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  #101  
Unread 8th of July, 2004, 03:03
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"One is in a bit of a snit," Blarth replies, "but maybe she'll show up for dinner."

"Cadrius here is another," he continues gesturing to the where Cadrius sits eating on his right.

"And the third is that one armed bard who just started singing."

Noticing Ben looking around, Blarth asks, "Are you expecting some one?"
  #102  
Unread 8th of July, 2004, 07:43
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At his mention, Cadrius gives the man a cursory glance, nodding his head once in greeting. He's surprised at Blarth's charisma as the half-orc, while possessing a good heart, doesn't strike him as being gifted with a silver tongue. Yet he seems to get on well enough with the other one, lame jests aside.

"It would appear all the warriors are gathered in one place," he says, noting the longsword leaning against the man's chair before glancing at his own blade.

He wonders how well the bastard sword would serve him in a room full of sorcerers. Idly he looks at the nearest wizards and apprentices. He'd likely get one, maybe two, before their magics could descend on him. Then again, with so many of their own, they might be afraid to do much for fear of killing their kin. Yet not every spell in their repetoire would cause an explosion. Like as not one would turn him into something unnatural and that would be the end. He frowns.

Cadrius brushes the thought of fighting a banquet full of wizards aside. It was merely a thought, a mental exercise taught to him by the master at arms long ago.

Yes, who is he waiting for?

His guard reappears, walling off his persona from the potentially dangerous outside world. This "Ben" could be working for anyone here. Warriors aren't exactly welcome in an arcane academy. Perhaps he has some magical gift, or perhaps he's in with Gemoud.

"'Ben,'" he says, "what is that short for? Benjen?"

He asks the question, keeping the attention on the man. Perhaps he'll slip and tell them something useful.
  #103  
Unread 9th of July, 2004, 05:35
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Nodding as the Half-orc introduces his companions, not really paying attention to who he waves at, Ben continues looking for Gemound. He doesn't see her present at the table anywhere, so Ben guesses she must not have come to this particular refectory. Ben didn't actually know if there where any other refectories here, but it made sense that there were since they couldn't possibly fit everyone into this one room.

Still Ben didn't feel as happy about it as he thought he would have. He wouldn't have to deal with her at least, but he still felt a tad bit sad that she hadn't come, almost as if he felt slightly betrayed. He shrugged it off as a bit of nervousness about being in the company of so many magic-users.

Ben finally gave the two persons the Half-orc had indicated a good look. The first was a man with a muscular build and a sword beside him, much like Ben except...older, more mature somehow. He also looked a little familiar, though as with the Half-orc Ben couldn't remember from where. It wasn't until he looked over at the second person that he realized who it was he was talking to.

Farther down the long table, just starting to sing a song that felt both familiar and alien to Ben, was the one-armed wizard he had been seeing off and on all day. But the Half-orc had called him a bard, and his voice and song seemed to confirm that. So he ISN'T a wizard. That explains a few things.

That was when Ben realized where he recognized the half-orc and warrior. In the library, they had been the ones following the one-armed man around. He looked at the warrior just as he started speaking to him.

"It would appear all the warriors are gathered in one place"

Ben grins at the comment and responded, "Well birds of a feather DO stick together, no?" Then the warrior asks him about his name. At that Ben's grin faded, and his eyes glazed over slightly as he remembered things about his past.

"I don't think it's short for anything. I...never really knew the people who named me. I've just always known my name as Ben, so that's all anyone has ever called me." The bolts of lightning in his eyes have faded slightly, and he doesn't look at anything in particular. His normally piercing gaze is lost, and where once there was a man with the look of years of hardship and toil, now there was simply a child who had tried so hard to survive.
  #104  
Unread 9th of July, 2004, 23:56
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Drawing to the closing note of the song, Nicos opens his eyes and glances around the room. Most of the occupants were concentrating on their own affairs, a minority were paying minimal attention to the bard - signified by the occasional glance, and only a small handful had focused entirely upon the impromptu performance. Noting that none of those focusing on him were his type, Nicos silently gives up in resignation.

Pushing back his plate, which the enchanted cutlery had endeavoured to continue filling with meat after he had finished, Nicos makes his way over to Cadrius and Blarth - noting as he goes that Shade hasn't of yet turned up. Dropping his hand on the former paladin's shoulder, the one armed man interrupts.

"Sorry to interrupt, but I suspect I'll fail to find any amusement here tonight, so I'm going to retire early. You know her better then I, but if Shade doesn't turn up, it might be an idea if you took her some food. You all needed a hot meal, especially after the troubles you weathered to get here."

