Balance

Towards The Sun

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Hikari staggered back from Argyle gasping as her soul was propelled back into her body in the Awake. It was disorienting and confusing. One moment she had been trying to unmake and destroy an evil Bogna relic and the next she… She had used her very essence to contain the explosion. Still uncertain of what it meant she took a step back towards Argyle and reached out as she had before to descend back to her body. And was blocked. It was as if a barrier had come up over the world and now she could go no closer than she already had.

“But that would mean…” She knew what it meant. She’d studied enough and been around those to whom godhood had come earlier and more accepted to. It meant her body was dead and given what she’d seen with that artefact all but unmade. “No.” She couldn’t accept it. there was still so much to do people she cared about that would be in danger. She couldn’t help them if she was stuck out here. Gritting her teeth Hikari pushed at the field, dug her claws in and tried to tear her way back in. They needed her… They needed… She needed them…

The barrier did not budge and Hikari slumped in defeat. It was to be for naught. Argyle was lost to her as were those on it. Sorrow welled up in her and the stars in her body dimmed in response. Her form flickered and faded merging with the stars around her until she was all but lost in the endless night sky.

The dragons had been thorough though in their time with Hikari and from the months she’d spent with the crystal dragon came truths she could not help but see. Every life had a beginning a middle and an end. Because her was ended did not mean that the same was true for any of the others. Because she could not see it she would have to have faith in her friends. All she could do now was to believe they would recover and move on. It would be sad as any parting should be for one could not live without emotions. But they would recover and go on to do great things. She would believe, she had to believe.

“I’m sorry I could not stay longer my friends. Pan, I hope it was enough to help guide her. Val… live and show the world your light.” Hikari whispered quietly in the dark. But what of her? What of Hikari? Now thrice dead and yet not gone. What would become of her? In the vastness of space she thought and looked out at the beauty that surrounded her and the unknown that lay beyond her sight.

Slowly the lights began to coalesce and the stars within brightened bringing Hikari back to the present. Life was ever changing and she seemed to have a knack for changing with it and surviving when she should not. For now she would turn her sight to what lay beyond and walk the path before her. No matter what lay ahead she would fight and move forward. And one day she might return and see what had become of Argyle. One day…

“What do we have here?” A beautiful woman said as she approached the world of Argyle and Zulong rose up from the darkness and interposed herself between the unknown god and the world. For now she would journey and learn and protect what she felt was right with the multiverse. “Greetings I am Zulong. And you are?”

“Oh how cute, a dragon. Are you a guardian of this world?” The goddess was unconcerned with Zulong’s presence and it was only by placing herself in the way that stopped the goddess from looking down on Argyle. She looked at Zulong in askance.

“I am not its guardian but outsiders should not interfere in what happens down there. Now it is only polite for you to give me your name as I have given you mine.”

“I have many names… But you may call me Fionna.” The amusement never left Fionna’s face.

“Is that your true name?”

“Names have power my dear, and where I come from you only share with those you intend to become intimate with.” She smiled and licked her lips, “Unless that is your intention?”

Zulong shook her head, “I’m afraid your beauty is lost on me at the moment. I am… heartsore and would rather not.”

“Then perhaps a trade…”

(And with this I close my final post on Argyle)

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Hymn For The Missing

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Valeira felt the pressure begin to build and rolled to her feet and off of the bed. By the time the air pressure popped and Erindale appeared she was already in mid swing at his face. She noted smugly the shocked look on his face moments before her body was flung across the room. She slammed into the shelves and tumbled to the ground, the books rained down on top of her. Valeira gasped for breath and struggled to rise. Around her the unseen servants began their work picking up and sorting the tomes she’d displaced.

She clutched at her side and glared defiantly up at Erindale. “Most unfortunate,” He sighed and looked down at Valeira. “Are you quite done messing up my place?”

“N-never,” She coughed and rose to her feet on unstable legs, “Selwyn be my witness I shall never stop until I am free and returned to Hikari and my friends. No matter how nice you make it look. No matter what it may contain. A cell is a cell and I have done nothing wrong.”

“You still don’t see. I did this to save you, to keep you safe for Hikari’s sake.” His gaze softened and he made a motion creating a pair of elegant silver chairs for them to sit in. He took one and motioned for her to sit in the other. “Believe it or not I know something about what is going on and how difficult it is when you cannot be with the one…”

“Safe? I don’t want to be safe. I want to be with Hikari!” Valeira almost screamed at Erindale, “Was the moon safe? Was going after the red dragon safe? Hells, was even high Port safe for us? No, but at least we had each other. As long as we were together we could steal the moments we could and fight for more. You’ve taken that away from me, from us.”

Valeira points to the high arched windows, “I’m trapped in here only bale to look out at the stars and the moon at night and wonder where she is and if she is still fighting. And I know in here I can do nothing to help her. In here I can only be a distraction because she won’t stop. She won’t give up on me. As long as we both breathe nothing will keep us apart forever.”

“As long as you both breathe…” His stoic expression finished falling with those words and Val’s breath caught in her throat seeing the sadness within. He looked at her and all she could see was sorrow for her.

“No.” Valeira shook her head in disbelief, “No, you’re wrong. She can’t. She’s too strong for that…” Her vision swam her legs collapsed and Erindale was beside her supporting her and comforting her.

“I’m sorry,” Unlike his lies when she’d first arrived this felt true. There was no trick in his expression no smugness in his delivery only sadness.

