Balance

Thalion's true form
what????

I focused my thoughts on the Mating ceremony with Versum to distract me from hauling two stubborn fat pigs somewhere they didn’t want to go. I am a very private person. I was careful to always present myself to the world the way I wanted to be seen. When I realized that flit was on the champions boot with me it was a relief to share a bench with him with the privacy screens shielding me from the other crew members. The most challenging part of the mating ceremony for me was the requirement that it be done publicly. Versum was a gentleman and assured me that his bulk and fur would protect me from curios eyes. There must have been ancient magic’s involved because there was a moment where everything faded away; I had a sense of every living creature in the Den that night as if their feelings were my feelings. It felt similar to the guardsman’s need to protect the key master, the gate keeper, and the smith. It would physically hurt me to raise a hand against the pack. It the feeling faded with my orgasm but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wonder if that’s what Versum feels all the time?
I struggled the last block to the drain pipe, two large pigs digging their heels in behind me. They could smell wolf here.
Sweat soaked through my best work frock. I was glad I hadn’t ‘dressed to impress’ or I’d be furious right now. The massive bundle on my back was more awkward then heavy but between that and the pigs I was I could use a good rest before heading back to the ship. I had to admit to myself that I was hoping Versum would invite me to spend the night. My shore leave would be over first thing in the morning and there was much to do before leaving Lockland.
“Who goes?” a Low voice called out.
The effects of the moon must have faded since I was greeted by a young man instead of a wolf. It did nothing to calm the livestock. “Ser Thalion of the Champions Boot, please take a pig.” I thrust the rope in his hand and followed him through the passage to the Den. Either they were becoming accustomed to our frequent comings and goings or the pig had him addled since he didn’t bother to send for Versum.
We were met by a handful of men and women no doubt drawn by the squealing. Versum quickly directed his people (pack?) away with the animals. “What is this?” his brow was furrowed and though he sounded short I was learning that was just how he spoke.
“We are leaving for Don Ton soon. I wanted to see you all with some help through the winter.” I ducked into a smaller cave off the main cavern hoping for a semblance of privacy. I dropped the bundle from my shoulders. First I showed him the warm wool blankets. “And look two different kinds of clothes. These one will tear easily if you have to shift unexpectedly and these over here will have you looking respectable when dealing with merchants.”
“Bah. Human trappings, catering to human modesty.”
“I couldn’t agree more.” I smiled and ran my hand over his large bare bicep, ignoring his confused frown. “It helps to think of them as decorative. Besides its winter you need to blend in.”
He sniffed audibly.
I flushed knowing I reeked of work and sweat. “Anyway, these are for you.” I folded 2 cure light potions into his large hand. “They won’t heal much but if you run into trouble they could be the difference between life and death giving your excellent immune system a chance to kick in.”
He stared hotly and didn’t speak.
I like think I’m Nobel and aloof showcasing the greatness of the elves, but anyone who spends more than five minutes with me knows I talk when I’m nervous. “Here this is from Flit.” I tucked a piece of paper in with the potions. “Be careful you don’t lose it. Bring the paper to Sally’s Sow Farm and there is another Pig waiting for you. They promised a 300 pounder so don’t let them cheat you.”
“You smell aroused, are you in heat again?”
“Umm, how did… you didn’t notice before?”
“Of course I did.” He scowled, “It is impolite to acknowledge these things to outsiders, and many creatures are embarrassed about their natural reactions and try to mislead you.”
His disapproval did not intimidate me. “I must smell awful.”
He sniffed again. “No, I like you much better then when you coat your scent in soap and lies.”
Feeling bold I took his large hand in mine gently removed the vials and pig voucher, placing them carefully on a bundle of clothes I tugged him down until we knelt facing each other. “Do you want to try again? This time I would like to feel your skin beneath my hands.”
He cupped my cheek. “Silly Elf we cannot mate again that is only done once and must be in our true form.”
My heart sank though I knew when we were together before he had done it to strengthen his clan; I had hoped that didn’t have to be all that was between us.
My disappointment must have shown on my face. “Don’t look sad. You confuse me.” He ran his hands over my biceps and my pecs. “You have the body of a warrior, yet you dress like a delicate lady. And your face is that of…”
“An Elf?” I supplied.
“An Elf. You don’t fit, even your smell confuses me. How is it possible that you smell both male and female? I’ve seen beneath your skirts.”
“Elves as decidedly more fluid about these things than any other race.” I was happy to tell him anything. This was more words then I had ever heard him string together. “Sometimes I lean one way or the other sometimes neither or both. I was lucky to be raised in a society that didn’t need to restrict me.”
“Well, not all of us know our true form, or have it so easily presented to us under the moon, many of the greatest of our kind had to quest to uncover their truth, they were considered Alpha’s among mere wolves” he spoke softly; eyes warm despite the perpetual scowl. “A wolf ‘Mates’ only once for the pack, and with who the pack needs, but the man enjoys sex.”
The blankets were soft and warm. We took our time and after though he had to leave to settle some pack matters he returned and woke me for more. In the early hours before I had to leave we lay talking, well I talked he listened. I told him of the extinction facing the elves and he told me more about the genocide of the wolves. I told him of my plans to hire a bard to remind the people of Lockland all the wolves had done for them. He was against it but I managed to convince him to leave me to it. I think he realized that I had to try. If the wolves could be saved there would be hope for my people. I’m pretty sure he didn’t think it would work, but he was kind. He asked me to bring a letter to his cousin in Don Ton.
I dressed and took the letter tucking it into a pocket in my petticoat. “So this joining of the clans, the mating, what does it mean to the wolves? What will it mean when we encounter other were?”
He was startled. “You entered into a mate bond without understanding it?”
“Yes” I replied expectantly, awaiting a lesson in the packs.
“So be it,” The wolf’s grin shone through on the man’s face, “then your quest for truth has indeed begun” with that Versum rose from the blankets, leaving me with a tender kiss before leaving and rejoining his pack

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Tummy Time Pt 1

5th of Ready’reat, the Grove of Klohant Vlazohr, 11:45am

Maul-Chaluim sat cross-legged holding before him a large leaf that held his breakfast, a few toasted pine nuts and walnuts, and an assortment of berries. The breakfast was meagre at best but with the winter months truly upon them food was scarce and he had not had any luck hunting during the past few days. He would have to roam further if he was going to make a stay of the winter.

