Balance

The Fatefule Voyage of the Champions Thrust Pt 2

32nd of Readying 383 ONT, 9:18am, Estoros Sea, Argyle, Champions Thrust

Daewyn rose from her meditative stance and walked calmly to the bridge. She hopped up on the compass table beside the helm and turned to the Captain.

“Captain Cane, I regret to inform you that your ship is about to be attacked” she said in a clear voice. The Captain quickly scanned the horizon and beach line, seeing nothing he turned back to the Guard Mouse.

“You sure? I don’t see any ships?” she nodded at his perception

“I don’t think it will be a ship, I sense a great force of anger and hate within the weave, I feel it getting closer to us all the time. I would be ready” the two locked eyes for a long minute; but at last the Captain nodded. Daweyn knew that Captain Alfrin had spoken highly of the Guard to Captain Cane and has asked that he heed her in such matters, it was a testament to the Captain that on the word of a stranger he did just that.

“Red Alert, arm yourselves and take to battle station!” he called

“YOU HEARD THE CAPTAIN! WEAPONS IN HAND, GET THE TARP OF JONATHAN AND KEY UP FELLA’S, YA WANT TO LIVE FOREVER?” The Wild Elven First Mate shouted after the Captain’s call for arms. The men and woman of the ship hurried, loading pistols at their belts, untarping and loading the stinger lovingly known as Jonathan and grabbing swords and crossbows while tidying up the deck of any loose debris or ropes that could be fatal should such an attack come. The warm sea breeze of a Readying morning blew from port to starboard easing the oppressive summer heat. Aside from the groaning of ropes and waves crashing against the ship all was silent. No one spoke, at a nod Boyd stepped up beside the Captain and took the helm while the captain loaded his own pistol and strapped his blade to his belt.

“What do you sense little mouse?” The Captain asked as he eyed the shore, feeling if something were to come at him, that was likely the place it would stem from.

“It won’t be long now, this malevolence does not know patience” Daewyn said in a tone impassive. “I will apologize now Captain, I can’t say the engagement will end without loses”

“Stuff it, The Thrust isn’t one to shy from a fight, you do you, and let me worry about…”

RRRRRRROOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAR

The sentiment was never finished, the green dragon broke from the clouds directly above with an ear splitting scream. It shocked and stunned several of the crew as its mouth opened and spewed burning bubbling acid towards the centre deck. With the Reflexes of a cat Daewyn noted that the wild elf First Mate through himself over the bridge rail grabbing a sailor and throwing her and himself overboard just before the acid engulfed the centre mast, melting it away to splinters in seconds. The Dragon followed the acid through laying two raking claws across the still stunned Reed and knocking Steel overboard with a tail slap. The most horrific however was watching Hansel Ramey be lifted from the ground by his throat as if being choked and being held their tantalizingly until the Green Dragon gored him with its goulash snout horn and then snapped him in its maw slamming him into the deck and dragging him over the port side with it and into the ocean below. As the Dragon slammed into the Deck only then were the crew beginning to shake off the effects of the panic inducing roar.

“HIGH SIDE STARBOARD! HIGHSIDE!” The Captain screamed throwing himself down from the bridge and grabbing the rail on the starboard side of the ship. About twelve of the crew heard and responded to their Captain’s call, throwing enough weight just in time to keep the ship from capsizing. “PISTOLS!” The Captain shouted, racing down the deck towards the bow. He kicked open a long thin box and pulled a special golden tipped spear quickly loading it in the stinger. Daewyn could see ropes being tossed to The First Mate and women who had thrown themselves out of the dragon’s swath. The ship rocked violently and the dragon raced out of the water, clawing across the deck while its rider let forth a torrent of lightning. The sound of several pistols firing could be heard as the beast smashed through the second and last mast of the ship, it had planned to continue but that would not be the case. Daewyn reached deep within the weave and reached out grabbing the dragon and tossing it back down onto the deck of the ship, giving the crew a chance to finish unloading their pistols into the fiend.