“How?” Valeira managed to whisper, her throat clenched tight with emotion. With a nod Erindale told her the tale leaving nothing out about the battle at the Embassy and ending with the moment when Hikari had used her body and wings to shield everyone from the power of the evil artefact and how she’d used her own divine essence to absorb it all rather than let it take any of her friends.

She cried, there were no words, no thoughts only an all-consuming grief for what she’d lost. It had been a whim to take that walk so many months ago, a whim that had led her feet to the street where she’d heard those beautiful notes and been drawn towards the source. And upon seeing Hikari she’d known by the light she felt that she’d found her path, found her life and her love. And now… it was gone…

“Come, it is time to take you home.” Erindale pulled Valeira to her feet. “You are not the only one who grieves this day.” And with that the two of them departed…

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Sailing Away, Final

2nd of Fireseek 384 ONT, Foredeck of the Champions Helm, Lake Equestria.

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The crew assembled and stood at attention as the great ship sailed into the heart of the ancient lake. They wore their finest as Teagan spoke up.

“It is always hard to lose friends, hard to move forward after suffering such loses; but know that Hikari, Maltar, Jonathan… they did not simply pass into the night, they died as they lived hero’s one and all, I would ask that we try to remember them as such… Master Carpenter Doyle, has asked to come forward and say a few words about our departed friend Hikari… Mandy” Teagan stepped aside letting the young women take her place. Mandy wiped the tears from her eyes, stopping quickly to give Valeria and Tar-Di a hug before stepping between the caskets and projecting her voice to speak

“I’ve been thinking about heroes.” She said softly, but stopped herself. The young women quickly wiped her eyes once more and pushed her hair behind her ears; she squared her shoulders and stood a little taller as she coughed clearing her throat and then began anew projecting her voice out for all to hear; she had to be strong, for Hikari. “Heroes are the people who reflect the aspects of ourselves we most admire, provided we’re brave enough to let those aspects shine. Figures from poems, from songs and stories of old aren’t my heroes because you never hear of them cutting themselves while cooking or tripping while carrying supplies down the stairs. Politicians aren’t my heroes because you never hear of them putting their foot in their mouths or ranting insanely about how frustrating things can be. But Hikari… there’s a hero.” She stopped taking a second to make eye contact with Tar-Di. She looked over to Taaj who nodded encouragingly and ushered her to keep going, she nodded back and continued “We are drawn to those who possess what we wish to unleash in ourselves. I’ve been thinking about how Hikari is my hero. Hikari fought many great fights and epic battles, but it is the little things that always got me. At every port we are always warned by St. Fargazer to be careful, to travel and in groups, we were warned to never, ever give money to beggars or children that we would encounter. Hikari always listened to the warning, would sometimes reissue it to other members of the crew, then loaded up her pockets with copper and silver and had a giving field day. She gave her time, money, help, knowledge, and love wherever she damn well pleased.” Tears began running down Mandy’s face uninhibited, but she continued in spite of herself “Even when she knew it wouldn’t turn out. Even when it would only matter for a few minutes. Even when she suspected it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Hikari was always herself: generous and magic in equal measure. Generous and magic in equal measure, it’s a lofty goal, but it’s the one I hold in my heart today. It is my hope that I will be able to live life in the example she has set. That wherever she is, I can make her proud. I was bonded with Hikari, I knew her more closely than I could know anyone, Hikari was a friend and a mentor, and I loved her as a big sister; I will miss her for the rest of my days.” The tears were openly streaming down her face and she half-heartedly tried to wipe them away “thank you” she said bobbing her head to those assembled and then marched over to the waiting arms of Taaj, Tar-Di and Valeria.

There was a lasting silence on the ship until Teagan managed to shakily step forward and call out for Sir Maddax to speak of Maltar.

The goblin did he best, speaking of duty and noble sacrifice, how they’d not the chance to truly know him yet and that they were all poorer for it. When the Captain at last called Nathan to speak of Jonathan; there was not a dry eye left on the deck. He spoke of simple times, of singing in the mess hall, of adventures they had had in Lockland, running from an angry father of whose daughter had slipped into the inn and attempted to seduce Jonathan. Of late nights sitting up with Cassidy, smoking and talking about odd things like why does one build bird houses when birds already live in trees? Or why does one cut down trees for wood to build bird houses to go in trees? “… Jonathan has long been a member of our crew, when Thaden and the Little’s needed him, folk he never really knew, folk that were not his kin; well that didn’t matter, the Admiral said our cause was true, and that was good enough for Jonathan to sign up. He loved this ship and his crew… we were his family… he was like my own brother and…” Nathan could not go on, he began crying and at last the Captain came and gave him a hug before turning to the crew.

“On this day the 2nd of Fireseek on the 384th year, it is my sad duty to return these fine sailors to the sea once more, we thank them for their compassion, courage and duty, for their companionship, their love and friendship; most of all we thank them for their sacrifice, and hope that wherever their souls may go, that peace and happiness is found there… so say we all” she finished

“SO SAY WE ALL” the crew echoed back. Teagan stood straight and stamped her feet together and she nodded over to Rick. He turned to the crew and called in a loud clear voice

“CHAMPIONS HELM CREW… ATTTTENNNNNNTTTTIOOON!” as the words echoed across the deck, every sailor stood tall and proud at attention. “MASTER GUNNER, PREPARE THE SALUTE!” Rick called out. Willhym turned to the six assembled gunners, each in dress uniform with muskets as the shoulder. At a nod from him they each loaded a musket ball and held their weapons pointed up and out to sea at the ready. “SALUTE!” Rick called as each member of the crew brought their hands up in a salute. One by one the caskets were dropped from the deck into the water and slowly sank away as a resounding musket shot was fired. As the last casket slipped away below the waves at last Rick called out “DISSMISSED!” The crew was shaken, and slowly started to breakaway some back to their duty posts, others down to the mess hall or bunks. Teagan climbed up to the bridge, Willhym and Bronwyn right behind her.

