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 air is cold and crisp but the bright sunlight illuminates the green as students hurry to a fro. In a shadier corner, mostly obscured by trees a labourer piles up dead wood and briars. Dappled light mottles his broad back as he bends to secure the bundle with twine.
Taking his large frame into consideration, one would expect a rather lumbering gait. When he moves, however, he shows a singular grace. His smooth, precise movements seem almost absurd considering the menial nature of his work. Yet he does not seem to begrudge his task. He seems almost meditative.
As he works, he hums a tune. His deep, low voice sounding like a growl at times. Occasionally, he mumbles the lyrics.
Oh, won't you come with me And take my hand Oh, won't you come with me And walk this land
Once the bundle is tied together, he returns to the brush and begins to collect more for the next bundle. Momentarily, he straightens himself, placing his large hands in the small of his back as though in pain. His expression seems sombre and, although his lips are twisted into a half-grimace, he seems content. Small beads of perspiration upon his brow are wiped away with the back of his hand. His blue eyes narrow as he gazes out into the light of the green, staring into the distance. He pauses a moment, resting as he takes in the scene.
Lawrence was out enjoying one of his rare "off days," meaning that he had been scheduled to teach his Philosophy class today and thus not expected to work the grounds. However, today only half of his class had shown up. Not that this was unsurprising. It was just after midterms and a healthy amount of students were either still on their midterm expeditions or were off healing themselves up after such. So, he had canceled his class.
Lawrence was not one to enjoy this sort of "time off" however, and not having anything to actively discuss or work on was leaving him restless. Thus he had set himself to wandering the grounds, as he so often did whether working or not, and he was actively looking for something to do and someone to talk to. While he ran across a few students engaged in some sort of frisbee game on the green, he did not expect to find much purpose to talking with them nor did he have any desire to join their game. Instead, he wandered past them and towards the treeline, thinking he might go for a walk through the woods.
As he approached however, he noticed he was not the only non-player in the vicinity. Spotting Walter, Lawrence made his way over to his fellow groundsman with a smile and a wave. "Greetings!" He called out in his loud, rumbling voice. He had honestly not spoken much with the other man, though they had run across each other a few times before. The life of a groundskeeper was too busy for much social interaction it seemed, as there was simply too much work to be done. "How are you this fine, brisk autumn afternoon?"
Lawrence smiled broadly, revealing a mouth full of somewhat overlarge teeth which matched his overlarge everything. "What's the mission for today my good man and would you like some assistance?" He shrugged slightly. "I seem to have found myself with little assigned purpose today, so I'm looking for an unassigned one..." He smiled with a wink.
As the other groundskeeper asked after him, Wlater just nodded in reply and offered a gruff, "I'm well, thank you...". He stiffened a little, the new arrival cutting short his rest, it seems. Not that Walter would have been the kind of person to allow himself too much rest anyway.
The smile that flashed across his thin lips would best be described as 'awkward'. In fact, it barely counted as a smile at all. More of a grimace, as though the scandinavian had tasted something unsavoury or felt a sharp pain behind his eyes.
"Just clearing this brush here....", he said. He would have stated plainly that it was not necessary to help, but he got the impression that the other groundskeeper was feeling rather out of sorts. While Wlater, for the most part, preferred his own company, if another pair of hands could lightlen his load a little, that just meant he could get on with doing something that he considered more productive. Not that there was much, other than training, that Walter considered productive.
Having not really spent any meaningful time in the presence of his colleague, Walter took a moment to consider his 'opposite number'. Meetings such as this were likely to become more frequent as they worked together more, so it might well benefit him to learn something about Lawrence. Despite how little he usually cared for getting to know others. Despite Lawrence's apparently jovial nature, Walt didn't feel the need to smile back too much.
"Be careful of the briars, though...", he warned, holding his hands up to highlight the protective gloves he was wearing.
Lawrence couldn't hold back a grin at Walter's gruff response. That was just the way of some people he supposed, and it always amused the big man when people responded to the world in such a manner. It didn't seem necessary to the gentle giant, but c'est la vie. “No need for that my friend, don't feel that you must cease your moment of respite on my account. I am not the commandant, I do not mind a moment's rest. After all, it is in those moments of silent waiting that one can hear the voice of the universe, no?” He laughed and shrugged. “Or something like that.” When he saw the other man's 'awkward' smile, Lawrence returned a broad and genuine one in return and lightly (relatively so, as light to a seven foot wall of muscle is still quite strong) clapped a hand on Walter's shoulder and winked.