Grruuummmmmbbbb

Maul-Chalium looked up across his small fire. Curtis sat their wrapped in Maul’s blanket shivering. And staring longingly at the wild elves breakfast. The scrawny little faun was all bone, and rather tiny even for a faun. Maul-Chalium sighed in frustration

“Why didn’t you collect berries last night when I was?” the wild elf asked as he tossed a pine nut into his mouth

“I did” the faun said morosely “but I was so hungry last night… well… I ate them all” Maul glared at the faun, but heard the creature’s stomach grumble again and caved handing him the rest of his breakfast. The faun’s spirits rose immediately as he began o heartily munch on toasted nuts and berries. “Cheer up Chalium!” the faun said with his mouth full “Maybe we will catch something today on a hunt” Maul glowered further

“Perhaps I will… and I know I will be much more successful if you are not tromping along behind me blowing that infernal flute for every creature to hear” the faun had the good nature to look rebuked but only for a few moments.

“Well… I guess I can stay here and keep an eye on the grove for you… I will make sure nothing happens while you’re gone” The faun said proudly. The wild elf raised an eyebrow in doubt but said nothing. He stood and collected his spear and secured his cloak, he looked over to the faun before leaving

“I will be back before dark… don’t leave my blanket on the ground, be sure to hang it and dry it before I return”

“No Problem Chaluim!” the faun said annoyingly cheerfully. The wild elf shook his head before turning to the north and departing the grove at an easy jog.

Curtis finished his breakfast and went so far as to eat the leaf before standing up and wiping off his hands on the blanket. He stepped into the warm sun and appreciated that there was no breeze. Feeling warm enough he dropped the blanket by the dying fire and set forth to look about the needs of the grove. He knew his friend took his duty of protection seriously, Maul-Chaluim had been camped in the grove for almost a year now, waiting for a sign from the Great Grandfather Ram that his term of protection was over. Curtis was going to screw anything up this time, he was going to make sure that the grove was just as pristine and untouched as when Maul left for the hunt.

GRUUUUUUUOOOOOMMMMMMMMMPPPPPPHHHHHHHH

The noise was unlike any he had heard before he turned and was awed by the sight. A great chevron… silver in colour, made of… well… he didn’t know what, but it had risen from the earth right behind his camp. Curtis just knew that Maul was going to blame him for this. It was huge, maybe twenty five feet tall, and at least ten feet wide. He walked around it twice, it was maybe five feet thick. It smelt of metal… but felt like stone, save one fact, it was warm to the touch… almost warm like a body. He looked carefully at the chevron for a long moment scratching his head and debating what to do. His eyes ran over every piece of it, until he came to a point on the bottom and sighed. There was Maul Chaluim’s blanket… pinned under it. Curtis grabbed the blanket and tried to pull… it would not budge again. He changed his stance and pulled with all his might

RIIIIIP

The blanket tore cleanly, Curtis was overwhelmed… he didn’t know what to do. He carefully laid the ripped portion of the blanked on the ground beside the rest of the blanket, put his hands behind his back, turned his back to the great chevron and began whistling and walking away. He would let Maul discover the chevron and blanket… he would know what to do.

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Ymeri's Judgement

13th of Goodmonth, 379 ONT: Azulon, Fire Nation

“Kneel murderer!” The snap of the whip punctuated the searing pain that followed across Hikaru’s back. He groaned in pain and staggered a half step forward before finding his balance. Once more the crack of the whip rang out across the courtyard and Hikaru bit hard on the inside of his cheek to stifle the next cry of pain. He tasted blood and remained where he was. The crunch of booted feet told him Captain Rugenji approached and the calloused hand of his old mentor forced Hikaru to look up into his face. He could see the pain in the old man’s eyes, what this task was forcing him to do out of duty cut him deep, but not as deep as the fresh wounds and sliced flesh of Hikaru’s back.

“Just kneel son, kneel and we can get on with it. Standing here does nothing to erase what happened.” Though it was a whisper, the blow to Hikaru’s senses was too much and he twisted out of Captain Rugenji’s grip. Even those closest to Hikaru were resigned to watch him die. They thought he was the murderer that Daichi claimed. The betrayal stung and Hikaru spat in Rugenji’s face. The bloody glob of spittle was all he could muster as an attack. “I would bow to those with honour and those who rightfully rule the Fire Nation not some craven dog that licks the boots of those who would destroy it from within.” Hikaru never saw the backhand that sent him spinning to the dirt or felt the strong hand fueled by anger drag him forward to the steps of the Damiyo’s Estates. “Ymeri burn you to ash!” Rugenji hissed in anger and thrust Hikaru down.

With his hands bound behind him it took some time to get himself back to a sitting position and Hikaru looked up at Daichi. The two filled the silence with hate and though tradition and duty said that Hikaru should speak first as the subordinate, even one being sentenced, he refrained and in doing so showed as much disrespect as he could to Daichi Ishikawa and his position as the recently promoted Daimyo of Azulon. In the end it would be naught but a token insult and Daichi decided that it was time to rid himself of this pest.

“Hikaru Yamamoto, you have been charged with the murders of six of your fellow students during a training exercise. All murdered by you and your bow with arrows designed to kill when only blunt practice arrows were issued and supposed to be used. Batou Ishikawa, Gon Ishikawa, Hayate Fujima, Katsurou Moto, Makoto Tanaka and Shiro Kita. Brave and honourable sons of the nobles gathered here today who shall never again draw breath because of you.” There were angry mutterings from all around and Hikaru raised turned his head to see all who had gathered. His stare was met easily by angry glares and muttered curses as the families of the fallen filled the courtyard.

