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.
No fun? Yeah that was about right, then again, this wasn't anything anyone should be enjoying, at least not in his opinion, this was a rescue mission. Lives were at stake here. But he hadn't put the point on that for Agnes, for a myriad of reasons, namely that he wasn't quite sure she could handle that sort of pressure. "You got that right." It was best to keep things breezy for the girl, and he smiled brightly towards her, see? Nothing wrong here. Nothing at all.
Could you see Noah puff out a sigh of relief? You goddamn better believe it. Watching his snarly neighbor find some much needed chill (at least comparatively)was just a load off his mind that this mission wouldn't be a complete failure. Still he kept an eye on Helene, and especially Tom, because 'reactive' was kind of the verbage to use for his friend. The last thing he wanted to deal with was an elderly fight in the middle of some god forsaken muppet land. There were many things he could deal with, but right now? Not that.
"But are we supposed to meet them or...what are we walking into...?" OH! There she went, holy shit. he had meant to follow a bit but Helene was off like a raggedy shot, causing no shortage of coladoral damage behind, it was a enough that Noah could feel himself thinking like a Bond villain watching her 'We're not so different you and I...' but the time for thinking was over, the time for doing was now. Especially when everything was on fire, and he was busy keeping an eye on everyone else as they went, Agnes was not far behind him, Tom nearly at stride, and the changelings? The younger goat woman was gone...
A realization that gave him as much pause as that gate when the chase came to an end. "It...well, it doesn't look good." He did a secondary head count and gave the gate a shake. "We're down one." Maybe a statement more for himself then anyone else, but it seemed worth mentioning to the mission leader at any count. "You don't have to go first...." he sighed, looking up and over then through. "I don't know that any of us are gonna go first anyways. Unless Open Sesame is gonna d-d-do the trick." He looked over at Agnes and shrugged, then over at Tom, the floor was open for suggestions.
Agnes just giggled at Kate's assurance that, yeah, the No Fun Allowed brigade was usually helmed by men like Tom or her cousin. Okay, maybe more like the 'Srs Bsns Means Srs Attitudes' brigade. Which, granted, was probably the smartest approach to take when it came to situations like the one they were in, but then again, Agnes had never really been caught up in anything quite like this.
As if things weren't weird enough, a hectic sort of chaos erupted a moment later as the tiny fire mummy took off and Helene followed immediately after. Maybe a man train wasn't the right way to describe what followed, seeing as there were more ladies than guys in the party, but bam, one after the other the motley crew took off after the hobgoblin. Agnes found herself grinning with some sort of strange giddiness at the going-ons around them, what little gear she had on her either thumping against her back or the sides of her hips as she tore ass across the market.
It was fun, in a way, until it wasn't, and as soon as the mummy let loose with the flames all the manic joy she was getting from the chase was quickly extinguished. "Ack!" Agnes had to nearly vault over a stand that collapsed under the heat, the contents spilling off the counter, which happened to be a bucket full of strange, purple frog-like creatures that croaked in fear as they started to hop across the ground. "Oh! Run! Be free!" She waved a hand before her, trying to get the frogs to shoo and having to do an awkward little dance to avoid them, which left her to bring up the rear when the group finally came to a halt.
She wasn't in terrible shape, but Agnes still found herself bending at the waist and placing her hands on her knees as the ashy trail came to and end. "Fas--fastest imp alive..." she managed, finally straightening up and taking in the view before them. Well now, an upside down palace? That was certainly something. She took in another deep breath, then walked over towards Noah, glancing around as he noted they were down a satyr. "Ooo, I hope she didn't get hurt..." Agnes glanced back over her shoulder towards the direction they had come from, lips pursed with worry.
That is, until they were faced with a new dilemma. "Um..." A quick pause, and then: "Open Sesame!" She played her hands out towards the gate, waited a half-second, then shrugged. "Hrmm. Well, you never know..." She pondered for a moment, then took a step forward to hesitantly rap her knuckles against the gate. "What do you think it's made of?" If it was plain old metal she could get them through in a hot second, but Agnes wasn't willing to start flinging spells all willy-nilly, especially not after Helene's warning of what could happen to them in a place like this...