“Where to next, Captain?” Bronwyn asked as she took out the sextant and charts and began to examine them. The sailed unfurrowed and the ship began to move forward as she was trimmed into the wind. Teagan took the helm and looked out across the lake into the westward setting sun.

“For now my friends, we have a favorable wind, and clear skies, and calm waters; let’s make for the horizon and see what tomorrow brings us” Willhym and Bronwyn smiled at each other as they took up positions on the bridge beside their Captain, in that moment, in that time a calm came across them, they had found a sliver of peace as they did what they loved more than anything else in the world. Once again, they were sailing away.

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Battle Plans

35th of Sunnsebb 9:19am, Mess Hall of Champions Helm, Eiradun

Admiral Thalion tacked the letter from the Dentoni to the wall of the Mess Hall for all to see. He then turned to those assembled, pride welled in his heart; he had made in clear that this was an unpaid mission, that he only wanted volunteers, and that any who came risked a long jail term at the hands of the Dentoni, still the bulk of the crew had come out in support; an Admiral couldn’t ask for more.

“St. Fargazer, please take them through the battle plan” He said in a solemn tone

“Aye Cap… err Admiral” Flit said standing up from his place at the head table. “Ok folks here is the break down as I see it. At 11:15pm tonight we will be heading over to the embassy and using their shrink ring. Our intel says that Shepard has both Raven’s and Owls in his unit, I am thinking they will do a dawn attack, trying to get the best of both worlds. Maddax, I’m counting on you and your Wing to keep the avians off our people, and keeping anyone from landing on the roof of the embassy… can we count on you?”

“On our Honour, It will be done St. Fargazer!” Maddax called out in a clear voice, receiving nods of approval from Kevrauth and Maltar. Flitt nodded and continued his briefing

“Hugh, Oslow, Nathan and the Lafleur brothers, you guys are on crossbow duty on the roof. Provide cover for the Wing when you can, but don’t let anyone get close to the doors of the embassy… we clear?”

“We hear you St. Fargazer” Oslow called out

“Prancer, I am told you and the Banana Slugs will be joining us” Flitt confirmed

“My sword is forever at your service St. Flitt” he said… Flitt let out a low whistle

“I pity the enemy… well, you’ll get to put it to good use, as per your request, you and your team will hold the front on the embassy, if things get to heavy retreat inside and seal the doors, we have built up some cover, but it will mostly be you and your line out there” Flitt said

“Not a problem, as long as our backs are well shielded, we will hold as long as we can… they will pay dearly for every step they take”
“HOOO- YA!” The Slugs cried in response. Flit couldn’t help but grin, even if it was only twenty, twenty well trained dwarven mercenaries were going to be a shocker to the Weasels in Shepards army. Flitt turned to look for Rick and the ships guard next.

“Rick, you and your team are the vanguard for the back of the embassy… I want you to use skirmishing tactics, hit hard and fade inside… just hard enough to make them wary of coming inside. If things get harry or you hear my whistle you and your team hightail it inside… from there you deal with any breaches as you see fit… sound good”

“My team is ready and eager St. Fargazer” Rick said calmly

“Lee Sue, I want you to listen well to Rick, there are going to be practitioners of Bogna there, they will try to duel with you… don’t your mission is holding the embassy not dueling…we clear?” Lee bowed his head in acknowledgment of his orders. “Good… now Mandy and Taaj, you will have Fovran and Dastuid with you… we’re sending over any extra lumber we can as well as building supplies and some gold… any potential breaches we want you to fix and repair where you can. Taaj, you are repair crew guard… eyes on them all times”

“Not a hair on their heads will be out of place St Fargazer” Taaj said with a wry grin and he nuzzzeld Mandy beside him

“Of course not, cause me and me boys are gonna keep that building buttoned up tighter than then the Admiral on a Fireseek Night Watch” there was an agreeing grunt from the two dwarves who raised hammers in salute to their Master Carpenter.

“All this is soundin like a pretty pounce plan St. Fargazer, but yer been omitin’ my particular role” Cassidy put in as he leaned against the far wall of the room.

“I am sorry Cass,” Flitt said honestly “The Embassy is well protected from the dead, and cannot be altered… add that to how sticky Eiradun is with a zero undead policy and… well you’re gonna have to sit this one out I’m afraid” Cassidy punched the wall leaving a small hole as he stomped from the room. Flitt felt for him, he promised himself he’d go talk with him later, and make sure things were good; but for now he had a briefing to finish.

“Ok that brings us to the core issues… Shepard is likely to be mounted on Phobia… who is likely not in her right mind; after talking to the Guard, they are willing to give Hikari first crack at trying to bring her around, but if things get to dicey, we will have to do what needs doing. Folks, aim for the rider wherever you can, not the mount; that is still our friend out there. The Guard want to try and bring down Shepard themselves, but they are not against people defending themselves where needed. The Admiral wants to take a crack at Shepard’s apprentice, I’m fine with, Lux will be her backup should things get harry… this leave Mirieal and I to find this Thrawn wolverine and any other trouble makers and bring them down. Folks we want to take down their leadership and bloody them… we have little interest in prisoners or in giving chase… if they want to run… let them, we need a quick victory; we can’t survive a long siege… everyone clear?” There was a resounding cheer from those assembled and Flitt gave them a nod. “Ok then, everyone get a good meal in them and some rest… I want every crew member to please see Bronwyn before the mission, she needs to make sure your file with next of kin is up to date. Thank you all” with that Flitt nodded to the other senior officers who filed from the room to better refine their battle plans.

