Balance

End of the Beginning pt1

14th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 7:13pm Champion’s Fist, Pier 19 Lockland.

Please listen

Paprikka looked in on Mandy one more time still worried that there might be some kind of lingering effect from the magics she’d used to save the young woman. But beyond being really hungry when she woke it appeared that she’d managed to save Mandy from any further effects and purge the chaos from her. Gently closing the door she immediately bumped into her newest shadow, Tar Di, the ever eager and impatient apprentice. Rikka wasn’t sure if Tar Di was more excited about no longer having to be the cabin boy or about actually getting to use her magic. Well, at least the last would be snuffed out soon enough. Given the raw power she’d witnessed first-hand and the source meant that she needed a lot of research and planning to train Tar Di effectively and safely. But that was a problem for another day.

“Did you get the things I asked for?”

Tar Di handed the full pack to Paprikka. “There is an intensity growing around you. The lights and shadows are gathering. The colours are stronger and angry?”

“I know.” Paprikka shouldered the pack and moved back towards the deck.

“I could try to do something about them. I’ve never tried but all I have to do is…”

“No!” Rikka turns back to Tar Di and sighs lowering her voice and tone, “Until I understand exactly how your power works and how we can train it without endangering ourselves or the others we need to hold back on using it. Unless your life is in danger. For now we need to build your focus and control. Once you get those under wraps then we can teach you the ‘fun’ things.”

“Aww, but I’m your apprentice now. I should know at least one good spell right? We’ve had two days.”

“Now is not the time Tar Di,” Rikka sighed and pointed back towards her room. “Go, meditate, study the glyphs I left for you and be patient.”

“Fine. I will but I am not going to enjoy it.” She pouted at Paprikka then hesitated, worry creeping into her voice. “You are coming back right? Mr Fluffy’s gone and Mandy doesn’t like me and Mr Tyre is creepy. There are a lot of strangers on the ship now.”

She hugged Tar Di tight, “Honestly, I… don’t know. But now that I know what is going on this can’t continue so it’s time for me to face it… Watch for me.” Stepping away Rikka activated a pair of spells and disappeared.

************************************

Thoughts and emotions churned through Paprikka as she attempted and failed again to gain the calm and focus she needed to settle into a meditative trance. She could feel the ley line beneath her, feel how close she was to touching it again. She could feel the presence in her sword waiting and watching though unsure as to what she was doing. Since learning the truth she’d hid her thoughts from it, her pain at the loss of her trusted friend and so much more. Even now as she struggled to find a calm moment in the storm of her mind Rikka wanted to reach for her blade and feel the comforting presence within. But that was a lie and no comfort lay in that direction.

With the lay line out of reach for now, Paprikka sent a silent prayer of thanks to Pan for granting her the knowledge and the chance to face what was happening on her own terms, she reached for the hilt and the dark presence of the other sprang forth only this time it wasn’t a shadow. A young Tian man dressed in Fire Nation finery stood before her. The intensity of his gaze reminded Rikka of the Kempai. He bowed to her and she nodded to him.

“You know.” Was all he said.

She nodded answering, “About how I was dead and brought back by Ymeri in Don Ton to serve as a vessel to save you? Yes. About how she loosened the bonds of the armour and tucked you away in my blade where my friend once was? Yes. About how the return of the Phoenix and its tears will be my doom and your rebirth? Yes.”

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” Sadness crept into Hiro’s voice, “My friends, the ones you travel with were in grave danger from those who hunted me. I prayed for a way out, a way to stop those who wanted me dead from killing them until I could bring the fight to my enemies. Dying in Don Ton would not save my people nor my nation.”

“And I was your way out.”

“Yes, though your soul was supposed to have moved on, to find peace and Ymeri would leave a simulacrum soul in place I could guide until I could be brought back.” Hiro frowned, “But something went wrong. Though you died your soul held fast and when Ymeri brought your body back you came with it. I couldn’t do anything trapped in the sword but slip suggestions to you as you travelled. Whether by chance, luck or some greater divine purpose you fell in with my friends and I managed to get you thinking more about the Phoenix.”

“You did more than I could have hoped for in saving the Phoenix, protecting my friends and… saving Mandy like you did yesterday. You were willing to give everything to see her safe. She… means a lot to me. Thank you.” He bows low to her. “You have been a great ally and I will be forever grateful to you for what you’ve done. But you cannot change what is to be, what my goddess has set in motion. Hikaru Yamamoto needs to return to his people and free them from the evil that swallows my nation. It has been prophesized.”

His words were direct, honest and single minded. They helped calm the storm and order her thoughts. There was no malice in them, no evil in his actions only blind faith in his mission and his goddess. She breathed deep and closed her eyes, her grip on the sword never wavering as she touched the ley line and slipped from her body to face him on equal terms. Spirit to spirit. Paprikka reached out to him and though he eyed her vacant body and the opportunity she’d left he remained stoically still.

