Balance

A job never done

9th of Harvester 383ONT, 9:34pm, The Accidental Pudding Inn, Port District, High Port, Elven Court.

I tried to focus on the hearty stew in front of me pretending I couldn’t hear Maddax’s tirade to Douglas.

I was pretty obvious to me that Maddax was reliving his own choices from back when his patrol was captured. It was sad, I could picture Maddax in his youth, confident slightly arrogant and a little bit rebellious. The one time he thought he knew better he was punished far worse than anyone deserved and he had been punishing himself ever since.

“He can’t do that!” Teagan jumped to her feet beside me.

“Hush,” I tugged her back down. “The captain of our guard absolutely has full rights to who is in the guard.”

“But Douglas is family! There is a madman trying to picking us off. I won’t allow Douglas to be alone out there!”

“Of course not, Maddax has had a bad shake. We all have, you will not undermine his authority in front of the crew. I’ll go talk to him. In the meantime, we’re short a swab, if Douglas’s pride will allow he can hold that position. He’ll be with the crew, have room and board, it will give Maddax a chance to calm down and Douglas a chance to prove himself worthy of a second chance.

She sighed heavily, “You’d best speak with him now. I’m going to get Douglas.” She marched to the door.

I shoved the stew away suddenly not hungry anymore. How do you explain to your best friend that his issues where spilling over into his work?

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Intel of the Dragon

Thalion sat down with his officers to look over the intelligence report Erindale had sent him, as he read it he wondered if they were perhaps in over their heads.

Aurumtec, The Red Wyrm, The Killing Fire, Rash Ziril (Dwarven), Vere Mors

Former Sub Chancellor for the Council of Wyrms, Former Executionier for Council or Wyrms. Bearer of Thelador during the Mage Rant Wars, Former Keeper of the Obsidian Orb. Slayer of Speaker Kanantha, brought over 8000 elven warrior to their early deaths. Melted the Original Dwarf Gate and ended the first line of Thanes.

The Area
- The Area is in a rocky cliff laden section of the Elven Court, formally used for mining
- There are three nearby villages

o Haen Asari
 Mainly occupied by halflings and is mostly a berry farming location
 Nestled on the edge of Lake Asari,
 probably a two day flight by eagle to his layer
 people are like to be helpful of a Knight of Quenya
 known to have several small shrines,
 is the smallest of the towns
 Steward Bernard Elvellon administers the town

o Larenqua
 Elvish mining town
 Equal parts Halfling and elf
 Maybe a day’s flight to his layer
 Will be helpful,
 No major water features near them (springs and wells mostly)
 Known to have a small church to Arazul
 Aldermen Selathit Tormys is in charge of the town

o Anyfa Belanore
 On the Belanore River
 Mostly Elvish town
 Two days flight from the Lair
 The still pay tribute to the Dragon and are like to warn the dragon of your presence, recommend avoiding them
 They are the largest of the towns, likely to have at least two arcane casters and known to have two fair sized churches
 Warden Folre Gengwyn is in charge of town

- Recommend landing your ship near Tree Fall and flying to Haen Asari (two days flight) Then flying to Larenqua doing a final resupply and then heading in.

