Despite Shelter’s frigid chill, not everyone was frozen and still during the last few seasons. A stranger’s death with a curious inheritance set off a complex chain of events. Continuing into Revival, the rumors and stories turned into a buzz of activity humming across the settlement . The Digger now sorts through scattered pages of old entries in his journal. Digging for hints and rumors. Moments dismissed at the time may now prove important. Clues tied to recent whispers on the wind.
Excerpts from the Digger’s Journal:
(The date is unreadable, the charcoal is smudged…)
Busy day. A new face missing most of its jaw wandered in. The ghoul couldn’t speak apart from hisses and gurgles. Most scavs kept their distance. We tried to talk with drawings in the sand but the closing of the day sidetracked progress and understanding. Didn’t even figure out a name for it.
Fire King – Day (smudged)
Odd stranger near the bazaar today. Human with a hat and a book. I called out for him to join us, but he never did. He just kept circling and scribbling in his book. Folks got restless at the behavior. So I chased him off with some rifle shots, before they chased him with flayers. I reckon he can put that in his book!
(The date is unreadable, the charcoal is smudged…)
I found a piece of folded paper pinned to one of the posts in the bazaar. On the outside, it was marked as a delivery from “The Courier”. On the inside, a message was written from the odd notebook scribbler who I shot at several days ago. Says the sun made him act all funny, that he didn’t mean any harm, and that hopes he won’t get shot at the next time he showed up. It’s signed with the name of “Madeye”
I reckon I’ll let this Madeye know he’s welcome if I see him again. Maybe the Courier could pass on a message. Never heard of him until now. No idea where I’d find him if I wanted to.
(Scribbled in the margin by “Madeye”)
and Frank = the Brutes. Between Cormac + Fissure. Between a rock and a hole in the ground.
Withering – Day 40
A busy day despite the chill of the season. Several traders braved the cold. Harvey set himself up in a stall. Apo kept folks warm with her brew. Dassina growled at bad deals offered. The manimal was restless…maybe she sensed the death that soon stumbled in. When the young girl, beaten and bloody, walked into the middle of the bazaar and dropped lifeless, the trading kept going. Battered bodies are nothing new around here, but some of us couldn’t just let her lay there and die. That’s just bad for business.
We gave the injured stranger some water and tended to her wounds but it was useless. Her dying words were vague. Mixed messages of request and warning and offering. She asked us to save the Courier. She warned us of the Brutes. She spoke of another Witch and the passage of several moons. She died trying to give a small pouch to one of our own witches, the mutant Ccindy. A metal key was inside the pouch.
Searching the girl’s body for clues or scrap, I discovered a crude tattoo on the back of her neck: a length of flaming chain. No one among us recognized the mark.
In her pockets, I found a handful of unfamiliar stones. They’re not from anyplace around here. The Mutant Witch believes they are sacred stones of her tribal ancestors and that I have no right to them. She believes the dead girl stole them from her people and the Witch wants them. She’s made an offer: the key for the stones. She doesn’t care that the dead girl wanted the Witch to have the key. I’ll probably make the trade but not until after I study the stones. Still, she and I have received a strange inheritance.
I buried the girl in a shallow grave under the schooner while Apo and Tsukiko hiked over to the Brutes’ place to look around. Witch wanted her burned right there. Probably the wiser thing to do and I might still later.
(Scribbled in the margin of this entry)
Dead girl named Loonella, sister of Lajka. Second-hand talk from scavs with Frank and Lajka.
Shelter – Day 14
I’ve been busy down in the Cape building a shelter and dock. Isolated from most scavengers but Ol’Jubal and Sohma found me there today with word that the Mutant Witch was eager to make that trade. So we made the long hike to her temple near Hambone Hill. A Pipsqueek named Greg followed us. He was very enthusiastic to see what would happen. The cold weather has left me little time for thoughts on rocks and keys but others felt differently.
We found the Mutant Witch, made the trade, and she was pleased to get the stones. I would have liked more time to study them, but she was eager to have them…or eager to get rid of the key. With the stones in hand, she spat curses about “smoothskin thieves” for a bit. She claimed not to care about the key, and now that I have it, I don’t know if I do or not.
Apo showed up after the exchange and she told us all about the strange things she and Tsu found at Frank’s place. It’s not clear what happened to the Courier or if he’s even alive but –
(the page is torn here)
Shelter – Day 17
If rumors are true, the locals are asking around about the key. Some with words and others with fists. All for reasons unknown. They probably don’ t know themselves.
At the last bazaar, Tralala told us how she was mugged by the Brutes, roughing her up for info on who had the key. Some scavs and a kid I haven’t seen before have also asked me about the key; so it’s not just the Brutes looking for it. This thing will probably turn out to be more trouble than it’s worth.
