The wanderer and the ogre 'magic' pt.2

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warped
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The wanderer and the ogre 'magic' pt.2

Post by warped »

The wanderer and the ogre 'magic', part 2 of x++;

The hat spun. It may or may not have been a magic hat, quite aside from the spinning. That was easily explained, as it spun at the end of a finger. The finger was twirling it as the body to which the finger was attached ambled along a path. The hat had recently been returned to it's owner by Valonia, but there was just something wrong with it. It hadn't been doing it's job, of late. The magic was weakened. Or perhaps it had never been enchanted to begin with. Perhaps it was sentient, and sulking after being forgotten in a tavern? Perhaps vigorous rotational motion would set things right. Perhaps the hat was only an illusion. It was hard to say.

The grey wanderer was among the trees, somewhere in the vicinity of Yew. He wasn't quite sure exactly where he was, but that was fine; He wasn't quite sure exactly where he was going, either. He mulled that over as he walked. It didn't bother him, but he had a notion that it should. He'd noticed a lot of things in the past few months that struck him as bothersome, and was not bothered in the slightest. He'd noticed others noticing that he wasn't, and noticed that it bothered them in turn. How odd, this relationship of notice and bother, bother and notice. He couldn't remember noticing that before.

That brought up another thought, which was immediately sidetracked in favour of thinking that it was a good day for mulling over thoughts. Pity he had no wine to mull with it. No fire to mull the wine, either. A chain of conundrums, that. The previous thought edged back to the fore: He didn't remember much. He hadn't realized until he'd thought about it, but his memory of not remembering much only extended a few months at best. Perhaps half a year. That had also failed to bother him, until he'd happened past a mirror. His physical appearance and his length of memory past were alarmingly out of sync. And that finally succeed in bothering him. Something was clearly wrong.

His mind edged back from the chasm that thought opened up. It was deep, and it was dark, and Something down at the bottom was gibbering, and he cared not at all for the sound of it. Far better to go back to considering his situation, being quasi-lost. A lovely word, quasi. He rolled it around in his head for a while, liking the feel of it. He briefly considered putting his hat back on, but a considering glance at it, as it twirled away on his finger, decided him against it. Three-eighths of it clearly needed to spend more time under a centrifugal force. It was plain as day, like a funny-coloured smell.

He looked about him, as if noticing the surroundings for the first time. He was passing a small cottage. There were fields fenced off behind it, tillable land hacked out of the forest in ages past. A few chickens scratched around the door, a few human-shaped figures worked at various chores around farm yard. One of them waved, so he waved back with a smile. No signs of horses here; his search continued.

He kept walking, following the path. Perhaps what he searched for was no longer here, he thought. That also bothered him.
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Re: The wanderer and the ogre 'magic' pt.2

Post by Valonia »

The road conditions were not really improving, Valonia noted. Just this day, she had encountered undead, ogres, harpies, bandits, and an evil magus.

The undead, she slew. The ogres and harpies, she rode past, as they were far enough off the road to no longer be a threat. The bandits, however, she confronted. They refused to relent, so she did what she had to. As for the magus? Given the threat of the Cult of Tyball, Valonia could not afford to take chances. But he had no clues on him, of the Cult of Tyball or otherwise.

She pressed her horse onward.

She supposed she could have walked the roads, but she wanted quicker answers. Horseback was faster. If messengers were unable to traverse the roads, that would be a far easier explanation for the lack of communication between Britain and Empath Abbey. Less complicated. Less politics.

As she began to approach farmland, she slowed her horse. She had complicated feelings about this place. It had been home to her. In many ways, it still was. But it had changed… or perhaps she had. Perhaps she had changed too much for it. Perhaps she still feared people would recognize her, not as a druid, but for things she’d tried to put aside. Or perhaps she feared recognizing people she used to know…

…like the old man walking up the road?

Valonia pushed back her hood and regarded him with some curiosity. He did seem to have a knack for getting around, but what was he doing here?

She slowed her horse even further, coming to a plodding walk, and eventually a stop. She nodded in greeting.

