a spoink. Its pearl was a true pearl wrapped in pure silver, the coils of its body in copper. Silver shadows chased the copper coils. The craftsmanship was incredible. Kalliope picked it up and dusted off the piece. The hairs on the back of her neck rose, like someone poured a bucket of ice water down her collar. Part of the leather was hacked to pieces, leaving only a quarter of the belt remaining. Along the frayed edge, Kali noticed crusted smudges. Dark brown, mingled with dirt. Blood.

Kali had seen enough blood to know what it looked like when it dried. If the belt hadn't been dusted with earth, the blood might not have held so well in the elements. She turned it over. No markings other than the buckle itself. Kalliope tucked the piece into her pack and began to search the area in earnest. They stood maybe twelve or fourteen feet above the road on a steeper slope of one of the foothills. Let Raina know we're going to investigate and to please remain there. If anyone comes to disturb her, ask her to make a noise and get as far away from them as possible. I won't risk her life. Kazimir didn't respond but no doubt he relayed the message. He was loyal to her one hundred percent. Even though he didn't like her concern for other pokemon, especially strangers, he understood and respected her decisions. Kalliope called Erebus from his pokeball. His nose would better serve their task at hand.

"Eerie, I'm sorry to call you before nightfall. We found something." She knelt down and indicated the place where the belt had been discovered. "Can you catch any faint scent of a human or humans? Whatever trace you can find is enough." Erebus got to work. There were a few convoluted scents that could have been pokemon or human as well as something strongly smelling of human. Compared to the other scents, this one had to be the person who was bleeding. He tossed his head this way and that, snuffling. Sand clogged his nose and he sneezed. "Whoever it was, I can barely make it out." Erebus said. He trotted in one direction about five feet away and circled the spot, then did so a second time. "I don't know if I can follow it." Kazimir related the information as tersely as possible.

"Thank you for trying. We'll look a while longer. Howl if you've got something." Kalliope trudged upward, taking the steep slope with the ease of a girl raised in the mountains and on the road. Eerie whuffed and dropped his head. While he canvased the lower reaches, Kali headed toward the upper strut of the foothill. A slight slope cut like a groove into the side of the mountain base, revealing--nothing. More dirt, some shrubbery. Kali ducked behind the sparse foliage but found nothing. She followed the edges of the area in hopes of finding anything at all. Kazimir searched too, lifting rocks and shoving aside debris from the ground with his psychic abilities. He was at a loss as well and part of him wanted to prove there was nothing here so he could go back to doing nothing. Then again, finding a dead end meant more riding. He searched with a little more vigor.

Erebus howled. Kali sprinted so fast she half slid down the slope, searching for her pokemon. He wasn't anywhere in sight so she followed where she'd heard the sound. The foothill curled inward like the pads of a froakie: wide bases that curved in on themselves before spooning outward to repeat the process. Kali had to follow the curve of the hill until she saw Erebus tucked in the shadows, half hidden with his dark coat. If he wasn't moving energeetically Kalliope might not have spotted him at all. She raced to his side and looked over his shoulder. Eerie dug at the dead end, digging his claws into the hard-packed earth. Rocks and sand kicked up behind him and Kali had to jump out of the way. "What is it?" She saw nothing but a rock face and patches of dirt. Where Eerie dug, a small hole formed in the dirt. But the stones above it crumbled to the ground, covering it as he dug. He huffed in annoyance and began again. Kaz, what's he doing?

Kazimir ground his teeth and shook his head. Stupid mutt. He's so focused he's got his guard up. I can't get past his aura. He kicked the houndour's leg. "Stop that, you idiot. What are you doing?" Erebus ignored him and kept kicking out dirt. Kazimir's annoyance level rose. "You want the dirt out of the way so bad? Here, let me help you." He snarled. Kalliope got the impression of Kazimir's plan a split second before it happened. "Wait--!" Kali threw herself face down toward the ground, covering her head. Kazimir dug his mental powers into the rock face and ripped away at the rock and dirt. He was strong enough to gouge huge chunks out of the mountain's side. The resulting hole was about ten feet high and the blast of rock and dirt shot outward hard enough to throw Erebus back. He barked in pain and rolled over twice before stopping. When he got up, he didn't think twice about Kazimir's blast. But then, he was a bit distracted.

What should have simply been a gouge into the rock face was something...more. Darkness emanated from the gaping hole in the mountain, shadowed by the mouth of the entrance as well as the angle of the sun. Erebus shook himself and padded forward. "Hold on, Eerie." Kalliope put up her hand. She peered into the darkness. Anything could be in there. Anything at all. Anyone. "How did you know this was here?" Kalliope slid her fingers over the hilt of her sword. Erebus sniffed at the ground, then stared into the heart of the hole. Kalliope glanced at Kazimir. "Call Raina over here. I don't want her exposed on the road when we go inside." Usually she connected with him mentally but it was only polite to let Eerie hear why they were waiting. "If there's something dangerous in there, I want her to know and be able to escape." Kali didn't wait for confirmation.

Kazimir never failed her, after all. Kalliope took the short time they had before Raina joined them to observe the entrance. While Kaz was the one to create the opening, the cave itself - from what she could see of it - was quite large. She whistled once, a short, sharp sound like the screech of a pikipek. The echoes hollowed out the cave and disappeared, rather than bouncing back. Kali frowned. She closed her eyes and lifted her face, breathing in slowly. She sorted first the scent of dust and grit. Next, the heat of the outer air, dead in the sky. No breeze from without--but the air at the cave entrance was slightly cooler to the touch, brushing her skin and easing the perspiration on exposed flesh. It wasn't a breeze so much as it was a breath of air that shouldn't have been. If this were merely a cave, with no entrance or exit beyond the one newly opened, the air would be stagnant and musty, possibly hotter than the air outside with no fresh breezes entering. It should smell a bit rank or dry--instead it smelled...

Kalliope opened her eyes. Raina blinked at her, large dark eyes much like the gaping hole in the mountain. Vast, mysterious. Kalliope reached out to stroke Raina's nose. "I apologize for pulling you this way and stopping midway through our travels, but we need to find out where this leads. I'd rather you weren't sitting out in the open where anyone could spot you. This way, at the very least you'll be out of sight. Should you need us, or if you see or hear anything out of the ordinary, Kazimir should be able to keep connection with you for at least two miles or so, barring any interference within. Please take care." She pulled back her hand and stepped away. "If at any point your life or freedom is at risk, run. Run as fast as you can away from here and don't stop until you're safe. We can get back on our own--your life I won't risk for ours."

By now Erebus was panting with anticipation, stubbed tail lashing back and forth. He stared up at her, pleading in his black eyes. Kali scratched between his ears. "Okay, oh eager one. First, will you send up a sunny day flare as high and far out as you can into the cave? You might have decent vision in the dark but I'm quite blind in there." Erebus barked and leaped forward, disappearing in the darkness. Kalliope followed on his heels, Kaz back to his perch on her shoulder. Before she made it ten feet in, Erebus sat back on his haunches and a great mass of flame grew at the tip of his nose. He breathed in and leapt straight up, thrusting the gaseous ball upward and out, lancing forward into the darkness. The caverns innards exposed in the harsh light of the false sun, though long shadows crept at every corner. Kalliope had expected the inside to be more like a hollow gourd; a fat bowl of a cave with a narrowed neck toward the entrance. Instead, aside from the still crumbling entrance to the cave, the walls were equidistant from one another as far as her eye could see. Fifteen feet by fifteen feet, the whole shell of the cave had a rotund sort of shape - including the ground at her feet.

Now that she looked, there was a certain curve of the ground like a riverbed. The walls weren't so much flat and perfectly carved as they were ribbed in places, casting more shadows in Eerie's light. They walked toward the false sun, about fifty yards away. It had traveled quickly at first, then slowed to a stop deeper into what was now clearly a tunnel, rather than a cave. They passed beneath the sphere in the short time it took to travel the tunnel, their entrance quickly growing small and emitting a faint light. Kalliope examined the walls. Erebus kept running forward, then pacing back to Kalliope's side and rushing off again. He sniffed the walls, the ground, and any choice bit of dirt he ran into. Kazimir largely ignored everyone. This is strange. What's a tunnel doing in the middle of a mountainside? Especially in a place like this? She wondered. There can't be much use for it if it was hidden by a wall of rock completely ingrained into the mountain. Not to mention the fact that we're on route ten, where only rogues traverse when they're desperate.

Stop dodging around the rocks. You know why this is here.
Kazimir retorted. What's the point of avoiding it?

Kalliope sighed. Kaz was right. But if her instincts were correct--what she walked into wasn't an unassuming cave or a naturally rendered tunnel. We'll keep going until we've got proof. No reason to bay at shadows. She kept on. They reached the end of Erebus' sunny day's light, over fifty yards at their back. At a nod, Erebus shot another into the tunnels. This one he sent further out than before, expecting the tunnel to continue straight. The gaseous sphere halted instead, quite close by as the murkrow flies. They picked up their pace, sensing they were on to something. Not far off, they came to the obstruction keeping the sunny day from venturing further on. The tunnel did not go on straight in a singular path. It split into three other tunnels, not including their own, in a sort of communal hub. No one was here, of course. The ground was flattened in every direction, rather than the curved divots of the tunnels. The false sun illuminated the varying tunnels, none with a mark or declaration of destination.

"Eerie. Can you find the scent here?" She asked, voice quiet. He whuffed and dropped his nose. He circled the whole of the intersection once, twice, three times before coming to sit at her feet, ears flat. "That's okay. It was a long shot." Kalliope frowned again, her mouth puckered in thought. "If the owner of that belt was bleeding, or injured, I doubt he was the one to discover this entrance. If his scent is faint, he probably didn't walk of his own volition. It explains the lack of a blood trail which wouldn't disappear or wash away in this sort of place. Eerie." Kalliope glanced at the houndour again. "Can you detect any other scents? Humans, whether alone or in groups?" Before she'd finished speaking, Erebus was on his feet, paws dancing as he paced in place. He barked and growled and tossed his head, then honed in on Kazimir.

"Tell her of course I can! I've smelled multiple human things and pokemon scents from the outside place. They keep getting stronger and more frequent. I've been sorting them as much as I can, what with how slow you and the two legger move." Erebus stuck out his tongue, laughing in his canid manner. Kazimir rolled his eyes and conveyed the information. Rather than leap for joy the way Erebus expected, Kalliope pondered. Eerie huffed, annoyed with his mistress. She never understood the joy of a chase unless she was on the scent, he thought to himself. Contrary to her pokemon's opinion,
Kalliope's mind raced with a different sort of hunting song. "Erebus. The first human you scented, the one who was bleeding. Are there any scents mingled with it? Any other humans in particular that stand out among the rest? Like a pack traveling together, rather than rattata using the same trail over and over again."

Erebus tossed his head and buried his nose in he sand. Eyes closed, he focused on the vast array of scents he'd discovered. The first human's scent wasn't the most faint scent in the whole tunnel but it was very weak. He'd lost most of the trail around the first ten or twenty feet of the entrance. However, he'd smelled a pawful of scents mingled with this one. "Bleed, I'll call him. Bleed was with other smells. He, definitely. Two shes. Another he. Petal-smell and Earth smell. Meat smell. Petal and Earth smells strongest here. Traveled multiple times. They're all over the walls and the ground; Meat smell weakened around the entrance too, like Bleed. One more he. No-Smell." Erebus looked at Kazimir, who silently translated as the canine spoke. "I can follow Petal and Earth lots of places, but not sure where they went with Bleed. His smell is long gone. Meat, though, I can find traces lingering. But Meat didn't go in the same direction as Petal and Earth, though their smells are everywhere. Hard to find newest scent, but I can hunt them.""

Kali gathered this information as best she could as it came to her, scrambled in Erebus' manner as it was. Petal and Earth smell must be the two females he smelled. They must have been a part of the attack, though whether they were part of the attackers or the attacking it's hard to say. Meat smell, the male, was taken through the middling tunnel. "You're sure there aren't any more scents to go with Petal, Earth or Meat?" She asked. There wasn't enough information. Two females rode with the man who wore the belt. Two females and three males all told, and any one of those could be who Erebus was smelling--or they could be the villains. The only one she knew for certain was of the riders was "Bleed" for his belt. Erebus shook his head dismally, ears flat. "You misunderstand. I can smell many, many smells of humans. Many overlap, or are faint from time. Some are recent but not the same recent as the Bleed smell. Only Petal, Earth and Meat are tangled with Bleed smell. I can smell Bleed on Earth. Whatever happened, they were enough in each other's company to have their scents mingle just a little. I can't tell who else was here that was also there. Too many smells, too much time passed. It's chance I can get these smells at all, after weeks."

Kalliope sank to her heels and wrapped her arms around Erebus despite Kazimir's complaints once he finished. She patted his head affectionately. "Well done. You're a very clever pokemon, you know that?" She stood and helped Kazimir straighten up. "Well, we have a choice to make. Do we follow Meat as far as his smell goes, who we know was with Bleed for the attack? Or do we follow the most recent smell of Petal and Earth?" She asked her companions. She believed in involving them in her work as much as possible. Immerse them in the work of a Guardian and they would all grow closer as partners. "What say you?"

"We should follow the man. He was with the bleeder human. Not that I care." Kazimir related both in mind speak and aloud for his companions. "I doubt this canine could follow his nose to point us to the other two if their scent is everywhere. I don't want to waste time following a mutt all around the mountain." Erebus huffed and sat back. "I can follow the freshest scent straight to wherever they were last, no trouble." He retorted, waiting to be translated. "We could start at their freshest and work our way backward like a reverse long-hunt. They might not be at the end of this trail but I bet we can find something of use along the way. Guaranteed." Erebus added this last at Kazimir's indignant snort. Both pokemon glowered at one another, one with hackles raised and one with hair sticking on end from psychic charges. Kalliope clapped her hands together to dispel their argument.

"Thank you, both of you, for your input." Kalliope smiled at both of them. "We follow the Meat scented man. While there are many avenues to follow the two others, he has only one. We will follow him until we can go no further, then if we find nothing we'll retrace and follow the others.This way we'll be sure we've learned everything about one before we go after the other. Erebus, will you follow me?" She led the canine back toward where they had begun. "Just inside the tunnel we arrived through, I'd like you to scorch a mark on the ceiling. Make it big enough for us to notice but not so dramatic someone else might question why it's there. While I'm sure you could lead us back easily, if for some reason we get separated, Kazimir and I might need to go this way on our own to meet you at the entrance."

Erebus complied, firing a blast of heat straight above them in a stark, almost star shaped pattern. Kali whistled her approval. "Now, my dear tracker. Lead the way."

--------------------
Namid and his Travels
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Kalliope and her travels
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Kaia
 Posted: Nov 1 2017, 10:42 PM
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Day Three
Maze of tunnels, cool but dark
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Kazimir continued to pout as they took the middle tunnel with Erebus in the lead. The canid pokemon kept his nose to the earth and sorted scents slowly, parsing together the trek. Meat's scent wasn't nearly as faint as Bleed had been but it was overwhelmed by the multitude of humans he could sense traveled this particular path often. Or at least, the sheer weight of that singular instance where multiple people traveled. Keeping Meat's scent separate from everyone else wasn't easy, or speedy. He had to pause and craft another sunny day with which to work. Kalliope, unburdened by tracking, instead turned her attention to the tunnel itself. It was wider than the first, with a flatter walkway. The hard-packed ground spoke of how often humans traversed it. Kalliope's suspicions grew, though she kept them to herself while Erebus tracked. She also noted the lack of musty scents in the tunnel. The deeper they went, the more stale the air should have been. Kalliope was reminded briefly of the warrens back home.

I hope not. If so... Kali sighed. Kazimir pricked his head and looked at his companion. What are you sighing for? We're following your path. We found a trace of one of your human friends' employees. Kazimir wasn't one to mince his meaning. If you're going to go to these lengths for strangers you've never met, you better do it with all your might. I'd be disappointed if you were scared or thinking to turn back. Is that why you didn't follow the fresher scents? Kalliope shook her head. She reached up to stroke Kaz's head, thinking. It was some time before she answered. It's not fear. If this is what I think it is, there's a lot more than a group of missing riders we'll have to worry about. You may not know the stories of death and demise along this route but I read enough in Navdia to know this could get bad, fast.

Why are you worried about that? You love to fight! Kazimir countered. She shook her head again.

I'm not worried we'll get into a fight. I'm worried they'll try to take it away from me if they find out. She picked up her pace as Erebus lifted his head and trotted forward. Kazimir couldn't see her smile from his vantage point but he felt it. He scowled, hiding his own amusement. Oh, his companion wasn't scared, alright. She was afraid it was such a big hunt someone else would get the scent first! Just like Kalliope, to want to take everything on by herself. Not by myself. I have the best partners in the realm after all. Her smile turned into a full on grin. Erebus led them through sharply curved twists in the tunnel's path, now having to resort to will-o-wisps to light their way. He would lose the ability to use sunny day if he tried one at every corner, and he couldn't drag each sphere along with him as he went. The misleading, cobalt blue flames danced around the group, keeping pace with them as they walked. The wisps teetered in close, then dashed away like they were trying to bait them.

Kalliope smiled. They were quite lovely, even if they couldn't give off as much light. The tunnel walls fair danced with blues and shadows like spirits in the divots. Unnoticed in the winding turns, the tunnel itself narrowed. It was only when She and Erebus walked side by side and both bumped the walls that they realized how close the quarters had become. Kalliope shivered and scooted away from the walls. She would never admit, not to herself nor others, but she couldn't stand the tight confines of anything. She swung her arms outward, reminding herself how much space she had to move. There were exits behind her. When the trio came to a narrowed point of the tunnel, barely ten feet in width, they reached something new. This was a cavern. If the intersection they found first had been compared to this, it would have seemed a cranny in the crags of a geodude's bulk. The cavern was large, naturally made, and chilly. The errant breezes she'd scented all this time came through in this room, somewhere. Kali couldn't see the roof of the cavern, nor the edges in any direction.

Kalliope halted Erebus before he lit another marker in the air. "Hold." She spoke softly, not quite a whisper, to keep her voice from traveling. She left Erebus with his will-o-wisps within the tunnel and entered the cavern, turning sharply right to follow the edge of the walls. When she was a good distance away, she turned away from the tunnel and closed her eyes. After a full minute of closed eyes and silence, she opened them. Despite their initial assumptions, there was the faintest light drifting into the cavern. Not enough to light up any part of the cavern itself but enough that Kali could see both hands in front of her and that there was another tunnel not far off from where she stood. She inched her way toward it and peeked in. A bleak emptiness met her eye. No light there. She kept going, testing how far she could see in the faint light. Following the faintest bowing of the cavern walls, she found another two tunnels which led who knew where and no life at all. How could there be such a natural tunnel without housing some number of pokemon? This was a perfect roost for zubats and other nocturnal creatures.

Nothing. No pokemon at all. Strange. Very strange. She left the edge of the wall and walked in the opposite direction of it, hoping to see how far she could cross before she hit the other side. She covered the side of her face as she spotted the hint of blue that was Erebus. The light would darken her vision and make it difficult to see. She continued on in this direction until he was well behind her. Still no end in sight. Kazimir fidgeted on her shoulder, disliking the lack of light. He used very little psychic energy to map out the area nearest them to be sure no one would sneak up on him. But Kalliope had cautioned against sending out his abilities too far. He was still young enough that his psychic touch ripped through the air like a fist. Any pokemon with resistance to psychic abilities or were psychic themselves would immediately sense him and they didn't want to be caught with their backs to the wall. Instead, he searched the area close by. He also noted the lack of pokemon, but with little care compared to Kali. Less pokemon meant less attention taken from him.

