RPG#20 - The Narrow Path Through Darkness.

Discussion in 'RPG#20 - The Narrow Path Through Darkness.' started by Crusader, Apr 7, 2009.

  1. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    The shadows of the early evening had grown long and languid; stretching out from the trees and rocks of the western tracts so their length was too great to measure. Everything around them from the trees and grass up to the wisps of cloud in the open sky were tinged with a golden incandescence of the late summer’s day.

    Joram could not make himself admire the countryside, his eyes were fixed on the near distance, scanning each rock and tree for attackers looming beyond sight. Real or imaginary; for him there was no difference, they were everywhere and ready to strike. He let his focus slip for a moment to listen in on the conversation behind him.

    “Two dozen barrels of lantern oil seems a bit much to me.”

    The melodious voice that followed the first was full sycophancy “The keep had just received the shipment prior to out arrival my liege, the surplus is destined for the southern garrisons at next moon. Along with several other of the items in the manifest.” Arcan’s voice bothered Joram to no end, it was a constant struggle to avoid striking the man in anger, making his duties ever harder.

    “And how many men are posted to the south?” The king seemed to retain his patience with Arcan, no doubt inoculated by the man’s usefulness.

    “As yet just over fifteen thousand, with another five to follow from the outlands. They should be up to standards by the fourth of next month ready for any eventuality.” Joram did not know what it was, the man spoke well and with a voice deserving of a court bard, it just irked his wits.

    “This won’t affect the flow of recruits to the navy? Keeping the border intact is nothing if we can’t hold onto the Pinch.”

    “Of course my liege, we will be in Tarkan within the hour with the full inspection to take place in the morning, the fleet is at full strength as you will see, with more ships being built every day at the Morralla harbour.”

    The conversation trailed off as Joram put his focus back onto the countryside, trying to ignore Arcan for as long as possible. Evening had set in at last and the golden glow had made way for the deep purple twilight as the last light of the day slipped across the fringes of the horizon. It was far too late to be out this close to the border with the king in tow. Arcan had insisted they would make it to their destination before sunset and there were too few of them to keep things safe in the dark.

    Lighting torches would keep the way clear but their night sight would suffer, it was a necessary risk against losing track of all the members of the procession and one Joram took with a stern order.

    The darkness had soured the moods of all present and for a while the group passed through the night in silence, the nearby trees looming like fierce beasts in the flickering light of the torches. Joram kept his guard up, so focused on the road ahead he didn’t notice the horse come up behind him bearing the King.

    “Not long left sire, half a league maybe before we hit the ridge.”

    “Good, good…” The king mumbled obviously uninterested by their speed. “Did you see to the task I gave you.” The king looked back at that moment, his attempt at nonchalance hidden in the dark from the other riders, it was clear he was uneasy, but not about the dark woods about them.

    “Prestyn rode out this morning heading north, he should have caught a ship across by now.”

    “This Prestyn, he can be trusted? Absolutely?”

    “Without a doubt sire. He’s been with the Royal Guard since he was fifteen without a blemish on his record.” The king nodded solemnly, his mind obviously elsewhere.

    Joram turned his gaze back to the path ahead; too late.

    A quarrel took him in the midriff, fired from somewhere out ahead. As he doubled over with the force of it he could hear more cut through the air and the cried of men and horses from behind.

    He lifted his head to cough out an order and saw figured dressed in black slipping out as if from the night air itself. Too many to count.

    With a last desperate effort he ripped the sword from his side and wheeled his mount round in search of the King, a frantic gaze only found an empty saddle. As Joram looked once more something pieced his side and shot up into his chest, and darkness followed quick on its heels.


    Wydin Market Plaza was seething with people, from one end to the other, the whole centre of the city full. There was scarcely an hour of the day when it wasn’t full but this was something different. In places some people stood in the fountains bordering on forums and the low recesses where vendors usually hawked their wares were packed more than ever.

    At the southern end near the walls of the Palaces, Tregan sat comfortably on the balconies of the Sable Maiden, the exclusivity of the establishment giving them some respite from the clamour below and a full view of the currently empty stone benches. The seats on the balcony were all full and conversation was staggered by awaited expectations, minds abuzz with the rumours of the last week and the mood that had been growing, or perhaps festering, over the last months.

    Hokellai made an attempt at starting conversations, obviously on edge about the coming events. “I still think it’s a Tanithan trick, all to convenient at the border like that.”

    Tregan nodded absently, he considered for a moment rebuking the statement, but was put off by the wave of silence that passed through the crowd, then he saw it himself.

    High above on the grand walls of the Rekethali Palaces, the gilded portcullis was slowly rising and six figures in silken hooded robes descended the stairs onto the stout balcony set in fortress-like walls. With no crenulations or walls blocking view of the figures, the entire plaza stood with their eyes fixed on the figures.

    The six lined up at the edge of the balcony and five sat down upon the row of stone benches, the only thing besides themselves on the balcony. The last one to remain standing slipped off his hood.

    “On this is the fifth day of Arrosol, The high council grants audience to its people and all those within the walls of this fair city, as it was in the days since Jatear and will be as long as these walls stand.” His voice loud and booming, Tregan had no problem hearing him as close as he was, the silence of the plaza carrying his words further into the city.

    The only motion upon the plaza was the rows of guard clearing the crowds back from stone blocks at the foot of the wall, where the public could stand before the council and have their questions answered in truth.

    Although that was what it said in the Jatear’s scrolls, precedence always left the questions with appointed representatives of the people, who lined up behind the wall of soldiers holding the crowd back.

    Attalay, Chief of the council sat down after making the proclamation, lifting his hood once more. There were a few moments of silence before the first of the representatives took to the block, climbing the narrow stairs to stand a good ten feet above anyone else in the plaza including Tregan. He could see it was Ruphos, guildmaster of the masons, a notoriously stubborn man, akin to his profession.

    “The People Speak. Noble council members, for three months now my guild has been promised tax exemption on all contracts from the public treasuries yet we have still been charged for quarry shipments destined for the new viaduct.” Ruphos was a loud and booming man, but even his voice was overturned by the rising boos from the crowd, some people were throwing fruit at him, and despite their efforts, the crown was too big for the soldiers to do more than watch. Ruphos grew red and after a moment acquiesced, leaving the block. The people here today had come for one reason alone; to hear the council’s public declaration on the disappearance of King Reden of Tanith and they would accept no delay.

    At last the next representative ascended to the block. It was Lymia, the spokesperson for the noble districts of the city, her slow walk up the stairs as graceful and proud as a goddess’. It was no surprise her support from the people at large had been growing every day. At last she crested the block to speak, her words as loud as they were honeyed.

    “The People Speak. Rumour in the city has been at war with sense for the last week since first word came across the narrow sea of King Reden VII disappearance. Men driven to violence in arguments over causes, good people fled in fear of imminent war. High Council, let your voiced calm the hearts of Rekethal and tell us the fate of Tanith’s King if it is known.”

    Hushed silence followed before Attalay stood up again, removing his hood to speak after what seemed aeons.

    “The Council Listens. When word of this tragedy reached our ears, envoys were sent at once to Tanith to offer aid in searching for Reden. Though we could not allow their soldiers to cross our borders in search of him, all assurances were given to assuage their fears. Your council has sent the fifth legion across the Narrow Sea to aid in this matter.”

    Just ad Lymia was about to reply a cry went up near the front of the crowd, a man in red was shouting out at those around him. “They didn’t deny it! Not a single denial, just crafted words to fool you, THEY did it, THEY DID IT!” Before even the soldiers reached him, the crowd had descended on the man and fighting broke out below the Block, the crowds so dense Tregan could see the heaving ripple through to the other side of the plaza.

    Just as things were escalating Tregan caught sight of a man in blue uniform pushing through the crowd towards the front, where there was space people parted before him giving him room and at last Tregan saw why. The blue was the deep dark hue of Tanithan military.

    Where fighting went on it did not subside but the peaceful members of the public turned their eyes to the front when the Tanithan soldier had reached the line of Rekethali troops guarding the Palace before the Block.

    Tregan could see better now the man was apart from the crowd, the soldier seemed somewhat dishevelled from travel, a sported at least one wound. Though he could not hear what was being said it was clear he was arguing with the guards, at last beginning to shout loud enough to be heard.

    “Damn you, I have the right to stand before the council, it’s in your blasted scrolls, let me by!” The yells carried and soon the brawling down the line erupted again at the sign of the Tanithan, soon it was full scale rioting. Above Attalay shouted to let the soldier through but by then it was too late.

    The crowd had exploded under the pressure of day, too many people on edge set alight by fear and hatred. The soldiers finally broke and fled back to the Palace gates, the angry mob breaking through.

    Tregan could not see what had happened to the Tanithan soldier, lost somewhere in the crowd, he hoped the man hadn’t been ripped apart by the crowd, after the King’s disappearance that could be the final straw before outright war began.

    The high council all stood now, gawping at the riots below, far above harm they looked to another before returning behind the portcullis. Tregan looked back at the rioting throng below. Perhaps he was wrong, perhaps outright war had already begun.


    “This is a disaster.” Attalay rubbed his head with one hand, massaging his forehead in an attempt to calm himself.

    “More like a farce. The mob was ready to explode and that bitch Lymia threw in the torch.” For a member of the council, Fustis was rather uncouth yet his experience governing the northern provinces had proven invaluable when he was brought into the city last year. As crude as his words were, they were also right. “The way she swaggered up so calmly and down again even as the rioting started, fork-tongued whore.”

    “That is no way to speak of the Lady of Rekethal.” Demmna was more polite, but her protestations were half hearted, and the emphasis on the title showed her disdain.

    “Pah, Lady of my arse more like. No land to her name so she takes on the country as her estate? How noble of her. After the damn rioting and this dark business with Tanith there may not be any of it left for her to take.”

    Attalay coughed. “As much as I enjoy listening to you two babble on about Lymia like tavern-maids, perhaps we should be discussing said dark business as is the purpose of this meeting?”

    Demmna frowned, looking at the door. “What about Vandin, Erco and Mushen?”

    “They won’t be joining us. Vandin has taken ill after today’s mess, Mushen has gone back to tend to his soldiers across the sea and Erco. Well, Erco was never one for the more sensitive matters and there are none more sensitive that this.”

