Balance

This is Forever Part 1

3rd of Coldeven 380 ONT on Board the Better Days on the Lower Promethean River

Aurellia worked to scrape the last few barnacles off of the starboard side of the ship. It was hard, tedious work and was taking up most of her days lately. Her arms were sore, and sweat covered her flushed face. She pulled her shirt away from her drenched chest and used the wind to cool herself slightly. Though there was a slight chill to the air, this was the warmest Coldeven of her life, and she was happy to be here, on the water with the wind in her hair.

Finally, she scraped the last barnacle free. She heaved a sigh of relief as she untied the third rope from around the seat, wrapped it around her wrist, and began to pull herself and her wooden seat up the side of the ship. It had been 4 months since she joined the crew, and she had been put through the wringer. It seemed that she was given every job that anyone on the crew might not want to do, and since everyone out-ranked her, she had no choice but to do as she was told. Serenity assured her as they lay together in the dark at night that most of them liked her well enough, but they had all served their time as cabin boys, and they took the rite of passage to become a crew member seriously.

It had been hard for her at first to acclimate to the general sense of humour aboard the Better Days, Serenity had acted as a discrete translator, offering a wink or a slight nod of encouragement when she noticed Aurellia looking uncertain. After a while she began to understand most of her crewmates fairly well, but the ship’s bosun remained a mystery to her. Bosun Whynny was hard on Aurellia, often forcing her to be the last hand working on deck long after the others had retired for the night, and no matter how hard she worked, nothing ever seemed good enough for the bosun.

Aurellia had finished scraping the ship’s hull a full 4 days ahead of schedule (after packing her meals and eating on the side of the ship each day while she worked – a little plan she and Serenity had hatched to get her ahead of schedule and finally into Whynny’s good books) and she felt certain that Whynny would have to be impressed this time. She reached the ship’s railing and pulled herself over in one fluid motion. Her body moved gracefully with the ship as though this were all one well rehearsed dance. She tucked the wooden seat away and turned quickly, nearly walking straight into Bosun Whynny. In the moment before she realized who was in front on her, Aurellia’s hand flashed instinctively to the dagger on her belt.

“Getting scrappier every day, Lia.”

Aurellia forced herself not to react to the nickname she had told Whynny she didn’t like, the first couple of times she’d protested she had found herself cleaning out the ship’s privy and she wasn’t keen to relive that experience any time soon.

“Planning to knock off early today, are we?” there was something odd in the Bosun’s voice, a slight anxiousness that Aurellia had never heard before, it set the Cabin Boy on edge and though her hand relaxed, it remained on her hip, within easy reach of the dagger.

“No Bosun, I was just coming to tell you that I’ve finished scraping the hull and ask if you would like me to start on something else.”

“You can’t be done already, it’s only been a week,” her voice seemed forced and rehearsed, and it made all of the hairs stand up on the back of Aurellia’s neck.

“I’ve been working hard Bosun, I can assure you there isn’t a barnacle left above the waterline.”

An exaggerated look of disbelief played briefly on Whynny’s face, then she seemed to switch gears completely, “Well, I’ll check it out for myself tomorrow, right now I’ve got a job for you on the bridge. Grab your coat and follow me.”

Puzzled and guarded, Aurellia rolled her pant legs down and pulled on her coat, fastening the buttons at the chest as she followed.
Whynny almost ran up the stairs and disappeared onto the bridge. Following cautiously, Aurellia kept her left hand on the dagger’s hilt. She had never seen the Bosun behave this way, and she smelled a trap.

As she climbed the stairs she found the Captain waiting for her at the top, wearing a dress uniform she would not have previously believed he owned. The Captain was clean shaven for the first time since she’d met him, and his eyes were playing at a grin that was otherwise hidden on his face.

“Why Miss Ouellette, would you take a walk with me?” though his voice seemed calm and serious, the mirth had not left his piercing blue eyes. He held out his elbow to her the way she had once seen nobles hold out their elbows for lady’s as they disembarked flagships in Rehume’s port.

This did nothing to calm her nerves, but she stepped forward and took the captain’s elbow uncertainly. She scanned the deck of the bridge and saw that Whynny was nowhere to be found. “I’m sorry captain, but Bosun Whynny said she had a job she needed me for, did you happen to see which way she went?”

“Don’t worry so much about the Bosun, I outrank her, you know,” he winked and started leading her back down the stairs.

“Pardon me Captain, but is something wrong?”

“Not unless you’ve done something I don’t know about.” He stopped and searched her eyes. “Is there anything I should know?”

Aurellia felt trapped in uncertainty. Was this all part of some elaborate prank? Or was something wrong?

“No Captain, not that I know of.”

Her stomach felt twisted in knots as they began to walk again, the Captain leading her below deck. She could not help but notice that despite it being early afternoon, there were no other crew members to be seen.

“You know, when Serenity asked me to take you on as crew she seemed pretty certain about you. I definitely had my doubts. That girl has always had a keen sense, but she can also be hot-headed and impulsive, and I was pretty sure that living in close quarters for a trip down the Promethean would be enough to remind her that freedom and independence are valuable commodities to her – even more valuable than having her nethers twixed on the regular.”

He stopped outside the door of the mess, and rested his hands on Aurellia’s shoulders. “I’m a pretty clever man you know, my first impressions are often spot on. Before you go in there I want you to know that you’ve proven yourself to be a valuable member of my crew, and that regardless of what happens, I want you here. You’ve earned a bunk of your own, if you should need it.”

