Anima: The Masquerade

How can I protect people... (Entry for Lydia)
...if I can't protect myself

The image received from the mask was confusing and seemingly meaningless. Yet, it was simultaneously terrifying and unsettling to watch. But what did it all mean? The titanic machine of almost alien nature was unlike anything she’d seen before losing her sight. More so disturbing than the image was the feeling of emptiness that followed. Lydia could no more be sure what the mask had devoured than how to control what knowledge it gave, if there was even such a way. Doubtful.

Lydia snapped back into reality from her train of thought. Finding she’d been staring at the mask in her hands for some time, she let it drape from her finger by its eye-hole as her hand hung at her side in its resting position.

“Lydia, are you going to give the mask back,” Harlan asked.

“No,” she answered quickly and took a step back. Having felt the mask’s effects first hand, Lydia was unwilling to allow anyone else to be robbed for senseless images. She thought that perhaps in the right hands the mask would be invaluable. The chances that she or any of her companions would be able to make sense of anything the mask had to offer was simply too slim.

Harlan was hardly someone that Lydia admired, even if he had started to grow on her. Though he’d made a series of cute gestures to earn her respect, Lydia had been unconsciously hard set in her first impression that the man likely had a criminal past loaded with nefarious dealings. However, Lydia felt that even if Harlan was an idiotic ruffian, allowing the man to wander into the wrath of the mask without fully understanding the consequences would be wrong. No human deserved the mysterious sense of loss she’d suffered. It was one thing to trade a memory willingly, and another to have one whisked away from your grasp without ever knowing what was missing.

“Look,” Harlan explained with a harsh firmness, “I was the one who found the mask in the first place, and I was the one who climbed all the way up those chairs to get it. That, and it’s most dangerous to you since you have the gift. So just give the mask back, alright?”

Lydia lowered her head slightly to avoid the many pairs of eyes she was certain were now fixated on her. She sensed a thirst for power and control in Harlan’s voice past the excuse regarding her safety. Lydia had been warned countless times about people with selfish intentions. While she couldn’t know for certain what thoughts occupied his mind, the girl feared what lengths Harlan would to go in order to get such a powerful object back.

What would he do if she said no again? Would Harlan simply accept her decision, or grow angry that she’d defied him? Lydia was painfully aware that she would be unable to defend herself from from a man who if nothing else had proved his physical prowess. Harlan could simply walk up and force the mask from her hands, or beat her to a bloody pulp if he managed to find her alone.

Lydia took a deep breath and cleared the uncomfortable images from her mind. She wouldn’t be so scared or half as paranoid if not dealing with an object of limitless value. Lost for a different course of action, Lydia held the mask out for Harlan to take without another word. She couldn’t explain herself without risking false accusations. The girl felt him snag it out of her hand and turned her head away in shame and remorse. Lydia knew she could not protect someone who did not want to be protected.

“Be careful Harlan,” Lydia thought to herself, _"I’m not strong enough to save you from yourself."

Tai Fu and Kung Chi
Or something like that...

Captain’s Log

A fortunate turn of events occurred just later this afternoon. A handsome young fellow by the name of Harlan MacAlistair requisitioned my employment aboard the Fortune. My crew, Robert Wanamaker and Thomas Kincaid have been hired to sail the Fortune at the expense of the young man and his consort of companions. All seemed to be in order at first and it was a fresh change of pace for Robert, Thomas and I. We have been out of work for what seems like an eternity. Not for lack of skill, mind you, but for lack of private sailing vessels owned by other than the nobility or navy or merchant class. This seemed like it could prove to be a wonderful experience for us all.

If I had known what sort of strange menagerie of individuals I would be working for, I may have considered a different job, or perhaps had the forethought to sail with a larger quantity of liquor. They are definitely that, individuals. Each has their own quirks and personalities, and they are about as coordinated as a bunch of monkeys. The first fellow I mentioned earlier, the handsome lad, is rather eccentric and high spirited. He comes across as unintelligent, but I believe he is simply inexperienced about the world. I will come back to this fellow later. The second fellow is a similarly handsome young man, though I can’t recall much about him. He and the first seem to do nothing but argue and try to prove which one is the alpha. The third individual is a young woman with a strange way of carrying herself. On the one hand she’s all seriousness and proper placement and upbringing. On the other, she seems to be eager for entertainment and is doubtless bored. Once when there was a lull in conversation as we sailed to Edge Tower, I caught her draping herself over the side of the ship and staring lifelessly out into the wild blue ocean. The fourth individual is an Oracle from the Mercury Lighthouse. She seems rather quiet, but I fear she is somewhat judgmental of others. She’s blind, which makes her all the more curious. I don’t know too much about the faith and all that, however. In spite of the Harlan’s best efforts to make friends, it seems this Oracle is determined not to acknowledge any semblance of friendship with this young man and instead seems to have deemed him an idiot. I don’t blame her exactly, and I’ll show you why in the following conversation I overheard.

