Balance

Little Trouble Pt 2

21st of Floodtime 383 ONT, 2:43pm, the village of Glenrummy, Glenrummy Gorge, 27k south of Lockland Keep

Thaden of Rootwallow walked into the Smithy and stood before Theodore Reedrunner. The Hedgie Smith was calling to his son Morgan to leave the coal and only bring a barrel of the enriched dust that he used.

“How fares Master Reedrunner?” Thaden said making his presence known. The man stiffened a little and bowed his head in respect

“Guard Mouse” he said formally, before breaking into his worries “I don’t know that we can go… this forge has been in our family for eight generations, each generation making new tools for new needs… There isn’t room to take all my tools, or even my anvil… how will I be able to rebuild? How can I leave all this to be destroyed or stolen?” the Hedgie was too proud to weep, but Thaden could see he was not far from the prospect.

“Take the ten tools you use most often… and I will make room for the anvil… somehow, have your son bury the rest, if fate or chance bring me back this way I will endeavour to retrieve the heirlooms for you when I can” the Hedige’s eyes lifted as he looked at the Guard Mouse

“You would do that for us?” he asked

“There is no greater honour than to serve, I cannot promise it will be done, but I can promise that if it is within my means, I will make every effort to do so” Thaden replied solemnly.

“Thank you Guard Mouse, you are a testament to your people” the Smith said, and Thaden offered a slight humble nod

“Hurry Master Reedrunner, our time grows short, and now you have much digging to do as well… Aury and I will come move your anvil into the wagon when you are ready, please prepare the rest of your things. And remember, I know not how long this journey will be, or how far, bring food and supplies for the road, and clothing for the winter months, do not only pack your livelihood, you also pack for the lives of your family”

“Yes Guard Mouse” the Smith said bowing once more as Thaden left and headed for the next home, to aid them in their packing.

He walked over to the Millers home, and watched the industrious Ms. Elmtail packing bags for her family, he nodded to her and passed through the apartments to the Mill, where the Chipious was standing looking at the great mill stone and scratching his head.

“We cannot take it, I’m sorry” Thaden said

“Guard Mouse” the Chipious bowed with a start, he had not heard Thaden approach. “It took us three generations to get this built…”

“You will rebuild in much less time, I have companions who are better able to accomplish these tasks… go to your family… help them pack your things, bring only the tools you need and can carry, leave the rest” the Chipious bowed his head mournfully but nodded

“yes Guard Mouse”

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Of Titanic Proportions....
Once again, magic fails to account for lifestyle...

Twice the height… Eight times heavier.. Flitt was still coming to terms with his new height, which all in all was fine being that he was still one of the shortest ones on a ship built for humans and elves, but the weight just didn’t balance out well.

He had experiences being enlarged before through magical means, and while you gained the same weight then, the situation you were usually in didn’t leave much time for thought. Flitt had noticed it only after they were out of danger and back on the ship. Only having the one outfit (that had thankfully changed size with him and had started out as a baggy pair of pants and lose shirt under his armor), was now closer akin to tights thanks to the added weight. He had visited a tailor to get some new clothing made to wear before sailing south, but the amount of cloth needed now was almost embarrassing.

4’2" tall, but now over 250 pounds, and he honestly couldn’t say it was all muscle despite the lifestyle of the average Promethean swashbuckler. It was time to find a way to train away the massive multiplied fat he had developed along with the Titans blessing, the only question was how was he going to accomplish that while on a sea voyage. they would be sailing too fast to swim for long periods, and it felt like there was even less room on the deck now that he took more space up. Not to mention the almost upsetting groaning the rigging was now making when he clambered up it.

Maybe Bronwyn would know of someone in port that would be willing to take a journey to the south and provide a specialized exercise regime, but where would they find someone who would understand training a Grippli..

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Little Trouble Pt 1

21st of Floodtime 383 ONT, 2:21pm, the village of Glenrummy, Glenrummy Gorge, 27k south of Lockland Keep

Thaden threw himself from the top of the building, reaching out with the weave to confirm his course was true. At the last moment as expected Aury slammed into the wildcats side causing it to stagger to the left. Sword in hand Thaden brought it down with all his might slamming through the creature’s eye and connecting with the brainstem behind. It yowled pathetically once and dropped to the ground dead. The blood smeared Waylen climbed down heaving heavily to catch his breath. Aury came up beside him, scratching once at the creature’s throat to assure it was well and truly gone. He breathed heavily as he looked to his companion a half smile on his lips

“That was the last of them I think, perhaps we should have brought your friends… that was more difficult than I thought it would be” the cat mewed in agreement as she licked her paw and began to try and clean some of the blood from herself. “You don’t need to do that Aury, I’m sure it tastes foul… I have some soap and can help you as soon as we assure the area is clear” the cat again mewed her thanks to him. As the two surveyed the area; they noted the town’s people were starting to come from their hovels and then saw Icarus flying towards their location, the bat did not appear to be at ease. Thaden pulled a rag from Aury’s saddle bag and wiped his blade clean sensing that the work was not yet complete.

