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Unread 11th of February, 2008, 08:16
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Chapter 5 : Crack In The Universe

Lade awakens with the pleasant thump in his head and dry mouth that indicate a hangover. Finn awakens with a young maiden whose name he can't remember giggling and insisting that she has to get to work or her father will take the belt to her but he should find her at the tavern later this evening. In his head he scratches off another establishment he has to avoid in the future and emerges from the bed himself.

The two meet at breakfast, Lade enjoying a mug of ale to bite back the rapidly swelling hangover and realise that neither has any idea where Harald might be. Their red-robed colleague was doubtlessly still pouring over musty tomes, but where had the Jarl got it. As they speak a strange sense of dread starts to overcome the pair, they had both forgotten something very important.

...

Two-thirds of the sand now rest in the bottom bulb and Malkanus had started to flag. Wandering the endless maze in pursuit of his paper guide had become an eternal struggle. Under his arm he held a sheaf of scribbled notes. So many of his subjects were just names that it was taking an eternity to even locate the correct section to look in, never mind find a useful sentence in any one of the hundred books he came across. The day had started early and with insufficient sleep and it was hampering his study.

"GO NO FURTHER LEST YE UNDERSTAND PERIL"
The booming voice shocks Malkanus awake. He stands before an archway blinking, looking for the source of the noise and finally settles upon the gargoyle which makes up the apex of the arch. Clearly it was not alive, just enchanted to give it's warning. The warning that reminds the cleric of what the wizard had said just before he entered the library, certain areas were not safe.

From his study so far, the cleric knew that Attrox, Nurren and Orraka were all words from the language of the filthy goblins. Guardians, truth and many were the literal translations, not a particularly useful combination of words. Coming from a different angle, he'd managed to find a brief reference to a species known as Kyrdol, some kind of relation to the more common goblin, which fit the description of vaguely man-shaped rats. And now his request of his guide for more information had led him here. Further knowledge awaited, but it was outside his zone of safety.
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Unread 11th of February, 2008, 13:35
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The gargoyle, though serving as a warning to the danger beyond, does little to discourage the cleric. Truth be told the very possibility of danger in a library is rather enthralling, but the realization that he is deprived of sleep and uncertain of just how deep his library companion might take him, the cleric decides to save such an expedition for a more fitting time.

With every passing moment of indecision the falling sand seems to echo louder in his mind, essentially beckoning him to a hasty decision. With gritted teeth and a sense of curiosity that demands satiation, he whispers to the paper bird.

"Name, Lufan."
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Unread 12th of February, 2008, 10:20
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Lade took a long, deep pull of his ale and observed the younger man besides him looking discomfortable.

“Ya know,” he said by circular way of breaching the subject. “I can’t help but feel that I’ve forgotten something important, hell I’ve checked this times already this morning to make sure I remembered to put on pants!”
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Unread 12th of February, 2008, 11:30
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"I know what you mean. I could hardly sleep last night, and not solely because of my company. No matter how deep I thought it still eludes me."

Finn scratches his head and starts in on his breakfast. He lets his mind drift over the events of the past few days. Sophia, the girl, the rats, the guards, the church, the gate...something's missing.

Finn focuses on Lade after a moment.

"How you doing anyway? Did you find the bottom of that bottle?"
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Unread 16th of February, 2008, 22:12
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"Not yet," Lade replied with a grin. "But I'm not willing to give up yet."

Taking another pull on his ale, Lade belched and pushed aside the remains of his breakfast.

"We're not going to get anything done sitting around here wondering what we've forgotten. Hell only knows where Harald has gone too and Malk might be at it all day. I need to pick up some more arrows, see if I can find an old friend and it might be worth checking on on the guards we bribes or the little girl we saved. Want to come with?"
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Unread 17th of February, 2008, 06:59
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"Sounds good, a walk will be fine." Finn closes his eyes and thinks back on the prior night. Yes that one left a fine impression.

"I could use more arrows also. Let's be off then."

Finn abruptly recollects the young girl. He pales slightly at the thought.
"The girl Lade. We should check on her."
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Unread 18th of February, 2008, 06:54
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Calling at a nearby fletcher's shop to make a few purchases, the pair set off toward Edinhumber. The day is bright with the sky a perfect blue speckled by a few long clouds, and the snow is largely a frozen slush at the sides of the streets. The bitter cold remains, even the sunshine is a minor winter's warmth, encouraging the duo to walk quickly.