As the other man gestured to the work he had been doing, Lawrence nodded in understanding. “To clear away the clutter is a reward unto itself, I suppose. Though the paycheck helps, and the satisfaction of a visually appealing treeline for the students.” He chuckled and gestured behind him at the young people throwing their amusements around. He shrugged and looked at the other man and winked. “Though if you ask me, if such were not meant to be here, it would not be here. Then again, I'm not paid to question why it must be cleared. They just pay us to clear it, right?” He laughed again and leaned down to start gathering the litter.
If Lawrence noticed Walt not smiling back much, he didn't seem to desire making that obvious. Honestly, he didn't care how the other man reacted unless it came with the sense that Lawrence's presence was grating to Walter. As it didn't seem so at the moment, Lawrence chose to ignore the lack of response as just the man's personality. They sat and gathered litter in relative silence for a long moment before Lawrence stopped and drew a hand sharpy back. “I guess you're right. Those things smart, even through thick callouses...” Lawrence laughed and sucked on the small wound on his hand for a moment before shaking his hand and shrugging. “Not that it matters, I heal up quickly...” He winked and tapped the side of his nose before leaning back down and continuing to work. The wound was already gone before the hand touched brush again...
The previously large Scandinavian, who currently felt quite small in comparison, didn't seem to notice the miraculous display of healing that went on before him. Rather he shrugged and nodded. "clearing this place out can be quite contemplative, I suppose. Though maybe futile in the long run. Nature'll take all this back soon enough...", he said.
He joined Lawrence in gathering the detritus and underbrush and their two pairs of hands working in unison made light work of the remaining task. Walt was just gathering up the last of the briars and piling it up ready for tying into bundles. "Thanks for your help." said Walt. "That's the last of my jobs for the day now. I have the rest of the afternoon free..." He looked at the giant with his best grateful expression. His actual face communicated something more akin to mild surprise, but the tone in his low, soft voice made his appreciation apparent enough.
"So, how long have you been working here? If you don't mind me asking..." Walt wasn't completely ignorant of the social niceties. He simply chose to reject them most of the time. It wasn't that he was trying to be rude, he just saw no point in saying things just for the sake of saying them. If someone took offence to that, he didn't really care.
From previous experience, he had found that it was often the case that very large people were often calm and easy-going. He also knew, though, that often such people had a 'switch' of sorts. A more violent side that could be inadvertently activated by the unwary. Walt wasn't sure that this was the case with his colleague here, but to avoid any chance of a confrontation, he was willing to endure a little small-talk.
“Oh certainly, my good man. Certainly.” Lawrence laughed lightly. “Nature will always win out, it always has after all.” He winked deeply at Walter at that comment. “One could argue that all of human history is pushing against Nature and Nature pushing back. Whenever it is pushed to far, some catastrophe seems to strike that sets the scales aright. Or rather, it should. Seems to me that the scales haven't quite rebalanced perfectly in a while, which means that something much bigger will catch up sooner or later I think...” He stopped talking for a moment. “Pardon my rambling... Just idle thoughts...”
Lawrence worked in relative silence for a time, focusing on the task at hand. Occaisionally a small chuckle escaped his lips, but he did not say anything more on his thoughts while they finished up. When Walter turned to him after they were done, Lawrence smiled in response. “No need for thanks. In fact, I should be thanking you for allowing me to aid you in your task. I gave me a purpose for a time on my day off.” He nodded in thanks, and made no mention of the awkwardness of his companion's expression.
“Me?” Lawrence paused to think before answering. “Why, it seems like I've been here forever...” He tapped his chin a few times as he though. “I suppose you could say I've been tending the grounds here in the Valley all my life.” He chuckled. “If you mean how long I have been employed by the school however... Well, that would be closer to four years? Five? Something like that. Either way it was when I retired from my old profession due to creaking bones and decreasing reliability on my part...” Lawrence looked off to one side as if drawing up bittersweet memories.
“And no, I do not mind your asking in the slightest. So long as you are willing to reciprocate...” He grinned and winked. “How about yourself? How long have you been hanging around?”
Walt listened with interest as the giant responded to his polite enquiry. "Five years, eh?" Whether the interest was genuine or not wasn't categorically clear, but the mere fact that the Scandinavian was making the effort to appear interested was something. the bundles of wood and briars tied, he piled them up, ready to carry to wherever they were to be dumped.
"Well, I am very new here. Arrived just a few weeks ago...", he responded. "This time last month, I was still in the United Kingdom. Tending gardens not dissimilar to these here..." He doesn't offer a sweeping gesture to draw attention to the painstakingly tended gardens around them, but the emphasis isn't really required. Perhaps he is just not that expressive - or he simply lacks any sense of flamboyance.