“As my eyes have been opened by the gift of another, please accept this gift and see… me.” Drawing power from the line she opened herself once more and through their connection she showed him everything holding back nothing…

***Flash***

A baby’s wail fills the bloody entryway. Two look down upon a third, a poor woman and her just born babe eyes scrunched tight in need and lack of understanding. The woman’s pale hands cold as ice shakily hold the child up to the other two pleading for them to take her. To keep her safe and raise her as their own. Finally the faintest of nods and a servant rushes in to draw the babe away. The woman has no strength left and the two turn away from her to return to their warm chambers for the night.

***Flash***

A small child’s unexpected use of magic leaves her standing in the corner facing the wrath of the kitchen staff. Her parents look on approval in their eyes as they speak of where best to send her for training. Her aptitude and power will raise their standing considerably if cultured just right. Her headstrong and chaotic ways will be drowned under strict rules, endless tutors and training.

***Flash***

Older now she stand dripping blood from a split lip and broken nose in the same entryway looking defiant at her parents. He rages at her for resorting to fists to fight the bullies when she could have ended it with one spell. She tries to tell her side, about how it was to be fair and equal and how she’d promised not to. But they only saw her failure and the loss of status she would bring for this was not the first nor last time she’d been drawn in to a ‘fair fight’.

***Flash***

Excitement ripples through the household for her mother is to have another child, a daughter, and the girl shares in the joy for a chance to have someone to play with, someone to share the lonely moments with away from her parents and the disappointment.

***Flash***

Two girls playing, the elder hard pressed to keep up with the enthusiasm of the younger as they race through the forest near the estate. Their carefree chase comes to an end in a field of flowers where a bear, lean with hunger, stalks them. The younger is maimed before the elder can overcome her fear. They both survive but carry very different scars forward from there.

***Flash***

Years have passed but the gulf between the sisters has widened impossibly aided by the subtle words of their parents to the younger and the hateful words shot to the elder. The final arrow finds its mark as they tell her she is naught but an orphan. Told the tale of her family’s death at the hands of raiders and how her mother begged her sister to take the child in. She has been nothing but a burden to their home and despite their best efforts see only disappointment for her future. She is told to leave everything and go. She takes only her true mother’s surname with her as she leaves.

***Flash***

Desperation leads her down many paths taking any job she can muster just to keep food in her belly. Often she finds it empty and cold like the world around her. Dancing and serving at taverns becomes her life for a long while, bleak and without warmth it keeps her alive as she forgets what hope feels like.

***Flash***

An older man, dressed well and captain of his own ship speaks kindly to her. He leads her away and spins hope back into her life before leaving her in the care of a friend. Here she finds a home of sorts and trains hard to learn his mysterious ways hoping to see that kind captain once more. But the season turn many times and he never returns. Eventually even her new master falls victim to age and she is left alone once more.

***Flash***

Lean seasons lie ahead and though she is better prepared one cannot eat only air and drink only dreams. So she wanders far in search of anything and lands at the feet of a red-haired woman who stops her from being cast out of the temple she’d taken shelter in. She accepts the offer given and does her best to complete her duties. Only the woman with red hair speaks to her though she learns their language by listening to the others.

***Flash***

She fights without reservation for her red-haired charge, a demon to stop these devils. But it is not enough for she fights alone and though her charge escapes, she does not. Black armour encases her and she dies…

***Flash***

Awake she fights with the others to freedom beyond the evil city…

***Flash***

…overcoming her fear of the Linnorm she joins in the fight… Meeting Pan…

***Flash***

…listens as the others speak of finding someone more skilled and appropriate for her role on the ship. It is not the last time she hears this…

***Flash***

More and more images, feeling and memories pass from Paprikka to Hikaru before both stagger back from the experience. The night drifts slowly onward as the two face each other spirit to spirit.

“Do you understand now?” She asks him.

“Yes,” he nods his mind still reeling from everything she’s shown him, “But it does not change what is meant to be.”

“Why is it meant to be? Because your goddess says so?” She shook her head eyes shining with tears, “I’ve lived and fought and survived for so long. So very long seeking some place to feel like home. Some place to feel accepted.”

“And you seek it still. You will not find it here. Just as it was with all the others you do not belong here. Ymeri kept you alive and guided you to Don Ton. Ymeri put you in the place I needed you to be so I could survive. What is one life? One wretched existence to that of an entire nation? I weep for what you’ve gone through and will never forget what you’ve done Paprikka. But I will be the only one to remember.” Hikaru steps forward and embraces her. “You can still be the hero you’ve wanted to be. You can still change the world with your power. By surrendering your existence to me I can save a nation for that price. I can bring help to Prancer and force concessions from Omaru. All you have to do is let go.”

