OPEN Chapter 1: A Murder Mystery

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#1

Chapter 1


A Murder Mystery
A week had passed since the murder of the popular tavern singer Bird. Though not a criminal she was a thief of many hearts from those bound and not. Her murder had been grizzly. Her beauty was stripped away from head to toe and with horror plastered over what used to be her face. Bird was still making headlines mourning her death while reporters came forth with the craziest speculations of what the reason could be for her cold blooded murder. So much even that when one day the Golden Times --Golden City’s most influential and prominent paper-- strayed away from the usual dose the whole city was in a frenzy to get their hands on a copy. An ominous message was shared and it was the start of it all.

‘I’M COMING FOR YOU’​

In big bold letters this terrifying announcement was made. Apparently a note with this exact content had been delivered, with another note urging them to publish it frontpage if they valued their lives and jobs.

‘ISILENCEDABIRDFORITTHREATENEDTOSING. ALLWHODOESNOTWISHTOPLAYWILLFORFEITTHEIRLIFE’


A long line of seemingly gibberish was followed after the title, detailing an explanation from the Golden Times on their decision to publish. The murderer had confessed, but who they were was still a question. The Bird had known more, but whatever it was it died with her and went to the Inquisition who kept their lips pressed.

It wasn’t Golden Times alone that were honoured with a threat. That day when the Thumb came into office he found a note as well.

‘YOU’RE NEXT’​

It was all the note said, but it was enough for Amon to summon the best Inquisition members to guard the Council. Orders were given and the vice-president halted all activities. The members were instructed to stay at home as much as possible with every minute supervised by a cloak. With a murderer running around threatening the Council no chances were taken.

Meanwhile the papers of Golden City also caught a whiff of the unrest in the Council. Where Golden Times had the honour of releasing the first message the papers had received different notes. One much more cryptic, but it signalled the start of everything.

" Now, here is a trick.
The key is split in four.
And to start your endeavour.
Here your first word:
I’m a determiner at work. "​

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Weather
The smog is thick today. With little wind but a sweltering heat Golden City is entering the suffocating season of summer. It is advised to not go out unless absolutely needed, which is unfortunately the case for the whole working population if they wish to eat. Barely able to see what is coming five metres ahead the vehicles of the main road are also cautioned not to drive, or to do so slowly. The Nest for once has decided to not use the cables for transport as the smog is too thick. A rare occasion and extra hands are called in to deliver the posts and packages by hand instead.

Chapter Aim
The first actual plot has been released! So, what may seem obvious is that you try to solve the mystery I gave you. The most fun will be if you try to work together to solve it, instead of trying to break it through some generator or the likes. More clues will be released as the story proceeds, ideally every two weeks. The mystery at the end can't be solved without the other clues, so be sure to tune in for that!

Do you have any questions regarding the chapter? Please ask them in the
Bulletin Board
belonging to this chapter. If it is about Golden City in general head off to the
Inquiries thread
. The DM’s and PM’s are welcomed as well, but try to avoid doing so as much as possible. Don't ask for an explanation to the mystery or for more clues, however! That would take away all the fun, all in due time.
 
Last edited:

Joan

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#2
[bimg=300px | fleft | no-lightbox]http://media1.gameinformer.com/imagefeed/screenshots/MotorStormApocalypse/8-Bit.jpg[/bimg]Marianne Crain, AKA Wings
  It was hard to believe this entire damned mess had only started a week ago. Yet, chaos and fear were like that. They happened quickly, without warning, and their effects were felt long after. At least they still had a chance to do something about it.

Marianne Crain, known to the public as the Cloak Wings, made her way across the rooftops on her patrol. Despite the thick smog, which forced her to travel much slower than usual, it was still evident that she knew these rooftops well, as she leapt across them with a lightness and ease befitting of her codename. She paused on the most recent one, straightening up and glancing out over what little she could see of the city, before shaking her head slightly and moving on, dark cloak fluttering behind her.

Think, girl, think.

The Bird was dead because she had known something and threatened to tell. Her murderer had then threatened the Thumb. Of all the people the murderer could have threatened, they had threatened the Thumb. That spoke of lofty goals, and though she believed firmly in the abilities of her fellow Inquisition members to defend the Council, she wasn't naive enough to believe that that would be the end of the story. If only it was...then we wouldn't have to deal with this whole shitshow.

Focus. Keep moving and looking.
She jumped into an alley, landing lightly on the ground, and walked out, tugging the hood of her cloak a bit more securely over her head. A few lingering faces turned to stare, but the streets were mostly empty here. She kept walking, sticking close to the buildings, a watchful eye on the smog as thoughts continued to simmer in her brain.

The latest note. What could it mean? It seems like a cipher of some sort, but nobody at headquarters has anything yet, not for lack of trying.

I'm a determiner at work...the hell does that even mean? It's the key, I think, but figuring out what it means in the first place is proving to be the difficult part. If we could just figure that out, maybe...


She glanced up again, and paused. In front of her was the Golden City Post. She hadn't realized she was moving towards it, but now that she was here, it made perfect sense. Those reporters from the Falcon case, they work here, right? Or they did. They're smart girls. Maybe they have something.

She walked up and pushed the door open, grabbing the shoulder of the first person she saw. "Find Thomas and Minerva for me, would you? Tell them Peeler's here to see them." She fought to keep a smirk off her face at the mention of the old name. The young man turned, opening his mouth to say something, but his eyes went wide and fixated on her cloak. He nodded slowly, eyes still wide, and she released his shoulder. As he sprinted off, she turned and walked to one of the wooden benches in the entry room, settling herself on it to wait.
 

Shizuochan

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#3
Alfie Langretta - the Jackdaw

  
The Jackdaw had once considered murder as mostly trite - unlike, of course, the brilliant and noble art of petty theft. What, after all, could possibly be the beauty in the ultimate end, with no hope for growth, for change? Blood and bones, ash and dust, all ever the same. As he had come to see more and more of what lay beneath the smog, however, he realized where he had been wrong; the murderer changes, the murderer grows. And so Alfie Langretta had made his compromise; murderers were trite, not murder itself.

Alfie had been in the process of snipping a particularly fine patch of cloth (some new spangled checker pattern, white and blue) when he had overheard the frightened, panicked words of hysteria. ‘I’m coming for you? Coming for who?’ or some such. He had heard of the horrific murder which, to stick a further nail in the coffin of his former ideology, had been transformational, and turned into a game. Riddles, puzzles or some such.

Which was all well and good, save for the fact that Alfie couldn’t read it!

And so he had decided to start up something or another at the ‘Coal Shovel Tavern’. The name - which had been read out for him - was rather evocative of some less than generous opinions of its denizens, drunkards like coal shovelled into the incinerator. He had nonetheless taken to gallivanting across the Land and Underground alike to draw inquiring folk to the establishment, confident that none would decipher the poetic name in all its scathing glory.

It was too early for drinking by far when the Jackdaw had decided enough folk had trickled in, taking to leaping atop the counter and tapping against his mug to gather the assembly’s attentions.

Maybe now, someone would read him the goddamn papers.
 

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#4
The Sky, Overton Manor - Lady Almyra Grace Overton

Seconds dribbled by like molasses taking its sweet time dripping onto the floor. Almyra sat in an overstuffed chair in her study with her arms crossed, one leg crossed over the other with her foot bouncing in impatient annoyance, and her eyes trained unwavering on the object of that annoyance. The Inquisitor held her gaze without flinching. The order handed down from Amos Fleming, that members of the Council were to be guarded at all times by one of the cloaks, was supremely irritating. Normally at this time of day Almyra would be tinkering in her workshop, but she'd never been fond of having an audience to her many mistakes and failures. With the firm suggestion (otherwise known in lofty circles as a polite order) that Council members remain within their homes, that meant she had nothing much to do to pass the time, other than stare at the Inquisitor and see if she could manage to make him uncomfortable. Two hours in, and she was pretty sure he was unbreakable.

"Fine, you win." Almyra would have sworn she saw a hint of a smirk on the Inquisitor's face, but as she peered closer his face was still as stone. "If I am to be stuck with a cloak until the murderer is caught, then I suppose I shall have to do what I can to catch the murderer, for my own sanity." The stone-faced man simply lifted one eyebrow, just a hint of movement that spoke volumes. Almyra let out an irritated sigh. "Yes, yes, I know, I can't go wandering about the city. I'll just have to set my mind to solving this mystery from the comfort of my own home, won't I?" The Inquisitor gave no verbal response, but he did settle back into his chair without comment, so that seemed answer enough.