Aurellia’s head was spinning – what was happening here? Was Serenity going to leave her? Was she going to ask her to leave the ship? She had been a little distant lately, but Aurellia had just assumed that like her, Serenity had been exhausted by her duties. Or was it something worse?

She looked at the Captain with a superficial smile pulled a little too tightly across her clear apprehension, “Thank you for saying so Sir. But if I’ve done something wrong, or if Serenity is upset with me about something – please tell me. I’ve only tried to do my best, for her and for you. I am truly grateful to be aboard this ship.”

The Captain smiled and winked as he opened the doors to the mess, stepping to the side and gesturing for her to go ahead.

Aurellia’s breath caught in her chest as she took in the scene before her. The mess had been transformed from a modest dining hall into something she expected could be found aboard a state ship. The two worn and pock-marked wooden tables that ran along the sides of the small room had been covered by crisp white linens, Each table held a vase at it’s center filled with white roses and lilies, accented by purple lilacs. The flowers were framed on either side by silver candlesticks holding long white tapered candles. The portholes were covered by thin white fabric, cutting the sun’s rays down to a dull glow.

The intoxicating scent of the flowers in the air and the quality of the light overloaded Aurellia’s senses, making Serenity standing at the end of a trail of flower petals, the last thing she noticed. She felt the apprehension drain from her as she returned Serenity’s genuine smile. Her love was wearing a white fitted coat with silver embroidery and silver buttons over clean white pants, her beautiful blue hair pulled back from her face and fastened at her temples with small silver combs. Serenity was the most beautiful creature she had ever seen.

“…wha-how…..…where did you get all of this?”

Serenity held her hands out to Aurellia as the Captain quietly closed the door behind her. Aurellia walked slowly along the flower petals, trailing her right fingertips along one of the tablecloths.

“I have friends in most of the ports, it just so happens that one of them owed me a favour.”

“This is a big favour.”

“Just wait.”

“What is it all for?” Aurellia asked as she reached the end of the trail.

Serenity placed her hand on the small of Aurellia’s back and pulled her in close, “It’s all for you,” she kissed her deeply, running her free hand through Aurellia’s dusty rose hair, and letting it come to rest on the nape of her neck. Aurellia reached to undo the buttons of Serenity’s coat and Serenity broke the kiss, “Wait,” she whispered breathlessly.

The burning need that Aurellia had come to associate with the smell of Serenity’s skin, and the touch of her hands, coiled restlessly within her. “What are we waiting for?”

Serenity looked into Aurellia’s eyes and met her urgency with tenderness, “I’ve been waiting my whole life to find you,” she stroked Aurellia’s cheek with her thumb, “Everything feels right when you’re with me, and I want that feeling to last forever.” Serenity pulled a small, elegantly carved wooden box out of the breast pocket of her jacket and took a deep breath. “I want to make you my wife. I want to promise to spend every day doing whatever I can to share that feeling with you.” She opened the box to reveal a thin silver band with a moonstone in the center. “Will you be mine? Because I want to be yours – I have never wanted anything so badly in my life.”

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Overstayed Welcome

9th of Coldeven 381 ONT, 6:02am, Embassy of Pelagius, 5th Spoke 2nd Circuit, Don-Ton

THUMP THUMP THUMP

Sir Horace yawned and recollected the series of events that had led his life to the point where an Honalian Knight was answering the embassy door an hour before dawn. He waved his hand over the door, magically allowing him to see who stood on the other side and was disheartened. Two Black Guard a Don-Tonian noble and several other guardsmen literally darkened his doorstep. The young knight assured his trusty sword, the Oaken Oath, was loose in its scabbard at his belt before he opened the door.

The noble was human, with a long beak of a nose and shrewd beady little eyes, he had a well-manicured goatee to match his dark hair, and wore an emblazoned breast plate with the Don-Ton Law Guild insignia engraved into

“Good Day Sir” the noble began with a nasally voice “I am Baron Arthgull, representing the High Lords Business this day, to whom do I address?” Horace took stock of the situation, eight guardsmen in addition to the two Black Guard. He waved his hand behind the door, keeping it out of the view of the Baron and his men, this would alert the three members of the Honalian Honor Guard that resided within the embassy and allow them to start putting on armor. Whilst he did this he cleared his voice and spoke

“I am Sir Horace Altman, the Oakleaf Knight of Pelagius and personal protector of the Lady Alyss”

“Yes, I see” the Baron replied, seemingly unimpressed with whom he spoke “It is my duty to inform you that Lord Strahd von Zarrovich believes the Lady Alyss and this embassy to have been aiding terrorists within this great city. As such her diplomatic status is hereby revoked, she, and the members of this residence will be taken into custody for questioning while this contents of this house will be confiscated for evidence purposes. Please step aside and surrender your household staff and occupants to us immediately and I can assure that your lives will be spared for the time being” Horace stared hard at the little man, before allowing his eyes to drift across the two Black Guard Members and the eight well-armed city guardsmen. He took in a long breath before exhaling slowly

“No” he replied simply

“No? the man said surprised, need I point out that you are hopelessly outnumbered? I have two Black Guard and…”

