Balance

Cold Shadows

Time: Unknown: Great Tree of the Goddess of the Night Wind, Throne Room

Ariuk sat and tentatively sipped from her goblet as she once again entertained the Lord Talib; whom patiently awaited the arrival of the Goddess. Things had not been going well since he had arrived. When the Goddess was gone Ariuk had thought she had total dominion over the plane, her powers had confirmed that as she had been able to conjure food, control the temperature the weather and create whatever was requested or needed. Things were somehow different now. For one she noted as she sipped the wine; it had changed, her preference had always been for the lighter chardonnays. Instead now every bottle poured was a thick room temperature merlot. The wine was bitter and had metallic notes, but Lord Talib and his retinue seemed to love the stuff… “A texture that reminds us of lost mortality” he would say whenever he took a sip. Other things had begun to change as well… the leaves on the great Oak had turned yellow and red; Aruik had not planned for it to be autumn and yet autumn came. The temperature inside and out seemed to drop as well. Aruik had willed the temperature up, had conjured wood for fire places and kept them roaring, but still, there was a distinct wet chill in the air. Aruik looked around the dining hall, the colour had seemed to have drained from the room over time, everything here was in shades of grey or very muted; the instruments never seemed to hold a tune and when they were played, their sound became more grating then joyful, it was not long before they were largely ignored. Aruik had found that over time she just didn’t seem to be able to do anything right; the raptors had become less settled and more feral, and even her commands could barely keep them in line. This lists of what before had been friendly requests from new souls joining the afterlife now became an endless series of complaints and demands. S’Nara rarely came home, and often when she did, she was to worried, tired or injured to speak, she would skulk to her quarters hiding under quilts until the goddess summoned her away once more to do battle with her enemies.

“A lovely evening Ordinal Ariuk, we again thank you for being such a dedicated host to us” The Lord Talib send while raising his glass across the table to her. His ghoulish companions who ranged from absurdly pale to grotesque murmured similar sentiments raising their glasses in turn. Ariuk could to little more than nod. Her will to banter to chat, to even be gracious had all seemed to drain away. What was wrong with her? She should have sat on the Throne today, should have checked in on Curtis or Hagnon or even a few of the others, but instead she couldn’t bring herself to do it, it just seemed so, so… so hard.

“What is wrong with me” she managed to mumble as her hand held her way to heavy head up from the table, her hair drooping into her face.

“It is quite simple My Lady, if you think about it” Her question had been rhetorical, she had not expected Lord Talib to answer. She mustered the dredges of her will power and managed to lift her head up to look at him. He was handsome, and well dressed, sitting straight and tall and the far side of the table. He seemed to take eye contact as a que to continue. “You are dying… this entire place is… but you will go first I am afraid… I have seen it before”. It shocked her, shocked her to her core; had he poisoned her? Was she under attack, instinct caused her hand to raise to her back where her great sword often hung, but she recalled it was not there, she had left it by the throne days ago, as it had been too heavy to haul around.
“You?” she managed to croak out? “You’re doing this?” her words were met with laughter, the sound was pitch perfect to any bards laugh and yet there was a hanging sense of malic within it.

“I… no, I have not killed you…” he said standing and walking towards the poor Ordinal “Allow me to surmise it for one of your… special intellect” he offered placing a hand on her back… she could not suppress the shudder and chill that ran through her. “I have not killed you dear Ariuk… your Goddess has; you are as a flower, delicate and fragile, and she is your Sun… without her you will weaken and fade… perhaps in the presence of other deities that… accelerates; but it is the same on most planes. It hurts me to say it Ariuk, but your Goddess does not love you; she has abandoned you for her own pleasures and whims, and you face a very difficult time… unmaking is the most painful of deaths… as I have been led to believe” he mused stroking his beard as he contemplated it.

“no…” she had meant it as a yell of defiance; it surfaced as a whisper of despair “She loves me?” again she had not meant it to be a question, but it came out as such.

“She is a God, Ariuk… you are but a thing, perhaps one of her favourite things, but a thing none the less, and when you are no longer useful she will just conjure another to replace you…” He looked around the room “The plane is somewhat primitive… not had for a first try, but lacking in depth and emotion… perhaps she chose for this plane to be wiped out so she could start fresh without having to look at her mistakes every day”

“no…” Ariuk said, meaning to stand up and slap the man for speaking that way about her Goddess, but she fell from her chair her legs having no power in them as she fell to the cold stone floor. ‘Why was the floor of a tree stone?’ she thought to herself as she lay there tangled in her own wings and legs… perhaps it was a poor design… perhaps she was”

“It is a shame Ariuk… you were not unpleasant to look at…” Lord Talib said walking out of her view “Don’t get up… I can show myself to my quarters… while they still last” he laughed with a few of his servants as she heard them leave the table and walk out of the hall, talking excitedly among themselves. Her head drifted looking at the throne… why had the Goddess abandoned her… why?

She mustered the last of her will and forced herself to crawl forward, inching her way across the throne room desperate to reach the mighty throne. She was near exhausted when she reached it. She did not have the strength to sit in the throne… did not know if the Goddess’s Throne still had any power in it. But she placed one hand on the armrest and called out with her thoughts.

“Curtis…. Curtis… Pray For Help… Pray Curtis” her hand slumped down as for the first time since being created to lost consciousness against her will.

