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The Great Guild Fortune

Setting

Hey Horat, come on in.
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The Horat-verse

Welcome to the Horat Zone

Minimap

The Horat-verse is a part of The Great Guild Fortune.

15 Characters Here

Suiken [512] A Wandering Street Musician who knows more than he lets on
Yuwen Fortune [477] The Fearless Young Guild Leader of Fortune
Samyan Zaheer [452] spiffy
Lo-Muna Vanhi [446] The Ravishing Beauty of the South
Namari Shioh [418] A Practitioner of Bastardry
Takai [413] The Noble Shaming Arrow of Flaming Lae Ming Wae
Xanth [406] The Assassin with no Voice nor Past.
Sunaarashi [351] An Unstoppable Force of Nature sent from the desert to destroy his enemies
Ren Van [343] A Warrior Without Honor, But Maintaining his Humanity.
Yamato Hibiki [333] A Ronin seeking his own path

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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune
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#, as written by Nulix
“What makes a great guild? Fortune? No. Power? No. Glory? Not necessarily. It’s the friends you gain, the adventures you have together, and the memories you make along the way. The real treasure… is family. I grew up in the imperial city: Yuna-Yae! The capital of the world. Growing up the entire universe seemed to rotate around our walls. Never knew my mother, but it didn’t hurt my chances much, for my father was a nobleman. You know the type, very honour bound and such. He even met the Emperor once- true story! I had an older brother too. He was the perfect son: rigid, soldierly. I wasn’t like him. I was a trouble-maker, not a solider at all though I sure as hell could fight like one. When I was nineteen my father used that against me, saying I should stop messing around and join the army like my brother had done. How the peasants couldn’t win the war themselves which they can, by the way. We debated my future day in and day out, and I remember looking over that gorgeous city and thinking- is this it? Is this really family? Eventually the old man kicked me out, saying to return when I was ready to fight for my country. Now there are not many occasions Yuwen Fortune makes a vow, but that day I vowed that when I returned to Yuna-Yae it would be on my terms. I’d come back so rich and renowned the Emperor himself would acknowledge me. I’d come back and drown the bastard in my glory.”

“Isn’t this about a guild?” An accented voice interrupted. Yuwen glared at the short Sunen man at the end of the packed table who sat clutching a flask of arak. “It’s about family, he just said,” Another voice belonging to a lanky man with a mouth half full of swine corrected.

“Horat, Bari- this is about the tale,” Yuwen said, combing his hair back with his hand. “The full tale.”

“Yeah, well the full tale better finish by one. My shift starts soon,” Guardsman Hao, one of the dozen patrons listening in to Yuwen’s story, said as he leaned back in his chair.

Yuwen frowned. “Well, unfortunately epics like this don’t take twenty minutes to tell,” He replied. “This isn’t some fable a drunk could vomit up, this is inspired by true events. Art imitating fight!”

“…I don’t think that’s right,” Horat chimed in.

“Just shut up and let me finish my story,” Yuwen said as he leaned forward on the table. “I emptied my bank into a burlap sack and rode north; a wet spring chilling me to the bone. The elements were against me. Oh what a night it was, my friends. Nothing but me and my horse, headed for a village. But in the cold I formed a plan. A long-term plan. I’d start a guild, a great one, and we’d-“ He paused again, his gaze sweeping across the faces lined before him, most uninterested in his dramatics. “…Are you guys listening?”

“No!” Long Chong exclaimed as he stood. “No, for the love of god. No one’s listening!”

“Hey!” Yuwen protested, his voice going high. He looked to have tears in his eyes. “Aren’t you guys meant to be my friends?!”

“No! We came to the bar to have drinks, like everyone else!” Chong said, raising his hands to the rest of the tavern to their left where there were tables upon tables of other, happier people drinking with their friends. Golden candlelight flickered off rounded limestone walls. A girl in the corner sang and played the tambur as laughter echoed throughout the establishment. Even Old Man Chagan behind the bar seemed to be having a good time as he patted his large stomach. “Everyone is having fun but us,” Chong continued. “I didn’t come here for another one of your fantastical lies, Yuwen.”

“What, you’re leaving me?” Yuwen whined.

“…Yeah!” Chong said, pushing his chair in and heading toward the music. The rest of the table turned to Yuwen in guilty unison. “Sorry Yuwen, he has a point,” Nel said as he stood. “Drink up. You have the afternoon shift tomorrow,” Hao added playfully as he and the rest rose. One by one they left the table. Horat, the last to walk away, paused and turned.

Yuwen looked to the man. “You don’t want to hear about the guild, do you?”

Horat’s response was a tired smile. “Let’s get out of here,” He said. “We’re village guards. We shouldn’t spend so much time drunk.”

Pushing aside the worn cloth hangings of the doorway the two strode out into a sandy courtyard. Beyond the stone fence a dark desert stretched out until it became one with the black night sky. “The Lonely Tavern earns its name,” Horat commented as he began to wrap bindings around his boots for the long, sand-filled journey home. “Makes you wonder why they didn’t just build it closer to town. I heard Chagan stole money to build it. Used to be a silver lender to the Prince or a treasury guard or-” Horat glanced up to notice Yuwen sitting on the rocky fence, gazing up at the stars.

Carefully, Horat approached his friend, who seemed fixated on the sky above. “Are you... trying to pray?”


Yuwen shook his head left to right.

“Did you ever go back?”

“Sorry?” Yuwen muttered, facing his companion.

“You ever go back to Yuna-Yae?” Horat asked. “To your father?”

“I never saw him again, no...”

Horat furrowed his brow. “What happened?”

A small smile grew on Yuwen’s face, almost disbelieving that Horat both believed and wanted to hear his tale. “It’s not a short story,” He warned.

Horat responded with a shrug and leaned against the fence next to Yuwen’s hanging legs. “I have time.”