His Layer
- Aurumtec made his layer in the crags or the northern elven court, deep in a cave he had shifted the plates and created a small magma flow where he rests and sleeps.
- The cave system and crags were former magnesium mines, which rest precariously above and around his bed.
- He was known to have several fire elemental servants who work as his guards and eyes while he sleeps. They have likely trapped many of the approaches to his layer.
- The area is specifically designed to have difficult approaches on foot, no way to get wagons or carts in.
- Any geographical spacing’s large enough for an aerial approach would be easily spotted by the Wyrm and guards days in advance and due to the ground approached weaving in and out of caves, would not able to support ground crews.
- It is said that many of the caves in the area vent methane and other noxious gases dangerous to most demi humans
The Dragon
- He is Strong, stronger than many of his kind. Remember he was an executioner for the Council of Wyrms, he has experience in aerial combat and the ability to kill other dissident dragons
- He is smart, and twisted, he sees elves as cattle, other demi humans as worse, you will have to display massive keen intellect to even cause him to recognise you as something beyond food. You will need to maintain that if you expect him to actually treat with you.
- His fire can harm even creatures who normally live in fire
- He is not known to be a skilled caster among dragons, but don’t let that fool you, he has forgotten more about magic than many elves deem to learn, and is able to caste a number of powerful spells at will.
- He is certainly knowledgeable of the weave, I have heard evidence of his fascination with Bogna, he may try to employ it against you, this is part of why you were chosen for this mission.
- His domination powers are very strong, be wary of spies and your allies, he may be able to dominate members of your group and turn them against you, be prepared for this.
- He has slept soundly since before the Devil Demon Aberrant War. Long ago I constructed a magical damn that made a mist that helped lull him and keep him asleep, the flood broke the damn and drenched him awake… I do not have the resources to build another damn any time soon.
- With his long sleep, he will be knew to the ways of cannons and guns, or at least not have seen their like before.
- He lies, and is known to lie often, breaking his word to an elf will mean nothing to him, be wary of that.
- He has long ago enchanted his claws with powerful blades, two of his teeth have been replaced with mithril spikes
- If he learns who you are, you can assume he will research you and prepare accordingly.
- His Hide is Powerful, if your weapon is less than a +4 it will have lesser effects.

Tactical Suggestions
- He is an excellent flyer, best to take him on the ground… in cramped caves if you can
- He knows his environment and surroundings, he will use them to his advantage
- Trust each other, he will try to turn you against each other
- Prolonged exposure to his breath weapon can cause even magical items to melt… melting magic can cause catastrophic consequences… be wary of this
- I have started spreading rumors of weaknesses you do not have in hopes of confusing his spies should he research you.

What I can lend for this mission
- The speed of which this mission must happen prevents me from making items for you, you will have to subsist on items already available within the tower.
- 20 arrows of Dragon Slaying
- 6 bullets of Dragon Slaying
- 1 Heavy Crossbow Bolt of Greater Dragon Slaying
- 7 amulets of Fire Absorption (300 points each)
- 1 4 Shortbow
- 1 +4 Thundering Longbow
- 25 Durable Arrows
- 6 Tracer Bullets
- 15 Darkness Arrows
- 2 Grave Marker Arrows
- 20 Greater Hushing Arrows
- 10 Hushing Bolts
- 5 Greater Bolder Bullets
- 8 Phase Arrows (
3)
- +4 Adamantium Tipped Eagle War Lance
- Dragoncatch Guisarme
- +4 Great Frost-Thunder Hammer
- +4 Starbow
- Gun with No Name
- 2 Potions of Fly
- 5 Potions of Jump
- 8 Potions of Bull Strength
- 4 Potions of Bears Endurance
- 2 Potions of Lesser Restoration
- 20 Cure Light Wounds Potions
- 15 Cure Moderate Wound Potions
- 5 Cure Serious Wound Potions
- 1 Heal Potion
- Eight Battle Trained Griffins, Barding of Fire Resistance 10 on each
Please let me know which of these items you wish to take

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Embers are Hot pt 2

9th of Harvester 383ONT, 923pm, The Accidental Pudding Inn, Port District, High Port, Elven Court.

“I Didn’t mean to, I’m sorry… I thought…” Douglas stammered under Maddax’s interrogation

.

“You thought? You Thought! No one pays you to think Douglas, you see four intruders come on our ship and you abandon your post to save a single crew member” The Goblin stood on his bench leaning over the small table in the corner of the Accidental Pudding. They had thought a table would be discreet enough, but the story being received from one of his guards was infuriating. . “She was in trouble… she’d told me some of the troubles with her ex-husband… Aled… he’s been tracking her across Argyle. I saw that the Master Gunner and the Bosun were facing off with them, I figured I would get her to safety then come back and support… I didn’t think th…” again Douglas was cut off . “No, you didn’t think… and three people are dead because of it. I’m going to ask you a few questions, please answer them as best you can… when there is an intruder on the ship what do you do?” Maddax’s words were an icy whisper that gave Douglas the chills. He ran his hand over his bald head before responding

.

“Well, this was a different situation… I knew who they were after and…” . “WHEN THERE IS AN INTRUDER ON THE SHIP DOUGLAS… WHAT DO YOU DO?” The Goblin forced the words out with as little venom as he could manage… he saw the man’s shoulders slump . “Raise the Alarm, Secure the Captain, Engage and/or detain the Enemy while the Officers arrange the crew” Maddax stared at him for a long moment

.