Shelter – Day 42
While finishing my work in the Cape, two Pipsqueeks, Jordy and Greg, told me about a strange girl named Lajka. Jordy said she spoke strangely in riddles or maybe she’d been out in the sun too long and her brain was scrambled. And that she has a thing for starting fires. She claimed to be the dead girl’s sister also. She spoke of the key and warned of unseen danger and things not to be opened. Ominous talk but considering the source, who’s to take it seriously?
I guess the Pipsqueeks did ’cause they offered to look after the Key and keep it safe. They’d also heard about Frank leaning heavy on other scavs for news about the key. Jordy seemed spooked about Lajka’s warnings but he proudly claimed that he just wanted to protect the Cape. It seemed like a decent offer and one I was going to accept but I wanted to at least check out the Brute’s place first. I turned over those stones before giving them a careful study, so I didn’t want to let go of the key just yet.
But the Pips are greedy urchins for more than just sweet food and candy. They didn’t like that I wanted to wait on their offer so they tossed some threats at me that I ignored as I left. I’d barely even turned down the road when they attacked me from behind. Caught off guard by their betrayal, they quickly knocked me out and stole away the key. By the time I picked myself up, they were already hiding, locked up in their fort on the shores of the Cape.
I probably shouldn’t have kept the key in my coat, but it didn’t seem worth guarding. I don’t understand all this jumping at a brute’s threats and getting scared at some crazy girl’s stories. Besides, they’ve traded squarely with me in the past, so I didn’t expect them to flip to gang tactics. Bad business to barter in one breath then stab a back in the next. Or maybe the Pips are just all twisted around by Lajka’s words. I recall Ashlee kept them from running wild back when she looked after them, but I haven’t seen her lately.
Revival – Day (smudged)
Shelter’s cold keeps a grip on the land as we head into Revival. Scavengers are grumpy and the mood is foul. I haven’t crossed paths with the Pips since they took that key, but I’ve also been too busy to go hunting for them. From what I’ve heard, there’s plenty of other scavs that want them, that Lajka girl, and, of course, the key. I’ve heard Frank’s got some new friends in the Junkyard and probably some other places. If they’re willing to believe black coal promises. Along with these promises, another outsider’s name has been dropped and with unfriendly tones: Ozgram. Apo’s been keeping a closer track of the stories and rumors than I have so she’s probably learned much more than me.
Revival – Day 16
Late in the day, I found a note from Apo saying that Lajka was captured by the Black Market. When I scouted out the Yards, nothing was stirring. Maybe they moved Lajka or had already sold her off to Frank. Apo’s note also says Lajka talked about Loonella’s brother named Moy-Moy? Daylight was fading fast and I still had work to do so I didn’t stick around. Maybe I’ll learn more tomorrow.
(Scribbled in the margin next to “Moy-Moy”)
Loonella, Lajka, and Moy-Moy = Sisters and brother? How big is this family?
Revival – Day 17
Found another note from Apo. The Pips rescued Lajka away from the Black Market. Not too surprising. That last time I dealt with those Pips, Jordy was concerned with her riddle-speak. I guess her cryptic warnings convinced them to help her.
Revival – Day 18
From what I hear second hand, plots and schemes are getting stirred up among the Wastelanders. The sneaky Mwrr ghoul, Kittykat, approached me on Hambone Hill. She stubbornly made repeated offers to barter for my bow or measure its value. When our talk shifted to local rumors and stories, I found out she doesn’t trust Frank Hilltop or his schemes at all. She also grumbled about the Mutant Witch clinging to her stones. When I described the jaw-less ghoul that had visited the Bazaar in the past and drew pictures in the sand, she got very excited and distracted and quickly scampered away.
Other whispers on the winds say that Harvey Jillybean, the bartender in the Cape, has suffered a serious injury from a nasty fall and that the Black Market are responsible. Sabotage to the zip-line. Payback for keeping company with young rescuers probably.
Revival – Day 46
Puppets on strings or flies in a web? Now I hear that people are after the stones too! Greedy gangs and scavengers trying to convince the Mutant Witch, Ccindy, to hand them over. They’re ready to fight each other over a bunch of rocks, but I don’t know why. I wonder if they do? I can just imagine that Witch laughing and cackling as they bicker and threaten. I doubt any amount of coal or threats will convince her to share them or trade them. Those stones are very important to her and sacred to her people, but someone must want them pretty badly if several groups are bartering for them. Who’s pulling the strings this time? Lajka, Frank, or the mystery man Ozgram? And why the stones? And whatever happened to the key? Maybe Apo’s heard something that I haven’t.
It’s been a couple of seasons since Loonella died at the bazaar and left behind her strange inheritance. While all of these people, locals and outsiders, argue over her key and stones, a part of me would like to think she must’ve died for some other cause. In her mind, she probably did. Food and salvage may grow scarce but there’s never a shortage of meaningless deaths in this world. And no shortage of scavengers to fight over the things left behind.