Balance

Sluggin in out in Cainia Pt 3

17th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 11:36pm, Mausoleum of Dragnye Hold, Cainia

SCRUNCH, SCRUNCH, SCRUNCH

Callum dropped the broken helmet he had been using to smash in the enemies skull and looked about at his companions. He’d lost four more humans and two of his own men. Hithliums Sweaty Clumpy Ass Hair they were screwed. That skirmish had been costly… they were having to cede more and more ground as the Black Arrows continued to move fires into the tunnels in attempts to smoke them out. Most of the civies were at the back of the tunnel system, maybe a mile away, but at this rate they would not last the night… the smoke would kill them long before the swords got a chance. Callum climbed to his feet, he reset the line and worked his way back to the next checkpoint.

“Sarg…” a brown bearded gnome greeted him as he approached the checkpoint

“What have you got for me Sims?” Callum asked thankfully taking a waterskin from one of the nearby humans and drinking deeply.

“The bad news… there’s no way with the tools and manpower we have that I am going to be able to dig vents to route the smoke out before the smoke kills us” Callum finished his drink and passed the skin back to the waiting women.

“You’re a fountain of optimism Sims, you know that?” he said. The gnome merely nodded before caring on

“There is another option however… towards the back of the crypts we found a tunnel where the back end is almost entirely clay… real soft stuff…”

“Clay? Really?”

“Yes Sir… by my guess that puts about 1.3 miles North West West from the edge of the hold, there was a fair sized pond in that area… we are probably beside or under it”

“I see…” Callum said slowly not seeing at all
“So… with the tools we have… we could try and dig out way out of here… but if we screw up at all, the entire clay wall and ceiling could give out and we will flood the tunnels and drown”

“Huh… so stay put and maybe die of smoke and sword or dig and maybe drown? Is that my choices?”

“Essentially Sir…”

“Well the way they took the inner Keep tells me that the main companies have been repelled, they likely won’t try another assault today… if we hold it will have to be for at least 24 hours, maybe more…” Callum mused

“With the rate that the smoke is pouring in, I doubt we can last more than six or seven hours sir” Sims offered

“If we dig… what are the odds, we make a mistake and flood?”

“Well… considering I don’t have any surveys on where exactly we are, and that the tunnel was built originally by humans without proper shoring, and I don’t have the proper tools or skilled workers…”

“Ya… taking all that into account”

“Good… there is a Really Really Good chance that we will flood the tunnels”

“Huh… well… how big was the pond… will it actually drown us? We have a lot of tunnels here”

“That’s an excellent question sir… I have no idea… I saw the pond in passing on the map… noted it more as a landmark case we got twisted about… I don’t know how big or deep it is”

“We could figure some of that out by looking at the map through right”

“Absolutely sir”

“Who’s got the map?”

“Markus… he died upstairs during the evact”

“Yolo’s crusty cock!” Callum swore throwing his hands up in the air. He looked around seeing the tired and scared humans, seeing the nearly exhausted and wounded Cainian and Dwarven warriors who were taking a short reprieve he took a deep breath and let it out through pursed lips

“OK Sims… here is what we’re gonna do…”

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Sluggin in out in Cainia Pt 2

17th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 4:15pm fields outside of Dragnye Hold, Cainia

“Aight boyz, you ready for this?” the newly minted Sargent Callum Boytano said to his unit. He was roaring over the din of the three pitched battles taking place. On the right flank where three companies of Banana Slugs, along with those super special 4th Dact Hammers, they were keeping the Mauraders busy. On the left and another two companies of the Slugs, duking it out with the Sons of Treefall. Then right down the centre where two more companies of Slugs and a half company of irregular humans, mostly militia type and locals who’d joined up with the Boy Prince. “So one more time, cause Thrain is an idiot and I need to make sure even he understands” Callum said making a face to let Thrain know he was joking. “We are the pick of the litter, we hold a nice tight diamond formation following hot on the heels of the 2nd Axes, ropes and grapnels at the ready, our job is to break the siege. We get to the south wall, climb it, and reinforce the wall. Those tricky frackers in the Black Arrow seem to know what we’re about, they are trying to crack the nut before we can break through and offer some relief… we are like unguent on a hemroid gents… RELIEF!” he pasued to assure his boys understood the mission then went forward. “So I know what yer thinking… IF things go to shit…”

“WHEN!” Thrain called out to the chuckles of the other men. Callum offered him a nod and conceded the point

“When things go to shit, and should the wall be breached, we are to protect as many non-coms as we can, but have priority on the Duke and his wife, no matter what we are to see them to safety… understood?”

“HAROO!” the men shouted. Callum gave them all a nod, hiked his shield up his shoulder and drew out his axe

“Give’em hell lads… give ‘em hell”

17th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 5:07pm, Dragnye Hold, Cainia

KRABOOM!

The inner doors to the keep bust open as a slow of Black Arrow Mercenaries rushed in, their curved blades wheeling cutting down the Cainian defenders.

