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Uncovered (A Journal)
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Claire Gallows
Eternal Light
Ancient Wyrm
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Joined: 21 Feb 2013
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 8:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 8th, 2016

Dear Journal,

I think I am having an identity crisis. Kind of one of those “What do I want to be when I grow up” moments. I wear a lot of hats. I do a lot of things. But up until now they have all just sort of been… things I had to do at the time. What is my long term plan though? Once upon a time, I had my career with the Guardian Corps. I was right on the cusp of officer candidate school when everything back home went to ***. If I had had it my way, I would have kept with it until retirement. It was a good job and I was good at what I did.

When I came to Rhy’din, I briefly joined the Watch. I had other offers but public service seemed like the best way to go for me. It is what I knew, what I loved. I like helping people. Things with the Watch went awry though and I ultimately ended up quitting. Law enforcement in Rhydin is a fickle, tricky thing considering there are no actual laws here. It makes doing your job really difficult when more often than not it is based on your moral compass rather than by the proverbial book. When the Watch set free a man responsible for nearly ruining my life, that was when I decided I was done with them.

About a month and a half after I came to Rhydin, a man who called himself The Raven (spooky, right?) decided to threaten my friends and the city that had taken me in. My temper got the best of me, I went in guns blazing which was a foolish thing, of course. Where I could easily contend with the villains of my own realms, Rhydin was a whole different monster, literally. The details are still a little fuzzy to this day but something happened and I woke up in a dank, nasty sewer somewhere underneath the city. I only spent forty-eight hours tied up there but the things that happened will stay with me for eternity. I was beaten, tortured, assaulted in ways that I refuse to think about because they were that *** horrific. Thankfully there were people looking out for me. Not so thankfully, this Raven guy decided that he would tell my friends that I was still alive by cutting off one of my fingers.

Don’t worry, I got it back.

Anyways, Brian Ravenlock negotiated my release. When it actually occurred, I only remember bits and pieces because this… monster… got into my head so badly that I did not know up from down. I am pretty certain Katt Batten took a few bullets on my behalf, something I will never be able to repay her for. They ended up taking The Raven in too. Held him in lockup while deciding just what to do.

And then they let him go. Evidently almost killing someone (among other atrocities) warrants a slap on the wrist if the victim is too traumatized to speak up and say they want the book thrown at their assailant. Yay Rhydin, right? So I quit the Watch. Sure it meant I did not have a steady paycheck but I had saved up, I would be okay for a little while. Law enforcement here is a joke anyways and they have no proper military so the entire skillset that I had cultivated and amassed with the Guardian Corps went to waste.

A lot has happened since then. Some good, some bad, and I feel like I have made the best of my time here when I am not being forced to contend with gods and monsters and saving far off worlds. Is Professional Hero a thing? Never seen it on a job placement exam but hey, who knows. I have busted kneecaps for money, I have set up non-profits, I have modeled, I have mentored, I have made myself into some sort of sports star or something, I have opened a restaurant, I have invested in other businesses, I have done a lot. But I still do not know what I want to do with my life.

We are comfortable financially. Between the money I make through my various endeavours, the money made by the Rhydin office of Caelum Enterprises, and the support that Noct’s father offers, the children and I should be set for a long time. But someday I won’t be able to duel anymore, my name won’t draw money for signing events or memorabilia, and I will be nothing more than a prominent mark in the history books. I cannot predict the course that Lucis will take but without Noct, I have zero right to the money amassed by his family and I don’t feel as though King Regis will be able to help forever. They have a war to deal with. A war I cannot help with no matter how desperately I may want to. If Lucis falls, so too does the Caelum Dynasty. I can keep Caelum Enterprises running but so many of our people have ties to Lucis, I do not know what they would do should something far more catastrophic befall their homeland.

Anything I know about business, I learned from Noct and his people. The Sassy Owl Saloon makes a little bit of a profit but nothing major. Enough to pay the bills and the staff and a little bit extra for a rainy day. We own the building so we do not have to worry about a lease at the very least. That means that the apartment will be there if we need it, though I do not know how comfortable it will be once the twins get older. It is only a two bedroom and there is no space to add to it. We will see how the distillery fairs once it opens. The reception has been good for the brand so far, so time will tell if a full time taproom will do the same.

Maybe my calling is business and philanthropy. Between the Owl, the distillery, the orphanage, and the youth centre, I could keep my hands full for a long time. It isn’t quite saving the world but I think it could make an impact just the same. Would that be enough for me? It would mean that Averia and Alexander have their mom around. It would mean that we can put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads and still have enough to live comfortably. I might not be able to duel forever or be the so called gold digging baby mama that so many on the Lucis Council claim me to be but I can make it on my own. I think. We shall see, I suppose.

--Claire
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Claire Gallows
Eternal Light
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An obligation to a man she barely knew took her to the Arena on a Wednesday night intent on playing the part of support or some such nonsense. In truth, she barely knew Nat Candle but he was up and coming in the Arena, an unknown variable with a kind smile and a fighting spirit. He had only participated for a short time in her Squire Tournament when she was Overlord, but still he had come out of it with her Overlord’s Grant so it seemed only required that she should attend the subsequent challenge even if she was no longer Overlord. While watching, Taneth had practically put her to sleep by toying with her hair but one question cut through the crowd to jolt her back to consciousness.

“Can I get something on record about what happened with your squire? Jimmy Kretz down at the magazine would love it for the spread he's doing on the new position.” It was not even intended for her but her eyes snapped open to seek the source in the crowd. Cory Sommers stood near Jewell Ravenlock with his voice recorder out. It made Claire’s heart leap into her throat only to sink like a stone into the pit of her stomach. It was not Jewell’s fault. Likely the current Overlord hadn’t the slightest idea as to what fate had befell Nikolai the elder. Claire did though. She made her escape to the Arena’s locker room before anyone could notice. Though it was hardly the epitome of privacy, she still shimmied free her phone from her pocket and stepped to the furthest reaches of the room, getting as far from the doorway and prying ears as she could before clicking the call button. Gio answered on the third ring.

“Shouldn’t you be at the Old Market Challenge right now?” Was his greeting. Claire took a deep breath, biting back the sarcastic response that was so instinctual in the face of Giovanni’s smarminess.

“Yeah, I am here actually. Well. I am in the in locker room, but it is in sudden death out there,” she answered, dropping to sit on a bench between a row of lockers. Many of them had seen better days, battered and vandalized by graffiti as they were.

“Okay, so let me rephrase; shouldn’t you be out actively spectating considering you gave the Grant to that young man?” Gio sounded annoyed in the way that he got when Claire knew she was interrupting him. Part of her felt bad. The rest of her remembered just how much she paid the man.

“No. I had to get away for a few minutes. The press is poking around about Nick’s disappearance.” She mumbled into the receiver. On the other end, Gio blew out a low sigh, quieting for a few moments as he did when he did not have an instant answer.

“What have they asked you?” He inquired. Claire tipped her head back against the wall to stare up at the ceiling.

“Nothing yet but he was asking Jewell for a comment on what happened with her squire. I did not stick around long enough to hear what she had to say but I am the one who appointed him and she was only his Overlord for a week and a half when he died.” Claire explained, her words spilling out as quickly as they touched her tongue.

“When he disappeared, Claire. We have no proof that he died, no body, nothing but the word of a hysterical teenaged girl with a history of substance abuse and mental health issues.” Gio reminded her, making her sit upright. If looks could have killed through a phoneline, Gio would have dropped dead in seconds.

“Don’t you dare, Diamante. Don’t you dare talk about Addie that way. You know nothing about what she has been through and what it is like to have to deal with everything alone as she has. Aside from that, yes, we do have proof. There was evidence that Nick’s essence passed through the veil to the other side. I took… steps… to ensure that he would be taken care of.” None of it was meant to come out as a snarl but it did, vicious and protective of her temporally challenged goddaughter.

