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  #76  
Unread 29th of August, 2005, 22:10
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Surayon looks over at the argument going on between Nicos and Shade, but she can't really summon up any enthusiasm for it - the Stone, to her, for now at least, is just a rock, she doesn't have any interest in it. Slowly drawing a whetstone over her blades, she tunes out the discussion until the last sentence catches her attention. Looking over at the bard, she raises one eyebrow.

"Don't have that kind of time? And why is that?"
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Unread 31st of August, 2005, 22:20
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"Because we're not keeping it a second longer than it takes us to get back to the Citadel."

Nicos had only proven her suspicion that the stone would not yield its secrets up to a novice. Now he had Surayon wondering about it, with that oh-so-elven curiousity when it came to magic.

"You've had your look. Now let's get some food and some rest."
  #78  
Unread 1st of September, 2005, 03:09
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"Food?" Blarth remarks, wandering back into the campsite with a load of firewood. "Is it time to eat already?" In the excitement and confusion that the retrieval of the runestone and the subsequent looting had afforded, Blarth had quite forgotten about eating, but now that Shade had mentioned food, his stomach would no longer be ignored.

"If one of you would do the cooking, I'll go gather some more firewood."
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Unread 4th of September, 2005, 07:32
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Having failed to uncover the secrets of the stone, Nicos reached over to return it to Shade. As he did so a strange reluctance came over him.

Why should Shade be the one to carry it? They had all worked together to get the stone. And of everyone he was the most qualified to care for it. Sure he had failed to learn anything of significance just then, but more was sure to come back to him over time. It would just be foolish to turn it over to someone else. In fact-

"If one of you would do the cooking, I'll go gather some more firewood."

Broken from his thoughts by Blarth’s comment, the bard drops the stone into Shade’s waiting grasp.

"Yeah, I’ll cook."
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  #80  
Unread 4th of September, 2005, 09:27
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Cadrius eyes Nicos warily, misliking the bard's attitude. That Shade isn't more forceful surprises him; things are generally done her way...or else. Yet in the end, Nicos demures and returns the stone to Shade. That too causes Cadrius to frown. Magic, particularly the eldritch kind housed within this artifact, is not to be trusted. She's right; the sooner they return this, the better.

He lets Blarth go off on his own, preferring to keep an eye on the others while laying out his bedroll and unloading his possessions.
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Unread 8th of September, 2005, 03:39
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Shade can feel Cadrius watching her, but she ignores his judgemental gaze. Let him be annoyed, or whatever he was. Around her, camp gradually takes shape, dinner is served and watches alloted. Cadrius remained aloof, but enduring his stare was far better than having to explain her reasons, especially to him. Her watch is late, well past midnight. The wastelands around the small group are unusually silent. The ever present chill washes through her as she surveys the camp below.

Cadrius turned in his sleep as she watched. Once, she had thought they might help each other, renegades that they were. In the cold light of the moon, she knew it for the lie that it was. There wasn't anything about her that he could respect, much less embrace. She sits cross legged on the ground, more concerned with watching the others than she is looking out for danger. For whatever reason, the brutal land around no longer seems as threatening. She can feel the stone weighing down the pouch at her side, her fingers itching to hold it. What had Nicos been looking for?

Ultimately, it didn't matter. She still had the stone. The pouch is now gripped tightly in her hand beneath her cloak. Nothing has stirred in camp for twenty minutes. Even Surayon is motionless, wrapped in her elven dreams. Somehow, the Runestone was in her hand, glittering darkly in the moonlight. Her grey eyes are rapt upon it, unblinking, delving its murky depths. Mechanically, she replaces it in her pouch, then silently rises. Her fingers check the hilts of her swords before she fades into the night. By the time they woke, she would be long gone.

***

Dawn is an hour past when Surayon comes out of her reverie. She finds Nicos still asleep and frowns: the man was supposed to be on watch. She wakes him and there is a brief discussion, followed by a quick search for Shade. The elf finds a trail she believes to be Shade's, headed back toward the mountains, but it disappears in the rocky ground. Nicos curses, knowing that Shade's skill in woodcraft meant she'd likely leave a light trail in any case. By the time they return, most of the others have woken.
  #82  
Unread 8th of September, 2005, 03:58
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"*YAWN* What's going on?" A sleepy Blarth asks as he awakens to find Nicos and Surayon returning. "What are you two up to, and where's Shade?"
  #83  
Unread 8th of September, 2005, 12:51
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"Where's Shade?" Nicos repeated the question aloud as he shoved his gear into his pack. "Well with any luck she's currently being held hostage and awaiting us to charge in and save the day."