He knew his mother would not come. Since his father’s death she had done much to distance herself and their remaining family from court life, politics and the temple. She’d sold their family home in Azulon and she’d moved to one of the outer prefectures. There she fortified herself behind a newly erected estate that was more a fort than a noble’s retirement home. She said it was to mourn her husband but Hikaru knew it was to save those she could from becoming the next victims of Daichi’s increasingly heavy handed soldiers in the city. Her disapproval when he told her that he was going to join up with the military years ago still lingered and he knew not to look for help from her.

Hikaru’s eyes widened in surprise as he caught sight of Yukiko in the background. Their eyes met briefly and she shook her head sadly before stepping back into the shadows of the building and beyond his sight. His shoulders slumped forward knowing that she was saying good bye and that her family would not back him or his claim of self-defense even though she’d been there. He didn’t blame her for wanting to keep her family safe. No, he blamed Daichi and those that followed him and made it possible for good and honourable people to have to hide and bow and scrape for their whims.

“But the son of a traitor is bound to be a traitor and so has shown his true colours even if at the priceless loss of our own children. Know this Hikaru Yamamoto, your line shall be purged of this black blood that fouls the Nation. Today is only the beginning and you shall not live to see its end.”

“Iemera no handan, kasai ni yoru saiban!” Hikaru desperately shouts and the angry murmurs die down at his words. He was invoking an ancient ritual when the accused was the only survivor. He would face the hottest of fires and if found to be innocent would survive the experience. If he succumbed to the flames his family would be purged of the taint of his existence by the cleansing fires of Ymeri. It was the only thing he could think of to save his remaining family. What had taken place was not their doing and they did not deserve his fate.

“You cannot be serious.” Daichi scoffed and leaned back in his chair. “You would face an agonizing end the same as your father did just to save your family? They who declined my invitation to your trial?” He shook his head and laughed. “If you wish to burn then you shall burn Hikaru Yamamoto.”

“I will not.” Hikaru struggled back to his feet feeling his knees twitch with fatigue under him. “I am accused of murder. I did but defend myself from those set upon murdering me at your behest. What happened was justice and when I walk into those flames Ymeri will see my heart and know the truth and conviction of my will. You stole my father from me and burned him alive to hide your crimes. In doing so you stole something precious from my family. So in justice I took something even more precious from you and yours. Your future! Your sons will not bring you the families you wanted to your side and they will see as my father did the depth of your treachery.” Hikaru spat on the cobbles as voices raised in anger turned on him with shouts and curses raining down. “I will give myself to Ymeri and withhold nothing from her. You will see Daimyo.”

Another blow to his head left Hikaru again in the dirt and it was some time before he would awaken to the icy cold of water being dumped over him. Sputtering and once again between the strong arms of faceless guards he now stood before the corridor of fire they’d prepared. Even from thirty feet back the heat was intense. They stepped back prodding him forward with their spears. Hikaru had no choice but forward and so he took a deep breath and fighting to calm the creep of fear into his heart stepped forward and into the blazing inferno that was prepared for him.

His clothing smoked and his hair curled from the immense heat cooked to the point of ash before he even stepped into the fire. He kept his eyes closed fighting to go further as the pain of the heat and flames roared over him. Within he prayed fervently to Ymeri, “See me Ymeri, know me Ymeri. I am one who is devoted to you amongst many who do not. I give myself to you so you may know that my cause is just and my vengeance is unfinished. I pray to you Ymeri to help me so I may help your people who suffer under the yoke of those who would destroy what you have helped to make.” Within the flames he staggered to a knee the air sucked from his lungs as they sought for more in the vacuum of the fire. He could feel his skin blistering and cracking from the heat but fought to move forward while focusing on trying to reach Ymeri.

And then, without warming, the flames shifted colour taking on the crimson glow of magma as a presence could be felt by all who had come to witness the death of a murderer. The flames screamed up higher and higher into the air pressing everyone back by their sudden intensity. Then the pressure of the presence faded and with it the fire returned to normal. The assembled began to talk of how Ymeri had blessed them with her presence and how she had judged the murderer for what he had done. Yet as they watched smug and satisfied that justice had been found and their faith in Ymeri evident Hikaru emerged from the far end of the fire unscathed save for his clothes which had been consumed by the fire.

Ymeri had spared him. His family was safe for now. Hikaru stood defiant and stared at Daichi knowing he was now free and all thanks to Ymeri. But in her passing she had whispered to Hikaru a riddle and a command he would carry on his heart.

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Ceremony of the Blooded Ancestors
4th of Ready’reat 381 ONT, Champions Boot, Customs Pier, Lockland Port, Honastica (mid day)

“Come, Harold Forbes de’Cainia sol Gregory Forbes an Sarah Forbes. I sense you hold honour for your kin, which is only proper. Let us pray to our ancestors for their help; only with their blessings will we succeed.” Miriel didn’t wait for his answer, and instead shoved a bucket of what looked like chum into his arms, giving him a steely glare when he blanched and held it away from his face.

“It is the Strix way, Harold Forbes de’Cainia, to invoke the spirits of our warrior kin to bless our battles; I thank you for your assistance. Let us begin.” She gracefully removed her clothing, laying them to the floor around her in a crude likeness of the symbol of TsiJairi; to those unfamiliar with the written glyphs of the Strix, it looked like a scalene triangle.

Feeling more than Harold’s eyes on her, Miriel quickly dismissed the surprised looks as ignorance of lesser races at her nakedness and dipped reverent fingers into the bucket; she delicately began to anoint her arms, stomach, breasts, neck, and face with the blood of the many birds and fish she and the great eagle killed while flying above the harbour.

