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  #76  
Unread 25th of August, 2007, 00:20
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Shade yanks the drawstrings tight on a cloth bag, stuffs it into her leather pack and buckles it shut. Her grey eyes give the remaining area a cursory glance as her hands deftly check her blades. She nods at Arjuna.

"Tonight. Meantime we find somewhere else to stay."
  #77  
Unread 27th of August, 2007, 02:04
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Isac huddled against stacked sacks of grain in the bottom of the river barge desperately trying to keep warm. For six months he had been traveling from Thuranoch. Six months for a voyage that was supposed to have taken him less than one. The sound of distant thunder drew his eyes upward toward the thick sheets of gray clouds rolling in off of the Eirinikos.

More rain... He sighed, resigning himself to yet another damp and chilly night. From his improvised shelter he looked out at the crew as they continually adjusted the tow ropes. Some were wearing simple linen shirts of varying colors, most were bare chested. His inability to get warm had become a regular joke on the voyage. One of the sailors had even offered him a brightly colored knitted woolen cap, saying that it had belonged to his daughter...his six year old daughter.

Sigh.

At least it was warm...

"Brother Isac," the captain's weathered voice boomed from the rudder. Working his way out of his mound of spare canvas and piled bedrolls Isac turned toward the stern. Immediately the wind cut into his face, sending a shiver through his core.

"Y...y...yes c..captain?" The captain was kind enough to only smirk at his discomfort.

"Enderin," he said simply and pointed ahead. Through the morning mist the vague shapes of builds glowered darkly. At last...

"Thank you captain," he did his best to keep the quiver out of his voice. He dropped down out of the wind and opened the large trunk that contained all of his worldly possessions. Rummaging around for a few moments his fingers finally find their objective. Carefully he removed the three foot long silvered steel flanged mace from the trunk. He sat there for a moment, feeling the weight of the weapon in his hand, letting its heaviness fill him with the conviction he needed.

Pelor is the Light, and the Way...

With an even heavier heart he let the mace handle drop into the leather ring on his belt. From a hidden compartment in the lid of his trunk he removed a large, sealed vellum letter and a sketch. He unfolded the sketch and studied the expertly drawn woman's face, like he had every night for the last six months. He had memorized every nuance of her face from her delicately arched eyebrows to the full curve of her lips. He had stared for long hours into those traced eyes and wondered what color they really were. He wondered what sorrow they had witnessed to make them so very hard and cold - wondered how she got her scar. Below the picture was a list of over twenty names, aliases she had used over the years.

Samantha Cooper...
N'jat Haurum...
Brin of Phror Molos...
Shade...

Opening his oiled leather coat he slid the letter into his chest pocket. With a numb precision he re-buttoned the jacket, hiding both the letter and his maille shirt underneath.

It was time to finish this...

Last edited by -J-; 8th of October, 2007 at 02:35.
  #78  
Unread 29th of August, 2007, 04:24
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"Thrice damned rain..." Blarth mutters as he steps out of the hold of the river barge again and is, again, drenched in the cold water that is falling from the sky.

"Why the hell can't it just snow like it is supposed to in the winter..."

Looking for work that required only a strong back had seemed like such a good idea this morning at breakfast. After several days of moping about, Blarth had needed some real physical activity, and previous experience had taught him that humans generally did not appreciate the ways that orcs usually got their physical activity when they were bored. It had only been a friendly wrestling match in the town square, but the human he'd challanged (who, to be honest had looked just as bored as Blarth had felt) had considered it something called "assault and battery." Blarth had spent several months working in the town's quarry as a result of that incident.

Of course, once he was done, Trak had taken care to point out that if he had simply applied at the quarry office for a few days work, he would have accomplished the same thing and been paid for it.

So Blarth, restless now that his guilt over losing Trak's armor had lifted, had gone looking for some simple physical labor and found it unloading river barges at the dock. That had suited Blarth just fine at first, but some time shortly after lunch the rain had started falling. At first, that had been alright because the porter supervisor had immediately handed out oiled cloaks to all the porters unloading the barge, and so the first couple of trips in the rain hadn't been all that bad. But then the supervisor had noticed that Blarth was wearing the oil cloak and letting the sacks of grain he was carrying on his shoulders get wet. The supervisor had come down on Blarth like a ton of rocks at that point and now Blarth was unloading barrels instead of sacks of grain. That also meant that he didn't "need" an oiled cloak anymore, because the barrels were water tight anyway, and thus could get wet while the sacks of grain couldn't.

So, while the other porters were carefully using the oiled cloaks to keep both themselves and the sacks of grain they were unloading dry, Blarth had to face the cold and drenching rain every time he stepped out of the hold with another barrel. On top of that, while the grain was stored inside a warehouse, giving the porters unloading it two respites from the rain each trip (one at either end), Blarth had been instructed to stack the barrels outside, meaning he was only out of the rain once each trip.

Some days it just didn't pay to be a half-orc.

