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  #26  
Unread 17th of February, 2007, 03:40
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Shade walks next to Juni, her hood and veil down despite the chill. Her short, dark hair gleams in the cold light of midday. Her steely grey eyes sweep the streets around them restlessly. For someone on the way to a casual lunch, she seems too wary, almost like a bodyguard. Juni ignores the protective behavior, finding it more amusing than disconcerting.

They don't speak much as they walk - Shade, apparently, was not in a talkative mood. Arjuna's few short questions received shorter answers. Before long they have reached the tavern. The building itself is not particularly large, but there is a large, square outdoor patio of sorts. On one end is a raised platform of wood and stone. Large stone columns support a roof above this stage while the roof itself continues around the perimter of the patio. The open square in the center contains bench seating which looks to be able to hold a large number of people. At the current moment it is empty, and the tables beneath the shelter of the roof around the edges are only half full. All things considered, this isn't a bad day to eat out of doors - the sun is warm despite the cold air.

Nicos is waiting for them at one of the tables - the one armed bard is easy to spot in the less than crowded eatery. He notices them as they approach and stands; if he is surprised to see Shade he doesn't show it. Shade sits while he cordially directs Arjuna to do the same. She looks at him critically, noting the bruises on his face and the slight stiffness in his normally fluid movement. She stirs restlessly as he fusses over Juni.

"What happened to you?"
  #27  
Unread 18th of February, 2007, 01:33
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"Ah Juni," Nicos greeted with his most devastating smile. "You look prettier everytime I see you, how is it that some dashing young nobleman hasn't stolen you away from us yet? Even though it breaks my heart I'm afraid I'm going to have to disappoint you, I'm a tad out of sorts this morning and I had to cancel my performance.

Still it's not all bad news, now I can spend more time in your august presence."

"What happened to you?"

"Music critic," Nicos replied with a straight face. "There's just no pleasing some people, speaking of which I met an old friend earlier today. Maeko is in town."
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Unread 20th of February, 2007, 21:20
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Juni doesn't let the compliments go to her head, but judging from the brightness of her smile she does enjoy them. She just can't help being charmed by Nicos.

"Cancelled your performance? I'm crushed!" She plays along, feigning a pout. "It will be a dull, dull lunch indeed."

While Nicos and Shade talk of their friend, Maeko, Juni watches people come and go. This is a bustling area of town, and the outdoor patio is a popular place to have lunch on a day like this. The tables are beginning to fill up.
  #29  
Unread 21st of February, 2007, 05:00
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"Maeko?"

Shade can hardly believe her ears. The other woman was a mystery to her; in spite of that, the bond of friendship between them was strong. Quiet but filled with purpose, confident with no hint of arrogance, a warrior without anger or hate - this was a woman that Shade had respected, had admired more than she would admit even to herself. And Maeko had left abruptly, months ago, slave to the mysterious order where she was abandoned as a child. That parting had been painful and had served to deepen the depression toward which Shade had already been sliding.

"What is she doing here? Is she in trouble?"
  #30  
Unread 22nd of February, 2007, 11:25
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"She mentioned some trouble with her monastery , something about it being destroyed but I don't know if she was being extravagant," Nicos commented, resuming his seat as a young performer took to the stage and started so quietly play.

"I actually invited her here for lunch, Juni here usually knows where you are and I thought you might be interested."

Pausing for a moment to listen to the young women, Nicos silently shook his head but remained silent.
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Unread 22nd of February, 2007, 16:04
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Cadrius has hardly slept since it happened.

His intention never had been to try and find them again, his former companions. In passing, Blarth had let her lie slip. Her intent had always been to leave. The confrontation with Nicos was a ruse and nothing more. As always, her ways were shrouded and the only counsel she kept was her own. She was a survivor at heart. Perhaps that is what she felt was necessary.

After Shade had left, he considered it his duty to make certain the others reached the soft riverbanks near Tradeholm. As they drew closer to the civilized lands of the south and east, it would become more and more dangerous to travel together. The clergy’s agents would, of course, be keeping a wary eye out for his reappearance. After Karkas any hope staying beneath notice was gone.

