Balance

Starcrossed Pt 1

19th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 1:49pm, 6th and Rose, Lockland.

“I worry about you brother” Shaheed murmured breaking Taaj al-Pour from his reverie. “You have not been the same since attaching to the items of power, we should seek the aid of our managers and stop these troubles at once” Taaj shook off the last vestiges of whatever had dominated his thoughts and turned to his half-brother with a winning smile.

“Shaheed, you worry too much, I am fine, more than fine, and we have never been closer to our goals… by my senses we are close to the culprits, as soon as I have confirmed that these powers do indeed work; then we can head over to a Manager, with profitable information that they can arrange the next phase of the plan. As now, we still only hypothesize, that will only delay us further.” Taaj placed a hand on his brothers should as he spoke. He could see the resistance in Shaheed’s face melt as he laid on his point “Go, relax and find us a tea shop to dine at later, I want to get my land legs back by walking a stretch. I will meet you back at the Avon Vale by the third hour.” Shaheed again seemed to wrestle with the idea, but Taaj, knew him far too well, Shaheed had been longing for a proper tea house for months, and at long last they were in a port large enough to sport several. At last his half-brother nodded

“Alright, I will secure us a place to dine, you get your stretch, then we discuss a plan to confirm the magiks and move forward with the grand endeavour… agreed?”

“Of course Shaheed… if the Tea House were also to support hukka…” Taaj let the thought trail has his brothers grin became even wider

“Blueberry is your flavour of choice” Shaheed finished for him, clapping him on the back. “I will see what I can do my dear brother” he said as he turned and headed for the city core, leaving Taaj alone at last. As he left Taaj let out a long slow sigh, this pained him deeply. He knew he should be going to the managers, should be telling them of the visions he had seen, of the feelings he was having, but he couldn’t some part of him felt that it would be wrong to speak to them… at least for now. He had rationalised it to himself with this story of confirming the magik, it seemed to make sense to know if he could rely on his sense or not, but deep down he felt there must be something more. Another reason why he would not speak to his brother and closest friend of what was ailing him. He turned and walked down Rose way for a distance, his mind’s eye searching his memory for keys to those who haunted his dreams, he could never remember faces or names clearly, just impressions and feelings, and some of the feelings did not make him super comfortable.

As he strolled down the street he heard a disturbance up ahead

“Hey watch it you big jerk!” Taaj glanced up at the commotion seeing a larger human male having pushed over a dolly filled with lumber that had been being pulled by a smaller women. The man appeared to have a coupled friends who jested at her. One kicked at the stack of lumber as the girl bent to pick it up. Taaj turned to continue his stroll when as the women searched the crowd for aid he happened to catch her eye. His heart skipped a beat as he was lost in the emerald orbs of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen. She was human most assuredly perhaps eighteen or nineteen years of age, her hair was a luxurious red and even in anger she held the voice of an angel. The young women had jumped to her feet now and was pulling a hammer from her belt holding it up with two hands “I’m warning you, back off or you’ll regret it” she growled ferociously at the biggest of her assailants

“Widdle Guwl As Big Hamwer!” the oaf taunted as his imbecilic compatriots giggled inanely. Without realising it Taaj al-Pour found his feet moving unheeded and quickly found himself pushing through the crowd to stand at the young women’s side

“Excuse me my lady, it is beneath one of your great beauty to attempt to educate the filth that chooses to fester within the crevices of this great city, may I perhaps offer you aid?” the women turned to look at him over her shoulder, she blew air trying to dislodge the bangs from her eyes in a movement he was sure melted his heart. She seemed to have some sort of barb on her tongue for him, but when she turned and saw him, that seemed to change, as her cheeks flushed nearly as red as her hair and her green eyes locked with his hazel ones in an infinite loop of understanding.

“Does the widdle baby haf a boyfriend?” the oaf taunted “Does the widdle…”

SHINK

In a flash Taaj had his scimitar free of its sheath and flying towards the oaf’s throat, how dare he ruin what had possible been the most perfect moment to have ever crested Argyle’s hills. It took all of his self-control not to slay the vagabond where he stood, but to do so would risk spraying the wonderful goddess with blood and he would not dream of such an action. So his blade stopped neatly at the man’s throat. By instinct more than anything else he felt one of the oafs companions, the one on his right move, he let out a high kick to the side without allowing his blade to falter… the fellow dropped his dagger and fell to the ground

THWACK

Taaj let his eyes slip to the left as he heard the angel’s voice sing the words

“YOU BIG JERK!” Her hammer having just smashed into the knee of the final assailant causing him to drop his knife and fall to the ground in agony. Taaj turned his attention back to the oaf.

“You would assail a lady in broad daylight? My how far the ideals of Lockland have fallen” he proclaimed more to the crowd then the oaf.

“Was only some fun, she’s just a smithy wench running a cart… didn’t mean nuttin by it” the oaf pleaded. Anger rose in Taaj al-Pour, for a moment he found it very hard to keep his scimitar from cutting open the man who would sully the good name of such a stunning young women.

“You will collect the ladies things and stack them back on the dolly” he said in a voice that bespoke a calm hidden in the centre of the greatest of world shattering storms

“I… I think my knee is broken?” the one laying at the women’s feet moaned

“You will collect the ladies things and stack them back on the dolly, or I will take your right hands, left feet, right eyes and left testicles” still the calm, but each of the vagabonds knew he meant the words, knew that this was truth, and the oaf recognised the punishment as the ones that the OMAR stores gave out to shoplifters”

“OK OK, we’re going” the big one said, starting to move as Taaj pulled his scimitar back from his throat.

“Are you alright my lady?” Taaj asked, turning his attention back to young women. Her eyes were on the ground, her brows furrowed in anger.

