Tales of Pangea

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Aardvark on Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:11 am

Laro watched as his former master flew off, heading to the mountains along the border, with a deep, powerful hatred in his eyes. The rain cascading down around him made it hard to see anything more then a few meters in front of him, but despite this he managed to track the traitor for well over half a mile before he finally became indistinguishable from the drops falling in front of him.

A flash of lightning lit the land in brief light, a light that gave momentary view off all his comrades, and himself. Had someone been looking in that instant, had anyone been conscious enough to look at the young Brigadier, they would have seen that the rain was not the only waters running down Laro's face. Someone would have had to be there to know it, someone who could look the Knight in the face, for even he had not noticed the second source of moisture.

Of course there was no one there, no one awake at least. No one to take his mind off his hatred or regret. No one to distract him from his grief. No one to help him understand why he was still confused and hesitant, despite the resolve he felt to bring his old master to justice. Perhaps he hadn't fully come to terms with what he had agreed to, had hoped, in some small part, that Lloyd could be reasoned with and brought back to Lenus. That maybe he could be captured, serve his time, and everything would go back to normal eventually. That it was all just a bad dream.

He tightened his grip on his broadsword, feeling cheated out of something, but not knowing what. Don't I deserve a break for once in my life? Can't I be allowed one person to call friend? "RAH!" With a yell of frustration he turned and hurled his sword into the darkness. Hoping, irrationally, that casting the weapon away would in turn cast away his problems, but it didn't, and he just slumped to the ground in defeat.

It was a long while before anything moved in the clearing, but eventually a sound could be heard in front of him. He looked up to see Zara groaning as he pushed himself up off the ground, "Wasn't expecting that," he commented, rubbing the spot on his chest that had been hit by the wave of heat. The Errant looked around for his bearing and spotted Athrun's body lying motionless on the ground, blood staining the armor he had worn. He said nothing upon seeing it, but his face spoke of the sorrow he was feeling for his lost friend.

"That could have gone better," came Darius' voice. The Royal was leaning against a tree, but had yet to get up, "And for once, I doubt anyone will argue that fact with me."

A sound of footsteps came up behind Laro somewhere, but he didn't care enough to look. "You cannot argue against truth Darius," Clide responded finally coming into view. The Leader's arm was still wrenched out of place, but he seemed otherwise fine, "We lost, we should be grateful any of us still live."

"We shouldn't have lost," Zara spoke, anger tinting his face, "and we wouldn't have if Laro had been able to keep his weapon." He leveled a finger at the young man, "Were it not for you, Athrun would not have lost his life."

"You're supposed to be an elite fighting force," Laro sneered back, "don't blame me if you're bested."

"You little-" Zara closed the distance between them remarkably fast for someone of his size and grabbed Laro by the collar, lifting him off the ground with a murderous look in his eyes. The Knight didn't bother fighting back, he would almost welcome the end at this point, it would mean his troubles could no longer bother him. "I should kill you right here for your ignorance!"

Clide rested his hand on the Errant's shoulder, "Killing him will solve nothing Zara, nor will it make our job any easier."

Zara looked between the two, still fueled by righteous fury, but conceded and released Laro, "Then I suggest you educate him Clide." With that he turned his back and stalked off to his fallen comrade.

The Leader breathed a sigh of release and immediately regretted it as the pain in his shoulder reasserted itself, "Darius, explain it to him while I perform first aid on myself."

"Alright," the Royal stood and leaned back against the tree as he was overcome by momentary dizziness. "So it works like this Laro," he began with a hand on his forehead. "Each of us are trained to be deadly warriors in our own right, and with the aide of the Moon Weapons we can become even more deadly, but only if we work as one. Our preferred weapons are not the same weapons we use when part of the Lunar Brigade, and that is because the weapons cannot be changed to suite us. So, in order to be effective, we have to work together. If any part of our formation falls apart, then we cannot succeed."

"I was never told any of this," Laro replied, "how can I be expected to follow rules I do not know."

"Because your part is the simplest of us all," Zara responded, picking up his friend's body and moving it to a shallow grave he had been digging. "All you have to do is engage the enemy, but you can't even do that right."

"Let me see if I can clear that up," Clide interjected. He had positioned his arm between a pair of branches and was now gritting his teeth in anticipation, "one second." With a violent yank and a loud crack, Clide slide his shoulder back into place. Despite the obvious pain of the procedure though, the man made no noise outside of the occasional grunt. "Now where was I? Oh yes. Our formation works like this: I stay back and fire arrows, Zara stays back with me to intercept any retaliatory attacks so I can keep firing, and Athrun cloaks himself with the Staff's illusionary magic. Meanwhile, Darius and yourself engage the enemy, keep them busy while Athrun sneaks up behind them and deals debilitating or fatal blows and I take shots at their exposed flanks."

"But when you lost your Claymore," Darius continued, "we were one short and the plan fell apart. We didn't explain it to you before because we thought you would be too distracted to fight."

"So he bested me," Laro replied with a shrug, "surely you should account for this."

"The issue isn't with him beating you," Zara added, "it's the fact that he was able to disarm you in a matter of seconds."

"He's right," Clide said with a nod, "if you felt you couldn't engage Lloyd, then you should have informed us. We can compensate for one person if we need to, but we cannot do so unless we know beforehand."

"Athrun was counting on you to keep your master busy, and you failed him," Zara finished, piling dirt on the dead body in front of him. "He payed for your ineptness."

"It is my fault," Clide said with a sigh, "I should not have chosen him without knowing the full extent of his skills."

"You made the only choice you could," Darius responded, "the Mages would never have let us pursue him if you had not picked a fifth. As tragic as Athrun's death is, it teaches us two things: their abilities and our weaknesses."

"One man dead, his weapon gone, our horses and supplies run off, and the Tracker that lead us here disappeared," Zara patted the dirt mound to cement it in place, "A high price to pay to know our enemy."

"And we cannot pursue Lloyd in this condition either," Clide added, "while we can still function with only four, our fourth is not up to the task, nor skilled enough to get the job done."

"It's not hopeless," Darius spoke. "It will take Lloyd several days to reach the cost and charter a boat with such limited transportation. If we ride our horses hard enough we should be able to make it there in half the time."

"That doesn't change the fact that our fourth is completely inept," Zara replied.

"Let me handle that," the Royal responded. "Give me two days and I will turn him into a skilled warrior."

"We cannot afford to waste that much time," Clide replied with an air of finality, "and I seriously doubt you could cram months of training into days."

"He doesn't need team training," Darius continued, "he just needs to brush up on how to fight against Elemental magic."

"Regardless, we cannot waste the time."

"God dammit Clide!" Darius burst out, "Don't argue with me on this!"

"Sir Morland-" he began.

"Don't forget Clide," Darius interrupted, "I am still your senior!" The Royal gave Clide a looked Laro had never seen from the man before. It was a look that would have made Deegos beg run for the hills and men beg for mercy, "I may have concede the position of Leader because I recognized your natural charisma and ability to inspire loyalty, but I am under no obligation to follow you. I was slaying enemies of the kingdom while you were but a Page."

Clide was taken aback by the outburst, but not cowed. A long silence passed between them as they both starred each other down, but eventually the Leader relented. "Very well Sir Morland, I will allow you to teach Sir Klein while Zara and I go back to town to procure more supplies and steeds. I expect to have a trained Brigadier when we get back."

"You will," The Royal replied, still staring Clide in the eye. Clide nodded to Zara and began walking back along the path to town, the rain soon forming a curtain to block the men's receding backs.

Darius walked over to where Zara had stuck the Moon Claymore into the ground after digging it out of Athrun and pulled it out. He chucked the blade at Laro and the Knight deftly caught it out of the air by the handle, instantly invigorated by it's power so it did not seem all that heavy. "For your own sake Laro," he said with a large sigh, "don't prove me wrong."

-------------------------------

Clide and Zara walked up the path, a pair of horses trailing each, packed with enough equipment to keep them self-sufficient for up to a month. They were on their way back to the clearing where they had left Darius to train Laro two days ago, neither sure what they would find when they did get back.

Without the horses it had taken much longer to get back to the town, well over half a day, after which they had found the supplies they had needed and, at Clide's insistence, slept over at the local Inn. He had wanted to give the two as much time as possible, and had managed to stall their return for 12 hours longer then it would have normally taken them. He really didn't want to get rid of Laro, he liked the lad's attitude, but he needed more from him then that. He needed a warrior.

They could manage with only three, but it would seriously hamper their effectiveness to do so, and while he didn't like being questioned, Darius was right. They could make up the distance if they pushed themselves and the horses enough, so he had stalled to give Laro the best possible chance. He couldn't imagine that the boy would have improved in the short amount of time, but then again Darius Morland was no normal Knight.

The Royal had always been a bit of a puzzle to Clide. The man had been a High Knight when Clide had joined them, and had been considered the Senior Knight of the group, but it was long before Zara, Athrun, or even Lloyd became members. He seemed a permanent fixture, and by all rights should have been much older then he appeared. Clide wasn't even sure the man was mortal, much less human, but he didn't need to know any of that. Darius was a powerful fighter and skilled with his Moon Weapons, not as skilled as Clide, but still very adept in their use.

"Why did we lose?" Zara asked suddenly. It was the first sentence the man had uttered in hours, and it took him a moment to figure out what the Errant meant.

"Why do you ask a question to which you already know the answer?" Clide asked back. Zara had been the one that pointed out the problem, so it seemed odd that he would forget it.

"Even without the Claymore we shouldn't have lost that badly," Zara answered.

Clide looked out onto the plain, considering what had been said. The sun was out and the grass and trees around were surrounded in a halo of glistening light, a beautiful sight completely lost on the warrior. He went over the scenario in his head, he and Zara had been in place doing their jobs, Athrun had been sneaking up behind Lloyd when Laro was disarmed. It was a spurt of bad luck that the one motion had effectively stopped two of the five, but that still made it three on three effectively. Clide had engaged Lloyd, which left the two Halflings free to fight Darius, an easy task for the man, except.... Except one of the Halflings had attacked him, not distracted by Darius in the slightest. It didn't seem right, the Royal was an expert with his Moon Weapons, had trained much longer then any of them with them.

The realization dawned on him, "Why didn't Sir Morland use his Moon Weapons?"

Zara nodded, "He didn't use the elemental powers when he was fighting that Halfling. Why?"

"Because my enemy had no magic," came Darius' voice ahead. The two had made it back to the clearing while in deep thought and had not noticed how close they were. The Royal was up in a tree, eating a piece of fruit he had picked from it and looking down on them, "I do like a challenge you know."

"You should not be holding back against our enemies Sir Morland," Clide commented. "Especially not one who has already slipped past us once."

The Royal hoped down off the tree and landed lightly on the balls of his feet, "Give me a break Clide. It was five on three, it didn't exactly look like it would be terribly hard." He took another bite out of the fruit, "I'll get serious next time."

Clide looked over at Zara. The man looked annoyed, but wasn't angry or charging the Royal, so he decided it would be best to steer the topic else where, "And will Laro be able to 'get serious' this time?"

Darius stepped aside and waved along the path, "See for yourselves." Ahead of them was standing the youngest of the Brigadeirs, sheathed sword in hand, and looking much older then he had two days ago. Whatever the training had been, it had obviously taught the lad quite a bit about the world in general, and combat in specific.

Clide turned to Zara and nodded, giving the large man approval to test Laro's skills. The Errant didn't need to be told twice, he was off and sprinting at the teen, shield mounted on his left arm. Zara closed the distance in a second and swung a strong right uppercut at Laro, missing by bare inches as the lad bent back to avoid the swing. Zara compensated quickly and brought the shield in hard left in a blow that would crack ribs should it connect. Laro pushed off with his right foot, putting himself just beyond the swing's arc, then brought his claymore up in attack.

The sword and shield met with a loud clang, Laro's sword wielded one-handed, but still connecting with enough power to force Zara to put his entire body behind the block. The Errant let the shield absorb the energy then pushed back, throwing the Knight off balance and punched forward with his right to catch him in the stomach. To his surprise neither attack worked as Laro used the Errant's counter to flip out of range, and by the time the punch was thrown was in a blur of motion, sweeping around Zara's blind left side.

A second later the battle was over as the claymore rested softly on the back of the Errant's neck. During the entire fight the teen's expression had remained completely neutral, as if he was doing nothing more strenuous then making coffee. "Impressive," Clide commented, "I honestly didn't expect you to make him this good."

"Well it's a lot easier when they come pre-trained," Darius replied, scratching his head idly. "He already knew the moves and timing, he just needed to know how to use them in actual combat. Not to wild about what it did to his personality though."

"What do you mean?"

Darius waved to the teen, "Watch."

Clide did as told and watched as the boy sheathed the sword and strung it across his back. As soon as it rested there his personality changed drastically, from one of calm fury to one of quiet consideration as he bent down to help Zara to his feet, his face a mixture of worry and concern. It was a stark difference from what he had seen a moment ago.

His expression must have shown the shock as he didn't even need to say anything for Darius to answer his question. "A little over a day ago I started noticing that his personality would change when he sat down to eat. He would be much more pleasant and open when we took a break, but the minute he set his stance he wouldn't speak at all, and follow instructions with exacting precision."

"That could be both a good and a bad thing," Clide commented carefully, though his voice showed none of the doubt he was feeling, "only time will tell."

"I just hope we don't get our answer too late," Darius said, mounting one of the horses.

Clide hopped on another, "Death is an inevitable part of our duty as the Lunar Brigade, Darius. We cannot burden ourselves with doubt as it will only get us killed. All we need know is that he is now strong enough to face his former master." He pulled the reigns on the horse, aiming it along the mountain path as Zara and Laro mounted their own steeds. In a louder voice he said, "Make full haste Brigadiers! Our prey is not yet out of range!" He snapped the reigns and they were off.

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Ptolemy on Wed May 12, 2010 4:33 pm

The Kinder watched as Lloyd touched down and motioned the four into a cave. Frick and Frack hurried into the cave and Frick made a bed of rocks against a large rock that would reflect the light and heat back into the cave while Frack ran around the walls of the cave gathering wood and twigs. Both kinder looked at Lloyd with furtive glances not realy in fear but wondering how he was going to handle the latest side effect of his armor.

‘At least it’s not your fault this time’ Frack said to Frick as the humans were talking.

Frick reached into his pack and grabbed a bag of dried fruit and offered some to Frack which was accepted and promptly popped into his mouth…

‘…a while. I'm gonna stick around for a while until I decide on whether or not to actually join you.’ The tracker was saying

‘That makes absolutely no sense,’ Lloyd answered.

‘Sure it does!’ Frack interjected around a mouthful of fruit.

‘He's curious,’ Frick added.

‘Curiosity isn't enough to risk your life over,’ the Knight replied, confused.

‘Why do you think we're here?’ Frick asked striking flint to steel trying to get a spark to start the fire with. The Kinder went back to starting the fire and the humans continued their conversation. The tinder began to smolder and Frick coaxed it into flame and began to build a frame of wood around the sputtering flame. Frick and Frack went to one side of the fire as Stock crouched and began poking at the fire.

‘I was following instinct back there. Getting those two out of danger seemed more important then watching you fight.’

‘You called them thieves before,’ Lloyd reminded him, ‘you obviously don't like Kinder, so why help them.’

The Kinder straightened from looking at new treasures they had collected.

Stock shrugged, ‘Following my heart I guess. You were mean to me, but you and your friends didn't kill your enemies despite the fact that they were trying to kill you, aside from that accident I mean. I figure you're a good person if you don't kill those doing their duty.’

‘You heard my talk with Clide,’ the Knight pressed, ‘you know I killed the King.’

‘That's why I'm not promising to follow you,’ the teen responded, ‘I will watch you and form my own decision.’

Lloyd's brows shot up in surprise, ‘In the cave you were ready to attack me with your bare fists for nothing. Now you want to give me a chance, knowing I killed the sovereign leader of this country? What changed?’

Stock nodded to Damean, ‘He showed me how close minded I was being, made me doubt my beliefs. I want to see if he was right.’

Lloyd sighed and leaned against the cave opening looking out over the landscape. With the loss of their horses it would be a couple of days till the Brigade would be able to take up the chase again. Laro hated him. Why was that so important? Why was it so important to move Laro to his point of view? Gave a last look around and sat on a boulder right outside the mouth of the cave. Lloyd let his mind wonder back just a few months. Dwelling on the training sessions he held with Laro and began to think about his duties as a member of the Lunar Brigade. The death of Athrun hit Lloyd like a hammer and left him feeling a bit numb. He had a good idea on how they would fight and got sucked in anyway. If not for the Kinder he would have fallen in to the trap that he had helped design.

The smell of roasting venison wafted out of the cave and made Lloyds stomach growl. He pulled off his gauntlets and looked at his hands. Were they the hands of a murderer or defender, a traitor or patriot, he turned his hands over and looked at his palms and regarded the stone embedded in his left hand. He ran his finger tips over the gem and gripped the stone and twisted. The stone did not move and his stomach growled again. Lloyd sighed again and put his head in his hands. There was a flash of light and the sound of birds and the wind faded, his surroundings dissolved in to a white void.

‘Why do you wish to possess this power?’ A voice said

‘My reasons have not changed’ Lloyd answered a little confused. ‘Why have you chosen me?’

‘You reached the Dragoon’ the voice said ‘Your motives are aligned with our own.’

‘You wanted the King of Lenus dead?’ Lloyd asked ‘what would that matter to you?’

‘The death of your king was necessary’ The voice said ‘There is change coming to Pangea, a change that was accelerated by your acquisition of the Dragoon Stone.’

‘I care only for the safety of Lenus…’ Lloyd started

‘When you took the stone you became the defender of Pangea.’ The Voice interrupted ‘You are the Dragoon, You are the guardian of the last surviving Dragoon Stone. You must adapt to the stone for you will be tested.’

‘What must I do?’

‘There are those that would try to stop you’ The voice said ‘These are powerful beings who’s purpose is to bring about the destruction of Pangea. You must resist them. You know where you must go.’

‘Concord’ Lloyd said

‘There you will find rest and your first task.’ The voice said ‘There will be great sorrow and great reward. You, must be prepared for both’

The Voice faded and was replaced by the twitter of birds and the feel of stone against his bum and back. He looked up and around, it was almost as if he had not left. Lloyd looked around again and ran his hand through his… hair? He let his hand drop and closed his eyes. Slowly he reached back and drew his sword and looked at himself in the mirrored surface of the broadsword. He regarded his rugged features softened a bit buy the slight shade of blue that almost looked like he was choking and… his hair was gone. He laid his sword across his knees and chuckled and it just grew in to a full throated laugh. He put his elbows on his knees and laughed long and loud which brought the attention of the Kinder. Who ran from the cave and looked at him questioningly…

‘Bald…’ Lloyd managed to blurt out choking on his own laughter.

Frick and Frack looked at each other and chuckled nervously.

‘sorry…’ Lloyd said wiping his eyes ‘just struck me as funny, not only am I blue…’

‘A very nice shade of blue,’ Frick said quickly. Stock came up behind the kinder

‘Now I am bald’ Lloyd said beginning to chuckle again. ‘My own mother would not recognize me…’

‘We were gonna tell you…’ started Frack

‘Shh…’ Said Stock ‘listen’

Faintly there could be heard the sound of a horse approaching. From the sound of it the horse was wondering a bit as it’s worked their way up the slope from the trail. Stock had his bow strung and an arrow notched in a split second, there was a creak as he drew his bow the fletching of the arrow near his ear. A moment later a riderless horse came into view and walked past the stunned men and kinder, in to the cave. The bow in stocks hand creaked as he slowly released the bow. The four looked at each other and Lloyd chuckled again.

‘We need to ride’ Lloyd said ‘North to the coast. We need to get to concord.’

‘Concord?’ Damean sighed as he walked out of the cave, his face shrouded with pain and yet he seemed to be pleased with the prospect. ‘I am from Concord, A small village on it’s south shore.’

‘We are bound for The city of Triceta’ Lloyd said ‘we should be safer there than anywhere else on Pangea’

The Kinder put about dousing the fire and packing up, Stock took a piece of venison from a skewer and handed it to Lloyd.

‘You should probably eat’ Stock said

Lloyd nodded and took the meat eating quickly as he led a horse out. Damean mounted his horse and reached down and lifted Frick to the saddle behind him. Lloyd swung up on his horse and watched as Frack settled in behind Stock.

‘It will take a day or so for the brigade to regroup and get moving again,’ Lloyd told them ‘We need to ride hard to the north to Garield so we can book passage to Concord’

Lloyd flicked the reigns and set his horse along the slope of the mountain and the others followed. Slowly their worked their way deeper into the mountains toward Drek’s Pass over the Western Mountains. Drek’s pass was the least logical though most direct route to the north and the site of the last great battle won by the king. Marauding Giants from The Arid had entered the Bad Lands and were marauding the settlements along the border. The giants were led to the pass and were attacked by a force of knights and Lenus militia. The Forces of Lenus were victorious that day and, though the pass is rarely used and is really more of a tourist destination, it was dubbed Drek’s Pass. At the suggestion of the court mages there was a monument built there with the conspicuous absence of a likeness of King Drek. Lloyd remembered the decree that authorized the monument specifically prohibiting the likeness of the king on the monument. King Drek was not so vain as to want monuments of himself covering Lenus.

This time of year the Pass was still passable though it was choked with snow and ice.
Lloyd wrapped his cloak more tightly around him as a defense against the cold and quickened his pace as he caught sight of Drek’s Pass. The area was almost perfect for an ambush and he wanted to get through the pass and started down the other side.

‘Pick up the pace’ Lloyd shouted over his shoulder at the others. ‘Garield is at the foot of this mountain. I want to get over the pass before night fall.’

Stock and Damean spurred their horses on to keep up with the knight when Saphire started Growling. Damean looked at the Deego mix and Saph was looking up at the hills on either side of the pass.

‘Someone is up there…’ Damean started

‘Yeah I feel it to’ Lloyd said

They heard a whistle from the left and Damean spread open his left hand and made a chopping motion next to his head forward and snow and ice from the trail arched up and solidified as an arrow struck the hastily erected barrier.

‘Ride hard it’s an ambush!’ Lloyd shouted as he dug his heels in to his horse’s flanks.

As one, the three horses leapt forward the Kinder hanging on for dear life. Lloyd lay low over his saddle, Damean gesturing and manipulating snow and ice from horse back throwing up barriers and sending razor sharp shards of ice speeding at targets in the snow. Stock had strung his bow and fired a couple of arrows to great effect evidenced by places where the snow was turning red with the blood of his targets. As they topped the rise and started the descent, Lloyd caught sight of the road block. It would stop a wagon but a horse could jump it with ease. Lloyd worked his reigns back and forth, popping his horse on the flanks urging even more speed from the tired horse.

‘Road block,’ Lloyd shouted ‘JUMP IT!’

Damean looked forward and furrowed hos brow in concentration then brought his hand up. The snow and ice under the road block fairly exploded and cleared the road. Several of the bandits that set the ambush ran from the slopes to either side brandishing weapons. Lloyd drew his sword and concentrated on enhancing the weapon and felt a familiar warmth as the sword started to glow with a heat provided by the stone in his left hand. An arrow appeared in the throat of a bandit on the left and he fell choking and grasping his neck. Lloyd parried the clumsy thrust of a spear and took the head off of another bandit. Then they were in the open thundering down the mountain toward Garield. After several minutes they pulled up to asses the damage if there was any. Stock dismounted and pulled an arrow out of his saddle. He felt under the saddle.

‘Well at least the equipment is good’ Stock said a bit relieved ‘The arrow didn’t go through.’

‘THAT WAS SO COOL!!’ Frick shouted as he hopped down from behind Damean. ‘Did you see him throw the snow and ice? I saw him take out 30 of the bad guys, pew, pew.’ He made a fist with both hands forefinger pointed out.

‘Stock must have gotten 30 himself’ Frack said sliding off the horse he shared with stock acting like he was drawing and shooting a bow.

‘I didn’t have that many arrows’ Stock began a bit embarrassed only to be shushed buy Frack.

‘I am not sure there were that many there’ Damean said drawing a stern look from Frick.

Then the Kinder went on talking excitedly to each other.
‘Either that was a foiled robbery attempt or word has gotten out what has happened.’ Lloyd said thoughtfully, ‘I would think that they would keep it quiet till they have selected a new king.’

‘He was shooting 3 arrows at a time and hitting with every one of them!’ Frack said

‘I am not sure you get it. That,’ Damean said pointing back up the hill ‘is a symptom of what Frugal was doing to this nation. Those were not professional bandits; those were people that were pushed to that life because of what they have lost. They are trying to survive.’

‘So what? It’s not as cool as throwing ice shards 40 yards to take out the archers!’ Frack said defensively.

‘I would be there if I was not an excellent hunter,’ Stock shook his head thoughtfully ‘I do not think they will give chase either way.’

‘Any one can shoot a bow’ Frack said

‘You can’t’ Frick said ‘you can’t even sling a stone!’

That earned a glare from Frack and the three humans looked at the Kinder a bit surprised. Frack looked at the group and back at Frick.

‘You can't shoot a bow either! Besides’ He sighed ‘It’s not that I can’t, I just don’t want to…’

Lloyd chuckled and turned back to Damean and Stock ‘I am not sure how many of them are capable of giving chase,’ Lloyd said wryly and turned and looked down the mountain. ‘There is the coast and the port of Garield, we should make it by night fall. We walk the horses for the next hour so they can rest.’

The others nodded and they led their horses down the mountain to Garield.

_________________

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Aardvark on Fri May 21, 2010 8:49 am

Lloyd pulled up on the reigns and brought his steed to a halt alongside the path the group had been following to Garield. The town was only a few hundred feet away, the various booths of vendors hoping to catch hapless tourists with overpriced and unnecessary items beginning to form a vague outline. This was about as close as he could safely get without attracting undue attention.

"Something wrong?" Stock asked as the Knight dismounted.

"Can't go any further until dark," Lloyd replied. He motioned to the two Halflings and they slid down and came over to him.

A confused expression crossed Stock's face, but Damean saved the Knight from having to explain, "He's blue and bald and Kinder are uncommon in these parts," the Tracker answered. "He'll attract attention if he goes into town in broad day light, and with the Lunar Brigade searching for us we can't risk word getting out of unusual events. As it is, they probably have a good guess as to where we're heading."

"So we have to wait until dark?" Stock asked. "Isn't that just as dangerous? They may have caught up by then."

"You won't be waiting," Lloyd replied. He had tied his horse up and was setting up a minimal camp behind some hedges, "We will. You and Damean will go into town and secure us passage to Concord, preferably one that leaves by morning." He looked up at the afternoon sun, just now beginning to make it's descent to the horizon, "It'll be several hours before the Kinder and I can join you. It would be best if you have passage booked by then so we can slip on before daybreak."

"I know the drill," Damean replied, annoyed. The Tracker squinted, his gaze following the edges of the port that were just barely visible from the trail. He pointed at an isolated group of crates at the very edge of the harbor standing just a couple dozen feet from the edge of the forest, "We'll meet you there in five hours with tickets and supplies." He looked back at the three, "If you stay in the forest you'll be able to minimize your time in the open to just a few seconds."

Lloyd marked the place mentally and nodded affirmation, "We'll be there."

Damean nudged his steed and together, he and Stock moved into the town of Garield.

The Knight turned around and saw the two Halflings were looking up at him expectantly, "What?"

"We're bored," Frick answered.

"So?" He answered, unsure what the little man meant.

"Usually something entertaining happens to you when we're bored," Frack supplied.

"OK?"

"We're waiting to see what happens," Frick explained.

"Oh...." Lloyd scratched the back of his head in embarrassment, and it only worsened the problem as it reminded him yet again that he was bald. He knew it academically of course, but he still hadn't gotten used to it. All the changes were beginning to irritate him of late, and he could feel his face reddening in an irrational anger.

"Oo look! He's turning purple!" Frack exclaimed.

"I wonder what caused that...."

-------------------------------------

The two humans strode into town, blending so perfectly into the mass of bodies that it took a moment for them to find each other. Damean had had plenty of practice at blending in, having quickly learned some of life's hardest lessons while on his own, but the Tracker had no idea that Stock was skilled in that area. The boy didn't come across as very world wise, but it could also have been an act on his part. Whatever the reason, he was glad for it, it gave them the lowest possible profile, which meant that the odds of attracting attention to themselves, and subsequently Lloyd, was much lower.

The Tracker split off from the crowd and approached a vendor selling cured meats, and spotted his companion doing something similar with a dried fruit stand. After a minute of bartering, enough to get the price down, but not so much that the man would remember him, he had five pounds of assorted meat and a satchel to carry it in. He moved off back into the crown, leaving Stock to get the remaining food supplies and instead went over to the main city square to play tourist. He had learned long ago that sometimes, the best way to avoid attention, is to draw just enough of it so that he would not seem secretive. And the best way to do this was to play tourist.

After a second of looking around he found a heavy set man off in a corner of the square performing some basic elemental bending magic with fire, Perfect! "Hey mister!" He yelled over the crowd, "How'd you do that?" He forced his eyes open, simulating an innocent look, and it worked to his satisfaction.

The man smiled and puffed himself up, evidently proud that he could impress a teenager with magic, and began into a long tangent about how he had studied for years, most likely days, to learn full control over fire, enough to make it flare and flicker, and that he had once fought off a dozen men, probably a single mugger, with his spectacular ability. All through the long speech Damean kept up his innocent, wide-eyed, impressionable teenager impression while trying his hardest not to shut the man up with a true display of power, and took the first opening he could to blend back into the crowd and find a bench to sit on.

A few moments after finding a suitable place to sit, Stock came up and sat beside him, "Nice acting." He said pretending to look through his bag, "was that for my benefit or theirs?"

"Act to secretive and you'll draw just as much attention as you would stampeding through town." The Tracker sneaked a glance at the boy's haul. It looked as if he had half a dozen pounds of food and some bed rolls, along with a few miscellaneous pieces of equipment they would find useful, "Impressive haul, I didn't know you were that good at bartering."

Stock smiled, "I'm not. Let's just say people don't pay enough attention to their back pockets when they first enter a new town."

"Glad you're not totally ignorant in the ways of the world," Damean replied with a grin of his own.