    “The Kidnapping” Fustis nodded, staring into the middle distance unfocused.

    “Indeed, the border was bad enough before this, and then Reden goes missing two leagues from Torsun! The Tanithan army will lose their patience soon enough and come looking for him and nothing we can do will stop them starting this damnable war again.” Fifty years of his life spent working to make Rekethal a prospering nation, and after the last war Attalay was determined not to see another before he died.

    “Perhaps Mushen’s absence is fortuitous, that man is practically begging for a war.” Demmna; none were more practiced at stating the obvious.

    Snapping back Fustis spoke again. “For all we know the cur was the one who took Reden, I wouldn’t put it past him. In fact I’d put money on it”

    Attalay nodded at the sentiment, Mushen was capable of it, but he didn’t know whether the man would actually go through with it. “Be that as it may we are in a difficult situation to say the least. Tanith will be after war by next moon if Reden doesn’t appear and we have no way of knowing if they’re behind it themselves or not.”

    “Reden is a fair man” Fustis objected.

    “Of course, but he has many more Generals than we do, and some that would make Mushen seem a pacifist.”

    Demmna finally added her comments. “But what can we do? If we send soldiers to scour the border regions, Tanith will see it as mustering troops for invasion.”

    “True, discretion is required and for all we know Reden could be half the world away from the border by now, into Tanith or anywhere. The Legions wouldn’t have the speed or the freedom to find him.”

    Fustis was thinking again, and after nodding to himself he spoke once more. “What we need is a search party from outside the army and even outside Rekethal if we can risk it. So failure can never lie with us if Tanith takes them. It’s the only action we can take that won’t risk further exacerbation of this mess and perhaps the only one that can put a stop to this situation.”

    Surprisingly concise and polite, Fustis’ plan was as good a one as they could afford, and without other options it would have to be done. “Do it, get word out into the city markets of a job going, there should be plenty of travellers and foreigners ready for the work. We can set up a meeting in your warehouses by the docks and hire this search party of yours. Make sure not to tie it to the council.”

    Fustis nodded. “Still, it’s a daunting task for simple townsfolk and the like; we may need to give them more assistance than that if they’re to have any chance at all.”

    “What about the Tanithan?” Of course, Demmna wasn’t always obtuse.

    “He’s still unconscious from the beating the mob gave him. We won’t know what he came for till he wakes up, if he ever does.”

    “I have a feeling he may have something to do with this, he had no messages with him?” Attalay was almost more worried about this than the rioting, a lone Tanithan soldier coming to Forum Day.

    “None down on paper, if he did it was likely too sensitive to write down, the only word he got out before he passed out were ‘Sergeant Prestyn’ which is either his name or someone he was looking for.”

    Attalay mulled it over with a frown. “When you have the candidates Fustis, if they’re reliable enough bring them into the palace to see the Tanithan, if he’s woken. Demmna, find whatever healers you can, hire a damn guildwitch if you must. Just get the man awake.”

    The two of them left him then and Attalay slumped back down into his chair, looking across his desk at the open door of his offices. He would not allow another war, not after the rebuilding it had taken over the last ten years. Not after countless nights of bureaucracy and negotiations keeping the people fed and the bordering nations appeased. He would not stand for it.
     
  2. Rob Darken

    Rob Darken New Member

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    The heavy oaken door to the Tavern crashed open with a resounding bang, jerking the heads of even the most intoxicated of the afternoon’s patrons to the waning light filtering in.
    Looking up from polishing the mug he had been holding for the past half hour, Piers feigned disinterest and studied the men cluttering up his doorway.
    A thickset bearded man, face flushed with drink held the door arm with one arm, drunkenly beckoning to his comrades outside with his other arm.
    “Come on you whoresons, let’s be having us another round to celebrate”
    A muted chorus of agreement mixed with jeers echoed past his large frame into the common room.
    Piers slowly put his mug down on the counter and made eye contact with the large, hulking figure in the shadows behind the door.
    Korkan, the one armed former soldier turned security, nodded and began to lift his hulking frame from his chair in case he was needed.

    The drunken men filed in toward the counter, increasing the volume of the room from quiet chatter and snores to a cacophony of boasts, calls for drink and sexual innuendo.
    Piers sighed inwardly and peered into the faces flushed with drink coming towards him.
    Moving slightly to his left to the tap he had connected to his watered down ale for such situations, he looked into the face of the first man to the bar and spoke.
    “So lads, what will it be then? Pints all round?”
    The red faced man in front of him nodded wildly. As he licked his lips, a violent elbow pushed him out of the way and the thickset bearded man who held the door muscled his way in.
    “No Elfred…not tonight. No cheap watered down hen’s piss for us! Today we celebrate!”
    He glared at Piers with dangerous glazed over drunken eyes.
    “Top shelf Barkeep…and I’m paying!”
    With that he slapped a pouch of coins on the table, and by the clatter they made; Piers could tell they were not copper.

    Piers held the stare of the drunken fat oaf in front of him for a couple of seconds before lowering his eyes, as was expected. Stupid fat f*ck he thought to himself, in another life I would have cut you down where you stood.
    The man grinned at the perceived submission and pointed at the stone flagon of brandy.
    “Line ‘em up…and keep em coming, if you know what I mean.” He said, touching his nose knowingly.
    He picked up his pouch and jangled the coins inside, turning back to his companions and smirking.
    Piers stared hard at the man and grinned in acquiescence.
    “Of course!” he proclaimed, magnanimously. “On such a day of triumph only the best will do for the greatest traders and benefactors of our town.”
    Piers swallowed the bile he felt in his throat from such a statement and quickly poured a round for the hierarchy of the local traders.
    The men turned away as soon as the drinks were served and continued their various discussions. Piers noted Korkan still standing and with a sly wave, sent him back to his chair behind the door.
    Piers picked up his mug again and began to polish as he strained to hear the traders conversations.
    The two nearest him seemed to be discussing warehousing and transport, and the availability of cheap and plentiful fodder. Their discussion clearly meant only one thing to Piers, that men and horses would possibly be moving through the area soon, and in great numbers. Only one thing was big enough to excite the traders so…The Tanith army.
    Shocked, Piers almost dropped the mug he was feverishly polishing.
    What had occurred to cause the Tanith to march to war again?

    Piers rapid succession of thoughts was interrupted by the thickset bearded man, pushing his way to the counter again.
    Piers looked into the mans glassy eyes and thought of what he had heard of the man.
    Known in the town as Linus Oberon, he was one of the most affluent businessmen and head of the Traders Guild. However, if one believed local gossip the man was known to be involved in several somewhat shady if not illegal activities to supplement his coffers. Rumour of prostitution and worse were rife amongst those who were in their cups too much, however it was always said guardedly, as if the spreading of such stories could result in an “accident” or worse.
    Oberon motioned to Piers to come closer.
    As Piers leant forward, the mans odour of sweat, alcohol, and the rank cured meats that were sold aplenty in the market wafted over him. There was however a slight underlying fragrance of something floral, perhaps with a hint of rosewater.
    Piers keen nose sniffed deep to decipher this mysteriously pleasant scent emanating from such an odious man. Then it dawned upon him, Oberon was wearing perfume.
    Oberon broke through his thoughts again, by roughing pushing his mug across the bar and speaking in a voice low enough for the others not to hear.
    “You know, Piers old friend…there are times ahead when a smart man, with a bit of help, could turn a pretty penny”.
    He leaned back, smiling, before continuing.
    “Soon this city will be over run with men…men with needs that a few tankards of your ale will merely enflame.
    Now with my help and resources, we could cater to those needs and both prosper”.
    He left his offer hanging in the air as Piers refilled his cup. Then spoke again as he picked up his mug and headed back to the main group.
    “Think carefully my boy, opportunities like this are rare and come but once a lifetime. And I am sure it will be mutually satisfying to both of us”.
    With a sly wink, he left with only the slight wafting scent of his perfume lingering in the air.
    The heady scent had Piers mind working overtime, running through all the knowledge he knew of the man, evaluating his situation.
    He knew the man was not married, and childless, despite many fine offers from the cities noble houses. Most though that he was merely playing the field.
    Piers smiled inwardly to himself, the man was clearly not interested in women, which had often proved in the past to be a vulnerable, and definitely malleable trait in men, especially in such a straight-laced society as in this city.

    A sudden flurry of wind accompanying the opening of the Tavern door jerked Piers attention back to reality.
    A tall, slim blonde youth stood in the doorway glancing around the room. His eyes flickered on everyone on the room, briefly resting on Piers, and narrowing for an instant before moving on to rest on Oberon and the rest of the traders. Despite the casual aloofness of the youth and his more than fair effort at disguising his naturally reddish brown hair, Piers knew him. As one of the last of the chia’la’an, he was hard to miss. Despite all his efforts at subterfuge, his outwardly disdain for everyone else not of his kind was obvious to those not intoxicated enough.
    From the corner of Piers vision, he noticed a middle sized fellow with a scruff of brown hair hidden under a tri corner hat watching with intent. The man’s mouth, though partially obscured by his goatee was turned in a sneer of what he had witnessed here this afternoon.
    The youth moved with a casual saunter down to where the traders were gathered, and stood near Oberon.
    The sounds of the conversation drifted over to Piers and he listened intently.