“They spilt my paint… I’m supposed to repaint our ship name… and they spilt it” she growled annoyed at seeing the fresh ink leach away into the sewers. The scimitar flashed out towards the oaf again, this time cutting his belt near his purse. Using the point he hooked the tatter of rope and flicked it up catching it deftly in his left hand. Weighing the pouch a moment Taaj presented it to the lady

“This should more than compensate you for the lost paint, and your trouble in replacing it” Taaj said, grinning as the women blushed, looking at her feet once more as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. The oaf who was picking up the boards and restacking them looked like he was about to complain, but then noted the ease at which that scimitar seemed to fly and rethought his action.

“My Hero” the women said, speaking perhaps the two most special words he Taaj had ever heard. Before this day he had thought the tales of Grim were foolish when he bespoke of ‘love at first sight’ that one could not simply make eye contact and fall in love. Now he knew Grim to be the pioneer he truly was, for here he was having known this women for all of a minute and ready to profess his undying love for her.

“The Lady had things well in hand, I am pleased you granted me the privilege to provide aid” the women’s toe kicked at the ground a little

“Maybe, but I am happy you came anyways” she looked up from under her bangs and the two locked eyes again, their souls danced as they shared a bond “How, can I repay you?” she asked, her voice dropping down to a whisper. His head leaned in closer as he responded softly

“Would it be to forward to beseech the lady for a… kiss?” he asked, the last word little more than a breath. The women leaned forward, tilting her head slightly and parting her lips. As if time itself slowed down his eyes closed as he inclined his head, their lips were millimetres apart he could smell her sweet breath, the anticipation was ecstasy.

“So… uh… we’re done” the oaf interrupted. Taaj turned giving him a glare that would turn men to stone. The oaf did not understand so he pointed to the dolly “see, all picked up” he said trying to sound chipper.

“So it is…” Taaj said in resignation. He turned back to the young women, and was pleased to see the annoyance at the oaf on her features as well. “May I walk you back to your ship?” he said offering an arm. She smiled taking it. Taaj turned to the oaf and his goons “bring the dolly, follow at a respectful distance” he said as he sheathed his scimitar. The trio did as they were bade, following the two young persons the four or so blocks back to the port district, it wasn’t until they arrived at the pier and Taaj looked up to see the young women’s ship that he realised what trouble he was in.

“This… is your ship?” Taaj asked of the women. She smiled a grin that almost eased his panic

“yup, this is the Champions Fist… you can see over on the bridge that’s our First Mate… Mr. Fargazer” Taaj’s heart sundered in two, he didn’t know what to do, what to think… he had to get out of there

“Uhhh… it is a lovely ship… but… uh… I must be going now” he said taking a step back

“wait… you can’t go” the women said turning and taking another step towards him, I want you to meet the crew…” her tone turned a little more playful “you saved me after all” Taaj instinctively took another step back

“Ah… That would be impossible right now… ummm… I really must go, I am sorry to have to run” he said taking another step

“Can I see you again?” the girl asked and Taaj knew at that moment that he could deny her nothing in the universe.

“Yes… Tomorrow night, at the Withered Bat Inn… at the 9th hour… I will be there” he said taking another couple steps back, he turned to leave, when a thought occurred to him and he turned once more “Wait… What it your name?” he asked. The women smiled at him

“Mandy, Mandy Doyle… and yours?”

“The Lady may call me Taaj… until tomorrow Lady Doyle” he said with a flourishing bow… then turned and sprinted off down the street taking his first right that would lead him town. He had to figure this out, figure out what he was doing… what would he tell Shaheed?

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End of the Beginning Pt 2

21st of Floodtime 383 ONT, 1:03am The Ley Line Glade

Complementary music

“Choose.” The word rang in her ears as Rikka blinked back tears and looked back to Pan. He raised his eyebrows and nodded towards Hiro and Ymeri as if telling Paprikka to get on with it. Where else he needed to be she did not know but the fact that he was here gave her the courage to act and the determination to speak. Gently but firmly she pushes Hiro away from her.

“I asked if you understood me and you said yes. But you did not see what you were meant to see.” She scrubbed her face free of tears with a sleeve. “If you did you would not have given me the time I needed to gather my resolve once more.” Standing straighter Rikka reached for her blade but the scabbard was bare and she grasped only air. “I have seen and suffered much over the short years I have been alive but I have never, NEVER given up. No matter the odds I will never stop and never give in. I have faced the Black Guard, a Linnorm, armies and evil men in equal measure. I have faced poverty, loneliness and even hunger so bad it hurt to breathe. I have stood in the river of life and faced an evil not of this world, spoken to gods and manipulated the very forces of this universe to save a soul. I’ve even seen the plane of Purple and survived.”

“I hear and feel for your people but this is wrong. What your goddess has done is wrong. She has manipulated me as one would a tool and set me up to die for her own designs not once but twice. Whatever your reasons, whatever she’s told you to make you feel like you are the only one who can save your people she is wrong.” Paprikka pointed back towards where the Champion’s Fist lay in dock. “You had and I have friends willing to fight beside me, to help me achieve what I cannot do alone. You should have trusted them more and the power they have.”

Rikka turns and bows towards Pan and holds out her hand. “I was asked what I wanted, what I desired most in this world. I want to become the great and powerful mage I know I can become and I desire nothing more than to continue to live!” A wickedly curved sword made of deep black and ethereal glowing green light shimmered into existence in her hand. Rikka turned back to face Hiro as a matching shimmer surrounded her. “So I choose to live Hiro, for I will never give up on life or those strong enough to walk my path with me.”

“I don’t want to do this Paprikka,” Hiro shook his head and took a step back. “Since Don Ton, sine the moment you awoke I have been by your side. I have seen what you have and how close you came to losing so many times. So often I wished I could do more to protect my friends and to protect you. But all I could do was offer guidance and wait.”