“What did you do, Claire?” Gio asked after a pregnant moment of silence.

“I did what I had to do to keep a promise. My hands may have been tied as far as helping him here and now but I failed him once, Gio. I was not going to fail him again.” There was a gravity in her tone that told Gio it was better not to question her in depth as to what she had done. The less he knew, the better.

“Okay… very well,” Gio conceded. “So how do you wish to proceed then?”

“I do not know! Why do you think I was calling you?!” She squeaked before taking a deep breath to calm herself.

“All right. If he has not asked you anything, you have nothing to answer. Don’t offer any information freely otherwise.” He advised.

“And if someone asks? What do I say then? I was his Overlord first. He was my Second in my challenge. He was associated with my goddaughter and it won’t take people long to put together the connection between his last name and Kruger’s. ***! I do not think Kruger even knows. Gio, what do I do?!” It was easy to tell that her panic was rising again, bubbling like boiling water just beneath the surface until she was certain that steam was going to pour from her ears any moment.

“Firstly, I need you to breathe. It won’t do to get worked up over facts we cannot change, yes? Secondly, give me a moment to think.” Gio exhaled. “If someone asks you about Nick, Addie, his disappearance, her involvement, or the note put on the corkboard with their weapons… hmm. Let them know that while the facts behind such things are not immediately clear, that you are working to find answers to those questions but in the meantime, you hope nobody will jump to conclusions based on the little information that we do have. And then, let them know since this involves people quite close to you that you will not be commenting further and that you request privacy for you, yours, and your team at this time.”

“I… can you email that to me?” Claire asked. Outside of the locker room, a roar of the crowd drew her attention, likely announcing the end of the match. Her shoulders sank slightly before she sat upright, readying herself for the trek back out into the Arena. “I will practice it so I do not *** it up when they inevitably ask.”

“I can. Though, you do not know that they are going to ask you anything, Light. While he was briefly associated with you publicly, he had almost as long with Miss Ravenlock as well. She is capable of offering any comment she may have and likely, the less she knows about the situation, the better.” He said slowly, still thinking things over.

“So, we are just going to sweep this under the rug like Addie did not dump their blood covered squire weapons at the board with a vague note about how Nick isn’t coming back?” She asked dryly.

“We are not sweeping it under the rug. But in a place where people come and go at the drop of a hat, is it really so farfetched that he may just be gone?” Gio tried to be gentle in his question but it still cut deep.

“It isn’t… I guess. Do we need to get Addie on board with this too?” Getting to her feet, she scrubbed a hand over her face as if it might wipe away her fatigue.

“It may not be a bad idea. Oh… Light, by the way… those jersey requests came in…” He added hesitantly. It took her a moment to swallow the lump in her throat, answering him with a soft sigh.

“Have them sent to the Owl… I will… I will do something with them, I guess. I need to get going. Please send me that email and I will talk to you tomorrow or something.” She was suddenly far more tired than she had been. Thankfully the din was dying down in the Arena, she could likely sneak away undetected.

“I will do that as soon as we get off the phone. Claire, for what it is worth, I think you did what you could which is often more than most people can do. You did it, as you always do. Please do not blame yourself for the choices of others…”

“Thank you, Gio. I will try not to.”
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Claire Gallows
Eternal Light
Ancient Wyrm
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 9th, 2016

Dear Journal,

That guilt thing is getting to me again. No matter how I try, it won’t quiet either and I am reminded of it at every turn it seems. Gio says I should not blame myself for the choices of others but in this instance, I cannot help but feel like I could have done more to prevent what happened. I suppose such vagaries warrant a more in depth explanation so though I am tired, let’s do this.

As the 109th Overlord, I was given the opportunity to name the first ever Squire to the Overlord. I ran a two week long contest in which participants dueled, cheered, and got their history on in order to rack up points in hopes of becoming the first Overlord Squire. Such a position would come with a hefty prize purse and a shiny new shield as well as the opportunity to put that on their resume. Because, you know, that is evidently a thing. Among the participants for the squire spot were Michi D’Artainian (yes, like Harris D’Artainian but with boobs and a worse attitude problem), Dimitrii Sixtus (whom I had just unseated as Overlord), Grace Frigg (my former Magic mentee), Nat Candle (whom I gave the Overlord’s Grant to), Bailey Raptis (current squire of New Haven), and a boy named Nick.

At first I knew very little about Nick Allen. His last name was common enough but it bore just the sort of similarity to another Allen I know that it all sort of clicked in my head. Much like Adelaide of the future came back to our present time, it seemed Kruger’s son Nikolai had done the same in search of Addie. Such things are dangerous business and it was with no lacking amount of wariness that I allowed him to participate. In this time, Niko is only four years old, so to see him all grown up and pulling stunts in the ring like his father was rather surreal.

I thought that Michi or Six might win the whole thing but a second half surge on Nick’s part launched him into the lead and he ultimately ended up taking the whole thing. Leave it to an Allen boy to do that, right? I named him my squire and then asked him to come get the Shield of Gondar from me at the Sassy Owl. That made for an interesting conversation. He told me a little bit about why he had come back. Long of the short, Averia… or at least, the older version of my daughter, asked him to come find Addie. To make sure she was okay and to help protect her from what might be trying to hurt her.

Addie and her boyfriend Kane broke up here awhile back. I guess he was supposed to be her bodyguard as well but evidently duty goes out the window when it comes to broken hearts and so she has been struggling these past few months. That’s another subject for another day though because wow, talk about a huge mess.

Anyways. Back to Nick. Due to the things that I have done in the past, I can do very little that might upset the balance of the scales one way or the other. Already they tip precariously and my hand is a weighty one when it comes to the repercussions of my choices. My hands were tied when it came to helping him accomplish what he sought. So, he asked me to make him a promise. That I would find a way to get to the point from which he had left to do something for him. In the course of coming to 2016 from 2033, his father, who had been meant to come with him, was killed by whoever it is that has been causing so many problems for Addie (and Raven too, I think, but that is yet another story, you know?). He asked me to find Kruger, to make sure that he was not alone.

I promised.

Kruger Allen has always been something of an enigma. Though I have known him for more than three years, I know very little about him. Admittedly, some of that comes from a lack of effort on my part, but the rest comes from the facades that he dons so easily. It would be difficult to discern truth from tall tale with him. He has an odd thing for me. That’s another thing I have yet to come up with an explanation for either, but still. Some call it a crush, others call it an unhealthy obsession. Regardless, I do not know why I of all people would be the subject of such affections. That’s neither here nor there and hardly pertinent to the overall point of this story that I am rambling about, so let’s get back on track, Claire.

He is my friend. I could not let him die like that, or at least I could not let him be alone, left to the whims of those who had killed him. It was in the future though, one of many possible futures at that. So I had time. But then… everything blew up all at once. I do not even know what led to it all, but on the night before Halloween, I got a frantic message from Raven saying that Addie had been on her roof, hysterical and ranting about having killed Nick. She was covered in blood and impossible to understand. Raven said she jumped from the roof and ran off with Nick’s shield.

It took me a little time, but I tracked her down to the Arena where she ended up. She had just dumped the Shield of Gondar along with the sceptre of Old Temple in front of the Arena’s corkboard with a note. I had not had a chance to read the note when I saw her. Just as Raven had said, she was covered in blood and had obviously been crying. I could not get a clear answer out of her until I asked if she had killed Nick. She said she did, but Raven said there was no body on the roof and Addie had been babbling about him disappearing right out of her arms. It all sounded so crazy that it was hard to believe. Normally I am decent about getting her to talk to me, but she ended up shoving past me and leaving. I lost track of her shortly after but I should have followed her. Maybe it would have answered the plethora of questions that linger for me to this day.