So it had been with a heavy heart that Cadrius had set foot in Tradeholm. His armor and weapons stashed outside the city walls, he’d hoped to avoid notice. Yet he was tall and broad of shoulder. And while perhaps he was not as big as Sir Garlen the Giant, even without the sword and mail he would be recognizable. The Order is small and they do not take betrayal lightly. He would be known by priests of his former patron. But what he had seen five days out from there was too dangerous not to try and track them down.

Finding any trace of them had been harder than he thought. It was difficult to remain discreet while inquiring after a set of rather noticeable strangers: a half-orc, a sellsword, and a flamboyant bard. Shade, he figured, was long gone. More often than not, he garnered attention from the wrong sorts.

It wasn’t until he slipped a serving girl a few coins that he even heard something halfway credible. It sounded like Nicos had brought some trollop up to his room with him. The other whispers he heard were wild with rumors and conjecture. They said a murderess stalked the streets. Perhaps Shade had not traveled that far after all.

But their trail disappeared and as the days passed he learned less and less. They had left Tradeholm, that much was certain, but to where? Cadrius picked a direction, found a trail, and began walking once more.
  #32  
Unread 27th of February, 2007, 06:27
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"You arranged a meeting?"

Shade's narrowing grey eyes find Juni, more thoughtful than annoyed. She looks back to Nicos.

"Maeko isn't extravagant. If she said destroyed, she meant it. Do you think she could be in danger here?"
  #33  
Unread 28th of February, 2007, 13:52
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"You arranged a meeting?"

"I invited her along," Nicos absently corrected. "If she was in trouble it wasn't anything pressing, she seemed calm enough if a little ... off put. I was too distracted at the time to pursue the matter any further. Still she should be here soon so we can find out easily enough."
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Unread 6th of March, 2007, 02:15
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"...and then I *belch* found myself facing off against the meanest, nastiest, dirtiest, dire wolf you ever did see..." the old man was saying when a knock at his door interrupted his story. The guards had already come and gone hours ago, and the old man had posted a sign indicating he was closed, so the knock came as something of a surprise to the the two men inside. After looking at each other for a moment, the old man calls out through the closed door as Blarth reaches for his club.

"We're closed today. Come back tomorrow when I've got less on my plate."

"Uh... Sir... I... haveamessageforBlarth," a timid voice calls out from the other side.

"Who knew you were coming here today, boy?"

Thinking for a bit, "No one," Blarth replies shaking his head.

"What's this message?"

"Well... um... MistressSaphrinasentmetofindBlarth, and well..., um..., he'snotexactlyhardtofollow... well... beingtheonlyhalf-orcinthecity..., and well... NicosislookingforBlarth," again, an obvious level of fear is evident in the way the boy rushes through parts of his message and hesitates at others.

"Well, you've delivered your message. Now git."

Hurried footsteps are heard on the other side of the door as the boy scrambles away.

"Well, the boy was exagerating about you being the only half-orc in the city, but there are few enough that it's not surprising that he was able to follow you, even hours later. So, who is the Mistress Saphrinas and Nicosis?"

"It's Mistress Saphirna and Nicos," Blarth corrects absently, "Nicos is the one-armed bard I was telling you about earlier. I've been traveling for a time and he seems to be a fairly stand-up fellow, able to take care of himself in a fight, even without one of his arms. Favors lighter weapons, obviously, but under the circumstances I think that's forgivable. Mistress Saphirna is his landlady here in Enderin. She let's me stay in his rooms when he's out carousing all night as I haven't bothered to aquire any of my own."

"And why not? Strong young man like yourself could easily find work to pay for the rent on some humble lodging."

"True, but I haven't really felt like working much. See, when we left Tradeholm..."

While the recounting of Blarth's tale doesn't take nearly as long as the exchange of stories that the two men had been sharing since breakfast over drinks, the conversation that follows is drawn out slightly at it is almost an hour before it reaches any kind of conclusion.
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  #35  
Unread 7th of March, 2007, 00:55
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Turning the corner, she recognized the place from Nicos' description.
It seems to be a popular place with local tradesmen and artisans, generally a good sign if one were interested in good fare at a reasonable price.