    * * *

    The faint sickly light of the dying afternoon light barely penetrated the dense gloom of the alleyway that ran down the side of the tavern.
    A figure leaned against the buildings brickwork feverishly puffing on a pipe oblivious to the soft tendrils of mist swirling around his worn boots.
    At the sound of well cobbled boots marching in unison, the figure stiffened and melted into the shadow, cupping his glowing pipe bowl as the town watch hurried by thinking of warm fires and mulled wine.
    The figure resumed his nonchalant pose and as he continued to puff on his pipe, a keen voice cut through the night.
    “By the gods, Venn that crap stinks to the heavens. Don’t you believe in real smoke?”
    Venn to turned to face the newcomer and guffawed.
    “Bah…what would you know? Hardship could bite you on your pretty little arse, or shit on you from a great height and you would still expect the finer things in life to be available.”
    Venn turned and spat on the ground next to the newcomer’s foot and continued.
    “Tell you what love. When you have soldiered for nigh on forty years, and suffered a bloodier retreat that that which I did after the fall of Rapura, you can tell me what you wish”.
    The glowing bowl of Venn’s pipe signalled the end of his thoughts on the subject, and he turned to face the newcomer.
    Venn’s old, but eagle like eyes took in the figure in an instant.
    Female, young, 5 and a half foot or so in height and a smartarse.
    Just the way he liked them and he liked this one a lot.
    Her name was Daytura and she was his offsider. They had been paired together for five years, three of which had been spent in this cesspit.
    When they had first met, shortly after he was invalided out of the army on dubious grounds, she had been a crutch for him to get his life back in order.
    To be honest they had both been damaged goods, but under the tutelage of the Rekethal Spymasters had been fashioned into another weapon at the Spymasters beck and call. Since then she had become as a daughter to him, and to be honest she was all he had left in this world.
    Daytura stared at the grizzled weathered face and remarked:
    “If I hear another tale of you and your singlehanded rearguard through the Hills of Marchebo, armed only with your grizzled good looks and witty quips. I’ll pass, old man, and let you keep smoking that camel dung”.
    She smirked at him and indicated at the low dark door beside him.
    “So what’s going on in there tonight?”
    Venn fixed her with an intent stare and raised an eyebrow.
    “What the hell have you been up to all day….wait; don’t tell me if it involves that jumped up simpleton from the customs office who’s been pegging you.”
    Daytura feigned a look of hurt on her face and replied, all subdued.
    “But daddy…he’s a good man with a kind heart”.
    She laughed and continued.
    “And he needs someone upon whom to take out his frustrations and share his burdens of responsibility. Lucky for us wifey doesn’t seem too interested. Something’s up, though. His mind wasn’t on the job today and the air smells different tonight”.
    Venn looked at Daytura with sarcasm. “Really?” he dripped, “Want to enlighten me with your ideas on this sudden change in odour?”
    The girl gave Venn a sharp, sideways glance. “Seems you may already have a handle on it, old man. What’s going on?”
    Venn’s face hardened and his voice took a darker tone.
    “Seems as though the very thing we have been trying to avoid for nigh on half a lifetime may well be about to kick off”.
    Daytura’s eyes widened a little at Venn’s news, and the good natured banter of a minute ago disappeared from her thoughts.
    “So the stories are true then eh? There has been much crap spread around in the past few months. It’s almost like people had stopped believing any news they had heard”.
    Venn nodded in acquiescence and continued.
    “Aye girl, seems someone wanted everyone off of their toes for a bit, but I can guarantee you the Tanith army will be dragged by it’s damned hide through these streets soon enough”.
    Daytura muttered a curse under her breath and gestured to the side door of the tavern.
    “So does the boss know or what”.
    Venn sighed.
    “Well to be honest girl, I am not sure. But I’d wager a weeks pay he does by now judging by the way that fat bastard and his pretty friends are spending up. You know those tight arses will only celebrate when they stand to gain a wagonload of cash”.
    Daytura gazed long and hard at the door, before breaking the silence.
    “Is that prick Linus in there?’
    Venn looked Daytura straight in the eye and spoke in a fatherly tone.
    “You know he is lass. And as me and Piers always say now is not the time, there’s more at stake here”.
    Daytura fixed Venn with a malevolent stare and replied in a voice dripping with venom.
    “It’s never the time Old man, but one day soon…you mark my words, I‘ll make that f*ck endure the torments of the damned before I send his soul screaming into the void”.
    Venn shivered and spoke softly.
    “I know lass…I know”.
    The silence that followed was as oppressive as that of the night slowly cloaking the alley, and each stood with their own silent thoughts on the topic coursing through their minds.
    One of vengeance.
    And one with fear of retribution for past sins.

    * * *

    The moon was well past it zenith when the side door of the Tavern opened outwardly with ease on its well oiled hinges.
    Both Venn and Daytura were alert and in fighting stance within split seconds of the first sign of movement, but visibly relaxed when the heavy brow of Korkan showed itself.
    Venn still stood poised for trouble inwardly, though. He had a profound distrust of the man, who was only helping until trouble came looking for them, and it would soon enough. Or until the plentiful coin he received ran out.
    Venn glanced at Daytura and sensed that her blood was still up, despite the cold hours spent waiting in the dark alley. Now was the time she was at her most dangerous, with revenge on her mind combined with the hard heartedness of a killer, spurred on by the impetuousness of youth. A nasty mix he thought, especially for any who tried to stop her short of her goal.
    Korkan glanced briefly at Venn before turning to Daytura, and ignoring the unveiled look of hatred on her face, he let his eyes linger on her breasts and hips whilst unconsciously licking his lips.
    Venn laughed inwardly, best be trying to get it off with a viper me lad, he thought. This one would cut your stalk and balls off in one swipe…actually the way she is tonight I’d imagine she would take her time.
    Venn chuckled softly to himself at his quip and the quickly tailed off into a fake rasping cough as he realised the other two’s eyes upon him.
    Korkan grunted in his slow drawl.
    “Inside quick…back room and wait. Boss said for you to watch, something up tonight”.
    With a quick look behind them, he turned and went back in.
    Venn looked at Daytura and motioned for her to enter first and received a glance that made a hooded death snake look like a welcome bed partner.
    Korkan motioned them into a well lit room directly behind the bar.
    The one way mirror was like looking into another world.
    In the forefront was their long time boss kow-towing as was expected in his position to the power mongers drinking in front of him.
    The room was full of the usual riff raff plus the elite of the trading community and their hanger ons.
    As Venn’s eyes swung across the room he noticed a few faces out of place in such a setting.
    Gods, he thought. Something was up, judging by the crowd here tonight.
    Daytura’s head swung around and fixed Venn with a stern look.
    Gods, she is as worried about this line up as I am, he thought.
    Only a matter of time before something sparks this powder keg.
    The two spent several minutes analysing the situation.
    Then with a deafening roar, the tavern door exploded inward off of its hinges, and any vestige of merriment quickly fell away to a deafening silence.

    * * *


    (c) copyright Robert fudali.
     
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  3. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    Somewhere out in the dank air of early morning, gulls were crying. That shrieking wretched cry that served no purpose but to hinder the thoughts of passing sailors. It was that shrill wail that brought in the sunrise, one single bar at a time spread over grey seas under grey skies ready for rain.

    This was abnormal weather for the narrow sea, or so the captain had claimed; most of the year the sea was calm and restful under the warm sun’s smile, bad weather like this was a portent of change, of dark times ahead.

    Elsey thought the superstition to be little more than wayward caution, the dark sky was foreboding, but its only prediction was rain. Still, it mattered little on their last day aboard the Sea-mare, within the hour they would reach their destination and rain would be little concern when they were off the waters.

    The last few days had gone by quickly, Elsey spent most of them on deck, watching the shores go by. She remembered little from her last journey across the narrow sea and hungered for the sights so many had spoken of. This short stretch of water was the centre of the world as many had claimed, and history was written on its shores. The truth of those words she had seen. Every few leagues a mighty statue would rise on the shores, or some great tower of pale stone, somewhere far west a whole city seemed to float on sea itself, defying the tides.

    But nothing has been as impressive as Kekuran, the mountain on the water. The northernmost point of the nation of Tanith, the peninsula seemed to be a great mass of stone stretching out of the water, clung loosely by narrow tracts of land on the rocky shore. Here and there bridges chained the mountain to the shore but the great peak seemed ready to break away at a whisper, something about it seemed to speak of anger and might lying dormant as ages passed.

    As their boat had passed the mountain Elsey caught sight of the stonework hidden at distance. Great buildings, towers, halls and huts hewn from the same rock as the mountain covered almost every inch, here and there savage and untamed protrusions lay but the rest was rigid walls and roofs, the living rock no less proud for its ordered form. At last as they wheeled round the mass, a single great figure resolved, a statue of a man standing near the peak, looking over a harbour full or warships packed cheek by jowl. It was hard to tell from afar but the statue seemed hundreds of feet tall, with one arm raised high in the air, though his hand was mournfully absent.

    Kekuran, it was not the capital of Tanith, but it was its martial stronghold, an ancient citadel from which Tanith had ruled over the Narrow Sea long ago. If rumour held true of coming war it was well they had passed the mountain by, heading on for more humble moorings.

    The Sea-mare was bound for Rekethal’s shores, the coastal town of Medrys lay ahead across the dim morning, not an hour away. Medrys was one of the seven ports along the crescent coast where the Capital of Wydin lay just inland. The seven towns responsible for almost all the traffic into and out of the city, the roads between well worn over the years. Medrys was the smallest of the seven, the one least monitored by the legions and the magistrates, some said purposefully so. Medrys was the back door into Rekethal, for those who didn’t want to be seen.

    Whether or not Elsey and her ward needed to be discrete remained to be seen, but the shadows were as good a place as any, one could never know if here reputation had preceded her, and so it was best to play things safe. What little money she had left went on their fares and so Medrys was as far as they would travel aship before she had to earn more coin. It wouldn’t be hard in a place like this.

    At first sight of the town through the brightening morning air, Elsey hitched the hood up on her cloak, drawing the ragged dust covered cloth over he shoulders once more, to cover then from the coming rain and unwanted eyes. She made sure to keep her sword arm free before striding back across the deck towards the hatch leading below.

    ______________________


    Elsey opened the door to the dismal room she had paid for aboard the Sea-mare, it was little more than a cupboard with even less room to breathe, there was little wonder why she spent the days on the deck in the open air.

    Atop the single hard cot where she slept sat a scrawny child, a girl in travel stained clothing, her dirty face a mask of contempt. The girl could not have been more than 11 years old but her hands were bound and her mouth was gagged. Clean lines on her dirty face marked where tears had fallen, the girl had been crying.

    “We will be mooring shortly” Elsey announced as she shut the door behind her, taking the short few steps over to the bed. Looking over their bundles in the corner she then turned her eyes back to the child. Reddened eyes burned hatred into her. Elsey took the girl’s cheek in one hand. “Remember what I said to you, I have no qualms about taking those eyes from you little one, if they get defiance in them, but it would be a shame to ruin my prize before I sell you off.” The girl frowned again, the journey had tempered her hatred for Elsey all the more. “When we leave the ship you will stay with me, if you try to run I will take your feet, if you try to cry out I will have your tongue from your mouth, understand?” The girl nodded slowly before Elsey turned away to check their bags.