“THRAIN! TAKE TEN MEN AND FALL BACK TO THE HALLWAY, I NEED FIVE MINUTES… YOU HOLD GODDAMNED IT!” Callum shouted as he fell back with his unit “LOGAN, CHECK THE BACK AND EAST WINDOWS… I NEED AN EXIT!” he yelled sending a dwarf racing down the halls. “THE REST OF YOU ARE WITH ME, HONOUR GUARD FOR THE DUKE… LET’S MOVE DWARVES!” he turned and launched himself up the stairs, taking them three at a time, six dwarves on his heels. “Warn the populace that we’re leaving in five, if they want to try and follow through out breech it is likely the last best chance” he called to his men. As they passed each floor a dwarf would wheel off and begin warning the occupants there to grab what they could carry and make themselves ready to leave. Callum reached the top of the stairwell and ran down the hall. The two human guards jumped as they saw him coming but quickly recognized the slug emblem and instead opened the door for him. He charged into the Duke’s quarters and skidded to a halt sucking in oxygen with each laboured breath. As he looked about the room he could see the Duke strapping on his belt with a thick rapier on it, and his wife fussing with a chain shirt she had just shrugged on. The Duke turned and looked at the intrusion questioningly. “Yer Grace…” Callum panted “… the inner door has been breached, we’re not going to be able to hold Dragnye… I’m sorry sir… my orders are to see that you and the Duchess Elizabeth are escorted safely from here” the Duke looked to the Duchess and nodded once to her

“You may escort Elizabeth out, but I have over five hundred non-combatants here in the keep… many are women and children and elderly… I will not leave them to be slaughtered” The Duke said, his voice stating clearly he didn’t wish to hear arguments. Callum ran his hand through his hair before speaking

“I feel for ya, I surly do, and I aint keen to leave anyone my own self, but with all due respect yer Dukeliness, I got my orders, and I am to see you and the Duchess here if I feel I can’t hold the keep…” as he spoke a dwarf came running up behind him

“Sir… the elves are coming over the eastern, wall… the Black Arrows have us surrounded here as the outer wall has been fully breached… there is no exit” Logan delivered his news with decorum, though there was a noticeable slump in the shoulders of the few dwarves who’d followed him up. Callum turned to the Duke letting out a long low sigh

“Well Sir… never mind that… what is the most defendable place within the inner keeper?” The Duke scratched his chin for a moment contemplating what was left

“The Mausoleum,” he stated “The hallways are long and narrow, no more than two at a time could approach from down there… but there is only one entrance and exit… should the entire keep fail we will be trapped down there”

“Aye… but we’re not exactly looking at a heap of options are we…?” Callum said turning back to his men “Logan, take Squirrely and find this Mausoleum… quick scout… get the layout, the chokes and figure out if the Duke here is right and how screwed we all might be… Spuds… Take Blush and the Good Bishop and start rallying the Non-Coms, get them into the Mausoleum right quick like… Reggie… Let Thrain know to start making a slow withdrawal to the Mausoleum entrance… we’ll meet him there” he was met to a flood of

“Aye Sirs” as the dwarves took off to their appointed tasks

“Duke Forbes? Duchess? If you will please be followin me” Callum said in the kindest voice he could muster.

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Slugging it Out in Cainia Pt 1

14th of Floodtime 383 ONT, Thenton Ridges North of Aderaid Keep, Cainia

“SARG!” Callum of Clan Durin screamed pulling down a private beside him as he ducked behind a log. The situation was normal, ALL FRACKED UP. The Fightin Banana Slugs had just reached Aderaid Keep two days before, because of a case serious case of Hithilums Pit Sweat his unit got spun right around on a northern patrol along the Ridge Line. It should have been the 4th Hammers on the patrol, lazy bums arrived a week and a half ago and have been sitting on guard duty ever since. Anyway, the unit finished a six day patrol march, and just as they were coming in what does the good old Captain happen to spot, A Hithilum be damned Evil Mother Frackin Eye, spiritin away straight from Aderaid. Well you can be damned sure that the 4th Hammers didn’t notice it, so lickity split the Captain breaks the unit into squads and sends em into pursuit, those things are fast, dangerous and known spies for the Marauders.

Squads can move pretty quick; and Callums Unit managed to cut the Fracker off, that’s when things went south of Hithilums Nethers. The eye didn’t keep running, nah, it turned and decided a squad of Dactylians was no biggy.

BZZZZZD

The Captain, and the LT got hit with this damned beam, next thing we know, they are drawing weapons and turning on us. That’s when the Sarg stepped up the plate.

“5th and 6th Slugs with me, everyone else hedge in our men; try not to hurt them, just take the fight outta them” When the Sarg says jump, you don’t even ask how high you just keep going up till he says stop. We charged forward after the Evil Eye bringing it into the clearing… not sure what the Sarg’s plan was, he stood up to bark an order when

BZZZD

Little red beam hits the Sarg, his scream matched my own, then his body seemed to burn from the inside out as he turned to ash in front of us. I pulled down the Private beside me again

“Keep Yer Frackin Head….”