***

The first of June in the year four-four-four. The land of Yutan in the Yune Empire. The sun set behind the mountains on the horizon, the foreseeable distance covered in bamboo trees and green fields. Fireflies bobbed up and down in the summer's afternoon before flying apart as a grey horse ripped across the road. At the reigns a man in golden armour rode, determination on his face. His brown hair fluttered violently in the winds and his green eyes focused forward. With one last bridge he crossed the isle scatted Gan River and cornered in the dirt for the sight ahead. Red and green houses lit with lanterns consumed the immediate horizon, ships big and small crowded its docks. Laughter, cheering and crackling could be heard as from the village centre a large firework shot up into the sky and exploded in reds. Yuwen laughed at the sight, relief coming over him. "Happy Emperor day," He whispered to himself as he began to ride his horse into the celebrating village of Poyo. This village housed his future guild, he knew it. And on this day, the Emperor’s birthday, everyone was out celebrating...

Setting

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Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Sunaarashi
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Poyo: A small port town that spread haphazardly from the banks of the Gan River, the city looked a bit like a trapdoor spider from the hills that rose above it. The docks were the long legs, and the bulging abdomen, full of light and life at this time of year, housed the guts and lifeblood. Not that anyone besides Sunaarashi would probably make that comparison, but the desert warrior was a unique presence to the land, a presence that was not altogether wanted.

It was subtle, to be sure, just an odd look here or there, or the way people shuffled out of his way as if he smelled badly (which he most certainly didn't after that scrubbing he'd given himself earlier). Sunaarashi didn't blame the townspeople for their hesitation - he stood a foot above the majority of them, and his dark skin, bald head, and perpetual scowl certainly did him no favors.

Sunaarashi wasn't the only one getting the cold shoulder, though. The Emperor's birthday celebration had brought in travelers and rural citizens from all across the area, swelling the population of Poyo to double, or perhaps even triple, what it would normally be. If there was one thing the Yune Empire was proud of, it was their Emperor, and strangers from all across the land were participating in the parties.

This influx of new people was both closely watched and taken advantage of by the Poyo natives. The Nightflower Guild's representatives had a large tent set up in the village square, selling fireworks by the dozen to anyone with enough coin. The smell of smoke from the small firecrackers permeated the air, and the stacks of larger rockets forecasted an evening to remember once night fell. Vendors selling street food, balloons, candy, or handing out prizes to rigged carnival games, were on nearly every corner, luring the coin out of pockets and into locked boxes.

Inside the inns, the noise from the streets only seemed amplified. Waiters and waitresses bustled around to the filled tables, the smell of food, alcohol, and tobacco mixing and bursting out the open windows to draw in more customers. Outside the town, tents had been erected to host the many visitors, and both women and men wandered these tents, offering services of a more sensual kind.

In short, no one in this city expected to sleep tonight, and the noise and carousing would only get more rambunctious as the night grew later.

Sunaarashi wasn't here for the entertainment, however. In truth, it was just a coincidence that he happened to be here, on this most ostenatious of nights. The dark, tall man took a deep breath, and cinched the large bundle strapped to his back a little tighter. The threads knotted at the end of his sword's hilt, the blade itself strapped to his waist, swayed as he walked carefully through the crowds.

Right now, Sunaarashi simply wished he could find a quiet inn somewhere in the back of town to lie down, and get a good night's rest for once, but even the smallest inn would be doing everything they could to rake in the influx of cash this night provided. No one could afford to let this opportunity slip by.

And so it was that instead of sleeping, Sunaarashi wandered the streets. Although not a stranger to the city life, he held no love for it, being from Sune himself, fond of the wide open spaces and the isolation of the desert. Here, it was a different kind of isolation, one of culture. He didn't enjoy this latter kind near as much.

His eyes scanned the crowds listlessly. He wasn't in the mood for this. Having arrived earlier this day, he'd found that the town was already filled to capacity with traveling family and friends. As the sun had set, even more had appeared, until the city was nearly bursting with screaming, crying, shouting insanity.

Quite suddenly, Sunaarashi found himself nearing one of the gates of the village. Sunaarashi hesitated, wondering if he perhaps could find a tent to lie down in, one preferably free of bugs and other occupants, and while he paused, a rider caught his eye. Dressed in golden armor that glinted in the light from the fires and lanterns hung throuhgout the city, Sunaarashi could tell the young man was of mixed descent even from this distance.

"Must be a noble," Sunaarashi muttered, wondering to himself what a noble would want with Poyo. After a moment, the desert endemic shrugged and smiled. Whatever the young wellborn was doing in Poyo, it would be fun to watch him get sucked dry of all his coin. Perhaps he would remain in the city just a bit longer...

Setting

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Character Portrait: Suiken
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Serene music drifted throughout the town like a cool breeze, failing to be drowned out by all the noise and merriment of the festival and instead blending in and creating atmosphere on such a warm evening. Children and adults alike stood by the ponds, attempting to catch fireflies while the elderly exercised their minds as they tried to out-maneuver each other in slow and calculative games of Móu Zhi. Crowds gathered wherever money could be spent as fireworks decorated the sky, leaving trails of embers burning up the night sky...

"It was on an evening like this..." the gravelly voice of azure skinned oni, sporting tiger fur leggings and loin cloth recounted. He sat on the ground, inclined, up against a small house. "That they say the first emperor was born...." Gathered around him was a crowd consisting of townspeople and tourists alike, of all ages. The oni had long wild hair, black and gray, with equally wild looking eyebrows. He was a rather portly one, though upon closer inspection one could tell that he was quite sturdy. In his hands were two mallets and sitting before him was a large drum. The blue oni, Suiken, began his story, accompanied by the methodical thwack of the mallet against the drum.

"It was over three hundred years ago and there was deadly drought spreading the land..." Suiken began to sing, to the beats of the drum. "The livestock were dying, the crops became sand. The people prayed to the Heavens for an end to this drought," Suiken recited. "And the gods, they heard them, they heard them plead and shout," he continued, his pace along with his rhythm began to increase and intensify.

This crowd was the biggest Suiken had seen in at least a decade. Which, given that this was the smallest town he'd even seen to date was more than a little disappointing. He always did what he needed to draw in as many people as he could. Today's story was no different from his usual routine. As loathe as Suiken was to admit it, regardless of his opinions of Yune's... most glorious Empire, reciting the tale of the Imperial Family's lineage on the Emperor's birthday is the biggest draw he’s ever had. And more coin meant more food, particularly pork buns. Quality ones. The kind you could only find in a small town like Poyo.