Her note said that Nick was not coming back and that she quit her own squireship. No explanation beyond that. Just “Nick’s gone, I quit”. There was no sign of Nick anywhere. So… I looked elsewhere. I do not mean in Rhydin but rather in the realms beyond. While my power lacks in most in betweens, I can still get a feel for those traveling through them and sure enough… I found him. He was dead. I wanted to scream, to cry and to yank him back to Rhydin, to give him life anew and make everything better.

But I can’t. Not without paying a price far greater than anyone can comprehend. All of this cosmic power and I am bound by the laws. It is stupid. So… I found a loophole. I went to the date that Nick had asked of me months ago. Just as he had said, Kruger was dead, his forge destroyed, his body ruined. Whoever had killed him did so in spectacular fashion. It isn’t likely a sight I will ever forget. But I made sure he was not alone. In doing so, I found a way to help Nick in the process.

I got to see Alexander, far more grown than he is now. He must have been eighteen by then. I told him what had happened to Nick, swore him to secrecy. I told him there was a way to fix it but he had to wait to do it. He seemed to understand what I was talking about so at the very least it seems some future version of myself has at least passed on those gifts and lessons to my children. Small victory, I suppose.

But surely there was more I could have done. Should I have kept better tabs on Addie and Nick to make sure this would not have happened to begin with? Surely I could have, right? I am conflicted on it because I feel like I could have but Gio had a point. I cannot blame myself for the choices of others. For all of the power and resources that I have, I am not omnipotent. I am not all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful. I cannot stop every bad thing from happening and I cannot keep others from doing things that hurt them. I can try. I can try really hard. But I can also fail at it.

And failing is not necessarily a testament to my worth as a person or as a friend, a mother, a teammate, a mentor. I know this is true. But sometimes, my mind tries to convince me to the contrary. It is a mental battle that I wage every day and sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. Some days I think I lose more often than I win but I keep fighting. Because it is the only way that I can get to the days that I win. I am able to help and to save people despite those failures. That is what keeps me going.

--Claire
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Claire Gallows
Eternal Light
Ancient Wyrm
Ancient Wyrm


Joined: 21 Feb 2013
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Jobs: City Guard, Sword for Hire
Can Be Found: The Sassy Owl Saloon or Underwood Manor in New Haven
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“I do not want to talk to you.” Addie said instantly upon answering the phone. After six text messages and three missed calls, Claire had been sure it was going to go to voicemail again. Before the girl could hang up, Claire was quick to interject.

“Just a moment, that is all I want!” She said as fast as she could. For a moment she thought it was too late, that Addie had already hung up on her. After a few seconds though, a quiet sigh on the other end indicated that the call was still connected.

“I can’t handle being yelled at again, Aunt Claire. Please.” The girl sounded much older than her nineteen-almost-twenty years. It made Claire frown though Addie could see none of it.

“I wanted to apologize for how I spoke to you in the Arena… I can’t imagine what you are going through right now and I should have been more sensitive to that.” There was more she wanted to say, but she forced herself to be quiet. After all, she had told her that she only wanted a moment of her time.

“It is fine.” Addie said after a moment.

“No, it is not fine. It was uncalled for and for that I do apologize. You do not have to forgive me, I am not asking for that. I just wanted to let you know that I am sorry for how I acted and I wanted to see if there is anything I can do to help.” The more she spoke, the softer her voice got, the conviction bleeding away until it was but a whisper as she offered her assistance. Addie went quiet again.

“No, I do not think there is. I am… I am going to see Kruger tomorrow… to tell him.” On the other end, Addie sniffed. “He’s going to hate me…”

“Addie… you do not have to do that. Do you want me to tell him instead? It is a messed up situation and it is not your fault…” Loathe as Claire was to be the one to deliver the news to Kruger that not only had a future version of his son been in Rhydin but also that he was now dead, well, she did not want Addie to have to do it either.

“I need to do this. It is on me.” Addie whispered into the phone.

“Are you sure? I’d be more than willing to--”

“No. I mean, yes, I am sure. No, I do not want you to do it for me. I need to… to talk to him anyways. Nick would have wanted me to.” Addie swallowed hard enough that Claire could hear the gulp. Claire winced.

“If you are sure. If you change your mind, just tell me. I, um, I have something… something that was supposed to go to Nick. Did you want it?” The older woman held her breath. It was a coin flip for whether she would agree or if it would tip the teenager over the edge that she seemed to be wobbling upon.

“What is it?” Addie asked after a few moments of quiet consideration.

“I… um, I had a jersey made for him… to thank him for being my squire and my second…” Claire said slowly, listening very carefully to any of the subtle sounds on the other end of the call.

“Oh…” Her goddaughter said. That was not an answer but it also was not a breakdown. Something in the background sounded like the striking of a zippo’s flint. After a moment she exhaled a long, slow breath. It made Claire cringe but she held her tongue rather than point out the bad habit Addie had picked up. After another inhale and exhale, she sighed. “I can take that to Kruger if you want me to.”

“If… if you think that is the right thing to do… you can keep it, you know…” Claire said softly.

“No… I can’t. I can’t have that reminder. Look, I gotta go. I will come by and pick it up before I see Kruger. I promise. Bye Aunt Claire.” With that the line went dead.
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Claire Gallows
Eternal Light
Ancient Wyrm
Ancient Wyrm


Joined: 21 Feb 2013
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Jobs: City Guard, Sword for Hire
Can Be Found: The Sassy Owl Saloon or Underwood Manor in New Haven
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 10th, 2016

Dear Journal,

I am literally the worst ever. So. Remember how I talked about things with Nick and how he died and how everything with Addie is all messed up? Yeah. I called her today. It took a few tries but eventually she picked up. She almost hung up on me right away but I got her to talk eventually. I started off by apologizing. Because really, I was less than kind to her at a time when she needed a friend more than anything. Sometimes when I am worried, I have the tendency to go into commando mode where I focus too hard on the resolution and in turn I am brash and cold and mean. She deserves better. I do not think she thought much of my apology and truthfully I do not blame her.

She told me that she is going to talk to Kruger tomorrow… to tell him about what happened to Nick. I tried to offer to do it for her but she refused to let me help. She’s stubborn like her mother, I guess. It is also vaguely reminiscent of Serah, which I think is why I am having such an issue accepting that she may not want my help. In her time of need, I failed to be there for here and in trade, I may have done irreparable harm to our relationship.

They say that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. I have not forgotten though. I remember everything in excruciatingly painful detail. But still I find a way to commit the same grievous mistakes that I have made time and time again. So maybe that little saying needs to be tweaked and I need a firm slap upside the head or something. Try as I might to fix things, it seems I am simply doomed to repeat my sins over and over.

Maybe it will ultimately cost me everyone I have ever loved. That would be a suiting curse, all things considered. For all that I have done, for all those I have hurt, an eternal atonement and forever spent alone is a punishment befitting my crimes.

Or I gotta snap out of it because this is not Pulse or Valhalla or Eos. I am not subject to the judgment and whims of beings greater than me. I am not their pawn, I am not their puppet. I am not their slave or their play thing or something they can deride and guilt for the sake of getting their way. I deserve to be happy for once. Just this once. I have given and lost so much over the years that should I not be due for a little dose of Happily Ever After? I am not asking for a fairy tail ending, no, not in the least, but could the universe cut me a little slack at least? That is not too much to ask, I don’t think.

--Claire
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Claire Gallows
Eternal Light
Ancient Wyrm
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Hello?” Claire hadn’t expected a call from Addie, not so soon at least. But sure enough, the girl’s image popped up and Claire answered immediately.

“I did it.” No greeting, no pleasantries, just straight to business. Addie’s voice sounded hollow, lacking warmth or really any emotion.

“Wait, what? You did what? Oh! Crap. You stopped by Kruger’s, didn’t you?” It took Claire a moment to catch up but once she did, she grimaced as she awaited the response.