As Tom ran through the crowd he could only grunt at the bird woman as she shouted about giving chase. He didn't disagree with the woman's statement, not even a little. He was a man of action after all, but it was somewhat frustrating to be the one giving chase rather than the other way around. His face scrunched up in contemplation for a moment at that thought, seemed somewhat strange to realize but it was true, he was so used to being chased (either by Friday or by angry villagers or Nazi Communists or what-have-you) that it seemed strange to be the pursuer rather than the pursuee... WHACK! His moment of reflection proved poorly timed as he didn't notice that the woman he pursued had not only stopped, but was standing before a large metal gate. A gate which he had slammed into bodily through his inattention. "Oww..." He groaned from where he had landed in a heap upon the ground.
From his prone position, he glanced around at their crew and realized that Noah was right... "Great... First we lose the paperman and then his girlfriend..." He sighed as he pushed himself to his feet and began to examine the gate. Humming and hawing slightly as he looked it over, he glanced back at the assemblage and shrugged, just in time to see the last of their shrinking crew come tearing in followed by a strange little purple frog creature that apparently had chosen to follow the girl after its liberation. "Umm... I see you made a friend... Guess that means our numbers stay even... Heh..." Though he wasn't quite out of breath, Tom's broken speech showed that the chase had taken its toll. "Besides... If I know her... and I don't really, but still... She can take care of herself..."
With that Tom turned back to the gate and started trying to worry it open. He gave it a shake. Then he gave it a shove. Then a mighty pull. Then he tried (and failed miserably) to bend the bars apart. Then he stepped back with a shrug. "I dunno... Maybe..." He trailed off when Agnes stepped forward and shouted 'open sesame.' "Oh come on... No way that would work... You even said it in English..." Then they all heard a faint clicking sound and the gate swung open just enough for the largest of them to fit through. Tom said nothing for a long moment, his mouth hanging open slightly before adding, "Well, I loosened it for ya..." and nodding to Helene as he walked past her and into the courtyard.
The courtyard itself was bare, but lavishly decorated with stone carvings and intricate metalwork. It was also empty, but for the tiny creatures that they had seen scattering earlier. The pixie like creature and the diminutive golem sat to one side grinning and leering, but they made no motion to hinder the mortals as they entered. In fact, the pixie pointed to the catacomb entrance with a broad and mischevious grin, encouraging them further on.
With Tom taking point, he entered the catacomb entrance warily. His muscles were tense and he clearly expected a trap, but as the stairs were descended and nothing leapt out at them he relaxed slightly. Still prepared for anything, he pushed open an elaborately carved door decorated with images that reminded him faintly of Ancient Egypt and Early Arabian legendary. What he found beyond was a large throne room with an exquisite mahogany table whose carvings, notably a leonine face and legs which almost appeared alive, surrounded by three chairs. Beyond the table, atop the throne, was an immense being of fire and sand and heat and gemstones. Its figure was vaguely humanoid, but more closely resembled a wild desert storm or a compact whirlwind. The large rubies that served as its eyes within the maelstrom focused on the entering party as its mummified servant announced their presence. "You lowly mortals have been granted an audience with the Sultan of the Caliphate of Burning Sands, show all due respect and he may let you live..." Casually, as if it meant nothing, the Sultan waved an arm of sand towards the fire mummy and a torrent of flaming sand buffeted the creature. Forced to flee, it fled for its life as its bandages were torn by course sand.
"You will excuse the mess..." The Sultan swung its arm to indicate the recently abandoned table and chairs. "...but I am afraid you have intruded at a most inopportune time. My companions retreated at such haste that I did not have time to clear the room for your audience." Its voice was smooth and course at once, like the sound of sand pouring through an hourglass mixed with the softest crackles of a fire and a hint of the burn one experiences when drinking fine but powerful liquors. The Sultan leaned forward on its throne. "Though I must say that I was not expecting another delegate already. Are you mortals not satisfied? Or have you come seeking other purposes?" The being chuckled, already suspecting the answer but taking great delight in the show. "Come now, spin a good tale of and ask what burns at the back of your tongues..."