“THADEN!” an impossibly Deep Thunderous voice bellowed as the black armored mouse sprung from the saddle of his Dragon and instantly cut out the throat of the nearest deck hand. “YOU WOULD HIDE FROM ME WHILE YOUR HUMANS DIE?” Daewyn called upon the Weave and leapt across the bridge and deck to stand in front of the black clad Lord Shepard.

“I am not Thaden, but I will see an end to this Violence, Bogna has no place on this ship fallen one” Daewyn said pulling a slight skinny blade from its sheath.

“I KNOW YOU NOT MASTER GUARD MOUSE, BUT YOUR END IS NIGH!” Lord Shepard sprung forward… and missed as Deewyn side stepped the blow, then used her lithe blade to deflect his backswing, he jumped over her knocking a pistol shot fired towards the dragon at her and closed again for another series of vicious swings.

“Ataru? With Djem So? You have grown lazy Shepard.” She said as she dueled him, her Waylen blade moving in quick tight circles around his larger bulkier weapon, always using his momentum to deflect and move.

“A MAKASHI NIMAN BLEND! YOU WILL TIRE LONG BEFORE I DO” He retorted and the battle began in earnest as they dueled up and down the deck. Daewyn was aware that the dragon had taken flight again, but the fallen Guard Mouse was better than she had expected and required every ounce of her focus to keep his deadly blade at bay. The crew of the Thrust would have to deal with the Dragon on their own.

To Be Continued

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The Fatefule Voyage of the Champions Thrust Pt 1

Shepard sat astride his mighty stead Essex. The Green Dragon lazily soared on the morning breeze as it propelled itself along the southern coast line in search of its quarry. Shepard was still seething at the idiocy of his men. Letting a handful of Glenrummy villagers that had witnessed the power of Rosemellow escape; that was enraging. Letting that blasted Clava Icarus slip away again; that was beyond words… he had been baited and trapped expertly and still the useless Wyzels had let them get away. Aboard a ship full of BIGS no less. It had taken Shepard some time to get down there, and was surprised by what he had felt. A large amount of Ashla and reports of a Guard Mouse.

“Thaden” he growled to himself. That blasted mouse was proving very difficult to kill. Apparently he had tamed a Grimalkin for a mount, clever for a Guard Mouse on the run, but still, they had been sloppy. Boarding a ship known as ‘The Champion’s’ something or other, the Wyzels had not been able to decipher the last word, but still the fools had made their course for the elven lands known. The magic of the BIGS was sloppy and unwieldy compared to the power of the weave, he would find little refuge among the elves, cowards to the last. As the thought hit him he felt a surge of power, a force of Ashla that was stronger than anything he had felt since meeting with the Council of Old. It shook him from his reverie and forced his thoughts into the present. Not far off the coast was a small ship, calling on the weave to better assist his vision he read the markings of the front. “The Champions Thrust” a sinister grin crossed his helmed face. The ship had already made the elvish lands and now headed back north, right into his grasp. He pulled hard on the reins bringing Essex up into the clouds before she was spotted. He would sink this pitiful ship, and see Thaden die, crying, while Essex feasted on seared Grimalkin; and perhaps rip the wings from the foolish Clava and watch him drown in the sea, a coward’s death, worthy of such an annoyance. He reached deep within the weave and began to prepare himself and his mount for battle.

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Bored and Stubbi Pt 3

29th of Reaping 383 ONT, Lunar Star Course 153-2A7-K8L315R, Champions Fist, 8:26pm

“OK, so this is how we play” she said to those gathered, she was rather impressed by the pull, Cassidy and Mr. Fargazer, Miriel and Ms. Ouellette, Mr. Cobb, and Ms. Hanaway, really good for a Stubbi game. When she said she would give folks twenty gold to play, well Mr. Cobb and Ms. Hanaway had joined in with Cassidy, Mr. Fargazer officers seemed to have their own money so she opted not to offer for them.