BZZZZD

Poor bastard turned to stone right then and there; things were going from bad to worse right quick like.

“Boys, eyes down and shields up don’t be looking at the Fracker! Form Up on me… GO!” I shouted trying to sound brave, looking at their feet I saw I had about 11 men with me, Hithliums Stains, that was bad, there should have been at least nine more.

“How will we know where it is….” One of them asked, good frackin question… I felt a shutter of something hit my shield, whatever it was seem to burn into it, several layers of the wood wore through and it felt noticeably lighter. I risked a glance up. The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky… bright blue skies, a perfect Floodtime Day.

“Watch for the shadow Gents… easy and forward” tentatively our line advanced… every few seconds we would feel something hit our shields, but still the line moved forward… I could see the shadow on the ground.

“Why ain’t it, running Callum? … it could have got away by now” I recognized the voice, it was Thrain, a younger fella in my Unit.

“It ain’t Runnin cause it thinks it’s won already. It aint runnin cause it thinks that the Fightin Banana Slugs are gonna just let it waltz out of the Keep we was charged with protectin.”

“Cal…” another Private spoke up “Don’t ya think we ought to let this one go?… join up with another company and take it down with some support?….” They all felt another shudder on their shields. Callum knew his window was closing fast, the men were ready to run, and that would assuredly mean their end as they were picked off running through the clearing.

“Ya think Commander Ironhide’d run? Or even the human Forbes fella? Are ya thinkin that they’d turn tale at the sight of this Ugly Fracker?…” he didn’t wait for them to answer “Are we not soldiers? Are we not the 3rd Dact Axes, and the Fightin Banana Slugs to boot? Reach down into yer trousers and take hold of yer courage boys, cause I ain’t runnin, and this Frackers gonna become well acquainted with the business end of me axe…”

“HARROO” the men stomped in unison resetting their shields

“On three boys… one… two… THREE!”

Three minutes later it was over, Callum Boytano, last of the house Boytano, Thrain and three other privates stomped out of that clearing, there were no wounded to carry, so instead they dragged the dead creature, it would be studied, the good Dactylians of their company did not die for nothing.

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Logistics

Flit Stared in shock at the list and read down the first two pages once more

- Main Compass

- Charts for Lower Rhone, Upper Promethean, Pirates Swoop, Honastican shore basin, Easter Seaboard and Elven Islands

- Ship Logbooks x 12

- Sextant

- Plotting Kit

- Spyglass x 2

- Mast Pegs x 3 masts

- Ships Flag Set x 1

- Storm Sails x 2

- Drifter Sail x 1

- Extra sail cloth x 6 bolts

- Sewing kits x 7

- Thread 2.3 km

- Life boat x 1

- Pulleys and winches x 7 pair

- Collapsible Crane x 1

- Hammocks and Bedding x 20

- Officer Bedding x 10

- Captain Bedding x 1

- Soap x 3 lbs

- Cutlery x 35

- 2 pot sets

- Cook utensils x 3

- Knife sets x 2

- Baking trays

- Mixing bowls

- Plates, bowls, mugs

- Glassware for officers

- Buckets, rags, scrub brushes

- Kettles and coffee pots

- Shipwright tools x 3 sets

- Rope – lots

- Bumpers lines

- Safety lines

Bronwyn had taken on Mandy’s list and then added to it substantially then had pared down the twenty three page document to a mere six pages. It was an intimidating look, and the Quartermaster was adamant that this list was the absolute minimum required in order to safely set sail for a month to the elven lands. There were many other things she would like but was understanding that money was tight. Flit ran his hand over his head, they hadn’t even hired a cook yet… had not even started a grocery list… how did Thitmid and Belinda fund these expeditions. The list had a 2700gp value on it. He’d checked the prices, they were good, allot of the items being bought second hand or being gathered though her connections in port… still that was 2200gp more than he had budgeted for this. The Cargo was at least looking promising; Bronwyn seemed to think that she could get about eight tons of leather scrap for the 5000gp he had, and that at the current exchange she could probably double it in High Port. That also left him about 4k of storage space on the ship, she mentioned that if he had the capital to put another 4k into it, she could fill about three tons of storage space and earn them a 1.5k profit for the deal. With the new expenses he doubted he had that kind of money, he may have to just settle for the leather and hope to have more capital come High Port. He shook his head, unsure of what to do next.