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Party at Kitty and Stud's Pt 1

Please Listen While Reading

I looked over my crew from the bridge, there was quiet music and soft smiles and random embraces. Normally I would discourage any large social gathering from happening on deck, that’s what the mess hall was for. After the intense emotional experience of the circle of happiness people were reluctant to be apart. I could understand that and their was something magical about seeing our home hanging in the black around us like a large blue and green jewel surrounded in stars. I would give them this; Valeria’s sweet tones danced across the deck and Teagan’s rough alto hummed along behind me at the wheel. My heart was still heavy with the loss of Thorbil and Jono but with the haunts gone I could stand straighter and feel hope. You could almost see the bonds between the crew, everyone getting along and celebrating together. HIkari mingled with a tray of what smelled like sweet pastries fresh baked. George was following her trying to convince a laughing crew to enjoy the dried kale and steamed pine nuts he was offering. My eyes caught on the one person who was alone off to the side like he couldn’t stand the joy, his small shoulders were hunched against the rail and he stared off toward the moon we’d left behind.

“Teagan, the bridge is yours.”

“Aye Captain.” She replied crisply with a salute to match. I took the stairs quickly but was careful to mingle my way through the crowed. They deserved this. I clapped Cassidy on the shoulder and accepted a hug from Debora. I stepped around Willhym and Aurelia who appears to be passionately discussing the merits of one pistol over another.

“Croissant Captain? It’s filled it with chocolate gnosh drizzle.” Hikari held her tray forward. My stomach rumble at the thought of anything not a pine nut. I’m stronger than this. I am a goddam knight I have been through worse. “no thank you.” I swallowed

Hikari leaned in, “Thaden is dancing with Valaria, he won’t even notice.” She winked.

“your apprentice is rubbing off on you. It’s how you behave when no one is looking that defines you.” I joked. She just rolled her eyes and made to move past me, allowing the tray to liner under my nose for a few more seconds “sorry Hakari, I wanted to ask you something.” I inhaled the delicious scent she continued to waft towards me.

“of course, Captain,” she said standing a little straighter.

“please enjoy your evening, but first thing tomorrow I need you to prioritize a couple things for me. I’m worried about Jessie’s Bow. Please work with her, help her strengthen her mind to it. Also, please keep me appraised if it could become dangerous to her or us.”

“Not to worry, Captain we’ve been meeting daily since Rick brought his concerns to me, I have a few ideas to restore some form of communication as well, though those will have to be on hold until we return to High Port and I can do a little more research” I smiled at her.

“You said two things?” she asked, trailing off at the end of her question

“Its this bond, the Dumantheon five, it’s been itching about me. It allowed us to kill the brain but it felt more like we used brute strength to force it rather than the items themselves. I believe they can do more… I don’t know if they need more thorough identifying or if we need to train to use them together. Beginning tomorrow I want the five of us to train together every day, and please examine the items more, if we haven’t figured it out by the time we get back we’ll hit the libraries and research.”

“of course,” she repeated, pausing a moment before asking “Thalion?”

“yes?” I replied, missing the use of my first name over my rank

“Make sure you remember to enjoy yourself too, safe harbors are few and far between.” She said scooping up one of her own croissants and taking a bite. It was my turn to roll my eyes at her.

“Please Hikari, this is fun for me.” We shared a smile and she went about her way, a laugh hiding in her eyes. I saw the Josiah further down the deck and worked my way towards him. “Boulder?” He smiled at me and toasted a ceramic cup of rum towards me.

“Captain, what a lovely gathering you are hosting. The Old Stone would smile upon it with pride and dignatude” he said. I offered a smile as I settled beside him on the wooden crate he’d perched himself on.

“It is indeed, thank you, without the help of your circle of happiness we wouldn’t be able to enjoy this fine evening.”

“Thanks be to Aryzull.” He gestured his cup toward Argyle this time. I nodded toward Maddox holding himself outside the revelry.

“If I may ask, why didn’t it help Maddax?”

“Captain Thalion,” his eyes saddened for a moment, “not all afflictions can be cured by magic. It sounds like your brave goblin has been through quit an ordeal. The Old Stone may have removed his Haunts but his friends will need to remind him how to live.”

“I don’t know if I can help him, I’ve spent the past year trying to convince him that he is worthy. I look up to him you know? Whenever I’m conflicted I can look to him and know what the right thing to do is. I’m a better knight and a better Captain for knowing him.” Josiah clasped my shoulder and smiled gently,

“Perhaps you should tell him that.” He stood and called towards George, “Alright you’ve convinced me good sir, I will try them.” A cheer rose from those who stood around him. I raised slowly and walked over to my friend, I leaned back on the railing facing him. His shoulders tensed like he was expecting something unpleasant or a series of orders.

“It’s a beautiful night, I never knew the world could look like this.” I gestured toward the planet in from of the ship. He offered a dedicated nod, but there was no emotion in it. I leaned closer

“In my office there are a couple of Underhill cigars and a cask of Silver Beard Whisky I’ll need some help with.” He looked up with a spark of interest in his eye, but also that of doubt.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer Mr. Fargazer or Ms. Ouellette for such a task Captain?” he asked in a tentative voice.

“I can honestly think of no one else in the entire void I would rather have for this particular mission Maddax” I said, a grin starting to appear.

“That sounds like something I can help my Captain with. Give me a minute to check in with the watch I’ll be right there.” He said, excitement coming into his voice for the first time in a very long time. I gave him my assent and turned towards my cabin, hoping those cigars had indeed survived the moist atmosphere of the moon.

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Burdens Shared

34th of Goodmonth 383ONT, Champions Fist, Voyage Home from Lunar Mission 9:12am, Bow Deck.

Please Listen While Reading

Boulder Josiah Alden looked over the chalk lines for the circle one last time assuring he had drawn it correctly. He had never caste this spell before; the fact remained that this was not a spell that The Great Granite usually offered him; but considering their circumstances on this one occasion the mighty Aryzull had seen it in his heart to allow him to cure this crew of the evils that haunted them. He scattered the crushed jade around the perimeter and nodded to the Captain who had assembled the entire crew.