“Did you follow the protocol?”

.

“Come on Mr. Maddax… I said this was different, the Bosun and the Master Gunner were already there… I said I was sorry…” . “You’re sorry? YOU’RE SORRY! COME HERE… RIGHT NOW!” He jumped from the table and stormed across the common room, Douglas hurried to follow him. Maddax marched down the hall and pushed open to the Med Ward, where three wrapped hammocks lay near the door. “I figured we could come on in here so we can tell Sara that you’re sorry, I’m sure that will make everything ok” Maddax cursed at the human.

.

“Come on Maddax, that’s not fair” the Boulder Josiah said having heard the last of the exchange and turning from Talathan’s bed. Maddax fixed the Boulder with a deadly stare before continueing

.

“Let’s ask George how fair is it? Let’s ask him if he accepts your apology for not doing your GODS BE DAMNED JOB!” The goblin said fury in his voice “What about Jonus? Do you think he’s ok with your apology?” The big man said nothing in return, he merely stared at the three wrapped corpse’s lip shuddering but refusing to cry.

.

“I didn’t want anyone to get hurt” was all Douglas could muster. The Goblins yellow eyes flared at this, he turned to point to the beds but the Boulder stepped in

.

“No… you’ve made your point, and I have patients who need their rest…if this must continue, take it somewhere else” the Cleric was implacable in his stature and the Goblin at last gave him a firm nod opening the door and leaving with Douglas. They only made it a few steps into the hall before the Goblin turned back to face him. This time his face was a little softer

.

“I don’t think you acted with malice Douglas, but you did break protocol, and you left your post… I can’t have someone like that on the Guard, when we make mistakes, people die.”

.

“What am I supposed to do? Where am I gonna go… this was the bestest job I ever had” Douglas asked, at last tears running from his eyes. Maddax met the look, but did not flinch back

.

“I don’t know Douglas, you can come back tomorrow and collect the last of your wages and things from Bronwyn, but today I need you to turn in your magic shield and leave, your time with the Guard on the Champions Fist is over” Maddax said holding out his hands. The big man took the shield strapped to his shoulder and turned it over to Maddax, he then took a shuddering sigh as they went back to the common room and collected his trunk of things, from here Maddax walked him to the door and escorted him out into the night.
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Embers are Hot Pt 1

9th of Harvester 383ONT, 923pm, The Accidental Pudding Inn, Port District, High Port, Elven Court.

Thalion dropped a hefty pouch of gold into the hands of Devedan Venris. Owner and operator of the Inn and Tavern known as the Accidental Pudding. The building was two stories, had about thirty rooms a large common area, a private dining area in the back and an attached stable. Thalion was taking no chances, he opted to rent the entire inn. Only his people would be permitted to come and go, that way he could assure their safety. He had pulled several low ranking Grey Corsairs and assigned a round the clock four man watch on the Tavern, and a round the clock six man watch on his Ship. That might ease the strain on Maddax and his crew while they tried to figure out what was going on.

“That should cover the next ten days easily.” Thalion said to the man “My Guard Captain may have some hoops for you to jump through, we’re a little skittish right now, so there is some extra for your troubles as well” The Knight said to the Inn Keep.

“Of Course Captain, it is my pleasure to be of aid. My wife and I run two other Inn’s, she has agreed to watch the other two so I can devote my full attention to you. Your Squire has already asked me about my employees, as I mentioned to him Dakath, is my son, and the primary chef here, he takes care of the afternoon and evening meals. His apprentice Delaney, a wonderful Halfling women, takes care of the morning meals. Outside of that I have three other staff Kathrine, Tara and Clovis, all halflings, all have worked for me for over six years. I will personally introduce each to your guards to assure there are no issues. It is our honour to step forward and aid the Grey Corsairs and the Knights of Quenya in their hour of need, anything at all we can do to be of service please let me know”

“Thank you Master Venris, your willingness to accommodate will not be forgotten” The Captain said excusing himself and turning back to see how his crew were settling in. A stream of them were coming and going, they were only three blocks from the ship, carrying their trunks and packs with their needed personal belongings as the Inn Keeps assistant Tara directed them to the various rooms they had been assigned. He knew the rooms were well in hand. Maddax and Hikari had both personally inspected each one, examined windows that backed into the ally, assured proper locks were in place, or in some cases nailed them shut… there would be no surprises here. He moved past them and down the hall to the private dining room, or the Med Ward had he had come to think of it.

