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.
Faun knew that most of the small paycheck she collected at Vreni's nightclub was to be saved for a deposit on a future apartment so she could get out of the Helens' house, but given the season, she could stand to spare a little. Given that both Helens (in addition to herself) hailed from eras long past, she had found a small, sleepy antique store downtown and spent a few hours perusing, looking for suitable Christmas gifts. The two women were not the warmest of hosts, though she could hardly blame them. She was simply grateful for having a place to sleep and three meals a day. And if she was going to be spending Christmas with them, it seemed only proper that she get gifts. After wistfully considering a dusty, archaic radio that would have been perfectly at home in her native 1920s (and she was sure she could have gotten it to work!), she had finally settled on two small things: an enameled music box that played a silvery, plinking rendition of "Amazing Grace" for Helene, and a delicate glass bowl sculpted and tinged like a rose blossom for Helen.
She had paid for the two items, along with small boxes to conceal them in, and stepped out to make her way back home. Tinny Christmas music was playing from the open doorway of another store; a mixture of songs both familiar and unfamiliar. The girl hummed along quietly as she walked, her hand-me-down boots clomping a second mismatched rhythm in the new-fallen snow. It was difficult walking in shoes when one possessed cloven hooves, but as her Mask didn't seem to be good at creating the appearance of clothes, and it would be rather odd to walk barefoot in this weather, she did the best she could to avoid tripping. She let her legs carry her forward as her mind wandered, paying little attention to her surroundings. The music and Christmas shopping had made her melancholy, even moreso than usual. She should have been doing this with her friends and family, not alone in a time and place she should never have lived to see. Tears pricked at her eyes, and she rubbed them away quickly, shifting her bags to her other hand. Crying over her fate wouldn't do any good at this point. Trying to keep her mind off the subject, she looked at the buildings as she walked, trying to appreciate the ornate Christmas decorations and lights.
Wrapped up in her own thoughts, she didn't notice the man in her path until she blundered right into him, eliciting a noise of surprise from the girl. Nearly dropping her bags, she skittered backwards, looking up at him. "I'm sorry sir, I wasn't paying attention. Are you all right?"
These past few weeks, Walter had been preoccupied. Normally a man who made a point of keeping his focus in the moment, the events that transpired upon his return home a few short weeks ago replayed themselves in his mind eye, whether he liked it or not.
Much of the groundskeeper's more sordid past, his wife's death included, had been raked over and used to both accuse and attack him. That was enough to put anyone in a melcholy state. So, Walter's usually observant nature was lacking as the young woman bumped into him.
Had he noticed her. he would likely not have braced himself before their impact. The difference in size between them would have led him to believe that, other than her being a masterfully well balanced person, he would likely barely notice their contact.
On the contrary, though, as they collided, he felt the need to step back a little, recoiling from the kinetic energy. Not something that happened to him often. He was usually rooted and centred enough that little, other than a direct charge, would move him from his stance.
He smirked and frowned in surprise at his unbalancing, however slight. "Oh, er.... Excuse me, Miss..." He wondered if the woman were a dancer or martial artist. Something that gave her cause to be almost as firmly rooted as he. He dismissed those thoughts. Perhaps his lack of attention accounted for his lack of stability, more than anything else.
As she apologised, he nodded his head. "I'm fine. Please, the fault was mine..."
His blue eyes gaze at the woman, checking he has not caused any harm. "Are you okay?"
He took the accidental collision in stride, which came as a relief to her. She wasn't a very confrontational person, even moreso after her durance in Arcadia, and judging by the way he stepped back, she had either greatly startled him or had been walking much faster than she thought she had been. It didn't occur to her that her affinity with rock would be to blame--her stone leg only seemed to weigh her down and make her limp. It was hardly an asset.
