Balance

Hiro-ic Meetings Pt2

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

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

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

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

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Flurry of Time Pt 1

A Series of Updates between Sunnsebb and Coldeven


23rd of Sunnsebb Port of Don-Ton

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

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

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

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

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

“So, what are you gonna name her?”

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

“I like it”


*
27th of Sunnsebb, Champions Boot*

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

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


28th of Sunnsebb, Champions Boot, Miriels Nest

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

My Perfect Miriel,

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

Yours
Harold Forbes


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

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

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

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

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

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

2nd of Fireseek, Champions Boot

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

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

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

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


13th of Fireseek, Kitchen Stadium

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


17th of Fireseek, Champions Boot

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

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

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

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

End of Part 1
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Hiro-ic Meetings Pt1

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

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

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

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

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Dreams

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

A ship

A ship filed with men

A ship filed with men dressed in red and black

A ship filled with Fire Nation Men

A ship filled with Fire Nation men in a harbor

A ship filled with Fire Nation men in Rehumes harbor

A ship filled with Fire Nation men explodes in Rehumes harbor

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

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

Then black

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

IT’S STRAHD

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

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

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

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

.

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

.

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

.

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

.

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

.

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

.

“I can’t believe you… I never… How dare you…” Dillion stammered as he was pushed out into the street and ejected from his own home. Leslie didn’t respond, he slammed the window and locked it. Casting his gaze across the room. The kettle was already bubbling away, they had plans for tea. He hurriedly pulled out some bedding and sheets to cover the sofa and carpeting before turning and heading back into the street to fetch Ungle and the little ones.
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The End of the Begining of the Begining of the End Pt 2

Gavroche turned the corner and skidded to a halt. His eyes popped wider as he saw four more City guards wearing Drumpfs personal insignia surrounding Cassidy. He reached down and plucked up a stone and without a half a thought sent it hurdling.

BING

It clanked loudly off the helm of one of the guards.

“CASS RUN!” he called, and let out a sigh of relief as she used the distraction to roll past the guardsmen. One reached out grabbing for her, her coat ripped but she made it to him. “come on, they’re all over the place” Gavroche said and he grabbed her hand turned to flee the ally. He stopped cold. Two more guards came around the corner, each with naked steel in their hands. The taller human of the two spoke

“They are runners for the resistance, if you can take them alive you can have the girl, I will question the boy or his corpse afterwards” the men at the far end of the ally chuckled the kind of laugh one never wishes to hear whilst in an dark Don-Tonian ally at night. They put away their bats and drew out their short swords, fanning out. at their leader and his companion blocked the only exit.

“You will get nothing from us!” Gavroche yelled, his heart beating furiously “La Résistance Will Live On! So long as the dead walk freely, Free Men Will Fight!” Bamatabois had told him that the words of the resistance could bolster men to great feats… Gavroche found him to be a lair. The guards closed him, leering at Cassidy and laughing to each other Gavroche tried to place her behind him, but they were to many. A guard reached out with a lazy swipe just missing the gnome as he threw himself back, things appeared hopeless…”

CLANG

Gavroche could not believe his eyes, he had thought himself dead, but the Gods had rescued him this day. He saw a thin but well muscled, soaking wet, elf standing over the guard’s leader as he appeared to have just slammed their helms together. He walked forward towards the other guards with a sickly grin, the kind of cocksure grin you hear about when a knight is about to slay a dragon. The elf reached behind him and pulled a large axe from its sheath, he seemed to be mumbling words to himself, something like

“Come on, ya filthy dried out cunt cream, come and get me you cowardly pieces of shit… one of ya’s got to have some know how… come on…” Gavroche wasn’t sure who his savior was, he had thought he knew every warrior in La Résistance but he cleared his throat and spoke as the elf took large confident strides towards him and his attackers

“Thank you good sir I am….” He barley got the words out when the elf put a hand in his face and pushed him aside

