Another Afternoon in the Diner

Ursa Diner(#179RAJh)
You step onto a cracked but clean tile floor that was probably once red, but is now a faded salmon pink. A large, rectangular communal table seating about 10 takes up the middle of the floor, with mismatched smaller tables arranged near the large front windows. The long counter in front of the kitchen door sports plates of fragrant bread, cookies, and muffins and bowls of fresh wild fruits. A small, rattling fridge in the corner holds a selection of juices and cold spring water in reused bottles and jars. Atop the refrigerator is a can for cash donations; next to it is a box for barter payments. Scrawled on the box in black marker are the words "Pay what you can, when you can."

Kelsey has a few bottles of the village ale arranged in a semicircle on the table in front of her and is addressing them with agressive hand-motions. "So what then? Kill 'em, I say, and we'll cut your damned eyes out..."

Julen has, evidently, just arrived, as she's leaning on her staff near one of the tables, looking on with the ghost of a smile in her eyes.

Kelsey's high forehead and cheeks are a bit flushed; her complexion seems to do that at the drop of a pin. She slumps abruptly in her chair. "Somehow." She reaches for the last bottle on the right and tips it up to empty it, then sets it down with a sigh. "Sadistic bastard." Her heated argument with thin air must've masked the sound of Julen's arrival; she has yet to notice the woman.

The bells on the door chime gently as it swings open. The light that would ordinarily spill in though the open doorway is blocked by the huge form of the smith. Lucas shuts the door behind him, nods and smiles to those present, and peers hopefully behind the counter toward the kitchen to see if Sanshenka is around. Disappointed, he scans the menu.

Kelsey raises her head and twists around towards the door in her chair. "Oh, Luca--" The ragged smile catches like a stuck zipper, as she notices the woman with the big stick and turns even redder. "Julen-rhya. Didn't see you come in."

Julen says, mildly, "You looked to be enjoying yourself."

"Ah'm not interrupting anything, am Ah?" Lucas inquires in a polite drawl.

Kelsey tosses her head. "Oh, Argent and I were just finished," she says breezily, spreading her arms wide. "Come on in."

Lucas raises an eyebrow, glances at Julen to gauge the Sentinel's reaction to this, and wanders behind the counter to fetch himself some mushroom soup, dropping a length of slender iron chain into the barter box as he passes. The chain rings softly as it piles itself in the box.

Julen shifts her weight slightly. "And did you win?" She looks over at the stew thoughtfully.

Kelsey's eyes flash. "Yes, but he kills the hostages no matter which way I try. Think we're going to have to resign ourselves to that part."

Lucas returns with his soup and a bottle of birch beer. He regards the bottles thoughtfully. "That reminds me, Julen, Fire-in-the-Dusk," he addresses Julen somberly. "You are Gur-khan here, right? War-leader?" he clarifies.

Julen looks at the bottles thoughtfully as well. "Hm. What tactics were you using, this last time?" She turns slowly to look at Lucas. "I am. Alpha, my people call it, but other names fit as well."

Rex swaggers in from the street, all gleaming sweat and flexed muscle, looking about with a slightly proprietary air of expectation. One glance around the room instantly deflates this self-importance, and with a trace of resignation around his mouth, he assumes more appropriate body language in the presence of, well, the alpha female and alpha male of the region. He ducks his head, pulls his forelock in deference, and mumbles, "Ma'am, Sir." And then he nods to Kelsey.

Kelsey moves back to the table and taps an index finger on empty bottle number three. "Tying a sack of gunpowder to Niska's tail with a hole in it, sending her to fly through the cave like a bat on meth, and lighting it behind her to help give her that extra edge."

Julen gives Rex a nod, and finally moves in on the stew. "That sounds mildly lethal..."

Lucas smiles. "We horse-folk got our Alphas, too, but the biggest and toughest isn't always the best tactical leader," he explains. "Many Alphas are fine Gurkhans, but some are better Ilkhans -- sort of organizers, or peacetime leaders." He shrugs amiably. "In any case, you are the one Ah need to talk to." As Rex enters, Lucas nods to him pleasantly, then returns his attention to Kelsey's plan-making. "Do you think the raven would agree to such a plan?" he asks carefully.

