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Open Delmarsh - Charcoal veins
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#1

Malik Young



It felt like he had been away for an hour, but also away for several years.

In reality it was only about a week's time in the realistic flow of things that he'd been shut away from the physical world, resting in the comfort of the higher realm. From there he could have chosen to go anywhere in the world, even back to sanctuary if he wanted, but nay. He had unfinished things here to attend to, especially since the incident with Abeo.

Delmarsh.

The town made him weary just coming back to it. Even with the fact that he'd been let off a mere stroll away didn't help with the knowledge that he had some things he'd have to give an account for.

for example the fate of the Tailor's child, or the price in arson damages that he'd surely be held responsible for.

Hostile murmurs and stares greeted him as he entered the town. The people certainly remembered what had happened, and had been hurt enough from it to hold a grudge.  

He'd have to diffuse that soon, but first,

there was one person he had to speak to.

So that's what brought him through the charred doors of the old tavern where Ben worked. The place was still in disrepair from the fires, but it had somehow been shaped into something sagely functional.

"Sorry, we're out of even the cheap stuff till a winter shipment,." Greeted the friendly voice of the bearlike man who owned the place, only to pause when he saw who it was. "Malik! I knew you woudn't stay away. Lots of the work's been slower since you up and left." The words though accusing if considered alone, were welcoming and friendly.  The burly man gave the boy a warm embrace.

Malik was only mildly receptive to the hug. Ben might be friendly, but not everyone would be.

Malik saw the scars running up the right side of the man's neck too. "the curse mark got worse." He observed grimly.

"Nothing time can't heal." Ben shrugged off.

Malik suspected this was not true. The scar he'd found out, was an evil mark to begin with, so it had probably been aggravated by Abeo's work. Unfortunately Ben had not let Malik do anything to fix it, and most likely still wouldn't, so Malik shifted to the more important subject.

"so what's the state of the town... after everything?"

Ben encouraged the boy to sit. "lots a folks are angry. Lost a lot of property and goods. The blame's been bouncing round a lot between you and the estate lord, and even some of our own. I just wanna know what really happened, and where you've been for the past week."

well it might be time for a long story...

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#2
Maximillion VonMitternacht
(1st Person)

My head hurt. Like it always seemed to hurt lately. Every thought I had gave way to seven thoughts, and each of those seven thoughts sprouted into ten thoughts, and before I could stop it, I was at a point where I was exerting every ounce of willpower not to fall on my knees, clutching my head, and screaming. Alena knew how my emotions and my mentality worked, but it was a confidance she kept, as I knew she would.

I enjoyed the comforts of Midnight Manor, but not for the reason many thought. It wasn't the lavish accommodations, nor the servants, nor getting to live like some kind of Lord; in fact, I spent most of my time holed away in a library, or in my bedroom, or in one of the unused upper floors, or in the basement somewhere, far away from others.

Oh, my ruse was a clever one, perhaps the cleverest ever! So long as I made noises about going on adventures and doing all of these heroic deeds, they wouldn't worry that I might be losing my mind. This stagnant life as a civilian was getting to me, and I was disgusted by my annoyance and impatience. As much as I hated war, as much as I loathed any kind of violence, there was always a part of me - perhaps a side that would always be with me - that was bloodthirsty, violent and sadistic. I kept it at bay by busying myself with great causes and social reform, but deep down, I was starting to feel 'the itch' again.

The itch that was usually followed by me doing something reckless and stupid, going up against some insanely powerful demigod - or even, in a few moments of lapsed sanity, gods - and making enemies for myself. I hadn't done so in this new world yet, but I'd done so plenty of times in my home plane, and I was reluctant to get back into old patterns again. I realized that, above all other things, I should be focusing on the Realm I'd begun to acquire as my own, and being the kind of Leader the people needed, only...