Clapping the man on the shoulder, giving Blarth a succinct farewell, and a nod to the darkhaired stranger they have been conversing with, Nicos makes his way out of the hall softly humming a tune to himself. Still humming when he reaches the door to his room, the bard opens it, steps through and then comes to an abrupt halt.

On the small table provided lays the remains of an eaten meal and a mostly full bottle of wine. At the edge of the table closest to the bed rests a lone candle, illuminating the room in a soft flickering light. All of this however, passes unnoticed as the bards attentions centres on the bed.

Reclining on the stuffed mattress, reading from a tome, and clad in a night-gown, is the red haired beauty named Gemoud.

"You have quite the voice," the woman says, looking up and closing her tome.

"If I had known I had company waiting, I would have selected a shorter song from my repertoire," the man replies, stepping fully into the room, and shutting the door behind him.

"No need to put yourself out for me," the woman smiling at the playful slight.

"Well I am a creature of habit," the bard says, walking over to the table, and hovering near the candle.

The smile opening to one of invitation. "So, Mister Creature-of-Habit. What do bards do after their performance?"

Returning the smile, Nicos picks up the song he was humming, accompanying it by a few swift gestures at the solitary candle. From a distant corner of the room, an unnatural puff of wind darts towards the flame, quenching it, leaving the darkness to embrace the lovers.
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  #105  
Unread 13th of July, 2004, 12:55
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It's strange how simple contact, a pat on the back, a hand on the shoulder, can seem warm and cold at the same time. Nicos's hand is at once familiar and alien. It's the hand of a comrade; it's the hand of a stranger. Cadrius looks over his shoulder at the one-armed bard and gives him a simple nod. Boon companion or unknown traveller, his advice is sound enough. Shade is as unpredictable as a squall and her fury twice as fearsome.

Yet she can wait a spell. Her rage has not likely abated, and perhaps an hour or two will do some good, or perhaps it will only blacken her mood. He's willing to take the chance.

Looking at his dining companions Cadrius resists the urge to chuckle. Of all the places he might visit, he never expected to be breaking bread with a half-orc and a warrior named Ben while surrounded by wizards, sorcerers, and enchanters.

"It is said that the gods have a strange sense of humor," he says, casting a glance up the table at several robed men. "I believe I am beginning to appreciate it."
  #106  
Unread 13th of July, 2004, 22:31
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Put off by Ben's sudden change in attitude, Blarth isn't quite sure what to say next. The interuption by Nicos saves him for a little bit, but all too soon Nicos is gone and, with the exception of Cadrius's semi-humorous comment, an akward silence begins to develop.

Uncomfortable with the silence, Blarth goes back to eating.
  #107  
Unread 14th of July, 2004, 13:58
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Ben jumps a bit when the Bard slaps Cadrius on the back. The noise had shot him out of his daydreaming and brought him back to the real world. He nodded to the Bard, and then watched as he left. A bard huh? Must be hard to play instruments with only one arm. Guess that's why he sings so well.

He smiled a bit at Cadrius' comment, though he didn't know why. The Half-orc was off eating again, probably a good idea but Ben still wasn't all that hungry. Any second now they shou--

Ben's thoughts are interrupted when the wizard at the head of the table stood up and clasped his hands. Suddenly, everything becomes silent. No mumble can be heard of conversations, no clattering can be heard from glasses and plates, and not even the silent beating of hearts can be heard. Everyone turned to look at the standing wizard; they obviously knew he was about to speak because of the silence.

Unclasping his hands, the silence ends and an air of anticipation takes its place. The elderly wizard begins to speak, "My friends and colleagues, and yes even our dear guests," he says this gesturing towards Ben and the two others near him. "I am sad to inform you all about the loss of several important members of the Brotherhood. In my time, they were perhaps the greatest influence upon the outside world upon our behalf, and their loss though suspected, could not be confirmed until now, 8 years after their deaths."

The silence is solemn in the refectory. Ben knows what is coming, but in his mind he secretly wishes that what he knows to be true wasn't, that it was all a bad dream and that this man was going to say other names besides the three Ben knew. He could feel himself holding his breath in anxious suspense, knowing the outcome but wishing desperately it wasn't set in stone, it wasn't guaranteed.

"Thus, it saddens me to offer a toast. A toast in honor to the lives of Jonathan, Turmahult, and Lisa, whom have now been confirmed as dead." The elderly wizard raises his glass, though a sad expression covers his face. The face of every other wizard and sorcerer present is a mix of shock, disbelief, and horror. Apparently, whoever these three were, they were quite well known throughout the Brotherhood. Everyone raises his or her glass to the toast though, and each one drinks it down to the last drop.

