Welcome to No Books of Men! We are a modern alternate history board set in a magical school nestled in the Columbiana Valley of the Rocky Mountains. Students of the Collegium Illustrata Columbiana (commonly called simply The Academy) are free to explore their wildest imaginations in learning the mystic arts, so long as it does not jeopardize the ongoing Shadow War with the Exarchs. How will you live up to the legacies of Merlin?
darkkenchild is the Head Admin here at No Books. He enjoys long walks on the beach and debating the metaphysical underpinnings of reality, so any questions about your character , the plot of No Books, and/or how magic works on the site, please do not hesitate to ask him.
Squeeji is the head of “Human Resources” here at No Books, and responsible for pretty much everything related to our contact with the outside world. Advertising, orientation, and just about anything to do with bringing in new blood is in her wheelhouse.
It was a wonder she even attended these things anymore, nearly an hour of sitting in an unyielding wooden chair, listening to the other Lost drone on and on about their own experiences in Arcadia and how they were managing to cope in their new lives. It wasn’t that Helene lacked sympathy exactly. She knew exactly what they had been through, and she had suffered similarly. Really, she just didn’t like hearing people complain...or talk in general. An hour of silence would have been much nicer. Besides, all the chattering was making it difficult for her to read her book.
The hardcover book was clutched tightly in a taloned hand, a sticker on the spine identifying it as property of the library. Helene had heard some of the ladies talking about it at the office: The Hunger Games. Incredibly compelling, they’d called it, entertaining and dramatic. Pah. It was garbage was what it was, silly and unrewarding. Yet Helene still spent the bulk of the therapy session with her beak buried between the pages.
By the time she looked up from her reading, the meeting had all but ended. The bulk of the group had dispersed leaving only a few of her fellow changelings milling about. With a displeased grunt Helene grabbed her cane and heaved herself out of her chair. The force with which she left her seat unbalanced her and though she managed to steady herself with her cane, her book tumbled to the floor. No big deal. Helene stooped a little to try and pick it up, but a swift and painful spasm in her back told her that it wasn’t going to happen.
Being both helpless and too proud to ask for assistance, Helene silently scanned the room with a grimace, looking for anyone who might volunteer themselves to come to her aid.
A therapy session. That's what this was. A quaint little therapy session and it drove Bill Madder than normal. They were getting together and... swapping stories. Airing themselves out in front of each other. It was so... Human. So... childish. And it was insufferable. Quaint little discussions about how hard it was. How STRONG! you've been. It made Bill sick. But it was the only way he was going to get involved with these fae and throw a bit of the Court of Fear into these little Summer and Spring fae. As everyone shuffled out in their myriad of forms he was left with an old crone attempting to pick up a book.
She was an Avian fae of some sort, quite and old, she never said anything during the... session. She seemed to be in a lot of pain whilst attempting to pick up the book and radiated a lovely Winter's chill as she scanned for a saviour.
Bill all but skipped over to help her.
"Here you go, Old Mother," he said picking up the book and before he could stop his mouth "I found the movie to be better," slid from his mouth. He winced and waited for the Changeling's wrath, she seemed the sort to create havoc.
She usually avoided these things, her time in Arcadia was...not unpleasant, so her interaction with other changelings were often strained when it came to talking about their shared captivity. Even then, she wasn't one to much change her stance or ways on the matter. Would she go back? No. Did she lose sleep over it? Also no.
Though there were some days she hung around the theatre mostly to reconnect and also out of some morbid curiosity to see how the other half lived- voyeurism, yes. But Vreni had missed the opportunity before to learn from others when it would have been perhaps a bit more appropriate to sit and stare.
Which she had been doing as of today's meeting, hanging back and low out of sight and quiet as a mouse, a waterlogged and somewhat salty mouse at that. It was mostly because she was watching William, a member of her own court being less then soundly kind towards the elderly, perhaps a slip, but that wasn't exactly the world she came from- but she also came from a world where you didn't call someone out on their rudeness, instead she turned it around with a grin on her face as she stepped forward.
"A motion picture? William, here I mistook you for a man of learning."
Vreni pressed the back of her hand against her mouth, hiding her amusement as she nodded towards the old bird in greeting, hoping to alleviate what could be a bad scene.
Helene’s disgust at being told she was old was instantly palpable. She reached out, wrapping her clawed hand around the book, and snatched it away from the pale man. Something nearly unintelligible was muttered in the process. It might have been a reluctant ‘thank you’ but it was hard to tell for sure. Before she could open her beak to complain about Bill’s manners they were joined by a third. Vreni’s subtle greeting was returned likewise, a barely perceptible cant of the head and that perpetual but mostly harmless scowl.
