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 coffee shop is busy this morning. This close to the holidays, pretty much everywhere is busy. The shop thrums with activitry as seasonal tunes are broadcast to the bustling clientele.
Walter, the tall, broad and usually taciturn groundskeeper walks into the shop, carrying a number of bags patterned with festive logos. He had hoped to find respite from the overcrowding and crass commercialism that has been grating on his nerves for the past few days.
While he waits in the queue, he flexes his shoulders, trying to banish the ache that is not entirely physical. Nerves strayed, he orders his coffee. Large, black. Simple, unpretentious coffee fora simple, unpretentious man.
His luck is in as a couple of seats at a table are vacated at just the right time. He takes himself a seat. The only patron at a large table with six seats. Whether he wants it or not, he is likely to have company soon enough.
He places his bags down under the table, just as the next song begins. He does his best to ignore the mindless jingle and motions to take a long sip of is still piping hot coffee. Too hot, at the moment.
Bill stepped into the cafe, line bustling, people chatting obnoxiously put him on edge and the sheer amount of people made his head spin but he was allowed to quickly order a tea and motioned at the other end of the table to the larger man with a gentle wave of his pale hand.
"Do you mind if I sit here, sir?" he said softly as he slowly put is patchwork backpack on the ground.
As he sat he took a slight sip of his tea and felt his troubles flooding out of his body and a small smile danced across his face.
Walter smiled an only half-exhausted smile as the stranger arrived. Some lesson in now archaic manners in his childhood forced him to rise to his feet a little as he gestured to one of the free chairs.
"Not at all.... Take a seat!", his voice was clear, though with a distinct northern-european accent.
Walter sat as the new arrival did and resettled himself in his seat once more. Absent-mindedly, the groundskeeper wiped some spilled cinnamon and nutmeg from the surface of the table. The powder falling to the tiled floor like a brief flurry of snow.
Noticing the stranger's smile, Walter felt compelled to indulge in some uncharacteristic smalltalk.
Walter nods, "Yeah, I think most people would call it winter... Yeah."
Reaching under the table, the Scandinavian moves some of his shopping bags away from the new arrival's chair. Making room seemed like a considerate thing to do. Then again, having had a hectic and stressful couple of months, Walt's assessment of the situation could be off. The groundskeeper's recent time spent with his family had left him, well... harrowed seemed none too dramatic a word for it.
"I've known colder, but the temperature has been pretty low for the past few days. I reckon it must be below zero, at the very least."
Placing his coffee cup down, Walter rises to his feet a little again, "Where are my manners...?" He offers his hand in greeting. "I'm Walter. I'm groundskeeper at the college."
His tone is audible, but very understated. Little in the way of emotion is expressed with his words. All that accompanies them is his thick, northern european accent. Kinda suits him, though.
Bill shuffled quietly as the huge man moved his bags, taking another sip from his tea. "Not you, huh Big Man?"
Hedge travel had certainly distorted time. Winter, he'd just finished the Mid-Autumn festivals near Perth and to have come here in Winter, particularly one so cold...
Bill's thoughts were quickly cut off my the hand balanced at a polite distance. "Ah, My name is Bill, it would seem I am new here. Where ever here is." He took the hand firmly, the honest handshake of a born liar. "Tell me are we in Australia? Tasmania maybe? The Blue Mountains?"
Walter smirks and shrugs in response, as if to say, "Sure... I've seen worse weather..." but remains silent all the same.
Handshake concluded, Walter felt that was more than enough by way of introduction. Normally, it would take several hours of silence from this grizzled Scandinavian to even earn his name, never mind a handshake. Walter was feeling peculiarly sociable these days, though. Perhaps his recent trip back to the motherland had been good for him in that respect.
Walter frowned a little and raised a quizzical eyebrow at Bill's guess as to their whereabouts. "You're a touch off the mark there... We're in America. You've been travelling a while?"
Now resettled, he picks up his mug. The kind of oversized mug usually found in such coffee shops. He lifts it to his lips and takes a long, slow draught. The gusts of freezing wind from the door, which seems to open every few seconds, cooling his drink nicely.
Walter wasn't sure how someone came to be quite so lost. He was more than ready to hear a logical, mundane explanation, though. He could use a little respite from the usual fantastic goings on that he found since he'd been living here.
Bill's smile turned glassy and his eyes completely locked on the larger man. "America you say?"
Bugger, bugger, damn, bugger, hell. His mind filled with all manner of expletives as the news hit him. The Hedge had certainly done a number on him this time. How do you even get that lost? He reached into his bag and absentmindedly pulled out a small cherry like fruit. He handed one to Walter before popping one into his mouth. He felt the rush of the Goblin fruit entering his system healing the blisters on his foot.