There was a dull thud as Tom hit the gate. Helene looked down at his crumpled form with a heavy sigh. Their noble leader, couldn’t even look where he was walking. They did appear to be down the satyr, but as Tom pointed out, Agnes had picked up a little amphibian on the way. “You would do well to make certain that is not the satyr girl.” She gave the others a pointed look and gestured at the frog with the end of her cane. They were all mages, no doubt they had various tricks up their sleeves.
“Scale it? PAH. We are not all spring chickens.” Deadpan. Whether it had been intended as a self-deprecating joke or it had just been a random choice of words wasn’t entirely clear. Helene’s expression remained as grim and unpleasant as ever, as always. Even if the young ‘uns could manage to scale the gate, she certainly couldn’t. Agnes’s idea seemed just as ridiculous, but then again this was Arcadia. Things didn’t have to make sense here. Helene was pleasantly surprised when a moment later, the gate clicked and popped open. Helene waited, letting Tom take the lead before hobbling off after him.
The catacomb and subsequent palace were by all accounts, beautiful. But Helene found herself reminded of the palatial estate where she had been trapped for decades. To say she was uncomfortable there was an understatement. At the end of the great hall was a great and terrifying being that Helene honestly wanted nothing to do with. If it was anything like the other fae creatures she had encountered, they needed to be cautious and try not to cause offense lest they find themselves enslaved.
Helene hobbled a little closer, though never so much as put a toe in front of Tom. “We apologize for the inconvenience we have caused.” Helene said coolly, choosing to speak for everyone just to cover the bases. Though it was far from a heartfelt apology, she was at the very least sincere. “We are looking for this man’s wife.” Helene said, pointing her cane at Tom.
The second all eyes weren't on him? Noah started his own series of panting and puffing, all about appearances and what-have-you. He was pretty sure he was going to die, looking more ashen then say...his red faced companions and in one case, family. Never again! He was too old and sickly for this kind of shit.
"I'd carry you."
Whether or not that was a joke or the truth, well, it would never be seen- but he had meant it either way if it had come down to that, he would have scaled that fence with the angriest bird in the world, and the worst neighbor ever. His idea and all. Besides, if they just waited it out, Tom's solid head was gonna beat down the gate by the hinges..."It's fine, she's got a beacon and we'll go back for her if she doesn't, doesn't make it." A wheeze and he was really thinking about lighting a cigarette just to settle things down from the sinuses down, even though that was half the problem here now wasn't it?
Even numbers? He tried not to shoot a look over his sunglasses over at Tom, but he knew the man could tell someone was giving the stink eye when he was getting it. Because while his fellow Etherite was a good guy, his conscience was currently held captive somewhere just over that fenceline. Still he couldn't help but joke around with his cousin, who got the joke, and Tom who was...well, Tom. He snickered darkly and no sooner then Agnes exclaimed some !,001 Nights rubbish...but the gate opened.
Science bedamned, this place was terrible for a skeptic, but aesthetically it was quite the sight to behold, Noah pulled his glasses up to rest on his forehead and gasped, more beautiful then any earthly temple. "Wow." Maybe more impressive was the Rajah of the place, a living whirlwind and...as pleasant as any MantisQueen he had met in his lifetime. Noah curled a lip and sighed, this wasn't his place- niceties were not his thing, and well...more importantly, this wasn't his wife he was looking for.
Agnes covered her mouth and barely managed to hide the giggle-snort that followed watching Tom smack into the gate, which vibrated for a good couple of seconds afterward. She felt like maybe she should offer the guy a hand up but he seemed the sort who'd consider that a hit to his pride, so she just let him do his thing.
