Balance

I'm Sailing Away Pt 3

10th of Coldeven 3:52pm 381ONT, Great Bay of Taelm, just outside of Don-Ton

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Thitmed nodded at Aurellia and looked around the table to see if any other officers had anything to say

“It will be at least two days before we can row on the starboard side Mister Ironbraid, and that’s if I get a fair amount of help, maybe a week if I’m fixing it myself” Mandy offered trying to sound as confident as the Master Gunner was when she spoke

“Our Ration supply is already tight Thit, and we have two extra bellies on board to fill, I don’ know how long we can afford to be navigating the ice flows, that isn’t well known as fishing grounds and if gaps close behind us sometimes it can take weeks or even a month to get back out… it is a dangerous gamble” Belinda stated looking over the ration listings

“I like the idea of the Ice Flows best…” Thalion offered” though both Eltheron and I are pretty injured, without a fair amount of magical healing we would be at risk of being unable to fly after a single hit… that being said, we are willing to descend upon them and cause mayhem if that’s what we need to do to protect our ship, or the Backward Thrust” Thitmed stroked his black bristly beard as he considered all that was told

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“Aurellia, how long to disassemble the bombard and rig it on the bridge so it can fire behind us while we flee” he asked. The Master Gunner did some quick mental calculations

“If you give me Robinson and Prancer for the project I could get a stable set up in just over an hour”

“Kempia, How much healing magic can we reasonably depend on today?”

“The great goddess Ymeri prefers not to quantify her love as it may come in many forms. But my prepared spells are nearly exhausted, I have perhaps two spells of healing left, that I would prefer to save for emergency” The Kempia said with a voice so soft everyone needed to strain to hear her words. The dwarf ran his hand through his greasy hair while he took it all in.

“OK Lads and Lasses, Here we go. Aurellia, take Prancer and Robinson and get that Bombard mounted on the bridge where it can fire behind us as we flee. Thalion, brief Miriel on the plan should either ship get to close to us or the Backward Thrust and have her be ready. Then load the boy and Buck onto yer eagle and take them to the Thrust. They don’t have a cook so that will be Bucks new job, and they don’t have a cabin boy, so the lad can travel with them till the next port or further as he sees fit. That should stretch our stores from dower back down to grim. Mandy go collect every man we can spare to help you on those oars decks, I need at least two oars on Starboard before we hit the ice, I can’t sail in there and without oars we’ll be done for. Belinda take Flitt and break out the ice gear, the poles and the axes and picks, I want them on deck and ready for our approach. Make ready folks, were bound for the ice.”

The assembled officers had their tasks, with a demurred chorus of Aye Sir they stood and went about their tasks, getting ready for the ice or the battle, whichever would be upon them first.

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I'm Sailing Away Part 2

10th of Coldeven 3:45pm 381ONT, Great Bay of Taelm, just outside of Don-Ton.

Aurellia felt the fury and the fear rise inside her, then mix into a steely resolve.

“I say we head for the ice flows, and make them regret their life choices long before we ever get there.”

Thitmed saw the look in the gunslinger’s eye and was unsure if he wanted to hear the rest, “How do you suggest we do tha?”

With a smile Aurellia answered, “By being clever and cunning, of course. We head toward the ice flows and wait for their Wizards to get tired and ride their blankets home. Once the ships have been good and abandoned by the wizards, Elderon and Thalion drink the invisibility potions, Miriel casts invisibility on herself, then puts on that bone ring and takes it for a test drive. They have more guns, but we have range and brains on them. Miriel will fly for the lead ship, Elderon, and Thalion will fly for the ship in the rear. Miriel can land on the deck of their ship and detonate the ring, then fly away. I’ll leave it to her to decide if she’s feeling lucky and wants to take it below deck before she detonates. Thalion and Elderon fly for the second ship and set the tops of their sails ablaze with the tinder twigs, I’ll even volunteer my rum ration for the next week as fuel. Then fly back to the ship. If nothing else, it should cause some confusion and buy us time and distance while they sort themselves out. Our new bombard can shoot far, and I’ve been itching for some target practice since we strapped her on to the deck. I’ll fire on them a few times and by then they should find themselves wondering how worth it this whole navy career really has been. I doubt they’ll continue to pursue us and from there we can take the course that your most comfortable with.”

The room was quiet for a moment while the officers thought it over.

To be continued?

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I'm SailingAway Pt 1

10th of Coldeven 3:45pm 381ONT, Great Bay of Taelm, just outside of Don-Ton.

