CLOSED SIGNUPS e s o t e r i c a || DRY SEASON

Doctor Jax

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IT BEGINS ON THE WATER

The stars are bright. She stares up at them, and they are such a multitude. Ever had she heard them referred to as a sea, but she found this description lacking.

No. It more resembled a still and quiet pond - placid and gentle. One star, luminescent, begins to descend before her eyes, and it hovers ahead of her, a beacon illuminating a languid mirror of water up to her ankles. It leads her forward, beckoning her.

"Angelica."

She wades ahead at a breakneck pace. Her heart thuds as the familiar voice murmured to her from behind the Will-o'-the-Wisp.

"Angelica."

"Nong-Angelica."

The young woman's eyes opened in a single, fluid motion as she was shaken to her senses. Quickly memory returned to her, and she looked to the familiar voice which had disturbed her slumber. Lung El sat on the edge of the narrow bed, his dark eyes searching her face. She rubbed her face as she sat up, looking about the tiny cabin. Aboard the vessel Avertine the rooms were mean, of shallow character and brutalist with only a single porthole. Outside, the day was bright, a beam of light shining into the somewhat dim surroundings.

"Lung-Greene ao loog yu ni foredeck," Lung-El stated gently. Your uncle Greene wants you on the foredeck.

"Khap khun nah kha. I shall be right out. My apologies, I know I overslept. I must have been trying to make heads or tails of these, and I drifted off," Angelica muttered as she sifted through the notes strewn upon the bed. Some of these phrases were difficult to unravel without a lexicography to work off of. Lung-El nodded along, keeping a respectful distance.

"Please not wait too long. He is not the man who waits much," Lung-El chided gently in his soft manner, smiling, and Angelica nodded. No, her "uncle" was not at all the sort of man who waits...

Angelica quickly made herself more presentable to company. This would be the first real congregation of their little expedition. Uncle Greene had thought it best to work things out aboard the ship on the two week journey out of London towards Siam rather than have everyone meet up as the year before. Outside, the harsh light of the sun washed out the outdoor furniture on the second-rate liner. Already, a few were seated in chairs around a few tables - some of the auxiliary riflemen like Helmut and Orville, the junior doctor Danford, and of course Lung-El. She took a seat with all her notes beside her long-time family friend and retainer.

Alright! This is the chance to make your introductory posts! This is a second-rate liner called the Avertine, a steamer with a few amenities such as a bar, a restaurant, and a very tiny gym. Feel free to start in your room, sitting in the outdoor area on the foredeck, or at the bar near the foredeck. This is the first day of the journey, and this is a great time to start asking questions and getting some character interactions in! Don't worry - there'll be time for the spooky later... Red Thunder Red Thunder DayDreamer DayDreamer Kuno Kuno Applo Applo Nemopedia Nemopedia Ritual Lobotomy Ritual Lobotomy
 
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Nemopedia

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FINLEY ELLIS || BOTANIST
There was a reason why Finley hated the sea. Hanging over the railing the redhead emptied the contents of his stomach once more, his legs and stomach unable to stand the constant waving of the deck. However, to get off the damn island that was England there were only a few options. To get to Siam he had to take the boat and for that reason alone Finley tried to tolerate.

“Eugh,” the male groaned, a napkin wiping the corners of his mouth as he straightened himself up. Deep breaths, he told himself, hoping to finally calm his stomach down. It did feel a little better, but only barely so. Turning around sharply the male quickly made his way down the deck, to the bar or his room. Anywhere but outside where he could see the water.

Ironically his order had been exactly that. Throwing himself in a seat near the bar the male raised a hand to the bartender, his back slouched over as he breathed hard. “A glass of water, please,” he spoke, pained and restrained, regretting the decision to ever step onto the boat. Finley just hoped that the adventure would be worth the seasickness.

“First time?” the bartender asked sympathetically. Finley smiled wryly as he let his head fall onto the top with a thump. The force resonated through his head, but was welcomed. Anything better than the sickening headache he had acquired as well.

He wondered if it wasn’t the sea that hated him instead. It certainly felt that way.
 

Red Thunder

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Tatyana Volkov
To Hell and Back, then Back Again

”Fifty rubles. No less.”

“Fifty!? You listen here, you
ublyudok! If it wasn't for me, the Petrov Crew would never have even heard of you, let alone-”

“Fifty, Ms.
Gonchaya. You've done much for us, but smuggling is dangerous and expensive work, and even our allies must pay.”

“You're a rat and an extortioner, Gregor.”

“Maybe. But I'm also a patriot.”


Patriot. Right. As much of a patriot as she was for running off, maybe.

Tatyana Volkov eyed her shot glass with distaste, though whether at the urge to drink that had brought her down to the bar in the first place or merely at the emptiness of it, she couldn't be sure. A glance up showed her an attentive barman, who was wisely avoiding her while still watching for request to offer a refill. Her mouth was dry; she wanted, needed, more vodka. Maybe in a little.

For all the tension and fear that was involved with being smuggled out past the Russian borders, the trip to England had been rather boring. A carriage ride first, then boat here, a train there, more than a few miles on foot, and yet again one more voyage over the water, to jolly old England, land of the damned monarchists. Idiot lot; the royalty oppressed them as it did the Russians. There were whispers of Socialists, though; perhaps things would change for the better.

Or maybe that status quo of inefficiency would be maintained, rocking and meandering with no feeling of progression, much like the damned ship she now found herself on. No one here from the previous endeavor, it seemed; not that she'd found, anyway. Ana was en route once again to Siam, financed as before by Mr. Greene's insatiable curiosity.