Julen murmurs, "No," into her stew, and raises an eyebrow at the Perunka invitingly. Curiously, even.

Kelsey shakes her head. "No, she'd probably just vomit half a day's roadkill on our heads and leave." She waves carelessly at Rex. "Yo, it's Prince Valiant."

Rex does not walk as much as edge around the room to get himself a cold drink. He then seats himself near enough the table that he can hear what's going on, and possibly contribute, but far enough away to be... out of easy reach.

Taking Julen's eyebrow flicker as an invitation, Lucas sits. "How many khar-- fighters have we got?" he asks bluntly, apparently biting down on another weird foreign term mid-sentence. He directs the question both at Julen and at Kelsey, since the latter seems to have been giving the gumi's fighting strength some thought of late as well. As Rex passes by, the smith loses his composure for the briefest instance, to stare in what appears to be gape-mouthed horror at the sword the youth wears on his back. The lapse is quickly covered, though his glances in Rex's direction are now somewhat more bewildered than they were before.

He is a youth verging upon manhood and his lean frame is just filling out with muscle. A shining ebony mane trails in a loose ponytail down the smooth line of his spine and a lock of it drops into one dark eye. His skin is as flawless as the bronze it resembles and shows not the least inclination toward hirsuteness. Leather leggings provide the base for ancient armor plates to protect his lower body: black plastic thigh and shinguards, and a black plastic and metal codpiece. His upper body is usually shirtless, except in the most extreme weather or temperatures, but when he does wear something, it is an ancient, battered black leather jacket.
His prized possession, worn either across his back or at his right hip: a shining sword with golden hilt clad in a tooled leather scabbard.

Julen says, thoughtfully, "Depends if you define Niska as a fighter. She can be. And it depends how you define Higami Ryumaru. But our force is currently somewhere between ten and twenty, depending on various vagaries. Most of whom are Garou. We've two Bastet, neither of whom has been seen in some time, several kin, and, obviously, Sashenka." She adds, following something up from earlier, "Among Garou, the Alpha is the warleader. The Warder organizes the defenses of the Caern itself. I believe Sashenka would make a very good Ilkhan."

Kelsey counts off fingertips thoughtfully. "Alpha, Sashenka, Rowan, Layla, Rahne, Brett, plus Dusty's and Higami's tricks and the raven's keen sense of sarcasm and a big buff smith with fine pecs." Yes, she's drunk, or at least the smile she flashes Lucas is unusually cheery. She wheels towards "Prince Valiant" and looks him up and down. "You're some kind of a hero, right? Does that thing really work or is it just cool-looking?"

Julen murmurs, "You forgot yourself, Kelsey. Among others," but seems interested in her question.

The smith nods in ackowledgement of the vocabulary/bureaucracy lesson, and leans forward intently. He seems about to say something further, but stops to see how Rex will repond to the query, keenly interested in the answer himself, it seems.

Rex is taken a little aback by Kelsey's question. "Ma'am? I'm not a hero, no, but I'm tryin' t'be. An' El Cid here works just fine." He casts a glance over his shoulder at the gilded hilt, and smiles. "He's a magic sword, sure as the Sun rises."

Julen spoons herself some stew, and takes it back to one of the tables. "Really? How is he magical, might I enquire?"

The big smith smiles. "May Ah take a look at him, Rex?" he inquires politely.

Kelsey goes to take her beer bottles to the back.

The bell on the door begins to rattle as the door is pushed open. Striding inside quietly is Xan, who then simply shuts the door behind her. As her eyes adjust to the dimmer interior light, she notices the small group of people, and nods, amicably enough.