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Here and Away
5th of floodtime

Dear Flitt

Thank you for your staunch support while I addressed the crew this afternoon, knowing that I can count on you to Captain our beautiful new ship to Lockland make this trip easier. I became emotional during our talk so I thought I’d write everything down in case I missed anything. Although I have loaned out my extra rugs and blankets so everyone has something to sleep on I expect them back in pristine condition.
I have spoken to Aurelia about using the chest as quarters for the ships guards please work out the best location with her. I suggest my cabin.
When you get to Lockland please aim for no more then 10 days in port.
While you are there I need you and Aurelia to hire a crew 200 gold should cover the hiring on costs. If you are able to find a competent quartermaster 500 gold should cover supplies and stocking the ship (please include hammocks and bedding so I can have mine back before I return)
Also, you will need to secure cargo something legal for our first run going to Honastis or High port. Once we get to my vineyard we will have plenty of cargo but we need to pay our way down. Remember due to the special nature of our Hold we can handle far more delicate cargo then another ship. (please impress upon every crew member the dangers of bring any sort of extra dimensional space into the hold)
I have set aside up to 5000 gold to secure cargo.
We also need to rebrand our ship so we are not easily picked out by Omar’s. I believe my goddess will do a wonderful job and I know she will help the entire crew feel involved, and take pride in their new home.
Can you do me a personal favor? Can you please have someone check on the Were? I need to know what echo did to Versum. Please remember my oath to the people if they need aid we must provide it. If their pack is to small offer them free passage. Maybe you can make contact with the Bard I hired to improve the publics image of the Were who protect them. His name is Sam Smith and he should be staying in touch with the pack.
My journey will take me about 30 days and I should be able to meet up with you near pirates’ swoop.
I know I already said this but be safe I will see you all very soon.

Love Thalion

P.S. please remind Maddox not to fret I promised I would not reveal that he was a cat (even a competent and noble one) I always keep my promises.

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Say Something

“Say something,” Miriel asked Prancer; they’d been talking about if he was going to come with the Boot or if she would stay in Cainia, but from the beginning of the conversation he seemed distant and unwilling to talk, which was very unlike her beloved. Something was going on in that wonderful mind of his – something that she wasn’t going to like.

“I’m giving up on you…” he whispered.

She sighed, not catching his words, and turned to the mirror in his chambers, taking the brush to her hair once again. “I’ll be the one if you want me to…”

“Anywhere I would’ve followed you…”

“Say something…”

“I’m giving up on you.”

Miriel snapped to attention, staring at Prancer’s image in the mirror in confusion, watching as he put a hand up in the signal he’d explained meant to wait before speaking, in Human.

“And I…” he stopped for a moment, anguish apparent on his face as he struggled inwardly. “I’m feeling so small. It was over my head, I know nothing at all. And I…will stumble and fall.”

Miriel whipped around, stumbling towards him and shaking her head violently. “I’m still learning to love; just starting to crawl.” When he didn’t look at her, she fell at his feet, grasping his hands in hers. “Say something – ”

“I’m giving up on you.”

Tears slipped down her cheeks and she slowly released his fingers from her grasp. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you.” She rose, turning slowly to look at the room they’d just made love in, a room she’d felt would be one she would’ve taken his troubles away. “Anywhere I would’ve followed you…Say something – ”

“I’M GIVING UP ON YOU!”

Miriel took a step backwards, his words a blow to her heart, and she had to stop herself from keening in pain. Memories of them laughing on the ship, flying on the wind, and embracing everywhere and anywhere broke over her senses, and she searched his face – and found it mirrored her own.

A thought came to her, and she paused; she knew why he was doing this. Tentatively she reached forward and cupped his cheek with her right hand. “And I…will swallow my pride.”

Prancer’s eyes filled with tears and he himself grabbed her hand, bringing it to his lips and brushing her skin with kisses. “You’re the one that I love,” he said gently.

She nodded her understanding, letting her hand fall. “And I’m saying goodbye.” She turned and began to gather her things. There wasn’t much there, she thought idly, she hadn’t given herself time to move in. He had his people to think about it now and she couldn’t live with herself if that meant he had to choose between them and her…because she knew he’d pick her…and it would kill him.

“Say something…” he began, his hands now clenched into fists, as if warring with himself on his decision.

“I’m giving up on you.” She opened the door to his room and stepped out. “And I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you. And anywhere I would’ve followed you.”

“Oh…Oh…say something!” He took a step forward but she raised her hand. He couldn’t go with her, had too much here to finish…

“I’m giving up on you,” she replied, mind made up. She looked back at him, just outside the door.

“I’m giving up on you,” he repeated dully, his arms hanging at his sides, resigned.

Say something…

“I love you Harold Forbes of Cainia.”

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Anger Leads to Violence

Sonsday the 7th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 4:22pm, The Island of Oakenglen, 12 miles South East of Isles Wood

Grand Druid Caius Degryll stepped through the rocky terrain and approached the loam heavy cave at the edge of a small pool. He took in the methane and rotting scents in the air and shuddered, this was not his terrain of choice, nor would he elect to spend more time here then need be.

ARRRRRRRP, an ancient willow near the cave mouth groaned and twisted as a tree-stride spell completed. Out came a balding man with grey whiskers and a heavy brow
“Arch Druid Fraxious, it is about time you arrived” the Grand Druid began being sure that his displeasure at being kept waiting was known.