“out of my way kid…” he mumbled but then to the guards yelled “COME ON!!!!! KILL ME, WHICH ONE OF YOU IS GONNA DO IT!!! YOU? YOU?” as he roared at guards almost a head taller then him Gavroche watched amazed as the four took cautious steps back. The elf’s hair was wild and his eyes were crazy. His tirade continued until mid sentence his axe lashed out with astonishing speed, Gavroche had missed the movement but noted the odd crunch noise as the axe split a standard issue Don-Tonian helm in two. The three remaining guards rushed the elf, which seemed to be what he wanted as the fey like creature laughed with crazed eyes each time a guard landed a glancing blow and would curse and cuss each time he felled one of them. “IS THERE NO ONE LEFT? NO ENEMY WHO CAN END MY TORMENT” he said as he flipped his axe around taking the head from a guard and kicking another his stomach. The last guard dropped his sword and raised his hand in surrender but the left was not done. He merely dropped his axe and followed through with a punch, then a kick, the several more punches. Gavroche held Cassidy as she looked away from the bloody gruesome mess that was his savior. He whispered to her

“Come on, let’s get out of here Cass, while we still can” and began to lead her towards the exit when he saw him. The figure wore black clothing with a long thing black sword, his helm was gold, as were his boots, and most importantly his badge… this was a Judge

“HALT” the tinny voice came from within the helm, “you three have assaulted or murdered the City Guard, and your presence here indicates terrorist links, surrender now and you may live out your miserably lives in prison” the elf looked up from the body he had been punching and turned looking the judge up and down. He picked up his axe as he stood up

“And if I don’t surrender?” he said in that same half crazed mumble

“Then I will put you down like the feral dog you are”

“HA!” the elf laughed as be began to lift his axe, but the judge was faster, pointing his sword and releasing a powerful bolt of lightening sending the elf flying back into the wall. The judge did not let up as it nimbly sprang forward and knocked the axe from the still dazed elves hands, the elf lost his axe but staggered to his feet as the Judge ran him through with the black sword. “HA!” the elf screamed with a maniacal laugh as he grabbed the Judges arm and pulled him close forcing the blade in deeper, then proceeded to headbutt the helmed Judge. To Gavroches shock the judge lost grip of his blade and fell back. “NAH NAH NAH… WE AINT DONE… YOU PROMISED!” the elf said throwing a nasty gut punch. He lined up and threw a second but the Judge was quicker catching his one hand, and drawing and stabbing with a dagger with the other. The dagger slashed the inside of the elves arm causing him to real. The Judge showed no mercy though slashing arm, mid, leg, mid, arm in rapid succession. The elf fell to his knees as the judge grabbed the dirty bloody matted hair and looked down at the assialent.

“You are sentenced to…”

CLICK

Gavroche had not seen him approach, a tall human with dreaded blond hair and a scruffy goatee. He held a pistol to the back of the Judges neck just below the helm

“You would kill a Judge to save this hooligan? We won’t stop coming” the tinny voice said without fear

“He’s my boy,” the human said

BANG

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The End of the Begining or the Begining of the End?

Please Listen While Reading

17th of Sunnsebb 381 ONT, Champions Boot, Dry Dock, DOn-Ton

Ungle looked down at his tiny unblemished hands, soft hands, hands that had never wielded a weapon in battle or worked a day in their life… elven hands. He traced them over his delicate body, a frail little thing that an orc would snap over his knee. He took a heavy corded rope from the deck of the ship and walked up to the bow. The ship in dry dock stood a good thirty feet from the ground and faced towards the city. Giving him an excellent view of this wretched hive that had stolen all he was. He flaked out about eight feet of rope before tying it off to the prow point.

“Evening Ungle” he turned and saw Belinda, just a little bump showing now under all those winter furs. She walked up the plank and waved from the midship

“Evenin’ Ms. Linda” he said back, hardly recognising his own voice, it was soft and light now, lacking its usual growl the accompanied his words, he even had that pranny elven accent caused from the lack of tusks

“I must say Ungle, whatever they say about this new body, it isn’t hard on the eyes at all” she said with a small giggle as she waved and worked her way towards the First Mates quarters. He forced a nod and a grin as she toddled off. She had not meant offense, and he wasn’t in the mood to take it. He waited until she was gone before tying the knot at the end of the rope. It was odd, he really had to think about tying the knot, these hands had not muscle memory; they didn’t understand ropes like his Orcish body had. He looked around the deck of the ship once more before blowing out the bow lantern. He then placed the noose around his neck and looked out over the evil city once more. Tears began to well up in his eyes as he stared at the thing that had taken all from him. He let in and out a series of quick breaths working up his nerve and then stepped off the edge of the ship.