“Garbage, it’s all garbage.” She huffed and shook the book in hand. “The book, the movie, all of it.” There wasn’t any one particular reason for her dislike of course, as she really had a pervasive dislike of everything. By now the theatre had emptied, leaving the three of them standing there alone amongst the chairs. Helene was, of course, not much for smalltalk unless it involved belittling and chastizing. Ready to make her departure, she scooped up her bag and deposited her book inside.
Somewhere in the back of the house, a pair of doors flew open so hard that they hit the wall with a wooden thump. The creature that entered was too short to be seen over the chairs, but its labored panting gave away its location.
“Is Peafie too late? Do Peafie miss it?” It wheezed as it loped down the nearest aisle and towards the group: a small, squat hobgoblin with a toadlike mouth, wearing tattered clothes and clutching a roll of paper. As it approached it looked up at each of the changelings in turn, first the translucent girl, then the pale man, and finally the angry bird woman. It seemed to react negatively to Helene, notably eyeing the cane she clutched in her talons. It stepped closer to Bill and Vreni, making a wide circle as if to give Helene a wide berth.
“They send Peafie to ask help.” He reached up, waiving the paper at Bill and Vreni with its shaky little hand. “There be a thing hurt people goin’ to the market. Peafie saw a thing.” The little creature’s eyes widened as it fearfully recounted its tail. “But Peafie ain’t scare. Peafie ain’t scare of no things.” Sure enough the paper detailed a request from the merchants of the goblin market: Help with a hedgebeast that had been ambushing clientele on their way to market in exchange for gratitude and unbeatable deals.
Bill's greeting was not well received by Helene apparently. Vreni seemed to have the ability to smooth over the apparent faux pas "My apologies," he said with a slight bow. "In the Australian Freeholds it is generally considered polite to acknowledge the venerable and important members in such a way."
He gave a slight smile at Vreni's jab, "A man of learning maybe. But I am Australian and you know how those dirty convicts are."
Helene's assessment of the Hunger Games was interesting. The Winter courtier was strangely emotive compared to others within the Court of Sorrow, it was strangely refreshing and rather humerous.
As the Hobgoblin entered the theater it seemed to Bill as if this oddity was strangely accepted within the Valley's freehold. It's wide birth of Helene was a beautiful sight to see, apparently the old fae was well feared by most. He bent down and took the paper from Peafie, read it's description of a Hedge beast that was apparently playing bandit and way-laying potential buyers from a Goblin Market. He handed the scrap to Helene and Vreni with a slightly manic grin "I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure, care to join?" He nodded at the hob "Happy to help, Peafie."
"Well never trust a country that calls their McDonalds' "Maccas"..."
Vreni shook her head , finding that both members of her new found company were tedious at best. Though all things considered she wasn't quite aware that this was only the tip of the iceberg. Since soon enough it became a situation-what with a hobgoblin coming in asking for help.
The rhine maiden's brows knitted as she looked between as she looked at William and Helene- something about this seemed sketchy to her, but she was always one to embrace skepticism, "You mean keep you from finally getting yourself killed?" She sighed, not liking this one little bit as she held her hand out for the paper. "Give me." Her accented tone was short and demanding, not wanting to agree with anything that she didn't know about fully.
That's how you ended up in pacts with matters unacceptable, and she didn't want the best that had to offer, and she could assume that this literal angry bird was much the same.
Bill’s apology seemed outwardly to do little to ease the woman’s mood. There was a slight softening of Helene’s perpetual scowl, and no outright criticism which was about as good as it got when it came to the old bird. It did increase her opinion of him a little, even if she was bad at showing it.
The arrival of the wheezing hobgoblin wasn’t entirely unexpected, the little cretins could be found all over the theatre, but Helene did not welcome it. She gripped her cane tightly, ready to whack the thing over the head if it decided to pester her. Fortunately it seemed unwilling to press its luck and passed over her in favor of her two comrades. “An adventure, pah! What sort of combat experience do you have?” Because Helene was just a little bit skeptical.
“And you think you’re any more suited for the task than he is?” She said as she twisted towards Vreni. “You are both children.” It didn’t matter that Helene was useless when it came to adventuring in general, she couldn’t just let these young kids run off playing hero.
The hobgoblin stood nearby, watching the trio with large, unblinking eyes. “Oh thank you mister...mister?” It paused momentarily, flicking its tongue out to moisten one of its own eyes as it struggled with what to call Bill. While the pale man was quick to accept the offer, the two women were more cautious. “Please misses? The thing be try to eat us, it try to eat Peafie, see.” The hobgoblin gestured to its tattered clothes which showed signs of damage beyond normal wear and tear. “Peafie can show you the thing, Peafie can show and misses and mister can make it go. Yes? Yes.”
Vreni's slightly scornful tone took Bill by surprise, ordinarily she was quite... nice? is that how to describe her? She was certainly very direct and understanding but her eyes revealed a slight cunning he had learnt to accept within Autumn court fae. Helene on the other hand seemed to be less flintlike and more like hard candy, a few gentle taps and the old bird's outer shells broke. Leaving her inner obsidian scowls.