Kali didn't reach the far edge of the cavern. She found something else instead. Evidence of camps. Not tent camps like pegs left in what was little more than bare stone floor, but scorch marks from fires, surrounded by stone enclosures. She'd kicked one by accident already. The smell of smoke and char lingered in the air, meaning this was a populated place as a standard. Wherever the fresh air came from, it wasn't strong enough to draw the smells away. She did, however, smell as well as hear the trickling pool nearby. It wasn't deep, maybe to her waist - which she tested by stripping down and walking into the cool, delightfully refreshing well - and it wasn't more than twelve feet wide. Kazimir complained about the wet and stayed on the shore while Kalliope took a much needed bath. There was nothing to clean her skin or hair with but the water and scrubbing hands got much of it off her skin. When she got out, she asked Kazimir to connect with Erebus. Itching to explore and frustrated at being left at the entrance, Eerie was quick to latch onto the psychic.

Kali says mark the entrance to that tunnel the way you marked the first one, then come meet us. Explore as much as you like after you warm her up, you cur. Kazimir added the latter of his own volition. Kali would have dripped dry, despite the chill in the air after the water. Erebus trotted over and used the faintest touch of overheat to heat his fur and clasp himself in a thin veil of flame, then rounded his mistress like he was a mobile fire pit, drying the beads of water and sweat as he moved. He dropped the flames and demanded, with a quick bark, for her to hug him and dry off the rest of the way so he could go explore. Kalliope laughed quietly and did as bid - no need to be translated, when his intent was so clear. The tips of her hair smoked just a twinge when he raced off to play in the cavern, smelling all he could smell and discovering leavings Kali missed in the darkness. She ducked her head once more in the pool so her hair wouldn't catch fire - and to wash away the smell of singed hair - and shook it out before dressing once more. She wished she could wash her clothes as well but at least bathing helped.

You know what this is, right? Kali called silently to Kazimir, eyes closed as she lay back. No use rushing Erebus while he worked. A meeting place. I'd bet a hundred gold it belongs to some clan of rogues. You know how they are. Loyal only to themselves or their Trick Lords or Ladies. They don't have any presence in either Navdia or Doran, so what are they doing here? The pits are fresh enough I can smell them. They might have been here a few weeks ago for the riders but this couldn't be more than two days old. We have to move fast. No doubt this place gets busy once the sun goes down. Can you tell what time it is?

Kazimir didn't think in terms of hours or minutes. But he sent the faintest echoes toward Raina, whom he could just barely sense from this position. I would say afternoon. Not quite dusk but it's getting closer. We can't be here much longer.[i/] Kalliope nodded. She suspected as much. With a sigh she sat up and called to Erebus. There wasn't anyone here that she could tell, but she kept her voice low anyway. "Erebus. Report." Kalliope heard his footfalls stop some distance away. Sound traveled further here than she'd imagined. [i]He says...many humans have camped here, often. Two days ago there were a lot of humans here. Beyond the tunnel exit there's no more scent of Meat. Too much fresh scent covers him. Too many overlapping smells to know who all have been here. Oddly, no Petal or Earth. They had smells all the way here in the tunnels but not further than that. They've never been in this cavern or if they had, it's been long enough their smells don't linger. He's found--shut it, mutt. He's found tons of human leavings, from what looks and smells of metal and leather to human waste - on the other side of the cavern, well away from the water. But no sign of Meat at any of the tunnels.

Kalliope sat up. How many tunnels? She asked, relaying the question through Kaz. The count took time. He says five nests' worth--useless mutt thinks only in pack terms of counting. Hold on. Kazimir captured the image of a pack of houndour and houndoom together in their natural hunting grounds, with five to ten eggs housed in the center and watched by the whole pack in turns. He quickly figured the numbers and sent the image to Kalliope. She gasped at the intricacies of the pack hierarchy she caught a glimpse of through Kazimir's digging before she understood. Between twenty-five and fifty tunnels? Though that count is probably exaggerated. At the least, probably twenty tunnels. This place is big enough to hold that many and more. Well, we can't follow them all. Not now. Let's head back to the first intersection and follow the others. She dusted off the seat of her trousers and waited until Erebus found her to lead her back toward the first tunnel. She wished she could explore them all but knew they didn't have nearly the extra time to do so. If this place livened up at nightfall, they needed to be far enough away to not arouse suspicion.

The walk back went much quicker. It wasn't more than half a mile through winding tunnels before they found the original intersection, one still marked with scorches. The sunny day was faint and failing, barely a blip in the air. Erebus, unprompted, went to work strengthening the sphere until it was as bright as ever. Kalliope smiled. It was useful in the least to know how long such a thing lasted. Almost an hour, if she were to guess. In a battle it might not last as long, with Erebus' attention elsewhere and more concerned with fighting. But when he put the intent to it, the false sun could last some time all on its own. Erebus dropped his nose to the ground and made a sort of butterfree dance of a trail, in dizzying circles and wide spirals before he found the freshest scent and followed it back and forth. Once he traced it, he led the group toward the right most tunnel next to theirs. It was smaller at the start as opposed to the last one. "Only one way to find out who these people are. Erebus, you've been using a lot of power today. If you start to feel weary, let me know. We don't know how far in this tunnel goes or if it bisects any of the others. I'd rather we come back in the morning to start fresh than let you waste too much energy in here." She gestured to Erebus with one hand. "It's up to you."

With that, they were off.

--------------------
Namid and his Travels
PCR

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Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!


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Kaia
 Posted: Nov 3 2017, 08:45 PM
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The tunnel continued on in its narrow path, hailing straight for a time. Kalliope barely noticed the change in elevation until Kazimir pointed it out. We're going down. The further we're into the mountain, the less I can hear the horse. He informed her grudgingly. He rarely admitted weaknesses and severely loathed other pokemon. But he knew Kalliope needed to know. In response, Kali nodded briskly. Within the walls of the tunnel, there was no way to tell they headed downward. Either the slope was so minimal as to not be noticed or they were disoriented enough not to see it, the result was the same. Kali avoided thinking about the hundreds of thousands of tons of rock above her head quite cleverly by trying to work out what these tunnels were for. She shared none of her information with the others, content to let her mind roam with wild ideas. The walls were less defined here, more smoothly wrought than ribbed. The floor, too, was steep with the curve of the tunnel itself. Erebus kept up with the will-o-wisps--apparently they were easier to maintain than shooting off sunny days ever three hundred yards or so. Not to mention the light was much more helpful following them around like excitable ghastly.

Apparently, rather than twisting like a rabid snake pokemon, this particular tunnel's only intent was down. At one point the direction was so steep Kali could feel it with each step. Her calves throbbed with the incline. She ignored it, following Erebus' helter-skelter tracking. Eerie was on a mission, every fiber of his being intent on the two scents. They intermingled a lot, as if they spent much time together. Like pack mates. Their scents were quite strong, but overlapping, causing what would otherwise be an easy hunt to become troublesome. They trekked the downward tunnel for a little over twenty minutes, nearing thirty, when Erebus howled and leaped forward. Kalliope smothered a growl. She needed to break him of that habit before it got them in serious danger. Her stride lengthened into a lope, stretching the muscles into a familiar rhythm. The canine was much faster than she was, by quite a margin. He disappeared down the tunnel, trailing his fire. Kazimir spat in disgust, holding himself to her shoulder with a touch of psychic energy so he didn't topple during her strides.

There came the slightest bend to the tunnel, curling to the left and hiding Erebus completely. Kali put on a burst of speed only to trip on an errant rock. She had no time to waste on the unexpected obstacle, though later she wondered what a single stone was doing when the rest of the tunnels had been worn smooth. Her knees cracked the hard-packed ground below and she bit back a curse. Getting to her feet took an effort of will. By the time she was up and running, Erebus launched back into sight. No, not launched. Kali raced to his side, pain forgotten. Erebus lay crumpled against the wall, his will-o-wisps dissipating in the impact. She stroked his fur and checked his neck, head and chest. No wounds. He breathed, albeit slowly. Only her hands could work to search for injury, as there was little light to see.

Wait...

Kalliope blinked. She could see. Not the rich, velvety black of his fur but the faint pale gleam of the pale bone armor his breed naturally grew. She could also see his snout and tan underbelly. Kalliope got to her feet, assured he was alive but knocked out for the moment. Kaz, search the area. Her inner voice was calm, tone firm. Kazimir's uncertainty wavered in her mind. But if there's someone who senses me-- He stopped, making clear what he thought of that plan. Kalliope slipped her free hand to her belt, gripping a pokeball. Her left already wielded her short sword. They already know, if they attacked Erebus. Find them. She squeezed her eyes shut and depressed the pokeball. A red flash lit up behind her eyelids. A tiny, wavering, "Buff?" Kalliope opened her eyes, though it was difficult to see in the darkness. The bend in the tunnel led toward a faint light.

"Ismene, I need you. Roll around this corner as fast as you can and immediately use flash to blind whoever is there. Then I want you to charge and fire a solarbeam. If you aim for something or someone, great. If you can't, just shoot it off straight down the tunnel as far as you can reach it. Go!" Kalliope never spoke so brusquely nor so serious to Ismene, who normally needed to be coddled or coerced into things. She might have argued if Kazimir didn't shove her forward with a quick, jilted smack to her tiny, rotund body. She bounced off and continued down the tunnel, planning to wreak revenge on the psychic for his stupid tricks. She obeyed while Kalliope followed. She returned Erebus to his pokeball to keep him safe while she and Kazimir went around the corner. The blinding flash came a second before Kali could close her eyes. She winced as bright light seared her pupils and had to put a hand out for the wall to keep moving. I sense two humans and a number of pokemon. One is huge, I don't know what she is. Two more lower down. Both small and mobile. I think one is a rodent type. The other, I'm not sure.

Kalliope opened her eyes once the searing of flash wore off and picked up speed. She raced past Ismene - careful to keep to the side of the tunnel and away from her impending attack. Kaz, disarming voice followed by psychic. Hit whomever you can. She urged him to hop off his shoulder so she could attack with force. He obeyed, standing beside Ismene. White wisps of light surrounded the igglybuff as she sucked in all her energy. Kali strode forward, blade aloft. Her shield she wrenched off her shoulder and hefted in front of her. She couldn't see much against the backdrop of light--but she hoped that same advantage would lead to her side as soon as Ismene attacked. The tunnels whooshed with a loud, screeching noise. It echoed off the walls, reverberated into a stronger, more formidable sound, and blasted into the two pokemon shaped lumps down the tunnel. One flew off its feet, taken by surprise. The other held firm. Something small and spherical shot past Kalliope toward her pokemon. She had to trust they could take care of themselves and raced on.

I'm counting on you two! She thought silently. Be safe. She had to put them both out of her mind for the chase. There had to be two humans ahead of her somewhere - and she hadn't seen the other, huge pokemon Kazimir mentioned. She couldn't dwell. Her legs worked under her, her chest heaved with strain. Sword and shield clanged against her, offsetting her weight just enough to jostle her movement. She pushed harder and sprinted right past the pokemon hidden in the shadows, both too busy with the battle to concern themselves with the human. Ismene's solarbeam burst forth like a swollen bolt of lightning, if lightning moved with singleminded intensity toward its demise. It burrowed into the fur of some smaller, rodent shaped pokemon - Kali only caught a flash at the corner of her eye, it had reddish brown fur and wide eyes - and launched it into the air. By then Kalliope was too far to watch the battle. At the same instant, the second pokemon - slightly larger and paler than the first - was whipped into the air at such speeds it could never hope to reach naturally.

With a resounding smash, it hit the ceiling of the tunnel with so much force its body bent inward on itself. When the psychic power released, it fell to the ground in a heap and bounced twice before lying still. Down but not out, it managed to launch itself out of the way of the other pokemon's attack. The smaller pokemon, now on watch by Kazimir and Ismene, who had to gather her strength once more before she could attack again, sparked with silvery yellow light. The static leaped off its small body and arced through the tunnel, landing squarely in the center of Ismene's round belly. If Kalliope had the foresight to look back, she would have reconsidered her comparison of Ismene's solar beam to a bolt of lightning. One just struck her tiny powerhouse of a pokemon, sending her back twenty feet into the curve of the tunnel. But Kalliope was busy running. She finally spotted one of the humans and sunk her energy into her target.

That was the moment the light vanished completely.


http://files.jcink.net/uploads/harperregion/sprites/228houndour.png
-Taken by surprise and hit by Body Slam
- Knocked unconscious, health ~12%
-Returned to his pokeball

http://files.jcink.net/uploads/harperregion/sprites/174igglybuff.png
- Used Flash
- Used Solarbeam, both charge and release
- Struck by Thunderbolt
- Health ~50%

http://files.jcink.net/uploads/harperregion/sprites/280ralts.png
- Traced Ismene's Friend Guard
-Used Disarming Voice, empowered by the echoes of the tunnels
- Hit with Gyro Ball
-Used psychic on mystery pokemon
- Health ~70%

(Mystery Pokemon, unknown species to Kali/her team)
-used Body Slam
-Used Protect to avoid Disarming voice
-Hit with Psychic, health ~78%

(Second Mystery pokemon)
- Hit with Disarming Voice, knocked back
- Hit with Solarbeam
- Used Thunderbolt against Ismene
- Severely weakened
- Health ~30%

--------------------
Namid and his Travels
PCR

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Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!


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Kaia
 Posted: Nov 3 2017, 10:06 PM
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Total Posts: 365
Member No. 2161
Joined on 29-December 15.


Characters:
Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

Awards: 3




Everything began to happen all at once. The moment the light disappeared, Kalliope was forced to stop moving. Without line of sight, she couldn't take an assured step, much less swing a sword. Kazimir was annoyed at being attacked in the first place, considering himself much too important and strong to take such flack. Ismene, outright furious at having been hit and sent flying, took to rolling headfirst around the corner. It didn't matter that she couldn't see anything in front of her. When she met the wall, rather than being bounced off, she rolled with the curve and ascended. If the tunnel had been any less perfectly rounded in shape, or her own body slightly less mobile and soft, she might have injured herself. Instead she picked up speed, rolling like a raging graveler down a steep mountainside. Nothing could stop her attack. She whipped right past Kazimir's small form with ease. One of them was moving. She expelled a blast of flamethrower, not the full attack but a huge jet of flame that burst into being above the battle and vanished in seconds. It lit the scene just long enough for her to spot one of the pokemon, the larger of the two, and shift her trajectory. With all of her might, she took her built up momentum and speed and barreled forward. A sharp inhale, her little body rolling off the wall and into the curve of the floor, she lifted her small fist.

With one loud, resounding smash, Ismene buried her fist into the mysterious pokemon's side, a wallop of a mega punch whose power increased with her momentum. Her body slammed to a stop in the attack--the other pokemon whipped backward, unprepared. Ismene let out a cry of triumph and stuck her tiny fists in the air. Kazimir on the other hand was busy with the remaining pokemon. It kept dancing back and forth, speedily dodging Kazimir's attention. In the darkness he was forced to search only by psychic waves--however, the more the creature moved, the more it blurred. He could hit a moving target, but perhaps not one so small as this with such speed. It would be a waste to try. When Ismene's flamethrower illuminated the area, he seized his chance to zero in on the creature, whatever it was. He unleashed a bevy of psychic power.

In the fading light, Kazimir's tiny fists clenched. He missed. The be-damned beast danced out of the way at just the last second. The light was gone and he was forced to search for it in the darkness once more. Kalliope had seized her own chance with the flames. She was closer to the human than she'd realized. She threaded her way closer, trusting her memory when the light failed, and swung. She hit something hard with the flat of her blade. The human emitted a cry of pain and there was a scuffle. Kalliope slammed her shield forward to bash into whoever it was, landing a solid blow. She took another step, determined to capture whoever it was, and the ground began to tremble. Beyond the human and Kalliope, something massive shook the earth. Faint pinpricks of light filtered in as whatever it was moved. Kalliope gasped.

The light hadn't vanished. Whatever that creature was ahead of them had filled the opening in its entirety, blocking out the light from beyond the tunnel. It moved now, and the ground moved with it. The tunnel shook and trembled. Dislodged stones and dust fell from the roof. Kalliope's chest tightened. She could see the person she'd hit disappearing into one of the crevices of light. She swore under her breath but couldn't follow. The closer she got to the opening, the more dangerous. It would be one thing if her pokemon were beside her and she could run with them together. But they were engaged behind her and could be in danger themselves. Being separated from her trusted companions wasn't a risk she was willing to take. Kalliope ignored the niggling thought in the back of her mind, wondering when she'd learned such caution.Two years ago she would have run headlong into the dropping stones.

Two years ago I didn't have Kazimir to protect. She thought to herself, turning her back on the tunnel. The ground kept her from moving far. She had to move on her hands and knees to keep from tumbling. I'm not the one who needs protecting, you foolish human! Kazimir's overwhelming voice bellowed in her mind, his concern for her losing the bare restraint keeping her from being mentally injured by his presence. She ignored the pain and kept on. The ground didn't slow down one iota. Kazimir used his psychic powers to toss the rocks that came too close to his mistress, losing his own safety and presence of mind in the battle. He didn't notice until too late the rocks which rose up from beneath them and slammed upward, causing even more debris to fall. One such rock lifted Kazimir himself and threw him as it raced upward and out.

The might of the ancient power broke the very pathway into shards, delving almost five feet downward to tear at the earth. Stone from below and above met in a violent clatter. Kalliope threw herself against the wall, ducking between it and a fallen boulder that left just a wedge of space between. Kalliope couldn't see either of her pokemon but she cried out to them, both aloud and in her mind. The roar of stone and earth swept her voice away like dust in the rolling desert sands. Time slowed and became eternal. There was no thought, no rhyme or reason. Only the agonizing scream of the mountain and the pounding and shaking of the rocks. When the sound finally dimmed and faded away, it took Kali a few moments to notice. The yawning howl in her ears had filled her to the point of paralysis.

Wedged in the rocks, her head aching from the tumult of stones, she could barely breathe for the suffocation. Her hands clenched at her temples, her eyes squeezed painfully shut. She didn't hear the desperate hyperventilating her throat and lungs made until Kazimir's warm, tiny hands touched her face. His familiar presence filled her mind and eased the fear back. She had enough presence of mind to grab him into a tight embrace. Air shuddered out of her aching chest and throat. Dust left her mouth dry and grainy. She didn't dare open her eyes. If she saw how tightly compacted she was in the rocks, she would lose it again. The rocks are gone. I moved them away from you. If we move quickly we can get to a stable section of the tunnel before that above us falls again. His mind-speak was strained in opposition to the safety of his small form in her arms.

She eased her hold just a little and straightened. Dust fell off her in waves, and she had to open her eyes to keep herself from falling. Or she would, if she wasn't surrounded by complete blackness. Kaz. Even in her head, her voice sounded weak. I'll guide you, but you must move quickly. Two steps forward. That's it. Keep going. Lift your foot! Kalliope hastened to obey. The orders gave her something to hold onto, something to focus on. He guided her beyond the debris with curt direction. Sidestep left. Keep going. Put out your hand. There's a huge boulder there but we can squeeze between it--no, Kalliope. We can squeeze through. It's only a little tight. Trust me. Kali did. She trusted Kazimir with her life. Her hands trembled and her legs quivered like jelly but she forced herself into the tight space between wall and boulder. When she was sure it would crush her to pieces, she popped out the other side. She dropped to her hands and knees, Kazimir cradled beneath her, and heaved.