“AND I AM AN HONALIAN KNIGHT HUMAN!” Horace roared with enough force that the Baron took an involuntary step back “I PASSED MY TRIALS OF KNIGHTHOOD ALMOST FIVEHUNDRED YEARS AGO, AND HAVE BEEN BATTLING FOR MY KING AND COUNTYMEN EVER SINCE!” his voice dropped to a deadly whisper “I stood alone against twelve devils in the great war, and I lived to tell the tale, do you really think eleven pathetic humans, even if two have fancy suits would cause me to turn on my honour, my oath or my duty to the Lady Alyss? How little Don-Ton understands” he spat at the ground of the Barons feet, causing the little man’s face to turn red with anger

“This is an illegal occupation now, you and your occupants are criminals of the highest orders, do not think to defy me, I will string up that whore you call a lady and…” as he spoke he whipped his rapier from its scabbard and pointed it at the Knight. The Knight did not wait for him to continue, in a singular fluid movement the Oaken Oath raced from its scabbard, Horace stepped out of the front door and cleanly thrust his sword through the throat of the Baron. His sword spun quickly flicking the blood in the faces of the on looking guards as he stepped back into the doorway of his embassy and sheathed his sword. The Baron gurgled something in surprise before dropping to the ground dead. The Black Guard roared in anger and as one drew blades and approached the doorway. As the first attempted to thrust his great sword they found something halted them, the doorway seemed to have an invisible barrier that would not allow them past. They roared again and tried attacking several times, all for not.

“I can see you gentlemen are busy, so I will leave you to it” Horace said as he closed the door and locked it, he could hear the Black Guard pounding on the barrier and knew they would not have long before the magic gave way. He turned to assess the situation, and nearly jumped out of his boots in surprise, standing at the foot of the nearby stairwell was his dear friend Rand. “Rand, you scared me half to death… when did you arrive?” His friend offered a slight grin

“Only just, I saw your door guests approaching and thought it best to come in a different way” Horace offered a nod to this

“Well, your timing is excellent, I could use a Ranger right now, or maybe three”

“One Riot, One Ranger” Rand said quoting the old Honalian adage. “We need to get everyone out of here, what is your situation?” Rand asked turning and walking with Horace towards the kitchen

“I have three Honalian Honour Guard in the house, in addition to myself, the Lady Alyss has a single Lady in waiting as well. The embassy has a cook and a few groundskeepers, but they are local and will only need to be freed from the house, not the city” Rand scratched his chin considering his friends words as Horace continued “We have stables down the street, but I would be shocked if the Don-Tonians haven’t seized our horses already” as they approached the kitchen Rand moved the kettle to the stove and much to the cooks chagrin tore a piece off of loaf of fresh bread, he spoke with his mouth half full.
“The entire city will be closed today, no way we are making it through any gates, and I dare not attempt scaling the wall in daylight with the Lady Alyss… that means if we are getting out, we are doing it by ship”

“There is still a blockade Rand, no ships are leaving the harbor…”

“Without tangling with the Don-Ton Navy, I am aware, but coin can be a powerful motivator, and that is still our best bet… how long will the magic hold?” Rand asked, Horace scratched his head thinking for a moment

“Three, maybe four hours, longer if Alyss and I feed it, less if they bring actual wizards down to drain it” Rand nodded at the assessment

“Alright then, let’s say I get two hours, three tops… I am going to slip out, get down to the docks and find us someone who is willing to run the lines, maybe rustle us up a little muscle for our run back as well.”

“I’ll inform the Lady and get her packed and ready to go, remember we are going to be well and truly surrounded by the time you get back, have a plan for extraction please.” Rand smiled at Horace

“Come on Horace, I always have a plan” he said playfully

“Really, like that time in Eiradun?”

“We both agreed that that one doesn’t count, too many mice” the two shared a laugh as Rand took a gulp of the Kaffe that had just been poured

“Honestly Rand…” Horace said sincerely “I’m glad you’re here, this one is going to get harry” Rand put his shoulder on his friends arm

“Don’t worry Horace, we’ll get her out safely, I promise” with that the Kings Ranger took one final swallow of Kaffe, straightened his bow, and turned to the basement to leave and hopefully find aid.

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Stirings pt 6

9th of Coldeven 381 ONT, 4:13am, Macey’s Buns & Bakery, 3rd Spoke 6th Circuit, Don-Ton

Please Listen While Reading

Gavroche watched the scene unfold, La Resistance was a hub of excitement as new came in from across the city.

“Covafac…” the pudgy dwarf spoke “the rumors are confirmed, a group of well-armed individuals stormed the Palace last night and killed three war wizards” Bamatabois said in a deep voice

“Add that to the fellow who attacked a Lord, killed his entourage and stole his luggage last night in the 2nd circuit and you start to see a pattern” Azelma piped in

“Don’t forget about the wild elf and the human who killed four guards and a judge two weeks back” Gavroche added. The elderly pech listened to all his informants nodding

“You are right, the people have decided that the time is now, and that they will not endure these wrongs any longer, we must act while we have the momentum. The time is now! Gavroche, go to the docks, get the unions and the labourers to equip themselves and siege any ships that can provide fire power for us against the navy. Azelma, go to the campuses, get the students armed and ready to march. Bamatabois, any of your friends in high places, the time is now. Gather your weapons all, meet at the barricades, whatever we have at the dawn is all we will have as we launch our attack then, and bring the evil reign of Strahd to an end!” Covafac lifted his cup high “FOR FREEDOM”

“FOR FREEDOM” the assembled cheered back, then the room exploded in to a flurry of movements as they prepared for the fight of their lives.