“Hello, Desmond," she said, referring to him by the new name he had given her. "What brings you to Yew?”
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Re: The wanderer and the ogre 'magic' pt.2

Post by warped »

The wanderer stopped as well, looking at the horse. He looked it up; He looked it down. He spent a moment considering it's face, it's eyes. It was, as expected, the Wrong Horse. He switched his attention to Valonia, looking up at her as she looked down at him from horseback.

"I'm looking for someone." he said, simply. "I need some advice."

A giggle started somewhere in his chest. By the time it forced it's way out, he'd moderated it to a chuckle, but traces of giggle remained. "The wisest man I never knew lived long ago, and died. So I'm looking for the one I do know. He used to live around here," he gestured with his free hand at the forest surrounding them "...somewhere."

The hat continued it's merry twirling on the end of his finger.

"Time is of the essence, of course. Would you balk at taking a walk while we talk?"

He set off down the path again.
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Re: The wanderer and the ogre 'magic' pt.2

Post by Valonia »

Valonia frowned for a moment. The truth was she did balk a little at it. It was easier to avoid recognition if one was just riding past, rather than someone actually walking the road. Still, she supposed those were the consequences.

She said nothing in response to his question, but she climbed off her horse just as the wanderer started wandering. Slightly uncomfortable, she followed along somewhat behind, leading her horse.

She noted a small cottage along their way. If she recalled correctly, the father had once worked at the mill several years ago. She didn’t know if he still did, or whether he had retired. It looked like the daughter had some children. What had her name been? Dana? Dawn? Regardless, she likely was married or involved with the boy who had lived down the road. Valonia had known the two were romantically inclined even back then. And while she didn’t see him just then, it was possible he was working the field behind the house.

They were beginning to look her direction, recognizing the cloak of course. Not that it was a terribly uncommon sight; one could barely throw a rock and not hit a druid out here. But travelers were a distraction from the tedium of the farm, even the common sight of druids on whatever druidly business they were up to.

Valonia did not want to be the focus of attention.

She waved one of the younger girls over, who came over quickly, trusting what obviously appeared to be a druid. The golden scales were, of course, displayed prominently along the lapel of Valonia’s cloak.

“Didst thou want us to care for-” she began.

“No, it is yours now,” Valonia said and handed over the reins, shaking her head and walking off before they could protest. As expected, the girl went running back to her parents, chattering about the new animal.

It was a distraction. A compassionate one, perhaps. But a distraction. Val knew they would likely be more excited about a new horse than some woman who could fit the description of countless woodsfolk around here, let alone druids. And even if they chattered about some random passing druid, they would not have gotten a good look at her. While Val liked to think favorably about her appearance, she was not so delusional that she considered herself terribly distinctive or inherently recognizable. Her hair coloring was common in this area, and she had no distinctive birthmarks.

Besides, she would not miss the horse. It had been a good animal, but it was far safer and quicker for Val to return to Britain using the reagents she now carried in a pouch on her belt. She was confident the farmers would find a good use for the horse anyway. All things considered, it would likely see less danger here than with her.

She jogged quickly after Desmond.

“What sort of advice are you looking for?” she asked. “And though it has been a few years since I had lived here proper, perhaps I can help you find this person? There was an old paladin that way…”

She pointed off into the woods.

“And I remember an old retired judge lived that way…”

She pointed again, this time a different direction.

“And there was a family that way that used to build ships…”

She pointed yet another direction.
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Re: The wanderer and the ogre 'magic' pt.2

Post by warped »

The wanderer pondered as they walked, letting the talk of who lived where flow by him unheard. To be fair, her knowledge of the people hereabouts was unlikely to include what he was looking for, and after all it was a thorny problem he wrestled with. Should he tell her whom he was seeking?

He had a notion that others thought him somewhat... odd. "eccentric" was the word he'd overheard. That was a polite way of saying crazy, of course. The problem was one of perspective, really. His thoughts were clearly laid out, each link in his chain of reasoning following the previous one as straight as an arrow.

It was only from outside himself that his straight arrows appeared to be tied in knots.