She didn't quite puke but she got close. Dry heaving and hacking, she tried to slow her racing heart. Eventually she noticed something warm and soft touching her face. Ismene, who was petting her face and cheek with tiny, pink limbs. Kalliope realized the tiny pokemon was trying to comfort her both with touch and voice. "Ig-ig-igglybuff. Iggly iggly." She sounded like she was telling Kalliope that everything was okay and to not be afraid. Not that Kalliope could understand pokemon, not a chance. She's saying I punched that nasty ugly face hard for you. I wanna hit him again and again! So rude to attack my human. So very rude. I'll get him next time. You see, I hurt him good. I beat him up and he won't hurt you any more! No sad, human. No sad. Kalliope choked on a laugh. She reached out to embrace both pokemon, getting an unexpected eep of surprise out of Ismene.

"You both did incredibly well. Are you okay Ismene?" She mentally calmed Kazimir's barbed reply by pointing out she could feel all of his aches and pains when he was so immersed with her, and that she would see to it soon. Ismene babbled some more, though Kaz refused to translate the drivel as he called it. Kalliope couldn't see anything. "Ismene, can you use a little bit of flamethrower so we can see? Just a tiny bit, like when we practiced." The igglybuff nodded, more a sensation of movementn against Kali's chest than by sight. She scurried out of her handler's hold and burbled a splash of flame. There was space around them, though the path she'd walked through with Kazimir was completely blocked up. She shivered.

Sometime while she was hyperventilating, Kazimir released his hold on all the rocks. They'd decimated the tunnel. She was on the far side of the bend, back where Erebus had first taken off. She couldn't believe that attack had stretched so far. Both attacks, she realized. "Ismene, Kazimir. Each of you use Heal pulse on one another. I need to get Eerie. When you're done healing, I want you both to heal him. He was hit pretty hard and knocked out of battle." She fumbled with her belt, counting as she always did the order of pokeballs. A very faint, rose aura illuminated both pokemon. First Kazimir's ball, which she never used except in emergencies. Then Erebus' ball. Finally Ismene's. Once she was sure everything was in order, she released Erebus' catch.

The blinding red light hurt her eyes but she ignored it and embraced the pokemon carefully. He was awake but quite weak, whimpering. "It's okay, Eerie. You'll be healed soon. Hold still, alright?" Ismene and Kazimir both converged on their comrade and flooded him with healing light. Between the two of them, he was healed up completely. While all three were physicallly healthy, Kalliope felt Kazimir's weakness and she knew Ismene must be the same. "Time for you to rest." She patted Ismene's forehead and returned her to her pokeball, cut off mid-squeal. She said she wasn't tired at all and wanted to play some more. She was wrong, by the way. Kazimir explained unprompted. "Erebus, I know you've been through a lot. Can you lead us out of here or would you like to rest?"

She was prepared to let him rest a while but he hopped to his feet and crafted another handful of will-o-wisps to guide them out. He walked on with his head held high, though his ears laid flat and his stride lacked his usual jaunty strut. Kalliope didn't want to point out his weakness when he could tell Kazimir might mock him for it - she wasn't sure how deep the animosity between them ran but she didn't want to start it. It took less time than traveling in had been, since they no longer followed a scent. By the time they made it to the first intersection, however, the sunny day was long gone. Kalliope chewed her lip. Over an hour, possibly longer. The battle wasn't more than three minutes but everything thereafter? They walked on. Raina greeted them when they reached the final exit. She didn't say anything to Kazimir but she nodded smartly and trotted toward her, to offer her a place to mount up.

Kalliope thanked Erebus and gave him a well deserved rest in his pokeball, then climbed resolutely into the saddle. Kazimir she pooled in her arms, using one hand for the reins. "Let's get as far away from here as we can and camp out. We'll return in the morning and see what we can find. If you would, Raina?" The rapidash took off at a gallop. While everyone else had lost strength and stamina during their trip, Raina had only gained more strength from the sun - though it now lay far in the west, nearly hidden by the mountains. They made it past three mountains and ate nearly fifteen miles before Raina stopped, blowing hard through her dry nostrils. They waded away from the road and into the steeper reaches of one of the foothills. They chose a spot with a steep rock wall at their back to set up camp and Raina breathed heavily until Kalliope pulled a waterskin and a wide metal pan from her things. She filled it with water to let the pokemon take their fill as she set about making camp. They couldn't use a fire, not with the risk of being discovered. Instead she released Erebus and slept wedged between him and Raina's natural heat.

No one kept watch that night, though Kalliope slept light enough to hear an approach - or at least, she hoped she had. The moment she closed her eyes, she was out like a light. Kazimir curled in her arms, too exhausted to even think. They slept deeply and without dreams the whole night through, mercifully undisturbed.




http://files.jcink.net/uploads/harperregion/sprites/174igglybuff.png
- Used Flamethrower
- Used Mega Punch, catapulted from high speed
- Hit by Ancient Power
- Used Heal pulse on Kazimir and Erebus
- Fully healed, though tired


http://files.jcink.net/uploads/harperregion/sprites/280ralts.png
- Used Psychic
- Hit by Ancient Power
- Used Psychic to protect Kalliope during the collapse of the tunnel
- Heal pulse on Ismene and Erebus
- Fully healed but exhausted

http://files.jcink.net/uploads/harperregion/sprites/228houndour.png
- Released
- Fully healed, but exhausted

(Mystery Pokemon 1, smaller)
- Used Substitute
- Used Rototiller and Run Away, Fled

(Mystery Pokemon 2, larger)
- Hit by amplified Mega Punch
- Used Ancient Power
- Health ~38%
- Fled

(Mystery Pokemon 3)
- Used Earthquake
- Fled

--------------------
Namid and his Travels
PCR

user posted image
Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!


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Kaia
 Posted: Nov 8 2017, 11:11 PM
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Top Handler
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Total Posts: 365
Member No. 2161
Joined on 29-December 15.


Characters:
Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

Awards: 3




Day Four
Hot, dry and cloudless
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Morning dawned in pale silvers and vivid rose, dotted with golden sparks interspersed within the thin veil of cloud cover. What little moisture clung to the mountain crests was devoured in the harsh sunlight peering over their sharp peaks. Kalliope rose to the rough scratching of a canine tongue on her forehead. With a sigh she sat up and patted the houndour who attended her for sustenance. She pushed him off her gently and cradled Kazimir in one arm before laying him in her bedroll to keep him comfortable. She then went to work preparing the morning meal for them all - thank celebi for Rocio's kindness in providing their food. They ate quickly and broke camp well before the sun fully ascended the sky. Erebus looked well rested and much healthier after their battle the day before.

Kalliope promised to provide him with more fun later, then pulled him back into his pokeball. Kaz rode at her shoulder as per usual, until they climbed onto Raina's back. Then Kali had to hold him or risk him getting sick or falling off. She didn't mind--Raina would find the path of least resistance back to the road and needed little direction. "We'll head back to the mouth of the tunnel and see if we can find any evidence from yesterday. The cave-in buried the other exit so we have no idea where it might be, but at least we have a start." Kazimir nodded, in full agreement. He didn't really care about this whole "quest" such as it was, but he cared that Kalliope wanted to see it through. So long as she was committed, he would lend her strength and his skills.

Raina took the road at a ground-devouring trot, a pace she could keep up all day without tiring. It took longer to return to the site than it had to get away but Kalliope had no intention of tiring out her borrowed mount well before they found a trail. Even so, they arrived over an hour before noon. The blue-white sky above had begun to shift from the rich azure of summer toward the frosted blue winter. In the desert it was too early to feel the change in the air but it wasn't long in coming to the rest of the realm. Kalliope let her mind wander over every detail of yesterday's excursion. The hidden tunnel, the passageways beneath the mountain. That central hub of gathering, well evidenced with its previous visitors. The whole place reeked of a thieves' hideaway. However, it was on a larger scale than she would ever have imagined.

Who was that person she met in the tunnel, whose face remained hidden? Kalliope hadn't gotten the opportunity to ask Erebus if they carried one of the scents he was tracking or if they were someone completely new. She made note to ask him later. As to the cave-in itself, Kalliope knew there were too many pokemon who knew ancient power and earthquake respectively - she recognized the moves after the fact. Too scant information to answer any questions. She took another path. Why would the scent of one of the couriers follow the tunnel pathway - and only his? Why was there no evidence of a fight, or of the others in the group? They moved as one, Rocio had explained. In a line like a swanna's brood, an invisible string binding the five. They trained together and worked with one another for years, or at least knew each other. Kali shook her head. Too many questions, no answers.

Only one place left to search for answers.

Raina left the trail at the same point she had the afternoon before. She followed around the wide, froakie pad toes of the mountain to the inner crevice where their tunnel awaited. Or should have. Where once had been a cavern entrance ripped into the side of the mountain, instead was a blank face. Hard-packed earth, rock and sand. Kalliope's brows furrowed and she swung out of the saddle before Raina finished moving. Kazimir trailed her on the ground, equally uncertain. Both put their hands on the rock face and slid them back and forth, trying to find a seam or fracture in the false wall to show the entrance. "What the...?" Kali breathed. "Kaz, can you open it the way you did yesterday?"

The ralts looked at the rock face and narrowed his eyes under the fringe of green. He sent a shock of psychic power tremor-ing to either side of the mountain, digging his nubbed hands into the rock. At length, he took them away and shook his head. Impossible. Yesterday there was a cave behind the wall. If I yanked at the rock here, it would only reveal more rock. There is no cave within. Kazimir padded away, missing Kalliope's look of shock. Not only had the entrance been hidden, so too had the cave? She knew this was the same place. The ground retained the deep gouges of Kazimir's attack yesterday, as well as the larger rocks and stones he'd pelted around them. "Can you find any of the other tunnels? Surely another entrance or exit is nearby." Again, Kazimir shook his head.

The only reason I was able to locate the cave yesterday was because the mutt had begun digging at the entrance itself. When he dug at the earth, I could feel the vibrations echoing. I wouldn't have noticed if I wasn't looking for something strange. It's like my teleportation. I can go somewhere I've seen or can see, something tangible. But I can't travel to a blank space I've never known and have never visited. There's too much unknown to factor into it. He padded away and sheltered himself in the shade of the foothill, out of the baking heat. Kalliope swore, colorfully. "Of all the--alright, then." She disengaged Erebus' pokeball and released him once again. He looked around, wagged his tail and whuffed. "Eerie, my dear. I need your help again. Can you find any trace of the scents from yesterday? They don't have to be right here. Someone or something has destroyed our tunnel from yesterday. But maybe there's another somewhere around this mountain."

Erebus hiked one side of his face to the left, ear flopping. He licked his chops, blinked. Then he whuffed and padded away, following the edges of the mountainside. Kalliope prepared herself for a trek. They rounded the foothills until they broke up into a sheer rock face, one side of the mountain flat and sharpened to a point like a fang. Erebus kept his nose to the ground. Their speed remained at a constant trot. Without a specific scent to follow, he could move at ease until he picked up any errant scent he might recognize. While he might not know the names of a great many things, every scent he memorized stayed with him for life. He would know his mother and father fifty years from now, just from the smell of their pokeballs. But as the morning slid into afternoon and the sun's heat bore into them, Kalliope's hopes dwindled. She realized about the time they rounded the far side of the mountain that perhaps she had walked more than this distance in the caverns the day before. They spent hours within the tunnels and without the sun as a guide, she had no inkling of what direction they'd gone.

When the road loomed in sight once more Kalliope knew they would have no luck today. Their discovery yesterday had been spotted by one of the people who knew of the tunnels and all chances of finding out more dashed. They would find no more tunnels. Kalliope called Erebus to a halt when he reached the road. "You did well today, Eerie. Time to rest." Despite her praise, Erebus' head hung low and his tail tucked downward, immobile. He was as disappointed as his handler. In things such as tracking and hunting, he was the best on their team. To fail was to know shame. He disappeared into his ball with a whine. Kazimir had returned to his place on Kali's shoulder once they'd gone a mile around the mountain. Raina trailed behind them, ambling for all her worth as though following them had been nothing but coincidence. Kalliope mounted the rapidash with a sigh. "Let's return to the city without delay. We might find more information there. Kaz, if need be can you remember this exact mountain and bring us back to it?"

Of course, he sniffed, affronted. I could even teleport you here should I so choose. But not the beast. He sneered at Raina, whose canter left his bones trembling and weak. "You can't teleport us into the tunnels themselves?" She asked, half hoping. No. Even if I could pinpoint exactly where they were under the mountain, we don't know how far the tunnels have been blocked up. If I teleported us into a blocked tunnel, we would die. Kalliope sighed. That's what she'd figured, but letting this chance slip through her fingers was so frustrating she wanted to shout. How could she lose such a glowing opportunity? But she knew she could have done no differently the day before. Her pokemon mattered more than the chase, every single time. All she could do was get back to Navdia as soon as possible and try to plan her next move.

The return trip took two days, with Kali careful not to overtax Raina and making sure Erebus was out to guard them at night. They arrived in Navdia saddle sore and sunburned near dusk. Raina knew her way back to Rocio's home better than anyone and Kali left her to trace it uninterrupted. Kalliope hated to fail. She caught the very edges of the coattails of whoever attacked Rocio's team and let them slip away. Kalliope swore to herself she wouldn't let it happen again. Rather than going straight into the house, Kalliope followed Raina into the stables where she was kept comfortable. Kalliope brushed her coarse white fur and filled a trough of water and food respectively. Only when Raina was properly cared for did Kalliope go to the back door and knock.

A serving man opened the door, his arms thick with muscle and coated in flour. His sleeves were nonexistent, though he wore a coarse yellow apron over his nicer uniform. Kalliope forgot how well taken care of the Cuevas family was. They made more than enough to support a household of servants. Kalliope's own family did well as far as merchants went but they didn't put money into caretakers. Instead, they put it into their work, purchasing local stores of varying varieties and growing the individual businesses for a small tithe. Kali had little interest in the family business, unfortunately. Someone else would take over for her mother in the later years. Kalliope nodded politely to the man. "I apologize for our interruption, I didn't realize it was so close to supper time. I can find my way."

The man narrowed his eyes and filled the narrow space of the doorway. "I'm thinking no, lass. The Cuevas ain't inviting visitors." His burnished skin tightened around his jaws and his dark eyes narrowed. "Off with you." Kalliope sighed inwardly. She should have sent a note to Rocio about her early arrival. She wasn't expected for a few more days. With one finger, Kali tapped the guardian sigil on her shoulder. "I'm not a thief or a con artist of any sort, sir. I'm a friend of the family, Guardian Kalliope Tamsin. Mrs. Cuevas invited me to investigate her family's deliveries."

The man didn't move. He all but glowered with dislike. This was a man trusted with the protection of his boss's home and livelihood. Kalliope understood his determination but didn't have anything to show for proof. "If you'd like you can bring Rocio to me for proof. She'll tell you who I am." Kalliope offered. The man's shoulders stiffened.

"The missus ain't here. Come back tomorrow." He stepped forward, using his body to push her toward the door. Kalliope stood her ground for a moment, defiant at being routed. But then she eased herself from the door. Kazimir was furious on her shoulder, a tiny bottle of anger at this human's disrespect toward his Kalliope. Hold, Kaz. He doesn't know who we are. I can't fault him for protecting their home. I should have sent a message. We can find an inn and send Rocio a message afterward, don't worry. Kazimir wasn't appeased. He's rude and he dares insult you! I can make him let us in. He gritted his teeth. Kalliope shook her head. "I apologize for the intrusion. If you would let Mrs. Cuevas I stopped by, I would appreciate it." The man scowled as he pushed her out the door. Kali doubted he would listen.

As the door slammed in her face, barely missing her nose, Kali heard a familiar voice. "Don't mind Gustav. He doesn't like people." Kalliope whirled, broad smile on her face. Kazimir shifted to hold on in the wake of her sudden movement, then again when they were engulfed. His indignant squeak was drowned out by the yelps of excitement. "Took you long enough, small fry." When their tight embrace released, Kalliope met the emerald gaze of a dark haired, copper skinned beauty with long, thick curls and a wide mouth. Gold hoops glittered in both ears, matched by two sets of four gold baubles, one smaller than the next, as they crawled up her ear. Their hands clasped tight. Kali noted the strong, calloused fingers belied by dainty bones and slim wrists. Kali's face, red from the sunburn as well as the rush of her heart, grinned so hard her face hurt.

"Who you calling small fry? I'm practically a giant nowadays." She teased. "Cin, it's fantastic to see you. I had no idea you were still living at the family home. Why didn't Rocio mention you were here?" They continued to clasp hands as the young woman urged Kali back to the doorway.

"I just came into town. I was on a delivery. I lead them out nowadays, didn't you hear?" She pushed open the back door and shoved Kalliope inside. "What are you doing standing out here in the heat? Get inside, I'll get you something cool to drink." She distinctly ignored the horrified, then furious expressions warring on Gustav's face. Kalliope trailed her, hiding a smile. Of all the people she'd met in her life, Lucinda had the force of personality which mimicked a tauros. Bullheaded, stubborn, and could not be moved without a fight. She also had a seviper's sense of temperament. Or at least she had when the girls were young. Kali wondered briefly how much her childhood friend had changed. The bright eyed, mischievous child she knew was as wild as she was beautiful.

"Miss, she ain't allowed!" Gustav finally broke the silent war, stomping over to his young charge. "Your pa will have a fit." He narrowed his dark eyes and smacked his hands together, a burst of powder billowing around his fingers. "You know what he said last time you brought some whatsit into his home." Kalliope took a seat on a stool at the small, round table served for informal meals. Kazimir hopped off her shoulder and sat on the worn, smooth wood. He was still upset Kalliope had jostled him about. Lucinda turned her gaze on Gustav and stared silently until he looked away.

"Kali is here on behest of my mother. She is not a whatsit here to infuriate my father, nor a floozy, nor a con woman. You will make sure to set a place for her at the table and treat her with the respect all of mother's guests are given." Her rich voice cut sharply. "Fetch us something cool to drink and we'll retire to the parlor." Lucinda swept toward the hall in a whoosh of cloth and hair, despite the fact that she'd been headed to pour them something to drink herself. Kalliope quickly followed behind, with Kazimir grumbling and bringing up the rear. "He's a nice fellow when we're alone," she explained as they threaded their way through the house. "Mother says he gets airs, being in her service for the past five years. I think he's just close-minded. Father used to have a sense of humor, you know. Now he grumbles under his breath and pitches a fit when I refuse marriage luncheons." They returned to the room Kali had first visited, with the floor to ceiling mural.

They all three sunk into the confines of the sofa, Lucinda's feet hiked up on the coffee table. "Tell me how you've been! When did you become a guardian? And who is this little fellow?" She pat Kazimir's head with deft fingers, either ignoring or oblivious to his glare. "Last I heard about you--" She brought herself up short and offered Kali an apologetic smile. "Anyway, tell me what you've been up to since we last visited."

"Shall I enthrall you with six years of adventuring?" Kalliope winked. She spread her hands in her lap, curled against the thick fabric of her trousers. They were dirt-stained and wearing at the hem. Her tunic had seen better days, as well. "I'll skip the boring years, I think. The last fall I saw you, you were a spritely thing. All curls and curse words." She grinned. "After that, we stopped making the route through Harper. I started practicing swordsmanship in earnest, and then a year ago almost to the day I pledged myself to Lord Archer in the Pass. He accepted my pledge and I spent a few months training as a greenie. You know the schism?" Lucinda nodded and Kalliope went into fantastical adventuring into the war, both what faction she served and the varying battles that took place. She regaled her old friend until they both doubled over in laughter, then moved on to the recent months since--well, since. By the time they wound down, the sun was long since set and Mrs. Cuevas came calling for dinner.

The three women gathered at the table, set with sweet pastries and a bowl of baked fish. The multi-hued vegetables, filled with purples and browns and ripe orange, gathered around a roast pidgeotto and everyone ate to bursting. By the time the lattice marrionberry and plum pie was delivered, with a well-whipped cream topping, they were all barely able to finish their slice. "It's so delightful to see you again, Kalliope. We missed you these last years." Rocio reached over to take her hand and squeeze. Kalliope smiled. The Cuevas had always treated her like part of their family. She'd learned much from the spice traders.