Then the buzz of conversation returns, but it is obvious that it no longer concerns the newest spell invented or the latest wonder created, but of the three names just mentioned.

Ben also raises his glass in toast, but afterwards he does not turn to either Cadrius or the Half-orc to discuss this sudden announcement. Instead, his face falls and his eyes begin to shimmer with the wetness that had suddenly appeared in them. He gets up out of his chair, grabs his sword, shield, and backpack and puts them on. He lifts the hat off the chair last, pausing just for a moment to look at the hat, before placing it on his head, shrouding his blue eyes in shadows. He turned towards the door of the refectory and began walking towards it.

He had done what he had come to do. He didn't want to stay here any longer, not in the presence of all these wizards, not with them talking about his friends and family like they were some sort of legends. He could feel tears streaking down his cheeks, but he held himself from sobbing.

Without either a good-bye or a nod to either Cadrius or the half-orc, he opens the door and leaves.
  #108  
Unread 15th of July, 2004, 22:39
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The eulogic toast signals the end of dinner and once glasses and mugs have been raised the wizards and apprentices disperse. They leave in groups or alone, speaking quietly or silent, but they all slowly leave. Cadrius notes the young man shoulder his belongings and depart as well with not a word of farewell. Perhaps it's his way. The lad seems to carry the weight of the gods on his shoulders.

Seems we share a common burden.

"We should leave, Blarth. They have grieving to do and do not need to see outsiders milling about."

Fetching a plate, Cadrius quickly gathers up a quail, a loaf of bread, some asparagus, and a small bowl of stew. He balances it uncertainly on the palm of one broad hand while the other hesitates. Spiced wine or ale? He grabs a flagon. Shade always seemed to prefer ale, didn't she? He wracks his brain trying to recall what she drinks, but fails. If she doesn't like the ale it won't be wasted.

He moves back through the winding corridors as quickly as he's able, but the food slows him down. The plate nearly slides out of his hand and he bites his lip trying to keep it steady.

The sight of the cold, stone hall that marks their section of the tower never looked as good as it does now. He doesn't know how servants manage to carry foods and other precious goods about all the time without dropping them. Unwilling to drop it at the last moment, he carefully makes his way down the hall. Stopping at Shade's door he quietly taps it with one foot.

"Shade? Dinner is over but I brought you some a plate and some ale."
  #109  
Unread 15th of July, 2004, 22:58
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There is a long pause, which lengthens, during which nothing happens. Cadrius begins to wonder is the room is empty but just as he shifts to knock once again the door opens a crack. A silver eye appraises him for a moment before the door opens; she is already walking away and then sits sideways, facing him, at a desk situated at the far end of the room. A half empty glass of red rests near her hand.

The room is a disaster, looking much like it has been ransacked by a group of malicious barbarians. Clothing is strewn about the room, drawers and doors are half open. Even the matress on the bed is askew. Shards of silvery glass are scattered across a dresser and the floor to the left of the door.

For a change, Shade doesn't look angry. Or determined. Or fierce. Or certain. She just looks numb, her eyes empty. Her voice, when she finally speaks, is likewise devoid of any emotion.

"Come in."
  #110  
Unread 18th of July, 2004, 05:28
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To see Shade in a state that doesn't involve cool anger, without the promise of violence ensuing, is beyond surreal to Cadrius. It's frightening. He takes a hesitant step into the mess that was her room. Spotting a small section of clear bureau, he brushes aside some of the glass slivers and places the food upon the wood. Cadrius keeps his back to Shade, allowing the inevitable frown and look of worry to play across his face. When he turns, the stoic, dependable Cadrius has returned.

"Did you dislike the decor? Or has something else happened here?"

That empty, defeated look bothers him far more than any arcane intrigue that may or may not be floating about this academy. He watches her carefully, looking for a note of some sort of emotion, but finds none. The gray eyes that are so often blazing have been snuffed. Dull as they are, Cadrius is reminded of the thick fog banks that occasionally rolled over his home as a boy. There was something about them he never liked and still doesn't. Perhaps it's the fog's ability to mask the surroundings, dampen the sounds, until he felt as if he were alone in the world. Shade looks to be in a similar pasture.

"I do not know if our hosts will appreciate the chaos, but I rather like it."
  #111  
Unread 20th of July, 2004, 00:54
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"Do you? You always seemed to prefer things more orderly. More defined."

She draws her knees up to her chest, her dead eyes travelling around the room slowly before finding Cadrius once again. One hand idly fingers the wine glass upon the desk.