Gradually the buildings huddle together and start to look slightly more dilapidated as Lade and Finn find themselves in Edinhumber. Rounding a corner they advance upon the crossroads where Roen's house can be found. It becomes immediately obvious that the cultists returned during the night.

What was once Roen's house, a small abode opposite the partially repaired ruin of Annie and Celeste's former home is now a burned shell itself. The adjacent houses have suffered minor fire damage themselves and the air of the crossroads hangs heavy with smoke.

The people going about their daily lives who pass by the site stop to exchange rumours. From the overheard snippets it would seem that Roen and Annie were hanged from the top floor while the blaze was left to spread. The two had been strangled to death and finally deposited, lifeless, upon the frozen cobbles when the fire ate through their nooses. A note had been left hammered to the post at the crossroad informing the local populace that this was the work of the Moon Bringers and anybody else harbouring a demon or working to keep the dawn at bay would meet a similar fate.

...

In the library Malkanus finds his guide unable to fulfil his request. The word Lufan apparently is too narrow a subject, and not knowing exactly to what the word refers makes his position untenable. Sighing, he asks his paper companion to take him to the sections of demonology and leaves the forbidden portal behind.
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Unread 21st of February, 2008, 06:28
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While standing among the people, Nabi listens intently to whatever gossip he can eavesdrop on. Ignoring the stray looks he gets, he slowly moves to different groups within the crowd whenever the current conversation appears to have no new facts for him. After a short while of this, Nabi returns to the side of Shihiram.
"It always amazes me how people tend to make even more gruesome stories out of already horrible events. If half of what I hear is true about what happened here, there definitely is going to be need of your services."

Nabi sighs and stares at the burnt house. Just as his mind starts to wander, he spots two people approaching that match the description he was given earlier today. Excitedly he nudges Shihiram and points, "Look over there, do you reckon those two could be the ones we were sent to look for?"
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Unread 21st of February, 2008, 07:23
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"It is sad Nabi, but people naturally find deep interest in violence and gore. Only those who decide to improve the world can step beyond that. Also, you should well know that not even one quarter of rumors are true. Still, that should never stop one from investigating, after all, you cannot know which are true and which are not."

Shihiram stands in a maelstrom of people whirling around throughout their business, calmly in the eye. The eyes of the people nearby occassionally turn to glance at him, he is rather hard to ignore after all.

"I do believe they may be so, they do match the details fairly well. Don't take it for granted, but allow us to take a moment to assume that they are."

Shihiram begins to gracefully walk, floating almost across the ground, toward the pair, his cape flowing behind him. His soft eyes rest upon the two, as he stands before them.

"May we speak for a moment?"
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Unread 21st of February, 2008, 09:24
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FInn silently curses the fate of Roen and the lady. The previous night's escapades now seem nothing but a trifle. He listens intently while trying to blend in with the passersby.

When he spots the two approaching he nudges his companion before his hand slips caually, habitually to his scabbard.

"Speak on Sir. Though may companion here is in no mood for pleasantries."
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Unread 22nd of February, 2008, 06:27
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"Not to worry, for neither are we. My friend Shihiram and myself have some matters to discuss with you. Provided we were correct in assuming that you are in fact part of the group of heroes who have been protecting the winged girl."

Eager to get on the good side of these local heroes, Nabi enthusiastically extends his hand, "My name is Nabi Pranašas."
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Unread 22nd of February, 2008, 13:55
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Lade was angry.

Anger, hot and intimate burned within his chest, aimed at too many specific things to be realised as anything other then generalised anger. He was angry at the cultists for another senseless murder. The blacksmith for not hiding the girl after a second kidnapping attempt. The citywatch for not doing more to protect them. The girl herself for bringing death and suffering to two families. Himself for not doing more to make sure they were safe.

The sting of smoke drew forth tears that are absently brushed aside as he examined the remains of what used to be two lives, two more meaningless deaths added to the toll taken by meaningless fear and ignorant hatred. The rage inside him throbbing with no release, his eyes trace the trail of soot and ashes that showed where two bodies had been dumped, two innocent people guilty of nothing more then giving charity and love to something that they didn't know.