What was I? Some lame motherfucker who can't even get his own shit together, trying to tell people, clever, wise, insightful, SUCCESSFUL people, that they should listen to the words that come out of my mouth?! I was a master at schooling my face to appear impassive or amiable, but I can't imagine anything more nerve wracking than dealing with everyday people, people who don't wield abilities like my family and Eokia acquaintances do, when the only things I feel I bring to the table - my combat prowess, and efficacy with what I've dubbed 'The Mythical Arts' - won't put food on the people's table or, if it does, it loses me respect in their eyes because they probably think I'm flaunting my strength.

I've read about situations like that before, and it usually ended with a handful of people coming in the night and trying to end the Lord or Count's life. The darker side of me seemed to glow with the anticipation of an attempt upon my life, seeing it as an opportunity to really let loose and get to enjoy the fighting I seem to be neurologically wired for.

The more rational, calm, mellow side of myself laments that I've done such a poor job in my interactions with people, that they might even consider trying to kill me in my sleep.

Ever hear the analogy of an angel perched on one shoulder, and a devil on the other? Well, yeah, kind of like that.


Delmarsh was pretty quiet today as I made my way through. I felt pinpricks along my skin (I was being watched), and I could sense the animosity radiating from some of those looks. I was torn between pleading for them to see things my way, and showing them what could happen if I was truly some villain who was bringing destruction and ill fortune upon their home.

As I rounded the corner, I felt a cool, icy, and warm - don't ask me how something can be both cold and warm, I wouldn't be able to put it into words - sensation, and I somehow knew Malik was nearby. The closer he was to me, the more it seemed like the better side of me shone the strongest and brightest, and I could almost feel the dark thoughts and sinister whispers being forcefully suppressed as I came in closer, and found Malik and the older man from the other night chatting.

They were in the middle of a conversation, and I hated the thought of interrupting them. Sadly, I hated the thought of thinking of some politically correct way to introduce myself into the conversation, so I put on my best devil-may-care smirk, cocked an eyebrow, and approached them both. I came in at the tail end, when Malik was asking what the state of the town was. What better way to walk into a conversation, then make people wonder how long I've been listening for? I thought, which only made my grin wider, this time with genuine mirth.

"Ah,  yes, I was hoping to find out the very same thing! I think the three of us have much to talk about. Ah, wait, before either of you say a word, I am hungry. One of the Innkeepers has a lookout who tells her when I arrive in town, and she's great for making sure a bountiful feast finds its way before me 'fore I've been in Delmarsh any longer than half an hour, so I hope you've brought your appetites."

Brought your appetites? a small voice seemed to whisper, tauntingly, in the back of my mind. You damnable fool, YOU are the one who showed up and interrupted someone else's conversation! Bring some WITS why don't you?!

He kept an amiable grin on his face, but deep down, he knew today was going to be another wretched headache day.
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#3

Malik Young



Malik didn't seem surprised as he turned towards the entrance to see who had come in.The boy's movements were casual but fluid, showcasing the little details that made him seem other than human.

The sight of the 'stranger' was a joy. Maximilion. what a sight for sore eyes. The youth gave his own grin. He was genuinely glad to see the man who had ended up helping him so much over the recent months.  "Max!" He was glad the man hadn't really disappeared over the past weeks. The man's tendency for elusivity was sometimes quite hard to work with.

but that was a matter for another day.

"I'll tell you and Ben all I can." the youth promised, knowing he had a lot to explain, as well as find out about. He turned to the bear-like barkeeper. "Sorry man, but your place took a real beating. Mind if we stick to Max's plan?" Malik was referring to the largest man's desire for a meal, and the fact that it seemed like Maximilion had a place in mind as well.  

Fortunately Ben was willing. He even was able to laugh. "My old place really is in no shape to host such a spread. When we finish cleaning up things I'll be back in business, but till then I really have to give someone else the coin now don't I?" He'd hopefully be back in a job soon enough, but for now he was cool with it. He was on friendly terms with much of the town anyhow, even with some of his business competition like this particular Inn keeper Max mentioned might be.

Ben closed up what he could of the messed up shop, grabbing a coat and key to the run down joint.