This was something I overheard from the main deck. I didn’t pay a horrible amount of attention, but the conversation was definitely a strange one to my ears.

Harlan: Maybe you should get out some time, Draco. You know, punch a few bears, have a few beers. I mean, it’s no wonder you aren’t dating an incredibly gorgeous woman like I am. You spend all your time doing stupid pointless Draco type stuff.

Draco: Oh, and I suppose getting so wasted you don’t remember getting a tattoo would be a good use of my time.

Harlan: Who told you I got a tattoo?!

Draco: I saw it earlier when you were taking off your shirt and looking at your reflection in the ocean.

Harlan: Hey, I was just making sure I wasn’t sunburnt.

Draco: You’ve been wearing a shirt this whole time!

Harlan: Well at least I get some sunshine once in a while.

Draco: I get plenty of sunshine.

Harlan: Oh yeah, when’s the last time you went outside and enjoyed the fresh air.

Draco: Just the other day while I was training Ti Chi.

Harlan: Ti Chi. Pshhhh. Only wimps learn Ti Chi.

Draco: More like, only wimps learn Kung Fu. There’s more style in one move of Ti Chi than in the whole martial art, if you can call it that, of Kung Fu.

Harlan: Hey. Kung Fu is the greatest martial art in the world.

Draco: Maybe if you like looking like a Kung Fool.

Harlan: It’s better than punching people with Chai Tea!

Draco: It’s Ti Chi and it’s better than Kung Fu. If a Ti Chi master and a Kung Fu master were in the same room, the Ti Chi master would win.

Harlan: Maybe if the Kung Fu master was drunk. Kung Fu would win!

Draco: Ti Chi!

Harlan: Kung Fu!!

Draco: Ti Chi!!!

Harlan: Kung Fu!!!!

At this point I heard some sort of struggle and then a loud splash as one or both of the fellows went overboard. The man by the name of George, a retainer to the Oracle sighed and asked me to slow the boat so they could retrieve the two lads. So you see why this ship might seem to me a bit odd and perhaps not the best ship to sail. We’ll see just how it goes. At least it’s putting money in the old coinpurse.

-Captain Swanson

Not your average cave man.
Not your average man.

I can’t even begin to describe the kinds of men here in the Mars Cavern. They’re unintelligent, poor in hygiene and, no pun intended, they act like they were raised in a cave. Pathetic. What I really want in life is to find a man who lives for adventure and isn’t stuck in some sort of doctrined society. And of course, someone who’s hansom and strong.

The other week I stumbled across someone I can hardly begin to describe. As you know, Monique, the parties in the Mars Cavern are usually pretty exciting and there’s quite a bit of tom foolery going on. I know, I shouldn’t go to those parties, but the Caverns are so boring otherwise, and sometimes I just need to get out for a while and stretch my legs, you know? Well, I went to a party that seemed a little more crazy than usual. I know, I should be more careful, but something wonderful happened. I met the life of the party. There was this guy there. He was cute. Hansom. Okay, he was hot. Probably not the most attractive person I’ll ever see, but he came pretty close. He was singing terribly and making jokes all the while having drinks and getting some good laughs. There are people like him here, but this guy was different. I could tell by the clothes he wore that he wasn’t from the caverns. He said he lives in Eternia. So what happens? He sees me, walks over like it’s no big deal and asks me to dance! Can you believe it. I don’t even know if I’ve ever seen someone walk up to me even when they were drunk. I think I intimidate them with my good looks. It’s hard to say. Anyway, so we danced, and he was honestly pretty bad, but he made me laugh and we sat down for a couple of drinks afterward.
Oh, Monique, you gotta see this guy. He is built like a god. His muscles are in the peak of perfection, and the way he moves. Not to mention that guy can hold his liquor.

Well, I did something you probably wouldn’t be proud of. I went back to his room at the Inn. I know, I shouldn’t have. But it was wonderful. He doesn’t seem that smart on the outside, but he’s more intelligent than he lets on. He doesn’t see the world he wants to see, he just takes things as they are. It’s so simplistic, but then he understands things like honor and respect and the things that are important in life, you know? I know, it sounds kind of dumb. He’s from a merchant family in Eternia. MacAlistair I believe was the name. His name is Harlan. He told me to send him a letter to his house in Eternia. I think I might. He said he wants this to be more than a fling. I really hope he’s being true. The last few guys were such liars. I think he’s honest though.

He’s definitely adventurous. Last I heard from him he was going to fight a bear in hand to hand combat. Fight a bear! Can you believe it? He’ll get himself killed. He promised me he’d be careful though, and he did say he had a hunting party with him. He also promised me a pancake breakfast on his way back from the hunting expedition.