About the only good thing about unloading barrels were that at this time of the year there were fewer of them than there were sacks of grain. Grain crop excesses had only just started to be converted to beer and ale and the city merchants were far more concerned with laying in their winter store of grains than alcaholic beverages. Thus, Blarth was able to catch a much longer rest under the eaves of one of the warehouses as the other porters finished with unloading the grain shipment and the next barge cycled into the unloading area.

It was during one of these breaks that Blarth noticed the human passenger, clearly shivering far more than Blarth was, despite what looked to be adequate rain gear, depart one of the barges. The man was several inches taller than Blarth, though some of that may have been the considerable thickness in the soles of his boots, so perhaps he was closer to Nicos in height than he looked. Still, despite the height, he didn't have that sense of "bigness" about him that Blarth often carried because of his bulk. On the breast of the man's coat was a sunburst that Blarth recognized as being the symbol of the human sun god Pelor, a fact that brought a chuckle to Blarth's lips as he saw the man shiver once more.

"Apparently the lack of his sun god above him makes the man feel cold and alone. No god that limits his sphere of influence to such a limited heavenly body as the sun should be worthy of worship..."

"BLARTH!" the supervisor yells, interupting the half-orcs thoughts, "Stop telling yourself jokes and get to work unloading this next barge. I'm paying you to work, not remember the act of some good for nothing bard in whatever hellhole you stayed in last night!"
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  #79  
Unread 16th of September, 2007, 03:24
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"Excuse me sir, which way to the closest inn?" The foreman's brow furrows in concentration as he tries to work through Issac's accent. A few moments later his eyes light up with recognition.

"The Copper Maiden be what you want," he says slowly as he points towards the wall of sea grayed buildings along the shore. ""Twixt those two buildings, turn right and then go thirty famn and it will be on the left," Issac bows graciously, slips the man a silver, then starts heading toward the town.

"BLARTH! Stop telling yourself jokes and get to work unloading this next barge. I'm paying you to work, not remember the act of some good for nothing bard in whatever hellhole you stayed in last night!" The foreman's voice booms with the weight of authority. Reflexively Issac turns and spies the object of his reprimand, a thick set half-orc. Reflexively Issac averts his gaze and gives the nahshkma, a combination of bow and hand gesture. It was a sign of deference he had painfully learned in the hot jungles of the goblin empire. You're not in the Hegemony any more... he chastizes himself.

Quickly righting himself he pushes on toward the Copper Maiden, memories of the Forbidden South swirling about him the same way the dark clouds swirled above. Several rain drenched minutes later finds him standing in front of the Maiden's proprietor signing a wetly splattered guest log.

"That'll be two silver for the night, two and a half gold a'fortnight," the innkeep says over his shoulder as he rummages for a room key. While the old man is distracted, Issac quickly flips through the previous entries. Not that he really expected his quarry to stay in this sort of establishment but...

Samantha Cooper.

"Here we go sir," the innkeep slaps the worn brass key onto the ledger. "How many nights then?"

"I think just the one will suffice. That's funny, I knew a Samantha Cooper from Tradeholm," the thin priest says lightly tapping the log. "I don't suppose this one is a big girl, with long red hair?"

"No sir. Quite thin, and dark hair. Nasty bit of work across the face," he makes a slicing motion across the bridge of his nose. "Shame too. Still," he adds with a knowing wink "wouldn't throw her in the stables for snoring if you know what I mean."

"Pity. Well thank you my good man," Issac smiles politely and drops three silver coins on the counter and then palms his room key. He turns, trunk in hand, and begins toward the stair.

"... I'm telling you Shade the Unicorn is a dive. The owner's second cousin runs about half of the cities prostitutes out of that place."
"Its more like a fifth."
"Well I heard from a spice merchant who heard from...oooof" her sentence is cut short as she rounds a corner and runs headlong into a heavy trunk, and its thin owner.

"I'm terribly sorry, please forgive me m'lady...ladies," he adds as Shade comes into view.

Well...this is awkward...

Last edited by -J-; 16th of September, 2007 at 03:31.
  #80  
Unread 16th of September, 2007, 20:35
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Juni steps back, her blue eyes wide with surprise. For just a fraction of a second they seem to burn silver-bright as she instinctively manifests a precognitive power, too late to avoid this collision of course, but the increased awareness makes her feel more secure, if a bit dizzy.

It is a technique she'd been using since she was a child, but only recently fully mastered. She has to make sense of what is happening around her right now, in the moment; AND take note of fragmentary glimpses of potential near-future events as they play out in her mind.

The man's lips are moving, he is speaking... Is that happening now or will it happen five minutes from now?
The innkeeper calls loudly for the hostler.
A door bangs closed upstairs.
A carriage drives by splashing Juni with water as she stands near the street. Hopefully I'll be able to avoid that when it happens...
Shade nudges her in the ribs with her elbow.

Meanwhile I'm standing here like a lackwit!