Although, for all of his complaints about the size of the town, he couldn't help but admire it's people. Some would say they weren’t the best Yune...but they were a kind, simple folk. They wore their emotions on their sleeve and that was something Suiken could respect, at least as a storyteller. "The gods gave their answer within a beacon of light!" Suiken shouted in his guttural voice, almost frightening away some of the younger villagers. "It descended from the heavens, through the clouds, in the sky of darkest night! A golden dragon had appeared," he sang, his mallets scraping against the drum in broad swipes, giving out a unique echoing sound.

Thwam! Crakk!

“His appearance was frightening, but he alleviated all fears, for with a single roar and a shake of his mane!"

Thwam! Crakk!

"The cloud ripped open and at once...there was rain."

Suiken suddenly ceased his drumming to let another sound resonate itself within his audience’s ears; the slight dripping noises lightly tapping the drum skin. The children in the audience looked up in astonishment at the rain that had just poured from the sky as if by magic while the older and more wizened members of the audience figured Suiken had consulted the locals scholars and sages beforehand to time his story with the changing of the weather.

Regardless of what happened, the performance went over perfectly. Suiken stood up and bowed in gratitude at the applause he received and took his well earned coin graciously. Letting the applause of his audience die out behind him, he went on ahead to further explore the town. "Where to next...?" he sighed to himself. "Hmm. Maybe an inn...That'd be better than sleepin' near the pond again..."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Takai
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In the cool of the evening, beneath the fireworks and the stars, a row of tents formed a neat line on the outskirts of town, each resting against the riverbank like multicoloured soldiers. Many of them hung paper lanterns of yellow, orange, red and pink to illuminate the wooden signage that read the names of each temporary business. Sweeping across the line of tents was a man in long, blue ornate robes, unguarded and confident. He passed Silken Skin Massage, Miss Fei’s, Byeonsu Magic Cures and NOT Fireworks, until he met eye-to-eye with a small, unassuming purple tent, barely lit with pink lanterns on either side of the door. The sign below one of the lanterns read: Fortune Teller Wu Woon.

As the elegant stranger entered the tent his eyes would meet a mysterious figure dressed in all black. A sly grin formed his moustached face, “You must be the infamous teller of fortune!”

Wu Woon said nothing, his face completely covered by a large straw hat. He sat on the other side of a table that held atop an ordinary teapot and two ordinary teacups. Strange light formed swirling shadows on the inside of the tent, forcing the newcomer to glance once or twice around himself until Wu gestured to the empty wooden chair with a gloved hand. The moustached man’s lip twitched, clearly a nobleman out of his depth, but did as the mysterious figure suggested and sat, being sure to tuck in his silken robes gracefully. He attempted to peer into the darkness at Wu’s face but could see nothing but shadows and an outline of a beard.

“Name?” Woon suddenly asked.

“Lord Yuxuan Fu!”

The gloved hands began to move toward the teapot, where a small ribbon of steam wafted from the thin spout of the pot. As if choreographed the fortune teller lifted it carefully and paused. Yuxuan watched on in nervous anticipation until Wu released the tension between them and began to pour hot liquid into each cup. A simple green tea. He waited for the fortune teller to place the pot down and gesture to drink. Both of them lifted a cup to their lips and drank hurriedly, leaving remnants of tea leaves behind. Yuxuan looked down at his cup nervously.

“You want to know the future, my Lord,” Wu Woon smiled beneath his guise, “A man true to superstition.”

Yuxuan’s eyes shot up in surprise, “Yes! Yes! I hear you are one of the best!” He shoved his cup into Wu’s hands, “Please, tell my fortune!”

“Ahh…” the fortune teller spun the cup in his fingers, rotating it a clean eight times clockwise, and then another eight anti-clockwise, all the while Lord Yuxuan Fu looked on in an almost fevered impatience, “Aahh, yes, I see now!”

“What do you see?!”

“I see you…”

“Me?”

“Yes, yes, you…” Wu Woon muttered mysticly, “Naked.”

Yuxuan frowned, “...Naked?”

“Naked and ashamed!”

There was a pregnant pause. The two men stared at each other blankly until Wu Woon suddenly stood and flipped the table over, forcing Yuxuan to stumble backwards and fall onto his backside. The teapot and cups crashed into pieces on the floor.

“How...how dare you! HELP! SOMEONE HE-” Lord Yuxuan Fu’s yelps were cut short when a bow and arrow pointed directly into his face, and glaring from under the large brimmed straw hat was none other than Takai, The Noble Shaming Arrow of Flaming Lae Ming Wae. “Y-You!” the nobleman sputtered, backing up as quickly as he could, “I know you! You’re that criminal!”

“I beg to differ, sir,” Takai spat, stepping on the man’s robes to stop his movement, “I hear you’ve been extorting money. Raising land taxes so high that some of these businesses have no choice but to go into debt or leave-”

“Lies!” the man cried out desperately, “All lies!!”

The Beast-Man scoffed, “Oh I’m sure, but unfortunately for you I made a promise that I intend to keep.”

A scuffle was had, one I dare not repeat. Two figures emerged from the tent afterward, the first a man in a dragon mask, shrugging off a black robe, straw hat and gloves before melting into the lively streets of Poyo. The second man, Lord Yuxuan Fu, emerged from the tent stark naked save for a loincloth, gagged and tied by his ankles and wrists, hopping along the bank of the Gan River as onlookers stared at him in amused horror. And that was that.

***

The Golden Peach Inn was bursting with customers that night, a crowd so large and loud that the man in the mask had to squeeze through groups of drunk patrons in order to reach one of the waitresses holding a tray of empty cups. “Ruo!” he shouted, but it wasn’t until a hairy hand tapped her on the shoulder did she hear him, “Ruo, it’s done. Come quick!”