Thitmed looked behind him and nodded as he saw Leslie had finally got his sails trimmed and was making good speed in the wake of the Boot. He also noted his Bosun, Mate and extra person who would need to be fed, were heading back over to his ship. Belinda had the telescope out and was searching further back. He left her to the task gauging the wind and deciding his course, he didn’t have the confidence that the Captain held for this ship in the open sea, and was feeling that hugging the shore for as much as possible was probably a better idea. He looked down at the deck ahead of him. The lines were tight and the deck was clear, they stood ready to leap into action at his request. Aurellia had her weapon loaded and was now loading muskets whilst Robinson kept an eye on the main sail in case he should suddenly decide to turn… good man. He was about to call the all clear to the crew when he heard Belinda speak up behind him

“Thit… yer going to want to see this” she said, the note of worry evident in her voice. He roped of the tiller and walked over to the stern gate where she stood with her scope outstretched. The First Mate took the scope and searched the sea line, then the sky. His shoulders slumped and he let out a long low whistle. Two Don-Tonian navy ships, and three flying war wizards all in hot pursuit. He checked his sails and the wind and then spent a long minute gauging the ships he let out a long sign… they would not catch them for a few hours, but they would eventually catch them. He was less concerned about the wizards, Thitmed would have to turn out of the wind and face them in order for them to catch up, those carpets did not offer speed as much as unflagging distance. If he show no signs of fight the wizards would likely turn back within half an hour. Those navy ships however… each with at least six guns, and a crew that tripled his, there was no way he could take them both, and they would shred the Backward Thrust who was in no shape for a fight. The giant eagle landed on the bow deck, and the rest of the crew joined him he let out a roar.

“Bosun to the Bridge, Officers and Cabin Boy to the mess! The rest of you on Deck, weapons ready.” He waited patiently as Flitt hopped up on the bridge “Take the tiller lad, hold this course, I want to know right away if the Thrust or either of those two ships following change course”

“Aye Aye Sir” Flitt said taking the tiller. Thitmed took Belinda and headed down to the mess.

“Cabin Boy… I need tha charts from me cabin for Taelm, NOULA, and Ice Fronts” he said as he collected a tea from Hatrutt and sat at the table with Belinda, Thalion, Aurellia, Mandy and the mysterious priestess. He hadn’t considered Mandy when he had called for the officers, but he supposed she was the Master Carpenter and acknowledged she had rights to be here.

“Ummmm…. Where is your cabin sir? And what are charts?” the little Halfling boy said. Thitmed felt his face turning red.

“You know I can just run and show him real quick” Mandy said hurriedly standing up and dragging Paolo out of the First Mate’s sight as quickly as she could.

“Thalion, make sure the Bosun understands that one of his priorities will be training the cabin boy”

“Aye Sir” Thalion said, sensing that this was not the time to be glib. Finally Mandy and Paolo returned with the charts. Mandy took her seat at the table with her tea, she looked over to see Paolo about to sit while reaching for a crumpet, she caught his eye and furiously shook her head warning him back, he seemed to get the message and moved to stand in the corner, noticing the move Thitmed turned to him

“Head up to the bridge boy… act as a runner if the Bosun needs anything”

“Yes Sir…” Paolo said but paused for a moment “… and the bridge is….” Seeing the rage appear on the dwarves face was enough for the Halfling boy to back out of the room “you know, I think I can manage”

“It is his first day Thit…” Belinda reminded him

“I hate new Cabin Boys” the dwarf grumbled as he unrolled the charts “So… here’s our troubles. Thar be two Don-Ton navy ships chasing us, and those ships will overtake us in a little over two hours, a guess maybe an hour and a half if we hold beside the Backward Thrust. I got no doubt in my mind that we will be sunk if we turn and try to fight them, even with tha shark and eagle, they out man us three to one each. So what can we do…. Here be my line of thinking.

Option 1: Head down leave our friends of the Backward Thrust to themselves and travel along the coast, if the thrust holds slows them enough in four hours we can hit the Islo Island Chain, and try and hide among the islands and the shallows, at least we could make their guns less useful there. I would say that we stay and hold, but even with a good head start the Thrust cannot make those islands in time.

Option Two: we turn hard east and go straight out to see, the wind won’t be with us, so we’d be slower, but it won’t be with them as well, it would turn to a rowing competition, we tell the Backward Thrust to keep with the good wind and head for the Islands while we head out into the coming storm, hopefully the follow us, and we get lucky in the storm and they don’t

Option Three: We cut East and North and aim for a the ice flows, they are just breaking up this time of year and are very dangerous waters to sail through, if we can make the ice flows before the Navy Ships Catch us I am sure they will turn back.

