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.
The whole quarantine thing? Bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit. Not that A.C. had really been planning on doing much traveling, but boy did she resent the fact that she’d been told she couldn’t. Sheer defiance almost, almost drove her to hike her way out of the Valley. She would have done it too had she known for sure that she would be able to get back in. But, whatever. Until the powers that be got their shit together, A.C. was determined to keep herself from going insane one way or another.
With the entire population of the Valley unable to leave, it was only natural that some of them would seek to conquer their cabin fever by enjoying what the mountains had to offer. The problem was that this meant a whole lot unseasoned idiots were hitting the slopes at the same time. People not watching where they were skiing, running into each other, hikers postholing in the snow, people wandering off and getting lost. It was utter insanity and frustrating to someone who practically lived on the slopes in the winter. And so it was A.C. decided to offer a free “class” independent of the Academy to teach people how not to die out in the winter wilderness.
A.C. slapped a few crappy posters up around the Academy and downtown advertising just that. “How Not to Die in the Mountains” they were titled. “Learn useful skills such as: -How to walk in snowshoes. -How to identify and avoid avalanche terrain. -How to build an emergency shelter. -How to use a map and compass. -What crampons are and why you shouldn’t confuse them with tampons.” they advertised. “What you need to do: -Bring our 18+ year old self. -Wear warm, layered clothing appropriate for several hours in the bitter cold. -Bring a water bottle and sunglasses. -Wear sunscreen.” they suggested. Of course, A.C. couldn't take anyone straight up a mountain on their first time out, so she picked something a little easier. The meeting place, she decided, was a popular local trailhead. It, along with the date, and time (mid morning) were included on the posters.
Whether or not people actually decided to show up didn’t make that big of a difference to A.C. She was going out regardless, but she was going to wait and see if anyone showed. In the meantime she sat on the tailgate of her old pickup truck next to her German Shepherd, cigarette held loosely between her lips as she plotted out their course on the map. They weren’t likely to cover much ground while leading a pack of scrubs, but they would certainly make it into the Nightshade Woods...
Quarantine? That just meant more work for Veronica and it wasn't a bad thing. She liked investigating and surely this all Quarantine business was interesting. She wanted to explore and seek the truth and surely the excuse that the Mayor tried to give as explanation for the Quarantine wasn't the truth. Veronica didn't want to end up in a Resident Evil scenario for sure.
"What crampons are and why you shouldn’t confuse them with tampons...I'm going to do this class just for that" Veronica said to an amused herself reading a poster about survival skills. She wanted to go, it was very useful, especially if some of her investigations brought her to the Mountains, or even just because she wanted to go there, the Mountains were always a nice place to visit.
So, here she was, ready to learn some basic skills. Veronica couldn't say she had ever tried some of these things that she was about to learn, maybe she had read something about it, but that was all. However, she was wearing sunglasses, sunscreen and clothing appropriate for the class, she also had a bottle of water that she had put in her shoulder bag. Everything that the poster said to bring, even her +18 self. Her blonde hair was covered by a black wool hat and her hands by black wool gloves. It was cold, but it was manageable, at least for now.
Veronica arrived at the trailhead and saw a woman near a dog, Veronica smiled automatically seeing the dog, she really liked dogs, but even cats. Veronica approached the woman "Hello! I'm Veronica Bell, I'm showing up for the class" she said to the her, guessing that she was the one who had put those posters up.
Bean was the first to notice the new arrival, letting out a low woof to alert his handler but otherwise staying put. A.C. looked up from her map to see a blonde woman approaching and hopped down off of the bed of her pickup. “Nice to meet ya Veronica, I’m A.C.” She offered her hand for a handshake that was perhaps a bit more forceful than average. “This here is Bean.” She spoke, cigarette teetering between her lips as she shrugged in the direction of the dog behind her.