And indeed by her own. Subconsciously, her hand touched a charm that hung from a golden chain around her neck. The charm was hidden within her blouse; she daren't let anyone see it. Itself golden, the small fetal shape had gone back home with her when the original expedition failed. Ever since, it pressed her mind, seeking attention. Dreams were wrought with terror and disgust, and daylight was haunted with hellish mimicry of the screams of her father in prison before his death. She had been told how to care for it, of course. But the Revolution was pressing, and news of her father's death had been taxing, and the small shrine she'd built when she first returned home was quickly forgotten.

It had not been forgotten once she ran. On the road, she'd fashioned a makeshift shrine for it, filling it with knickknacks and baubles. The charm, the Kuman Tong, seemed content, and now the few auditory and visual hallucinations that she experienced were little more than annoyances.

But that didn't mean they weren't irritating]] annoyances. And tapped her glass on the bar and was quickly answered with another three fingers of vodka. Damn you, Greene. Damn your plant.

And damn this Thing. If I ever marry, I will never have children.


Stumbling and unsure footsteps drew her attention, and she looked up, vaguely curious. Some boy had wandered in, clearly not belonging, neither on ship nor on expedition; he looked to be lived a sheltered life. Oh well; best not get too attached to a quick and early dead man. She turned away before taking another sip of her drink.

Nemopedia Nemopedia
 

Applo

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“Oh blast.” For anyone wandering the corridor by the half-open door of Bertrum’s room, this softly utter exclamation of frustration was followed by a slow, dull rhythmic tapping. Inside his room, Bertrum surveyed the scene of organized chaos that his quarters had become, his cane bouncing off the floor every other second. In front of the Englishman, the contents of a travel chest had been systematically arranged on the cabin floor, and his blue eyes scanned over the various items repeatedly, evidently not finding their quarry. The only time the man’s gaze shifted from his possession was when he would inspect the inside of his trunk momentarily, as if the bare metal was hiding one last item.

After five minutes of this virtually silent charade, Bertrum pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed gently. What he was looking for clearly wasn’t here. He could have sworn it had been packed in this trunk, but the evidence of his eyes told him otherwise. He would just have to hope it had ended up in one of the trunks in the hold and not been forgotten entirely. Either Way though, it was out of his reach for now. Bertrum wasn’t much in the mood to repack his belongings.

Instead, he took his light linen jacket from the back of his cabins door and slipped out of the room. The weather was as pleasant as could be expected for this time of year and Bertrum took some pleasure in promenading around the deck of the ship, nodding silently to those he encountered. The smell of the spray and the rocking of the waves transported him back to the month he had spent touring the Mediterranean at the end of his grand tour. Those had been good days. Back then life had been carefree and easy. Now he was heading to deepest, darkest Siam. It was peculiar how just a few years could change so much. The impromptu tour of the ship ended on the rear deck with Bertrum symbolically looking back at home. He had been relatively quiet before but now this morphed into a silence that almost seemed to suck sound in as he stood with both hands resting on his cane.

“Enough now Bertrum. Enough.” If anyone had enjoyed a reasonable view of the blonde haired doctor’s face as these words tumbled from his lips they would have seen his face shift from a deep frown to an almost playful grin. When he set off once more the was a new bounce in his step and it was still present as he sashayed into the bar.

Propping himself against the counter Bertrum surveyed the other occupants of the room as he slipped a pair of fine kid gloves from his hands. He had braced himself for worse. The people in here, few as they were, looked at least half respectable. Hopefully, the rest of the company would follow suit. After a little while, Bertrum became aware of a presence at the corner of his vision and turned to find the barkeeper staring at him.

“A pint of bitter or stout if you have it please.”
 

Ritual Lobotomy

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THOMAS "TOM" O'REILLY|| NAVIGATOR

Placing his boot on the crate and a bottle of whiskey by his side, the rugged-looking Irish man cleared his throat audibly as he unfolded the map over his thigh, facing the rocking water ahead. The lack of any living soul on that very side of the vessel was a bliss to Thomas O'Reilly. It often meant some needed peace and quiet to plan and to drink. Not necessarily in that order and not necessarily during different times, granted. But he'd be half damned if someone would manage to convince him that there was a worse focus breaker than a judgemental stare of some ape leering at your life's choices.

Preparing up front was a good excuse to avoid unnecessary company, but even that aside, the promise of an adventure excited him. An office job and stability did not have O'Reilly on the list, but that was also one of many lists he would rather avoid anyway. Journey to the said adventure, however, could not be passing slower and it was a pain. Soaking in the ocassional sun for a bit, the man eventually folded a map and stored it back in his trousers, ruffling his hair and stretching out at his full height until his shoulder blades popped back in their place.

He welcomed the relief from tension with a low grunt, pushing the sleeves of his light shirt back up and grabbing the almost half empty bottle of whiskey resting on the crate next to him. The golden liquid in the bottle, disrupted by a sudden lift and a swing, responded with a loud 'bloop' as it struck the thick glass walls on one side. For a hostage, it certainly did its part quite gladly, much on Tom's delight. As a sign of good will, he was ready to return it where he'd originally found it early on that morning.

***

A pair of heavy steps sounded against the wooden floor once the rugged Irish, in his casual shirt, brown trousers and boots, stepped into the bar. He wasn't drunken beyond repair, and yet he narrowed his eyes at the figures present, right as they appeared in his field of vision. He stood at the doorway, all six feet of a man, debating whether he truly needed to be there at that point in time. Figuring that the most, if not all, were already aware of his presence, he found himself indifferent to the inconvenience. Without a greeting, Thomas made his way towards the bar behind which a man was already eyeing the missing bottle with an unamused frown lingering on his face.