    As she leaned over to check one strap she noticed something amiss, almost nothing, one of the flaps was buckled on looser than she remembered, Elsey was always diligent with her possessions, someone must have tampered with it. Behind her the sound of bare feet hitting the wooden floor made her turn around just quick enough to catch the blade aimed for her throat.

    In one iron grip Elsey held the girl’s knife at bay, the cold steel bit into her thumb but the rest of her fist wrapped around the girl’s. The tip of Elsey’s hunting knife swayed wildly less than an inch from her skin. The girl must have taken it from the pack, and retied her bonds loose enough to look secure and lure her in. The girl was getting more resourceful, more cunning, there was fire in her heart but fire was not enough to kill the dragonmaid.

    Elsey smiled and drops of blood rolled off her hand and begun hitting the floor. “Smart, little one, but not fast enough.” With her free hand Elsey struck the girl across the face, provoking a muffled cry from behind her gag. The girl fell back against the wall and the knife tumbled from both their grips, its point resting in the wooden floor.

    For a moment Elsey nonchalantly checked her hand, the cut was deep enough to bleed copiously, but not enough to be a serious concern. Turning her attention back to the faltering girl she picked the hunting knife up from the floor, and grabbed the girl’s hand.

    Blood for Blood” She whispered and slashed down the girl’s palm, copying the path of her own wound onto the child. There was another muffled cry followed by shaking sobs. “Perhaps if you try this again I will sell you to one of the old lechers they have in every land, sick old men with hungers for unripe fruits, some less gentle than I. Would you like that?”

    As much as it irked her to be accosted in such a manner so regularly, Elsey could find no fault in it, she had been the same in the past, the girl had changed from a mewling babe into someone with a little steel. It had earned some respect. Elsey yanked the gag from the sobbing girl, making sure to keep her fingers away from her teeth.

    With her free hand she picked up the cloak she had been gathering from the baggage and pushed it to the girl. And went back to pick up half the load, slinging it over her shoulder. Elsey usually travelled light, but in the months of travel from Lycea, some concessions had to be made for the girl, as she kept cutting through her bonds every so often, and they had yet to find any iron bindings for sale. It was slow going but it had to be done, vengeance demanded the girl share Elsey’s fate, sold off in the east to pay for her treacherous father’s sins, and she would see it done.

    When the girl had donned her cloak reluctantly, Elsey nodded over to the remaining baggage. When the girl had slung it over her shoulder, Elsey wound what was left of the bonds around the girl and her burden, tying it off at the back so she could not drop it to run, there was enough there to slow the child down so she could not escape, and keep her close enough that any other action could be quickly rebuked. By now shouts from above had given warning that they had reached the docks, and a slow lurching at last signified the end of they sea voyage. Elsey pushed the girl towards the door with a firm shove, almost toppling her. “Up little one, we must be off this ship.”

    For a moment the girl’s pace lagged and she mumbled “soarha” while frowning.

    “Speak up little one; I have no patience for mumbling”

    The girl turned; the fire once more in her eyes, though dimmed by a wincing brought on by her red and bruised cheek. “My name is not ‘little one’ it is Soarha Evywhin, Daughter of Errenos, of the Royal House of Lycea” The little tirade was amusing, where one could not strike their defiance with actions, they poured it out in words.

    Elsey grinned and grabbed the girl’s chin firmly, leaning over to look her dead in the eyes. “Slave’s do not keep their own names little one, but you must need one. Forget this Soarha, by now one of her wretched kin will have stolen her throne, and would be just as happy to take her life too if your try returning to Lycea. From now on you will be Ty’scha.” Elsey grinned again. “In my people’s tongue it means little thing, or little chicken, that is what you are now, nothing more. Remember it girl, now on with you.” Elsey pushed the frowning girl off into the hallway, hearing her make a mumbled curse as she went towards the ladder.
     
  4. Kakashi

    Kakashi The Fighters Guide House Member

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    The sun was setting over the city as Jaeger made his way to the barracks. It was not a cliche sunset- one that you would love to witness, surronded by loved ones. Nay, it was a dark sunset; an omnious sunset. One that would send a shiver down the backs of the darkest men of Rekenthal.

    But the solider barely noticed, shooting past countless buildings, closed for the night. It was not urgency in his step, just habit. Habits of walking down these same streets countless times over the years, to the very same barracks. He had been reduced to guard duty as of late- he was not seated high enough to get anything better- the lack of war was another culprit. He was not a warmonger, not by any stretch. He hated peacetime, but also dreaded war. Perhaps a solider was not the correct occupation for a man such as him. But it was far to late for that. He was no pacifist- nor a war-hawk as many of the officals of Rekenthal... and her enimes were.

    But as thought of this routine took flight- so did thoughts of the recent events at home and abroad. The most prominent one was quite obviously the kidnapping of the King across the sea. Personally, he cared not for the king. He didn't have any love for the King- nor did he despise him as much of Rekenthal did. But as a countryman- it effected him to the core. Personally, he knew not if Rekenthal's higher-ups had anything to do with the kidnapping. It was possible, yes, but it seemed to picturesque to him. A typical black vs white kidnapping- your age old enemy kidnapped your King! You must rush to his rescue! It was possible, he didn't think otherwise- but not likely. Nothing had been that clearcut- not in all his years around the Narrow Sea. Nothing was as it appeared. Could this be an expection? He supposed...

    But no. It was either a solo mission by men of Rekenthal or a plot made by none other than the Tanith Officals themselves. Even if the King was not in on it, it could have been set-up by generals through the use of mercenaries. He laughed to himself. So many possibilities.

    He smiled as he thought of yet another possiblility, one that seemed most likely to him. It could have been an outside force altogether! One that would love to see the two meta-forces bump heads once again.. weakening each other in the process- leaving them open to a third-party...

    He was fooling with himself. He had better things to think of- didn't he? He was being to serious- wasn't he? It was not the role of one solider to figure out the plot, he knew that much, but it was still a curiousity that tickled him, to say the least. This could lead to his death, and many others once the whole thing had played out. Even the descrution of Rekenthal and Tanith was possible- or even both. War was impossible to avoid, he finally decided. Even the townspeople knew this.. hence their rioting. It was only his theroy- but Jaeger thought he knew why the peasants had rioted. Not for anything that had unfolded at the meeting- no they had already expected that. They had rioted because they were afraid. Afraid of another war. Afraid of the descrution that would come with war. Death, gloom and fire. Could he blame them? The blunt peons had no other way to take out their emotion- other than what had already occured. What would happen next? More rioting he supposed. Not too much more, though. Eventually the fear would simply slip into their subcounsiousness, and torture them from there. By the time actual war broke out, they'd be near worthless. Fear did that to everyone. Even the bluntest of men.
     
  5. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    The city of Wydin bustled with activity, but the crowds were no normal crowds. Throngs of peasants, nobles, and everyone in between shoved their way through the streets, making their way towards the great Market Plaza. The centre of the city, the Market Plaza was a hub of all types of wares, from foodstuffs, to weapons, to the latest news and gossip.

    The Santhen sisters were not regular visitors to the city, but even so, Korienne noticed the change in the city’s atmosphere immediately upon entering. It was almost enough to make her want to turn around and head back out deep into the countryside, far from cities and towns and other crowded areas.

    But curiosity is a powerful force, and it was in such a mindset that Korienne reluctantly agreed to enter the city and acquire some supplies and, perhaps, some business. Avrienne had argued in favor of continuing into the city, stating that the excited crowds might prove to be of use to the two of them. Many opportunities for employment could, and generally did, arise in occasions of import. Although how Kor had had one of her feelings that it was a bad idea, Av had ignored her objections. Despite the fact that Avrienne had, more than once, led them into tense situations against Kor’s better judgment, she tended to get her way.

    They had been forced to put up their horses in the massive stables just outside the city walls. Korienne had considered drawing a knife on them, but for once kept herself in check – Vree hardly needed a reason to resort to violence, and drawing attention so close to the city was unwise. The sisters continued on foot into the city, tossing their personals over their shoulders rather than trusting them with the stable keepers. They were just children, after all, and Kor didn’t want to give her sister any reason – or further inclination – to kill helpless children.

    Kor had, however, insisted that Av wear her full robe, rather than the few strips of cloth she usually carried when they were outside of battle. From neck to toe, her robe was covered in fluttering strips of runed silk that were the tools of her trade. Although it was summer, Av wore her usual enveloping silk cloak that covered her runewitch’s robe, this time in blue embroidered with simple geometric patterns. She was always careful to ensure that only those she wished to know knew that she was a runewitch. Most of them, unfortunately, were dead.

    But because they didn’t know that she was a runewitch, men stared at Av. No one gave Korienne a second look if Avrienne was there, for all that they were identical twins. Unscarred, long-haired, and with touches of kohl and carmine to enhance her looks, she presented a different figure from Kor that men and women alike appreciated. Even their voices sounded different. Kor was rather relieved that Av took the attention away from her. She had never figured out how Vree really felt about it; for all that she flirted right back, she had never gone any further with them.

    As usual, the traders approached her older twin, never realizing that Vree’s sunny smiles and subtle flirtations meant literally nothing. Kor fell back to her usual role, scowling and looking dangerous until the traders began to stutter in their smooth bartering. Vree, on the other hand, never faltered. Even as a child, she had never hesitated. When their mother’s sister had fostered them out to the Spiral, Av had walked away without a second glance for the only living relative they had left; Kor had followed for her sister’s sake.

    Sometimes Kor wondered what exactly her sister was thinking; over the last year, she had grown distant, even from her twin. She suspected that Av knew exactly what Kor wanted, and what Kor was thinking, but not vice versa.

    While Vree amiably haggled for some bolts of silk, Korienne’s attention wandered to the men around the market place. She knew that Av, too, was on edge with the almost frenetic mood of the crowd, but it would be impossible to get her to admit it. Her sister had always been somewhat cavalier about danger, probably because while she was the one who got them into it, it was Korienne who got them out of it.