“We have all come a long way, and walked a difficult road” The Captain said in a loud booming voice “It’s time to remove some of the burdens we have all been carrying for too long… every crew member and passenger will walk through the circle… That is an order.” The Captain said turning and nodding back to Josiah. He took his que and finished the final casting causing the chalk, jade and other components to coalesce into a single glowing line that wrapped in on itself to create a cheery circle. He stood on the far side of the circle looking at Deborah, Hugh, Nathan and Douglas; the first of the crew set to go, he equipped a smile on his face and warmly invited them forward. Douglas entered the circle first; the crew let out a collective gasp of shock as they saw the haunt, a fair-sized creature, comprised of darkness and malice was pulled from Douglas and expelled into nothingness. The ships guard staggered as the creature was pulled from him; he looked surprised and confused as he stood in the circle. Josiah knew what to do, he again reached forward, taking the guards hand and gently guided him to the other side of the circle, clasping in him on the back and eliciting a cheer from the group.

The Powder Monkey, Deborah, seemed nervous, she had seen the ugly creature pulled from Douglas, and didn’t want something like that to come from her. Josiah’s heart melted as he saw the older rigger Hugh take a knee beside the girl and look at her at eye level.

“We’ll go it together girl… together or nots at all… what do ya say, will ya take a stroll with yer old pal Hugh?” he asked offering both his hands to her. She looked at him and jumped forward throwing her hands around him in a giant hug. The two shared their moment before Hugh stood, taking her little hand in his large grubby one and they walked forward. They both again shuddered as they entered the circle, the haunts ripped from them and exorcized. Deborah began to sob, but Hugh picked her up and kept walking forward. “Worst of it’s past darling… we’re almost done” he whispered as he walked her through the rest of the circle and brought her over to Josiah who met them both with an embrace of warmth and congratulations.

So it continued, each member of the crew stepping into the circle, each having a haunt expelled, some larger than others, but none were lacking as they worked through the process. They were two thirds of the way through the crew when Josiah saw the little Goblin Guard Captain step up, it was his turn. He had a grim look on his face, one of unwilling obligation, but ever comprised of duty he dared not defy his Captain. The Goblin stepped into the circle, he began to scream immediately as he tried to push forward, but the haunt within was tenacious, it would not give up easily… Josiah, on instinct reached forward and placed his hand on the circle, offering extra magic to bolster it… the goblin tried to push forward again but Josiah could see, his magic wouldn’t be enough. To his left he saw a delicate hand reach out. Hikari placed her hand on the edge of the circle bolstering its power with her own spells. Josiah could hear the delicate tones of Valeria singing out encouragement as she lovingly placed a hand on both Hikari’s and his own shoulders offering her strength and heart to them. The crew seeing their Goblin friend again try to stagger forward quickly caught on. Mandy and Taaj held hands and put them on the circle pouring love and compassion in. Miriel and Aurelia knelt at the far side funneling their own powers forward. Maddax had tears streaming down his face and sweat on his brow as he tried again to move into the circle and expel his haunt.

“You got this Maddax, we’re here for you!” Flit called to him offering support

“I believe in you Maddax of Eltara” Thaden echoed, bringing a spur of support from various crew members. At last the Captain stepped forward and took the hand of his squire.

“Simul” he whispered, using the elven word for “together” The two pushed forward, through the bolstered circle. The Haunt was huge, larger by twice then the hulking Flit as it ripped from the poor goblin. Maddax screamed in anguish as it left him and fell to his knees sobbing. Thalion wrapped him in a hug and held him there, whispering words in elven that were lost to Josiah and the assembled crowd. The Boulder watched in awe as not a member of the crew mocked the goblin or turned away in disgust at the display before them. Instead this was a family, that banded ever tighter together to face the hardship that they would overcome, all or none. He reached to his own eyes and was not entirely surprised that he was crying. Even at Chistles Point, in the temples of the Great Beneath he’d never felt love or comradery like this before; it took away his words. He looked up at Valeria and Hikari, the former still singing softly.

“I… I’ve never…” he stammered trying to find the words for what he was feeling. Hikari offered him a gentle smile and a clasp on the back

“welcome home Boulder Josiah, welcome to the family” she said. His throat was too tight for words, he merely nodded and looked back to the Captain helping the Goblin Knight to his feet and helping him through the circle to the adeliades and cheers of joy from the crew. Things were different now… Josiah didn’t know how, but something monumental had just changed in his life, he knew on his death bed he would look back to this moment and know it was when he had begun to walk a different path… and he was glad for it.

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Music of Dreams

33rd of Goodmonth 383ONT, Champions Fist, Voyage Home from Lunar Mission 8:41pm, Hikari’s Quarters.

Valeria Mistborn lay strew across the bed of Hikari Anakmoto, her head on the pillows and he let leg stretched up and rested against the wall of the built in bunk, her only decency was the lute that lay in her lap as she ideally plucked the strings. As her fingers ideally ran up and down the four strings, trying to find a new melody hidden within the illusive chords of G, A minor and F; she inhaled the comforting smell of the room. Sandalwood and Lemongrass, Hikari always had some on hand and it brought a calm comforting feeling to the cramped quarters. For once the two were alone, though she missed poor Thorbil dearly she had to admit that the increased space in the quarters was nice. Tar-di was off, likely trying to turn the ship into a real dragon or something, she was sure the two of them would be summoned away soon, but for the moment she could relax and enjoy the solitude with her love.