"We do not belong in this place."
  #112  
Unread 20th of July, 2004, 04:26
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"Y-yes, I suppose I do," he says, noting the lack of fire and her unwillingness to recognize his weak jape. Nearby the food no longer steams; its heat is drawn into the stone wall. Shade's distant nature coupled with the disarray of the room magnify the dreamlike feeling.

"Do not belong?" he asks, leaning against the wall. He almost jumps back when he feels it warm within moments of his touch. Shaking his head he continues, "Three of us are not magicians, and the fourth barely qualifies as I understand it. There is a faction of wizards here who want nothing more than to see us gone. Worse, they just learned that several long-missing colleagues were murdered, undoubtedly by outsiders. We did not have much of a welcome when we arrived, and I doubt there is much left. I shudder to think what it will be in the morning."

Brow furrowing, his mind reconsiders her words, searches in them for another meaning, another possibility.

"But what gives you cause to say such a thing? What passed between you and Gemoud?"
  #113  
Unread 20th of July, 2004, 04:45
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Gemoud.

The woman's name alone ought to be enough to stir her anger. Instead she takes another swallow of wine. Nothing had really happened between them, but Shade suspected alot. Not that it mattered, since all she had was guesswork. Of course, there were things that Cadrius didn't know. Things he probably should know.

She considers silently for a few more moments, before making a decision.

"Maybe we should walk a bit. I could use some air."
  #114  
Unread 20th of July, 2004, 05:39
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Having finished his third piece of what looks like apple pie but tastes like a cross between strawberries and apricots, Blarth looks up to find himself alone at his table.

"I guess they weren't hungry," he comments to no one in particular.

Getting up from the table, Blarth heads into the hall and begins to wander aimlessly. After such a hearty dinner a good walk outside for a breath of fresh air would certianly be refreshing, but Blarth can't seem to find an exterior door.

Eventually deciding to try a door at random, Blarth finds himself in some sort of lab. Small creatures in liquid filled jars, stone statues of others, and various books dot the shelves. Taking down one of the stone statues, Blarth looks at it curiously. It appears to be some sort of lizard, but with strange horns spouting from its head and tails. What really suprises Blarth though, is the level of detail put into the carving. The statue is no more than an inch or so tall (counting the horns) but it seems that every scale has been intricately carved into its surface. The time and effort required to make this carving must have been tremendous.

"What are you doing in here?" a voice calls out, startling Blarth into dropping the statue. Recovering quickly, he makes a grab for it, but is too late to prevent it from shattering on the floor.

Turning to the door, Blarth is faced with a very angry wizard.

"I'm sorry about the lizard," Blarth begins to stammer out, "I was just looking at it and you startled me and..."

"A lizard you say," the woman replies, her features softening. Quickly she scans the shelf where Blarth had removed the statue. "Ah! A shocker lizard. Not much harm done then. I still have a few more stashed away in case of just such an accident."

"However," she continues, her voice hardening again, "you shouldn't be in here. You could have easily killed a unique specimine."
  #115  
Unread 20th of July, 2004, 15:39
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Ben quickly fled from the refectory as soon as he was out the door. He moved through the corridors of the citadel in a brisk walk, not quite running but being a little faster than he had to be. He could feel the warm wetness still running down his cheeks, knew that they were tears caused by the wound that always reopened itself whenever he did this. This was how it had always been. He would go to the family or associates inform them what had happened, and leave so as not to share in the grief.

Some of them hadn't recognized him, almost all the others had never seen or heard of him before. Rocky's family had simply told him they had never had a son. Gemound was the only person he'd met in many years that could actually remember his name, much less attach it to his face. He managed to get down the corridors to the side-entrance he'd come through originally. In the back of his mind, he knew that he was lucky he hadn't gotten lost, but it was little comfort.

Alone in the caves, just outside the citadel, Ben finally stopped and collapsed. He leaned on the craggy stone wall and slid down it, letting his backpack and shield fall off his back. The chain links of his shirt made a tinkle sound as he slid down, the physical manifestation of his tears falling into the pool of sadness around him. Finally sitting down again, he felt his sword - no. Rocky's sword - hit the ground and slid itself out of the loop on Ben's belt. It fell down beside the shield of the Dwarven race battling the underground terror. Rocky's sword and Dorndrum's shield, with Lisa's backpack to support them. Together in death like they were in life.

That thought of his friends, no his family, came to Ben unbidden and unwanted. It itself was not entirely unexpected though. What was unexpected was the images of the faces of them to come to his mind. Lisa's kind and smiling face, Rocky's award-winning if somewhat goofy grin, Dorndrum's gruff and usually drunken face, made comical because of his beard.