    She didn’t like what she saw. The twins had only recently arrived in this part of Lorrha, and already it seemed as though Rekethal was on the brink of yet another war. Although wars did, theoretically, create opportunities for the two of them, martial law also tightened down on illegal activities such as hers and Avrienne’s. And, of course, that wasn’t to forget that quite a few witches of the Spiral would most likely marshal to both sides of the conflict. If any of them found out that Avrienne Santhen was still alive, the hunt would resume in full force.

    She sensed it before she saw it, a knot of five or six argumentative men that didn’t seem quite right, arguing furiously with the natives of Wydin.

    “Speech or no speech, it’s you and your folk that did it – ”

    That was all one man managed to get out before another small group swarmed them and open brawling broke out. It marked the town, truly, that no one seemed to care, and she overheard Avrienne questioning the merchant she was trading with.

    “Oh, that?” He waved a hand dismissively. “Naught to worry about, mistress, it’s been going on since King Reden of Tanith disappeared – ”

    Avrienne blinked. It was the only sign of surprise she showed, but for Kor, it was as huge a sign as though she had screamed. “The King has disappeared?”

    “You haven’t been around here lately, have you. These brawls have been breaking out everywhere these days –”

    Korienne left her sister to draw out the information needed; it had always been talkative Avrienne who dealt with people. She watched with growing unease as the brawl knocked over another merchant’s stall, drawing yet more people into the mob. What had begun as a small-scale fight was transforming into a riot. Out of nowhere, yet more Tanith foreigners had rallied to their countrymen.

    Screams split the air as a mother snatched an unwary toddler back from the crowd, hurling imprecations at the man, who responded only with a backhand to her face, knocking her to the ground, where someone else trampled her. Korienne grimaced.

    “Av, I’m going in.”

    Her sister only nodded, completely ignoring the merchant’s attempts to urge her to flee. Something in her manner held him off from trying to haul her away physically; Avrienne, friendly or not, had always possessed that aura that caused people to fear her even as they were attracted to her. Korienne, unfortunately, had to resort to using her fists more often than not to make her point.

    Within only moments, she was engulfed in the maelstrom of violence. Korienne, unlike the others, was not there to fight, and was thus more concerned with clearing a way than dealing with an opponent. With brutal efficiency, she kicked, punched, and slammed her way through the brawling men and women alike to where the woman had fallen on the outskirts of the fight.

    She wasn’t too badly injured, and Kor managed to sit her up and help her stagger to another merchant, her terrified child clinging to her hand. “Thank you – ”

    Korienne cut her off with one curt wave of her hand and waded back in. The victims were easy enough to find; they were the cringing ones, trying to protect their children. Fighting down a wave of disgust, she escorted them to safe ground.

    The sixth mother in, the shouts of pain and anger had transformed into true terror. She saw why almost immediately – the fight had moved to a vendor who roasted bits of meat on sticks over a fire. It had somehow jumped to another stall, and from there to a thatched roof. Hysterical residents were rushing out from their homes, weeping helplessly as their belongings went up into flames. Others were coughing as they tried to escape from the smoke. Then Korienne frowned – the fire was spreading, but not as quickly as it should have been in the wooden residences.

    She risked a quick glance to where she had left Avrienne behind, but her sister wasn’t there anymore. With barely a word to the women she had rescued, she ran to where the fire was.

    By the time she had gotten there, it was all over. People were standing in hastily-organized fire brigades that stretched out to the nearest well, holding empty buckets in their hands. Korienne recognized her sister instantly, the cloak gone and the cowl of her robe up. There were a few strips missing from Av’s left hip, the combined runes for wind and distance commonly called FarReaches, carefully separated from the individual wind and distance runes, but she doubted that anyone save for herself would have noticed. After a bit of searching, she noticed that a few runes for containment were missing as well from her right sleeve.

    Everyone was backing away from her, knowing what the loose-flying strips of silk meant. Runewitches were feared more than they were respected. And if they saw the back of her robe – not that anyone was brave enough to lift up the silk to check – they would see that she wore no insignia, the mark of an unaligned runewitch. It would have made them fear Av even more.

    Although Kor had never trained in the arcane arts, she knew exactly what Av must have done. After inhaling the FarReach rune, she had held her breath, and then placed the rune for containment over her lips and exhaled it out to the fire, controlling its spread until the impromptu fire brigades could do their work.

    But containment was one of the more powerful runes, and therefore heavier to blow; Avrienne would have had to stand dangerously close to the fire. Kor was relieved that her sister appeared to be unharmed, but she was also surprised that Av was still standing. Most powerful runes required a lot of energy to expend. Once she had reached Av’s side, she touched her shoulder and was relieved to find that her sister was not faking it. Kor did, however, avoid looking into her sister’s too-calm, too-sane eyes, which was easy enough to do as Av still was hooded. They were always shadowed after Avrienne used magic, and yet somehow hungry for more. It was a disturbing anomaly that Korienne cared not to delve into too deeply.

    “I used the Spiral rune for removing exhaustion,” Av said in a low murmur. Korienne only nodded; of the five Spiral runes, it was the most used, and the second most-powerful. It required little strength to activate, and was inhaled into the self rather than exhaled to another person – at least if the witch in question was a Spiral runewitch who operated on rules of morality.

    It was for that rune that Avrienne had been expelled, nine years ago. The Spiral had, long ago, attempted to use the rune on the uninitiated; most attempts ended in the other’s death. Since then, use of the rune on other people had been strictly prohibited. Only Avrienne had dared to flout that edict, and in the doing gotten herself expelled from the Spiral and later marked for death.

    For all that Korienne had resented her sister’s impetuous actions at the time, she held a grudging admiration for Avrienne’s brilliance. Thoughtless, cruel, and at times monstrously self-centered, Avrienne had nonetheless discovered the secret behind the rune – that only those who could boast of a runewitch dam or sire, regardless of whether they had ever discovered their own potential, could bear the touch of that rune and live. Korienne herself had, at times of great duress, suffered her sister to use that rune on her, and lived with no ill effects.

    Korienne heard the boots before she saw the man who wore them, a man who also wore the uniform of the Wydin City Guard. He offered them a bow before saying, “Good mistresses, if you would accompany me, I have been ordered to escort you to my captain’s quarters.”

    If they ran, it could create an unpleasant scene, not to mention that the crowd looked as though they might riot again if Avrienne got within five feet of them. Still, it paid to make sure. “Are we under arrest for helping to stop a riot and fire?”

    “No, mistress. I believe that he wishes only to speak with you.”

    In a voice quiet enough that only the guard could hear, Kor said, “If this turns out to be a trick, I will ensure that you will personally regret it.” The young soldier swallowed visibly, but he flinched when Avrienne moved to don the silk cloak again, if not as closely as before. The strips were visible now, and the hood still up. It was enough to make the young soldier close his eyes in prayer before leading them towards the city barracks.



    * * * * * * * * *



    Avrienne wondered, sometimes, if her sister knew that the Spiral had never given up on bringing her to justice. In the past year alone, she had been forced to eliminate three runewitches hot on her trail, leaving her younger sister oblivious to the pursuit behind them.

    Part of it, of course, had to do with the fact that Korienne trusted Avrienne to tell her what was necessary. Kor was rarely curious about anything other than money or their welfare, or events that would affect either. It wasn’t that she was stupid, just that she wasn’t interested in knowledge. Not like Avrienne was.

    Then again, perhaps that was unfair. It was Avrienne’s own curiosity that had landed them in tense situations more than once.

    The guard escorted them to his captain’s office, and left them there after serving them wine. Korienne had refused to drink for fear it might be tampered; Avrienne never drank alcohol for fear it would interfere with her powers. She maintained the purity of her body almost to the point of obsession.

    Within only moments, the captain entered, followed by a different guard, a youth who looked barely old enough to enlist, and had a distinctive limp in his left leg. It was one of her many contacts – had he sold them out? As they exchanged meaningless pleasantries, Avrienne trusted to the deep cowl of her runewitch’s robe to conceal the fact that her gaze roved from corner to corner in the room, wondering where the trap would be sprung.

    “Mistresses Avrienne and Korienne, I hope you will forgive me for being so forward, but I believe you are wanted criminals of Rekethal, correct?” Behind him, her contact Vatik squeezed his eyes shut, no doubt wondering how Avrienne planned to punish this betrayal. “However, we are prepared to overlook your… past, if you were to assist us in a somewhat covert operation.”

    “I assume, Captain Piyerin, that you speak of trying to find the disappeared King of Tanith.”

    “How – did Vatik warn you – ”

    The nice thing about dealing with soldiers, she reflected, was that they were so simple and direct, and that they expected those they dealt with to be as simple. “Hardly,” she drawled. “So. What are you offering us?”

    Avrienne mentally gave him a point for recovering his poise fairly quickly. “I would expect, Mistress Santhen, that clearing your criminal record would be an ample reward.”

    She tipped her head back so that her smile was clearly visible. “If you had a runewitch in crown employ that were capable of taking me down, you’d have done it by now.” Avrienne knew for a fact that there were currently four or five runewitches who could take her down, but she also knew that they were a carefully guarded state secret and all busy with long-term tasks that did not involve hunting down one renegade witch.

    Piyerin nodded, resigned. Vatik had no doubt warned him how Avrienne would react. “In that case, I am authorized to offer you five hundred crowns if you agree to take the job. One thousand for any substantial new information that you discover. Three thousand if you find where he is. Ten thousand if you are able to retrieve him alive.”

    It was a staggering amount of gold, and to her right, she could hear Kor stirring. “I would like to negotiate one further point.” Before Piyerin could rightly point out that the offered contract was more than what she could expect, she said, “I want access to the Council libraries, restricted sections and all. Permanently.”

    The captain blinked. “I’m not the person to ask – ”

    She folded her arms, and hid her amusement when both young Vatik and the more seasoned Piyerin flinched. “Then find the person to ask. I am assuming that Vatik recommended us to you because we are not only good, we are discrete. You can’t afford to pass us up, and it’s not as though I’m asking for more gold, or a position of power in this nation. Just access to the libraries.”

    Piyerin rubbed his eyes. “I’ll need an hour or two – ”

    “You have it. We’ll be waiting here.”

    She knew that her abrupt dismissal rankled, but the captain had the sense to do as he had been told. With a curt order to Vatik to remain behind, he left, shutting the door behind him.