I can’t wait. Fingers crossed this guy is the one…

Looks like a butterfly... (Entry for Lydia)
... Stings like a bee.

Four Years Prior to Current Events

“I don’t understand, why would she hit me,” Lydia asked as she tried to stop the stream of blood that seeped from her nose.

“You have to be more careful when dealing with violent people,” Oracle Jannice instructed over the rabble of city guards detaining the attacker. The old and wrinkled woman had been teaching Lydia some of the basics of leadership as they walked through the market district. During their walk, Jannice found her way to discussing the topic of dealing with the large number of angry or distressed people generally encountered while providing advice or insight to citizens which was one of the Oracle’s many duties.

Hearing the loud outburst between two citizens fighting over the last of a supply of honey, the older woman sent Lydia to deal with the commotion for first hand experience. Things quickly went sour as the nervous girl tried to put a stop to the conflict and earned a blow straight to the nose that knocked her off of her feet and onto the dusty stone tile.

“What should I have done differently then,” Lydia looked up at Jannice who thought silently for a moment on what to say before speaking.

“Have you ever seen a butterfly,” Jannice inquired.

“Of course I have. What’s a butterfly got to do with anything?”

“Are you scared of butterflies?”

“No, I’m not scared of butterflies,” Lydia answered with impatience. “Can’t you just tell me what I did wrong?”

“What about bees? You’ve seen those too, haven’t you?”

“Don’t you remember when I got stung last year? I hate bees.”

“You got stung by that bee, and now you fear them. You respect them and move out of their way when they fly toward you. That is what you need to do. Today, you were a butterfly. I could barely hear you speaking, and you were so skittish that no one took you seriously.”

“So I should sting people? Like hit them?”

“No,” Jannice chuckled, “but you should exert forcefulness. Forcefulness not in volume, or with sharp and cruel words, but in confidence and certainty. People respect those more than anger and violence.”

“I think I understand,” Lydia nodded.

“Good. Then you’ll do better the next time, won’t you.”

“I’ll try-”

“Lydia,” Jannice interrupted as she gripped Lydia’s shoulder and turned her so that she could look Jannice straight int the eyes. “With confidence.”

“Yes, ma’am, I will do better.”

In The Cafe During the Initial Hunting Party Planning

“But we need to get people now so that they have time to prepare too,” Harlan tried to explain to Kaylee. The two had fired off the same arguments repeatedly as if the other would suddenly understand their perspective, and the situation was doing nothing but grow in pressure as both became irritable with the other.

“But we’re not ready to find people, I told you-”

“Stop! Just stop,” Lydia interrupted. Both Harlan and Kaylee went silent as they waited for her follow up. She could feel her body trembling ever so slightly in nervousness now that she’d commanded her companion’s attention. She suddenly found herself unprepared for their cooperation as her mind fogged and her words slipped off of her tongue under the spotlight. “Harlan,” Lydia continued calmly, “you go get us some supplies. Kaylee, you go to the adventurer’s guild to find some people for hire.” The two agreed on the terms and immediately went their own way to do as they were told. Lydia took a deep breath as the pressure in the atmosphere of the room faded.

Now alone at the table with only George, she put her head on the table as she waited for her own nerves to settle down.

“George,” Lydia spoke after several minutes of complete stillness, “Let’s go find Kaylee. She needed directions to the guild.”

“Of course,” George stood and helped Lydia off of the stool and find her footing on the floor before handing the girl her walking stick and leading her out the door.

And it would have worked, too...
...If it weren't for those meddling kids and their Naval officer, too.

“Damn kids, think they can do anything they damn well please. They had a goddamn torch, Rob. In the sewer!” One of the guards exclaimed, watching the group walk away. “To think if they just did it the right way…”

The other guard shook his head. “Don’t worry, that one over there, he’s a troublemaker, he’ll get what’s comin’ to ’im.” The other guard said, “For now, let’s see what that officer said was down here…”

The two wandered down the sewers, following the directions that the Oracle’s guardian had set them to follow. It wasn’t long before they came across a gruesome and grisly sight, three women, one without hands, the other without legs, and one disemboweled. One of the guards ran to the channels and threw up, the other dropped his spear in disbelief. “…Monica…?”

Two hours later

“Investigator, this is the scene that the guards found.” A tall, hawk-eyed, black haired man stood at the entrance of the room, with three guards along with him, one without his helm on, staring at one of the bodies. The investigator looked at the poor man, clearly he lost someone important to him. He knew he’d have to ask uncomfortable questions soon… but first a quick search of the operating table revealed a hidden compartment… a journal. The Investigator flipped through a few pages before closing it, he could read it in more detail later, currently, the drawings and scrawlings meant nothing to the man.