Malik on the other hand, simply stood up. Having just came in, it wasn't hard for him to be ready to go somewhere else of Max's choice.

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#4
TIME SKIP


The walk to the in was quite uneventful except for a few icy glares from citizens of Delmarsh coming or going in various directions. Some gave the trio wide berth, but mostly, they were left alone to talk or remain silent of their choice.

A little small talk and a few questions began as start for the tale ahead.

Malik: I don't think you knew, but the servants knew, I've been working for the fishermen in Delmparsh and running errands for the servants for a while now. Anything to make myself useful and earn my keep. Ben's the one who pointed me your way the first time. He's been a big help in getting me involved in the community.

You'll probably remember the day Sanctuary appeared on the horizon. I later learned you were off in sanctuary then, but the demon invasion hit this land too.


Ben: The whole town was involved in fighting that one. Normally when Delmarsh comes under threat every one of us comes together to pull our own. The same happened that time. We beat the demons back with axe and sword easily enough.

Malik: Sure but that's not the other encounters. What happened that one day I wasn't here?

Ben: Flightess sandrakes that. a whole pack of them run through the town. they've harder noggins than some of the orc born here, caused quite a scene, and charged right through some of the storefronts. luckily didn't cause more than a few broken bones, and property damage, we handed that without a hitch for sure. Other than that... well Someone made off with one of our boats in the night, and we saw a bit of other petty crime, but nothing to really raise alarm until about a week ago with the fires.

Malik: Yeah, that well...

By now they'd reached the Inn. It had taken longer than necessary due to keeping a reasonably casual pace, but there they were. Upon entering the place was superficially as friendly as ever, the mistress, as always, knowing Maximilion might come had a table set and food ready to be had for the giant man and his accompaniment.

But beneath the friendly atmosphere was a bit of an edge. The staff walked a little more stiffly. The other patrons, spoke a little more softly. The stigma had regretfully traveled even here, leaving for a vibe that though subtle was not hard even for the least trained of the three to pick up on.

But the staff smiled and grinned as always, making sure everyone was seated and comfortable in the space that had been set aside for the Lord of the land.

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#5
Maximillion VonMitternacht

Their true feelings, the feelings beneath the smiles they wore, put Maximillion at unease. The more of this stigma he faced, the more he wanted to try and slap some sense into some of these people. Did they have no idea what he and others did to try and keep Delmarsh, and other such places, in a good state? It's not even just for me, it's for the people who aren't native Delmarshians who put their time and energy into keeping it safe, he thought to himself, doing his best to keep his face impassive as he went past the people in the Tavern.

He had no idea that his face didn't exhibit quite as much expression of emotion as he thought it did, or that his flat affect often intimidated people, even when he thought he was smiling. However, there were some who would know his smiles, and his grimaces, for what they were. He, however, may very well remain forever oblivious!

As they were seated, Maximillion sighed, his back and posture straight and seemingly a bit stiff as he laid a provided napkin upon his lap, rolled up his sleeves, then leaned back in his chair. It was clear he was trying to assume a relaxed pose, but his jaw was working as he did it, and one might not be wrong to assume he was hiding gritted teeth behind his closed mouth.

Until he started to speak, however.

"What happened, then? To make them act like a bunch of damnable fools?! I know the Delmarshians have their pride, but so do I! I pride myself on doing everything I can for this place. They look at me as an outsider, but if this area was to be devastated, I would suffer for it too."

He spoke as if he had already been brooding on this, and if one did not know better, they might think there was a touch of sadness to his unusually colored eyes, even if his tone came off angry.

"You can't rightly tell me if I'm hissing and spewing, though. Please, tell me what happened that makes these people look at me, look at the boy, as if we kicked their cat and stole candy from their children. Aside from..."

He nodded respectfully to the man, acknowledging his losses.

"It's not that I don't feel their loss. I need to be doing a better job of all of this, so I need to know what caused the tides to change, and what it is I need to do, and what to expect as I go about making reparations."