Plink, Pling, Pling

She played a few stray notes and watched the shadows that were cast by the low burnt candles dance around the room as her love stooped at her desk pouring over yet another item that the Captain wanted identified. She wore but a simple night robe, one that was not tied and made devilish thoughts spring back to my, she had been well sated; but that was nearly twenty minutes ago, and they were so rarely alone, why not have some fun? She struck a chord, and a little tingle of wind kicked up blowing out the candle that Hikari was leaning beside to study her item. The shadows thickened and Valeria had to fight to supress her laughter. Hikari looked up and grumbled about the draft, with a snap of her fingers the candle sprung back to life; then being a positive drain on any fun she dropped her eyes and went back to work. Valeria was not easily turned away however and again plucked the same magic chord that once more caused the candle to extinguish. This time Hikari caught on, she turned to face Valeria, backlit by the two remaining candles.

“Are we bored?” Hikari asked with only a hint of annoyance in her voice.

“Maybe, come back to bed, you can play with the Magic items later” Valeria said offering a sultry come hither look. She could see the half elf was tempted, but also saw the look of duty pass across her lovers face before Hikari responded

“The Captain needs this done, and I have a to-do list a mile long… We shouldn’t have… you know… before. I most certainly can’t take the rest of the night off” Hikari explained. Valeria made a face of disappointment.

“Well at least talk to me as opposed to murmuring to yourself, we both know that you have already figured this stuff out, and you are just confirming… do we have sit in silence while you do it?” Hikari’s shoulders slumped in defeat

“Fair enough, what shall we discuss?” she asked, receiving another face from Valeria… Hikari was not good a splitting focus; when she was doing business everything was all business, including how she conducted conversations with her love.

“I know,” Valeria offered, plucking another two chords absently “What do you want to do when we get back to Argyle?” she asked with some enthusiasm. Hikari had relit the candle and turned back to her work table. She pulled back her hair tying it back so it would not fall into her face while she thought about the answer.

“I don’t know… I suppose we will need to see Erindale and report on what happened, then I guess we will have to look into Leslie and what happened to his crew, so probably back to Honastica… I wouldn’t mind going to the Fire Nation, I have business there that I have been neglecting for too long… oh and there is the Bendu training with…”

“No No No… you are truly impossible sometimes, you know that right?”

“What?” Hikari asked defensively

“First, there is a beautiful naked elf in your bed and you opt to stare at magical items instead… but let’s leave that for a moment. I ask you what you want to do and you give me a list of chores and quests; come Hikari… I want to know your hopes and dreams… what do you want?” Valeria asked, as she placed her lute beside her on the bed and walked up behind the half elf draping her arms around her.

“I… I guess I’m not sure…” Hikari said honestly “It’s been go go go for so long, one quest after the next, it’s hard to think about wants when there are so many needs… What do you want to do when we return to Argyle Valeria?” she asked turned and joining her lover in a hug, nuzzling her head into her breasts

“Well, other than you…” she giggled “I would love to go to Eiradun, they have an amphitheater; where the greatest bards in the world get to play, we could go and dance the night away taking in the music and shows” She looked down at Hikari who met her eyes with a big grin

“I’d like that, it sounds wonderful…” Hikari said “When I was in Don-Ton one of the competitors in the competition had mentioned he was going to reopen the restaurant Zanzabars in the Dwarf Gate Pass, his food was always amazing; he got ousted more for politics than cooking… I would love to go there and try some of his dishes” Valeria leaned down and kissed her love

“Now you’re getting it, I would love to go to Zanzabar’s with you… and while we are so close, wouldn’t it be wonderful to go to Tukin, and see the gardens of Queen Theiraqule, I understand that there are statues of heroes from the war carved throughout it, and that they even have a unicorn that wonders the grove.

“I surely would love to see that…” Hikari remarked as the two delved into a conversation of bards they’d love to meet, food they wanted to taste and art they would love to see; it felt like minutes past even though they had to replace the candles once; when at last they were interrupted by a bang at the door. Valeria dove into the bunk hiding under the blankets as Hikari closed and tied her robe and opened the door.

“Yes?” she asked, seeing George standing their looking angry

“Your apprentice has been at it again… all the potatoes have real eyes, and they cry whenever I cut one up to cook… it’s not right, and I need you to fix it” Hikari sighed hearing this and turned back to glare as she heard chuckles come from the bed behind her.

“Let me dress quickly George and I will be right along” Hikari said in a tired voice. The man nodded and stepped back while Hikari closed the door and began to get changed.

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Planing for Pay Day

33rd of Goodmonth 383ONT, Champions Fist, Voyage Home from Lunar Mission 4:18pm, Bronwyn’s Quarters

“Ok, when we get back into High Port, I loan you 22,000gp, last of my collateral, and in return you give me the trade schedule for Omar’s in and out of Don-Ton for the next three months… right?” Bronwyn clarified as stared across the simple wooden table at Taaj al-Pour.

“Precisely,” he said with his winning grin, “that should be enough for me to make the bribes I need to remove any holds on my accounts and access my savings. The Captain is generous, but I doubt he is going to foot the bill for a wedding worthy of Mandy” Taaj said with his pearly grin. Bronwyn gave him a disinterested nod at his exposition about Mandy and turned towards Jonathan.

“And you think you can wrestle me up a ship and crew on the cheap? One able to carry at least two tons?” she asked

“I think so, I saw several worthy vessels in High Port, all down on there on luck… I am sure at least one of them will come on board. That is assuming you are still going to cut me in right? I’m not going to be a sailor forever… I’m going to owe my own ship one day.” Jonathan stated. Both Taaj and Bronwyn rolled their eyes

“Trust be kid, owning a ship is nothing but trouble and overhead… contracting is better” Bronwyn said, Jonathan just shook his head at this

“Says you guys, it’s gonna be different with me” he said

“whatever you say pal” Taaj said reaching for his glass “We all do our part, we are in for a decent payday, and no trouble… that’s a win all around”

“I’ll drink to that” Bronwyn said lifting her glass, Jonathan and Taaj raised theirs to meet hers as the three drank and hashed out the rest of the plans.