It has taken months of practice, but Juni has finally learned to sort through the confusing visions while behaving at least semi-normally. She shakes her head slightly to clear it, and speaks:

"I am so sorry! It wasn't your fault, sir, it was mine.. please forgive my clumsiness. I didn't damage anything, did I?"
  #81  
Unread 23rd of September, 2007, 05:44
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Shade's eyes lock with the owner of the trunk for a moment and for some reason those pale sea-green eyes set the hair on her nape standing. The woolen child's cap he wore looked comical given his otherwise somber clothes; he wasn't a man that most would consider threatening but something about him put her on edge. She stirs uneasily, speaking to Juni without taking her eyes from the man.

"It'd take an axe and a strong arm to dint that chest."

She glances toward the door, then back.

"We'd offer to help you out but we were just leaving."

Last edited by Gralhruk; 29th of October, 2007 at 01:17.
  #82  
Unread 26th of September, 2007, 09:28
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"Its no trouble..." he really hated this part. How exactly was one supposed to approach an assassin? Excuse me, if you're not terribly busy, would you mind killing a few people for the greater good... At least that is what he presumed he was doing in delivering sealed church documents, either that or Archbishop Orphrease had found himself a new plaything and Isac was here to collect her.

Murder and lust - cornerstones of the Empire.

Regardless discretion is called for.

"You must let me to make ammends for my clumbsiness. Please, allow me to escort you ladies to dinner tonight. My treat," he says with a warm smile.
  #83  
Unread 5th of October, 2007, 12:08
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All the psychic noise is a bit distracting, but Juni picks out the thread that leads most directly to the reality of what is happening around her NOW; and she smiles because she knows just what the stranger will say before he even says it. Her eyes sparkle with a silver sheen, an effect both becoming and somewhat alarming. She is unaware of the distant, dreamy expression on her face. And she hardly realizes that she blurts out an answer almost before the speaker can finish his sentence.

"Dinner? That would be lovely!"

It feels just like the sort of thing that Lady Couertney would have arranged for her. Back in Tradeholm, she and other young ladies of 'quality' would often meet socially with various members of the clergy. There were luncheons and teas, picnics and excursions to the park. She had always felt a bit like an outsider in those situations, probably because it was all so new to her. But she had learned the proper things to say and do, and how to accept an invitation graciously.

But of course, this isn't Tradeholm. And she and Shade have another obligation.

"Oh, but I don't know that we'll be finished by dinner time... I mean, we have an important matter to attend to, don't we Shade? It could take a while to straighten things out with Thunn Torver. But maybe-"

Here it comes... Juni deftly sidesteps Shade's intended elbow-jab to her ribs, having foreseen it coming a moment ago. A slight smirk twitches the corners of her mouth, in spite of herself. It is quite an accomplishment to be a step ahead of Shade's elbow. She guesses that Shade is trying to tell her that she is talking too much. Is it her curse today to babble and prattle and spill secrets everywhere she goes?

But Juni is suddenly positive that having dinner with the cleric of Pelor will lead to a favorable conclusion. It isn't clairvoyance that informs her, but another kind of feeling. A priest of the Sun god... Maybe just the person that Shade should meet and get to know.

"Oh but this is such a fortuitous meeting!" she exclaims with just the right amount of enthusiasm. Lady Couertney would be so proud! "Our other business can wait. Don't you think so, Shade?" She doesn't wait for her companion to disagree but turns to the priest and continues. "We would be honored to accept your invitation for dinner. What time would be best for you?"

Last edited by Kelemyn; 5th of October, 2007 at 12:11.
  #84  
Unread 8th of October, 2007, 04:15
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Isac smiles warmly as Juni's eyes return to their normal color, but inside apprehension fills him with doubt. No gestures...no visible components or incantations... Yet there was no mistaking the silvering of her eyes for anything less than the manifestation of...something. A sorcerer perhaps? Not that it mattered really.

Deliver your errand and be done with it.

"Well if you're pressed for time we could have a light brunch now," he motions for the innkeeper's dark haired son to come over. "Although you will have to pick the place." The adolescent boy comes meekly over, obviously uncomfortable and self conscious around the attractive adult women.

"Here lad," Isac says after a moment of fishing through his jacket pockets. He produces two shiny silver pieces and presses them into the boy's hand. The boy's eyes grow big as saucers as he stares at two months worth of wages. "Take my case and this," he holds up his mace, "to my room and leave the key with your father. Think you can handle that?"

The boy nods frantically.

"Good lad. Off you go now," he grins broadly and adds a playful tousling of the boy's hair. For a moment he watches the boy struggle with the heavy case, his youthful face taught with adult-like concentration. Out of the corner of his eye he can see the innkeeper quietly watching his son, his face bright with pride. A pang of jealousy hits the thin priest as he finds himself wondering if he would ever have a son - wondering if he would ever be able to have that look of glowing pride as his son grew into manhood.

Wondering if he should have charted a different course for his life.

Since he had returned from the goblin empire the idea had been growing with in him. Every couple he saw, every child that ran smiling into the open arms of their parent made him question his choice to remain a priest. He told himself that it was natural, that it would pass with time, but inside he knew the truth. He knew that he had begun to question this path long before he ever left for the Forbidden South, ever since...