She nodded as he asked if she was all right, though she did dare a quick peek into the bag that contained her gifts. Both boxes were intact, thankfully. Whew. Still, she needed to be more careful, to ensure that they made it under the tree in one piece. She looked back up the man then, noting that, while he was around the same age as Mr. Inconnue, and both carried the same air of quiet confidence, he lacked the foxlike guile the older man had possessed. That sat just fine with her. As helpful as Inconnue had been in explaining this Academy business to her, he had required a fair amount of information about changelings in exchange, and when she had accidentally Unmasked herself for a single second, he had taken on an uncanny resemblance to a scientist examining a particularly interesting petri dish.
She gave a philosophical shrug as she looked down the street at the crowds thronging in and out of the storefronts. "Don't worry about it. Odds are I'll be bumping into a few more folks by accident before I get home. Lots of people have decided to do their shopping today, it seems." She couldn't help but be quietly amused at how little some things changed. Even in her time, there had been last-minute Christmas rushes.
The large Scandinavian smiled and nodded. "Yes... I suspect that today, many people will have their minds elsewhere. Just as I did just now..."
Walter had no bags in his hands to mark him as one of the throng of shoppers keen to make this the best (and most expensive) festive season yet. In truth, he had very little to buy, looking forward to a Yule spent alone this year. What little food and drink he required had been purchased weeks ago.
"You sure you're okay?" Being tall and fairly heavily muscled, Walter knew his weight, if applied correctly, could cause injury quite easily. Whether intentional or not. Back to his usual perceptive self, focused on the present, Walter noticed the young woman check her bags. "Hope I haven't broken anything?"
The unexpected recoil forgotten, explained away by the distraction Walter has been suffering from these past few days, Walter was most concerned now with ensuring he hasn't caused undue harm or distress. All the harm he ever wants to cause, ever gain, must remain back in northern Scandinavia. Here, in his new life, he just wants to wipe the slate clean and do no harm.
He gazes at the woman, reiterating his question with his eyes, awaiting her response.
"I'm sturdier than I look," she assured him, with a brief smile. Though her stone patches were usually rather small in situations void of fear or despair, they never entirely went away, and she had harbored suspicion for a while that they extended down into her bones as well. It would explain the stiffness in her limbs during cold weather like this, at least. "And as far as I could see, my gifts weren't damaged at all." She glad that the woman at the antique store had packed in plenty of tissue paper to cushion the two delicate objects. She reached in again to fish one of the gifts out, beginning to walk again at a leisurely pace that both of them could keep up with.
She pulled out the music box that was soon to be Helene's, turning it back and forth to admire the design on the box. Though somewhat faded from age, the porcelain cover of the music box still carried a delicate depiction of birds and spring flowers. After a moment, she set it back gently, then took out the glass bowl. "What do you think?" she asked the man. "I'm boarding with two older ladies at the moment, seeing as I blew into town a while back without anything to my name. They've been good to me, so I wanted to get them something nice for Christmas."
Walter looked at the box and felt that nodding was appropriate somehow. "Very nice...". Aesthetics weren't really his thing. Though he could discern beauty well enough, his idea of beauty lay in form, function and efficiency of purpose and function. "I'm sure they'll appreciate your choice." As they walked a little further, Walt decided to try a little smalltalk. He'd been experimenting with such social niceties since he last got back from Scandinavia. Though, frankly, he had received very mixed results.
"So, you're new to Columbiana?". He hoped that was enough interest shown to spark a conversation. He honestly was interested. People watching and limited social interaction had become something of a hobby for him of late and he was beginning to enjoy actually talking with other people.
He watched the young woman as they walked and tried discern what kind of person she might be. How best he might converse with her. After all, she seemed quite a bit younger than those with whom he usually socialised.