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A Question, One Last Time Pt 2
33rd of Sunsebb 383 ONT 6:15pm (15 minutes until sunset), Champions Helm, Eiradun, Argyle

She took a deep breath and straddled his knee, tipping his chin and holding it so she could gaze into his eyes.

She was very satisfied with what she saw.

“Say something,” he whispered, as her wing tips clutched around his left thigh and right ankle, their feathers stroking him in light touches akin to fingertips.

Miriel’s lips pulled back in a knowing smirk. “I’m not giving up on you,” she whispered back before throwing her arms about Prancer’s neck and giving him a long and sensuous kiss. His arms mimicked hers and he returned her kiss with just as much fervour; the kiss continued past the realm of comfortable until several people coughed around them. The kiss morphed into grins as they pressed their foreheads together before separating.

“Jarl Harold Forbes non Cainia de’Eltheren sol Caleb an Sara, in the custom of my people this question merits an answer that is more than words,” Miriel announced, her voice deep and husky, while still on his knee; she was a little nervous but took comfort in his strength, especially when he leaned his head knowingly to the side. “I, Miriel non Jairi de’Sidhe Nyx sol Hyperion an Liorah, take you as my virum and mark you as MINE for all of time.”

With that emphasis she bit down hard on her lover’s exposed neck, her sharpened teeth piercing his skin and filling her mouth with the tang of blood. His grip tightened on her elbows but otherwise Prancer showed no outward sign of pain or discomfort. She stayed like that for just a few moments before removing her teeth, and gently licked the wound before pulling back and offering her own slender neck to him.

His teeth, though human and blunted, tore into her skin easily, her body offering him not only no resistance but complete surrender, body and soul. His breath tickled as he mirrored licking her wound and she couldn’t stop the giggle that bubbled out; he joined her in laughter as he stood and twirled her around to the sound of thunderous applause.

Her father stepped forward with this hands outstretched, reaching for them. He was dressed in fine clothing and wore a smile that stretched across his face. Both she and Prancer grasped his hands and allowed themselves to be pulled, kneeling, before the makeshift shrine; her high priest, Curtis, placed his hands on their necks and whispered a healing spell – which felt, well, odd; the hairs on her arms stood up as the faun used her own blessings on her.

“My goddess,” Curtis addressed her, bowing before her. “Do you wish to be joined in the traditional Strix fashion?” The faun looked eagerly behind her, winking first at Bronwyn and then over to one of the Dwarven warriors. “I have heard it is a ceremony one of my kind would find…fun.”

Miriel laughed, then shook her head in mock grief. “I’m afraid not, my heart’s priest. Harold and I are over-dressed for the occasion, and I do not believe that the ship’s crew would be able to look arch other in the eye in the morrow if we have a traditional ceremony.”

“But, but…Miriel!” Her father looked shocked. “You would not begrudge these wonderful people the pleasure of watching Harold worship you with the Three Bells? What of the Neighbouring Waterfall? Certainly not the Grinding of the Stone Walls!”

She shook her head, trying not to hurt her father’s feelings. “No Father, it is not their way. The songs will have to do…”

“What of just a few of the easy ones? I am a master of the Pearl Dive and there are many beauties on that ship that would appreciate my skills….it’s tradition, Daughter!”

“No orgies, Father. It isn’t done here.”

Hyperion sighed regretfully. “Humans are so shameless, flouting their will against the natural order. I would say the elves are just as bad, but…” He licked his lips, ignoring the Admiral’s bristling. ”Your mother could hold her own, that is for sure.”

Prancer shook his head, eyes twinkling with mirth. “Perhaps, good Yaxen, when we return to a certain temple of Aleau that your daughter frequented, you can have a special party there for those interested in learning all of the cultural treasures of the Strix.” He closed Miriel’s mouth as it fell open, and placed a finger over her lips before any words came out. “Oh, I know all about your adventures, my love. We will go over them in detail; best to act them out, to prove that I am better than all.”

Her answering purr caused shivers down each person surrounding them, with not a few coughing and standing strangely.

Curtis grinned and stood his full height without bothering to cover his own hardened reaction to the dampened heat coming from the pair. He clapped his hands together; the action produced a shockwave of sound that echoed over the impromptu gathering and silence descended all around him. “Good souls near and far, we are gathered this day to celebrate the uniting of two special people. It is not everyday that we are witness to a faery tale romance in the making, and mere words would do no justice to their story.”

Curtis shifted to bring forth a flute and smiled; softly, at first, but gradually morphed into a wicked smile. “As we are unable to join their journey in the traditional way, the happy to couple will now sing their vows.”

“Orgies, Curtis…orgies,” Hyperion whispered just as the first note sang out of the faun’s flute…

(To be finished in part 3)

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Bounty Time Pt 1

34th of Sunsebb 383 ONT 10:11am, Champions Helm, Eiradun, Argyle.

Rick stood there watching Bronwyn haggle with the Port Authority. The Eiradun guard was a no-nonsense woman and was making Bronwyn jump through quite a few hoops in order to bring onboard the steel she wished to export from the city. Eiradun was a lot of things and regulation heavy was indeed one of them.