To the side, wrapped in their hammocks were the bodies of George, Sara and Josiah. The Boulder had said he would memorize spells for the morrow, ones to speak with the dead, and see if they wished to be brought back, and to which deity they prayed. Further into the room her assessed the wounded, the ones that the Boulder had not been able to immediately cure, Ku-Aya rested comfortably, most his back and arms coated in a thick salve that Cassidy had managed to brew up, when more healing spells were available, the Boulder would be able to finish taking care of his wounds. Jesse was stable and breathing better now, a lot of smoke had filled her lungs… and her silence had caused her to be missed when Lee Sue had been looking for survivors below decks. Terry had been very bad off, the fires had burn deeply into his arm… Boulder Josiah was unsure if a standard curative spell would fix the damage or if a regenerate would be needed for the boys arm to be fully functioning again. She looked over at the now resting comfortably Talathan, the elven boy had survived his ordeal. Thaden looked up from the upside-down clay cup he perched on where he watched and studied his patient. It had been touch and go, and exhausted much of the Guard Mouses talents with the weave, but the boy was once again stable and safe. At last she came to Willhym; her Master Gunner had taken no fewer than 4 bullets in the chest at point blank range, by Ku-Aya’s account the enemy had fired eight at him, his new ambulate had likely saved his life. The bullets were insidious, each one when hitting the Halfling and tasting blood had grown small arms and burrowed their way to a different vital organ. It had taken the Boulder, Flit, Hikari and Valeria working together to track the bullets and pull them out of the Halfling. His screams of pain still sent shudders through the Captain; he would never doubt the Master Gunners ‘grit’ again; the fact that he still lived was a miracle in itself. The Boulder rushed over to the Captain as he saw him enter. Thalion went to say something but the Boulder just opened his arms and hugged the Captain in a big hug. It wasn’t proper, but the Captain responded in kind. After a moment of composing himself he released the Captain and looked up.

“I’ve given them all I am comfortable in giving,” he said to the Captain sweeping the room with his hands “I have a few more curative spells I am holding back in case someone takes a turn for the worse, but I think they are all pretty stable right now, I will stay up the night with them, until I need to pray for spells, then I can do more in the morning”

“Thank you Josiah” The Captain said “Please let me know if you need anything more”

“I will Captain, I’m just sorry I couldn’t do more… I’ll think a lot harder about my spell choices in the future… I wasn’t really prepared for a fire… I’m sorr…”

“None of that Josiah, it caught us all off guard, and I am extremely proud of how you conducted yourself, there isn’t a thing at all for you to be sorry about, are we clear” the two met eyes and eventually the human cleric nodded to the Captain “Good Man” The Captain said clasping him on the shoulder and leaving the Med Ward. Next he stepped out the door and worked his way to the ship, he nodded and tried to offer a weary smile to crew members he passed along the way. It was no surprise that many members of the Grey Corsairs and Eagle Knights were here now, lining the road and area and helping move supplies and gear. He got to the ship and found Flit, Aurellia, Hikari and Cassidy talking with six robed figures and three Grey Corsairs. Flit nodded to the Captain as he approached

“Captain, these fine wizards and officers have been sent by the tower of High Sorcery to aid us in our investigation as to what happened, and who might have done this. They have just finished examining the area and will bring back their conclusions to us tomorrow” Flit said. The Captain took a moment to thank wizards and officers. He waited until they had departed before turning to his crew.

“So, what do we have?”

“This fella’s right fockered Cap” Cassidy begun, pointing out the thick black stuff that had been on some of the doors “Some kind of alchemical glue… but it also absorbs heat, and seems to double it radiating out, it would expand and spread any fire near it… nasty stuff” he scratched his head a few minutes before continuing “I’m honestly not sure how he made the fire, it’s a play on greek fire, that’s for sure, but I’ll need time and study to figure it out, it’s like nothing I have seen before”

“The Uniforms are their own special piece… none magical” Hikari began “painted with a waxing veneer, I am thinking again alchemical to provide fire immunity for a time, perhaps armor as well as the cloth wouldn’t normally hold up against my arrows the way it did” I’ll need to do some more work on it to see what else I can find.