"I may be ignorant in the ways of politics and betrayal," Stock answered, "but not so in the ways of the wild. In the forest, you take what you can get, because if you don't you may be taken instead."

The Tracker nodded, "Good, then you know how we're going to go about getting our tickets."

Stock nodded gently, "Find the captain most down on his luck, play innocent, then bust him when he tries to take advantage and get a much lower price."

Damean nodded again, "And I think I've found our mark," he continued, eying a young captain, wearing clothes that had seen better years, and probably hadn't been washed by anything but sea water since they had been bought. "Follow my lead."

Damean approached the captain, slipping his pack lower on his back so that he would look like he was unaccustomed to the weight and smearing some dirt on his elbow and face so it would seem he had fallen, repeatedly, then put on the most trusting face he could manage and promptly stumbled into the man. The two stumbled to the ground, Damean restricting himself to minor curses and pretending he didn't hear some of the captain's more colorful ones. "Aw darn! Sorry about that man," he said, running over to help the man up, "my fault, I'm just really tired."

The captain looked at him and his eyes lit up like a child when presented with an unexpected dessert, "Quite alright lad!" He replied, putting on an accent so false that even a a child would call him a liar, "I don't remember seeing your face around here. Are you traveler? Perhaps in search of transportation?"

"Why yes!" Damean replied rolling his eyes inside, "How did you know?"

The captain straightened his shirt with an attitude very similar to the fire elemental user he had conned earlier, "I'm a captain! I can spot a traveler a mile away! Now how can I help you?"

"I need passage to Concord," The Tracker replied cutting straight to the point, "Do you know of anyone who could take me there?"

"Why I can my boy! For the low low price of 500 gold pieces!"

Well at least now I know why he's broke, he thought. The man had his bait but he was overplaying it drastically, as the normal fare from here to Concord was closer to 50 gold pieces. "My that's a lot," he answered, still playing his part, "it's almost all I have!"

"Travel is expensive my boy," He replied, not giving up, "but I'm cutting you a serious deal!"

"Well...." Damean trailed off.

"Hey Bro!" Stock called to his right, "Whatcha you up to?"

"I found this nice captain offering us a great deal!" Damean replied, "Just 500 gold for travel to Concord!"

Stock's face got serious and he glared at the captain, "Whatchu tryin' to pull on ma bro here?" The man closed in on the captain who was now beginning to realize his error, "You tryin' to con my broski?"

"Why no sir! Absolutely not!" The captain was still trying to back up but was being stopped by a wall of crates the two had cleverly maneuvered him towards. Stock leaned in, letting the full length of his hunting knife show from his tunic, which resulted in the captain's skin turning a lovely shade of white, "I simply misspoke before! What I meant to say was 50 gold pieces!"

"That true?" Stock asked glancing at Damean.

"N-No," The Tracker stuttered, "I checked, he said 500."

Stock looked back at the captain and put his hand inside his tunic, reaching for the knife, "My broski says you be lyin' to me cap'. How are you gonna make it up to 'im?"

"Alright, alright!" The man replied. The response should have been a yell, but it turned into a squeak after half a second, "I'll drop it to 30 pieces for both of you!"

"I dun think that's enough brah," he said drawing his knife, "but you up that to include my dad and younger brothers and I think we can call it even."

The man shrunk down and simply muttered, "O-O-Okay, five people. Deal."

"Good man," Stock responded, backing off, sheathing his knife and dragging Damean back off into the city square.

When they were safely out of ear shot Damean commented, "I think you may have overdone that. He'll definitely remember you."

"He'll be at sea with us," Stock dismissed, "who's he going to tell?"

"I suppose you're right," Damean replied, "but I still have a bad feeling about it."

------------------------------------

"I hate ships," Lloyd commented in between heaves.

"You should be more thankful," Damean said as he sat on the edge of the boat, "if you weren't here every five minutes then we'd have a much harder time then we do now."

After meeting up at the rendezvous spot the night before and sneaking onto the ship under the cover of dark, the five had slept on the ship. By the time they had woken up the ship was well underway to Concord, and the captain informed them that it would take two days to reach the island nation. They had also discovered that they were not the only ones on the ship, and that the captain Stock and Damean had conned, despite his appearance, was actually captain of one of the larger ships in the harbor and took on passengers regularly.

It had been a worry at first because it would be impossible for them to move around on deck without attracting attention to Lloyd's 'condition', but that worry had soon been put aside as one of the Knight's other conditions reared it's ugly head, sea sickness. He was still given strange looks by passersby, but none of them payed his skin color more then mild attention thanks to the constant vomiting. He hated the fact that his stomach couldn't take the simple rocking of the boat, but at the same time he gave a grudging thanks to the powers that be for covering his ass.

"I would have thought you'd be more used to ship travel by now considering your previous occupation," Stock added from his other side.

"For all my experience I can count the number of times I've been on a boat on one hand," Lloyd replied heaving again. The Knight's four companions were gathered near him, Stock and Damean to scare away anyone that got too curious and the two Halflings standing behind him, not willing to leave his side because he was displaying yet another entertaining change.

"What do you call that color on his face?" Frack asked.

"I think they call it Teal when blue and green mix," Frick supplied.

"Wonder why he turned Teal. He never did tell us when he turned Purple earlier," Frack responded.

"Maybe it has something to do with water..."

Lloyd banged his head into the side of the boat in frustration. Something Damean apparently saw as well, "Stock," the Tracker called, "why don't you show Frick and Frack some of the things we picked up in town?" He suggested with a jerk of his head, "I think they'll find something more interesting then our friend here."

For all the boy's apparent naivety in social affairs, he seemed to understand the hint and lead the two Halflings back below deck.

"Thanks," Lloyd said after a moment. His heaves had stopped and he was not just leaning on the rail and trying to catch his breath, "I'm beginning to understand why not many Kinder hang out with humans."

"You could have just told them you know," Damean replied. "They're just curious."

"I know," the Knight was starting to look weary, whether from the sea sickness or the travel in general even he did not know. "It's stupid, I should tell them, it's just...." he took a breath, "I got annoyed at the situation, my face flushed, then they asked and I just got more and more annoyed at them. So I didn't want to tell them that I was angry at them."

"They're Kinder," Damean responded, "they know humans consider them annoying at times."

Lloyd sighed, "I know that too, but I just don't want them to think I don't want them around. It was my rash stupidity that made them into fugitives, but they put up with it, and have even helped me through it. I should be grateful, not angry."

"So you won't tell them now, because you would have to explain before, and you don't want to scare them off?"

"Essentially."

The Tracker scoffed, "You know nothing of people. You may know how to read them in a fight, but you are useless without a blade in your hand." He looked at the Knight for the first time, "They've fought a Guardian Deego, a band of raiders, and an attack by Lenus' highest Knights, and still they remain by your side. For some reason they have decided you are worth their time, and I doubt anything you say will scare them off."

The Knight looked out on the ocean as he thought about the man's words. The sea was calm, and the winds fair, a picture of serenity he did not reflect. The sun was beginning to set and the people on deck were quietly filing in below deck for supper, all in all it was probably the longest period of normality he'd had in quite a while. "Perhaps you're right. I can't help but think of them like children, and I try to shield them as such, but I'm forgetting that they've saved my life as many times as I've saved theirs."

"You're also underestimating their perception," Damean commented as he slid off the railing. "They already know why, they're not interested in that anymore, they want to know why you're trying to hide it from them." The Tracker patted his shoulder and headed for the mess hall, leaving the Knight alone with his thoughts.

He lifted his hand up and stared at the stone embedded there, "When will I learn to stop thinking?" He asked the stone, not expecting an answer, but hoping for one all the same. As he expected the gem yielded no such response, and he was left to his own devices to answer the question. I should just listen to my gut, it's never steered me wrong before, yet I still question it at every turn.

"Looking for answers in the stone?" A voice from above called. He looked up to see a large man dressed in green and purple robes riding astride a rather large and rare Deego called a Nether Drake. The warlock, for such was obviously his nature, was orbited by three gleaming silver orbs and wielded a wooden safe crested with a crow. As he stood there staring the man continued, "You will find none. Dragon Stones surrender their secrets to no man."

Lloyd reached under his cloak and gripped the hilt of his broadsword, "What business do you have here Dark Mage?"

"Straight to the point I see," the warlock stood straight and eased his Nether Drake back. "Very well. I have come for the stone in your hand. My master wishes to redo the seal you have broken."

"The stone has chosen me, given the power to protect Lenus to me," Lloyd replied unsheathing his blade, "I will not surrender it to one such as you, so steeped in the dark arts, and certainly not to a master of such arts."

"You cannot hope to overcome either myself or my master with the power you have," the man was twirling his staff now, "I do not wish to harm you, but if you refuse to give the stone to me, then I will take it by force." The warlock finished the twirl with a flourish and lifted it high.

Clouds seemed to appear from no where, accompanied by flashes of lightning and claps of thunder so loud as to attract the attention of those below decks. The crew and passengers began pouring onto the deck, gawking at both the sudden storm and the man standing on top of a Deego flying above the surface of an ocean gradually becoming less and less calm. To his relief, Damean and the two Halflings were among the group near the forefront. They could probably catch anything Lloyd didn't and keep the injuries to a minimum. This was nothing but a simple weather spell, and it would not even slow the Knight in his Dragoon state.

Suddenly, seven bolts of lightning struck, hitting various parts of the deck and scorching the wood, but it was not the lightning that proved most dangerous as from these strikes rose beasts of rock held together by a cloud of electricity, each towering three meters in height. These were Hellion beasts known as Raiga, much tougher then normal Deegos, but still not as strong as a Guardian Deego. More importantly though, these beasts could only be summoned by one with the power of the Netherworlds. This was far more then a dark warlock he was seeing before him, this was a servant of He-who-is-not.

The Knight clutched his fist tightly and felt the fiery power swell to him, it's burn a welcome feeling now. He felt the wings swell out and caught a flash out of the corner of his eye just in time to dodge a shining fist thrown at him by one of the Raiga. He leaned back and let loose with a burst of heat from his left hand to stun the beast, then sliced the creature from groin to temple. The beast collapsed in a heap as his feet, it glow now gone.

"Impressive control," the warlock commented twirling his staff once again, "it seems I will have to take you myself, but fret not, the Hellions can occupy themselves with the passengers of this ship until we are finished."

"You think so?" The Knight smiled, "You underestimate the strengths of my allies."

As if on cue, a Raiga who had been threatening a young couple, staggered back, it's face now holding three arrows. A moment later a little ball of fury leapt at the monster, dragging a pair of short swords across it's torso and splitting the beast in half at the waist. It too fell to the ground in a heap.

Across the deck another Raiga had gotten too close to some of the crew and was suffering under a constant barrage of exploding rocks. The Hellion was forced up against the railing, and before it could recover, was engulfed in a ball of water reaching up from the ocean and dragged into the sea.

The warlock looked on with stunned amusement as two of his beasts fell in as many minutes. "You have no chance," Lloyd spoke, still standing on deck, "your minions are no match for me or my friends. Surrender now and we can forget this ever happened."

The man laughed a deep throaty laugh, "Do you really think they are the extent of my abilities?"

The warlock finished his twirl and splayed his arms. The ship shook as the ocean churned beneath the great vessel and from the water rose a mass of wet earth from the ocean floor. The mass gathered before him and suddenly fired a hail of glass spears. The Knight had little time to act and brought the wings around instinctively to form a barrier to deflect the spears, but even as he did so he could hear the screams of men and women too close and too unlucky, shot through with the jagged fragments.

Lloyd released the shield and flapped the great wings, rocketing towards the man, and swinging his sword with all the strength he could muster. The drake was already moving however and he missed by a large margin, in it's place was a half sphere of sand, obviously intending to envelop him. The Knight brought the wings forward and down, stopping before the trap and shooting up, away from it and towards the warlock and his Deego. Before reaching his opponent, however, he launched another wave of heat forward, an invisible strike that would hit home before the man could move, but as the wave neared him it was intercepted by a wall of sand that exploded instead of hitting the warlock.

The Knight was so shocked by the failure of his attack that he could not avoid the man's retaliation as the Nether Drake dove down and tackled him. The move sent Lloyd flailing into the sea below, the impact sending a sharp pain through him, as if the armor was screaming at the very touch of the water. He shot his wings back and soared back up out of the churning waves, anger painting his fade a lovely shade of lavender. This opponent was proving much harder then any he had faced so far. Always before, when he had activated the armor it had made him invincible, now it wasn't even providing a fair match.

Lloyd roared into the air and spotted another half sphere of sand in front of him. Instead of avoiding it he simply brought the broadsword up and cut the sand, the heat turning it to glass as he cut it. The sphere parted and fell a few meters before turning back to sand and gathering back at the central orb hanging below the warlock. He could feel the heat from his anger feeding the power of the stone and giving him more strength, but also knew it was clouding his judgment, making him ineffective. What good is all this power if I'm too blinded by rage to use it?

"Frustrated?" The warlock suggested as if reading his mind, "For what it's worth you are much more skilled with that power then I thought you would be after such a short period of time."

The Knight knew the man was just trying to goad him into attacking further, radiating calm to play on his rage. He knew he shouldn't give in to the goading, but as he was so fond of saying, he was not a complicated man. Lloyd took off, flying at the sorcerer, and swung, missing by a hair and the man dodged left and a lance of sand shot up to catch the Knight in the gut. The hit sent him reeling a few feet before he could bring it under control, and when he did he lashed out with another heat wave at where the man had been a moment ago.

Like always, the man had anticipated the move and was floating just a meter above where the heat had been aimed, and another series of glass spears launched at him. Again he brought the wings around to shield himself from the assault, and only belatedly realized that there was nothing to keep him in the air. The wind rushed by as he fell once again into the ocean below and once again felt the screaming pain, like a an agonized cry from the stone itself. The pain dulled his senses, but he managed to keep himself lucid enough to float himself out of the water.

Lloyd heaved for air as the water dripped off his body and looked above him to see the warlock still standing calmly on his Drake, the ball of sand ready right below him. The Knight was feeling far more tired then he should have been given the stone's ability to hide such fatigue, he could only guess it a side effect of the two dousings he had taken. It was, after all, a fire Dragoon. He also knew he couldn't give in to the fatigue, that he had to defeat this Dark Mage or the power of the stone would fall into the wrong hands.

He flared his wings and floated higher until he was even with the man, "You have much power with the dark arts." Lloyd spoke, "You must know the price you will pay for such power."

"Indeed I do," the warlock replied, "but not before I bring you to your knees." He cocked his head sideways, "You can still surrender you know."

Lloyd chuckled, "There's nothing I'd like to do more then give up and let this cursed stone fall into oblivion, but I cannot do so knowing you will take it to a Dark Mage of even greater power. I doubt I can win, but I still will not simply stand by and let my country be endangered."

"You are correct in that you will not win this fight," the warlock responded, "but I respect your effort nonetheless." The man hesitated a moment before continuing, "You deserve at least to know that my name is Kelgori."

The Knight nodded, "And mine is Lloyd. Now that we've been properly introduced, shall we finish our fight?"

Kelgori motioned his staff forward and a pair of lances shot for the sand. Lloyd ducked the blows and drove forward, bringing the hot blade up with a battle cry. The blow was intercepted by a barrier of sand and fell short, but a trail of fire lashed out after the blade stuck, scorching the sorcerer's hand. Both men were surprised by the attack, but Kelgori less so as he immediately called the rest of the sand up and into the Knight like a massive fist that drove the Dragoon back a dozen meters, his sword still stuck in the barrier of sand.

Lloyd regained his senses and concentrated on his hand, launching a much larger heat wave, at the mass of sand still driving at him. The exploded on contact with the sand and dispersed it. Realizing that this was his only chance to act he launched himself forward with one final burst of speed, concentrating another wave of heat to his hand, as he flew. One, he hoped, would be massive enough to do some serious harm to the warlock, "This ends here!" He shouted, throwing his hand forward to release the pent up energy.

"For you, yes," Kelgori replied. He raised his staff, unmoved by the impending attack, "Taesia!" He shouted, slamming his staff down on the Drake's back. The sand particles that had been dispersed by the Knight's attack suddenly stopped and began rushing together towards a single spot, Lloyd.

The sand surrounded the Knight, encased him in a barrier of earth, and pressed in on him. The sheer weight of the earth crushing his body and squeezing the air from his lungs, suffocating him in and impenetrable wall of sand even as he struggled for his next breath. The attack had paralyzed him, and the darkness began closing in on him narrowing his vision and putting him in a state of unconsciousness that he might never return from. But before he fell into this sleep, before he surrendered to the lack of oxygen, and the approaching darkness. He heard a voice speak, a faint, but knowledgeable voice that spoke of both age and wisdom. A voice he both knew, and knew he couldn't know. And it spoke just four words. Four words that gave him hope, despite their apparently shallow promise: All is not lost.

_________________

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Ptolemy on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:28 am

‘Comon fellas’ Stock said glancing at Lloyd again ‘I got something to show ya!’

‘Still not sure what's going on’ Frack started as he turned to follow stock and Frick below decks.

Frick hopped down the frist step. ‘Humans turn green when they are sick… dufus’

‘Really?’ Frack stopped and looked back out to the deck of the gently rolling ship. ‘Then that makes sense, green and blue make teal… but I thought it was a bit darker than teal’

‘It was but I was not sure if the blue was darker or if the green was darker.’ Frick said thoughtfully ‘I didn’t want to make him mad again, I am afraid he’ll try to chase us off!’

Stock Sickered and shook his head.

‘He wouldn’t do that,’ Frack Scoffed ‘He’s like the big brother I never had!’

‘I thought I was the big brother you never had,’ Frick stopped and looked up the stairs at Frack coming down.

‘No you are the TWIN brother I never had’ Frack said

Frick considered this for a moment nodded and turned to continue down the stairs ‘I don’t want to be your older brother any way,’ he said ‘always having to get you out of trouble, I do that enough!’

Frack snorted ‘You remember the time in Darlar when we wondered in to the town of shape shifters… you had to go and….’

Thunder boomed topside then boomed again in rapid succession.

Frack turned and ran back up the stairs followed closely by Frick with stock a step behind. The trio burst out the door in time to se lightning pummel the deck in several places causing them to wince. Frick caught site of Damean, and ran toward him. As the last bolt of lightning hit there appeared some beings that looked like they were made of rock and energy. Frack reached Damean’s side as One of the creatures punched at Lloyd. Lloyd side stepped the punch and brought his flaming sword up through the creature causing it to crumble as it fell to the deck. The energy keeping it together seemed to dissipate.

"Impressive control," the warlock commented twirling his staff once again, "it seems I will have to take you myself, but fret not, the Raigas can occupy themselves with the passengers of this ship until we are finished."

Frick and Frack looked up at the drake and its rider.

"You think so?" The Knight smiled,

Frick noticed a Raiga striding toward Lloyd and unleashed a barrage of stones driving it back against the rail of the ship. Damean summoned a thick column of water to grab the creature and drag it from the ship. Frick looked over in time to see Frack dig his swords across the midsection of a Raiga that seemed to have sprouted several arrows from its face. The creature fell cut in half and crumbled to gravel as it hit the deck.

Frick took off at a run toward Lloyd and ran head long into a wall of ice formed by Damean. Ice sprayed and chipped from the wall as pieces of glass cast by the mage on the dragon dug in to it. There were cries from some of the people that were caught in the barrage. Then the wall was gone and formed into a long pole with a fist on the end that slammed into the chest of another Raiga, knocking it off of the ship and into the water. Frack shook his head to clear it and hopped up in time to see Frack jump on the back of a Raiga and dig his swords into the creature, jumping free as the creature fell forward and shattered on deck.

Frick ran along the deck weaving between the panicked people running from the remaining Raigas and looking for Lloyd. For a human he was getting hard to find. Then he heard Lloyd’s voice above and way off the other side of the ship. Frick found him flying and fighting the mage on the drake. Frick took a couple of steps toward the side of the ship when he threw himself to the right, trying to avoid a blow he could not see, it glanced off the left side of his head and knocked him across the deck. Frack scrambled up the mast and looked around with all the humans panicked and rushing to get below decks it was hard for a kinder to see. Then he saw Frick lying still at the rail and his heart skipped a beat as a Raiga stalked across the deck toward him. Frack jumped down and sprinted toward where he saw Frick laying.

The Raiga threw its head back and let out a cry as he lifted his foot to crush the hapless Kinder. Frack cursed as he ran knowing he was not going to get there in time when the creatures cry went from triumph to despair. Frack let out a whoop as the blade of a sword appeared from the chest of the Raiga and a second removed the head causing the Raiga to crumble.

From behind the destroyed Raiga stepped a swordsman holding a long sword in his right hand and a short sword in his left. The blades were longer than normal and slightly curved with an edge on the out side of the blade and a point that was more angular. His hard leather armor was black as night and was inlayed with the image of a stylized head of a Hell Hound in gold on his breast plate with a similar design on his bracers. The warrior’s hair was dark with grey streaks at the temples and gathered in a topknot similar to that of the kinder. Every hair was in place armor well oiled and well taken care of. The condition of his blades and Armor spoke of discipline and a meticulous attention to detail some cuts were beraly visible in the bracers and breast plate but it appeared the color was well applied and went completely through the hardened leather. He was not a tall man no more than 5 and half feet tall, thin and he wore the scabbards to both swords tucked into his belt on his left side.

Frack dropped beside Frick and checked for signs of life as Stock dropped to the other side. The kinder’s breathing was ragged and his heart was berely breathing, blood was oozing from a nasty gash on the side of Frick’s head. Stock slowly and careful put his hands around the neck of the kinder, feeling for broken bones. Satisfied he straightened Frick’s body and took a pouch from his belt and pulled a sheaf of herbs from it. He crushed some of the herbs and gently moved the kinder’s hair away from the wound and pressed the herbs in to it. Then he ripped the hem off the bottom of his tunic and formed a compress and tied it over the wound holding the herbs in place and placing pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. Stock pried open the eyes of the Kinder and looked into them intently muttering a prayer seeming to try and heal the Kinder by force of his own will. The warrior said something in a language that neither Stock nor Frack understood.

The warrior dropped to one knee ‘I can help’ he said with a heavy accent ‘please’

Stock gently rested the Kinder’s head on the deck and the warrior placed his hands on the kinder’s head and bowed his head. The ragged breathing of the kinder eased and became steady.

The warrior lifted his head and looked at Stock. ‘small man be OK now,’ he said as he stood ‘Will recover now’

Stock looked over the railing in time to see sand envelope Lloyd. He drew an arrow and let fly at the warlock. The arrow flew true and there was a flare of light as the arrow impacted an expanding ball of light. Then the ball contracted and there was an audible ‘pop’ and the mage and Lloyd were gone.

‘Damn it!’ Damean screamed and sunk to his knees as Stock gathered the Kinder in his arms and took him below. He gently placed the Kinder on his bunk.

On deck the captain ran up to where Damean and the warrior were standing with a hand full of crewman wielding a variety of weapons.

‘JunCho’ The Captain said

‘Creatures are gone capn’ JunCho said ‘this man and his friends help kill the creatures.’

‘We lost my brother’ Damean said shaking his head ‘He was taken by the mage.’

‘I had never seen a battle like that’ The Capn commented ‘I wonder if he survived…’

“yeah” thought Damean ‘now what’ he said out loud.

‘We continue to Concord’ The Captain said nodding to JunCho. ‘We are 2 days out. Get some rest, all of you’

Frick improved quickly under the care of JunCho and Stock and the aging warrior seemed to grow attached to the Halfling. The afternoon of the second day Frick was walking on deck still a bit unsteady but not able to stay below with out going crazy and still quicker than most humans. He stood on his tip toes to see over the rail of the ship and caught a glance at the floating city that was the capital of Concord. The entire party had eaten together slept in the same room and talked of events leading them here and to a being felt they were led this way for a reason, course the Kinder knew they were here to keep things interesting. They decided they would stick together till they got passage back to the mainland. They gathered in an out of the way place on the docks and discussed their next move.

‘My mother lives in a small village not far from here.’ Damean said ‘I have not seen her for almost a year… they may think I am dead if they heard of the boat sinking.’

‘That is where we go for now then,’ Stock spoke up ‘make your peace and we head back for the mainland’

‘I am impressed with the speed the halfman heals’ Said JunCho leaning against a crate ‘When I saw his wound I did not expect him to live.’

Frick scoffed ‘The thing didn’t get a good hit on me… you sure talk funny.’

‘Where are you from?’ Frack asked walking up to the man.

The warrior looked at the group ‘I am from a small Island between Darlar and the Shattered Land called Nippon.’ Jun Cho bowed from the waist ‘I was once a warrior in the service of my Shogun, I have left Nippon to because my spirit has led me to concord and into your service.’

‘Well the leader of our group has disappeared.’ Stock said


BIO
Name: Jun Cho
Appearance: Short 5'5" long dark hair shot with grey gathered in a top knot. Wearing Black hard leather armor inlayed with the image of a stylized head of a Hell Hound in gold on his breast plate with a similar design on his bracers. carries a katana and a tanto in scabbards in his belt on his right side. He fights with his Katana in his left hand and Tanto in his right.
Pros: Ambidextrous, strong, quick and fiercely loyal
Cons: no magical ability at all.


Last edited by Ptolemy on Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:30 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by tRibaL on Thu Jun 10, 2010 11:03 pm

The darkened mage had Lloyd at his feet, unconscious and helpless. The warlock reached out his palm towards the dragon warrior as one of the moon tears swirled around his wrist, slowly. “You have fought well, better than I ever would have guessed. You will provide more use to me than I ever thought possible.” Kelgori was talking to deaf ears. High above the ship, Kelgori stepped to the head of his mount. The thundering clouds all around him drawing streams of lightning from the depths below.

“You were right, this does end now.” Kelgori said smoothly, the tears all revolving in sequence. The black and purple robes resting peacefully amongst his garments as he yelled: “DRAGOONS!” Then there was a pause, Kelgori took a few breaths as the tear began spinning faster and faster around his wrist, then it started to leave a shimmering white trail behind it. “end.” Was barely audible as a arrow struck him in the back.

Time froze, like all of Pangaea took a huge breath and held it. Lloyd regained consciousness exhausted. Everything was fuzzy, nothing was clear, the gray clouds mixed with the dark blue of the deep water and everything was becoming more blurred. Shapes became outlines and shifted to blobs as it the darkness again closed in around him, below him the ship transforming in to a ragged shipwrecked island. Then the only thing left was Kelgori. Then he vanished. Pangaea started swirling at that moment, into a mirage of colors, the landscape was changing rapidly, The sun disappeared as though from an eclipse and the Seas and Sky seemed to merge in to towering shards of jagged blue ice.

Then the warlock reappeared, in his purple garments; Which suddenly dissolved into a dark blue and black. “Where did you take me? What did you do?” Came from Lloyd in a harsh voice. The realm around him changed, no more was he off the coast of Lenus, now he was somewhere in a frozen tundra with massive Hellions never seen before around him. The deadly stock, those who would stalk and kill you before you had your sword out of its sheath or utter a spell. The sort that are untamable, have magical powers beyond the crowned city of concord. The answer came swiftly and mysteriously: “Its simpler than you think, were not in Pangaea anymore. This is the lost isle, nobody has been here for untold years, and this is the western tip of it. The most deadly part, resting place of the Creator.” Kelgori sat on a rift of floating ice. The Realm seemed like somebody took Pangaea and shattered it, leaving a shattered ice-cubed style of landscape. “In a middle of a teleportation spell of this distance to a place of this solitude, there is no light, all light is filtered threw what is known as the eclipse. And what did I do?” Kelgori smiled. “The power of the Dragoons End tear, supplied the magical energy to transport us to a place with such boundaries that we have to physically break the world we are coming from and have it reassemble around us. Don’t worry, it only appears like this for you and I..” Lloyd was dumbfounded, never even thinking or hearing about this, there were always tales of hell and such, but never off the coast of Pangaea.

“What is the purpose of this, why did you take me with you.” Lloyd wanted answers. The former warlock was taking his time in explaining everything. “I cannot give you all the answers in one day, but there are endless realms and worlds in existence, there is two connected to Pangaea, Pangaea’s Shadow, where we are now, which is the in between for the Netherworld. For teleporting it’s a highway of sorts, you can move threw any teleportation barrier, if you made a mistake, you could teleport inside of a rock, inside of the ground thousands of feet below the surface, even half inside of another person, which obviously would kill you both. A place where one wrong step equals eternal torture, the demonic gods and demigods rule it uncontested for now. We have plenty of time to talk on the way, oh and the drake is in its true form here, along with myself.” The drake flew with a vibrant light blue scales, breathing a cone of ice forming the path in front of them as the two walked. The drake was far more powerful in his realm, not having to hide or coexist or even change form, it was a native to the region.

At that moment Lloyd looked down at his wrist, the dragoon stone there, weakly shining; “It has little power in this realm at the second, because it is forming a reserve for a final fight, the nature of the stone is to fight and transform, and to magnify your power, when its exhausted of this power, it goes into a state of recharge, preparing for a final bellow, which is going to be the most powerful experience you will ever be a part of.” The mage strolling up the staircase as the realm passed them by, moving against them. “So, I noticed 5 minutes ago my dragoon stone was gone. Now its back?” Lloyd was wondering. “Yea I changed my mind, at first I didn’t think you would be strong enough to help fight the creator, then after fighting you I decided we might have a chance. So instead of trading stones, were going to fight him and grab the stones while running the hell out of there.” Kelgori was laughing at his involuntary partner was going to help him.