“Well, I think that just about does it Ms. Penrose, I should have the proper paperwork ready by early afternoon” Marion the Port Authority said. Bronwyn smiled making the appropriate pleasantries, when she stopped catching a glimpse of a well-dressed man in black suede cape and top hat and carrying a cane with a golden bobble on the end. The man casually made his way down the peir and turned up the gangway to board the Champions Helm.

Pardon me Sir… Mam… Me Lady” he said nodding towards Rick, Marion, and Bronwyn in order. “Please… allow me to introduce myself?” the fellow said reaching into his pocket inside his cape and producing a scroll “I am Joshua, Count Delacroix, Earl of Croy, Marquess of Ishlathal and Grant Island, Baronet of Theming, I am the descendent of the third daughter of Lord Pepsica the 4th, Lady Alice and proud citizen of Don-Ton.” He finished it all with a small flourish and bow. Rick looked to Bronwyn who looked back equally confused before she spoke

“Please to meet you Lord Delacroix… what brings you to the Champions Helm?” she asked
“an excellent query if ever there was one Ms.?”

“Penrose… Quartermaster Bronwyn Penrose of the Champions Helm” she said with a little more authority, and this is “Port authority Marion and our Master of Arms Rick Turred”
“Of course, Quarter Master, Master of Arms, Exalted Port Authority;” he bowed once more to all three “You see though my career has been long and prosperous occasionally I take up work for various businesses to further grow the family capital… currently I am in the noble pursuit of a vagabond and wish to bring her to justice” Bronwyn nodded her understanding
“You’re a bounty hunter” The Port Authority cut in, an unimpressed tone in her voice
“well… I suppose that is one way of looking at it yes”

“Eiradun as very strict rules on bounty hunters Count Delacroix, it would be best if you…”
“presented myself to the Dentoni Tower and assured my licence was in order before undertaking any activities that could be seen as illegal… yes, I have done so already as well as visiting the city guard and registering not only my handy Felicia…” he patted the haft of his axe lovingly, “But also my noble companion Cona…” he pointed to a snow owl sitting on a nearby post on the pier below, the owl bristled and nodded at them. As he spoke he produced the scroll he was holding to Marion, denoting his rank, lineage, and appropriate licences. She took them quizzically and gave them a quick glance, everything seemed to be in order, she passed them back to Joshua who stowed them into a scroll case on his belt.
“Well…” said Marion “things seem to be in order Lord Del…”

“Count, My Lady”

“Count Delacroix… Why are you here?” Bronwyn jumped in, starting to get nervous about where this was going.

“Of course… I am here to bring The Lady Aurelia Ouellette into my custody.” he said the smile and jovialness remained but his voice became hard and commanding “I have here a ratified bond requiring her arrest, on behalf of the Baron Muldark of Don-Ton. Currently the Bond requests that she is brought in Alive, but be warned by the laws of the land I am allowed to use force in defense of myself, and reasonable force to subdue her should she resist capture. Please surrender her weapons and magical items and allow me to bind her hands and take her into custody. If she does all this willingly she shall know that she will be detained in comfort for the duration of our journey together and that I will testify to her cooperation before those who placed the bounty.” He looked long and hard at Rick and Bronwyn who both wore worried looks, Marion wore a similar look on her face as she tried to figure out what her legal grounds were. Rick looked down at his longsword, but Joshua spoke up interrupting his thoughts “I know you are an accomplished warrior and archer, and that the bond she must have with your crew must indeed be tight. There will be a rather large urge to attempt to fight and aid her in fleeing, please know that this is not my first bounty, and I have taken precautions… now perhaps you and she are indeed better than I, but even if you succeed in killing me, you will have committed murder in front of a local law enforcement and that will be added to her and your crimes on your bounty when further members come searching, please… surrender her quietly” He stood waiting silently. Rick gave a long low whistle before responding

“Well Mr. Del

“Count Delacroix, Earl of Croy, Marquess of Ishlathal and Grant Island, Baronet of Theming and not a man to be trifled with or lied to” The Count said, a razor edge in his tone. Rick nodded slowly

“Well… Count Delacroix… I can honestly say that…”

“Carful lad, you are about to do the very honorable, and yet incurably silly thing of lying to me in front of an Eiradun Port Authority… I am sure you are considering telling me that Ms. Ouellette is not onboard your ship, perhaps that you have never heard of her. But I am sure her name is indeed on the manifest, and with that evidence could have your trade license suspended for lying to an agent of law” Rick paused a long moment his mouth still half open.

“Well Count Delacroix, I am not sure what Rick was about to say, but I am most sure I am not obligated to answer any of your questions nor invite you on my ship, so to you I will bid Good Day” she said in a tone that was still polite yet firm. The count tipped his hat but turned to the Port Authority.

“Mam, as you can see we are at an impasse, I have reasonable evidence to support a belief that they are harboring a fugitive on their ship. I would ask you as an authority of law to demand that I be granted access to their ship to conduct a ship” The Port Authority began to nod; Bronwyn jumped in

“This is a state of the art Elven Ship, with many proprietary secrets on board, we cannot be expected to allow a bounty hunter to have free reign walking through our ship” Bronwyn fired back. Again, the Port Authority began to nod considering this as well

“Not to worry at all then” The Count jumped in, his attitude chipper “I would be most delighted if both you and the Port Authority Marion would escort me through the ship while I conduct a proper search” this time Marion nodded to the request and Bronwyn sighed resigned to what was about to happen. “Jolly Good, let us be about our business then” The Count said stepping aboard the Champions Helm.