Almyra made her way over to the desk on the opposite side of the large room and settled into the less comfortable chair behind it. A variety of newspapers was stacked atop it, already read earlier in the day before she settled in to stare at her unwanted guardian, and each one had something regarding the death of the Bird and the mysterious murderer who had been making such a nuisance of himself. That simply would not do, not so long is it inconvenienced Lady Almyra Grace Overton. She pulled out a stack of paper, a quill, a bottle of ink, and a pair of scissors. A shifting sound of wood on wood drew her eyes to the Inquisitor, who was now watching her with obvious confusion on his face. Almyra gave him a sharp little smile. "I've always been fond of puzzles. Let's see if this bothersome fool is any match for years of training and the boundless irritation of a bored lady."

As she set to cutting out the relevant snippets of the newspaper for easy reference, she heard what sounded almost like laughter coming from the stoic cloak. This time she spared the fellow's hints of personality no attention. There was work to do, and when Almyra focused herself on a task there was no distracting her from it. She would solve this damnable mystery no matter how long it took, and that was all there was to it.

Leaving The Underground, Entering The Land - Lucius "The Maggot" King

Hacking, phlegm-filled laughter filled the air. It was unclear where exactly the noise came from, which was always the case in the echoing caverns of the Underground, but the smoke was thick enough today to make it an impossible to identify the source. Lucius strode on past the deranged sound with purpose in his step, toward one of the sets of stairs that ascended from the hellish pits of the city up into the merely terrible existence that was the Land. The planned events of the Pioneer's Jubilee had been sadly interrupted by a bumbling fool destroying a vital component of the Maggot's plans, and said fool had quickly been sent on a final trip into the Ovens in the middle of that same night. Lucius had since decided that the keys to a changed destiny should remain in his hands alone, never to be trusted in those of the drooling simpletons who surrounded him.

Today, however, his machinations were set aside. Word had filtered down from above about a new bloody murder that stained the front pages of the papers red, and of a ballsy move by the murderer to up the stakes. There was some talk of riddles and such slipped to some of the papers, but Lucius had no idea what they were. Even so, he had a feeling he knew the broad strokes of the story better than most. Being a notorious criminal had its perks, the most useful of which was information shared amongst those looking to protect themselves by currying favor with the monsters who haunted the Underground. He ascended the steps with his mask firmly affixed, which helped to hide the rapacious grin Lucius could feel plastered on his face. A certain someone was threatening not just a member of the Council, but one of the most renowned Inquisitors to ever be unmasked. That was a game Lucius definitely wanted to play, and it certainly beat sweating to death in the noxious heat of the Underground.

Mere minutes after making it up onto the Land, he found his way to the tavern the people had been yammering about. Coal Shovel Tavern. A humble name that seemed as if it would only server to remind its patrons that they were humble laborers and would never rise above it, not even when they weren't down in the mines. Lucius would never have stepped foot in the shithole without purpose, but purpose he had. He pushed his way in as someone started hopped up on the counter and started making noise with their mug, and he took an empty seat near the end of the bar with his mask still in place to hide his disfigured features. Enough of the smog was coming in that it wouldn't look odd, which was a nice silver lining to the shit weather. Lucius looked around expectantly, but most people seemed to be doing the same, only facing the guy on the counter. He shrugged and joined them, watching with open disdain to see if the strangely attired and poncy looking fellow was about to break into song and dance or if there was some other purpose to his attention seeking.
 

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#5
Thomas Baris; The Land - Golden Time Office
A threat, a mystery and a murder. Thomas couldn’t believe her luck to be assigned to desk duty today of all days. Desk. Duty. Meaning that she was to be cooped up inside all day being bored out of her mind and forced to write article after article that didn’t interest her in the slightest while everyone else solved the mystery.

“It’s a scoop. It. Is. A. Scoop,” she mumbled heatedly under her breath, glaring at the supervisor ahead. The source of all evil and frustration. All she got was a scoff from her neighbour, which earned her another glare.

“You wouldn’t be able to solve it anyway,” her colleague giggled under her breath, typing away without glancing up. “Where would you get the wits?” she continued haughtily and Thomas flushed in annoyance.

“Just because you managed to get that scoop once…” Thomas mumbled under her breath, cursing the peer for her arrogance.

It was a true depiction of Thomas’s position within the department, however. The reckless nature of the tomboy, along with her love for flamboyant stories had earned her a less than favourable image. One without any credibility and integrity. It was a damn shame that none could understand her genius.

It wasn’t until one of the interns came rushing at her, excited about something and slightly raising up her hopes. Had the supervisor at last decided to forgive the butter fiasco of last week? The intern's cheeks were flushed and he was a little out of breath from the distance run.

“Thomas, sir, err… madam, uuuuh,” the boy grew even redder as he tried to look for the right pronouns before the female stopped him.

“Thomas, just Thomas,” she sighed before she wondered what the intern wanted from her. Usually the interns were reserved for the higher ups, running around to get coffee and occasionally writing the articles no one else could be bothered to do.

“Mrs. Peeler,” he gulped, unsure of where to start. “Cloak member, for you—asking for you and miss Minerva,” he finally managed to press out of himself.

It didn't escape Thomas that the boy did address Minerva properly, but the name Peeler struck her harder. Instantly Thomas seized typing, her eyes flying over to the boy with a look of distress. Glancing over to her neighbour Thomas checked if she had heard anything, but her colleague was unbothered so far as her finger continued to tick, tack the keys.

“Boy, take over,” Thomas immediately commanded as she shoved herself up. The intern blinked again at the reporter, at first confused and then reached an understanding growing pale.

“But--”

“Nothing but, sit down and take over. Both our heads are at stake!” she pushed the intern into the seat as she scrambled up. It was an exaggeration, of course. The boy would be perfectly safe, but Thomas, she would not be alright if Mrs. Peeler really was who she thought she was.

Hurrying down the reporter wondered what in the world that damned cloak could want from her. The last encounter they had was years ago, when the Nest had blundered so magnificently and let her and her colleague Minerva in unauthorised. The result of the little expedition had been fruitful, as they were allowed into the case of the Falcon. It had given everyone involved a boost in their career. It was just a shame that the journalists weren’t allowed to use any other story they had unraveled. Something about unlawful gain. However, that was not the matter. Thomas was unnerved at the presence of this so-called Mrs. Peeler in the building. Did she come in to talk, or was she here to collect her payment?

“Mrs. Peeler,” Thomas smiled widely as her eyes glided over the dark figure in the chair. “Fully suited as well,” she judged, knowing how wary her colleagues were as they saw the Cloak, hurrying off into their offices and holding documents tightly to their chest.

“I see you’re comfortable, Minerva won’t be joining us because of business of her own, but please do tell me what I owe the honour to,” rambling off Thomas took a seat herself, stood up again and smoothed out the creases from her gilet.

Repeating the process Thomas suddenly jumped up, unnerved by the peering eyes of her colleagues. “Actually, let’s go out. Less ears, fewer eyes,” a nervous laugh followed her voice, praying and hoping the supervisor wasn’t coming out of the office any time soon. A cloak in the hallways, that only spelled bad luck.


OOC: Assuming Anguissette won’t be joining for a bit we can just pretend Minerva is out on her own business and all that.

Mallory Devlin; The Land - Coal Shovel Tavern
Once more Mallory found herself at a new site. A new place to earn her bread and new chances. The Coal Shovel Tavern placed no priority on customer service and with the breakage of one of their trusted automatons they were hands short. Hands that Mallory could fill up despite her eternal snarl and tendency to chew a few heads off. It was their lack of focus on customer service that had allowed Mallory to work here at all. As no one in their right mind would think of putting the brunette anywhere near to working with people.

Unfortunately that promise that she would behave was quickly broken within the first few hours of her job. Fortunately the promise was only made to herself. With so many visiting the tavern at once Mallory was immediately thrown into the job knee-deep. Everyone seemed to be eager to discuss the contents of the papers this morning and Mallory couldn’t blame them. The promise of murder and mystery sounded quite alluring and Mallory did like to fantasise about all the possibilities and what would happen if she were the one who solved the mystery and saved the city.

However, no. She had a job to focus on now and couldn’t be caught acting out romances that weren’t going to happen. Besides, a full plate of drinks and jeering men did require her full attention and concentration.

Do not lash out, do not la---

“Hey hotshot, get off the counter,” Mallory grumbled in her usual growl as one fragile looking young man clambered up. The nerve some had and in need of some obvious attention as well. The brunette scoffed at that thought. As if that pretty face and clash of his fashion didn’t do the trick already. And those boots! Mallory's frown turned even deeper at the thought that she would have to wipe the bar once more after the dirty shoes had left the wood.

Yet she did nothing to get the man to the ground either. Perhaps he had something of interest to say. The fantasies Mallory had earlier rose up again, the glory and the fame, not to mention the recognition. All on my own. she heard herself think as she basked in the pride of her own genius.
 

darkflames13

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#6

Mortimer Lindberg
The Land - Coal Shovel Tavern​


"The smog is horrible today."