“You’re in the right place, we’ll hang around here for a few more minutes, see if anyone else is gonna show up.” In the meantime, A.C. folded her map and shoved it in her back pocket. It wasn’t as if she personally needed it, it was mostly for planning purposes. “We’ve got a few things we’ll get into today, first…” Her voice trailed off as she moved back to the pickup truck and unzipped a large duffle bag.
“We’ve got some of these...” A.C. pulled out two pairs of things that vaguely resembled sandals on a bed of spikes. “...aaaaaaand some of these.” She reached into the bag again, digging around and yanking until she had produced two large pairs of snowshoes.
Convinced that Veronica was going to be her sole pupil for the day, A.C. decided to proceed with the lesson. “These,” She gestured to the spiky metal footwear. “Are called crampons, sounds a lot like tampons but you wouldn’t want to go sticking them in your downtown dining and entertainment district.” The euphemism was accompanied by a gesture, two fingers pointing down at her own groin. “They will slice your leg open if you’re not careful. They’re used for walking on ice, which we’ll get to later. These, on the other hand.” She gestured to the snowshoes. “Are snowshoes. They really ought to be used anytime there’s more than eight to ten inches of snow on the ground. They take a bit of practice getting used to, so go ahead.” A.C. tossed a pair of snowshoes down on the ground at Veronica’s feet. “Slip ‘em on. The bindings are pretty straightforward, but let me know if you need help.”
A.C. slipped her own snowshoes on as if they were nothing at all. The crampons she loaded up into a large hiking pack which she then threw onto her back. Bean sensed that they were about ready to depart and whimpered impatiently. “Okay okay, you can get down now.” A.C. waved to her dog who immediately leapt out of the pickup bed and approached Veronica with a wagging tail.
Veronica smiled shaking the woman's hand and then looked at the dog again whom name was Bean, nice dog. Strange that there weren't already at least more people, this course was really useful, although, some people could care less of learning and other just couldn't make it because too busy. Veronica had the time to be here and she wanted to be here...who knew...maybe this class could save her life if she had to investigate something in the mountains.
Veronica looked at A.C putting the map away then she started talking and taking some stuff, Veronica watched and listened paying attention and she rose a brow seeing a pair of 'shoes' that looked like the claws of a monster, but the snowshoes were okay although it didn't seem very practical to walk with them, the moving around part, because Veronica had never used those so she didn't really know how to wear them, luckily A.C was here to teach.
Veronica couldn't help but laughing amused by the description of the crampons, but she also nodded to make it clear that she had understood what A.C meant, still funny though. Mhh, walking on ice, that sounded adventurous, Veronica liked it.
Then A.C talked about the snowshoes and threw her a pair to wear. Veronica looked down at them frowning, never wore a pair and never saw how to wear them, maybe one time for a job, but nothing more. Then she looked up at A.C and observed how she was wearing them. Veronica did the same, although it took a lot more for her, instead A.C had worn them in seconds. Then Bean approached Veronica and she petted the dog's head friendly "Are we really going into the woods?" Veronica asked A.C moving her gaze towards the direction of the forest.
“Okay, so here’s the deal with snowshoes.” A.C. started as Veronica finished putting hers on. “If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Your stance should be a little bit wider than normal, and then instead of just setting your foot down on top of the snow, you’re going to want to kick your toe into the snow a bit, and then step down.” While explaining, A.C. also demonstrated the technique, walking away from the truck and into some deeper snow just on the outskirts of the parking lot.
Bean was happy to have the attention. He lingered for a moment by Veronica’s side and then after he’d had his fill of affection, bounded off towards the woods. If A.C. was at all concerned about the behavior of her dog, she didn’t show it. “Yep, we sure are. And it looks like nobody else is going to show up, can’t say I’m surprised what with all the rioting and shit happening in town, but it looks like it’s just you and me today.”