She gasped and threw the tray of cups onto a table before following him into the crowd. By the entrance a commotion could be heard, bouts of laughter and drunken shouting that followed into the street. Takai took off his mask, convinced he wouldn’t be caught on Emperor Day, and proudly gazed at his handiwork. Poor naked Lord Yuxuan Fu hopped hopelessly down the street, his embarrassed shouts for assistance muffled by the gag. People watched and laughed at the scene.

“Well, he’s not very popular, is he?” Takai grinned at Ruo who whooped and clapped beside him, black hair bobbing as she joined in on the festivity. She grinned back, “Are you kidding? He’s the worst! All of the businesses on this street hate him for stealing our money! He’ll get no love here.”

The Beast-Man mused, adding, “This won't solve your problem, though.”

“Maybe not,” Ruo shrugged, “But maybe he’ll be so embarrassed that he’ll never show his face here again. Maybe he’ll move to Tengala. It’s something of vengeance, so let me enjoy it, monkey.”

“And you won't hand me in to the guards anymore?” he asked.

“A deal is a deal.”

Setting

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Character Portrait: Namari Shioh
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"Three... two... and... ONE!"

A blinding lash of the hammer sprayed ribbons of sparks as the resounding clash of steel on steel rang through the workshop. A man and a woman, each situated on opposite sides of a table, braced themselves for the impact with wincing eyes -- the hammer's head struck the chain, and its force traveled to both ends where they clasped around both of their wrists, binding the two together. The shock rippled through their arms, rattling their bones in place but leaving the seemingly impervious metal chain links unscratched.

The blacksmith twirled his hammer in his hand once and then set it aside with a sigh, scratching his head.
"Ye best try elsewhere. I don't believe the thing's coming off for anything short of an ashura's axe."

"Bah, no worries," said the man. He slicked his brown hair back with his free hand, shaped with sweat from the live furnace radiating heat. "There are worse things than being chained to this tramp... you know, if you think about it long enough." The 'tramp' glared at him, but he pretended not to notice.

His name was Shuin Lang, a... simple... but proud swordsman from the small village of Ateyori. His face and clothes reeked of peasantry, and his armor was composed of similarly shoddy cloth wrappings. A plain katana rested in a plain scabbard at his waist.

In comparison, the woman -- Namari Shioh -- impressed upon a viewer at first glance a stark, unmistakable image of nobility. A long flowing silken kimono with detailed gold embroidery, an elaborately tied ponytail clinched with radiant and colorful floral hair ornaments, and her own katana which looked decidedly more expensive than peasant boy's.

Though at a distance it might appear she was dragging along some sort of indebted thrall, a peek under her sleeve revealed they were chained in equal measure. A most troubling fact for the both of them, for different reasons. Understandably, the one agreement they shared between them was to remove the chain as soon as possible.

Namari yanked the chain. Hard.

"YOW!" The metal brace chafed against Shuin's wrist, nearly scraping off the skin.

"Call me a tramp again."

"Why you... I'll call you a tramp as many times as I want! Tramp! Tramp! Tram--"

***

Namari left the workshop with a concussed Shuin dragged across the floor behind her like a corpse, his face picking up grains of dirt and other refuse as passersby occasionally stopped and turned their heads to briefly wonder the nature of this strange display. She reached into her kimono, producing a pipe and a light between three of her fingers. One motion to wedge it between her teeth, another to give it a spark, and one more to put the light away. Taking in the swaying festival lights as she merged into the crowds, Namari blew out a puff of smoke.

Yes, very explicitly... one agreement.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Lo-Muna Vanhi
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0.50 INK

Children flocked to her, careful to grab the pinwheels in one hand as they dumped their parent's money into the other. It wasn't that she was selling them for a high price. She had just made sure to sell them for a high enough price to where she was still cheaper than the stalls around them. Not like it upset the vendors as they had their own flock of customers to contend with. Lo-Muna Vanhi had a small line but it dwindled as she began to run out of wares. She had known they were going to be popular but she had only so much coin to produce her items. Coin she had made twice, nearly three times over tonight in a very short span of time.

As she apologized to those who had come too late, she could see other children lighting up the tips of the petals, eyes widening as the wheel began to spin. Bright colors shooed off the darkness and spun a circle before them, the children clutching the stick of the pinwheel with a tight grip as though they were afraid their amusement would fly away. In the middle of the circle were vague designs that worked only with a child's imagination. Lo-muna herself could not make out the fantastical things they saw, but then again she had already begun walking away.

She loved it all, the sounds, the people, the bright lights that could be seen from miles away. The movement was her favorite part of festivals. The jostle and bustle of the crowd who were just as impatient as she was to be on the move, only pausing once something had caught their eye. Lo-muna herself was attracted by the variety of wares the vendors offered and nearly stopped at every stall on her way to inquire about the items. Many of them seemed impatient and she didn't stay long with them, knowing they had customers and had no time to deal with someone who offered no coin. A few indulged her inquiries but she didn't stay long with them either. Their interest turned to her and Lo-muna had no intention of getting in trouble tonight.

Merging back into the crowd, Lo-muna patted her bag and kept it close to her body. She could see where the darkness began, eventually leading to the gates, but had no intention of leaving the warmth behind. The business part of her night was over and now she would run the length of the festival again, recalling what stalls she had planned to return to.

People passed her and crowded her but Lo-muna didn't mind. The flow of the crowd was soothing and it wasn't like most people were paying her any mind in the festivities. In fact, she observed others as she walked with them and couldn't help but smile or laugh at how others interacted. Sometimes she would come across those who looked longingly at the food stalls in clothes obvious of their low station. Maybe a coin would slip from her bag as she passed by them but she didn't linger to see where it had gone. A beast-man like her only had so much liberty on a night like this.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Ginchiyo Lao Tzu
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#, as written by Sepokku
The Gan River was beautiful. An indigo stream of serene tranquility, the water gently babbling nature’s song as it burbled lazily downstream, perfect in form and function. The scent of humans that roiled in from her destination, however, was not. For whatever reason, humans living in close proximity and large numbers always smelled sour to Ginchiyo. The last round of fireworks added a heady mixture of smoke to the odor and the resulting aroma could only accurately be described as the perfume of “The Great Yune Empire.” Realistically, all human settlements had a similar smell when they got big enough, but something about the Yune always made it... perverse. As if to punctuate her point, a man in naught but his loincloth began hopping his way along the river, bound in some sort of mating display. With a forced exhale, she steeled herself for what was likely to be an Emperor themed bacchanal going on in the village and quickened her stride.