Talking about judgemental glares...

Without much care for the patrons sitting at the bar, of which one, a fiery-haired young man, did not look so good, Tom tapped the bottle against the top with a loud thud, glaring back at the bartender with a charming smirk.

"Thank ye", Tom spoke up huskily and happily, pushing the half-empty bottle away from himself, grinning at the man who's frowned expression remained unchanged as he grabbed the bottle and dragged it under the bar with a scolding huff.

"What?", Tom shrugged his shoulders casually, leaning partially against one of the bar stools as he was being scolded by the man.

"This bottle costs a small fortune. Mister O'Reilly." The last part was added out of sheer politeness, even though Tom knew them man had no bigger wish but to fist him to the ground since the first time they've interacted. That was quite alright. The line of people with the same goal was long, and having chosen not to waste his time was a smart decision.

"A small fortune, huh?" Tom seemed interested, rubbing the stubble on his chin, before waving it off dismissively. "Had better." Straightening back up, Thomas pulled out a small, neatly lock-picked padlock from his pocket, tossing it in man's hands on his way back. "And you may consider locking it better in that case."

Not sticking around to be asked any more questions, Tom made his way towards one of the comfortable-looking lounge seats in the corner of the room, paired up with a coffee table stacked with papers. It probably may have been the first time he was sailing without having to take on any of the responsibilities of it, and he was sure to indulge in the luxury of seating himself with some papers, making it last as long as possible. He welcomed the feel of cushions against his back as he leaned in comfortably, grabbing the first papers off the stack and unfolding it for a read.

There was nothing interesting to see in them, however, but they were a good distraction. Even so, not too long after, his thoughts drifted and he reached into his pocket carefully avoiding the map, wrapping his fingers around the cool, round device. For its size, it wasn't too heavy, and for its age, it was quite sturdy and trustworthy.

The chain it was attached to rustled briefly as the round, golden-hued compass traveled from his pocket up to his face where it briefly reflected the sunlight coming from the window behind, before the man lifted the cover and glared at the needle attentively. Thomas never owned a watch and in exchange, he never separated from his other nifty little gadget. Alike men keeping their eye on the time, Tom kept an eye on the way he was heading just as casually. Just like time, but better.

Course, he'd argue. Course is at the very least something you are able to control.

Unlike time.
 
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Red Thunder

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Tatyana Volkov
Better Than Drinking Alone

”A pint of bitter or stout if you have it, please.”

Beer? Really? Who the hell would- Ah. That one. Ana eyed Bertrum with no small distaste. How do you justify a beer on such an auspicious journey as this? She threw back the remainder of her glass, smiling at the warmth that had begun to settle in her belly; it had only taken six shots. No, this one looked as green as the seasick fellow, and moreover, had been talking to himself when he arrived. She tapped her glass to draw the bartender's attention.

But it had already been drawn, and she frowned deeply at the offending party. Irish? Which meant whiskey in that jar. Ana scoffed audibly but let the matter slide when he turned away; rebuking the fool for his choice in alcohol was beneath her. Besides, there was another fool that needed correcting.

Nyet,” she said as she swatted aside the bartender's proffered stout to her neighbor. “This is women's drink. It will fill an empty belly with nothing. Have real alcohol.”

Ana cast a wayward, somewhat fuzzy glance, toward the doorway, considering again his entrance.

“You need it, yes? Yes. For this trip, you need it.”

Applo Applo
 

Doctor Jax

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The tableau out on the deck and inside the bar was oddly serene, a strange sort of calm. Indeed, a perceptive man would note that such peace was not really a peace at all - more the tension that builds as the air thickens before a storm, some animal instinct setting the teeth on edge in preparation for an encounter. Yet, the threat - if there even was one - remained obtuse, unobtrusive. This stagnant atmosphere was somewhat disturbed as two men entered the bar, one of them an athletic fellow with a dark head of hair and a mustache maintained well despite the humidity, and the other with a swagger of a walk, full of youthful exuberance despite a rather lined face, hair and beard sun-bleached blonde.

"I'd rather say that now is not the time, Andrew--" the first said, an American accent punctuating his words with the urgency attributed to his breed. To those who had been on the prior expedition, it was obvious who this man happened to be - Charles Green, benefactor, financier, explorer. The man who seemed to hound him, however, would pose no familiarity.

"Quite the contrary - ain't this what our meetin's for?" asked the man, his baritone evidently of Australian origin. "From the things I been hearin', this ain't quite the happy jaunt you've been makin' it out to be, not after talkin' it out with Danford, with Olivier, Helmut. Don't help that you ain't told me a bloody, thrice-blasted thing, and I don't fancy leadin' in the dark."

"And all that will be taken into account -- at another date, in another place," Green said, looking away from Andrew to see that there were already a few people in attendance. "In the meantime, I shall fetch our other crewmen, if you will... play host."

Green clapped Andrew on the shoulder, leaving the man with a visage of disappointment and frustration. With that, Andrew drew up a chair at the bar, seated between Ana and Finley. His eyes flashed recognition at the woman, though he had a cursory glance at the other two.

"Ah, I think I've seen your faces a time or two. Name's Andrew, Andrew Locke. You all in this... expedition out in Siam?"

Evidently ushered by Green's invitation, young Angelica and her retainer, Lung El, also entered the bar to sit and chat quietly between each other.
 

Kuno

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PETER O'KEEFE || RIFLEMAN
Location: Avertine deck
Somewhere on the far end of the deck, swathed in cigar smoke and a tight gaggle of onlookers, a lengthy game of Old Maid was being played. A deckhand had spotted Peter playing a game of Patience an hour before and, after much coddling, convinced the other to play the Queen’s game. Now that more men had joined the foray, Peter had a decent tournament on his hands. It was a good time waster; far better than being alone, dwelling on his thoughts and ceaseless worries.