Participants: Kazetatsu (Ben, Malik); XARXU (Maximillion)

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#6


The stout barkeeper folded his hands as the first trappings of the meal was already being served even without the need for any spoken request. It showed how experienced this particular inn was when it came to serving Maximilion. They already had the starting course ready for what would end up being quite a large feast.

"Do you have any specific requests today?" A server asked, the question specifically aimed at Maximillion rather than the rest of the company. Even though a full meal had been prepared guests had various whims and desires. The inn had certain menus for the day depending on what was seasonally available, but they tried to accommodate especially to guests such as this one who was both rich and known to have an appetite.  

Any orders would be taken and, the server would leave, allowing for the conversation to continue.

"Here's what I know." Ben began in an attempt to answer some of Maximilion's questions. "The people were upset before,  it not as much as now. The general complaint was along the lines of, if you're so strong, why aren't you there to help? At least with the previous attacks I described. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to when you'd be helping or not, especially after you had such a strong hand in reforming the place."

"With the fires everyone went pretty off kilter. Its not just you and Malik getting bad flack. Any of old grudges have been multiplied somehow. I'd say its like a curse rather than all natural discontent, at least from my own experience with curses."


Malik looked at the floor. "Thats... kinda my fault."

"I'm the one that fought the demon that started it. Aside from the ordinary fire, she set a black one that made everyone worse. After that I couldn't get anyone to help me in the fight. After I stopped the fires, things got worse so I took us away. When I came back... it's been a culture shock how hostile everyone has gotten."

well that explained what had happened, but what were they supposed to do about it?

Earlier Ben had suggested that Max be more present in the town, fight along side the people rather than dominating the battle when he did help, and facilitating more trade to improve relationships with the townspeople and correct for some of the damages. If the matter was like a curse though, those actions might not actually fix all of the problem.
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#7
Maximillion VonMitternacht
(1st Person)

"Whatever you prepare is certain to be amazing," Maximillion replied to the server who had asked about his preferences. "I believe some of my men have distributed the seeds and the knowledge of how to grow those beans I brought you? The ones you grind, then boil in water, then sift through a filter and into a cup? Yes, I would love some of that, if you don't mind."

He probably could have just said 'coffee'. It was something he was astounded was not in mass production in Eokia, and that was something he was slowly but steadily changing. He would go on until nearly every establishment could serve him and his companions coffee when they needed or wanted it.

Turning back to his companions at the table, Maximillion's face took on a stern quality.

"And how might these individuals have learned how strong I am?" He looked at Malik with a cocked eyebrow. It wasn't like the lad to spread word like this, but he may have led something slip that, innocent as it may've been, someone was shrewd enough to glean information that was none of their business to have. He couldn't blame Malik if that had happened, though.

"It's true that I thwapped a dozen or so men on horses awhile back, but I don't think I did anything grandiose to let them think I should be descending from the heavens, streaming heavenly light, and vanquishing evil in all its many forms."

He found it humorous, yet at the same time, he didn't; he was good for clusters of conflicting emotions, and now was no exception.

"Ben..." he turned back to the older man, inwardly pleased that the man did not avoid his gaze, as most did.

"These things seem to keep happening every time I am away, and they don't happen so much when I'm around. Is there a chance that whatever - or whomever - is orchestrating these attacks, is deliberately timing them around my absences?"

He turned to Malik.

"Question goes to you too, lad. You're a remarkably sharp young man, and I would like to have three heads on this, rather than just one or two."
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#8


High as the man spoke of it, it was hard for many locals to understand the appeal of the hot bitter beverage. Well foreigners would be foreigners,and even the orders of the oddest tastes had to be filled where possible. The server went off to take care of the order promptly after it was given.