“OK so we all start with money in the pool, for this round we will put say 10gp…” she explained “Highest card wins, but you can choose how many cards, up to five cards you take. You can only play one card, but if you win the pot get divided by the number of cards you took, so if you took one card you get the whole pot, if you took two and win then you get half the pot and the next highest cards wins and so on… do you get it?” the words flew out so quick that most looked confused, but eventually there were some nods

“Oi, like Jimmy Knicker righ?” Cassidy asked, Tar-Di didn’t know what that was but nodded. Nathen nodded to understanding the other game, and the group each put 10 gold coins on the table.

“Ok, I’ll deal, how many cards do you want?” she turned and looked at Miriel who glowered at her

“I still do not understand why I am playing this game” she said “but I will defeat you with one card, or not at all” Tar-Di nodded and slid the card face down over to Miriel. She then turned to Nathan and looked at him

“I’ll try two, that’s a good amount of gold” he said

“Yer are gettin’ greedy cobb, yer got ter play de odds, four cards lass.” Cassidy said. Tar-Di smiled dealing two cards face down to Nathan and four more to Cassidy. Flitt took a long time to think before taking two. Aurellia took one and Jesse pulled two from the deck. Tar-di pulled two for herself

“Everyone ready… look at your cards and play your highest.

The room was quiet as the cards were flipped, Miriel’s came up first

“OOO, Tar-Di said The Fiend… that’s one of the best ones you can get”

“This game is silly, I do not care for it” Miriel said getting up and leaving the room, Tar-Di merely shrugged and looked around the circle. Nathan had gotten The Betrayal and the Owl… he had smartly played the Owl, and would probably win unless someone else scored a tie. Cassidy had the Ugly Dwarf, the Peacock, the Big Sky and the Waxworks… a really solid hand overall but even with the Peacock played it wouldn’t beat Nathan’s Owl. Flitt seemed less please being stuck with the Mountain Man and the Theater, neither were much help but he pushed the Mountain Man Forward. Aurelia’s Empty Throne was no help to her. Tar-Di looked down, the Forge and the Survivor , nothing that was gonna get her any gold, and glancing at Jesse who had pushed The Must Hag forward instead of her Courtesan, she wasn’t going to win either.

“Ok, by my math, it looks like Mr. Cobb wins 70 gold… nice job” she said

“Thank you all” he grinned as he pulled his share towards him

“Cassidy take 17 and a half” Tar-Di explained as the vampire reached into the pot

“Don’t mind if I do” he chuckled

“and Miriel wins 52 and a half gold there as well…. MIRIERL?” she called down the hall, but heard nothing “we’ll put it aside for her I guess” she said as she moved to sweep in the cards “who is in for another round?” she asked as a residing

POP

Occurred causing chaos to break loose

To be Concluded

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What is the Mind, doesn't Matter...
What is Matter, Never Mind...

29th of Reaping 383 ONT, Lunar Star Course 153-2A7-K8L315R, Champions Fist, 8:21pm

Flitt hopped down from the bridge following yet another long and uneventful shift at the tiller in space. Aside from a few occasional minor course corrections, the void, was, well, a void. Conversation seemed harder to maintain with the other officers on watch after a few days under the seemingly unchanging starry skies.

More and more Flitt had taken to thinking about the upcoming fight with the mind flyers and whatever that ghastly giant brain in a tub was. Mandy had already started working on making the large lead lid that was suggested to try and contain the power of that thing, but Flitt was still worried about how they were going to get it in there, and on without being dominated. He had felt a brush of the minds power in Erindales tower when he had been used as a conduit by the wizard, and had doubts that enough people could resist that long enough to get the lid in place. they needed a plan, an edge, a weapon against.. the mind..

He was making his way below decks to the mess, just because he didn’t need to eat didn’t mean he did not appreciate a warm cup of tea and a biscuit when thinking now and again, when he passed the extra dimensional chest, oddly closed, with a small sign warning ‘closed for fumigation’ when it hit Flitt, they had an expert on fighting the regular operation of a mind without completely frying it with the crew!