    Avrienne considered toying with the apprehensive Vatik further, but didn’t. She couldn’t really fault him for trying to play it both ways, not when his actions had resulted in this very handsome opportunity. Both she and her sister would be very happy, Korienne for the gold, and Avrienne…

    Well, she would have to see what the libraries held. Perhaps it held nothing useful, after all.

    “Well done.” It was all she said, but Vatik relaxed. It wasn’t the first time he’d taken the initiative and been praised for it, just the first time he’d come dangerously close to betraying her. Avrienne did not suffer betrayals well, and Vatik knew it.

    As Kor began to sharpen her knives, Avrienne reached into her pack and pulled out some loose strips of silk, a dagger, an inkpot, and a quill. She grimaced; she hated this part, but it was unfortunately necessary. She carefully cut herself, and squeezed out the blood into the inkpot until she had enough to write a few runes, then tore a strip from her lower left sleeve and breathed the rune out onto her wound, watching the skin knit together in a matter of seconds.

    Healing bloody wounds was one of the simplest runes to learn, and one of the first taught; it was necessary for any runewitch. Avrienne, vain as she was, carried her own pot of cream to prevent any scars, and she rubbed it into the newly healed cut, ignoring the slight sting.

    She would need to replace her FarReach runes, a few containments, a heal, and finally a binding rune and a basic shield rune – she had to do the last three anytime she was restoring her runewitch’s robe. She wrote out the runes quickly but carefully, discarding the one strip she erred on without a second thought. Using a rune was dangerous enough; miswriting a rune invited unpleasant possibilities.

    She judged that she had another quarter hour or so before the captain would return, and ignoring Vatik’s nervous glances, she stood up and took off her robe, laying it out on the floor. She put the newly written runes where she had torn them from, and took the rune of binding she had torn out earlier. Breathing it out, she watched it settle over the robe, ensuring that the silk strips would stay on the cloth, and then used the shield rune on the robe as well. It was only a basic protection, but it would keep the silk from tearing, or the blood from washing out in the rain.

    Avrienne wondered, sometimes, how lesser witches managed – her protections were stronger as she was more powerful, and the binding rune was one of the more difficult ones to write. She knew that some were forced to resort to using glue or even sewing the strips on; the weakest wore no robes, and rather carried their strips in a pouch.

    She let the shield rune settle in, and then donned it over her dress again. It was light enough that she barely noticed the extra warmth, and more importantly was an extra layer of security. The robe meant that she always had access to power.

    The captain returned shortly after, and reported that her request had been granted. Avrienne only nodded; she hadn’t expected anything else.

    Piyerin detailed Vatik to escort Avrienne to the library, and took Korienne to go collect the five hundred crowns. After acquainting herself with the keepers, Vatik abandoned her, and she walked down the hall to the restricted sections, ignoring the keeper’s inane chatter about how old and valuable the books were. Avrienne knew.

    Once the keeper was finally gone, she leafed through the scrolls and books. Most of them were dusty, and looked as though they hadn’t been opened in ages. She rather doubted that the Council of Rekethal knew what exactly they had in these rooms. For that matter, she didn’t think that the keepers did either.

    Half an hour later, she found what she was looking for, and left, carrying four books and five scrolls hidden here and there among her packs. All of them were dated from before the Divine Plague, the disaster that had wiped out dozens of civilizations and left runewitches today struggling to rediscover the lost ancient language.

    No, Korienne did not know what her sister was up to. Not yet, anyway.
     
  6. Morgan_of_Salerone

    Morgan_of_Salerone New Member

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    The marketplace of Wydin was a busy place – busier even than the markets she had left behind in her home country. Ch’umar was slowly becoming nothing more than memory now, and Aelaellodru wasn’t sure whether or not that was a bad thing. After all, Ch’umar held only grief and regret for her these days.

    Across the table upon which his varied wares were set, the merchant stared at Aelo. It was obvious he would rather be dealing with someone else.

    “Please… do have, un, have…” The merchant sighed in annoyance as she struggled to find the proper words; the language of this land was difficult and confusing for her. “For my horse, and for me,” she began again. “Do you have... un…”

    This is absurd, she thought to herself. Were I returned to Ch’umar, I would need but to brandish the royal crest and he would gladly give whatever I required. He looks at me like I am stupid, but were he in my country… the thought died away. I am not in my country, she reminded herself. I must try to find a way here.

    “Please, do have… the… the thing for eating? I need the thing for eating.”

    “Food?” the merchant asked crossly. “Do you want food?” Aelaellodru’s face lit up. Finally, an understanding.

    “Yes! Please, do have food? I have money.” She pulled out what few coins she had left from her last contract, and showed them to the merchant. He eyed them suspiciously for a moment, and then smiled at her, revealing unhealthy teeth. It was a struggle to keep the grimace from her face. The people of this land had no sense of hygiene.

    After a few moments and some more fumbled words, Aelo picked out a satchel of grain for Aw'kim, and a loaf of bread, some cheese, and a few of those long, skinny orange things with the green, leafy tops that she had no word for. When she went to pay, however, the merchant tried to take the single silver coin she had in her palm.

    “No,” she replied with a frown growing on her face. “It’s not right.” The foul smile on the merchant’s face vanished. I may not be able to speak your tongue, Foul Breath, but I can tell when I’m being cheated. He looked as if he were about to speak when raised voices caught his attention, and his eyes turned to see what was the commotion. Before she realized what was happening, a man crashed into the stall, knocking clothing and foodstuffs and other odds and ends in all directions. Aelo jumped back, itching to reach for her scimitar’s comforting grip, but with her arms full she had no choice but to try and avoid the brawl. Someone bumped her from behind and she pitched forward, managing to catch herself just before hitting the ground and losing her newly acquired goods. She sprang upright and tossed the distraught merchant several copper coins, feeling that that was fair.

    She was struck a second time, and this time she could not keep her footing. A portion of the grain spilled, and one of her leafy orange vegetables fell from her grasp and was instantly trampled. She frowned, looking up for the perpetrator, and noticed that a way was being cleared around her. A woman, perhaps several years older than herself, was punching, kicking, and elbowing her way through the crowd with impressive efficiency.

    However, it was not the woman’s efficiency that caught Aelo’s eye, but her appearance – she could have been a native to her homeland, Ch’umar.

    Pushing herself up and snatching close her items, Aelaellodru made her way after the woman, watching as she saved first a toddler and then another group of women with their children. Her attention was diverted, however, when a cry of terror rose up among the people. Flames licked the dry thatch of one of the houses nearby, and residents were rushing about, some coughing, some weeping, some cursing. Someone pushed past her with a bucket in hand, and she joined the line that was forming from the nearest well to the blazing houses. An innumerable amount of buckets later, the houses were left smoking ruins, but their threat to the city all but removed.. Aelo sighed with relief and resumed her search for the woman she had seen earlier – she hoped that perhaps she, too, was a refugee of Ch’umar, and be able to give her news.

    She was easy to pick out, the woman, not only because of her looks but because of the empty space the market goers had made around her and the cowled woman she stood beside. Aelo stepped forward to try and speak to her, but stopped when a man in the garb of the city guard appeared by her side. There was a brief exchange, and the two turned to follow the guardsman.

    A wave of worry washed through Aelo as she watched them depart. Why were they being taken away? She recognized the cowled woman to be a runewitch, but they would not persecute her simply for her trade, would they? Runewitches were feared far more in this land; a condition she did not fully understand. She herself had befriended a runewitch, and had a rune in ink to show for it.

    Following after the three, Aelo found herself outside one of the city barracks, helpless as she watched them disappear into the building. Her presence there, armed as she was, would probably not be warm welcomed. She chose instead to wait outside, promising herself that if they did not come out by the fifth hour she would go in and see if they required a witness to their innocence in the matter of the brawl. She then settled herself on a nearby step and pulled out her hunting knife and maintenance kit, working over the blade to pass the time.

    Sooner than she had hoped, the two women appeared – sisters, if their looks were any guide – the hooded one being escorted down the street and the other heading in the opposite direction.

    “Excuse me,” Aelaellodru began in her own tongue as she rose, “might I have a word with you?”

    The woman gave her a strange look, one that Aelo could not identify precisely. Her heart sank – maybe she had been wrong in assuming that this woman was from Ch’umar.

    “Sorry…” she tried again, this time in the strange tongue of the Rekethalli people. “I thought…Ch’umar…un, nevermind.”

    “Not problem,” the woman answered in broken Ch’umaran. Aelo’s spirits rose. “The father of my father came from you land.”

    Aelo knew she was grinning stupidly, but she couldn’t help it. Finally, someone civilized to talk to!

    “I am Aelaellodru,” she continued in Ch’umaran, and held out a hand in greeting. The other woman eyed her hand warily, and did not reach for it. After a moment, Aelo dropped it, feeling a little foolish.

    “Korienne,” the woman replied. Aelo nodded in acknowledgment.

    “I saw your bravery during the riot, and wanted to ensure that the guards did not give you any trouble, or think that you had caused any problems. I saw that your sister is a runewitch, and I know that they are not well-loved in this land.”

    Korienne appeared to be taking a moment to process all of what Aelo had said - she hoped the woman understood enough Ch’umaran to have followed her excited talk - and then she grinned, snorting a small laugh.

    “You were worried about us?!” she said in the Rekethalli tongue. “Cute.”

    “I…not want to disrespect.” Bloody water, this language is infuriating! “I only worry because so many guards, and so little… un, you.” She glanced down, not sure of how to proceed. “We are of same…people, so you help me, yes? I....help you too?”

    Again, she could not decipher Korienne’s expression. “You want to tag along?”

    “What is…tag?”

    “Come with us.”

    “Yes, I want to tag.”

    Korienne smirked. “You like to drink, don’t you?”

    Aelaellodru frowned. What kind of question was that? Water was essential to one’s survival, even in this land where it could be procured anywhere.

    “…yes,” she said cautiously. “Of course.”

    Korienne’s grin grew. “Excellent. Tag along, then.”

    She was led through a passage of streets until Korienne stopped in front of a building that seemed to be bustling with activity. On the sign over the doorway was a painting of a woman with a large bosom and an even larger, frothing tankard.