9th of Coldeven 381, 413am 4th Circuit 2nd spoke, Burton House

“Father, why are we leaving? we cannot go, I love him” Fantine pleaded as her father packed their carriage. he sweated profusely and his eyes constantly drifted to the gate. he hefted a large piece of luggage before turning back to her

“We cannot stay Fantine, the noose grows ever tighter, and this city is no longer safe for us, we must make it out the western gate before they are locked down completely, now please, I want to be there with the dawn when they open, fetch the last on your things”

“But father, what of Gavroche, I do not wish to leave him” She said, with eyes that once more melted his heart. Yuren looked at his adopted daughter with pity

“I will allow you to leave a note saying goodbye, but you musn’t leave any indication of where we are going, say your goodbyes my dear, then we will be off” he hugged her and then turned back to the task at hand.

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Bitter Tea Leaves

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

Hikaru staggered down the street. Alive he may be but he was far from whole and his injuries coupled with the lack of food and drink dulled his senses and made the word around him shift between a long, dark tunnel and a bright afternoon. The simple white robe they’d given him, as tradition demanded, was stained and streaked crimson down his back where the lashings had dug deepest. His mind fought for clarity, both for the world around him and the words now burned into his soul. Yet both were elusive enough for him to wonder if he was dreaming all this.

It was not until a cool hand touched his shoulder then the person slipped under his arm to support him and led Hikaru out of the street. Whomever it was felt cool to the touch and smelled faintly of cherry blossoms and reminded him of stolen kisses in the shadows of the gates back at the training grounds. But the walk was not far and soon he found himself being guided into a waiting carriage. The walk had cleared his mind somewhat and he turned to look at the person who had shown him kindness when none was to be given. His heart caught in his throat at the sight of her, Yukiko.

Her face glistened in the afternoon light, tracks left in the wake of dust from tears shed as she stared up at him, her face now a mask he could not penetrate. “I only want to know why. Why did you not stop when you had a way out? With the injuries Natsu had it was only a matter of bringing it to the Commander and they would have been expelled. Why give it all up? Why… why give me up?” the last had caught in her throat and Hikaru felt the weight of it press on him. He noted that she did not join him in the carriage but a part of him knew why. But could he admit it to himself? “Was your vengeance worth that much? Is it even sated now that you’ve killed their sons? Did you even stop to consider what this would do to me? To my family?”

He winced as if physically struck for she’d called him on it and he knew she was right. But he’d been so tired of it all, tired of watching them get away with everything with not a soul to raise an objection. And then when it was his best friend being mercilessly brought to the brink of death to be used as bait after having seen his father burned. Well he’d acted as he felt he must to stop the brutality and save the people closest to him. He’d thought no further than that and looking at Yukiko he knew that it had cost him more than he would ever know with her. Whatever they had, wherever it was to lead was gone. She’d mourned him in the days leading up to the trial and now had come to see him off. That Ymeri had chosen him to live and entrusted him with a quest was no comfort in this moment and he felt it would never be.

“No more,” he croaked then swallowed for the fire had burned the moisture from his throat, “I could take no more of their kind and how they abused, no usurped the very idea of our society and justice to serve their needs. If not there then they would have found a place that worked to their liking and I would be the forgotten and dead son of a traitor. Our people deserve more. The future deserves a chance to be more. You…”

Yukiko shook her head, “So vengeance was to be had no matter the cost. May it warm your nights and fill your days then Hikaru for I see what I meant to you in that. The road you choose will end the same way it started alone and facing the fires of judgement.” She turned on her heel and strode away leaving Hikaru to stare after her in shock as he felt like it would be the last time he ever saw her. “… deserved more.” He slouched in his seat watching the way she went not noticing the driver cluck to the horses and give the reins a snap. He would have cried if he had any moisture to spare.

21st of Goodmonth, 379 ONT: Yamamoto Estate outside Azulon, Fire Nation

Hikaru checked his pack for the fifth time and his bow for the tenth before sighing and pacing the room once more. His wounds were healed but the scars ached and the skin was tight and strange to the touch across his back. His escort was late and on a day when he was to steal away from the Fire Nation that was not a good sign in his eyes. His lamellar armour gleamed in the light and his boots shone like a mirror. Every stitch of clothing and gear was impeccable as if he was about to leave on a mission with his former unit. If only.

“Stop pacing and stop fretting my son. They will be here and you will be gone soon enough. Come and sit. There is tea enough for both of us.” His mother motioned to an ornate cushion on the far side of the table. “At least let me look at my son one last time before I lose him forever.”

That brought his pacing to a halt and he dropped to his knees on the offered cushion. “I’m sorry mother. I’m nervous that something had happened to them and our estate will be targeted. But you should not say things like that. We will see each other again. I go to find allies and items of power to help us remove the disease that threatens our nation. I am certain there are many who would fight for us if given the chance and opportunity to be compensated by the Fire Nation.”

She shook her head, grey hair slipping loose as she poured his tea. “But there is no us, only you alone in foreign lands with gaijin who would as soon kill you and steal your well polished armour and boots as help you. And you would need an army of tens of thousands to take even a part of the Fire Nation and the Nation would not welcome you back.” There was a long pause and Hikaru didn’t know what to say. He knew his mother had withdrawn their people from many prominent positions, giving up power to remove the threat of reprisal and keep them alive. But to be told she did not expect to see him again was too much like the parting between Yukiko and himself. They did not see what he did and could not support him in what he felt was right. He’d not spoken to his mother about the charge Ymeri had given him and feared what she might think.