"I'm happy to be here. I missed you all as well. I hope you give my regards to Silvestre. I know he's been too busy to visit." Kalliope hadn't seen the slightest flicker of Rocio's husband of thirty years, though he wasn't out of town. She looked at the two women and drew in a breath. "I thought it best to wait for news until after dinner. Should we retire to the parlor to talk?" Her question was directed at Rocio but it was Lucinda who answered.

"We've been in enough suspense. Spill." Lucinda scooted her chair forward and sat in the high backed chair, meeting Kali's gaze with feverish eyes. Kalliope pursed her lips but Rocio didn't request her daughter leave. Things must have changed, Kali mused. Time was, Rocio would as soon eat a clauncher whole, alive and clamping, before she would let her daughter into the dangerous world that is their business. Kalliope stretched her shoulders before folding her hands in front of her.

"I wish I had more to report." She looked at Kaz. "Will you fetch the belt?" Without moving, the psychic yoinked the half shredded slab of evidence from her bags on the far wall, brought in by an unhappy Gustav. It floated to the table and settled down on the empty space. The silver and copper spoink glimmered in the candlelight, its pearl glistening. Dried blood flecked the artwork as well as the belt itself, torn in half. "I found this by chance on the road and foll--" Lucinda snatched the belt and held it up to her face, studying it. Her eyes, red-rimmed, barely blinked as she turned it this way and that. When she finished, she clutched it to her chest and met Kali's eyes.

"Where did you find it? Did you see him?" Her voice was tight.

"I found it near the base of a mountain, and no I didn't see anyone attached. We investigated the area thoroughly." She described what they'd found and everything that happened from the moment she discovered the tunnel's existence. When she finished, Lucinda had yet to release the belt. Rocio's somber face was pale. "I take it you recognize the belt. It was the only evidence we found, I'm sorry, Rocio." The older woman waved off the apology abruptly.

"You discovered more than I ever anticipated. I imagine you'll speak with the Guardians to get a task force together?" Rocio's hands remained on the table, folded. Her fingers bleached white with strain. Kalliope looked away.

"Unfortunately, there would be no point in the matter. The tunnel was caved in and there's no evidence of another one anywhere I could find." She licked her lips, about to voice a thought she'd been struggling with for days. "I think, though I'm not certain, the tunnels we found led away from that mountain. I think the rest of the entrances and exits are hidden throughout a broad area of the crescent range. There's no way to know for sure what is what, and without a proper scent we can't ask even two tracking pokemon to go on a hunt, much less the dozens it would take. Until I find another lead, the discovery is useless."

Rocio sat up, her mouth a thin line. "So you'll keep searching?"

Kalliope nodded. "Of course. I don't call it quits just because one lead met a dead end. There are other leads. I plan to visit headquarters again tomorrow and search the archives anew. I won't give up on your people, Mrs. Cuevas."

"Rocio, please. You're doing so much for us, I couldn't bear to stand on formalities." She nudged Lucinda, whose face was ashen and unresponsive as yet. "You've always been one of the family. That hasn't changed and will never change, my girl." Rocio stood, her back stiff and her legs aching. "It's time for this old woman to go to bed. Sleep well, girls." She exited the dining room to a chorus of you're not old, you're young as a spring torchic! and the two girls sat together in silence. Kalliope looked over at Kazimir, who'd fallen asleep with a swollen belly. He snored lightly on his back, green hair falling in his eyes.

"Who is he?" Kalliope asked quietly. Lucinda shifted, her fingers sliding over the belt buckle.

"Julio." Lucinda kept her eyes on the spoink. "We had this made for him when he won the Summer races. His favorite pokemon is a spoink. Won't even let his dear Sonia evolve. Says she's perfect just as she is." Lucinda swallowed. "He's my cousin, on my mother's side. He and Quinton did everything together. Their friendly rivalry only ever made their kinship stronger."

Kalliope's mouth went dry. "I remember them. They always looked like twins, but Quinton was older wasn't he?" Lucinda nodded. "I'll find them. I swear to you and your family. I swear to Arceus himself, strike me if I lie." Kalliope put one hand on her heart, the other on Lucinda's clasped hands. "I'll find them, Cin. I'll find them and bring them back to you." Kalliope squeezed her hands and met her friend's eyes. "You look exhausted. Must have been a long ride, wherever you came from. Get to bed, I'll see you in the morning." She stood to leave when Lucinda tightened her hold. Kali turned.

"I know you will. You've never failed to achieve what you wanted in life. Look at you. Strong pokemon, a guardian to boot. Taller than a oak tree, after you were such a pipsqueak when we were kids. If anyone else told me they could find my cousins and the rest of the group, I would laugh at their faces until I cried. But you?" Her grip was so fierce Kali's fingers tingled. "You can do the impossible. Nothing gets in your way." She smiled, so hollow after the evening's news. But her eyes retained their fierce belief. "You can do it. And I've got your back."

Kalliope was dragged from the dining room by Lucinda's unrelenting grip, Kaz hiked over her shoulder. The girls argued all the way to the bedroom and long after the lights went out.

--------------------
Namid and his Travels
PCR

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Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!


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Kaia
 Posted: Nov 13 2017, 11:28 PM
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Characters:
Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

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Day Seven
Dawn, faint chill
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Kalliope slept until dawn, then roused to head to the main headquarters of the Guardian branch in Navdia Crater. She'd been there once before to loosely investigate the robberies along route ten. This time she wanted a deeper look into the information. She traveled on foot with Kazimir only because the psychic refused to separate himself from his handler, even if she planned to spend the whole day in an enclosed room with ink scribbles on parchment he couldn't read. He claimed he would entertain himself. Kalliope had learned not to argue with the psychic when he made a decision. The same Captain held down the fort at headquarters, who nodded politely to her when she entered. Other than that, no one bothered her much as she headed straight for the archives. No one was in residence. She took her time going over the walls of bulletins.

There was an entire shelving unit dedicated to items stolen or presumed stolen, organized both chronologically and by location. Kali left the whole thing alone--no sense researching stolen items. If she found anything taken, no doubt it had been sold through multiple hands by now. She wasn't after the goods, she wanted the perpetrators. Instead, she went over every account of robbery or assault on route ten. The first time she had done so, she'd only read the ones that looked relevant. This time she combed over every piece of parchment no matter how little information it offered. After the fifth such account she went in search of the man at the desk. "Excuse me, sir." Kalliope bowed once again to the grizzled man before addressing him. "I was hoping you might have spare maps of route ten lying around? Or if not, is there one I might borrow to copy?" The man looked her up and down, his thick brows peaked at the ends.

"You didn't find what you were looking for last time?" He asked.

Kalliope shook her head. "Actually, I found more than enough information. Too much to sort through and narrow down." She shifted, one shoulder raised in a half shrug. "But now I have a better idea of what I'm looking for. Do you mind?" The man got up and popped his neck.

"Nah, not really. Got nothing better to do anyhow. Too early for crooks and the like." He brought her to another room off the main hall. It was cramped, no more than a closet, but he dug through the stacks until he found what he was looking for. "Ye'll need to make a copy. We've only a few detailed maps to spare round here." He handed it over. "We've got plenty of material though. Take your pick." He waved and left her to it. She picked out a decent sized scroll and an ink quill, as well as four different stoppered bottles, then dragged everything back to the room full of robberies and assault. She secured a space on the table by relocating a few stacks of paper and a dozen scrolls, then tacked them down with different bottles. Finally she spread out the real map. Kazimir watched, first in fascination, then in annoyance, as Kalliope traced the lines of the map onto her own, smaller paper. She scrawled the mountains with as exacting detail as she could in a coppery ink, the road itself in black. There were few water sources along the area but she sketched sharply angled lines over what would be considered the sea. After painstakingly mimicking every line she could find then double and triple checking its accuracy, Kali folded up the original map and stored it.

Then she went over the multitude of reports one after another. The more detailed, exquisite map she'd borrowed had labels for specific mountains and some of the deserted towns along the route, as well as known places to camp out for guardians traveling in secrecy. Along with that, it included a mark for distance. Kalliope hadn't made it exactly to scale, unfortunately, but she'd done her best. The first report she read over had to do with a robbery. It didn't have very much information, other than the fact that two people died and an entire wagon had gone missing. Kali frowned. She found a little saucer lying around in the room and poured a little of her two remaining ink jars into it. With a whisk of the ink tip, she took the now purple ink and made a dot around the relative position of the caravan. The next was merely a robbery, items stolen with no dead. She marked its vague location in blue. Every place a traveler was found dead, she marked with a red dot. Those who died with their things taken were marked in purple. She ended up needing more purple than blue and it was slow going. She went through at least fifty reports, trying to pinpoint the exact places they were attacked.

Some reports were too vague to have a destination or were given post humus by the families who reported them missing presumed dead. Those she wrote on a scrap of paper to the side in short hand, adding the clearest details she could. She went through report after report, adding little details where she must, until she ran out of sources to cite. Then she parsed the whole of them again without marking the map, only separating the reports by size of party and location. By the time she was done, it was well after noon and she was covered in ink splotches. She'd also taken to circling every attack that was shrouded in some mystery or confusion in black. She then numbered them in copper by most recent to oldest. Her eyes ached and her hand cramped painfully when she was finished. Kazimir had a little happy face drawn on his belly in red ink, unnoticed as he slept.

Kalliope roused him with a gentle nudge. "We're heading out. You ready to go?" She asked politely. Kazimir grumbled and sat up, his hair sticking up on one side in a mess. Kalliope chuckled and straightened it for him. "We have all the information we can glean here, my dearest. Let's go get some lunch and regroup." She sat him on her shoulder after cleaning up the mess she'd made, making sure to roll her spare notes tight within the confines of her rough map. This she carefully maneuvered into her bag, placing it in the crook of space left by her spare tunic. No doubt the map would be dented and mussed a little in places by the time she needed it, but at least it was protected for the most part. They left with a small wave to the Captain and meandered about the streets. What are you hungry for? Meat? Some savory soups? I hear there's a shaved ice stall not too far from here, courtesy of a cryogonal.

Anything, I don't care. He rubbed his belly and pouted, the picture of a starved pokemon despite last night's feast. You don't suppose that woman will feed us more spicy corn cakes? He wondered, mind wandering to the sweet, fluffy golden cakes Gustav prepared the night before. Kalliope grinned. Rocio always wins people over with her great grandmother's recipes. I'll ask when we return. For now, let's find something close by. The nearest stall happened to be a smoke stall. The stall was built like a makeshift shelter, walls on three sides with a rough tarp to keep away the sun. At the top of the tarp was a circular hole cut and sewn to allow dregs of smoke to rise out of the stall rather than linger. Kalliope bought them six skewers of tart, mesquite smoked poultry studded with pearl onions and slivers of potato. The pair ate as they walked.

Rather than going straight to the Cuevas residence, they wandered for a while. Beyond the Guardian headquarters, in the center of the city, wrapped a marketplace and bordering that was what was considered the "slums". They weren't the real slums. They were located too close to the marketplace and housed the majority of the working class. But there were many homeless who huddled in narrow alleys and dug through piles of rubbish. It wasn't a pretty place. Kalliope started off in the marketplace, eyeing this shiny trinket or that new set of leather boots with steel soles. Hawkers of all sorts advertised their wares as she passed, distributed within shouting distance to one another. Many of the shops had heavy cloth awnings over their open air doorways and every shutter was propped wide open to allow for the faint breeze in an otherwise stifling room.

Kalliope noticed a change in the scenery. Her feet slowed as she stared, her eyes tight in the creases. In the corners of shop windows - hanging from strings and dancing in the wind - or hanging above doorways in thin, pleated fabric were accents of color. Bright golds, vivid oranges. Splashes of red and brown dotted the images. Kalliope paused in the doorway of a bakery to examine one such piece. A paper thin bolt of cloth hung to the left of the doorway. Written downward in bold lettering were the words Harvest Festival. Written beside it in smaller, looser script: Come one, come all! Gather during the last week of Nocta for food, games and performance! Kalliope lived her life not by days of the week but by what she was doing. Thinking it over, she couldn't remember which day of the week or month it was. She approached the boy behind the counter, who crouched to adjust the goods in the shelf.

"Excuse me. What day is it?" She peered easily over the counter. The boy, hardly fifteen, jolted in surprise. His face was heavily pocked with pimples and his narrow eyes widened with shock. He fell backward onto his rump and winced, hands rushing to the point of pain. "Sorry about that. I didn't mean to startle you." The boy rushed to his feet and dusted his hands off, a red blush forming under his marked face. Kalliope noted belatedly she stood over him by a full head. He swallowed and gestured to the various breads and pastries offered. "Oh, of course. Kaz, what would you like?" Kazimir - who was always hungry - salivated and sent her an image of bread so dark it was almost black. Kalliope nodded and pointed it out to the young man, adding one of her own which was studded with cranberries and some sort of nut. While he gathered the items with tongs, she tried again. "What day of the week is it, if you don't mind?"

His hand paused halfway to the shelf. He looked at her quizzically. "It's Murkday, missus." He must have thought it was a trick question. "Twenny-fif of Nocta." He finished wrapping her items in a thin wrapping and set them on the counter. She handed him coin while her mind raced. So late? She arrived on the eighteenth. Less than a week remained before Rocio would be forced to send another shipment, regardless of how Kalliope's investigation had gone. She shivered. Kaz, we don't have much time. Six days, no more. If we can't find the culprits by then, we must escort Rocio's new delivery ourselves. I can't sit back and let her deal break because of my failures.

Kazimir patted her hair. He didn't say anything, which was just as well. He didn't fully understand the implications of deal making or breaking, nor Kalliope's determination when they weren't even being paid. He barely understood the use of gold--and only that because he enjoyed food and luxurious places to sleep. Spoiled, he might be. She picked up speed, intent on getting back to the Cuevas' and studying her map. Back at the residence, Rocio was otherwise enraptured in her work. She had a few gardeners on staff to assist her in caring for their varying herbs, plants and spices, but she did the brunt of the work as much as possible. Kalliope ran into Lucinda as she went in search of Rocio, in hopes that the woman could spare her a little time. "Kali, you're back." Lucinda's eyes were red and hollowed, with blue smudges underlining her otherwise beautiful eyes. Her face was damp and pale, her hair askew. Kalliope halted. Lucinda still wore her night shift from the evening before.

It was a thin, loose covering much like a sleeveless tunic. But the neckline was wider and the hem of the skirt barely reached mid thigh. Kalliope sucked in a breath. Lucinda wasn't even wearing shoes, despite the hard floor. "Cin, what's wrong? You look--" She cleared her throat. "What's eating you? You look like a gengar munched your dreams all night." Kali took Lucinda's elbow and drew her to a couch, setting the girl comfortably on the cushions. Lucinda's hands were clammy and rough. Kali smoothed her fingers over Lucinda's and squeezed.

"I couldn't sleep." Lucinda admitted. "I feel so helpless. Julio and Quinton are out there somewhere, at least one of them is injured. Maybe...maybe..." She didn't finish her thought. "And the others. They were dear friends of mine. To have them disappear, no trace to be found," Lucinda sucked in a breath. "It's the worst feeling. Like a pit in my stomach that keeps growing." Kalliope rubbed Lucinda's hands in her own, trying to warm them up.

"You can't think like that. We know where they were last seen. We know Julio was carried somewhere. No doubt he's alive. And we didn't find any blood other than his, so the rest might be perfectly healthy." It wasn't a lie but the words left a bitter taste on Kali's tongue. She knew better than most what could happen to a group of people attacked on route ten. Out of the dozens of reports she read, survivors in an attack were about one in twenty. But she wouldn't voice her thoughts, not now. "I found plenty of new information today. Once your mother is finished with her work, I'll try to get a plan together to find them. Don't worry." Kali knew she sounded as hollow as Lucinda looked but her friend still smiled gratefully at her.

"What do you need mother for?" She asked, possibly to get her mind off of death. As Kali explained, Lucinda sat straight and tightened her grip. "That's all you need? I can help."

Kalliope hesitated. "What, you don't believe me?" A faint spark of Lucinda's stubbornness peeked out. "Mother has been training me the past three years to take over. My brothers don't have a head for finance and most of them left the family business long ago." She stiffened her spine and met Kali's eyes. "Hand over the map. I'll show you." It was hard to argue with Lucinda at the best of times. With chagrin, Kali dug into her pack and spread the scroll out on the low coffee table. They each used one hand to hold the sides open. Lucinda gasped. She didn't ask what the dots represented and that was just as well. Explaining would only make her feel worse.

"If I calculated right, I found the cavern right about here." She gestured to a point just beyond the curve of the route out of Navdia. Well away from the city itself but close enough to transport stolen goods with little fuss. "Rocio went over their route with me before but I want to make absolutely sure they would have passed this way." In answer, Lucinda traced her fingers lightly over the parchment. She paused at one of the mountains Kali had marked with a faint label. Croagunk's peak. Kalliope's initial comparison to a froakie hadn't been far off. "That's it." Kali nodded.

Lucinda pulled her fingers back but continued to stare at the markings. "They definitely went that way. There's a place between the peak and the Nosepass cliffs they cut away from the route and travel between the mountains. It cuts out half a day's journey and it keeps them away from riskier ambush areas. Down here," she traced the thin line of land between the crescent range and the ocean shore. "They take a reverse path behind one of the steeper mountains to avoid the shunted pathway. It's too easily overtaken and there are a number of ghost haunted villages in the area. Mother figured this is where they'd been taken. But if what you're saying is true..." She bit her lip hard. Kalliope finished her thought, to save her the trouble.

"It means they were taken within the first day of their trip." She confirmed. Lucinda squeezed her eyes so tightly shut Kali could see the twitch of movement beneath the lids. "This is a good thing. It means they were very close when they were attacked. If any of them were taken by the attackers, the closest city they could be taken to is Navdia." Kalliope wrapped her arm around Lucinda's shoulder.

"It means they've been lost for almost a month, Kali." She whispered. Tears spilled down her cheeks. "They could be anywhere. If they're even alive." Kalliope pulled Lucinda against her, pressing Lucinda's cheek to her shoulder. She stroked the lean lines of Lucinda's back and held her old friend as she broke down. They huddled together, time meaningless as fear and grief drowned Lucinda. It was a long time before the young woman pulled out of Kali's arms. When she finally did so, her face was raw and her eyes bloodshot. She wouldn't meet Kalliope's eye. Instead she lifted a section of her shift to scrub the tears and salt from her face. Her throat dry, voice cracked, she didn't make a sound.

Kalliope brushed hair from Lucinda's face. Unbidden she began to pleat one side of Lucinda's hair back into a thick braid, then the other. When she was finished, Lucinda's face was dry - if swollen - and her breathing returned to normal. "Sorry, I don't mean to burden you." Her voice was fragile. Kalliope offered Lucinda the waterskin she always carried. Lucinda took it and drank greedily, draining the pouch.

"Don't apologize. You have every right to be upset and worried." Kazimir had taken to sitting on the opposite side of the couch, in no way interested in the affairs of human emotion. He remained there while Kalliope went to the kitchen to fetch a wet cloth and some more water. She gave the water to Lucinda and took the cloth in her own hand to smooth over the raw, reddened skin of Lucinda's face. The dark haired woman cowed under Kalliope's glare when she tried to push Kali away. "I'm sure you don't want Rocio to worry about you too." She murmured.

"I don't. She's under enough stress." Lucinda sighed.

