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Frontier Town Sun Stone Saloon

Espurr hadn't, honestly, aside from that dream, which might well have spoken to the good job they were doing keeping themselves undercover. Which certainly wasn't an easy task, given the sheer amount of pokemon who'd arrived along with them. Surely somemon would have let slip by now, right?

"It's just a thought," said Espurr, "but if we were brought here, it was to save the world from something, right? I know no-mon's reached out to us since except in that weird dream--you had it too, right?--but if we're here, then it probably means that something's out there. I bet we're not supposed to say anything because it would draw too much attention to us. And there aren't really any other humans around here... so that would draw way more attention than some pokemon teleporting into the wrong town would, right?"

She looked around the cafe, checking for anymon who might have been listening in, seeing none - the closet patron was a teddiursa in a frilly gown three times her size, eating what looked like a slug in a taco skewered on the tip of a massive, two-pronged fork. Fancy people were absolutely mystifying.

Then, she leaned in, speaking in a hush: "Besides, what if it's dangerous to be a human here? What if it's not the first time there've been humans here? If we have a reputation already, it could be really dangerous to spill those beans!"

She could be barking up the wrong tree entirely, but after her first go playing the "I'm a human" game, she wasn't taking chances.
"Well, the Voice thing did say humans come here sometimes, and even that the person who actually called us was human..." Leaf frowned and pawed at the bench with one hoof. "But we haven't seen any sign of any of them, far as I know. Maybe... maybe that's why? Maybe they're all pretending, too, or even in hiding or something?"

According to Little Scriven everything was all roses and rainbows all the time forever; even the mayor had just seemed to think that heroes sounded like a cool and exciting idea rather than having anything to do with... anything. But if that were true, they wouldn't be here in the first place. If this old hero really needed help so badly, wouldn't it make sense to do something to make sure they knew what to do? Leave some kind of information, or at least a sign?

"Getting stronger and being able to pay for rooms in the Haus is good and all, but there's gotta be something we can do to... I dunno, find the other human, or see if they've left any sort of message for us. The sooner, the better. Maybe all the locals think everything's 'fine', but I'm not keen on waiting patiently like a good little girl for something to hit the fan.

"...So far the only thing that seems really out of place is the bulletin board, though." She tried fanning through the pages of the menu telekinetically, half telling herself it was practice rather than agitation. (Also she still had no idea what to order. What even was a "Stone Fence"? A cocktail for onix?) "I think it only showed up a little while before we did? No way that's a coincidence. And it's gotta be worth keeping an eye out for more, right?"
"Right..." said Espurr, whose tail was gently curling around the bench somewhere between thinking and anxiety. Not that she really knew where to start when it came to figuring out what to do. They really had been dropped in the middle of nowhere with nothing, hadn't they? "It probably is connected to all this, isn't it?"

But investigation was her forte. And even if there was just one weird object, that was enough to work with.

"I think you're right," she said. "Maybe the message got like, scrambled or lost or something. The journey here was rough, right?"

And if it had, then that meant there was something to find!

"What if we ask the villagers if anything else weird has shown up lately?" she asked, an idea brightening her face up. "It could be anything from an object to star patterns. If they took us and the bulletin board in stride, then maybe there's something else that never got brought up. Besides, they know the area better than we do... if anything else strange has shown up, they'd be able to tell us immediately."

Another idea--all of the sudden they were flowing like a river: "And we could inspect the bulletin board too! Don't things appear on it randomly? If it really is connected to all this, maybe there's something there we just aren't seeing... like, some kind of hidden message or something?"
Now this was getting spicy. "Yeah, maybe there's, like, a pattern to who's asking for jobs, or where they tend to focus on, or what they're offering..." There were a lot of possibilities. A lot of them. Any of those options, all of them, none of them... man, but actually trying to uncover anything meaningful was going to be a massive headache, wasn't it? Red was way better at connecting a bunch of totally random events than she was. Clyde, too. A deliciously weird puzzle was always a good way to hold the gengar's attention.

But oh, well, they weren't here. She gave her head a shake, perked up the ears that had subconsciously drooped just a tiny bit. Espurr was here, though, and actually interested in doing some proactive digging. And she couldn't have been the only hero who wanted to get down to the real work, right? Many hands make light... or paws, or hooves, or— not the point. Anyway.