“So let me look for as long as I can my son. I shall pray for your safe return for as long as I have breath and hold your memory in my heart until that day no matter how far away it is.” Hikaru nodded and sipped from his tea. He would succeed, he had no other options left to him now…

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Flurry of Time Pt 2

19th of Fireseek, southern shoal off the coast of Don-Ton

Flit and Olaf sat on their boards waiting for a wave. It was a calm day but the few waves that hit were well worth the wait.

“So do you think my dream means anything?” Flit asked the priest of Prometheus, Olaf looked hard at the Gripplie before responding

“Do you think it’s important?”

“Well, it is different than my usual dreams, so ya, I think it is, do you think it’s a sign?”

“Do you think it’s a sign?”

“I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking you” Flit said starting to get annoyed

“If you think its important than it probably is, and if you think it’s a sign then it probably is a sign”

“But what do YOU think” Flit asked with some exasperation

“I think it was your dream, and if Prometheus wanted me to look into it, he would have sent it to me… up up” he said the last nodding to an approaching wave, Flit shook his head, as he prepared for the surf, clearly Olaf would not be able to help him too much here.


Somewhere in the Evermoors, Somewhen

“You have no idea where we are” Curtis said as they stomped through what seemed like endless forest, he was tired of looking at Maul-Chaluim’s back. The wild elf said nothing and continued his steady gait. “We don’t know where we are going, we don’t know where we are, and we don’t know if we will ever see anyone again… we’re going to die” he moaned as he slowed his pace again. The elf paused, took a deep breath before turning to face Curtis

“We are not going to die… I know where we are, and how to get back… your job is to figure out where we are going. So quit whining”

“Can’t we stop and rest for the night, we have been walking forever”

“it’s only 10:30, we haven’t even been walking for two hours, now quit complaining, it is a long journey across the Evermoors, and it will go faster in silence” Maul turned and began his march again. Curtis glared at him, unimpressed with his holy quest, couldn’t he have gotten one with less walking in?


23rd of Fireseek, Harry’s Hat Emporium

Aurelia sat on a comfortable couch towards the back of Harry’s Hat Emporium as Harry dealt with a customer before their next date.

Ding

The little bell above the door tolled and out of curiosity Aurelia looked up, she saw two hulking figures in black full plate armor enter the shop, she had seen the Black Guard before, she felt the air in the room noticeably cool by several degrees as a shivers ran down her spine. Behind them walked none other than Lord Drumpf. She only had a moment to think, and decided quickly ducking behind a stack of shelves and pulling a hat tower in front of her. She could see the front from her vantage but was well shielded, and watched in horror as a Black Guard grabbed the human whom Harry had been working with and forcefully evicted him from Harry’s Shop. The other Black Guard flipped the open sign to closed and locked the door as Lord Drumpf began wandering deeper into the shop ideally looking at various hats.

“Welcome to Harry’s Hat Emporium Lord Drumpf, How can I be of help to you today, perhaps a new bowler?” Harry said, if he was angry it was well hidden in his temperament.

“One of my minions has performed well, he is an excellent minion, one of the best, really just a terrific guy. So I told him I would get him a gift” Drumpf said picking up an expensive top hat, and then shrugging while tossing it on the floor. Here Harry noticeably frowned.

“I see My Lord, and what type of hat do you suppose this person enjoy most?” Harry said with forced courtesy. Drumpf continued walking through the shop, stopping in front of Aurrellia’s hiding spot and removing a hat before turning towards Harry

“You mistake me Harry,” he said dropping the sun hat on the floor and crushing it under his boot “I don’t want a hat, I am looking for another gift entirely… you see my minion, great guy by the way, he did something really great, really terrific, and there is just one thing he wants… you see his is a bit of a collector, he collects things, gathers them, put them together, he is a big fan of sets, HUGE fan of sets…” Aurrellia’s heart was pounding as the Lord spoke, she could tell that Harry could see her, Drumpf had ruined her hiding spot, but she worried that if she moved she might be heard, she held her breath as the Lord continued. “… loves the sets… anyway, he has half a set right now, and needs the rest to complete it, that’s where you come in Harry” Drumpf walked back across the room crushing the top hat he had previously dropped.

“I’m not sure I follow my Lord, if you don’t want a Hat, I can’t see what kind of set I could be of aid with” Harry replied. Lord Drumpf walked within ten feet before stopping

“I need a girl, a very specific girl, a very important girl, she completes a set for my good minion you see… and I am told that you can deliver her to me.”

“Forgive me my Lord, but I am not in the business of trafficking….”

“Yes Yes Yes,” Drumpf interrupted “I am sure you are all squeaky clean, and don’t commit crimes at all…. I want Aurrellia Ouellette … also known as Claireece” Aurrellia’s heart dropped into her stomach as she watched this unfold.

“Aurora you say? Can’t say I know any Aurora’s My Lord” Harry said after looking confused for a moment.