Sshal' En Tuath

He quickly tries to push the place from his mind.

Deliver your errand...

Sheolign

..and be done with it.

Choking back the black bile rising within him he turns back to Juni and Shade, his warm smiling mask back in place. With a polite, courtier-like bow he offers his arm to Juni, "Shall we?"
  #85  
Unread 21st of October, 2007, 01:33
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There are those who have fortune smile upon them; charmed individuals who always seem to succeed against impossible odds. All the heroes of old are always said to be favored by luck—not to mention a god or two. As a boy, the legends he had heard from his father’s loremaster always played into this. Every time the hero, or heroine, was on his last legs, some turn of fortune would tilt in their favor and they would win the day. It happened so often that Cadrius wondered what the difference was between a hero and a lucky fool.

But Cadrius is not a hero, and he most certainly is not fortune’s favored son. Word of his former companion’s passing had been nonexistent within Tradeholm—at least to his inept efforts to find them, and he had not luckily stumbled across any evidence of their passing. While Cadrius is at home both in the practice yard and in court, he still has much to learn of life as a common man. Inquiring about an orc and a one-armed minstrel at best drew him confused looks. His attempts at bribery were clumsy and awkward and gave him nothing more than a lighter coin purse.

Looking at map had not helped much either. Spreading the vellum across a table, he had traced his finger along the small roads and trails winding away from the town. They would not have traveled back into the wild and toward the Citadel, but beyond that he had little insight. Shade had left his them and while he did not doubt Blarth’s ability to survive in the wild, he wondered if they might not stick a well-traveled road.

His thoughts had drifted back to the scarred woman, as they often did, and he wondered where she had disappeared to, and if she was even still alive. It was almost certain. Shade was a survivor, through and through, and even if it was only through sheer will alone, she would likely outlive every other member of their shattered fellowship.

Nicos and Blarth were an unlikely pair, but well-suited to each other. The orc was as strong as a bear and as fearsome as one in a fight. And while Cadrius found Nicos to be as tiring as he was useful, the fallen paladin had to admit that most would consider Nicos to bear a silver tongue. There were likely few situations where Blarth’s muscle or Nicos’ wiles would not see them through.

So why look for them? He asked himself one night while lying on the cot in the inn. He stared at the ceiling and wondered why he would put so much effort into trying to track them down. Shade was gone. Blarth and Nicos would be fine. Ben was a troubled soul, but should have little issue fending for himself. He was a free man now. Duty should not shackle him to these souls. He is not beholden to them, and there is still some work left undone.

He lay abed, thinking for several more hours. By dawn, he had left Tradeholm.

Last edited by Cadrius; 21st of October, 2007 at 03:59. Reason: My inner editor is never satisfied.
  #86  
Unread 28th of October, 2007, 04:57
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The ease with which Juni sidesteps her intended reprimand gives Shade a moment's pause. Was she that predictable? She thinks back over the time they have spent together and decides that she must make for a dour companion. Over protective, too, no doubt.

Her hard grey eyes do not leave the man, whose name she does not know. Juni had spilled there names and more in the scant moments that had passed. The girl did need looking after but perhaps Shade was being too pessimistic, looking for enemies in even a chance meeting such as this.

"I suppose we can," Shade grudgingly agrees, "if we aren't too long about it."
  #87  
Unread 28th of October, 2007, 15:37
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Juni 'turns off' her precog sense finally, perhaps belatedly. She hardly needs it to go out to lunch, and it is making her feel way too giddy. For a moment, her perception of things feels flat, and the world seems somewhat dull and lifeless. But the feeling passes quickly, and social interaction is suddenly much simpler.

"I know a good place for lunch," she tells the priest, allowing him to take her arm and lead her toward the door. "At least, I like it. The food is more home-like than at some places I've been to in Enderin. Of course, what's home-like for me, probably isn't for you." Juni can see that the man is new in town. But she can't tell by looking at him where he might be from.

"I don't think I've properly introduced myself," she continues. Of course, it would be even more proper if the man would introduce himself first, but so far he hasn't done so. "My name is Arjuna, and this is my companion, Shade." Juni looks at her friend with a smile, and for the first time really notices her wariness.

Not that she is surprised by it. It is Shade's way, after all, to be stone-faced and stand-offish. She never quite trusts anyone. Which, of course, is probably wise. But Juni has been a fugitive for only a short while. Caution and paranoia have not yet become as natural for her as breathing. And this is a priest of Pelor!

She gives Shade a reassuring look then sends her a quick, telepathic message: Come on, let's have fun! There's nothing to worry about...
  #88  
Unread 31st of October, 2007, 09:59
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"Forgive me, the name is Moore...Isac Moore," he gives an overly embelished bow. Righting himself, he offers an arm to Juni and procedes to escort her to dinner.
  #89  
Unread 4th of December, 2007, 13:17
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The first few days out of Tradeholm were liberating. His lungs appreciated the clean air and his throat the clear water found in the hills and streams outside of the settlement. Chill air fogged his breath at night when he slept beneath the branches of the pines and firs that lay within the vacant dells. The autumn nights being what they were, he kept the fire burning hot and slept as close to it as he dared. Mornings were crisp and a few deep breaths were as sure a way to wake him up as a bucket of water.