A towering woman, cresting six feet in height, she has a fighter's build of expertly defined musculature and long limbs wrapped around a superb sense of balance. Her body is lean and angular, chisled strength and tone, with broad shoulders and a square jaw. A mediterranean heritage gives her skin an olive bronzed tone and dark, wavy hair tumbles wildly well down past her shoulder blades. The only 'taming' of her hair is done by means of a brown leather head-wrap and four braids that frame the high cheekbones of her face, one of the right and three on the left. Various items are entwined in her hair; feathers, beads, and the odd coin or three. Her voice is low, possessing a quiet strength, that adds to her imposing presence. Yet her eyes are perhaps her most striking feature; the clear, vivid blue of a child's snowglobe, complete with the cold, dark storm swirling beneath the surface.
Her shirt is of unbleached cotton, the off-white color setting off the tone of her skin. Her right arm is bare, while the shirt itself fits rather snugly along her chest and left arm. Brown leather straps form an armband in an 'x' shape on her right bicep, and bracers of well-worn boiled leather cover both forearms. The lower part of her ribcage to just below her belly button are the only other areas of skin revealed; pants of a heavy hemp, dyed almost midnight blue, and cut like late 20th century bluejeans keep her legs protected in her travels. Her boots seem mismatched... though both made of a deep brown leather, the right comes up to mid-thigh, while the left, only to just below the knee. A kneepad, of sorts, made of the same boiled leather as her arm-bracers makes up for the height-difference, and a wide band of leather sheathes a set of three throwing knives on the side of her left thigh.

At Xan's entrance, Lucas uses the moment while her eyes are adjusting to the lower interior light to look her carefully up and down, alert to the reactions of his companions. Taking in her physique and clothing, he nonchalantly shifts his chair so that he can get out of it quickly, if this newcomer should be bringing trouble with her.

Rex beams at the smith and the alpha, and carefully draws El Cid from the rather nice leather sheath across his back. The draw is smooth and well-practiced, as if, perhaps, he spends hours every day doing it. Or has, at some point in the past. He carefully lays the blade across the table in front of the smith, and says, "He's always sharp as anything. I found him in some ruins of a Hive, near the shore, and he wasn't rusted or messed up at all. Found him with the armor on the skeleton of this great hero who was tryin' to escape, but got caught in one o' the deathtraps." Rex is a little flushed and grinning as he breathlessly finishes his explanation.

Julen's staff is resting beside her, leaning against the table. She, also, gives the stranger a measuring look, though she doesn't move as Lucas does. Relatively cheerfully, she says, "Hullo," to the newcomer, and then turns back to look at the sword. "Interesting," she murmurs. "Does the balance work for you, at all?"

Xan simply nods again, then heads over to the fridge. Mulling her choices over for a bit, she finally pulls open the door and pulls down two bottles of milk. Sitting at the counter, a decent enough distance from the 'group' so as not to be rude and intrusive, she pops one open and pretty much chugs it, while looking at the chalk-written menu.

Rex blinks at Julen's question for a second, then grins again. "He swings jus' fine for me, ma'am. Did an awful good job o' hackin' up a robber that attacked this woman on the Trail. I heard her scream, y'see, and went after him." He deflates, just a little. "I wasn't real good with him yet, see, so the robber got away. But he was bleedin' an awful lot."

Lucas stands and lifts the sword from the table by the hilt, careful not to touch the blade. He peers closely at both blade and hilt for a long moment, then moves a few steps away from the table into a cleared space where it is safe to give the sword a few slow, experimental swings. "Huh," he murmurs to himself, eyebrows raised. "Huh. Quite a history your El Cid has got, Ah reckon," the smith tells Rex with a smile, as he carefully hands the sword back to him, hilt first.

The sword can't help but catch the Ahroun's attention, and she looks back over her shoulder slightly to watch the experimental arcs the blacksmith puts the sword through. Then Xan takes a measuring look at the sword's owner.... a brief sadness passes over her features, but its replaced by her usual inscrutable countenance, and she turns back to the counter, tossing back the rest of the first bottle.

Julen stirs her stew. "I've dealt with some swords, in my time..." She trails off, and regards the young man, briefly. "You perhaps want some tips? Don't know if I have a lot to give, but if we find I do..."

Rex receives the sword with wide eyes, evidently taking Lucas' words as blessing and confirmation of the immense magical potential of the blade. His shining gaze travels proudly up the length of the weapon and one can almost see the glint a-borning off his brilliant smile. He tenderly sheathes it and turns worshipfully toward the Alpha. "Ma'am, I'd be *honored*," he replies earnestly.

Layla enters the diner and closes the door behind her. She waves cheerfully to the crowd and moves along the wall to a quiet seat at the edge of the room. It is her obvious intent not to disturb the scene.