Mortimer briefly looked from the paper he was reading to the front window of his shop where a young girl stood, peering out where anything was barely visible. Her vibrant red hair stood out in the monotonous surrounding that was his workshop, even more so today when the weather just masked practically everything that was outside.

"Nothing we could do about it," he commented and turned back to the paper he was reading. While Mortimer was glad that the news had finally shifted away from the murder of the tavern singer, the threatening message that was emblazoned across the front page didn't make things any lighter. He sighed and took a sip from the mug before him, scowling as the black liquid washed over his tongue. The coffee tasted like dirt but it was the best they could manage.

The grating sound of a chair being pulled back filled his ears. This time he didn't look up from the paper he was reading, he already knew what--or rather, who--it was anyway.

"Anything interesting today?" the redhead asked, snatching the paper right out of Mortimer's hands. The old man rolled his eyes in response but said nothing, he was too used to the girl's antics by now.

"What is this gibberish? 'I'm a determiner at work', what the hell is that even supposed to mean?"

Mortimer could only give a shrug as an answer. He then downed the rest of his coffee and stood from the table. Blue eyes looked up at him from across. "Where are you going?" she asked as he walked towards the front door.

"Tavern," was all he said in response.

The girl scowled from where she remained seated. "What? No fair. I want to come along as well."

"Not in this weather you're not. Stay here, Bridget." He lingered near the front door for a bit longer as he rifled through one of the drawers near the doorway. Pulling out a mask, he set it atop the drawer, in plain sight for anyone exiting the place. Despite him telling her to stay inside, Mortimer knew that she wouldn't stay put. The girl had a habit of sneaking out, just like her father did when he was younger. The least he could do was leave a mask out for when she does go.

Walking out in the smog wasn't the most pleasant of experiences, but sadly he was already used to it--just like a vast majority were. He knew it was slowly destroying him inside, but there was hardly anything he could do about it. The smog was simply one of Golden City's constants.

Arriving at the tavern, the first thing that Mortimer noticed was the the man stood atop the counter. As quickly as he noticed him however, he looked away. He wasn't there for any sort of theatrics and the like, he was there for business. Just the day before, he'd received a message from a potential client asking to meet with him at the tavern.

He sat himself at a table by the corner, waiting for the man he's supposed to meet to show up. In the meantime, he took towards observing the rest of the place. It seemed quite full, specially considering the time of day. Mortimer couldn't help but wonder if there was perhaps something else that drew the crowd other than a need for a drink.
 

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#7

 
The Moray; The Land; The Station - Coal Shovel Tavern 

 
"One would think, with the coins you’re grabbing, this place would be somewhat more up to its image”, the Moray pointed out as soon as the door to the interrogation room opened. Somewhat degrading chuckle escaping his throat, cause the largest of cloaks leading behind him to shove his fist between Moray’s shoulder blades with annoyed growl. Even though the element of surprise was mostly responsible for Moray’s massive torso to bend forward, and his lungs to constrict under the punch, there was no denying that the man was capable of packing it. There was also no denying that a silent burning rage was breaking through Moray’s calm facial expression once he turned around to look at the man. Giving him and his partner a brief overall, he smirked briefly looking the man dead in the eye, and responded to the cowardly assault in a rather amused and calm manner.

“Punch me in the face next time, and see what happens.”

Where perhaps he would think twice about his ways of resolving the issue, the buffed cloak, albeit an inch or so shorter, approached and forced himself into Moray’s face with a provocative snarl. Moray’s facial expression went down to a frown. The man was still more than tall enough to receive a decent headbutt to the bridge of his nose that would almost certainly send him down. He was aware however, that his position would only turn for worse if he was to fall into temptation of doing it. It didn’t help that the cop made the urge hard to handle.

“Ladies! You’re both pretty. Now move!”, the woman cloak shouted in annoyance after she gestured towards the room. Both men looked at her briefly, and even though he was never the first to back down in the pit, Moray simply wanted to be in and out of there as soon as possible and therefore he was the first one to step away from the challenge. It was certain however, that he would not forget it. Moray forgot nothing.

The room itself was bright, but only a shy bigger from a two larger broom closets put together, at least in Moray’s terms of measurement. Being a large man, he had already took up a decent portion of the room. Granted, he was never claustrophobic in nature, but the relatively small room without any windows, and with additional four people, including the interrogator, almost right off the bat started to feel uncomfortably constricting.

“Comfy”, The Moray commented cynically, as he sat down on a rather uncomfortable and small wooden chair across the table from the older cloak that was to handle the interrogation. The man simply glared at him inquisitively, eager to toss him a bunch of newspapers, and doing so as soon as Moray’s yapper died down. The Moray looked at the revealed articles briefly and shrugged his shoulders. “And?” He already knew why he was there in the first place. When he received no response right away, he sighed in annoyance, lifting himself up and pushing the papers back across the table. “Well, it was a nice little hang out, but unfortunately I am a busy man and I should be on my w-” Loud slap of the man’s palm over the papers, stopped them at the center of the table. “You’ve seen the Bird alive briefly before she was murdered. I suggest you have a look”, the older cloak insisted, and after hesitating for a moment, Moray sat back down with a grunt and pulled the newspapers back towards himself, as he frowned towards the interrogator. “I have. And then I left.”

“Before, or after you played the cat?”

“This is ridiculous”. The Moray never believed people claiming the cloaks had a way for even the innocent to feel guilty. He was one step closer to believe it now that he sat on the burning chair, and one more step closer to regretting even involving himself with the girl. At least for the moment.

“You could not stand her rejecting your courtesy?”

As a matter of fact she had called me. Plenty of times before. It was no different.”

“She wanted out of your little deal?”, the man continued to speculate, shooting his questions one after the other as soon as the Moray was even remotely close to finishing his sentence, being allowed no further explanation.

“There was no getting out of the deal, I always make it clear before I make one.”

“She couldn’t pay you.”

“I didn’t take her coin.”

“Beautiful girl like that shouldn’t be required to pay with her coin-”

“Is that really everything you can think of?”, Moray cut him off in annoyance. He was hardly an honest man, but being accused for the only thing he has never done was just his luck with these people.

“What did she call you in about, Moray?”

“Client’s privilege. I will not be telling you that!” There was no such thing in his work explicitly, but Bird’s requests were already awkward enough. It would help her close to none as she was dead and cold, and as for him, it would only make his way out of there unnecessarily complicated.

“What does the cypher mean?”

"I don’t. Know!”

By the time he quickly asked the last question, the interrogator was already strict and loud, leaning over the table towards the large man. “Was she resisting you?”

"I did NOT kill the-”

“Why go such a long way if you haven’t planned f-”

“I DON’T KNOW!”

The room fell silent as the Moray glared back at the old cloak furiously, and the rest stood uptight, waiting for the cue to react. However, all the interrogator did was wave his hand off, gesturing them to stand down, hardly taking his eyes of the man chewing him out with his glare.

“Very well. Get the hell out of my sight”, he responded calmly, sitting back down, even though his gestured showed the entirety of his inner frustration. He didn’t have to tell him twice. As soon as those words were spoken, Moray stood up angrily, flipping the chair in the process with a loud crash, before he turned to walk out.

“One more thing, Moray”, the man stopped him in his track and the Moray turned sideways to spare him a glance. “If I were you, I wouldn’t be leaving the city for a while. We might be needing you again.” He was aware what it meant. He was not off the hook, but it would not make his legs cut short. “And if I were you, I would stop wasting time and breath on a wild goose chase and do my job properly”. With the words spoken, the Moray stepped between the cloaks and out of the room, quick to make his way as far away from it as possible.

***

He certainly had better things to do than to let his mind wonder and cloud itself over what some nutjob claimed to know. He had... things to attend to. Even so, his mind was still furious with the fact they thought so low of him. He quickly stepped into the Coal Shovel Tavern, bowing his head briefly as the entrance was rather low for him. He had learned that the hard way on his very first try. Eyeing rather unusual number of people in the tavern, he groaned under his breath as he was truly hoping for some peace and quiet. Regardless, they couldn’t have made as much noise as much as he could ignore it. Especially when the topic of the most conversations led in there, were about the same topic.

Pardoning himself as he passed several patrons that looked at him with slight perplexed expression, most likely over his height considering they were all looking up, the Moray made his way to the worn out bar, tossing few coins to the bartender and asking for whiskey. Any kind would do. As long as it was double. 
 

DayDreamer

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#8

 
The Raven; The Land; Coal Shovel Tavern 

 
"They took him! They took him!" A scrawny boy with dirty blonde hair came running through the opening to Raven's little workshop, which really wasn't a proper workshop but rather a small room that served as sleeping quarters and workshop for the brown haired girl. "Raven!" The boy yelled in panic and the girl turned around, fiddling with the laces of her worn leather corset over a black loose shirt.