His conscience felt lighter too. The burden of responsibility was lifted from his shoulders and he found his mood elated. Walking the faint paths and game trails that cut back and forth through the landscape, he felt more cheer than he had in months. The work left undone would be grim, and blood would be shed before it was done, but he no longer needed to track the movements and safety of each of his companions. He did not have to concern himself with Nicos being killed for cuckolding some merchant or nobleman. He did not need to worry about the townsfolk’s reaction to Blarth’s skin. And he certainly didn’t need to worry about Shade and the fact that death seemed to follow her everywhere.

On the fourth day he found a fishing village. It rested on the banks of a broad river that Cadrius didn’t recognize. The water was quick and cool and as Cadrius walked along the stony shore he could see the trout and other fish swimming within its deep currents. A small dock jutted out into the water and the current splashed against the wooden beams.

He had hoped to barter, or outright buy, some provisions to replenish what he carried in his satchel. But as Cadrius drew near, he did not see any smoke billowing out from the chimneys. His pace slowed and the old wariness that had been banished amidst his solitude in the wilderness returned. Without thinking, the bastard sword was in his hand and the shield strapped onto his arm.

Advancing further into the village showed no signs of struggle or conquest. Nothing was burned and there were no signs of blood or struggle. Clothes hung on lines and fishing nets were laid out. The sense of disquiet grew. Cadrius avoided the center, unwilling to stray too far into a trap. Instead he nudged open an already loose door on one of the small thatch roofed houses on the outskirts of the village.

The light from the doorway threw back the shadows and displayed the wooden floor. It was hardly more than a shack, containing no more than two or three rooms that he could see. A small hearth lay opposite the door and a black kettle hung over the remnants of a fire burned out. Cadrius did not call out. He advanced across the floor, his boots thudding against the wooden floor. Moving to the hearth he grabbed the piece of metal that the inhabitant used as a poker. Cadrius brushed the top most layer of ash and soot from the fireplace and revealed some very faint, but still glowing, coals.

He felt his hackles rise and heartbeat quicken. Looking over to the remaining door, he swallowed his doubt, and advanced. The metal latch creaked as it popped up and the door swung open slowly.

The room was dark and Cadrius waited a moment for his eyes to adjust to the thick shadows draping everything within. The single curtain was drawn across the small window. A bed was in the center and two forms lay beneath thick blankets. They were still and there was no rise and fall of chests. Cadrius swallowed and stepped forward. Taking the tip of his sword, he speared the corner of a blanket and cast it off the bed with a flick of his arm.

A man and a woman lied beneath in an embrace. Cadrius sighed. He pulled off a gauntlet and put a hand to the man’s forehead, but flinched back at the touch. Their skin was tepid. They had died recently.

All manner of possibilities swirled within his mind. In his journeys he had seen all manner of deaths. It seemed there were as many ways to have one’s life ended as there were ways to live it. Yet it wasn’t the threat of the supernatural or arcane that worried him. It was the fear of disease. He no longer possessed the divine protection borne by the Order. Disease could fell him as easily as an arrow or sword. Worse yet, he would die alone in the wilderness and never know what had happened.

Cadrius fled from the home and did not stop running until the hamlet was far in the distance.
  #90  
Unread 24th of December, 2007, 05:26
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Isac idly paddles his lamb stew with a wooden spoon as Arjuna regales the two of them with another story of mercantile intrigue. It is the fourth such story, but the priest is thankful for the distraction. He had run out of small talk almost immediately, and Shade...well Shade seemed content to sip tea and bore her gray eyes into his head. He could tell that she knew there was something more to this meeting than good manners, not that he was a particularly good actor.

At least the beer is good.

"...so the spice trader walks in on his wife and the camel merchant and says 'Keep her, the camel is better looking!'" Arjuna can barely get the punch line out before she breaks into another fit of infectious laughter. Isac can't help but to chuckle. It seems that he is not the only one who is enjoying the beer.

Shade quietly takes another sip of her tea.

"I'll get us another round," Juni says at length. Grabbing Isac's nearly empty mug she saunters over to the bar, leaving the table in a heavy silence.

The corner shadows cling thickly to the slight woman sitting across from him, only the paleness of her eyes seem unaffected. Like twin chips of polished flint, they peer impassively over her cup, waiting. Isac nervously clears his throat, suddenly aware that he can only see one of her hands.

"Well..." he begins hesitantly, "you undoubtedly have already guessed that our meeting in the inn was not entirely coincidental." He meets her gaze for just a moment. Nothing. No trace of surprise, anger, resignation touch her porcelain features.

Yeah...awkward... In retrospect, getting drunk before meeting an assassin might not have been the wisest choice.