Maeko just hoped she would be allowed to get in to look for her friends without fuss.

As she got near and a few people waiting to be served noticed her approach, conversations and banter started to fall into an uneasy silence.
Maeko approached the patio without changing her pace, nodding in a general friendly way to people on her path she started to look at the nearest tables, hoping to see either Nicos or Shade
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Unread 12th of March, 2007, 02:33
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"Ah, there she is," Nicos said when he spotted the monk. "Maeko! Over here!"

"Maeko, allow me to introduce you to a friend of Shade and I, Arjuna. Juni this is an old friend Maeko. And if you ladies would excuse me for just a moment there is something I need to attend to."

Miming the removal of a hat, Nicos gave a rough version of a courtly bow before turning to walk into the tavern.
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  #37  
Unread 15th of March, 2007, 05:25
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Shade sat back in her chair, staring studiously at the beams above. She didn't like to be manipulated, and she suspected that was exactly what Juni had done to get her here. But if what Nicos said was true, then it was entirely possible trouble had followed Maeko. The rogue turned her thoughts to Maeko's departure, trying to recall the words and circumstances that preceded it. The sisters at the monastery had recalled her, after Maeko had found some holy item and been beaten near to death over it.

The monastery was gone. Shade wonders about the artifact - if Maeko had it, then she was still in trouble. Just as she reaches this conclusion, the nun arrives. Shade stands up, almost not hearing Nicos' introductions or noticing his hasty departure.

"Maeko."

Shade was immediately awash with conflicting emotions, all of which she kept below the surface of her demeanor if not out of her voice. She respected and admired the nun, but at the same time she felt her own shortcomings even more. Another woman would have embraced an old friend; Shade stands at arms length, as always trapped between who she was and who she thought she should be.
  #38  
Unread 16th of March, 2007, 05:48
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Nicos had disappeared before Maeko had time to say a word, and here she was, with the one person she most dreaded, and at the same time wished meeting.
Why do I feel... guilt? I did what I had to do, I chose duty, obligation, and they understood, they understood...

But the thought she had repeated to herself many times since their parting still felt as hollow as it had every other time.
And yet, as much as she dreaded Shade's reaction, Maeko felt also happiness at her friend's sight, a sort of happiness that menaced to bring tears to her eyes. She forced herself under control before daring to speak.
How far I am from true enlightment, yet

She bowed deeply, as much to hid her inner turmoil as to show her respect.

" Shade".
Her eyes don't leave the other woman's, trying to espress what words can't.
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Unread 19th of March, 2007, 13:00
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Juni's eyes had darted away from Shade's sharp glance, quickly fixing on the street beyond and the parade of people passing by. While Shade and Nicos talked, she watched the crowd.

The people here do not look like the people of Tradeholm. The most obvious difference is the way they dress. The street is a swirl of bright colors, bold printed fabrics, and - to Juni's eyes at least - outlandish costumes. Most of the women wear many layered skirts, ruffled shawls, and lace-trimmed mantles, all in rainbow hues. The men's clothes are just as colorful, if less frilly. They stride down the street in pants with wide legs, broad sashes at their waists, and wearing tunics with long, full sleeves. They all remind Juni of street carnival performers back home. But these are simply ordinary folk in Enderin, out to lunch.

The crowd seems to part as a woman approaches. Juni senses a certain hostility in the stares that greet the newcomer. Her dress is quite plain, drab in fact, compared to the locals. Nicos hails her - "Maeko! Over here!" It is the friend that he and Shade have been discussing.

Juni stands and bows politely when she is introduced. Nicos excuses himself, and suddenly she is left alone at the table with the two women and a deep, uncomfortable silence. The melodic strains of the bard's playing trill plaintively in the background. Juni opens her mouth to say something... anything. But she just can't bring herself to be the one to interrupt the moment.
  #40  
Unread 22nd of March, 2007, 04:30
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The silence stretches, though somehow that is comforting to Shade. In it, she can feel the kinship between them; the feeling is a good one. Finally, she smiles - a genuine display of emotion - and then gestures to their table.