“Bless our journey, Saamurn de’Jairi sol Haalo na Feris, so we may find our way,” she intoned as she worked, painting blood at each corresponding part of her body. “Bless our intent, Haalo de’Jairi sol Voren na Sischa, so we know it is without evil. Bless our weapons, Voren de’Jairi sol Pyrion na Xilis, so we may strike true. Bless our hearts, Ponin de’Jairi sol Davurn na Vhriolis, so we have no fear. Bless our hands, Vhriolis de’Jairi sol Paalo na Fischa, so that our claws stay sharp. Bless our eyes, Paalo de’Jairi sol Hyronin na Xiriel, so we do not lose sight of our target.

She looked at Harold, who was looking at her with both confusion and that odd look the male – and some female – non-Strix gave her when she prepared herself in this manner. She dismissed the odd behaviour and continued. “Bless our thoughts, Xiriel de’Jairi sol Baanin na Xischa, so our mind remain clear. Bless our feet, Xischa de’Jairi sol Vaamurn na Xhris, so our steps are sure. Bless our knees, Vaamurn de’Jairi Hyparen na Kiris, so we know when to yield.”

Miriel turned her back to Harold, looking at him over her shoulder. “Bless our backs Hyparen de’Jairi sol Rovrion na Sescha, so we may bear our burdens with strength.” She glanced down at the bucket and then back to Harold. When he did not move, she narrowed her eyes at him. “Mark my back, Harold Forbes de’Cainia, from my neck to the end of my spine; then follow my lead.” She turned to look across the harbour and eventually felt trembling fingers moving down her back, leaving sticky wetness in their wake.

Satisfied that Harold was doing his job, she continued. “Bless our shoulders, Rovrion de’Jairi sol Pelurn na Phariel, so we may support our brethren should they fall. Bless our wings, Phariel de’Jairi sol Saarion na Xollis, so we may fly with the winds of the world behind us.”

She turned to face Harold again, who almost dropped the bucket of bloody remains. She dipped her fingers in again but this time she shook them in the air in front of her. “Bless the North Winds Xollis de’Jairi sol Saanin na Piris, so its cold keeps us sharp. Bless the South Winds, Saanin de’Jairi sol Hyo na Siranan, so its warmth invigorates our senses. Bless the West Winds, Hyo de’Jairi sol Romaru na Hinan, so its bravery sees us through the unknown. Bless the East Winds, Romaru de’Jairi sol Vaache na Hysirion, so its loyalty strengthens our resolve.”

Miriel dipped her hands in the blood now, feeling excited as she invoked the last two of her ancestors. The blood flowed from her fingertips to the ship’s deck in a circular path around her, the blood both pooling where it touched the deck or soaking in when it landed on her clothing. “Bless the Sun and Moon, Hysirion de’Jairi sol Jairen na Tsiriel, so their light shows us our path. Bless our line, Jairen O Cursed One, so that we may live this day and lead our brethren back to the Stars from whence we came.”

She smiled to herself, eyes closing in bliss as she arched her back and stretched arms to the sky, once again ignoring those around her – until she heard the Dwarf bellowing something about blood staining the ship. That was when she opened her eyes, looked around with a mischievous smirk, and turned to Harold.

“My people normally bathe in the sacred waterfall of Jessiel’s Sacrifice after such a ceremony but that is too far away to fly; I will have to use something more commonplace. Harold Forbes de’Cainia, I ask that you show me such a place…personally.” Without caring of the inevitable yelling at the Dwarf’s leisure Liriel gave him a wicked smile and held out a bloody hand…

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Setting Sail On a New Path

23rd of Patchwall 379 ONT, aboard the Better Days in the port of Rehume

“Get those Gods-damned rations stowed properly, losing our food supply is a great way to earn yourself a one-way ticket off my ship!” the Captain yelled, as a stout halfling hurried about tying down crates with dizzying speed.

Aurellia watched in amazement, she had never seen a creature move so quickly, the small creature had pots and pans, and was that a hank of mutton? strapped to his pack – they clattered against each other noisily, creating the sort of racket one might expect from a tone deaf bard.

Serenity smirked, “Who is that?”

The Captain tried to conceal a smile with his hand as he watched the halfling clamor about, “His name is Eldon, I just hired him to replace Tobar in the galley. He claims to be the best chef this side of the Rhone.”

“Eldon, this here is our Master Gunner, Serenity.”

The halfling stopped, wiping sweat from his brow with a very delicate looking hankercheif, looking at the two women standing beside the Captain, he asked, “which one?”

Without looking, the Captain pointed beside him to Serenity, “this one, I’m guessing I’m about to hear a very compelling story about the other one.”

Eldon snapped to attention, and gave a small salute, “Pleasure to meet you, Master Gunner!”

Serenity snorted quietly at the formality, then stepped forward and offered a strong handshake, “We’re not exactly that kind of ship, Eldon.”

He looked surprised by the handshake, “Sorry, my last ship was part of the fleet. A lot more formal there. They were sad to loose me, because my cooking is the best. Like just Tremendous, everybody says so. But I said to them, look, you have to let me go, I’ve done all I can here. It was a very sad day for them.”

Serenity looked at the Captain, who was covering his mouth with his hand. The mirth in his eyes was unmistakable as he shook his head and turned towards the bridge.

“I’m sure it was, glad to have you aboard. As you were.” The halfling ran immediately back to the crates and the cacophony of sound began again. Serenity followed the Captian, with Aurellia trailing behind, a little unsure how to take Captain Quiwynn’s comment about her.

Once they were on the bridge, and a suitable distance away from the halfling, Serenity asked, “He was the best you could find?”

The Captain burst out laughing, “Didn’t you hear, he’s the best. Tremendous!”

“But Captain, why?”

“I thought we could use a little comedic relief on the ship, and he seemed to fit the bill. Besides, someone didn’t show up to help me with the interviews, so you get what you get.” He gestured, to Aurellia who had stopped and waited at the foot of the stairs to the bridge, “Would I be right to guess the reason my master gunner didn’t show for her duties yesterday is the fragile looking creature down there who is afraid to follow you on to my bridge?”

