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Choose Your Hero Part 1

Posted on Fri May 10th, 2024 @ 11:50 by Catriona Reid & Rebecca McMillen & Alastair Temple & Alistair Quill & Quinn Kelly

Chapter: Winter's Crest Festival
Location: Library, Avalon Institute
Timeline: Immediately following 'Challenge Accepted?'
3316 words - 6.6 OF Standard Post Measure

Quinn watched Miss Bright move away to bother other students, worried about what sort of chaos she was going to instigate next. Avalon's new librarian was certainly an improvement over the old one, but she was a mess, and it was only a matter of time before she too snapped under the pressures the school faced, and leave them without a supervised library once again. Quinn didn't want that. He liked being able to go into the library whenever he wanted. But there was only so much that he, a sixteen year old boy and third year student with mutant powers that absolutely no one cared to know more about, could do to keep that from happening.

"Looks like Moonshine's back at it again." Quinn said with a heavy sigh and a shake of his head as he joined Alistair and Catriona at the table they were seated at. Contrary to what he'd told the librarian, Quinn did know them, just not as well as he'd like. But then again he rarely knew anyone as well as he would like. His powers made objects sort of easy to figure out, but people? Not so much. Except for Miss Bright, of course. And he was ninety percent certain that she was full of it when she claimed that Cat or Al might play D&D with him. He assumed that they'd heard everything he and the librarian had said. He was wearing his school uniform shirt and skirt, but for Christmas Eve had swapped out his stuffy blazer and shoes for a cozy black hooded sweatshirt and Vans sneakers. He leaned forward on the table, resting his chin against his folded arms; with his hood drawn up he looked every inch the cryptic seer.

"Took her five minutes to find her shoes today, right where she left 'em." Quinn added as he rapped his short painted fingernails on the Ravenloft book on the table in front of him for emphasis. They were painted the same shade as his hair, a dark lilac. "I don't think she's figured out yet that the Sirens have nabbed her other pair... the fancy ones. They tried to sell them to me in the hallway earlier, for five hundred quid. Can you believe that? Like I've got a monkey in my pocket for those shitehawks..."

"Pff." Alistair rolled his eyes at the notion of paying 500 quid for any pair of shoes, let alone stolen ones. "Why do they seem intend on getting themselves expelled?" He wondered out loud. He had been the victim of some of their shenanigans, it seemed like nobody was safe from them. The rapping of nails on the book seemed designed to draw the attention towards the tome, the young Scotsman didn't recognise it though, so he decided not to comment.

“I should just eat them.” Catriona commented over her book not even bothering to look up to reveal whether she was joking or not. It was hard to tell when her cat nature came to the surface sometimes. It was endearing and terrifying but the teenager seemed oblivious to the effect she had on people sometimes.

Returning books shouldn't be this hard, thought Rebecca as she backed in through the doors. Holding a stack of books on topics ranging from local folklore to art history, the mousey blonde would have lost her balance twice were it not for her thin tail acting as the counterbalance. She walked with a grace reserved for people on the cusp of falling, but having the capacity to almost make it look good. Almost make it look intentional.

She found the book drop, and dropped off the seven books that she had checked out for researching themes for the holiday festival. She somewhat recalled where the books originated from, but she wasn't used to the system that was used that let these books be found so quickly. Miss Bright was up and about, so she just left the small stack here for her. No point in adding to the work by putting them in the wrong place.

Oh hey, she recognized folks at a table. She smiled, and offered up a cheerful wave to the group. Was it secret research? A hobby? A get together? One way to find out. She walked over slowly, an instinct that she'd have to work on getting over. It gave them plenty of time to dismiss. She was getting better about it, but it still took steps. Literal steps. "Hey." she quipped upon arrival.

Catriona had watched the teacher come in and dither about coming over between reading the words on the book. It felt like the type of day where no one was going to let her read it felt. “Hello Ms McMillen.” Cat said finally putting the book down as the teacher was talking.

Quinn almost lost it when Cat casually mentioned eating the Sirens. He suffered a small coughing fit as his efforts to stifle a laugh resulted in him swallowing a few drops of saliva down the wrong pipe. He liked Cat because she was so hard to predict or read, but those were also the same reasons why he feared trying too hard to get to know her better. He was already bad enough with people and trying to figure out where their lines were before he accidentally stumbled across them, but Cat? She was an actual multiclassed Druid/Ranger with wild shape, and her line was one he did not want to cross.

Though cautious around Cat, Quinn was not as worried about crossing a line with Al, and reckoned that with some time and effort they could be decent mates. But simply put, the nature of challenging school environments limited time and opportunities for making friends. He didn't really find Avalon to be like the other schools in the movies, with cliques and social hierarchies. No one really went out of their way to exclude him or keep him away. He'd just made friends with the first kids he found common ground with, and between his obligations to his coursework and sports teams, there was barely enough time to put towards upkeep with the friendships he had, let alone forming new ones. It was a sad truth.