“Shame” Drumpf said as he shook his head in disappointment. “Hurt Him” before anyone could move one of the Black Guard grabbed the ancient antique desk that served as a customer counter, pulled it from the ground with unfathomable ease and slammed it into Harry smashing several racks along the way. Harry went down pinned to the ground under the weight of the desk and the Black Guard leaning on it. The second Black Guard stepped forward and let loose a kick that would have taken the head off a lesser man, as it was Aurrelia could Harry’s nose was clearly broken, perhaps his jaw as well. The Black Guard who had kicked him reached down and grabbed Harry by his hair and held his head up so he was once again looking at Drumpf. Aurrellia reached to her belt and slowly drew her pistol getting ready to come to his aid, she made eye contact with Harry and saw the most subtle of head shakes, he was warning her back. “I’m disappointed Harry, I thought the customer was always right” Drumpf said as he kicked Harry in the face, this time the salesmen didn’t even wince, a kick from Drumpf was nothing compared to the force that the Black Guard had just unleashed, as if noticing this for the first time, Drumpf spoke to his guards “Break his left foot” with a thundering crack that made Aurrellia feel sick to her stomach Harry screamed out in pain

“ARRRRHHHHHH!!! YOU CAN’T DO THIS, I AM A PROTECTED MAN, PWELL WILL HEAR OF THIS!” Drumpf leaned in to Harry and spit in Harry’s bloody face.

“You think I care about your little protections? Try it, and I will wipe your from existence you, you, you rug in waiting” the Lord let out a flurry of savage kicks to Harry’s face before seeing an iron hat rack, he seized the item and continued to savage the fallen beaten man. “I’m going away on a little trip, some important business, You have until the 9th of Coldeven to deliver the girl to my estate, if she isn’t there when I get back, you and everyone who ever knew you dies, and just to make sure you don’t run of flee town or cause any troubles, my friend here…” he paused while one of the Black Guard delivered a staggering blow across his Harry’s face “will stay with you until the job is done” Lord Drumpf stood up straight and stretched, he took the opportunity to smash a few more cabinets and mirrors before nodding to his men that they were done. The three left the shop, one Black Guard noticeably standing directly outside the front door. Aurellia hurried across the room and helped pulled the heavy desk of Harry, unsure what they were going to do next.

End of Part 2

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Hiro-ic Meetings Pt2

He’d watched Mandy go a faint smile on his lips as he closed the door and turned back to the small brazier. The flickering light played across the elegant lines of the bow and he traced it with calloused fingers both relieved and marveling at the craftsmanship that went into its repair. It was a part of him, this bow, and it had served him faithfully for many years. To have almost lost it was like losing a part of oneself, a part that one might never recover. And yet she had made it and him whole again. He sighed and set it aside. Kneeling once more he bent his head in meditative prayer. With the arrival of Kaho Homura and the message she carried, his burdens had increased manifold. Instead of fighting against a few tyrannical nobles he now had the impossible task of removing the ruler of the Fire Nation in order to save it. And that was after he found the impossible to find Phoenix and did what? Have a chat with it? beg it for help? Fight it? He still did not know and yet he would not stop trying for such was his devotion to Ymeri.

But how could he even think that far ahead when the attempts on his life continued unabated here in Don Ton. Nothing productive was to be gained by defeating more of these assassins save for making the Cleaning Crews in town richer. He needed to act and decisively if he was to break free of this trap before it claimed him or worse those on the Champion’s Boot that he’d grown fond of. Leaving would save his friends but doom himself. Staying meant they faced dangers they should not for his sake. And so he prayed to Ymeri for guidance, for a chance to slip the noose and do her bidding. But like it had been for a while, no answer was forthcoming. Not that he expected one. This was his path to walk and these were his trials to overcome.

Hours later he emerged from the cabin, the entirety of his possessions packed again and a small bundle wrapped under one arm. First he went below deck to reclaim his small bench and bunk before seeking Mandy out. It turned out more difficult than first expected as she was not the type to sit still for too long and in the hours he’d been meditating she’d finished up and left the Boot for the Captain’s place. So he penned a note and left his gift and the note on her bunk to be found later. He was due back at the Stadium soon and couldn’t wait for her return.

Mandy,
Thank you, truly. Words do not do justice to what you have done for me and I am humbled by your generosity and spirit. Though the path that led me to the Champion’s Boot and to meet you was one of chance spurred by need and necessity I am thankful that it has given me the chance to meet and know you. Please accept this as a small token of my thanks for all you have done and a promise. Ask me what you would and I will answer honestly. I do not think I am deserving of the level of trust you place in me but I will return it in kind. And one day I shall do more for you.
Your friend,
Hiro

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Flurry of Time Pt 1

A Series of Updates between Sunnsebb and Coldeven


23rd of Sunnsebb Port of Don-Ton

“ya see Mate, isn’t she beautiful? Maybe one or two more folk, tight runs, just enough to keep us moving, no more” Leslie said with a tone of wistfulness. Ungle appraised the beaten up little ship

“she’s tiny, Jonathan is gonna mess her lines sitting up front there” Ungle said a little skeptical. He leaned heavily on Leslie still, he could not walk far without assistance still.

“Ya, he’ll give the bigger ships a second thought about messing with us, might take a little work to get her sea worthy, but when she is… we’ll be unstoppable”

“Get her Seaworthy? Meaning she’s currently not….”

“Not as such… no” the two shared a grin before Ungle spoke again

“So, what are you gonna name her?”

“The Backthrust” he said, Ungle chuckled at the name

“I like it”


*
27th of Sunnsebb, Champions Boot*

Thitmed looked over his assembled crew. He was a little sad that the Captain had not been able to make the ceremony, but being in port had taken a toll on the elf, he had more bad days then good when in dock. the Dwarf straightened and approached Leslie giving him a brisk salute and then a hardy handshake.

