A Frank Discussion

Two simple Brutes: Elie Madeye and Frank Hilltop (Pic by Frank Hilltop)

The Digger wrote up the basics of how all this started — the dead girl, the key, the stones, her weird tattoo, the Courier, and that old note from Madeye.

None of us knew Madeye all too well; that time he was prancin’ about the Bazaar all crazylike was the first and only we’d seen him.  But we knew he was allied with Frank.  So, I started looking for him or for Madeye or both, to try and get a read on who this Courier fella was, what they knew of this girl, how they tied in to all this malarkey — or if they tied in at all.  Wasn’t a whole lot to go on, but at least we had a couple of names.  Better names than nothing.

And that’s what all this comes down to. Who knows what?  Who knows who?  Where was who when, and why, and what the balls happened when they were there?

Being too free with one’s knowledge can bring you trouble.  And that ain’t just true of recipes.  Whether you’re a scoundrel to the core or one of those pride-blind crazies who wants to redeem us and civilize us all, there’s always things you keep under your hat.  What folks say might be outright lies, or might not be the full truth, and who’s to say that what someone even sees is actually what went on?  I’d blather on about if there’s even any such thing as truth, but A) I already ain’t getting to the point and 2) I ain’t had enough to drink yet.  So, with this more than with most articles, I gotta remind everyone that all I’m writing down is what I been told.

So….

The Key

Few days back, I managed to catch up with Frank out in the Junkyard.   He was hangin’ out up on a building with Smokey Steamweaver and Cat Yuhara.  I was just lookin’ for word on where I could go lookin’ for Frank, as I hadn’t seen him before and didn’t know him from nothin’. But, once I said I was there in a press capacity, Frank seemed all too glad to introduce hisself – and to go on, at surprising length, about what he knows.  I wrote it all down as we talked  – an’, cleaned up just a bit, here it all is.

First thing he said, when he knew he’d have an audience, was “My side of the story is this, I want the key. You know what I’m talking about, you all do – so stop pretending. I will slaughter whoever keeps it from me… And no fire girl, no Pip, no devious barman, no manimal, no witch from the East will stand in my way.  This is war,” he went on, “I trust no one but my allies. Tell the Pips I’m coming for them. My kidney burster will be red before they will even blink… ”

I said I didn’t even know who had it at this point, and he seemed to think it made no matter. “Whoever has it will die.”

He was damn grim, to be sure, but he eased up after a bit, when I made sure he knew he could say whatever he liked and I’d type it up just as it was.  And he admitted he was gonna leave some things out and not give full details.  But on he went.

“It has come to my attention that The Pipsqueeks tricked the man called The Digger into their base yesterday. There they attacked him and stole the key that everybody seeks… The very same key that probably the most of you first head about as a beaten up girl handed over to the Mutant Witch at a bazaar meeting not long ago. The digger had the key as the dumb witch traded it with him for some stones found on the dead girl. And now it seems those little rascals with deadly blades has it… So naturally, they will soon be tasting my blade.”

“Let everybody know that the key shall be in my hand and Ozgram – If you’re reading this, you are going to have to pay me alot more than three pieces of coal just to look at it.”  He gave an odd grin, mumbling “And look is all that I’ll let you do before I chop your head off.”

This was the first I’d heard the name of Ozgram, so I asked if that was the real name o’ that Courier we’d heard about — the one we figured was responsible for that bloodsplat in the Brutes’ shed.

“The Courier is who Oz payed me to rob. Steal his backpack. Don’t know much about them. Except that Loonella, the girl that had the key, who I killed…uhm..scratch that part…”

So, one small mystery solved – we knew who beat Loonella up and did her in. Still, who is this Courier? And who’s this Ozgram person?  Before I could even ask, he went on to drop another new name.

“Now hear this. As some of you know there is a little crazy girl running around. She talks in chants and mumblings. If you see her and can bring her to me, I shall hand out a reward.”

I told him that a fistful of rubble could buy a dozen crazy mumbling girls, out here in the Wastes, and he’d have to be a little more specific.  Lajka, he said her name was.

“She is the sister of Loonella… Loonella is the girl I kidnapped.. the girl that got away…and turned up at the Bazaar… Ozgram told me to take the girl and hold her til he arrived… Lajka came in and saved her. Now I’ve been told that Loonella died…but Lajka is still out there.. she knows more of the key than I.”

He said that he’d seen Lajka in the Wastes before, but not Loonella — not until he kidnapped her.  I asked if he knew how Loonella knew some of our names, then. “Well, she kept talking about the Digger as I had her at my home, awaiting for Oz.”  But he seemed stumped as anyone else.

Though he said that Lajka knew more of the key than he did, I hadn’t seen her — still haven’t, as I write this — and Frank was my only living source of information about that key at all.  So I pressed ahead.  “I know some details… The key first got mentioned as I held Loonella. She told me that if I handed her over to Oz it would be devastating. That the key had to come to its right owner… ” He chuckled. “She said that owner was the Mutant Witch, but I believe it’s me…”

He glanced over at Smokey and Cat and, perhaps as an afterthought, added “And my new friends, of course….”

I mentioned how the Witch had no interest in any of this nonsense, hoping he’d reveal something Loonella said about the purpose of the key, the Mutant Witch, and so on.  But he only laughed, saying “Exactly, the Mutant Witch is OBVIOUSLY not the right owner!”

“Loonella said that a second witch will come from the East,” he went on.  Which had – and still has – me pretty baffled.  We’re pretty low on East, seeing how we only claimed the Cape a few moons back, and the Big Water beyond it stretches farther than anyone’s dared to go.  And we’re pretty low on witches, too — besides the Mutant Witch, the only one I’d ever heard of were the Reaver Witches.  Though their lands are a little more North than they are East, even others in the Reaver Cult often don’t know what the others are up to, and interloping outsiders tend to become a nice meal.