Flitt made his way into the mess to see if he could track down Cassidy to see if he could synthesize a drug strong enough to muddle a giant brain, and before he knew it was pulled into into a game of Stubbi.

‘Well, we have time for a game or two before putting Cassidy to work’, Flitt Thought…

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Bored and Stubbi Pt 2

29th of Reaping 383 ONT, Lunar Star Course 153-2A7-K8L315R, Champions Fist, 8:15pm

BROOOOMPH

Cassidy climbed quickly out of the case as the thick yellow smoke streamed out behind him.

“Shite, forgot de dense bird… CHEEPS!” he dove back into the case amide the yellow smoke, quickly collected the little canary and pulled him to safety onto the deck above. Seeing the yellow smoke continue to plume out of the space he closed the lip “Captain’s gonna be right tuffed over this one” he murmured placing the very dazed little canary on his shoulder and scratching his head wondering how long it would take for the smoke to clear.

“Hiya Cass!” he heard a cheery voice from behind. He jumped at first startled that he might be discovered, but then realized who it was and turned with a grin

“Tar-Di, Don’t go snakin’ up on me sprog, yer nearly shuk me ter ’alf ter death” the girl giggled

“aren’t you already dead Cass?” the vampire ran his hand through his hair again

“Oi suppose yer are roi, no foul done then, what can I do ya for?” the little girl held up a massive stack of cards, maybe three or four decks shuffled together

“Want to play cards… I am sooooo bored, and I’m gonna play Stubbi!” she said. Cassidy scratched his chin for a few minutes

“Well… oi cud use an alibi, an’ Mr. Cheeps cud use sum clean air for a bi… don’t tink oi nu ’oy ter play stubbi though” he said

“I can teach you… it’s easy” she said, turning away, but stopping quickly “just be sure to bring some coins”

“Sorry lass, oi got almost naw coin, captain keeps me stoney broke yer man does.” Cassidy said in a regretful tone. Once again, he was met only by giggles

“Don’t worry about it, I’ve got coin you can have, there was plenty in Hakari’s bag” she said holding up a small pouch. The Vampire smiled a toothy grin

“Well… it sounds loike we are playin’ stubbi den, lead on wee lady, lead on.” Cassidy said, following the girl up to the mess hall.

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Bored and Stubbi Pt 1

29th of Reaping 383 ONT, Lunar Star Course 153-2A7-K8L315R, Champions Fist

“I am SOOOOOOOOOO board” Tar-Di complained as she slowly smacked her head against the wall in the hallway below decks. Not being allowed to cast magic was the worst, and being in space was boring, and all Hikari wanted to do was work, study and sleep… it was the most boring thing ever. Maybe Deborah would play with… it was at least a try. She ran over to the ladder and scrambled down to the cannon deck. Deborah was there with Willhym; they had a cannon all pulled apart and were cleaning and scraping the inside.

“Debs, you got to come play with me… I’m soooooo board” Tad-Di said as she skipped onto the deck. She saw the Master Gunner eying her warily, she hated that look, everyone always gave her that look. Debs at least didn’t she looked up with an apologetic smile

“Sorry Tar-Di… the Captain wants every single canon in tip top shape before we get to the moon… but we are doing them one at a time in case there is trouble… this is only the second one… I want be able to play for awhile yet”

“Awwww… maybe I could help?” Tar-Di offered… before Deborah could say anything the Master Gunner jumped in

“That won’t be necessary, why don’t you find Suli and play with her?” he offered

“Suli is busy helping George in the kitchen” Tar-Di mopped. The Master Gunner sighed and walked over to his pack pulling out a deck of cards

“Here” he said passing her the deck “I want them back, but why not find a few crew members and play some cards, I don’t know a sailor who doesn’t play cards, and we won’t get much done with you sulking around here” Tar-Di took the cards and thought about it, she hadn’t played in some time, not since the orphanage really… she used to love the game Stubbi, that had been a lot of fun, but you needed three decks to play

“Thanks, Mr Tyre… by any chance do you have two more decks? I’d love to play Stubbi”

“Sorry Kiddo, just the one… but try Nate, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him with a deck” The Master Gunner responded, his voice having an odd echo as he stuck his head and arm into the barrel of one of the cannon.