A frown appeared on Raven's face in concern. There were a lot of people out there that wanted to get her brother and her family for doing what they had to in order to survive in this mess of a city, but their family had become quite large since several orphans had joined them. So who was taken and by whom? "Okay Peter take it from the top. Who was taken and by whom?" Raven said in a controlled manner as she placed a hand on Peter's shoulder to stabilize him and allow him to catch a breath as the boy was obviously flustered from running in the thick smog.

Peter took a deep breath, gulping hard what little moisture was still left in his throat from the grey mist that always clouded the streets on The Land before straightening up. "The Cloaks got Hagen! I saw them dragging him to the station. Raven what are we going to do?" There was obvious fear in the young boy's voice, his eyes widening as he broke the news, watching Raven's eyes immediately get stormy. "Don't worry Peter, I'll deal with it." She said lowering to be eye level with the boy.

"Hey John! Get your butt over here! You're going to replace me in the run!" She yelled as she straightened up again and grabbed her breathing mask, satchel and pocket knife. The boy in question poked his head from another door briefly to see Raven going for the exit in a nonchalant way and quickly ducked out of view to get his stuff. It was no secret that when Raven meant business it was best to stay out of her way and he has had a crush on her for ages shhhhh. Besides, the dark haired teen was one of the few who could compete with Raven when it was time to make their rounds, so it was only natural for him to be her go-to choice in case emergencies arose, as was clearly the case.

In no time Moray's little helpers, as were commonly reffered to despite this particular set being the oldest and quite close to adulthood as is, were out and on their way to Coal Shovel Tavern, their rendevouz point with the client. Talking in hushed tones about the troubling news. The riddling-loving killer that was currently on the loose, threatening someone and no one in particular was pushed at the back of their mind as they had more pressing matters to focus on. Get that delivery done and deal with their captured older brother and friend.

The smog was so thick this day that even with breathing mask on and eyes used to the toxic fog, it was still hard to breathe and see through the tears of red eyes. Words of advice from Raven were treated with outmost care from John regardless of feelings said young man might harbor for her. Raven was the most experienced of their bunch of runners and when she advised caution... it was meant to be taken seriously.

Upon closing the door behind them, Raven exhaled in relief as the smog was locked outside. Coal Shovel Tavern was crowded for the time of day, but Raven knew that it was due to the extra thick fog out there and the fear of the killer. Maybe some of them had the extra coin and time to spare, instead of working. Raven's eyes scanned the crowd, briefly pausing on someone standing on the counter with a mug and some newspapers, being yelled at by the waitress. Now where would their client...... She nearly choked when she laid eyes on the large frame of a man getting a mug of his own. "Wait, is that...?" John questioned as he too noticed the man. "Yeah...." She said ominously and her eyes squinted at the back of the man who seemed oblivious to the world at that moment.

Raven managed to sift her focus on the man that had taken a table at one of the more quiet corners. Their client. Raven nudged John and motioned to the direction of the client. "There's our guy. Take my mask and take over. Imma go smack myself a squid!" She ordered and strutted over to Hagen who was just about to get a sip of his drink.

Alas it was not meant to be. Raven went straight up to Hagen and in one fluid motion, smacked the back of his head so hard that it caused Hagen's nose to take a dip in his drink, liquid splashing in all directions as the large man was pushed forward, caught by surprise. "You're in big trouble Squid!" She said as she glared at her brother sitting all cosy in a tavern, about to enjoy a drink, instead of letting them know he was not in trouble with the cloaks.

----
@Hagen Griffith 
 
Last edited:

Shizuochan

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#9
Alfie Langretta - the Jackdaw

  
Alphonse Langretta was satisfied by the attention unto his person, and then summarily subdued by it. His inner posturer engaged in a duel most violent with his inner thief, rendering him a petrified figure as he reconciled his penchant for the shadows and his appreciation for the enthralled eye. The latter proved victorious, as the Jackdaw had already seen fit to perch himself upon the counter; simply stepping off and slinking away like a nonce seemed hardly a viable course of action!

His shock-still form jumped back to action, waving the mug like some herald’s flag, or a conductor’s baton.

“Hello, hello, my dearest gentlemen and gentle… ladies. You all look… radishing, or, rather, some of you. Very few of you.” A tip of the tricorne, to no one and everyone in particular, some empty gesture to create the illusion of otherness in a stuffy inn, “But, ah, better to dress for the occasion than to dress well. Unless you dressed well; then that’s simply grand. Or… grandé. Ah...”

He made a pointed effort to ignore the various confused expressions, especially from the less faux-articulate lot that had crawled out from the Underground.

“Now, of course, we all know what has trans-inspired. We’ve all heard, or, most certainly, read about the whole gristle-ly affair. I would simply like to profane to you, now, that we do our utmost to unite and conquer this most mysterious of mysteries…

In the interest of cooperation, would, eh, someone perhaps like to join me upon this very counter and regale us with the contents of today’s papers. Out loud, preferably. Enun-kated, if you could. Sincerely. Please.”
 

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#10

 
The Moray; The Land; Coal Shovel Tavern 

 
He was wrong alright. One double would not cut it, as it disappeared before he was even aware of what he was drinking in the first place. And so, as the logic would dictate, he ordered another one... and another one, until the burn reminded him of the content of his mug. Well at least the tavern around him fell silent. In his own mind, that is. As soon as he turned to check where did all those people go, the noise of many bodies present returned to drum at his brain.

“Coins first”, the bartender ordered after Moray shook his empty mug once more. “What?”, the Moray turned back to face the bartender, cocking his brow in question. “Coins on the bar first. Then you will get more. I don’t have enough of my own to cover for everything you piss drunk asses drink up and forget to pay”, the man clarified leaning against the bar, treating Moray with a narrow glare. “Do I look like I would drop from five mugs?” The bartender simply extended his hand, still demanding the payment, on which Moray groaned displeased, but reached into the pocket of his trousers regardless, grabbing a bunch of coins and dropping them into the man’s hand. “Keep the change”, Moray mumbled and pushed his empty mug towards the man.

“Nice doing business with you”, the bartender replied cheerfully, getting to work while the large man rubbed his temple and mumbled something incomprehensible in his beard. Another drink flew to him across the bar, and the Moray quickly lifted it up saluting to the bartender that was on his way to bother someone else, before lowering it down to his mouth and leaning the mug...

...Just to have the burning liquid stuck in his throat and nose, when he suffered a dull blow at the back of his head, forcing his face into the incoming wave of alcohol. Almost instantly, he slammed the mug back onto the bar with an unamused groan as he went over the burning pain in his nostrils. Taking a deep breath, he growled with the last ounce of calm he had, before he’d lash out at the troublemaker. “I swear to god. If you do not run in two seconds, I will break your neck...”

"You're in big trouble Squid!"

Well that was a disappointment that he was unable to fully hide. “Too bad”, he shook his head, wiping the alcohol out of his beard, before he turned to look at his baby sister with a charming smirk. Then again, she was hardly a baby anymore. “And what else is new?” he chuckled, reaching out to ruffle her hair. “What are you doing here, Squirt?”

“Hello, hello, my dearest gentlemen and gentle… ladies. You all look… radishing, or, rather, some of you. Very few of you.” It sounded before he got a proper answer. Right. He had forgotten about the mass of people in that place. Even if he didn’t want to care, the man’s voice was one of those kinds one could simply not ignore. And not in the good way. “But, ah, better to dress for the occasion than to dress well. Unless you dressed well; then that’s simply grand. Or… grandé. Ah...”

The Moray was familiar with the clown speaking to the tavern dwellers. He certainly lived up to his name- Jackdaw. That is when it came to talking his mouth off. He gave him a quick overall as he was already turning his attention to that direction. “Now, of course, we all know what has trans-inspired. We’ve all heard, or, most certainly, read about the whole gristle-ly affair. I would simply like to profane to you, now, that we do our utmost to unite and conquer this most mysterious of mysteries…”

Scoffing at it, Moray rotated in his seat failing to continue listening to gibberish, turning his back to the entire ordeal and grabbing a hold of mug. “There’s no mystery”, he mumbled, mainly referring to Raven. “The guy is a narcissistic sociopath with a lot of free time to spare playing stupid games”, he spoke before he leaned the mug and drank what was left in it after most of the drink ended up all around. “Can you believe that is the profile I am fitting in?”, he narrowed his eyes as he turned his attention to Raven, pushing away the mug. “I mean, I am certainly plenty of things. But I am hardly wasting my time on bullshit.” It may have sounded ridiculous how above everything else, Moray found insult in that very part of the ordeal, but he was not a good man. Not even by chance. Being compared to a lunatic, however, was a whole new level of disrespect he had a hard time accepting.