Apparently the satyr had a boyfriend who took off? Agnes had no idea. Either way, her eyes widened as Helene pointed out that hey, her little purple friend friend over there might be Kate, and she did a slow-turn to look down at the frog, humming a little tune to herself, one that sounded eerily like the Jaws theme song, just enough music to get the magical gears moving as she scanned the frog's mind, looking for any surface thoughts that might tell her if there was some invasion of the body snatchers going on.
What she got was: Hey baby, wanna see if I'm actually a prince? Followed immediately by the frog blinking one of its bulbous eyes and ribbiting deeply. Agnes wrinkled her nose and stopped humming, spinning on her heels and marching over towards the gate. Nope. Juuuuust nope.
She really didn't think the door was gonna open, but hey, weirder things had happened. And then when it did? Well, cure a big old, smug grin on her ace that she shot Tom's way as she passed by, patting the guy on the shoulder as she went. Sometimes words weren't even needed. And they certainly weren't a moment later, when all she managed to get out was an impressed gasp at the palace grounds.
It was beautiful, no doubt about that, and Agnes had a sudden urge to take off exploring but no, that would probably end poorly on her part. She came to a stop near the others in the throne room, staring in awe at the Sultan before them as the frog hopped in took up residence behind her feet, as it were trying to not draw the palace master's gaze, little beady frog eyes darting up to try and catch a glimpse of whatever was under the mage's skirt and-- aaaaw, freakin' leggings.
If Tom's spirits were dampened by the departure of Kate or his sudden collision, he made no immediate sign. Indeed, he seemed to finally seemed to relax a little bit when he saw the creature sitting atop the throne. This. This was something he was used to. Sure he was out of his depth, and sure he didn't know the first thing about Arcadia. He certainly didn't know that he was staring down (a facet of) a True Fae creature and emanation of The Three Who Rule which dominated the local Arcadian political landscape. None of that mattered to him. What did you might wonder? What mattered was that he knew this guy's type.
Tom had faced the Mole King of the Underground Empire. He had stared down the Mantis Queen of Kil'ua'ani over a board of sixth dimensional chess, and while he didn't win he did gain her respect. He had even met a bizarre creature of angles impossible for the mind to comprehend ruling over an army of the restless dead and claiming to be an agent of the One True God. Or had it been a servant of the One True Adversary? He couldn't quite remember at the moment, but this guy? Mr. Fire-King asking for a tale? Tom would give him one.
Nodding at Helene's summation of their situation. "Indeed, my good man. We have indeed come in search of my lovely wife." For a moment, he considered before grinning and bowing low. "And we do indeed represent the desires of the..." He paused and pulled out what he expected was themost common name for the sorts who met with this guy. "...the Council. They felt that my personal stake in reclaiming Maureen would encourage your cooperation. All due apologies and reparations are forthcoming of course, and I have been charged with the power to agree to any reasonable demand you request for your help toward her safe return. Would you perhaps have any indication as to where we might continue our journey to find her...?"
He paused for a long moment as he awaited the sultan's response. Finally, the living storm of sand and fire started to undulate with laughter. "Ho ho ho... Interesting tale, little man." Tom did not react to the belittling term, it wasn't uncommon amongst this sort of fellow. "It amuses me sufficiently..." Its seemed to nod in its way, and leaned back with a loud clapping sound. "...to tell you that I know of the woman you seek." The small mummy creature skulked in when summoned and placed a large, ornate bottle on the nearby table.
Curious Tom looked between the Sultan and the bottle inquisitively, when he got a bemused nod from the creature he approached. Picking it up, he saw that the orange crystalline sides were semi-clear and revealed that the inside was filled with suggestive smoke within. His eyes widened with a slow dawning realization. His face notably hardening, which only drew raucous laughter from the sultan, Tom shot a powerful glance to each of his companions in turn. It said one thing clearly: 'be ready to run.'