Noose.jpg

The rope ran taunt but his neck did not break, he kicked out willing himself not to fight. He needed to die, to just let it all be over. His face turned red as his body demanded air, he tried, he forced all his will into just giving up. Then, when things got desperate, when is life was truly on the line, something took over. His hands raced towards the rope and with terrifying rage induced strength he ripped the rope apart. His lungs sucked in air as he free fell the thirty feet and rolled nimbly to his feet. He panted and coughed for a few moments leaning over a crate while he did so.

“Bit too much of the drink tonight lad?” Thitmid said as he and Belinda walked down the gangplank. “I can see yer getting back to yer old self again… tha’s good, though don’t push too hard too soon now” the dwarf said as he and Belinda began to walk towards the pier. The elf raised a hand and managed a small grin and nod as they left, hearing Belinda speak to Thitmed as she left.

“That’s our Ungle”

His pranny hands traced the rope burn on his neck… he was such a coward he couldn’t even give himself a cowards death. If he were to die he needed a way that there was no coming back from. He looked out to the sea and began to swim. His anger and rage fueled his lean body and he tore out in the freezing cold water. It would not take long he knew. His frame was smaller and had less fat than before, the cold would soon lock up his muscles and then he would down. Even if he chickened out he would have no way to escape. His breathing was steady as he took consistent powerful strokes, his front crawl carrying him farther and farther from the shore. His arms began to numb as he pushed onwards. His head turned slower and it was hard to get air. His legs stopped kicked and began to drag and he forced himself forward.

ocean.jpg

Soon, he could go on no more. He stopped took a last breath before forcing the air from his lungs and allowed himself to sink beneath the waves. He looked around as he sank, his stupid elven eyes not nearly as kind in the dark as his former orcish ones. But the moon was out and it did not take much to see the unmistakable shadow of a shark. He allowed himself a small grin. Mordakka had smiled upon him, he would meet his end in combat after all. The Shark speed towards him, he wound up for a punch, but at the last minute the shark dove running just below him and then lifting him with his body. Seconds later he was on the surface and involuntarily took a breath of rejuvenating oxygen.

“Damn it you stupid shark” he cursed, now recognizing Bitey “Leave me be, just leave me alone” he wept as the shark carried him towards the shore. After he had been dropped off he had tried once more to go out, but the shark kept bringing him back like some demented game of fetch. He cursed the foul fish with ever verse he knew, but his pranny elven voice made it sound songlike and he found the shark actually trying to nuzzle him. Ungle stomped from the water in disgust, quickly collecting his axe and marching towards the city.

He knew where he was going to go, he marched right up the 6th spoke. He knew how to take action. In this city if one wanted to meet death there were those who were willing. He would find and try to kill a Judge!

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Lazy DM Info Dump Pt 1
Sorry Guys, will try to do better when I got somemore time

Krieger looked at those assembled before him as they unveiled the drawings from the runes. His brow furrowed as he looked over the facsimiles of the gateway.

“What do they mean?” Hiro asked eager to learn more

“They are runes, likely of travel, they form a gateway” Krieger replied eyes carefully tracing each of the ancient runes.

“Thanks,” Flit said sarcastically “we’d figured that out already” Krieger looked up and glared at the Grippli.

“You can’t just show up at my door with three sheets of interdimensional runes and expect me to know what they do at a glance.” The Grippli raised his hands in apology as the wizard looked down again “I will need sometime with these to figure out their destination, but I have better news.” He placed the scrolls down and lifted the paper with the number

“This here is an order number from the Omar Corporation, after a little light probing it shows a prescription date, this one is set to renew on the 29th of Coldeven, and it renews at the Omar Primus on the third circuit. I recommend we be there when Armsy collects his renewal, then we can follow the Omar to where he needs to go”

To Be Continued

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Battle of Arashi Tora Valley

23rd of Floodtime 379 ONT: Arashi Tora Valley, 15 miles NW of Kaiden Academy

Thunder rolled overhead and rain slashed down on the huddled troops. They waited for Hikaru’s command and he in turn waited for the return of his scouts. Lush with vegetation the steep sides of the valley left little room to manoeuvre and thus was the perfect place for the soon-to-be graduates of the academy to learn how to react and fight when the terrain and weather were against you. He had them pressed to the western side, out of the shallow creek and cleared ground from untold years of use. Night was descending on the group and they had yet to engage the other side. Another hour and the time limit would be up. Another hour and his troops could rest for the night. Then it would be only another day before they could return to the academy victorious as they had eluded their pursuers for four days.