“But you cannot deny fate. You cannot deny what is to become destiny.” He reached out towards Rikka and as his fingers closed wicked bright red, orange and gold flames burst forth and arcing into the elegant shape of a bow. Flames erupted at his back and he reached plucking them from his shoulder. “If there was another way I would choose it but my people and my love are in danger and I cannot let them all die or be destroyed for the sake of one good soul, no matter how tenacious.”

Behind Hiro the fires blazed brighter and hotter as Ymeri brought her will to bear only to be blunted by the green-black presence of Pan. In the scattering of the moments between heartbeats the astral and physical worlds erupted into a conflagration of potent energies. Souls clashed leaving sizzling flames and twinkling sparks in their wake. Two fought for the one and were pushed and powered by their gods to feats beyond mortal ken. But souls and bodies were never designed for such and the longer they fought the more they channeled and the less of them there was. The body lay writhing on the carpet of grass wracked by unimaginable pain as the very fabric of reality and existence began to break down around and upon it. Two souls, two gods, two thoughts and one body all fought for the right to be and in doing so were destroying it all.

There came a moment of clarity sensing the dangerous precipice they teetered upon when a decision needed to be made to save everything from becoming nothing. And in that moment when the energies fountained high into the night sky a choice was made… The light dissipated and peace finally returned to the small glade now silent once more as naught a creature dared stir till the morning sun’s light blessed the world once more.

*****************************

Late in the morning a figure in the glade bean to finally move. Brought back to consciousness by the warmth and light. It groaned and rubbed at tired eyes. Head pounding and thoughts a jumbled mess it looked down at the melted hunk of a black sword where only the hilt retained any semblance of shape and sighed. It knew where it was but not who it was and that was worrying more so than the weakness of both limb and magical stores. “Well, looks like I’ll have time to figure it all out on the walk home.” Lockland was a day’s journey away and there would be plenty of time to sort out the mess and chaos of its thoughts. The most prominent being ‘who am I?’ If only its thoughts would stop contradicting themselves and agree on something for even the idea of home was both close and far away. Maybe it was a good thing using magic was not a possibility right now…

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Logistics Pt 2.
Where there's a Adventuring party, there's a way!

Flitt looked up from the list of items the fist needed in order to safely make it to their next port of call to his friends and companions assembled in the captains office.

“So the Captain made clear before zhe left that we are planning on running things on this ship with shares a little differently, and though exactly how the ownership plan is going to work has yet to be hammered out, it was clear that the plan was to see all of us with a stake in our new vessel. "

Handing the list with estimates for the group to read he continued

“It looks like we might have underestimated the initial investment this ship will need for basic gear, and what we have left wont do to get us safely to the south. While we could find loans in town or go into debt to our fellow champion ships, I think it best we see if we can solve this cash flow issue from within and cement the concept of ownership in this venture. As it stands after the monies earmarked for cargo to make this trip profitable, we were left with 500 gp for ship supplies, which leaves us with a 2,200 gp shortfall on this list to sort out before we leave for the next port. I know we have all had our expenses recently but i believe that between us we can get our new ship what it needs.”

“This is in no way an order, and if you cannot contribute at this time, we will not let it limit any persons place in whatever the captain has in mind in the end for this ships structure. Now,” Dropping a small clinking pouch onto the table" I have up to 1000 gp of mixed coin and gems i can put towards this venture, who else can chip in?"

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Shopping pt 2

19th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 11:45am, 4th and Brexit, Lockland

Mandy looked up at Tony “the Weasel” Scarabondi… he seemed like a trustworthy enough fellow; what with his pointed nose, sharp eagle eyes that was hid under a dark unibrow. And he clearly had the money she needed, he seemed to be wearing a suit of blue, and it looked like sharkskin, and two of his teeth were shinny gold. When the bank had told her to leave, it was lucky she had bumped into him coming out of the bank. He had explained that that his bank was closed for renovations, but he could not leave a lady in distress and so had offered to conduct their business in a nearby ally. She was so relieved he’d agreed to help her, for a while there she had thought she was in over her head. She reached into her pocket and pulled forth the Fabergé egg of Hiro and showed it to him.

“Is this what you mean by collateral?” she asked nervously. The man took the egg and hefted in half heartedly before passing it back to her

“Ya got that right dollface… now listen here, see” he said leaning in close to make sure no one overheard them “Tonight at sundown I’m a gonna lend ya the money ya need, see. All 140,000gp worth. In order to make it easier for you, see. It’ll be in gems… all ya gotta do is pay me pack in legitimate currency in no later than 10 days time… see” Mandy scratched her head thinking hard about the issue

“well I don’t know Mr. Scarabondi… What if I can’t raise that kind of money in ten days… that’s an awful lot…”

“Don’t you worry yer pretty little head over that see… you said yerself you got a fancy elf friend who is loaded… and he gots all kinds of money… once he is back he can help you out, but you wont be late on your other payments see… everyone wins.” Mandy was unsure… something about this didn’t feel completely right. But the man gave her a winning smile that caused the gold in his teeth to glint. She let out a long breath and decided

“You know what… it’s a deal”

“great… be here at dusk dollface, and I’ll handle the rest, see”

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Shopping

19th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 7:31am, Master Carpenter Quarters, Champions Fist, Lockland