“My apologies Grand Druid” the lesser druid said, bringing two fingers to his lips, then his forehead then offering them out in the traditional druid greeting. “My tardiness could not be helped” the Grand Druid took a long appraising look at Fraxious and gritted his teeth as her quickly returned the gesture.

“Come along then, let us get this over with” he said as he expressly strode toward the cave. The cavern was damp and filled with the heavy aroma of bog gas, fresh fungus and rotting meat, making an altogether unpleased bouquet that stuck to ones tongue. They turned a few times through the cave system, noting scratch marks and burns on the cavern walls and floor and finally turned into the main chamber. It was large, some three hundred feet around with a tall ceiling reaching near fifty feet. The roof was pock marked with small holes that moss had grown over filling the room with eerie streams of green light. The back end of the room had a large putrid pool that no doubt led outside through the murky russet water of the swamps, not far from it, half submerged lay three dead bronze dragons. Youth or adult age if Caius’s guess was right. Towards the back a small Green Dragon, maybe the size of a large dog feasted upon one of the fallen bronze. Tiny blade marks around the neck of the nearest gave clues as to how the creatures had died. Sprinkled around the room mounded towards the left hand wall were piles of treasure, mostly tarnished silver or moss incrusted gilded goblets and swords. In the centre of the room perched atop a half rotted gold inlaid podium sat Lord Shepard. The Waylen did not look up, as he appeared to concentrating and lost in mediations. On the ground in a small pool of unknown liquid lay six of the nine sigils. Minding the small tarns of acid marked into the floor Caius made his way towards Lord Shepard, Fraxious a few feet behind him.

“Lord Shepard” Caius opened, but the small creature held up a single finger to stop him
“You have come to report failure Caius” the impossibly deep voice of the small Waylen pronounced, still his gaze never leaving the sigils.

“That would be Grand Druid Caius, Lord Shepard, and no, at long last the false druid Emerys is dead!”

“and you feel this deserves praise Caius?” the Waylen enquired, his voice steady, it was impossible to predict where he was going with his line of questioning or if he was angry or perhaps accepting. Annoyance bubbled over in Caius

“As stated Lord Shepard, I am Grand Druid Caius Degryll, Master of the Suzuki Grove, Bearer of the Holly Crown and Master of the Scimitar of the Lasting Dawn. You will address me as Grand Druid, or Your Honour, failing that, you will hold your tongue!” he felt it was important to re-establish their relationship as formal and not of subordinance. The Waylen at long last removed his gaze from the sigils and turned standing up on the lectern. He stood at near chest height of the two men. His helm obscured his face and his breathing was even. Caius sensed that perhaps he should move on and change the subject. “Now… Lord Shepard, Arch Druid Fraxious has been…” that was as far as he got as the Waylen reached out both his hands, from the left gauntleted hand shot forth a current of purple and blue lightening sizzling and frying the Grand Druid. Unlike a spell where the lighting would hit you and end, this one was maintained and worked around his magical defenses. The Waylen held his right hand slowly closing it to make a fist in a crushing motion. Fraxious found himself lifted from the ground and choking as he watched the elder druid be continually stuck by lightening. The power was awesome to behold and terrifying when one considered who wielded it.

“I will call you whatever I damn well choose! You would be wise to humbly accept whatever name that is…. WONT YOU!” his voice boomed with the last two words sending an increased jolt of lightening and applying further pressure on Fraxious neck, the arch druids vision was beginning to blur.

“Yes… Yes…” The Grand Druid groveled falling to his knees

“Yes, what?” Shepard asked anger now apparent in his voice

“Yes… My Lord…” Caius gasped… and with that the lightening stopped and Fraxious dropped to the ground gasping for breath.

“The form you wear now appears to be too pretentious Caius, you have clearly forgotten your place… perhaps something that will remind you of where you stand.” The helmeted head turned its gaze towards Fraxious “You, you are an omnivore, correct?” the Arch Druid was disoriented but nodded his head “What is that meat that your races pines for, the one they insist on putting on everything?” both Caius and Fraxious looked confused but not wanting to anger the Waylen further Fraxious offered and answer

“Bacon? My Lord” he gasped, his voice hoarse from his windpipe nearly being crushed
“Yes… Bacon… Caius, from now on we will conduct our meetings with you in the form of a LITTLE…” with each final word he let a little bolt of lightning out “… PINK… PIG!” wincing in pain the Grand Druid tried to muster what minute dignity he had left

“Lord Shepard… if we could please AHHHHH!” Lightening zapped into him and continued to fry him until at last the Grand Druid relented and shape shifted into the form of a small pink pig. Once he had taken the form only then did Shepard stay his attack. The Waylen inhaled deeply his helmeted gaze locked on the little pig.

“You are right Fraxious, he does smell good enough to eat” at this the Green Dragon looked up from its meal half interested, but after a few heartbeats in continued to tear the bronze dragon carcase to pieces.