“Were almost there, this is the fastest way to move around Pangaea, and the good part, the Creator cant chase us out. Only try to block our path. This is because he is too large and would be overwhelmed by the oracles hidden throughout Pangaea. The guardians so to speak. I’ve had a run in with one or two… Ill explain that later. But the important thing is when we leave, he wont follow… Provided we can get out alive. This foe isn’t like any other you have seen. He isn’t mortal, he isn’t human, he’s not a good person, and I do not expect to kill him, or vanquish him, or anything else, I just expect to get a hit or two, use the moon tears to block, which will probably shatter them, but the blow which would have the power to erase us if we were struck, like seriously. Nobody would here from us ever again. That strike will not touch us.” Kelgori was meditating, his staff which moments ago condoned the purple crow, had turned to a shade of blue. The crow was suddenly melting and forming into a crystalline head. “Also, never ask a mage to do anything like this. First off, they don’t know about it. Second off, they would need to be near a place of great magical power, something infused with it. There are three places I know of that can be used that are on Pangaea and easily accessible. Well… easily findable. There is the Scarlet Temple in the Crown Jewel of Concord. They wont let you in, but you can find it.” He was thinking and talking slowly, Lloyd just staring at him taking in every word. Speechless that teleportation was possible on such a grand scale. Finally the blood started to flow to his head and he could think of asking some questions: “Why haven’t the mages at concord or the sundered isle came with this technology yet?” This seemed like something that they would jump onto instantly.

“You see, they have in a way. At a very elementary level, there are certain paths we pave, like snow, the beaten path is accessible and also usable, but what we just did and are doing is running threw a snow bank, something a few mages have tried, the thing with what this is, if we get stuck, were dead. Stuck in time like this forever. Which spells certain death. So it really can only be linked to Concord and the Sundered Isle. Which is used more often than I thought it was, its never crowded, maybe ten natives to Pangaea use it.” Kelgori would be afraid if everybody who was learning magic was taught this, it would mean that they would go reliant on that, would create a revolution of magistrates. Which would intrigue them to explore this realm, allowing the hellions free access to Pangaea… annihilating all intelligent life. Fortunately they were a long ways to getting there, and they would never reach that point of civilization until Pangaea unites as one, which Kelgori was certain never would happen again. “So, we are, quote plowing threw the snow, end quote. And the end is in sight, prepare yourself.”
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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Aardvark on Thu Aug 19, 2010 9:22 pm

The world spun, distorted, warped, wrong. The world he knew colliding and mixing with a world of fire and fantasy. Becoming one and the same, completely different, yet completely indistinguishable from one another. What was worse, he could feel the same happening to himself. He did not dare look at himself in this moment of chaos because what he would see held the potential to shatter his mind and leave him forever lost in a world he could only compare with the depths of Hell itself. He tried to focus on his unlikely friend, to find a focal point to the madness, but when he tried to look in the direction he had last seen the dark warlock he blacked out. As if an instinctual reaction was protecting him from glimpsing the man, the same instinct that kept him from looking at himself. In this space between realms, this void keeping the two worlds eternally together and apart, the soul was laid bare, and few could handle seeing the true unfiltered intentions of even their own mind.

Then he was back, ground beneath his feet, and a night sky above his head. He found himself gasping, pulling in air as fast as his lungs would filter it, dry, dirty air, but the first air he had been able to breath in he knew not how long. Once he had his fill he took stock of his surroundings. He appeared to be in a desert canyon of some sort, the ground was cracked and dusty, and the walls tall but worn smooth by the passage of wind, unobstructed, for centuries. It was still the middle of the night, and judging by where the moon stood in the sky it hadn't been more then a few hours since his fight with Kelgori.

"Impressive," a voice said a few feet behind. Lloyd spun to see the dark mage standing unperturbed in the middle of the canyon, "You recovered rather quickly from the transition between dimensions. I was unable to move for nearly an hour the first time I ventured there, and I was actually ready for it."

"It probably helped that I was too scared to actually look at anything," the Knight replied. "I had a bad feeling about trying to investigate."

"Your feelings were right, the world is laid bare before you when you transition between the two worlds, truths become obvious, and beliefs unravel. It is more then most minds can comprehend. I suspect your lack of intelligence actually saved you, kept you from getting too curious, so whatever you saw is most likely incomprehensible at this time."

"Whatever you say buddy," Lloyd answered stretching his tense muscles, "I honestly have no clue what you just said."

"That's for the best." The warlock turned and began walking away, "Our opponent is this way."

The Knight followed but still maintained enough distance that he could respond to an attack by the dark mage. His time with the man had somewhat improved his trust in his plan, but he still didn't trust Kelgori much at the moment. "So where are we exactly?" Lloyd asked even though he was pretty sure he knew the answer.

"Arid," the man replied, "although it doesn't matter in the end where we are. The Creator has many homes, this is simply the one with the least number of innocents around."

"So he uses portals like the ones we just used?"

"Not quite. He is capable of doing so, and it is where he draws much of his power from, but he transcends that level of power. He is quite literally too large to be contained in any one area, too large to be contained in any one world even."

"I don't follow you."

Kelgori sighed, "That does not surprise me. Very well, how best to put this?" The warlock scratched his head, "OK imagine the creator as an octopus in a cage. He is too large to ever slide through the bars of the cage, but his tentacles are not and so he can still interfere to a limited degree in the world outside his cage."

"So we're going to the tentacles, not the main body?" The Knight asked hopeful that he had understood the metaphor.

"Correct, we're attacking the tentacles, and when he realizes this he'll focus all his tentacles to this point."

"But, if his influence is limited, then why are we fighting him? Why not just let him have his little taste of freedom?"

"Because the bar of his cage are weakening. Time, the water around the cage, is beginning to eat away at the prison, making the bars rust. Already he has removed some of the bars and has gained more freedom, if left alone much longer he will be able to squeeze between the bars fully, and gain complete entrance into this world."

"And how do we plan to stop that?"

"By removing the tentacles, or, failing that, strengthening his cage."

"Well that all sounds well and good, but where do I come in?"

"I could explain in detail, but I doubt you'd understand. Suffice it to say the Creator has to be destroyed both in the spiritual and physical realms. I can fight him in the spiritual realm, but while I'm doing so I cannot move my body. So while I'm engaging his mind, you will be engaging his body."

"Woah, woah, woah!" Lloyd came to a dead stop, "You want me to fight this guy alone?" The Knight scoffed, "Maybe you weren't paying attention while we were fighting, but I'm hardly experienced with this thing," he his left hand to indicate the dragoon stone held within. "I couldn't even beat you with it!"

"That's why you won't be fighting with just the stone," the dark mage lifted a hand and the silver gem that had been circling it shot out and embedded itself into the Knights dragoon stone. When the two met a burst of red light engulfed the two of them, then died down as quickly as it had arisen. Before Lloyd could ask about what had just happened, Kelgori answered, "That is a Moon Tear, the Tear of Spells, it will strengthen the stone's natural abilities and give you a fighting chance against the Creator."

The Knight studied the gem, "How much of an increase are we talking about?"

Kelgori turned back around and continued walking, "I'd be surprised if you ever feel this much power again. Now are you coming or not?"

Lloyd looked back down at the stone. If what the warlock said was true he probably held enough power to protect Lenus from it's enemies now. He could just transform and fly off. It was doubtful Kelgori would be capable of catching up, and even if he did, he would have enough power to beat the man now. But if the dark mage was telling the truth then there were things out there far worse then anything Darlar and Arid could throw at Lenus. "Yeah," he replied reluctantly, "I'm coming."

Kelgori nodded, "I'm glad you made the right choice, because I forgot to mention that the Tear will only work for one transformation. After that it will burn itself out and be entirely useless."

"Convenient memory you got there."

"Yes it has served me rather well," the warlock replied with a grin.

The two rounded a corner and the atmosphere changed. Whereas before it had been unpleasantly dry and gritty, now the air was scathingly hot and smelled of rotted corpses, "What is that?"

Kelgori didn't break stride or turn around, "Again I could explain it to you, but I doubt you would understand," the two rounded a corner and stopped. Ahead of them there was a ledge 50 feet wide ending suddenly, 30 feet away in a sheer cliff dumping into an abyss that had no bottom, from which streamed an orange-red light. That however was not the thing that caused the two men to stop, no it was the large demon coming from the abyss, gleaming red eyes set into a cracked face with ram horns on the side of it's head, grotesque arms ending in black jagged claws, and towering 300 feet into the air, that caused their jaunt to come to a complete and total stop. "Simply put, Hell is not a pleasant place."

The demon turned and looked at the source of the voice, "Ah, Kelgori," the beast spoke, it's voice deep and distorted as if many voices were struggling to be heard over one another, "and you have brought the Dragoon to me." The demon's gaze turned to Lloyd and it was all the man could do to calm his nerves enough to not shake, "And he is still alive, excellent," the being's eyes narrowed, "I shall take great pleasure in his pain as I turn the stone's power in on him and let it cook him from the inside out." The demon turned back to Kelgori, "Our deal is done."

The great beast reached a clawed hand towards the Knight bringing it to within a couple meters of him before it hit a barrier and flinched away, "Actually I've altered our little deal," Kelgori replied. The warlock was holding his staff up and to the side, "I've come to take back what's mine and put you down once and for all. Lloyd is merely here to provide back-up for me," he lowered his staff, and the Knight finally realized that the dark mage had been the one to stop the beast's advance.

"Do you really believe yourself strong enough to take me on?" The Creator threatened, "Where do you think the magics you use came from?" The demon smiled showing jagged black teeth, "I am the master of all the dark arts, they will not work on me!"

"That is why I've sought help elsewhere." Kelgori slammed the tip of his rod into the ground, eliciting a spark that traveled up the staff, then jumped into the air and ignited into a portal ringed with fire. From the portal spilled forth half a dozen winged Netherdrakes led by the warlock's own drake, Drek'Thor.

The demons laughed, "You seek to use my own beasts against me? How much of a fool do you take me for? I created these beings, they are bound to me, they obey me, and they will not attack if I do not wish it so."

"Oh but you are a fool Great One. You gave these beasts intelligence, and by extension, free-will. You did well to brain-wash them into following you, but you made a mistake when you gave one to me. You let me study the beast, and in doing so I've learned to undue such a spell." The warlock waved to the six Netherdrakes, "Now their minds are their own, and they have decided that you are a threat to them."

The beast chuckled still confident, but marginally less so then he had been a moment before, "Even with their help you cannot hope to topple me!"

"No they are simply a distraction to buy me time," the dark mage began spinning his staff, calling stands to him and setting them down in patterns around his feet, "I know they are not enough even with the aide of Lloyd and myself, so I brought one last item to level the playing field." The gem that had been resting on his left arm now rose into the air in front of him and began glowing, "You were a fool to leave the Tears unsealed, Creator." The sand on the ground slowly began to glow in sync with the gem, pulsating and shining brighter and brighter, "Moon Tear, Tear of Premonition, bel sin!" The glow harshened and then solidified into a dome of pure light.

"Come, Sir Syuveil, Knight of Lenus," Thor spoke, "we will need your help if we are to succeed."

Lloyd shook himself out his trance, "Right, sorry, not everyday you get to face Satan, or whatever the hell that thing is." The Knight raised his hand and clenched it, activating the stone. Instantly he was enveloped in a red light and felt the painful, yet comforting heat wash over his body, drawing his sword even as the power spread. "Alright," he said spreading his wings, "let's get this over with!"

--------------------------------

It was black, a plane of pure darkness, and he was the only source of light. The irony was not lost on him, nor was the meaning of such a representation. Off in the distance he could see an ornate square pedastal holding seven stones of different colors. They were aglow, but cast no light, were a beacon that did not shine. He knew that he should know what he was looking at, but it eluded him at the moment, all thoughts did. But then, that was the nature of such places, and had not forgotten where he was, to do so would have lethal consequences.

He began walking towards the stones, still not capable of remembering what they were, but sure that they were his goal. Why else would they appear in a realm of total darkness? So he began walking, and walking, and walking, for what seemed an eternity, and yet knew it to be only an instant, he kept walking until he encountered his first obstacle.

A growl issued from the shadows around him, a deep growl full of promise and threats, but short on the power to make such threats a reality. It attacked, leaping into his realm of light, a creature of darkness whose only body was a head bearing teeth. The warlock, for that is all he knew himself to be, swept his staff through the air and through the beast's head. Immediately it turned to smoke and receded back into the darkness again. "Do you honestly believe you can fend me off with stray thoughts?" The warlock shouted into the darkness, "If you continue to play games, then you will soon find yourself without the power you love so much."

He stood there, waiting for a response from the great beast, but none came. So he continued his trek, steadily drawing closer to the object of his desire and constantly being attacked by beasts similar to that he had first encountered in this realm. The numbers grew, but the design and power all remained the same and served as nothing but a minor irritation to the warlock. He was within a few meters of the pedestal now, soon the stones would be his and he could leave this place.

As he reached for the stones, though, in the last instant before he would come into contact with them, he suddenly felt himself being lifted off the ground, or whatever passed for it in this place, and was thrown across the "room". He crashed into the "ground" and rolled to distribute the weight of his "fall". He knew that this was not the physical world and so his action did not protect his body, but he also knew that each action in this realm was a representation of what his mind was fighting and so being hurt here could be disastrous.

"Very well," a voice said from near the pedestal, "you have my attention Kelgori." The warlock looked up to see a man standing a few meters in front of him clothed in ragged billowing velvet robes. His face hidden behind a hood and scarf to the point that only his glowing yellow eyes remained visible. He spoke in a familiar distorted voice, "I hope you prove more of a challenge in this realm then you did in the last otherwise," the man held out and arm and a large black ax materialized in front of him, "this will be a short fight."

-------------------------------

The demon swung his clawed hand down, moving at an incredible rate for one so large, and onto the newly transformed Knight. Or at least, that's what everyone, including the Knight, thought at first until a second later when he reappeared again hundreds of feet in the air. What the hell just happened? He wondered to himself. He had remembered instructing his body to dodge, and the next thing he knew he was air-borne. He looked down at his hand, Is this what the dark mage meant?

He didn't have much time to ponder that thought though. The beast had noticed him flying above almost immediately and was now opening it's mouth in a what looked like a scream, but what came out instead was a wave of dark-winged creatures with rather sharp teeth. He instinctively dodge left and quickly found himself over a dozen meters away from the creatures, but instead of questioning the speed this time, he took advantage of it and leveled his left arm at the demon's mouth. He concentrated for a moment and was surprised when a full-fledged fire-ball came out and shot at the beast.

The Creator reeled back from the explosion reflexively closing his mouth. The action resulted in both an end to the flow and the disintegration of those creatures which had already come out. Lloyd didn't understand the reason for this, but he didn't need to. All he needed to know was that his enemy was stunned for the moment, and that left him open. The Dragoon swept down, concentrating the power he felt into his blade once again just like he had done against Kelgori, playing a hunch. With the Tear's power augmenting his own, the flight was short, and by the time the Knight began his swing he was already by the demon's neck. His blade met the creature's throat passing easily into the beast's flesh, then it happened, the fire lashed out from the tip like a blade, extending the reach of his sword to well over a dozen meters.

He finished the cut and backed away to watch as the demon's head toppled from the rest of it's body and crashed to the ledge hundred of feet below, the body of the demon fell the other way, crashing into the canyon wall and demolishing it with a thunderous roar. Lloyd dropped to the ground beside the head, larger then some farms, and studied it's lifeless eyes, "Well that was easier then I expected."

"Don't congratulate yourself just yet Sir Knight," Thor spoke, coming out from behind the beast's decapitated head. "This battle is far from over. You have removed one limb of the Creator, but he has many more and is quick to regrow what is lost." The Drake looked over at the body of the fallen creature, "And he will have learned this mistake of such a form. When he returns, he will not be so easily to kill."

I realy, really hate magic, he cursed to himself. Of course he would return, nothing had been easy since he had procured this damnable power, why would fate change its mind now? "How long have we got before version 2 comes along?" Lloyd asked. As if in response to the question that had just a second ago left his lips, the body of the demon across the chasm suddenly spasmed and from it's stomach emerged a creature right out of ancient myth and lore with wings spanning a hundred feet, white scales covering every inch of it's body and a long neck topped with a head with only one eye and a mouth the breathed a pillar of fire so high into the air that the top was impossible to see. It was a beast thought long dead, and one that had been feared in every country in Pangea, even the fabled Lost had dreaded facing the monsters. It was a Dragon. "Oh you have got to be kidding me...."

----------------------------------------

Kelgori unsheathed his knife and ran at the man, abandoning all caution in what must be a foolish move, but his instincts demanded it. He could feel the evil in this being, the untainted raw soul of the person from which all evil stemmed from which all dark arts were created. His body and mind demanded and end to this Creator and he could not control it, could not stop it. So his only option was to direct its attack.

The warlock swung his knife cleaving the air in an attack meant to take off the man's head quickly, but was brought up short and forced to dodge the being's ax. Keeping up the pressure he brought up his staff, focusing his will along the rod and was satisfied when his opponent was forced back by the invisible wave. Kelgori leapt, his will and determination giving him supernatural abilities in this realm, and brought his dagger down on the Creator, only to have the attack caught by the back of its ax. "I'm disappointed Kelgori." It spoke, "I thought you of all people would be able to overcome that base instinct, but I guess you were not as strong as I had believed." The Creator pushed back, shrugging off the warlock's attack and raised a hand, sending his own invisible wave into the dark mage.

Kelgori responded just in time, bringing up his staff to deflect the attack, but was left off-balance as the being swung its ax to cut him in two. So he did the only thing he could, he fell and let the ax sweep over his head. Rolling back on his shoulders the dark mage sprung up using his hand to force himself to standing and swung his dagger horizontally. The being ducked back avoiding serious injury, but still lagged enough by his large weapon the sustain a small cut on his torso. Not pausing to admire his handiwork the warlock continued his momentum, bringing the staff around and clubbing the Creator.

The blow, aided by the same invisible wave technique the warlock had been using all along, threw the man across the room and into the pedestal. Kelgori finished his spin and stopped, checking to see if he had dealt any significant damage to the being. "You underestimate, as you always have," the dark mage taunted, "I may not be able to overcome my instincts, but I can direct them. Even the most rash reactions can be used effectively if you know how."

The man began laughing, a deep thoroughly unpleasant laugh that echoed inside his head, and stood, "Maybe I will get to have some fun after all."

Before the warlock could ask what he meant the man was upon him swinging his large axe like a paperweight and mere inches from the dark mage. Kelgori spun his staff, meeting the blade and keeping it from coming in contact with his actual body, but unable to stop the full force of the blow. He felt himself being lifted off his feet and then he was air borne flying across the chamber at a speed impossible under normal circumstances. He hit the ground hard, rolling not out of necessity, but because it was impossible not to when hitting the ground at such a speed. Eventually he was able to come to a stop and get to his feet only to discover that he was back in the same spot he had arrived in and that his enemy was less then a hundred feet away.

"Don't worry," the man said suddenly right in front of him, ax held high, "it'll all be over soon."

---------------------------------------------

Lloyd dodged the claw and fired another fireball into the beast. It was all but useless against the beasts thick skin, but it was about the only kind of attack he could land on the great beast. He spun around and shot up bringing his sword up to try once again for the dragon's head, focusing as much power as he could into the blade to extend it's range, but it once again came up short as the beast backed away with surprising speed. He felt his feet come into contact with something and knew without looking that it was Drek'Thor.

"This is getting discouraging my friend," the Knight said grateful for the minor respite. "We've been at this for over an hour and made almost no progress. I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this up." As he rested he saw the other Netherdrakes, Thor's family as he had explained during the fight, attack the dragon trying to keep up the pressure in the vain hope that it would tire the beast. He was still grateful for their attempts though, it took some of its attention off him.

"You will think of something Sir Knight," the Drake replied, eternally optimistic.

"I've never used the stone for this long Thor, I can feel myself getting sloppy." He looked at the stone in his hand, "And I'm not sure if the Tear will last either."

"Then we die here," the Drake responded, "if you do not believe you can win, then you will not, and all this will have been in vain." The dragon was finishing its circle and coming back around, "You must choose now. Fight or surrender."

"Well that's no choice at all," Lloyd replied with a smile. "Let's show this Creator how it's done!" The Knight flapped his wings, closing the distance between he and the dragon in an instant and drove his blade forward like a spear. The beast saw the attack and veered off, but it was too close and the blade struck home on the creature mighty foot, burying itself hilt deep into the beast's flesh. The dragon let out a scream and tried to shake the Dragoon loose, but the Knight held on tightly, stubbornly refusing to let this opportunity pass him by, "Let's see how you like my fire!" He concentrated on the blade again using the fire to extend its reach, then yank it down hard.

The move worked, carving a chunk of flesh from the creature as large as the Netherdrakes circling it. The dragon roared and began spewing fire down at where the Knight was vaporizing the air and generating enough heat to cauterize its own wound. As he had been doing the entire fight Lloyd dodged the attack taking advantage of the increased speed the Tear provides, but even so he felt the heat rush past him indicating how close he had actually come to death. The Tear's running out of power. I need to take this thing out now!

The Knight soared high, passing within inches of the beast's wings and out of its sight. Thor and his family were still attacking it, clawing at it and using some rudimentary elemental magic to inflict damage on the already wounded dragon. It wouldn't do much in the long run due to the creature's thick skin, but it would distract the beast long enough for what Lloyd had in mind. The Knight brought his arm up level with his chest and rested his sword on the back of his hand in direct contact with the stone, aiming at the dragon below. Only gonna have one shot at this, gotta make it count, he thought to himself as he focused all the stone's power into the sword. Its normal orange glow began to grow deeper and the air began warp as the heat radiated from the weapon as the sword became infused with more power then it had ever been meant to take. He took careful aim and held his breath, "I really hope this works!"

The Dragoon tightened his grip and released the pressure. Immediately the heat streamed from the tip focusing into a flame so intense it surpassed it's own form and formed into a beam of plasma. The beam pierced the air like a dagger obliterating all in it's way friend, foe, and object, it did not discriminate nor differentiate. One of the Netherdrakes which had been unfortunately positioned was incinerated in the backwash, a truly sad event, but more importantly, the dragon was run through, its head separated from its neck. Both portions of the beast tumbled through the air and crashed into the abyss below destroying much of the canyon which housed it, and narrowly missing the dome housing Kelgori.

Lloyd felt a moment of elation at his success followed by a moment of shock as he began descending through the air. Luckily, Thor was nearby and managed to catch the Knight before he fell too far, "Are you well Sir Knight?" Lloyd looked at his body, surprised that he was no in the armor he had been battling in mere moments before. He had not felt himself reverting back, nor had he seen the characteristic flames that accompanied set transformation. So what had happened? His speechless worried the Drake, "Sir Syuveil!"

"Huh?" The Knight responded shook from his reverie, "Oh, I'm alright Thor. At least I think I am."

"Your attack was spectacular. Though I do mourn the death of my brother, it was not unexpected that we would sustain casualties." The Netherdrake went quiet.

Lloyd understood the beast's pain, he had felt similar pain when he had inadvertently killed Althrun. Both were pointless deaths, and no one deserved such a death. "I apologize for my carelessness, I had no way of knowing how the attack would form."

"I understand Sir Knight, but we need to focus on the situation now. We managed to destroy that form, but as I said before he has many forms and he is quick to learn from his mistakes. And you are both without your form and your weapon."

"My w-" The Knight raised his sword hand to find the hilt, guard, and no blade, "Oh, when did that happen?"

"When you used that attack it tore the sword apart piece by piece," Thor answered. "Weren't you aware of it?"

"I suppose not," Lloyd replied casting away what was left of the weapon. Powerful technique, dangerous too. He lifted his left hand to his face, a sickening feeling rising in his chest. Normally the stone in his hand would glow a soft red at all times, but now it was dark, inert, dead for all intents and purposes, Great, I slay the dragon only to be left defenseless for whatever replaces it. The stone was drained for who kne how long, and his sword had been torn asunder from the stress of the attack, that left him with only his serrated bracer to defend himself. "Put down Thor," Lloyd spoke, "I'm no good up here anymore."

"Your powers are gone, aren't they?" The Drake queried as he descended to the canyon floor.

"Unfortunately," the Knight confirmed, "I've still got a bracer and my wits, that will have to do until Kelgori finishes up."

--------------------------------------

Kelgori gasped, taking in as much "air" as his lungs could handle. Of course he realized the gasping wasn't really an attempt to get air but a representation of his mental fatigue. He had lost all measure of time in this place. He had no idea how long he had been fighting this monster, and it was beginning to take its toll on him. The warlock looked up at his opponent, still in the same condition he had been when he had first shown himself, and at the smug look on its face. The Creator had been routing him the entire fight, and Kelgori's own successes were few and far between. At first the beatings hadn't really affected him, but as they wore on they began to do more and more damage. And each time it had taken him longer and longer to recover.

"Giving up already Kelgori?" The Creator taunted, "What happened to that cockiness you've been displaying? Are you perhaps realizing that you are no match for me?" The man's face was hidden behind his red scarf, but the confidence in his voice conveyed more insult then a smile ever could, "If you kneel down, beg for forgiveness, and stop this foolish retaliation, then I may reconsider taking your life." He walked up to the dark mage and yanked the warlock up to eye level, "How about it? Beg for mercy, swear obedience to me, and I may yet let you live. Or continue this farce, and learn a new meaning of pain as I torture your soul for an eternity. The choice is yours."

"Bite me!" Kelgori whispered back, then used what remained of his strength bring his staff up under the being's jaw. The blow knocked the Creator up and back with enough force that, had this been the physical realm, it would have snapped his neck and possibly even torn his head off. The warlock dropped to the ground and looked for the pedestal. He knew the hit would only buy him some time. His opponent was far stronger then he had first believed, and only now realized that however old he might be, the being he faced was ancient in comparison. This Creator had a mind like none he had ever entered and he doubted he could beat the creature even with the aid of the stones. So that left him with just one option.

The warlock finally spotted the pedestal less then three meters away and began a slow limping journey to it. As he walked he unsheathed his knife and opened the bottom the hilt, a chamber he used for many things usually involving poison or blood for ceremonies. But today it would be used for something different. He had one last trick up his sleeve, something he had thought up just in case he proved too weak to defeat the Creator, but he had to disguise it, if he didn't it could be blocked, and that was one thing he could not afford. He grasped at his belt, pulling out an item so small it fit completely in the palm of his hand without being seen.

"That was a good hit," the man's voice said coming from his left, "if that was just you playing dead then I applaud your strategy, but I suspect that was actually a desperate bid for time." The being twisted his neck at an unnatural angle, "In which case I'll be sorely disappointed in your pathetic attempt."

Kelgori swiped his hand over the hidden chamber of the dagger simultaneously dropping the object in and closing it in the same instant, "I am old and tired." He said trying to distract the man for the extra couple seconds he would need to pull this off, "I do not have the time or patience for such ruses."

"I know you better then that Kelgori, and it disappoints me that you think such a lie would work on me."

The warlock smiled, "Can't blame a guy for trying." He lifted the hand holding his dagger and hurled the weapon at the pedestal. This was the moment upon which everything hung. If the Creator took the logical smart move and simply used his powers to deflect the dagger, then all would be lost, but if he took the dark mage's bait, tried to discourage him by intercepting the dagger himself, then there was still a chance. It would all depend on the sadistic nature of the creature he fought.

A flicker of motion caught his attention and he looked over at where the man had been standing to see what action the being had decided to take, but saw nothing. "How sad," the voice said from the pedestal, the warlock looked to see the dagger resting literally hilt deep in the creature's hand, "your final trick was to try and destroy my power with what? A ceremonial dagger?"

"Yeah, you got me," Kelgori said with a smile, "but so nice of you to fall for it all the same."

"Wh-" the being's voice was cut off as a silver glow began to issue from the hilt of the dagger. Immediately it tried to pull the knife away, but found his arm disintegrating the moment he began reaching for it. "What have you done?!" The Creator demanded.

"I simply used the fruits of your labors against you." Kelgori smiled, "You were the cause of the first Great War in Pangea, your Dragoon Stones were what allowed the primitive species to rise up against the Lost, the only race capable of keeping you in check. Of course you didn't count on them being able to copy your abilities so quickly, but it still worked out well, except for one thing. When they found a way to copy your Dragon Warriors, they also found the weakness in such magics and formed the only weapon known to man that could kill a Dragoon. Events moved quickly after that, and to the whole of Pangea what happens remains a quaint little mystery, but I know what happened. You took the spoils of that battle, your own power and the powers of the Lost. They allowed you to grow far stronger then you had ever been before so it was a win for you, even with the disappearance of the final stone, but then you realized the danger in the Lost's weapons. The danger of the Moon Tears, and specifically the danger of Dragoon's End. So you sealed them away, put a guard on them, and made sure any who knew their secrets was never heard from again, because in finding the weakness to the Dragoon Stones, the Lost found your weakness as well."

The Creator just stared at the warlock as he spoke, not bothering to contradict the man because he knew the futility in such claims. So the dark mage continued, "You see, these Dragoon Stones are your power, that is why they held such potent magical abilities, so in finding a way to kill a Dragoon, they found a way to destroy your powers. That was something you couldn't allow, and you did well to hide it as long as you did, but you missed one thing, or should I say you missed one person?"

The man's eyes widened, "You-"

"Yes, I am," the warlock replied, cutting the creature off, "it took you long enough to realize it, but ultimately, you did so far too late. Now you will be sealed by the same power that you sealed away so long ago. Undone, by the same people you conspired to have eliminated. If that isn't poetic justice, I don't know what is."

"Do not think you have won this," it said even as it's body began tearing itself apart, "you have removed me from the world for a time, but I can wait. And when I return, I will be more powerful then you can imagine."

"No, no you won't," Kelgori responded, "because you are the nexus of your own power, and Dragoon's End is now in the center with you. Its power will continue to progress until all sources of Dragoon power are eradicated, so if you want the power in those stones to survive, you will have to abandon them."

The being's eyes narrowed, "I will not soon forget this injustice Kelgori."

"I would be disappointed if you did," the dark mage answered as the final bits of the creature disappeared. The room began to shake, and in front of him the pedestal began disintegrating as well. The stones held came loose and circled the pillar until the last remnants were gone, then shot out in all directions. The warlock, unable to capture them all eyed one in particular, a stone giving off a dark purple color and when it shot out he reached forth and snagged it from the air. Then everything went white.

----------------------------------------

Lloyd stood waiting for the next monstrosity to come out of the abyss. Waiting for the final challenge that would end his life and that of his recently acquired allies. All he had were a bracer and a prayer, and the will to fight even if it was futile. What form will it take this time? A Shapeshifter? A Guardian Deego? A man? The possibilities were literally endless. So he shouldn't have been surprised when the answer to his question ended up being: nothing.