After recovering from his mild coughing fit Quinn had been about to reply that he sincerely doubted that the Sirens would ever be expelled... and certainly not for stealing shoes. They knew he wasn't going to buy them, for one they wouldn't fit, and they were definitely not at all his style--heels were one of the few things about women fashions that he just did not get. No, they just wanted to show off in their own way. He figured the school's administrators would rather have them in school causing petty mischief, then out of school, where they'd probably get recruited and exploited by the bad guys to steal nuclear launch codes or something ridiculous like that. Miss McMillen's entry to the conversation, however, stopped him from saying any of that.

"Hey." Quinn added, a bit more informally, on the heels of Cat's greeting to Avalon's art teacher. With an adult at the table he instinctively sat up straighter and lowered his hood preemptively, as if expecting to be called out on it. As he did so he eased off of his new campaign book, letting the others catch a clearer glimpse of it. He wouldn't say that he was especially close with any of the teachers here at the school, but he did like Miss McMillen's art class. He had no artistic talent to speak of, and no real interest in developing any, but he did enjoy the freedom of expression that her class allowed. As long as he cleaned up his messes and wasn't messing with the other student's projects, he was pretty much allowed to do whatever he wanted when it wasn't lesson time... something he could rarely say the same for in his other classes. He had learned that he did enjoy using the pottery wheel, but he would never admit that to anyone, as he didn't see it as cool or flashy as visual art, photography or filmography.

"Catriona, Quinn." Rebecca gave a nod to the pair, the former she knew only through association with another teacher. The latter she had in her class. Claimed he had no artistic talent, but his three dimensional expressions were a joy to watch come about. She then turned towards Al and gave a smile, "I don't recall your name, but I've seen you around campus. I'm Miss McMillen, I'm the art teacher on campus. It's very nice to meet you." she then turned to include the rest of the group. "I hope I wasn't interrupting anything, just saw a few familiar faces and wanted to just check in and see how everyone's managing." the mousey art teacher paused, and noted the cover of one of the books. Ravenloft. Such a spooky name.

"Okay, that is a seriously nice piece of art there." Ravenloft, the Domain of Dread. Home to the vampire lord Strahd von Zarovich. Many who had faced the dread lord before would hardly use the word 'nice' to describe him or his visage.

"And it has crows. This is relevant to my interests," A resonant baritone added from right behind Ms McMillen. For someone so dramatically dressed in such pompous, Victorian gothic inspired clothing and being so tall, Alastair Temple had this way of moving silently when he felt like it. Or when possible observers were otherwise preoccupied and failed their spot checks. The music teacher took a step back and held up his hands in an apologetic manner. "I'm sorry if I'm intruding. I just couldn't help but notice the congregation, become curious and appreciate the great art on that book's cover. Ravenloft? What's it about?" He was so intrigued by the artwork and evocative title that he didn't even think to introduce himself.

"Ravenloft is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game," Catriona said gently. Her accent was sometimes thicker than everyone else's seeing she had grown up down the road literally from the school. "2nd edition I think." She added looking at the art work in different ways for a moment.

To say Quinn was surprised over the teachers' interest in the campaign book was an understatement, but hearing Catriona correctly identify it was music to his ears. There he'd been a moment ago, trying to worm his way into Al and Cat's company and figure out how to casually segue from gossip to the game, but the game itself had done all the work, and was now the center of attention. He did his absolute best to contain his glee, as he hadn't even had to step out into the spotlight first. He glanced at Cat, clearly impressed.

"She's right. It's got a gothic horror vibe. Miss Bright got it for us." Quinn said, pushing the book out towards the others so that they could look at it. Though he had assumed he would be the student most interested in it, he in no way claimed ownership--merely stewardship, until an equally interested party came along to use it. "Anyone want to write up characters? I think Miss Bright said she would come up with an adventure if I could find enough people to play." Quinn said, trying to put forth his most innocent, non-manipulative smile forth. The librarian had said nothing of the sort, but he had thought he'd detected a dare in her rhetoric, when she'd pressured him earlier to get off his butt and find people to play. How hard could it be? She'd said. Pretty damn hard, unless she didn't mind being trite and cliche.

The game would be a total dumpster fire, of course, with few, if any of them knowing the rules and the dungeon master more than likely drunk, but he wasn't about to add that into his very basic sales pitch.

"I've never played, but I wouldn't mind giving it a try. If you can run me through the hows of it," Alastair offered, considering. He had a notion of what D&D was of course, just never had a chance to play it, and he figured that with his love of the aesthetic and fantasy and horror in general, he might enjoy it. Plus, spending some time with the students could be fun.

The notion that the students here needed more players in order to play was what did it for Rebecca. Learning a new board game didn't seem hard, but she didn't see the board. Maybe they were waiting for a full player count? In any event, this sounded like it could be fun, awful lot of rules for a board game, though. Eh, she'd learn by doing. That's how she worked.

"Yeah if someone could show me the rules, I'd love to play. So, write up characters, you said?" unlike Alastarir, who had an inkling, Rebecca had no such exposure. Her only exposure to the game was here and now, and mostly from a single fantastic piece of cover art.