Looking up and noticing the look on Blarth face, the bard quickly explains.

"She snuck off during the night and left a false trail heading towards the mountains. I'm guessing she's going back to the Citadel with the stone. Pack your gear while I wake the others, she can't be too far ahead of us so we'll make an early start of it. That means no breakfast."
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  #84  
Unread 9th of September, 2005, 00:08
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Clearly dissapointed at the prospect of no breakfast, Blarth nevertheless complies with the "order" to pack up his stuff and is soon ready to go. He does, however, take a moment to grab a piece of jerky and begin chewing on it.

"So, what makes you think she's headed towards the Citadel?" Blarth asks Nicos once the group hits the trail. "I got the feeling that Shade didn't really like that place."
  #85  
Unread 11th of September, 2005, 01:40
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"Because I'm a blind idiot," Nicos replied feeling his stomach complain about the lack of food. "I gave it some thought while Surayon and I were trying to track Shade and it's the only thing that makes sense if you put together all the clues."

"First of all," he said raising his hand and extending a finger. "It never made any sense that they would send us out here on our own. Disregarding the fact that we might have needed some help, why didn't they send someone to make sure we didn't damage the stone and to make sure we actually returned with it?"

Dropping his hand to his side, the bard continues quietly. "I think they did; only they were very subtle about it. There are certain magics which give people compulsions to do certain things. It's a very subtle and powerful thing, people have been known to have been under a compulsion for years - and all without knowing it. I think that Shade was under the influence of one."

Raising his hand again to forestall any argument, Nicos quickly continues. "Let me finish. Consider the fact that on the way here, we followed Shade more then we followed the not-too-specific directions on how to get here. I was expecting that we'd have to search the area for the entrance but we came out right on top of it, and I don't think we're that lucky.

"Consider the first door, the hidden one. Shade knew exactly what to do to open it, when the rest of us couldn't even tell there was a secret door at all. She didn't even have to search for it, which really should have been a dead give away right there but I was too stupid to notice it.

"Consider also how she was when she finally got a hold of it, she didn't care about any of the other treasure that was in there, she didn't even look twice at it! All she wanted to do was get on the way. Consider again that she wouldn't even let me examine the stone until I swore I would return it when I was done."

Turning an eye towards the half-orc, Nicos tries to gauge his companion's mood. "Individually they aren't a lot, but put it all together and I'm convinced. The wizards had the motivation, opportunity and ability."

-Besides- the bard mentally adds. -The only chance we have of following her is if we know where she's heading. It's either the Citadel or nothing.-
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  #86  
Unread 13th of September, 2005, 03:46
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Ben opened his eyes, grumbling about people needing to shut up so others can sleep. Rising up from bedroll, he looked over and saw Nicos talking with Blarth and the elf. He caught the end of Nicos' words, something about the wizards from the Citadel. The bard seemed agitated.

"Ability to do what," he mumbled out, trying to banish the grogginess in his eyes. "What's going on?"
  #87  
Unread 15th of September, 2005, 03:53
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"Put a spell on Shade," Nicos said glancing back at Ben. "She slipped out during the night, and we have to leave now if we're to have any chance of catching her before she makes it back so hurry up."
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  #88  
Unread 15th of September, 2005, 03:55
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Unable to argue with Nicos's logic, Blarth takes a moment to orient himself as the the direction of the citadel and then (when everybody is ready) leads the way in that direction.
  #89  
Unread 18th of September, 2005, 21:29
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Surayon follows the group for a while, then without a word, ranges ahead, eyes darting around, not standing still for a second, searching out any signs that Shade passed this way. Regardless of the humans training, Surayon had lived and tracked in the wilds for three times longer than Shade had been alive - if there was a trail here, Surayon would find it, no matter how long it took.
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  #90  
Unread 23rd of September, 2005, 10:29
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It wasn't until the second day of the return trip that Surayon found some sign of Shade's passing. A day old camp in a small hollow, complete with ashes from a small fire and indentation from where someone had slept. The camp brought a mixture of feelings to Nicos, validation that he had judged the situation and her direction correctly, and concern that despite all of their haste she had still gained a day on them. After that signs of her passing grew more common to those who were able to spot them, as if Shade had traded an element of stealth for greater speed.