A.C. gave Veronica a few moments to practice before heading into the forest. It was easy terrain for now, a thick blanket of snow covered most obstacles. Bean bounded along, alternating between ranging out far ahead and checking in with his handler. “I think I might’ve seen you around before.” Or at least the girl seemed vaguely familiar somehow. “What is it you do for a living?”
Veronica listened carefully at A.C and tried to do what she said "No...the other...ok...then...no, okay, that's better" Veronica thought while trying to walk with the snowshoes. Walking with those things could turn out to be tiring, also because she wasn't used to this. At first, her left foot got stuck into the snow and she almost fell down, but she balanced herself with the other foot "Ahhhh...ok" she thought looking down at the snow, her feet were like trapped, but just because she had to get used to this.
Veronica stopped for few seconds and took a breath then she started walking again. This time it was a little bit better, her left foot got stuck just once. The third time got even better, practice was useful "Ok, I think I can do this" Veronica nodded and looked at A.C for a confirmation or maybe she was gonna say that Veronica needed some more practice. Veronica looked at Bean smiling and she noticed that was bounding towards the woods, but Veronica didn't think anything of it believing that it was a normal thing, he was a dog, dogs liked going around.
Veronica nodded when A.C confirmed that they were going into the woods "Yes, all the city is weirded out about this quarantine" she nodded at A.C then she rose a brow at her next words "Oh...I'm a private investigator" she replied "My picture and information are in the official list of investigators, maybe you saw me there?" she asked, otherwise she couldn't know where A.C had seen her before.
A.C. watched Veronica’s first attempt at snowshoeing without judgement. It could have gone worse really, she was still standing on two feet after all. Everyone struggled in the beginning anyways, but most people started picking it up pretty quickly. A.C. nodded. “If you can feed yourself, you can walk in snowshoes, it just takes a little practice.” No matter how much instruction she gave, there were some things that could only be learned through experience. Veronica would have to learn how to balance and place her own feet, though A.C. didn’t expect it to take long.
“It’s a stupid-fuckin’ quarantine.” She snorted, her disdain for the whole thing evident in her manner. “That might have been where.” To tell the truth, she couldn’t rightly recall. “Well, if I ever need anything privately investigated I’ll be sure to give you a call.” She gave Veronica a few more minutes to practice before leading her into the forest.
The path was hard to see given that the snowfall was still fairly fresh. A.C. led the way, guiding herself by way of familiar trees and rocks. “So, most important thing to remember about hiking is to check the forecast before you leave. It’ll tell you what the weather’ supposed to be like, how you ought to dress, what to prepare for…” The rest of the day was due to be nice, albeit with the possibility of some light flurries in the evening. “Always either hike with a buddy, or at the very least let someone know where you’re headed.” As the two women snowshoed their way through the forest, Bean came barreling in from the side, barking incessantly.
To some it might have seemed like an overly enthusiastic dog, but A.C. knew better. “Huh? What’d you find boy?” The dog bounded off the ‘path’, focused on some point deep in the woods.
"Ok, practice, ok...I can do that, practice...please don't fall Veronica" she looked at the snowshoes "Be nice to me" she thought joking then she moved her head up to look at A.C and Bean. However, she kept moving around with the snowshoes until she could walk without stumbling...she still felt that she was going to stumble, but it was just because her body wasn't used to these kind of shoes so it gave her that feeling.
At some point, Veronica felt secure enough to walk with the snowshoes and A.C was leading into the woods "Yes, this quarantine just came out from nowhere and without a real explanation" Veronica didn't like it either "Oh, yeah, if you need a private investigator let me know...we could investigate about this quarantine" she smiled then added "I'm also in a paintball group, maybe you saw me 'on the field' if you play paintball" Veronica just said it to make conversation because almost no one played paintball unfortunately, it was really fun!