Mandy woke up, her eyes wide, excitement palpable. She had an idea… and for the first time in a long time she felt good. Not just ok… whatever Paprika had done, she had cured the terrible bleeding, but also the sadness and the homesickness. Now she felt alive and vibrant and connected… like she was part of this great big world and it was all a part of her. She jumped out of bed dashing around her small cabin picking up her clothes and giving them a ginger smell test before shrugging them on… she would need to do laundry today… things were getting a bit… well… ripe. But no time for that now… she had work today. She pulled her apron off the hook and kicked open her tool box, grabbing her pocket knife, a wrench, a small mallet and her dyed string for measurements. She stuffed them all onto her apron pocket grabbing her hammer last and clipping it to her belt. Rushing out of her room she worked her way down the hall of the ship heading into the Mess hall. A pang of forlorn times hit her, as there were no pleasant smells coming from the kitchen… instead there was the cussing and clanging of Hugh… as he attempted to find something to eat on the ship… they really needed a cook, and Hatrutt would be hard to replace. Thinking of Hatrutt a smile came across her face and she glided up the two flights of stairs and out onto the main deck. The weather was just a little cool and rainy for her liking and for a split second she debated heading back for her cloak. She shrugged past the instinct and looked about on deck for who was on the watch. “Mr. Maddax” she greeted warmly seeing the little green goblin bundled against the rain with his shoulders slumped and hood up. “Morning Master Carpenter… good to see you up and around again” he said back as he straightened it posture to speak with her. “I’m ducking out on some errands, I’ll be back before the eleventh hour” “I see Ms. Doyle… I am sure Mr. Fargazer is going to inquire as to where you are going…” the goblin trailed off… it was not his place to ask for an officers whereabouts, but she knew he still worried about her and he was asking for her own benefit “Not to worry Maddax… I’m heading over to the Boot to grab a few more of my things, and hopefully a decent breakfast… then I am stopping by a couple shops in the textiles section on the way back… all common areas, and I am pretty sure Ms. Featherfoot is going to come with me” the goblin smiled at her response and nodded “Well, good luck on your errands… and hopefully with breakfast to…” “Ya, I think Hatrutt was making pies the other day and…” “You rascal, don’t even tell me… I’ll be lucky to get tea and hardtack today” the goblin joked and the two shared a laugh as Mandy turned, she had to force herself to keep from running, but felt like there was so much to do today and that the energy was just thrumming through her. Fifteen minutes later she was on the deck of the Champions Boot face to face with a tall blond human named Darlavan. “Do you have an appointment?” the fellow asked in a scratchy kind of voice. Mandy rolled her eyes before speaking “I Don’t have an appointment, but I am sure Mrs. Featherfoot would be happy to see me…” “Er… I dunno… Mr. Ironfist was pretty clear that we shouldn’t be bothering Mrs. Featherfoot” the fellow scratched at her. She looked past him to see who was on deck, her eyes let up when she saw him “Mr. Ward… Mr. Ward” she called, catching the eye of Robinson as he walked by. The Half Oger turned and smiled warmly “Ms. Doyal, back from her new command on the Champions Fist” he said walking up “Well I would have stuck around but I hear some Half Ogre had already taken the Mate position I was vying for” she jested with a rye grin. He shared a chuckle and waved her on board. The two began to chat and catch up as they made their way to the mess hall.

Forty five minutes later Mandy had finished her seconds on the breakfast spread Hatrutt had made, and gulped down a 2nd cup of coffee before slipping over to her old quarters. Thankfully they had not been filled yet else this would have been awkward. Entering the room she locked the door behind her and dropped to her knees, carefully placing he ear to the wall as she knocked along it listening for the hallow. Once secures she pulled out her pocket knife and scratched away the paint and woodchips that disguised the inset bolts, then pulled out her wrench and set to work. It took about ten minutes to collect her things from the gap in the wall. She carefully placed the gold and gems into her bags. Saving Hiro’s Faberge Egg for last. She supressed a tear looking at it, before putting it back in the old sock it was wrapped in and tucking it into her pocket. She had business to be about. It took her a little longer to replace the secret door and hide the bolts once more… she was sure it would end up as a hidey hole for booze or some other contraband… but that was for the Bosun to worry about. With her tasks done, she gathered her things, said one last goodbye to her old room and the Champions Boot, and then set out for the textiles district to be about her tasks.

19th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 8:55am, Thevlan Silver Smithy, Textile District, Lockland

The older wiry women opened the door to the shop at last… by this the rain was really coming down and Mandy deeply regretted leaving her cloak, she had been waiting for almost ten minutes and was near soaked to the skin.

“This is not a shop for looky-loos dear, nor is it a warming station for the poorly clothed” the women said as Mandy rushed in immediately feeling the warmth from their small forge

“I understand Mam, I am here with intent to purchase” she said, running her hand through her rain and flicking off some of the excess water from the storm outside. Mandy reached into her pocket and pulled forth a crumpled list she glanced it over once more before passing it to the women “I am hoping you could help me. This is what I want to buy… then if I have enough, the materials on the back”. The women took the paper with a doubtful look, but when she read it her eyebrows raised.

“and you have coin?” the women asked “this won’t be cheap”

“some here… more if you have what’s needed on the list” Mandy reached into her pouch and pulled forth a few platinum leaves to show she meant business. The women looked at the leaves and at the buldging size of the pouch before nodded vigorously. “

“Well dearie,” she said, the no funny business tone gone from her voice immediately, it was replaced by a sickly sweet grandmotherly tone “I will have to get my husband, Master Thevlan, to come help us get this all sorted out, but in the meantime, you look soaked through, why don’t you move that chair closer to the forge to get dried out, and I will fetch you a towel and cup of tea while my husband’s looks at your list” she said

“That would be swell, thanks” Mandy said, trying to keep the sarcasm from her tone, Mrs. Featherfoot had warned her that people could be two faced when money was involved, she’d just never witnessed the conversion happen so quickly. Mandy headed over the warmer area and took her seat as the women put on a kettle and fussed her way into the back. About five minutes later an elderly man, hunched in back, and balding came into the room. He had thick brown trousers on with brown suspenders, and wore a pair of wide spectacles that made his blue eyes appear huge.

“You’re the young lady looking for this…” he held her crumpled sheet up in the air

“I am…” She responded jumping up from her chair “Mandy Doyle… Master Carpenter of the Champions Fist” she said offering her hand to the man. He took it and offered her a shake with a surprisingly strong grip for one of his years and relative frailty.

