Welcome to No Books of Men! We are a modern alternate history board set in a magical school nestled in the Columbiana Valley of the Rocky Mountains. Students of the Collegium Illustrata Columbiana (commonly called simply The Academy) are free to explore their wildest imaginations in learning the mystic arts, so long as it does not jeopardize the ongoing Shadow War with the Exarchs. How will you live up to the legacies of Merlin?
darkkenchild is the Head Admin here at No Books. He enjoys long walks on the beach and debating the metaphysical underpinnings of reality, so any questions about your character , the plot of No Books, and/or how magic works on the site, please do not hesitate to ask him.
Squeeji is the head of “Human Resources” here at No Books, and responsible for pretty much everything related to our contact with the outside world. Advertising, orientation, and just about anything to do with bringing in new blood is in her wheelhouse.
Alex wasn’t a particularly curious guy, and he certainly wasn’t adept at reading social situations, but he did still possess an urge to figure out whether or not these crows were something he needed to avoid. What a more astute person would have seen as lying, Alex just saw as regular ol’ nervousness. He bought Faun’s story hook, line, and sinker. “Oh well...uh, that sucks.” Because really he didn’t know what else to say. It wasn’t like he had any useful advice. Still, Alex thought her hand wringing made perfect sense in this context and was totally oblivious to the wool being pulled over his eyes.
“I guess learning how to turn your skin into stone is a good idea then. Does it hurt when you do it?” It hadn’t seemed like it’d been painful when she’d showed him earlier, but what did he know? The gears in his mind slowly began to turn as he thought of what applications this stone-skin could have, if he learned how to do it himself. Maybe...maybe Faun could even teach him. If...IF he decided he could trust her.
“The gnomes? Uh.” Alex paused because, well it wasn’t exactly a story he wanted to go spreading around...it was embarrassing so maybe...maybe he’d just leave out the real embarrassing parts. “I was egging houses with this chick and then we accidentally set off an alarm…” Well, he had been the one to set off the alarm, but Faun didn’t need to know that it wasn’t a joint fuck up. “...so we ran through the neighbor’s yard and he had a lot, A LOT of gnomes. And...we didn’t realize that they were...yanno, alive. So I started punting them around the yard and they came back all angry.” He conveniently left out the part where he had initially tried to escape by jumping into a pool where he’d nearly drowned himself due to lack of swimming ability, because that was just uncool. “So we gave them the runaround and met up on top of the necromancer’s house….and then I accidentally ripped off part of his gutter as I was leaving.”
And he’d had no intentions of sticking around to see how that panned out, but he was going to go back someday...someday when the weather was nice and Mrs. Inconnue decided to sunbathe because he’d heard stories….
“Say, uh...maybe you could teach me how to do that rock skin thing. It’d be useful for...yanno, stuff.” Like suddenly turning to stone right before someone decided to punch him, because that was bound to happen again sooner or later.
"It doesn't hurt, no. It's...numb, almost, and kind of cold." Faun could feel through most of her stone patches, with the exception of her leg and her chest, but the sensation was different, fainter somehow. "I mean, it can hurt around my joints when I move too fast, but that's about it." She dared a slight smile. "If all goes right, though, I won't have to move or fight. I'd just have to stand there and let them dash themselves to pieces on me." She considered telling him about the various monsters that had used her as a chew toy during her wanderings through the Hedge, but decided against it for now. It would only lead to more questions, most likely.
She leaned against the wall and listened attentively as Alex spun his tale of pranks and gnome-punting and retribution. And for the first time in ages, Faun actually laughed. It wasn't the brief chuckle that the antics of her hobgoblin acquaintance sometimes instilled in her, but a genuine laugh. It occurred to her then that Alex probably wasn't very appreciative of being laughed at, and her expression of amusement became a little more sheepish. "Sorry, it's just that you did kinda get what you deserved. If I was getting used as a football after someone vandalized my neighbor's house, I'd be angry too." She didn't really know if a hoodlum like Alex was a good choice of friend, but she couldn't really afford to be picky, could she? He wasn't a very skillful hoodlum at least, or so it seemed.