"Okay, always check the weather and let people know where I go" she repeated to remember what A.C was saying, she understood why, the weather for the reasons that A.C explained and about letting people know was because they could inform the authorities if something happened. Then Veronica rose a brow when Bean started barking, she would just think that the dog was happy to walk around, but A.C asked him what he had found. Veronica wanted to follow him, but instead didn't because she was with A.C and so Veronica followed her, especially because A.C was the instructor. However, Veronica was really curious to know what Bean was barking at.
“Hell, if I had the money to hire you I’d hire you to figure out what’s going on with the quarantine. I mean, unless you just want to do some work pro-bono... Pissin’ me off...whole city’s run out of my favorite beer...who knows when they’ll let more through.” Because that was the worst part of this whole thing, lack of preferred alcohol. “Mighta been.” She shrugged. Hard to remember who all she’d played with, especially with the masks obscuring everyone’s faces. “But hey, I’ve got some pretty sweet paintball guns. I’ll show ‘em to you sometime.” Guns of her own design that might have been slightly unfair to use in competitions but eh, it wasn’t like she was above cheating.
“Yeah, you’d be surprised by how many dipshits just decide to hike out right before a big snowstorm, like they think mother nature’s going to put everything on hold while they make snowmen.” Some people, no common sense.
Bean continued to bark, bounding around in the deep snow just off of the path as if trying to draw the two women his way. “Well, I don’t suppose we’ll get ourselves in too much trouble if we go take a look at what he found. It’s probably just a deer, or maybe a unicorn.” Because dogs were ridiculous and they got stupid excited about the most mundane things.
A.C. walked slowly so that Veronica hopefully wouldn’t have much trouble keeping up. They followed the dog a ways deeper into the woods, past deep drifts of snows and into gnarled, snow covered trees. “I haven’t been out in this neck of the woods in a while, so watch your step. No idea what’s out here.”
Just as she finished speaking they pushed through some heavy brush and into a clearing. Where the rest of the snow was deep, powdery, and untouched, the snow in the center of the clearing had clearly been trod on over and over again until it was thoroughly packed down. In the center of the clearing lay something small, dark, and smeared with red. It didn’t seem like much from a distance, but upon closer inspection it was very clearly a human arm.
"I do pro-bono, especially if the matter interests me too" Veronica nodded then she smiled "Yeah! Sure!" she really like paintball, it was fun and sometimes you could pretend to hit your favourite hated person "Oh, that, I had to hike sometimes too if a case brought me here, but I didn't have choice" Veronica let out a sigh.
"However, better learn now because I'm sure some of my cases will bring me here again" she couldn't really talk about her cases but she wasn't revealing which cases she was talking about.
Veronica smiled nodding about the dog meaning that she was ok about checking, also, she really liked dogs and cats. So, Veronica followed, although slowly, but then she opened her mouth in surprised and shock because of what they found.
A freaking human arm. That was a human arm. What the...!? Ok, Veronica, calm down. Perhaps it was just an animal and the owner's of the arm was its meal, no serial killers or anything, just an unfortunate event...that was Veronica's cold thinking, but she couldn't keep being so cold although she wasn't new to such things because of her job.
"Ok, we need to call the police" Veronica took her mobile that was in the shoulder bag, but the mobile wasn't working of course "No service" she informed A.C "It was probably an animal, let's hope it's not around" Veronica could seem without heart right now because she seemed very detached, but she was trying to be professional, it helped, freaking out wasn't the best option now.
Well, it wasn’t the first time A.C. had found human remains on a hike. Usually it was some old dipshit who decided to hike off trail without telling anyone and then hurt themselves or ran out of water. Hell, she and Bean did search and rescue...or search and recovery just for fun. This arm though, there was something about it that just set A.C. on edge. Namely, where the hell was the rest of the body?
A quick glance over at Veronica and A.C. could see the girl was, understandably, shocked. “Yeah, cell phones don’t always work well in these parts.” Reaching down to her belt, A.C. grabbed a small radio, and held it to her mouth. “We’ve got some human remains out here in the Nightshade Woods. Coordinates are…” After taking a quick peek at her GPS, A.C. relayed the information to the authorities. Fortunately Veronica seemed to have the sense not to lose her mind, though perhaps it just hadn’t sunk in yet.