Vreni's gentle prodding was beginning to get to Bill a little, she barely knew him and yet she poked and prodded like an investigative reporter. "Why engage in combat at all when you can scare your enemy away?" he said passing her the paper. "We are in the Court of the Leaden Mirror after all."
It seemed like Helene was just as eager to get involved in the teasing of their motley krewe. "Thank you for that voice of confidence, Helene." He noticed her stiff movements and jittery hands. "If you like before we go I can give you something to make you a bit more lithe and to ease those joints of yours," he said with an oddly honest smile.
Bill turned back to the Hob as it licked it's eyeballs and he looked at the two of them with a cheeky smile. "How could you say no to a face like that?"
Or at least she seemed nice for the most part, though she like the great creatures of the deep she came from didn't much care for leaving the darkness while they searched the greater mysteries of the abyss. Nevermind what a woman like her did in shadows uncontested...the forefront brought too much into light, so niceites always served as a distraction when she had to be seen.
For her, a light in the dark was an invite to being eaten up , and here Bill was following it without question. Which simply did not suit Vreni to say the least. "Fear is also a survival instinct William, don't ever forget that." Her smile was disdainful that he'd even think she'd bother to sully her hands in something as base as fisticuffs, any of them for that matter, which was why she was quick to interject before Helene got too far in that line of thinking.
"No I don't, I don't think any of us are. Which means we have to stop, and think about this before we get ourselves killed."
A child? Perhaps, comparatively, of course, but she would rather be a cautious child then a dead one. There was no secret that she was fond of the hobgoblins that came in and out of the theatre, though still her brows lifted skeptically at the notion that just a cute face should make her melt "Easily, that is...until I'm informed better of the situation." She squatted down to the creatures level and smiled. "So Peafie, show and tell me all you can about your problem yes?"
Carefully, Helene shifted her weight from one foot to the other in order to reduce the strain on her bad knee. Of course she wasn’t the slightest bit impressed by Bill’s reasoning, nor Vreni’s retort. “Mmmmm, and if it isn’t scared?” Exercising caution was a must in this situation. Often Helene could intimidate pushovers, but anyone with a bit of gumption could see that she had nothing with which to back up her bluffs. No, she was quite inept when it came to dealing with anything other than paperwork and red tape.
Moving with a distinct limp, Helene hobbled a little closer to Vreni to try and sneak a peek at the paper. Other than a handful of spelling errors, she couldn’t see anything that raised red flags. They were going to have to do something though because Bill was obviously not taking no for an answer. Hearing him mention her stiff joints gave her pause though. “Everyone has a cure, but none of them work.” Really, Helene was interested in what Bill had to offer, but she was both too skeptical and too proud to outright jump at the chance.
Feeling a bit impatient with it all, Helene shivered and her plumage ruffled. Unusual though it was, she acquiesced to Bill’s request without complaint. “Careful child. Keep your wits about you.” Even he couldn’t know what sort of hedgebeast was out there, or if this hobgoblin was even telling the truth to begin with. Resigned to an evening of babysitting, Helene sighed heavily. Since it seemed Vreni had the interrogation bit down, Helene stood by impatiently tapping her talons on the haft of her cane.
“Come on! Out with it!” Mercilessly she ragged on the poor hobgoblin who had barely had time to process Vreni’s question before being hounded for an answer. Eventually she settled for a cold, hard stare in Peafie’s direction. Obviously she didn’t trust the thing; Nothing from Arcadia was to be trusted.
The hobgoblin’s tongue darted out again, this time to the other eye. Bill seemed nice enough and eager to help. The hobgoblin seemed utterly delighted at his attempts at persuading the two women to help. Whatever tension existed between the three changelings went soaring above Peafie’s head. He opened his mouth as if to start answering Vreni’s question but found himself interrupted by the angry bird woman. There was a squeak as he flinched away from Helene.
“Peafie will tell you. The thing be big.” He stretched his arms up as high as he could reach which, unfortunately, wasn’t very high. “Big, big. With knifey hands and hair like...like hairy things. It be better if Peafie show you! This way, this way!” The little hobgoblin reached up to grab Bill’s wrist with one knobby little hand, Vreni’s wrist with the other, and tried to pull the pair towards the closest exit. Helene, well, Peafie spared her a pleading glance but was otherwise too frightened to try dragging her along.
Bill was itching to get anything done in this pointless town. A hedge beast would have to do. He let the nobbled hand grasp his wrist and drag him out the door. As they were dragged outside into the streets of Columbiana Valley the Hob let go and began running around in front of them looking for a way to get to the Goblin market.