He walked over to the sobbing guard and knelt down. “Sir, my name is Investigator Johan, can I ask you a few questions?” The guard, for the first time in a while turned his head away from the mutilated corpse he had been staring at to look at the investigator. His eyes were red, tears streaming down his face. He turned back to the body and nodded. “What’s your name, sir…?”

“Langsfield,” The guard choked out. “Robert Langsfield.” It was clear that he was having trouble speaking.

“How do you know this woman, Mr. Langsfield?”

“Sh-sh-,” The guard swallowed. “She is… was my wife.” The guard said, now sobbing uncontrollably. One of the guards that came in with the investigator put his hand on his shoulder. “Why? Why would someone do this?”

“That’s what I am here to find out, Mr. Langsfield. Do you have any knowledge as to why someone would want to harm your wife? Do you know that man on the side of the room? do you know the significance of her…” The investigator trailed off, looking at the body. “…Wounds?”

“No,” the guard said, now with steel in his voice, “I’ve never seen him before. And no one would want to hurt Monica. She was a sweetheart, and she helped everyone she came across, whether she knew them or not.” Just then a realization occurred to him that seemed to quench the fire in his soul. “She… she was pregnant…” Then he sobbed again.

The investigator attempted to calm him to get more answers, but failed. He stood up and looked around the room “Alright, let’s clear this place out, and scour the immediate area for what could be more rooms like this. Let’s get to work.”

Oracle Lydia, Temple of the Eleven
To be opened upon recieving

Dear Lydia,

I would personally like to extend to you my most humble gratitude for the services rendered, regarding my recovery from severe head trauma. Your skill and faith is unfathomably deep as is your connection to this world in which you serve. I cannot express my thanks enough, as I was expecting to be out recovering for a good two weeks. My gratitude seems to me insufficient, as the quality of our relationship is such that I do not think you like me much at all. In spite of that dislike, or distrust or whatever you would prefer to call it, you still performed a service that others would have paid ample money for at no cost to me, and that kindness seems to me incredible.
I regret that we have not got on together well, as my intention toward you is merely one of curiosity. You and I seem to keep crossing paths, and as your acquaintance I would prefer our relationship to be one of friendship rather than animosity. When I saw you at the bar, it seemed an odd coincidence, and then again at the temple I knew there was more to what lay in store than I could see. Perhaps as an Oracle you have seen more than I. I would like to remain in your company as someone you can rely on for your protection as well as for friendship. I have a great desire to protect the good people of Eternia from those who would do it harm, and that same courtesy extends to you and not simply out of proximity. No doubt you have much to offer this world, and I hope that you will be able to see that there’s much I have to offer as well. As such, I hope this letter will encourage you to see me not simply as a ignorant abrasive irritant, but a caring man in search of his own destiny.
I would be pleased if you could teach me more about the faith of this world, as it is simply not something I comprehend. Your ability to bring me a speedy recovery at the hands of the raw elements is enough to shake the very foundation of my knowledge. If it would be of interest to you, I would like you to teach me.
Please tell George that he is very skilled, and that I am personally grateful for stepping in to assuage the guardsmen who sought our incarceration for doing the right thing. I was glad we could save that woman, even if we had to break a simple trespassing law to do so.
In short, thank you for your kindness, may it grow and radiate on those near to you.

Your friend,

P.S. In two days time Mappo Orlong, Draco and I are going out into the woods to punch a bear. If you would be interested in joining us in a hunting expedition, please send word as soon as possible. Your company will be most welcome. Enclosed is an artists rendition of the events to come.

Your friend,

P.P.S. I just realized I already signed this letter and am unable to erase the aforementioned script. My apologies.

Damn Pirates
Always make a smooth ride rough...

This event has been a very long time planning. When important people die the world seems to just stop bloody turning and demand that everyone stop what they are doing and get to doing something new before it damn well falls apart. I’m not convinced that the world would fall apart if we didn’t have a Grand Cleric for a while, but the simple fact of the matter is that suddenly Grand Cleric Samsar died a month ago and I’ve been needing to spread my forces thin to protect damn oracles and church leaders from pirates that think they’re going to get a little richer because more transport than usual is happening.

Well, just as I get three Oracles to town safely, the one boat I was escorting myself got attacked. What a wonderful coincidence. It’s almost like they can smell me. The battle went much smoother than I had planned… when the captain received a neckfull of crossbow bolt… from one of his own. The battle broke as soon as it happened, not a very well put together band of pirates. But the one who killed the captain… He seemed a good enough kid, however he got onto a pirate ship is beyond me. Needs discipline, now, if he joined the Navy, I’d make a proper man out of him yet, but as it stands, I’m happy watching out my window while he swabs the deck.

The next job I’ll have to do is getting the bloody oracles back. I’ll keep my feet up until then, though.


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