“Hail Icarus, the Felinious have been vanquished or driven off; how fares the eastern end of the gorge?” Thaden said as the Clava landed.

“ne ochen’ khorosho…” the Clava stopped as the Waylen shook his head, he then rolled his eyes and switched to Mamalian so that Aury would be able to understand as well. “Not well, the far fields have been cleared of Raven’s but during my interrogation of a Wyzel I have discovered that it is known that you are here. Thrawn himself is on his way with fourteen companies of highly trained battle troops. They will destroy this town and turn it to ash, then likely turn their sights towards Rosemellow.”

“Blast!” the Waylen cursed. He did the mental math… it was not kind. They would need to move thirty three people overland and quickly, the villagers were hardy folk but not well equipped for long journeys. Thaden nodded to Icarus and with a tilt of the head ushered he and Aury to follow as he marched towards the centre of small hamlet. As he did his cheeks reddened as members of the hamlet began to cheer and applaud for them

“Well Done Guard Mouse” called a Chipious Farmer

“Our Debt to the Guard” Said the Hedgie Blacksmith

“Praise be to our brothers of the Clava” a Scurrious women hailed. Thaden took a deep breath and called upon the weave so that all in the town would hear him

“Good people of Glenrummy,” he began “It is true that we have indeed won the battle, the Felinious and Avians have been defeated” again he was forced to stop as a series of hoots and cheers came from the townsfolk. He knew this would haunt him. “Unfortunately the day is not won for us… as we speak, Grand Admiral Thrawn is on his way here with a force beyond the capacity of myself and my companions.” To this there were gasps of worry

“But you are a Guard Mouse” an old Scurrious called out, he wore the apron of a Tanner “There is nothing that can defeat a Guard Mouse when he is on the side of right” the man said quoting the ancient song. Thaden hung his head

“I know well the song of Ben-Jie, but sadly there are indeed things that even with the aid of the Weave I would be unable to handle… I might survive a confrontation with this group, but I could not guarantee the safety of you or your families” he said ushering to the villagers “I am sorry… but we cannot stay here, Thrawn will kill you all, and burn your homes to the ground… we must flee”

“Flee?” called out a Hedgie women

“where will we go” Called a Chipious man

“What of my mill?” called another Chipoious man

“or my smithy?” called the Hedgie Black smith

“What of the children?” a Scurious women yelled. Thaden raised his hands to try and calm them down while he spoke.

“Gather what you need, but only what you can carry, we will never be returning to this place, but I promise you that I will find you a new home, a safe place where you can once again build lives and rear your children safely. Go quickly and choose wisely what you will bring, we leave in one hours’ time.” With that he turned and stalked back to Aury and Icarus.

“priyatnaya rech’…” Icarus began, but received the glare and once more switched languages “Cutting it a bit close aren’t you?”

“We can’t expect them to leave their homes forever and not give them at least a little time… Icarus, please head to the eastern end of the gorge… let me know if our enemy enters your sites, else meet back here in an hour” the Clave nodded and took flight. “Aury… I am sorry, I may need you to pull a wagon… the people have a few hand carts, I will go ask Mr. Twofur if he can fashion some into a wagon so that we might travel with a few more things…” that cat nodded her agreement, he knew she would, but it felt wrong not to ask. “Ok, I’ll do what I can to help these folks get packed, if you want to head west and start scouting a few trails, find the easiest paths we can take that give us the most cover… watch for preators, and remember we will have carts with us, so nothing too tricky” the cat offered an energetic mew” and turned scampering for the western reaches of the hamlet. Thaden took a steadying breath and walked towards the smithy, preparing himself for what was yet to come.

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Starcrossed Pt 3

20th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 7:21pm, The Steps Behind The Stalsbury Inn, Lockland.

Taaj al-Pour looked up at the stars questioning the very gods above, how did he get himself into this situation. He looked down seeing the women of his dreams wrapped in his arms, her face all blotchy from the tears that poured from her as she sobbed into his fine silken shirt.

Things had started out well, they had been on a successful date last night, and met again for lunch today; he was fascinated about every aspect of this driven courageous women. It saddened him how she was being used; he was still unsure how to break it to her that she traveled with wanted terrorist and thieves. As best he could tell, she was a craftsmen and likely oblivious to the nefarious deeds of her fellow crew members. They had agreed to meet for dinner tonight at the Stalsbury, the inn was of some repute and he’d needed to lean on Shaheed to help secure him a table here. His brother had given him a fair amount of ribbing for it, but all in all was ‘unwilling to stand in the way of true love’. Taaj would have preferred if Shaheed had left the mocking tone from his voice as well, but securing the table had been enough. Sadly is love, dear Mandy, had been late. Taaj had begun to panic that perhaps she not feel the same way, maybe she had given up on him. When she arrived it had been much worse. She wore a dress, simple yet elegant, Taaj could tell it was brand new, likely bought today for this specific meal, his Mandy was not used to the finer things, something he planned to correct. The dress however was stained with mud along one side, her hair was slightly dishevelled and her elbow was scrapped. Of course he had raced to her side, and quickly escorted her out the back of the restaurant where they could speak in private as to what happened. It had taken nearly half an hour and he still wasn’t sure of how all this had happened

“I just wanted to do something right for once… and I screwed it all up again…” he sobbed, he held her close as she did.