"Right...I've been sent to give you something," his hand darts toward the inner pocket of his leather jacket then stops. The woman across from him didn't even move, but Isac can feel tension bloom between them, like the silence before a peal of thunder. Moving with deliberate slowness, he pulls out a sealed envelope and sets it carefully on the table in front of her. Settling back into his chair, he goes back to stirring his stew.
  #91  
Unread 9th of January, 2008, 07:26
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Shade stares at the innocent object on the table between them as though it were an adder poised to strike. She makes no move for it, steel grey eyes sliding slowly upward to Isac's face. The man didn't look at her but she can feel the electric thrum of expectation - a boulder poised at the tipping point, an avalanche waiting to be unleashed. Beneath the table, her left hand carefully and silently draws her dagger as her eyes flick across the rest of the room.

She does not know him, of that she is certain. Her scan of the room likewise comes up empty, yet these two things serve to heighten her unease rather than settle it. Between them, the crisp outlines of the envelope mark a boundary. If she crosses there is no going back.

She could - should - get up and walk away, leave this town and this man and run. Because whatever it is can only be bad, can only serve to once more mire her in events that were beyond her control.

Shade has never been known for her prudence.

The blade of her dagger glints in the smoky torchlight as she raises it. Isac seems not to notice. Shade reaches out slowly and retrieves the envelope, the razor edge of her blade effortlessly slicing through the heavy parchment. Her flinty gaze never leaves Isac; Isac's gaze never leaves his soup. She unfolds it slowly, dagger still gripped easily in her left hand. The script clean and elegant, written in a strong, bold hand. She reads, color draining from her face as her mind processes the words. Understanding and confusion come to her together. Isac's dead gaze finally lifts, to meet her own without wavering.

Silence hangs between them - a dike holding back the flood. The colorless world around her suddenly seems menacing, bathed in the light of her new knowledge. Her gut twists.

"Who are you?"
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Unread 24th of January, 2008, 02:06
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Isac's brow furrows slightly in confusion.

"Isac Moore," he says slowly. "Or if you prefer more formality, Brother Moore, Luminary Adept of the Sanctified Church of Pelor."

"Well, brother, you have made a mistake. This isn't for me."

"Are you sure?" he says slowly, as he removes the sketch of Shade from his jacket and hands it to her. "I was given this by the Archbishop Orphrease himself."

She had hoped, of course, that he really was wrong. After all, she hadn't done the things they claimed in that letter. If fact, she didn't know what the hell half of it meant. But she knew how these things worked, and she also knew that there weren't very many women running around with the kind of damnably identifying scar she had.

"Yes, I suppose you were."

She doesn't take the picture from him and after a moment Isac shrugs and places it on the table before her. Now what? She couldn't kill him here, which is probably why he'd wanted so badly to meet them for dinner in a public place. There was no guarantee she could kill him in any case - she doubted an Archbishop would leave this task in the hands of an incompetent.

"And I suppose that my denials mean nothing to you, though I tell you plainly: I did not do this thing."

A long pause while they stare at each other, unblinking, Shade's mind working rapidly while they sit. She would need to get away from him somehow, without endangering Arjuna.

"So now what?" she asked carefully, aware of how volatile the situation was.

A cold apprehension began to fill Isac as he tried to read her body language. Either she's a really skilled actress, or she really didn't do whatever the letter says she did. Either way he is being pulled into the center of something unpleasant. He stares into her unflinching eyes, like the sea rolling against stone. In the back of his mind he knew the truth of it.

He is being used.

He is being used and the only way out would be to leave, to walk out and return home. Or better yet find some small fishing village along the sea. Start a parish, maybe even marry and have children and forget he ever was a priest. Leaving, that would be the smart thing to do.

"May I see the letter?" he says at length.

Shade's eyes stay hard and focused on Isac, but his gaze is unwavering. With a frown, she slowly slides the letter across the table. She isn't sure of his purpose - after all, he was just a messenger. It wasn't for him to determine right and wrong, only to follow orders and bring her in. She watches carefully as he reads but his face is blank.

"I don't know where it is, or even what it is," she says flatly, "and I'm certainly not the victim of some bizarre curse."

At that statement, the dark seems to press closer on her colorless vision, highlighting her own mysterious ailment for her. Up until now she had dismissed it as a product of her battle Skathros' otherworldly servants. Shade really had no recollection of stealing what this Church clearly thought she had, but the description of the curse had wakened fears that perhaps her bizarre maladies were not dismissed so simply. It was not unheard of for the guild to use magical techniques to remove memories from agents in the case of extremely secretive missions, and something that went this high up would doubtless be considered as such. She presses her lips together against a sudden uncomfortable spasm.

Isac scans the document, his fears becoming manifest with each line of neat script.

Across from him, Shade stiffens as pain suddenly shoots down her arm. As casually as she can, she glances beneath the table to her hip where her left hand had been loosely gripping her still sheathed dagger. Those fingers are stiff now, frozen to the hilt and straining almost to the point of cracking. They looked old, withered almost, the skin like parchment. As she watches in horror, veined black lines crawl from the hem of her sleeve and trace necrotic rivulets down the back of her hand and across her bony fingers, skin cracking like ancient leather. A rattling hiss escapes her lips as she lurchingly stands, gripping the back of the bench with her good right hand, eyes turned inward against the pain, a sheen of sweat masking her face.