Kali pursed her lips. "And your father?" She chose a mild tone but Lucinda still flinched. "I know I've only been here two days, but Silvestre never misses the family dinner. I thought my first night here was a fluke but it isn't, is it?" Lucinda reached out to grip Kalliope's fingers.

"He hasn't been home since I announced my return." She looked at the floor. Her skin was cold. In the recesses of the house, the temperature was quite a bit cooler having been built into the mountain. Lucinda's thin shift wasn't enough to keep her warm, not to mention her bare legs, feet, and arms. "He and I haven't spoken in five years."

Kalliope gasped. "Whatever for?" She demanded. Silvestre had always been a kind, doting father. He might have been too invested in work sometimes but it had been his policy that family gathered every night to share a meal no matter what. Five years of silence between them should have been impossible. Lucinda's face hardened and she glared at the ground. Her chin lifted, shoulders tensed.

"It was his decision to take tradition over his own daughter." She made to spit on the ground, though she didn't sully the perfectly kempt floor. "If he wanted to change his mind, I would have accepted an apology. Instead I get nothing but silence and absence. It's the reason mother is teaching me the business instead of him." Rocio may have been the owner of Spice as Nice, but her husband handled much of the finances and the brunt of dealings out of Navdia. That Silvestre would spurn his own daughter was astounding. "If it wasn't for her, he'd have disowned me years ago."

Kalliope swallowed. "There must be a reason to act this way." Lucinda turned sharply to look at her. Kali's hands bunched into fists at her sides. The Cuevas family was as much her family as her biological parents. They had been strong and harmonious, a true testament to love. Kalliope admired them for years.

"If you count close-mindedness a reason, sure." Lucinda's voice lost the sharp edge in the wake of Kali's upset. She sounded tired. "He took offense to the types of people in my life. They weren't proper," she mimicked her father's clipped tone. "I needed to stop acting out and settle down like my brothers, with a family. He would hear of nothing but grandchildren and farmers' sons. Someone who could get their hands dirty and learn our family lifestyle." Lucinda met Kalliope's eye. Understanding.

"Rocio had no effect?" She asked softly. Of all the people Kali had known, Rocio was the best mediator. She was strong of will but caring, and willing to see both sides of any situation. Lucinda shook her head. "Shall I beat it into his thick skull?" Kali bit out. Rage rouged her cheeks and warmed her skin. She couldn't believe Silvestre wouldn't speak to his daughter all these years over foolish pride and stupid expectations. No, not couldn't. Didn't want to believe. She didn't want to tarnish the memory of him. But Kalliope thought back to the last two or three years she visited the Cuevas home. Silvestre had been boisterous and inviting to their family as always. But had he gotten brusque after Kali and Lucinda remained close? Or was she imagining things? She shook her head. That was the past.

Kalliope got up. "I'm going to find Rocio. I'll let her know not to save us places for this evening's meal." Lucinda frowned, a question on her lips. "What, you think I'm going to let you sulk all night? That's not the Cin I know. You and I are going out tonight so relax and starve until dusk so we can stuff our faces until we burst. How does that sound?" Lucinda grinned in reply. Kali went to Rocio to let the older woman know and to quietly ask what she knew of the rift between father and daughter. When she returned to Lucinda, the woman was asleep with her legs curled up on the couch. Kali covered her in the thick woven blanket hung along the back of the couch for decoration and left her to sleep until it was time to leave.

--------------------
Namid and his Travels
PCR

user posted image
Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!


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Kaia
 Posted: Nov 16 2017, 11:52 PM
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Joined on 29-December 15.


Characters:
Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

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Day Seven
Dusk, warm with a faint breeze
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"Come on, slowpoke!" Kalliope called over her shoulder. She skipped down the smooth stone pathway leading away from the Cuevas residence. Fenced in by a smooth stone wall around six feet in height, the Cuevas had plenty of privacy. Kalliope escaped through the wood door and dashed down the road. The slight incline sent Kalliope well ahead of Lucinda before she had a chance to get through the gate. Lucinda's laughter followed Kalliope as warm wind blasted her face. Kazimir, ever present, ignored this 'indulgence' and held on through the rough ride. Eventually the ground evened out and Kalliope let the change in slope slow her gait. Lucinda shot past her like a swellow on a hunt. Grinning, Kalliope picked up speed to chase after her old friend.

As usual, Kalliope preferred the clean cut, well-dressed look of a Guardian. She chose tawny trousers and a chocolate tunic, quite fitting for a harvest festival - with her Guardian issue leather vest and its harp crest over her heart. The colors worked well with her tanned skin and vivid auburn locks. She chose to wear her falchion on one hip and forego the rest of her weapons. Even at a festival, she couldn't walk around unarmed. Her lovely companion had done her hair in rich black curls, half pinned over one shoulder. A bolder sort, Lucinda wore a fine-spun scarlet dress, accented with gold thread. There were dense patterns shaping a corset without the vice grip with pokemon hidden in the fine stitching. The low neckline was held in place by thin straps cinched around her upper arms, leaving her upper back and throat bare. As she slowed to catch her breath, her smooth, walnut skin flushed with the faint red hues of adrenaline. The girls linked arms and laughed, taking a more respectable pace.

"When did you get so fast?" Lucinda inquired. She'd yet to fully catch her breath, making her voice lighter and more airy than it normally was. "When we were kids I could outrun you every time."

"Practice. And maybe I got lucky, considering I'm dressed for a run." Kalliope winked. Lucinda dug an elbow into her side, not hard enough to sting. "I'll take what advantages I can get." The closer into town they traveled, the more dense the road became. Both in structures cropping up on either side and in passersby. The pair walked close to one another, Lucinda on Kalliope's left to give Kazimir his space. In the rust and gold light of sunset, the adobe buildings were painted in rich hues.

"You could have worn something more comfortable if you chose." Lucinda pointed out. "I, on the other hand, could wear nothing less than the best. You don't know my reputation around here." She lowered her voice conspiratorially. "High expectations. I'm the Roselia of the market place, you know." She glared as Kalliope laughed. "It's true!"

Kalliope knew the telltale signs of her friend's lies. "Yeah, and I'm the Harper reborn. C'mon, Cin." She tugged their connected arms. "I don't doubt you're the most beautiful, uncommitted woman in Navdia. But you're much more of a seviper than a roselia. The rose is sweet and delicate, her petals the most beautiful of all. But she is soft and fragile where you are strong and cunning, with a tongue sharper than haxorus blades. You don't fool me, not one bit." They spoke in such a way their voices didn't carry to the crowds forming around them, more out of habit than to avoid being heard. The crowds themselves were raucous and lively, their own dins carrying well beyond the pair. Lucinda peered at Kalliope from the corners of her eyes, chin tilted downward to soften the look. Kali grinned.

"You're no fun." Lucinda pouted. "You could have at least pretended to believe me."

They turned down the next street. The sounds of the festivities were growing louder. "And spoil my night with a vapid, air headed companion? No, thanks." They surpassed a family, two young children and an older boy who carried the youngest on one hip. Their parents held hands, enjoying the moment of privacy. "I much prefer the seviper." Kalliope didn't see the expression on Lucinda's face as she scoured their surroundings. Her instinct was to keep an eye out for cut-purses and scoundrels. Of course there were none. This was merely the path to the festivities, not the festival proper. But they weren't far off. Beyond the next street corner, vendors stood on either side of the widening streets with small trinkets. Amulets to protect against ghost types, pretty bracelets made of glass beads or stones. One man in particular boasted the sweetest sugared plums in the city. Kalliope observed everything, from the slight shift of one hawker's eyes to the jaunty sway of an older woman's hips as she passed by a gentleman merchant selling necklaces.

"Never off duty?" Lucinda whispered. Kalliope jolted. Well, there goes her skill at stealth.

Kali glanced at Lucinda guiltily. "Not exactly. After everything..." She cleared her throat when Lucinda's expression dropped. "Your safety is my top priority, that's all. This isn't the first festival I've attended since becoming a guardian. You'd be surprised how many little things one notices after it's been beaten into their skull." She gestured to the woman not too far ahead of them with a nudge and a flash of her eyes. "Take that woman. She's been flouncing past every male vendor she's seen. She's only stopped once, when a man made eyes at her. I don't think she was interested in his wares, but she couldn't help but engage her admirer."

Kalliope pointed at someone else. This time it was a skinny young boy with short, messy hair and a reasonable, if patchy, tunic. "That boy over there? He's snuck his way into two different families since he joined the crowd. He passes merchants looking perfectly innocent but I think he's trying to find something to steal." Kalliope bit the inside of her lip. If she wasn't with Lucinda on a mission to keep the young woman's thoughts far from the grief she'd been dwelling in the past day, Kalliope might have found someone on duty to watch the festival to follow the kid. It was with difficulty she resisted stopping the boy herself. Lucinda watched the obvious expressions slide across Kalliope's face: guilt, concern, then resignation.

Lucinda picked up their speed, tightening her grip on Kali's arm. Kali shot her a look but followed. Despite her delicate limbs and the deceptive cut of the dress, Lucinda moved between bodies with ease. When she drew up behind the young boy, possibly ten or eleven upon closer inspection, she caught the boy by the collar of his tunic. He yelped and threw a punch before he realized a beautiful woman held him. Properly cowed by her glare, he surrendered. "You, there. I noticed you eyeing a few purses. Looking to rob these nice folks?" She pitched her voice low to avoid being overheard. The boy darted his eyes back and forth, goggling in panic. "Thought so. You're going to take your sneaky behind away from here, got it?" He nodded vigorously as she felt in the coin purse she hung off the slight fold of her dress. She dropped five gold coins in his grubby fingers and squeezed his hand over them. "Go get some sweets or a toy and stop causing trouble. Run along now."

His eyes lit up and he disappeared at top speed ahead of them, right to the thick of the festival streets. Impressed, Kalliope smiled at Lucinda. She'd understood Kalliope's distress and acted on it without hesitation. Perhaps more dramatically and less bluntly than when they were younger, but Kali recognized the steel force of Lucinda's old stubbornness and personality in the act. "You're a nice lady, you know that?" Kalliope tugged Lucinda back into the flow of traffic and into the first section of the festival. The street opened up and spread out, driving toward the main square of the marketplace. Many stores had candles lit in the windows with special treats or items being sold. Many had some sort of harvest theme or, in one case, a whole shop full of ghost-inspired pastries. Kalliope dragged her Lucinda inside. There were plenty of customers but the efficient sellers behind the corner got them to the front of the line at a reasonable speed.

"I haven't been to a festival in a few years." Lucinda admitted as they glanced at the shelves full of treats. There was a purple stained ghastly with cranberry eyes, apparently lavender and blueberry flavored. A row of little dusclops stared up at them, their single cherry eyes bright against the powdered, well twisted dough. Kalliope eyed the overlarge pumpkin pie with a phantump drawn in caramel and chocolate. Every pastry was done up in some sort of ghost type pokemon, either in delicate markings or broad strokes. Kalliope and Lucinda each devoured a cherry and blackberry stuffed dusclops turnover and three pumpkaboo cookies, one for Kazimir. They ate as they window shopped, peering into doorways and glass-less windows. Rather than stopping here, they continued toward the main square.

As the main location for festivities, the square was packed with patrons. Stalls created some semblance of walkways. The rows were shaped in spires, tightening toward the center. Every five stalls or so, there was a gap to allow passage to the next or previous rows. The girls followed the flow the long way around. When they reached the open space, Kali was thrilled to see entertainers. There was a rope walker who was visible from most parts of the square, high up in the air. She cartwheeled from one end to the other to a cheering crowd and performed other sorts of tricks on each pass. Below were brightly colored men and women in skin tight or grass-stuffed, bulging clothes. They danced or sang or juggled respectively. Kalliope was drawn to a cart with an open side like a window. There was a brightly painted backdrop and little cloth puppets moving frantically from one side to the other. A gaggle of children sat to watch, laughing or cheering in time with the puppets' tales.

"There's so much to do! What would you like to see first?" Kalliope turned toward Lucinda, whose eyes were bright with excitement.

"Everything!" She laughed. Her smile glinted in the dancing torch light. "Let's go watch the tumblers." She towed Kalliope toward the group of five young people all clad in different colored, skin tight outfits. One girl in bright gold twisted and leaped into the air, landing perfectly on her feet. Before she lost momentum, she threw herself into another tumble and up into the air with a thrust of limbs and thick, dark hair whipping about. Another tumbler, this one a man in vivid green, climbed on top of his fellow blue clad partner and was thrown bodily ten feet into the air. When he landed, he managed to hit both feet on the blue man's shoulders. Two more spun cartwheels around them while the green man demonstrated his balance and limber body. He rose onto one foot and leaned outward, unbound by the man below. Then he somehow twisted until one hand clasped on the man's shoulders and both feet were in the air. The cartwheeling girls had begun to spin together, then suddenly stopped to catch the final tumbler, the golden girl. She was tossed in the air by both girls to land on the green man's feet, and they began a complicated pattern of poses, each one more daring and at risk of plummeting to the ground.

By the time it was over, Lucinda was cheering and Kalliope was awed beyond belief. How anyone could contort their bodies in such a fashion and not pass out, she couldn't imagine. The tumblers passed through the crowd with small sacks held out. Most tossed a few coins in. Lucinda did one better and dumped a full twenty pieces into the gold girl's pouch. Up close her skin was dark and her eyes a smokey gray. She wore a mask in matching gold that covered much of her forehead, nose and cheeks. But her smile was bright and gleaming. She disappeared to beg coin from another bystander. Kalliope took Lucinda's arm once again and led her toward the next performance. They watched three more interesting shows, one a fire breathing human with a charmeleon companion who began a fire dance together that ended in a huge explosion of fire above, which was shaped into patterns and pictures. By then, their bellies led them back through the spiral stalls. They sampled spicy, fried snacks and finished with paper thin, lightly cooked dough filled with sweet whipped cream and dried fruits, drizzled with a peppery-sweet red sauce. Cinnamon dusted, apple stuffed pastries completed their foray into snacks.

Kazimir, well fed and relaxed after the initial discomfort of being surrounded by so many humans, so much noise and smell, began to enjoy himself properly. So long as he had tuned out the rest of the mental noise around him, he was fine. He began to doze, held up by Kalliope's hand. "I saw some shops with cool looking ma--" Kalliope flinched and dragged both hands to her temples, eyes squeezed tight.

"Kali, what's wrong?" Lucinda gripped Kali's arm with a firm hand, her eyes wide with shock. She stood uncertain as the Guardian held her own head and gritted her teeth. It was rare for Kazimir to overwhelm her mind in this way. They'd been together for over a year by now and his outbursts had lessened after the first few months. But the grinding, screeching trill scrambling her mind at that moment was not to be ignored or controlled. Kazimir must have fallen to sleep and awoken by some surprise. There was no explanation for his panicked barreling into her thoughts. After nearly a minute of wordless emotion and blinding colors in the back of her eyelids, Kazimir calmed down enough to form his own thoughts. Kali, Kali. You must see, must see now! Images flashed before her closed eyes. The tunnels, the quivering of the collapse. The thin, shadowed form of someone in the darkness. Pokemon on the attack. The whole world falling down on them. Bright flashes of light moving and then vanishing from sight. It took all of Kalliope's power not to scream at the onslaught.

I remember, I see! See it too. His words lost their cultivated clarity and became blunt. Must know! Must find! Flashes, faster this time. Erebus being tossed into the wall. Ismene flying through the air, hurling flame. The instant of two pokemon being revealed. The endless cavern at the center of the tunnels. Again, the formless shape of someone hidden in the darkness. They stained with a bluish green aura for a bare second before everything vanished again. Kazimir's intent filled Kalliope until she understood at last. Her eyes flew open and she searched the crowd frantically. Lucinda's hand, still on Kali's arm, squeezed and reminded the redhead she still had company. Lucinda's voice trickled in, though Kali belatedly realized her friend had been speaking this entire time. "...alk to me, please, you're starting to freak me out. What's wrong Kalliope? If you don't say something, I'm going to think you're possessed!"

Kali took her friend's hand and laced their fingers together. She met Lucinda's eyes for a brief moment before scanning the area. "Kazimir found one of the attackers when we were in the tunnels. We didn't get a good look at them but Kaz apparently remembers the smell of them and the color of their...it's hard to describe. Everyone gives off some sort of...something that psychics can sense. Kaz sees in colors apparently. Whoever it is, they're close." From the first sentence, Lucinda's face hardened and she straightened her spine. This was a chance to find whoever took Julio and Quinton.

"Tell me what to do." Even her voice was hard. Kali nodded.

"Stay close to me. Keep up no matter what. If you can't, run to the closest Guardian. Preferably one with a psychic, so they can find Kaz if we're separated. If I say run, run. Don't do anything that will risk your life." She followed Kazimir's mental prompting to the left, cutting between a pair of stalls that weren't meant to be a pathway. She stepped over loose debris and ignored complaints by the owners. Lucinda apologized in her wake, explaining they were on Guardian business in hushed tones. Kali barely registered the words as Kaz forced more information in her mind that she could barely process. She followed the blue-green wisps of a path that Kazimir flashed in her direction. If she pushed her way through people around her, she didn't notice. Lucinda kept pace with effort.

Finally they escaped the tight spirals of the stalls and headed toward one of the outer streets packed with vendors. Kalliope noted in some small corner of her brain that they were on the opposite side of the festival now. She picked up her speed as the flashes of blue and green grew larger. All at once she stumbled right into the young person who wore the aura. Kazimir's sight, doubled over her own to show who they were searching for, flickered and vanished, leaving Kali disoriented for a moment. But her hands were faster than her eyes as she gripped whoever it was sharply by the wrist. "Hey! Leggo!" Heavy of vowel, thick of speech, the lower born thread of the young captive's voice was catalogued in Kalliope's mental fortress for further recognition. "I ain't done nothing, lady!"

Kalliope's vision cleared just as Lucinda caught up. Kali wrenched one of her captive's arms behind her back, earning a surprised cry. She gripped the other and twisted it back in a matching pose. "You are under arrest. Tell me your name, now. Don't make me ask twice." Kalliope fell into her Guardian role instantly. Her shoulders were tight and her arms tensed with muscle as she held the captive hard. She looked over the child in her arms. And it had to have been a child, barely older than twelve or thirteen. Even though she was rail thin and bony, her captive was definitely female. Black hair hung just past her shoulders, wild and unbrushed. Kalliope took both of the girl's wrists in one hand and twisted to face her captive. In the torch light, the colors were bleached from pale eyes. Wide, dark lashed eyes. Panic. Kalliope didn't soften.

"Please, missus! I ain't done no wrong! Lemme go," She struggled weakly in Kali's grip and the Guardian shook her bodily until she stopped. "Please!"

"Kali, are you sure...?" Lucinda hedged.

"Absolutely. Same height and size, and Kazimir is never wrong. She's the one who attacked us."

The girl struggled anew, eyes bulging from her face. "Attack? I's never attack a noble ladylike likes you!" She wailed. "I's good! I's took an apple but I swores I'd pay tomorrow!" Passersby gave Kalliope and the young girl a glance. One or two slowed to watch. "Don't hurt me!" Tears filled the girl's eyes. Someone who had stopped to watch stomped over, righteous anger in his eyes.

"You, unhand that child!" He was dark and tall, with blazing eyes. Kalliope barely spared him a narrowed glance. "This is brutality."

"This is Guardian business. I suggest you back up." Kalliope held the girl with one arm, her fingers hovering near her blade hilt. The man drew up, ready to burst with an argument.

"Sir, hold on. My friend here is investigating a crime. Five people gone missing, one of them injured. This girl was there, Kalliope has an eye witness account." Lucinda stepped in. Kalliope was impressed. Rocio's training stuck with her daughter quite spectacularly. Lucinda continued to coax the man as she stepped forward, forcing him to move back or accidentally bump into her. Kalliope focused on the girl, trusting her friend to keep onlookers back.