Quinn reached for the book and picked it up to look it over. He actually hadn't even opened it yet. As he started thumbing through the pages he saw that for the most part, the rules were the same to the core rulebooks. This offered new abilities, uses for skills, equipment, spells and the like, along with a host of new monsters to contend with. Other than that, there nothing that would throw off his understanding of the game. Which was good.

"It doesn't really matter if most players are new to the game, so long as at least one the player characters has experience. They can advocate for you, like a rules lawyer, and and make sure the dungeon master isn't just doing whatever they want--they have rules to follow too, though technically they don't always have to. Trust your party leaders, not the DM." Quinn thumbed through a few more pages before continuing.

"Every adventuring party should have four basic roles covered. You want a caster, a healer, a sneak, and a tank... erm, fighter. Once those are covered then you can start doubling up... preferably with another tank first. You can also pick whether you want your character to be a human, dwarf, elf, halfling, there are a few others. This isn't really as important as party roles, though some are better suited to certain roles than others. Each character can be from a different race, or they can all be the same." Quinn then became self conscious about talking too much, and stopped to gather his thoughts on what to say next.

Catriona was not sure that teachers and students playing Dungeons and Dragons together was a good idea but she was going to at least bring a friend in who was sensible. “I’ll ask Shauna to play too. When do you start to play it?” She wondered looking at Quinn.

"Oh. That's... great!" Quinn said, attempting to mask his rising anxiety with feigned enthusiasm, though his darting eyes may have given it away. Contrary to what Sarah had insinuated in their earlier conversation, Quinn would not quite say that he had a crush on Shauna. She was pretty, but so were many of the other girls on campus, and he had no reason to set her on a pedestal above them. He actually did his best to avoid dwelling on crushes and other romantic thoughts in general, mainly due to the obvious fact that he was a guy who had chosen to present himself as a girl, and he was under no illusions that that would ever be seen as conducive to any success he might otherwise have on the teenage dating scene. He would say, however, that out of their friend group, Shauna would be the girl he'd be least afraid to approach in such a manner. Cat would probably disembowel him without a second thought, and he expected Mia would quash any advance of his with a full nuclear shutdown. Shauna would probably just turn invisible and then never treat him to a glimpse of her visage again. Yeah that would suck, but somehow it seemed preferable to the assured physical or social executions he would suffer from her friends.

"Oh, about half an hour from now?" Quinn added, fearing that he was starting to regret this endeavor. There was no way they'd be ready to play in thirty minutes, but it was late enough already that if he extended the start time any further, the others might lose interest altogether.

Catriona had thought there would have been more time and hastily stood up to gather her friend. "Well, I had better go find Shauna and bring her back if you are wanting to be that quick about things." She explained and quickly started to exit. For anyone who paid attention to her footfall, it quickly became four footsteps instead of two as she moved into the corridor.

Al spoke up. "Would it be alright if I invited someone else? Miss Zhao, I think she'd welcome the chance to play and spend quality time with some of the students," He honestly thought that Liana would jump at the idea.

Quinn had been distracted by the book in his hands, and hadn't fully registered Cat's hasty departure. Then he rolled well on his listen check and his head quickly swiveled around, but not quickly enough to witness Cat wild shape. Damn. He'd heard about her ability from some of the other students, but had yet to see it himself.

"Uhhh, sure Mister Temple." Quinn said, turning his attention back to the others at the table. His slight hesitation was mostly just distraction from trying to witness Cat's transformation, but also because he didn't really know who Miss Zhao was. Was she a new teacher?

As he thumbed through the book some more, a few loose pages fell out onto the table. His heart skipped a beat, initially thinking that the book was already falling apart, but then he saw that they were folded. He saw there was also a post-it note with a smiley face stuck to them and his heart started acting funny again.

What the hell, Moonshine? Quinn thought to himself with alarm as he quickly (but not too quickly) snatched up the folded paper, fearing that it might be some kind of weird note that the librarian had left for him and his usual D&D friends. But his fears were quickly dispelled when he unfolded the folded paper and saw that it was actually several character sheets, photocopied from the sample sheet at the back of the book. He couldn't help but nod with a measure of approval, as the copies weren't actually half bad. Sometimes he'd sneak into the copier room to make character sheets when no one was looking, and he knew how hard it was to flatten and line the book up just right without screwing up the binding.

"I'll start writing up character templates. That way, anyone who's never made a character before only has to pick their character class and persona, and then what kinds of weapons, equipment and maybe spells they see them using. We should probably also let Miss Bright know we've got a group, before she falls asleep... again."

"Sword and shield, let me stab some dragons with righteous fury." The young Alistair hadn't ever played Dungeons and Dragons, but had heard of it. It had him intrigued, whenever he had been reading it was always Terry Pratchett. Not quite what D&D was all about but still fantasy. He inched forward in his seat, trying to catch glanced of the art in the book in front of Quinn.


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