The Brutes' Yard

This word of the witch being pretty meaningless, I asked about this Lajka lass again.  “I caught Lajka a few days ago, she kept rambling as usual. Didn’t understand a lot of it. Something about the doors that has to remain closed. Then she managed to escape me. So yet again, I must point out – a reward to whoever will bring her to me. ”  Specifically, “I still have the three pieces of coal I got from Oz for killing that first Courier. I can let go of one of them.”

Now, that phrasing caught my ear.  Not only because it was the first he’d admitted to killing the Courier — but because it was the first direct statement that there was more than one Courier. I asked him straight out if there were more Couriers out in the world. “Five, I’ve been told,” though he admitted he didn’t know much about them.

“Five total — or more like four, now?” I asked.

His yellow teeth showed in a grin again, and he said “Four now.”

So it seems this Ozgram guy is behind most of these deeds.  Hired Frank to rob and kill the Courier, hired Frank to kidnap Loonella, clearly has an interest in this damned key and is, apparently, the last person who should have it.  Wealthy bugger, too, to pay out 3 coal for a hit.  But my hopes of learning more were quashed pretty early.  “”I will not speak about Oz. He is a powerful man. I… I… Let’s just say he’s what drove me into all this.”  Strange hesitation, from a rogue otherwise unrepentant.  Since there seemed to be no love lost, I asked Frank if there was a bounty on Oz’s head, too. “No.  He’s all mine…”

For admitting that he was gonna leave some things out, Frank seemed more than willing to tell of his dirty deeds.  So I tried to set things straight about what happened when, and why.  The first unclear thing was why he kidnapped Loonella.  I asked if that was a hired thing, too, or done just for his own amusement.

“Yes, he asked me to kidnap her. Hold her captive and await him. I had her in a shed in my yard. That’s when she brought up the key and how Oz cannot have it. That’s when I first heard about the key. I got curious and tried beating more info out of her. Then Lajka came in and torched my house and managed to save her sister.”

But when, exactly, did this happen, I asked?  How long before the Bazaar?

“I believe they must’ve wandered for a couple of days.  And what I’ve been told – Lajka was not with her as she arrived at the Bazaar…”

Which was true — but it was strange, I thought, that Loonella would try and tell us of the key and the Courier and saving him in seven moons and all that other jazz, but say nothing of her sister.  Wouldn’t ask us to find her, wouldn’t tell us to go to her for information about it.  Just said that the Mutant Witch needed it, like nothing else need be said.

I asked Frank if he was sure they were sisters, and said, come to think of it, he wasn’t.  That Lajka had called Loonella “Big Sister,” but that Loonella hadn’t said anything about her before nor after.  Though she wasn’t in a state to talk much.

So I asked more about the Courier Frank offed. “”He was Courier No. 5; he had a logo on his backpack I were to look after,” Frank said. I didn’t ask for a description.  Shoulda, in hindsight.  But anyways, I asked if Frank had kept both Loonella and Courier No. 5 in the shed at the same time.  Nope.

“The killing of the courier and the kidnaping was on two seperate occasions. First I killed Courier No. 5, then Oz cam the day after and picked up his cargo. Then Oz came back some weeks later and gave me a new assignment – kidnap Loonella. I took her, held her in my shed, and she started rambling about the key – then Lajka came and nearly burned my house down; in the confusion she saved Loonella.”

As for what the big deal was about that pack, Frank seemed to have wondered that, hisself.  “”I looked through the backpack and found some papers with symbols and a box I could not open.”  I asked him about the symbols, if he remembered them or would recognize them again — thinking it might have been Glyph or some other scratchsign.  But that went nowhere.

And that was about it.  Though Frank had just one thing he wanted to ask anyone reading this, or anyone having it read to them:   “Question: Has anyone seen my colleague Mr. Madeye? He’s been missing a while, and as much as I hate to say it, I miss his stupid poems and crazy antics…”  No reward was offered for that information, at least — but who knows what all Madeye has seen?

As for my take on it all… I’m sure there’s plenty that Frank didn’t say.  But I doubt there was much that he outright lied about.  He seemed to have no care for consequences, and didn’t seem the type to downplay his deeds.  But he knew things that I doubt anyone else could’ve known.  So there’s surely some gaps, but what he did say was probably close enough to facts.  He surely knows more about Loonella — even if he dismissed some of her talk as frightened ramblings, he probably heard more than he’s revealed, or has a better idea of who she was and why she mattered than he wanted to say.  I suspect he knows more about Lajka, too, than he’s telling — or at least has a better idea of what she knows or why she might know it.  And I’m damn sure he knows more about this Ozgram.

But that’s about it.  In the end, I think Frank’s the middleman here.  Ozgram, this powerful and apparently wealthy Outlander, is pulling all the strings.  He’s the one who wanted the pack and wants the key; he’s the one who wanted Loonella taken alive.  And Frank?  He’s the schlub who got hired to do the dirty work.  He doesn’t seem to really know any more about that key than any of the rest of us, nor much about the Couriers.  So, if you want to tip that one coal reward, or to ally with him to storm the Pipsqueeks and steal the key back, or have a chat and see if he’ll tell you things he’d not tell me, Frank’s your man.  But I think that’s the extent of it.  Even if he told you, it’s like I said before:  all he knows for facts is what he’s heard, and what he’s done.

And, as I found out a few days ago, there is at least one ‘fact’ about which Frank was very, very wrong….