"There are already a bunch of us taking magic bulletin board jobs on the regular, so I can let the group know to keep an eye out, or to take note of anything interesting about the jobs they're doing." Hell, wasn't impossible that playing connect-the-dots would wind up more interesting than the jobs themselves, if Invisible Whack-a-Mole was any indication. "And maybe see if we can get something out of any of the locals that hang out there often, too. I don't get the impression most of them question it much, but if it's basically brand-new, they've gotta have some kind of thoughts about it."
"Definitely," said Espurr. She could bet a lot of them did think it was unusual but just hadn't said anything, and getting them to talk about it would be the perfect trigger to release a whole lotta details. "And I'll keep an eye peeled in case anything strange shows up on the board itself. Maybe like... a message, or something. Doesn't hurt to have one more eye on it, right?"

The menu sat between them, filled with things that either made Espurr's stomach flip or cost money beyond her dreams. And in all this time, there hadn't been a waiter either... well, they did look like kids. And they were very close to the drinks. If the bartender was going to show up, it was likely going to be to ask what a pair of kids were doing here in the first place.

"On second thought, I think I'm gonna look elsewhere," said Espurr. "This place is... too fancy for me." And expensive. Really expensive. Probably wouldn't hire her either, now that she thought about it. If she was looking for work, and answers, maybe it was worth a gander at the bulletin board after all.

[Ch01] ~ A Premier's Prerogative
The well-to-do of Frontier Town generally took upper-floor tables at Sun Stone, the better to enjoy exclusivity and indulgence away from the public bar where just anyone could walk in. Sometimes, though, they would reserve a booth on the ground floor and use a screen for privacy. This might be done for a change of ambience, or it might be done to more easily invite ordinary patrons in for a quiet meeting, without drawing too much attention.
Come to the Sun Stone Saloon this evening and ask the publican if he knows where the crown is kept.
Bring a number of associates as entourage, who have some quality of mettle or perspicacity to merit them.
There is a service that might be done, and indemnified.

The meaning couldn't be clearer. This was a job offer.
Though annoyed by the letter's vague and flowery presentation, Bellatrix's interest was piqued. With little fanfare she went to the Haus' lobby and gathered whoever might've been there. A couple were far from her first choices but she did not have any time to waste looking for a more appropriate group. She explained little beyond demanding the group's best behaviour and simply tucked the letter in the folds of her tail-scarf to present to the host as she lead the way towards the Sun Stone Saloon.

Between seeing it many times on her errand runs and speaking to Odette about it, the building was unmistakable. The whimsicott who greeted them at the front door gave Bellatrix a particularly skeptical look (most likely due to her apparent youth), which she graciously ignored, as he double then triple checked the letter she presented. After doing everything in his power to determine that the letter was real, he lead Bellatrix and her entourage towards the booth of the letter's author.

Bellatrix tilted her head before giving him a polite nod of greeting. An empoleon? Why was she not surprised? "I believe you wished to see me alongside a few of my companions." she said to break the silence. She looked around to find a seat but remained standing for the time being. "Shall we begin?"
Well now, look at this artsy-fartsy handwriting... Either someone was putting on airs, or this was quite an upper-crust issue, Corey had thought to himself upon seeing the letter's contents. Mostly only familiar with Bellatrix through Archie, he was surprised that she'd drawn him into this whole thing, but he supposed this was one of those matters where time was of the essence and beggers couldn't be choosers. Either way, this very much worked to his advantage, as an invite to converse with this bougie sort would likely help with the gala case... just so long as no one managed to offend these people too much... These high-rollers could be pretty picky after all.

Quietly following Bellatrix along with the others into the Saloon, he could just feel the haughtiness radiating off these regular patrons, leaving him to merely tilt his hat slightly further down as he humbly made his way to the booth where an Empoleon was seated. Without hesitation he quickly removed his hat out of respect. Could this be that particular Empoleon? Seemed likely, and even if that wasn't the case, this had to be some sort of influential figure to the community in some form...

Either way, there was no denying this was the big-time, as far as this Frontier was concerned.
When he’d approached Bellatrix about joining him on a job today, he was quite surprised when she’d asked him instead! Not that he was going to complain, even though she had been fairly cagey about the whole thing. A job was a job, and the Zorua didn’t seem the sort to have them do something illegal. And so, he’d soon found himself as part of a small group – including Corey – heading to the Sunstone Saloon. He’d passed it a few times while walking the town, but had never gone in on account of it feeling a bit too ritzy for his meager salary. The door Pokemon certainly seemed dubious about their presence, but once Bellatrix had produced a letter of some sort, their little group was allowed entry.

And, soon enough, the reason for their visit was revealed. An Empoleon, seated at a private booth. Possibly the mayor? The Oshawott studied the Pokemon’s appearance, trying to spot any deeper similarities between the Empoleon and the statue located in the square. Beside him, Corey removed his hat. For now, Archie kept his on, simply tilting it in greeting to the older Pokemon, before putting his paws in his pockets, allowing Bellatrix to do the talking.
A job. But more importantly, a potential source for new information.