“Broseph and Spot are a total mess” Flitt added in, Mandy just had them brought back to the Inn, but it will take days to clean them out, maybe more; she’s pretty shook up over it”

“They were super comfortable with Black Powder, I found what was left of their fire arms… some kind of thin metal, designed to only be used once or twice and then melt in low heat fires… wasn’t a lot I could salvage… but the way they knew to go to the cannons and how they operated around back powder during a fire… they’ve done this before. Flit and Bitey will help me in the morning to pull our cannons from the bottom of harbor, I’ll have to see if they can be salvaged or not. The ones remaining on the deck are banged up, but I should be able to get them working again.” The Captain looked at each of his officers and friends, working hard to take deep breaths and find his centre

“I want to know who is behind this, I want him found and brought to me… people don’t get to hurt my people and walk away from it… there will be consequences for this, world shattering consequences. Talk to your contacts, your friends, your friend’s friends; call in every favour you have, shake things up! This one doesn’t get to slip away… this one is personal” the Captain was sucking in breath of rage as he finished talking, few had ever seen him this angry before. The assembled group agreed and the Captain stalked back to the Inn… there was much more work to be done.

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When I am Up pt 1

34th of Goodmonth 383ONT, Champions Fist, Voyage Home from Lunar Mission 11:14am, Mess Hall

Cassidy looked conspiratorially at his companions, it was a good plan, one well and truly worth the risks at a time like that this. Most of the rigors and sailors had worked their way down to the mess, and a few had happened to find a barrel full of delicious tasting purple. It was a sticky sweet drink; that carried the kick of an ale with the sweetness of a pie. Cassidy was truly proud of it, seeing none of the officers who might be inclined to ask too many questions he nodded to Nathan, who produced his lute fiddle and hit the first couple chords. Oslow sitting at a nearby table, produced his little drum and hit an opening beat. A few of the crew laughed and clapped as Cassidy cleared his throat

PLEASE LISTEN WHILE READING

“I am the fountain of affection…” he sang out as hoots and hollers reared among the crew, most of them recognizing the old shanty. He belted out the first verse… none to shabby if he did say so himself; but that wasn’t the point. He saw the Bosun come down the steps just as the crew joined in the chorus, he could not have timed it better if he’d tried… quickly he sidled through the crowd to get over to Ku-Aya before they crew finished. When the chorus was done the room fell silent and Cassidy nudged the officer with his elbow. He looked sheepish and embarrassed but seeing the crew staring at him he could not help it

“His Exhalation, a sweet disintegration…” Ku-Aya sang out and the crew roared in approval, already Douglas and Callwen were dancing, Hugh and Josiah were sitting at a table banging their cups to the music while most the crew ringed the impromptu dance floor allowing each a turn to show off their skills while they sung along with the band. Seeing the Bosun entrenched in his duties as lead singer he turned towards the stairs, just in time to spot the next potential buzz kill, none other than the First Mate. Cassidy had studied his opponents hard, he was ready for every eventuality and reached into his pockets and caught the First Mate before he made it down the stairs.

“Aye Flit, How’s yer Toppers this morning?” Cassidy opened up as he blocked his passage

“Well enough Cassidy, I heard music, thought I’d join in the fun”

“Aye, a wollper they be at indeed… but before that I was hoping you’d join me in a Holy Prayer to the great big fellow of…. Bigliness” Cassidy said, producing three thickly rolled cigarettes from his pocket. He saw the First Mate eye them carefully weighing if he should or not

“Come on, yer not steering the ship right now, Cap said to live a little… and yo can consider it part of reformin a genuine bonafide sinner type” Cassidy added with a wink. Flit gave it

“Alright… let’s head up to the bow deck where we can still hear the music through the mess vents”

“Aye Aye Sir” Cassidy said smiling that phase two of his master plan had come to be.

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Cold Shadows Pt 2

35th of Goodmonth 383ONT, 4:13pm, Temple of the Northern Wind, Northern Evermoors, Argyle.

Curtis looked at his companions before turning back to the Air Worshipers before him. “So you can see,” Curtis continued “We are not enemies, we need not battle, not until our respective Goddesses have met and decided our fates” Z’meer, the head of the temple nodded at the wisdom of the little faun.