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#11
Phineas Abbess; The Underground >>> The Land - The Coal Shovel Tavern
He couldn’t find her anywhere! The soft grey eyes that were so gentle and warm. Not scourging warm as the Underground, but warm with something quite unknown to Phineas. The boy called it ‘kindness’ though he didn’t really know what it was to feel ‘kindness’ and to be ‘kind’, but if he had to give it any sort of form and definition for himself he would call it these soft grey eyes he hadn’t seen today.

The girl he was looking for was a small and frail being, much like everyone in the Underground, but she seemed even more fragile and weak in the light of the everlit ovens and amongst the layer of dust that was forever caked onto everyone and everything. She had seemed out of this place, for Phineas and yet she was such a trusted sight that the boy had learnt to miss her the instant she hadn’t appeared at her usual spot.

Had she collapsed somewhere he didn’t know? Or had she been taken by the gangs that roamed around these parts? Phineas had always feared that it was just a matter of time before the girl would lose her balance --weak and unreliable as her legs seemed-- and tip her down the blazing fired of the Ovens below. Or worse, that she would be swept away, dragged into an alley and initiated like the many women here were for the same fate as his mother had suffered.

All these thoughts roamed around within him as he climbed and ran towards each spot he knew she frequented. Upon reaching her front door --since he did know where she lived-- all he found was a note pinned to the wood. A note he couldn’t understand, for Phineas was no exception from the rest of the Rats. They were all illiterate.

However, he knew who could help! Grabbing hold of the note the boy made a run for it again, this time climbing up and up, until he felt the air clear up a little and the heat lift. Though the Land was in a smoggy sorry state of summer it was nothing compared to the Underground. Phineas having lived his life in the dumpster down below felt himself to be free despite the poor quality of the weather today. Nothing compared to the sweltering heat of the Underground and the only notice Phineas took was how much cleaner the streets were and how much richer the people seemed.

He reached the regular meeting space, there where he thought Hagen would be. The Moray was always there doing his jobs and sometimes giving Phineas a task or two, but not today it seemed and eyes flew over to the boy in surprise when he stumbled in.

“Kraken?” he questioned, but the lads shook their heads. The Moray was not around, for he had been caught they told him. Caught because of a murder and for a moment confusion set on the Rat’s face. Was murder uncommon? What question was there, but to be it a daily occurence? Phineas failed to understand the enormity and gravity of the subject and case, but didn’t press on, instead asking where the rest had gone off to.

Not much later the boy ran into the streets again, trying door by door, sometimes seeing a heap of people within, sometimes finding it locked and other times finding himself chased. Never giving up hope the boy finally reached the Coal Shovel Tavern, his eyes immediately zooming in on the familiar built of the person he had been looking for.

“You!” he yelled, unaware that he was the second to be running after the Moray. However, instead of fury the boy was full of zeal, waving around the note he had found as he was determined to find the girl with ‘kindness’ for eyes.

“Please read,” he panted as he slammed down the note onto the bar, smoothing out the wrinkles from the paper to help the man to better understand what was scribbled.

The note the boy couldn’t understand was simple:

’Did you miss the the word?’


OOC: I hand you the first clue! I edited the mystery code a bit, turns out I did a derp and messed up. Don’t worry, the code should still largely be the same, just that I added in an extra line. The second key will be released with the next GM post, which hopefully should be after the next round????
 

DayDreamer

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#12

 
The Raven; The Land; Coal Shovel Tavern 

 
Watching her brother cough in burning aching from the alcohol in his nostrils brought a small smirk in Raven's otherwise furious face. She didn't even bother to hide it and she didn't even blink when the large hulk of a man slammed his mug on the counter, growling threats. She was probably the only one not afraid of her brother when he was angry. She knew he would never hurt her, but even in the improbable scenario of him attempting to do so she would be able to hold her ground. Or so she thought.

Disappointment was evident in his voice as he wouldn't be able to avenge his lost drink. Death by spillage seemed to be the one men moaned the worst about when it came to their alcohol. Speaking of which, her brother had certainly had his fair share of mugs up to this point. Raven could smell it in his words as he turned around asking her what else was new. It caused Raven to roll her eyes and glare even harder. Yes their family was known for getting in some pretty deep shit, but it didn't mean it was an excuse to not let people know you were off the hook.

Once more Raven smacked the hand that reached out to ruffle her hair.
"Oh no, don't you dare!" She growled and was about to let all Hell break loose upon him by telling him exactly what was going on in her mind. Before she could though, the man on the counter decided to adress the crowd and use a mouthful of words Raven could tell he didn't know how to use or how they were even supposed to sound like only to appear more educated and flamboyant. Despite all her rage, Raven couldn't help herself but slightly tilt her head in curiosity. What mystery? She had heard that the Bird had been murdered and that the murderer was threatening to strike again some pretty important floaters, but that was pretty much it.

“There’s no mystery. The guy is a narcissistic sociopath with a lot of free time to spare playing stupid games. Can you believe that is the profile I am fitting in?” Her brother immediately cut in, which peaked Raven's curiosity even more. What did the murder of the Bird had to do with him anyways? “I mean, I am certainly plenty of things. But I am hardly wasting my time on bullshit.” Raven snorted at that "That's debatable." She commented before she could stop and think. It came out with such natural ease that you could tell they were close.

However before Raven could finally get all these questions out of her head and into the open, another ran up to them and slammed a scrambled note on the counter, demanding Hagen to read it aloud for him. Raven had seen Phineas around and they were usually at pranking odds and with Raven often reaching her patience limits. Needless to say she hadn't appreciated the second time she was interrupted before giving her brother the lecture he deserved. She glared at The Ant, but didn't say a thing. The boy was troubled for whatever was in that note. Taking a glance at the note, her nose scrunched up a little.

’Did you miss the the word?’ What the Hell was that supposed to mean?


----
Ritual Lobotomy Ritual Lobotomy
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#13
The Land, Coal Shovel Tavern - Lucius "The Maggot" King

The crowded hubbub of the tavern was proving to be far less useful than Lucius had hoped. It was just a pack of dullards babbling nonsense about the murder and the threat of more to come. Had it been his own work, then perhaps listening to the nonsense would have proved entertaining, but as it stood there was nothing to be gained from it. He was just about to leave when the poncy git on the bar finally spoke. It took a supreme effort of will not to cackle at the fools pretense of intelligence. Lucius had met his type plenty often in the Underground, uneducated idiots who thought using big words would earn them the respect of their peers. Knocking them down a peg or two with pointed questions was usually good of a laugh. He recognized this particular moron though, from tales rather than personal familiarity: the only person who'd likely wear such a gaudy patchwork of fabrics was the Jackdaw, a thief known for taking souvenirs off his targets and adding them to his collection. The big man at the other end of the bar was another fellow who'd earned himself a name in the papers, though Lucius recognized him from back in his days of fighting in the Underground and hadn't seen him in person in years. This tavern was looking to become a proper menagerie already, so adding another name might be fun.

Lucius pushed his stool back loudly from the bar and walked over to the idiot standing atop it, looking up at him through the smog-smeared glass visor of his gas mask. When he spoke, the muffling effect of the mask still worn did nothing to soften the sneering mockery of his words. "You look like a drunken fool who raided a traveling circus' wardrobe, but you speak like a child trying out words for the first time. I'm not sure if I should pay you for the routine or toss you off the bar for being a pain to eyes and ears."

He reached out and snatched a copy of the day's Golden Times laying on the bar that the fool was almost stepping on, then reached up with the other hand to casually remove his mask. Lucius looked up at the colorful idiot with a sneering smile on his face that matched his words, twisted into gruesomeness thanks to the cracked flesh of the right side of his face. There were a couple sharp gasps and hurried whispers elsewhere in the room, but that was only to be expected when the Maggot bared his face. "You can keep your perch to yourself, Jackdaw, but I'll humor you. I'm sure any illiterates in the room," he looked pointedly up at the Jackdaw before returning his eyes to the paper, "would appreciate a reading. Hell, seems fitting at least, a murderer reading about a murder, hm?" He laughed at his own comment, though it turned into a hacking cough that ended with a glob of thick mucus spat onto the floor of the tavern. The whispers had spread a good ways now, and as he turned to face the room he could see fear in many an eye. That was fine by him: better for them to fearfully stay put than to rush out to find a Cloak to nab the infamous Maggot in the middle of a charitable act of reading the paper for an illiterate fool.

Lucius read through the cover story of the paper, and in doing so betrayed a bit of his history to those paying attention. He read clearly and easily, without stumbling over any of the words that the Jackdaw would have doubtlessly considered fancy enough to add to his collection of misused words. Though the Maggot in the eyes of the public was a barbaric murderer, it was clear he had experienced a decent education at some point before making the papers for his bloody work. He went through the whole story: the dramatic summary of events and the self-aggrandizing swill of the journalist praising the paper's investigative work and the explanation of the newest clue provided to the Golden Times. Rather than reading out the string of letters, he simply noted it as a string of random letters that were probably some kind of code.