Serenity looked back and saw Aurellia, who had indeed stopped at the foot of the stairs and was watching her with uncertainty, “She didn’t grow up on this kind of ship, when she was a girl she would watch sailors get lashings for stepping onto the bridge without the Captain’s permission.”

“So she’s an experienced sailor then? We could use more of those.”

“Not exactly, her dad stopped letting her come with him when she was 12. She has the knowledge, just not the practice.”

“Then why is she here? We’re setting sail soon, have you broken the news to her that your little dalliance has come to an end?”

“No, she’s here because I want her to become part of the crew.”

Captain Quiwynn raised his eyebrows and crossed his arms, “You want me to take on another inexperienced sailor? What happens when you get tired of her and we’re still weeks from port. Take it from me, you don’t want to be in that spot, it rarely goes well.”

“I’m not going to get tired of her, and she’ll be good on the crew, I know it.”

“Being good at getting you to sing the high C is not the same thing as being a competent crew member.”

“I will take responsibility for her, any mistakes she makes will be mine to answer for.”

Quiwynn looked at this woman whom he still thought of as a child that needed his protection and guidance, she stood tall and sure of herself, and her hair was flittering slightly at it’s tips, as it always did when she was passionate about something, “We don’t have an extra bunk for her, but I’m guessing that’s not going to be a problem?”

Serenity smiled and relaxed slightly, “No, I’m pretty she’ll be okay with bunking in with me.”

“I don’t want to hear a single word about you challenging the Bosun’s decisions for her. She’s coming on as a beginner sailor, and you and I both know those can be long and hard days.”

“Aye, aye, Captain.”

He couldn’t help but smile, it was like he could hear an echo in those words that came all the way from four year old Serenity. “Alright, you had better introduce me to this heart stealer.”

They walked back over to the hopeful looking girl.

“You can come up onto the bridge, the Captain wants to meet you.” Serenity’s voice was flat, as though this were all a very serious matter, and it made a swarm of butterflies appear in the pit of Aurellia’s stomach.

Aurellia walked up the steps and held out her hand, “Hello Captain, my name is Aurellia Oulette, Serenity’s told me so much about you.”

Quiwynn took Aurllia’s hand and shook it, “That’s funny, she’s been pretty tight lipped about you, though it’s nice to finally put a face to the squeals.”

Aurellia turned a bright crimson almost immediately.

“Oh she blushes! You didn’t tell me she was a blusher! Alright, this is going to be fun, she can stay. We’re setting sail in three days time and there’s more than enough work to go around, so report to ”/characters/whynny-bd-mia-assumed-dead" class=“wiki-content-link”>Bosun Whynny on the deck and tell her I said you’ll be starting out as a beginner sailor. We haven’t had one of those since she signed on, so I’m sure she will be tickled pink to get to break you in."

Aurellia stood there, beet red and shocked into silence, transfixed to the spot.

Serenity stepped forward, and looked her dead in the eyes, “Aurellia, my dear. When the Captain says jump, it’s best not to make him ask a second time.”

Aurellia snapped out of it and turned taking the steps two at a time, a smile spread wide across her face. She was going to feel the river’s breeze on her face again, and she was going to stay with Serenity.

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A of A Journal

4th of Ready’reat, 381 ONT, Mid-Market District, Lockland, Honastica 11:45pm

Dog carcass in alley this morning. Wagon tread drenched in blood. The city should be afraid of me. I have seen it’s true face, but they haven’t seen mine yet, I won’t get to stay that long. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and knights, and diplomats will look up and shout “save us!”… They had a choice, all of them. They could have followed in the footsteps of good men like my father. Decent dwarf who believed in a day’s work for a day’s pay. Instead they followed the droppings of lechers and feudalists and didn’t realize that the trail led over a praecipe until it was too late. Don’t tell me they didn’t have a choice. Now the whole world stands on the brink, staring down into the bloody Hells, all those elves and liberals and humans and intellectuals and smooth talkers…and all of a sudden nobody can think of anything to say.

Made it to Lockland at last. Good. Spent far too long on the journey, started forgetting who I really was. Distance won’t save my enemies, like meat, time just makes them more rancid, they need to be thrown out, that’s what I am here to do. The streets feel good, like a second skin, they may be foreign but they are better than the cramped quarters of a ship. Didn’t take long to find the snitches, they’re the same in every city, and they say the slime already fled to Don-Ton… great, another god damned boat ride, might as well make myself useful while I’m here. Took to the streets once more, needed to inflict some pain on something, had some emotional issues that need righting in order to go on. The buildings here are short, they crowd over into the streets making one feel claustrophobic… good, criminals should always be afraid.

Didn’t take long to find trouble, a knight and a few of his men seemed to be trying to move a wagon, they didn’t spot their trouble like I did. Two nasty wolf creatures stalking along the allies. What’s wrong with the world today, hardworking merchants can’t even walk the streets anymore without being attacked. Guess it was these merchants lucky day. Wasn’t too hard to sneak around behind the wolves, they are probably liberals and two busy listening to the injustice of the world to pay attention to their goddam flanks.

Battle ensued… Wolves fought well… I fought better.

People are safer once more, good nights work complete, now I need to find a boat out of this city and get to Don-Ton.