Malik felt Max's stern gaze intensely. Was Max blaming him for some of this mess? The youth might blame himself a bit regarding how hostile people had ended up in the town, but one thing he hadn't done was speak ill of Max in any capacity. The accusational feeling of the situation did nothing to put Malik at ease. The feeling grew worse when compounded with Max's description of  'heavenly powers'. Did Maximilion know what his fight with the demon had been like? 'Saving angel' was pretty romanticized but Malik really hoped that that was not how things had looked to the civilians he'd been trying to help. Some of Maximilion's frustrations were probably rubbing off too.


Ben eventually cut down the silence with an explanation of how news had gotten around. "people talk, servants talk. If you don't guard them carefully, people find out things here." the man clarified. The staff from Maximilion's estate had many dealings with the city for goods and services. Exchanging news and gossip as an aside was common enough to make a difference in certain situations. However, it wasn't the only cause. "Add to that the fact that many of us are used to scoping out strength vs faking it and, you can't blame folks for having some inkling of what you can do."

The stout man least sampled drink which had already been brought out in the pause of his speech. There was a fine Ale, (though not as fine as some of the imports Ben held monopoly on reacquiring). Also out on the table were breads, and vegetables and meats, enough to sate the pallet of an average guest. Of course Maximilion was not so average.

"You single-handedly took out a small platoon in less time than it'd take me to get from here to the dock. If that's a small feat, than I don't wanna see grandiose." Ben added, to the matter of Max's capabilities. "and Malik, I know you've been helping out with the shipments, keeping up with some of the strongest men there despite the fact that you're less then half their size. They're not entirely uncommon feats, but that stuff's still significant once you start considering it," In short, small feats might not be so small depending on who heard about them.

Ben began to laugh heartily as Max described quite a conspiracy theory. "Considering the nature of the attacks, I really don't think most of them are related whatsoever. I told you the raiders are a matter we deal with every year, The others truly are more unusual but they sure look like coincidence to me."


Malik wasn't too keen to add his two cents at the moment but he had been asked as well. "The first demonic attacks happened around the same time sanctuary got hit. Those could have the same source if anything does." Malik didn't have to explain too much. He'd found out Ben knew more about the land beyond the sea than many of the Delmarsh folk, so talk about sanctuary wouldn't bring up many questions from him. "The other events seem on par with the local's tales to me." Those were stories of grandeur and heroism, with various monstrous foes. For all Malik knew, the tales had been stretched out of proportion by time, but there as a chance some of them were true too.
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#9
Maximillion VonMitternacht
(1st Person)

"Malik is strong, of that there's no doubt. As many Beastmen as I have seen, as well as creatures with scales for skin and webbed fingers, others yet covered in fure, I wouldn't think that a young man who can lift some heavy boxes should rise any suspicion. Frankly, if I were a transporter, and I had a strapping lad working on my crew, I would count myself fortunate."

He saw some unease in Malik's expression, and decided to give him some due praise.

"He is trustworthy, dependable, and he won't steal from you, nor sell you out to the competition. He's young too, which I feel would give most folk the impression he's a fairly clean slate, untainted by experience and foul experiences, like older folks are prone to be."

He didn't name himself outright, but his ageless face - only 'given' age when he wore a beard - and eyes that probably looked demonic to most, he wouldn't blame people for thinking him someone to keep their eyes on.

"One thing I have not really thought about since arriving, but perhaps should have considered, is whether or not there are Noble Houses, or any other Aristocracy who do business in Delmarsh, or who have residences in Delmarsh? I hate to change the subject, but I still think it is related. Although we need to discuss the damage that has been wrought here, I think we also intended to address what we could do to fix it. I have no eye nor mind for politics, and I'll say so upfront."

He then reached forward, daintily placing the index and middle fingers, and thumb against the extending bone of one of the meat haunches, and - making it look so easy - snapped it loose of the large cooked fowl it had been attached to, without shaking or disturbing the table, or the other food.

He started to bring it to his lips, but as if remembering that he had been about to say something, he lowered it again, setting it back on his plate, which seemed insufficient to hold such an enormous object on its surface.