(by J & Gral)
  #93  
Unread 25th of January, 2008, 07:40
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Juni seldom drinks beer. But Isac had ordered a round to go with the stew, and she discovered that that she liked the way this particular brew tasted. It wasn't until she stood up to walk to the bar that she realized it had gone to her head.

Leaning on the counter, she waits her turn for refills. It's a busy place, probably because the food is excellent without being overpriced, and it has a good location. An early lunch crowd, mainly artisans and merchants, has nearly every table filled. Other patrons stand at the bar alongside Juni, also waiting their turn.

"Having a nice lunch?" the man standing next to her asks pleasantly.

"Yes, very nice," Juni replies, happy to chit chat. "The stew is delicious!"

"Best in town," the man agrees. "So is the beer." He smiles and leans an elbow on the bar.

"Is it? I don't know much about beer, I'm afraid." Juni notices, as if for the first time, the three empty mugs she holds in her hands. "Oh, these aren't all mine!" she explains with a laugh.

Of course not, who would think that?

"I'm having lunch with friends!"

I'm sure he figured that out by himself.

The man smiles and nods. Juni looks quickly away.

That little voice in her head didn't quite seem to come from herself! It felt familiar, like it was almost her own thought. But the tone was a little bit off. Not her tone. Not her thought.

Hello? she thinks, feeling a bit odd about the whole thing.

Nothing.

Maybe it's the beer...

Probably not. And we should be focusing on things back at the table.


Juni's eyes widen as the second thought - where did it come from? - intrudes on the first.

We???

Yes, 'we'. Look!


Juni does look then. Back at the table, Shade is staggering to her feet, her face a mask of pain and shock. Juni drops the mugs on the counter, heedless of how they fall, and rushes back to Shade's side.

"Shade! What is it? What's wrong?" Then she turns on Isac with something like a snarl. "What have you done to her?"
  #94  
Unread 27th of January, 2008, 01:15
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"So then she said 'How in heavens did that get there?'"
"No way it that a true story!"

Striding into the Inn mid-laugh, Lynn on his arm with the tail end of a story hanging in the air, Nicos glanced around the room out of habit, quickly taking mental stock of people present. Spotting Shade standing at a table with someone he doesn't recognise and Juni rushing back to it from the bar, his smile widens.

"Shade, Juni how are-" he began before the full reality of the situation sunk in. The look of pain and confusion on Shade's visage, anger decorating Juni's face. Something was wrong. Disengaging his arm, the bard moved through the crowd to his companions. "What's happened?"
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  #95  
Unread 27th of January, 2008, 02:35
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“…bring us the scroll, and in exchange we will give you the reliquary, unless of course you prefer to spend the rest of your days as a walking corpse. You have, at most, a month before the curse claims you. Talk to the gravedigger at the Chapel of Eternal Light in Phror Khiliades to…”

Shade’s panicked scream breaks Isac’s concentration. Looking up he sees the rogue stagger backwards, her eyes wide and staring at the blackening flesh of her hand. Without thinking he snatches her arm from the air and draws it close. The rotting stink of necromantic magics fills his nose as he watches the lines of corrupting power wither her skin. His hand tightens vise like around her forearm as he wrenches his holy symbol free from his jacket.

Pelor is the Light and the Way

Piety fills his mind and heart, and he can feel the holy conduit opening. Like a bolt of lightning divine light surges through his flesh, turning it translucent. Time seems to stand still as he channels the heatless flame through his body and into Shade, willing it to burn the foulness that was burrowing towards her heart.

It resisted.

Like water breaking upon black rock, the healing power of Pelor crashes against the twisting curse to no avail.

“Shade! What is it? What's wrong?” the voice sounds distant and incoherent. "What have you done to her?" The thin priest is vaguely aware of hands grabbing him, trying to pull him away but he ignores them. There is more at stake now than just Shade. Beneath his hand the Pelorian can feel the black tendrils of ancient power working their way into him.

I am a servant of the Light. My body but a lantern for His Glory…

Burak furthrad gûlrhed. Burak furthrad gûlrhed, djrani gûlrhed . The Goblin words burn through his brain, as the curse touches his skin.

I see you.

Isac pours every ounce of his soul into pushing the darkness back, his features growing indistinct as he fills with the Light of Pelor.

I see you…

With a deep grunt he pushes the darkness back. Opening a weary eye he smiles as Shade’s necrotic flesh pinkens once again. He releases his grip and is immediately hauled back and restrained. He doesn’t resist.

…and I am coming.