“Lord Shepard… Please…” Caius said, being a druid of his power he could still speak in animal form

“Behave Caius, at this juncture you are more useful to me alive then dead…. Barely” Shepard responded looking down from his podium at the small pig, and the man on his knees a little way past him. He studied the two but now seeing no further challenges he commenced the meeting proper “Emery’s is dead, of course he is… I know this because I sent Teriovus to see that it was done!” the helmed Waylen took a step forward on the lectern. “Where are my Sigils, where are the final three? Why must I spoon feed these to you?”

Caius couldn’t help a small piggly snuffle before he spoke “We proceed my Lord, the Strix lose ground nearly every day… our druids rip their ancient trees to the ground to search for the sigils, it is only a matter of time before we have won and the remaining sigils are ours”

“And what will you do if the Bellator Libra comes to stop you?” Shepard intoned in a deep voice

“Bellator Libra… he is dead sir, Emerys is dead, I confirmed this myself”

“The Clava have an ancient belief that one known as the Bellator Libra will save their people from doom, it is they who believed that Emerys was their precious saviour… what have I told you about the Clava?”

“You… you don’t think Emrys is this person?” Fraxious asked, a tinge of electricity danced on Shepard’s finger tips in a not to subtle reminder not to interrupt, but the Waylen chose to answer the question

“The Clava are idiots, a foolish barbarous mistake that evolution has yet to correct, there is no Bellator Libra, or what they call Warrior of Balance. There is however “a courageous one who will balance the scales, a warrior who balances between life and death, and one who returns the weave to balance” Shepard paused for a moment “Whether this is one man or three, Waylen or druid, or even something else… I have yet to know, but I don’t believe if coincidence, the weave reveals much to me, and I am no so foolish to let down my guard when I am so close to achieving all my dreams… I take these matter seriously” he began to pace on his podium “My mount requires much of my attention…” he gestured towards the green dragon “I have done much for you Caius… Was it not I who fixed the chair so you could sit on it? Was it not I who hunted down those who opposed you and had them silenced? Was it not I who secured the power of the druids by sending you the wealth of the Littles? And all too often I have asked for you to merely stay out of my affairs.” He paced more quickly as his gaze roamed the room before settling once more on the pig “I find it hard to believe that such stupidity runs so rampant in your order Caius… these near barbarous creatures are on the verge of being classified as ‘dull’ and yet you fool around with ridiculous notions like boarders and laws. Things created by weak men designed to protect and empower weak men.”

“My Lord…” Caius said in an appeasing tone, he did not get further as lightening flung down singeing the piggy and eliciting an involuntary squeal of pain

“I WANT MY SIGILS! I WANT THE GUARD MICE TRULY DEAD! PUSHED BEYOND THE VEIL AND SEALED, NEVER TO AGAIN RETURN! I WANT THE STRIX GENOCIDE COMPLETE BY THE FALL EQUINOX! Not a single one left on Argyle… gone, forever forgotten” his gaze shifted between the two druids as his voice dropped to a menacing whisper

“If a single moment of the 18th of Harvester passes without this being done, you will become the meal of my newly hatched mount” a long silence stretched on before Shepard spoke again “Caius… this form suits you… never appear before me again outside of that form, should I see you in any other…” he let the threat hang there. Finally he turned back towards the sigils, sitting at the edge of the podium once more, his mind reached out with the weave to the sigils… for what cause one could only guess at. His hand reached out and made a shoeing gesture dismissing the druids. Who quickly fled the cave and left the Waylen to his dark deeds

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Then and Now a LITTLE perspective Pt 2

NOW

6th of Floodtime, 383 ONT, 2:19am Glenrummy Gorge, 27k south of Lockland Keep

Icarus opened his wings allowing the air in the gorge to fill them, the wind spun him backwards as he twisted, his wing blades a flurry of death as he clipped one of the two crows that dogged him still. He folded in once more and fell into a dive, letting out a shriek to confirm that his other enemy was hot on his heels. That meant it was still being goaded, this was no Avian, these were dulls being pushed by their master to do their dastardly deeds. He ended his dive within seven inches of the water, as close as he dared in unknown lands at this hour, gliding over the silver bubbling surface of Glenrummy Creek. He heard a splash and a spluttering as it sounded like his pursuer had not been so graceful on ending his dive. He let out two quick shrills and grinned to himself as an image of the cliffs came to his mind, with a tight left and three quick flaps he spiraled upwards and launched himself towards a small hole in the cliff wall, as soon as he was in he landed and crawled a bit deeper.

PECK PECK

Just in time to… the crow had managed to land nearby, but as suspected it could not fit in the cave. A quick call in both directions showed the cave spanned into a deeper network, and widened after a while. Icarus looked back over his shoulder, he certainly wouldn’t be exiting that way anytime soon, so crawling it was. As he pulled himself through the narrow space he began to think about everything that had brought him here.