He seemed approving of the gift, though not overly enthusiastic, and she guessed trinkets weren't really his thing. Fair enough. When he asked his question, she nodded, finding that it was becoming easier and easier to spin lies--half-truths, at the most--about where she had come from rather than divulge her true origin. She wasn't entirely sure how she felt about that. "I'm from North Carolina, originally, one of the really small towns. There was't anything for me there, so I've been drifting for a while." Those who knew her better would be able to see it as a lie almost immediately--Faun was a homebody, hardly the sort to hitchhike across a continent. She had never liked lying, but here, it was a necessity in order to keep her secrets secret. If anything, it was probably better to lie about where she had come from then tell people the horrible truth--that she was an abductee, a former prisoner of a creature virtually beyond human understanding. That wasn't something you really brought up when making small talk with a stranger.
"So far Columbiana has been...interesting, to be sure. Have you seen that big university just outside town?"A product of a past era, Faun had been pleasantly surprised to find that women attended college here, in addition to men. But it wasn't the Collegium's policies on gender equality that held her attention, so much as it was the apparent presence of magic-users there. The local changelings seemed to only have a loose confederacy, the Courts working together when danger threatened but otherwise keeping to themselves. The mages, on the other hand, were well-organized, and according to Inconnue, some of them were fully aware of the Fae-touched souls in their midst. If conflict ever broke out, though she prayed it wouldn't, the changelings would likely be at a disadvantage.
Walter nods, "Well, travel broadens the mind... So they say...". Walter suspected the distance from whereever Carolina was to here wasn't exactly as vast as from Kiruna, but the wandering spirit was the same, whatever the precise distances involved.
Guile is lost on Walter. He has no use for it and practically lacks the ability to detect it in others. Though he understands that sometimes people will lie, for whatever reason.
For him, directness and honesty were the hallmarks of a man. Avoiding any hardship one's fate had in store was, to Walter, an expression of weakness or defeat. Better to take it on the chin and grow the stronger for it.
Fated hardships. Fate. That was always a meditation subject for Walter. Almost an obsession at times. Fate, or Orlog as he called it. Orlog, ancient or ultimate law. Some things in the universe could not be denied.
For now, though, Walter managed to keep his mind and his focus on the present and the conversation with his new acquaintance. "Yes, the university. I work there from time to time. I'm a groundskeeper there."
He felt some friendly advice was apt. "It is well worth a visit, though some of the students can be a little... 'flighty'. The college is well known for more esoteric, 'magical' pursuits and, well... It attracts some interesting people, shall we say?"
He felt able to confide in this woman, as she didn't seem, to him, to be one of the aforementioned 'flighty' mages. Despite some perhaps defining him as a mage - at least a type thereof, he didn't consider himself such and had a low opinion of most of those he had met. With one or two notable exceptions.
Faun suppressed a feeling of heavy irony at his comment about travel. It certainly did broaden the mind, especially when one found themselves traveling outside of reality itself. A world of nightmares had been revealed to Faun all those decades ago, and there were times when she would have gladly stayed in Grenhill her entire life, never daring to wonder about life outside the town, if it meant forgetting about the Fae and what they were capable of.
It did no good to bemoan the past, however. What happened, happened, and there was no way to go back and change it. She was marooned in this strange time and place, and would just need to do the best she could in it. At least she had the support of other changelings whom she could confide in and look to for support. It was disheartening to realize, though, that Columbiana's small Fae-touched population would likely be the only group of people she could allow herself to grow close to. In the event she ever made friends of Columbiana's normal townsfolk, there would always be secrets she'd have to keep from them, both to protect them and to protect herself.
The coincidence of meeting someone who worked at the Collegium surprised her, though on reflection, she supposed it wasn't all that remarkable. This was a college town, after all--it made sense that the institution would employ a fair amount of locals. She nodded knowingly at the mention of the student body's more peculiar habits. "I must confess, I wasn't much of a believer in magic until I found myself in this particular town. Travel broadened my mind about that, at least."
She wasn't sure about 'flighty' the mages, were though. "I've already met a few others from the College--a student named Alex, and a faculty member, Mr. Inconnue." Alex could have possibly been considered somewhat flighty, though given that he was a teenage boy, what else was new? Inconnue, on the other hand, had been unnervingly focused, especially on their little interview. "Know either of them?"