"Enough of the theatrics. I know for a fact you attacked me a few days ago in the mountains. Or would you like me to release my houndour? He got a good scent of you when you knocked him unconscious." She thrust the girl closer and lowered her head to meet the smaller girl's eyes. "Tell me who you are and why you closed up those tunnels." The girl's lower lip trembled, her chest fluttering like a baby bird. Kalliope wasn't swayed. As the girl breathed in short gasps, Kali waited. Finally the girl swallowed.

"Caroline, missus." She mumbled under her breath. Her eyes dropped and she hunched her shoulders. "I swores it wasn't me who done attacked you. I's captured too. I's grabbed off the streets and drugged around with my eyes covered." She shifted one shoulder up as if to hide behind, though it was impossible with Kalliope's firm grip. "I's only get free yesternight." She tried to pull away again. "Lemme go, lemme go. I can't go back!"

Kalliope wasn't sure what to make of this information. Sure, the girl was small. She was barely more than a child and her racing heart and breath would be tough to fake. Not to mention the difficulty of a girl like her overpowering a group of strong, fast couriers. Even with five or ten more rogues, she wouldn't be able to do much. Kalliope didn't trust her one bit. But she remembered the tunnel of the cave-in. There were three pokemon, one so big in the background it covered the exit. She wasn't sure, but Kali had theorized a second attacker. One who was controlling the big pokemon. If the girl was telling the truth, it was possible the other two pokemon were under orders to watch the girl. Kali had fought with the small girl a very little, only once when she tried to swipe at her. Had the girl even attacked? Kali's memory was muddled. She sighed. With a glance toward Lucinda to call her over, Kalliope addressed Caroline.

"We're going to find a place to sit down and you're going to tell us everything. If your story holds water, we'll take you somewhere you'll be safe. If you're lying, you'll go straight to the Guardians for punishment." She gave the girl her fiercest glower. Caroline reacted by dropping her eyes and breathing hard. Kalliope covered her dislike of talking so harshly to a child. She had no choice. Until she had proof of innocence, this girl was the only link Kali had to the five couriers and their disappearances. "Let's go."

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Namid and his Travels
PCR

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Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!


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Kaia
 Posted: Nov 17 2017, 10:08 PM
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Top Handler
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Background Mods
Total Posts: 365
Member No. 2161
Joined on 29-December 15.


Characters:
Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

Awards: 3




Kalliope steered her quarry toward a side street away from the festival proper, Lucinda in her wake. Once the noise of the festivities minimized by each building they passed dropped to non-existence, Kalliope drove the girl to sit with her back against the wall atop a lopsided, if sturdy wooden box. Lucinda stood at Kali's left, her less defended side and both girls kept young Caroline penned. "Tell me everything. How and where you were kidnapped, how you ended up in the tunnels, and why you were running around free if you were supposedly captured." Kalliope had more questions but these served as a starting point.

Lucinda's arms folded across her chest. Kali didn't touch the sword at her waist but she kept her left hand hovering nearby just in case. Caroline stared at the ground, shivering. "I's an oppan, y'see." The girl began. She didn't meet the eyes of her captors. "Momma tooked care of me till she died lass year." She rubbed her arms with thin, bony fingers. "I's only stoles what I need." She stuck out her chin suddenly in indignance. Kazimir scoffed, his fierce dislike of human kind grown in the pitiable display of this particular human. "I's taken moon time ago, I no how long. They grabbed me sleeping."

So far there wasn't enough of the story to corroborate or displace her alibi. Kalliope nodded for her to continue when the girl went silent. "They's say I too small to sell. Caterpie worth more, 'ey says. So's I runs their words and keeps to my's own person like. They feeds me some for good job." Her broken common was difficult to parse and gave Kalliope a bit of a headache. She continued as if prompted. "I's no know how long I run. Tunnels is dark see, an' they not give me much. No sunny times at all. Lots of persons go in and out tunnels. Like miltanks, pushed 'long by greedy farmies." Caroline frowned but the expression didn't reach her mouth. Apparently seeing fellow humans being captured and bound did little to incite sympathy from the youngster. Kali took note of this, though it could mean different things.

"They's leave during day, so's I stay with one or some till ere'one comes back. I's stay with a soldier like," She imitated the swinging of a sword quite awkwardly. "Says he done fought the year gone." Kalliope assumed she referred to the schism, though a child might not understand the concept much less the tongue-tying term for it. "I's being watched by hims pokemons. A little fella with lots of fur and a yellow some such, dunno what yer lady." She canted her head to the side, as if trying to place whatever the pokemon's typing had been. Without finding an answer, she moved on. "Twas yer missus that done made my escape, I's think. Th' man, hims called Stork, not know you come until your beastie attacked. He used hims pokemons to watch me, but yours got th' better, missus. He yells at me, but I's know better. I follows his tiny pokemon and escapes."

Kalliope remembered the collapse of the tunnel. Just beforehand, the young girl had been hit by her sword. Never lifted a finger to attack, now that she thought of it. Not to mention she never spoke a word at the two pokemon who attacked Kalliope's team. No confirming or denying, then. "Then the skies come fallin', missus. I's so scared I crawl into a hole and cry till it done stopped. Stork be gone, I's sure, so I run away. I hear him follow for a time, but I's get away clean." Caroline shivered bodily, arms wrapped around her thin torso. Elbows clasped in each palm. "I walks back here, see, an' get free. Comes back, an' it's fest-val time! I's think good omen and try to get food." She nodded to Kalliope, the girl's chest heaving less with the telling and her face paled in the faint moonlight.

"Then yer missus grabs me and here I be."

Kalliope frowned. None of what she told Kalliope could be proven one way or the other without finding this Stork. "You said you escaped 'yesternight'," She referenced the young girl's earlier claims. "Nor does this explain how your scent was tangled with Me--with Julio's." Kali was forced to ignore Lucinda's flinch. Caroline's eyes flared wide once more, in uncertainty.

"Hulo? I dunno 'er, missus." Caroline chewed her lip. Before Kalliope could press her for more information, Lucinda cut in.

"He's as tall as I am with thick, curly black hair tied like a pyroar's mane. He had a shiny belt with a spoink. He wore bright blue tunics and silver weapons." Lucinda stepped toward the girl with violent intent. "He has my chin. You'd know him as my family if you saw us together. You must have seen him. You must know if he lives." She gripped Caroline's shoulders and shook her hard. Hard lines marked Lucinda's cheeks and neck, her eyes like emerald daggers bleached into bone by the moon. Her hair, thrown back and wild from the running and exertion, gave her such a look of dark fury, like Vengeance incarnate. Kalliope took her shoulder and squeezed, drawing her back.

"We know he was near you for at least a small amount of time. My hound scented you together up to the cavern in the center of the mountains. Surely my friend's description gives you an idea of how he might look." Kali had to keep hold of Lucinda if not to protect her captive, then to save Lucinda's dignity from attacking a young, defenseless child. Caroline, who cowered when Lucinda went for her, drew up her knees to her chest and tucked her face away. "Take your time."

"Lots of people came and leave, missus." Caroline whispered. "Many lots. Many as festival, I think." She didn't lift her face from her knees. "They's binded in ropes and sharp metal things, and they's make lots of sounds. Painful like, missus. They's cry nonstop. Some die. I's not to talk to them. I's get the whippings if I do. They's get the beatings, too." She shook her head hard, face still covered, and Kalliope noticed her small body trembling. Kalliope chewed her lip. This was the only chance Kalliope had at these people. And she wasn't certain this girl was telling the truth. Still, the way her young limbs trembled, the way she wept for people she'd seen suffer, didn't seem like a falsehood. Caroline was barely a child, thrust into a dangerous world she couldn't control.

How could this girl have any part in the kidnapping and killing of innocent people? She was so thin and bony, like a half starved whelp. Barefoot, with no more possessions than the patchy and hole riddled trousers and tunic, both too big for her skinny frame. She was so much the frail, abused orphan she claimed. You couldn't fake malnutrition. Bodies weren't designed to do so. Kalliope took a deep breath, decision made. "Cin. I need you to fetch a guardian or two. We need to get her somewhere safe and warm for the night." She gripped Lucinda's elbow and spoke barely above a breath, "There's nothing we can learn from a shivering, half literate child who's been abused and starved. Or do you really think she had anything to do with Julio?"

Lucinda wanted to argue. The evidence lay in the tightness of her jaw and the stiffness in her limbs. But Kalliope was firm. "This is my jurisdiction. You know I'll find Julio and Quinton with everything I have. Trust me, and go fetch someone. See if they have a blanket or something warm to cover her with. The weather is turning and she's shivering already." Kalliope released her grip and gestured for Lucinda to leave. Kalliope took a seat beside the girl, sitting on the hard, cold ground beside the box. Caroline hadn't moved position, limbs drawn tight and close to her body. Lucinda left very unwillingly. She kept stopping to stare over her shoulder. Desperation wrote itself over her features, clear as the stars. Kalliope's heart skipped. Her poor, dear childhood friend had been through a lot the past few weeks. This was the second lead the whole endeavor had found and Lucinda would rather cut off a limb than leave. But Kalliope knew for certain she couldn't leave Cin with Caroline--Lucinda was too stubborn not to want to find out more, at any cost.

Finally Lucinda's form retreated between buildings and was no longer in sight. Kalliope settled in for a bit of a wait. Even if Lucinda found someone close by, they might not be at leave to abandon their duties for some kid. Lucinda might have to go to the main quarters to find someone not currently busy with their own job. "The pretty lady," Caroline ventured. She'd sat up while Kalliope's mind wandered, and Kali wondered for a second how long she'd let herself become distracted. "The scary one." Kali nodded, curious.

"Not hulo, but Quinny? Quinny the biggun?" The girl asked quietly. "I's heard you whispering." She looped her hands over her shins. "I's know Quinny. He's as nice as thems come. He talks in whispers when he roped up. I's sneaks him treats and pretty rocks." Caroline shook her head. Kalliope's throat was full of too many questions. She distilled them all one by one into a singular question, voice soft and nonthreatening.

"What happened to Quinny?" She asked, assuming this was Quinton in question. Kalliope hadn't seen the fellow since they were younger and Lucinda wasn't here to recognize the description, but Kalliope was sure Quinton wasn't the most popular name out there and having two captives with the same name and looking a bit like Lucinda would be nigh impossible.

"They's tooks him. Out the tunnel mouth. He's was sold to slavers." Caroline met Kalliope's eyes bluntly. "They's think I too stupid to know what they're bout. But I's hear it all. They's take hims to the slums. Stork talks of it, times. Threatens like when I go bad." Caroline shivered. "I's know hims looks. I can show you." She peered at Kalliope under a hank of hair, fallen when Caroline sat forward in offering. She could have toppled face first if she were any heavier or taller. Kalliope sat up straight.

"You're sure? You can take me to him?" Her heart hammered in her chest. To get this close? Caroline nodded.

"They's talk of signs to know his wares. They's say Stanner horns and gold rings." Caroline explained. Kalliope had to mull over the words to understand. There must be a sign to let slavers know where to meet in the city. Stanner must be Stantler. Horns and gold rings. That was distinctive enough for Kalliope to find. She rose to her feet abruptly. "They's talk of the streets, too. You's not city bred, no offense meaning missus. I know. I show you. Come with, I take you." Caroline hopped off the crate and laced her fingers with Kalliope's. With the light, soundless steps of a young girl, Caroline drew Kalliope deeper into the darkness, toward the slums beyond the market place. The bane of proper folk, where the lawless and the homeless shared stolen succor and slept in dirty alcoves beneath shop doors. Kalliope was so close she could smell it. So close!

--------------------
Namid and his Travels
PCR

user posted image
Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!


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Kaia
 Posted: Nov 28 2017, 11:08 PM
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Total Posts: 365
Member No. 2161
Joined on 29-December 15.


Characters:
Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

Awards: 3




Kalliope followed at Caroline's heels, their fingers bound tight. Night brought on quickly the chill of autumn. Caroline's slim fingers were as icicles in Kalliope's grip, only gradually warming in the redhead's hot grasp. Again Kali forced herself to notice the differences between them. This young girl was barely clothed and smudged in dirt and grease where Kali was well dressed and quite warm by comparison. The girl's legs were wire thin and tanned where Kali could see skin, nearly matching the darker hues of her face. She definitely had the look of one who dwelt in the desert rather than the mountains, as Kali's skin clearly showed. She was much shorter than the redhead, but as Kali followed she noticed the girl's hunched shoulders and sharply bent knees. She frowned. Beaten into submissiveness? She'd surrendered quite quickly in Kali's grip earlier and hadn't once tried to run once she was released. Even when Kali's mind had wandered the young girl hadn't bolted.

Her story ran too closely toward Kali's theories. An underground slave trade wasn't unheard of, and considering their nearness to the ocean - where pirates and the like could easily take captives in a pinch without being caught out by authorities - led credence to the tale. This also explained Julio's being taken despite bleeding heavily. If he survived he would be worth more as a slave as one who is hardy enough to handle difficult masters and tasks. Kali liked this trail of thought not at all. Kazimir thus far remained silent. Human ways were in some scant way familiar to him but in such a skewed view as to be a hindrance rather than assistance. Perhaps not nearly so naive to human doings as Erebus, whose canid nature caused him to see predator and prey, rather than the varying degrees of citizenship and why a good man might do a bad deed or a bad man made to look like a great man would be a dangerous predator to hunt. Kalliope dashed these intrigues, reminding herself bodily to pay attention to the hunt at hand. If Kali wasn't certain Erebus wouldn't attack the girl - or terrify the girl by his very presence - she might have risked letting him out to have one of their number marking the trails.

But Erebus was too young and inexperienced, through no fault of his own, to be risked. Perhaps later when Kali could properly attend him. Unfortunately the houndour was more likely to run off howling after the girl than trust that she would lead them to the bigger fish and the victims. So Kali followed a bare step behind Caroline, her sword slapping her thigh briskly but without great noise. Caroline's even breathing bespoke her claims of being runner for the slaveholders. Surely they expected no less than speed and efficiency and a young girl in their care might quickly learn the importance of stamina. Kalliope filed those thoughts away yet again, though she added another notch to the trustworthy column. "This ways, missus," Caroline whispered. Her harsh accent and heavy speech made the words carry further than Kali liked. If they were getting close to a slaver's secret base, whispering was a bad idea. She had no time to correct the girl, however. A sharp turn to the left, thrice more sharp turns down narrow alleys, and they burst into a wider, if no less busy, street. Only one or two fellows hid in the shadows of buildings and Kali gave them no more than a cursory glance.

Right now finding Quinton - and the rest by proxy - mattered more than anything else. So long as none of the shadows peeled away to chase them, Kali ignored their existence. They must have run through the tangle of cramped streets for ten minutes or more, Kali quickly losing her way in the twisting paths. Kali wondered briefly how far they'd come. Surely she heard no more of the festival and had seen less passersby than ever. Too the hovels around them, some with broken shutters or boarded up doorways, lay dark and empty. The rare buildings which looked inhabited were along the lines of seedy pubs or gambling dens. Kali didn't look closely at these. What use were they to her now? Caroline's hand, finally warmed up by their grip and the exertion of running, tightened. She slowed to a creep, shoulders hunched so high she looked like a murkrow chick.

"Is near, missus." She whispered again, and Kali bit back a curse. "I's never seen the likes, but I's hear tales. This ways mayhaps?" She turned once in a circle, very slowly. Kali waited a few paces away to give the girl room. The faint sounds of a zubat chittered in the background, its piercing sonar cries quite commonplace at night. The pair heard many such sounds of pokemon in the near darkness all around. Only the faint light of the moon illuminated the streets rather than torches - this being a less pretty place to visit in dangerous hours after dark - so there were few sightings of said pokemon. Now and then a shadow or glimmer of something mobile piqued Kali's attention. But always they disappeared in a flash. Another sound, slightly closer, of a bird type shrieking in annoyance - to Kali's ears - at the zubat. "This!" She exclaimed, bounding off in the opposite direction of where they'd come--hopefully. Kalliope became hopelessly lost two minutes into their hunt. With no sunlight to dictate directions, no familiar landmarks and no real sense to their paths, Kali had no way of knowing just where she was beyond the base notion of being in the slums. And only that via evidence of the worn out, hollowed buildings in severe disrepair around them.

Kali chased at the girl's heels, giving way only for the girl's apparent knowledge of their location. They ran down two more street crossings before disappearing between two leaning buildings, both clearly disused by regular work though illicit deeds might yet take place. Caroline turned so fast her hair whipped behind her and vanished. Kali followed mere seconds later, breathing even for one well trained in endurance, her eyes downcast to pick up the pale coloring of the girl's clothes. If she hadn't been looking downward at that moment, it might have been the end of her. Instead Kalliope caught the glint of silver dancing a foot from her trajectory. She wheeled, throwing herself toward the opposite building and getting a bruise along one shoulder as a reward. She ignored the pain and drew her falchion with a hiss of steel. The craftsmanship of her sword might have been considered decorative and useless--if it had been man made. But this was a well honed and properly crafted wing feather of a specially bred skarmory. It was as deadly as it was beautiful, shining in the moonlight.

Across from her, a skinny youth with short cropped hair and a hidden face came at her, daggers in each hand. One came at her in an upward swipe, the other a quick jab at her vulnerable stomach. Kalliope cursed her decision to leave her shield behind. Though small and built for close-quarter fighting where her sword was for proper battle, her buckler proved useful against daggers. Kallioper made a mental note to never leave without it. She slashed horizontally, then twisted her wrist at the last second to drive the tip of the blade upward and out. Her attacker, male from Kali's standpoint, leaped back to avoid its reach. His attack, as well as his upper hand, dashed as soon as Kalliope had dodged around the corner. Without surprise on his side, getting close enough to wound would prove difficult. Unfortunately, the cramped quarters of the narrow alley did Kali's reach little good. If she stretched her arm out completely, the tip of the blade was less than a foot from the opposing wall. That meant she had to be equally as creative.

Kalliope gave up her advantage at having startled the man to search for Caroline. The girl stood against the alley wall, far enough away not to get caught by misplaced steel. Kalliope waved her on, to run, to get some help. She was forced to look away and return her attention to the attacker. He'd regained his composure and bent at the knees, bare blades loose in his grip. He dodged left, then right, then left again without so much as lifting a foot. Kalliope's body moved instinctively in the direction of his, matching the feints. Moonlight, hankered by the tall buildings, illuminated little more than the blades and Kali's pale face. Her attacker wore a headscarf of some sort, or possibly a handkerchief across his face to hide his features but for his eyes--which were impossible to see anyway in the weak light. He lunged, both daggers borne together blade to blade like sneasel claws, first to catch Kalliope's counter swing. They deflected and disengaged, then his right fist whipped toward Kali's head, sharp tip barely missing her face.

In the first steps of the ambush, Kazimir had been clever enough to see the danger in his remaining attached to his handler and instead chose to throw himself to the ground and mask his presence. It was all too easy when no one paid him any mind. Kalliope appreciated his absence the moment the blade drove toward her, as he might have been in the way of the blade and she would have risked injury to herself rather than her companion. Thus unencumbered, Kalliope dropped to the ground and kicked out with both legs, foregoing the chance at swiping at his vulnerable belly. Kalliope's kick connected soundly, heavy boots cracked against bony knee. The man's legs crumpled and Kalliope used the spare second to leap to her feet, blade poised between them. Rather than some fancy flourish of the blade or a kick to the man's vulnerable points, Kali dropped all show for speed. The lunge she took was deep enough her inner thighs screamed with the stretch, but the tip of the blade went home. It buried itself in one shoulder, causing the man to cry out in a thin, reedy voice. A hollow o concave in his mask appeared as he sucked in a gasp.