The Bellator Libra was dead, Anya was dead, Meagre was injured and had fallen in battle against Shepard, he was on outlaw in Arbour-Portum, and the Suzuki’s had finally made there moves public, there druids now hunted he and his. He stopped tears welling in his eyes as he thought back to everything that had happened… how could he have been so wrong… if Emerys had not been the Bellator Libra… then who was? Who was the warrior of balance who had been little and big, who had straddled life and death and would bring them to victory? If Meagre Pickens wasn’t the one to slay Lord Shepard who was? Perhaps Daedalus was right, perhaps the fates had turned from this prophecy when his brother had died, no matter what he did, he would always be a second son, and a failure. He crawled further through the tunnels waiting until they opened wide enough that he could fly. They took off letting a few calls direct him through the dark cave system. Prophecy and truth didn’t matter anymore. He had fifty two refugees who needed protection, needed someone to save them… needed some BIG help. He had heard the Avenging Angel of Avengence had moved to Lockland Keep, he at least knew of the littles, knew of the plight, and might be willing to stop the felines from destroying these poor people. If that didn’t work… well then his hope for the people of Thistledown was lost.

The cave opened wider finally leaving a shred of moonlight peeking through some boulders her turned and spurred onwards flying towards Lockland… hoping he could find help there.

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Then and Now a LITTLE perspective Pt 1

THEN

17th of Patchwall 2:30am, Arbour-Portum, Damp Caves District

Icarus crawled through the tiny series of caves until he entered the musty workshop. The smell of steel, wood, and various chemicals assailed him as he entered. The room was cramped, and filled with materials and unnamed unknown inventions. In the corner, hanging over a cluttered workspace was a tiny old Clava. The little old Clava sniffed twice and spoke without looking

“Look who has decided to return… you’re in trouble I presume… I doubt you would make the trip for any other reason” the old Clava picked up a tool and began to fiddle with a small block of wood. Icarus took a breath to respond but let it out slowly, feeling guilty that the Old Clava was right. “Well, come over here, let’s have a look at you and see what troubles you have brought upon me today” Icarus waddled over to the desk and looked up at the Clava

“Hello Daedalus,” he said in a respectful tone. Deadalus snorted

“Don’t go ‘Hello Daedalusing me’ Mr… you leave for two full seasons and think Hello is the way to start?”

“I’m sorry…” Icarus interrupted “It’s just after Theseus fell… I guess, I didn’t know how to come back, I needed to follow through on his quest, I needed to finish things” The old Clava shook his head looking away from Icarus

“HIS quest Icarus, HIS… not yours, HE was a first born, HE was given a quest, you cannot complete that which does not belong to you; and with his death, his quest was lost”

“I can’t believe that, I was there, I heard the words from the Oracle, I found the Bellator Libra. I even found a real live Waylen… I can do this! I can save us all, I just need to be given some more time”

“Icarus, your hubris will be your undoing; You cannot…”

“I can… I have earned the Decoration of the Last Shade, the Orden of Santiago, the Medallion of Aerea and…”

“Achievements awarded by Clava Icarus, Clava…. many rightfully so, but a Clava’s achievements mean nothing to the fates… and you are not a chosen of the fates Icarus. Your brother was our last best hope. Now he is gone, the sooner you come to terms, the less heartache you will feel. The fates can be cruel when they turn.” The two shared a look, neither speaking, at long last the old Clava turned back to his tinkering and spoke “Clearly the universe has not finished teaching you this lesson, so what is it that you have come here today for?”

“The King has granted Arbor-Portum Hibernium this season.”

“Yes, I had heard, what of it”

“I cannot stay, I have the Bellator Libra and the Waylen here in the city, I must get them out prior to Hibernium”

“Yes, that makes sense, The King should authorize a skirmish to let you through”

“He will not, I am not cleared to go, and my house will not support me without the Kings direct word”

“and why is it that the King will not offer his word?”

“I am not privy to this information, but I have been told that he has considered it, and has stated that an exodus is not to be so”

“Icarus, has it been your experience that the King makes decisions lightly? Or without reasons?” Icarus looked up at his feet for a few moments before shaking his head no “… then can we not trust that the King has made a decision for the collective good, and that we perhaps need to abide by it?” Icarus continued his long stare at his feet, his wings fidgeted in agitation

“No, the Bellotar Libra and the Waylen need to make their own decisions, the King has not even greeted them, has not offered an audience. If they choose to stay so be it, but I will not allow it to be inflicted on them through ignorance”

“It is my experience Icarus, that a Waylen is rarely ignorant, especially when it comes to magics as powerful as Hibernium”

“Never the less Daedalus, I need to get them out of the city, and past the line. On top of that I have to get them out quietly… will you help me or not?” The old Clava placed the block he had been working with down and shook his head sadly

“Icarus, I am an educated professor, why will you not learn from me? Why will you not take advantage of the resources I offer you?”