Wes was not familiar with two of his companions, but at least he knew Miss Priss the fox from earlier. He’d been contemplating how to infiltrate this meeting when she’d approached him directly, much to his surprise. A small part of him was relieved he wouldn’t be coming here alone, and he was more than happy to let Bellatrix handle the introductions.

However, one look at the uppity guy, some sort of imposing bird Pokémon, gave Wes a bitter taste in his mouth. So this was the kind of person to send such a high and mighty message. Wes remained standing with Bellatrix and only somewhat bothered to mask his distrustful gaze as he scanned their summoner.
Even seated in a private saloon booth, the Empoleon was the spitting image of the statue in Founder's Square. He wore a sleeveless black cape around his shoulders, and a mayoral chain of office across his breast. Until all four 'mon were in the booth and the privacy screen closed again, he said nothing, only continuing to examine some letter on the table beside his drink. It smelled like wine.

"Good evening, Ms Bellatrix," he said, in a smooth baritone, neatly folding and pushing aside the letter. "These are your... companions, then."

He gave each of them a steady, scrutinising look, as if he were an editor proofreading for typographic errors. 'Typos', that is.

"My name is Ignatius Voclain," said the Empoleon. "I am mayor and protector of this town, and I would know the names and business of the thirty-some strangers who have arrived in it of late."

He managed to look impatient for the other three's names before he'd even finished speaking himself.
That look of impatience brought along with it a strong sense of impatience, and not to mention quite a bit of scrutiny. So, this indeed was the mayor, and naturally he was inquiring about their presence... Empoleons always had a particular look of stern authority by nature, but this one was absolutely radiating it. Of course, as always, it didn't help that the big penguin completely towered over Corey in this form as well...

"...It's a pleasure and an honor to meet you, Mayor Voclain. Presuming our own introductions are in order, my name is Corey..." He said, his pace slowed as he carefully thought over each and every word before speaking it, and not wanting to stammer or stutter. He kept his hat close to his chest, unsure if he should put it back on or keep it in this position out of politeness.
Oh, this guy reeked of pretentiousness, all right. So he was the mayor, was he? The one footing their bills at the Haus, according to Drungfield, and the one who made his son Sheriff. And now, just as Wes had suspected, he was coming to collect his dues.

Wes didn’t need to know anything more to officially make up his mind: he detested this guy.

But a job was a job, and if anybody could supply Wes with more information about the mission he’d been sent here to do, it was, unfortunately, this prick. So he kept his snide comments to himself…but, out of stubbornness and perhaps sheer pettiness, Wes waited until all his other companions had introduced themselves before staring Volclain right in the eyes and answering as curtly as possible. “Wes.”
Oh yeah, he recognized this sort of smug superiority of a career politician, and the look was almost certainly one-to-one with the statue. Archie knew this was the mayor before he’d even said it, though it was still nice to get the confirmation. Well, regardless of what he thought of the man, Archie reminded himself that he needed to make a good first impression, he had a promise to Lorenzo to get into this man’s party to do a little advertising, and he wouldn’t do that needlessly antagonizing the Empoleon.

So, he doffed his hat long enough to put it over his heart and give a little bow, mimicking Corey’s shown respect if not quite the Ralts’ obsequiousness. “Pleasure to meet you, I’m Archie.”

Then the hat went back on his head while their fourth companion introduced himself. The blue furred Rockruff was named Wes. Archie didn’t believe he’d seen or heard of this one yet, so he made sure to file the name and species away for later. The Rockruff didn’t seem one for pleasantries, but sometimes that was appreciated by the type of person who felt like their time was wasted spending any more time talking to the ‘little people’ than necessary. Until he had a better feel of the Empoleon, this Voclain, Archie figured the best thing he could do was find the middle ground between Corey and Wes in this conversation.
If anything, Ignatius' expression soured even further at Wes' laconic response, but he nodded in acknowledgement to all three.

"Let's not waste any time," he began. "I'll be direct. The town marshal – my son – would have me believe that you people are law-abiding, assiduous types, and – despite your lack of attire on first arrival – civilised. ...Most of you, at least."

He sniffed, and reached for a copy of the Frontier Gazette on the seat to his side.

"This is not the heart of the matter, but do see your way to reminding that lizard of yours to conduct himself with decency, if only in the town limits. It spooks good, ordinary people to see a 'mon that might be a feral in the town square."

Ignatius placed the paper on the table and neatly swivelled it to face the group. The overleaf article was full of anecdotes from local 'mon about encounters with the 'strangers from afar'. Most were positive. Ignatius' flipper-tip tapped against one paragraph concerning a chance encounter with an unadorned toxel that had been seen licking himself in public.