Even before crossing into what would normally constitute the village, street barkers and merchants began fighting for the attention of everyone within earshot. Doing her best to deafen herself to the onslaught of noises, Ginchiyo began to shoulder her way through the crowd. The walk here hadn’t been short and a large cut of something that was alive this morning would go a long way towards improving her mood. It took all of five minutes for her to find a plump, squat man that was selling chunks of goat that was slowly roasting on a spit. Bits of fat glistened as they sizzled and popped, producing a heavenly smell when they fell into the hungry flames below.

For a few moments, Ginchiyo just stared at the goat as it called to her with its siren song. The feel of something tugging on her belt lifted her out of her daydream; more specifically, a tug on her coin purse. With a practiced turn on her heel, she grabbed the thief's hand with a vice-like grip and brought him to the ground, elbow on his throat.

Her eyes widened slightly, her reflexes had pinned the pickpocket to the ground, but he was just a boy, not even old enough to begin Agoge back home. With an annoyed sigh she lifted the boy up, not relaxing her grip on his wrist, and fished a gold coin from the purse he still had desperately clenched in his hand. “Give me the biggest piece of shoulder meat you have, and a hindshank for the brat with sticky fingers.”



The night was young, and seemingly everyone in town had a reason to party, i almost felt like Ancestor Day, back when Ginchiyo was in Agoge. The memory brought a faint smile to her face as she thought about those carefree days. It was a nearby storyteller that brought her back to reality, “It was an evening like this,” the storyteller began, “That they say the first Emperor was born.” Ginchiyo snorted, of all the propaganda she had heard throughout her travels, the Yune were somehow both the most obvious and the least effective. She hurried away before the storyteller’s drivel made her nauseous. Someone in this stink-pit had to know something that was worth knowing.

A bit more aimless wandering had left her belly only slightly more full, and her quest none the closer to ending. The later into the festival that it got, the drunker the people would be, and the less likely her visit would prove fruitful. “This is going nowhere…” Feeling defeated, she stopped to lean on the wall of a nearby building; contemplating whether or not the night had to be a total waste, after all her last job had left her with funds to spare for a night of drinks.

A moment of deliberation later, Ginchiyo started back the way she had come, hoping to catch the honeyed wine merchant she had passed not too far back before he had sold the last four bottles. Two white rabbit ears stood slightly above the crowd, bobbing up and down with the sway of movement from the gathered masses. Normally, Ginchiyo would worry about a free Beastman in Yutan, but maybe things were different on Emperor Day. “Yeah, and maybe they’ll give me the honeyed wine for free because I'm so damn pretty.” She snorted to herself, while hurrying to buy the last bottles of wine.

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Character Portrait: Xanth Character Portrait: Kaor, The Mourned
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A silhouette twisted mid-air. The afternoon sun caught a golden mass of frizz and curls, and two firework crackers narrowly whizzing right past them. A man roared a curse. The figure touched down on a rooftop with a tap of her hand, and flipped onto her feet. She looked back at the sky to see her the instruments of her narrowly-avoided death explode. Red light framed her surprised, then amused face, and she opened her mouth in a laugh that made no sound, and scampered off.

She bounded over rooftops, skidding down slopes, leaping over the celebrating streets. She tightrope walked over ropes stringing up decorative lanterns. Whistling. Something big and slobbering was following her call from below, hurtling over produce and charging through revellers without care. The woman kept to her rooftop venture until she spied a furry, hulking mass among the crowds.

Kaor felt a little weight land on her shoulder and perch there. Three meat skewers were passed down to her. The woman perched herself there, sliding the meat off her own stick with her teeth, then spitting it out - right into the hungry maw of a tan mutt big enough to be a mount for her. It chomped it down eagerly and perked up, its tail thumping loudly against the dirt and creating a dust cloud. The woman kicked out her legs as she chewed, still heads above the rabble from her perch and looking quite smug about it.

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Character Portrait: Xanth Character Portrait: Kaor, The Mourned
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Kaor jumped, blinking away her surprise before gently nudging a group of people away from her path with a massive paw. Her head twisted upwards and back, one paw taking the offered food without pause while the other began reaching into a satchel at her hip.
Delightful! Thank you little gecko.” She called up to the weight on her shoulder. Her attention shifted to the mutt, the clawed paw in the satchel coming out and giving the hound some love.

She had been people watching, observing the crowds of Poyo with a friendly smile. There were some who were too terrified of her to even hold her gaze, regardless of any cheer or benevolence she put forth.
Others had watched her right back, or even approached with good cheer and kindness to them.
Like the huntsman who, just the other day, pointed Kaor and the friendly weight on her shoulder in the proper direction of one of their marks. He had been nice. For a bit.

Then he had taken too much interest in why her traveling companion didn’t speak, why she “moved her hands all funny like,”
He had been introduced to a smile that would have curdled the blood of gods, if it could be so.
But it could not, so instead he ran with the coin Kaor had given him for his charitable assistance!
All’s well that ended without bloody noses!
That’s what she thought at least.

The second thing to grab her gaze was the sight of a woman dealing with her pickpocket issues. In the few days that she and ‘her little gecko’ had been in Poyo, she had seen so many new sights. It had been months- MONTHS- since she had taken a proper bath. Poyo was, of course, maybe not the place to find such a luxury, but the fact that she was able to eat meat not skewered by her own spear was amazing.
It didn’t help that Kaor loved festival foods.
Oh! What a rambling thought; right. Woman with a pickpocket.

The beast-woman prepared herself to move, letting the drumming of her heart send her muscles into decisive action. She opened her mouth, lifting a hand as if to reach out and touch the woman in question, even if she was far and away.
Then she came to a stop as she watched the woman pay for both the boy, and herself.

Hm!