"Join us. Nicos only just told me you were here. Are you in trouble?"
  #41  
Unread 27th of March, 2007, 05:25
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Maeko couldn't really remember seeing Shade smile before, surprise and a warm sense of welcome gave her a smile of her own.

" I hope I will not bore your friend" she began with an apologizing nod towards Juni, " but trouble we have indeed". she paused a moment to gather her thoughts.

" My sisters and I were going back to our monastery, with holy relic. But we were reached by a message of our Abbess", she saw Shade's eyes narrow at her choice of words, but her friend didn't interrupt.

" The temple had been attacked and burned down, most of the sisters killed, we had home no more". as if fearing a loss of control, Maeko merely paused for a breath.
" We were helped on the road, good man told us here we would find merchant from our country.
Merchant Li Yan follows Master Botahara, he is helping us to build small monastery here, so that our order will not die."

Juni breathed in relief, at least the story seemed to end better than she had feared it would, the small nun looked worried, though.
" But...?" she couldn't help but add.

" But" ,aknowledged Maeko, " Things happen: yesterday's work today found destroyed, people strike a deal and few days after say not possible bring supply or work with us, and they look frightened.
...Some of these things not new: we are strangers, we are not used to your language, we dress and act strange, people being cautious, we understand. But this feels worse...and we do not understand, but fear things could become ugly, if nothing is done".
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Unread 31st of March, 2007, 04:01
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Juni glances at Shade - no sign yet that she'd been forgiven for her little trick, but at least Shade is smiling now. Juni relaxes as the tension at the table eases somewhat and everybody takes a seat.

Then Maeko's story unfolds. Juni can see how the woman might feel uncomfortable. Tradeholm had been more of a melting pot where people were tolerant of foreigners. Here in Enderin, things were clearly different. She had felt it herself at times, although most of the people she has been dealing with are under the impression that she's well-bred and wealthy, and apparently are more forgiving because of it.

"People here are cautious, more so than where I come from," Juni says, patting Maeko's hand in a gesture of sympathy. "My mother was foreign, and I have her looks. They stare at me sometimes too." Juni fiddles idly with a lock of her silver-blonde hair, then pushes it back behind her ear. "But I am very surprised to hear that someone has been destroying your work. That goes beyond simple xenophobia, I think!"
  #43  
Unread 6th of April, 2007, 10:17
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Shade stays silent as Maeko recounts her story. Silently, she agrees with Arjuna - this level of hostility went beyond simple distrust.

"This relic - you brought it with you?"

It is clear that she believes the artifact may be the source of the trouble.
  #44  
Unread 8th of April, 2007, 14:38
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It only took Nicos a few minutes of moving around the tavern to find the information he wanted, smiling, laughing and a few coins spent later he returned to his companions with armed with a vague plan about tonight.

"Sorry about that," he said by way of apology. "In my business you're always working. What did I miss?"
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Unread 18th of April, 2007, 02:39
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Shade shrugs, face expressionless, eyes steady.

"Nothing you don't already know."
  #46  
Unread 29th of April, 2007, 19:05
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Maeko glances at Nicos as the bard takes his place, then brings her attention back to Shade.

" Relic with us. But I do not think this is cause of our trouble here. Those who stole it first, were in league with people from our country, wanting to discredit the order.
But now order does not exist anymore in the Empire, they have succeeded".
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Unread 2nd of May, 2007, 04:24
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Shade's grey eyes grow distant as her gaze turns inward and surveys the rocky landscape of her soul. Before her was a woman dedicated to higher ideals, unconcerned with the material, without malice for even those who would harm her. If such a woman was so beset, it was clear that this life was not one meant for peace.

Her eyes snap back into focus and she coldly appraises her companions and then rises fluidly.

"We'll meet again here in the morning. I need to check some things out. Maybe I can find out what we're up against."

She gives Maeko's questing gaze a hard smile.

Don't worry, I'll be careful.

