"Do you believe in ghost stories, venn?"
"Wha'?" Charles jolted upright from the pub counter, surprised by the proximity of the unfamiliar voice. Drunkenly, he swatted what he thought was a fly on his face, only to knock off the coaster that was still stuck on his cheek. The stranger's voice chuckled.
"Amigo, I asked, do you believe in ghosts?"
Charles swiveled his head to the other patron. Marisa, the lone barmaid, must not have noticed Charles napping on the bar stool, but the shut eye didn't sober him up at all. The stranger's features was just a fuzzy shadow, covered up by a wide brim hat Charles recognized from the woodcuts in the papers about the Americas and her West. He seemed to be wearing a blanket with a hole punched in the center for his head. And people accused HIM being a drunk, when Marisa allows men like this into the Young Lighthouse?
With tremendous focus, Charles finally remember the question posed, as the stranger continued to sit still like a coiled brown snake, leering from under his ridiculous cowboy hat. "Nah mate, dead is dead! When I die, I'll jus' be worm-food. No more'n that. My shela always says… uh, 'Your grave would be filled with lazy BEES, hangover-honey from you's pushing daisies!" Charles tried to laugh, but it came out more of a ragged cough.
The stranger shifted toward the barmaid, seemingly untouched by the jest, though the shade of a smile infected his voice, "Two fingers of your finest whiskey for my yujin here, madam."
Marisa glanced over her shoulder to make eye contact with Charles, shrugged, and shuffled to the back. Once she was out of sight, the stranger leaned closer to the still coughing drunk and began to talk in a quick tempo.
"That might be what happens to your body, hoa, but I'm talking about the pervasive spirit that is your soul. I have seen so many things in my Travels… loved ones long dead roaming the streets of Malifaux once more, shrieking, bloodthirsty demons whose only purpose is to purge Humanity from Our Lands…"
The stranger went on, and the heated whisper the man was targeting Charles with was a poison to his inebriation. Malifaux? Walking dead? He had heard stories and read headlines of what lies beyond the Breach, but always dismissed them as propaganda. While the Outback was indeed under Guild control, it remained relatively untouched by the politics and economics of soulstones. The horrors of Malifaux are just cooked-up stories to tax us all the more, right? However, This man's conviction made Charles begin to question all his previous assumptions.
Including if what he was talking to was even a man. The way he said "Humanity" made it sound like he didn't include himself under the moniker.
"…A man made of a golden skeleton, with cauterized flesh and black, boiling blood melting off his frame. Screaming spirits of the departed, hell bent to exact a revenge that both they and the living have long forgotten. Everything, aflame. The queer sights I've seen rafiki, the conflicts, all for Power. Control. Freedom. These soldiers always come to me in the beginning, hoping to gain the foundation bricks of this Power. Do you know what those bricks are?"
Charles had long forgotten his cough, and was stone sober at this point. He was looking into the eyes of this… Traveler. While the grisly visage was still deep in shadow from the Lighthouse's poor lighting, it still felt like a bright, summer shadow compared to the bottomless depths of the man's black eyes. Charles could only whimper a strangled croak to the new question. The stranger grinned.
"That's exactly right, dost. Many think it money, cash, Scrip. A faulty system, unwise to worship. Soulstones, others will answer? No, just another currency for another flavor of fool. But the cornerstone of Power, the ability to topple your fellow kin? Secrets. Knowledge. Ghosts of information and spectral memories passed between teacher and pupil. That is what everyone wants, friend. That is what I sell."
With a swirl of his poncho, the man exited the pub, leaving Charles behind as the lone patron. Slowly, he fished for a few silvered coins and a paper Scrip to cover the coming whiskey, and made his own exit, hoping he had waited long enough to allow the stranger to make some distance in the night. He strode out, in a measured gate that his drunk self would not have held minutes earlier.
Marisa returned with a glass and a dusty bottle, only to find her establishment empty. Her eyes bulged when she found the pile of Scrip, which covered the cost of Charles' binge for the night twice over.
Odd, Marisa thought, placing the bottle on the counter. The barfly was a notorious penny pincher, only paying his monthly tab when she threatens of tossing him out. Why he ordered whiskey for himself, a drink he's loudly declared to be filth when other regulars order it, and just walk out? Strange.
Without another thought, she stashed the money in the register, and began closing shop.
Barbaros after the battle
- Gains 7 Scrip
- Purchases Bounty, Take Their Land
- Gains 3 CM, purchasing Soulstone Vein
Datsue Ba after the battle
- Gains 8 Scrip
- Purchases Arcane Background on Jaakuna Ubume, A Good Lead on Flesh Construct
- Gains Foolhardy on Jaakuna Ubume
- Gains 1 CM