Bill dropped back to the two female fae quietly. "I feel I did not explain myself well. Hobs are a breed I have had many interactions with, doing as they say is often wise due to the rewards we could garner, like Hedge Fruit, contracts, the works. By assisting this little thing we have not only the ability to gain favour with him but also with the Goblin Market in general," he smiled softly. "This way we can at least assess the situation before we either attack or go and get Summer to do their damn job."
Bill's eyes twinkled slightly at Helene and Vreni, this was good, and for once it was keeping the thorns at bay. "Also Helene have you tried many Goblin Fruit to assist in your pains? I know of a few that have rather remarkable healing qualities."
A goblin market pledged to the Freehold or at least in excellent standing would be a wonderful boon to everyone's life. And it would mean that Bill could finally get started on a garden and make a tidy profit.
Vreni had no qualms stating what she considered the obvious, though her own jilted language made it hard to pick up on things like rhetorical statements or even sarcasm. Helene would just have to deal with an actual answer. "Some say service is it's own reward." Dull as always, she spoke plainly towards Bill, not certain that she would even want that sort of responsibility should those merits come to rise. As it seemed to her a double edged sword, an invite for hundreds of tiresome quests to come. Though she bit back those misgivings, mostly because she had to wince as Helene began to harp on the small reptilian hobgoblin before she could even finish her thought.
And the answer didn't help much. "Well, that sounds good." There she had tried to make a joke yes? She pulled the corners of her mouth up in an attempt towards a smile, but clawed hands and big didn't sound anything like a good idea to her. But her curiosity got the better of her, and she took a few tentative steps towards the exit to see what this was all about, leaving the talk of goblin fruit behind, given that she knew they came with a hefty price as well.
Helene liked the sound of that idea, letting the Summer Court deal with whatever this nuisance was. She had a good pair of eyes, all the better to assess the situation and then promptly hand it over to someone who was better suited to...pest extermination or whatever this was going to turn into. Having favor with the Goblin Market didn’t matter much to her. She never visited and, technically, she had broken one of their cardinal rules the last time she was there. Something about beating a few peddlers with her cane and...well they weren’t terribly excited to have her back either.
“Goblin fruit, pah.” She grunted in displeasure. “Trading one ailment for another is all they’re good for.” Loose knee pain in exchange for a hole in her memory, or losing her ability to sing, or worse. Helene had no intentions of dabbling in strange magics any more than she absolutely had to.
Helene hobbled along, following the others out of the theatre and to god knew where.
With two changelings firmly in hand, Peafie led the group out of the theatre and into the streets. “This way! This way!” It chirruped as it wound its way through the downtown streets, pausing only to make sure that all three changelings were following. The hobgoblin led the trio to a large empty lot, strewn with old building debris and filled with overgrown shrubbery.
“There, it be there.” He stopped, pointing a finger at a particularly gnarled old bush. “That be the thing try to eat us.” It was, for all intents and purposes, a completely mundane plant. There wasn’t a menacing thing about it, though upon closer inspection it did appear to have a few strips of fabric caught up on its branches...fabric that seemed to match the clothing worn by Peafie. After pointing out the ‘thing’ Peafie shrunk back behind the changelings. He seemed certain that this particular plant was responsible for the trouble though there was little evidence outside of his own ripped clothing to directly support this conclusion.
Bill squatted down looking at the plant. It didn't feel right, this situation felt like it had turned sour. It was a bush, it was not hairy, it had no 'knifey hands' it was a bush and Bill wasn't having any rubbish like this. They weren't even anywhere near a Goblin Market as far as he could tell. He sidled up to Vreni whilst keeping his eyes on the bush.
"Does this feel like a trap to you?" he whispered looking around for a stick. Finding one he poked the bush gently.
"Are you sure Peafie? It just seems to be a bush, maybe you got scared and run into it," he looked directly at the Hob. "Is it possible you could have been mistaken?"
The hair on the back of his head was prickling and the thorns were closing in it'd been hours since he'd had to deal with them so he wasn't surprised but this would not improve his mood.
Ah yes, well it seemed that Helene knew the gist of it, Vreni smiled and nodded, finally a little less prickly. or perhaps the joke could be- she wasn't quite as much in choppy water. Still, she was cautious, taking the hobgoblin's words with a grain of salt. And it if her company was clever, they'd do the same.
"Of course it does."
She replied sharply in a hushed tone towards Bill, the smell of blood in her breath and she gestured flippantly about the whole ordeal, then again, she was a someone who weighed everything with an eye of scrutiny, not having the time to be bothered, but she could take care of herself, she needed no Summer Court to do her dirty work if she needed something done. Debt wasn't something she carried with her.
And that bush? She was skeptical, as a bush was never a bush in the hedge, "Bill, do not get too close to it. " Outside images of the Little Shop of Horrors dancing in her head, hers was a culture that relished in demonic plants, so out of instinct, she stepped backwards, brows knitted as she looked back at Helene.