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Fixin it Up

33rd of Goodmonth 383ONT, Champions Fist, Voyage Home from Lunar Mission 3:12pm

Please Listen While Reading

Mandy_Shop.jpg

Mandy took a deep breath, she could smell the oil from her rags and the timbre from the ship, the smoldering acrid notes of the coal burning away in her little forge, this was her workshop; this was where she felt most at home. Carefully her tongue crept out towards the corner of her mouth as she focused with extreme concentration. The lantern light shot a beam of warm light over she shoulder at the part she was working on as she reached within the clockworks chest with her tweezers and carefully removed the last shard of shrapnel from its heart crystal. As her ever steady hands pulled the last of the deformed lead from the poor creature’s chest she scrunched up face morphed to one of an easy smile. She’d done it, it had taken the better part of seven hours, but she’d gotten the last of the sand, grit and shrapnel out of the most sensitive areas. Mandy carefully place the last piece of shrapnel in the tin bucket she had been using before putting her tweezers back down on the work bench. That done she hastily looked around, seeing no one she couldn’t help but spin around doing a little dance of happiness at her accomplishment. As she did her dance she gracefully slid back backwards across the room sliding her feet to some unknown beat until she neared the back wall, she then spun around scooping up her hammer and spun around again on beat using the haft of her magic hammer to sing into as she sang out

“I am fixing… Broken Things… I am fixing… Broken Things”

As she sang she shuffled and danced her way back to the clockwork that lay on her workbench, with a long practiced flick of her wrist she reversed her grip on her hammer and simultaneously blew her bangs out of her eyes. Then with a flourish she whispered the ancient dwarven words

“YA ispravlyu eto” and activated the magic, gently touched the Hammer to the barley exposed heart crystal of the clockwork. With a flash of bright light the crystal reformed a new, and she felt her belt pouch become significantly lighter. “You’re going to be another expensive friend aren’t you” she said to the clockwork with a wry grin. With practiced hands she closed the chest cavity and pulled on the ropes to help turn the clockwork onto his side; she then carefully produced the winding key from her apron. “Well, here goes nothing I suppose” she said as she gave him six simple winds. Best not to wind him up the whole way; who knew what kind of effect the damage had done to him. As she removed the key and stowed it away, the blue eyes of the clockwork illuminated; various gears started turned internally as the creature began to come to life. Mandy clapped her hands excitedly “first try!” she proclaimed to herself seeing the cogs and gears seamlessly interconnect and slide together. The clockwork turned and looked to her.

“Ready to accept ethics and program models” it said as a new cavity within its chest opened up. She looked carefully at this puzzling out what she needed to do. She hummed and pondered it over, occasionally asking questions but each time she only received the same remark “Ready to accept ethics and program models” at last it came to her.

“Your crystal was pretty busted up… when I fixed it you must have lost all you’re programing huh?”

“Ready to accept ethics and program models” the creature said back in a monotone voice

“Well…” she said pushing her hair back behind her ears “Let’s see what we can do… I need a set of guidelines, a code of some kind… hmmm… I don’t suppose you have any suggestions do you?”

“Ready to accept ethics and program models” the creature said back

“That’s not helpful… Maybe a holy book would do… there is a lot of moral codes and programing there… I got the Brackish Book in my bunk…” she turned and took a few steps towards the door before stopping “… I don’t know…” she said as she turned to face the clockwork “I don’t want you running around sacrificing people all willy nilly, or trying to make love to people…” she shuddered thinking about the chapters dedicated to Aleau, and imaging the clockwork attempting to seduce the crew, the thought did have a few comical conclusions as she stifled a giggle, but ultimately decided the Brackish Book wasn’t the way to go. “What about the Book of Light, I am sure Maddax has a copy”

“Ready to accept ethics and program models” the creature replied

“Hmmm…” Mandy paced looking appraisingly at the clockwork, “Maddax does seem to be down all the time, I don’t think Gabriel’s followers are all that happy… I think I want you to be a happy clockwork… wouldn’t you like that?”

“Ready to accept ethics and program models” the creature said

“She nodded to his answer… I could try and program you to follow Miriel…” again Mandy stifled a giggle “I don’t think she has written much down… and I think ‘I DO WHAT I WANT’ may be a little too open for a clockwork… hmmm” she looked around the room for inspiration for something that latch onto… she briefly considered Hikari and Pan or Ymeri… neither seemed like a great fit… Pan was chaotic enough on the ship, and they didn’t need anyone giving Tar-di anymore encouragement. Having a fire worshiper…well as a water worshiper herself, it didn’t seem like a good idea to program the clockwork to hate her. She thought about Thaden and the weave… but didn’t know if a clockwork could access the weave… that might be setting the fellow up for failure before he’d gotten a real start in the world. She ran her hand over her shelves and glanced in the bins that held projects she was supposed to work on in her ‘free time’ whenever that was. Her eyes locked on a sword, one with a crack in the blade made from a Linorium Dragons tooth… Flits sword. “I got it!” she exclaimed all at once… it was so perfect, why hadn’t she thought of it before? “I’ll make you a Promethean! You’ll still be a super cool water worshiper, but you’ll also be all chill and willing to help your friends and generally do good stuff… everyone likes Promethean’s! what do you say big guy… want to get to know the big guy?” she giggled at her turn of phrase

“Ready to accept ethics and program models” the clockwork replied

“Well I am ready to give them… wait right here” she said darting out of her workshop and up the stairs, Flit usually left the Big Book of P in the mess hall, so anyone could read through it when they wanted. She found the book under a loose sheafed novella with a lewd picture of a naked nymph holding on to a sailor with his shirt ripped open. The title was “Raising His Mast” she shook her head wondering if this was one of the sailors or another belonging of Aurelia. Grabbing the Big Book of P she headed back down to her workshop and approached the clockwork “Ready?” she asked

“Ready to accept ethics and program models” the creature responded, she groaned knowing she had deserved that one. But held the book up towards the insert… a white light shone out covering the cover of the book “NEXT” the creature said, she opened the book and the ritual repeated as she showed in the next page… on they went for the next hour as she let the crystal absorb the pages of the Big Book of P, when at last she had come to then end, the creature merely responded “Processing… Processing… Processing… Processing” it did this for near another hour until at last it said “Process complete” and shut down. Mandy’s eyes opened in fear… had the tenants been too complex? Had she overloaded the poor clockwork? She looked it over carefully but found no knew damage. She decided to try and wind him up again. Quickly pulling out the key she found the little port on his back and gave it several vigorous turns assuring he was good to go.