He had yet to see another familiar face. Perhaps it was for the better; he could hardly rest knowing that yet another member of their party had been duped into returning to this fool’s errand. It was bad enough that he’d been made to come, and God only knew how much prodding and needling from Delia it had taken to make him change his mind. The thin redhead was small as could be, but insurmountably determined when she mustered up the energy for it. His thoughts drifted to his wife as he pored over his cards listlessly. Where was she at now , he wondered? He’d hired a local field hand to come help with the outdoor work, but knowing Delia, she was most likely spoiling the boy with easy labor. Peter frowned. He’d have to write her--

“I’m all out, fellows!”

With a triumphant laugh, his opponent Briggs waved his last remaining card before their faces. The other player, Richard, gaped at the man, his face mottling red. Peter watched him uneasily.

Gambling made tempers flare like no other vice did. There was always some poor sod too pig-headed to be content with his own rotten luck, and another too prideful to know when to keep their mouths shut. His wife in particular despised it. There was always a man fixing for a fight, so she claimed. One man willing to risk his life over a handful of pounds and some worthless trinkets, like a pompous ass.

Today that man was Richard. Peter visibly started as the sailor slammed his cards down unto the table, swearing profusely as Briggs discarded his last card. When he leapt to his feet, hands curled into fists, Briggs rose as well, equally agitated. Peter came between them in an instant.

“Easy now...”

His concern was ultimately unwarranted. Like a balloon, Richard was all hot air, and the anger seemed to leech out of him as his eyes flicked between Peter and Briggs. Perhaps realizing how foolish he looked--and sensing the futility of fighting both men--he turned abruptly and left with a huff, much to the amusement of the other players.

One of the ship mates met eyes with Peter and gave a lazy shrug. “Eh. Don’t mind ‘ol Dicky. He’ll come ‘round soon enough.”

Peter merely grunted. Clearing the cards off the table, he stacked them neatly in the center before the players. “I’m off to the bar for a quick drink. I’d better not come back to missing cards.”

He was no more than five feet away from the table before the conversation devolved into seediness. An eyebrow raised as snippets of the men talking reached his ears.

“....an hour with your sister and those fine breasts of hers, eh?”

“Ha! You’re fresh out of luck, fellow. Sister dear never had much in the way of teats. Now your mother, on the other hand...”

The group erupted with raucous noise, and Peter laughed in spite of himself. The noise carried into the bar room as he entered, and he smiled at the bartender, momentarily oblivious to the other occupants of the room.

“Do you have any rum, by chance? Or whiskey?”
 
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Red Thunder

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Tatyana Volkov
A Fool in the Hand is Worth Two on the Boat

Chert! Vy damy i vashi napitki! Come, Petrov; you know you need better.”

Her world rocked, if gently, as if the Avertine had a boat on another ocean within its hull. Tatyana held the bar tightly as she attempted to stand. Damn this extra ocean; she was still getting her sea legs back again. Andrew had been mostly ignored, save for a glance of assessment, and now her attention had focused on a familiar face, one which her inebriated state had caused her to focus on most insistently.

“I cannot believe you're here again, Petrov. You know we're dead, yes? Have you a death wish? Will you eat shot, like Roland?”

Ana spoke in a rather disinterested tone, slurring her words and gesturing vaguely in Peter's direction. Her voice remained low, for a mercy, and beyond the stagger as she attempted to retain her rapidly evaporating equilibrium, she had yet to make too much of a spectacle of herself. Of course, her proximity to Peter might do that for her; she stood well within his personal space, and with the two several buttons of her coat undone against the sweltering heat, one night gather a false impression.

But Ana didn't seem to care. Balance finally abandoning her, she shifted her weight to brace against the nearest body, who just happened to be Bertrum. She looked at Peter's waist, blinking rapidly in a bid to make her eyes focus.

“Where is the handgun? I need more lessons.”
 

Nemopedia

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FINLEY ELLIS || BOTANIST
Soon, too soon for Finley, a figure sat down next to him. A man, introducing himself as Andrew Locke. The redhead was still feeling too green to properly answer, working hard to keep his supper down his throat as he lifted his head ever so slightly.

"Finley. Ellis," he managed to get out, extending a feeble hand out towards the man. Not wanting to be rude he straightened himself up, gulping in the air as he took deep breaths to work away the nausea. "I'm the botanist," he croaked out in a cramped style. So far he was doing well, nothing out, no disgusting foretelling burps bubbling up. He could do this.

That was until the lady one seat further spoke up. In broken English she seemed to exclaim her annoyance against another passenger, mentioning death along with a name and a... shot?

"Or so I hope to be," he laughed wryly before quickly taking a sip of his glass. Great, just what he needed. Seasickness and the promise of an adventure greater than his life.
 

Kuno

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PETER O'KEEFE || RIFLEMAN
Location: Avertine deck
The barkeep was clearly inundated with other requests. Balancing three drinks in his hands, the older man could only manage a tight nod in Peter’s direction before moving away to waiting patrons at the end of the bar. Not that Peter cared in the least. He thought of going back out onto the deck, but stopped as a familiar, accented voice called out to him. He turned, eyes widening at the sight.

“Why, Ms. Volkov!”

The young blonde stood, and surprise quickly turned to concern as Peter noticed her unsteady form and dewy eyes. Mercifully, she had enough sense not to shout at him, volleying off a few questions so slurred that he strained to understand. He stiffened at the callous mention of Roland’s suicide. It seemed the alcohol had drained all manner of tact and propriety from her. Ana was drunk, far too drunk for his liking, to the point where she could hardly mind her words or actions. And she eyed his midsection with a close scrutiny too suspect for the assuming eye.