Avenging Angle of Avengeance

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Helping

4th of Ready’reat 381 ONT, Champions Boot, Customs Pier, Lockland Port, Honastica 10:14pm

Hatrutt shivered as he walked the deck of the Champions Boot. It had been a long time since he had been expected to perform a watch. He had his blanket firmly wrapped around him, it dragged a bit behind has he trudged across the deck, both hands clutching his rapidly cooling tea desperately trying to pull every ounce of warmth from it before it was stolen to the abysmal climate that was Lockland in Ready’reat. He took a careful sip and shuffled up the steps to the bow deck, dutifully looking out and over the sides of the ships before sipping again. He knew he shouldn’t complain. His watch was a short one and posted early, Leslie, Thitmed and Belinda would be splitting the bulk of the night, but he had been asked to take an early watch to “renew old habits that had died out”. The old gnome grumbled as he waddled across the bow deck and down the steps to mid ship, carefully looking out over the sides before taking another pressure sip of the warm elixir that kept him moving. He looked back to the bridge where the watch candle was burning. Belinda bought these candles at every port. At the beginning of each night a candle was lit, until it burnt down to your line, you were still on watch. Hatrutt stared hard at the candle and estimated he’d been on watch almost eleven minutes, he sighed in discontent and began to shuffle again. He’d gone barley 4 feet when he saw a movement in the shadows… something was on the ship that wasn’t supposed to be. He clenched his teeth preparing for the icy blast of cold as he let his blanket fall onto the damp deck, he drew up his club from his belt and carefully stepped forward.

“You there, hiding in the rope… I see ya there” his little old voice called as he gestured with the club. Be in the cold or his nerves his hands were shaking now so much that he had trouble not spilling his tea.” Out from the pile of coiled rope came a small girl, she wore dark clothing and had smudged her face with coal dust “Mandy is that you? Ya nearly scared the wits out of me.” Hatrutt made a scene of reclipping his club to his belt, collecting his blanket and wrapping himself up in it. “I have half a mind to take that club to your behind Mandy, what are you doing out here, it’s way past your curfew” The girl straightened as she stood up. She was surprised as being caught, and being in trouble but she held firm. She had a little sack with her that had the handle to her little hammer sticking out

“I… I was going to go and help… Mr. Hiro, Mr. Thallion, Ms. Ouellette… all of them… I was gonna go and help”

“Go and help?… she was gonna go and help… She’s gonna go help” Hatrutt kept repeating the line each time with a different tone ranging from astonished to angry to knowingly, he finally seemed to settle on anger “Are you insane Mandy?… I know they are… but are you?”

“There my friends and ….” She was cut off before she could get too far

“Friends or not, no sane person agrees to go get into a fight with an unknown number of vampires!” Hatrutt threw his hands in the air to accent the point grimacing as the last of his now cold tea flung over his should and wetted his blanket to beyond saving. “Mandy they will kill you, the vampires will grab a little thing like you and do… well… they will do unspeakable things… I am sure Thalion and Flit and them told you as much” she nodded before speaking

“mmm hmmm,” she said with a little nod “but all the story’s speak of someone being told they are too little to go, and then they go and end up saving everyone…”

“That was your plan… to just show up and save everyone? They are story’s for a reason Mandy, by the great and wise Selwyn please smile upon this child who was clearly born without a single wit” the last part was spoken as prayer to on high “Mandy… humans are special, they often can’t handle sharing the world with dragons, and elves and dwarves and… well just about any other creature, so they write stories about how poor little humans with a good heart swoop in and save the day… I am sorry child, but vampires kill good hearted people just as quickly as everyone else, and humans quicker still” Mandy looked sad, and angry

“I can’t just stay here and do nothing while my friends are in danger” she said with a note of defiance. The old gnomes eyebrows furrowed at this

“Don’t worry Mandy, you won’t be doing nothing… cause once you’ve washed that fool coal dust from your face, you’re going to head down to the kitchen and wash every single dish…”

“Every single dish! That will take all night!” She said anger and depressed

“It better not take any longer, cause you’re gonna get a wallop from my ladle for every dish not finished when I come down to start breakfast… now go!” he said pointing. The girl held back her tears, albeit barley and stomped towards the ladder heading down to the galley. Hatrutt shook his head

“kids…”

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Of Hearths and Nightmares

27th of Fireseek, 371 ONT: Azulon, Fire Nation

Hikaru sat in the large armchair near the blazing hearth dreamily staring into the flames as they danced and capered about the logs for his amusement. It was warm beneath the blanket his father had placed over him and beyond the song of the fire there was only the steady scratch of father’s pen against the paper over at his desk. The light of the sun was long gone and in the darkness of the night and the cold that lay beyond these stone walls Hikaru could think of no place he wanted to be more.

His father worked tirelessly these days and relied heavily upon Ymeri’s gift to complete his work. He was like a ghost around the home and Hikaru’s mother, Midori, worried long into every night that he would come home safe. Hikaru didn’t understand why and when asked, his mother said only that his work was of the utmost importance and that what he did was going to pave the way for good change within the Fire Nation. “Then I shall protect him until his work is done!” Hikaru had proudly proclaimed full of youthful energy. His mother had hugged him tight with whispered words of how brave her little boy was and how lucky they were to have such an honourable son.

Which was why Hikaru was now fighting a losing battle with sleep. His father was still hours from being done but his eight year old body could not keep up. So his father had carried him to the great armchair and gently placed the blanket around him. “Sleep my son, sleep and dream of what the future will hold. When you wake come to me and tell me of what you dreamt so that I may work to make it come to pass.” And he slept in warmth and safety.

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!

The chambered echoed with the assault upon the door startling young Hikaru from his sleep.

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!

The door began to splinter and he climbed from the chair, small practice sword of bamboo shaking in his sleep-addled hands. His father was suddenly beside him pulling him back towards the armchair. “No my son, this is not your battle.” Lifting him back onto the chair Hikaru could see the bone deep weariness in the dark rings about his father’s eyes and for the first time in his life fear. “No matter what happens you do not move from here. Be silent, listen and remember all that happens.”

“But father, where are the temple guards? Should they not…” His father placed a finger over Hikaru’s lips silencing him once more.

“What should be right and honourable rarely withstands the influence of those with the power and wealth to change them. And those that do are silenced through other means.”

BOOM, BOOM, CRACK!