“Mr. Cane, Mr. Ungle you are relieved from duty with honour from the Champions Boot, may the wind be forever at your back” he paused a few moments before saluting again and speaking to his crew “It is with great honour that the Crew of the Champions Boot welcomes our honoured guests, Captain Cane of the Forward Thrust, and his First Mate, Mr. Ungle, Attention!” the crew snapped into attention saluting the two; Thitmed dismissed them from formality and allowed the cask of rum to be brought to the deck as well as Hatrutt and Hiro’s latest creations, he had gone so far to dip into the ships coffers to hire a bard for the evening, it was more than a normal departure warranted, but Thitmed would miss these boys, they were closer to family then crew and he wanted them to know that they always had a home to return to, no matter how the seas treated them.


28th of Sunnsebb, Champions Boot, Miriels Nest

The note was scrawled in Prancers Prefect neat hand writing, how very much like him

My Perfect Miriel,

I apologies for my cowardice in using a letter, I have not the constitution to do this face to face. I am a broken man, no longer whole, and a daughter of a Yaxen deserves far better then a broken self loathing man. I will find my own way home, and wish you safest journey’s on your way to yours. I have nothing left to offer, and am in all things a failure.

Yours
Harold Forbes


29th of Sunnsebb, Belinda’s Quarters, Don-Ton

“Welcome Thalion, welcome” she said warmly inviting the elf into her apartment. “I am happy you could make it” Thalion nodded hanging his cloak on the nearby hook and entering the cheery apartment she had been residing in for the winter.

“Thank you for inviting me” the Halfling smiled to him as she brought him tea and invited him further in.

“The Captain makes few coherent requests these days, when he said he wanted to see you today and promptly at 9, well I couldn’t refuse…” she ushered toward the room that had been set aside for the Captain. “Best not the keep him waiting”

Thalion entered the room of the Captain, the room was warm with a brazier running, the Captain lay in a bed, he looked skinny and gaunt, much of the zeal seemed to have fled the ancient one, and his hurt his heart to see an elder in such sorrow. The Captain stirred, and the for a moment the fog in his eyes lifted as they locked onto Thalion

“Veni Ilvanya Alfirin melius nosti. Haec dies magni diei, quae numquam oblivione delebitur.” Thalion approached the Captain and knelt beside his bed as the Captain spoke. “Non facile est invenire qui quod sciat Ms. Featherfoot eam trade et bene factu est comparare sibi a Domino Gardens of Pepsica.” The Captain pointed to a dresser and urged Thalion to open the top drawer. The elven knight did and was surprised at what he saw. An Elven Maxillaria Orchid. “Gere audacter Ilvanya Alfirin, … propter nomen tuum sicut te vincula victura dum spes est cor tuum in superbiam porro populum ferrent iuvenes spe… Felix natalis”

2nd of Fireseek, Champions Boot

Was she a wolf? She looked like a wolf, she was stuck in a wolves body, but it felt like a disguise, like a costume she was wearing? Who was she? What was she? Aurelia didn’t know.

10th of Fireseek Champion’s Boot
“Sir Thalion, it is with great joy and pride that we promote you to the position of Mate” Thitmed said with pride saluting and shaking hands
“Flit Fargazer, it is with great joy and pride that we promote you to the position of Bosun” Thitmed said offering a salute and hardy handshake

“Aurellia Ouellette, it is with great joy and pride that we promote you to the position of Master Gunner” Thitmed said offering a salute with hardy Handshake

“Mr. Fargazer, Mr. Thalion I need a new Cabin boy, and three new ABS’s please get our crew up to snuff. I will have final approval over your picks, but I want you two to weed out the unsavory ones. Ms. Ouellette, Captain Cane has purchased Jonathan from our ship, please make your recommendations to Ms. Featherfoot on how we should replace our ships firepower, also oversee the installation of the new unit, and set up the ships defenses and guard rotation. Congratulations all, now get to work”


13th of Fireseek, Kitchen Stadium

They were in the final three teams, things were heating up… between the steady attempts of sabotage and two more attempts on his life, things were getting difficult, another two weeks and is duty to Hatrutt would be done, then Hiro would need a new plan on how to keep moving forward.


17th of Fireseek, Champions Boot

“Mr. Hiro sir?” the knock on the door was very light, Hiro had almost missed it, but he stepped away from the burning brazier to answer. Things had been quiet over the last two days, he preferred to be alone and respect the Celebration of Fire in his own way. He opened the door to his quarters… well not any more, since he had stepped down he was supposed to have only a hammock, thankfully Aurrellia had been in no hurry to move, and so for the time being he was still good. Mandy stood in his doorway read cheeked eyes down.

“What can I do for you Mandy?” he said his voice soft as he looked at the girl

“Well sir, ya see, I was well….” She took a deep breath getting ready to get something important off her chest

“Ilookedthroughthecaptainsrecordsandsawitwasyourbirthdayandsoikindafixedyourbowsorryforbreakingyourprivacybuthappybirthday” with that the girl thrust a wrapped object in his hands and turned hurrying down the hall and up onto the deck, cheeks bright red and ears flushed. Hiro looked down at the package, he opened it and marveled at the work that had been done. She had painstakingly rebuilt his bow by hand, adding new pieces in traditional Fire Nation techniques, she must have been working on this for weeks, it was beautifully done, possibly better then before, it was a masterful gift, worthy of a King, and his heart swelled knowing that it had been made for him in friendship. He would need to find a way to thank her.