“Shhhhh, Shhhh… it’s ok, but Mandy, how could you think someone named ‘The Weasel’ was a baker, or even a good person?” he tried to ask, this only caused her to cry more deeply. And though he was thrilled to be holding her so close, the fact that she was upset shook him to the core

“He said if I didn’t get him the money, then ‘people would get hurt’… and Captain Alfrin… he’s not gonna be back in time, I didn’t know what else to do… he has Hiro’s egg, and I need to get that back… but… I screwed it all up, and now everyone I love is in danger…” again she broke off into staggered sobs

“Hush, hush now my dear Mandy” he soothed patting the back of her head. “I told you that I am a merchant right?” she looked up and nodded at him “well, there is a little more to it than that, my brother and I work for a large Merchant consortium… and problems like yours… that is what we get paid to sort out” Mandy looked up at him, hope in her eyes

“You’d help me, even if I was stupid?” she asked. He couldn’t help but crack a wide smile; he should thank the idiot loan shark for allowing him to be a hero in this women’s eyes

“You are a kind and good hearted person Mandy Doyle, and this person took advantage of that. Tomorrow my brother and I will pay him a small visit, collect your egg from him and explain how business is to be done in the future” Mandy wrapped her hands around him in a giant hug of excitement

“You’d do that for me? I’ll pay him back, I swear, I just need a little more time to get things in order and…”

“Hush now, let me speak with this “Weasel” fellow, and see what needs doing, in the meantime, if I may ask, why not clean your face and come enjoy one of the finest meals Lockland has to offer” she smiled and nodded taking his hand and allowed him to lead her back into the Stalsbury Inn.

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Letter of Interest

The Letter Arrived by porter, and was brought to the Ship at 6:15pm on the 19th of Floodtime

Dear Mr. Fargazer

It occurs to me, that you might be a forgiving type. The type of person that understands that a man can make mistakes and that if he has forgiveness in his heart… or at least really really regrets what he did, and maybe had a decent reason, not that there is ever a decent reason for it, but you know some considerations do bare considerin. I guess what I am sayin is that I am in a bit of trouble, and just when I heard you were in port, and I am hoping that you might well consider coming and talking to me. The issue I am having is a bit of a time sensitive one, and I know you’re a busy man in all, being a fellow member of the cloth and all, and someone who is on the road to knowledge wisdom and discovery, but I can pretty much guarantee that if you at least come and talk to me, well that would be something, I suppose… anyway this little piece of paper doesn’t have much room and the fellow in the tan shirt seems to be getting all wound up over this, so here is the skinny. I am at the 9th guard house and being held in lock up three… I am allowed to have visitors, but due to my very special set of circumstances I would need to meet with you before 7:15am. I am not a beggin man, just a practical one… so I hope we can share a chat and sort something out.

Yours

Cassidy

DAN let me know if you want to meet with him and I will email you the details

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Starcrossed Pt 2

19th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 3:23pm, the Porcelain Cup Teahouse, Lockland.

Shaheed sipped his tea, bemused by his brother’s manic foot tapping. Taaj knew the look but was not yet ready to speak more. Instead he reached forward to the three tiered tray and grabbed another of the tiny avocado sandwiches and stuffed it into his mouth; he had to admit they were delicious what with their crustless white fluffy bread and creamy green fillings. His brother tsk at his behavior, carefully replacing his cup on the fine porcelain saucer before speaking.

“You saw a pretty girl, and she likes you, so what of it brother there is rarely a port where you don’t find a women to warm your bed”

“You don’t understand Shaheed… this is different, I think… I think… I think I am in love” as Taaj said the words his face split in an ear to ear smile as he knew what he said to be true. Shaheed couldn’t help but grin at his usually sombre brother. Taaj continued “She is breathing incarnation of beautiful, she stills my heart and lifts me up on wings of joy” the half elf said jumping from his seat and taking up an actors pose to proclaim his joy for all in the Tea House to hear. Shaheed held his seat with an eyebrow raised in amusement

“You don’t love a woman because she is beautiful; she is beautiful because you love her… so says the great prophet. How can she be truly beautiful if you do not yet know her brother?” Taaj was not to be outdone as he raised one hand above him and began to recite the words of the playwrites of old