“Ya, I’ll do that” Tar-Di said with a smile scampering off

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Letters to my Father and Brother Part 2

22nd of Reaping 383 ONT, High Port

Salve, Ronan.

I am now a Goddess; I win.

Miriel

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Letters to my Father and Brother Part 1

22nd of Reaping 383 ONT, High Port

Dearest Papa,

Salve. I trust that you are well, though the absence of a response does vex me; do the humans from beyond the Sorrows ready for war again? Perhaps they’ve begun already and you are on the front lines, laying waste as only a Strix could…I miss you, Papa, and I miss our village. Has Ronan brought his virum home yet? I am eager to meet both him and my young nephews – does Pariss look a little like Mother? Are his wings stronger, now that he is older? He was so small, a runt, like I was…

And what of Hectore, and his mother? Our cousin Dea-anin was a good surrogate choice, but Hectore’s birth was so hard on both of them; did she heal properly? If only I could have stayed…no matter. I do not regret my leaving, I have learnt much and have many new allies.

We seem to to get waylaid every time I think we have a moment of respite. And I had hoped that my scions would have found you and the others by now, to inquire on the past of our race – I need to know where we come from, to find out about me…but I have need of them elsewhere and my curiosity will need to be sated at a later time.

I have undergone many…changes Papa. You and Sheris were surprised by the avatar who chose me. She…and mistake me not, she is definitely a she…was drawn to me because I am Divine. The arch-Mage here could not penetrate my mind fully because I am apparently older than I look; Papa, who am I? Do you know anything that you have not told me?

Who was Mother?

You said she was an elf in exile, that she would never speak of her past; could that be because she knew who I am??

Papa, help me, speak to me. Please, I beg of you…

I am sending you this letter now because my Captain has declared war on the moon and the illithids that it harbours; if you knew Thalion, you would not be confused. He is an elf Mother would have been pleased to meet, and you will be impressed with his fighting skills. I hope that at the conclusion of our quest we will not leave behind a fiery death trap orbiting over our heads and you will be able to finally meet my noble Companions.

Of course, my suitor, Harold, no longer seeks me as his mate; his nation is at war and he is a Prince. He does not want to tempt himself in running for fear of losing me, and acknowledged that I was a prime target for blackmail should I be captured, so we went our separate ways. He still has my love, Papa, and always will. He is the first to treat me as an equal, to accept me as I am as a woman and strix…he makes me whole in ways I could not guess. I hope he wins this war, I wish to take him as my virum – he just has to say something.

Hopefully nothing will change now that I am Divine.

Well…we have much to talk about. ’Ave Atque Vale.

Your daughter,

Miriel

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An Unexpected Journey Home Final

23rd of Reaping 383 ONT, Al’Callani Estate, 2:33am

Hikari placed the items Tar Di had requested silently on the bed beside Charisia’s leg. Oak and willow branches, silver nails, silk thread and a bolt of blue silk cloth. Then she stepped back and let the chaos mage do her thing. Each object began to glow with a different light but as they started to move they each shifted to either a deep red or vibrant purple glow including Charisia. Then Hikari had to look away as the intensity reached a point where even her new eyes couldn’t process it. There were sounds she didn’t want to hear or identify and prayed to both Ymeri and Pan that it would work out.

Minutes later the glow dimmed and died and Tar Di groaned and staggered towards the bed. Hikari grabbed her and looked towards her cousin. Where once a carefully hidden and bandaged lump of mangled leg lay now had a work of art in its place. Seamlessly from her hip downwards flowed the wood and silver interspersed with silk mimicking perfectly Charisia’s original and unblemished leg. Charisia began to stir and Hikari swiftly deepened the sleep spell on her. Charisia settled back in turning slightly and she marveled at how smoothly and fluidly the new leg moved in response.