Standing over the piled bundles now, Walter straightens himself a little, though he still stands several inches shorter than his companion. "I guess I have been wandering for the last few years..." There is probably a reason behind that. A story that explains why he moves around as much as he does. Everybody has a story to tell, after all. Walter doesn't really seem like much of a storyteller, though. Indeed, talking about himself even in this mundane manner doesn't seem to sit so well with him.
"And I've travelled a little... Around Europe mostly. This is my first time in North America...". He wonders how people manage to spend so much time talking. Rattling off smalltalk as though their lives depended on it. While he himself struggles to find anything to say.
Lawrence was honestly amused at the antics and attempts at social niceties by the other man. Not in any cruel way, but an honest amusement. Almost childlike, Lawrence seemed to take a simple and genuine delight in everything around him; including gruff Scandinavians. "Five years, yes. Though, like I have said, I have tended the needs of this valley much longer." He winked. "But I have been paid for it for almost five, yes." He chuckled at his own little joke before shrugging in a way that seemed to say 'either way, I'm fine with it.'
"A few weeks ago, you say? Well that makes me feel better about not getting to talk with you previously. I had thought you had been around a bit longer and I was just unfortunate enough to keep missing you. Not that I have been any less derelict in my duties to associate with a fellow groundsman..." He smiled as he helped load the bundles for disposal, then he brushed his hands off on his pants and held out a hand for shaking. "I would be remiss if I failed to introduce myself formally. My name is Lawrence Cassady, groundsman and philosopher of Columbiana."
Lawrence's grin was broad and legitimate. "No worries there, friend. Wandering this wide world is essential. After all, no one can grow if confined to a small piece of dirt. Potted plants become stunted, birds sing sad songs of cages, and the soul weeps at stagnation. Wandering is good, so long as somewhere at the end of your tether is an anchor to bring you back to Mother Earth's embrace when you have reached your end." He paused. "My apologies, my words get away from me at times. Feel free to tell me to shut up if it grows tiresome."
He smiled before adding. "But I pray you at least tolerate my welcome. I, like many here, have roots that reach to Europe, though I admit to having never been there myself..." He paused. "...though I hope to someday find the time to do so. I have walked the outback of Australia and the forests of Asia, but I have not had the pleasure of seeing Europe or Africa as yet..."
As they shake hands, Walter responds in kind. "And I am Walter Richardson. Walt, really." A welcoming smile would be appropriate here for most people. The time when two people meet each-other for the first time generally being seen as a time of happiness, hope, that kind of thing.
Walter, however, isn't most people. While he doesn't look annoyed and his usual grimace is not evident, his expression is rather nondescript. "I am a groundsman too. Makes us sound like some kind of support group, eh?"
He listens intently to the giant of a man before him. His interest seemingly genuine rather than merely polite. "Well, Europe is good in its own way, I suppose. But you've seen something of the old world with your travels so far. Europe is just..... Busier." Most of the Americans he had met so far he had barely spoken to. Those that did elicit any conversation from him hadn't ever been outside of the United States. He wondered if his having referred to Asia and Africa as 'The Old World' came across as patronising? He hoped not, but doubted his new associate would take issue with it. It was not like the War of Independence had been fought with Sweden, after all.
“A pleasure to meet you Walt!” When Walt engaged the large man in a handshake, Lawrence reciprocated with gusto. Though it was never quite violent, the shake was very... vigorous, as if the man didn't quite know his own strength. After a moment of such forceful handshaking, Lawrence seemed to catch himself and returned to a more 'normal' strength shake with an apologetic smile. “My apologies. I get carried away sometimes.”
Then Lawrence nodded. “I suppose you could say that my friend. If that is the case I shall be expecting my five year chip soon enough.” He winked and lightly elbowed the other man to indicate the joke, though he was already suspecting he wouldn't get much in ways of a smile or chuckle in response.
“I suppose it would, I suppose it would.” Lawrence nodded in response to Walter's comment. “Every place has its own pace and ways, but that is what makes them magical.” He smiled and nodded. “And yes, I suppose it would be busier than this place of new buildings and more open land. Each has their own benefits, here we have the room to spread out but lack the history to do much with it or realize our own foolishness in expanding...” He shook his head. “However, I doubt any place in Europe could compare much with the press of humanity in Bombay... Though I think I'd prefer the former over my memories of the latter.”
Walter nods. He seems to have perhaps forgotten himself, his normally gruff demeanour dispensed with for the time being as he engages in a genuine, human conversation. This is a side of him that few are selected to see.