“Colpo di fulmine. The thunderbolt, as the elves call it. When love strikes someone like lightning, so powerful and intense it cannot be denied. It is beautiful and messy, cracking a chest open and spilling their soul forth for the world to see. It turns a person inside out, and there’s no going back from it. Once the thunderbolt strikes, your life is irrevocably changed” there was a spattering of applause from the few other patrons of the tea house. Shaheed sighed and rose to his feet taking the proper drama stance to respond in kind

“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that she is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident” he paused as he was given a louder applause from the patrons once more, some had turned their chairs with great interest in the impromptu show that had araisen. Shaheed looked sternly at his brother “Perhaps there is something with this girl, something you have not felt before, but take caution my brother, do not confuse love and lust. Father will arrange a marriage that is right for you, enjoy your time flirting and lusting, but do not confuse it for love, that is entirely something else” Taaj looked hard at his brother, he took a short sip of water and then proclaimed loudly

“You know when I said I knew little about love? That wasn’t true. I know a lot about love. I’ve seen it; I’ve seen centuries and centuries of it. It’s the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All the wars, pain, lies, and hate, made me want to turn away and never look down again. But to see the way that Argyle loves! I mean you could search the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So, yes I know that love is unconditional, but I also know it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable, and strangely easy to mistake for loathing. And, well, what I’m trying to say, is… I think I am in love. My heart it feels like my chest can barely contain it, like it doesn’t belong to me anymore; it belongs to her, and if she wanted it, I’d wish for nothing in exchange: no gifts, no goods, no demonstrations of devotion, nothing, but knowing she loves me, too. Just her heart in exchange for mine.” An older women sniffled taking a hanky to her eyes before calling out

“The silique of Selwyn always makes me cry… bravo young man, bravo” Shaheed looked around the room, the crowd had developed to a bit of a larger one now. He cleared his voice searching his knowledge of the ancient texts and plays to better make his point to his brother, he had to admit, his brother had the advantage, few revered plays were based on one being prudent in love.

“You are not in love with me, you are in love with the idea of me, and the pain you bring on our houses for such an idea is the pain of a thousand lashes. Travel on young sailor and know not what pain in turmoil you leave in your wake” the applause began but Taaj cut it off

“O happy hours when I may once more encircle within these arms the dearest object of my love- when I shall again feel the pressure of that ‘aching head’ which will delight to recline upon my bosom, when I may again press to my heart which palpitates with the purest affection that loved one who has so long shared its undivided devotion” when he finished he shared a long look with Shaheed, who at last shrugged and raised his hands in defeat. The two turned and nodded their heads to the impromptu audience before finding their seats once more.

“So… you claim to love her, and forgetting that greater obstacles that she lives in a River City and you in the great Deserts… or that we are on a quest of some importance… or that you don’t even know her name…”

“Ah but I do know her name dear brother, and what an elegant name it is… a name worthy of angles…” Shaheed rolled his eyes, this must be the elven half of his brother talking, as never had any of his other brothers acted as such fools as Taaj was now

“and what is this oh so angelic name? if I may ask?”

“Mandy” he replied

“Mandy? What is that short for Miranda? Amanda? Armandia? Mirnanditha?”

“ummm…” there was a brief silence as Shaheed leaned in

“You don’t know… you don’t even know her full name” he said accusingly

“well I didn’t have time to get all the information, we just met and…”

“Here you are standing on the tables proclaiming this girl as your one true love, and you don’t even know her name…”

“…I had to meet you back here, and that cut my time short, I’m planning on asking…”

“… oh the great love stories to the dear and true Mandy…” Shaheed put his hands forward in a mocking dramatic gesture “Oh Mandy, how the sun doth shine and wind doth carry your name…”

“knock it off” Taaj grumbled, but Shaheed was still having his fun, trying to cut off the snickers

“It sounds like the name of a twelve year girl… little Mandy”

“ENOUGH” Taaj said, louder than he had meant… the room went quiet for a minute but Taaj waved his hands apologetically and turned back to his brother. “Can you not just be excited for me? I am happy, I am meeting her tonight, what is the harm?” at last Shaheed gave his brother a grin and a laugh

“Oh to be young and foolish… so be it, we are here for a few more days anyway, at least until the Dumatheon crew arrive in port, you might as well have your fun until then” at these words Taaj’s heart dropped a little, it hurt him not to tell his brother that he had seen Fargazer, and knew the ship they were hunting was in port. But he needed to see Mandy again, to find out why she was on this ship, and secure her safety before he told his brother anything.

“thank you brother” he managed to say as he lifted his tea cup in a small toast and reached for another little triangle sandwich.

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Destiny Awaits a Goddess, Part Two

“Sit with me, Maul-Chaluim of Clan Silverfish,” Miriel said. She pointed at the ground before her, and showed no emotion while she watched Maul struggled on whether he would listen to her or not. He stared at her through wisps of black hair, his hands shaking either with fear or anger, she could not tell. Finally, however, he sat cross-legged in front of her in the same position as herself. He took care not to touch her…but still sat within a finger tip.