An outrage denied release, bottled within without a target to be released upon. In some distant part of his mind the knowledge dwelled that his reaction was irrational, unnecessary and excessive, but he no longer cared. He had been driven more by guilt then outrage to seek out Yvonne Stroud's killers, for despite their intimate relationship they had not been close. Of Annie and Celeste he had barely exchanged a dozen words. But in the face of such wanton destruction, the obscenity of it made everything seem very personal.

He had fought, bled and killed for his home, only to lose it. He had struggled through the years, searching for causes, doing deeds at the time thought to be heroic beyond belief, saving people who made pledges of undying gratitude that were forgotten by the next season, and in the end he was left with nothing but an unhealthy taste for ale. At this moment, a dozen words from a pair of unnecessarily kind strangers was more then he cared to have taken from him

Hold stiff and still by his pent up infuriation, he once again wiped away smoke induced tears, silently swearing that he would see an end to this. There was little in his life worth anything, but while he had breath and strength he swore he would seek the Moonbringers - all the Moonbringers - and bring their kind to an end. Not for Annie, Celeste or even Yvonne, but for the victims yet to come, the people he could still save. A final, futile, foolish act in a life full of them, he swore by the shades of those gone and memories better forgotten that he would find a way.

Drawn from his reverie by Finn's nudge, Lade watched the two strangers with eyes red from smoke, taking in their words and appearance and leaping to an intuitive answer.

"Rosencrantz?"
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Unread 23rd of February, 2008, 09:23
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Rosencrantz? Have I lost my mind?

Finn extends his hand not wanting to make a scene or encourage Lade into starting a brawl.

"Finn is my name. And we have been seeking answers like many others. This is not the place to talk. But berfore we say another thing who sent you?"
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Unread 24th of February, 2008, 03:24
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Shihiram looks softly at Lade for a moment before replying, his featuers calm and pacifying.

"Guildenstern and Rosencrantz both in all actuality. Perhaps we had best step away from the street for some time to discuss this."

He makes a sweeping arm gesture to emphasize his point.
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Unread 24th of February, 2008, 16:27
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Glancing at Finn, Lade nodded his assent then led the group around the corner into a secluded alcove. Reaching the relative privacy, the man turned and waited, content to let someone else break the silence.
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Unread 28th of February, 2008, 03:45
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"Please don't take this the wrong way, but ...", Nabi glances to Shihiram for reassurance, "... apparently your efforts have been woefully inadequate. Lord Guildenstern, while most appreciative for what you have done so far, has approached us to assist you. That is not to say that we know more than you regarding this whole affair, quite the contrary! But it would appear that you are lacking certain skills, which could very well be the reason for your ... failure."
Nabi finishes his last sentence hesitatingly, noticing too late that this explanation might actually be far from flattering.
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Unread 28th of February, 2008, 03:55
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"Nabi, you are doing it again."

Shihiram glances over at Nabi, and then back at Lade.

"What is most important at the present is that myself and my companion have been hired as well to aid you. I hope most sincerely that we can work well togther and avoid any confrontation."
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Unread 1st of March, 2008, 03:46
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"We weren't her damn babysitters," Lade muttered, feeling the need to explain the situation. "We found her, brought her back and then kept watch for a night. But we couldn't spend the rest of our lives guarding them, I don't know why they were still here.

"Look, we don't work for Rosencrantz - or Guildersten - so any deal you two have with them doesn't apply with us. It stays between you, okay?"

Glancing over at Finn to see if he had any objections, Lade continued softly, making sure he wasn't over heard.

"But we want to stop the Moonbringers - someone has to - and we can use all the help we can get. We're meeting up with the rest of our group this afternoon, we can exchange information then. Right now keep an eye out for the guard, I want to take a closer look at the house."

Stepping back out into the street, Lade returned to the house to examine the ashes closely for any clue as to what happened.
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Unread 3rd of March, 2008, 06:00
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Aware that the task is fraught with difficulties, Lade moves back through the crowd leaving his two new companions with Finn. The cobbles outside are strewn with partially melted snow, now a dirty brown slush collecting against walls trampled by countless feet already today. Ashes have been kicked about by onlookers and although there do some to be a few trails it seems more likely that they belong to the slowly passing population of Edinhumber than the perpetrators of the crime.