When he was done, Lucius tossed the paper back onto the bar, directed another not-so-friendly smile at the Jackdaw, and headed back for his seat. The gas mask stayed off now that he'd already revealed his face. He figured he had time for one drink before he needed to duck out in order to evade the grasp of the Cloaks, assuming anyone had managed to slip out unseen to alert them of his presence. He dropped a small handful of coins on the bar and pointed to a bottle on the shelf nearby, neither speaking nor bothering to look at the bartender, but he fully expected his order to be filled with haste if she had even the slightest sense of self-preservation. He wouldn't kill someone for failing to get him a drink, but he also had no qualms about exploiting the fact that the average idiot probably expected exactly that kind of pointless violence from the Maggot.
 

Ritual Lobotomy

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#14

 
The Moray; The Land; Coal Shovel Tavern 

 
The Moray let out another salty scoff at Raven's remark as he spun an empty mug on the bar. "Hey. I am doing my best, alright?", he chuckled and tapped the mug down, stopping its spin. "Sometimes, you really can't teach the old dog some new tricks", he mumbled with his tongue somewhat lazy from the alcohol, even though far away from drunk. But maybe he could fix it. He'd just have another one!

Before he fully lifed his hand to summon the bartender, his attention was redirected to a shoutout behind his back. It was nowhere as loud and demanding as Raven's in tone, but it was jsut as flustered in the end. "Ehh", the large man exhaled and dropped his hand back onto the bar, turning sideways just as the small scrawny kiddo slid in and slammed a piece of shit paper under his nose. The Moray opened his mouth to put the perplexed expression on his face into words, but Phineas chimed in quickly with huffed and puffed "Please read", referring to the line scribbled on the paper.

"Kiddo, I really don't think this is a good time for a reading practice", the man noted scratching his bearded cheek as he waited patiently for Phineas to set up the sheet for him to read. It must have been something that the kid deemed fairly important, because even though their relationship was fairly friendly, Fin tended to stick around only as long as he deemed needed and Hagen never insisted on pinning him down. He was one of those kids knowing how to handle themselves. He was usually only there as a backup, and it was surprisingly not as often that he was needed.

Leaning his elbow against the bar, the Moray glanced at the message briefly, then back up at the excited boy, exhaling the breath he was accumulating in his lungs through his nose, which often meant he was giving in to his kids' games and simply decided it would be a smarter idea to simply go with it.

"Alright young man", the Moray groaned with a smirk, rotating himself back agains the bar and dragging the paper with him. "Let's see what this mysterious code is", he jested. During the years, all sorts of handwritings he had encountered were easier to decode. Not like many knew how to properly write and express themselves in the first place. The man had to adapt. It was funny however. Why would anyone assume a kiddo like Fin would be able to read anything in the first place?

The message itself perplexed him briefly. It dawned to him it may have been one of those ridiculous kiddie games they played around, random riddles for a weak prize. When you were a kid, everything seemed worthy of bother. But then again, it was a stretch. Reading and writing still wasn't as easy to explain.

"Did you miss the the word?", he read it out loud, quickly going over it once again to make sure he got that as it was written. Scoffing with a shake of his head, he repeated the second part of the sentence "The the word" before he turned towards the Ant and slid the paper back to him with a slight frown on his face. The sentence itself was ridiculous. Why was it there, in the hands of this kid was beyond him and somewhat concerning, even though he went long ways before he'd become legitimately concerned about anything.

"Well, did you?", he asked calmly.

However, it carried some eerie familiarity to something he had seen. And it just wouldn't go away. It bothered him enough to forget about his last attemp to order more drinks. Such extremes he wouldn't ignore as easily.

The paper rested against the bar still partially clamped by the man's fingers so if the kid was quick to attempt and grab it, the Moray would be quick to fish it back and away from his grasp until he'd get the answer to another simple question, this time coming from Moray, as he spared Raven a brief dark glare. A serious question.

"Where did you get this?"

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Shizuochan

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#15
Alfie Langretta - the Jackdaw

  
The Jackdaw wilted beneath the weight of the previously-masked man’s scathing oration, his languid stance grew rigid, a blade of lush grass in the wind hardened into a strand of frayed straw. His feet rooted themselves to his perch, but the arch of his body receded uncomfortably as Alphonse attempted the enviable task of hasty retreat from a position of stillness. Even obscured by the muffle of a gas mask, his words had cut through the Jackdaw’s pretense with an eloquent savagery that, the Jackdaw admitted, suited the fellow denizen of the Menagerie.

The Maggot was a fine orator, although the content of the words paled in comparison to the hypnotic presence of the scarred man, which rendered the Jackdaw’s endeavors rather tragically counterproductive. He had been graced by the murderer’s facility with words once before, during his ‘sermon’ in the Undergrounds. His words that day were like the inferno, that burned even deeper than the furnace of the Underground. Alphonse had decided, near enough to the very same instant, that he had need of a patch from the Maggot. Not that, rooted for fear of the man’s presence, he was like to get it here.

“The Mag-!” Alphonse gave out a hacking cough to mirror the Maggot’s own, the black lung of the Underground exacting its vengeance for the Jackdaw’s earlier over-expenditure, a sharp incisive pain for each word he had spun in his pretentious spiel. “Mag… -esty. Your Majesty.”

The Jackdaw recoiled at his own folly, wondering why he had even been concerned with (poorly) maintaining the secrecy of the Maggot’s identity, it having already been more or less revealed. Honor amongst thieves, perhaps. Only the Maggot was no thief; not unless lives could be marginalized as commodities.

“Thank you for your reading, ehm, sir. Sir.”

Mercifully, he managed to tear his gaze from the Maggot and unto the gruff man, whose face seemed readily made for the forming of scoffs and bear-like growl alike, the fierce lady, visage and hair like brush-fire, and the similarly illiterate child, who had strung about his yell for help about the bar. Steadying himself from his ‘engagement’ with the Maggot, he gathered his legs and pirouetted across his perch, casting his gaze over the lot,

with an expression that said, “don’t mind me! I’m sure I’ll be a great, not at all bothersome, bit of help!

Jorick Jorick DayDreamer DayDreamer Ritual Lobotomy Ritual Lobotomy
 

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#16
GM post + Mallory Devlin & Phineas Abbess; The Land > Coal Shovel Tavern

   It took very little to sleight Mallory in any way. She did take offense rather quickly, but to take offense for not being offended? The brunette was in slight disbelief as well, listening to the pompous peer speak in the many fancy words that flew over the heads of the crowd. Where the man had learnt such words was beyond the female, as she was pretty sure that he had no such privilege as an education.

Annoyed as she was there were others in the tavern who took up the job to scold the man. A young teen that had stormed in earlier to scold another, joined in by the teen's object from earlier. Both seemed to have no intention of joining the game and both seemed to have missed the note from the Inquisition. Who didn’t want that sum of money for solving the case of a flamboyant murderer? Rolling her eyes she turned away, until another slam was heard.

Whipping around she saw a even younger boy joining the group, slamming his little note in front of a massive man.

“What in the world?”

Phineas promptly ignored the glares he got from the women in the tavern. He got glared at often by adult women, it was nothing new. Flipping skirts and blowing aptly timed raspberries was never appreciated. And it was either a glare or a look of disgust, for everyone judged the son of a whore.

Too impatient to listen to the disfigured man not too far from him Phineas looked expectantly at the Moray when he read the note, the mouth of the boy falling open ever so slightly as he cocked his head.

“What word?” he questioned out loud, ignoring the inquiry of the adult. “Is that really what is written there? Why did you stutter?” he continued with his questions, unable to believe that the note was just a silly string of words with no meaning at all.

“Really, boy?” Mallory interjected, annoyed beyond reason at the ruckus in the tavern. “First of all,” the female growls, sending her towel into the direction of the Jackdaw “dirty boots of the counter.”

“Second, no minors in this place,” she pointed at Phineas and moved her finger over to the Raven before swooping up the money the Maggot laid out and pouring him a drink.

“A drink for the ugly,” she remarked whipping around once more to continue polish the forever smudged glasses.

It promised to be no such day, however. Once more the doors slammed open, this time revealing a paper boy running into the tavern as he waved around a new edition of the Golden Times. His face was round and sweaty from the miles he had ran already and his voice was choked out by his need for breaths.

“Fresh,---” he heaved, but any attention for his words were lost as the front page was clearly visible displaying a grand picture of the very note Phineas had delivered:

’Did you miss the the word?’

The words spelled ominously and the fact that the Golden Times didn’t release so often a day stirred the whole room in excitement. Something had happened, a shot was made in the case of the big game that was at play within the city. The mood tensed and a few tried to get closer to the boy, not daring to miss out on anything.