He'd already wandered most of Yew by the time Valonia stumbled over him, and was starting to think that his quarry wasn't to be found here. He'd never met the 'gentleman' in question, and knew of him only by hearsay. He had no way of knowing if he'd be willing to help him. There was no guarantee he would have any information on the ogre's magic, either. He wasn't even sure Smith was still alive. The thought of the old beast brought Paws to mind, and the time of cataclysm. How strangely memories associated, sometimes.

Still, if one were going Grasping, thin straws were better than none.

In the end, he decided against telling her. Better to be thought mad looking for something unknown, than to admit seeking a talking horse and remove all doubt. Especially if it was a dead talking horse.

Still, she was here now, and had been willing to help him. Honour demanded he help her in turn. He realized she'd stopped speaking. Had stopped some time ago, actually. He tasted the silence, and judged it to be approaching uncomfortable. He checked his hat; Yes, quite uncomfortable. It was time to take steps.

He stopped walking, jamming the hat on his head. "I appear to be here out of time." he said. Realizing immediately that saying that may have reinforced his being viewed 'eccentric', he added: "I believe I'm quite late for the appointment I didn't have. Had I been early, we wouldn't be speaking of it."

He considered, but that seemed quite clear enough.

"I thank you for the tour of this area of Yew. I do not think the one I seek will be found here, however. I had hoped he might have a clue for me.. ah well. I will have to return to the Dungeon Despise and attempt again to wrest secrets from the ogres."

A thought struck him, and he grinned his I'm-not-crazy grin. She was probably in Yew to visit the Abbey, continuing the investigation that had started at the Lycaeum. The perfect way to return her a favour! He rummaged through his pack, pulling out a glass jar full with a dozen or so ovoid objects suspended in a clear liquid. Most were white, but three appeared to have been dyed with food colouring: one Yellow, one Green, one Orange. The jar smelled strongly of vinegar.

"Here, you'll need these later." he said, offering her the jar. "Virtue stones. For the Alter Room and Key. I, ah, borrowed them."
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Re: The wanderer and the ogre 'magic' pt.2

Post by Valonia »

Eggs? He had ‘borrowed’ pickled eggs? Valonia stared at the jar for a moment, then stared at Desmond.

“Virtue stones… I see,” she said carefully, wondering if she was enabling him by giving eggs more serious thought than they deserved. “Well. I cannot accept this. I am not the Avatar, and do not aspire to it.”

She waved away the ‘Virtue stones’.

She knew what he referred to… mostly. While she did not remember all the stories (and especially not all the details) of the Avatar’s adventures, she had some education even from before her time as a druid. After all, everyone had heard of the quest of the Avatar. But for anyone to think she would be on that sort of quest? That was laughable. She was unworthy of such things. She would do what she needed to, but preferred to spare the pretense that it was anything more than that. The quest of the Avatar was one of virtue, which meant she was fairly certain she had been disqualified some time ago. She was making an effort to be better than she had been, yes, but she was definitely no paragon of virtue. Just a person. And a flawed one at that.

“Keep them for yourself, Desmond,” she said, though not harshly or unkindly. “Even had I believed I was on any such quest, I would not make it far enough to use those. Not that I would deserve to anyway. I lost my honor when I took a paladin’s lessons and turned them on those that did not deserve it.”

She looked in the direction of the old paladin’s house. Or where it used to be, at any rate. It had been some time ago, after all. Maybe he was gone.

He would not have approved, had he known what she had done with his lessons. What he taught and what he had given was so that they could defend themselves and others. Not what they had ended up doing with it.

“…or perhaps I lost it when I followed loyalty down a path I knew was wrong. Or both.” She turned in the direction of the shipbuilders’ house.

She did not know if his parents were still there either, and she had no intention of finding out. She didn’t expect they’d appreciate seeing her. Besides, they were likely informed about the death of their son anyway. There was nothing new to tell them. At this point, she had no desire to reopen old wounds, either theirs or her own. They did not need to know how bravely –but uselessly and frustratingly wrongly—he had died, charging against impossible odds in spite of sense or reason. If he had been working for a better cause, things might have been different. It might have been heroic, rather than simply wrong. His bravery had always been one of the best parts of him. But his parents would find no comfort in that.