“Goddess of the Night Wind. You should not be so bold to summon me whenever you wish; I was in the middle of assisting with camp.”

“I see through the eyes of my holy image, Maul-Chaluim, and you are nowhere to be seen; how would I know what you are doing?”

“If you’re a goddess, shouldn’t you see everything and anything of what you wish?” he asked bitterly, absently playing with the ground at his side.

“I am a young goddess, my wild elf.” Miriel dropped her hands to her own side, and slowly mirrored his motions, enjoying the feel of the grass on her skin. “Do you fault me for being as a child, following my path set out for me by Fate?”

“You would compare this to following a sacred path?!”

Miriel slowed her fingers and began tracing ancient mudras in the grass. The wind picked up, catching playfully at both of their hairs. “I would. I was but a foolish youngling when I wandered in that shop.” She looked away from Maul’s face for a moment, contemplating nothing in the distance while she thought back to that day. A small smile spread on her lips. “It was a test, I know that now. I was given my own tattoo and introduced to a whole new world; a new fantastic point of view. No one told me no, or where to go, or say I was only dreaming…a whole new world with you.”

The wild elf blushed; his fingers now echoed her movements, tracing mudras he’d never known without even realizing it. “It’s…not just me, there are others.”

Miriel cocked her head to one side. “Yes, tell me of the others.”

“The gnome is a loyal friend and is always there to lend aid.” His right hand whipped outward for a moment, his frustration evident. “He is a bit of a coward, however, and will often follow Cur…”. The wild elf swallowed the word quickly, closing his eyes and once again moving his hand in time with her own. “The fairy gibbers at me; I’ve not the patience to learn Fey. And the Tengu is interesting – his view of this world most definitely differs from Curt…” He cut his words off again with a loud growl, his frame jumping slightly from the ground.

Miriel held her hands up in front of his face, watching him from beneath her lashes. She began tracing the mudras in the air between them, calmly. After a few moments Maul, with obvious reluctance, raised his own hands and matched her in movement, his motions tentative at first then every bit as graceful as her own. “And what of your final member of my First Order? The one of your group that you actually Name.” She raised her eyes and stared hard at him, daring him to leave her question unanswered. “What of my Priest?”

“Curtis,” he answered, sighing with regret. “He is fine, I gave him a much deserved beating and left.” He noticed her anger and matched fire with fire. “What? He’ll be fine, he would have used one of your Blessings to heal himself and continue on his journey.”

“You left my Priest alone, with Dwarven murderers surrounding him, and you think he is fine?! He was captured and beaten, and is now to be put to the death on the 33rd of Floodside!”

“WHAT?!?!?” Maul grabbed her hands and brought them onto his heart. “The only one to beat him is me! And, well, you, my Goddess.” He suddenly noticed he held her hands and let go quickly, but she was quicker, pulling his hands onto her own chest.

“No, my wild elf, you will not get away from me that easily. You are my weapon just as Curtis is my words. Be my hurricane and destroy those that would defy my will, rip them from this very earth and hurl them to their death for daring to lay a hand on my own! Make me stronger so I can protect my people properly! Show those that have fallen so low that my children can bring them back up to heights they’ve never dreamed of! A storm you will be – SO A STORM YOU SHALL HAVE!!!”

Miriel brought his hands to her lips and kissed them, and the power of a thousand winds screaming to be loosed jolted from deep within and into Maul, making him stiffen and jerk in her grip. Proudly she watched as he buried his own scream deep inside himself, as if his very life depended on it. Dark clouds gathered suddenly above them, thunder and lightning a surreal dream while the wind that blew in their midst a terrifying nightmare.

Maul bent on top of her, hair whipping about him as she cradled his head in the crook of her neck, wings flaring out but untouched by the storm; indeed, the wind licked at each feather as a lover would eagerly lick hot skin. She held him until his spasms stopped, and he looked up with no hint of exhaustion, only a fury that would not stop…a flash of lighting and rippled darkness flashed in his eyes, so quickly it was almost imagined. She clasped the back of his neck and brought her head in so they were forehead to forehead. “I gift that power to you, my wild elf; you are my Storm and none shall stand in your way.”

“Yes, my Goddess of the Night Wind,” he whispered, hands holding just as hard onto her own neck, proud and firm. “I will show them what happens when a Storm is unleashed upon the undeserving….”

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Starcrossed Pt 1

19th of Floodtime 383 ONT, 1:49pm, 6th and Rose, Lockland.

“I worry about you brother” Shaheed murmured breaking Taaj al-Pour from his reverie. “You have not been the same since attaching to the items of power, we should seek the aid of our managers and stop these troubles at once” Taaj shook off the last vestiges of whatever had dominated his thoughts and turned to his half-brother with a winning smile.