“Austin Thevlan, welcome welcome Master Carpenter… though I assume you know that these are not carpentry tools…”

“I am aware…” she said giving him a winning smile “But all the same it is what I need for my next project… and I need to be able to safely work on my project on my ship… thus all the add on’s”

“yes… yes…” he said rereading her note “… I can see that now, it’s a ship Martha… that makes so much more sense… hmmm… kind of clever how you added the rivets there… for better heat dissipation I assume?” Mandy nodded eagerly, at last speaking to someone who knew what she was talking about

“Yes… I thought it might allow me to still get the heat up to 1800 degrees, without setting the ship aflame… I have a friend who can dampen the area with magic as well… but I thought it best to build it naturally as best we could”

“Yes… I think you might be right Ms. Doyle… though I would have your secondary air vent be at least twelve 6 inches wide, unless you have a way to inject cold through the pipes, the four inch mold won’t be enough… not with the temperatures you are looking to hit” he said pulling out a larger sheet of parchment and doing a crude sketch to better explain what he was speaking of. Mandy stuck out her tongue in concentration as she tried to do the mental math… he was probably right… but that was going to make the entire rig a little bigger.

After about an hour of discussion Thevlan finally looked up at her and scratched his head. “Well Ms. Doyle, I can build it, matter of fact it’s not so different from a few I have here, could probably get it done in the next day or so… but there will be a cost”. She had been expecting this and nodded before speaking

“and the materials on the back? Can you get all those?” she asked. He flipped the page over and looked it over once more before walking behind his little desk and pulling out a ledger. Expertly the man tallied her requests performing the math in the margins where necessary. Upon finishing he let out a long low whistle.

“I’d have to get some of these in from my suppliers… but yes… it is possible, could get the last of in within three or four days… but it won’t be cheap” she bit her lip in anticipation, she had a good idea of how much this would all cost but was hoping she was wrong

“How much do you think it would be? For the rig and the matierals” Thevlan looked at his ledger again, then to the other side

“Tell you what Ms. Doyle, if you purchase all these materials from me, I’ll throw in the rig for free,”

“Really?” Mandy said her face brightening

“Absolutely,” Thevlan said with a kind smile “the materials however do have a steep price to them… for what you are looking to purchase…” he rechecked his math one final time “I’d need about 218,000 Rehume Gold. Mandy’s mouth fell open

“That much? Really?” she asked,

“I am afraid so lass… if you want to take a look, the math is rather simple” he said offering his sheet of paper… he was right, she found after a moments study, and being very fair with his own profit margin.

“I… er… I still want to take it, I just need a day or two to get the rest of the money together…” she stated hefting her pouch. The man gave her an appraising look.

“If you can’t afford it, maybe buy less, but if I order all those materials and build the rig, I will need you to pay the full price… and for this, I am going to need a deposit… One quarter up front” he said someone firmly. She nodded to him, her mind juggling all the possibilities.

“No… I can do this… and here I will give you more up front, to show I mean business” she pulled out her pouch and reached into her pack to pull several more pouches out. After about an hour of doing math, conversions on coins, and agreeing on appraisement for the assortment of gems, and coins she had brought them came to an agreeable number 78,564 gp. Thevlan nodded as he drew up the receipt.

“Come back by the 23rd of Floodtime… I’ll have everything you need by then, I’ll also get some porters I know to help us move it over to your ship and I will help you install it, sound good?” he asked. Mandy had a faraway stare going, but shook it off and smile to him

“I would be very thankful for that…” she shook his hand once more and collected her receipt, even taking a loaner cloak form the old women before heading back out into the storm. She walked a half block towards the ship before stopping. She looked into her pouch and pulled out the old sock that held the Fabergé Egg, she did not want to sell it, it was Hiro’s and reminded her of him, but where was she going to get 139,436gp in the next three days. She let out a long sigh… Captain Thalion might be able to lend it to her… maybe? She didn’t know… and didn’t know if he’d be back in time… she would have to think of something… and quick.

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Slugging it out in Cainia Pt 6

22nd of Floodtime 383 ONT, 8:23am, Higall Forrest, Cainia

“OK OK OK… I got one, I got one…” the tawny haired dwarf known as Chip said. The 3rd Axes were on patrol through the northern end of Higall woods, in theory the 5th Hammers had already swept the region so things were pretty safe, but the Captain wanted them to be through. The group traveled in a loose diamond wedge, sharing jokes as they marched. “So… a horde of orcs is wandering through the countryside looking for towns to pillage and such…”

“heard it” Smelts called out

“Shut up Smelts… let’em tell the goram joke” Spuds called back. Chip glared at Smelts but pushed on

“So… there walking along when all of the sudden their chieftain spots a lone dwarf standing on a rocky outcropping atop a nearby hill… just hanging out shooting the shit”

“Lucky son of a bitch” Reg murmured to the laughs of a few of the men

“So…” Chip continued “…the dwarf yells as loud as he can, ‘I am Bjorn Bjornson and I dare you to send your best warrior up here!’ … well the orc chieftain is an orc… so he points at this best warrior and off he goes around the outcropping.” As he spoke Chip mimed the orcs ridiculas burley walk to the sniggering of several of the men “… So the dwarf, Bjorn, he jumps down and the sounds of battle are heard all the way down the hill… a few seconds later the orc’s head comes rolling down the hill. Then Bjorn, he climbs back up and yells again, ‘I am Bjorn Bjornson and I dare you to send your two best warriors up here!’ “ Chip did his best hero’s voice appreciating the oos and ahhhs from those nearest him. “The orc chief, He is pretty pissed off now, so he points at his two best warriors and off they go.” Again Chip mimicked the orcs striding up the hill “ Again Bjorn jumps down out of sight and a few moments later there are sounds of battle and then both orc heads come rolling down the hill… The orcs don’t know what to make of it as Bjorn climbs back into view and yells again, ‘I AM BJORN BJORNSON AND I DARE YOU TO SEND YOUR 10 BEST WARRIORS UP HERE!!’ In a frenzy the orc chief waves and his 10 best warriors off, and they run around the outcropping. After a few seconds, all 10 heads come rolling down the hill… Bjorn climbs back up on the outcropping and yells, ‘I AM BJORN BJORNSON AND I DARE YOU TO SEND YOUR 100 BEST WARRIORS UP HERE!!’ Well… the orc chief is so angry he points out his best company and adds a few more men to it, he waves them off and 100 orcs charge up the hill. The clash of weapons starts ringing down the hill and dozens of orc heads start bouncing across the ground. Eventually, one orc comes running back down and starts screaming, …. ‘Boss, it’s a trap! Dere’s two of dem!’