Unfortunately, though he wasn't very good at vandalism, he did have a skill for asking uncomfortable questions. She wasn't going to be able to teach him how to do something that wasn't a spell at all! "I don't really know if I should be the one teaching you," she finally said with a rueful look as an excuse came to her at last. She dispelled her Mask around her legs, though he would not be able to see the change under her clothing, and bent over, rapping a knuckle against her petrified lower leg. "Hear how hard that sounds? If you don't do the spell exactly right, you might not be able to turn back." She wasn't about to hike up her pantsleg and show him the stone limb, lest he see the bent-forward knee joint, or the curled fur, or, God forbid, the hoof. She simply left the implications hanging. It was starting to become apparent to her that Alex wasn't the most courageous or daring of souls. As much as she hated to manipulate someone, especially through fear, she was willing to do so if it meant keeping them from getting involved in something as dangerous as Fae magic.
She stood up and shifted her weight from foot to foot, as if trying to work out a cramp in her leg. It looked idle enough, but it made her lopsided way of moving, a product of her heavy, deadened left leg, obvious. Hopefully the threat of accidental petrification would be enough to change his mind about learning the "spell".
Alex’s face contorted into a grimace as Faun started laughing. In retrospect it was absolutely hilarious, but Alex was too proud to be comfortable with teasing from a peer...and a girl at that. “Yeah, yeah, laugh all you want. But gnomes are fuckin’ creepy, and I didn’t know they were real when I started smashing them.” If he’d known they were real, and if he’d known what complete assholes they were, he would have given that yard a wide goddamn berth.
Faun seemed to shy at the thought of teaching Alex how to turn his skin to stone, but Alex wasn’t about to give up so easily. “Awwww, come on, if you figured it out I can figure it out too.” Alex was unable to see what her legs looked like when she dispelled the mask around her legs, in fact he was unable to tell that she had dispelled anything at all until she knocked on her leg. It sounded...it sounded about like someone knocking on a rock. “Oh...I guess I hadn’t thought of that.” Yeah, turning to stone and being unable to turn back would be prettttty bad. He thought about making a dick joke right about then, but ultimately decided against it. To be honest he thought she seemed like the sort of person that wouldn’t appreciate a good dick joke.
“So uh…” He watched, stared even as she shifted from foot to foot awkwardly. Yeah, if she knew what she was doing and was having trouble working out the kinks, he wanted none of that bullshit. “...if you want I can go check and see if those crows are gone and...I dunno, throw some rocks at ‘em if they’re still there?” At least that seemed like a nice thing to do, and that’s what people were supposed to do, right? Be nice?
Her unspoken warning seemed to work, and any interest Alex may have had in a stoneskin spell rapidly dissipated. It was hardly fun putting his curiosity down like that, and if Faun could have taught him, she would have, but she couldn't even control her stone patches at will. There wasn't much at all she could do for him.
Her regrets intensified as he volunteered to go see if the birds were gone, even after she had turned down teaching him the "spell". She hesitated for a moment, wary about sending him out there if, worst-case-scenario, that had been one of Corvus's birds. But she couldn't really just sit and cower in the alleyway forever--she needed to take the furry escapee on her shoulder back to the theater, and get home herself before it got any darker. Corvus would be looking for a goat-legged redhead, not a dark-haired and perfectly normal (well, as normal as a mage could be) young man. "I would appreciate that, yeah." she said, giving him a grateful look. "Though...if it's still there, I wouldn't lob any rocks at it. If it is one of those birds, there's no need for you to get on their bad side too. I can find a back way home if I had to." Maybe the hobgoblin could help her navigate, although, knowing it, she was just as likely to end up even more lost following its directions.
“Mmmkay.” Alex shrugged with the sort of nonchalance possessed by a teenager who wanted to appear more of a badass than he actually was. “B-R-B.” He said as he scooted off down the alleyway back to where Faun had first freaked out. He didn’t notice the crows at first glance because...well, they were birds so they weren’t really high on his list of things to watch out for. But sure enough there was one sitting on a lamp post like a...bird on a lamp post.
Alex didn’t think it looked like a particularly large one, but then again he didn’t have much of a frame of reference for these kinds of things. How big were crows supposed to be anyways? Whatever, it’d freaked Faun out and so Alex was determined to get the thing to leave. He tried a couple pieces of loose gravel first which sailed in a wide arc nowhere near the bird.