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Letter from Eiradun

To: Admiral Thalion I. Alfrin of the Champions Trading Fleet

From: High Dentoni Galienne Auphrey, Royal Protectorate, Eiradun

Sir Thalion,

It has come to my attention that since arriving in port almost eight days ago, you and your crew have made repeated visits to the embassy of the Waylen, in the Temple District of our Great City. I am further aware of your petition to meet with our exalted Quim to discuss our decisions regarding the Waylen civil war. At this time, I am afraid the Quim will be unable to meet with you, as you can understand her schedule is very full dealing with affairs on a global and often times planer scale. Her earliest opening would be the 23rd of Fireseek, of which I would be happy to schedule you in.

Further to your requests I will reclarify that the country of Eiradun has decided that those currently holding the embassy of the Waylen are doing so illegally. That Lord Shepard has proven his right to rule and maintains most of the Waylen holdings as well as support from his general populace. With all these factors in mind and wishing to remain neutral in internal matters of the Waylen peoples; Eiradun can no longer in good conscious allow rebels to command and hold the official embassy. Well we can certainly empathise with the plight of these warriors, our city, and our official relations with their people as a whole will not be the battle ground for this civil war. As of the 1st of Fireseek in year of 384 ONT the embassy will no longer be under the protection of Eiradun. We have allowed Lord Shepard to bring a small force to reclaim and staff the embassy. It is my sincerest hope that those currently inhabiting the embassy will relocate prior to this deadline and that no violence will occur.

Admiral, your reputation proceeds you and your feats in both Kezranad and Cainia have made their way by bard to our illustrious city. Whereas your involvement in the above-mentioned cases is viewed by many as the work of heroes, here it will be seen as aiding and abiding terrorists. Should you or any member of your crew take part in actions on the Waylen Embassy lands after the 35th of Sunsebb; they will be arrested and the full force of Eiradun law will be thrown at them. I take it on your honour that you will inform your crew that this warning was fairly given. Eiradun has no wish for trouble, and further has no wish to see any bloodshed. This transition period is already difficult enough and it is easy to see how tempers could flare, it is our hope that the patience and wisdom of a Knight of Quenya will allow cooler heads to prevail. If you have further questions or wish to discuss this more in depth I would be happy to speak to you anytime after the 2nd of Fireseek. I will also be on hand with a full contingent of Dentoni on the 1st of Fireseek to assure a smooth and peaceful transition of assets. It is my greatest hope that we do not meet on that day.

Respectfully,

High Dentoni Galienne Auphrey,
Royal Protectorate,
Eiradun

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The Value of a Plum

32nd of Sunsebb 383 ONT 8:23am, Embassy of Redwall, Eiradun, Argyle

Please listen while reading

She didn’t know where she was going; only that she could not stay still. Hikari wandered the halls of the embassy aimlessly doing her best to keep the worry from her face. Many of those within smiled or nodded or greeted her as news of who their group was had spread through the ranks. But Hikari could only give a weak smile and nod in return or a casual comment as her mind was leagues away. Eventually though she spotted a very familiar mouse-like figure who, for a change, was alone.

“Thaden,” Hikari adjust her wandering towards him.

“Hikari,” Thaden nods before turning to continue down another hall.

“Can we talk? Please?” He pauses and turns back towards her nodding. “This way.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

“Did you know,” Hikari begins staring into the fire a plum in her hand, “I haven’t eaten one of these since the day we met? Since the day I dug you out of that plum…” She laughs softly to herself. “Stupid isn’t it? Just because you were cursed into one I can’t bring myself to do more than open them in case there is a Waylan trapped inside and fearing that I might find one.”

“Was it fate? Chance? Luck? Some grand scheme by the universe where we are but pawns or cogs meant to play our part and to not know it was preordained the entire time?” Hikari turns towards Thaden, her eyes still held the draconic slit pupil and tiny motes of light sparkled in her iris’ despite being back in her half-elven form. “I’ve had… more time than most to ponder and reflect on this and many… other things.”

Hikari slowly walks back to the table and gently places the plum on its surface before turning back to Thaden again. “Why? Why are you doing this Thaden? What makes you wander these halls like one already dead and afraid to leave loose ends?”

Thaden offered a weak smile as he wandered over to the table himself. He took a slice of bread and spread a thick cheese over it. He smiled again at Hikari acknowledging the stereotype but pursuing his favourite snack none the less. He then crossed the room to a chair near Hikari and settled himself with a cup of tea, then took a moment to reach inward to seek out the insight to answer the half elf.

“That is very perceptive Hikari” Thaden said offering a bow in reward to her perceptions “But I sense you may be projecting? Has your search for Valeria yielded nothing?” he paused seeing Hikari’s eyes drop at the mention of her lost love. “I am sorry for that; love is a powerful force, an all-consuming drug that can drive and sustain someone to otherwise impossible feats; but when that love, that drug is ripped from us, you are never the same afterwards… never as strong as you were before… I sincerely hope that you find her with all haste.” he said the last staring into his tea, memories of the past playing upon his face. Hikari was unsure how the conversation had turned this way.

“Attempts for Miriel to find her with her magic have failed, and she has not responded to any messages as yet either… I am starting to fear the worst” She said, saying things that had been bottled for some time; fearful that saying them out loud might cause them to become true.