    She began to doubt if she had correctly understood her companion’s words after all.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2009
  7. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    A thin gust of wind brushed the earth at their feet, pushing handfuls of dirt further towards the sea one yard at a time. The gusts came slowly and softly, the calm breathing of the world all around. Elsey took in the serenity of the road and the lands around them.

    They had left the other travellers far behind as dusk came on, with another half day’s journey ahead Elsey would not settle till it was too dark to walk. As if purposefully to ruin the calm of the evening Ty’scha stomped along with their bundles, frustration plan in her posture.

    “I’m hungry” She muttered under her breath, not expecting to be heard by Elsey’s sharp ears after being told to be silent for the fifth time today.

    For a moment Elsey stopped and slowly turned round taking in the air, the sun was touching the treetops far off left of the road. Much longer out doors and they would not have enough light to set up camp for the night, the last inn had passed by hours ago. With a long sigh Elsey set her sights on a thick copse not far from the road and headed off, quickly instructing the little one to “Come.”

    They laid their bedrolls down in a little rut behind a stand of fallen pine trees that stood between them and the road. Here their fire would remain unseen by travellers yet they could see over with little effort. Ty’scha was remarkably quiet, no doubt eager to lay down after the long walk. After their packs had gone down and a small fire had been set Elsey fished out one of the smaller bags filled with food they had bought in town; a few pieces of fruit, half a loaf of bread and some cheese. There was no point hunting on this short road, nor time to do so.

    After she had taken what she wanted, Elsey passed the rest over to the girl silently, the little wretch grabbing for it and quickly devouring every scrap. Hunger was as good a lesson in humility as anything. Few people would hold onto pride or defiance if you starved them long enough, and Elsey had barely even done that to the child. A few missed meals here and there sometimes a day or two when the child had been truly insufferable, it all aided in the girl’s re-education.

    Wondering how long it would take for the girl to settle into her captivity took hold of Elsey’s thoughts. The girl had looked askance at every stranger they passed in town and even a quick cuff of the wrist to reprimand the child brought unwanted eyes. Because of the girl’s insolence they had been forced to pass through Medrys the same day they arrived. Something drastic would have to be done to stop the child before she brought too much trouble.

    Not for the first time thoughts of simply killing the child passed through her head, it was the easiest solution to the problem. But then there was something distasteful about killing a child, and honour demanded her fate be the same one her blood had condemned Elsey to, and her honour was all Elsey had left of her family and her people. Perhaps she could just cut out her tongue…..

    The sound of horses brought Elsey’s attention back to the world, and after a moment Ty’scha looked up from her frenzied eating to listen. Five horses were coming up the road from the direction of Medrys, the rider at the front holding a torch high casting an orange glow off his companions, full dark had arrived not an hour ago.

    Elsey motioned for the girl to remain silent while she leaded up against the fallen trees to watch the strangers. They were milling around the road near where Elsey and the girl had left it at dusk, after a moment heading towards the fallen trees.

    Their fire was too low to be seen from the road, and its glow would be invisible to men riding with a torch at their head. Either these men had been tracking Elsey or they were looking for their own camping spot. Fool! Elsey thought to herself, far too close to the road to set camp, this would mean trouble.

    Loosening her sword Elsey lay in among the fallen pine trees as if reclining, but every muscle tense, ready to pounce when the moment came. Ty’scha sat silently watching her, listening to the soft clop of hooves against earth getting closer and close. At long last the leader turned the corner into the little hollow, light from the torch cascading into the makeshift camp. For a moment he stopped, not expecting to find the place occupied. Not pursuers.

    “Hold” The leader shouted back to the riders behind, who stacked up close in, the thick pine trees keeping them together in a tight knot. From what she could see now they were soldiers or guards, the leader bearing a conical steel cap and a few bits of mail, among the small group were scraps of armour, a brigantine here or a single gauntleted hand over there. All of them were armed.

    The leader dismounted and stepped forward towards the fire where Ty’scha sat silently, looking first at the man and then over to Elsey. As her eyes shifted the man followed the child’s gaze and spotted her nestled against the fallen trees, still as a snake before it’s strike, the campfire dancing a reflection in her eyes. The man gave a start and a moment of silence followed where he seemed not to know what to do.

    “Evening miss” He ventures at last, still sounding a little unsure. “Little miss” he nodded towards the child as well. “We weren’t expecting to find this spot occupied, this is where we normally camp along the road, and it seems you share a good eye for sites.” Another long pause followed before the man sighed. “Ah, let me introduce myself, Artus Finnil, sergeant at arms for the Rekethali auxiliary force. Local constables really, we keep the roads clear of unsavoury sorts.” That brought a small pause.

    Finnil looked back to his men and then again at the campsite. “Seems it far too late for us to find another good spot in this dark, and this hollow is plenty big enough for both of us. What do you say? And two young women out in the night shouldn’t be alone” Elsey laughed at that last one, leaning in so her face was illuminated by the low campfire. A dozen scars crisscrossing her pale skin made him wince for a moment, reviewing his statement.

    After a long moment of consideration Elsey nodded and Finnil brought his men and horses into the hollow. Authorities had to be handled delicately, you couldn’t really turn them away, not without raising questions, but having them here was trouble enough.

    The riders settled in, lighting their own fire not two feet from the dying embers of hers. The five men were a mismatched party, Finnil, as timid as he seemed was the only real soldier of the lot, his calm manner masking a veteran, the way he carried himself, the way his eyes took in everything, he was a professional at least. The others were a collection of sorry recruits. A bearded lout stinking of sour wine, a young boy, who couldn’t be more than sixteen left to tend the horses. The rest were all middle aged men with the look or farmers and craftsmen about them, not soldiers.

    As the men sat round their fire to eat a late meal and natter on quietly, Elsey took a whetstone from her belt pouch and planted the tip of her sword into the earth, still half leaning against the fallen pine trees. She rhythmically slid the stone over the blade’s edge, keeping her eyes on the other party. Now and again one would turn an eye to her, quickly looking elsewhere under her stern gaze. After that the night drew on quietly. Too quietly.

    The normally petulant girl was silent as a mouse, she had hardily moved since the men arrived, sat up straight by their dying fire looking slowly from the group of men over to Elsey. At the last glance Elsey caught the child’s gaze, in it she saw fear and anger, but anxiousness too. The girl was calculating the odds in her minds, five men against her. No!

    Ty’scha leapt to her feet and sprinted for the men’s fire, Elsey hot on her heels. The commotion caught the attention of the men who stood up just as the girl slipped between them. Elsey stopped, planting her feet a few paced from the men.

    “Please!” The girl gasped. “She’s holding me prisoner, she killed my family, my father! The king of Lycea!” She broke down in tears then, Elsey had taken her sword out as the girl spoke. A few of the men still stood gawping, one had left his sword tied to the pommel of his horse.

    Quicker than they could react Elsey’s blade shot out taking an old farmer in the clavicle, his gurgling cry seemed a wakeup call to the others. As her blade came free she swung it wide into the group, an old man who had the look of a cooper had got his sword free and tried to block. Elsey ducked low, her slice tearing open his leather jerkin and the soft pink flesh beneath, his lifeblood and a slurry of entrails poured out onto the group, the man himself falling face first into the fire, his last gasps a scream of agony. Three left. Finnil had backed away from her wide arcs, to his side the bearded drunk held his sword forward, his unsure frown fixed on her, as focused as his sobriety would allow. The boy had backed away towards the horses, his sword held limply. Now things were tricky.

    She had gotten their numbers down, but with two together, even with minor coordination they had the advantage, she would spill her own blood tonight, Finnil knew it, his formerly polite demeanour replaces with stern rage. “Miserable bitch! Two good men dead, I’ll see you hang before you see another sunset, you hear me!”

    Elsey laughed then, deep and loud, dropping one hand from her sword so she held it aloft with her right, its point never moving an inch. “I’ve killed plenty more than two men and seen many, many sunsets old man, what makes you think you’ll leave here alive at all?”

    Finnil nodded to his companion then slowly paced, working a circle round here. The drunk did the same. They were flanking her. “Outlaws are all the same, as arrogant as the tides themselves, too few can back up their boasts when cornered like rats.” Concentration tempered his voice.

    Elsey began to work her own circle around the drunk before the two were on either side of her, keeping both men in view. “Rats can be cornered, but not the Dragon, she is the predator of all other creatures. Indomitable.”

    For a moment the drunk’s step wavered, there would be no better chance. She span, dashing straight for him, his sword drawn back as she approached, it came swinging in a wide arc at her. In a heartbeat she ducked, bringing her knees in to her chest, her feet still sliding through the dirt taking her under the swing with all the momentum of her run. Her sword still held out to one side took the man in the pelvis. As the blade hit bone she was drawn to a halt. There was no time to waste, she already heard the soft running footsteps of Finnil following her.

    She span up from her crouch with the drunk’s body between her and Finnil, sword still embedded within the drunken man’s limp frame she held on tight and kicked the corpse off into the old soldier. He dodged the heap of bones with ease, pressing in his attack, not letting her recover he stance.

    Steel arced through the air, bringing clash after clash of blades striking, the flash of sword lightning and thunderous clashes following. Finnil may be part of the Auxiliary forces, but he was battle trained, concentration firm on his brow. Each attack and counterattack was in harmony with the last, as fast as they moved it was a stalemate in motion, the man’s sword arm stronger than hers but she was much faster, but to little avail when he was pushing the attack. Something needed to be done to end this, Ty’scha could be off into the night at any moment, Elsey too focused to stop her prize escaping.

    In a single motion Elsey took the initiative, after halting Finnil’s downward strike she pushed in, shouldering the man in the chest, getting in close inside the arc of his stikes. Finnil staggers back, brining up his blade to block Elsey’s upwards cut to his chest, too disorientated to deflect, the horizontal blocking strike rang out and Elsey pushed forward skewering the man through the chest with such force the two were pressed together, Finnil’s upraised sword sandwiched between them. Elsey felt it biting into her left arm, and across her chest just below the neck, too much higher and she too would have died with the strike.

    Finnil frowned once, then fell back slowly, his weight pulling himself off her sword. Elsey glanced round to look for the others. The young boy was nowhere to be seen, but she heard hoofbeats running off into the night. Ty’scha was fussing with the girth on one of the remaining horses as it danced to and fro, with the small of blood in its nostrils. In her other hand Ty’scha held the sword of one of the fallen men.