Peter was scandalized.

“Handgun? Why--” He could hardly contain himself, his voice pinched with agitation. “The gun’s locked up and put away, where it belongs. You ought to be put up too, the state you’re in. What’s the matter with you? The day’s hardly begun!”

When the boat rocked, and they with it, Peter’s hand shot out to steady the young woman, lest the man she leaned against failed to keep her upright. He tried not to sound as exasperated as he felt when he next spoke.

“Why don’t you sit yourself back down before you fall over? And ease off this nice fellow here? Please. Have a care for yourself.”
 
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Red Thunder

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Tatyana Volkov
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"Eh? That fellow is fine. He's-"

No, Peter was right; standing was a mistake. What vodka hadn't yet reached her brain before had certainly done so now. She looked at his hand with a small grimace before shaking it off to turn back to her seat. He'd lost his roughness, Peter had. What kind of man locked his gun away? Hmph. A mumbled apology in Bertrum's direction, and Ana was gingerly placing herself back into get seat.

"'A care', Petrov? What care is there to be had, on this trip?" She still kept get voice to a private volume, though she didn't bother to look his way. "You do not carry your pistol, and I still smell the gunpowder."

Indeed, though they had become far more tame than they had been at home, still nightmares plagued her, with Roland's death the most frequent subject. It was, after all, where her troubles had really started. Ana tapped the bar, earning her an exhausted look from the put-upon bartender.

"Water, pozhaluysta i spasibo."

She finally glanced back toward Peter.

"Why are you here, Petrov?"
 
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THOMAS "TOM" O'REILLY|| NAVIGATOR


After a few pages, all Tom was holding on to newspapers for was to kill time. Every once in a while, a movement or a voice would catch his attention, but right after, he would go back to browsing the pages of thin paper. The bar door opened once more, this time letting in a couple of men that could not have been more different from each other than they were. So much so that Thomas could not have himself ignore their presence and just like that, he was more than certain he got both of their places in the hierarchy of their little happy get together quite well figured out. The American was quick to distract his companion from the questions and concerns he was expressing, and simply left him to deal with the crowd that grew noticeably louder as he made his way back through the door. Typical behavior of an entitled persona. Tom had seem too many of those for it to be of his immediate liking.

Evidently upset about the epilogue of their brief conversation, young Australian fellow made his way across the bar, followed by two hazel eyes and a cocked eyebrow, studying him over the newspapers. His focus was slightly broken once the man sat himself at the bar, just behind the grumpy and intoxicated lass and two other males in her company. And just as if on a queue, the Russian went into a drunk rant on the topic that interested the Irish. Even so, he would be damned wasting his time to attempt to communicate and reason with a drunk woman. Those were arguably worse than doing so with any drunk man.

Not only that, the noise successfully managed to break off even that tiny bit of focus he had left on the content he was reading. Swearing in annoyance under his breath, Thomas quickly closed and folded the newspaper, throwing them onto the seat next to him, before he got up undisturbed by a slight rocking of the vessel. Small mercies be blessed, the loud bunch quieted down at least for a bit by the time he approached the bar himself, much to the bartenders open displeasure. The tall and rugged Irish approached from the other side of the troubled youngster still struggling to keep his head up. At that point, it might have seemed as if the scrawny red-head had his very own pair of bodyguards promising trouble.

Finley. Finley Ellis. Or so he heard the lad saying. "Even your name is that of a chiseler, bucko", Thomas spoke up with a chuckle, grabbing Finley's shoulder not too gently and giving him a generous tap as he nodded to Andrew in greeting. He almost sympathized with lad's troubles but it did not mean he couldn't poke a bit of fun about it. "And water won't do bloody shite to get you out of the gutter", he scoffed turning to the bartender once the man was on their side of the bar again. "Lad needs a wee of ginger ale", Tom stated with a nod. "If nothing, you will not be barfing yer soul out". The mention of more mess seemingly had the bartender work faster to get the drink ready for mister Ellis.

In the meantime, Thomas turned his attention to the Australian he was there for originally, this time referring to the man with no trace of jest in his voice. "The American seemed quite eager to bolt. Bother worrying over courtesy with the expendables?" he asked with a hint of a lopsided smirk. "What are ye in for?"

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Doctor Jax

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This seemed a happening place to be, especially given this was just before the fated meeting that would explain the current expedition set to take place. The man of the hour had left them, with only Andrew to look about. Not far from him, he heard a woman's voice hailing another member, lambasting his choice in drink. Andrew continued to look forward, ordering himself gin. His eyes betrayed his interest, however, upon hearing something about getting another 'shot' - and the name Roland. So Olivier and Helmut had not been exaggerating. Things were already off to an interesting start, and it was good luck that they were meeting in a bar where lips were loosened by alcohol and good company.

Speaking of, he smiled as a young - and admittedly very seasick looking - man gave him the name Finley Ellis. By the accent, he pegged him as another of his Commonwealth cousins. He seemed a sweet-natured fellow, with a disposition uncommon for academics in that he was softspoken, rather than take immense pleasure in hearing himself talk. Andrew shook his hand in a firm, but conscientious, grip, nodding his head with a quirked smile.

"Finley - nice to meet you. Not all that surprised hearin' that there's a botanist aboard. Makes sense - you're greener around the gills than a fresh planted sprig. I can't imagine you want to be on this any longer. If y' want, I've ginger in the hold to take care of the stomach. We won't be much longer for Siam," Andrew offered as he took his glass of gin from the bartender, setting down a small note for him in exchange out of a larger wad in his pocket.