She looked to Tar Di expecting a smug I told you I can do anything look but instead was met with a look of horror on her apprentice’s face. She clung tightly to Hikari and all but dragged her out of the room. Once in the hall with the door shut she looked to Tar Di whos till hadn’t taken her eyes off the door. “Ok, what happened? The spell looked like a perfect fit for her.”

“I didn’t mean… That wasn’t supposed to happen.” Tar Di gave a shiver and looked to Hikari, “The aura that I’ve been seeing glimpses of around the Estate all rushed into Charisia when I finished the spell.”

“Like the ones you keep seeing around me and some of the others?” Tar Di nodded.

“Yes, I don’t know why or how but in gaining that leg she’s also gained a fate. I saw swords, magic and dragons? Or maybe giant lizards it was hard to tell.”

Hikari hugged Tar Di and began pulling her away from the door and towards the end of the hall and their room. “Having a fate is not necessarily a bad thing and with your gift she has a chance to do and become something amazing. Thank you Tar Di.”

+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+

Morning came to the quiet Estate and with it came Thorbil and a small wagon. HIkari greeted it and her dwarven friend with a happy wave. He smiled and gave her a tired wave in response before pulling up to a stop beside her. “I’ve got what you asked for mistress. Sure got a lot of odd stares from the crew but told them nothing but you wanted some of your gold.”

“Great,” Hikari conjured a floating disk under the one chest, “Wait here and we’ll be back in a moment.” Thorbil nodded and leaned back on the bench closing his eyes for a brief nap. Hikari made a mental note to check over his gear as well and make certain that she did what she could to upgrade it as well as Tar Di’s.

Walking back into the main room to the sounds of wonderment and joy made Hikari’s steps light as she left the chest under the shrouded picture of Paprikka. Turning as she let the disk dissipate she saw a smiling Tar Di munching on an apple. “Ready?”

Tar Di nodded, “More than ready. You’d better not forget what you promised me last night. But why not wait and let them thank you in person?”

“Because we like being mysterious.” Hikari grinned as they both left out the front door.

“Yeah don’t I know it.” Muttered her apprentice and Hikari only laughed. She may not be as great and powerful as she claimed years ago but she could still be mysterious as most mages were. Tar Di would learn to be the same in time. Moreover Hikari wanted to escape before she had to answer any difficult questions from the Al’Callanis.

Ten minutes down the road with Thorbil sleeping in the back and Tar Di dozing on the seat beside her Hikari relaxed and directed the cart up the path back towards the main road that would take them back to High Port.

“Wait!” A voice called out behind them and called out again, “Wait!”

She reigned in the horse and twisted around in her seat to see Charisia running full out towards her. She slid to a stop, her new leg flexing and shining in the light and stood there panting. “You…. Cannot… just leave… after doing… this to me…”

“We,” Hikari began.

“No, you will be quiet and listen to me.” Charisia demanded and behind HIkari Tar Di grumbled about a spell to shut Charisia up permanently. She looked back at her apprentice and shook her head. Now was not the time. She looked back to Charisia who bowed deeply towards them. “Thank you. Thank you so very much. I can walk again, I can even run! You’ve done something no one else could and I can never be grateful enough for that.” She straightened up and Hikari could see the tears streaming down Charisia’s face mirroring her heartfelt thanks. “I can never repay you for this. I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

“You are most welcome. It was a wrong that needed mending and it was Tar Di that did the work on your leg.”

“And what of the gold? Not only did you two fix my leg but you left a chest of gold… under… Paprikka’s… portrait…” Charisia stared hard at Hikari, “Who are you?”