And so it was that the companions found themselves camped less then a day away from the Citadel still having not caught up with their wayward companion. Nicos sat the dawn guard, watching as the rising sun turned the clouds into varying shades of red. Some reminded him nothing so much of Gemoud's hair, while others brought to mind blood fresh from the wound. The combination had a despondent effect upon the man.

A piece of old verse sprung to mind, and the bard quoth:

"So dawns the wrath red day
upon fields of the sky
Below mortals gaze and pray
yearning to turn and fly
The blood birthed day shall know no peace
for its name is pain
We broken men hope for release
but all shall be in vain"

Looking away from the dawn display the bard finds Xandir looking at him with pack and gear ready for travel.

"Going somewhere?" Nicos asked trying to sound nonchalant.
"Yeah," the man said fidgeting slightly as if uncomfortable. "I've been thinking and I know I owe you all from saving me from that crevice, but that Citadel? I've been listening to everyone talk about it, and I don't think I want to head in with you guys. I have my own affairs and I'm getting the feeling that once you get involved with these wizards it's hard to escape again."

Nodding Nicos felt that he couldn't blame the man. Despite all the reasons he had for returning, the thought of just turning away and walking off had occurred to him.

"So you're leaving now?"
"Yep, I don’t like long good byes so I thought I'd do everyone a favour and slip out when I have the chance. So bye to everyone for me, and hi to Shade when you catch up to her. Who knows, maybe we'll meet again."
"Oh I'm sure we will," Nicos said with a mischievous smile. "You still owe me for all that healing."

The one armed man watched Xandir make his way alone across the wilderness for several minutes, then turned his eyes back to the dawn fire, wondering what the day would bring.
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Last edited by itches; 23rd of September, 2005 at 10:55.
  #91  
Unread 24th of September, 2005, 02:22
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When she started out she was smug and sure, the emptiness inside her all but forgotten. At first, travelling alone - without the burden of companions who had the excruciating habit of pushing her in directions she didn't want to go - was exhilarating. The waste was cruel and hard, but at least it didn't force her mind to consider anything except survival. Unfortunately, the necessity of covering her tracks meant that it was going to take longer to finish this journey than she would like.

Get to the Citadel, drop off the stone, and then leave the wizards and this broken land forever. That was the plan. Then she'd be free to go whereever she wanted - maybe find a city where she could earn an honest living thieving, with no moral quandries about rescuing prisoners and no involvement in wars over arcane paraphenalia.

Two days of hard travel later and she was barely recognizable as the same person that had left camp. Her face was pale, drawn, grey eyes dull, fingernails jagged. Shade had pushed herself forward without rest, the whole while covering her trail in a meticulous fashion. Sweat and grime covered her like a blanket.

Her mind was fuzzy, and with only a day of travel left to go, something tells her that she needs rest and fire and food if she is to go on. Her body does these things, and when she wakes her eyes have assumed a look of grim purpose, though otherwise her appearance is unchanged. The one time thief no longer bothers hiding her trail, instead moving with all possible speed to her destination.

Hours later and Shade can see the Citadel on the horizon. Relentlessly , she pushes forward. Soon it would all be over. The stone is gripped in one clawlike hand, its edges digging into her palm.

Swinging wide around the bulk of the Citadel, she aims for a small rock outcropping and the squat outbuilding that sits atop it. Near the base, she ducks beneath thick, thorny branches and slips her hand into a crevice between two boulders. A small trap door opens with a rumble. Without pause, she uses the handholds cut into the stone to lower herself in the darkness.