His back to the cavern wall, surrounded by the ghosts of his past, Ben's composure and resolve broke. He felt the wave of sadness come out of the well he had buried it in and overwhelm him, breaking free thanks to the crack that had formed in his defenses by the images of his dead friends. Placing his head in his arms h began to sob.

His wracking sobs echoed down the cavern, but Ben didn't notice or care. All he could see was the faces, all of their faces. Vincent, Jonathan, Turmahult, Aaron, so many others whose faces he could all remember, whose smiles and deaths were all fresh in his mind as if it was yesterday. He could still feel the warmth on his hands and legs, that sticky substance that was familiar but oh so strange at the same time.

"Are you alright?"

The voice, piercing through the images and sounds of his past, made Ben look up. The voice was strangely familiar, and looking up, Ben expected to see Rocky standing over him, his blonde hair and concerned smile still full of warmth. He also expected to see the redness on his hands, sticky from becoming dry and mixed with the ichors of other races.

He found neither. His hands were as clean as they had been, without a single splotch of red on them. Nor did he see Rocky's reassuring face, but the confused and concerned face of a younger man, blonde, with straw like, wavy hair and brown eyes. Blinking away the tears in his eyes, Ben recognized him as the mage he had first talked too, the one who had told him to wait in the library until dinner. He recalled him saying his name was Olyl. He was basically the equivalent of a trainee if Ben had sifted through the brief explanation Olyl had given him correctly.

Recognition dawned on the younger man's face as he saw Ben, and only then did Ben notice the man's robes. They were white for the most part, except for the seams the seams, which were red. Whether they had been dyed or stitched that way Ben wasn't sure. The robes were soaked through however, and the boy's hair was also sopping wet, his bangs hanging a few centimeters in front of his eyes.

"Say, I recognize you. You're that warrior who delivered that...message..." The boy's face fell, as he seemed to recall the message Ben had delivered. He stood there for a few seconds, then seemed to remember why he was here. "Anyways, I was kinda supposed to show you to your room for the night after dinner. Unfortunately, you sort of ran off before I could tell you. I almost thought I wasn't going to catch you, until I heard you crying down here..."

"So, um...yeah, do you think you could follow me?" Ben looked up and the young mage, who had extended his hand to him. Ben debated taking it. He hadn't really been planning on staying here, he felt more comfortable leaving as soon as he could. But this man had gone out of his way to be kind to Ben, or so it would seem. And he hadn't really gotten a chance to think about what he was going to do next. And sleeping outside wasn't really a good idea.

That and Gemound was still here. And she probably wanted to pump Ben for info. Still though, it had been a while since Ben had had a warm bed to sleep in, or a shave, or even a bath of some sort. All of those sounded really nice, plus Ben could always just leave early in the morning.

Reaching out and grabbing the young blonde's hand, Ben got back up to his feet. "Alright then, lead the way." He rubbed his eyes to get the last of his tears away, then began following Olyl to his chambers for the night.
  #116  
Unread 22nd of July, 2004, 01:55
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"Some air?" he asks, uncertain of her intent but he nods. "Allow me to retrieve a few things."

He steps half-way through the door before turning and saying, "And do try some of the food. It was very well prepared."

Back in his room Cadrius begins grabbing assorted pieces of his armor. He hasn't the time to suit up entirely, but he can at least grab the important parts: breastplate, pauldrons, greaves, shield, torch. He'll never fight unarmored again, not if he has a choice. He still bears the scars from the last time and they faintly ache each time it rains.

A few minutes later he reenters Shade's room, partially armored and bearing his bastard sword across his back. He sweeps one arm to the side, gesturing for Shade to pass and she does, but Cadrius notices she still carries that odd expression. Troubled, he follows her through the corridor and back outside.

The air is cold tonight and the stars shine magnificently overhead. He draws in the chill, letting it sit in his lungs for a moment before expelling it and watching the gout of steam spiral away. He pauses and lights the torch before they step into the night.

They walk in silence for a time, but do not stray too far from the citadel. Cadrius would like nothing more than to escape the wizards and their spies, but he dare not for fear of what stalks the badlands. Finding an outcrop of rocks, he leans against the granite and regards the woman he once believed to be an assassin. He doesn't speak, doesn't question her new eccentricities, instead he waits for Shade to find her voice.
  #117  
Unread 22nd of July, 2004, 12:07
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Shade had always loved the night, the moon, the stars. Even now, after all that had happened, after all the pain and all of the loss, despite all the indecision and the mountain of unwanted obligation, the stars still shone with the promise of beautiful, elegant simplicity. To say it was all she ever wanted was a lie, because truly she had never really known what she wanted. In a way, her life had been defined by the things she didn't want. And, in a stranger way, by her own misguided sense of loyalty.