    Elsey strode towards the girl, blood now trickling down her front. Before she got there the girl turned and saw Elsey, fear overwhelming all other emotions present in her eyes. The girl began to raise the sword made for a man too heavy to raise it in time. With the flat of her blade Elsey struck the hand the girl held round her sword. Screams followed with the clatter of falling steel. In the same motion Elsey’s free hand grabbed the girl by her dirty hair and yanked her on close, almost ripping her scalp out.

    “Stupid foolish little wretch, how many must I kill before your eyes before you learn.”
    Elsey tossed the girl face first into the pooled entrails of the second man she killed. The girl yelped and tried to get to her feet, dark blood smearing her face. Her hands slipped in the wet red heap and she fell back down. Elsey put her foot on the girls back, forcing her further into the bloody mess. This would remind her.

    “Every fool you make me kill with your insolence is another debt you and your blood owe me, perhaps slavery is not enough for your kind, for all the trouble you have cause me.” The girl was coughing, vomiting and crying all at the same time. “Remember this one, remember the warm blood on your face, or I swear every time I kill because of you it will end the same way, with your face in the mess you make. Do you understand?” The whimpering retching sound the girl made could only be construed as a yes. Elsey pulled the girl up by her hair and took the girl’s left hand. “I have asked before and you failed me, this time I will make sure you don’t forget.” Elsey shoved the hand against the floor and rammed her sword down onto the smallest finger, taking it off at the middle knuckle. The girl screamed louder than she ever had.

    Elsey gave her no respite, bundling all their things onto one of the horses, she shared the saddle of another as they went off into the night. Somewhere ahead of them was a boy ready to tell the authorities of what had happened, and she would not wait for them to find her.
     
  8. Rob Darken

    Rob Darken New Member

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    As the remnants of the door smashed back to hit the wall with a dull thud, the celebratory feeling within the tavern suddenly changed to anger at the uninvited interruption of the occupant’s jovial evening.
    A number of men reached for their weapons, while others cowered wide eyed and afraid.
    Piers noticed that several patrons tried to lower their heads in an attempt to appear inconspicuous.
    Particularly he noted the fellow with the goatee and tri corner hat drop his gaze whilst muttering an obscenity.
    A massively built man with malevolent eyes stood in the doorway with a look of disdain on his face. He began to slowly and deliberately walk into the room pushing aside both furniture and patrons with ease.
    Piers watched mesmerised as Korkan threw himself on the back of the man, arms thrown tight around his neck in an effort to stop him.
    The intruder did not break his stride at all, and in one swift movement with speed that defied his bulk, reached his arms behind his head grabbing Korkan and abruptly flipping him over his head and flinging him out in front.
    The unfortunate Korkan’s ungraceful flight through the air was broken by a group of mule traders and their table. They, along with their new acquisition, collapsed in a soggy heap of ale, broken furniture and blood. Abruptly ceasing all movement.
    Within seconds the men who had reached for their weapons slowly moved their hands back into view and sat down quietly in acquiescence.
    The massive intruder reached the centre of the room and stood still, staring with evil intent at any patron brave enough to glance his way.
    The gathering of merchants and other patrons in the tavern stood dumfounded at the sudden entry and display of violence.
    Piers was a thoroughly astounded himself, sanctioned raids were quite common in the city, but usually there was fair warning and when such prominent citizens as were gathered in his tavern at present were involved, there was little chance of a raid at all.
    A trickle of fear ran through his body as he realised this was no ordinary raid and no pay off or bribe was going to make it go away.
    A tall figure slowly moved into the room through the broken doorway; a scarlet robe edged with intricate gold patterns which covered him from neck to ground hiding any movement of his feet giving him the appearance of gliding into the room.
    His remarkably high cheekbones caused his dark eyes to appear slightly slanted, yet hid not one nuance of their intensity.
    His chin was covered by a wispy black beard which was neatly woven into two plaits which cascaded down onto the front of his exquisite robe.
    His Head was covered by a high headdress made from the same material as his robe, and had an unknown symbol woven into the front of it.
    Piers took in every nuance of the man who had entered and felt his bowels turn to water.
    It was evident from all the power radiating from the man that there could only be one explanation...
    Runewitch.
    Piers hurriedly glanced around the room at his patrons, wondering which had done something to garner the attention of such ilk.
    Most of his clientele were of minimal interest to anyone, except perhaps only if certain goods and services were needed for one reason or another. Even the merchants present who dabbled in what tended to stray into very dubious territory in business, were but minor pawns and warranted little more than their station decreed.
    Even the most eminent and corrupted of merchants here, like Linus Oberon barely would raise an eyebrow in the capital with their dealings, let alone to have a fully fledged court sanctioned Runewitch tracking them.
    A sudden movement on the edge of his vision caused Piers eyes to snap toward the once rowdy affluent merchants table.
    The young chia’la’an that Piers had observed earlier was trying to dart past the hulking brute in the centre of the room.
    The giant merely grinned and shot out his left hand, which the youth ran straight into at head height, effectively knocking himself out. The youth crumpled into an untidy heap on the floor and lay still.
    Piers looked behind the Runewitch through the broken door and saw a number of town watch milling around a cell wagon. This was definitely a major raid, but to what end he had no idea.
    As if he had read Piers thoughts the Runewitch began to speak in a surprisingly quiet clear tone to the occupants of the tavern.
    “I am sorry to have interrupted your revelries on this fine evening gentleman, but I have matters of grave importance to discuss with some of you”
    His mouth twitched in a flicker of a smile as he watched the crowds despair sink even lower than it already was.
    “It seems there are those who believe that they know better than our beloved crown how best to conduct themselves. Apparently it is all well and fair to conduct certain pastimes for profit in their eyes. And tonight Gentlemen I am here to winkle out this sedition”.
    The Runewitch finished his announcement and raised a hand and clicked his fingers. The town watch waiting outside hurriedly burst in and began to single out certain members of the taverns clientele.
    Piers stared, confused and staggered as the wealthiest and most prominent businessmen of the city were paraded out.
    The gentle unnerving voice of the Runewitch rose above the din of pleadings of innocence and denials of guilt from the throng being ushered out toward the waiting cell wagon.
    “It seems barkeep; you may well be closing early tonight”
    The offbeat tone of his voice caused warning bells to go off in Piers head and he steeled himself for what he knew was coming.
    The Runewitch looked intently at the grimace on Piers face and his mouth once again flickered in the trace of a smile.
    “One would think, my dear barkeep that you know what I am about to say. No?”
    Piers said nothing, and forced himself to look down at his boots in an act of submission.
    The runewitch continued without waiting for an answer.
    “One would rightly assume that such a forward thinking man was indeed smarter than he appeared and perhaps would have more to say with no persuasion”.
    Piers heard the click of the Runewitches fingers again and felt a watchman fall in either side of him, grasping an arm each and begin to roughly propel him toward the door.

    The one way mirror behind the bar shattered into a myriad of pieces as Venn and Daytura launched themselves into the room.
    The town watchmen nearest the bar fell under a flurry of vicious blows from the pair.
    Piers sighed inwardly; relieved that they had not unsheathed weapons, so if taken they would not be guilty of murdering any watchmen in this foolish rescue attempt, so stupid a noble could have thought of it.
    Piers sighed again and pretended to stumble, quickly wrenching his left arm free and driving it into the watchman on his rights face, dropping him like a stone.
    He continued with his right turning motion, spinning around to take the left hand watchman from behind, driving the man forward face first to the floor.
    Piers noticed that several of the braver merchants had also taken advantage of the chaos that had prevailed with the entry of Venn and Daytura.
    The floor of the tavern had turned into a series of vicious melees with advantage lying with neither watchman nor their quarry.
    Several of the patrons were using the confusion to make good their escape by any means possible. The now broken front windows were being used as an alternative to the now clogged front doorway.

    The giant in the centre of the room looked enquiringly at the Runewitch, who smiled and nodded.
    Like a whirlwind of destruction the giant began to swiftly move across the room in one fluid movement like he was gracing a grand ballroom.
    His limbs appeared bleared from the constant motion as he swiftly dealt with all who unfortunately crossed his path.
    Several brave souls came at the man brandishing various weapons ranging from the remnants of the taverns furniture to more commonly concealed weapons in the form of stout cudgels and knives.
    Singly or by the number they attacked but the result was always the same. Their broken bodies were added to the growing piles in the giants wake. At a decent arms length behind the giant, the members of the town watch picked up those still breathing and carried them out to the waiting cell wagons, all visible signs of resistance were totally and utterly quelled.
    Piers had fallen back toward the bar and into the vicinity of Venn and Daytura who were taking on all comers.
    The two swiftly moved to either side of Piers, and protected his flanks. The three fought naturally as one mindset, as they had practised and perfected over the years since they had all first been grouped together.
    Piers ducked a wild swing from a town watchman’s club, and replied with vicious uppercut that sent the mans head snapping back while his legs crumbled beneath him.
    Piers gave the man a kick as he collapsed to clear his fighting space and without a second thought focused in front of him for the next challenger.
    Several town watchman warily eyed him and made no attempt to enter into the fray, and Piers found his eyes looking past them to the slow deliberate approach by the Runewitch’s champion.
    Piers mind raced and within seconds his mind had weighed the various outcomes probable in the situation at hand, and he rasped to his companions.
    “We leave now…we cannot afford the chance of being taken and submitted to the question at the hands of one as powerful as that”.
    He gestured at the silent Runewitch standing near the ruins of the door, and then at the broken front windows guarded by four town watchman, who were preoccupied by several other likeminded escapee’s.
    Venn nodded quickly, while Daytura’s lips twitched in sneer as she fought to keep down her thoughts on the subject of cutting and running.
    Piers grinned inwardly, too much fire in that ones blood sometimes he thought, not so bad on a cold lonely night in winter but a burden at times in the game they played.
    Despite her apparent misgivings about not finishing the business at hand, Daytura broke to the left with them in a dash for the broken window, for she knew that too much was at stake for petty ideals.
    The trio made a desperate dash for the shattered windows and freedom and were halfway across the floor when the Runewitch unleashed a flow of his immense power across the room.