“Shaheed, you worry too much, I am fine, more than fine, and we have never been closer to our goals… by my senses we are close to the culprits, as soon as I have confirmed that these powers do indeed work; then we can head over to a Manager, with profitable information that they can arrange the next phase of the plan. As now, we still only hypothesize, that will only delay us further.” Taaj placed a hand on his brothers should as he spoke. He could see the resistance in Shaheed’s face melt as he laid on his point “Go, relax and find us a tea shop to dine at later, I want to get my land legs back by walking a stretch. I will meet you back at the Avon Vale by the third hour.” Shaheed again seemed to wrestle with the idea, but Taaj, knew him far too well, Shaheed had been longing for a proper tea house for months, and at long last they were in a port large enough to sport several. At last his half-brother nodded

“Alright, I will secure us a place to dine, you get your stretch, then we discuss a plan to confirm the magiks and move forward with the grand endeavour… agreed?”

“Of course Shaheed… if the Tea House were also to support hukka…” Taaj let the thought trail has his brothers grin became even wider

“Blueberry is your flavour of choice” Shaheed finished for him, clapping him on the back. “I will see what I can do my dear brother” he said as he turned and headed for the city core, leaving Taaj alone at last. As he left Taaj let out a long slow sigh, this pained him deeply. He knew he should be going to the managers, should be telling them of the visions he had seen, of the feelings he was having, but he couldn’t some part of him felt that it would be wrong to speak to them… at least for now. He had rationalised it to himself with this story of confirming the magik, it seemed to make sense to know if he could rely on his sense or not, but deep down he felt there must be something more. Another reason why he would not speak to his brother and closest friend of what was ailing him. He turned and walked down Rose way for a distance, his mind’s eye searching his memory for keys to those who haunted his dreams, he could never remember faces or names clearly, just impressions and feelings, and some of the feelings did not make him super comfortable.

As he strolled down the street he heard a disturbance up ahead

“Hey watch it you big jerk!” Taaj glanced up at the commotion seeing a larger human male having pushed over a dolly filled with lumber that had been being pulled by a smaller women. The man appeared to have a coupled friends who jested at her. One kicked at the stack of lumber as the girl bent to pick it up. Taaj turned to continue his stroll when as the women searched the crowd for aid he happened to catch her eye. His heart skipped a beat as he was lost in the emerald orbs of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen. She was human most assuredly perhaps eighteen or nineteen years of age, her hair was a luxurious red and even in anger she held the voice of an angel. The young women had jumped to her feet now and was pulling a hammer from her belt holding it up with two hands “I’m warning you, back off or you’ll regret it” she growled ferociously at the biggest of her assailants

“Widdle Guwl As Big Hamwer!” the oaf taunted as his imbecilic compatriots giggled inanely. Without realising it Taaj al-Pour found his feet moving unheeded and quickly found himself pushing through the crowd to stand at the young women’s side

“Excuse me my lady, it is beneath one of your great beauty to attempt to educate the filth that chooses to fester within the crevices of this great city, may I perhaps offer you aid?” the women turned to look at him over her shoulder, she blew air trying to dislodge the bangs from her eyes in a movement he was sure melted his heart. She seemed to have some sort of barb on her tongue for him, but when she turned and saw him, that seemed to change, as her cheeks flushed nearly as red as her hair and her green eyes locked with his hazel ones in an infinite loop of understanding.

“Does the widdle baby haf a boyfriend?” the oaf taunted “Does the widdle…”

SHINK

In a flash Taaj had his scimitar free of its sheath and flying towards the oaf’s throat, how dare he ruin what had possible been the most perfect moment to have ever crested Argyle’s hills. It took all of his self-control not to slay the vagabond where he stood, but to do so would risk spraying the wonderful goddess with blood and he would not dream of such an action. So his blade stopped neatly at the man’s throat. By instinct more than anything else he felt one of the oafs companions, the one on his right move, he let out a high kick to the side without allowing his blade to falter… the fellow dropped his dagger and fell to the ground

THWACK

Taaj let his eyes slip to the left as he heard the angel’s voice sing the words

“YOU BIG JERK!” Her hammer having just smashed into the knee of the final assailant causing him to drop his knife and fall to the ground in agony. Taaj turned his attention back to the oaf.

“You would assail a lady in broad daylight? My how far the ideals of Lockland have fallen” he proclaimed more to the crowd then the oaf.

“Was only some fun, she’s just a smithy wench running a cart… didn’t mean nuttin by it” the oaf pleaded. Anger rose in Taaj al-Pour, for a moment he found it very hard to keep his scimitar from cutting open the man who would sully the good name of such a stunning young women.