“Yeah…” It didn’t seem possible but her voice deflated further.

“Oh… how did it go?” Claire asked gently, afraid of the answer.

“It… went. I don’t know. He’s mad. Hurt. Quiet in that way that he gets when he thinks he might blow up. He didn’t yell… which I think might be worse than if he had yelled...” Wind caught Addie’s microphone, crackling interference over her voice to drown out whatever else she said.

“Are you okay?” Came the inevitable follow up.

“No. I’m not. I have to go. Bye.” Before Claire could protest, Addie hung up. Leaving Claire with her unanswered questions in a corner booth at the Sassy Owl. A soft sigh issued from her lips as she set her phone to the side of the stack of documents she had spread across the table. A half drank pint sat just within her reach, tempting her with the nectar of the beer gods. In front of her, a wide array of quotes, statements, and estimates had been melting her brain with an endless slew of numbers and other information.

By the end of January, she needed to have a building renovated and equipped for everything the distillery and the attached taproom would need. She needed a staff and stock and a business plan ready and in place before it opened. It was mind numbing but it was just the sort of distraction she needed after the past couple of weeks. Setting both elbows to the table, she set her head in her hands, her fingers weaving through her hair.

“You all right, boss lady?” A feminine voice chirped from the booth’s edge. Claire rocked her head to the side without sitting up even though she already knew who it was. Casey Malachi took up a lean against the support wall that divided one booth from the next and cut her employer a concerned but casual smile. Blonde haired and violet eyed, there were times that the woman reminded Claire of Clarice Queen before she died, though a little less Asian and far less mouthy. Claire afforded her a tired smile and sat upright, her hands dropping to the table top.

“Thinking I am going to need a whole keg if I am going to make it through all of this,” she said with a sweep of her hand to gesture toward the paperwork.

“I can getcha a refill if you need one. Are you hungry?” Casey asked. The tender was a server through and through, always willing to take care of each and every patron that came through the Sassy Owl Saloon’s door. Claire shook her head.

“No, I think I may need to get out for a little bit of fresh air, clear my head you know?” It would give her the chance to walk the block and a half to Kruger’s Exotic and see if the smith was okay. “Save my table for me? Make sure no one messes up my… well, my mess?”

“Would you be able to tell if they did?” Casey teased with a grin. She was a pretty girl, not like Rhydin Bombshell Hot, but passably pretty by most standards and her smile made her look positively angelic. It was no wonder the woman raked in the tips. Claire chuckled and reached for her beer to finish it off. The empty pint glass was set down a moment later.

“Sure I would. I’m the Queen of Organized Chaos, don’t you know?” Claire could tease right back with the best of them as she slid for the booth’s break. “Watch my stuff?”

“Of course. I’ll have another beer waiting for you when you get back.” Casey assured her, stepping aside to make sure the woman had enough room to get out. Claire gave the woman an appreciative smile and set off for the door, tugging a hoodie on over the thin tank top that, while comfortable in the booth, would have been a tiny bit chilly in the brisk autumn air just beyond the exit. The closer they got to winter, the darker it got earlier in the day so when she stepped into the street, the sun was already working its way down over the western horizon for the day. The dark streets of Rhydin, while precarious things for some, failed to scare her. For all of things that went bump in the night, she would never hesitate to bump back and so she started down the cobblestone street that led from the market’s center toward the further reaches of the district.

Kruger’s Exotic Weapons, Armor, and Leather was not a place Claire ventured often even if she called the proprietor a friend, but since it sat only a block away from the Sassy Owl Saloon, she passed it often. With her arms folded and her chin down against the bite of the wind, the distance was quickly covered and at the shop’s front door, she paused. During the warmer months it wasn’t unusual to see the door propped open, allowing the ringing of hammer on metal to sing its song into the streets. But winter was coming and the door was closed. Claire tipped an ear to the door’s crack, listening for the melody but within she heard only silence. She pressed a hand to the door to open it just a few inches.

“Kruger?” Claire called quietly. There was no response but a thump on the second level drew her gaze upwards. She listened to the silence, waiting for it to happen again. Only quiet reached her ears. The private residence above the shop was hardly her business, not to mention she had no idea how to reach it so, regretful, she backed out of the doorway and tugged it shut before retracing her steps back to the Sassy Owl.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 11th, 2016

Dear Journal,

Grief is a funny thing. Not like funny haha but rather funny in the way it affects us all differently. One loss to another could even change how we process it and seldom do the stages of grief progress in such a way that makes logical sense to those suffering through it. Grief is ugly and painful and has a nasty way of holding on to us even when we thought it let us go a long time ago. In my life, I have lost more people than I can count, more than I would like to think about. Most days I am okay but others it is like everything rushes to wash over me like a tidal wave and I can’t keep my footing in the sand no matter how hard I try.

I want to tell Addie that Nikolai will be okay. That he is being taken care of, that if all went right, he got to go home. But I can’t. Already I toed the line of upsetting the balance and if his sacrifice is what pushed it back into line for Adelaide, I do not want to disrespect that by potentially unraveling his work for the sake of assuaging her grief and guilt. I want to though. I want to tell Kruger too, but again I can’t. Addie told him today about Nick. While I am not sure of how far in depth they spoke, I don’t believe that it went particularly well.

Out of sync or not, it was still his son. To hear that he died when Kruger did not even get a chance to know him is the sort of shock no parent is prepared to handle. In a place like Rhydin, this sort of thing isn’t nearly as out of place as one would hope. The timelines converge here on this node of the Nexus and as such, strange things happen where they might not be possible elsewhere. Nowhere else have I seen such fluctuations in the time stream as I have here, and without consequence most of the time even. It is an oddity perhaps worth studying some time but for now, I simply try to take it in stride and do the best that I can with what I am given.

Once upon a time, I stood in Kruger’s shoes. Well, close. Late in 2013, an odd fluctuation in the Nexus brought forth a number of temporally challenged people. People that had died, people that had never been born, everything in between. They ended up in this Rhydin and those that lived here were left to contend with just how to deal with these people. Some were here for only a short time, others linger even years later. Among them, a girl who was my daughter in another life arrived.

Lila was a beautiful mess of a girl. Talented and angry and reckless and caring, she had so much potential. In her life, I hardly gave her the life she deserved. Her version of me kept her away from her father until he gave up on her and then proceeded to drink herself to death, leaving Lila all alone at the age of fourteen. Granted the man who had fathered her wasn’t exactly my idea of a good role model and when she came to this line, he proved that by denying not only her existence but that of the nearly dozen girls that arrived claiming the same fatherhood as well. I had trouble contending with her being here too. I think I likely did not deal with it particularly well at first but Noct pointed out that this was a chance for me to right a wrong, to help a girl that needed it, a girl that happened to have my blood in her veins.

I think it was too little, too late. The damage was done, I could not save her. I tried for the better part of six months to help her. I included her in our family things like Thanksgiving and Yule and offered my help should she want it. She declined most of the time, came and went as she pleased. Noct did a little bit better than I could, took her out on jobs, taught her things like how to shoot. It was an odd sort of bond but it was something. It was not enough but it was something.

Noct and I got married on May 2nd of the following year. We did not find out until we had left for our honeymoon, but Lila committed suicide early that morning. It was only a few weeks after she had failed in her bid for an opal in the Outback. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but considering who it was against, I could not have expected anything good to come of it. At the time, Harris D’Artainian held FireStar. In another life, Harris D’Artainian was Lila’s father. That is who she challenged. He beat her pretty horrifically and then to add insult to injury, dropped her off of the Bridge in the Outback. The fall hurt but I imagine the blow to her pride was worse. I didn’t think it would push her to take her own life though.

Just another name on the list of people I have failed. She is the reason we founded the Farron-Queen Memorial Youth Centre. It was in her memory that we did this, so that no young adult would ever end up feeling the way she did. I may have only been her mother for a short time but her death was a devastating thing. No parent should have to bury their child. There is no closure for that sort of thing no matter how much you try to press on.