“phew” she exclaimed as she saw the clockworks eyes light up again and the gears and cogs begin turning once more. The clockworks eyes scanned the room as his head rotated back and forth, then oddly his shoulders slumped slightly and he leaned forward on the workbench in a stooped posture

“What’s cooking Lil’ Sista?” he said using his hands to exclaim his greeting much as Benny had. Mandy couldn’t stifle the giggle. The robot… or Brobot as she was thinking of him now cocked his head to the side “Girl, that be music to my ears” he said. Mandy had an ear to ear grin

“I’m just so happy, I can’t believe it, you’re all fixed and… and alive!” she said amazed and the simple posture and movements that seemed inherent in a Promethean follower.

“Well Lil’ Sista, I’m tickled your stoked, but patching me up is a kindness I’m a thankin you for” she said hopping off the workbench and up to his feet. “What do they call ya?” he asked

“I’m Mandy… Mandy Doyle… I’m the Master Carpenter here on the Ship” she said offering a hand to shake… the brobot reached forward gently moving her hand into a fist before offering it a little bump with one of his own

“Righteous name Lil Sista… I likes it… and I love that we are on a ship! Exploring in the Great unknown… finding the universe and seeing how it’s connected… that’s my jam Lil Sis!” he said throwing his hands up in excitement as he spoke.

“Well I’m… ah… Stoked too that this is you jam.” Mandy said a little awkwardly as she tried to use his language “We’ll have to introduce you to the Captain and crew soon… speaking of which… what’s your name?” she asked

“Woah” he said pausing, and tilting his head as his hand came up making the expression of his mind being blown “what’s my handle… deep question Lil Sis… deep question indeed… it’s gotta be somethin’ good, somthin’ that says who I am, but is still… like… humble and stuff… you know?” he asked. Mandy nodded emphatically. “Any suggestions Master Carpenter? What should be my new slick tag?” The girl brought her hand to her chin and contemplated it for a long minute, once again her tongue crept out as she delved deep in thought.

“Well… I don’t know why, but you are kinda reminding me of this guy who used to be in the same orphanage as me… he was a few years older, but always made me laugh and looked out for me against the bullies… His name was Joseph” she offered. The brobot hopped on the spot in excitement as he offered yet another first bump, this time adding a squid like movement with his hand as he “swam free” after the bump

“Blowin my mind again Lil Sis, and what a totally rad name sake… I don’t know why, but I got a feelin that I just don’t jive well with bullies… but I’m thinking a slight change if yer down with that… to make it a little more me, but still offer the homage to Joseph the slayer of bullies” Mandy giggled again before responding

“What’s that?”

“Well… what if I called my self Broseph? I think it has a Promethean vibe to it?” he leaned it trying to gauge her response as she burst out laughing. She put a hand on his shoulder as she nodded at him

“I love it… it couldn’t be more perfect” she declared, the Brobots face lit up as he did a little hop on the spot again

“Righteous!” he professed “I am Broseph, Protector of the bullied and at the service of Mandy Doyle!” she jumped up

“No No No” she said waving her hands? He stopped and cocked his head

“No No No?” he asked

“You are Broseph, Protector of the bullied and at the service of the Champions Fist… you gotta listen to the Captain and Crew just like everyone else” she said, doing her best to make eye contact and assure he understood. The Brobot processed for a few minutes before nodding his understanding

“Not to worry Lil Sis, I am down with the chain of command…and I love ships, the sea and everything in it… Broseph, Protector of the Bullied, and at the Service of the Champions Fist… I dig it, has a nice ring to it…” he said nodding sagely to her. “Though if I can be real with you for a minute Mandy Doyle?” she nodded as the Brobot took on a serious tone “Of all the folks I have met so far on the Champions Fist… Yer my favorite!” he said splitting into a huge grin and offering yet another fist bump… Mandy couldn’t help but join him in it, his sunny attitude was infectious. She clapped him on the shoulder and nudged with her head that he should follower her

“Come on Broseph… let’s get you acquainted with the Captain and Crew, then I can get back down here and get working on your dog”

“I got a Dog? How cool is that” he said excitedly as he followed her out of the workshop and up towards the Captains quarters.

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Haunted and Haunts

31st of Goodmonth 383ONT, Champions Fist, Voyage Home from Lunar Mission 9:18pm

The twinkle of starlight in the abyss of space was eerie, as was the sensation of gliding through space, gone was the gentle rocking motion and creaking of a ship that cut through water, instead it was replaced by stark silence. Maddax climbed the stairs up to the bridge of the Champions Thrust. Ever wary he scanned the familiar bridge for anything out of place, noted the First Mate at the helm and returned his friendly nod with a simple one of his own. He then walked to each rail looking over the side and doing a complete circuit of the bridge before walking over to the duty book. It had been Rick’s idea, but Maddax had eagerly implemented it. Each section of the ship had a book, when you conducted your patrol you were to initial the book and mark you time, so one could tell if a guard was shirking or where a gap in the ships watch could have occurred. Maddax did a quick check to assure the previous shifts had no troubles, and then scrawled his own entry. That done he turned and began to leave the bridge.