Neither would they find comfort in knowing she had tried everything she knew to save him (even if it was probably wrong to attempt to save an arguably bad person from the consequences of their own actions), especially as she had failed. He’d still died. Telling them the how would give them no comfort, and it certainly did not make her feel any better to recall futilely holding her palms over a bleeding wound far larger than she could cover.

In retrospect, perhaps that was why she had not been cut down as she probably deserved. Technically, she’d never surrendered. She hadn’t run away either. But she’d been unarmed at the time, and the knights hadn’t been the ones who lost their honor. There was simply no threat coming from someone with both hands pressed to wounds she knew were mortal even before she attempted anything. And after her efforts had proven useless like she had known they would…? There was just no point to fighting any further. If they had cut her down then, it would have suited her fine, but she had been too wearied to bother chasing a proper end. Even the idea of vengeance seemed empty and meaningless. She did not care about a cause. She cared about people. And they were gone. What would fighting have bought her?

Still, it had been long enough now that those events were all reduced to complicated and difficult memories rather than some sort of trauma. She did not much like to think on those matters, but she had poured out most of her grief a long time ago. What pain remained was manageable.

She still thought of him sometimes though. The distance of time had long since cooled what feelings she once had, but she remembered that he had been charismatic, bold, and quick-witted, with a fire in his heart and a knack for drawing people to him. She was no more immune to his charm than anyone else had been. Her crime and shame was that she had not been ignorant that their path was wrong. Desperation, though a reason, was not really an excuse. She had not truly been fooled into believing their actions were completely justified. And she did not now seek to pass responsibility for her own choices and actions. It was just that compared to having his favor, everything else at the time had seemed far less important.

Loyalty was complicated.

She hadn’t really spoken of such things in a while. She didn’t know why she spoke to Desmond now about it (even if he did not really seem like a Desmond to her?). Perhaps it was that he seemed safe to talk to. Or maybe it was just this place, and the complicated memories and feelings it brought up. Or maybe she just needed a friend to talk to, crazy or not.

And if he rejected her for her past? Perhaps she could just attribute it to his eccentricities and distance herself. It would be cold of her to do so, but distancing herself for self-preservation was less painful than the knowledge that nothing she did in the present would be enough to make up for the past…

…or maybe she was being an idiot about it all. What did any of this matter anyway? She hadn’t told him much of anything. Nothing she hadn’t already resolved. And he had just offered her eggs! She was treating this like he had offered her actual Virtue stones, which was just plain stupid of her. She knew they were eggs. That was all! Besides, even if they had been the genuine stones, she wasn’t on that quest, the ‘stones’ having been ‘borrowed’ would probably disqualify the holder from the Truth and Honesty parts of it -- and she was overthinking it all anyway! Idiocy!

“Look, just keep your eggs,” she said, rubbing her face and feeling irritated with herself. “And be careful of Despise. There are evil mages within. Maybe I should go with you, just in case-… or wait. I have other matters I need to attend to. But… perhaps after? Or maybe-… look, just be careful.”
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Re: The wanderer and the ogre 'magic' pt.2

Post by warped »

He listened, and shrugged, opening the the jar with a deft skill.

"I'm always careful," he said with a smile, fishing a pickled egg from the jar without looking. "But there are things more important than staying safe, and it's a Sacrifice I am willing to make."

He popped the egg in his mouth. The orange one was delicious. He thought for a moment as he chewed, and continued once his mouth was cleared.

"As to Despise, of course there are evil mages there. They too seek the lost magic of the ogres. It is the only explanation." He frowned as he fished a second egg from the jar, the green one this time. "There's no Justice in the world, that my own search should be complicated by competition. I wonder what possible use they have for sorcery used in the joining of metal. Mages are not known for wearing armour."

The second egg followed the first. Still delicious, he thought with satisfaction. One was never sure of the taste to come, when pickled eggs were on the menu. Each was always unique. He nodded thoughtfully as he enjoyed the snack, and was soon finished with it.

"Perhaps they seek to turn that fell power upon something other than armour. To shut a chest forever, or to seal an iron door with a Weld Unbreakable."

A third egg was retrieved from the jar. Against all odds, it was the last coloured one: Yellow.