The third thing to draw her attention was a small clamoring commotion. Ice-blue eyes shifted away from people in the crowd, away from people in the thoroughfare, and towards the Golden Peach Inn.
People were stopping, gathering even to gaze upon… something! And that something was apparently amusing enough to draw laughter. Laughter tinged with spite and a lack of empathy. Interesting!
Then she saw it, and even if she WANTED to resist the urge to wiggle her shoulder for the wonderous trickster who perched upon it, she couldn’t. Her laughter was a strange thing; bell-like and gentle… Even if her face scrunched up into a hilariously ugly grin with the sound.
Xanth! Oh! Hehe! Sweet gecko look, some poor bastard is out and about with his pants down! And gagged no less! I wonder what he was up to, yes?” She laughed up to her sticky fingered partner.
Oh! That reminds me, where shall we stay tonight oh lovely Gecko? Perhaps the inn ahead? I feel like being under a roof tonight, if we could be so lucky!

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Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Captain Jensu
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#, as written by Nulix
As soon as Yuwen rode in through the south gate raindrops began to dribble on his head. Yuwen looked up and laughed at the passing storm-cloud, reaching out and touching the warm yunish rain. The bright-grey horse Yuwen rode let out a cheerful nay and shook its coat-tails at the drizzle. Children consumed the cobble-stone street, chasing each other as the rain dried and Yuwen continued to ride toward the festival.

"Big sword!" A young human boy yelled as he began to run beside Yuwen's horse's trots. Yuwen laughed, placing a hand on one of the double blades sheathed at his hip. "Are you a samurai?" A girl with pigtails called, trying to keep up as fast as her little legs could carry her. "More of a manurai," Yuwen explained. The children laughed and ran off as Yuwen approached the stables.

At a hitch Yuwen slid off his horse and handed a coin to the watcher. The straw-hatted man glared down at the copper. "Sorry, I don't have any more Yunish money, " Yuwen admitted. "You don't take Sunen silver by chance?"

"This'll get you an hour," Old straw-hat muttered in response, taking the coin. "What brings you to Poyo, sir? You won't get much out of the festival without any money."

"Just seeing some old friends," Yuwen replied, patting the man on the back before cornering into the bright lights of the festival. The smell of fried foods and fire overwhelmed him as he made his way through the crowds beneath a sea of lanterns, different instruments heard around each corner. Yuwen could have even sworn to see an Oni telling stories down Waban street, and around the corner at the Golden Peach Inn he spotted all types of internationals.

"Poyo's getting cultured," He commented to himself before crossing over the main bridge to the square, where a large crowd was gathered around performers executing the dragon dance, sweep the large, pole-shaped dragon through the festival grounds. But Yuwen wasn't there for any of that. He wasn't there for the food or the celebrations or to see the Mayor Loy-Qui make his speech. He was there for business. And he knew the one group of people capable of conducting his type of business.

"Officer," Yuwen nodded as an armoured prefect strolled past, giving him a suspicious look as he did. Yuwen watched the man disappear into the crowd before heading toward an unmarked door in the town square, a door only those who knew what they were looking for would find. It was the basement entrance to the Rat Den. After a few quick knocks a pair of white eyes came to the viewing hole.

"Oh no!" The voice began, the annoyance obvious. "He's not dealing with you any more, Fortune."

"He owes me a favour," Yuwen quickly countered. "He still owes me one favour."

"What do you need done?" The voice asked.

Yuwen smirked as a firework echoed in the distance. "Just a bit of... illusion."

***

Away from the festival at the dark port of Poyo boats of all kinds sat docked and swaying in the gentle night breeze, banners and flags from all over the Empire flying and falling as the wind lapsed. And between two large mercenary frigates a small junk carefully glided forward.

"Good gods," The Captain whispered to their fist mate at the glistening town before them, disbelief in their voice. "Back in Poyo."

Anchor was set and a Goblin strode from the gangplank, one hand in the pocket of their black leather trench coat and the other clutching a large pint. They sipped, their head down and hidden by a large Captain's hat.

"Hey!" A voice called. They glanced up to see a muscle bound man march down the dock. "You have permission to dock?" Trouble – they could already tell.

From a pocket the Goblin whipped out their authorization papers. "This is the Bako Trading docks: I’m authorized," They explained.

"Looks fake to me," The big man said, folding his arms over his protruding chest without even glancing at the paper. "I don't think you're allowed to dock here."

"I am," The goblin replied before walking again.

The man moved in front of them. "I don't think you are," He continued. "I think you've got blood on your hands, gobo. Prolly' roasted your master, then you stole his damn ship- like a criminal! So I figure if I bag you and take you to my friends at the Rat Den we might get you back into the market you belong in, maybe get a reward from the prefecture whilst we're at it, eh?"

"Is that so?" They muttered, taking a sip from their drink. "And how... do you plan to do that?"

At the words the man shot his fist downward. The goblin bent backward, dodging the blow, before leaping up, throwing their pint in the air and jabbing the man in the throat. They landed back on the ground, carefully catching the falling mug and the rum raining down from it as the thug collapsed before them. They shook their head and continued on. It had been years since they had returned to Poyo- their hometown. And from the scum at the dock to the festivities that awaited Captain Yami Jensu could tell it hadn't changed a bit. Or so they had thought until they spotted a completely foreign sight.

A Yunish man with a thin moustache, stark naked save for a silken loincloth, hopping along the docks, with his hands and feet tied together with rope. The goblin watched the man and took a long sip.

"You live here?" They called at last, walking up and startling the poor nudist.

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Character Portrait: Takai Character Portrait: Xanth Character Portrait: Kaor, The Mourned Character Portrait: Captain Jensu
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"MMMMRRRFFFF!" The nude man screamed through his gag, begging the goblin to take it off.

***

Laughter and merriment continued on in the Golden Peach Inn, Ruo sliding a drink over to Takai as he took a seat at the bar, "It's on the house!"

He raised the mug in thanks, "Cheers."

Beside him approached a large bear and a small woman on the Beast-mans shoulder. Ruo waved at them, shouting through the noise, "Ho there travellers! Can I get you anything? A drink perhaps, maybe some freshly steamed pork buns?"