"Lloyd!" A familiar voice shouted, "We need to get a move on!" Standing a couple meters away was Kelgori staff held high and with absolutely no signs of battle on his body.

"Kelgori?" Lloyd asked unsure if he was hallucinating. Did this mean the warlock had been successful? The ground began to shake around them, and the glow that had been coming from the abyss started to pulse and shift colors. "What the hell happened?"

"There's no time for that," he shouted back. The dark mage drew a circle of fire in the air in front of him with his staff then thrust the device into the middle. Immediately a wind began pulling all around towards the portal he had just drawn, "The entire area is about to come crashing down!"

Lloyd looked back to the abyss whose light was pulsating faster and faster almost like a countdown, then back at Kelgori, "The minute we're done running I want an explanation!"

"And you'll have it," the warlock replied, "now come on! We don't have much time!"

The Knight looked back to Thor who had been standing beside him this whole time, "What about you? That portal doesn't look large enough to fit you and your family."

"We will stay behind to guard this place and all such places of dark power," the Netherdrake replied. "Pangea is not ready for such power, not yet."

The ground shook harder, forming cracks in the canyon, "That is a feeling I understand my friend. God speed." The Knight turned and ran to the warlock passing into the phantom realm once again and as such was unable to see the final look Kelgori shared with his Netherdrake, not that he would or could have understood the meaning in such glances, or the sadness in their parting.

"One day Drak'Thor," Kelgori said under his breath, before jumping into the portal himself.

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Ptolemy on Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:24 pm

Drek’s pass, sacred ground. The site of one of many victories recorded for the late King of Lenus, King Drek then Garield on the down side. Darius looked at the ground and saw the tracks of many horses and wagons blending together making tracking Lloyd impossible. The horses were finally able to travel at the trot they had wanted to maintain. Had it really been 3 days ago? The trip to Drek’s pass should not have taken that long but it seemed the terrain and weather had conspired against them. The silence was good and bad. Men left to their own thoughts will allow their minds to wonder back to better times and so not pay attention to what is going on at present. That had almost sent young Laro over the edge of a trail. Time seemed to drag and the attempts of conversation soon ended. The pain of burying Athrun at the mouth of that cave was still new and the need for revenge burned in them all now.

‘Frugal had killed King Drek’ Darious thought yet again. Lloyd was annoyingly correct in that observation. There was some evidence to that end but nothing solid. As a Knight Errant and Leader of the Brigade he had the right to challenge succession, not for the throne but, to keep the unworthy off of it. Darius had spoken to the brigade about such a challenge to Frugal but the consequences of a failed challenge could be severe and, in the end, they decided there was not enough evidence to launch such a challenge. Darius looked at the rest of the Brigade. Laro still looked like he had lost or killed his best friend though he was doing his best to hide it. The only conversation was between Laro and Clide, Student and teacher. Laro would ask a question and Clide would ponder the question and answer. Usually about strategy or tactics employed by the Brigade and some about the personalities and what a person would do in a certain situation.

Zara’s demeanor had not changed much even after the demonstration of Laro’s new found skill with the blade. While Laro’s improvement had been remarkable, Zara still held him responsible for the death of Athrun. The set of his jaw and the edge of his wit seemed to be aimed at Laro. To his credit Laro would not back down and at least tried to give as good as he got.

‘As long as that is as far as that goes’ Darius thought ‘it will be just fine.’

The lack of communication of the Brigade was having another effect. They seemed to be drifting apart. What little conversation that had been, initially, was the failure of Laro. This moved to weather or not the actions of Lloyd were prudent or necessary. The out come did not matter as the passion in their hearts and devotion to duty would not let them deviate now. The half moon illuminated their progress over the pass until they reached the site of the now ruined road block. The wagons were overturned yet and debris littered the snow covered site. The wind continually picked up the snow and ice forming and reforming the landscape with snow drifts and bare ground. It looked like a battle had been fought here. There were several bodies one with no head and another with an arrow protruding from its throat. The Brigade rode past in silence wary for an attack that they would almost welcome.

The Silence remained unbroken as the Brigade started down the other side of the pass, in the distance the Brigade could see the lights of city nestled on the shores of a natural cove. The city of Garield was A bustling city on the edges of Lenus and the best chance to get passage to Concord. Darius urged his steed to a gallop and the distance to the city closed quickly. The stress of keeping a quick pace and resting very little was going to catch up to them all soon and Darius wanted to be on a ship bound for Concord as soon as the could manage. They could all rest once they were underway.

As the morning sun broke the horizon they rode through the gates of the city. Their dwindling supplies made it necessary for Darius to send Laro and Clide to procure jerked meat and dried fruit and vegetables for the journey while Darius and Zara headed to the docks to charter a ship for the journey. After a brief search and much haggling, they found a ship that was heading to Concord. The Schooner was more a cargo ship than passenger vessel. The Brigade would be the only passengers on board and that was just fine with Darius. The fee was a bit excessive for the quality of the accommodations but the anonymity that was purchased was well worth the price. As the sun rose to mid day the Brigade lead their horses on to the ship and took them below to the area prepared for them and by the next high tide they were off.

‘Well’ Laro said in a matter of fact tone. ‘I asked around the dock if anyone had seen a blue man with 2 halflings getting on a ship.’

‘And?’ Zara asked after a short silence spreading his hands and jerking his head to one side, ‘Anyone see Lloyd?’

Laro looked at Darius ‘3 nights ago there was a group of 3 men and 2 children that boarded a Ship to concord,’ Laro paused for a moment, ‘one of the men did not look right, his face was in shadow but he wore a gauntlet on his left hand and it looked like a sword worn across his back at an odd angle.’

Clide nodded ‘That has to be them,’ he said ‘but 3 men and 2 children? I think we have found where our missing tracker went to.’

‘Another good call, that was’ snorted Zara sarcastically looking at Laro ‘Next time you have a “brilliant” idea, keep it to your self’

‘THAT’S ENOUGH!’ Clide shouted as Laro stood

‘When we are free of the traitor you can kill each other.’ Darius said agreeing with Clide ‘Until then we have a job to do and we are already one down. We can ill afford to loose another’ Darius looked between Laro and Zara ‘I have no time to train another to use the shield or the claymore’

‘If either of you mention this again I will kill you myself.’ Clide said emphaticaly looking at Laro then Zara. Laro looked back at Clide with no emotion on his face while Zara’s face was a study in fury. ‘When this is over, as soon as Lloyds head hits the ground you are on your own. Untill then we are a team!’

Zara stood and left the small room. Laro looked at Darius. ‘I do not have the best track record for ideas in this outing.’

‘Your lack of preparation was not your fault.’ Clide said

‘And you had no idea that the tracker would be anything but loyal to his paymaster’ Darius finished.

Darius got up from the table and leaned against the wall.

‘I do believe we are on the right track going to Concord,’ Darius said finally breaking his concentration. ‘we have to be careful of what we do and where we do it. Anonymity is our ally in Concord, we can ill afford to bring attention to our selves.’

‘Agreed’ said Clide ‘if we know he is going to Concord, do we know who or what he intends to see?’

‘Do you remember who it was that gave him that sword?’ Laro asked…

Clide and Darius looked at each other and grinned.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

‘When are we going up there?’ Frick asked pointing up to the floating capital of Concord.

Damean looked where the kinder was pointing. ‘Not sure why we would have to go there…’

‘Where do we wait for Lloyd?’ Stock asked

‘We do not even know if he is alive…’ Damean fell back wards ‘OW!’

‘OI’ Frick said bringing his staff up from sweeping Dameans feet from under him. ‘Lloyd is alive!’

‘We know it!’ Frack said ‘We can feel it.’

‘Perhaps we can give your friend some time to catch up’ Jun Cho said ‘A week should not hurt any here.’

‘We do not even know where he would be!’ Stock pointed out.

‘Well,’ answered Damean ‘He did say there was someone in that city he needed to see.’

‘If he shows up there we may miss him,’ Frack protested. And the kinder began talking to each other excitedly.

‘Well either way I need to let my families know I am alive,’ Damean said resolutely

‘We should go there then,’ Stock said nodding in understanding ‘they deserve to know that at least, we can go for a day but I would say we need to get up there soon after.’ He finished and jerked his thumb toward the city.

Jun Cho nodded in agreement.

‘OK so we do not get into trouble…’ Stock said looking for the Kinder ‘HEY! Where did they go?’

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Frick and Frack heard the rest of the group calling for them as they headed for one of the walkways that lead to the city in the sky. They were leaving small signs that Stock should be able to pick up on. It had been 3 days since the warlock had taken Lloyd, If he was alive he may be in the city already. In the Kinder’s way of thinking they had to get everyone in the city. Frick stopped and left a more obvious sign for Stock to find and then hurried after his brother who was already on the walk way.

They took a more leisurely pace then keeping up wit h the foot traffic looking over their shoulders to see if the group had caught up yet. After a couple of minutes the kinder saw the group at the foot of the walkway speaking with the guards one of which nodded and made a gesture of height and pointing up the walkway. There was a short discussion and the three looked up the walk way. There was another discussion and they began the trudge up the walk way. The Kinder grinned at each other and turned back up the walk way moving a bit more quickly now.

At the top of the walk way the Kinder hesitated and took in the sights. At close to a mile high the city was easily the highest point on Pangea. The white buildings and columns glimmered in the sunlight from a distance but up close you could see that not all of the buildings were well taken care of. The Kinder stepped from the walkway and moved into the city. The city was magical. The tall spires and columns reached up to the sky topped with statues of men and women holding staffs and wands. The cobblestone streets were level and in good repair and seemed to glisten and sparkle in the sun light. The Kinder were sorely tempted with distractions and the market place in the city center was almost to much to bear. They each grabbed an apple from a vendor and made their way toward the temples that flanked the Market place.

With the scarlet temple ahead of them the Kinder mounted the steps to survey the crowd and see if the rest of the group was still behind them.

‘I do not see them’ Frack said, ‘You think we lost em?’

‘No,’ answered Frick leaning in his staff ‘Stock could track us up the side of a sheer rock cliff.’

‘There’ Frack pointed as they caught sight of Damean at the same instant.

As one the three companions looked up and shouted for the Kinder to wait. The Kinder looked at each other and turned toward the entrance of the temple where the temple guard stopped them.

‘Children are not allowed in the temple with out their parents.’ The hooded guard said gently.

Frick looked up at the guard and his eyes widened… ‘umm… I… well… your face…’ he stammered as Frack pulled him away.

‘Did you see that?’ Frick asked

‘What?’ Frack looked at Frick.

‘His face…’ Frick insisted, ‘Did you see his face?’

‘No I didn’t’ said Frack ‘but we need to find a way into here.’

‘We do not even know if he is in here.’ Frick pointed out.

‘No, we do not’ Frack answered ‘but we won’t until we get in there and look around.’

Fick nodded and looked around the side of the building. ‘Look up there’ he pointed at a window 100 feet up the wall. Frack nodded and they started to climb the wall.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

‘Wait!... Frick!...’ Stock shouted the three men looked up and saw the Kinder on the steps of the scarlet temple ‘Damn it!’

‘Well now we know where they are going,’ Damean said as they pushed through the crowd and up the wide stairs onto the wide terrace of the Scarlet Temple. Columns of pink marble stretched up supporting the sloped marble canopy 50 feet above. The canopy was adorned with relief sculptures of the Gods of the underworld in some historical battle or another. Scarlet tapestries hung from the canopy between the columns. The marble floor of the Terrace looked to be stained red and was worn in several places and, if you looked closely, you could see cracks forming from the edges of the terrace.

The group did not at all blend in with the crowd of people coming and going from the temple. This fact earned the stares and disapproval of many in the crowd. The shabby appearance of Damean’s clothes and the well Worn leathers that Stock was wearing were in stark contrast to the fine clothing of many of those entering the temple. Jun Cho had thrown a dark red cloak over his armor and so almost blended in. The group joined a group of people going into the temple figuring the Kinder were inside. They passed through the arched entryway into a long courtyard with a large domed turret that was reputed to house the gateway to the underworld. The three they split up and looked for the kinder in the courtyard.

They met at the other end of the courtyard.

‘They are not in here…’ Damean started

Lun Cho looked up at the exposed walkways above. ‘There they are’ he said pointing.

Frick and Frack were making their way down the walkway to a set of stairs. The three men went over to the stairs and waited at there as the Kinder sheepishly descended the stairs.

‘We need to look in there’ Frack said pointing at the turret housing the gate to the underworld.

‘I do not think they will let you in.’ Said Stock indicating the guards around the doors.

‘hmm.’ Frick said thoughtfully. ‘We need a distraction….

_________________

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Aardvark on Wed Oct 06, 2010 11:48 pm

Lloyd ran as fast as his body would carry him, the thud of his feet on, What exactly am I running on? In truth it was hard to describe, it didn't look like he was running on anything, it was unlike the first time he had been here, the realm's red sky now had streaming waves of blue and green swirling in and out of existence all over. Where once there had been a road and stairs, there was now nothing but that mottled sky all around them, and it felt as if it was closing in on them. Kelgori was a few steps ahead of him, he had been eerily silent since they entered the realm, he wasn't being his usual chatty self, explaining all his questions almost before he could ask them. It could have been that the man was concentrating on running, but the Knight couldn't help but think there was a connection between his silence, and the sudden change in the appearance of this place.

And he couldn't help but be worried by that as he was noticing that the ground he was running on had gotten much more uneven since they had entered, so much so that he had nearly fallen a couple times. "Kelgori, do you think you could shore up whatever magic you're using to keep us here," he said after one particularly close stumble, "I'm not sure what will happen if I fall but I don't imagine it's a good thing."

"I would if I could," the warlock replied, "but it's taking every bit of strength I have just to keep us from being crushed."

"Why? You didn't seem to have trouble last time."

"Last time I had the Dragoon's End Tear with me. It contained a magic that allowed me to tap into the Creator's power, thus allowing me to stabilize this dimension for a short time, but in order to seal him I had to use the Tear's magic up. I managed to study the technique when we were here the first time, but the magic isn't holding for some reason, most likely because the Tear's magic is much greater then my own." He heaved trying to get enough breath to continue without slowing down, "It may even be that the Tear is made of a special material that allowed the magic to work better. Whatever the case, without it the barrier I have is slowly collapsing around us, and without the barrier this realm would reject us instantaneously."

"Well that clears everything right up," the Knight responded sarcastically. "Did I mention the only class I aced was Gym?"

The dark mage sighed, "OK, we're not meant to be in this world. We're not of this place, and without a barrier to filter out what we cannot comprehend or tolerate we would die in an instant. It's like trying to take a shortcut underwater, but there's no place to come up for air until we reach our destination. Now when we had the Tear we had an infinite supply of air to help us get through it, but without it all we have is the air in our lungs. If we stay too long we'll run out of air and drown, and as our air runs out it gets harder and harder to continue swimming."

Lloyd felt the floor start to give way and jumped, barely catching the edge of whatever they were walking on, "Well I'd say we're on our last few wisps of air."

Kelgori nodded, "To make matters worse the exit I had set up on the boat to Concord is gone now, most likely a side-effect of the Tear being expended, so we have to make our way to the nearest natural exit, something I hadn't planned on when I opened the gateway here."

"Can't you just open another here?"

The warlock shook his head, "No, it requires an enormous amount of power to open even a temporary gate and I can't afford to try and open another one when I can barely maintain this barrier. Our only hope lies in getting to one of the two natural gates in either Concord or Sundered Island."

"So which one are we heading to now?"

"I don't know, but we're about to find out..."

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Ptolemy on Tue Nov 02, 2010 5:50 pm

Lloyd pulled himself up from yet another chasm that had tried to swallow them. Kelgori leapt over the chasm and reached down and drug Lloyd to his feet and they were off running again. Running became harder like running through sand then wading into mud. Lloyd willed his tired legs to keep pumping the distance of each stride declining with the difficulty to keep them moving. The mud they were moving through became tendrils reaching and trying to snag their legs tripping them up and making them stumble. The man and the mage struggled through.

‘Here’ Kelgori said out of breath as he used the end of his staff to inscribe a circle in the emptiness. Lloyd could not see anything extraordinary here like anything else in this forsaken place. Kelgori punched at the middle of the circle he inscribed with the end of his staff and smoke billowed from the circle which seemed to begin shrinking as soon as it was opened. With no prompting from the mage Lloyd dove through the portal head first and straight into a surprised man in crimson armor. Luckily the armor was more ceremonial than functional and though it looked solid, the soft leather armor offered little protection. Lloyd’s shoulder went into the guard’s gut and the guard went down in a heap. By instinct, Lloyd tucked himself into a ball and rolled over the guard. He used his momentum to roll to his feet and bounced off another guard that turned to see the commotion. Lloyd’s arms flailed as he lost his balance and sat down hard again rolling, backward this time, coming to rest on the balls of his feet and his right hand. His left hand was outstretched with the Dragoon stone beginning to glow once again. Kelgori landed on his feet wreathed in smoke and flame. The guards fell back covering their faces from the heat. A bowl of heat and flame seemed to be forming around Lloyd as the stone embedded in his hand shielded him from the heat. In a moment there was a flash and the mage stood wrapped in a white cloak with gold embroidery covering it. It looked like a reversed image of the cloak he wore normally with the dark becoming white and the light colors becoming gold embroidery.

The Guard that Lloyd bowled over jumped up. He was a bit taller than Lloyd clad in the crimson armor, his helm lay across the room and the pips on the shoulder of his armor were obviously an indicator or rank. His bald head gleamed blue in the light of the chamber. The look on his face was flashed from anger to confusion. Lloyd straightened and squinted, looking at the guard. They took a step toward each other, both wary of the other. Lloyd raised his hand, palm out, toward the guard comparing the shade of blue on his hand to that displayed on the guard’s head. Smoke swirled around the room and there was a pop as the portal collapsed on its self, cutting off the smoke generated by the meeting of the two worlds.

‘Well’ Kelgori laughed and claped a hand on Lloyd’s shoulder. ‘It seems we have something in common.’

Lloyd dropped his hand and the guard bowed his head sharply. ‘M’Lord…’ he said addressing Lloyd. ‘Long has the prophecy been told of the one to come to us from the other side in smoke and flame, traveling a great distance to our realm from the beyond...’

‘Well we have come…’ Lloyd started, ‘Wait WUT?!’

‘We have traveled a long distance’ Kelgori began in his best announcer’s voice, ‘we have battled many foes and creat…’

‘Prehaps I should take you to our Chief Priest, ’The guard interrupted bowing to Lloyd ‘Please… follow me’

= == == == == == == == == == == == =

Jun Cho put two fingers of his left hand in to his sash and pulled a small ball shaped object.

‘This will fill the room with smoke.’ Jun Cho said looking around the room.

Frick looked at Frack ‘We only need a minute,’

‘In and out’ Frick said ‘2 minutes max‘

There was a flash of light from the inside turret followed by alarmed cries and the sounds of combat. Bodies hit the floor and flesh struck bone then there was silence. The doors burst open and Lloyd and a mage backed through the doors followed at a respectful distance by the portal guards. Lloyd’s face was streaked with dirt and soot and his clothes looked like he had been rolling around in the dirt. The Mage on the other hand was in a white robe that was spotless embroidered with gold thread the images of ancient battles and symbols of power.

Smoke billowed from the open door framing those exiting the room. The smoke wreathed Lloyd and Kelgori seeming to hang on the pair with tendrils finally ripping away from them and disappearing as such things do. The theatrics of the site was not lost on the crowd. At a shouted command the assembled guards knelt and removed their helms in one fluid motion.

Frick and Frack suddenly appeared to either side of Lloyd grinning from ear to ear. The guards flanking Lloyd and Kelgori tried to push them away resulting in a comical chase as the guards tried to catch the kinder, as anyone knows, would never happen unless the kinder desired it.

‘The kinder are with me’ Lloyd said as he raised his hand pointing toward Stock and Dameon ‘bring them as well.’

Stock and Dameon fell in as Cho followed along behind the group speech less.


Last edited by Ptolemy on Tue Jun 14, 2011 6:30 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Aardvark on Fri May 06, 2011 8:35 am

Lloyd followed the guard down the hall deeper into the Temple, or at least what he assumed to be a Temple given the ornate red marble inlaid with carved the studded sculptures of various deities in acts or war, mercy, creation, and destruction. His friends were following closely behind in differing states of awe, all except Damean and Kelgori who seemed more nervous then impressed with the whole affair. The Kinder were eying everything with wide eyes, barely containing themselves in the treasure trove of curiosities, while Stock walked along in an awe-struck stupor. The man bringing up the rear was the oddest of all, Lloyd had never seen the man, but he immediately believed him a kindred spirit, he had the bearing of one accustomed to encountering and dealing with what he didn't understand.

"Don't get distracted," Kelgori whispered appearing alongside the Knight, "this is a very delicate situation we've stumbled into."

"The Dark Mage is correct," Damean spoke, an edge of mistrust coloring his voice. The others seemed to have accepted Lloyd's judgment of the man, but Damean seemed the lone exception still wary of a man who had willingly aligned himself with such great evil, "Concordians are very advanced, but they're still a superstitious lot, and I've never heard of this 'prophecy' before."

"Luxus," the short warrior said from the back of the group, "a religion that appeared in this country five years ago. It quickly overtook the country as the most popular religion in Concord. What I know of it is vague at best, but the central prophecy of the religion is that of 'the beginning of the end'. It foretells a Concord Mage appearing out of the Nether realm in the most holy of hollies bearing a great power and a shattered blade, accompanied by a man of darkness to act as his herald."

"That's... oddly specific," the Knight looked down at his hand and the stone embedded in it, still weak, but glowing with a faint power, then beyond at his hand, still lightly blue.

"It does not stop there," the man continued, "the prophecy also states that the man would be greeted by the highest priest of the land who would bestow him with the Temple's most sacred relic, a sword to continue his great battle against the forces of evil soon to plague the land, and that upon taking up this sword he would be transformed and cleanse the Concordians of their evil, thus signaling the final war."

"That sounds less like a prophecy and more like someone steering events," Kelgori replied. "I've lived a long life, and traveled many lands, but I've never heard of a prophecy so specific, and thus far, so accurate."

"Why haven't I heard of this before Jun?" Damean asked looking at the warrior and finally revealing his name to the Knight. "I lived on Concord five years ago."

"It is considered a mortal sin to induct any non-Concordians into the religion, so most other species only stumble upon the religion if they look into it specifically," Jun answered eyes narrowing. "The fact that they even allowed us to accompany your friend is surprising."

"Look!" Frick pointed out, interrupting the conversation. The Kinder was pointing to a wide arch opening into a Cathedral like room made entirely of crystal that seemed to shift and swirl in color between scarlet and indigo as one gazed upon it. The room was tall, and wide, large enough to that even the dragon form of the Creator would have comfortably fit inside and completely empty except for a few support columns. At the center of the room was an altar, surrounded by an army of bald, blue skinned Concord Mages, each dressed in in a flowing red robe with golden fringe and kneeling as if in worship before the altar.

As the group entered the Mages stood greeted them, or more specifically Lloyd, with grand gestures and joyous applause, "Uh, a little help here Kelgori?"

The Dark Mage smirked and raised his staff high, "Silence!" He command, amplifying his voice so as to quiet the crowd of Concordians instantly, "Your Prophet commands silence! His Holiness is appauled by this undignified fawning. Have you no shame? No respect for what stands before you?"

The group slunk away, cowering before the figure they saw as a fulfillment of their faith, "We meant no offense your Grace. We are merely overjoyed at the fulfillment of the prophecy. Please forgive us."

"Your awe is understandable, and his Grace forgives your rudeness. Do not let it happen again!" With that the Warlock fell back and the group continued forward.

Lloyd leaned over and quietly whispered, "A little over the top don't ya think?"

"Sorry I missed the class on introducing a religious icon."

Before he got the chance to respond another Mage, this one dressed in violet robes with white fringe and sporting a white beard that reached to his chest, stepped in front of the altar and bowed low, "Greetings you Grace," he intoned smoothly, the man's voice had an almost hypnotic tone to it, "your arrival was foretold and so you appear, just as we knew you would." As the Mage stood Lloyd saw a flicker of recognition in Kelgori's eye and saw the Dark Mage's body tense for a second before relaxing again. "Your campaign to cleanse Concord and lead the righteous to victory is one long-awaited." He continued obliviously to Kelgori's reaction.

"You have something for his Holiness?" Kelgori replied pulling himself back together quickly and re-assuming the role of herald.

"Of course," the priest bowed and moved away while two others moved in holding a broadsword between them.

The sword was beautiful, a double-edged blade over two feet in length cast in the finest Concord steel, folded and reheated so many times that it seemed to glisten like crystal at times. The hilt and pommel were layered with obsidian and reinforced with a silver alloy capable of absorbing an impact, and curved at the end to catch and redirect strikes. At the bottom of the pommel and top of the hilt guard were two Xypho Sapphires, gems with the ability to capture and store stray magic for later release along the length of the blade.

Hesitantly the Knight picked up the blade and hefted it, deftly chucking it between hands and making swift precise strikes through the air to test the weight. It was well-balanced, light enough that he could easily wield it one-handed, but with just enough weight that he could put some series force behind it if necessary. Twirling it back he slide the blade up and into his scabbard, where it settled into place with a comforting click. He nodded satisfied and only then noticed that those collected were staring at him in disbelief.

"He... He's human..." one of the Concordians stammered out. "How can this be?"

Lloyd looked down at his hands and noticed that his skin had indeed returned to it's normal color, he reached up and felt that his hair too had returned and even back to it's normal length, Sword must have some kind of purifying ability, he thought to himself, not quite realizing what implication suddenly being human would have on a religion made up exclusively of Concordians.

Luckily Kelgori was quick on his feet, "This is a sign, an omen foreshadowing the purity that is about to befall Luxus! Just as his Grace has been purified in the white light, so shall all unbelievers!"

The Violet robed Priest returned, "And so it was foretold, 'The Prophet shall take up his holy weapon and be transformed, and this shall be a sign that the cleansing has begun!' May the worthy be judged!"

----------------------------------------------------

"If you require anything else do not hesitate to ask," a red armored Temple guard said with a salute before turning and walking away.

Kelgori nodded and palmed a switch that closed the door. No sooner had the door closed then both the Dark Mage and Knight slumped against the wall with a sigh of relief. "Well that was unpleasant to say the least."

"You're telling me," Lloyd shook his head, "this is not how I imagined this little trip would turn out."

"I take it you were expecting more violence and less idol worship?" Damean replied with a smile.

"At least that I'm used to," he waved around the room the followers of Luxus had given them. The room was large, more like a small house then a spare bedroom. They were in the common room which sported two plush red couches, four scarlet leather armchairs, a thick white rug, numerous replica paintings from famous Elvish artists, a large panoramic window giving a spectacular view of the city, and a black screen device the guard had called a Visionaire which was supposedly capable of displaying moving pictures. Along with the common room there were four bedrooms, all with double beds, two baths, a kitchen, and even a small sparring room. All of it was payed for by the Temple, and it was all a bit much for a simple Knight of Lenus.

"Is that a flying chariot?" Frack pointed out the window while somehow keeping his face completely plastered against the transparent wall.

"Is that even possible?" Stock asked, in a similar position, but not actually in contact with the window as the two Kinder were.

"It's Concord," Damean explained, "not much here is impossible. The entire country is like that, they use magic for every aspect of society and all native Concord Mages are capable of using magic. Wind magic to make things fly, Fire to provide light, Water to heal, you get the point, even the Visionaire is a form of Light magic."

"How high are we?" Frick asked.

"If you keep pressing your face against the window you just might find out," Lloyd replied, exhausted. He looked to Damean and Kelgori, "We need to get some supplies while we've got a line. No way to tell when this will all go to hell, and I'd rather we be prepared than caught with our pants down." He looked around at the group, all of them were in clothes that were dirty, shabby, or just outright falling apart, none of them fit in with the crowd he'd seen outside. Lloyd and Jun could clean and polish their armor, with the right cloak they would fit right in, but the others would need a whole overhaul before they'd have a chance in hell of blending in. "You two should go and grab us some supplies, we need a change and you two seem most in tune with this kind of culture."

"I don't think that's such a good-" Damean began.

Lloyd raised a hand to silence him, "If we're going to get through this I can't have you watching for a stab in the back, you need to get along, and the only way you're ever going to get along is if you take time to talk to each other." The two Mages looked warily at each other, "No arguments, get it done," he noticed the young boy in the corner quiet and isolated, "and take Stock with you, he'll know what's good for food and such."

The two magicians shared another glance, then shrugged and headed to the door, followed closely by Stock. Once they'd left he turned to Jun, "You I don't know, and that worries me. I know why the others are here, but you haven't said a word to me outside of explaining this whole prophecy thing. So what's your story?"

The old warrior looked to the window, the two Halflings standing there, and was silent for a moment. When he turned back his eyes had become softer, "Your companions, the half humans, surprise me. They are loyal to you for no other reason then they believe you are worthy of their time, and yet they risk their lives to help you. They did not doubt for a moment that you were alive when you disappeared, the other humans were similarly tempered. All of them are capable warriors and yet they look to you as a leader, and I too feel my spirit being drawn into your affairs despite never having met. If I do not find what I am looking for I will leave, but for now, I fell my place is here."

Lloyd nodded, "Come with me." The Knight stood and walked across the room and down the hall, "Stay out of trouble," he yelled back to the Kinder knowing full well they would ignore him if something sparked their interest, then disappeared into the sparring room.

The room was large, with tan walls and hard wood floors lining the entire room, in the corners were water and sand pits to provide materials for Water and Earth Mages, and the far wall was adorned with the same panoramic window as the common room.

"Shitakusuru, bushi![Prepare warrior!]" Lloyd yelled, pulling his new blade and swinging and uppercut that would easily cleave through flesh should it connect. Without a word the old warrior unsheathed his blade and met the attack with the broadside of his katana, taking the blow on bent knees before springing back and shoving the Knight away to get space and quickly ducked under the broadsword and swept in aiming for the Knight's side.

Working on instinct Lloyd crossed his left arm over, deflecting the katana with his bracer long enough to regain his footing and make an overhead slash that the old man avoided by hopping back out of the way. The two men settled back into their ready positions, Lloyd sword held down and away, seemingly open; Jun Cho high, point forward. "Doushite? Tamae umuoiwasezu nakama?[Why do this? Are we not friends?]" Jun asked, confused.