"I have yet to travel very far east...", he muses. "Many years ago, I was offered the chance to live and train in Taiwan. But, well... Back then I wasn't really able to take advantage of that." He shrugs, looking a little disappointed. "Something of a regret for me, not jumping at the chance of that..."
His nature warms and his facial features soften now, as he converses. The walls of his aloofness perhaps crumbling a little, or at least a drawbridge might have been temporarily lowered. It seems that he is a little more comfortable with social chatter than he would normally like to admit. Perhaps his standoffish nature is more of a convenient excuse to avoid having to deal with people that he doesn't actually like.
Lawrence nodded and smiled at Walter's reaction. He didn't know the man very well, but he was able to guess that Walter was not the sort to engage in conversations easily or lightly, so he was both appreciative and cautious as he attempted not to press his companion too hard and disrupt the mood. Instead, he enjoyed the moments of silence as Walter considered and responded.
"Oh, that is a shame. Taiwan is not a place I have been to personally, but I have met with many from there, and many more who have an opinion of it. The side effects of traveling in China, everyone had words to share about both Taiwan and Tibet." He smirked and grinned. "It sounds wonderful, as is much of this fine world. The places people gather and the places without them are both magical and I think everyone should have the chance to see it all." He paused. "Though I can understand how there are often challenges that make such difficult. Youth and circumstance lead to age and regret far too often."
Lawrence paused for a moment, again enjoying the moment of silence that followed. "Perhaps one day we can travel together. You can show me Europe and I could show you Asia?" He winked playfully. "You'd be surprised the travel packages one can get through this fine institution." He chuckled and playfully waved at the school behind them. "That is if we can find the time to take a break from our duties..."
Walter liked to pretend, even to himself, that the idea of being made to interact nicely with others was an annoyance to him. That simple human contact and all the pleasantries that go with it only serve to distract him from his training. The training that was now the only thing of value in his life. Training was everything. His training and the benefits that came with it was all that gave him purpose and, by extension value. So, it seemed perfectly reasonable to him to be unwilling to get unnecessarily diverted from his purpose. That was his excuse. No matter how his cold, grumpy demeanour offended others, there was a purpose behind it.
He had to admit, though, that just sometimes interaction with others was pleasant. More than that, on occasion it even offered its own benefits. Benefits which, in cases like this, Walter had to confess were appealing. As he conversed with Lawrence, the Scandinavian had to confess that perhaps he just had a short temper and an unwillingness to suffer fools. The way he distanced himself from others was just his way of avoiding having to deal with people who annoyed him.
When he chatted with someone more reasonable and intelligent, such as Lawrence, the blond-haired groundskeeper could really open up. "That sounds interesting. Though I'm not sure I'd be a good travel companion. In Taiwan at least..."
With a shrug, he explains further. "The martial art I practice, well.... The lineage holder runs his classes in Taipei. The Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall." He chuckles softly. "I'd probably see little more than the inside of that place all the time I was there!"
The silence appealed to Walter, too. Standing there next to one of the few men on campus taller than he, Walt wondered what a passer-by might think, seeing the two of them standing together in silence.
As Lawrence reminded him of their duties with his final words, Walt nodded and began to collect up more detritus from the floor. "Yes. No rest for the wicked, as they say..."
"Nonsense." Lawrence waved a dismissive hand. "The only requirement for a good travel companion is the desire to travel in good company." He grinned and winked. "And if certain places bring certain complications... Well, that just makes things all the more interesting doesn't it." He chuckled lightly to himself as he thought how utterly unwelcome he and his lupine cousins were in certain parts of the world, and how that had never served to stop him before.
When he heard Walter discussing martial arts, Lawrence listened intently. He was not feigning interest either, he was legitimately curious. "Martial arts you say? Intriguing. A practice I have always been curious about learning, but between my duties in the valley and lack of drive beyond my casual interest has thus far impeded such study." Not to mention it was rarely necessary when Lawrence rarely needed to fight at all, and the rare times he did he could lean on his massive size and sharp teeth. "So I do noth thing that would be necessarily problematic to have you spending your time there." He shrugged then let the conversation slip back into silence for a time.
When Walter nodded and began returning to work, Lawrence smiled once more and aided his companion in relative silence for a time. As the work neared its completion, Lawrence stopped and offered a hand to Walter. "No rest for the wicked indeed... I must return to my office for a time, in case any of my students require me." He grinned broadly and honestly. "I enjoyed meeting you, Walter. My only regret is that it did not happen sooner." He winked and smiled. "I have no doubts that I shall see you around sooner or later, but if you wish to talk again sooner rather than later, feel free to come find me. Or else, raise a shout and I will hear you." He tapped his ear with a wink. "Till next we meet, my friend."