The exercise was the culmination of all their training and Hikaru had rose through the students to be seen as a leader and given command of the 15 student infiltration force. Unfortunately for him the command of the light horse unit was given to Batou Ishikawa. They were given ten days of supplies and a head start told to roam Arashi Tora valley until the 24th. There was an instructor with the light horse to rule on any engagements without actual fighting based on position and weapons in hand. Hikaru had managed to peel off fifteen of Ishikawa’s troops for only a loss of four of his own in their only meeting on the second day and had since remained in hiding. Those fake dead were sent back to the academy and given other assignments.

The hour passed and still no sign of his scout and friend, Natsu. Hikaru was worried but had them set up camp for the night with tarps and braziers banked to keep the light from going too far. The instructor would ensure the Ishikawas and their lackeys played nice even if they caught Natsu. So setting the watch he returned to the small tent and slipped inside. Warmth greeted him along with a plate of hard tack and his maps. Sighing he knelt and absently began to chew on the dried out food while staring at the maps again. Crossing to the eastern side tomorrow would be better as it had trails where the horses could only go single file but the west has a few more escape options. The last he knew the horse were spread out on both sides of the creek and working south so it would be difficult to slip past but maybe a distraction would work?

The tent flap opened and Yukiko slipped inside. Her hair was plastered to her head and face and the grueling eight days racing around the valley had left dark circles under her eyes. Yet she was cheerful and held a scroll tube in her hands. A flick of her wrist and the now familiar sensation of magic being used on him and Hikaru was dry. A moment later and she was the same. He sighed and leaned back from the maps to rub his eyes.

“Getting tough to see commander?” Yukiko joked and settled in beside him. “One would think you were worrying too much with less than a day between you and victory.”

“We’re close, yes, but they aren’t going to hand it to us. Going back in defeat will do more than sting for them so I am guessing at an early assault tomorrow.” He sighed and rubbed at an eye. “I’m just grateful that the others saw it my way and agreed on avoiding any more confrontations after day 2.”

“Well you don’t have to wipe them out to win and your goal has been survival against a better equipped and larger force.” She rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. “I’ve got news of my own.” He glanced at the sealed cylinder and noted the family crest on it. They both knew what it was and the fact that it was still unopened meant Yukiko was delaying the inevitable. For the longest time they did not speak enjoying the warmth and closeness. The letter meant her time at Kaiden Academy was at an end for her grandmother had been ill and the letter would mean she passed on. It meant that Yukiko was to return and take over as head of the Omori family.

“I’ll visit when I can.”

“I’d like that.” She pressed closer to him and his slipped an arm over her.

Two years had gone by in the blink of an eye for them and it would be strange not to have Yukiko close by. Hikaru knew he relied a lot on her good judgement and she never let him get a big head or get too riled up at the stunts the Six pulled. Though over the paste half year they had all but stopped and Hikaru hoped that it meant he could put it all behind him. He had something to look forward to now and didn’t want to lose it.

“HIKARU!!” A voice bellowed through the night, “HIKARU! COME OUT TRAITOR AND FACE YOUR JUDGEMENT!!” Ice gripped Hikaru’s spine for the voice was Batou’s and it meant something had happened to Natsu.

“No, he means to draw you into something. Stay, he can do nothing to us until morning.” Yukiko’s words rolled off of Hikaru and he pulled away from her. She would be right and they should be safe for darkness had come to the valley but Batou’s presence hinted at something more. Ishikawa was going to lose and his honour would not stand that so he was going to try and force Hikaru into something. But what that was he didn’t know yet.

“HIKARU! COME SEE WHAT AWAITS YOU!”

Picking up his bow his hands pass over the blunt training tips and settle on the small quiver meant for hunting the game to supplement the rations. These he slipped under his cloak and settled it into place. He knelt and kissed Yukiko on the forehead, “You are right, this I know. But I fear for Natsu and those they might injure getting to me.”

Hikaru ducked out of the tent and into the downpour. Soaked through almost instantly for the storm had increased in intensity in the time he had been inside Hikaru moved to where he saw a half dozen horses alight with magical torches near the creek. They circled and shone the light about them as if unsure of where he was and he grinned. They’d not seen the camp yet. He motioned to his troops to stay and stepped into the clearing a little ways down from where the camp actually was.