That Cadrius came armed and armored made sense; two hours ago she would have felt naked without her own martial accoutrements. Now they seemed like small solace given the dearth of options they had. It was like holding up your cloak to protect you from a tidal wave.

"Nicos said our rooms had ears. Maybe he was right. If so, maybe we are safer speaking out here. Then again, maybe not. I don't know."

She looks down, her face lost in shadow. One toe idly traces in the dirt.

"But I guess I don't care anymore. I've seen all of this place that I want to. I'm tired . . ."

Her grey eyes look up to the stars once more, still troubled, but searching now as if she can read something there.

"Gemoud isn't the only one interested in us. Another wizard - a woman called Ysene - spoke to me at length. She claims to be a friend of Cadogan. She wants us to find something for him - some runestone, to help them destroy an evil artifact Cadogan found. A cube of some sort. It's why they took him back here, and it's why Gemoud is interested in us. Gemoud wants to use the cube to gain power for herself."
  #118  
Unread 25th of July, 2004, 04:47
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"Killed?" Blarth asks in confusion, looking around for a cage or container that might contain a live creature. Unable to find one, Blarth looks at the lady wizard as if she has two heads.

Taking down one of the stone statues, the lady shows it to Blarth and says, "These specimines, they are alive. Shattering them, like you did to the one you dropped, is the equivalent of killing them."

"But, they're nothing more than stone sculptures," Blarth protests, "Very good ones, I'll grant you, but stone nonetheless."

"You simple half-orc," the lady sighs, shaking her head. "They are stone now, but that was not always the case. Each of these specimines was carefully collected in the wild. A flesh to stone spell and a variant of the shrink item spell rendered them as you see them now. I can, with a couple of other spells, return them to their original state in order to study them. However, for storage purposes, it is easier to keep them as you see them now."

Seeing the Blarth doesn't believe her, the wizard takes down another lizard much like the one Blarth already broke and begins casting a couple of spells. At first nothing happens to the statue, although Blarth does feel a slight tingling feeling. Then the statue grows rather quickly, becoming a little more than a foot in size. Then as he watches with widening eyes, the stone statue takes on a softer appearence and its color changes from gray to blue.

When the transformation is complete, Blarth hesitantly reaches out with his hand to verify that what he's seeing is real.

"Careful," the wizard says as Blarth pulls his hand back quickly and shakes it, trying to restore feeling to his numb fingers. "The shocker lizard is aptly named. It can generate electrical discharges capable of rendering its prey insesible."

Casting a few more spells, the wizard restored the lizard to its tiny statuesque form and places it back on the shelf.

"So, Blarth, what were you looking for when you wandered in here?"

"Well, I was looking for a way outside. I wanted to get a bit of fresh air before turning in for the nigth," Blarth replies, not realizing that he never told the woman his name.

"Well, this obviously wasn't what you're looking for, let me show you to the courtyard."

Leading the way through the hallways, the lady takes a few turns before opening a door that leads out into a beutiful garden.

"Remember where the door is," the woman says to Blarth, "its hidden by an illusion so that those in the courtyard can forget they are in the middle of the citadel for a while."

Turning around to look at the door, Blarth is suprised to see a large oak tree where the door should be. Reaching out to touch it, Blarth is suprised to feel his hand pass through the bark and land on the smooth planking of the door.

"This is a very strange place," Blarth comments.

"Only for those who don't live here, I imagine," the woman replies, "Well, I must reitre. When your ready to turn in go back through the door and take a left. Then follow the corridor until you find your room."

Blarth watches the wizard go as she opens the 'tree' and disappears from sight, before wandering around for a bit.

***

"Well, Ysene? Did you manage to spell them all?"

"I was able to get to the woman and the half-orc while they were isolated but the half-orc proved to be abnormally resistant to the spell. Another go at it might work, but if he realizes what is going on the gig will be up."

"And the bard and the man?"

"Neither have been alone yet. They have been in the company of either one of their companions or Geomund thus far. I dare not take the chance that one would realize I was trying to spell their friend and Geomund... Well, we have enough problems with her without further complicating things."