"In my experience, those who play politics will see a political maneuver in anything. If you scratch your bum, they'll be certain there's an agenda behind it, and insisting loudly and angrily that your bum just itched will be seen not just rude, but as though that too were some kind of political maneuver."

His eyes took on a faraway quality, and for a few moments, it was as though everything and everyone around him had ceased to be. Abruptly, he started, blinked a few times, then continued, the reverie broken.

"Ben, I would like to know about Nobles and wealthy business owners who have monopolies around here, and who might be more than a little unhappy about a foreigner allegeldy moving in on their industries."

He wrapped his left hand around the base of the haunch again, and lifted it up half a foot from the table, but held it there.

"And, I would like some explicit details about what exactly went on. I get the impression Malik was involved in something...'flashy'...the most recent night of attack, and I will be better equipped to tackle any gossip flying around if I know what happened."
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#10


"If people are noticing too much I can quit." Malik blurted out "I just'll... need to find some other job to do so I'm earning my keep." Malik couldn't stand not doing things to help pull his weight both at the estate and in the community. He couldn't let his stay be an expense, so he worked to cover his room and board and any other costs that might have really been his fault. That all just went to prove the honest character Max was describing didn't it?


Ben glanced at Malik. "I think we should answer your latter question first. I'm curious too. I only witnessed bits and pieces." He'd heard Max's questions about the Nobles loud and clear, but to answer would cause a split in the conversation, and perhaps leave the story of the demonic encounter from the other day untold.

Malik shifted uncomfortably, still better to be out with it. "What happened pretty much was flashy. I didn't have the option to fight human. She was always two fuckin steps faster, setting things on fire before I could move in to stop her. I had to try and protect folks too, so most of the fight I was trying to do two things at once." Malik didn't know realistically how fast the fight had gotten, but he knew it had gotten ridiculously fast paced. Max would have never seen Malik move at such speeds besides for a few 'emergency' reactions.

That wasn't even touching on what made the encounter flashy yet. He didn't hesitate to explain. "I had to fight with my light. It was the only thing that seemed able to stop her and the demonic fires she set. Normal water didn't. I didn't think I could spot-clean it up so I went big & tried a few things to make it rain." He'd show Max sometime. Descriptions didn't really cut it. "After that.... she started going after civilians. She killed a kid, no older than 2 years old, and harmed his mother. After that I managed to catch her. My plan was just to get her far enough away that no one else would get hurt... but help came from high places." He better elaborate. "I've made some friends, a real Angel and more. They're the ones who actually took care of the demon in the end. I figure they handled matters more justly than I ever could." Malik simply had to trust that. He hadn't actually been told the demon's fate.

"When they let me, I came back, and that's practically the present." He'd probably have to explain more about these heavenly friends and other details later on, but he'd summarized the story and the measures he'd ended up taking. He hadn't wanted Max to know all of this, he'd wanted to show it, to make some of his progress a surprise for the next time they got to spar. Unfortunately current events held precedence so secrets should not be held. After that, he dropped silent. Explaining helped in its own ways, but it left him thinking. He'd explain his train of thought later if he got a chance, but he wanted to work it out for himself first.


Ben folded his hands, and leaned back in his chair, about to answer the former question as a server came by with the ordered brew. It smelled like coffee and looked like coffee alright, but someone had gotten some ideas and laced it during the preparation process. With what well... some pretty hefty poison picked because it had worked pretty well against a few other supernatural lords back when Delmarsh had been known for more shady dealings. It was odorless, tasteless, colorless, and not hard to mix out of some rare but local ingredients and a little skillful alchemy. Someone was hoping it would work on Maximilion, given it's history with previous success.

When she left Ben replied "Regarding the noble lines, you moving in ousted many of them from the area. A good few had money in the brothels and gambling joints. It wouldn't be odd if a few of them want their investments back with interest at this point." Guess some sort of collusion wasn't improbable after all. "Some of the attacks seem like one time hits with nothing to do with them, but by now the news has traveled with the trade routes. Its not unlikely for the future to start having to deal with a few of them."
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