Julen smiles, just slightly, at Rex. "Good. Come meet me, some morning. I tend to exercise at dawn." That said, she completely ruins Layla's intent by brightening as she arrives, and raises her stew mug in salute. "Layla! How fares Eve?"

Layla brightens at the mention of the baby. "Eve's well, thank you for asking."

Some people decide to keep different hours than other folks. Josh is one of those. The young Kin looks like he just rolled out of bed. But, as rolling out of bed would probabyl cause him to fall out of the treehouse to his death, this might not be the exact case. He smiles, looking down sheepishly as he enters the ever-familiar diner. He pulls something out of his pocket, quietly depositing it in the box as he grabs something to drink from the fridge towards the back, and hey...are those muffins? One of those as well.

Having passed the sword back to Rex, Lucas returns to his seat, leaning in to murmur something to the Alpha.

You paged Julen with 'He says, "Some of these faces are new to me -- are all of them ours?"'.

Julen says, firmly, "Good. Hope the nipples were of some use..." She trails off as Lucas leans in to speak to her. She gestures as she murmurs back to him.

From afar, Julen gestures at Layla. "Strider. And Rex is... Bastet Kin, as I recall. Of the lions. The other one..." She trails off, gaze moving towards Xan. "Don't know yet. Not specifically Corrupter, at least, but that doesn't mean anything, necessarily. She would evidently be new in town, however."

Rex is extremely cheerful as he turns a brilliant grin on Layla, and then Josh. "Hi, y'all!" He says to the Alpha, "That's when I run, ma'am, so I'll see you some morning soon." Reminded by Josh's action, he edges over to the box, and shyly fishes around inside his jacket. He drops something small and metallic into the box.

The muffin coming closer to her seems to make Xan realize that a muffin might not be such a bad idea, either. She sniffs the air, quietly, looking at Josh for just a moment before sliding from her seat and moving to choose a muffin of her own.

Josh's sleepy eyebrows lift as he looks down and finds another Southern Boy kin in front of him. "Morning," he says, hefting the muffin in a hand. "Or Evening, for that." He sits at the counter, looking around the room with a chuckle. "Don't stop on my account. I'll be up in a few minutes," he admits, biting into the food.

As Xan returns with her muffin, Lucas catches her eye and smiles personably. "Afternoon," he says. "Lotta a these faces are new to me," he tells her, "but yours is newer than most." He grins. "Ah'm Lucas Maker, blacksmith. You got anything needs fixing while you're in town, Ah'm your man."

Xan pauses in mid-chew, obviously not wanting ot attract any unnecessary attention. Swallowing the bit of muffin slowly, she regards the man measuringly. Finally, she just says, "Xan. And I've a bike that needs some work..."

Julen, apparently, was just about to do something of the same sort, but she stops to listen quietly to this conversation and eat stew. For the moment.

The smith's eyebrows lift. "Bicycle bike, or motorized?" he inquires.

Xan's own eyebrow arches, as if in mirror instinct, and she replies, "Motorcycle."

"Ooh!" the smith breathes. "Ah haven't gotten to play with one of those in, oh, a decade at least. Ah'd love to take a look. Where are you staying? And how long you planning on being in town? Ah've got some shoeing to do first thing tomorrow, but Ah could come find you after."

Kelsey returns from an attack of tidying everything in sight in the kitchen looking a little bleary herself. She drapes herself into a chair and sets her feet on another, waving her left hand in a circular arc at Josh, her right at Layla, and then waggling both at Xan.

Julen rises to fetch a muffin of her own, and give Josh a companionable smile, but she's clearly still paying attention to the smith's conversation, as she leans against the counter.

Xan, the picture of all seriousness, actually can't help but quirk a smile at the enthusiasm of Kelsey. Her attention is quickly back on the blacksmith, and she shrugs, "Here and there. And, well, until I get the bike fixed, and take care of a promise I made someone, I'm here. If you don't mind taking a look at it, though, I'll be happy to do some grunt work for you, if you need. Pump the bellows or haul stuff, or whatever."

Kelsey jabs a finger at the human abruptly. "Josh. Can you whup Dancer ass?"

Julen, next to Josh, blinks at Kelsey, a 'madam, you're drunk' sort of look in her eye. But she eats her muffin, quietly.