“The Golden Times headquarters have yet received another set of instructions!” the boy finally managed to speak, his voice shaky and his face still bloated, but he had stopped to stammer, making him so much easier to understand.

Scraping his throat once more he waved the paper: "The Second Hint, it is called!". He was clearly in discomfort for having to announce the news, which was a strange enough happening by itself. Shifting his eyes the boy let go of a pathetic sound before opening his vest. A clock was attached to his chest, the hands standing still at two particular spots. The crowd lurched back in revulsion and shock.

“This will be your second word, which will make half the key. Twentyfour are on the clock. Clockwise doom at seven and one!” The boy belted out the hint so fast, it was barely understandable. However, fortunate for the crowd it was all written on paper as he threw down the item and ran out of the tavern again, heading towards the next destination.

"That's it." Mallory threw her towel to the floor in frustration. Pulling her hair out of the ponytail she had done so carefully in the morning she grabbed a bottle and sat down at the bar with the rest.

"I quit, I fucking quit," and with that she poured herself a drink.
  
 

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#17

 
The Raven; The Land; Coal Shovel Tavern 

 
Raven's eyes and face grew suspicious and concerned. At first, as it was typical of Hagen, he was about to brush her off and order another drink, a move that was cut off by Phineas' demand to read the note. A demand Hagen thought it smart to oblidge than to hope to deny the Ant and escape with his nerves in perfect condition. But as her brother pondered on the sentence, Raven was only half listening at this new mystery from a man that elicited many a fearful gasps from the crowd. The Maggot! At the moment she heard that name being whispered, her eyes focused curiously, cautiously but not in fear for the man's reputation. He was a murderer indeed, but Raven had heard some things about the Maggot that made her think she was just as tough as Golden City demanded you to be, yet working for the people whose backs were breaking so that the floaters could enjoy Sky.

However the young Griffith didn't have as much time as she wished to study Maggot's face and mannerism, a habbit of hers since she was a child. Curiosity and observation had given Raven an edge when it came to surviving and learning in such an environment. Phineas' questions occupied her attention and her braingears were starting to roll as Hagen seemed to be suddenly taking this note extremely serious. What the Hell was going on?

The wrath of barmaid befell the Jackdaw and then in the process pulled Raven and Phineas in the hurricane. Raven rolled her eyes as the woman called Maggot ugly. Had she no self-preservation instincts? Or was she just plain arrogant and stupid? Raven doubted Maggot would make a move against the barmaid for being called that, but best be cautious lest you ended up a gruesome red blot in some smog filled alley of Golden City. "My brother has had enough drinks for the both of us and I have business with him. So just bugger off and get the man over there his own drink. Won't be long before he needs to bounce outta here and you wouldn't want your customers to spread rumours of you getting money and not giving away the goods." She called out to the barmaid, making brief mention of Maggot's order and need to leave soon if he was smart enough and didn't want to get caught. It didn't really matter to Raven either way.

A newspaper boy running in sent the tavern into a spiral of events. Things were moving too fast but one thing stood out for Raven. The murderer's note was the same note Phineas had found. She grimaced and wished she had taken her hidden blade prototype instead of her usual knife with her today. "I don't know what the fuck you did Hagen, but it seems we have just been invited to a very bloody dance here. So tell me what the hell happened to get you in this. What did the Cloaks want?" She demanded, for the moment setting the riddles aside. Raven was thrilled when she tried to solve puzzles, but riddles weren't her strongest of suits. Yet her senses tingled. This was something dangerous but promised of great thrills.

---
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#18

 
The Moray; The Land; Coal Shovel Tavern => Running through the streets of The Land 

 
“What word?” was all Moray managed to get out of the boy and his jaw clenched with slight disappointment, although it was something he’d expect in the first place. The kid had no clue, and it was what he secretly resented. He had no clue. Why giving something like it to the youngster that has nothing to do with it? Why if not to deliver it to the one that it was intended for?

The big question was; was that someone him?

“Is that really what is written there? Why did you stutter?” Moray recognized the questions asked, but they sounded distant and heard through the string telephone. Unimportant.

“No”, the man responded briefly, out of courtesy. No he did not stutter. If there was something he was grateful for in his past life, it was knowing how to read. Regardless, he gave it another look. “That is exactly what it says”. But that was not the most disturbing thing about it...

He instinctively pulled the note backwards and out of the way of curious glares that all of a sudden fell at their little rendezvous, giving the Jackdaw a scolding glare with an expression of somewhat impatient mid-snark of an animal threatening to bite if he didn’t take his darn arm out of its cage. With the current development of the unfortunate events, he was extra willing to cause a brawl, but a brief glare at the people around him, including the small bartender and the disfigured man, reminded him of the consequences of such actions.

Ironically, the guy’s annoyance was spared a rough game by more annoyances. Would have been funny if he did not have better things to do.

“Really, boy?”, the bartender spoke up, clearly just as annoyed by the mess. Hagen could relate, save for the fact she truly talked a lot. It was impressive how such small person would be so loud for them to understand her over the ruckus. Scolding the Jackdaw amused Moray, at least for a moment.

“Second, no minors in this place”, she then referred to Phineas and Raven before she proceeded to serve the Maggot. “They’re with me. Bugger off yourself”, the Moray responded formally, albeit too occupied with the note to sound ugly about it, and thus it sounded more like a dry joke than anything else. Luckily, he could always count on Raven to spice it up with a clear response in his name that now sounded more like a demand to be left alone. Her reference to Maggot, however, earned her a determinant but still gentle (enough) smack upside the head from her brother, enough to tilt her head forward as a warning. Dealing with Maggot was not on his list these days, and he preferred to resolve one fuck up at a time. Other than that, he once again excluded himself from listening to any following whines and complaints over it, pondering over the shitty paper.

Ongoing ruckus was briefly interrupted by the dramatic entrance of yet another scrawny boy waving the papers for everyone’s attention, this time including Moray’s.

"The Second Hint, it is called!” the boy announced quickly, opening his vest. That simple action made Moray’s muscles tense up uncomfortably. “This will be your second word, which will make half the key. Twentyfour are on the clock. Clockwise doom at seven and one!” the boy almost shouted it out as if it would make his situation any easier.

Children were good messengers, he had known so himself. They were also easy to exploit. He had no doubt the boy was in it just like any of them; being oblivious. But one thought left him restless as the ruckus rose up again. No matter how...

...He needed whatever was strapped to that paper boy.

"I don't know what the fuck you did Hagen, but it seems we have just been invited to a very bloody dance here”, he heard Raven hiss at him, but t his time he did not fire right back. She was right. Whether the address was right or not, it was an open invitation, and either way, he was the wrong person to play the game with. He hated games. Regardless, he spared her a vary glare with his eyes gawking at her with a brief warning.

“Please speak louder, I don’t think patrons at the end of the tavern heard you”, he responded quietly once he noticed several accusing glares laid upon him. “And it isn’t what I did. It is who I involved myself with”. It was added formally, somewhat mysteriously, just before he shoved Fin’s note in the pocket of his coat and got up from the bar stool, his eyes still fixated on the nervous boy. He was ready to bolt. He couldn’t let him run.

What were the odds he knew the handwriting and was familiar with the chaotic way the messages were written? Chaotic with a purpose. Were there the odds he encountered the author himself before among the faces he smashed or threatened to smash for Bird’s sake? And what were the odds that, with the message received prior to all he’d still be as innocent to the prosecutors. Hell, they closed up people on less evidence than that, and he already had many more fouls to count, including a rather nasty physical encounters. No, my kind sir. For wider masses, Moray was not a good guy. Not by a long shot.

“So tell me what the hell happened to get you in this. What did the Cloaks want?" Usually, questions like those would have been responded to diplomatically. Raven was hardly ever familiar with details of his deals, and his involvement with the singer was no different. What she didn’t know, couldn’t hurt her. Not being able to think of a proper lie in the very moment he prepared to reach after the boy, Moray rolled his eyes and responded impatiently, coldly and through his teeth, without sparing her or their little company any direct glares.

“They think I’ve killed the Bird, and they sure as hell will have a good argument for it if I don’t get to that boy”. Why? He wasn’t sure himself, but it was the only link he had to attempt and resolve the issue that now seemed uncomfortably personal. And with it the only time he actually did not do anything. Well...hardly anything. He had involved himself. In hindsight he was an idiot. In hindsight, he wouldn’t have done it any different. The Cloaks didn't care. All they needed was a valid scapegoat and a praise. They weren't paid fairly enough to think with their heads. Granted, many had no wit to think with in the first place, but it was how it was, and playing fire with fire was the only way.