"Tenjikai jibunwa anatano kaiketsusuru, shitakusuru![Show me your resolve, warrior!]" Lloyd yelled back grabbing the sword with both hands and attacking with renewed vigor striking fast and hard, and putting Jun on the defensive. The old warrior, experienced in the art of fighting took the beating, waiting for an opening, waiting for a swing to go too wide, knowing playing smart was the only way to beat a younger more agile opponent, then pushed forward, elbowing the Knight in the gut, back-fisting him in the face, and sweeping the man's legs out from under him, pinning him in place with the tip of his katana.

"Yameru![Yield!]" Jun announced between breaths.

Lloyd smiled and dropped his sword, "Impressive, I didn't expect you to get me so soon."

Jun looked confused, but re-sheathed his blade and offered a hand to the Knight that the man gratefully took. "What was that about? Why attack me?"

"You and I are warriors, we can never truly convey our feelings with words, it is only in the heat of battle that our true nature shines through. I needed to see if you truly meant what you said, no more, no less."

"You came at me without hesitation, if I had not blocked you would have killed me. Why?"

Lloyd grabbed his sword and slide it back into the scabbard, "Would you have taken me seriously otherwise?"

"No."

"Well there you go."

"I must admit I've never come across any man in my travels that knew the language of Nippon."

"My first Master was a native of Nippon, a master Kenjutsu and Iaijutsu. His teachings and those of the Knight I served under is why my style is the most... unique in the Knighthood," Lloyd paused for a moment remembering his old friends and the choice he had made what seemed like ages ago. "I always did wish I had finished my training."

Jun looked out the window for a moment as if debating something then turned and headed for the door, "Follow me."

---------------------------------------------------------------

Frick watched the two men leave the room and tugged Frack's sleeve, "Come on, I want to see that Scarlet Temple again!"

"But... sword?" Frack looked longingly at the door, dying to get his hands on the new blade.

"It'll still be there, but I saw some really neat stuff in that High Priest's room, I wanna check it out." Frick countered pulling again and dragging the other Halfling towards the door.

"OK, but I get dibs on the robes!"

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Ptolemy on Fri Jul 08, 2011 7:44 pm

"Stay out of trouble," Lloyd shouted over his shoulder as Jun an Lloyd disappeared down the hall way.

The brothers watched the two men walk down a hallway then looked at each other Frick tugged Frack's sleeve and grinned, ‘Come on, I want to see that Scarlet Temple again!’

‘But... I want to see the new sword…’ Frack looked longingly at the door, dying to get his hands on the new blade.

‘It'll still be there, but I saw some really neat stuff in that High Priest's room, I we need to check it out.’ Frick countered pulling again and dragging the other Halfling towards the door.

‘OK, but I get dibs on the robes!’ Frack followed

‘Robes?’ Frick asked ‘what would you do with robes? I explained already about these cloaks…’

‘Shitakusuru, bushi!’ The Kinder heard Lloyd yell followed by the clash of steel.

‘Yes I know’ Frack said settling his scabbards over his shoulders. Frick turned him around and looked at the contraption that Frack was settling into place. The two short swords that he normally wore on his hips were now crossed on his back. The worn brown leather scabbards were held together and in place by woven leather and a pair of belts that went from his shoulders and buckled into a device in the middle of his chest.

‘Where did you get that buckle?’ Frick asked.

Frack shrugged ‘I think I got it from Lloyd’s room,’ he lifted the buckle and looked at it. It was silver inlaid with gold in the shape of a stylized dragon. In the chest of the dragon there was a blue stone embedded. There were leather straps through metal loops that were attached to the back of the device. The straps dropped from the device and swooped under the Kinder’s arms and around the waist before traveling up through the weave of leather that not only held the scabbards together but held the scabbards to the straps of leather. They then dropped over the shoulders and attached to the device via buckles. Frack turned the device and pressed the stone. There was a metallic click and the buckles sprang free of the device.

Frack beamed at Frick, ‘Found that by accident,’ he admitted, ‘but the connection is strong and will hold my weight easily.’ Frick looked suitably impressed.

‘Doushite? Tamae umuoiwasezu nakama?’ The brothers looked at each other as the clash of steel continued.

‘Tenjikai jibunwa anatano kaiketsusuru, shitakusuru!’ That was Lloyd shouting again

‘Yameru’ Jun shouted.

Frack sighed and jerked his head toward the door. The two Kinder followed the corridor for a while, turned left and right until they got in to the Temple proper. The Kinder looked at each other and flipped the hoods of their cloaks up to cover their heads and their outlines seemed to blur and blend in with the wall behind them. Frick looked at the staff he was carrying and the staff shortened into a Y-shaped rod about 10 inches long with a handle on one end. The brothers turned and started toward the chambers of the high priest as Frick tucked his staff/sling shot into his belt. Several times the brothers had to freeze as guards walked past, twice Frack decided that he needed to look in their pouches but then the guards moved on before he could put the pouches back on their belts. Of course the pouches were placed in pockets for safe keeping until they could be returned…

Moving carefully, the brothers moved toward the arch that marked the entrance of the high priest’s chambers. Frick looked at Frack and made fists of his hands bumping the thumb side of them together pointing with his left index finger. This was one of the signals they worked out to split up and traverse opposite sides of the area they were going into and which way he should go. Frack nodded and turned to his left. Frick put his hand on Frack’s shoulder and he turned again as Frick splayed the fingers of his left hand wiggling the fingers (be careful) Frack nodded again and moved to the left and through the huge crystal arch.

The room was devoid of life and, at first glance, empty. There was the ornate altar at the center of the cavern and a series of supporting columns that traversed the length of the room. The central feature, the Altar, stood about waist high to a human and hit the Kinder at about shoulder height. The Altar looked like it was Gold and silver inlay but on closer inspection was a series of rough stone with the precious metals showing in veins across the stones, boulders really, Frick had heard this type of or called ‘jewelry rock’ because of the veins of gold or silver could be extracted with little more than a hammer. The stones were held together with what looked like mortar but it glittered like there were flakes of precious gems mixed in.

The Floor was highly polished marble tiles placed together with such skill that it appeared to be one piece. Frick could see very faint lines where the tiles were joined. The columns looked to be the same marble as the floor but these were solid pieces soaring over a 100 feet into the air to support the roof of the cavern. The walls of the cavernous room had the look and feel of natural rock even though the temple did not extend down into the earth. Frick walked slowly along the wall going down the right side of the cavern running his hand over the faux rock walls till he felt a place that was too smooth. He looked at the area and felt rather than saw a small depression that felt more flexible than the rest of the wall. Frick looked over at Frack and hissed. Frack turned and trotted across the room and stood behind Frick.

Frick took another look around and gathered his cloak around him for the camouflage. When he was sure they would not be interrupted he reached up and pressed the depression until there was a click that was more felt than heard. For a moment nothing happened and Frick almost pressed the button again. Then there was a slight whoosh really just a change in air pressure as a section of the floor lifted quickly and silently as though on hinges to reveal a short stairway leading down to a small chamber that looked like it was lit by torch light. The Kinder slowly went down the steps and found a hallway that sloped down and away from the chamber above. As the brothers got to the bottom of the stairs, the hatch above slid closed. A quick search around the base of the stairs revealed a device that not only opened the hatch but a screen that looked like it was window into the cavern they had just left. Satisfied that they were not trapped, the Kinder turned and went down the hall to where it opened into a much smaller room.

‘Now this is more like it’ Frack said in a low appreciative voice.

Frick put his left hand on his friend’s arm and made a motion of caution with his right. Frick was of the same opinion though. The room was relatively plain, close to 20 feet square with small pillars scattered over the room. The walls of the room were paneled in dark wood and the ceiling seemed to be glowing. Kind of like the lights in their room but the entire ceiling was glowing here. On the pillars were objects some very ornate some plain. Around the edge of the room there were small piles of what, at first glance, looked like debris. Frack started looking at the pillars and the objects on them while Frick looked around the edges of the room. To a casual observer the room would have appeared to have suddenly become haunted as the shapes of the Kinder would shimmer and blur as they moved and all but disappear when they were still. Something along the back wall caught Fricks attention. He reached out and pulled a disk with an oddly textured front and back. The disk was well polished, looked extremely old and a bit familiar. There was a tickle of something in the back of Fricks mind, like there was something that he should know… Frick shrugged, wrapped the disk in a scrap piece of cloth from that same pile and placed the disc in his pocket. He would look at it later, figure it out then. Frick heard a ‘pssst’ from behind him and saw Frack looking at a pillar with an axe on it. The axe looked like it had been used to split the pillar and failed but then stuck in the stone. Frick crept over to where the other Kinder stood.

‘I thought you were more sword folk’ Frick whispered

Frack looked at him like he was stupid. ‘Not the weapon’ Frack indicated the base of the pillar ‘look at this’

Frick looked at the base of the pillar and saw a small crack in the base of the pillar. To most anyone else such a crack appears to have been caused by the impact of the axe with the stone pillar but there was something not quite right about it. Frick gently traced his finger along the edge of the crack and across the edge of it. The edges were too sharp for the crack to be natural. Frick looked around for a moment and then looked like he had an idea. He reached into his belt and pulled the slingshot from his belt. Frick looked at the device and concentrated the handle of the sling shot began to extend. Frick watched the handle of the staff thin and sharpen to a shape that would fit into the crack. Frack came back to where Frick was squatting by the pillar. Frick looked up and nodded and Frack returned the nod and Frick used the end of the staff to probe the crack. He felt a bit of resistance when tried to move the foreshortened staff then there was a click as the device moved. Frick quickly with drew the end of the staff from the crack. Nothing happened… The brothers looked around and Frack frowned at Frick.

‘You sure you got it?’ Frack whispered

Frack nodded and looked around again. At the base of the pedestal around where the pedestal seemed to raise from the stone, there appeared a crack. It went all the way around the pedestal and then the pedestal began to rise. Not the whole pedestal, It looked like the pedestal was a sleeve wrapped around cylindrical set of shelves. On these shelves were settings that looked lke they were made to hold gem stones. If that was so the gem these were to hold would be big. The sets had four shelves that were a foot across and round with silvery bars rising up opposite sides of them. On each shelf there were two ‘settings’ for the gems making space for eight stones all together. There was a grey stone resting in one of the settings and at the very top of the cylindrical shelves there lay a book. Shaped like a half moon and bound in pale leather the book was not ornate at all but it was glowing.

‘Kelgori may be interested in this’ Frick thought as he reached for the book. Frack grabbed his wrist and pointed at the point where the pedestal met the set of shelves. Thin wires snaked down the rods that seemed to hold the shelves together. The kinder looked closer and discovered the book was sitting on a device and the wires snaked up into the hollow pedestal to a point that they could not see. Frick set upon the device with small tools convinced that it was little more than a trigger but determined to see how it worked. He traced the wires to a small switch on the inside of the hollow pedestal and turned to Frack.

‘This closes it’ Frick said as Frack shushed him. Frick listened and heard the upper door grinding closed. He flipped the switch and pulled his arm out of the way as the pedestal hissed back into place. The Kinder wrapped them selves in their cloaks and huddled against the back wall.

‘If that human is the chosen one then I am a jack ass’ said the first man to his companion ‘There was nothing in the prophecy that said he would be human much less have a whole party behind him.’

‘I share your misgivings, S’arem’ The High Priest said carefully. ‘The prophecy is very specific’ The High Priest said ‘but it does not say there will NOT be a party, nor does it say the being is specifically Concordian.’ The High Priest stroked the stubble on his chin thoughtfully. ‘we could arrange a test for him.’

‘If he cannot fight then he is not the chosen one,’ S’arem said thoughtfully.

‘Make it so,’ The High Priest said ‘do not make it easy…’

S’arem Nodded and turned to leave. ‘In fact, make it lethal for the whole group’ the High Priest added. S’arem nodded again and strode from the room.

The high priest chuckled to himself and walked over to the pedestal that Frick and Frack were looking at earlier. He placed a toe of his boot close to the cylinder and pressed down till he heard a click. The cylinder rose and he reached out and picked up the Grey stone that was there. He looked around and seemed to look right at where the Kinder crouched. He grinned and raised the hand that held the stone and eased the book from it resting place. He pressed with his foot again and, as the cylinder slid back down, he walked to a table along the far wall.

Frick and Frack looked at each other the entry ground open with the sound of stone rasping on stone. Frick signaled to Frack to go back and let the group know what was going on. Frack nodded and made a dash for the door sliding out as the door was starting to close. Frick eased closer to the table the high priest was now leaning on leafing through the circular book.


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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Aardvark on Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:46 am

"Land ho!" called the look-out, his voice echoing through the ship until it reached the ears of the Lunar Brigade.

"That's our cue," Cliff said sliding out of his hammock, glancing over to see Darius doing the same. He looked up to the hammock above his to see Zara, still sleeping. With a sigh he jabbed his fist into the small of the man's back eliciting an annoyed grunt, "Up and at'em, we're here."

The big man sighed, hauling himself over and dropping to the ground with a thump, "I hate hammocks," he mumbled stretching, "never get any decent sleep."

Clide ignored the comment and went over to their equipment, all bundled in inconspicuous brown cloth and packaged so their contents were unknowable. He unfolded the first, revealing his heavy plate armor and silently cursed whoever had decided that all Royal Knights had to be clad in it at all times. It was bulky and interfered immensely with his weapon of choice, he was strong enough to deal with it, but it was still a pain and it was an obviously poor choice which made it look all the more ridiculous on him, worse it made him much more noticeable on what was essentially a stealth mission at this point. And that was something he couldn't afford, so he decided, "Zara we're switching armor. Darius, Laro, you switch too. We need to be approachable and that'll never happen if we look incompetent."

"Whatever," Zara replied still pulling his boots on. The man was powerfully built so the decision was obvious and would play to their advantage. It was even possible that adding the armor to his large frame would cause people to mistake him for a Giant. And anything that broke up their appearance was a bonus. Laro however was a different case, he was small, only a little taller than Darius, but still noticeably smaller than Clide, the decision to put him in heavier armor could come back to bite him, but it still made more sense to place the claymore wielder in it over an archer or short-sword user.

"Wait," Laro said rubbing the sleep from his eyes, "we're suiting up? Isn't that going to be a dead giveaway? I mean the armor isn't exactly subtle," he pointed at Darius, who had somehow managed to get suited up in Laro's armor already, and more specifically at the blue and purple design.

"You don't have to worry about that actually," Darius replied tracing a crest on the breast plate of the leather armor, "we come prepared." Before the young Knight could respond the armor gradually began shifting color on both the actual armor, and the under mesh, until it settled in a dull silver with black showing around the joints, a much more common color scheme. "The armor was forged in Darlar, it has a magical element in the fabric and metal that allows us to altar the color scheme any way we want."

Collecting his jaw from the floor the young Knight continued, "Even so won't four armored Knights draw attention?"

"Mercenaries are common place in Concord, we won't be noticed."

"But-"

"Just do what you're told boy," Zara yelled, "I thought you would have learned by now that questioning orders isn't smart. It gets people killed."

Darius clapped, before an argument could spark between the two, "Alrighty then. Moving on. We don't need to worry about our equipment, but we do still need to keep our faces hidden. Can't have one of his increasingly numerous friends recognizing us now can we?"

"We'll go in helmeted," Zara continued as he clipped the final piece of armor on, "just remember to keep them on in public. Of course we wouldn't need to worry about that at all if we still had Athrun with us." He glared at Laro.

"Four helmeted mercenaries would be too conspicuous, of course" Clide replied quickly, hoping to defuse the situation before it could get a running start. "You three will remain helmeted, I'll be the only one without one. Four helmets say we're hiding something, three say you're my, henchmen, for lack of a better term."

"You're as easily identifiable as the rest of us," Laro responded, "so how would that be any better?"

The Royal Knight lifted up his hand to reveal a small red pill, "This. It's a follicle pill with a dye to it. Watch." The man popped the pill in and swallowed. The group watched as his hair shifted color to a dull red and a goatee grew into place around his mouth. Within seconds he looked nothing like the man they had been following for the past week. "The High Mages gave us these along with a few other things in case we had to leave Lenus." He hefted a small bag doubtless containing more pills of the like he had just ingested. "Our mission not withstanding, officially we're still a covert group with no official ties to anyone. Remember, we're on our own out here, if we're captured that's it."

"Then why don't we all just take one?" Laro asked pointing out the obvious.

"We have a very limited stock and no way of getting more without returning to Lenus. Having all four of us use them would exhaust them in less than two weeks." Clide put the pouch back on his belt. "Now, enough dawdling, get suited up and get on deck, we'll be departing within the hour."

The other Royal dropped the helmet over his head, "Hey Clide, gimme a hand with the horses," he said nodding aft, a tone in his voice suggesting he had something he needed to talk about, privately.

Clide turned to Zara, "Get the equipment packed up and help Laro get suited up. Darius and I will meet you up top." He grabbed his helmet, slung it under his arm and trotted off after Darius.

Zara looked at Laro, grimaced, but did as told. He'd been working with the two Royal Knights long enough to know when they needed a moment.

Clide walked up the stair and into the morning air. The sun was still low in the sky, just a speck on the horizon and the rest of the ship's occupants were still asleep. The aft of the ship was given over to a small stable though that was being generous. They were barely recognizable as stables at all. The stalls were separated by only a single log and open to the air except for a thin tarp stretched over top to block the rain. The wood was half rotted and the feed looked like it had been bought before King Drek ascended the throne. He missed having access to the royal treasury, with better funding they could have secured comfortable beds and proper stables, but such accommodations would have been too risky when traveling outside of Lenus, and suspicious for a bunch of mercenaries.

He walked over to the nearest stead and petted it, it responded immediately, not too excited, but not sluggish either. They had been lucky, in these conditions it was entirely possible the horses could have grown ill and been unable to carry them or their supplies.

"You gonna be okay to resume leadership Clide?" Darius asked up, sattling a horse, "if you want to lead, that's fine, I don't care, but whatever you decide to do, you need to stick to it. Weak leadership is worse than none at all, and if you buckle again it may kill any moral Laro and Zara have left." He lead the horse out and tied it to a post with one of the others.

"I never asked you to take command Sir Morland," Clide fired back, "you challenged my authority in front of both Zara and Laro. What was I supposed to do? We couldn't afford to be divided and pressing the issue would have broken any chance we had or working together, so I backed down. So I'll ask you the same question: Do you want to lead or follow? Because if I can't trust you to follow my lead then how can I trust you to cover us in a fight?"

"If you had any idea how to lead I wouldn't have had to challenge you. You had no idea what to do when Athrun died, you couldn't calm Zara down and you had no idea how to treat the boy. For god's sake Clide you didn't even tell him how to attack! That should have been the first thing you told him rather than trying to impress him with your status and charisma." Darius shook his head and went to saddle the remaining steads, "I should never have ceded the position of leader to you, but I thought you had potential and I knew I was getting on in years so I passed the torch, and now a man's dead." He tightened the strap eliciting a startled neigh from the horse as it was drawn a bit too tight, "I won't challenge your orders in front of Zara and Laro again, but you've got a decision to make, Sir Loran. Step up or step down."

----------------------------------------------------

"I appreciate the help Jun, but I'd appreciate it more if you told me where we're going," Lloyd said while the two men threaded their way through the crowd. They had managed to slip their escort shortly after leaving the hotel and were now making their way down a small side street packed with a myriad of races, some of which Lloyd had never actually seen in person before. The awe of Concord had at first made it hard for Lloyd to keep up with the man, with the floating pictures, tall spires, and bright flashing colors all vying for his attention, but after two miles the novelty had worn off, and now he found most of it annoying and confusing.

"We're going shopping," Jun answered simply.

"Yeah, you told me that, but where and for what?" The Knight forced his way between two giants and nearly tripped over a lump in the road he decided he really didn't want to think about. He'd quickly found that once off the main thoroughfare the city became just like any other with pickpockets, low lives, and some thing better left of the imagination, floating around. He had thought with all the commotion his arrival at the Temple had caused it would be hard for him to go around unnoticed, but while people were constantly talking about the Mage who shapeshifted into a human it appeared that the Temple had even released a vague description of what he looked like.

"It's not much farther," Jun called back taking a turn into an alley that Lloyd hadn't even seen until the samurai had walked down it.

Lloyd sighed, giving up on trying to get a straight answer out of him. He looked around again. The alley was narrow with tall walls, but completely deserted so moving was easy enough as long as he watched his step. The ground was back-lit through most of the city with faint blue and red glows radiating through clear walkways and the light made the steps and inclines hard to see. Jun had told him they were mana conduits that transferred power all over the city to run all the equipment. The Knight hadn't even considered that, unsurprisingly, for the few devices in Lenus that used mana as a power source were held by the High Mages and he had figured they were just augmentation devices for sorcery. But here the devices were common, they used them for light, metallurgy, transportation, and even to make painting that moved and changed at a whim called Visionaires. The High Mages in Concord had developed a method of harvesting the natural flow of magic in the earth's crust and so they had no need to limit the devices here. Whereas Lenus was relatively primitive and the mana conduit system had just begun installing when King Drek died, and King Frugel was either too much of an idiot to see what the system could do, or was too afraid it would allow the common people to rebel against his cruel rule.

"Here we are," Jun announced as they left the alley. The two were in a dead end a space in the middle of the back walls of three buildings, the alley hadn't so much ended as widened to forty feet. In front of them was a dilapidated building with rough wooden walls and only a long gray curtain in place of a door. Without waiting for a reply the man brushed past the curtain and walked inside, and with nothing else to do Lloyd followed him in.

"Whoa." The store was much larger than it looked, wider by at least double and stretching back well over a hundred meters. The floors and walls were made of polished hardwood and strange but effective cylindrical lamps hung all across the stores, but that was not what attracted his immediate attention, no what caught his eye were the rows of weapons stretching for hundreds of feet filled with all manner of death dealing instruments. Some of which Lloyd hadn't seen, and more than a few he couldn't even guess as to their method of use. And in the center of it all was a small frail looking old man with no hair anywhere on his head.

"Welcome Jun," the old man said with a slight bow, "I see you brought a friend."

"Mako-sensei, this is Lloyd Syuveil, former Knight Errant of Lenus."

The old man turned to Lloyd with an appraising look, "A Knight huh? I never have liked Knights much, but I suppose he can't be too bad if you were willing to bring him here." He turned his gaze back on Jun, "So why have you brought him here?"

"He has trained in the arts of Iajutsu and Kenjutsu and wishes to complete his training, I thought you might be able to help."

Mako walked around the Knight, studying him, "Iajutsu is the art of killing with one move, mostly while unsheathing a sword. This works well with a katana or kodachi, but I've never seen someone do it with a broad sword, especially one hung so queerly. And Kenjutsu is a simple combat tactic meant to take advantage of a katana's unique build." He stopped in front of Lloyd and looked him straight in the eye, "Only a fool tries to merge a technique and weapon so different," he looked to Jun, "tell me why I should bother training a fool."

Lloyd slowly reached behind his back and grabbed the handle of his sword. He'd been through enough berrating with both his old sensei and sword master to know when they were trying to teach you something and when they were just trying to goad you into attacking to judge your skill, and Lloyd had every intention of showing this old man how much of a 'fool' he was. With a soft click the catch released and the sword settled into his already moving hand. To an untrained eye the act would be a complete blur as the sword was simultaneously pulled from it's scabbard and swung up in a move intended to disembowel his opponent. But to a more experienced combatant the click would be the only thing necessary to tell them something was amiss.

The old man was a more experience combatant. By the time Lloyd finished his slice the little man was inside his reach and had a tanto at his throat. "I'll give you this much," he said calmly, "that was remarkably fast for such a large sword, but as I said before only a fool tries to merge two wildly different methods. I suspect the only reason you've made it so far is that most are not expecting this type of attack, but the element of surprise can only take you so far and your stance has many fatal openings."

"I was a High Knight of Lenus," Lloyd shot back, defending himself despite the obvious loss he had just had shoved in his face.

The little man spun pulled his knife back and it disappeared into his robes, "Against untrained opponents your style would be crippling I suspect. There would be no sense to your movements, what you wear contradicts what you do, but you need a lot of training before this will work against a skilled opponent."

"I'm not changing a thing," Lloyd defended while he sheathed his own sword, "this style has worked just fine for me. And if you think I'm going to change it just for you-"

"I don't recall telling you to change a thing," the old man cut him off.

"But you said-"

"Only a fool tries to merge two wildly different styles, yes. So you're a fool, I've known many great swordsman who were complete idiots, but they could still chop a Knight in half without breaking a sweat." Mako walked to a cabinet and opened it, "No trying to make you unlearn at this age would be pointless. So what I'm going to show you instead is your own flaws and then teach you how to overcome them. But first take this," he over over a katana and kodachi.

"What're these for?"

"Teaching 101, you must know the basics before you advance, so first we'll complete your Iajutsu and Kenjutsu training, then teach you how to incorporate it into your broadsword technique. Now come with me, we've got a lot of work to do."

--------------------------------------------------------

Laro waddled down the gangplank feeling like a child in his father's clothes, very heavy clothes. The plate armor was manageable, but just barely. It severely restricted his movements and slowed his speed so much he was sure he'd lose in a race against a cripple. Still he supposed he should be grateful it at least fit him, Zara had told him while he was suiting up that the armor would adjust it's fit to the person wearing it given time, but it still wouldn't feel right for a few days.

"Come on little man pick up the speed," Zara chimed in from the bottom of the gangplank.

"Easy for you to say," he grunted from inside the helm's face plate, "you're built like an ox." The new Knight reached the bottom and sagged in relief for a moment. Darius had gone ahead with the horses to look for a place to stay, and Clide was a couple yards away talking with another mercenary. "How did he manage to fight in this stuff?" Laro complained, "For that matter how did Darius? He's smaller than I am."

"Practice," Zara answered. The large man was surveying the crowd, but whether that was to access risks or simply to avoid eye contact the little Knight couldn't say. He still felt bad about Athrun, Darius had told him there was nothing he could have done to stop it, but Zara hadn't seen it that way, and neither had Laro. He knew he couldn't have been expected to figure the plan out on his own, but he still should have been able to hold his ground better and his failure had led directly to Athrun's death.

"Any news?" Zara asked, snapping Laro out of his thoughts. He looked up to see Clide walking back.

"Well there was some commotion at the Scarlet Temple a few days ago, something about a Prophet, but the priests are keeping a lid on the details. Other than that things seem to have be quiet." Clide looked around for a moment, "Isn't Darius back yet? I can't imagine it takes long to find an inn and check in."

Laro looked about trying to locate the Knight, but came up short. What he did see were enough mercenaries for a small army. Most were in light leather armor, if they had any at all and the weapons they carried, while exotic at times, all looked in need of repair. He couldn't spot a single blade without half a dozen chips in it, and most of the leather armor he saw was mismatched, as if it had been put together one piece at a time. "Why are there so many mercenaries here?" He asked as the thought struck him. He knew mercenaries hung around docks offering protection to ship captains in return for board and travel, but he'd never seen this many before, there were literally hundreds of them.

"Let's just say Concord can be a little dangerous for non-Mages," Clide answered. "The Mages of Concord are a little xenophobic. They only tolerate other species because they can turn a profit off them. So while Concord is open to everyone, safety comes with a price if you're not a Mage, and many people can't pay the price the city watch demands for it's protection. Make no mistake, Concord may look beautiful and inviting, but it's as dangerous here as the wastes of Arid."

"And just as inviting apparently," Darius spoke up emerging from the crowd with the horses still in tow.

"Don't tell me-"

The Knight nodded, "Inns are all full up. They've been getting a lot more mercenaries lately and haven't had a vacancy in months. Most of these people haven't left this dock for days, been sleeping anywhere they can find."

"That's not right," Clide replied with a frown, "Concord's always attracted a lot of mercenary activity, but never that much."

"Apparently the local priests have taken a sudden interest in added protection. They've been recruiting heavily, and word's spread fast around the ports."

"Why would priests need mercenaries?" Zara asked, "They should already have the protection of the city watch."

Darius shrugged, "I wish I could tell you more, but no one knows. Maybe-"

"Hey you four!" A voice rang out of the crowd as a Mage rode up to them through the crowd, nearly trampling quite a few people in the process. He was dressed in yellow and green robes, with a blue fringe that matched his skin, "You lot look competent enough. Come with me." He turned his horse and began trotting off, but stopped when he noticed they weren't following, "Well what are you waiting for? You want a job don't you?"

"Yes sir," Clide responded quickly suddenly seeming quite meek, "right away." He grabbed his horse and swung up. The other quickly followed suite, Laro requiring a little bit of a boost from Zara. And then they were off, heading away from the docks and into the city, settling quickly into a comfortable pace.

"Glad I got to you lads before one of those Luxian priests got to you!" The man continued, nodding as they past a large grandiose building with stone and crystal of scarlet red, "You should be grateful too, many men go in there, but I've yet to see a single one come out. Who knows what they do to those poor bastards in there!" The Mage seemed to almost not notice them at all, he just kept talking hardly taking the time to breath, "Haven't seen men as good as you lot in a long time, nope I haven't! Thought master was crazy when he told me to go get him some good strong men. I said, 'T'er ain't no good men left m'lord, they've all been stolen by dem priests!' Mhm, yes I did, but did he listen? No, just shoved me out the door. I tell you it was rude, just plain rude, and there's no excuse for that! Of course I wouldn't say that to his face but still! The nerve! Why I remember-"

"That's all well and good kind sir," Clide interrupted softly, "but where are we going?"

"Well to Master Yagrit's manse of course!" The little man seemed almost offended, "Don't you know anything? Master is Concord's Prime Minister! The most powerful man in all the land, except for the King of course. He takes care of all the diplomatic garbage the King is too busy to deal with. In fact I've often suspected that's why he is so rude, having to deal with all those humans and the like. I once heard him say..."