Rikka cried, wracking sobs of loss. She was supposed to be dead. Despite her best efforts she’d only delayed the inevitable. Behind Hikaru stood Ymeri annoyance and anger plain on her face for this should never have gone this far. All she had to do was give in, give up and she could let go of this existence. Had not Pan warned her many times? Had he not tried to lead her from this path? She had even failed him…She didn’t want to die… Paprikka felt a warm hand on her shoulder and looked behind her. Pan stood there sadness marring his face and spoke a single word. “Choose.”

(Please send me a private e-mail to let me know if you’d rather see Hiro return or Rikka from this night. Just a message saying Team Rikka/Pan or team Hiro/Ymeri. In a few days I’ll post part 2)

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Destiny Awaits a Goddess, part 1

22 Flood time…whenever…bah, whatever date that these strange human date track. We are in the Age of The Eclipse, the Tenth and Final Naran … per Strix terms.

Miriel waited for Aurelia to come back from within the great tree; it was to be a quick trip according to an irritated Flit, but she knew Aurelia would respect her need to be here for as long as she needed. She sat at the base of the tree, lessened by the removal of a shard and its flooding by chaos magic, still left her more calm than before; it’s diluted power warmed her skin rather than coursed through her blood and soul…her companions had definitely wrenched the majority of its raw power away. The tree, however, was old and wise, and she patted one of its roots fondly – perhaps one of her fey worshippers would know a way to ease its pain.

She grimaced at the thought; she’d made a mess of things the last time she summoned her followers, and now Curtis is paying the price. She’d finally forced herself to gaze upon her stomach, right after they found out that their bosun from Cainia was murdered. While she could not see her faun bearer, she could see his misery evident in his surroundings, and that he was obviously alone, away from his companions; she even went so far as to ask Willhym if he could read the sign near Curtis so she could find out what it said (not being able to read common upside down). The strange halfling was over-eager in his wishes to make amends for not listening to her and while it took him awhile to focus on her stomach, he eventually let her know that Curtis was scheduled to be executed on the 33rd of Floodside.

So much death…her beloved would want her to do all in her power to ensure her people survived. So she’d gritted her teeth, chased the halfling’s roaming hands away, and asked Aurelia if she could accompany her to the tree the same day. Now…now it was time to face her destiny as a protector and goddess of her people. She cast the spell and summoned Maul again.

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Slugging it out in Cainia Pt 5

21st of Floodtime 383 ONT, 11:13am, Slug Camp 7, 3km Southwest of Aderaid Keep, Cainia

“You understand don’t you Boytano?” The Captain said as he sat at his campaign desk running his hand through his hair. “At your order you flooded the crypts of Dragnye… killing 54 civilians and the Duchess Forbes. I have no real choice here” he looked almost pleadingly at the blond dwarf across from him

“Aye Sir, that happened… but what of the three hundred and something civies that we rescued, and the Duke himself? It was a no-win situation sir… if we’d waited we’d be dead… Sir”

“I understand Boytano… you know I do, but she was the Employer’s Aunt, and mission critical… someone has to take the wrap here, and I’m afraid you were the ranking officer on scene” the Captain stood up and took on a more formal air “Sargent Callum Boytano, it gives me no pleasure to inform you that you are sentenced to five public lashings and a demotion to the rank of Corporal effective immediately” the Blond Dwarf stood and saluted

“Aye Sir” Callum said as the Captain waved him dismissed. He turned to leave when the Captain stopped him once more

“Boytano?”

“Yes Sir?”

“Hell of a job, Hell of a job”

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Slugging it out in Cainia Pt 4

18th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 1:49pm, Mausoleum of Dragnye Hold, Cainia

Browner came racing down the hall

“We’re done Sir, the line is foldin, boys are breaking off and on my heels… it aint pretty…” the dwarf bent over hands on his knees gasping for breath.

“Shit from the holy ass of Hithilum right on Selwyns perky chest!” Callum swore causing several of the nearby humans to make the sign of forgiveness. Callum ignored them and turned to the red bearded dwarf on his left.

“Smelts! Get down the corridor to Sims and let him know that I don’t care how deep the pits are, he needs to start digging out the wall!” Callum turned about looking for another runner “Squirrely, get down the hall and let the humans know that those bladders best be full, then past yerself to the goram Dukes left arm and don’t leave his side till the end times or further” the redheaded dwarf took off down the hall hollering at the humans to get ready for what was to come. Callum hefted his shield and drew his axe “Aight lads, our boys are coming with Holy Hell on their heels, we’re gonna slow the advance… nothing passes this point… you here me?”

“HAROO” the eight dwarves around him called as they locked shields and prepared for the rush

“Hot Stuff, Double Dare, you’re the door, get ready to let them through” Callum called, seeing the first of the dwarves wheel around the corner and race towards them. Behind them he could see several gnolls snarling as they raced after them “BY HITHILUM’S SWEATY NARDS! WE WILL HOLD!” he shouted again nearly spitting the words as they approached.

“HAAA- ROO!” the men called feeling the ground tremble as the dwarves slipped by and the gnolls closed.

BLAM

And battle was joined

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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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