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    Burning the Midnight Oil

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    Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by tuck on 26/09/11, 12:37 am

    The airship hung in the darkness over the city, tethered to the air-docks with thick hemp ropes. The light breeze made the ship rock slowly as Kallista opened the door to the crew quarters. She stepped out into the cool midnight air and sighed, her normally bright eyes heavy with physical and mental exhaustion.

    She sighed and peered out over the darkened city before making her way slowly toward the front of the ship. She passed by the captain's quarters and briefly considered seeing if Brenn was awake. At least it would distract her from the memories that her encounter with the tieflings of Bael Hexott had brought to the surface. But she knew that wasn't the kind of distraction she needed right now. After a few seconds she passed by and headed out onto the main deck.

    She saw Roscoe standing by the gangplank, keeping watch, his tireless eyes scanning for any movement on the docks. Kallista couldn't help smiling at her companion, even with the dark thoughts weighing on her mind.

    "Hey there, Tin Man", she said, arms crossed against the cold air, "How's the watch going?"
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by Zari on 27/09/11, 06:28 pm

    Roscoe's eyes lit up (literally) at his friend's approach. "Oh, pretty good for far. I've seen a few pigeons walking around, but that's about it. Are your guts feeling better?"
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by tuck on 27/09/11, 06:37 pm

    Kallista put one hand on her stomach and looked down contemplatively.

    "Well, if you mean the brand, yeah, it's mostly stopped hurting. Still raw, though. My guts, on the other hand, have been churning all night. Can't get to sleep. Not with all this business with the cult going on. I don't suppose you ever have trouble sleeping, huh?"
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by Zari on 27/09/11, 06:45 pm

    Roscoe blinked a few times, slowly. "Well, no, since I never do it; I suppose it would be like asking if I had trouble flying. But sometimes I have trouble getting relaxed and rested like I should, which can be troublesome. Sometimes I'll be working on a project or get caught up in my tinkering, and not even realize it's daylight until Miss Rosamund starts puttering around downstairs. Then I'm slow all day, like there's molasses in my brain slowing down all my cogs."

    He looked down at her stomach, then opened his forearm compartment. "I picked up some teas while we were in town, do you think that would help settle things down? I have chamomile, and peppermint, and extra-bergamot earl grey."
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by tuck on 27/09/11, 07:05 pm

    Kallista smiled. Whatever else he was, Roscoe was always thoughtful.

    "That would be great. Peppermint, please. Extra hot."

    She rubbed her arms briskly.

    "It's really chilly up here at night", she said, then cocked her head, "Do... do you feel cold?"
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by Zari on 27/09/11, 08:31 pm

    He chuckled. "I feel it, yes, it just doesn't bother me as much as it does you. I do generate some internal heat, though my metal parts tend to radiate it more strongly than the wooden ones. Here, feel this part of my arm, then this one. See?"

    He continued to chatter on, as he set a kettle over the watch-fire. "If I get too cold, my joints creak and grind against each other, which can be very bothersome and unpleasant. Within my wooden musculature, there are conduits for a blood-analog substance, which run more sluggish in the cold, but just a little bit too thin when it's hot. Cold and heat themselves can't kill me -" He paused, looking thoughtful, "At least, I don't think they can kill me. If I was brought back to a more normal temperature, I think I would be fine, if there was no actual damage to me. I suppose my wooden bits might crack from freezing, and the metal in me could melt and run."

    Giving Kallista a bashful smile, he said, "My father really could have explained it a lot better than I can. There's a lot to my construction that I may never know, though I do occasionally study. He didn't keep the most thorough records on me, which is funny because he insisted I write down everything I learned in my own studies."
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by tuck on 27/09/11, 08:50 pm

    Kallista smiled warmly and gently touched Roscoe's arm when he asked her to. The metal was indeed warm, but there was no doubt that it was still metal, hard and strong. He was alive... but not alive. Warm and cold. A contradiction that Kallista appreciated more than many.