Another came to talk, this one Commonwealth as well - though from a rather different strata. Shrewdly he watched the interaction between the dark-haired Irish man and Finley, nodding his head with a pained smile.

"Aye, you saw that too - what'm I talkin' about? You all saw that," he chuckled a bit, looking down at his glass. Piercing eyes turned back to the Irishman. "Yea, guess he got a little antsy. Why, what've you heard? I'm a bit in the dark myself. Apparently there was another group a year ago, made the same attempt and never made it past the river bank. Somethin' about a man shooting himself before the journey even got started. 'S what I heard anyhow, can't say if that's just rumor or..."

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Kuno

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A FOOL'S RUSSIAN
a collab with Kuno Kuno | Red Thunder Red Thunder

“Money.”

His mouth twisted at the lie, and he tacked on quickly, “And to finish what we started. Same as you, I ‘spose. I don’t fancy loose ends much.”

Disingenuous still, but closer to the truth than his first reply. He doubted the young miss would remember a word he’d said by the next morning, drunk as she was. Peter slid into the seat next to Ana, careful not to intrude too much into her space. He noted with quiet satisfaction the water she ordered.

“Good. A little more of that, and you’ll be right as rain.”

"I don't give two gadit about loose ends. Loose or tied, all ends are still afraid."

Ana slowly winced, the soft thunk of a water glass on the wooden bar reverberating through her brain like a gunshot in a cabin. Carefully, she took a sip. Not cool precisely, it was still to her like the practiced hands of a doctor, and the angry heat in her stomach relaxed a small degree.

Her ear pricked at Andrew's comment, eyes flashing at the balls of the Australian man to bandy rumor about like it was some lady's handkerchief. More so, however, the realization that she may have said too much nestled in her mind, and her grinding teeth were as much in frustration at that as it was at anything the newest face may have uttered. Subconsciously, Ana began turning to chastise him.

Her companion was a step ahead of her. Having caught wind of the nearby conversation, he’d risen quite abruptly from his seat, righteous indignation coursing through him. Roland had been many things: a drunkard and foul-mouthed, foremost among his qualities. But deep down he’d been a good man, and Peter would not have his death spun into a fish wife's tale. He would not stand for it. He turned on the group of unsuspecting strangers, interjecting himself into their conversation.

“Roland. The man’s name was Roland.” His jaw tightened, his attentions honing in on the blonde who’d last spoken. “It seems you’ve heard quite the tale, so it is. For the love of all that’s good I can’t figure where from.”

He knew damn well where. Much of the same auxiliaries from last year had returned for another bout, and quite a few were loose-lipped. God only knew how much Ana had said before he’d arrived. His eyes swept over the lot of them, unreadable.

“Well. That’s neither here nor there. Since you’re so keen to know, I’ll tell you: Roland came ‘long as rifleman with me, so it were. A good man; a good, military man who had his own demons, same as any man. I won’t deny him that. He went foostering around with a gun one night and fair blew his head off. So we buried him proper, past the riverbank and far from shore. He was given a good, Christian burial. One with respect to the man, should the fellow’s own come looking for him. And yes, we did turn back...out of common sense and decency, and respect for the dead.”

Peter drew closer, fully animated now.

“Now look. I don’t know what sort of rubbish you’ve been hearing from the lads but there’s the truth. And I’ll not be standing for anything saying otherwise. Understand?”

Of all the things that had been likely to have happen, Tatyana had not expected that. Still seated, she watched him go off on the Aussie with a mixture of shock and awe, and no little resentment at the man for stepping on her own soapbox. Yet, she had been the catalyst for the topic; right then it should be that she salvage what could be of the group's relationship, even as this journey was beginning.

"Petrov, you zhopa; you are not help-"

She reached out to grab his arm, and succeeded in doing so. But the action was too excessive for her compromised balance, and without so much as a cry of surprise, tumbled off her seat. Ana hit the floor with a solid thunk, landing by good fortune mostly on her knees, though when she pushed herself up, a small trail of blood could be seen tracing it's way down her top lip from her nose.

"Chert!"
 

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Turning to look at the owner of the hand that had slapped his drink away, Bertrum tried to follow the stranger’s logic through the broken English and heavy accent. The woman was clearly drunk. No medical training of any sort was needed for that diagnosis. The smell of alcohol hung over her like the smell of manure over the course at Epsom on a hot race day. Fortunately, before he had to decide on the words to rebuke the woman with her attention was stolen by an Irish fellow who was also apparently ordering a drink she disapproved of.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Bertrum deftly plucked his drink from the barman’s hand and took a few quick sips of the rich liquid and tried not to listen the oddly dark conversation going on next to him. He barely had time to swallow the beverage before the dead weight of the drunk woman half knocked him sideways. While the dark brown liquid slopped back and forth in his glass, Bertrum looked over to the woman’s Irish companion and rolled his eyes in an amused sort of way.

“No harm done. If you’ll excuse me.” Carefully edging away from the bar Bertrum looked around the room briefly before deciding to head for the door. Everyone seemed to have someone to talk to and he didn’t want to be spare in a conversation. If he was going to drink by himself, well then he might as well do it in the fresh air.
 

Doctor Jax

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The Australian man nodded his head slowly as both Peter and Ana over their respective reasons. Money - duty - and the tying of loose ends. So these two had been part of that first expedition. He had figured as much. However, it became quickly apparent that the topic of the dead man - Roland, as Peter so stressed - was one of utmost sensitivity. Andrew leaned back and slightly away from Peter as he quickly grew up in arms over the whole mess.