"I've chased them away from that subterranean island several times, but they always return. They looked somewhat unhealthy, the last time I saw them off." He grinned, patting his axe fondly. "They did not care for being drenched by the River, I think. Perhaps I will return and put them out of my misery. It would be the Compassionate thing to do, after all."

The third egg vanished as the first two had. He patted his stomach with pleasure, and he fixed a steely gaze upon Valonia, with a momentary glimpse of... something, in his eyes. Reason? Sanity? Sense?

"One cannot have a single thing without it's opposite being implied. If the ancient magic of the ogrefolk can mend my armour, or even seal a doorway, no doubt it can be twisted to rend either asunder. What do the mages want it for? What currently checks their ambition? Those are questions worth investigating."

He turned, looking around Yew again.

"As for me, my hide does not seem as thick as it should be. I must bow to the inevitable, and replace my armour before I wander on. No doubt there is a smith around here somewhere."

He offered the jar again. Only normal, white eggs remaind. "Sure you don't want one?"
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Re: The wanderer and the ogre 'magic' pt.2

Post by Valonia »

She considered for a moment, then shrugged and accepted one from the jar.

“I will take one, as long as you do not think this is Spirituality just because it is white,” Valonia said, holding up the undyed egg. “It is no more Spirituality than cheese, dill, and tarragon mustard are Compassion, Justice, or Sacrifice.”

She was guessing about the flavors, since different people had different recipes. Orange could be cider rather than tarragon mustard, for example. But she knew better than to assume the colors meant something more than the seasonings used. Even her family altered recipes depending on their whims, tastes, and ingredients on hand. It didn’t actually mean anything.

She took a bite and contemplated for a moment while she chewed.

“I will cede you may be right on the mages’ purpose, however,” she continued after swallowing. “That they are trying to open something. I highly doubt their actions are for moral edification.”

She took another bite, finishing off the egg. It wasn’t bad. She then wiped her fingers on her leggings. She did not expect the small amount of vinegar would dry out the leather too badly, and she did not want it on her fingers.

She then squinted thoughtfully, considering the old wanderer’s points. She then lowered her voice.

“I imagine it has something to do with the cult we had been informed about. But that was something for the Avatar to handle.” She looked at him skeptically. “I am not certain what may ultimately be done about it. As for what checks their ambition…?”

The Avatar was gone. And so was Lord British, for any practical purpose. And the Companions were tasked with other matters. So…

Valonia realized she had no idea what was holding them back now. Perhaps she was just tired, or was missing something, or hadn’t paid enough attention during druidic lectures or to her readings, but she actually had little idea what kept the mages in check. Unless the only thing that checked the mages’ ambitions involved an old wanderer with an axe and a changing name? Or if they were going by the old stories, were the Cult mages simply not virtuous enough to open certain doors? Actually, things seemed more dire when seen this way.

If that was what stopped them, Valonia wasn’t sure how much she would be able to help. She already knew what her faults were. It wasn’t likely she’d be able to open any mystical doors either. Or maybe her role in this was to act as a doorstop on the outside, and keep the mages from doing what they were doing? That seemed more appropriate.

She shrugged at Desmond. “I want to say something about evil being self-destructive, and that the mages’ lack of virtue prevents them from doing what they are attempting… but virtue is slow to return to the lands and they are still progressing in their manner anyway. So I find it difficult to believe that the only thing holding them back is their lack of goodly disposition.”

She shook her head. “Which is to say I do not know what is keeping them from their goals.”

“At any rate, I agree you need a replacement for your armor. But unfortunately, there are few smiths in or around Yew. Most people wear leather or cloth, and use wooden weaponry -- bows, staves, clubs, and the like. Any manner of metal armor is usually imported from Britain or elsewhere,” she explained. “The old paladin I once knew was one of the few people capable of any serious smithery... but I am uncertain he remains here, and he was not what anyone would call an official blacksmith. He was that way.”

She pointed. If that was what Desmond opted for, she wasn’t sure she wanted to accompany him and confront that part of her past just yet. She didn’t feel ready for that.

“Otherwise, there is a leatherworker in town if you need something immediate,” she added. “I could also craft you something, but it might take a few days. I prefer to use my own leathers.”