Kalliope yanked out the blade and strove for another attack, this one a horizontal backslash that was slightly off kilter as she tried to lean into the attack and missed her footing. Rather than his throat - which she'd been aiming for - the sharpened tip caught in the man's leather vest and ripped through, leaving a long, thin slash from collarbone to collarbone, if a few inches lower in placement. Fabric gaped with the sudden loss of structure and the stranger slapped one arm over the dripping wound. From this far away, Kali had no notion how deep the wound was. She kept her guard and stepped in, her blade thrust diagonally in front of her in defense. The stranger slashed wildly with his free arm angrily. He took a step to the side and collapsed to his knees, cursing. His knee injury proved just painful enough to render it unable to withstand the weight. Kalliope strode forward, this time placing the blade at the stranger's throat before he regained his balance. She was enough in length away that the daggers would hold no danger - plus the advantage of being able to step back where the attacker had none. Unluckily for him, he was backed against the alley wall.

"Drop your weapons and put your hands against the wall. You're under arrest." Twice now she'd made this statement in an evening. Strange, to run into such trouble. Granted trouble wasn't far from the slums with two easy pickings rounding a corner. "You'd do well to obey before I take exception to your arms." Kalliope gestured with her blade, twitching it just enough to let the razor-sharp edge slip over his hairless throat and draw a tiny line no more than an inch wide. Both daggers hit the ground with a clatter and he put his hands to his side, touching both the ground and the wall. Kali swept one foot over the blades and shoved them out of reach of her attacker. Kalliope got a better look now that they stopped fighting. The thin fabric over her attacker's face was, in fact, a handkerchief stretched and tied at the back of their head, leaving a dark throat bare. Kali had to reevaluate her attacker as well. Though tall and quite thin, at least in form if not in the well toned muscles hidden beneath the fabric, her attacker was definitely a she. Barely was there a swelling beneath her tight-fit shirt, and invisible beneath the vest.

Kalliope's attack had rendered her breast band and vest a bit useless in their attempt to hide her obvious femininity. Rather than find herself more impressed by such skill in a woman - considering she herself was quite skilled this went without saying - Kalliope was more shocked by the fact that she'd taken such lengths to cover her sex. Then again, living in the slums alone would be risky for a female. Kali slid her blade tip upward and cut the fabric of the handkerchief covering her attacker's face. She had just enough time to register narrowed, hateful eyes, a soft mouth and a narrow, upturned nose. Close up her eyes were a sort of steel white - though that could easily have been thanks to the moon - and the barest cant of her large eyes in her dark, angular face. Before Kalliope's mind finished putting the pieces together, something took sense from her person.

Drowning in Kazimir's cry of shock - long since forgotten in his hidden place - Kalliope fainted before she hit the ground. In her last shadowy moment, Kalliope noticed something familiar about the attacker's eyes. Then she was out like a light. Kazimir's voice in her mind continued on, though he remained silent. The pair of humans bent down before his handler--no, his best friend, and began to reach for her belt. Multiple pokeballs - his included - hung dull in their cases opposite an empty scabbard. Kazimir's mind raced, his heart hammering painfully in his chest. With brutal force he slapped together a low, eerie howl to rip through the night. Both humans flinched and looked around wildly. Kazimir built up the illusion, adding the pounding of clawed feet, four paws each hitting the gravel in time with the opposite and reversed leg. He drew together another howl, imitating the nightmarish, spine chilling sound of a houndour on a hunt. The false paws clattered closer, mimicking the sound of dislodging gravel. A scrape of paws, a twist of one lean, muscled body.

Erebus' spectre leaped into the narrow alley with a vicious snarl. Fangs glinted with deadly grace in the pale moonlight, his hackles rising to enlarge his otherwise short, thin frame. His blood-red eyes gleamed like little pools of firelight. The smaller human scrambled back, remembering Kalliope's threats from earlier. Kazimir used this split second of the humans' distraction to make Kalliope disappear. In her place, or rather standing through her via illusion, was an exact copy of Kalliope with a wicked grin on her face. She laughed harshly and both humans started again, pinned between pokemon and handler. The bigger, attacking human crawled on the ground to get her blades. But Kalliope's spectre leaped back, turned on one heel and bolted. "Catch me if you can," she taunted, running off in the darkness. Kazimir had her down pat, from the way she spoke to the way her body moved when it ran. The attacker human ran after her instinctively. The younger one, the one who'd led Kalliope to this ambush, dusted off her knees and called after the attacker. Kazimir took a spare second for Erebus to howl again and leap at the girl, who scrambled back and cried out something that sounded important - though Kazimir didn't know what.

His mind worked not unlike a human, but it was also quite dependent on his own experiences and he wasn't nearly as old as he pretended to be. He didn't understand that the human was calling a bird like pokemon down from the alleyway, which swooped down with eerie grace, its body almost translucent. Wait, it was translucent. Kazimir's body went cold. He hated ghost types beyond belief. The human shouted a command and pointed at the false Erebus, who stood in the opposite direction of Kalliope's true form. Kazimir left the illusion frozen, with Erebus' mouth snarling with flames licking at his teeth - odd because they gave off no proper light, only the illusion of one, and ran to his closest companion. Whatever attack the bird used against the illusion, it was loud enough to give Kazimir a chance. He gripped Kalliope by her arm and Teleported them both to the roof of the building against which Kalliope's body had been laying. Erebus' illusion flickered and vanished in the attack; bird and human started and began to investigate the area. Kazimir threw himself on top of Kalliope and hid them both from sight, reflecting the bare rooftop they clung to above him in a perfect illusion, his whole being on protecting Kalliope.

The bird alighted, hovering above the alleyway. It cast its beady gaze back and forth, tongue clicking in its beak. The blue-transparent feathers created no sound nor breeze, though its movements were beautiful. It circled the alleyway in wider and wider rotations, crying out to its owner in a mimic of some pokemon. Kazimir didn't care enough to figure it out, merely focused on keeping them from sight. The shadows of the roof helped in this. By the time his heart slowed to a more normal speed and his body stopped trembling, the bird and its owner disappeared. Kazimir didn't give two hoots where the stupid things went, only that they were safe for now. He teleported both Kali and himself back to the ground and prodded his human. She didn't respond, and Kazimir in a sudden fright wondered how one was supposed to know if a human was fully dead. He was in such a state of worry it never occurred to him to check her mind, which he was yet connected to. Instead, he depressed the pokeball next to his and released Erebus, who bounded into being in a flash of blinding red light.

"Ah," Erebus crooned, stretching out his body. "Y--"

"Silence your blasted drivel," Kazimir snapped. He had a tendency to use big human words to impress or intimidate and was in a bad enough state to use them against Erebus in his fear. "Some human whelps attacked our human. The small one was the same who attacked you in the tunnels." Eerie's body froze at the news, then his hackles rose in such ferocity Kazimir realized his own image had paled in comparison.

"Where is this creature? I will rip them to shreds for touching our human!" He gnashed his teeth in fury, flames rippling across his tongue.

"Hush, dog breath. They're gone. I chased them away." A hint of pride mingled itself into his voice, for in some part of his mind he was proud to have defended Kalliope from two humans and a pokemon without getting a scratch, not to mention without Erebus' help. His voice drained of anything but worry when he remembered why he had to defend Kali. "We must find the humans to get our human." He gestured to Kalliope's unconscious body. "I fear they tried to kill her. The small one--never mind. You must fetch a guardian, or better yet the human we came here with."

Erebus finally spotted Kalliope and a whine escaped him while Kazimir spoke. He crawled to her side and lay beside her, licking her chin and nudging her cheek. He didn't like seeing her this way. When Kazimir spoke of another human, Eerie shot a confused look at the ralts. He tilted his head to the side and flattened both ears. "What human? I have seen no humans since the tunnels. Do you mean her attacker?" Erebus stood and hunched his back, tail hung down and still. Kazimir shook his head, only furthering Erebus' confusion.

"No, the female human we attended the festival with." He was sharp with frustration. Kazimir prodded Erebus' mind - who flinched and growled low. "Shut it, mutt. I'm going to show you what she looks like so stop blocking me out. Remember her face." He did so, forming the woman in red with dark hair and fiery eyes - though he didn't give them color, or her proper height as he wasn't really a good judge of either. "Find her, lead her here. The human needs help." Erebus twitched his tail.

"I find her where?" He inquired, body tight with the thought of a hunt. Even in distress, the thrill of a hunt was enough to draw him into excitement. "I don't know where we are." He hated to admit the weakness to the psychic but there was no choice.

Kazimir thought about this. "You pride yourself on your tracking skills, do you not?" He paused until Erebus nodded his head. "We walked here on foot. Backtrack. When you get near the festival, you'll hear the noisy humans. She will be somewhere there. If you can't find her, find any guardian." At Eerie's blank look, Kazimir clarified with distaste. "Our human is a guardian. They wear a symbol on their shirt. Since you're nothing but a silly mutt with a sharp nose, I doubt you'll see them." He made his voice smug, though Kalliope had to explain to him multiple times over the past year not to attack Guardians during complicated situations and had only recently learned that a symbol even existed, much less that all human Guardians wore them. Still, he reveled in this knowledge Erebus didn't have - though the houndour had his own way of identifying Guardians, now that he understood the comparison.

Erebus chuffed in irritation but loped off before they could get into another argument. Trailing his human was simple. Her scent was as familiar and comforting to him as his mother's had been when he was fresh hatched. He could identify it anywhere. He also recognized Petal, the sweet-spicy scent of the human from the tunnel. Stronger near the place where Kalliope was felled, Erebus scented another smell, one that was like but unlike Petal smell. In the tunnels, overpowered by the many smells of the tunnels themselves, the multitude of peoples passing through, and the time passed in which the scent faded, Erebus hadn't gotten the best whiff of Petal and Earth. But fresh from a fight and tasting the blood from the battle - which he'd done while licking Kali's chin - he knew more about the smells than he had before. He wasn't the stupidest of beasts but unfortunately he also wasn't cunning and clever beyond his means. He could only trap these smells in his memory and keep on. Before he'd gone very far down the trail, Erebus stopped and sniffed. He huffed. Turned around, sniffed some more. Grumpy huff.

The trail. It tangled itself.

For the first knot of smells he was able to parse which was the fresher and which the slightly older scent, so he took the fresher smell. But then he ran into another, this point of intersect trampled multiple times. It took time for him to figure out which trail to follow and he was forced to back track more than once. Petal had been clever. She, for Erebus knew clearly she was a she despite having barely seen her before being attacked, had gone over and over the same places many times from different angles to confuse the trail. It was only luck - and the fact that she'd done so so many times there wasn't as much distance to the trail as the smells of sweat and body odor implied - he stumbled on the oldest of trail smells, barely discerned from the rest, and found his way toward the festival. The sound of people permeated the air sooner than the humans would have known it, and Petal might have gone further out to hide the trail if Erebus had been out and about during the trek to avoid notice.

Despite the close proximity of the festival, now easily found even if he abandoned the trail, Erebus lingered at an alleyway. It smelled strongly of Kalliope, Kazimir, Petal and another scent. This one smelled rich and vivid, barely a trace of human odor as opposed to masking odors. Erebus almost didn't realize it was the smell of a human. If he hadn't stopped to study it, he might never have known. Luck was with him once again. This had to be the human Kazimir mentioned. The smell of this female and Kalliope's had mingled together on one another. Erebus faintly recognized the smell from inspecting Kalliope earlier, having attributed the strangeness to something foreign and not another human. Emboldened, Erebus ran after this new trail away from the alley, deeper into the rush of bodies and celebration.

--------------------
Namid and his Travels
PCR

user posted image
Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!


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Kaia
 Posted: Nov 29 2017, 11:32 PM
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Top Handler
*****
Background Mods
Total Posts: 365
Member No. 2161
Joined on 29-December 15.


Characters:
Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

Awards: 3




Day Eight
Noon, extreme heat
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First came the smells. Warmth suffused the air, carrying thick nutmeg and cinnamon as well as a bitter, nose-itching smell that was difficult to place. Next was the soft chuffing sound, like metal on wood. Very rhythmic, soothing if it were a bit less blunt. There was a dull yellowed light, stained with splotches of red. Slight shifting caused the thin fabric to twist and bunch. Where first it had seemed like clothes, instead was a sheet of cotton. A groan escaped from a dry throat. The blunt snapping paused, then continued. Despite the thin, airy quality of the sheet, sweat caused it to cling and grow sticky.

But it was the heavy weight across her legs and the much lighter but present weight on her chest that roused Kalliope.

Curtains had been drawn over the window, emitting a soft yellowed light. The heavy blankets on the bed had been all but kicked away, leaving a thin sheet cocooned around her body. She was stripped down to a long tunic and loose leggings, her armor, sword, and belt laying on the nightstand nearby. Kazimir awoke as soon as Kalliope began to move, his small hands at her throat and face. He patted her from chin to forehead, checking to see if she was okay. His quickened breathing belied his worry. Erebus, passed out on her legs and snoring lightly, rolled when she moved but didn't rise. Kalliope sat up and hugged Kazimir, caught between disorientation and hunger. Last she remembered, she'd pinned a female attacker by her sword. It had been early evening then, but now was clearly day.

Equally as clearly was the room in which she lay. Rocio's home, the quarters granted Kali during her stay. "What happened, Kaz?" She asked. Her throat was rough with dehydration and she coughed into one hand. The rhythmic chopping stilled and someone bustled into the room. The door had been left open, allowing sound to travel from the kitchen, but Kalliope guessed it was Kazimir who brought Lucinda rather than her scratchy voice. "Hey, Cin. Have I been asleep long?" She tried to play off the disorientation but it only caused her to question once again how she got here.

"All night and most of the day." Despite her light tone, Lucinda gave Kalliope a thorough look over, as if verifying all was well. "Care to tell me what happened?" She sat on the edge of the bed, though moved closer at Kalliope's wave. Hard enough to talk with a dry, sore throat. Much less to speak loudly enough to be overheard across the way.

"Water?" She asked, chewing her chapped lower lip. At once, Lucinda leaned over to fetch the clay cup on the nightstand, helping Kalliope drink - though the redhead protested that she was perfectly able to hold a cup. After she sated her thirst, Kalliope outlined what happened from the moment Lucinda departed until she blacked out. Then Kali shook her head. "I don't know what happened next. I had her pinned down and weaponless...then I was here."

I know. Kazimir's soft voice in her mind was a comfort and a concern at the same time. Kaz was rarely this silent for this long, nor so worried. Kalliope quieted and closed her eyes, to better hear and see what happened. "I was holding the human--the attacker against the wall, and had just taken off her handkerchief." She recited, as she both saw and heard the events. "Caroline - the girl I was trying to keep safe - snuck up behind me and stole a dagger. She brought it down on the back of my head. I must have fainted immediately. The attacker and the girl both tried to search me. Kazimir was very clever and quick on his feet," Kalliope's voice colored with pride, swelling with joy at Kazimir's memories. "He tricked the humans into attacking an illusion, then teleported me out of the way. He even hid me from the little girl's ghost type bird pokemon until they were gone." Kalliope shook her head, awed. Kazimir was amazing.

"Erebus fetched you and a pair of guardians? How did you know he belonged to me?" Kalliope asked curiously.

Lucinda shrugged, eyes on Kali as if she still wasn't sure of the redhead's health. "It wasn't so much I knew he was yours as he refused not to be ignored. He disregarded the two guardians though they threatened him with blades and pokemon, and lay at my feet, whining. When I crouched to pet him, he licked my hand, barked, and took off. When I didn't follow, he padded back and licked me, then raced off again. Eventually I realized he was taking me somewhere. It was so queer I couldn't help but follow. I don't think I connected him with you until we found you lying on the ground with Kazimir standing over you, glaring at everyone who got close." She blushed, her cheeks vibrant with color that looked quite nice on her. "He spoke to me--is it as loud to you as it was to me? He had such a beautiful voice, and he told me you were hit and might be dead. I managed to calm him down when I saw you breathing, and he let me carry you back to the house. We called a physician to look you over but she said there was nothing wrong with you. Knocked out from the hit, sure, but nothing a little sleep won't cure."

She cut her eyes to Kali and narrowed them. "She also said if your head starts hurting all over, or if you're dizzy or nauseated or your vision blurred, we should fetch her immediately." Kalliope had the grace to cover her laugh.

"I'm fine. My head hurts, but it's more like a bruise than anything. I'm starving, though. Got anything to eat?" Kali was permitted to eat mild foods, though she protested vehemently that her stomach wasn't the problem, and watched over by a fierce and worried Lucinda until she paled and promised to rest until dinner. Then Lucinda sat at her side, grinding spices to powders for her mother at a hastily retrieved table set up at the edge of Kalliope's bed. Sleep was far from coming, probably because Kalliope no longer needed rest but most likely because it was afternoon and Kalliope was never one to nap--the impulse evaded her.

After a while, Kalliope decided to pester Lucinda into entertaining her rather than guarding her, though it took some careful maneuvering.They were laughing over a shared memory of misplaced shoes and an encounter with cinnamon when Rocio swept into the room. She smelled faintly of dirt and growing things, though her skin and clothes were clean. No doubt the scent became one with her own personal smell after decades of working in gardens. "Kalliope, dear. You're awake." Relief flooded Rocio's voice, though her body remained tense with concern. "I was of a mind to call the physician once more if you slept through another meal. How are you feeling?" She sat at Kali's side opposite Lucinda, gripping one of Kali's hands with both of her own.

"Fine, ma'am. It was only a little bump." She responded. Warmth soaked into her words. Kalliope cared for Rocio as she cared for her own mother. "I apologize for making you worry." Rocio dashed the girl's words with a gesture and embraced Kali about the shoulders.

"You're putting yourself at risk for us." Kalliope heard the strain and sensed the tightening of Rocio's grip. "Would that I hadn't troubled you with our business problems." She released Kali and folded her hands in her lap, wringing them back and forth. "We will understand if you choose to stop searching."

"Never." Kalliope sat straighter against the pillows and met Rocio's startled eyes. "As long as your people are missing and my assistance has a chance of finding them, I'm not going anywhere." She glanced at the bed and her state of undress, sighing. "As soon as I can change I'll go file a report for the ambush. Both girls definitely had a hand in your couriers' disappearance." Kalliope sketched a quick explanation of the evening before for Rocio, then went on another theory she had working. She pushed Rocio's hands away when she rose to get dressed, not bothering to go behind the muslin divider. "The girl we found last night is related to the girl who attacked me in the alley, I'm sure of it. They have the same eyes and facial features. They're also built very like." Kalliope tossed the wrinkled tunic and searched in her things for a fresh, if slightly creased, pumpkin colored tunic. A dark brown vest and matching trouser followed, and Kalliope finagled with her dusty boots. "There's something else. Caroline lied to us during her story, but I think it was a lie built on truths. Have either of you heard of a place with a stantler rack and three gold rings as an emblem?"

Neither Cuevas had a definite answer. "No matter. If that was a lie, I'm certain the slave ring isn't." Kalliope looked first at Rocio, then sighed and settled her gaze on Lucinda. Her dear friend had dark, smudged bags and bloodshot eyes. Little sleep. Again. But Lucinda wasn't the type to hide or weep when she could do something. "She had a pretty good description of Quinton. I haven't seen him in years but I imagine you two will recognize him." She repeated Caroline's description the night before of "Quinny" and tried not to react when Lucinda's fingers bundled into fists. "Somehow she knew Quinton's name--and if I were to guess, I'd bet my buckler she knew Julio too. She heard Lucinda's desperation for one cousin. Those two look more like twins than brothers, if I recall. No doubt Caroline saw this and used it to exploit me." Her tone turned bitter.