“So be it Curtis Tomas, you and your companions will be allowed to continue your search of the North Wind, unmolested by out guild; but you will stop again at this temple once your mission has been completed, that we might speak further of how our peoples can live in peace” Z’meer said. Curtis bowed to the cleric, nudging Maul to do the same; he reluctantly did. Goodbyes were said and within an hour they found themselves leaving the temple.

“I think that worked out well” Curtis said grinning as they left the temple

“I still think you should have killed their Assassin where he stood” Maul grumbled, but offered a friendly nudge of his elbow to show he was kidding

“Pshhh, just because someone bests you in a fight doesn’t mean you have to kill them” Curtis laughed

“He didn’t best me, he snuck up on me!” Maul said defensively

“Curtis…. Curtis… Pray For Help… Pray Curtis” the voice drifted at the fringe of the faun’s ability to hear. Curtis stopped in his tracks causing Leven to bump into him as he cocked his head to listen for more… nothing came. Maul picked up on the change in tension, his weapons came to hand as he began to scan the area for ambush… silence passed for a moment.

“There is a problem… I have to go help right now… do you trust me?” he asked looked at each of his five companions. They smiled and nodded, their trust in the Cleric of the Night Wind was absolute. “I know not what I will face… but my body will be defenceless while I am gone… I will need your protection” the group quickly moved back to back, ready for battle. Curtis watched as Osswack held his staff defensively, Maul pulled out his axe, Soaz her tiny sword and Leven… he picked up a rock. The five took a few deep breaths preparing themselves as Curtis caste his spell… then his soul shifted planes

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

Curtis appeared in the centre of the Throne Room of the Goddess of the Night Wind. A roil of vapour appeared around him as the relatively warm air from his surroundings met with the cold uncomfortable stale air of the throne room. The place stank of stale wine and discarded food. He slowly took in his surroundings, trying to fathom what this place was, or why it looked so. The colour was all but gone, there was a looming sense of death in the air and a tension that caused his skin to crawl. Curtis at last saw Aruik crumpled on the floor by the throne… he raced over to her taking three great steps before skidding to a halt. Tucked behind the throne purring in low tones was a raptor. Its eyes were hungry, and it appeared that Curtis was approaching its planed meal. He raised his hands calmly as he took another step towards the raptor.

“ARK ARK” came the cry of another raptor to his left… he’d not seen that one. The first raptor stepped out from behind the throne as the two began to close the distance on him.

“Easy fella’s… easy” Curtis said in low tones, trying to calm the beasts

“ARRRK” one cried out showing its claws and preparing to leap, on instinct Curtis pulled his Holy Symbol out and displayed it to the charging raptors

“I AM CURTIS TOMAS, 1ST AMONG HER SERVENTS, YOU WILL BE CALM!” his voice thundered as his holy symbol shone with a powerful white light. The feral hungry look dissipated from the raptors eyes as they came to a stop, one of them allowed its tongue to roll out to the side giving it a goofy almost friendly look. Seeing his rebuke had worked, he did not want to push his luck on how long it would last “BE GONE FROM HERE, I HAVE NO TIME FOR YOU BEASTS!” he said in his commanding voice. The raptors seemed sad to be sent away, but nodded to him, looked to each other and then ran off through the door at the southern end of the room. Seeing them leave, the faun took a moment to scan the room for more enemies before running to Aruik. He knelt beside her and held the beautiful angel in his arms. “Ordinal?… Aruik? Are you all right” he asked gently. She was cold to the touch, her skin had turned grey, the luster and colour form her eyes had drained into an inky black. He held her close trying to warm her. He could feel her, like a siphon pulling heat, warmth… faith from his body, he allowed it and slowly her eyes opened.

“Curtis… what are you doing here?” she asked weakly. He smiled at her

“You sent for me, I came?” he smiled back. Even in her weakened state she was able to roll her eyes.

“You were to bring the Goddess, this plane needs her” she said

“Oh” he said, “well, I am here now… let’s get you up and figure out how we might contact her” he said standing and offering her a hand. Shakily she rose to her feet putting an arm over his shoulder.