Laro tuned out the rest as they rode on, the details weren't important to him anyway. Clide would tell them what they needed to know, all Laro needed was Lloyd's location and the freedom to chop his head off. So instead he took in his surroundings, admiring the tall white spires, gawking at the moving paintings, and puzzling out the purpose of all the devices he saw being used. Before he knew it they came to a halt beneath a spire so tall that Laro nearly lost his seat trying to see the top. It was made of pure white stone that shone with a million colors when the light glanced off it and looked as if it rose all the way to Triceta, the floating city.

"Well this is as far as I go," the strange man said, "the master is waiting on floor thirty-seven. Just walk straight to the lift and insert this," the man dug in his pocket and pulled out a small orange crystal shaped like a sword. "I'll hold your horses here until you come back."

Clide took the crystal and dismounted, the rest following suit, and walked into the building. Inside the room was nearly empty, with only a small marble counter to their right and a large crystal shaft in the center. The rest was given over to vast windows, beautiful artwork, and soft chairs in which to wait. "So where do we go again?" Laro thought to ask as he spun around to take everything in, "Because I have no idea what he meant by 'lift'."

Darius chuckled, "Just wait, you'll see."

The group walked to the large shaft, as they neared a door materialized and opened, showing only a raised platform and nothing else. Laro was puzzled but went inside with everyone else as Clide inserted the crystal into a slot in the wall. And suddenly they were moving, the rooms blurring by faster than he could take in while a weight pressed on him. And then, just as quickly as it began it stopped, the doors opened and they were in a completely different place. The room was almost completely marbled with only a wooden desk a few arm chairs standing out, and behind the desk sat a rather large mage, easily as tall as Zara, but also a bit fatter.

"Ah good," the man said as they entered, "come in, sit down. May I get you something to drink?" When Clide waved it away he set the pitcher aside and sat, "I must confess when I sent my aide out I was expecting more rabble, but you, you look like a fearsome bunch!"

"I appreciate the compliment sir," Clide replied politely, "but if I may ask. Why have we been summoned here? You're Prime Minister Rou Yagrit, the entirety of the city watch is at your disposal. What need do you have of four sell-swords such as us?"

The man smiled, "You're a quick one, or perhaps I'm just slow. I confess I've never been much for this kind of thing." He took a long drink from his cup and set it down, "But first, take off those ridiculous helmets. I know who you are and why you're here, Lunar Brigade."

Laro's jaw dropped open inside his helmet. How did the man know who they were?

To his credit Clide kept his face completely impassive, "I'm glad to see our reputation as mercenaries precedes us. You honor-"

"Oh cut the act!" The man said hurling the cup in what Laro guessed was Clide's general direction, "I've known about the Lunar Brigade for years! It doesn't take much more than a history book to put it together. The Brigade only shows up when Lenus has been through a great turmoil, and much as your High Mages try to hide it, I know King Frugel is dead, killed by one of his most trusted Knights. And you've made no attempt to hide your presence in Lenus, there's a path of destruction through the mountains all the way to Garield."

Clide ground his teeth, thinking through his options and decided to go with the truth, "How did you find out? We've been out less than a fortnight, that shouldn't have been long enough for word to spread this far."

The Minister waved it off, "I'm a diplomat, it's my job to know all our 'ally's' dirty little secrets. I knew you were coming into port soon, so I've had my aide scouring them for the last few days."

"So you've found us." Clide stiffened, "What do you intend to do with us now?"

"Quid Pro quo, I won't do anything to hamper your hunt for this traitor, I'll even give you all the intel I have regarding strange occurrences, but in return I have a little mission for you." He stood and looked out the window behind the desk, pointing to the red temple they had passed on the way in, "See that temple? It belongs to a religious sect, Luxus. They've been pretty innocuous for the most part, but recently they've started hiring mercenaries by the boatload. They're up to something and I want to know what."

"Why do you care?" Darius asked, "it's just a bunch of priests."

"A bunch of priests whose followers number in the thousands," Yagrit replied sharply. "Three quarters of the population are avid followers of Luxus, and most of the city watch as well. Hell they've even started holding prayer meetings in the break room, and now they start grabbing up every decent sell-sword in the city? No something isn't right, and the city watch is compromised so I can't very well ask them to investigate. Call me paranoid, gods know I've been called worse, but something just isn't right." He flopped back down in his chair, "So, do we have a deal?"

"If I say no?" Clide asked.

"I'll have the watch down on your heads before you can get mounted and you'll be executed as hostile combatants."

"Then we have a deal."

-----------------------------------------------

Damian and Kelgori moved through the market searching for deals and doing their best to avoid eye contact. Damian still felt uneasy around the dark mage, and found it hard to believe Lloyd actually trusted the man. Dark mages were always trouble, nothing good ever came out of black magic, the very nature of it lent itself only to death and destruction and anyone willing to affiliate with it must seek them out.

But, at the same time he couldn't deny the significance of what the Kelgori and Lloyd had accomplished, and he had to admit the man seemed to know more of Concord than even Damian did, and he had lived here most of his life. The little mage simply didn't know what to make of the man so he settled for simply watching him.

Kelgori turned down a side alley and pulled to a sudden stop. Silently he turned and stared down at Damian, locking eyes and just staring for several moments, "We both know you don't trust me so let's get this over with," he said suddenly, walking over to a bench and taking a seat, patting it in invitation.

"Alright," Damian replied, crossing his arms and choosing to remain standing, "I'll make this simple. Why? Why are you here? What do you stand to gain? Because we both know your kind do nothing out of altruism."

Kelgori sighed tiredly, "How old are you Damian, twenty, twenty-five max?"

"What's that got to do with anything?"

"I'm old Damian, far older than I look and far older than anyone would every guess. I've seen wars come and go, watched the rise of a nations and the fall of others, I've made friends of kings and enemies of gods and probably slept with a couple of them," he grinned slightly at that, "and I've watched so many people, good, bad, selfish, self-righteous, but seldom have I met a man with a more naive loyalty. A man whose very mission is a contradiction and whose actions speak of madness. A man who holds a power strong enough to remake kingdoms, but insists on hiding it away." The warlock went silent for a moment, "You ask me why, but in truth I don't know. I like him, I find him a refreshing change from the world at large, and I want to see where he ends up."

Damian shook his head, "It's more than that, and you know it."

Kelgori smiled and stood, "You're right. There is one selfish reason I'm sticking with you guys. You see, any man like him will play a role in the events that are to come. He may very well be a linchpin at a crucial moment in history, and when that time comes, I want to be there."

Damian looked the man up and down, considering what he'd just been told and nodded, "Good enough." He started to head back to the market and then pulled himself up short, "All that stuff you said about the rise and fall of nations, what was that about?"

Kelgori smiled, "Poetic license," he replied and walked back out of the alley before Damian could say anymore.

And ran straight into a child, knocking both to the ground. "Watch where y'er goin!" The child yelled, untangling himself from Kelgori's robe and revealing himself to be a Kinder.

"Frack?" Damian yelled, coming up on the pair, "What are you doing here?" He looked around, "And where's Frick?"

The little Halfling scrambled to get up, not even bothering to stop at he shouted back, "No time, we gotta move! Lloyd's in danger!"

"Why does that not surprise me?" The two mages said in unison.

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Ptolemy on Wed Feb 29, 2012 10:33 pm

A hooded rider pulled on the reins of his mount and drew his horse to a stop on a small rise overlooking the small town. The rider looked up at the faint trail of Dragoon power that could be seen, if you knew how to look, curving toward the mountains. Here there was another magic trace that converged and followed the same track. 5 individual tracks. This gave the rider pause. His fingers wove an intricate pattern in the air and he muttered an incantation. Moon weapons… The pursuers were in possession of the moon weapons, all 5 of them. He racked his memory of the events of The Lost war sharp in his mind. The moon weapons were lost, how had the oracles missed this? The trail of the Knights that carried the Moon Weapons was as clear as the rail in the sky left by the Last Dragoon. He spurred his horse and urged it around the town following the trail in the sky toward the mountains.

About an hour later, the horse stepped slowly up the rise to the entrance to a cave in the northern mountains of Lenus . The hooded rider stepped gracefully from the saddle and dropped the reins to the ground. The rider pulled his cloak tighter around his slight frame against the chill in the mountain air and stepped toward a cave in the cliff face as the horse dropped its head and began to graze. Inside the cave the rider pushed his hood back revealing his elvish features. Deathr stopped in the entrance of the cave reading the traces and sign that had been left from the cave’s last occupants. He walked to the fire pit in the middle of the cave and pushed his fingers into the ashes there.

‘Stone cold’ he thought, ‘I am at least 3 days behind the knight. Deathr looked up at the ceiling of the cave and then stepped back to the entrance studying the ground before him. Deathr paused ‘Dog? No… not a dog. A Hybid, a cross between a Hell Hound and a dog’ Deathr chuckled, ‘that was one courageous or extremely horny dog…, either way.’ He continued to the mouth of the cave.

‘There was a battle here’ Deathr thought and squatted down on his heels tracing the ebb and flow of the battle that was outlined in the tracks outside the cave. Carefully he stepped around the right side of the clearing, almost laughing when he got to the area where two halflings took down one of the fighters from Lenus , Then sobered when he came across the grave site of the dead knight. Deathr did not have a problem killing someone. The death of an enemy that is evilis a service to Pangea, the death of one on a noble quest, even if misguided, is a tragedy. He chanted an incantation that allowed him to see the past enough to see the battle. From where he was standing he could hear the conversation between the water mage and young ranger. He considered their words as he watched the battle play out in front of him. If only he could see the future with the certainty he could see the past.

Deathr brought his fingers to his lips and whistled and waited for his horse to trot across the clearing. He swung up on the horse and followed the trail up the mountain. As he rode, his mind wondered back to the trip across Lenus the various towns, sites and sounds of a kingdom in decline. Curiosity got the best of him several times as he made his way across the plains. The poverty and squalor were evident as was the presence of the tax collectors. Even being a stranger in the land he had been accosted by those that would ‘collect’ taxes from him, for the most part, Deathr was able to evade these people but had taken it upon himself to execute several of the more aggressive examples of the craft. He shuddered as he thought of having to clean the creature’s blood from his blade and he could not exactly leave Elvish arrows in the body of a human.

Following the trail he could see where the remaining knights followed Lloyd and the small party that had sprung up around him. Looked like 2 men and 2 Halflings or Kinder as they called themselves, Over a mountain pass, where there had been some kind of ambush, Deathr took his mount back and forth across the trail, nodding with satisfaction at the skill of the archer and.. A water mage? Now things were interesting. He took a seemingly random path around the pass pausing at a small statue in the midst of the pass. Dreks Pass he mused at the irony. He rode past a couple of destroyed wagons and looked down toward a city on the northern coast of Lenus . ‘Where would they have gone?’ Deathr mused to himself. From here the faint trail of Dragoon magic seemed to turn over the ocean. ‘Concord,’ A cold smile came to Deathr’s lips as he turned his mount deeper into the forest. Night was falling and he needed to set wards to rest this night. The exertions coming tomorrow would be taxing.

Deathr conjured a small fire over which his dinner was warmed after which he sat cross legged next to the fire. He allowed his eyes to lose focus and slipped in the rejuvenating trance used by the elves to rest while being aware of their surroundings. For hours the elf sat there, legs crossed, and eyes open drawing energy into himself and rejuvenating his body.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Castle Gaelen was in an uproar, has been since the untimely death of their King Frugal. Well the new king had been anything but Frugal but B’rich was sure that king Drek hoped that the name would temper the younger royals hunger for power. Unfortunately the pace at which The elder king was training the heir apparent was not fast enough. It was a dark night when King Drek succumbed to the intrigue and the mage council was forced to allow the ascension of Frugal to the throne.

‘You cannot entertain that line of thought’ B’rich thought to himself as he hurried from his quarters, It would not be seemly to follow that line of thought to its conclusion. In part because it is bad luck to speak ill of the dead, and Frugal was dead even as the combined magics of the council hide the fact from prying eyes. Second, if you do follow that line of reasoning you have to realize that there was no way the Frugal was smart enough to pull this off by himself. B’rich looked around quickly to see if any was watching him as he walked up the stairs to the throne room. As he reached the door he settled the hood of his over cloak on his shoulders. He nodded to the guard and the door was opened for him.

The room that he stepped into almost turned his stomach. At 100 feet long and 30 feet wide the room was large enough that King Drek thought it too big, and with the remodeling that King Frugal was having done it was now gaudy beyond belief. The walls seemed to be made of beaten gold and there was all manner of precious gems inlaid into the wall. Hanging in the places between the supporting columns were garish hangings depicting scenes of battle and court life under King Frugal, In the middle of the throne room there was a sculpture taking shape that depicts a man on the throne seated in a regal pose. The face was that of King Frugal looked out of place because the body was more reminiscent of a warrior king of old. It depicted a man bare chested with well-defined muscles across its torso and arms, holding a spear in one hand and the scale of justice in the other. The very sight of this almost brought a shudder of revulsion.

In the shadow of the statue, there sat a large table that was usually reserved for meals that the KING and his guests took in this space. Around this table sat the 4 other members of the high council of mages. I’eich was the chief mage and a master of Earth magic. It was up to him to lead this council. His pursuit of power had left his body looking emaciated and it appeared that he had a hard time getting around. The frailty of his body was deceptive though. He was a powerful mage displaying again and again why he is considered a master Earth mage.

The quiet discussion ceased when B’rich came into view. He supposed that if he was dishonest or sneaky he could have delayed his appearance to try and listen in. That was not in his nature however and he stepped to the table as the other four turned and regarded him with icy stares.

‘So you got the message that the meeting was moved up?’ Ca’eich asked almost sounding disappointed. ‘I had thought you were going to miss the entire meeting to select our next King.’

‘No’ answered B’rich ‘luckily, I decided to come down and sort through the candidates before we got started, I figured it would take me about 2 hours to do so.’

In the laws of succession for the kingdom of Lenus , the throne goes to the heir. If there is no heir, the council of high knights and high mages would choose a suitable noble. That assumes there is a noble that is suitable for all 10 of the members of the high council agree with. The Council decision had to be unanimous. If it is not, then deliberations continue until there is a unanimous decision. There are several exceptions to these rules. If the Heir to the throne is not ready or is unfit, the council does not have to approve. If the entire council is not present then nothing can be done unless there is a unanimous vote of those that are left to continue without them. That is what had happened here. With the high knights designated as the Lunar Brigade searching for the assassin Syuveil, the high Mage, I’eich had been trying to convince him that it was best to suspend that rule. B’rich had been the stubborn one and as long as the whole of the mages council met he would not allow a decision that does not include the Knights. That would be a violation of the spirit of a law that was put in place to provide for the loss of a member through natural causes or open warfare.

‘These proceedings should not be going on’ B’rich said sternly ‘It is not proper.’

‘Those rules have been suspended’ I’eich said with a dismissive wave. ‘You should have been here for the vote if you felt so passionately about it.’

‘If your messenger had arrived hours ago I would have been here,’ B’rich said barely holding his temper, ‘As it was I passed you messenger on my way into the throne room, I am sure planned so I would get the message too late to influence these proceedings.’

The silence around the table was deafening, and B’rich let it stretch. Finally I’eich broke the silence.

‘All protocols have been observed,’ he said ‘a quorum has decid…’

‘Through your own manipulation you have already decided who you will advance to the throne,’ B’rich interrupted ‘What incompetent will you try to foist upon us this time? Frugal was going to destroy Lenus , who do you have in mind this time?’

‘You be careful,’ I’eich said as he stood ‘You come close to treason!’

‘Disagreement with you is not treason,’ B’rich said refusing to back down, ‘This council followed you blindly and placed Frugal on the throne, I will not follow you blindly again, and none of you should either!’ B’rich looked around the table ‘Putting Frugal on the throne was a mistake, and those on this council that are honest with themselves know it.’

‘This council is not above the law…’ I’eich began.

‘Neither are you,’ B’rich said quietly, ‘and if I find any evidence that you tampered with this process breaking the spirit or letter of the laws of Lenus , I will have your head.’

B’rich looked around the gilded walls and ceiling of the throne room and again felt his stomach churn. ‘the laws governing the initiation of a quorum are specific to times of war and death from natural causes. Neither of these conditions has been met.’ B’rich addressed the mage council, ‘to attempt to enthrone a new ruler while the knights are on mission…’

‘The knights currently do not exist,’ I’eich snapped irritably, ‘When they don those weapons, they cease to be Knights and so have no…’

‘We have been through this before,’ B’rich Interrupted ‘Their status has not changed as defenders of the realm…’

‘They have officially disappeared!’ I’eich Shouted

‘I could have them back in a week,’ B’rich said sharply

There was some other petty bickering and the meeting broke up. B’rich was able to hold off this attempt. ‘now I have to sleep here’ he sighed as he watched the others leave the hall ‘With one eye open’. Now he had solidified the rivalry with I’eich, and there was a target on his back. He motioned to a servant and ordered a cot set up behind the Throne, the most defensible and least accessible place in the room. He then had a short conversation with the captain of the guard and made sure there were not only guards outside but inside the doors as well. He then set warning wards at the doors and defensive Hexes around where he was going to be sleeping.

He then scripted a message for the leader of the Lunar Brigade and prayed that he was not in league with the High Mage.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Name: I’eich
Post: High Mage Master (earth)
Appearance: 6’ tall and thin to the point of looking emaciated with short cropped brown hair and deep set hazel eyes Ornate purple robes embroidered with earth runes
Weapon: Wand of pure platinum
Pros: Powerful in earth magic a seer, ambitious
Cons: Susceptible to Water magic

Name: B’rich
Appearance: 5’ 8” tall
Post: High Mage (fire)
Appearance:
Weapon: Seared Oak staff inlayed with silver
Pros: Loyal to the throne and nation of Leneus. Independent thinker, Powerful fire mage. Tenacious.
Cons: Independent Thinker, Tenacious.

_________________

Life is hard... Its even harder when you are stupid...
John Wayne








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Ptolemy
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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Aardvark on Sun Mar 04, 2012 1:58 am

"Hear me brothers!" The priest shouted from his podium in the market square, "Long have we lived in squalor, forced by other nations to live in this desolate wasteland that knows no mercy and whose only pity is the promise of a swift death! The humans, the shapeshifters, and the Xel'Naga feared us and so they forced us out and 'gave'," he made air quotes around his word, "us land to live on where we could be free from their rules, but make no mistake, this was a lie!" The crowd gathered around the priest murmured to each other, "They expected us to die, as everything dies in this vast desert we call Arid, they wanted to be rid of us, wanted to feel safe, so they tricked us and left us to die... but we survived!" The priest threw up a fist in triumph and the crowd followed suit cheering 'We are Giants we survive!' "They thought the desert stronger than our will, but they were wrong!" Another cheer, "They thought us too stupid to survive, but they were wrong!" Another cheer, "They thought they were safe from us, THEY WERE WRONG!" A final cheer, deafening this time resounded throughout the city accompanied by shout of 'Down with the humans!' and 'Death to the deceivers!'

The watcher was sure people miles away would be able to hear the commotion and also knew the king would be in a foul mood when the meeting started in an hour. Feeling that there was nothing left to see the man turned and left the market square, winding his way through the crowds and out into the wastes beyond the city walls. He took a look back over the low squat buildings of sand-washed brown and sighed. If there was another rebellion here he would be sent to put it down again and it might mean the end of the city of Copper once and for all. The watcher did not want to see his home destroyed, but if he was ordered to do so he would have no choice, for he was Wind-blown-sand, Captain of the Guard, and strongest warrior his majesty had.

Wind pulled his cloak closer around him and headed along the hard-sand path that would take him to the capitol city of Gold. The Giants were a simple people, they had to be, unlike other countries rich in water and building material Arid was almost all desert with few natural resources. When they build roads, they did not have mules drag plow to mark them out or put down stone, they just had the people tread and re-tread the path until it was permanently woven into the desert. Cities weren't located for the view or because a group of people wanted to live in peace, each city was located around a vital resource and the city was named for it, so you had cities like Copper, Wood, Water, Oasis, Iron and a dozen more, some just different names for the same thing. The people walked around with as few pieces of clothing as possible because cloth was one of the rarest things as cotton was very scarce in a desert and often you could tell a Giant's standing by how heavily dressed he was and if the clothes were dyed. So the fact that Wind had a cloak around him made him stand out a little among the mostly unclad people of the cities, but less so on the road as traveling was a luxury most Giants could not afford. Getting even the money together for cloth and metal containers to carry supplies in would set most Giants back months of pay. In short, life in the desert was hard, harder than most realized, and most thought it a miserable existence to begin with.

"Wind!" A child called from the city gates, running towards the captain, "Ma's worried about you!" His brother, Cool-night's-breeze, said. Despite being a child Cool would still have passed for a human adult in size, if not in body, for like all Giants his muscles were overdeveloped, "Why didn't you come home and visit?"

"I am not welcome in Copper little brother, not after the riots," Wind replied, "I do not want to cause trouble. That is why I am wearing this," he lifted the cloak up for examination, "so no one would recognize me."

"But Night-without-moon wants to see his big brother!" Cool replied. All Giants were named for things around them when they were born, the three word pattern was taken from the human's tendency to give first, middle, and last names.

Wind put a hand on his brother's shoulder, "I will come visit on his birthday Cool, but for now you have to trust me alright?" Cool nodded and ran back to the city to tell their mother the news and Wind turned and marched down the road. He didn't not want to see his mother now, he might not be able to leave if he did, and his voice on the Council so far had been the only thing to keep many cities from being killed off entirely.

He trudged along, not rushing, but not dragging his feet and careful to keep his eyes away from the wind and so missed much of the people and scenery, not that there was really that much to see. The sea of sand stretched out as far as the eye could see for much of the journey and it was very easy to get turned around on the road if you stopped for any reason. The people he did see were mostly dressed just as he was, a few were humans traveling and hoping to sell some exotic goods, or dressed up pieces of trash, to the 'stupid Giants' and while Wind knew Giants weren't all that bright, they were still smarter then people gave them credit for and he hated these humans who tried to take advantage of them, partly because they succeeded more often than they failed.

Halfway through his journey Wind stopped for a moment to take a drink, and shift the weight of the heavy war hammer on his back, careful in the process to not turn at all so he would remember the direction he was heading. While he was carefully sipping at his water so as not to waste it, he saw several Giants walk by, some obviously carrying weapons as he did, but just as many using what an untrained eye would assume were simple walking sticks, but were instead devices to channel magic through. When most people thought of Giants they got a picture much like Wind, a largely muscled humanoid over ten feet tall and carrying a big weapon, but there were as many mages as warriors in Arid for the simple reason that a magic staff was much lighter than an axe, sword, or warhammer large enough for a Giants to use, and out in the desert, you never carried more than you needed. Many thought a Giant mage was an oxy-moron, that they were too stupid to understand the intricacies of magic, but in fact, many magics were very simple to use and even the complex ones required more memorization than anything else, and Giants could memorize just as well as any other species.

Wind capped his bottle and stashed it on his belt and was about to keep going when he saw something glint off to his right. He stopped and watched, looking for it again and saw another glimmer, it was dull and yet still somehow bright and only about a hundred feet off the path. He knew he should just let it go, it was probably just one of the human's trinkets that had rolled away off a cart not worth the time it would take to go fetch it, and certainly not worth getting turned around, but something kept him from moving on. It felt like it was calling to him and against his better judgment he jumped off the path, made a quick arrow in the sand with his foot to show where he was headed and ran to it. As he drew closer the light seemed to get brighter and shift in color and by the time he stooped over to pick it up it was glowing a bright rust orange. He picked it up and held the ball up the light. It was a small thing, barely the size of the tip of his finger, but also felt warm and seemed to renew his strength a bit. As he watched it the light grew dimmer until it faded altogether, though inside it still looked as bright as the sun.

"Hey you OK?" A man called form the road startling Wind and causing him to hastily drop it into his money pouch to hide it, for what reason he didn't know, his instincts just took over and he didn't question it.

"Yeah," he yelled back pulling a cup from his belt and holding it up, "cup got caught in the wind," he lied, the words coming easily. The Giant nodded and continued off and Wind headed back to the road and continued wondering what had caused him to hide the gem and then lie about it. He'd hardly ever lied and he didn't do so because he knew he was bad at it, but somehow that particular one had come without hesitation to his lips. He looked around the road, saw no one around and reached into his money pouch to look at the gem again. It was much as it had been when he picked it up and he didn't feel anything more than he had then, that he should keep it close, and keep it secret, as if the gem itself was whispering in a voice he could not hear but still understand.

The Capitol city came into view and the road began to grow crowded again, so he put it away and continued on, making good time. He was glad he would have something to occupy his mind soon, if this had been a longer road he would have been forced to take refuge in a shelter and take some rest, and he did not want so much time to think on the weird little rock he had found. He made his way to the main gate and pulled the cloak off revealing his bronze breast plate, heavy leather leggings overlayed with bronze plate mail, bare arms, bald head, and the six foot warhammer strapped across his back. On the bronze plate was the stylized image of a plated Giant with a broad sword in one hand and a battle ax in another yelling to the sky. The guards straightened up at the symbol of the Sandstorm Brigade, the most battle-hardened forces under the King's command.

Wind nodded to the men but otherwise didn't stop to talk or get reports, he would be late to the meeting as it was. As he walked through the streets he couldn't help but marvel at the difference between Gold and it's neighbor Copper, where as Copper had low sandstone buildings worn by weather, Gold looked much more like a human city with tall building often hitting 50 feet or more in height and built of real stone. Where Copper's streets were just just the roads between cities, Gold had actually brick and cobblestone, and was one of the rare places in Arid that had an active oasis and farming. Most of the people were well dressed in clothes of green, violet, blue, and red wearing style from all over Pangea. Gold was the most prosperous city in Arid, and even held up compared to the major cities of Concord and Lenus, this due mostly to the fact that a very large deposit of gold had been found here over four decades ago and was still being mined today. The few scientist Giants claimed the deposit was so large it would not run dry for hundreds of years to come.

Of course that wealth had not spread. All of Gold's neighbors were in a similar state to Copper, and there were constant petitions to have Gold spread it's wealth to the rest of Arid. They all went unanswered of course, the King was living in luxury and the people of the city were his adamant defenders and supporters because of this. Wind suspected some of the riots around Arid had been due in large part to the King's greed and that the only reason the Red Priests could incite the people was that they were already tired of being ignored. If they couldn't get wealth from Gold, then they wanted to plunder it from Lenus, Darlar, and Shattered Hand, eventually going all the way to Concord and the Sundered Island. If the King didn't do something soon he'd have no kingdom left for his heirs.

Wind swept up to the castle gates and into the courtyard. The Castle in Gold was almost a direct copy of castle Gaelon in Lenus, before the death of King Drek, the only real difference being that, in a display of supreme wealth, the King had had the inner Keep made entirely out of Gold. The walls, the battlements, the ceiling, even the doors. The only things not made of gold in the castle were the things that had to be moved on a fairly regular basis. The whole affair was a gaudy mess and a middle finger to his people. Luckily only a few people in the capitol city and it's guards were aware of this, the King, having been extensively counseled about what the people would do if they ever saw such wasteful spending, had been wise enough not to advertise and hold most of his affairs in the main hall and the rest of the castle surrounding the inner keep.

Wind hated it all, hated the human imitation he saw in the city, and the utter waste of a King whose people could not afford to waste even the most basic of things, and he hated that all his meetings with the King took place in the inner keep. In a way he wished he could kill the king, but he knew he would not leave the city alive if he did. He was in the minority in Gold, most of the guard, servants, and people loved the King, and even most of his own Brigade were willing to support him so long as their money pouches were kept full.

He mounted the steps of the inner keep and pushed through the doors into the throne room and saw the other nine members of the Council, as well as the King(yet another reflection of the human King's Council) already seated and talking over dinner. The throne room itself was fairly small, with a simple hall leading to a throne at the end, behind which was an emergency escape hatch should the King need to flee and a table in the middle for their meetings, that is if you could call a room made of gold simple. Everything in this room was gold, the table, the chairs, the throne, the frescoes of raised gold on the walls, the curtains by the windows of cloth of gold, even the cushions were covered in cloth of gold with gold painted tassels. The room was vomit inducing in many ways and Wind found himself swallowing to keep the bile down.

"Ah Wind-blown-Sand, I'm glad you made it!" The King, King-the-Fourth. In a bastardization of human naming, a King was renamed King-the and then which king he was in number. "We were just getting to the riots." The King himself was of normal size for a giant, no more then 8 feet, fat in their terms, but just out of shape for a human, and had a thick mop of black hair. Like his throne he was dressed in cloth of gold with cloth of silver lining on his coat and buttons. Wind hated the man, any Giant King should make more of an impression than a human, they naturally were taller and stronger, but had King Drek been present a stranger would have been hard pressed to tell the difference between King-the-Fourth and King Drek and would probably name Drek their king.

"Then I'm glad I made it in time," Wind replied hiding his revulsion and taking his seat at the end of the table nearest the door. The Council was made up of the five strongest Mages in Arid as well as the five strongest Warriors, exactly like Lenus, with each side taking up one side of the table below the King. His warriors were dressed in all different manners, each reflecting how they fought in battle, while the mages all wore yellow and red robes of the exact same design. Often the only way to tell the difference between the mages was to look at their staffs, each of which was topped with a different animal.

"Barely," one of the mages replied. Wind had never bothered to learn any of their names as the position changed frequently. Giants could use magic, but the world was right in assuming that they weren't much good at it, the fact that they had a spot in this Council was only due to the King's fondness of humans, but in Mage circles they were a joke. A single human High Mage could eradicate the entire Giant Mage Council to say nothing of the Mage species itself which could easily send a simple adept to take them out.

"Shut up," he responded tritely. Wind only really respected the Warriors as getting to be one of the five strongest warriors among Giants was nothing to laugh at. He doubt there existed any human that could best any warrior at the table, maybe one of the Shapeshifters could manage, but he doubted it. A Giant Warrior had to be quick on his feet and heavy with his blows, no easy feat to accomplish and any warriors hoping to get into the Sandstorm Brigade had to bring Wind the head of a Mage, Knight, Xel'Naga, Elf, and Shapeshifter to even hope to gain entry.

Before the mage could respond on of the warriors filled Wind in on what they were talking about before his arrival, "We've got reports of rioting in Oasis, Bronze, Field, & Iron, and it looks like Copper and Farm are getting ready to do the same. King thinks we should set fire to Bronze and Iron and takeover Oasis and Field with a show of force so Copper and Farm don't blow up."