“I would never presume to instruct a Master of Bendhu on how to conduct her affairs. But from one friend to another, and I do so hope that I may be counted among your friends Hikari, the Magics of Argyle are often easily blocked with the Weave, but for one that is truly looking the weave can never be fully hidden, I would seek her connection to the living and this world, not her soul or being.” He took a bite of his cheese bread and sat back enjoying the complex flavours as he did. “One other thing Hikari… if I may?”

“Of course Thaden, What is it?”

“When you find her, and I would recommend you find her as soon as you can… take hold of her, and love her. Make the love you give her then and there enough to last for all time… Love her fully and completely each time you see her, the fates can be cruel, so do not offer them a chance to cause you lament.”

Her insides were twisted knots of emotion and it was a struggle to even swallow past the fear that had lodged in her throat. She could hear it in his voice, feel it emanating from his soul Thaden’s loss and so she did the only thing she could. Hikari lunged forward and hugged her Waylan friend tight to her. For what he lost, for what she feared to lose she held on and the tears came on their own.

She felt like she was being pulled in so many directions and someone or something needed saving in each direction and she was being forced to choose and someone would pay for that choice. It was things like this that had caused her to react and grasp for powers to aid her in the first place. Even with the understanding that came in the Dragon Isles and even accepting what lay before her did not insulate Hikari from her feelings. She still felt all those emotions and if anything her new perspective made it all that much more difficult on her to make those choices.

Eventually though Hikari managed to collect herself enough to pull away and smiled at Thaden. “If only you had instructed me I might actually be a Master of Bendhu despite its differences with Ashla. Keeper, Guardian of the Way perhaps but not even close to Master. After all I’ve no one to learn from or teach me the secrets of Pine Nuts.” She winked at Thaden having long ago understood why he’d done that to Thalion. “But friends we have been since the moment we fought together to free ourselves and the Phoenix and will never part company on any other terms.”

“And as a friend I will not pry further about what haunts you save to offer you this.” From a pocket in her robe she drew forth a needle filled with a pitch black substance and held it out to Thaden, “This was meant to be used against the alien brain, use it to bring Sheppard down. For what he has taken from you and yours means as much to me as it does you my friend.”

She’d hoped to share his burden but instead had found her sharing her own. Ironic, Hikari thought. “Promise me Thaden. Promise me you will fight with everything you have and you will not only fight to win but to live! Be the shield that does not break. Be the shield that does not falter. Be the light that shatters the darkness and save your people. And then, when you win, and you have to… Be there to help them rebuild for that will be the most difficult of tasks and they will need you then more than ever.”

Thaden stood, smiled, and bowed to Hikari; a bow from the waist that was very formal. She returned it in kind and he reached forward holding both her hands “Gentle Hikari,” he said in a soft voice. “One who is feeling torn in all directions is one that is closest to achieving balance, it means you are already in the middle.” He squeezed both hands for a moment “I know not how the final battle will fare, save that it will be among the most difficult in my time; but it is not my life I fear to lose in this battle, not physically however. This battle will mark an end to many things, but also a new beginning; I am a slower than most Masters of Ashla, it takes me longer to give up my attachments; but I will get there… the weave will take us to where we need to be… and I will always embrace Ashla where and whenever that is… it is my hope that you heed your own advice young Hikari, and perhaps some of mine as well” the held hands for a moment, but Hikari felt he was evading the root again

“Thaden, you’re a hero, and the cruelest fate of all is saved for the truest of heroes is to never be allowed to rest or give in or die. No matter what you lose, no matter what you are offered to turn aside you will stand strong and do what must be done because there is no one else who can do what you do.”

“Be strong my friend. You are never alone.” Hikari wiped a last tear from her cheek and leaned in to give him a kiss on the cheek. “Now I should be off. Learning to find someone through the weave is going to take me some time and I’d best be started at it…” they parted hands as she turned to leave, he held her left hand for a moment longer causing her to look back

“Thank you Hikari, I will try to heed the wisdom of a Bendhu Master” with that he let go, and the two shared a long look before Hikari turned and left the room, new purpose in mind.

For her part, Hikari decided to go to the tree. It was in a park where she first met Valeira and she wanted to be somewhere similar. And amongst the grass and roots of the large apple tree she settled herself in not knowing how long it would take and if it would work at all but willing to stay as long as necessary to make it happen. She’d become good at meditating and before long felt the calm and peace in her mind and body she required to begin.

Slowly she started staying away from Argylian magic she began to weave a web of Bendhu strengthening and expanding it with her divine source that was not of argyle. With each strand she wove she filled it with everything she could of who Valeira was. From how she carried herself to how she spoke and acted to how she looked and felt and more. Hikari opened herself to the weave and tried to show it everything and anything she could and the love they felt for each other. Time was meaningless to Hikari as she worked and she looked with her mind’s eye down into the ground where the leylines ran and reached for the nearest to siphon a trickle of power from. Too much and the spell might turn lethal but she needed more than she possessed within. But eventually her crude and makeshift net was ready though it looked ever so fragile. She had no choice and cast it forth letting it fly towards the elven lands and spread and settle like the thinnest of filaments over as much of the land as she could reach.

Then she waited. Connected to the web she slowly fed it power, just enough to keep it active and to keep it there. As much as it needed for as long as it needed…

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A Question, One Last Time Pt 1

33rd of Sunsebb 383 ONT 6:11pm (20 minutes until sunset), Champions Helm, Eiradun, Argyle.