“BWHAHAHAHA” a few of the dwarves barked as the other let out chortles and snorts. The LT even nodded his head in appreciation of the joke as they lined single file to cross a small stream

“Ok, I got one…” Rags offered as he jumped from stone to stone trying not to get his boots wet across the knee deep stream “Did you hear the Orc King had a daughter?”

“Usually it happens to the Queen” a chorus of three dwarves barked back, stealing Rags thunder. The nimble dwarf stopped about two thirds of the way across the stream on a larger stone and turned back to the three

“Ok, so I may have told that one already… but I have you heard this one… What do you call an Orc who can count past ten…”

THUNK

Rags gasped for breath as a thick silver fletched arrow appeared to sprout out of his throat, blood poured forth as he swooned on his rock

“RAGS!” Spuds yelled diving off his rock and splashing across the stream to his friend

THWISH THWISH THWISH

Arrows poured forth from the trees on the far side of the stream

“TAKE COVER… ARCHERS!” Callum roared as he threw himself on his belly into the stream and pulled his friend Thrain down beside him.

“BISHOP… GET OVER HERE BISHOP!” Spuds called as he reached Rags and pulled him down onto the rock… if the throat shot didn’t kill him the four more arrows in his back probably did “YOLO’s FIREY ASSHOLE, RAGS… FRACKING RAGS!” the dwarf screamed, pain evident in his voice.

“SPUDS! DROP HIM AND GET YOUR ASS BACK HERE!” Callum yelled keeping his body in the stream and taking cover behind a boulder

“RAGS IS DEAD, RAGS!” Spuds sobbed uncontrollably as the rain of arrows continued. Callum winced as one tore into his leg, he could see about half the men were like him, on their bellies in the stream… the other half were pinned on the shore behind him taking cover behind the large elm trees. The silver arrows seemed keen to dissuade anyone from leaving those trees while only two or three were focused on sharp shooting the dwarves trapped in the stream. Callum swore to himself as he tried to think of something

“what would Bryan Boytano do? If he were here right now?” Callum queried to himself

“I’m sure he’d kick an ass or two?” Thrain said, hearing his friend’s musings

“Your Gods be damned right he would!” Callum growled “get yer shield ready… we’re gonna go get Spuds… then we’re crossing this stupid stream and bringing the fight to them”

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End of the Beginning pt1

20th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 7:13pm Champion’s Fist, Pier 19 Lockland.

Please listen

Paprikka looked in on Mandy one more time still worried that there might be some kind of lingering effect from the magics she’d used to save the young woman. But beyond being really hungry when she woke it appeared that she’d managed to save Mandy from any further effects and purge the chaos from her. Gently closing the door she immediately bumped into her newest shadow, Tar Di, the ever eager and impatient apprentice. Rikka wasn’t sure if Tar Di was more excited about no longer having to be the cabin boy or about actually getting to use her magic. Well, at least the last would be snuffed out soon enough. Given the raw power she’d witnessed first-hand and the source meant that she needed a lot of research and planning to train Tar Di effectively and safely. But that was a problem for another day.

“Did you get the things I asked for?”

Tar Di handed the full pack to Paprikka. “There is an intensity growing around you. The lights and shadows are gathering. The colours are stronger and angry?”

“I know.” Paprikka shouldered the pack and moved back towards the deck.

“I could try to do something about them. I’ve never tried but all I have to do is…”

“No!” Rikka turns back to Tar Di and sighs lowering her voice and tone, “Until I understand exactly how your power works and how we can train it without endangering ourselves or the others we need to hold back on using it. Unless your life is in danger. For now we need to build your focus and control. Once you get those under wraps then we can teach you the ‘fun’ things.”

“Aww, but I’m your apprentice now. I should know at least one good spell right? We’ve had two days.”

“Now is not the time Tar Di,” Rikka sighed and pointed back towards her room. “Go, meditate, study the glyphs I left for you and be patient.”

“Fine. I will but I am not going to enjoy it.” She pouted at Paprikka then hesitated, worry creeping into her voice. “You are coming back right? Mr Fluffy’s gone and Mandy doesn’t like me and Mr Tyre is creepy. There are a lot of strangers on the ship now.”

She hugged Tar Di tight, “Honestly, I… don’t know. But now that I know what is going on this can’t continue so it’s time for me to face it… Watch for me.” Stepping away Rikka activated a pair of spells and disappeared.

************************************

Thoughts and emotions churned through Paprikka as she attempted and failed again to gain the calm and focus she needed to settle into a meditative trance. She could feel the ley line beneath her, feel how close she was to touching it again. She could feel the presence in her sword waiting and watching though unsure as to what she was doing. Since learning the truth she’d hid her thoughts from it, her pain at the loss of her trusted friend and so much more. Even now as she struggled to find a calm moment in the storm of her mind Rikka wanted to reach for her blade and feel the comforting presence within. But that was a lie and no comfort lay in that direction.

With the lay line out of reach for now, Paprikka sent a silent prayer of thanks to Pan for granting her the knowledge and the chance to face what was happening on her own terms, she reached for the hilt and the dark presence of the other sprang forth only this time it wasn’t a shadow. A young Tian man dressed in Fire Nation finery stood before her. The intensity of his gaze reminded Rikka of the Kempai. He bowed to her and she nodded to him.