Wind shook his head, "I just came from Copper, they won't give up this time and we don't have the men to quell six cities at once without a lot of our people dying."

"Then what do you suggest?" King asked.

"I suggest we give the people what they want," Wind said simply. He'd been toying with the idea all day and come to this as the only conclusion. The old generation was getting tired of being ignored and the new generation was being raised on promises of a better life that would never come, they either had to give the people what they wanted from Gold(something Wind knew King wouldn't go for), or they had to give the people the freedom and support to get it themselves.

"Are you crazy?" Another of the mages asked indignant, "If we don't have the men to quell six towns then how can we go to war?"

"Those six towns are full of hardened Giants who will put up one hell of a fight. But the Humans and the Shapeshifters and the Xel'Naga, they are weak. My Brigade alone could face an entire Human army and still win!" He knew he was exaggerating, but he was confident he could win with a significantly smaller force and he knew the Xel'Naga knew only defense and could be taken by surprise.

"We have no provocation! And the Human's war machines are strong!" Yet another mage spoke up.

"We have reports of a patrol found dead near the Darlar border by bites and slashes, if that's not provocation than I don't know what is!" Born-in-Darkness spoke up.

"And the travelers from Lenus say there's been a lot of activity at Castle Gaelen," Rack-of-Spears added, "rumor is that Frugel has been killed by one of his own Knights."

"Shattered Hand recently lost a large portion of their fleet in an unexpected storm," Child-of-Tears injected, "as insane as it sounds the reports say it was the doing of a dragon."

"Let us attack your Highness!" Fire-in-Stove yelled with enthusiasm, "Our own forces are stronger then they've ever been and the people are ready to fight! There is no better time."

"Let us wage war on our oppressors, not ourselves!" Wind stood and walked around to kneel in front of the King, "Give us your blessing your Highness and your warriors will not rest until we have brought back the glory of the Giants!" This statement led to a roar of approval from the warriors.

King was flabbergasted for a moment, "Mages, what do you say to this?"

The High Mage, Bringer-of-Joy(the only Giant Mage to have been in the Council long enough for Wind to remember his name) stood and bowed, "Wind-blown-Sand is right your majesty, it is unwise to fight ourselves when there are so many enemies before us. We support the warriors, give us yuor leave and we will prepare the magics."

The warriors and mages all bent their knees, facing their King and pleading with him to go to war with the Humans he so loved to imitate. Wind could not deny that he enjoyed hearing his King squirm under the overwhelming consensus. "Very well, you have my blessing. Go forth and wreak havoc upon the land!"

_________________

Thanks to Dr.Rabbit for the epic sig ^.^

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Ptolemy on Mon Apr 02, 2012 9:56 pm

Frack turned and ran toward the now descending opening as fast as he could without revealing himself. As he closed with the portal he grabbed his cloak around him and dove headlong under the closing door. He slid along the highly polished floor and from under the door. He spun on the floor and got his feet under him and was up and running toward the apartment that they were assigned. Once inside he opened his cloak and, almost frantic, Lloyd and Jun Cho were not there.

Frack didn’t know where Lloyd and Jun were he leaned against the window and racked his brain, what should he do? He knew that he had to find Lloyd, but Lloyd was gone. After a minute he realized that, while he didn’t know where Lloyd and Jun were, he knew where to find the Stock and Damean. Once again he ran from the apartments. Frack ran down the hall not bothering to gather his cloak around him being in too much of a hurry.

Frack rounded a corner and ran into a squad of guards in formation, Frack never slowed his pace and ran through the middle of them causing several to trip and stumble against the walls of the corridor. Frick ran down the hall and out into the main lobby of the Red Temple, as an alarm sounded. Frack didn’t even stop as he ran down the steps toward the city center and the markets where he hoped to find Daemon, Stock and Kelgori.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

‘I wish I could get a look at that book’ Frick thought ‘I know that Kelgori will want to see it’

Though the book was not thick, it took what seemed like hours for the high priest to thumb through the book. Finally the priest shook his head and clapped his hands. ‘HA!’ he all but shouted ‘The fire Dragoon, of course!’ He stood excitedly and strode toward the pedestal and stopped suddenly turning and looked as though he could see the kinder, and regarded him thoughtfully. He pressed his foot down on the switch that caused the pedestal to rise on the guiding shafts.

‘That fool Kelgori,’ The High Priest said ‘thinks he can fool me’.

Turning carefully, almost deliberately, he placed the book on a shelf on the inside of the pedestal and set the grey stone on top of it. Frick watched him as he stepped toward a door in the back of the chamber. Frick looked at the open container holding the book and the stone, and back at the chamber door that the priest had just disappeared through.

‘What did that mean?’ Frick thought ‘The priest must know Kelgori’

He started toward the exit wondering how he was going to get out without opening the door. He looked over at the open cylinder again and knew that it was probably a trap. He studied the cylinder and allowed his eyes to lose focus; this usually allowed him to see charms or cantrips set to protect an object. The stone, which was grey in the first place, darkened even more and seemed to be drawing light into it. Fricks eyes snapped back into focus and he looked toward the back of the chamber where the priest disappeared. He slowly crept toward the door and stopped suddenly as he caught a wiff of ozone. Usually that was a sign of a powerful protection ward, he checked and the smell went from wall to wall blocking him from approaching the door in the back of the chamber. Frick had been on both sides of wards like that and he could get through it, but it would hurt like hell and the ward would warn the caster.

Slowly he backed away from the ward and, drawing his cloak around him, crept closer to the open cylinder. He looked back toward the door and back to the stone, he could hear it whispering and wondered if the priest could hear it, or if anyone else could hear it. Frick stared at the stone for a full minute almost mesmerized by it. He took one more look back toward the back of the chamber and grabbed the book and the stone. Everything stopped and he lost his grip on the stone. Darkness engulfed him and pain blossomed on his forehead as something hit him between his eyes, Frick opened his mouth to scream but there was no sound, nothing came out of his mouth. The priest rushed into the chamber, shouting in frustration as he saw the kinder grab the stone and disappear. In desperation he threw the blade in his hand at the spot where the kinder was standing, the blade clattered and sparked on the ground impotently.

Frick was paralyzed, he could not tell where he was, if he was standing, sitting or falling. There were whispers everywhere he could only catch snatches of conversation… there was at least 3 voices he could hear and a few more he could not understand…

‘.. never a kinder…’

‘need is present…’

The pain as a spot, no a shaft in the middle of his forehead reaching down to pierce his brain. He could feel the something pressing, digging into his skull. Then it started to move from his forehead up and over to the back of his head,

‘… is there someone better…’

‘will last longer…’

‘Why this?’ Frick cried almost in tears because of the pain. ‘I need to take this to Kelgori… aahhhhrrgg’

‘ is there a choice?’

‘…us or him…’

‘He laid hands on’

The pain settled at the base of his skull and came to rest there. The pain was still there but fading. Frick felt weightless. Carefully he reached around and touched the skin of his neck, the skin there was smooth then puckered a bit as there was a transition from the warm skin to a smooth cold stone. There was a sharp pain as he touched the stone and the voices came back.
‘…doesn’t want..’

‘Has no choi…’

‘Strong this one..’

‘…resists the feed…’

Then everything came into sharp focus and there was an expansion of his awareness. With the wonder of a kinder he absorbed the view of the world around him. There were auras in several places that he knew of and a few that were mere shadows that were not natural. Frick discovered that he was curled up on the remains of the cylinder that had housed the book and the stone. He saw the priest throw a knife almost in slow motion. This gave him time to roll out of the way; this made him break contact with the stone. His awareness shrank and the voices stopped. He watched the priest rage around the room. He looked and found the book that he was reaching for and curled up beside it was his cloak. That gave him pause…

‘If I am not wearing my cloak, then how…’ Frick thought as he looked at his hand. It was shimmering and invisible. He retrieved the cloak and had to step quickly away as the priest made a grab for him. He did not know if the priest could feel him but suspected that he could since he could pick things up. He looked around and could not find the grey stone. He could not scrabble around much because this got the priests attention again and he had to dodge his grasping hands.

‘The stone must be in my neck’ Frick thought A bit dismayed.

Frick tucked the book under his arm and settled his cloak over his shoulders, raised his hood and walked toward the entrance of the chamber. The priest ran toward the door in the back of the chamber and hit the ward the Frick had noticed earlier, without being prepared for it, the ward shocked him and threw him back into the room. He rolled across the floor and came to rest against one of the many pedestals that dotted the room.

The kinder crept over and looked at the priest, he was out cold.

‘Guess I do not need to hide…’ frick thought and almost fell to his knees as the stone pinched the back of his neck. He looked down and saw his hand shimmer and fade into existence. Then he looked through the priest’s pockets and found several stones and a curious disk. The disk was about three inchs in diameter and etched with runes that he had never seen before. This disappeared into a pocket along with the other stones. Frick dropped the priest’s purse back on the inert form and turned toward the door to the main entrance thinking that he did not need to be seen. There was another pinch at the back of his neck and, as he watched his hand, disappeared. He found the switch that opened the door and he hesitated listening. There was a an alarm sounding and loud voices on the other side shouting and drawing nearer so Frick pressed himself back against the wall and waited.
A few seconds later the stone door creaked and snapped as the portal began to open. A full 20 blue tinged men in creaking leather armor rushed through the opening and Frick eased out of the room. He moved toward the apartments that had been assigned to the small party. The belongings of the small party were undisturbed and no one was there. Frick knew that Damean and Stock were sent to the market place so he turned and headed toward the markets.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Deathr straightened from his cross legged position and stretched. The night had passed in relative peace as a myriad of forest creatures had become curious and wondered off. He checked the state of his wards and then set to preparing the spell that would take him to Concord. The elves maintained a posting there and so there was a transport stone installed there. On the ground under a tree he set to scratching runes and symbols in a circle. Muttering incantations, he inscribed the runes closing the circle around him. Once the circle was complete, Deathr continued to inscribe runes around the perimeter in rough a spiral closing in on him. Finally, he tossed the stick he was using as a stylus toward the outside of the circle. As the stick reached the edge of the circle it burst into flame, burning to ash before it hit the ground.

Deathr sat on the ground cross-legged and began to chant the incantation that would transport him to Concord. There grew from the ground around him the glow of magic. The forest went deathly silent then there arose a sound like the rushing of wind laced with the tones of ornate metal striking together in bell like tones. The runes began to glow brighter and the noise grew loader. There grew a cylinder of light that went from the circle of runes to the sky. There was a brief flare as the incantation peaked in its ebb and flow slowly building in intensity until Deathr seemed to be shouting to be heard over the rush of magic. From the Magic light there arose a whirlwind weak at first then with growing intensity till it was a strong as a tornado, spinning around the protective circle dark and foreboding. Without changing the tone in his voice, Deathr launched into another incantation and repeated it twice. On the last tone of the second time through the Whirlwind dissipated, the light went out and the forest was silent. Deathr had disappeared.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Frack sprang down from the pole that he had clamored up to look around. Sometimes being short was a good thing, right now… it sucked. He had seen Kelgori down an ally and it looked like Damian was with him. The Kinder sprinted toward the alley and hoped they knew where Stock was.

‘Poetic license’ Kelgori was saying as Frack ran straight into him.
"Watch where y'er goin!" The Kinder yelled, untangling himself from Kelgori's robe.

"Frack?" Damian yelled, coming up on the pair, "What are you doing here?" He looked around, "And where's Frick?"

The little Halfling scrambled to get up, not even bothering to stop at he shouted back, "No time, we gotta move! Lloyd's in danger!"

"Why does that not surprise me?" The two mages said in unison.

The Kinder stopped and looked at the pair. ‘That was pretty good,’ he said ‘did you practice that or…’

‘There they are!’ The group heard someone shout. As they looked around they saw a group of men in a mixture of Armor pointing and running in their direction.

‘This does not look good’ Damean said slowly backing in to the alley.

‘What are you worried about?’ Kelgori snorted ‘there is only five of them, this should not take long.’ Kelgori went through a complex had motion and a whirlwind kicked up picking up sand in the attacker’s path the whirlwind solidified into a wall of sand ‘ that should slow them’ he said turning in to the alley and saw Damean pointing. Kelgori turned and watched the first man hit the wall and burst right through. The wall collapsed as the other 4 people blew through it as well.

‘That should have taken longer…’ Kelgori stammered as Damean gestured and a wall of ice solidified in front of them, ice chipped and scattered as an arrow struck the wall. Kelgori gestured again and an arm of sand sprang up and struck a man in the face he choked and sputtered as the sand and dust clung to his face like a mask effectively blinding and suffocating him, taking him out of the fight. The Small group retreated down the alley looking to escape the other side when Stock ran up from the other direction.

‘Good I was hoping to find you, I have some company coming to play’ he said a bit out of breath. Stock looked at the Ice behind them. ‘I guess this was not the way to lead them’

Damean thought for a minute and looked up. The buildings here were low, maybe three stories high. Stock followed his gaze and then at the walls of the alley, there were windows and ledges over up the sides of the building as well as several balconies.

‘Yup’ Stock said in an unanswered question and ran at the farthest wall, Damean watched as Stock ran up the wall for a couple of steps and pushed off and grabbed a windowsill then pushed off of that wall back to the other wall to grab the railing of a balcony. He scrambled over the balcony and up onto the railing, jumping from the railing to grab the lip of the roof. Damean looked at Kelgori.

‘You ok?’ Damean asked

‘WOHooo!!’ Yelled Frack as he drew his swords and ran toward the 4 men coming up behind them.

‘My powers, my abilities have diminished.’ Kelgori said as his mind went back to the fight with the creator and the power struggle that he had been able to win, ‘I think the last fight I was in took more out of me than I realized, and it was well hidden.’

There was a strangled cry and an arrow flew by going between the two making them both flinch. Damean looked up at the roof where Stock flipped him a wave. Damean and Kelgori turned as one and stepped to opposite sides of the alley. Damean moved his hands across his body and around his head literally pulling water from the ground and air around him. His hands and arms continued the motion drawing more water from the air until he had a good amount. In his concentration he became aware of a slow moving wall of flame; he pushed his water in a pillar toward the advancing wall of flame. The elements met and there was a scream as one of the attackers was caught in the plume of super-heated steam that was released by the water contacting the steam. Damean Set his jaw and removed one hand from the other and gestured. The steam around the contact point took on a life of its own as it curled back in on itself, completely encasing the wall of flame that was beginning to die and slithered like a snake back to the fire mage that had attacked them. The steam wrapped around his head and solidified into sphere. The area inside the sphere was so cold that the man’s head froze solid in seconds and shattered when he hit the ground.

Kelgori also had turned and began conjuring he pulled shards of stone from the ground and propelled them shotgun like toward the attackers to their front. The shards shot out and struck several attackers, and did not real damage though they did cause some pain when they hit someone in the face another of their attackers went down with an arrow in the throat. Then, seeming from nowhere something hit him and knocked him into the wall. Kelgori’s world faded to black as head hit the wall and he slid down it like a ragdoll. Damean cursed and erected a wall of ice to shield Kelgori and turned to face the last mage.

The mage was already gesturing in the midst of casting a spell. Damean quickly moved his hands to send a ball of ice toward the mage to disrupt his spell when the head of the mage snapped forward from something that hit the back of his head and exploded then the ball of ice smashed into the top of the mages head splitting it like a ripe melon. The mage dropped like a rag doll. Damean Turned just in time to hear a strangled cry from Frack as the last human landed a blow with a cudgel. The man then raised his cudgel and cried out as an arrow pierced his neck and a shard of ice shattered on his chest plate.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Frack looked back at the way that Stock had come…

‘You ok?’ Damean asked Kelgori

‘WOHooo!!’ Yelled Frack as he drew his swords and ran toward the 4 men coming up behind them.

‘My powers, my abilities have diminished.’ Kelgori said

Frack ran toward the wall and up along the wall for several paces catching one of the attackers by surprise drawing one of his wicked sharp short swords across the throat of one of their antagonists. He then pushed off the wall while that man went down choking on his own blood. He spun in the air and buried his swords into the chest of another man just as an arrow punched through his targets shoulder. The force of the strike threw the man onto his back and Frack rolled drawing his swords from the man’s chest. With barely a hesitation Frack rolled between the legs of one of the men slashing at one thigh on the front and a hamstring on the back with the other sword. The opening strike was blocked but the second landed unopposed severing the tendons at the back of the man’s knee throwing him off balance.

Frack skid to a stop and leapt back toward the man on his knees, aiming the swing with the flat of his sword at the back of the man’s head. Frack felt an impact on the back of his head and everything went black.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Stock pulled himself up to the top of the building and strung his bow. Looking down at the other 3 people in his group, he muttered a prayer to the patron of the hunt, ‘let my aim be true…’ He looked back the way his friends had com and saw an archer set an arrow and begin to draw the string to his ear. In a flash Stock drew an arrow and released taking the archer at the base of her neck the arrow penetrating down into the woman’s chest. Stock looked the way he had come and the four people that were chasing him came into view. Stock sent an arrow speeding down range in that direction catching a man in the joint between his sleeve and breast plate. His scream turned into a gurgle as he went down one of Frack’s short swords dragging across the man’s neck and Stock’s arrow pierced muscle and shattered bone.

Below Damean was in a contest with a mage, Damean trying to maintain a wall of ice and water and the other mage trying to break through it with a steady stream of fire summoned seemingly from the air. Mist and steam rolled from the point the two powers met and spread back to the fire mage. Another arrow fired and a man that was trying to shoot Damean went down gurgling around an arrow in his throat and his face incased in ice. As he watched there was a streak along one of the walls and another of the attackers went down with a gash across his throat spraying blood across his comrades. Stock placed an arrow through the man’s skull to end his suffering. There were only two attackers left on that side so Stock turned back up the street the magic flying through the space between the groups made it hard to see. Damean and Kelgori were fully engaged in that direction. Damean seemed to be holding his own but Kelgori seemed to be lost, as if he had could not remember his craft. Stock glanced back at Frack and the 2 attackers that were left there. There was only one attacker left that was able to fight and was giving it a good try at fighting a kid that moved with no rhyme or reason. A crunch and grunt made stock look back in time to see Kelgori hit the wall and sink to the ground. He wasn’t moving. Draw release… and an arrow sprouted from the neck of a mage that was gesturing toward the fallen mage. Then there was a small explosion on the back of one of the attacker’s while Damean cast a ball of ice that hit the mage on the top of the head.

Stock looked back and saw the last attacker raise his bloody cudgel over the still form of Frack, another arrow and that threat was eliminated as well. After a quick survey and scanning the alley in either direction stock dropped to the balcony then to the alley below as a familiar form ran past them all and to the still form of Frack. Still hooded, Frick dropped his hoopak next to Frack’s still form and checked for signs of life. Frack was still breathing but there were several bumps on the kinder’s head from the attackers cudgel. Frick fumbled in the pockets of his cloak until he found a vial of liquid and a piece of cloth. Carefully he unstoppered the vial and placed a drop of the liquid on the cloth. Frick quickly placed the stopper back in the vial and held the cloth under Frack’s nose. Frack’s eyes remained shut for several seconds and then he started to choke and sputter. Frick tossed the cloth behind him as it caught fire and was consumed before it hit the ground.

‘What did you do?’ Frick asked gently chiding his friend as Damean and Stock went to tend to Kelgori.

‘There were only three…’ Frack started struggling to focus ‘that guy got lucky’

‘Yeah’ Frick snorted ‘looks like he got lucky a few times…’

They both chuckled. Frick cleaned the other kinder’s short swords on the cloak of a handy body, then snapped the swords into the scabbards across Frack’s back then helped him sit up. Frick straightened and turned toward the group as Kelgori got shakily to his feet. Frick looked at his hand again and saw that his skin was darkening with, what he assumed, was the effect of the stone now in the back of his neck. He watched the humans make sure Kelgori was ok on his feet and then turned toward him. He looked from under the rim of his hood and sighed. Slowly, almost deliberately he lowered his hood and gauged the reaction of the group in front of him. Kelgori’s eyebrows went up and Damean and Stock stood with their mouths agape in surprise. Kelgori closed the distance in what seemed like a single stride and carefully put his hands on either side of Frick’s face his eyes searching his eyes and face intently. Without a word Frick handed him the circular book.

‘We may be able to fix this’ Kelgori said ‘How long?’

‘A little over an hour,’ Frick said ‘I wanted to grab the book and stone for you to look at.’

Kelgori nodded and looked at the book and then felt around the Kinder’s neck and found the stone. There was a burst of the voices in Frick’s head that stopped when Kelgori released the stone.

‘There has been a change in the way you look’ Kelgori said ‘your skin…’

‘is darker, I know’ interrupted Frick.

‘Yes but there are other things now’ Kelgori said abruptly ‘You hair has turned silver and your eyes look like the are solid steel marbles, I would guess that your perceptions are expanding.’

‘Only when I touch the stone’ Frick nodded,

“That is good” Kelgori thought then said ‘I would do that only when you need to’ he tapped his chin thoughtfully then continued ‘in a human such awareness would drive them mad, in you… I do not know, your natural resistance to magic seems to be holding this at bay.’

‘Lloyd is in danger’ Frack squawked from his position on the ground. Frick turned and helped him unsteadily to his feet.

‘The high priest is planning a test,’ Frick said

‘I would think we passed,’ Stock said

‘This may be a distraction,’ Kelgori said ‘Where is Lloyd? Is Cho with him?’

‘We came to find you,’ Frick started

‘Because we could not find Lloyd,’ Frack finished.

‘Well then we have a problem’ Damean said looking between Kelgori and Stock

‘How do we find Lloyd?’ The Kinder said in unison.

_________________

Life is hard... Its even harder when you are stupid...
John Wayne








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Ptolemy
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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Aardvark on Tue Apr 03, 2012 4:14 am

Jun took a seat at one end of the dojo Mako had hidden behind his store. It looked exactly like the store itself except it was empty, save a handful of seats to the back of the room. He set his weapons aside and got comfortable, aware of the time this would take. Mako himself was seated in the middle of the room, completely still, and centered. He had changed to a loose black gi and had a wooden katana on his lap, weighted to be an exact match for the true blade. All that was missing was his pupil.

"This is ridiculous," Lloyd stated coming out from behind the dressing room to the right. He was clothed in a white gi with a katana on his left hip and the kodachi stored behind his back facing so that it could be easily drawn with his left hand if need be. Under the gi was what looked like a black suit but was actually a set of training weights, "What's the point in weighing me down?"

"Jun tells me that you rely heavily on your speed," Make said without moving, "and having seen it myself I'm convinced it is the only reason you're still alive. But what happens when you fight an enemy as fast or faster than you are?"

"I'm still waiting for an answer," Lloyd said annoyed.

"You're faster than Mako-sensei," Jun spoke up, "so if we cannot simulate the opponent, than we impair the trainee."

The Knight seemed to consider this for a moment before nodding, "Fine." He turned to Mako, "Let's do this old man."

Mako unfolded his legs and stood in one fluid motion, extending his sword out in front, "Come at me then."

Lloyd put his right foot forward and grabbed the wooden katana by the hilt, a standard Iajutsu stance. For a moment all was silent as the two men stood ready, but not moving, then Lloyd began. Jun, used to the speed the Knight displayed, was surprised to see the almost agonizingly slow draw Lloyd used, stepping in despite the obvious failure of the move even now, and swung up. It wasn't even a contest, Mako had danced out and behind the man before the blade wuold ever have been a danger and now gave him a solid smack on the back of his head.

"Yeow!" Lloyd yelped stumbling forward and rubbing his head.

"Why did you lose?" Mako asked simply.

"Because you're not weighed down by an extra hundred pounds," Lloyd retorted still wincing from the hit.

"Wrong." The little old man replied, "You lost because you did not respect your opponent. Weight has nothing to do with it. Or do you believe the slower combatant will always lose?"

The Knight considered this for a moment, "No but- Wait what do you mean I didn't 'respect' you?"

"You tried to finish the fight in one move." Mako explained, "That is the height of arrogance and a complete disregard for your opponent's abilities. By trying to finish me before the fight even began you said 'You are nothing to me' when in fact you have no idea what I can do. Arrogance."

"Then what do you suggest I do? Sit down and have a cup of tea?" Lloyd shot back getting more agitated by the second.

Mako sighed, "Do you know the point of a death blow? Hmm? It's to kill, it's something you only use when you know you can win the fight then and there. You know why you never use them to lead off a fight? Because the moment you go for the kill you leave yourself open to a wide range of attacks not the least of which is a killing blow by your opponent. No first you must feel out your opponent, judge his strengths and weaknesses, only THEN may you know you can kill him."

"Then what's the point in learning Iajutsu? You can only use it when your sword is sheathed?"

Mako closed again and whacked the Knight a second time eliciting another yelp, "Baka! You know nothing! You claim to have been trained in Kenjutsu and Iajutsu but you never use your Kenjutsu and you have no idea of anything beyond the first move in Iajutsu!" He sighed and rubbed his forehead in exasperation, "Iajutsu has hundreds of moves only a small fraction of which are sheathe techniques, but they are all killing techniques, you use them only once you know your opponents weaknesses and strengths. Use you kenjutsu first!"

Lloyd rubbed his head again, Jun suspected he would have quick a welt before the day was done, and glared at Mako, "I don't have time to size up every random bandit I meet, I have things to do, places to be."

"My people have a saying," Jun spoke up from his seat, "The more you rush, the more you wait. It's a general saying, but it stems from this very debate. The faster you try to finish an opponent, the longer the fight will take, because it takes longer to correct a mistake than it does to simply do it right the first time."

"So you want me to take ten minutes out of my day to deal with each and every person who wants me dead?"

"No," Mako replied quietly but with an edge in his voice that made both Lloyd and Jun go silent, "I expect you to show them respect. Life and death are not simple matters and they should not be treated lightly. If you intend to take someone's life than at the least you owe them your attention, treat their dedication to combat with respect. They have their life on the line as much as you and if you discard the weight of their lives so much than get the hell out of my dojo."

The room fell silent, no one moving, no one speaking, no one breathing. "You're right," Lloyd finally replied, "I forget that sometimes. I suppose when you deal with trash for so long it's easy to forget that those people had lives, friends, families, and my actions, however well deserved, caused someone a grief I cannot fathom. I'm sorry."

"Do not apologize to me, I have not died, and do not speak your forgiveness, demonstrate it." He pulled his sword back up, "Now, again!"

------------------------------------------------

An hour and five new bruises later Lloyd finally felt like he was getting the hang of what the old man was telling him to do, but it was still unfamiliar to him. He could vaguely remember this from training, but it had been ages since he'd actually taken the time to appraise an enemy, to actually sit back and enjoy the fight. He found it quite relaxing.

"Good," Mako said stepping back, "now let's step this up a notch. Advanced kendo is simply adding thought to your attacks and parries, not simply relying your reflexes. This is less training in a traditional sense than it is fashioning your own style around what you know. This is also the point at which you learn to change styles in the middle of a fight. Jun!" The samurai stood and pulled a wooden sword out from a bin of them near the dressing room before walking over to join them, "Because you seem to be in a rush we'll speed this up as much as possible. I'll continue fighting you, but when I see an opening I will switch to use and Iajutsu finishing move, I will never use the same move twice. Your job will be to watch the moves I use, avoid them, and strike back with your own. Remember, the moment you go for a killing move you leave yourself open, this is universal, so I will be open as well so you've got no excuse."

"OK I get that," Lloyd replied acutely aware of the samurai at his back, "but what's Jun doing?"

"Jun will be there to scold you every time you miss an opportunity," Mako said with a smile, "with wood, not words."

"But I don't know any of the moves you're about to use, how am I supposed to recognize, memorize, and retaliate all at the same time?" The Knight asked wary of just how much this could hurt. He trusted Jun to watch his back and not to do any real damage, but he would still like to be able to sit down at the end of the day, "And why hit me for failing?"

"Because in all my years of training I've seen no greater motivator than pain. As for how you're supposed to do it," the smile broadened, "that's up to you. Or is the great Knight too scared?"

Lloyd tightened his grip and grinned back, "Bring it old man, I've been waiting for the opportunity to crack that nice shiny scalp."

"We'll see." Without another word the old sensei started swinging, mostly slow and easily blocked attacks, the two moving back and forth across the floor in a dance of wood, sweat, and violence. Lloyd had gotten used to Mako's style over the last hour, the quick swats, the flurry of feints, and how light he was on his feet, even the occasional instances where he would pull a wooden knife seemingly out of thin air and strike at his blind side. But something had changed now, his swats had more weight, his feints stuttered, and he seemed to come off the floor entirely at times. And the dagger, he didn't bother hiding it at all now, he used it openly and with as much skill as he wielded his katana.

"Getting serious now old timer?" Lloyd asked after backing away from a vicious stab, "Careful now, that could have done some serious damage."

He didn't know what he expected in reply, a smart retort, a surprise backhand, and sudden footsweep, but he got nothing. Mako was completely into this now and if they hadn't been using wooden swords Lloyd would have seriously considered backing off. The man was completely focused and if Lloyd didn't cut out the banter he might just regret it.

Then it came. Lloyd wasn't sure what he saw, a flicker of of the eyes, a draw of the hand, or if he just felt the intent, but whatever it was it gave him just enough warning to jump before Mako delivered a a blow that, had it been a real knife, would have disemboweled him. It wasn't much of a move, Mako had just reversed the grip on his knife after a feint and lunged back in the other direction, but he did it with such speed and precision that, had Lloyd not been told to expect it, he wouldn't have been able to avoid. That however was not enough to keep him from pain as when he landed again he got a solid slap on the shoulder.

"Retaliate," was all Jun said as he pulled the sword back.

The blow had heart, but not as much as Mako's next hit to the leg as Lloyd's attention was drawn away. This is going to be a long and painful day. He thought to himself. He pulled the kodachi from his back and hefted it, it was a little heavy for his left hand, but the move Mako had just used suggested Iajutsu was best utilized with a second weapon and he did want to get his practice in...