“There you are. So the snake slithers from its hole to meet us.” Batou’s horse pawed the ground restlessly as lightning struck a tree to their right. The others brought their own mounts around and Hikaru’s hand tightened against the bow hidden under his cloak. Laying unmoving over the neck of Hayate’s horse was Natsu.

“What do you want Ishikawa? Night has fallen and my troops are safe. You gain nothing by being here.” Hikaru tried to portray a calm he didn’t feel. His eyes roamed around the Six and didn’t see the instructor. “Does Captain Rugenji know you are here?”

Gon spit and Batou laughed, “Ha! That old fool was easy enough to get rid of. We sent him off with our scouts in case they ran into you up north. Then we came across your friend here and he just didn’t seem capable of getting out of the way of our horses.” Hayate kicked Natsu free of his horse and the body dropped to the ground. He groaned once and lay still. The light from the torches showed Hikaru that they had done more than run him down for the way his arms and legs were meant he was suffering greatly. But he was still alive.

“What do you want?” Hikaru repeated his voice shaking with anger.

“Your head on a platter or a pike traitor. But seeing as how we have not the time to do it right I’ll settle for your death.” The sound of many blades being drawn only made Hikaru angrier. They had come close to killing his best friend and tormented the three of them for the better part of two years and all to kill him here where they could cover it up away from Kaiden. That the sons of those who murdered his father would do the same to him brought the anger to a white hot rage inside him. If he was to die tonight it would be with his arrows in their throats.

A blinding flash of light sent the horses screaming and rearing with hikaru trying to blink away the spots in his vision. Yukiko knelt beside her cousin, two others from his unit picking his unconscious body up. “Run Hikaru! Don’t let them catch you!” She cried and raised her hand setting off a second blinding flash before retreating.

His mind was set though as he’d seen too much and knew it wasn’t going to stop here tonight. They wanted him dead and once home they would employ less direct methods. No, he would stop them tonight and get a measure of justice for Natsu, for his father and for himself a measure of vengeance. His first arrow took Hayate in the throat and then he was running towards the creek. Behind him came shouts of surprise and anger. Horses were brought under control and as he turned to loose another arrow. It hit Gon in the shoulder but did not stop them from charging after him.

The night became a blur of lightning, trees, horses and blades for Hikaru but by the time the blush of dawn filled the sky he sat panting under a tree near a riderless horse and the body of Batou. He winced and finished tying the wound on his ribs and began the long process of collecting the bodies and horses to take back to the Academy. He did not feel much at this point and staring at the corpse of the young man he’d killed did not feel like justice to him. It felt like survival and that was something he didn’t like. Hikaru had wanted to feel some sense of elation or something that their evil was ended. But he was numb and only felt a pang of sadness at the unnecessary loss of life. He still needed to check on his friend and troops and face what awaited him back at Kaiden. Without a doubt though his time at the Academy was at an end…

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No longer Armed Pt 1

“AHHHHHHHHHH!!!” “OH O GODS!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHH!” the blond haired priestess looked down wiping the sweat from the brow of her screaming patient and once again wiped the sweat from his feverish brow

“He’s still at it, boy’s got grit, I’ll give ‘im tha” the thick accent of the dwarven priest said as he softly walked into the room. Sabine turned.

“Prefect Lief? I had thought your duty shift ended hours ago” the Preistess of Selwyn said in surprise

“Aye, it did, but I cannot leave a warrior in pain, especially one whom I’ve sworn to watch, Lord Yolo forbids it…” the Prefect reached a hand out and pinched the rubbery skin on Prancer’s forearm “Besides, this lad is a fighter true and fierce, I can hardly believe he is still fightin’” the dwarf leaned over the bed and continued his examination. Sabine was quick to help him along

“His pupils have been focusing and unfocusing at seemingly random consistency, with no noticeable changes when exposed to light or darkness. Same with pain receptors, sweats and chills. He has lost control of his bowels several times, and just ten minutes ago started bleeding from under his toenails.” The dwarf nodded his agreement with her assessments

“You’ve delayed poison twice on him, and given numbing elixirs for the pain… fine work Curative…” Lief turned the wounded arm over and then noticed the necropsy starting to appear. His let out a long low whistle as his shoulders slumped. “By Amanamachras Frozen Slit!” he cursed, drawing a gasp from Sabine. The Prefect looked up and nodded in apology “I had thought we’d caught it in time, damn!” he looked long and hard at the little black dots before looking at Sabine again “Please have a room prepped for surgery, I am afraid that lad is going to lose his arm”

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