Clutching his teleporter, hidden in his pocket, in one hand and the bottle in the other. Tom asked, "What do you want for her?" The sultan stopped his laughter and leaned in close, barely contained heat emanating off in waves and twisting Tom's hair in the process. "Oh. Nothing much. Just a suitable replacement..." Its grin grew wider and wider as Tom considered. Then Tom bowed his head and sighed deeply. "You leave me little choice but to say... NOW!" Thumbing the button Tom's figure fizzled and crackled for a moment then he was gone.
Roughly halfway back, at the crossroads within the woods, a fizzle and crackle preceeded Tom suddenly reappearing. "Aw... That's a bummer..." Was all he said as he looked around and saw that he was only halfway back to the mortal realm. "Must've been out of range... Oh well..." He trailed off when off in the distance, across the desert they had crossed to market a literally earth shattering roar of anger rent the air asunder as an immense creature solidified and simply immense version of the sultan rising from under the sand. "Oh... Crap... RUN!"
That they had managed to stuff Tom’s wife into a bottle wasn’t exactly shocking, not compared to some of the other things Helene had seen in her time there. The cantankerous old woman looked back and forth between the Sultan, Tom, and the bottle. This...well, it just felt like it was going to end badly for someone, and that someone probably wasn’t the Sultan. She had seen the look of an imminent getaway once before, when she and Helen had escaped from Arcadia so many years ago. Thus she was prepared with button-in-talons when Tom gave the command.
She was expecting to return safely back to Columbiana but instead...instead they were still beyond the hedge in the desert they had crossed earlier in the day. “You said they would work! You said you were sure! How are we supposed to get home now?!?” She bellowed, shaking her button in the air angrily.
The words had only just left her beak when she was interrupted by the sound of earth being violently rent to pieces and revealing a giant creature within. Helene didn’t need to be told twice, she was already on the move, hobbling as quickly as she could over the uneven terrain.
Entering the odd temple, Noah had his misgivings the deeper they got, and once they all entered the throne room, he kept close to Agnes, ready to spring to action to defend her in case well, Tom did a Tom-like thing, which was probably going to be the case, really it had to be the case, because he just gave him a look that said: I am going to do something stupid, get ready for that.
Of course it took a while, somewhere between the sultan egging him on, and displaying what was no doubt his friend's wife in a bottle. Noah's face stayed poker stoic, but on the inside, he was cringing real, real hard. Yeah that wasn't going to do so well for any of them, no one took a threat, dare or anything as badly as a Sparks.
Both women with him were given a flex of eyebrows that could only be maybe roughly translated to "I'm so goddamn sorry." And he was, just about the time that his beacons seemed to dud, and mostly even better that little failure of a doublecross ended up with the entire damn earth opening up and some GIANT came crawling out.
They were somewhere between here and there, and Noah hated that he couldn't just stop and work this all out, he growled, running as he skipped along a couple of times to keep up with his stride- all the while trying fiddle with the controls to get it just right, "Tell me that you two didn't touch ANYTHING on the other side before today right? RIGHT?" He was all sorts of ornery about this, his tech was supposed to work, this had to be another user error...
Agnes watched the proceedings, but kept her mouth shut, letting Tom continue to do the talking because hey, it was his wife they were wheeling and dealing for. Well, okay, the dog-guy in the market was more of a wheel-and-deal kind of situation, this was something else entirely. Something that ended successfully, at least for Tom, as he was handed his wife 'I Dream of Jeannie' style and then-- bzzzzzt!-- they were off.
Mission successful! Only, um, maybe not. Agnes had hit her teleporter the same time everyone else had, and just like the rest of the crew, she found herself at the crossroads where they had entered, and it seemed they had drawn the attention of something big, sandy, and mean. Okay, maybe it was an unfair assessment of the creature crawling towards them, Agnes didn't know him or anything, but she was willing to bet she was right. Call it a hunch,
Noah began griping and the ground began shaking, and Agnes started to run, but staggered, glancing down to see the purple frog was clung to the side of her boot. "Aaaaugh, hold on buddy!" She proceeded to do a little half-skip, half-run move as she hopped on one foot, snatched up the frog, and followed after Tom and Helene, shouting at her cousin as she moved: "Ooooh just let it go, man!"