“You know.” Was all he said.

She nodded answering, “About how I was dead and brought back by Ymeri in Don Ton to serve as a vessel to save you? Yes. About how she loosened the bonds of the armour and tucked you away in my blade where my friend once was? Yes. About how the return of the Phoenix and its tears will be my doom and your rebirth? Yes.”

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” Sadness crept into Hiro’s voice, “My friends, the ones you travel with were in grave danger from those who hunted me. I prayed for a way out, a way to stop those who wanted me dead from killing them until I could bring the fight to my enemies. Dying in Don Ton would not save my people nor my nation.”

“And I was your way out.”

“Yes, though your soul was supposed to have moved on, to find peace and Ymeri would leave a simulacrum soul in place I could guide until I could be brought back.” Hiro frowned, “But something went wrong. Though you died your soul held fast and when Ymeri brought your body back you came with it. I couldn’t do anything trapped in the sword but slip suggestions to you as you travelled. Whether by chance, luck or some greater divine purpose you fell in with my friends and I managed to get you thinking more about the Phoenix.”

“You did more than I could have hoped for in saving the Phoenix, protecting my friends and… saving Mandy like you did yesterday. You were willing to give everything to see her safe. She… means a lot to me. Thank you.” He bows low to her. “You have been a great ally and I will be forever grateful to you for what you’ve done. But you cannot change what is to be, what my goddess has set in motion. Hikaru Yamamoto needs to return to his people and free them from the evil that swallows my nation. It has been prophesized.”

His words were direct, honest and single minded. They helped calm the storm and order her thoughts. There was no malice in them, no evil in his actions only blind faith in his mission and his goddess. She breathed deep and closed her eyes, her grip on the sword never wavering as she touched the ley line and slipped from her body to face him on equal terms. Spirit to spirit. Paprikka reached out to him and though he eyed her vacant body and the opportunity she’d left he remained stoically still.

“As my eyes have been opened by the gift of another, please accept this gift and see… me.” Drawing power from the line she opened herself once more and through their connection she showed him everything holding back nothing…

***Flash***

A baby’s wail fills the bloody entryway. Two look down upon a third, a poor woman and her just born babe eyes scrunched tight in need and lack of understanding. The woman’s pale hands cold as ice shakily hold the child up to the other two pleading for them to take her. To keep her safe and raise her as their own. Finally the faintest of nods and a servant rushes in to draw the babe away. The woman has no strength left and the two turn away from her to return to their warm chambers for the night.

***Flash***

A small child’s unexpected use of magic leaves her standing in the corner facing the wrath of the kitchen staff. Her parents look on approval in their eyes as they speak of where best to send her for training. Her aptitude and power will raise their standing considerably if cultured just right. Her headstrong and chaotic ways will be drowned under strict rules, endless tutors and training.

***Flash***

Older now she stand dripping blood from a split lip and broken nose in the same entryway looking defiant at her parents. He rages at her for resorting to fists to fight the bullies when she could have ended it with one spell. She tries to tell her side, about how it was to be fair and equal and how she’d promised not to. But they only saw her failure and the loss of status she would bring for this was not the first nor last time she’d been drawn in to a ‘fair fight’.

***Flash***

Excitement ripples through the household for her mother is to have another child, a daughter, and the girl shares in the joy for a chance to have someone to play with, someone to share the lonely moments with away from her parents and the disappointment.

***Flash***

Two girls playing, the elder hard pressed to keep up with the enthusiasm of the younger as they race through the forest near the estate. Their carefree chase comes to an end in a field of flowers where a bear, lean with hunger, stalks them. The younger is maimed before the elder can overcome her fear. They both survive but carry very different scars forward from there.

***Flash***

Years have passed but the gulf between the sisters has widened impossibly aided by the subtle words of their parents to the younger and the hateful words shot to the elder. The final arrow finds its mark as they tell her she is naught but an orphan. Told the tale of her family’s death at the hands of raiders and how her mother begged her sister to take the child in. She has been nothing but a burden to their home and despite their best efforts see only disappointment for her future. She is told to leave everything and go. She takes only her true mother’s surname with her as she leaves.

***Flash***

Desperation leads her down many paths taking any job she can muster just to keep food in her belly. Often she finds it empty and cold like the world around her. Dancing and serving at taverns becomes her life for a long while, bleak and without warmth it keeps her alive as she forgets what hope feels like.

***Flash***

An older man, dressed well and captain of his own ship speaks kindly to her. He leads her away and spins hope back into her life before leaving her in the care of a friend. Here she finds a home of sorts and trains hard to learn his mysterious ways hoping to see that kind captain once more. But the season turn many times and he never returns. Eventually even her new master falls victim to age and she is left alone once more.

***Flash***

Lean seasons lie ahead and though she is better prepared one cannot eat only air and drink only dreams. So she wanders far in search of anything and lands at the feet of a red-haired woman who stops her from being cast out of the temple she’d taken shelter in. She accepts the offer given and does her best to complete her duties. Only the woman with red hair speaks to her though she learns their language by listening to the others.

***Flash***

She fights without reservation for her red-haired charge, a demon to stop these devils. But it is not enough for she fights alone and though her charge escapes, she does not. Black armour encases her and she dies…

***Flash***

Awake she fights with the others to freedom beyond the evil city…

***Flash***

…overcoming her fear of the Linnorm she joins in the fight… Meeting Pan…

***Flash***

…listens as the others speak of finding someone more skilled and appropriate for her role on the ship. It is not the last time she hears this…

***Flash***

More and more images, feeling and memories pass from Paprikka to Hikaru before both stagger back from the experience. The night drifts slowly onward as the two face each other spirit to spirit.

“Do you understand now?” She asks him.

“Yes,” he nods his mind still reeling from everything she’s shown him, “But it does not change what is meant to be.”