Grunting in frustration, Alex looked either which way to make sure nobody was paying attention. Nope, given where he was standing nobody was going to notice a thing. He swung his arm, combining the motion with a touch of space magic. It was effective and where the crow had, a moment earlier, been sitting peacefully on the streetlight it let out an angry and confused squawk as it was hit by a force it had neither seen nor expected. It had the intended effect though, the crow launched itself into the air and flapped away. Where it went off to, well Alex didn’t know or care really.
With his job finished, Alex wandered back toward the place he had left Faun. “It’s gone. I don’t know if it was one of your crows, but I punched it with my magic fists and it left, awwwww yis.” He held his hands up triumphantly, because it was totally an impressive feat worthy of notice.
Faun watched pensively as he disappeared back around the corner to confront the crow. He acted cocky and confident, but would he have been so bold if he knew what she did about what the Fae and their creations were capable of?
She remained where she was, her ears flicked forward in an effort to try and discern what was going on. Even with the goat ears, her hearing was only marginally better than it had been before her durance, but their ability to move independently at least meant that she could focus in on sounds easier. They twitched briefly at a sound that might have been pebbles hitting the ground, and she stifled a groan. Hadn't she told him not to throw rocks at it? Still, she knew she could only be so upset--he was really sticking his neck out for her, even if it turned out to just be an ordinary bird.
There came a sudden, irate squawk, causing Faun to jump slightly. Now what was he doing? Her anxiety mounted until he finally reappeared a moment later, looking entirely intact and rather proud of himself. She quietly let out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. Enchanted or not, the crow was gone now, and if Alex had really used magic to scare it away as he claimed, maybe it hadn't even been aware he was there. Despite the gravity of the situation, she had to smile at his boasting. "My hero." The words were meant as a joke, but there was an undeniable air of gratitude there as well. "Thanks for humoring me, really." It had been obvious that he didn't understand her fear of crows, yet he had still offered to help put her worries to rest. It was a small gesture, and perhaps she was reading too much into it, but she was grateful all the same.
The hobgoblin gave her hair another tug, evidently unaffected by the show of kindness. "All right, all right," she huffed at it, then gave Alex an apologetic look. "Sorry. I've got to get this little bastard back where it belongs. But maybe I'll see you around?" He seemed nice enough (though that was possibly because Faun wasn't aware of any crime of his worse than a little distasteful vandalism).
Alex was proud of himself for being a little badass, but getting praise from someone else, especially from a girl his age wasn’t exactly something he was used to. And a hero? He’d never heard that word aimed at him before in his life, sincerely or joking. “Oh, uh...you too.” He stumbled awkwardly over his words. “I mean uh, you’re welcome, I guess. It’s not really a big deal though. Er, yeah.” He really couldn’t have accepted the compliment much worse if he’d tried, but he shrugged and tried to look as nonchalant about it as possible.
“Yeah. Sounds good, uh.” Shit, he’d already forgotten her name. Something with an M? Or something, he was too proud and embarrassed to ask for it again, so he played it off cool as always. “I’ll see you around.” He pulled a hand out of his hoodie pocket just long enough to give Faun an awkward little parting wave and then started meandering down the street in the general direction of the Academy.
Her compliment seemed to throw him off, instilling a kind of awkwardness in the boy as he excused himself with a somewhat hasty farewell. She watched him go for a moment, then, when he was out of sight, turned her attention back to her little "friend". Holding it by the torso, she lifted it off her shoulders and looked it in the eyes, furrowing her brow while it blinked at her innocently.
"You're from the Hedge." she said to it. "Was that crow magical, or not?"
The hobgoblin regarded her for a moment, then blew another loud raspberry at her.
"Of course..." she grumbled, letting it wriggle out of her grasp like a ferret and clamber across her arm back to her shoulder. That response could have meant anything from no, it wasn't to yes, it was to how am I supposed to know? Obviously, it wasn't going to be much help at all.
With a sigh, Faun made her way back to the street, looking over at the now-empty lamp-post before setting off for the theater.