“You will collect the ladies things and stack them back on the dolly” he said in a voice that bespoke a calm hidden in the centre of the greatest of world shattering storms

“I… I think my knee is broken?” the one laying at the women’s feet moaned

“You will collect the ladies things and stack them back on the dolly, or I will take your right hands, left feet, right eyes and left testicles” still the calm, but each of the vagabonds knew he meant the words, knew that this was truth, and the oaf recognised the punishment as the ones that the OMAR stores gave out to shoplifters”

“OK OK, we’re going” the big one said, starting to move as Taaj pulled his scimitar back from his throat.

“Are you alright my lady?” Taaj asked, turning his attention back to young women. Her eyes were on the ground, her brows furrowed in anger.

“They spilt my paint… I’m supposed to repaint our ship name… and they spilt it” she growled annoyed at seeing the fresh ink leach away into the sewers. The scimitar flashed out towards the oaf again, this time cutting his belt near his purse. Using the point he hooked the tatter of rope and flicked it up catching it deftly in his left hand. Weighing the pouch a moment Taaj presented it to the lady

“This should more than compensate you for the lost paint, and your trouble in replacing it” Taaj said, grinning as the women blushed, looking at her feet once more as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. The oaf who was picking up the boards and restacking them looked like he was about to complain, but then noted the ease at which that scimitar seemed to fly and rethought his action.

“My Hero” the women said, speaking perhaps the two most special words he Taaj had ever heard. Before this day he had thought the tales of Grim were foolish when he bespoke of ‘love at first sight’ that one could not simply make eye contact and fall in love. Now he knew Grim to be the pioneer he truly was, for here he was having known this women for all of a minute and ready to profess his undying love for her.

“The Lady had things well in hand, I am pleased you granted me the privilege to provide aid” the women’s toe kicked at the ground a little

“Maybe, but I am happy you came anyways” she looked up from under her bangs and the two locked eyes again, their souls danced as they shared a bond “How, can I repay you?” she asked, her voice dropping down to a whisper. His head leaned in closer as he responded softly

“Would it be to forward to beseech the lady for a… kiss?” he asked, the last word little more than a breath. The women leaned forward, tilting her head slightly and parting her lips. As if time itself slowed down his eyes closed as he inclined his head, their lips were millimetres apart he could smell her sweet breath, the anticipation was ecstasy.

“So… uh… we’re done” the oaf interrupted. Taaj turned giving him a glare that would turn men to stone. The oaf did not understand so he pointed to the dolly “see, all picked up” he said trying to sound chipper.

“So it is…” Taaj said in resignation. He turned back to the young women, and was pleased to see the annoyance at the oaf on her features as well. “May I walk you back to your ship?” he said offering an arm. She smiled taking it. Taaj turned to the oaf and his goons “bring the dolly, follow at a respectful distance” he said as he sheathed his scimitar. The trio did as they were bade, following the two young persons the four or so blocks back to the port district, it wasn’t until they arrived at the pier and Taaj looked up to see the young women’s ship that he realised what trouble he was in.

“This… is your ship?” Taaj asked of the women. She smiled a grin that almost eased his panic

“yup, this is the Champions Fist… you can see over on the bridge that’s our First Mate… Mr. Fargazer” Taaj’s heart sundered in two, he didn’t know what to do, what to think… he had to get out of there

“Uhhh… it is a lovely ship… but… uh… I must be going now” he said taking a step back

“wait… you can’t go” the women said turning and taking another step towards him, I want you to meet the crew…” her tone turned a little more playful “you saved me after all” Taaj instinctively took another step back

“Ah… That would be impossible right now… ummm… I really must go, I am sorry to have to run” he said taking another step

“Can I see you again?” the girl asked and Taaj knew at that moment that he could deny her nothing in the universe.

“Yes… Tomorrow night, at the Withered Bat Inn… at the 9th hour… I will be there” he said taking another couple steps back, he turned to leave, when a thought occurred to him and he turned once more “Wait… What it your name?” he asked. The women smiled at him

“Mandy, Mandy Doyle… and yours?”

“The Lady may call me Taaj… until tomorrow Lady Doyle” he said with a flourishing bow… then turned and sprinted off down the street taking his first right that would lead him town. He had to figure this out, figure out what he was doing… what would he tell Shaheed?

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End of the Beginning Pt 2

21st of Floodtime 383 ONT, 1:03am The Ley Line Glade

Complementary music

“Choose.” The word rang in her ears as Rikka blinked back tears and looked back to Pan. He raised his eyebrows and nodded towards Hiro and Ymeri as if telling Paprikka to get on with it. Where else he needed to be she did not know but the fact that he was here gave her the courage to act and the determination to speak. Gently but firmly she pushes Hiro away from her.