I am open to suggestions, what do you think?”

To be continued?

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In one Fleeting Moment

A little music to accompany the piece

The bow sang and the arrows flew true severing the lines that held Flitt captive. Around them the street was a warren of death traps and the brewery the largest of them all. Faith had led him back here. Faith that Kaho’s vision from Ymeri was real and this was where he needed to be. The first time he’d come was chasing after the thought of an old friend and love in danger. Both times turned out to be traps and now he was caught. The bolts in his shoulders hampered his movements and he twisted to take a bead on the two lines to free himself.

Out of the corner of his eye Flitt did not move to escape but remained fighting at his side in a desperate attempt to buy Hiro time. But Flitt did not see the man who stepped from the doorway, the one who’d almost killed them in the tavern and taken Prancer’s arm and Ungle’s life; Deniro. And then Flitt was down and bleeding out. Hiro swore and dragged Flitt further away from the assassin fumbling for his last healing potion as he did so. It was enough but barely as the grippli’s eyes flicked open. Between one moment and the next, before Hiro could even think about tossing the diminutive frog towards his friends, Thalion replaced him in Hiro’s arms. He shook his head at the shift and staggered under the unforeseen burden of keeping them both from falling over before Thalion gained his feet and Hiro was free to act once more. It always seemed that if Flitt or Aurellia were in danger Thalion was there, shield in hand to save them. It was a noble sacrifice to stand in harm’s way for others and he had done it time and again unflinching. Hiro could do not but respect the courage it represented.

But now was not the time for reminiscing over such things and he turned his attention back to the battle. Miriel circled overhead and those who stood in her way or dared raise a hand against the mighty Stryx were felled low. Oh to be able to fly from this. Webbing magicked around them and Hiro twisted to keep his arms free sacrificing his freedom for another chance to let fly his arrows. He sighted in on Deniro, the man behind this night’s attack and the one on whom it all hinged. The world narrowed to a single point and the arrow lanced out at the assassin with deadly precision. Only to be batted away in annoyance by the man. Hiro felt his courage waver in that moment. All his training, all of his experience and there were still people like Deniro that he could not touch. The world was a cruel place indeed.

And then he saw it, the white hot ball that filled the night sky with the brilliance of the sun in miniature. It arced down at them and even the assassin scrambled back from its path. But not Hiro. He’d like to say that it was faith and courage that held him there facing his death but it was the magicked webbing and cabling that forced his feet to remain still. The world around Hiro came into excruciating sharp focus and yet he saw none of it fixated on the fireball as he was.

I left to become strong. To find those willing to fight and lead them back to the Fire Nation. Years of travel and all I see are my mistakes like footprints on the beach waiting to be swallowed by the tide once more. The people I helped, those I saved could not help me in return and in time will forget I was ever there. I wanted to inspire others to fight but I could not do that by running away. My death in Azulon would have meant something. My death here means only coin to some and an end for others.

Kaho sent me here, she must’ve seen this in the flames. Seen my death. What purpose does this serve? What purpose did I serve? How does this aid our cause? And yet… I still believe. I believe in the path Ymeri set before me and what I meant to do. But Yukiko was right. I should have found a better way. A way to inspire our people to fight and stop the evil that crept into our nation poisoning us all with its greed and want of power. I’m an idiot and a fool. I ignored the woman I loved for a chance to strike at those who wronged me and saved by my goddess I let her go again to wander the world alone.

I failed to heed her words. I failed to see the truth. I failed to save my people. I fear not the truth of the flame… No, I fear I have done nothing that will last. Will anyone remember?

Thoughts of his friends echoed through the final moment of his life. Hatrutt’s inspiring cooking, Prancer’s never ending words of a father’s wisdom, Thitmed’s protective griping, Ungle’s boasting, Leslie’s eggs, Flitt’s ability to adapt and aid his friend, Miriel’s proud nature tempered by her love for Prancer, Thalion’s courage and generous spirit, Aurellia’s quiet struggles and Mandy’s innocent trust that he could do no wrong. He should’ve done more for them, been more for them.

Yukiko… I’m sorry.

And between one moment and the next none of it mattered any more.

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This is Forever Part 2

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

“How long is this going to take?”

“Give them time, this is a big decision.”

“Well excuse me if I don’t want to spend hours waiting around while they bang.”

“Whynny, that’s enough! Don’t sully this, it’s a big day in their lives, no matter what she decides, and– “ the Captain was interrupted as a flushed Serenity burst above deck.