After a moment, she looks at Arjuna, her face carefully neutral.

"Don't wait up."

Before they can protest, she slips into the crowd.

* * *

The next morning dawned cold and grey, no hint of the bright sun that had warmed yesterday's meeting. Shade picks up her pace with the intent to drive some of the chill and fatigue from her limbs. Things had not gone badly last night but it had taken quite a bit of time. She kept well away from the local guild for fear they might have heard of the events in Tradeholm. That didn't mean she was entirely without contacts, but she had to be damned careful.

It is early enough that their table from yesterday is empty when she arrives - first one there, it seemed. Good enough. She orders a mug of something hot and some bread, then sits and waits for the others to arrive.
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Unread 2nd of May, 2007, 05:51
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His soul sufficiently soothed by the morning spent sipping ale (in orc-sized sips) and soliciting the advice of another stranger in his own world, Blarth had joined the others for lunch, long after Shade had left and even late enough that the others were starting to think that he wouldn't show. He'd felt a bit guilty about this, until he learned they were meeting again in the morning for breakfast. Apparently Shade had left to find some things out before they took any action on... well, something. Blarth wasn't exactly listening to all the details has he had thrown himself into a hearty meal, accompanied by yet more ale, which combined with his morning to make things just a bit fuzzy towards the end.

This morning, too, things were a bit fuzzy, but that wasn't the result of drinking. Or rather, it was, but not because he was drunk. Spending more than half a day drinking was a good way of asking for a hang-over and Blarth was finding it hard to open his eyes in the bright sunlight. As a result he was squiting alot, hence the fuzziness of the world.

Arriving again at the tavern, Blarth squints at the tables to find Shade, plunks down into a seat, and then orders the strongest, and blackest, xioac that the inn serves.
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Unread 20th of May, 2007, 23:35
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Shade said not to wait up, and Juni didn't. But she lay in bed sleepless long into the night, thinking about Shade and about the shadow that Shade said might have become a part of her.

Juni worried that if Shade really had become one with the shadow that attacked her, that she would then be drawn toward darkness and evil. It could be happening even now! Shade's activities - skulking around the city all night, for instance - would encourage the shadow part of her to grow stronger. Juni imagined that Shade would have to fight hard to keep that from happening and to remain true to herself. (Although she had to admit that Shade's nature was very shadow-like to begin with. Would that make it harder for her friend to resist the evil?) It scared Juni to think of an insubstantial Shade, lurking in dark corners and plotting against the living for all eternity.

Eventually, Juni did sleep. Indeed, she ended up sleeping later than she intended, and had to rush to get ready for the morning meeting at the cafe. Shade was not at home, and Juni could not tell if she'd been there at all during the night.

Feeling more concern for Shade's well-being than ever, Juni dashes down the stairs of The Copper Maiden, her pale hair flying loose behind her, and flies out the door without remembering to bring her purse or her cloak.

She regrets the forgotten cloak immediately. A cold, gray morning greets her with a stiff wind from the north and low clouds threatening rain. She joins the bustle on the street, her head down against the wind like everyone else's, and makes for the meeting place.

By the time she arrives, the low clouds have lifted somewhat and rain seems less likely. Juni scans the tables - mostly empty - and finds that Blarth and Shade are sitting in the same place as yesterday. She is relieved to see Shade apparently safe and sound and solid, and then irritated with herself (or with Shade?) that she'd lost sleep over the whole thing.

She takes a seat, smiling at Blarth but avoiding looking at Shade for the moment. She glances around the tavern for Nicos and Maeko. "I guess I'm not as late as I thought I was," she says with a small laugh. "Shade, will you buy me a drink? I'm afaid I ran out without my purse. What is that you're drinking, Blarth?"
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Unread 22nd of May, 2007, 01:06
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"Xioac," Blarth replies, showing Juni the thick, hot liquid. Seeing she doesn't recognize the name, Blarth allows her to take a sip and Juni finds it as bitter as bad coffee, but tasting like unsweetened chocolate.

"Good for getting rid of the groginesss of a hangover," he explains as he finishes off the mug and orders another.
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