Bean was barking maniacally, pacing back and forth in the deep snow, just outside of the area that had been packed down.
“Probably some kinda critter. Whatever did this might still be out here.” Cautiously, A.C. stepped forward and squatted down to look at the snowpack. The snow had clearly been packed down by something, but there were no distinct footprints.
All at once there was a great shuddering of the forest. Nearby trees shook, sprinkling snow down on the group, while a section of the ground in front of them lifted up to reveal a hidden tunnel below the snow. Drawn by the noise of the barking dog and vibrations of the group’s footsteps, a massive insect-like creature emerged from the tunnel. It suddenly pushed its way out of the ground, not unlike a trapdoor spider, and while bracing itself against the sides of its tunnel with four legs, swiped at Veronica, A.C. and Bean with its front claws.
Veronica was grateful to A.C's practical mind, A.C called the authorities and she seemed very calm, she had to be used to this even more than Veronica was. After all, Veronica didn't find corpses everytime that she was on a case, luckily it was a rare occurrence.
However, something else happened and it happened very quickly. There was a shuddering and snow dropped on A.C and Veronica. The Detective tried to clean himself from the snow, but there was too much. So, she couldn't move when a tunnel appeared from the ground!
This situation looked like a movie where archaeologists had just found a very ancient something that was going to kill them of course. Veronica felt like Lara Croft and thinking of such things was her mind trying to stay calm otherwise she was going to die.
"WHAT...!?" Veronica yelled when the giant spider appeared within the tunnel. Veronica started to sweep off the snow from her, but the spider attacked. Veronica managed to dodge just because she crouched against the ground then she tried to run away, but the snow from the trees was trapping her feet.
All of this was so overwhelming that she had forgotten about A.C "Hey...!! Are you okay??!" Veronica yelled at her, but the Investigator's eyes were on the giant spider. That thing wanted to kill them.
“YUP.” Was all A.C. could manage to shout as Veronica questioned the beast in front of them. Well, it was a critter alright, not one A.C. had seen before. And that was saying something, because she’d seen a lot of critters in her day. As far as she could tell it was some sort of giant insect. Not quite a spider, not quite a mantis, something...well, it wouldn’t have surprised her to find out that it was some escaped biology experiment. Goddamned biologists.
A.C. was able to dance out of the way of the creature’s blow, though there was uncomfortably little room for error. She could feel cold radiating off of the giant insect’s claw as it swiped through the air in front of her. Bean was, unfortunately, not quite so lucky. The creature’s claw struck the canine in the midsection, lifting him up and hurling him back a ways into the brush. Bean disappeared into the snow with a thud and a yelp.
“Bean!” A.C. shouted, obviously torn between trying to fight this beast off and go help her dog. “I’m fine!” She quickly answered Veronica’s question. “We gotta get out of here.” She looked back and forth between the monster, Veronica, and the place she had last seen Bean. For the moment she was fine, but it appeared that Veronica was stuck.
A.C. did the first thing that came to mind. She reached back into an easily accessible pocket of her pack and pulled out a flare. With a pop and a flick of her wrist she lit it and chucked it as hard as she could across the clearing. For a moment at least it caught the creature’s attention and it turned to watch the flare sail through the air. Meanwhile, A.C. sprinted across the snow, as best she could while wearing snowshoes, to reach Veronica.
“Here, take this.” A.C. handed her what appeared to be a large, possibly homemade, flashlight with several buttons on the side. “If you have a clear shot, push the red button. Just make sure it’s not pointed at me or Bean.”
The words had only just left her mouth when the creature doubled back, disinterested in the flare. It lunged forward, sweeping again with its claws and this time catching A.C. and dragging her down into the tunnel underneath.