"Where in America are we? It would seem I managed to get... turned around as I walked here"
A sharp person would pick up on that, a dumb one would laugh so it felt like a good test for the Groundskeeper.
Walter took the fruit gratefully, but waived a little dismissively with his other hand while doing so. "Not just now. if that I okay? I just ate..."
Taking another rather ginger sip of his still hot coffee, Walter took that time to think a little about his new acquaintance. His appalling lack of local knowledge seemed to suggest that he'd been more than a little 'turned around' in his travels. The Scandinavian elected to let that pass for now, though.
"We're pretty close to Denver, I understand. At least, that is where I fly from when I go home every now and then." No change of tone in his voice indicates his interest in where Bill has travelled from, but Walter's eyes certainly seem to suggest he is mentally working over the new information presented to him in this conversation.
Perhaps a change of subject was in order. "So, you like sports, Bill? I understand there are some quite capable teams playing out of the college here...".
Walt did his best to sound convincing, but sports weren't really his thing. Excepting the sweet science, of course. But even the dour old groundskeeper knew that sports was the go to subject for all conversations between men. Especially when the topic prior to that had started to become difficult for some reason.
Bill sipped his tea taking in the madness that had befallen him. How does one end up near Denver when one started in Perth. PERTH!! He felt his body respond to the fruit and relaxed a bit. Well if he was here he might as well have a bit of fun whilst he was here and soak up a pinch of glamour.
"Sports? Well I was a player in a cricket team for a while and I play a bit of soccer but I am not a sportsman. I prefer to look at the... psychology of a sportsman rather than engage in the sport itself."
Cricket was not a major pastime in Kiruna when Walter was a boy. Sweden didn't really indulge in that particular sport. Then again, it was mostly the commonwealth, and ex-commonwealth nations that played.
Soccer, or football was played in Sweden, but wasn't really Walter's game. "Ice hockey is more my kinda thing.", the groundskeeper said. "I'm not sure, but there may be a soccer team at the college. It is getting more popular over here, from what I've heard..."
'The sports gambit might have failed', Walter thought. He took another long sip of his coffee and thought a while. This Bill fellow seemed harmless enough. At least, Walter's psycho-detector wasn't sounding for him right now. That said, he couldn't help but think that there was something going on with him.
Psychology, however, was indeed something that Walter had a passing interest in. "...and, well... the faculty of psychology is pretty well funded. There's always some kind of psych study, advertising for participants on the walls of the campus. I pick up their damn flyers every day, it seems..."
Walter smiled. He hadn't really studied psychology at all but, as a people watcher, he flattered himself that he'd made some pretty astute observations as to the nature of human behaviour in his time.
If Walter was unaccustomed to chatting about sports, he was even less comfortable with himself as the topic of conversation.
"Me? Well, I'm just a pretty simple Swedish guy. I've travelled a little in my time and found that, when I finally settled down it was here."
He leant back in his chair, taking a gulp of his now lukewarm coffee. "That was a year or two ago. I've been groundkeeper here most of that time..."
Having not really said too much at all about himself, really, the Scandinavian moved on to the considerably more comfortable subject of his job. "Yeah, there are a couple of other groundskeepers. The campus is pretty large. Too large, for just the one person."
"The role suits me pretty well, though. I spend most of my time outdoors and keep active. And, it's not a job I have to take home with me. It leaves me plenty of time for my training.", the weatherbeaten blond has punctuated his words with more sips of his coffee. Eventually, he places the empty cup on the table, froth still clinging to the rim.
Nodding enthusiastically, he adds, "Sure, I'd be happy to show you around..."
Bill finished off his tea placing the cup down lightly. He'd noticed the lack of comfort his associate had about discussing sports and himself but that seemed irrelevant at this point. "What training do you do exactly? and do you have time to show me around right now?"
He blinked forcefully looking around, thorns poking out of odd places for a second, the reflective surface of the counter showing the Hedge poking through.
Bill's panic began to rise. "Right now would be excellent it's beginning to feel a bit stuffy in here wouldn't you agree, Walter?"
He looked desperately at Walter and then to the door.
Walter noted the suddenly panicked nature of his new acquaintance and immediately discerned that the best course of action was to leave the coffee shop, precisely as he wanted.
"Okay... We can have a look around now, I guess.", Walter rose from his seat and gestured toward the exit.
There was something about this guy. Walter wasn't sure, but he hadn't completely ruled out some kind of mental illness. If that were the case, his old mentor and friend had always cited a useful maxim for dealing with certain kinds of people, '...keep 'em smiling...'
Wincing a little as he chided himself for making such a swift and harsh judgement, Walter remembered that, this being Columbiana, a supernatural explanation was as likely as any. The Scandinavian determined to be less quick to attribute all the strangeness to mental illness.
As he approached the door, he held it open. "Well, where do I begin?"