Nick may not have been in Kruger’s life, but he was still Kruger’s son and for that, his death is something to mourn and grieve. However that might happen.

--Claire
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Fresh air help?” Casey asked as Claire came back through the Sassy Owl’s front door. The blonde was wiping down the bar as the staff prepared for the inevitable dinner rush that would likely chase Claire from the pub’s dining room back up to the apartment above it. Claire ran a hand back through her hair and plastered on a wooden smile.

“You know the air quality here is not that great.” Jesting, she headed back over to the booth that she had claimed as her own. Just as Casey had promised, a new beer was awaiting her, freshly poured within the past five minutes from the looks of it.

“So that’s a no then, got it. You want to put in an order before things get crazy?” The tender called after her pink haired boss as the latter went to slide into booth again. Her paperwork was exactly where it had been left, a mess of information that she was having trouble processing.

“Could you put in for a pizza? Box it to go and I will take it up with me when I go home.” She answered. Casey nodded and set off to the kitchen to do as she was requested. It left Claire to the low rumble of a burgeoning crowd and the thoughts that sought to override talk of business statements. Somewhere in the stack of paperwork was a list of buildings for lease. She would need to find time that weekend to go look at them. It would mean either wrangling a babysitter for the twins so she could take Cooper with her or she would have to go alone and report back to the cowboy with her findings to narrow down their prospective locations.

A place like Rhydin was filled to the brim with microbreweries and their beer brands. The more prominently successful ones like Red Orc and Silvermark could be found citywide while some of the smaller brands tried their best to carve a niche for themselves as if they could stand out in a sea of beer. For all of the borderline alcoholics in the city, Claire had been surprised to find that there were few local distilleries. It had only been nine months prior when Cooper had first shown her the still he had constructed outside of the guest house at Caelum Manor. It had drawn her curiosity, mild at first. After all, she had bigger things to worry about and the cowboy’s business was his own.

Then everything went to ***, Noctis died, and Claire was left to try and figure out just what she was going to do with her life. Late in the summer, she persuaded Cooper to bottle his creations and with a little insight and expertise on Giovanni’s part, Claire had formulated a rough plan for how to market such a thing. Whiskey and bourbon were hard to get right but Cooper Gallows did in a spectacular fashion. Hangman Distillery, a play on Cooper’s surname, debuted at Booze Fest and the reception they received was encouraging enough that Claire thought maybe, just maybe, they might be able to make it bigger than it was. While she mulled over the listings in front of her, she tried not to think about Addie and Kruger and Nikolai yet their faces still managed to make their presence known at the edge of her consciousness, poking and prodding as if they might get her attention away from the allegedly pressing matters in front of her. Thanks to that, Casey startled Claire for a second time as she set a neatly constructed cardboard box on the table.

“Order up! Half and half, cheese and meat lovers. I snuck a couple cookies in for the babies too, don’t tell their mother.” Casey grinned, an infectious thing that had Claire smiling too as she gathered her papers into a neat stack.

“Thank you, Casey. I will make sure they get those cookies.” Maybe not tonight but eventually. Or Claire would eat them instead since she knew just how much sugar went into those things. Either way. Setting the papers on top of the pizza box, she grabbed for the pint glass and slid out of the booth again.

“Welcome, boss lady. Good luck in your challenge tomorrow!”
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 12th, 2016

Dear Journal,

Another day, another challenge. No, seriously, I am not being facetious or overdramatic. Rather I had to defend my barony this evening thanks to an ever so lovely farce of an event that allowed challenges to every sitting baron. The cost? All you had to do was get two duels in over the course of a handful of days and then on Halloween, be the first to post a challenge up for one of the barons. Six of the seven were challenged in the event and the seventh only escaped by virtue of Old Market being loyal and already under challenge. There were some other issues that weekend that soured my mood on the whole thing but when all of the dust settled, I was left to contend with a challenge from Salvador Delahada. I may not know much about him and truthfully that is fine by me. He has a meat shop not far from the Owl, he ran a team for Iron Fists League that was incredibly successful in the regular season, and he has the sort of blood that seems to corrode whatever it touches.

Lovely, right? Me, myself, and I, well, I can’t say I am wholly keen on letting that stuff touch me, so I spent hours in the gym to prep. Quick on the feet, rapid strikes, fast escapes. It would be the best way to avoid him and his weird blood. While I have a horrid record when it comes to defending, especially in comparison to initial challenges, I managed to do well enough to pull off the defense. Dragon’s Gate is mine if only for a little bit longer. Terry had her challenge for Dockside immediately after. It did not go as well unfortunately. Terry had the challenger down four to one but the young lady worked it back to sudden death and ultimately ended up winning. While it sucks, it’s just Terry’s luck. I got my first barony from King a few years ago in a similar event, though I had to jump through more hoops in order to get the chance.

I managed to defend, Terry didn’t, Hope has yet to complete hers and if she manages to make it past Myria (no small feat), she has a queued challenge right after that for the Halloween event. Another day, another challenge, it feels like it is never ended. But I go to all of them that I can to support my team. They are a piece of a family that I have made for myself. It is more than a team, like I explained on the Arena cork board a few days ago. I do not ever have to question their loyalty because it is not just sports and dueling that we are dealing with. I see them outside of the gym. Our kids play together (at least when Malik is able to visit Rhydin from Kalidar), we help each other with our various endeavors. Hell, Gio even bailed Hope out of jail off world once. Though that may have been a tiny bit team related. That man is a god when it comes to negotiating his way out of a tight spot and man has that come in handy when it comes to dealing with public relations for both the company and the team.

While the other founders of the team are no longer active, they are family too. I may not see them with the same frequency as I do our newer additions like Hope and Terry but at the end of the day, when you are a member of the Dirty family, you are exactly that, family. Terry was the first Baron to ever take an interest in me (even if she just wanted to get my number for a date) and hers was the first squireship I ever held. That New Haven rapier is smarmy as ***, but it was a good teacher, all things considered. I should not really be surprised then that the girl who beat Terry tonight was her squire as well. Misery did quite well in Madness this year, upsetting more than a few brackets (mine included). She also recently won the Panther’s Claw so really she is the definition of an up and coming duelist.

She also happens to be in Addie’s band. So… would it be wrong of me to try to use that to keep tabs on my goddaughter? Some part of me thinks so. The rest of me feels like it is just a little to opportune to pass up, you know? I don’t know. I will have to think on it, I guess. Addie has a right to live her life the way she chooses, right? I just want to protect her. The girl has been through so much and aside from just a few people that she has picked up since coming to this Rhydin, almost everyone else that should have been there for her has not been. She deserves better.

Okay, anyways. Even though Terry lost, nobody is in a bad mood which is nice. The beer is flowing, everyone is talking and laughing, and though I have a bit of a headache, I think I am content to hang with them for a little bit longer. Cooper and the twins are upstairs and the Owl is locked up tight save for us. It works out into a pleasant little microcosm of all I need in this world. My friends, my family, some good food, good conversation, and a little bit of warmth from the cold. I know not every night can be this good but man it is a nice thought. Tomorrow will come and it will be back to the grind… including this long ass list of buildings I need to go look at for the distillery, but for now, I think I am going to close up this silly little book and go enjoy the company.

--Claire
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Sprinkles or chocolate chips?” The cowboy asked the little girl sitting upon the kitchen counter. Not quite two years old, her short legs were still chubby with baby fat and bare save for burgundy and gold striped socks on feet that kicked against the cabinet beneath her. She leaned and peered over the batter being mixed in an opaque bowl, thoughtful as she considered the choices she had been given. It always amazed Claire just how observant Averia was. Her wide silver eyes seemed to drink in every detail in her surroundings and though she spoke very little, she never failed to come up with an answer when needed. Her little fist grasped at an open bag of chocolate chips, holding it out to Cooper who took it and began dumping them into the bowl while stirring them in evenly. “Chocolate chips it is.”