Intriguing. Extremely intriguing. It was telling to the validity of the statements he had heard, but... he felt that some of these details were doctored, if more in the sense of an optical illusion, where angle was of utmost importance, rather than straight deception. He put his hands up, head down, immediately demure. He nodded along to Peter's diatribe, listening intently, brown eyes searching the man's face. Whatever he said, he believed it to be the truth.

"Aye, mate, I understand. Clear as crystal, and twice as sharp. I had no idea this were such a sore subject. As I said, passin' words, nothin' more."

Perhaps that was not quite true. The whole thing was snapping into focus.

"Whatever the case, I meant no offense--"

"Petrov, you zhopa, you are not helping -- Chert!"

The young woman seated beside Peter, a fire-forged friend from the small interaction in which they'd partaken as much as he could gather, fell to the ground as the boat did nothing to help her already-unsteady feet. He quickly lunged to try and intercept her in her fall, but she seemed to have recovered well enough on her own. However, her nose was bloodied, and Andrew knelt beside her on one knee with a handkerchief and a grimace.

"Miss, seems you've had a tumble, but I've no doubt you're a tough lass. Need help?" he asked, offering his arm and handkerchief both.

---

Meanwhile, outside, Bertrum was abruptly interrupted in his walk by the same American that had vacated some time earlier, this time looking more composed with a suit jacket and freshly oiled mustachio. He smiled at the doctor and stated, "Ah, leaving? And here, I was just about to start our little rendezvous. Ah - well if you need air..."

He left the offer open, walking into the bar, only to find that several were clustered around Tatyana, most of them at the bar. He and Andrew locked eyes as he looked up to see the man enter through the glass doors, and Charles had to bite back a rather nasty set of words. Too nosy by half. Angelica was already up and ready to help, Lung-El not far behind, and the American financier had to huff to himself a bit. Even with so much in funds, this was the best he could do - a handful of people, drunkards, rough men.

"It seems my timing is most inopportune. Well - when you are all situated, we can start our soiree. See that Miss Tatyana is taken care of - when you're quite finished, we'll start. Bartender?" Charles requested, and the bartender nodded his head, walking out to gesture to the other patrons to leave the small drinking quarters, with only Green's expedition left.

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Alex had been wandering around port for quite sometime, soaking in on news, sights and people alike. Most of the news were hard to seperate as fake and genuine, but one thing was for sure. Her charges wouldn't arrive for at least a couple more
days. She had all the time she needed to make sure she was genuinely prepared for what was to follow. She really hoped that the people she was getting from 'civilazation' would have strong enough a spine to survive the jungle, but she seriously doubted it, which is why she prayed for the patience to deal with whiny rich kids.

Having secured her smuggling outpost for the duration of her absence, she made her way to the marketplace and took one of the less savoury pathways to a small shop. Her tattoos needed to be maintained if she was to gain any advantage and protection from them. Something told her that the mission wasn't going to be as simple as a guided tour. The amount of money the leader of the expedition offered was way too hefty for something so casual. No, there was something more to it and Alex was intrigued to say the least.

"Daeng! Come in! Come in!" The cheerful voice of an old man pulled her out of her thoughts and she grinned as she made her way inside. Whatever came at her she would face it head on like everything she has had to deal with so far. Fretting about tomorrow without any information did more damage than good.
 
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ORIENTATION...

A lot on his mind. There had been a lot on his mind.

Charlie looked around at the group gathered within the bar, taking their seats. Angelica, every day looking more and more like her mother (may God rest her soul). Lung-El, faithful to the last to the Warrens, to Henry. Danford, damn his enthusiasm (but he couldn't discount a single man, not after what had happened last year). And a few other familiar faces, a few unfamiliar. He recognized his new navigator after Carlton had professed a weakness of the mind, unable to take the heat of Siam. Peter. Ana, and her bedeviled curiosity, looking rather worse for wear, but who could blame her, after all that had happened in her beloved homeland? His new botanist, looking green about the gills already - it seemed a trait of those landbound sort, given Flannery had likewise begun her journey seasick as a twirled dog. He had passed their head doctor, and already he had sent correspondence to their Thai guide to meet them in Ayutthaya at the Princess Sabingan dockyard.

Maybe this time they'd make it. Who was he kidding? They had to. They just had to. Maybe he might finally stop dreaming about it. Blood. Confusion. The fingers in his ears as he saw crazed eyes draw nearer with moving mouth...

"Good evening, ladies, gentleman. I'll skip too many pleasantries," Charles offered with a grin, facial hair neatly trimmed. From the corner of his eye, he saw Andrew take a seat, and the look on the man's face nearly curdled his cheer. Bedeviled curiosity. "I figured that an orientation would be in order. As I'm sure some of you all know already, a few months ago was the last expedition's anniversary. It, sadly, ended with the death of a single party member before we had to cut it short as the rainy season made trekking into Siamese territory ever more a quagmire, but -- I digress. You want to know what it is you are here for in detail, though I imagine you have some idea in general. We shall be arriving in Ayutthaya in another week, and from there we should already have supplies with which to go bushwhacking towards our destination. But enough about that. Angelica?"

Charlie made way for the young woman, the sprightly youth clipping her way forward. There was a confidence in her gait that was absent the last time, though she had lost none of her fire. Yet, she lacked some impetuousness of youth, instead having a new, distinct focus.