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Character Portrait: Namari Shioh Character Portrait: Suiken
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"Ah, I'll take five!" Suiken laughed heartily at the pork bun vendor, handing him the coin for this delectable snack. Hot off the oven there they were, baked crisply and filled with delectable morsels of pork in a crimson glaze. It was still drizzling, but Suiken would hope that wouldn't put a stop to the fire works. There were children playing in puddles, splashing water everywhere and couples walking under parasols to prevent themselves from getting wet. To Suiken, the rain simply made him miss the flurries of snow from back home. Still, the atmosphere was all together pleasant. The Snow Oni had a mind to retire at the Golden Peach in for now until the fireworks finally got underway.

At leas until he saw the young woman dressed in noble's garb. Calmly, Suiken munched down on a pork bun as the regally clad woman nonchalantly dragged an unconscious body behind her. Really, it was none of his business to inquire but in this case the sight was so abrupt that he couldn't help but question it. "Ma'am...you appear to be dragging a corpse," he informed her, before taking another bite.

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Character Portrait: Captain Jensu
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#, as written by Nulix
Captain Jensu glanced up at the noble slobbering through his gag. They placed down their drink on the dock's uneven wooden planks and leapt up. Their switchblade swung open and sliced through the saliva drenched gag. And as quickly as they had leapt up Jensu landed again.

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Character Portrait: Captain Jensu
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"GGUUHHH oh thank the EMPEROR," Yuxuan Fu cried out, "You will be rewarded handsomely, my dear gobbo! HANDSOMELY!"

He turned around and bent over, showing Captain Jensu places that they never wished to see, "My binds! Please! And if you want to be RICH you'll capture the scoundrel who did this to me!"

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Character Portrait: Captain Jensu
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#, as written by Nulix
Captain Jensu squinted as he blabbered. There was something familiar about the man back from their teenage years in Poyo. He was a noble, they remembered that. An owner of fields. He'd tried courting half the young women in town... the young human women, at least. Goblins and beast-men were another story. In fact, Jensu remembered a specific incident in which their mother was walking them down the village path and Yuxuan's spit from his litter as he passed.

Jensu gave a half smile at the memory before leaping up and delivering a mighty kick. Their wooden sandal imprinted on the side of Yuxuan's face. He flew out into the river. "Happy Emperor Day!" Jensu exclaimed as he landed with a splash. Yuxuan Fu's head bopped out the waves, he spitting water out like a fountainhead. A group of nearby sailors began to laugh. Jensu took a chug of their drink and walked up the stone steps, away from the docks and toward the village square. A large smile was plastered on their face.

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Character Portrait: Lo-Muna Vanhi
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"That's 20 gold for you," the vendor said loudly, Lo-Muna's hands hovering over a piece of fine cloth. She sighed internally but put on a bright smile. The vendor's booth had plenty of cloth material for sale, from poorly crafted cotton pieces to fine pieces of silk. The variety was what had caught her eye and it didn't seem too busy either. Most people had their minds on food and entertainment, not the more practical wares. As the last human man left, Lo-Muna had stepped forward, the merchant not even bothering to greet her or say a word until she had reached for the cloth.

"Oh, is it? I could have sworn you had sold a piece to the man before me for a little lower," Lo-Muna said as she kept her tone bright. "For one fourth of the price actually."

"Price changed," the vendor replied crossly as he crossed his arms. "Supply's low."

Lo-Muna looked behind the man to where baskets of materials were stocked. One of them in particular seemed to hold the same colored cloth she had just been looking at. She resisted the urge to gripe back and simply nodded.

"Right. Supply runs low so perhaps I could-" the rabbit woman began, reaching over for another piece of material when the vendor interrupted with "30 gold."

Stopping, Lo-Muna looked down at the material that was even poorer in quality than the first. It was a bigger piece of material admittedly but for 30 gold? This man was out of this mind. She had liked the first one because it was of a soft material that was gentler on wounds or rough patches of skin. Her eyes scanned the table. She liked a lot of the fabrics actually with their varying patterns but every time she reached for one, the vendor barked out a ludicrous price.

Lo-Muna remained calm but after her fifth attempt, the vendor had enough. He grabbed her wrist as she reached down again and said through gritted teeth, "You have no place here, beast. You should run along out of this city. It's a joyous occasion and you're ruining it all."

"I'm just trying to buy something, literally give you money!" Lo-Muna insisted quietly. No one else was purchasing from the booth but there were a couple people staring with concern. She didn't want to cause a scene in case other vendors decided they didn't want the trouble as well. A person came forward but the vendor shot her a nasty glare.

"Yeah well I don't want your filthy money. Probably stole it off some poor unsuspecting man with that body," the vendor insisted , gripping her wrist harder. Lo-Muna flinched and tried pulling away but the vendor held her tight.

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Character Portrait: Takai Character Portrait: Xanth Character Portrait: Kaor, The Mourned
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Xanth responded to Kaor's chortling with a shrug and ran an affectionate hand through the bear woman's fur. Then she threw the rest of her skewer to the dog and began making enthusiastic hand motions in Kaor's peripherals, her mass of hair wobbling precariously atop her head. Quick, precise gestures that would lend themselves well to the hands of a pickpocket. Her hands swiftly tapped around her chest and lips, which expressively but clumsily mouthed words like they were lyrics to a song she didn't know. Her one sided conversation continued on into the tavern her bipedal mount lumbered to, parting the crowds with ease - when a waitress shouted over her.

Xanth stopped talking. She turned her head down to the woman with an exasperated sigh. Her hands exploded out in several violent gestures before her shoulders shook with amusement like she'd made a joke. It was hard to tell how much was genuine frustration. She whistled a few notes and claws scrambling against bamboo floors answered. The massive mutt that had been in Kaor's shadow skidded to her feet with a bark to attention. Xanth slid down her trunk-like arm and settled comfortably on her smaller furry companion. She held up three fingers, spun one in a circle, followed by quicker and far more incomprehensible gestures, then a tap on her throat and a face like she'd bit into a lemon.