.

“No time for idol chat today Maddax?” The First Mate asked, his tone cheery enough. Maddax turned.

.

“Need something Sir?” he mentally scolded himself, that had come off curter then intended, and now he’d suffer for it. The First Mate noted the tone and raised an eyebrow at him.

.

“Everything Ok Maddax?” he asked

.

“Fine Sir, everything is just… fine” he offered back, again the terse tone came back. Maddax turned to leave but stopped; on a whim he decided a different course was needed. “Actually… well… permission to speak freely Sir?” The First Mate eyed him carefully but nodded

.

“You don’t need my permission to speak your mind Maddax” he said. Maddax scrunched his face in thought, he could still just walk away, could leave it alone; but something in him nagged a bit, bothered him on the inside and he needed to speak his mind.

.

“It’s you Sir, you are my problem” he nearly spat the words out, he had not realised the venom that was there. The First Mates eyes opened wide in surprise, and Maddax felt a pang of guilt, he should just apologize and walk away… but no, that wouldn’t be right, he had to speak for those who couldn’t. “You promised me, promised everyone that we would go back for those who had been captured we would rescue them after we’d dealt with the threat” his finger came up unbidden in an accusatory point “You said we could save them, and I believed you… and now they are all dead, all those poor souls”

.

“Maddax,” The First Mate began in a conciliatory tone, “The building was exploding, we had to escape, there just wasn’t a way to save them…”

.

“That’s crap… sir” he added the last as an afterthought “You have talked with Gods, and toyed with artifacts, I have seen you unlock and open doors that are impossible to anyone else… you call yourself the Key Master… If you had wanted to save them, they would have been saved… but you didn’t care about them, so they all died… you let them…”

.

“ENOUGH!” The Giant Frog croaked in a deafening tone. Silencing the goblin before him. “I had no way to open the remaining cells, but even if I did let’s take a little look at your scenario Maddax. Say I had freed them, that’s another twenty people or so that we would have walked into the central Brain room… do you think they would have survived that fight, or turned on us… and if they had how many of our people would have died Maddax? How is that better?” The First Mate’s face was contorted in anger as he continued “Let’s go a little further down that path, after the brain was gone and all those slaves were mind freed, maybe we could get them out… to what end Maddax, how many people do you think this Ship can carry? Can feed? Are we going to strand them on a hostile Dino Planet? Alot of them looked pretty malnourished, pretty weak, are we going to leave them to the warring tribes in the bush? Or cripple our own crew and starve them to bring them back? how many of our people have to suffer and die to appease your martyr complex?” The First Mate was pointing at him now. Maddax didn’t back down, he felt the familiar coolness of battle creeping into his bones, he did not fear the First Mate and would not back down on such a paltry argument. He stepped forward within easy reach of his commanding officer

.

“So that’s it then, it would have been hard so better not to bother? How do we decide who is too much trouble and who is worth it? Why do I rate some effort but the man in the cell across from me doesn’t? How is that right?”

.

“For Frack Sakes Maddax! Who the Frack said any of this was right? Some evil squid faced assholes, steal people and try to suck their brains out, or enslave them for all time…there is nothing Right about any of this! Do I wish more people could have been saved? Yes, absolutely, but I went in there and I gave it my all, I did what I had to do to keep the people I love alive and moving, and in a heartbeat I would do the same thing again… You can’t save everyone Maddax! Sometimes the bad guys get some points on the board, and I’m not going to lose any sleep because we came out with as much of a victory as was possible in a no GODS BE DAMNED win situation, take your lofty judgements and guilt complexes off my bridge Maddax” He snarled. Maddax offered a curt nod and a salute before turning stiffly on his heels and marching down the steps he’d never been this angry before and he didn’t know how to handle it
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Someone's Getting Married

32nd of Goodmonth 383ONT, Champions Fist, Voyage Home from Lunar Mission 5:18pm

Mandy sat awkwardly across from Taaj as he viciously tore into his spiced curry and naan bread. Hakari was cooking tonight and that was often a treat from the healthy but bland fare that George tended to offer. She poked at her curry with her fork a little but ultimately had knots in her stomach and couldn’t eat. With her left hand she tucked the hair from her eyes behind her ear and looked up.

“Taaj, I talked to Aurelia about… about us” she started. Taaj nodded with his mouth full using the Naan to scoop up the thick sauce that accompanied the rice.

“ou aid ou would… wha she say?” he asked, mouth half full. She smiled despite herself… it showed his comfort with her and the crew that he would dive into his meal so and let the ever present decorum slide knowing he wouldn’t be judged for it.

“Well… she said…” Mandy took a deep breath in and out, this was hard, but she had to ask… it was killing her wondering. Seeing the seriousness of his love, Taaj stopped and looked up concerned

“Mandy… what’s wrong?” he asked. Mandy let out a breath of air, blowing the hair that had fallen in her face out of her eyes again… she dove in

“Aurelia said that due to how you proposed, you might not mean it, that it might have been fear talking and not love… that I should… should give you a chance to back out if…” she looked him in the eye and saw a grin of mirth cross his face

“You are taking love advice from Aurelia now?” he asked a note of jest in his voice

“That’s not fair… Aurelia…”

“Aurelia is not part of the bond anymore… if she was she would not the love that passes between us, and from an outsider, that may be what they think… but I don’t care…” he stood up grabbing his tin cup and slamming it on the table getting the attention of the crew in the mess hall.