No time to explain, he referred to the grumpy bartender, not minding whether she was up for it or not as he stepped forward into the crowd, attempting to approach the scared child without much complications, but something told him that it was a fool’s hoping. “The kid stays here”, he spoke of Phineas. “He does not move an inch from here”. Easier said than done. “If he is still here when I am back, I will give you a fine compensation for your time”. It was worthy shot. “And you”, he turned to point at Phineas himself, half-way in the crowd. “I am serious”. The frown on his face did not lie. “You move from here, I will pull your ears out”.

Perhaps it sounded like a cruel threat to a child, but it had a different meaning. It was Moray’s tactic to protect his Rats from losing their head after getting themselves in trouble he had to fix. Would the boy be willing to listen, well... That he would have to deal with later.

But at the very moment he took to turn to Phineas, one of the patrons shouted out in distress. “He’s running away!” The Moray caught a glimpse of the boy pushing through the crowd and disappearing through the door back onto the street.

“Shit!” the man barked out and pushed his way through the crowd more vigorously, pushing few patrons out of the way hard enough to have them end up on the floor or over their tables, many escorting him with loud, juicy swears.

“If Pretty Boy wants to help, have him use his legs for something useful”, he shouted back, without a mistake to Raven, referring to the Jackdaw and his ridiculously light build that was mostly springy legs that he could really use at that very moment. Annoyance like him certainly knew how to bolt quickly enough from any undesired fist by now. It was a long shot, but he’d rather have an idiot involved than authorities.

“We need to get that bloody thing!” Moray shouted again, as few female patrons screamed and quickly moved out of the way once the large man stormed through the door after the boy before many would comprehend what was going on. He explicitly did not ask Raven to follow. He also knew she wouldn’t stay put. Pointing it out would be painfully redundant.

He needed to get the bloody thing. Saying 'We' simply made him feel better about the fact that after all was done, there would be a lot of explaining to do.

“Stop! Boy, I can help you!”, the Moray shouted as he ran. Even though a large man chasing as decisively after a plain paper boy looked like anything but a good intention, it was a worthy shot.

At that point, anything was a worthy shot.

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#19

  
text

  
Dr. Kaylee Breston; The Land; The streets of The Land >>> Coal Shovel Tavern

Today had already shown itself to be a rough day. Hell, it had been a rough week ever since the Bird's murder. The poor girl, may she rest in peace. With the chaos surrounding the Bird's death suddenly Golden City just didn't feel like home at all anymore. Not to mention the bloody papers had gone to shit causing the population of Golden City to go into an uproar. She had managed to get her hands on a copy so she could stay up to date on everything. But upon reading the headlines she only grew more worried. She felt sick to her stomach if she was being honest. Not only that but she had received an emergency summons home from her father.

Usually, he respected Kaylee's wishes, even though he didn't approve of her living on the Land as frequently as she did. But he allowed her to do so since she was an adult and a determined, stubborn working adult at that. But her father never did something like this before and so she knew it was something serious but that didn't stop her irritation. Her father had summoned her back home to stay for the rest of the day and night yesterday. Kaylee would've objected had she not noticed how pale and weak her father seemed. Even though they weren't as close as they used to be he was still her father and she still loved him.

So she agreed to stay with him and keep him company. He also filled her in on the truth of why he called her here. The Council had received a threat one similar to the one on the headlines of the Golden Times. All of them were ordered to stay in their homes and have constant supervision from a Cloak. Her father seemed to be afraid for his safety and apparently her own since he called her here. He had a Cloak guarding him as well as he stayed shut in. Even though he was a former member of the council she had never seen her father so shaken in her entire life. To be honest, any person with common sense would be afraid too so she made sure to comfort her father while she stayed.

However, this morning was a bit rough. Her father made it clear he didn't want her to leave this house but that wasn't really an option since as a doctor she never had any days off. Or hardly any rather. But she had made plans long before her summons and she was going to stick to them. Mallory, one of her patients, and someone Kay enjoyed to hang around with despite the girl's constant protests on the matter, had gotten a new job at the Coal Shovel, a tavern in town. Now Mall could barely hold a job down and so Kaylee wanted to see how she was fairing tending to those in the bar, and possibly tease her a little as well. The fact that her father was attempting to forbade her from leaving irritated her and they had gotten into a bit of a squabble this morning.

Then he had the audacity to sit there and try and make her have a cloak escort. She could've sworn she almost popped a blood vessel today. She refused that as well and left the house in a fuss. He made her promise to come back home that night though and he would send someone for her if she chose otherwise. So she agreed to come back just to get him to shut up and went on about her day. In the heat of the moment, she didn't even pay attention to the weather advisory today but she certainly noticed it while walking around on land. The smog was extremely thick today. She had to use her special mask she had made, that she usually carried with her but used on rare occasions with the paper masks wouldn't suffice, and make her way through the streets carefully.

She made it to the Coal Shovel eventually but not before she heard a ruckus going down in the streets. It was a bit of a struggle to see but she was sure she knew the voice. That damned man, 'The Moray' or Hagen rather was running through the streets after a boy shouting something along the lines of "I can help you." she wasn't really sure and she didn't really care. Perhaps the many had finally lost the last of his brain cells and gone completely looney. Shaking her head she made her way into the tavern as saw it in disarray. Tables were knocked over, people were on the floor, it was loud with a discussion on whatever had happened before she had gotten there and it was quite the scene to take in.

Kaylee's eyes scanned for anything familiar and that's when she spotted her, Mallory was seated comfortably at the bar with a bottle in her hands. Kaylee raised an eyebrow as she made her way over to her placing her briefcase aside after putting her mask in it. "Slacking on the job already?" She said with a smug smile but she noted that the girl was irritated by the deep frown on her face. She turned and surveyed the rest of the area her eyes laying on the back of a head of hair that was oddly familiar. "Raven?" She called out unsure if it really was her. "What in the world are you doing here?" she continued as she stepped a bit away from Mall to confirm that the brunette was indeed Raven. Her frown deepened as she realized the environment that Raven was being exposed to an even more curious as to know why she was here in the first place, where minors were not allowed.

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Shizuochan

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#20
The Jackdaw’s pretty face glazed over with an empty stare and a perfectly lovely smile, which was indicative of the fact that he was, in attempting to make sense of the day’s events, even more lost than he had been to start. Even worse was that his ‘star’ had apparently begun to flicker, and that his presence on the counter no longer held the theatrical value it once afforded him. The barmaid had even chided him, rather harshly, telling him to - if he could bear to reimagine those terrible words - move his “dirty boots off the counter”.

“Lovely lady-bee, these boots aren’t dirty, they’re seasoned. Weathered. Like a war-hero with a shrapnel-limp, or a brilliant tinkerer that’s started to drink too much.” he had said, moving, despite his protests, the guilty parties off the counter, choosing to grace it instead with his scrawny posterior.

The day was, really, starting to pass him by. Too much of this ‘reading’ nonsense, and all the ‘words’. He rather liked words, to be fair, but he favored words that came out of his mouth a great deal more than words that struggled their way in through his ears. The whole affair, quite simply, hadn’t been to his liking before - while he was in the midst of his doldrums - some rather unexpected development had occurred.

Apparently, they were chasing children now.

He beamed as the Moray shouted at him (or, more accurately, someone or some space near him), calling him to action. Wonderful. The dirty boots of the Jackdaw suddenly found their way atop the counter again, the colorful thief deciding that his full height was necessary to announce his current calling. He rather looked like some peacock with wings of patchwork, “Well, well, well. It seems someone has need of a, what did they say in the news again? A determiner at work? And a heroic child-snatcher!

Ignoring the groans, he leapt unto the nearest table, and then the next, and then the next, like a frog hopping upon lilypads. He was a buffoon with words, but he was exceptional in motion. In a moment-and-perhaps-a-half, he had cleared the entirety of the Coal Shovel Tavern. Within another two or so, he had scaled the side of a failing tinkershop, having used an arrangement of scrap-boxes as leverage.

He hopped from roof to roof, in much the same way the Cloaks might’ve done, before the moment presented itself. The child had darted nimbly between alleyways and crevices with all the low cunning of a rat, but from his vantage point, the Jackdaw had mapped out a slanted path with which to intercept. He couldn’t read. He certainly couldn’t do arithmetic. This, however, was a kind of calculation he could do.

He leapt from the roof, to meet the running child, expecting triumph. What he earned, however, was the feeling of an excruciating agony exploding nearabouts his stomach. The child had rammed into his falling form, his skull impacting a location an unfortunate distance below the Jackdaw’s gut, and sending both hunter and huntee writhing on the ground of the Golden City.

Jackdaw would’ve groaned, if he could draw breath. He found solace in the fact that his sacrifice would not be in vain! Surely through his efforts someone would snag the kid!

In any case, he eventually found a stillness in his pain, and wondered why he had decided to chase the child in the first place.