The door shuddered and gave way under the assault. Ichigo leaned close to his son and held him tight to his chest. “I am proud of you my son. So very proud. Become the man you were meant to be. Protect those who cannot protect themselves and save our nation from itself.” Ichigo pressed Hikaru back into the armchair once more signaling for silence as he strode away from his son and out of sight. Hikaru didn’t know what was happening but he would not disobey his father. Unshed tears glistened in his wide eyes as the flames burned brighter as if suddenly interested in what was about to happen.

Hikaru hear the stomp of many armoured and booted feet enter and a grunt of pain from his father followed by someone landing heavily on the stone floor. He winced and shut his eyes to block out that which he could not see but his mind showed him the scene anyway.

“Now there is something long in coming.” A new voice spoke, the man’s words were harsh with the dialect of Izumi. “How I have wanted you to kneel in my presence as you should for the one fated to become high priest of Azulon.”

“Fate has nothing to do with it Daichi,” Ichigo spat, “You’ve been funneling funds away from the temple to build your own little army. I’ve sent copies of my proof along with the writ you authorized to raise taxes on travelers outside the city. It is only a matter of time before you and the others are held to account for your crimes.” Heavy sounds of fists filled the chamber for an eternity to you Hikaru before things became silent again.

“Oh if only that was the case.” Daichi’s words smiled cruelly to Hikaru, “But you know not how far my reach extends. Your little plan has backfired and yes, even one of your own betrayed you to me.”

“No…” Ichigo was worried.

“Yes, the letters never reached their planned destinations. Oh and I have been given authority to apprehend you for the crime of heresy to Ymeri and treason to the Fire Nation.”

“You lie to easily Daichi, the others will not always follow you so blindly. Some will come to see you for the snake you truly are.”

“Bah, the only ones with enough power to oppose me are Jiro and Akira and I am binding them to me through the marriage of my sons to their daughters. We will all rise together and both the nobles and clergy will fall before us or be crushed beneath us. Our stars are rising Ichigo and you could have too but you were too stubborn to see the vision we offered you.”

Again Ichigo spit. “Oh I saw. I saw how you will destroy our nation. How you do not believe in the will of Ymeri and how she protects our people. No, with you at its head she will turn from us completely. I will not abandon her or my nation for the likes of you. Ymeri does not take kindly to those who break faith with her.”

“Ymeri? Bah, she is nothing more than a figurehead, a false god we use to guide the nation where we want it to go. It has always been this way. Let fools and idiots believe in that garbage. We, the Lords of Fire, are the true masters.” There was a moment of silence as Daichi grabbed the lamp from Ichigo’s desk. “But I think it fitting that you have chosen to die by the flame than be taken alive. Heretics are often too far gone in their delusions to be reasonable anyway.” The lamp smashed down over Ichigo and the fire sprang to life engulfing him in seconds. His screams pierced through Hikaru rooting him in fear to his spot. Hikaru wanted to cover his ears, to stop hearing the pain of his father being burned alive.

“Cut his legs and arms so he can’t escape.” Daichi’s voice announced and four swords were drawn in answer. Daichi leaned close to the struggling Ichigo. “To show I am an honourable man Ichigo Yamamoto, I will spare your family and proclaim that they knew nothing of your betrayal to our Nation. I may even adopt your son as one of my own and raise him to eventually despise you and what you were.” The blades fell and Daichi’s laughter mingled into nightmares for Hikaru with his father’s final moans.

The booted feet turned and left following after Daichi back the way they came raising the cry of fire to rouse the temple. Hikaru bolted towards his father skidding to a halt as he neared the burning desk his father lay against and seeing the unmoving form tore all reason from his save one. Flee!

And so he ran. He ran from the room and from the unknowing temple guards. He ran until his legs gave out and he collapsed spent against the side of a building somewhere deep in the heart of Azulon where the first fiery rays of dawn could touch him. There he cried, wailed his heart raw at the sun and how helpless he felt. How could he go back to his mother having failed both her and father? Nothing would ever be the same, nothing…

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Stirings Pt 2

3rd of Ready’reat 381 ONT, Thimes Way, Just off the 3rd Circuit Manor District, Don-Ton 2:14pm

Gavroche was cutting through the manor district, he was lucky, and Covafac had been right, a change of clothes and a bath can go a very long way towards not having the guard hassle you. He and his compatriots had few friends in the inner circuits, but the few they had were well worth the risk of informing. He had just passed off the word to a very powerful ally and was rushing back to inform Covafac of their adherence to the plan. He turned down the Prime Rose Path and stopped cold in his tracks. At the end of the path stood two large Black Guard. Their armor and suits sucking the warmth and light from around them. They were intimidating, and since the nobles often hated the feeling of them nearby he knew there was not good reason for them to be here. He bent down pretending to tie his shoe, when he heard one speak

“You… Gnome… Approach NOW!” the voice was like a rusty chain being pulled through a metal tube, cold and metallic with a dangerous edge to it. Gavroche looked up at the Black Guard some thirty feet away and gestured to his chest. The Black Guard nodded confirming. Gavroche did what any young rebel would do… he ran. He ran fast scrambling over a fence and cutting across a yard. Then climbing under a hedge and rolling towards a wall where he climbed to a nearby rooftop. From here the gnome slid down the ease trough and ran down the alley taking a series of complicated turns. As he ran he pulled off his fancy hat and coat, he pulled a red necker from his pocket. Two more turns put him into a park. He stopped by a fountain and wetted his hand slicking back his hair. He then tied the necker around his neck and began to walk with a small strut in a calm manner. Covafac had told him that a running man was guilty, if he could walk and blend in his pursuers would often miss what they didn’t know they were looking for. He turned down a path picking a late blooming daisy and walking down a path a few steps focusing to get control of his breath, that is when he bumped into her.