Please Listen While Reading

Rick Turred looked up as he saw the man climb onto the ship. The man had a clean shaven face, his brow was shaded by the wide brimmed hat and a large feather that hung behind him. He wore a cloak of a design that Rick was unfamiliar with, but wore trousers of brown and a white silk shirt that flared at his chest below. The man tipped his hat to Rick and marched towards the stairs heading below deck. He was flanked by two dwarves, one with a close cropped blond beard, the other with a short black beard, both dwarves, and the man for that matter were dressed incredibly formally. Rick turned to Koleta who had been on duty beside him

“You have the deck, I want to see this” with that he left and followed the man below decks. As the Man marched he tipped his hat and smiled and nodded to crew members as he continued on his quest. The man held a hand up keeping Mandy from jumping into a hug, instead she joined the precision of crew members that were following him and his dwarves as he entered the Mess Hall.

Miriel stood before the officers table, deep in conversation with Admiral Thalion and Captain Teagan about trade possibilities in Miranith once issues here had been sorted, her back was to the stairwell and was caught off guard as most of the officers, and the crew for that matter stopped their discussions, instead, starting with the Admiral they stood one by one, ear to ear smiles spreading across their faces. Mirial gave Thalion a puzzled looked when she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. She turned and there he was, her beloved Prancer. He wore the cloak of Jarl of her people, he had a new scar below his eye, and his boyish looks at matured to those of a seasoned warrior. He grasped her gently behind the head and pulled her into a kiss. Thinking quickly she dismissed Sn’ara, keeping his lips for her and her alone. She was vaguely aware of cheers and clapping happening around her. He scooped her up off her feet holding her in his arms both real and magical and turned allowing his dwarven escort to clear a path as he began to carry her from the mess hall. The crew laughed and cheered, following them as he carried her onto the deck, she pulled his hat from his head stealing a kiss and placing it on her own as he brought her down onto the pier.

Awaiting her on the pier was the next surprise he had in tow for her. It was lined with ten dwarves on each side, each in formal dress attire holding torches up over their heads in the setting sun of the cool Sunnsebb evening. He carried her to the edge of the aisle where she found her father Yaxen Hyperion de’Jairi smiling and awaiting her. She glanced down the pier past the dwarves and saw a small shrine set up at the very end. Standing there tending it in the flesh was none other than Curtis. She looked bewildered as Prancer at last placed her on her feet.

“Harold…. What is happening here, Father? Curtis? Why are they here?” She asked, somewhat breathless. He looked at her and gave her the knowing cocksure grin she had grown to love so much

“I figured, the only one who could conduct the marriage of the Goddess of the Night Wind would be her High Priest, so I went and found him. I knew you would not want to be joined without the blessed of your Father, and so I have sought that as well.” He dropped to his knee as the blond dwarf produced a ring from his satchel and passed it to Prancer. Prancer held is out before him, and as he did; Miriel was floored by the waves of power that came from the Ring, she knew at once that this was a ring of power, one from the awake… hundreds of questions sprang to her lips but she could not voice them, not yet. “Miriel de’Jairi sol Hyperion an Liora; I have quested across Argyle, won a kingdom only to find it meaningless without you at my side, and thus forsook my claim. I have quested to Edheren and earned the rank of Jarl, I have traveled to Silverpike and fetched a ring that might come close to matching your beauty, I have joined your priest in his quest and captured for you the North Wind… all of this in hopes of proving my love for you… I know I am but a mortal and you are a Goddess pure and true, but I come to you one last time, in hopes you will answer the question that burns in my heart and soul will you, Miriel please be my partner forevermore?” His voice was shaky as was his hand that held the ring, he was more scared of this than any enemy he’d ever faced, of that she was sure. She looked about seeing her father standing there, seeing Curtis and Maul down the pier, the assembled dwarves of the Fighting Banana Slugs and of course the crew of the Champions Helm that had poured off the ship behind her. She took a deep breath and…

To be Continued by Jaime

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First the Embassy THEN THE WORLD!

32nd of Sunsebb 383 ONT 4:13pm, Somewhere in Eiradun, Argyle.

Arch Druid Fraxious entered the dingy hall that had been rented for his retinue. He let out a half-hearted sigh and turned holding the door for the eight members of his retinue.

“Is that the snivelling failure Fraxious?” the voice of Shepard boomed from the far side of the hall. Fraxious took a calming breath before striding forward. In the hall, atop a podium stood Lord Shepard, his apprentice Mikal at his side. Fraxious also noted the Grand Druid and three other prominent members of the Suzuki order present. He offered a slight bow to the Grand Druid and joined the briefing.

“… the time is at hand at last, Caius has arranged that the Dentoni will leave us be, and that local guards will be sympathetic to our cause, this ends here today. There are only four Waylen, I want them destroyed! No survivors this time, no one slips away. In addition to that, this false profit of Bogna, this Fargazer… I want him shattered” Shepard intoned to his followers

“Leave that to me Master, I have studied reports on St Fargazer, and have seen his blade work. It would be an honour to kill him for you” Mikal said

“Excellent…” Shepard said “Fraxious, you are to handle Thaden’s elven apprentice… It is known to be tricky and highly deadly when brought to bear under the sword… have your magic undo it”

“It will be done Lord Shepard” Fraxious murmured

“Caius, They are said to be traveling with two Goddesses… you are yours will keep them from interfering in our affairs”

“I understand Shepard, but recall that this will be the end to our arrangements, the Druids will be free of your meddling after this” The Grand Druid retorted.

“I understand, After this I will no longer have need of you and your order of failure… keep in mind everyone, Meagre is mine… aside from that, take what targets you wish… in three days victory will be ours."

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