"Hmph. You four seem capable of following instructions, I suppose. Which brings me to my proposition. Frontier Hall is hosting a gala at week's end, and I have reason to believe a coterie of sordid scoundrels wish to interfere with its procedings. It is of great importance that the gala is a success. This matter regards the future prosperity of this settlement. Now, what with there being a limited pool of trustworthy, competent candidates to be hired locally as security staff, I am forced to consider employing members of your... faction."

The mayor tilted his head forward, his gaze unwavering.

"Private security, pay in Commonwealth dollars, half-payment in advance. Is this something on which we can come to some arrangement?"
'Let's not waste any time,' he says as he immediately proceeds to waste time. Though "unamused" tended towards Bellatrix's default expression, it seemed that she was expressing it more than usual. The zorua tapped a paw on the ground in thought for a moment, before her tail neatly wrapped around all of them.

"There seems to be a large variation of backgrounds between members of our group," Bellatrix replied, like she was making a report. Part of her felt that this was unnecessary but the strong feeling that this was the sort of thing that would lower the empoleon's opinion on her strongly outweighed the former. "The only similarity we well and truly share is that of cosmic accident. The amphibian -" because that's what toxel and its evolution was "- may have come from a more rudimentary background than this town. I'll be sure to inform him or make someone else here do the favour."

Her gaze then met the mayor's, decisive, analysing. "But back on the actual matter at hand. What is it you wish us to do exactly and how much?"
So this did have something to do with the gala then... How beautifully convenient! Lorenzo would be happy to hear they'd found a way in, even if it was under the guise of security... just so long as they were able to go about displaying his wares.

Corey eyed Archie knowingly at this, though he otherwise said little for the moment. Bellatrix had already asked for the details of the job, along with the pay, he didn't want to step over that with any comments or questions of his own. That being said, barring some absurd caveat, odds were already pretty high that he'd at least accept this deal when all was said and done.
Wes was positively itching to tell this guy precisely where he could shove his pompous attitude. Keep your mouth shut, he reminded himself. You need the money, and from the looks of this guy, it’ll be generous.

The job sounded simple enough: being a bouncer for this fancy, probably completely unnecessary party.

“What makes you so convinced there will be trouble?” he asked with narrowed eyes. “Do you have any specific suspects in mind? And is there a reason why you’re so lacking in security personnel that you’re being forced to fraternize the likes of us?” He made no effort to hide the festering disdain in his tone.

So much for keeping your mouth shut, moron.
Hm, the mayor’s response definitely suggested Archie should consider leaning more towards Corey than Wes in this exchange. So be it, the Oshawott knew how to play nice. He did cringe inwardly, at the mention of Tarahn – for who else could it really have been? – in the paper. What a mess. And it honestly didn’t seem like a lot of the others were doing a good job trying to keep a low profile. Well, in a town like this it likely was impossible to go entirely without notice, so Archie couldn’t really say he was surprised. They all stood out as outsiders in this close knit frontier community.

Now, the job they were being offered, that was much more interesting. Security for the very gala that Lorenzo had asked they find a way to attend. Things very likely could not have worked out better. And the Oshawott was starting to lose hope he’d manage to find the ticket thieves in time! After everyone else had said their piece, Archie cleared his throat to add his own two cents.

“I have heard around town that a few tickets to this gala had been stolen,” he said to Wes as much as Voclain. “I’d certainly be happy to accept this job. Like my companion said, if you have any specific suspects in mind, it would certainly help us keep an eye out on the night. And, if I could ask, what sort of dress code will you be expecting for us?”
Ignatius made a small facial twitch and exhalation that might have been a scoff. But then, it might have been that his beak itched. Hard to say.

"Yes, well, do try not to gossipmonger about any missing invitations. We do have a doormon, you know. Those wretches shalln't be allowed entry – my concern is with denying them entry by other means."

The Empoleon took a pair of posters from the inside of his cape's cowl where they had been rolled up and placed them neatly on the table for viewing. He actually adjusted them to be neatly orthogonal, as if he were fixing the angle of a hung picture-frame.

"This gang, and their ringleader, are the culprits. My task for you is to prevent them from interfering with the gala in any way, for which I remunerate you a fortnight's wages at whatever trade it is you presently work in. Incidentally, if you would be so good as to arrest – or kill – any of them, you are very welcome to collect their bounties yourselves. Please do avoid killing them within view of the attendees, though. They may have delicate constitutions."

Mayor Ignatius looked entirely serious. He clearly meant every word he said.

"And besides, it makes for bad press."
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