“The gold is to help you rebuild what I could not reinvigorate with the weaving equipment and resupply. Your family doesn’t deserve to lose their home. Seek out the Alfirin family. They have a vineyard and make an excellent wine and more than one of them has a fondness for silks and fabrics like your family makes.” Hikari shrugged, “We are nothing more than what we appear. Go home Charisia Al’Calanni and find a way to bring some happiness into other lives. That would be payment enough.”

“Then can you carry a message for me?” Hikari didn’t speak and Charisia continued, “Can you tell Paprikka… Can you tell her I’m sorry. Tell her I was horrible and wrong and I miss her. Tell her… She can come home. I love her and want my sister back.”

Hikari took a deep breath and blinked hard trusting herself to only nod. She flicked the reins and the cart began to pull away from Charisia though she could not see the road. Charissa was always a clever girl, she’d figured it out at least in part. Maybe one day she’d come back. Maybe one day she could come home…

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An Unexpected Journey Home Pt 3

22nd of Reaping 383 ONT, Al’Callani Estate outside of High Port, 11:00pm

’She leaves.’ Phobia told Hikari. She nodded and silently rose and dressed. If everything she’d seen was true then Tar Di would be nearing the answer to all of this. She’d wanted to tell Tar Di and explain what was going on but she knew her young apprentice too well to know it would not work. Telling went in one ear and right out the other. She needed to experience it firsthand and as much as she sulked about it this was for the best. And in truth, if this worked, then Hikari was going to have to revamp everything about how she taught. That wasn’t a bad thought regardless of how tonight went.

Activating her flight spell Hikari floated out the window and down towards the well-lit building. She smiled when she spied Tar Di creeping up the path and decided to shadow her. And like a moth to the flame Tar Di crept up to the partially open door. From within came a variety of sounds including the methodic whisk and click of a loom and the splash and burble of the dye tanks being stirred. Just the sounds brought back memories to Hikari of how the sounds of laughter and chatter used to fill the air daily back when she was a child with Liliahna overseeing the entire operation and a collection of elves, half elves and halflings worked side by side to create the silks and cotton fabrics the Al’Callani name had become synonymous with. But tonight she could only hear a single loom and the burble of one tank and the whispered voices of less than a handful of people.

She floated lower. “What in the seven hells?” Tar Di muttered from the doorway. Hikari could finally look inside and saw what she had feared from the moment she’d seen Charisia running the simple errand for the much needed alchemical supplies required in making their special silks. Sure enough Charisia was hunched over a tank slowly working the fibers through the process of loosening up to accept colouring. Liliahna worked at a single loom painstakingly weaving the threads into the softest and tightest of fabrics. On the other side Etheronim was also bent over a table mixing ingredients and none had noticed the arrival of Tar Di being so focused on their work.

“Maeve told me what you did today Sia,” came Liliahna’s soft voice. “You need to go and apologize to her in the morning.”

“But mother, it wasn’t my fault she stuffed the jar in without tying it in place.” Charisia whined back.

“And she is almost one hundred and twenty one and raised you when your father and I were busy trying to save our land. You know better and should have double checked for her. We can’t afford to waste any of it for any reason if we are going to have enough fabric to sell at the next market. You will apologize to her or you will have her chores added to your own once our guests leave.” There was steel in Liliahna’s voice and Charisia capitulated quickly. Hikari had counted six servants over their time at the Estate and knew that was the extent of their help and a fraction of what it was when she was growing up here. Something had happened to change their fortunes and it was nearing the end of what they could do to hold onto what little they had left.

Looking around the room Hikari noted that most of the magic placed in the weaving equipment were in disrepair or bleeding out or gone including the loom Liliahna was using. She estimated they had maybe a year or two more before it too would be broken. Their goods still sold well given the small carefully wrapped bolts on the center table but the volume wasn’t there anymore, nor was the help. She’d seen enough and was glad she’d conjured that mount for Thorbil to take back to High Port. Hopefully he’d be back at first light with what she’d asked for.