    When Roscoe mentioned his father, Kallista could feel, rather than hear the love in his voice. It was fascinating to hear him talk about it. Growing up the idea of familial love had been an alien concept to her. There was no warmth in Bael Hexott. Only fire.

    Kallista's thoughts turned briefly to her own father, colder and harder than any steel. She wondered where he was right now. Whether he was still in Bael Hexott or somewhere beneath them, plotting even now how to get her back now that he had found her. She knew he wasn't dead. It would never be that easy.

    "You really loved your father, didn't you?" she asked, "Tell me about him... if you don't mind."
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by Zari on 27/09/11, 09:17 pm

    Roscoe, who had been checking the temperature of the kettle against his hand, stilled for a moment, then took it off the fire. Adding a pinch of the tea to a stout wooden mug, he poured the water over slowly, lost in his own thoughts. "I remember the day that I first opened my eyes, and the first thing I ever saw was his face. He told me that my name was Roscoe, and that I was there to help him with his studies, but mostly he did his experimenting alone and I took care of things around the house. He taught me to read and write, and how to play chess and checkers, and when he needed something for one of his projects he would send me along with the party he hired to go and fetch it, so I could learn how to interact with other people."

    "I loved him very much. How could I not? But I didn't know for a long time that I did, I just knew that taking care of him made me happy. I assumed it was because I was fulfilling the purpose I had been made for. I knew that I would rather be taking care of him than of any of the other creatures I'd met, but I didn't know why. He read the old histories of Bael Nerath and Arkhosia to me, and showed me how to put things together in such a way that they would move how I wanted them to, and how to mix potions and cook food that was palatable to human systems. One day when I was reading about the genealogies of the Noble Houses of Highmark, I asked him what you called the person who gave you life. After that, he let me call him father."

    His eyes lost some of their luminosity, and he slumped forward a little. "One day he got sick. He didn't feel like leaving his bedroom, so I brought food in to him, and read him books while he slept. He stayed like that for a long time, either resting in his room, or coming out to the library to sit by the window and read. He was in the library, in his favorite chair, when he stopped talking to me. I brought him dinner and got him a blanket, and later on tried to get him to play some chess with me, but he wouldn't move. It... it was a long time before I realized he was dead, and then longer before I realized that he wasn't going to get better. I came to Highmark a little bit after that. I didn't really know where else to go. He had hired a lot of adventurers over the years, and I had watched them work, so I figured I could do that. The Adventurer's Guild people didn't want me, because I'm not a citizen, and they suggested I try the Explorer's Union." He shrugged, and oddly graceful movement of his metal frame. "The rest of it you know."
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by tuck on 27/09/11, 09:55 pm

    Kallista sat attentively as Roscoe told his story. When he passed her the steaming cup of tea she accepted it silently, taking a long drink of the scalding hot liquid. She had never really considered where Roscoe had come from, or what he'd done before joining the union.

    "The tea is really good. Thank you" she said, softly, "I'm sorry about your father. He sounds like he was a good man. I wish I'd had a father like that."

    She sighed and put her hand lightly on Roscoe's arm again, her eyes focused on the burning watchfire.

    "MY family was more... complicated."

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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by Zari on 27/09/11, 09:57 pm

    Roscoe smiled wryly. "Most things I've seen since leaving my father's tower have been complicated. Will you tell me about them?
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by tuck on 27/09/11, 10:30 pm

    Kallista sighed again. She should have seen that coming.

    "Well, you told me about yours. I suppose it's only fair."

    She stared at her tea for a moment, watching the steam rise from the cup.

    "My... father... is one of the elder priests of Bael Hexott. Commander of their army. Second only to the all-seer. That's what they call their leader. My mother is one of father's seven wives. She's an assassin for the cult. I'm not sure which of them scared me more growing up."