“I asked if you understood me and you said yes. But you did not see what you were meant to see.” She scrubbed her face free of tears with a sleeve. “If you did you would not have given me the time I needed to gather my resolve once more.” Standing straighter Rikka reached for her blade but the scabbard was bare and she grasped only air. “I have seen and suffered much over the short years I have been alive but I have never, NEVER given up. No matter the odds I will never stop and never give in. I have faced the Black Guard, a Linnorm, armies and evil men in equal measure. I have faced poverty, loneliness and even hunger so bad it hurt to breathe. I have stood in the river of life and faced an evil not of this world, spoken to gods and manipulated the very forces of this universe to save a soul. I’ve even seen the plane of Purple and survived.”

“I hear and feel for your people but this is wrong. What your goddess has done is wrong. She has manipulated me as one would a tool and set me up to die for her own designs not once but twice. Whatever your reasons, whatever she’s told you to make you feel like you are the only one who can save your people she is wrong.” Paprikka pointed back towards where the Champion’s Fist lay in dock. “You had and I have friends willing to fight beside me, to help me achieve what I cannot do alone. You should have trusted them more and the power they have.”

Rikka turns and bows towards Pan and holds out her hand. “I was asked what I wanted, what I desired most in this world. I want to become the great and powerful mage I know I can become and I desire nothing more than to continue to live!” A wickedly curved sword made of deep black and ethereal glowing green light shimmered into existence in her hand. Rikka turned back to face Hiro as a matching shimmer surrounded her. “So I choose to live Hiro, for I will never give up on life or those strong enough to walk my path with me.”

“I don’t want to do this Paprikka,” Hiro shook his head and took a step back. “Since Don Ton, sine the moment you awoke I have been by your side. I have seen what you have and how close you came to losing so many times. So often I wished I could do more to protect my friends and to protect you. But all I could do was offer guidance and wait.”

“But you cannot deny fate. You cannot deny what is to become destiny.” He reached out towards Rikka and as his fingers closed wicked bright red, orange and gold flames burst forth and arcing into the elegant shape of a bow. Flames erupted at his back and he reached plucking them from his shoulder. “If there was another way I would choose it but my people and my love are in danger and I cannot let them all die or be destroyed for the sake of one good soul, no matter how tenacious.”

Behind Hiro the fires blazed brighter and hotter as Ymeri brought her will to bear only to be blunted by the green-black presence of Pan. In the scattering of the moments between heartbeats the astral and physical worlds erupted into a conflagration of potent energies. Souls clashed leaving sizzling flames and twinkling sparks in their wake. Two fought for the one and were pushed and powered by their gods to feats beyond mortal ken. But souls and bodies were never designed for such and the longer they fought the more they channeled and the less of them there was. The body lay writhing on the carpet of grass wracked by unimaginable pain as the very fabric of reality and existence began to break down around and upon it. Two souls, two gods, two thoughts and one body all fought for the right to be and in doing so were destroying it all.

There came a moment of clarity sensing the dangerous precipice they teetered upon when a decision needed to be made to save everything from becoming nothing. And in that moment when the energies fountained high into the night sky a choice was made… The light dissipated and peace finally returned to the small glade now silent once more as naught a creature dared stir till the morning sun’s light blessed the world once more.

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

Late in the morning a figure in the glade bean to finally move. Brought back to consciousness by the warmth and light. It groaned and rubbed at tired eyes. Head pounding and thoughts a jumbled mess it looked down at the melted hunk of a black sword where only the hilt retained any semblance of shape and sighed. It knew where it was but not who it was and that was worrying more so than the weakness of both limb and magical stores. “Well, looks like I’ll have time to figure it all out on the walk home.” Lockland was a day’s journey away and there would be plenty of time to sort out the mess and chaos of its thoughts. The most prominent being ‘who am I?’ If only its thoughts would stop contradicting themselves and agree on something for even the idea of home was both close and far away. Maybe it was a good thing using magic was not a possibility right now…

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Logistics Pt 2.
Where there's a Adventuring party, there's a way!

Flitt looked up from the list of items the fist needed in order to safely make it to their next port of call to his friends and companions assembled in the captains office.

“So the Captain made clear before zhe left that we are planning on running things on this ship with shares a little differently, and though exactly how the ownership plan is going to work has yet to be hammered out, it was clear that the plan was to see all of us with a stake in our new vessel. "

Handing the list with estimates for the group to read he continued

“It looks like we might have underestimated the initial investment this ship will need for basic gear, and what we have left wont do to get us safely to the south. While we could find loans in town or go into debt to our fellow champion ships, I think it best we see if we can solve this cash flow issue from within and cement the concept of ownership in this venture. As it stands after the monies earmarked for cargo to make this trip profitable, we were left with 500 gp for ship supplies, which leaves us with a 2,200 gp shortfall on this list to sort out before we leave for the next port. I know we have all had our expenses recently but i believe that between us we can get our new ship what it needs.”

“This is in no way an order, and if you cannot contribute at this time, we will not let it limit any persons place in whatever the captain has in mind in the end for this ships structure. Now,” Dropping a small clinking pouch onto the table" I have up to 1000 gp of mixed coin and gems i can put towards this venture, who else can chip in?"

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