Last edited by -J-; 27th of January, 2008 at 06:34.
  #96  
Unread 27th of January, 2008, 20:31
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A black hand grasped in one of silver, a flash of light and it was over, leaving Nicos confused as to what had actually happened. Behind him he could hear Lynn curse in an unknown language while the phrase 'Did you see that?' started to be murmured in the people around them. Enderin was a long way from being a border city, but bigotry arose where it would and there were few places he knew of that weren't suspicious of strange magics. If there was to be violence it would take a few moments more for it to erupt, as the more alert patrons convinced their inebriated companions what had happened. If they acted quickly however, those few moments would be all they needed.

"Lynn," he hissed at the woman over his shoulder. "Get us a room at the Green Mary, first floor."

"Over the bakery?" She mouthed as she started to move to the door. "Got it."

Turning back to the table, Nicos took in Shade's pain, Arjuna's anger and traces of fatigue on the stranger while the noise around them grew.

"Juni, not now. Not here," he said in an urgent low voice. "Get Shade outside, head to the Green Mary." Turning to the stranger, he indicated the door with a short nod. "You too neighbour."

If he knew how to read a crowd - and he did - things were almost to the tipping point. Either those who had seen the flash of magic would convince their friends to cause them trouble, or be convinced that they were seeing things.
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  #97  
Unread 29th of January, 2008, 08:04
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Shade shakes her head at Arjuna, cradling the hand Isac had cured with her right. Her head was still ringing with the double assault of corruption and raw, pristine power. One small human was insignificant in the face of those two monoliths.

"Nothing. He didn't do anything. I'm okay."

The concern doesn't leave Juni's face but she is focused on Shade now rather than the priest. She grimaces at the attention drawn to them, already worrying about the stories that would be told and the ears that might hear them. Nicos was right, and Shade is more than happy to follow his orders and let him deal with the mess.

"Let's go."

She leans on Juni as she turns for the door, trying to squeeze the spots from her vision as she fights off a wave of dizziness. Her skin prickles with sudden chill, her sweat slicked skin cooling too rapidly and leaving her shaking with cold and fatigue.

"Let's go," she repeats weakly, needlessly.
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Unread 30th of January, 2008, 12:31
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Isac flashes a nod to the one armed stranger as he and the rest of Shade’s companions begin to work their way out of the inn. Smiling through the residual pain in his hand he addresses the crowd.

“My apologies, good people. My companion and I have been drinking far too much and I fear we had a slight accident with our table candle. But don’t worry, as an ordained priest of Pelor I was able to heal her burn,” he turns slightly, making sure that all can see the large holy symbol hanging from his neck. “Please, allow me to make amends for ruining your fine food and even finer ale. Barkeep!” he says with a smile as he drops a handful of coins into the hand of a nearby serving girl. “A round on me!”

He spends the better part of an hour thanking patrons for their concern and apologizing profusely for interrupting their meals. He plies the crowd with ale, food and warm effusive small talk. He even heals an old man’s arthritic knee and the barkeep’s wife’s sciatica. He moves amongst the patrons with a practiced ease, smiling through their stories, and laughing at their pastoral humor. But behind that warm smile his heart was cold with fear as the goblin words bore ever deeper into his brain.

I see you…and I am coming.
  #99  
Unread 6th of February, 2008, 03:28
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Shade does not recall much about the trek to the Green Mary other than it seemed to take forever. In fact, she wasn't quite sure how Arjuna had even found the place. Shade had certainly never heard of it.

She stares with flat grey eyes at the staircase leading upward to the room Juni had just acquired, her face a paler shade of that same color. The trembling had stopped but she still felt weak and disoriented. Thought of the curse sets her teeth on edge and she can almost feel the corrupting influence within.

Don't think about it.

She shakes off the hand Juni lays on her arm, disgusted with herself for allowing that weakness to show. Squaring her shoulders and mastering her emotion, Shade grimly ascends the stair to their room.
  #100  
Unread 8th of February, 2008, 05:50
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Once inside the room, Juni closes the door and leans her back against it with a sigh. She is physically and emotionally drained.

How did things go so wrong so fast? They were just having a pleasant little lunch with a chance-met, traveling priest. In spite of Shade's usual reluctance to participate in conversation, Juni had been having a good time.

She locks the door behind her and turns to Lynn. "Thank you so much for running ahead to get the room." She remembers that she hadn't even said a word to Nicos before hastening to lead Shade out of the worsening situation at the tavern. She wonders how he and Isac were faring with the crowd.

But she is more worried about Shade than anything else.

"How is your hand?" she asks quietly as she joins the other woman near the window. Without waiting for an answer she takes Shade's hand in her own and begins to examine it. It looks fine, although it feels unnaturally cold. Like the hand of a corpse.

"It wasn't something that the priest did?" she asks after a moment.

No, of course not. The priest healed it afterward. Didn't you see the bright light when he touched her?

Yes, I saw.


Oddly enough, she is starting to get used to the voice in her head. It had been quite helpful on the way here, reminding her to take the back way and drawing her attention to Lynn where she waited in the common room.

But the priest set it off somehow, even if it wasn't intentional.

Juni clasps her friend's hand in her own, warming it as best she can. "Shade, what happened?"
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