“A new visitor? How quaint” a voice projected from the far side of the room. There stood Lord Talib. He took a few steps forward before posing his next question “and who do we have here, a little faun is it? A friend from the green realm?” he asked the questions in a mock cutesy tone, but his eyes ran up and down over Curtis carefully weighing, appraising and assessing him.

“Curtis, go home… right now! Get help” Ariuk said in an urgent whisper to him. Curtis looked from Aruik over to Talib

“Is he the one causing all this trouble” he asked, turning to face Talib and pulling out his little mace “he doesn’t look all that tough” Curtis said a little louder and taking a step towards Talib. “I am Curtis Tomee…” he words were cut off in a gasp as Talib pointed a finger at him, twelve black daggers shot forth each perfectly targeting Curtis’s neck. Luckily Curtis was not in fact here, and the daggers passed through him slamming into the wall some twenty feet behind him.

“Ah… I see” Talib said taking another few steps forward… “you are not here; you are on Argyle… a simple priest or cleric communing with your deity. How… amusing” he said, waving his hands in a complicated series of movements, yet nothing appeared to happen.

35th of Goodmonth 383ONT, 4:16pm, Just outside the Temple of the Northern Wind, Northern Evermoors, Argyle.

Maul looked back at Leven who leaned over the sleeping Curtis, Osswack scratched his head before speaking

“We are sure he’s not just napping and pranking us… this would be a very good prank” there was a pause among the group as they thought about it, it would not be totally out of character for Curtis to try such a thing. Maul shook his head

“I don’t think so… he had that look of worry… I don’t think he knows how to make that look on purpose” the wild elf replied

SHUSHUSHU

The bushes to the left shuddered, the foliage all around began to move, they all stood ready ears cocked for more clues. It was Leven who heard the murmurs and groans first and let out a terrible curse

“BRAINS…. BRAINS” the moaning and shuffling grew louder.

“GODS BE DAMNED” Maul cussed as he quickly gathered branches littered on either side of the path and went about building a fire “The one time our cleric is indisposed is the time that the dead choose to attack us” he didn’t bother with a traditional build instead opting to rummage through Curtis’s pack and pull the lantern oil out. He poured it over the branches and worked with his flint and steel as he heard the dead monsters mover closer.

“We could run for the temple… they would shield us I am sure” Osswack offered as he himself cast a spell of blessing on his staff. Maul shook his head as the twigs lit ablaze.

“We can’t move him until he wakes… he knew there would be trouble…we hold here until he gets up” Maul said, gathers a few more branches and starting a second fire at the other side of the group. “Stay between the fires… kill anything that comes within arm’s reach of Curtis… understood?” there wasn’t time for an answer, the first zombie broke through the underbrush and attacked.

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

“So you’re the God Talib huh?” Curtis said eyeballing the deity some twenty feet from him “Can’t say that I am impressed” the Faun sneered, trying his best to throw out some verbal sword play

“A fact that I am sure will cause me to loose countless nights of sleep” Lord Talib responded in a bored tone, what do you want little Faun? Clearly your Goddess has abandoned this realm, so there is little sense you hanging around, bringing down the collective IQ”
“The Lady of the Night Wind has not abandoned this realm! She loves this realm and each of her followers” Curtis rebuked

“Yes… I am sure that is the bedtime stories that are shared on Argyle” the God’s voice dripped with contempt “You’re faith may bolster this room, the Ordinal even for a short time… but it will not last… you are mortal my friend and your spell will soon come to an end… one way or the other and then things will begin to decay and rot once more”

“YOU’RE DOING THIS… IT’S YOU!” Curtis accused stamping two steps toward the God “STOP IT!”

“I assure you, my angry little Faun Friend that I am not actively ‘doing’ anything… I will also warn you that astral or not, if one of your grubby little fingers tries to touch me, I will unmake you” the words were not said in rage, or as bluster… it was said calmly and stated as a fact, one that Curtis believed to his very core. Curtis took a step back… then fell to his knees, he didn’t know what else to do… so he prayed.

“Oh Great Goddess, hear my prayers… Please come to your throne… we are in danger”

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Cold Shadows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Party at Kitty and Stud's Pt 1

Please Listen While Reading

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

“Teagan, the bridge is yours.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Burdens Shared

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

Please Listen While Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Music of Dreams

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

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

Plink, Pling, Pling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” Hikari asked defensively

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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