“Sprinkles! Sprinkles!” Alexander hollered from below, wrapping his arms around the gurahl’s trunk of a leg. He was a day and night contrast from his sister. Where she was quiet, he was loud. Where she was dark and calm, he was bright and wild. He may have been dressed similarly to his older twin in the red and gold of a football team that Claire knew very little about, but beyond that their similarities were minimal. One thing was for certain though, they both adored the man who so eagerly entertained their diverting whims and copious affections. Though he had only two arms and both were fairly busy, he still stooped to scoop Alex up, sitting him on the counter beside his sister.

“You’ll getcher sprinkles, don’t worry.” He tweaked the boy’s nose, eliciting a wild peal of laughter from the toddler who set into kicking the cabinet with his sister. It was a lovely cacophony of sweet, sweet chaos, and Claire sat at the dining room table watching it all with her cheek propped up on her hand. A steaming cup of coffee sat in front of her, billowing little wisps that curled and tickled her chin with their heat. It had been a sleepy morning and she had much to do later in the day but for the time being she savored the sight of three of her favorite people communing in a way that only Sundays seemed to bring out with such adorableness. Cooper looked over his shoulder, catching her staring. A crooked smile pulled his beard framed mouth askew. “And what ‘bout you? Sprinkles or chocolate chips?”

“I’m not particular. Whatever you’ve got left after the wonder twins have had their fill.” She matched his smile with one of her own, curling a hand around the mug whose broad side declared her not a morning person.

“Easy to please, I like it.” He drawled with a bob of his eyebrows. With his eyes locked on hers, he palmed a few chocolate chips to the twins who quickly stole them from his grasp and stuffed them into their mouths. His grin grew more, tugging mischievously as though he hadn’t just done that and she wasn’t looking at him when he did it.

“I saw that, ya know.” It was hard not to smile so she hid it behind a lift of her cup and fixed him with her most serious face.

“Saw what? Don’t know what you’re talkin’ ‘bout.” His brows lifted and he affected an air of innocence. The whole sight of it was enough to make her giggle into her coffee. It could have used one more spoonful of sugar but for now she left it as it was. The moment was sweet enough on its own.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 13th, 2016

Dear Journal,

There are few things in life as great as Sunday mornings. They have become a little piece of heaven on Rhydin that I am doing the best to not take for granted. Though the twins have a habit of waking up at the butt crack of dawn, Sundays seem to be the one day that they let Cooper and I sleep in just for a little bit. It is a wake up slow sort of day and I am fast finding that I quite like waking up to him with his arm around me. There is something safe in that embrace that I can’t quite explain. Never have I had to rely on someone else for such a thing, independence has always made it so that I am secure if I have to sleep alone but I could get used to him being there.

After we get up, Cooper makes breakfast. On Sundays it is usually something fun like pancakes in silly shapes or waffles that have sprinkles in the batter. Averia and Alex love it and their infectious little grins are too hard to pass up. I think that might be why Cooper doesn’t mind doing it every Sunday. Me, I’m dangerous in the kitchen. I think if it came down to me making breakfast, we would either have to settle for cereal or I would be making a run down to the Owl to see about having breakfast made there. Yeah, Claire and the kitchen do not get along, let me tell you that.

Cooper introduced me to football this year. It is a sport played on Earth, more specifically in the United States of America, which is where he is from originally. There seem to be a lot of Terrans in Rhydin and more specifically, lots and lots of Americans. Serah’s old roommate is an American. She’s from a place called Texas, which is in the United States but is not anywhere close to Wyoming or Virginia which are, like, two of the only other places I know. Cooper was born in Wyoming but grew up in Virginia. He has talked about taking me there some time. His mom and siblings still live there. In all of my life, I have never had to meet the mother of a man I was seeing. Noct’s mother died when he was quite young. I’m told moms are harder to deal with than dads. It makes me wonder if that will be true when the twins get older. And then that makes my heart hurt, so I’m going to think about other things instead.

Anyways. Football. It really is a bit of an odd name for it considering ninety-nine percent of the time, the players’ feet are not touching the ball. It is this weird oblong ball that they pass and run around a giant field while trying to get to the opposite side without the other team stopping them and within a set number of plays. Well, more specifically, downs. There are a bunch of rules that go into it and sometimes the rules get broken so the officials throw yellow flags and then penalize the teams based on what they did wrong. I thought it was kind of weird at first but there is a lot of heart that goes into the games and Cooper likes watching them so I figured why not try to enjoy it. Alex thinks it’s the best, he will sit and watch the whole time when it’s on.

Which brings me back to Sundays. They are fast becoming a sacred time and I think I may be finding the appeal in why people go to church. This is my church, my own private sort of worship. A family that I love until I think my heart may burst, a warm home full of love and laughter, a handsome man willing to explain the nuances of why he is calling zebras blind on the television when I see no zebras on that football field. His patience, for all of his annoyance at the game, is worthy of sainthood. He pulls me into his lap (but makes sure he can still see the TV) and tries to explain things to me when I have no idea what is happening. It is this weird sort of normalcy, like the kind that you might find in a circular for a department store or in a sitcom on the television.

It is everything that I thought I would never get in life. Everything that I thought I would never be worthy of. Not after everything I have done. I am not a good person, I am not a good woman, I hardly pass for a good mother. But somehow, divine providence has ordained that for now, just for now, I can be granted a reprieve from the woes and tribulations of a life like mine. I must not get complacent though. Every time I do, that is when it is all taken away from me, and trust me, there are many that would be all too keen on ripping everything I love from my grasp.

I fear the day may come in which they may try. Whoever it is would be a fool though. They don’t realize just what lengths I think I would go in order to protect what I have built. This is mine, this happiness. I won’t let go without a fight.

That all sounds so very dramatic, no matter the logic backing such thoughts. Though I may have to revisit them another day, for now I do believe that my sacred Sundays are calling my attention once more. Averia has staked her claim on the cowboy-jungle gym and I’m certain if I don’t put a stop to it soon, she will be sitting on his head. Which is hilarious in its own right and I think Cooper would let her, but did I not say that moms were harder to deal with than dads? Why yes, yes I did. Until next time then.

--Claire
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2016 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“I think I like the one in Old Temple but what do you think about that one versus Dragon’s Gate?” Rambling aloud, she flipped back and forth between two real estate listings for the indicated locations. They had been narrowed down from a list of close to thirty and so her entire Monday had been spent touring each one with a pair of men who spent a good chunk of the time arguing over just how extensive of renovations each of them would need in order to accomplish what she was seeking.

On one side, Dubream Blackhorn argued that many of the locations, despite needing TLC, were in prime locations for the sort of business arrangement that Claire was seeking. He spoke endlessly to the importance of location, location, location. Things could be fixed, map placement couldn’t. There was no beating a prime neighborhood, ripe for new businesses.

On the other, Jason Jericho argued that positioning mattered little if you had to dump more money into the building before it ever opened than could possibly be made up within the first year of operation. Running a profit was hard enough without starting off with a massive deficit. Claire listened to both sides while trying to hold off a yawn. Really, they both had good points, but what they didn’t realize was that most of it didn’t matter. When she knew the place, she knew the place, and so it came down to Old Temple or Dragon’s Gate.

“Old Temple affords you a new location on the south side of town while Dragon’s Gate would only be a hop, skip, and a jump from the Sassy Owl Saloon. Both have their merits dependent upon your business plan.” Dubream, a short and stocky dwarf, said as he pushed up his glasses further onto the bridge of his nose.

“It’ll cost you at least twenty percent more to renovate the Old Temple spot.” Jericho pointed out from the opposite side of the pink haired woman. She didn’t look up from the listings, pursing her lips as she read and reread them.