The trap above slides shut, leaving no trace that she had ever been.
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Unread 25th of September, 2005, 02:10
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Surayons eyes open, coming out of her reverie with the eae of a century of practice. Rising to her feet, she glances over at Nicos - sitting there, eyes fixed on the rising sun - before moving over to the embers of the fire and prodding the ashes, stirring the coals for a few seconds before stepping away, seeing flames in the dull gleam of the ashes. Sitting besides the bard, she draws her longsword and begins to slowly, methodically, sharpen the already razor edge, the rasp of the whetstone almost a soothing balm to her ears. Without looking at the one-armed man, she speaks, quietly, but with a chill note that not even the dawn can chase away.

"So. This Citadel? What can we expect to find in there?"
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Unread 26th of September, 2005, 23:22
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"Lots of weird stuff," Blarth replies, shaking himself awake.

"Those wizards have knives that cut by themselves and animals shrunk down into miniatures. Its a really weird place."
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Unread 27th of September, 2005, 14:03
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"Yeah," Nicos chimes in. "They seem to be going out of their way to show off magic. I can't really blame them I suppose, most would have spent their entire lives either hiding the fact that they can perform magic, or being very discreet about it. Now that they found somewhere that they can openly practice it - well they must feel like showing off a bit. Or a lot."
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Unread 29th of September, 2005, 08:31
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"Magic is dangerous," Ben added, as he too rose from his sleep. He hadn't really been talkative, even for him, since Shade took off with the stone. "Its power given some form of physical manifestation. And like any sort of power, it can easily be abused. Unlike a powerful warrior or general though, a Wizard or Sorcerer doesn't have powers like mere mortal men. They can summon beasts from nothing and call fire down from the sky."

He started rolling his bed up and getting ready to move out at a moments notice as he kept talking. "So if you ask me, showing it off like that is just asking for trouble."
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Unread 30th of September, 2005, 01:43
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Nicos cast a speculative eye towards Ben during his 'magic is dangerous' speech, considering. Because of the environ of their first meeting, the bard hadn't considered that he might subscribe to a more traditional view of magic - that is a disapproving one. Then again he hadn't shown any reluctance to accept the handful of tricks the bard had performed on their journey so perhaps he was just sick of being manipulated. Or he had had a bad experience in the past; both were things Nicos could relate to. Still...

"Relax," Nicos said to Ben's preparations. "We knew when we camped last night that we weren't going to catch Shade. We might as well linger at camp this morning and have a good hot breakfast before we face them."
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Unread 4th of October, 2005, 04:49
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Surayon sighs quietly, not looking up from her sword as she methodically hones the edge. She starts talking softly, almost to herself.
"Wizards. Always playing with things they dont understand. I remember my home, the druids we had there. They understood the balance. Not like the others, the ones who came and...."

Abruptly her mouth snaps shut, her head coming up, violet eyes glaring around.

"I wasn't asking for your opinion on magic. What I want to know is how likely is it that I'll have to kill someone in there? I don't want to go in with no idea of the situation, and lets face it, bard, you're the one who has the most.....practical knowledge of this..."
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Unread 5th of October, 2005, 16:09
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"I have no idea," Nicos said quietly as his eyes drifted back to the sunrise. "I can only hope not."
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Unread 8th of October, 2005, 07:19
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"Kill people?!? Why would we need to kill anyone. All we need to do is find Shade and make sure those wizards get their stone. Then we can leave. It really isn't that complicated."
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Unread 11th of October, 2005, 22:40
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She fumes.

After all of that risk and hardship, Shade finds herself stuck in the one place she was desperately trying to leave behind: the Citadel. Oh, she'd turned the stone over and gotten thanks from Cadogan and Ysene. Yes, she had been feeling quite pleased with herself and the way it had worked out. The future was waiting for her, wide open and without complication. She bites back a curse.

Somehow Ysene had persuaded her to clean herself up and get some rest before setting out again. It was entirely opposite to what Shade had planned, but when the sorceress said it, the idea seemed a good one. That had been . . . well, she wasn't really sure how long ago that had been - the apartments she found herself in had no windows, no source of natural light. Long enough to get hungry, though the kitchen was well stocked with food.

Apart from being devoid of windows, Shade could find no means of entering or exiting the room. There was no door, at least none that she could find. And so she spent her time pacing and cursing, wracking her brain for some way to once again seize control of the situation.

It would have been frustrating for someone with a good deal of patience. And patience had never been numbered among her virtues.
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