"True. We will just have to hope that the woman is enough to drive the group to what we want. However, should the opportunity arise, you are still tasked to spell the man or the bard. The more of them we are able to spell the more likely they will do what we want as a group."
  #119  
Unread 26th of July, 2004, 06:44
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Following Olyl through a maze of corridors, Ben quickly loses his sense of direction. After several minutes though, Olyl stops in front of a series of doors and points to one. "That one's yours. These are a set of guest rooms for any group or party that happens to come by here. At the moment though, they aren't occupied by anyone, so we'll give you this one. There is a refectory down the hallway and to the right, and the room should provide most of the rest of your needs."

THAT wasn't something you heard every day, but Ben wasn't in any mood or condition to really be asking questions. He didn't want to do anything but be alone. So he simply nodded and walked towards the door the younger man had indicated. He vaguely noticed as he opened the door the runes on the front changing to show a shield with the hilt of a sword appearing behind and above it, the tip of a blade poking out past the bottom of the shield. Then he closed the door.

The room wasn't much, but then again it wasn't something you ran away from either. Ben had slept in a few of those. Sleeping out in the forest surrounded by bugbears would be better than sleeping in one of those rooms again. A copper tub lay over in one corner of the room; a bed with sheets, pillows, and an actual wool blanket lay in the corner beside it. A mirror was placed next to the tub, probably so the roomís occupant could shave if needed. There was a wardrobe in the corner to the left of the door, and a chair and small table was situated in the opposite corner.

Setting his shield and sword in a chair, he began to take off the chain shirt. Now only in the clothes of a peasant or farmer, he looked at himself in the mirror. He had a beard forming, several weeks of growth from his traveling without a real shave. His dark brown hair was disheveled and quite oily looking, and his blue eyes were streaked with red from him crying earlier.

I look like I just walked up from the Ninth Circle of Hell itself to here. Kinda feel like it too. Maybe I should take a bath before I go to bed. Looking around for the bucket to go out and get water with, his attention falls on the tub, sitting there with steaming hot water inside it. Standing there in wide-eyed shock, Ben hesitantly reaches to touch the water. When his hand tentively touched the water, he jerked back. By the might of Tempest...it's warm! But...there wasn't any water in there before. Where did it...?

Staring at the water for several more seconds, Ben finally decided that since someone was kind enough to fill his tub with hot water, he might as well bathe. Shedding the rest of his clothes, he eased himself into the tub, letting the warmth surround him. He let out a sigh as he felt the warmth ease his muscles and give him some sliver of peace.

He sat there with his eyes open though, his neck craned back, staring at the ceiling. It had been painted on, making an epic picture of several heroes fighting a Red Dragon. A spellcaster was just finishing her spell, sending a blue bolt of something towards the Dragon. A woman clad in a shining suit of full-plate was in the clutches of the Dragon, using her shield to block the fiery breath of the Dragon, the shield starting to glow red from the heat. An Elf was perched atop the Dragon's head, desperately trying to use his icicle-covered sword to pierce the tough scales of the Dragon's skull. A dwarf was at the base of the dragon's feet, leaping aside as the Dragon's other claw came smashing down where the dwarf had been. A paladin of Heironeous was about to thrust his sword, which glowed with a holy light, into the stomach of the giant Dragon.

The painting was incredibly detailed, he could make out the details of the shield started melting, see the rocks and debris fly from the Dragon's claw slamming down into the ground, even make out the individual hairs on the spellcaster's head, accentuated by the blue light from her spell. As he continued to stare at the painting, the spellcaster's face seemed to resemble that of Lisa's, the dwarf's rugged features sharing similarities to Dorndrum's. As the similarities became to sure to mistake, Ben closed his eyes.

Vaguely, in the back of his mind, Ben wondered what that other man, Cadrius, was doing.
  #120  
Unread 27th of July, 2004, 02:21
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"And what of Cadogan?" he asks, folding his arms over his chest. "Has anyone actually spoken to him? Asked him what he thinks of these supposed friends? I did not see him at dinner tonight."

He shakes his head and turns his eyes to the stars again. The vague, fist shaped constellation of his former god sits near the eastern horizon. Cadrius scowls at it. There was once a day where a simple prayer to a normally silent deity would've helped him answer his questions. Now the burden of choice lay solely on his shoulders.

"What would Ysene have us do? Risk our lives while braving some mad wizard's dungeon?"

It's what heroes do, right? Risk their lives to find eldritch objects of power, but almost never for themselves. They always retrieve it for someone smarter, wiser, more powerful. Cadrius isn't certain he likes the idea of fetching an artifact for anyone, regardless of whether it might be able to destroy an evil item.