Before entering the ruined shell of a home, the old warrior looks down at the cobblestones by the doorstep. A wide red stain, or possibly collection of smaller stains, has sunk into the grey: Evidence of where Annie and Roen fell back to earth after having the life choked out of them.

The door has been kicked open from the outside, that much is clear, although it could just have easily been the local populace as the cultists. Downstairs, the single room, is especially blackened. It was here that the fire was started, in the kitchen. Most likely the cultists used Roen's own kitchen tinder. The stone floor is strangely coated with a broken layer of black ash. Bootprints lead in all directions indicating both the actions taken to extinguish the blaze.

Little is left downstairs aside from ashes and the stone walls. The staircase is missing the bottom few steps, but after a few tentative kicks, Lade decides to chance a trip to the upper floor and thankfully the charred wood manages to hold his weight.

There is no sign of a forced entry from the outside at any of the windows. Each set of shutters remains shut against the frigid outdoor temperatures aside from the window directly above the main door of the home. It was to a bed that the two ropes were tied, the heavy wooden fixture has been away from the wall against which it stood with the combined weight of Roen and Annie dangling from it. Impressively, there is little fire damage on the upper level, most of the burns seem fairly superficial rather than structural.

The second, smaller, bedroom's floor is sprinkled with large black feathers. This must have been where Celeste slept. Lade careful searches the room, determined to find something of use. Eventually, he turns up a shred of red fabric as if he had needed any more proof of who had committed this atrocity.

Returning back to the street level, Lade looks up to see that the perfect blue sky is now marbled by thin ribbons of white cloud. Stalking around once more to be certain, Lade cannot find any trail. The cultists arrived through the frontdoor and seem to have left the same way, along what is now a street thronged with people who have long since destroyed any useful details which could send Lade in the proper direction.
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Unread 3rd of March, 2008, 15:16
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Shihiram does as requested, aware that no amount of arguing would have dissuaded Lade, and that he might as well help.

Breaking and entering doesn't serve much purpose, but it doesn't hurt much either. Who knows? He might find something....
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Unread 4th of March, 2008, 00:56
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"Well the girl was there," Lade reported when he finished his inspection, holding up a black feather. "And no doubt about it being the Red Cloaks who took her. I'm not sure how many there were, more then two less then twenty. They went in the front door, killed Roen and Annie, grabbed the girl, hung them out the window then started a fire in the kitchen and went back out the front door. There's no chance of following them after that."

The aging man stopped to run a hand through his dirty hair, looking around the mess as if hoping for some answers to come leaping out of the muddied snow.

"It's not use checking the warehouse again, Tybalt would have cleaned it out even if the bastards wanted to go back. I don't know, let's just wait until Malk gets back and hope that he has had better luck, then we can all talk," he said the last bit being directed to the two newcomers. "Until then, I need a drink."
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Unread 4th of March, 2008, 02:18
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"Are you sure they are untrackable? If there were that many, there is a good chance they made a mistake of some form."
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Unread 4th of March, 2008, 04:59
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"A hundred people or more people have spent all morning running around the house this morning lad," Lade said gesturing to soot and snow mixture covering the ground. "Any tracks were gone a well before we got here. Out in the streets (and which street?) you have less people walking back and froth but there still have been a lot, and with no way of telling one footprint from another? No, there's no way to track them from here."
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Unread 5th of March, 2008, 03:50
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Shihiram sighs internally, dissapointed in the shortsightedness of Lade, but not showing his feelings to Lade.

"There are other forms of tracking besides footprints. There are always spiritual and emotional guides. One with the proper skills can always find a trail, you simply have to determine what needs to be looked into. If you can determine an important trait regarding the captors, they won't be hard to track."
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Unread 9th of March, 2008, 07:51
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"Okay I tell ya, we've got a mate out there doing all that right now, one we're supposed to meet later on. You go search now, I'm off to have a drink then I'll find what he's found out so we can do this right. Let us know how you go in the meantime will ya?"

Touching an ash covered hand to his temple, Lade turned and sauntered down the street back towards the tavern.
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