“She said yes!!!”

The crew let out a collective cheer and ran forward to congratulate their master gunner.

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Below deck, Aurellia was opening the parcel that Serenity had given her.

“I hope you like it. If you don’t you can wear anything you want, I just want you to feel special. Take your time, and I’ll be waiting for you on the bridge.”

She folded back the paper to reveal the softest elven silk. Pulling it out she found it was a white flowing dress with the finest silver embroidery. She changed out of her tattered work clothes, and was surprised to find that although the dress was sleeveless and made of the lightest, softest fabric, she felt warm as soon as it touched her skin. The parcel also held a pair of white cloth slippers and two small silver combs that looked like butterflies adorned with tiny blue jewels. Aurellia did her best to tame her hair with the combs, and stepped into the slippers.

Taking a deep breath, she left the mess hall and glided up to the deck of the ship. The slippers made her feel as though she were walking on clouds. If Serenity had wanted to make her feel special, she had definitely succeeded. As she stepped out into the sun, she saw that the whole crew was lined up along the sides of the ship leading to the bridge. Everyone smiled when they saw her, and Eldon began talking to anyone who would listen about how ‘stupendous’ she looked. She felt a wave of self-consciousness threaten to overtake her, but managed to keep walking.

The Captain met her once again at the top of the stairs and offered her his arm. She slipped her arm through his and he walked her to the ship’s bow where they found Serenity waiting with a beaming smile. “Don’t worry,” he whispered to her as they walked, “I’ve done this before, you’ll be okay.” Aurellia was relieved to see that it was only the three of them on the bridge, she felt more confident without everyone’s eyes on her.

Aurellia took Serenity’s hands in hers, and Serenity touched her forehead to Aurelia’s and whispered, “You are so gorgeous. I love you so much and I promise that I will always take care of you.” Aurellia smiled, “I promise to always be here for you. You are the most amazing person I have ever known, and you make me happier than I’ve ever been in my life.”

After a few moments the Captain cleared his throat, “Well now, lovely as you ladies are, I can’t stand around in this outfit all day, I’m not as fit as I once was.
So, without further ado, it is my deep honour as the Captain of the Better Days to perform this ceremony and to join you two lovers in a bond that cannot be broken in this life or the next. This is a sacred bond, and no one should enter into it with any doubt in their heart. Are you both sure that this is what you want?”

Aurellia and Serenity nodded in unison.

“Alright then, Serenity Fair, do you promise to love, honour, and cherish Aurellia – whether in her lightest moments or darkest days – for as long as you both shall live?”

“Forever, I do.”

“Then please hold out your right hand, palm up.”

“And Aurellia Ouelette, do you promise to love, honour, and cherish Serenity – whether in her lightest moments or darkest days – for as long as you both shall live?”

“Forever, I do.”

“Then please place your left hand, palm down, atop Serenity’s.”

The Captain began wrapping their hands with cord. “This cord represents the promises you have made on this day.” He began trying 3 knots from their fingertips to their wrists, “The knots represent the strength of the bond your love has formed – a bond that no one but the very Gods themselves may break.” He rested his right hand on top of the cord and looked at them both. “While the knots will be loosened and the cord removed, the promises and the bond you have created on this day will remain, and the responsibility to protect them will lie with each of you for all your days. It is my absolute pleasure to pronounce the two of you married. You may kiss your wife.”

Aurellia folded herself against Serenity and kissed her sweetly, and then Serenity kissed Aurellia’s temple and whispered in her ear, “Welcome home,” as she wrapped her free arm around her tightly.

The feast that night was decadent, Serenity had spared no expense, and everyone ate and drank their fill. Whynny drank a little more than her fill and found herself singing a duet with Eldon that she proclaimed to be the wedding gift she had been “waiting so long” to give them. Through it all, Serenity remained by Aurellia’s side, the knots untested, and Aurellia found herself in a dream world. She had never felt so wanted in all her life, but more than that, she felt she belonged here. With these people, on this ship, she had found the home she had been searching for since her mother left.

That summer Aurellia was promoted to an able bodied sailor, and worked hard to learn the ins and outs of her trade. She practiced her shooting, taking some direction from Serenity in long distance accuracy. She even began to feel a small friendship grow with Whynny, now that she was no longer at the bottom of the totem pole. And at the end of each day she and Serenity would sit on the crossbeam of the high mast and watch the sun set before retiring to their room. That summer was definitely the best one of her life, for a while everything seemed perfect.

And then that summer ended.

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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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