    "My father taught me a lot of things growing up. How to hide. How to fight. How to kill. He seemed to take a special interest in me for some reason. More than any of my brothers and sisters. He wanted me to be a weapon. Another cog in his murder machine..."

    Suddenly her eyes got wide and she looked up at Roscoe.

    "Ummm... no offense."
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by Zari on 27/09/11, 11:38 pm

    Roscoe chuckled. "Don't worry, none taken. I am perfectly happy to be a living machine." He stopped and pondered for a moment. "Do... do meat-people get offended if you all them animals?"
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by tuck on 27/09/11, 11:53 pm

    Kallista laughed.

    "Some of them do," she said, "But us meat-people are a motley bunch. I'm kind of in the same boat as you, to be honest. People here on the outside are kind of a mystery. Just when I think I have things figured out I discover how little I really know about people."

    She set her tea down and spread her hands out, warming them over the fire.

    "We're all kind of outsiders here. You, me, the rest of the gang. I think it's why we work. As a team, I mean. It's kind of the only place we fit."
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by Zari on 28/09/11, 04:27 pm

    Roscoe smiled, and visibly perked up. "If you'd like, I've been keeping a small notebook filled with various observations I've made about societal norms we've run across." He rummaged around in his stomach compartment for a bit, then withdrew the small volume. Scrawled large upon the last non-blank page was DISPLAYING EGGSACK - TABOO?
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by tuck on 28/09/11, 04:34 pm

    Kallista cocked her head at the journal in confusion and turned to Roscoe.

    "Ummm... Roscoe... you do realize that humanoids don't actually have eggsacks, right? I mean... I guess Thri-kreens do. And maybe kobolds. I don't know about them. But like... Did your dad never teach you any of this stuff?"
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by Zari on 28/09/11, 04:40 pm

    Roscoe cocked his head. "What do you mean, humans don't have eggsacks? But... they get all distended, and their cloacal sphincters get all pushed out..."
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by tuck on 28/09/11, 04:47 pm

    Kallista blinked. For a moment she just stared at Roscoe, trying to work out the best way to handle this situation.

    "Ummm... not, roscoe, those aren't eggsacks." she said, hesitantly, "There's no eggs. It's just a baby. One baby. Or... I guess... maybe two if it's twins. But like, there's no shell or anything. They just kind of... pop out. Trust me, I've been to more than a few birthing ceremonies back in Bael Hexott."

    She looked down at her own stomach again.

    "And I have no idea what a cloacal sphincter is... but I'm pretty sure I don't have one."
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by Zari on 28/09/11, 05:07 pm

    Roscoe pointed gingerly at Kallista's stomach. "It's the... the sticky-outy part... the one that opens and lets the eggs come out..."
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by tuck on 28/09/11, 06:21 pm

    Kallista frowned. This was turning into a very strange conversation.

    "Well, there is an opening where the baby comes out... but it's waaaaay lower than where you're thinking. And there's no eggs. You seem to be stuck on this egg thing."

    "I think what you're talking about is this..." she said, lifting up her shirt a few inches and showing him her navel. She winced slightly as the fabric brushed against the raw skin of her brand.

    "That's just a navel. That's not where anything comes out. It's more like a scar from when you're born."

    She laughed and dropped her shirt again.

    "I need to get you like a book or something. Something on humanoid anatomy."
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by Zari on 28/09/11, 10:01 pm









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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by Zari on 28/09/11, 11:37 pm

    Roscoe frowned. "How... do you all get scars in the same place? They don't look like all the other scars I've seen. Is it a ritual thing?"
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    Re: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Post by tuck on 29/09/11, 08:40 am

    "Well, no, it's more biological." Kallista said, furrowing her brow, "It's where the baby is connected to the mother when it's born. See... you know what, maybe I'm not the best one to be explaining this to you. I'm pretty sure Dheni would get mad at me if he heard us talking. You should probably ask him for more details on it."

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