“Taaj… what are you doing?” Mandy asked in a low voice as the room grew silent and all eyes turned to Taaj, he gracefully walked around the table to be beside her and then took a knee in front of everyone

“Mandy Doyle, Master Carpenter of the Champions Fist, will you make me the Happiest Man on Argyle… and the Moon for that matter, and be my wife?” Mandy could hear the sudden excited clap from Sara, gasps from Nathan and Teagan, and murmurs from the other crew members. She looked at Taaj and felt the love, she couldn’t do anything by smile in an ear to ear grin before nodding

“Yes, Yes again and again!” she said in excitement. Taaj leapt up and scooped her from her seat bringing her into a long kiss before shouting to the mess hall

“We’re getting married!” the crew burst into claps and whoops of joy as the two spun around. Pats on the back and congratulations rained on them before Mandy grabbed Taaj’s hand and pulled him towards the stair.

“Where are we going?” he asked

“Come on silly… we have to tell that Captain, before he hears from someone else” she said pulling him along. Taaj swallowed momentarily looking fearful, but nodded and grinned at his fiancée.

“Of course… let’s go.”

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Trouble at Home

8th of Harvester 383 ONT, fringe village in Iktan lands, Edheren, Evermores 11:14am

Yaxen Hyperion de’Jairi sol Samurn na Kiriel, Called to his loyal brothers once more

“The humans are upon us, we cannot hold; get the villagers to safety!” as he yelled he Thalcul, a Yaxen of the Airchee landed beside him.

“Yaxen De’Jairi, their magic is strong, they shoot down any who flee above the tree line, and have set traps below the canopy… the only route to fly left in the river bed” Hyperion took in the news gravely

“The Humans have shown to much cunning to leave an obvious route clear, we have to assume it to is trapped…”

“Hyperion, then we are doomed?” Thalcul said, fear beginning to drive itself into the voice of the younger Strix. Hyperion forced a looked of confidence and contempt onto his face; fear was contagious and it would not do to have his Yaxen panic.

“We know where the trap is… now we must spring it” Hyperion said coolly “Have my Yaxen assemble, we will lead the charge, the Airchee, will bring up the rear and drive our people down the river valley behind us” The Yaxen nodded and bowed to Hyperion

“It will be done” with that he took to wing quickly calling to those needed for the final strike to begin.

Hyperion flew low over the river, watching for ambush on the trees on either side, he had six Yaxen with him and another five fighting Strix, they were alert and ready for battle. As they flew and searched it was the water that moved against them. Jumping up from its home along the river basin in consumed the murder of Strix, trapping them in a large bubble. The shell of the bubble turned to ice, working its way inward towards the trapped Strix. Hyperion tried to move to an edge, tried to use his strength against the water, but found he could not; he had failed, his people would fall this day.

Humans began to step out from the trees. Three in robes who held staves pointed at the animated ice. Others in chain armor wielding crossbows and swords. One, wearing a suit of full plate called to the others

“As soon as they pass out, pull them into the woods, the next wave of these morons will be coming through here soon and I want to be ready” there were a few nods as the humans fanned out along the shore of the river, preparing should any Strix manage to evade the near fool proof trap. Hyperion reached within his soul to summon the rage within, forced himself to push harder and to fight, he reached again forcing his hand through the cold slush ice towards the edge… but this time it moved, the water became less dense and shuttered for a moment. The Yaxen searched the field and saw his efforts were not alone. One of the staff wielding humans had collapsed, a quarrel in his back. The others now attempted to maintain their concentration as several more bolts fired at them. From the tree line charged a line of scruffy dwarves, each carrying a shield with a large yellow slug holding up a fist. At the head of their line they were led by a human. He had short brown hair and eyes of steel blue. He wore a wide brim hat with a plumed feather and wielded a rapier in his left hand. His right hand seemed to be constructed of animated rope which he used to great effect to swing from branches and trip his opponents. The dwarves crashed into the humans on the left side of the river, their leader dashed and dodged his was to the Human in Full Plate where they began to duel in earnest. Hyperion saw his chance… he didn’t know who these outsiders were, but he would not ignore a chance to save his people. He worked again, forcing his strength against the bonds of the water, forcing the magic users to expend more energy as they were attacked viciously by dwarves… the spell ended, he was free, battle was joined in earnest.

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Awakened, Awakening, Flood - Somewhere In there...

Miriel stared at her bloody hands, thick with sorrow and regret.

She came from a species that took pride in caring for each of its members. Food was shared, shelter freely offered, parents supported, grief and depression understood…if one was weak, they did not cast it out or harangue it, as non-Strix would; they would strengthen it. Her people would not turn away even from their sons and daughters that chose partners from other species, would not turn from the grandchildren who came from loving – or forced – unions; they were never thought of as lesser.

She, physically weak from the Strix and Elvish bloodlines that ran in her veins, knew this practice most intimately. At the age of majority, she was given the honour to wear the form of an Ancestor; not many Strix wore an Ancestor, being already physically strong, but it was fitting for her with her dual bloodlines. It changed her life; Sa’Nara changed her life, and made her whole. She would ever be thankful to the people who, instead of seeing her as a weakness, saw that she could be more without them being less. Her people – no, her family – without knowing shaped the Goddess that stood in the aether, staring at the blood on her hands.

She could do no less for Dumatheon and the gift he’d given her.

She realized in the split second it took for the power coursing through her soul, that she needed to strengthen her Companions instead of herself, for they were like her; they were not less. She cupped her hands and instinctively blew radiance into her hands until a wrench tore through her body. She gritted her teeth, swallowing all cries of pain so none would hear, and smiled through the lingering sense of pain at the small divine spark licking at her skin.

Thalion was strong already, and given the choice would ask to be Blessed last anyways; dearest Aurelia, however, would benefit the most from this gift. Pulling it close to her breast as a mother her babe, she fell back to the moon, completely alert for attack and on the ready to protect her precious – she would find her Companion before the spark died out. Thanks to her power surge, she knew where she was, just had to get to her.

No more time for sorrow and regret.

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