She didn’t want to explain how she used old brain tanning or urea-acid methods, rather than the ones that relied on soaking the material in oak bark. It was time-consuming (and admittedly a bit disgusting), but she found it made the skins more pliable and water resistant.
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Re: The wanderer and the ogre 'magic' pt.2

Post by warped »

He pondered, looking around again at all the trees. Horrible things, trees. Liable to fall at any moment. Untrustworthy.

"I think, perhaps... yes, yes.... no. The smithwork of Yew just won't do," he said eventually, after giving the various arboreal entities a thorough look. "It does not call to me as it ought. Perhaps the steel here isn't quite right in the head."

"As for leather..." He shuddered. "I simply cannot. It is Dead. Not the good, hard dead of bone, but the soft, bad dead of skin." He shook his head. "Never trust skin; It will lie to you every time."

He shook his hard sharply as another thought forced it's way in. "Perhaps bone will serve, though. It has before; It may again. I shall visit the Old Rattler's down the road yonder, and see if any will volunteer." He brightened at the follow-up thought. "The formless-and-ethereal are often found in their company. Do you think any will be visiting? They usually know a thing or two about the magical arts; Perhaps they will share their thoughts regarding the secret-magic of the Ogres that I seek."

"They're a quarrelsome lot, though I get on fairly well with them, I think. Once it was understood they aren't fit for consumption, anyway."
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Re: The wanderer and the ogre 'magic' pt.2

Post by Valonia »

Val squinted in confusion, opened her mouth, then closed it. She frowned uncertainly.

Both bone and skin were dead, so she couldn’t quite understand his objections. Still, he was entitled to his preferences nonetheless, whether she could understand them or not. She wasn’t sure about the whole skin lie thing, though. It was true that leather was softer and less durable than other materials… perhaps that was what he meant? That it was less permanent?

As far as Val was concerned, that was sort of the point. There were countless books and movements about the concept of impermanence, and acceptance of it. And though Val herself was not keen on indulging on conversations about it, she knew druids who had been. She, however, was still too much a part of the world, still too much a creature of her passions and attachments to fully embrace the idea of impermanence… but she did understand it -- academically at least. It was why she tried to be philosophically consistent and wore hide over her own hide, carried a staff that would wear away in time, tried to cultivate unbiased detachment… while at the same time enjoying what the world had to offer, caring more about things than was really proper for someone striving to live without bias, trying to preserve what she could, and secretly hoping that the things she did would outlast herself.

It was contradictory, she knew. And it wasn’t like she disbelieved in the importance of accepting impermanence, even her own… but she also wasn’t one of the grayhoods, and wasn’t ready to go gentle into that good night (as the saying went), let alone go there with graceful acceptance.

But perhaps that was kind of what he was doing: rejecting the impermanent? Looking for something more durable and lasting? If so, perhaps druidry really wasn’t for him. Nature changed too much… and probably disturbingly so, especially for someone who had lived as long as she assumed he had.

In an odd way, searching for answers among the undead (the rattlers, as he called them?) did appear to be philosophically consistent with trying to seek something less impermanent... even if she was against such things due to unlife being a horrible corruption of nature. Not that she thought he was actually attempting any manner of necromancy, however.

“I am truly not sure if the, er, formless-and-ethereal will be there or not,” she finally answered. “Or whether they will answer you. Speaking to the dead is… uh, really not my area of expertise.”

She was pretty sure it was against some sort of rule. She was also pretty sure if she bothered to ask any of her elders, they would tell her that involving with necromancy or anything that reeked of it was a hard ‘no’. So, given that, shouldn’t she advise him not to go? She could try, she supposed… but really, had that ever worked out? Still, he was fully capable of defending himself, AND cleansing the undead seemed like an overall positive thing…

But surely he did not intend to get pieces from the graveyard, did he?? Those people were loved ones and family members and old settlers of the area… for all Valonia knew, she had relatives still buried there!

Or… would be buried, if they weren’t up and walking around. She did rather hope they weren’t, though she was a bit reluctant to go and check for herself.

She grimaced. “If you want something out of bone… perhaps I can suggest animals rather than, uh, something that may return to life while attempting to stitch it together?”
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