“Why is it meant to be? Because your goddess says so?” She shook her head eyes shining with tears, “I’ve lived and fought and survived for so long. So very long seeking some place to feel like home. Some place to feel accepted.”

“And you seek it still. You will not find it here. Just as it was with all the others you do not belong here. Ymeri kept you alive and guided you to Don Ton. Ymeri put you in the place I needed you to be so I could survive. What is one life? One wretched existence to that of an entire nation? I weep for what you’ve gone through and will never forget what you’ve done Paprikka. But I will be the only one to remember.” Hikaru steps forward and embraces her. “You can still be the hero you’ve wanted to be. You can still change the world with your power. By surrendering your existence to me I can save a nation for that price. I can bring help to Prancer and force concessions from Omaru. All you have to do is let go.”

Rikka cried, wracking sobs of loss. She was supposed to be dead. Despite her best efforts she’d only delayed the inevitable. Behind Hikaru stood Ymeri annoyance and anger plain on her face for this should never have gone this far. All she had to do was give in, give up and she could let go of this existence. Had not Pan warned her many times? Had he not tried to lead her from this path? She had even failed him…She didn’t want to die… Paprikka felt a warm hand on her shoulder and looked behind her. Pan stood there sadness marring his face and spoke a single word. “Choose.”

( Please send me a private e-mail to let me know if you’d rather see Hiro return or Rikka from this night. Just a message saying Team Rikka/Pan or team Hiro/Ymeri. In a few days I’ll post part 2 )

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Destiny Awaits a Goddess, part 1

22 Flood time…whenever…bah, whatever date that these strange human date track. We are in the Age of The Eclipse, the Tenth and Final Naran … per Strix terms.

Miriel waited for Aurelia to come back from within the great tree; it was to be a quick trip according to an irritated Flit, but she knew Aurelia would respect her need to be here for as long as she needed. She sat at the base of the tree, lessened by the removal of a shard and its flooding by chaos magic, still left her more calm than before; it’s diluted power warmed her skin rather than coursed through her blood and soul…her companions had definitely wrenched the majority of its raw power away. The tree, however, was old and wise, and she patted one of its roots fondly – perhaps one of her fey worshippers would know a way to ease its pain.

She grimaced at the thought; she’d made a mess of things the last time she summoned her followers, and now Curtis is paying the price. She’d finally forced herself to gaze upon her stomach, right after they found out that their bosun from Cainia was murdered. While she could not see her faun bearer, she could see his misery evident in his surroundings, and that he was obviously alone, away from his companions; she even went so far as to ask Willhym if he could read the sign near Curtis so she could find out what it said (not being able to read common upside down). The strange halfling was over-eager in his wishes to make amends for not listening to her and while it took him awhile to focus on her stomach, he eventually let her know that Curtis was scheduled to be executed on the 33rd of Floodside.

So much death…her beloved would want her to do all in her power to ensure her people survived. So she’d gritted her teeth, chased the halfling’s roaming hands away, and asked Aurelia if she could accompany her to the tree the same day. Now…now it was time to face her destiny as a protector and goddess of her people. She cast the spell and summoned Maul again.

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Slugging it out in Cainia Pt 5

21st of Floodtime 383 ONT, 11:13am, Slug Camp 7, 3km Southwest of Aderaid Keep, Cainia

“You understand don’t you Boytano?” The Captain said as he sat at his campaign desk running his hand through his hair. “At your order you flooded the crypts of Dragnye… killing 54 civilians and the Duchess Forbes. I have no real choice here” he looked almost pleadingly at the blond dwarf across from him

“Aye Sir, that happened… but what of the three hundred and something civies that we rescued, and the Duke himself? It was a no-win situation sir… if we’d waited we’d be dead… Sir”

“I understand Boytano… you know I do, but she was the Employer’s Aunt, and mission critical… someone has to take the wrap here, and I’m afraid you were the ranking officer on scene” the Captain stood up and took on a more formal air “Sargent Callum Boytano, it gives me no pleasure to inform you that you are sentenced to five public lashings and a demotion to the rank of Corporal effective immediately” the Blond Dwarf stood and saluted

“Aye Sir” Callum said as the Captain waved him dismissed. He turned to leave when the Captain stopped him once more

“Boytano?”

“Yes Sir?”

“Hell of a job, Hell of a job”

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Slugging it out in Cainia Pt 4

18th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 1:49pm, Mausoleum of Dragnye Hold, Cainia

Browner came racing down the hall

“We’re done Sir, the line is foldin, boys are breaking off and on my heels… it aint pretty…” the dwarf bent over hands on his knees gasping for breath.

“Shit from the holy ass of Hithilum right on Selwyns perky chest!” Callum swore causing several of the nearby humans to make the sign of forgiveness. Callum ignored them and turned to the red bearded dwarf on his left.

“Smelts! Get down the corridor to Sims and let him know that I don’t care how deep the pits are, he needs to start digging out the wall!” Callum turned about looking for another runner “Squirrely, get down the hall and let the humans know that those bladders best be full, then past yerself to the goram Dukes left arm and don’t leave his side till the end times or further” the redheaded dwarf took off down the hall hollering at the humans to get ready for what was to come. Callum hefted his shield and drew his axe “Aight lads, our boys are coming with Holy Hell on their heels, we’re gonna slow the advance… nothing passes this point… you here me?”

“HAROO” the eight dwarves around him called as they locked shields and prepared for the rush

“Hot Stuff, Double Dare, you’re the door, get ready to let them through” Callum called, seeing the first of the dwarves wheel around the corner and race towards them. Behind them he could see several gnolls snarling as they raced after them “BY HITHILUM’S SWEATY NARDS! WE WILL HOLD!” he shouted again nearly spitting the words as they approached.

“HAAA- ROO!” the men called feeling the ground tremble as the dwarves slipped by and the gnolls closed.

BLAM

And battle was joined

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