A memory sparks within his mind. Hadn't Cadogan mentioned something about a cube? He thought so, but nothing else comes. He wishes he had a better mind for such little details for such things. For a moment he almost remembers associating it with some sort of child's toy, but the connection falters and then breaks. Perhaps he was wrong.

"Do you think we shall survive the night? Is there any reason to believe our lives are in danger?"
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Unread 27th of July, 2004, 04:19
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As Cadrius asks her about the blind wizard, she shakes her head.

"That's just it. Now that we're here we don't know where to look for Cadogan. We could stay here for months and never hear a word from him."

Shade didn't know what she had been thinking when they set out from Karkus. It should have been clear that those who spirited Cadogan away were more than capable enough to keep him away from unwanted visitors. Which they most definitely were, as Nicos had been quick to point out. Though the bard himself seemed to be having an easy time of it here. A hint of her old anger returns, quickly extinguished.

"I'm sure that's exactly what Ysene wants us to do: run off and do the dangerous stuff, with a rival group of wizards itching to slay us if we're discovered. I told her 'no', but she made me promise to mention it. So I have."

Still, something in Ysene's words had rung true to her. Shade had come here out of loyalty to a friend. She hadn't found him, but if there was something she could do to help him shouldn't she do it?

"Are we in danger? Probably. Nicos said as much when we got here, and based on the rivalry between Ysene and Gemoud . . . well, who knows. According to Ysene they don't know much about us yet, but that could likely change for the worse at any time."
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Unread 27th of July, 2004, 22:30
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"And what little protection afforded by Ysene and her friends wil likely be snatched away should we refuse the offer."

He shakes his head. Cadrius has never had a mind for the intricacies of the political game played by the nobles, so it is little wonder that the academy, quite likely a magocracy, confounds him as well. He should've known better than to enter their domain and freely accept their hospitality; it's quite likely a pledge of service. They've housed them, fed them, and kept them from being rended by angry wizards. If the roles were reversed, wouldn't he expect some sort of exchange?

"We may very well be damned no matter what our choice. The least we could do is learn the details of Ysene's task."
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Unread 28th of July, 2004, 00:14
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"You're much better at swinging that sword than you are at comforting people, you know?"

A hint of tired amusement comes into her eyes, and for a moment it reminds Cadrius of a time not very long ago. They stood beside a river, looking at the stars, and she had been almost merry. Until the gnolls attacked, of course.

"Damned we are, though. You know if we listen to her you'll want to go."
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Unread 28th of July, 2004, 00:51
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Cadrius smiles at the remark and shrugs. His life has become markedly more simple since leaving his faith, and grace, behind on a bloody courtyard. Now there's only his sword and his next opponent. The rest can be brushed aside. Perhaps things are now too simple.

"Yes, and if I do not listen to her I will end up as a toad, newt, or some other creature that is in capable of swinging a sword...you wouldn't want to deny me that simple pleasure, would you?"

His humor isn't particularly refined, or clever, but then again, squires and pages never spent much time honing their jests. Most of the time they were carrying heavy things and praying, there was always a lot of praying. Even as a paladin he hadn't had much occasion for causing laughter. It's what fools and bards were for, not warriors, not Cadrius.

"Very well. Say that the wizards have no wish to turn us into lizards should we decline, where will we go from here? We came a long way to rescue Cadogan, but he hardly seems to need it. Where do we turn next? Karkas? Beyond?"

The entire world should be open before them, but Cadrius feels just as imprisoned as during his stay in the temple's dungeon. They couldn't return to his homeland, or any civilized area for fear of a Tracker coming across his trail. Kulper would return to power somehow, despite the claims against him, and he would seek revenge. Where could they go but another border town? Another place where danger and death would find them sooner rather than later. His only other option is to turn himself in. Perhaps it's for the best, or perhaps it's simply the easiest choice to make.

"Do we go live with the orcs? I do not think Blarth's people would accept us as readily as we have him."
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Unread 28th of July, 2004, 01:37
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"I'm not going back to Karkas. And neither are you, if I have to club you over that thick head and drag you elsewhere."

Shade looks at the stars once more, wishing the omniscient heavens would open up and point the way. Not likely.

"Blarth is looking for Paladin. We aren't."

At least, Shade didn't want to go looking for him. Paladin had managed to send some bizarre message to her, though, asking for help.

More demands.

He had been a companion, true, but he hadn't been her friend. And she didn't like what his presence did to Cadrius. Was that reason enough to let him rot in whatever hell had been prepared for him?

"There are places we could go where nobody's ever even heard of Karkas. Out of the way towns won't care who we are. We could even go to some big cities - you are never so alone as when you are surrounded by people."
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