The sound of snuffling caught her ear and she looked to catch the sight of her seat slobbering on the pants leg of their Beast-Man neighbor. Her cheeks bunched up in absolute delight and her fingers wiggled a greeting, while her eyes regarded his for about two seconds before they zipped down to his backside. She moved her hands in the same - interpretive dance? she'd just challenged the waitress with, punctuated with an expectant stare.

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Character Portrait: Namari Shioh Character Portrait: Suiken
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Namari turned around.

Fingers pinched on her pipe, she faced the oni with a disinterested, or perhaps even condescending expression. Strangely, her gaze did not quite match his -- it was off ever so slightly, as though she were staring in his direction but not actually at him. The dull, unfocused glaze over her eyes suggested she was robbed of sight.

And yet, if only briefly, she appeared to study the snow oni's features with scrutiny. With what sense? It was hard to say. Her stare lingered silently for a few moments, before saying, "Congratulations on your keen observation, oni. Anything else you'd like to point out?"

She blew a puff of smoke in his face, turned back around, and kept walking.

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Character Portrait: Takai Character Portrait: Xanth Character Portrait: Kaor, The Mourned
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"What did she say??" Ruo shouted over the noise at Takai, who whipped his head around at the waitress in bewilderment. As if he knew! Still, he glanced down fondly at the dog beside him, then up at the most ferocious Beast-Man he had ever seen, before his gaze finally settled on the mute lady before him. They were a strange group, to say the least. He decided to hazard a guess.

"You want three...three uhhh...oh, pork buns!" He grinned, thinking he had cleverly cracked the code, "Did I get that right?"

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Character Portrait: Takai Character Portrait: Xanth Character Portrait: Kaor, The Mourned
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Xanth's face and shoulders fell a little. She rolled her eyes up before nodding vigorously and flashed the monkey man an encouraging smile. She then slowly mimed sipping from a cup, formed a cross with her arms, then tapped her throat and made an expression like she had downed an entire cup of vinegar. All with the expression and patience of teaching a toddler to speak through picture cards.

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Character Portrait: Namari Shioh Character Portrait: Suiken
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"Well, no..." Suiken, looking over his shoulder at several onlookers staring aghast at the sight of the odd-looking man getting dragged along the ground. "Actually, yes...There's a matter of atmosphere!" Suiken noted jollily, following Namari a ways down the street,villagers giving the two (three?) a wide berth to let them pass. "This is a festival, you can't dampen the mood with...whatever it is you're doing. I doubt it's to turn in a bounty, the Guard House is on the opposite end of the street...so I'm going to go ahead and assume you've simply landed yourself in an unfortunate predicament," The Snow Oni concluded, pointing to the chain with one hand and chomping on a pork bun with the other. "Need help removing it?"

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Character Portrait: Takai Character Portrait: Xanth Character Portrait: Kaor, The Mourned
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"No....drink.....? It will....kill you...?" Takai squinted, his words stupidly slow as he tried to figure out what this lady was miming.

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Character Portrait: Takai Character Portrait: Xanth Character Portrait: Kaor, The Mourned
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Xanth flung her elbow back into Kaor's hide.

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Character Portrait: Lo-Muna Vanhi Character Portrait: Ginchiyo Lao Tzu
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#, as written by Sepokku
The first bottle went down like a half-starved fox that just kenned into where its prey had hidden, the warmth of the second had just started to begin to spread through Ginchiyo’s belly when she wandered into a scene that wasn't exactly common in other parts of Creation. A vendor was causing a scene over some cloth, at the expense of some poor rabbit-eared creature, who may not even be aware that their status was relegated to second-class amongst the “Mighty Yune.” The taste that it left in her mouth was bad enough that not even the honeyed wine could wash it down.

“A single pebble can start the most transformative of landslides…” Ginchiyo grumbled to herself while puzzling out a way to quietly solve the situation at hand without attracting overt attention. Failing that, she simply looked for the biggest guy who seemed to want to help but was too afraid to step up. A barrel-chested dock worker who was lingering by a cart fit the quota perfectly. “Hey tiny,” Ginchiyo pointed at the man with her chin, before she downed the rest of her second bottle of wine. “Ill give you five silver if you chuck me at that hoity-toity vendor over there.”


With a spectacular crash, Ginchiyo was launched directly into the table that the merchant had set up. The sound of splitting wood deafened several nearby passerbys and a couple seconds of silence followed as Ginchiyo slowly drew herself to her feet. “Annn’ Shtay out!” She forced a hiccup out before staggering between the beast-woman and the vendor. “Barkeep hit me with another round.” She punctuated the sentence by slapping the merchant, perhaps a little harder than necessary, on his back.

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Character Portrait: Takai Character Portrait: Xanth Character Portrait: Kaor, The Mourned
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Kaor snapped her head to attention as her Gecko rammed an elbow into her side. She gazed down at the macaque-beastman in front of her and Xanth. He was... Interesting to say the least! He at least was kind enough to try and understand her companion.
She watched as her Gecko and the curious man talked to each-other, with the latter trying his hardest to guess at what she could possibly be wanting. Kaor herself scrunched her nose up into a bemused smile, before cackling aloud at his last attempt to translate what Xanth had said. The bear-woman watched for just a moment longer before finally deigning to intercede on the conundrum.

"What the little Gecko is asking, is if you might have some sake that isn't too harsh for her throat. Something that won't burn on the way down preferably. She also wishes to know if you might have done anything amazing with your tail, sir. She finds them awful useful! She also wishes for three steamed buns, pork, for herself please. I would appreciate whatever you might have that would, ah, feed one as large as myself."
Kaor's voice was booming loud in the rancor of the dining hall within the inn, though her face never lost it's gleeful smile. She finished her speech off with a nod towards the waitress who had interrupted Xanth before. Oh! Speaking of which- "She also asked that you not interrupt her again, please! As would I! You're a dear, and we do not wish to be rude to you!"

She finished this with a wide smile, bowing her head as if to simply accept that the conversation was over, before turning her focus to the macaque-man with a curious expression. Her throat rumbled with a slight huff, before she turned to Xanth with a rapid series of focused hand movements. One claw tapped her satchel at her side, came up and tapped Xanth's chest, before returning to Kaor's chest with slowly wiggled claws.