“Twenty percent… twenty percent. Hmm. Did Dockside have any merit? I like the idea of getting something on the south side of town.” Finally she looked up between the men. Jericho and Dubream both cringed at the same time.

“That place was a disaster…” Jericho quickly answered.

“Horrid location.” Dubream had to talk over him to be heard at the same time. Claire frowned back down at the pages, one held in each hand.

“I’m going to eenie-meanie-miney-moe it.” She declared. The men exchanged an unsure look that made Claire laugh. “I’m just kidding. Come on. Let’s go look at both of them one more time and if push comes to shove, I will have Cooper come look at them and see which one he likes better.”
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2016 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 14th, 2016

Dear Journal,

You know, there are weeks where things seem to go well and I can’t help but wonder when the proverbial rug is going to be pulled out from beneath my feet. Sunday was uneventful, relaxing. I didn’t quite get everything done that I wanted to get accomplished but that was only because I have this ridiculously comfortable couch and a warm boyfriend and cute kids that wanted my attention all day. Poor me, right?

Today I had to pick up a bit of that slack and honestly I think I am glad that I waited until today to do it. Talk about borefest supreme. Dubrem and Jericho took me through like thirty billion listings for potential places for the distillery. It was mind numbing but eventually we narrowed it down to two that I really liked. There was a two story brick building in Dragon’s Gate, not too terribly far from the Inn, that had a lot of potential. It had a lot of space and could have made for a neat little taproom. The other was in Old Temple, which of course is instant bonus points for me. The building was little more run down than the one in Dragon’s Gate though so it was going to need more work in order to make it functional for our needs.

But it sits right on the riverside and the back wall can easily be knocked out for more windows to give one hell of a view for those in the tasting area. If we build it correctly, we could even add on a deck that overlooks the water. The idea reminds me of this little place down in Dockside that sits right on the river’s mouth. They are pretty hole in wall as far as places go but the food is excellent and they have this little deck out back with a whopping three tables. It takes a month to get a table there but it is so worth it.

I would love to have something like that, you know? Though maybe with more than three tables. Somewhere that people go out of their way to try to get into. Don’t get me wrong, I really love the Sassy Owl. It is comfortable and homey. It makes money, enough at least. We have our regulars and we have enough traffic to keep us busy. But I see the distillery and the taproom as an opportunity to do something different.

Jericho warned me against the Old Temple location if only because of the cost that would go into renovating it and getting it up to code for what we are doing. Between Cooper, myself, and our other business partner Nigel, money is not the issue but rather the vision. If the vision is there, the money will be too. I think the vision is there with the Old Temple spot and I think… I think maybe I can even have it done in time for Cooper’s birthday in January. I don’t expect he will want much attention drawn to his birthday but maybe a grand opening combined with a little celebration will be okay. I happen to think his birthday is definitely worth celebrating and this next year is a big one.

Forty whopping years old, over the hill, black balloons, all of that. It makes me feel like a cradle robber, all things considered, but hey, whatever. I think I am quite lucky that he was born and such a thing should be celebrated. Especially considering everything that man has been through. He is a fighter and though death tries its best to get its hands upon him, he is resilient enough to hold it off.

Part of me is afraid that a day may come where he can’t keep it at bay any longer but I promise to be there for that day. I will fight with him, for him, whatever he may need. I’ll do it. I promised. It might be a little selfish on my part but I have defied worse fates and come out for the better at the end. Certainly he can too. I am not going to let him go down without a fight. Death will have to try harder than that. It feels like I am tempting it by saying that but for all of my fear, I have hope too. For every promise that I may have made, Cooper has made three more in kind. He is a man of his word, that much I am certain of.

There are deals that are made every day for the lives and souls of those with a more fluid mortality than myself. Though I try not to make such deals anymore (or because I cannot without grave cost), there are many out there that do. Sometimes the deals are made with the mortals themselves, other times it was a trade, a bet, a deal between deities. At times it is for the sake of short term benefit for the mortal, other times it is desperation that draws them to such deals with the devils. Just because we do not rule over hell does not mean that we are not capable of invoking such upon those who cross the deals made. Cooper has been relatively mum on the minutiae of his situation but he has assured me that there is nothing that I, nor my powers, can impact.

On one hand I accept that. I can’t fix everything no matter what I try. On the other, I can’t help but feel like it’s a challenge. It is a call to arms, a blatant “come at me bro” that begs for my attention. I have stood defiant against beings surely greater than those that hold Cooper’s debts over his head, I have no problem doing it again. I love that man with every fibre of my being. That sort of thing should never be discounted. If there is one thing I have learned over the course of five centuries it is this; all it takes is a spark to incite a wildfire and I am an inferno waiting to burn. I will burn for those I care about, gladly, and there will be no force in the multi-verse that can put a stop to my rage. The list is short of those that I would do such a thing for and there are few things of which I am certain in this life, but among them, this; the world is welcome to try its hand at getting to me. I welcome the challenge gladly and hell, I make a decent punching bag half the time. But the moment the attention is turned toward those I love, let it be known that hell hath no fury like mine.

There is something to be said about that kind of insanity. Love makes us do crazy things though, can I be faulted for protecting my only reprieve from such a thing? I have been fighting for so, so, so long that it is my first instinct when it comes to having something good and you know what, there is nothing wrong with that. I dare Death to try.

--Claire
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Claire Gallows
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2016 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“We’re off to see the wizarddddd,” Claire sang on the way out of the Shanachie Theater after a Tuesday night performance of the Wizard of Oz. While Alexander had not been the biggest fan, Averia had watched the whole thing with rapt attention from Claire’s lap. As they left, the girl sat atop her mother’s shoulders, a little queen of the world from a high perch over all. Well, over all except for the cowboy, who was still taller by a head. Mid-November was chilly but the babies were bundled up in cute coats in shades of brown that brought the family’s ensemble together as if, gasp, they had coordinated it.

“Buh!” Alex shrilled suddenly, pointing. “Buh! Buh! Buh!”

“Buh?” Claire quirked a brow and looked around. Alex wriggled free of Cooper’s grasp and was off like a shot across the pavement outside of the theater. He ran as fast as his short, chubby legs would take him until he reached a shadowboxed promotional picture for the play depicting the main characters. Lifting onto his toes, he pointed as high as he could at Glinda the Good Witch of the North in all of her pink, poofy dress finery.

“Buh!” He said proudly. Claire looked back to Cooper then to the poster with a smile quivering at the edge of her lips.

“Is that Belle, Alexander?” Giving Averia a bounce, Claire started over toward the little boy. He nodded, cheesing a grin at his approaching mother. Cooper’s steps were right behind hers and she stopped short so he could retrieve the platinum mopped toddler. Lifting him up, he put Alex face to face with Belle’s picture. Alex whacked a little hand against the glass, giggling.

“Is Buh! Yay!” Alex clapped, giggling. Following suit, Averia clapped too but didn’t add in a giggle to match. Claire chuckled and peered upwards at the girl then back down to her son.

“Should we go back inside and find her? Do you want to go say hi?” She asked. Alex’s eyes widened and all over again he was trying to wriggle out of Cooper’s arms, intent on the theater’s doors. Claire glanced to Cooper and grinned. “I will take that as a yes.”