Kalliope hadn't outright admitted, even to herself, that she'd been duped. Now she was forced to accept the mistake. "In my eagerness to find your people, I gave the girl a chance to escape. Worse, she tried to capture me with her accomplice. Probably to take me where she took the others. Not to save them but to add me to their sales." She sent a mental burst of gratitude toward Kazimir as she considered how close she'd gotten to losing her freedom. "I won't give them a second opportunity. Next time I find them, I'm taking them down." She pounded her fist into her palm. Lucinda rose off the bed and strode over.

"You're not going alone this time." Lucinda's voice went flat. "Don't bother arguing. If I had been there with you, you never would have gotten overpowered." She met Kalliope's gaze defiantly. Her body language all but dared Kali to argue, to make a case against her. Kalliope was tempted. Lucinda was smart and fit but she was no guardian. She shouldn't be risking her life when the stakes were only getting higher. But Kalliope also knew Lucinda was stubborn enough to go after the girls herself if Kali didn't bring her along. Kalliope might be impeded worrying about keeping Lucinda safe--but it was better than worrying every second Lucinda was captured or caught unaware.

"Fine but on two conditions. One, leave the fighting to me." She held up a hand before Lucinda could complain. "I'm not only experienced but formally trained and carrying authority to attack and apprehend them. Two, you will listen to my orders. If at any time you run off or act out in risk of your life, I will drag you back home and tie you to the bed post so you can't put yourself in danger. Do you understand me?" Kali folded her arms over her chest, silently daring Lucinda to argue. Proving her skill was in fact in cunning over brute strength, Lucinda graciously acceded. Kalliope didn't doubt she was setting them both up for danger and possible maiming but some small part of Kalliope was grateful for the company. Besides, Lucinda was a better talker. She knew the city, its people and customs. She understood the risks. Most importantly, she had as much stake in the search as anyone.

They shook on it.

"Wait here. Rest, eat, whatever you need to do. I'll be back soon." Kalliope patted Rocio's shoulder on the way out the door, trusting Lucinda to wait. Kalliope had a stop to make before they prepared. She moved more slowly than usual, choosing a gentle pace not because she considered herself weak or injured but more to be certain nothing was wrong. Better to save up strength, anyhow. Even so she made it to the Guardian's quarters before the afternoon grew much older. She skipped formalities and questions, instead going straight to the room she'd used previously. Against multiple walls were tack boards with slips of information. Kalliope searched out a specific board, checking off the list one by one until she found it. The script was vague and scratched, without names. But there was a brief description of two miscreants. One was short and waifish, around twelve to fourteen. Female, long black hair with light eyes and dark skin. The second, taller and thinner, gender ambiguous. Some reports defined it as male. Others weren't entirely sure. There was a list of thefts, misconduct, and above all suspicious activity. But no arrest were charged. In fact, each record of the pair coming into contact with authorities ended up with them walking away clean, with the guardians in question only realizing who they were after the fact.

There was a list of known pseudonyms each person had taken as their own. Kalliope pulled the pin holding the surprisingly lengthy bounty in place and replaced the pin, rolling the parchment into a tight coil. When she reached the main hall, she gestured to a woman behind the clerk's desk. "I'll be taking this bounty, Ma'am. My name is Kalliope Tamsin of Harper's Pass, under Lord Archer." She bowed. "I'll be back with the criminals by week's end, you can bet on it." With a flick of the woman's hand, Kalliope was dismissed. She didn't see the look of concentration trained on her back, too busy conversing with Kazimir on her shoulder in mind speak. Kalliope had much work to be done.

--------------------
Namid and his Travels
PCR

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Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!


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Kaia
 Posted: Jan 2 2018, 11:57 PM
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Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

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Kalliope didn't return straight to the Cuevas residence. Instead, beyond the bulky Guardian post, Kalliope called out Erebus. The houndour popped into existence with a stretch and a yowl, exposing sharp teeth. Kali knelt next to him. "Take me to where I was ambushed." Erebus didn't falter. He loped past the behemoth of a building and down the densely packed street. They skirted the street blocked off for the night's festivities until they reached the edges of the slums. They weren't in the worst neighborhood, not quite yet. The buildings weren't well maintained but there were families within the walls, groups of children or a number of unmarried couples who shared the space in place of spending more on lodgings. Kalliope didn't pay attention to these beyond making sure no one followed her. No way would she be ambushed a second time in less than a day. Erebus didn't bother to follow his nose--he knew the way quite well, now that it was his third such trek. Finding the ambush location wasn't particularly difficult. Blood whet the stone and the dirt. Even if Erebus was a hundred yards away he would recognize the smell of his human's blood in the dust.

Kalliope frowned. The expression deepened when they arrived. She didn't go straight for the bloody footprints nor the disheveled rubbish pile. Instead she glanced at the alleyway, then over her shoulder. "Eerie." Her voice filled with hesitation. Something was wrong. She knew this was the place. She also knew no one was fool enough to attack her in broad daylight with two pokemon at her heel and the crest on her shoulder. She didn't know how to phrase her query. "How far did you track us?" Kali finally settled on a question. Erebus sat on his haunches and whuffed. Kazimir, eager to help, supplied the information. Long and not long, he says. Kalliope knelt beside the canine and scratched behind his ears. "Explain." A short time passed while the pokemon conversed--Kazimir to clarify and Erebus to argue and try to explain by a human's understanding.

He tracked much of your trail but he says it was muddy. Crosswise. Petal scent dragged you over the same trail repeatedly. Never from the exact same direction or path, but often enough to make tracking difficult. Kazimir hid his face from the sun beneath his paws, sweat glistening on his fur. "But despite how long we ran, we didn't get far did we?" She asked, knowing the answer. No. Not far at all. We aren't more than a few blocks from the festival. Whatever he was doing, she made sure you didn't go anywhere she didn't want you to. Kalliope swore. This wasn't just a problem. It was a Problem. Caroline, or whoever she really was, was well versed in the streets. She managed to confuse Kali's sense of direction as well as observation enough to trick her. These criminals weren't just slave traders. They were local. Local enough to know the terrain and trust they wouldn't be found here. Kali scratched Erebus once more then rose to investigate. The ground was dotted with blood. Not too much, enough to leave a stain. She touched the back of her head. There was a thin cut across her scalp, carefully sewn together by the physician. Kali knew a little of wounds. Head wounds often bled more than they were actually injured. Beyond the splatter of Kali's blood and the droplets in the dirt, Kali mapped out the other attacker's suffering.

Not once but three times Kali cut the assailant. The collarbone cut was the widest, but the one at her shoulder bled more freely. Clumps of blood, dried and cracked, then space. More blood. Space. Kali followed the trail until it vanished at the end of the alley and down the next. No help there. She returned to the scene of the crime. Erebus snuffled at the blood and the scuff marks in the ground. The rubbish pile was in disarray where Caroline had kicked it - Kali assumed, based on the fact neither she nor the assailant had touched it - and bits of rotten scraps and bent metal pieces, like the leavings of a particularly poor blacksmith, glinted. Nothing valuable. Kali wondered why the girl would bother with garbage. She kicked the leavings--there! Hidden in the crevice of the wall. A narrow hole in the earth, partially obscured by the garbage. Kali kicked more out of the way. "Kaz, I need you to investigate."

A look of pure disgust filled Kazimir's face, turning his mouth into a snarl. "It's disgusting and smells terrible and no doubt it won't lead anywhere important. But you're the only one who will fit and this is the only information we have." Kazimir jumped angrily off her shoulder, his fur standing up and trembling. Kalliope felt a little bad asking him--but she knew better than to baby him. If she treated him like he was too delicate to dig through dirt, he'd get spoiled rotten. He was already quite proud and bad tempered. She didn't want to add arrogant to the list. He needed to get dirty sometimes, it was the nature of their job. Kazimir scurried into the hole and kicked garbage out of his way. Erebus sniffed the hole and the surrounding area, lips drawn back in the bevy of scents. Hopefully he found something. Kazimir was gone for a while. When he arrived, it wasn't through the hole. Instead, he tapped Kali on the calf. She whipped around in surprise, only to be greeted by a slightly smug, slightly miffed psychic. It leads into the building. Abandoned, but not completely. There's a door along the other wall.

Kazimir led them to the door, tucked against the alley wall and hidden in the darkness of the high rooftops. They climbed through one at a time and Erebus went straight to searching. Kalliope let her vision clear before she went too far in. The walls were empty. A few broken pieces of furniture, an empty hole where a stove might have sat beneath a chimney to allow smoke to escape. The windows were boarded up. Kali moved to the next room. There were signs of activity. Small footprints - not Kazimir's - and larger, human shaped prints. One panel of a window was loose. Kali moved it and peered out. The street where she'd run into the ambush. Kali wondered if they passed this spot repeatedly before the assailant had attacked her. Had she been watched? Kali ground her teeth. "Anything Eerie?" She continued examining the small room. There was the secondary point of the tunnel, slightly larger with the ground more packed around the entrance. They had definitely lay in wait.

Both humans have been in here. At least three pokemon. One small rodent smelling one used the hole, Kaz translated. Repeatedly, apparently. And what smells like Petal but not is in the hole too. Possibly something she touched a lot. The room smells of the other human, Earth scent. She's everywhere. the walls, the carpet, everywhere.

The pieces clicked.

"This wasn't the first time those two used the child in danger rouse. I bet they used it all the time to catch prospective slaves. Clever girls." Kali clicked her tongue against the back of her teeth. This was big. This was a base. At least one of them. No wonder they knew this place so well. Kalliope knew what she had to do, but she wasn't particularly happy about it. First she searched every crevice. No new evidence, though behind a false wall hid a number of clothes, some dirty and stained, some pristine. Other than verifying the two girls used this place, the safe house itself held no more evidence. She took a deep breath, took one last look around, and trailed her pokemon out. After failing a capture here, no doubt the girls wouldn't come back any time soon. Still, Kali erased any evidence of their passage as best she could. She swept footprints away with the side of her foot and went around the wall to hide the tunnel once again. She had Erebus take her the fastest way back to the Guardian Headquarters.

Inside, she sought the captain who helped her the first time. He looked just as he had before, if a bit more awake. He surveyed Kalliope with critical eyes. Kali brushed some of the dirt off her knees and straightened. "You're back, eh? Need another map?" He asked. He gestured for Kalliope to join him in a seat by the window where he nursed a mug of something hot and steaming. How did he stand anything hot in this weather? She accepted, letting Kazimir down so he might get comfortable on one of the pillows strewn on the floor for just such a purpose. Erebus was already asleep by the wall.

"Not exactly." Kali confessed. "I need to ask you something."

The captain eyed her but nodded. "Go ahead."

"Have you been getting more missing persons the past six months? Maybe even over a year?" She gauged his reaction. First, a tensing of his facial muscles and his shoulders, which narrowed. Then quickly went at ease. His face went blank, though his eyes were intense. "They might disappear in small groups, but more than likely it's one or two at a time, frequently enough they aren't disappearing naturally. Not robberies or murders. Perhaps reports of a lost child."

"What brings this on?" The captain asked, too calm.

"Answer first. Has it been getting worse?"

The captain almost didn't speak. He met Kali's stare full on, each second stretching into the next. "And if they have?"

"Do you have records? Reports from family members?" Kali pressed. "There's a pattern isn't there? A couple a week, slow at first, but then too many. Then it dies away for a few weeks, right? And they don't always disappear in the same areas. Some are from the slums. But I bet plenty are coming from the richer side of town, the merchants and the well to dos." Kalliope plowed on, noting the stiffening of the captain's face and the twitching of his mustache. "In fact, I bet they disappear in batches, in different places all over the city. You've been wracking your brain haven't you?"

"I'm not at liberty to say." Came the only reply.

"Then I'm not required to divulge information on their disappearances." Kali countered. She leaned forward in her seat, elbows hard on her knees. Her eyes met his unblinking, her intensity overwhelming his. "That's fine. I prefer to work alone. I have enough to go on."

The captain stood abruptly. His arms swelled with the clenching of his fists, stretching the muscles taut. His right hand trembled just a little. Kalliope didn't move anything but her eyes, following his intently. "You've been here a week. You couldn't possibly have information on disappearances over the past two years." Kalliope didn't react but for the slight widening of her eyes. Two years, huh? A slave ring going for two years. That was big. "You stumble in, you make a ruckus. You have no subtlety. Every one of my men can identify your body from last night, dragged in by some wench with her assets hanging out, your dog at your feet. Anyone who is anyone will know you're here investigating. Two years, and you think you have a better lead than we have?" The captain shook bodily, his mustache trembling with the fury of his words. Spittle flung in the air with the ferocity of his words. "You dare. You dare put on airs in my jurisdiction."

Kalliope leaned back and folded one leg over the other. Her hands rested on her lap. "I daren't do anything my conscience won't let me do. I daren't sit back and watch people vanish. Good people, people with nothing, people on the streets. Guardians too, I bet. But only recently those, right? I don't sit around hoping a lead will bite me on the ass. I've done more in a week than you've done in two years? Now whose fault is that? Was it mine or yours?" She stood in a fluid motion, like water arcing off the lip of a waterfall. Smooth, little motion wasted. Her blade glinted at her hip, her Guardian crest caught in the sunlight. "Or maybe it's that I'm willing to search for people you'd leave to die? Is that it? You don't care what happens to them unless they're rich? And no doubt you made a big bluster for the few rich folks who've been captured. You made the missing Guardians disappear for their families, like nothing ever happened. Thought you'd get them back, but the more time passes, the harder it is to admit they might be dead?"

Kalliope took one step forward, then another. When she was just beneath the captain's sharp nose, his jaws clenched so tight white lines marred his cheeks, she looked up. "What if I told you I think they're alive? Maybe not all of them. But most of them. Alive, breathing, waiting for their chance to escape? Waiting to be saved?" She spoke barely above a whisper, her low tone audible only a foot in front of her. The captain flinched. "I'm not asking for you to turn over the investigation to me. In fact, I'm not even asking to be in the lead. I want all the information you've gathered. I want to know your sources. I want to hear everything you know, meet everyone who's gotten close to these missing persons searches and hear their side of the story. And when the hunt is on, I want in." She looked up at him. "I may not have been here for the start but these fuckers have people my friends care about. I would die for them. I won't sit back and let them rot where they are. I won't turn over the investigation to people who couldn't give less of a **** they're gone, just because of where they disappeared. Tell me, how many investigations have you taken into the Crescent? Not many, I gather. Too many miles, not enough manpower. That's fine. I'll take it on. Give me free rein and I'll find them for you. I won't leave this city until I've gotten them. Either in custody or scraped off the end of my blade." She glared up at the captain for a few more seconds.

She took a step back. Having been as clear and concise as she could be, there was nothing left to do but wait for the captain's reply. She could wait. She had a few hours before her investigation would start anew. The captain watched her, unreadable. "I could have you followed."

"You'll be visiting your people in the healer's facilities." Kali replied. The captain laughed, a harsh, guttural sound.

"Cocky aren't you? What makes you think you can take down Senior Guardians with years of experience under their belt?" The captain stared. The sound of steel on steel silenced the room. Kalliope hefted her thin rapier, holding it aloft and slightly to the right.

"You care to test my blade?" She smiled. What was it James said, back in Fough Place? Or was it Cypwater? She needed to be careful who she challenged. She wouldn't always walk away with a few bruises. Kalliope knew she was on thin ice. The captain had no real reason to trust her or to let her take any hand in the investigation--except Kali had already taken the bounty personally. The girls weren't the only problem in Navdia but they were a big part of it. Kali knew she had to have cooperation. She also knew this sort of challenge was bad for promotions. Even so, she barreled on. "I'm not here to fight you but I will, Captain. I want to find these people, bring back the Cuevas' missing couriers, and go on my way satisfied of a job well done. That's it. If you choose to impede my investigation, I'll go it alone. Wouldn't it be easier if we worked together like civil adults?" She didn't lower her blade. Her body language shifted. Her shoulders relaxed, her knees unbent. She didn't straighten so much as she eased up. The Captain had his hand on his hilt but Kali had judged right. He wouldn't draw it.

The captain wiped his face with both hands, sighed, and sat down. Kalliope returned her weapon and sat as well. The conversation was delayed as numerous guardians stomped over, demanding she be removed. The captain waved them off with a few words and waited until the hubbub died down. "Not leaving me much choice, are you?" He didn't wait for a reply. "Fine. You can have all the information we've gathered. I can't promise any of the witnesses will talk to you, nor will the families of the bereaved. I won't pretend you'll get anywhere without us. But if you've got something, I'm willing to listen." He folded his fingers together and reclined in his seat, the picture of authority. Kali smiled.

"You have a slave ring based in Navdia." Kali went for the big news first. The captain flickered a little. He knew of it. Kali wondered if he knew the extent. "They're not just organized. They're effective, and they're getting away at every turn. You can't find them once you start chasing. I can tell you why." She blinked slowly, catching the captain's reaction. Like a mightenya on a scent. Kalliope smiled. "First, let me see the missing persons you've got. Where they're disappearing from, the timeline. I might be able to help more if I have more information first." She explained. The captain nodded and stood once again. Kali watched from the corner of her eye. He led her to his personal office. Not the front desk where he greeted visitors and Guardians alike but a narrow room on the second floor, long enough to house a clunky desk, two shelves, and a small, round window. A tack board much like those below hung on the wall, this one with a map on one side detailing every street of Navdia, the borders of various criminal activities. This was clearly a hand-wrought map of personal experience. No doubt the Captain's handiwork. It was large, detailed, and meticulously drawn. Kalliope examined it while the Captain searched for documents.

"You knew about my attack last night. Do you know where I was found?" Kali asked absently. The captain didn't look up.

"Spearow Hollow and Bakers." He ruffled through another scroll, tightly curled and stacked on top of a pile. "Used to be part of the market ten years ago. Gone down hill." Kalliope traced the lines with her fingers. Without physical structures or direction it was difficult to tell exactly which corner was where she was attacked. But the sun was in the west when they explored and it had been beyond the building itself, on the other side. So...here. She touched the place where she'd been attacked with near certainty. She surveyed the map. Over ten blocks from the Headquarters. Near the eastern side of the city. Not too close to the volcano. In the opposite direction, really, more toward route ten. Kalliope pursed her lips. With more information, this could prove useful.

"Do you have any disappearances within two miles or so of Spearow Hollow and Bakers?" She asked. Scrolls rolled, inks studied. The pair buckled down and got to work, and they didn't leave the office for over three hours. By the time they'd gotten through every disappearance that even vaguely sounded like the slave ring, Kalliope's heart hammered from the chase. She knew. She knew and she had been right. But she'd also been counting. Her fists clenched at one side, the other against the map she'd carelessly began to mark before the Captain could stop her. This was too important to worry about smudged ink and precious mapwork. Her heart hammered in eagerness--and in anger.

Eighty-nine.

Eighty-nine all but confirmed names, not including the five couriers, who disappeared just this year. Kalliope swallowed hard. Over two hundred the past two years. Mothers, sisters, brothers, children. Some in their fifties and all but wasting away. Some barely out of their childhood. Some so young--Kalliope slammed her fist into the wall beneath the map, leaving a dent in her knuckles rather than the stone. She ignored the pang. Over two hundred lives stolen. Some barely old enough to know their names. Many with families. Many more deemed unimportant to the regular masses. Children in the hovels of the slums. Fathers gone to work one morning and never returned. Families who starved without the breadwinner. Sisters and mothers and daughters no doubt turned out to the streets to provide for their table. Kalliope hit the wall again.

"We'll catch them." She swore, her teeth clenched tight. "We'll catch all of them. I swear it."

--------------------
Namid and his Travels
PCR

user posted image
Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!


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