End of Part 1
__

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Hiro-ic Meetings Pt1

Hiro waited for the others to leave the mage’s quarters but made no move to leave. “Look, if you want to know more about that bow or any of this other stuff you are going to need to leave it with me for a while. I can’t just conjure answers at the drop of a hat.” Kriegier stared down at Hiro clearly done with visitors. “So, if that is all…” The mess that filled the room slowly slid back into place partially covering Hiro in documents and books.

Shaking his head and freeing himself from the pile Hiro stood. “No, that is not all. In a city where honour is a word few know the true meaning of fate has led our paths to cross. I would not let this chance go to waste. So I ask you a boon or a debt of someone who sees you as trustworthy and a friend. Come with me, join the crew of the Champion’s Boot and we can ensure your mother gets what she needs. But beyond that I need people I can trust. In the coming months, if we are successful in finding the Phoenix, I fear an even larger threat looms on the horizon and one I cannot face alone.”

During his time in Don Ton it had become deadly clear that to be alone was to die and in doing so fail his family, his people and his god. Hiro could not allow that to happen and so he was reaching out to those he felt he could trust to gain the resources he would need to take back his home. “The Fire Nation is being consumed from within. There are many who twist it to serve them and in doing so endanger not only my people of the Fire Nation but those beyond its borders. Pride, greed, a thirst for power? Or something more sinister is at work. Kempai Kaho Homura has found me and the news she brings is dire. So I ask of you to join the crew and lend me your strength so that I may cleanse my nation and bring stability back to my people. If successful I would do everything I can to repay you. I’m certain there are things worth knowing within my nation’s borders that you may not have access to.”

Hiro sighed and shook his head. “I’ve nothing to give you that you don’t already have or have access to and will not renege on my promise about the Phoenix. I have no access to magic, nor anything magical beyond this bow but if it would serve as payment for your services I would gladly give it up and more. Name your price and let me know and I will do all I can to see it paid. Please think it over Kreigier.” With that said Hiro bows low and leaves the mage’s quarters. He had much more to do before their time in Don Ton was done and this was only but a piece of the puzzle he was trying to assemble. He was hoping for an immediate agreement for it would give him more leverage going into his next meeting but Hiro wasn’t about to delay things with the captain any longer.

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Dreams

Flit tossed and turned in his sleep, the dreams haunted him

A ship

A ship filed with men

A ship filed with men dressed in red and black

A ship filled with Fire Nation Men

A ship filled with Fire Nation men in a harbor

A ship filled with Fire Nation men in Rehumes harbor

A ship filled with Fire Nation men explodes in Rehumes harbor

An exploded ship in the Rehume Harbor has Fire Nation men pouring out

The water is on fire, the buildings are on fire, the men tear through the streets murdering women and children, guards and warriors. Hundreds are killed in the raid. Rehumes largest ship yard is in ruins.

Then black

Not black, a very dark room, a dark that no vision can easily penetrate. The only light comes from a crystal ball, it castes a dim glow of the fires of Rehume Harbor. A man stands over the crystal ball looking down upon it. He is tall and well-muscled from behind. He looks up, like he knows he is being watched he turns.

IT’S STRAHD

Flit’s eyes popped open, if Grippli could sweat he would be as his little heart raced. It was like no dream he had ever had before, and it chilled him to his very core

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The End of the Begining or the Beginning of the End, PT 3

Leslie looked at the mayhem that the ally displayed. Four dead guards, two unconscious, a dead judge, a frightened gnome and Halfling and an unconscious wild elf who was quickly bleeding out.
.

“You killed a judge, a JUDGE! They will be here in swarms soon!” the Gnome was starting to freak out. Leslie nodded grimly pulling his dagger and walking to the two unconscious guards. With the efficiency and skill of a seasoned killer he drew the blade across their throats ending their lives. He turned to the Gnome and Halfling pointing the knife at them.

.

“Take your coat, tear it up, apply pressure to his wounds… stay with him until I get back” Leslie was a seasoned officer he knew from the looks on their faces that his orders would be followed, he wiped the blood off his knife on the cloak of a dead guard, spared a few moments to take their coin pouches. And then hurried out of the ally and back up the street to the house he’d been at. He pulled the key from his pocket and entered. The room was bathed in a warm glow of far too many candles. The lush reds of curtains and carpets contrasted with the maple furniture that had been polished to a fine shine. The room screamed comfort and content.

.

“OMG Leslie, what is going on out there!” the voice game from a well-manicured man in a thick white fur bedding robe. “I heard gun shots, are you ok” each time the man spoke it appeared that he was closer and closer to stepping of the edge and falling into a sea of panic.

.

“Be calm Dillion…” Leslie said as he looked around the room and sighed coming to an unpleasant decision. “I need you to go… now”. Dillion cocked his head to the side in a look of surprise and mild shock

.

“Go? Go where? And at this hour? I’m not even dressed!” he said ushering to his state of near undress, “Besides… we were going to cuddle and…”

.

“There’s no time! Out the back door. NOW!” the words were barked, with the force of an order, and Leslie watched and noted with self-loathing the point where Dillions heart broke. He steeled himself and moved forward, roughly grabbing the man by his arm and escorting him to the back window. He opened the window as he spoke “you can come back after lunch tomorrow”.

.

“I can’t believe you… I never… How dare you…” Dillion stammered as he was pushed out into the street and ejected from his own home. Leslie didn’t respond, he slammed the window and locked it. Casting his gaze across the room. The kettle was already bubbling away, they had plans for tea. He hurriedly pulled out some bedding and sheets to cover the sofa and carpeting before turning and heading back into the street to fetch Ungle and the little ones.
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