"Like the two expeditions prior, we are currently on an expedition to search for something called soma, an elixir made from a particular plant said to give immortality to the Hindoo gods. From the documents obtained from a previous civilization in the Kingdom of Siam, well before the Sukhothai period, we believe there is a sort of... a kind of tree which was purported to have incredible healing properties, making this soma. Of course, these accounts are rather exaggerated, many being wrapped up in the religious texts of the period, such as bringing the dead to life and freeing the mind from its mortal coil, but there is significant evidence to suggest that there is, actually, a plant which may be a, um, a sort of cure-all for many diseases and ailments, enough to even slow the ravages of age. If we could cultivate it, this may prove an invaluable resource," Angelica explained. "However, it was only grown in a single city, as far as we can tell, which is somewhere in the jungle of the Siamese Kingdom. The last navigator, Mr. Edwin Carlton, helped me to find that should we follow Arcturus as a guide star, we should be able to find the ruins, and perhaps the farms where this plant was cultivated."

"What can we expect, going out there, then?" Andrew asked quietly, and Angelica stared in confusion. Charles could have bitten his own tongue off.

"I'm sorry, who are--?"

"Andrew Locke. Your uncle here hired me on as captain of the expedition," he answered congenially, with a bit of a rueful smile at those he'd spoken to earlier.

"You know as well as I do, Andrew--" Charles began, but he was quickly cut off.

"It seems you've mislead us a bit, on the dangers possible of this particular journey besides the usual run-of-the-mill jungle fever," Andrew stated, forging ahead despite Charles giving a rather pouting huff. "What else is there? Anything in your little... your documents, stating what we can expect? Resistance, for instance, from locals? And what of the other guide team? Are we also expecting to pick them up as well?"

"Yes, if we do see any remnant of--"

"I'm askin' Angelica, Charlie," Andrew said pointedly, staring at the young woman, who was fidgeting. "What else is there in that book of yours? What happened to the other guide team?"

The young woman licked her lips and swallowed, trying to compose herself. Her fingers flexed around the thick folder in her hands, containing the palm leaf book, her father's notes, and now... her own. Her eyes fell.

"To your latter question... I don't know," she answered quietly, finally directing hazel eyes at the blonde man sitting at the back. "To the former, it isn't worth mentioning, as it's hard to parse fact from superstitious fiction--"

"I dare say they didn't write it for shits and giggles, girl. Come on, now, what's it--"

"Ghost stories. Mr. Locke. They're ghost stories. Meant to scare off those who would try and steal this- this- this medicinal crop," Angelica finally spat. "They're cautionary tales warning others not to attempt to breach the city, that it's very well-defended by... by all sorts of things. Skeletons guarding the dead, ghosts of women with only heads and their innards, witches, demons, ogres, angry and starving spirits bent to a sorcerer's will -- Just gruesome folktales. Besides that, the city's reinforcements, a few of the local tribes, sickness and curses... Nothing unusual when something this valuable is at stake."

Andrew stared, eyes wandering back and forth between Charles and Angelica.

"I just figured everyone should be on the same page. Know what we're dealing with here. Personally... I don't think that three thousand is enough. Even without the ghosts," he chuckled, rapping knuckles on the table.

"Now listen here, Locke, you can't seriously think just because there's spooks--"

"Course, I'd like everyone else's opinion, too. What do you think?" Andrew asked, looking about casually. "I've heard enough to think we should get hazard pay. Eh?"


Andrew Locke has made his move. He doesn't think you all are paid enough, and besides that, it seems there's things to settle besides, questions to ask. Feel free to chime in here with any questions you want, and don't worry too much about post length. This would be a good time to grill Angelica for that sweet lore or to start squeezing Greene for every dime he's got. Or to chime in that ghost stories are stupid, but you want that sweet sweet extra hazard pay anyways.

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FINLEY ELLIS || BOTANIST
Ginger. Oh, precious ginger. Naturally he had brought something of it with him, knowing that the journey over the sea would get him sick. However, Finley didn’t have the heart to use it on himself, now. The journey hadn’t started yet and he could not plummet down the storage. The offer of Andrew had been sweet and so were the good intentions of an Irishman that joined them.

“Can’t vomit what I don’t have,” Finley managed to croak out, another wry smile forced upon his lips as he pointed at his bright red hair. Perhaps that would make him look less miserable than he actually felt and with that hopefully fake feeling better.

It soon proved itself to be unneeded, the attention of Mr. Locke stolen away by another as Charles Greene took the stage. His introduction was generic, known already, though the news of another week of travel earned a groan from the ginger who promptly downed the shot of ginger ale in one go with a slam. He would need it if he didn’t want to arrive a skeleton.

Letting his head rest against the cool wood of the bar Finley barely registered the switch in speakers, the explanation of Angelica going past him at large and only picking up the word of that coveted ‘soma’ that they were looking for so desperately.

Much less did he pick up Andrew’s interjection and introduction as ‘captain’ of the group, but as the tone of the conversation changed and his stomach settled Finley rose his head with squinting eyes, the words slowly registering.

Ghosts?!

Feeling something crawling up his spine Finley straightened up, supporting himself with his arms as his complexion turned even paler.

He wouldn’t say that he believed in ghosts, but Finley wasn’t going to deny the possibility of existence either. Especially if a respectable wariness could prevent a possession should ghosts exist.

Besides, didn’t a colleague die on their previous attempt of this expedition even before the journey could start?

Feeling his thoughts swimming, just like his chances of survival Finley felt something well up again, though this time it was different from the nausea he had been experiencing up until earlier. It was absolute dread, consuming him from within.

Blinking at Andrew who asked for the opinion of the rest of the room Finley wiped his forehead with a napkin procured from his pockets, wiping his face fervently as his throat clamped up.

“Definitely, I agree. Three thousand to sell my soul is a bit…” trailing off as he stammered out his answer Finley suddenly decided that gingers do have souls.