“As the name suggests, R.U.N.N. is a gathering of outcasts who are sick of the class divide. Not just in Echor but in all of the eight settlements. We have bases around all of them but that stretches our operations pretty thin. The primary goal of each base is to steal tomes from the cities so as to bolster our strength. On Fabula, tomes are everything. They’re a symbol of status and power, whoever holds the most tomes has the greater standing. To put the ‘uprising’ part of our name into effect, we need to get enough tomes to fight against the power held by the upper class.
“To amass the power we need, every R.U.N.N. base needs to work together. We have to collectively track the resources that we have for the both the sake of survival and our end goal. The primary issue of this is our lack of communication methods. To get from one base to another, we need to go through the wilderness, and I’m sure you’re aware of how lethal that is. That’s where our runners come in.
“Runners are the most important people in any R.U.N.N. base. The upper class haven’t caught on to this because they like to build libraries of tomes for themselves but we’ve devised a method of extracting magic from the tomes and giving it to a chosen individual-”
Cyrilla intervenes; “I’m… not even certain how tomes are written in the first place.”
Anna stops for a moment and blinks. “Yeah, I suppose you wouldn’t. The upper class have been careful not to let the oppressed know about that kind of thing ever since R.U.N.N. was established. Well, this is a better time than any to introduce you to the man over there,” Anna motions towards the person that Cyrilla had barely taken note of until now.
It’s hard to tell his features because of a cloth mask across his face, though his appearance is far from the most intriguing thing about him. Behind him, hidden behind his tome-stacks are the parts and bones of various monsters. His desk is covered with tens of bottles of blood and ink and immediately before him is a complex-looking alchemical setup. A vial containing a rolled-up page of a tome and some blue liquid hangs above his splayed, tattooed hand that is emitting a soft flame.
“His name is Alan Brass, our ‘alchemist’. You’ll have to talk to him to get the details but the gist of it is the magic in tomes comes from the wilderness. The creatures out there have magic in them, so he’ll dissolve or liquify their body parts and turn them into ink. The ink is the magical part, how it’s written into a tome is inconsequential. Mostly, the contents of tomes are just to help their holders visualize the kind of spell they intend to draw out,” Anna describes.
“Do the upper class do this as well?” Cyrilla questions.
“You’re giving them a lot of credit if you think they can do that much for themselves. No, all the tomes in the settlements were written and handed down by the original settlers. They figured out the process as they fought to survive and make their mark, the upper class are just riding off of that. That’s why everyone here is confident we can win the tome race against them.”
“Then, are the tattoos on your bodies also drawn with that ink?”
“That’s right, good observation. The tattoos allow us to cast magic without the burdens of having to carry tomes around or having to flick through pages for the right spell. The main downside is that, since we don’t have the visual aid, it’s hard to get used to casting on the fly. Moreover, the magic in the ink, while self-restoring, is not infinite. To overcome the visualization problem, we tend to associate certain spells with certain tattoos. If we cast a spell that requires a lot of magic, like teleportation, the associated tattoo will become inactive for some time. Teleportation specifically takes multiple weeks to restore.”
Draego, having been thoroughly scolded already, maintains a wise silence in the background.
“A base’s runner, in our case Draego, bears the two most dangerous tasks that R.U.N.N. needs fulfilled. The first, as you’ve seen, is to go into the inner circles and steal as many tomes and general resources as they can. The second and far more dangerous task is to carry information between bases, which means running through the wilderness. Given the extreme nature of these tasks, runners are given as many tattoos as possible to maximize their abilities. Are you following so far?”
“I think so.”
“I know it’s a lot to take in, especially since you just got here. We’ll review later, and don’t be afraid to ask anyone around here if you want to know more about what they do. Let’s see… You’ve met Draego, you’ll have passed Clover, Shiva and Nova… You saw Garv when you came in and I’ve talked to you about Alan… So, you won’t have met our other four lookouts and our… ‘Chef’?”
Cyrilla shakes her head. She is worried by the way Anna says chef.
“Well, three of the lookouts are asleep, Roza is on-duty and sending you meet with Guill would be… Maybe a bit too much for day one. You know what, the day’s already been long for you. I can see it in your eyes, you’re exhausted. Draego!”
Draego immediately stands to attention like a return stroke of lightning; “Yes, boss?”
“Show Cyrilla to the bedrooms,” she commands.
Draego looks visibly relieved at the request and agrees with a “will do! This way, Cyrilla.”
Cyrilla rises from Anna’s chair and bows towards her with a “thank you” before following after Draego.
Before the two leave the room, a cold call passes through Draego’s ear. “We have more to talk about when you return, Draego,” Anna warns.
Draego does not turn back.