“Oh my… I’m sorry, I…” he looked up and was immediately lost. Before him stood what he would perhaps describe as the most beautiful women in the world

Please Listen while reading

She had a ponytail, brown, smooth, always existent. This is what made her unique, as if she could tie all her troubles away with that simple blue ribbon, tightly holding her luscious hair. Her face was formed oh-so perfectly on Hithilum’s mighty forge. She was unspoiled perfection from the moment she was born. Destined to be someone with her ever changing magic eyes, the eyes that turned green in the sun, but were brown at all other times. The slender gnomish body, curvy, somewhat delicate, was strong and powerful. She was warm, kind of like an aura that blossomed off of her when she was happy. She has the most petite, wonderful hands a woman like her could have.

Gavroche said nothing he just dumbly stood their, the flower half extended
“Is that for me?” the girl asked, her voice like a double rainbow at sunset. He wasn’t sure how but he managed to nod. She laughed, a sound more delightful then any he had previously heard, then she noticed his state. “Oh my… are you ok? You appear to be out of breath” Gavroche felt the Everlast smile upon him and give him the words he needed at that moment

“It is because the Lady has stolen it” he said in barley a whisper, for the rest of his days he knew that this would be the most suave thing he would have ever said. She blushed deeply at his words before offering out her hand for him to kiss

“I am Fantine”

“Gavroche” he replied bending and kissing her hand. He offered his arm and she took it, the two walking arm and arm through the gardens of Don-Ton.

Today I saw you and spoke to you for the first time.
It was like an earthquake; everything in me was overturned, the graves of my heart were opened and my own nature was strange to me.
I am old, and I believed I had reached the autumn of life.
I had wandered far, known much and lived many lives. The maker had spoken to me, manifesting Himself in many ways; to me angels had revealed themselves and I had not believed them. But when I saw you I was compelled to believe, because of the miracle that happened to me

A Poem by Raven Everlast

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Pillow Talk

14th of Harvester 379 ONT, Better Days in the Rehume Port

Orange light bled in though Aurellia’s eyelids, and banished the last of her dreams. She sighed and rolled over as she stretched, smiling at the softness of the sheets, knowing at once where she was and reaching out to pull her lover closer. Her hand found nothing but a cold bed beside her, and her brow furrowed. Opening her eyes slowly, she scanned the room. To the right of the large bed sat a writing desk, looking at it, Aurellia couldn’t help blushing as the memory of Serenity lifting her on to it and dropping to her knees the night before rushed into her mind. Her hips began twisting slightly as she remembered her palms gripping the edge of the wood, Serenity’s strong hands holding her hips firmly in place as she squirmed. She sighed again, more of a breathless moan this time, and sat up taking in the rest of the room.

The dresser and armoire to the left of the bed were both closed. She saw herself reflected back to her in the small dressing mirror; her light rose hair appeared red in the strong morning sunshine her pale skin almost looked warm. She realized that sunlight meant the curtains were open, revealing the ship’s deck beyond the stateroom, and Aurellia quickly pulled the quilted blanket up to cover her breasts from anyone who might be looking in. The ship’s deck seemed to be deserted, so she quickly slid out of the bed to the floor and crawled to pick her clothes up and dress quickly.

The door to the stateroom opened, and Aurellia’s blush returned, covering much of her body in a pink hue.

“Well this is the best thing I’ve ever seen waiting for me in my room”

Aurellia glanced back over her shoulder at Serenity, “so you were a nun before you met me?”

Serenity kicked the door closed with the side of her boot, placed a couple of covered dishes on the dresser, and sat down on the bed. She began removing her boots, untying the long laces slowly.

“Far from it, but you are something else.”

Aurellia smiled and gathered up her shirt, slipped it on and began looking for her panties. She caught sight of their blue lace peeking out from under the desk, and crawled over to grab them.

“By the sumptuous tits of Aleau, you are killing me over here.”

Coyly, she smiled over her shoulder again, “I’m just getting dressed.”

Serenity pulled open her own shirt and let it slide slowly off her shoulders, “Why?”

“I have work to do”

Serenity laid herself out across the bed, “no you don’t, what work?”

“The Scurvy Naive should be back in the next few days, I need to prep supplies for them and-”

“Don’t”

Aurellia looked at her quizzically.

“Don’t go, stay here with me.”

Aurellia stood up and walked over to the bed, where Serenity lay. All the tiny hairs on her body had begun to stand on end. She could feel her own chest swell as she looked at this beautiful woman laid out before her.

“If I stayed, what would we do?”

Serenity’s eyebrow raised as she started untying the front of her pants. She held Aurellia’s gaze as she lifted her hips up into the air and slid them down slightly, “I have some ideas, what would you like to do?”

Aurellia pulled the leather pants off the rest of the way, and dropped them to the floor. She felt bolder when she was with Serenity than she ever had before. She lifted Serenity’s leg and began kissing a Whirl just above her ankle, “what kind of ideas?”

“Well for starters, I’d be willing to do almost anything just to watch you crawl away from me again.”

“Anything, you say?”


The two lay tangled on the bed, Aurellia’s body still writhing slightly as the waves of her orgasm broke farther and farther from the shore of her consciousness. Serenity continued to stroke her hand up and down her lovers side as she marveled at bond she felt, and wondered what to call it. She had enjoyed many encounters with women before, but none of them had lived in her mind and heart so vividly in their absense as Aurellia did.

She smiled to herself and grabbed one of the covered dishes off of the dresser. She brought it right over and sat beside Aurellia. Removing the lid, the air was immediately filled with the sweet smell of ripe berries. Aurellia’s eyes opened wide. "What did you – " she stopped as she saw Serenity lift the largest, reddest strawberry she had ever seen and offer it to her. As Aurellia took a bite she felt lighter, the tastes exploded in her mouth and before she could even swallow, the words “I love you” tumbled from her juice – stained lips.

Serenity placed the dish on the floor and crawled back into bed. Looking into her lover’s eyes she asked, “You do? Or was that just the strawberries and sex talking?”
Aurellia looked right back and without hesitating answered, “I think I’ve loved you since the first moment I saw you.”

Serenity smiled, “So it wasn’t just me…”

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