It meant delving back into the crowd again but there were no complaints as they pushed back into the theater to find Belle post performance. It was a madhouse even though it was only a Tuesday but between Alex’s excitement and the look of sheer pride on Cooper’s face, it was more than worth the wait. For her last performance it had only been Cooper and Claire attending. This time around, Claire couldn’t help the swell of warmth in her heart that came from seeing all of them together.
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Claire Gallows
Eternal Light
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2016 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 15th, 2016

Dear Journal,

Okay, so it was a bit of a weird night. I know the point of this journal thing is not just to recap things like day to day life but I think today is worthy of being put down on paper just to get it out of my head. It is a messy jumble of good and bad and annoying. I can either start with the good, the bad, the annoying, or from the beginning. I am getting pretty good at the whole doing it from the beginning thing so I suppose we will take that route. The day itself was uneventful save for the gymnastics required in order to put two rambunctious toddlers into outfits that are more than onesies and leggings. We decided to go to the Shanachie for Wizard of Oz. I was hesitant to take the twins since they are so young but Averia absolutely adored it. Alex thought sitting still for that long was terribly overrated. He did, however get quite excited over seeing Belle there. That was kind of the whole point of us going to begin with, but okay.

Belle is Cooper’s daughter from another timeline. Yeah, he has one of those too, looks like we have another thing in common. She arrived earlier this year, the victim of a rather tumultuous upset on her side of things. I have yet to hear too much about it but really it is not my business nor my story to tell. It was shortly after Noct died when Cooper suddenly had to deal with this. It was before he and I ever considered being together but I couldn’t help but feel like I had a responsibility to at least set Cooper straight on what he needed to do.

I guess that is a little bit of leftover guilt on my part when it comes to the temporally challenged kids I have. This girl was on her own with no family in a world that was familiar but not. That is enough to *** up the most well adjusted adult let alone a young person like that. It was pretty weird at first but eventually Cooper warmed up to the idea. He says that after all, he won’t be able to have any kids of his own in this time, Belle may very well be the closest he gets. It makes my heart hurt when he talks like that but they have a budding relationship that is sort of in the father-daughter realm so I guess I will take what I can get without complaint.

Anyways, she performs with Shanachie Theater here in town. Cooper and I saw her in a performance of RENT here awhile back and I don’t think I have ever seen him look more proud. The Wizard of Oz was a test of the family unit as a whole and you know, I think we passed. Alex thinks Belle is pretty much the bee's knees and Averia liked watching all of the lights and such. All together it was a successful outing with only minimal hiccups.

After we finished up there, Cooper took the twins home to toss them in the tub and get them to bed while I ran over to the Red Dragon’s Great Hall for Katt’s first town hall meeting as Governor. I have known Katt pretty much since I came to Rhydin and of those I have met since coming here, I can’t think of a better choice for governor. While the Governor’s position may not have any true power behind it, it still bears influence and Katt will use that influence for the betterment of the city. I am not the most political person ever but I try to at least be aware of what is going on in the city in which I am raising my children.

Katt is seeking applicants for a small council that she can rely on during her tenure. Like I said, I am hardly political and frankly I doubt I have anything I can offer to her that she can’t already get from herself or from others in this city but I figure at the very least, I will throw my name into the hat to at least let her know that I am here if she needs me. It is the thought that counts, right?

At the very least, the food was good as always. I briefly ran into Zack which was awkward but the extent of our interaction was summed up with nods and hellos. I can deal with that even if it feels like a knife twisting between my ribs. It amazes me how someone who was once so important to me feels like a stranger. I loved him once, I probably still do somewhere in my heart, but when I look at him now, he isn’t the same man. Whoever he is now, that is his right to be… maybe it is better that way too. Then I won’t see hints of my old best friend and wish that I still had him.

Such are the follies of the heart, I suppose. Anyways, time to move on (in several respects of the word). I made it home not long after the meeting, Cooper had the twins in bed already. These sorts of things make me question just why I spend so much time on other things outside of the house. I hate missing time with them. But ultimately, I think I do most of it for them. Or at least that is how I justify it to myself. So, they were in bed. Cooper and I stayed up for a little bit if only because that time is pretty ****ing sacred, all things considered. That peaceful, child free silence where we can sit and talk about whatever we want without officiating arguments over toys or singing along to children’s songs, it is pretty glorious.

We went to bed a little later than usual but I didn’t get to sleep for very long. My phone went off, which while it is not exactly an anomaly or anything, is still annoying just the same. On the other end, Giovanni had some pretty ***-tastic news. Due to a minor slip up, Hope had been stripped of her title. Just like that, Dirty drops two Swords titles all in one go. Ugh. Of all three of us, I did not expect myself to be the only one to retain it. That said, Hope would have defended without issues, of that I have no doubt.

Gio wasn’t particularly happy about it but hey, what can you do. At this point it is onward and upward. At the end of the day, Terry, Hope, and I all have commitments outside of sports. No longer is dueling our top priority. Terry has her job at St. Mary’s. Hope has her husband Davien and son Malik. If Malik is anything like his mother, she is going to be in trouble. I have the twins and Cooper and millions of other things that require my attention. Team Dirty, for all the family that it is, sometimes needs to pay attention to family rather than business. Gio does not always like this but he understands it at the very least. He is also pretty good at reminding me of what I need to do in order to pay the bills for family though, so it is a weird balancing act we have to do.

So that was the trifecta of my day. Theater, politics, and sports. Who would have thought. I think quite honestly that tomorrow I may just shut the world away, enjoy the little loves of my life and figure everything out on Thursday instead. Surely life can wait for a short while. I think of everything together, it just reminds me that I need my family most, chosen or blood. Dueling won’t always be there for me but the people will. On the hand, the logical course of action from here would be to convince both Terry and Hope that they need to go for the next titles on their lists. On the other, why bother, you know? Hope made All Title Holder in the Outback, Terry only needs one more barony now to do the same in the Arena. Me, myself, and I have done nothing so impressive so I sort of feel like I am slacking in comparison.

Perhaps that is my cue to step up and take a little bit of the pressure off of them. I am arguably the weakest link between the three of us, so by that logic, I should be the one working harder to give them a reprieve. Part of me wants to tell them to disregard whatever game plan Gio offers and to just take the rest of the year off. With Iron Fists League on hiatus this year, it would be the opportune time to do so. Add to that the fact that the holidays are coming up, then you have a perfect storm of reasons to hold off.

What can I do in the meantime? I already have two titles and unless Matt Simon comes back at me again, then I will likely hold onto MoonBeryl for awhile. Granted if he does and I hold onto it still, I will of course have to try my hand for the Tower of Air again. That feels like an odd sort of setup, where I of all people can manage to outwit Matt in the Outback but he has no problem holding me off on the Isle. Normally it would be reversed but ever since I lost the Tower of Earth, I have not quite been able to get in touch with whatever it was that clicked so easily for me before when it came to Magic.

I had the Tower of Earth for a whole year and two defenses before I finally lost it to Ahni. I don’t think there was a better person to give it up to but prior to doing so, I think I may have *** something up. I noticed it shortly after the twins were born but the Keeper’s key I kept for the Tower had been damaged. The emerald inset in the handle had cracked and from that point on, I couldn’t feel the bond that had tied me to my element for over a year. I lost the tower soon after and I can’t help but feel that this contributed to my loss.

I know it sounds really crazy to blame such a thing on a key but I think it was more symbolic of that bond being broken than it was the key itself that did anything. In the months leading up to my loss, I had to rely quite heavily on Earth’s talents in order to function even halfway normally. Carrying the twins was rough on me. After all, this vessel is no longer tied to the realm of the living and as such, bearing life within me takes a special channeling of energy that conflicts heavily with every atom of my being. As it stands, I am not even sure if I could do it again. Once nearly killed me. It may have had it not been for the tower. It shielded and protected me, keeping me safe from harm both outward and inward. It provided for my needs and made sure that I always had a set of eyes on me, ready to help should I need it.

I never really thought that I would be the silly sort that would miss a title, but just like I miss Old Temple, I miss the Tower of Earth. For all that the yellow rock drives me to the Tower of Air on the opposite side of the Isle, my heart remains deep in the mountains that were home for so long. Before long I will have decisions to make, we shall see if I am strong enough to make the right ones. But that is enough rambling for tonight. There’s a cowboy calling me to bed and I’m not going to say no.

--Claire
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