“Tar Di,” Hikari whispered and causing the youth to jump in fright. “Come back to the room and let them be. We need to talk.” Hikari floated away leaving tar Di clutching at her chest as the pounding of her heart subsided.

A few minutes after she’d returned to the guest room Tar Di walked in glaring at Hikari. “Thanks for almost killing me with fright.”

“We didn’t want you to get caught snooping. Sorry but grabbing you probably would have been worse.” Hikari shrugged. “Did you figure it out?”

Tar Di looked grumpy, “Yes. But why should we care if they are struggling to get by? If you asked me they deserve it for what they did to Paprikka and how they treat others. A good example of karma I’d say.”

“And at one time Paprikka would have agreed with you.” Hikari nodded in agreement.

“But… there is an awfully big but coming isn’t there?” Tar Di eyed her suspiciously. “How can you even think it given what happened today in High Port?”

“Because Charisia was scared. She lashed out in fear both at Mavis and us. She was given the better part of their funds to purchase those goods and she knew coming home without it would be disastrous. And yes, Elven pride meant she wasn’t going to ask us or anyone else for help with her problem. We were an elf once too, all great and powerful and all that.” Hikari chuckled mostly to herself. “I saw the stain on her fingers and knew it had to be from the dye vats and the process they use to make the silk take a deeper and much bolder colour than most places can produce. But I wasn’t certain until I came here and to do that I had to make sure she couldn’t say no by using the Archmage’s gift.”

“So? Even if they are not evil or bad people why are we here?”

“So we could learn the truth,” HIkari sighed and conjured up an illusion of the main room and spun it so Tar Di could see the wall with the paintings. “This wall is for portraits of all living family members. Even though they pushed Paprikka away they did not remove the picture. Instead they shrouded it in black as in mourning for a missing or departed family member. If they did not love her the painting would have been gone.” Tears ran down Hikari’s cheeks as she spoke. It had been so easy for her to hate them, to resent how she’d been treated and what she had been forced to do to survive. And yet… She still loved them, they were the only family Paprikka had ever known and to learn now that they mourned her meant much.

“Then what are we going to do? Tell them that you are Paprikka and do the whole tearful family reunion thing?” Tar Di wasn’t so impressed being an orphan who’d relied on a bear for protection for so long before being scooped up and dragged onto their ship.

Hikari shook her head, “No, Tar Di, Paprikka’s time here has passed and we do not wish to open old wounds or grudges. We want to help them, give them a chance to make a better life for themselves and give them what they need to become better. And for that we need to ask you to do something. Crazy, unique and only something you can do.” She had her apprentice’s attention now. “While Charisia sleeps I want you to fix her leg or change it or replace it or whatever you want to make it work like the good one does. It would make up for a mistake from years ago.”

“Charisia? Seriously? I still think she is the south end of a northbound mule.” Tar Di grinned at that one having heard it from one of the escaping slaves on the beach a while back and wanting to use it herself. Though Hikari knew that the chance to actually use her magic would change the young girl’s mind. And sure enough she grinned and shrugged. “But I think I might know of a spell that would work or something-ish.”

Hikari sighed and nodded, “Great, and try to remember what schools of magic will work best with what you are doing as even though it is chaotic in nature your magic will still want to follow the paths of least resistance.” That got her an eye-roll. “Once that is done we’ll head to their equipment and see if we can’t fix a few pieces for them now and the money Thorbil is bringing should take care of the rest. And Tar Di?” A wary “yes?” was her response.

“When we get back to High Port we think it is time we set you up properly for our adventures and travels. We’ll go shopping for equipment and supplies. You need to think of what weapon you want to be trained in so we can purchase a good one while in High Port.” Hikari paused once more and smiled, “And we think we have a much better way of helping you train that might not be so boring. But you need to figure out what kind of person you want to be. What do you want to do with your magic? Help yourself or help others?” Hikari held up a hand, “Don’t answer now. Give it some thought and get a little sleep. I’ll wake you when they’ve gone to bed.”

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