“I am trying to learn from you, I need to know how to get out…”

“No Icarus, you come to me looking for answers, not for rational discourse… to think critically is what will aid you in the long run, giving you the answers only makes you more reliant on me”

“EEERRRGGGG! I don’t have time for this, please… no… wait… what are you doing?” he asked as he saw the old Clava move across the room and begin to wheel out a large chalk board “please don’t start with the chalk board”

“There is always time for rational thought Icarus; I am trying to help you, please take a moment and clear your mind” the younger Clava glared at his older counterpart for a long moment before sighing an accepting that this was the only way to achieve his mission. He closed his eyes in exasperation

“Ok, mind cleared, now what” Daedalus paused knowing he was being humored but holding to the patience of a teacher. He began making a crude diagram of the black board

“This is Arbor-Portum, what are the obstacles preventing you from leaving. Remember the rational mind acknowledges to most obvious first and works its way towards obscure” Icarus took a deep breath focusing and working the problem

“We would be seen by random Clava if we approached the perimeters, if we made it that far, the magic’s that protect the city would detect us moving through the Thorn Trees. After that there is an army of Avians out there”

“Good, good… so we cannot leave through conventional methods of flight or foot, correct?” Icarus nodded “What of the way you entered? Can you leave the same way?” Icarus furrowed his brows in thought for a long moment

“I don’t think so, it was very dangerous, and the little reading done so far implies we were very lucky” Daedalus nodded at this

“Good, good, we are making progress, and what is the old Clava adage about magic?”

“A Clava is always grateful for Waylen aid and magic, but a wise Clava never relies on it” the older Clava nodded

“So young Icarus, you cannot blast through the lines, you cannot magic yourself away, and you do not possess the magics to sneak past our sentinels… so what does that leave?”
There was a long silence as Icarus stared at the board thinking, again Daedalus held to his patience wrought of years of teaching young Clava

“You’re not thinking of the lower caves are you?” Icarus inquired

“Well… let’s take a look at that option…”

“Well… after the cave inn’s no one can fly though there, no one’s really sure if you can even get out…”

“So it would be lightly guarded at best” the old teacher stated

“That’s not much of an option Daedalus…”

“Defying the King rarely leaves one much in the way of options, besides, I am not advising you do this…” he stated as he began to wipe clean the board “… I am merely participating in a thought experiment. Obey your King Icarus, enjoy some much needed rest, see what the spring brings, that is the advice I offer that you so freely spurn” Icarus nodded and moved towards the door

“Thank you Daedalus” the Clava said as he left. The old Clava shook his head and muttered softly to himself

“You are welcome nephew, good luck”

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Dark Darklyness of Darkening

5th of Floodtime, 3:36pm, location unknown

The chrysalis pulsated and the unholy symphony crescendoed. Each instrument hitting a sharp or flat in perfect unison to create a paradox of discord. At a signal from the mighty conductor, the awaiting ghouls pulled the 13 babies from their cribs and slit their jugulars, cutting off their morbid cries that had created the background noise for this creature’s incubation. The blood drizzled and sputtered through the grated catwalk and landed on the pulsing gooey shell of the chrysalis. Next came the fantastical creatures. The egg of a baby gold dragon was cracked and poured over the unborn form; the horns of the captured sea unicorns were cut from their hosts, killing the near extinct creatures immediately. Their horns were then used to cut down young maidens, ones who had not yet experience love or the riches of life, again their blood was sucked into the horns and let drizzle upon the every faster beating and pulsating cocoon. The conductor increased his pace and the tempo shot forth as a shambling group of zombies pulled in a might bound Sphinx. The bearded creature struggled and surged at its bonds to no avail. Until it was brought forth and also sacrificed in unholy rituals to this thing of darkness. Hundreds were slaughtered to maintain a steady stream of blood, all innocent, all with so much hope or potential, all with some connection to the great Titan. At last as the hues of red, black, green and grey finished their finial pulse a clawed lizard hand ripped open its encasement. The huge slimy creature was born into murder, into discord and hatred and into chaos. It ripped its way from its bindings racing towards the flowing light of the captured fairies and hungrily devoured them, as a child might stuff popcorn into its mouth. The conductor cautiously approached his new creation

“Lord Talib has opened the rifts between planes, and brought you life on this world…” he said to the creature. It turned and hissed at conductor, but he did not shy away “You will serve our great father, and show him that his time was not wasted” the Lizard creature turned one of its bulbous yellow eyes taking in the Conductor while the other searched the room. “You are our weapon, and our future… your first task on this world shall be one of great consequence… YOU WILL KILL FLITT FARGAZER!” the beast stared at the conductor both eyes fixed on him “KILL FLITT FARGAZER!” the Conductor said again in near hysteria

“killllzzzzzz Fargazzzzzerzzzzzz” the creature hissed, its very first words of its exsistance

“YES!” the nearly mad Conductor screamed, breaking into diabolical laughter “MUHAHAHAHA! HA HA HA!”

“KILLLLLLZZZZZZZZ” the Creature hissed again

“MUHAHAHAHAHA!” the madman laughed on, his ritual had been a success

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