-------------------------------------

Snake bounded up the dune, scouting ahead of the pack, and came to a stop to survey the land. Sand and more sand, he thought looking across a seemingly endless sea of sand, struggling to keep the wind from blowing even more of the accused stuff into his eyes. He looked back at his pack, struggling to keep up. With the exception of Needle, they all looked tired and half-starved. The desert was a cruel place even to those who knew it best, and it was exacting a tool on them all. He looked back and scanned the scene again, he still could not see the ocean and they had been running for almost a week, surviving off of what wildlife they could find. If they didn't find some good news soon they might have to resort to eating the weaker members of the pack. Where is she Mordaci? You told me she'd be here!

He sighed and turned back to give his pack the bad news when suddenly, out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimmer. He froze and starred more closely and saw it this time, and oasis lined with it's own small forest and stone pillars half-buried in the sand, as if they had been erected long ago and forgotten. He knew he had looked this way before and seen nothing, his eyes were sharp, but now it was there, starring him in the face, as if it had just materialized out of the sand. It could be a mirage, he thought to himself worried his mind might be going, but he could afford to ignore it. They wouldn't last much longer out here without food and water.

"Needle!" Snake roared, "I've found it, it's just a little farther! Follow me!" The he bounded off, listening as his pack followed. He knew this would push them, the oasis looked to be almost an hour away, but he didn't want to lose sight of it. He dug in and pushed, running faster putting on the best burst of speed he could manage and he ate up the distance, setting foot in the Oasis long before he thought he would, it had seemed to almost grow as they rushed to it.

Snake stepped onto the path timidly, afraid it would evaporate before his eyes, but when he set his paw down he felt soft dirt, smelled the cool woody air, tasted the sweet water drifting in a mist from the oasis and knew they had arrived. The Oasis was large, larger than any he had ever seen, easily the size of a small town, and the pillars he had seen from afar now stretched tall, reaching into the sky, curving towards the large pool of water. The vegetation was surprisingly dense, making it nearly impossible to see the actual water at the center, but he quickly spotted a path off to his right and began picking his way carefully towards it.

"It's enormous!" Needle said from beside him, his mane soaked with sweat, "How could we not see it before?"

"I don't know brother," Snake replied, baffled himself now that he was in amongst the Oasis and picking his way deeper along the winding cobblestone path, "and I don't care as long as my belly is full when we leave."

The two brothers made their way deeper into the Oasis, following the path and keeping on alert. Most of the trees they passed were fruit bearing trees, but they saw no game and were disappointed. A meal of fruits was better than nothing, but they would have loved a few fresh rabbits. Snake looked up, immediately spotted the pillars(or were they arcs? He never had been much for architecture), and knew they were nearing the center as they became large with each turn. Soon they spotted wooden structures, houses, tables, chairs, even beds. They investigated, but came up empty. No one was living here and no one had been here in quite some time, so Needle ordered the pack to get what food they could and rest while he and Snake continued towards the water which was becoming more visible with each step.

Eventually the path made it's final turn and they emerged onto a straightaway leading into the middle of the pond, each side of the path with smaller versions of the arcs they had seen from a distance. The water itself was crystal clear and fresh, the two drank deeply wetting their cracked lips. When they had had their fill they moved on, along the path, drawn to the veiled platform at it's end, knowing instinctively what they would find, or rather who. As they drew closer the air seemed to get heavy and the fog thicker until they could no longer see the shore or the path they had just traveled along. They knew it was still there.... or did they? This entire place had seemed to emerge as if from no where, the food had been apparent and there had even been a place just large enough to rest their pack, all odd coincidences. Would it really be so odd now if they were to turn back and find no path to take?

Snake gulped, nervous and looked to Needle. It was obvious his brother felt the same, but he was too confident to show hesitate and Snake did not want to be shown up so they continued together until they reached the veil. It wasn't made of any material the brothers had ever seen, Snake was not even sure it was material the way it seemed to shift without moving. They stood there in silence for a long while, entranced by the veil and the light that emanated from it, soft blue-white. And then a voice just spoke, a crystal clear voice, a female's voice, that came from all around them, and it said, "Razorbacks, I have been expecting you," a form took shape and emerged from the veil, to Snake it looked to be a blue-white panther, to Needle it looked to be a blue-white lion, identical to both of them in size even though Snake was much smaller, "evil is on the horizon and it is time for you to act."

"What would you have us do?" Needle asked, all strength and bravery in the face of what he could not comprehend.

"A great evil has been removed from the land, but it is building again and war threatens all Pangea. Go to Concord, seek out the High Priest there."

"Concord?" Snake repeated confused and forgetting his fear of this being, "but we would never make it there. The other species fear us, mistrust us, and we long ago lost the ability to shapeshift." It was true, shapeshifters long ago had the power to transform into any being they saw, but over the centuries they had gradually lost that power as each found a shape they used most and never changed. Eventually they lost the ability altogether, though the King could still perform it given enough time. Now they were born of a certain species, almost never never the same as their parents and they never changed. Their diversity of appearance and the old legends kept the myth alive among the nations and they strove to keep it that way. "Our current appearances would frighten them."

"And why would we go at all?" Needle chimed in, "This does nothing for Darlar. If war is coming we should go home and prepare our defenses."

The Oracle looked at Snake, "It is true you have lost your abilities, but I can grant them again. I will teach you the old ways, instruct you on Mage and human culture." She... he.... it... looked at Needle now, "As for why. It is not yet too late to prevent all out war. Tensions are high, but if this evil is removed they will remain just that, tensions and nothing more. It is the Creator's presence which incites these hostilities, if his influence is removed they will cease. Already his influence has been diminished, but already forces are conspiring to return him to power. If you go to Concord this might be averted, and while you are gone I will instruct your pack on the art of shapeshifting. I will teach them, so they might teach Darlar and your race might return to their former glory."

The Oracle fell silent, having successfully answered their questions, answered their further questions, and taken away their reasons to refuse in one simply reply. Snake and Needle looked at one another, consulting without words, then turned back and nodded. "Very well," Needle said, "we accept."

The Oracle nodded, and then the pain began.

--------------------------------------------------

Over the next four days Needle and Snake learned that, among other things, shapeshifting hurt! The Oracle explained that it wouldn't always hurt, it only did now because their bodies had gotten so used to being rigid and that once they got used to altering their shape it would hurt no more than running and jumping, but until then it would be best to take their time and not rush into each transformation.

Despite the pain though they quickly relearned what their ancestors had taken for granted and by the end of the second day they could transform into any animal in under a minute and well enough to fool all but the closest observation by their pack. Humans however were much more difficult. They could get the shape down, but their faces were so detailed that they couldn't form a convincing face at all for a while and when they did manage it they could only copy another's face. To make matters worse they could not get the cloths right so whenever they did transform into a convincing human it was always stark naked. So it quickly became apparent that any infiltration of Concord would require taking the place of someone already heading there, a messy proposition to say the least, especially considering they could take no back-up.

When they had questioned the Oracle about bringing other members of the pack she had replied, "That is not possible. Unlocking latent abilities takes a lot of power, I used up nearly all of mine unlocking just yours, and we cannot afford to wait until your pack is trained by more conventional means." Before disappearing behind her veil. They had quickly realized that the Oracle was a very odd person, quick to instruct you when you needed it, but slow to explain her reasons for teaching a particular set of skills. At one point on the second day she had emerged while they practiced their human transformations, given them a set of needles, and told them they would sedate person and absorb their personality. Then she had simply disappeared again. It wasn't until they had discovered they would only be able to infiltrate by taking someone's place that they had realized why she'd given them the needles.

At an earlier time, while they lie writhing in pain back in the dwellings the Oracle had provided, she had entered and set figurines of multiple animals and people in front of them and left without a word. It wasn't until they went to sleep on the third day that the Snake realized she had done this to ease their pain. By giving them different shapes their bodies and minds had tried to mimic them and the constant changing had gotten them more used to the pain so they could continue with their training.

But for all the help and guidance she gave them she was very reluctant to actually answer any of the questions they had and as often as not would simply act as if they had never asked them in the first place. Later they would find the answers they sought on their own in the course of their training, or in some little oddity the Oracle had given them. She seemed to live as much in the future as she did now, or in the past, as if time was an annoyance she had overcome. Every action had a purpose, no moment with her was wasted, even if the purpose of what she'd done made no sense at the moment.

Their training continued however, and so it was that on the end of the fourth day, she pronounced them as ready as she could make them. "I have taught you all I can, and now you must go forth and use your new-found abilities to stop this new evil." She said, standing before them and their pack at the living quarters they had been occupying, "Fly to Garield, and make your way by ship to Concord."

The two brothers bowed in respect and began reshaping into falcons, grabbing the bags the Oracle had given them for the journey in their talons. "Thank you for all your gifts and your guidance Oracle," Needle spoke, "we will not fail you."

"It is not me you must worry about failing young changeling, it is the whole of Pangea that depends on you," the Oracle replied, "wars come and go, but I am eternal."

"Nevertheless," Snake chimed in, "you can count on us."

The Oracle simply nodded at that, "Be careful of the Doppelgangers," she said referring to the needles she had given them a couple days ago, "they will copy a being's personality only as long as they remain unconscious. The sedative will not last forever and should they wake up while you are in public you will lose your shape, your cover will be broken and your mission will fail. Pangea is in a precarious state and any action could set off a war the likes of which has not been seen since the age of the Dragon Warriors."

The brothers shared a glance. This was all knowledge she had related to them before, and she'd never repeated anything she'd told them before. Neither was sure what to make of this, whether she was just being cautious or if the Oracle had foreseen this as a problem. Needle turned back and nodded, "Understood."

"Then I give you leave to do," the Oracle bowed to them and vanished with a gust of wind. Knowing their cue the brothers flapped their wings, taking advantage of the wind, and took off, soaring high into the air. And for the next few hours, the brothers simply enjoyed their flight.

----------------------------------------------------

By air it took only a few hours to reach Garield, but as it turned out it was time they would need. As the brothers landed on the rooftops they saw their first problem, how would they find two people heading to Concord and then get them alone enough to take them out without alerting the whole town?

"We need to find people that won't be missed," Needle spoke up, keeping his voice low lest the humans freak out at the sight of a pair of talking falcons, "tourists, mercenaries, but no guards or ship hands. We don't want to attract any attention when we don't come back."

"A pair of mercs would be best," Snake agreed scanning the harbor, looking for a suitably shady bar or tavern, "no one likes them so we won't have to deal with as many uncomfortable questions. And no one will question it if they show up dead." He spotted a suitable tavern, a hole in the wall off the main harbor that looked like it's best days had been before the town even existed and a barely legible sign that read 'The Devil's Breath'.

He pointed it out to his brother and they both swooped over to it, landing in the shadows, changing into rats, and sneaking in one of the taverns many holes. And I thought it looked bad on the outside... Snake thought to himself, peeking into the tavern's interior. The entire place looked condemned, the tables were chipped and lined with graffiti and stains, the chairs wobbled and creaked at the slightest weight, the bar was riddled with holes and burns from fights over the decades and the selection of liquor was paltry, barely hitting two dozen in variety. And the clientele wasn't much better, the beer wenches looked to be near their fifties and the patrons all seemed to have at least a scar, a sword, and a scowl. The place had no life, no music, no humor, everyone was there to get drunk or get money and that was all.

"Let's try to get one without a lot of scars," Needle whispered, "I hate doing scars, always put them on the wrong side."

Snake nodded and they skittered along, keeping to the holes and shadows when they could, and heading for blind spots when they couldn't, eavesdropping the entire time to try and find a pair who were heading to Concord, and who didn't have ten friends. They had several promising encounters, but all of them turned up empty eventually either being too hard to mimic, having too many friends that would miss them, or just planning trips too far into the future. By the time they'd made their third circuit Snake could see that Needle was becoming impatient, he was a fighter, not a spy and this kind of work was too tedious for him. Snake had an easier time of it, being a Panther originally he had been used to stalking his prey as long as it took, but a lion simply didn't wait.

"I say we just jump the next group we see," Needle said, "take them all out, dump the excess and get going."

"We can't do that and you know it," Snake replied in a placating tone, "they might already have tickets and we can't afford the questions!"

"Well someone better show up soon, I'm not wasting an entire night her-"

"THATA BOY!" A heavyset read-headed man interrupted walking into the tavern with a young blonde boy under his wing, yelling and practically tripping over his own feet already well and truly drunk off his ass, "You and me? We're gonna go far! Go to Concord, take a few lessons, cause, ya know, they really know their stuff! Then we come back, and run this country as High Maghes!" He was beginning to slur, "Ya know them boys in ta cap'al? Tey don't know them asses from a hole in the groun'!" He sat himself down and nearly fell over, "Ya, in a mons we'll be runnin ta place! To us!" He said stealing a glass, raising it in a toast, and promptly falling off his stools and into unconsciousness.

"You'll have to excuse my friend," the boy said wringing his hands and explaining to what was possibly the world's oldest bartender, "we just bought our tickets and he got a little excited."

"Don't much care what he does," the old man replied cleaning a glass, "but he's not sleeping on the floor. Get him outta here or pay for a room."

"Right of course," the boy pulled out his pouch, looked in side, frowned, then put it back on his belt, "I'll get him out of here right away." He put his arms under the old man's arms and heaved, moving him all of two inches before he flopped back to the floor, but to his credit he kept at it.

Snake eyed the whole thing with a keen eye, "Hey, magic is just a process right?" He asked his brother, "You know just a set of moves you know that produce it? You think those Doppelgangers could copy their knowledge of magics too?"

"You're not serious," Needle replied knowing exactly where his brother was heading.

"Why not? Two bums heading to Concord, no one knows them, no one seems to care what happens to them, and I doubt anyone will be surprised if they turn up in a ditch dead or alive."

Needle sighed, "I know I'm going to regret this," he said, but proceeded to follow Snake outside and back into the alley beside the tavern. He found a place behind a stake of old crates, outside of view and morphed into a generic human, pulling two of the Doppelgangers from his bag and putting one in each hand, ready for the pair to emerge.

Snake meanwhile morphed into a dog and waited by the entrance for the two to emerge. It was likely the boy would bring his fat friend into the alley to get him out of the way and rest for a bit, but he would still need some persuading to be backed far enough in for Needle to safely get at him. So he sat quietly and waited, not drawing attention to himself, staying that way for over five minutes before he began to worry. What if the boy had changed his mind and decided to pay for a night rather than come out? Dragging they would still be able to get to the bodies without notice, but taking them through the tavern would get them noticed.

He was just about to duck back inside to check when the boy pushed through, red-faced, and still hauling his friend even slower than before if that was possible. It took him another five minutes just to get his friend into the alley enough to be out of the way, which was still with his feet sticking out into the road. With a thud the boy sat and began gulping down air, it was almost amusing to watch, but Snake knew this was probably the best opportunity he would have so he checked both way to make sure the street was empty then got to work.

He stepped in front of the boy, bared his teeth, and began growling, a low throaty growl that was as much felt as heard and decided to add a touch of slobber in to make the picture complete. It was probably overkill as he'd barely taken a step toward him when the boy dashed down the alley and straight into Needle who quickly stabbed him in the back of the neck and dragged him from view. Snake took another look down the street, then got behind the fat man and pulled him deeper into the alley, sympathizing with the boy now, the man was heavy. He doubted Fang weighed this much, and fang was a grizzly, but in a couple more minutes he had successfully pull him out of sight and Needle stabbed him as well.

The Doppelgangers were fast, absorbing the information in less than a minute and glowing a soft green to show readiness. "Well," Needle said pulling out the fat man's needle, "here goes nothing." He jammed it into his arm and they both watched it sink all the way into his skin before it took affect and a few minutes later he was looking at a perfect copy of the fat man minus the clothes.

"Well?" Snake prompted, "How's it feel?"

"It's... weird." Needle replied looking at his hands, "I have all his memories, but they're separate from my own. Like a coat for my mind, I can slip into and out of it." He prescribed a symbol in the air and flattened his palm out, producing a small shot of flame. Not very impressive, but it proved the Doppelgangers could provide them some fake magic for a time, which was the important part. "Seems to work, your turn," he offered the boy's needle.

Snake took it and stabbed himself. He wasn't sure what he'd expected, pain, discomfort, nausea, but what he got was just a rippling sensation as his body and mind took the information and used it and soon found himself looking down at a perfect imitation of the boy. He also found the information, memories and personality, much as Needle described, a separate entity he could choose to inhabit. It didn't so much override his personality and give it a new paint job. "We better get moving," Snake commented, letting the magic of the moment die away, "we need to get their clothes, hide the bodies, and get to the ship before it leaves."

An hour later they were dressed and walking along the docks. They had hidden their templates(as they'd come to call the fat man and his friend) at the back of a nearby storehouse. The Doppelgangers would keep them in a form of stasis for a week, needing neither food nor water until they sedative wore off. At that point, if they hadn't removed the needles from their bodies, they would forcibly eject and their disguise would fall apart. Luckily traveling by sea would take two days, three at most, which left them plenty of time to find a couple new templates, something Needle would be more than happy to do.

"I hate this body," Needle grumbled as they made their threaded through the busy docks, surrounded by mercenaries looking for security gigs, vendors selling their morning catches, and deck hands and go-fors running for supplies before their ship shoved off, "I can hardly move with this tub of lard."

"This one isn't much better," Snake replied scanning for the barge their templates had booked passage on, "it's a little faster, but it's weak. And use my name," he scowled at his brother, "we need to get used to them, Fred."

"Whatever you say Jon." He looked around in annoyance, "Where's the damn ship? This body has no sense of direction."

"Pier 16, " Snake replied nodding two rows up at the large flat barge. The ship had no above or below deck, it was just a a large flat platform loaded with supplies with a sail at the front and a small shelter at the back, "No wonder Jon didn't want to pay for lodgings, if this was the best they could afford I don't imagine they had much at all."

Needle grunted, "Hope it doesn't storm, because I doubt we payed for anything but a sleeping bag with the supplies."

The two walked up the pier and were almost on top of the captain before he noticed them, "Ah my two suckers, thought you'd be drunk in a ditch somewhere!"

"Oh come now my good man!" Needle began slipping effortlessly into Fred's skin, "You're talking to two of the finest mages this side of Lenus." He put an arm around the captain and let out a full bellied laugh, "In a few months we'll be on the Mage Council and running this country and when we are you can bet we won't forget our friends."

The captain scoffed, "Yeah whatever you say Fred." He worked out from under Needle's arm and point toward the center of the barge, "Got a pair of hammocks set up for you between the oak and iron. Get yourselves settled we shove off in ten." With that the captain walked to his cabin and began scribbling some notes on his log.

"This is going to be a long couple days," Needle said quietly, slipping right back into himself, "and I do not look forward to finding out if this body has sea sickness."

_________________

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Ptolemy on Tue Apr 24, 2012 10:29 pm

Deathr opened his eyes and immediately regretted the decision. The light in the room where he lay was bright and white like that of the sun and it pierced into his eyes and into his brain like a red hot poker. His hands shot to his eyes and he let out a yelp as one of his fingers found its way into his eye. He groaned and rolled away from the light and right into a wall. The wall seemed cold to the touch and felt good as he pressed his face against it. So tired, Deathr didn’t know where he was and, he realized, he really did not care. His vision dimmed as the world once again faded as the darkness overtook him.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Deathr’s eyes shot open, every sense on edge straining to detect what had awoken him. The room was not familiar but he was not bound. There was noise from outside the room and he rolled to his left out of instinct. The latch on the door rattled and the door started to swing open. The Elf rolled off the bed in which he was sleeping and onto the floor. He reversed direction and rolled under the bed searching for anything he could use for a weapon. The dust under the bed was not bad but there was some and his passage had stirred it up and made him sneeze hard. A groan escaped him as his head snapped up and his forehead bounced off the frame of the bed causing his head to snap back down and the back of his head hit the floor. He groaned again as the throbbing in his head reminded him of the head ache he had earlier. He rolled out from under the bed and onto his back and took in the room. The ceiling was encased in dark wood with the grain of the wood merging into graceful patterns and molding running the edges where the ceiling met the walls. Along the walls the wood was a bit lighter with a continuation of the patterns and sculptures in relief on carved into the paneling. Here and there tapestries hung from ceiling to floor in several places along the outside of the room placed to leave windows open allowing sun light to stream into the room. He sat up realizing that he was in a room with in the Elven house in Concord clad in a pair of sleeping breeches and tunic. His clothing and boots sat to one side looking to have been cleaned and set out to dry. He put his hands to his head and lay still for a moment. He sat up and got to his feet. His clothes were dry. Slowly he pulled his clothes on, use of the transport stones always sapped his strength though it usually did not take long to rest up. Deathr finished getting dressed and slung his blade at his hip. He toyed with the idea of slinging his bow across his back but decided against. This was a city and someone that carries a bow is likely to stand out. His cloak settled over his shoulders. He turned and walked from the room.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

‘OK’ Damean said, ‘there is a friend of my Father’s that is near here. He sells exotic weapons.’

‘Lead on’ Stock said as Damean hefted Kelgori to support him. Damean looked around at their sorry group, Kelgori leaning on Damean and Frick all but carrying Frack.

Damean led the small group out of the Alley and headed north along the fringe of the market place. The small group, trying to remain inconspicuous, made their way through the throng of shoppers. Men women and children wandering around the various shops and stalls looking at the wares offered in the shops. Hawkers shouted to the people passing hoping to get someone to stop and look at their wares.

‘Fresh fruit!...’ Called one.

‘Prime cut of steak!!’ Called another.

‘Fertilizer!!! Grow the most beautiful veggies!’ Called a third

Then suddenly the crowd parted and behind them as another group of mercenaries strode confidently through the bazaar not stopping to look at the wares or the common people that scurried out of their way. The leader of the group of mercenaries caught site of Damean and the rest of the group.

‘There they are boys!’ he shouted pointing ‘Go ge.aagghhak’

The man went down with one of Stock’s arrows through his neck as the group of adventurers turned and ran the best they could Damean gestured and erected a wall of ice that upended a vendor’s wares against a building and extending for 30 feet out. The group turned and hurried toward another alley.

‘His shop is on the other side of the building’ Damean said as he cast a chunk of ice at the first head that showed its self around the wall he had cast. The ice struck home and the figure grunted and went down. The small group of adventurers made their way down the alley as quickly as they could. Frack went limp as he lost his hold on consciousness making Frick skid to a stop or risk dropping his friend. Frick’s mind worked furiously trying to find a way out of the situation for his friends. Slowly and deliberately he reached behind his head and grabbed the stone. Frick gasp at the Pain, the onslaught of the voices was immediate and not quite overwhelming. For a second he struggled to make sense of the chaos…

‘He summons… He has nee… the pain is delicio… what does it need…’

The voices continued unabated but Frick found that he could almost control who he listened to and the other voices would reduce in volume and intensity. ‘I need power’ the Kinder said concentrating on one voice.

‘Illusion…’ said a voice ‘cast an illusion…’

Frick’s eyes snapped open as he took his hand from the stone. Time, it seemed, had frozen during the conversation with the stone. Frick concentrated and waved the staff like a wand. The air around the group shimmered and pile of debris appeared to be sliding along the wall.

‘Hold still...’ Frick hissed as he turned to watch the mouth of the alley. The group froze as the mercs barreled into the alley and drew up short.
‘Where’d they go?’ one merc asked

‘Hang on, that’s not right.’ Another man dressed in rough leather armor looked down the alley. He started an incantation and waved a hand. There was a wave of force that emanated from the wave of his hand. The scene did not change. The mercs turned to leave just as Frack groaned his eyes fluttering open. The mercs whirled and rushed back to the alley to meet an onslaught of power and the brutal accuracy of the projectiles released from Stock’s bow. Frick waved a hand at the oncoming mercs and tendrils of darkness flowed from his fingers spreading out and impacting the eyes and faces of several mercs to a man they screamed and began flailing at the air with their weapons. Frick stared for a moment in wonder. Then loaded a stone into his sling and let fly. The deceived mercs hacked each other to pieces falling on their breathren and were cut down in short order. The barrage of arrows felled several more and Damean threw shards of ice at several more… There came a growling from behind the small party along with the pad of feet. A four legged blur flew past and ripped into the larger party


Toward the back of the group a mage made a final gesture throwing a large gout of earth and stone at the group. Damean conjured a pillar of ice and deflected the mas which impacted the wall behind him. The ball of earth shattered when it hit the wall, dirt and dust went everywhere. The wall trembled under the impact and a large hole formed where the earth hit the wall.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Deathr stepped from the structure that server as the embassy for the elves in concord. After a brief discussion with one of the diplomats on station here, he found that mercenaries have been pouring into the city for at least a month all with the promise of employment with the red/scarlet temple. Deathr snorted Scarlet Temple, charlatans all. The use of magic and magic technology to dazzle and confuse the masses, who was it that said any technology sufficiently advanced appears to be magic? He could not remember.

He looked to the sky to find the trace magic that signaled flight by the new dragoon. Deathr frowned and squinted just a bit… nope no trace. He looked around and climbed the stairs to a second story balcony from there he could see an aura to the south along the edge of the bazaar. As he watched lines of power advance toward him then flare in an alley a couple of blocks away. Quickly he jumped from the terrace and jogged toward the fray. The sounds of battle quickened his pace, still not quite sure what he was going to do when he got there. He came into view and saw a group of mercenaries trying to press into the alley some of them fighting others in the group seemingly insane. He looked around and ran up a wall leaping up and grabbing the sill of a window. From there he was able to scramble on to the roof of the low building. From there he could see the how the fight was shaping up. There was a mage dark as the pit but weak and there was another that was also dark… not dark. There seemed to be 5 in the party but only 3 were fighting… The building shook as a mass of earth hit the wall of the building almost toppling the elf into the alley. He looked down and almost felt pity for the group. There were a lot of attackers.

One thing didn’t seem right. One of the moon weapons was here. One of the children was using it to throw stones. He knew some of the powers of the staff because the projectiles seemed to glow and then explode when the hit.
‘That means that this is the same group’ He thought. This made him attentive. The dragoon was not here. His power signature was not… Wait… he sniffed the air tentatively…


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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Aardvark on Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:39 am

Lloyd... Lloyd.... Lloyd!

Thwack! "Lloyd!"

The Knight woke with a start, "Ow! Son of a bitch!" He rubbed his forehead and looked around, momentarily disoriented until he saw Jun standing over him, Right. Dojo, Mako, training.

"Sleep time's over," Jun said, a wooden katana in his hand, "Mako-sensei's waiting."

The Knight sat up, or tried to, as he pulled himself forward only to be reminded he still had a weight suite on. Today's gonna hurt, he thought to himself putting a bit more effort into it this time to get himself onto his ass, he'd worry about getting off it later, "What the hell happened?" Last he remembered he had been training with Mako, watching his moves and trying to replicate them in turn when he had an opportunity. None of his counters had landed of course but he'd been getting close if he remembered correctly.

"You tried to preempt Mako and get a strike in first," Jun explained over his shoulder, heading to the back room and emerging with a tray holding a pot and two cups. "You were a little too slow, so you took a blow to the head from Mako, then a blow to the back of the head from me, then you passed out." The old samurai poured the tea and handed a cup to Lloyd.

Now Lloyd remembered, he'd been trying a reverse draw slash and hadn't seen the old man redraw the wooden knife, at least not until it was too late. "So round two?" Lloyd asked taking a sip from his cup. The tea was bitter and strong, but it was hot and seemed to ease the tension in his muscles and reduce the throbbing of his forehead. I suppose I do have a lot of learning to do.

"No actually," Jun replied, taking a sip himself, "you may not realize it but you've picked up on most of the moves Kendo and Iado have and more importantly you've learned how to blend them. Now all that's left is to integrate your own equipment into the mix."

Lloyd stood up, slowly as his body informed him exactly how many bruises he had and exactly where they were, "Are you sure that's wise? I just picked up on all this again," he said waving the katana and kodachi in front of Jun.

"I'll be here to remind you if you start backsliding," Jun waved his katana idly in the air, "and it's Mako you just have to trust him. His ways are odd, but they work."

Lloyd stretched, limbering up and letting the sleep fall away, "I trust you Jun. So if you feel he knows what he's doing I'll trust it's the right call." Jun shifted uncomfortably and looked as if he was puzzling something out in his head, "Something on your mind?"

"The Half-men, they were gone when we left."

"So? They wonder off all the time."

Jun shook his head, "No, I have met other Half-men, they always explore. This is different. It started last night and I haven't been able to shake it."

Now Lloyd was getting nervous, "I'm sure they're fine. They've saved my butt more than once, they can handle themselves."

Jun opened his mouth as if he was about to continued, but just then Mako entered and threw a bundle towards Lloyd, muttering something about not having enough time. The Knight removed the cloth to stare down at his bracer and a perfectly shaped and weighted replica of his new sword inside his sheath. "Get suited up," Mako said, grabbing his own weapons off the floor, "today we teach you to be foolish."

Lloyd slipped the sheath over his shoulder and the bracer over his left forearm, flexing to test the release mechanism. "Ah," he said understanding what Mako had been muttering about. The old man hadn't had time to perfectly replicate both his sword and bracer, so he'd added foam to the end of the bracer's hooks. "So any advice or instructions this time?" Lloyd asked sliding the hooks back in.

"Yes," Mako pulled his weapons up, "win."

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Rou Yagrit looked out on the city and sighed. It had been a day since he had given the Lunar Brigade their assignment and he was expecting them to check in before the day was out, but as he waited he had nothing to do. Most of his diplomatic channels had fallen silent with only Shattered Hand and Sundered Island keeping in touch at all, and even then the updates he got were mostly day-to-day affairs. Tensions were high everywhere and no one was talking, he knew it was only a matter of time before this blew up in everyone's face.

No I can't think like that, he chided himself. Concord was the most advanced of the nations, if the Lunar Brigade was successful and he could pull the nation together again they might still have a chance to avoid a war. The Triceta could be a major deterrent if mobilized in time and he knew the Elves would chip in if the Mages started, between the two of them they could force if it came to it. But would that really be any better than what the Lost had done to them nearly a thousand years ago?

Not that the semantics would matter should he fail to bring Concord together again. Without the Mages leading the way the Elves would remain silent and guard their borders. They were long-term planners and didn't take risks, if they knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their presence would settle a dispute then they wouldn't hesitate to jump in and defend the realm, but should their victory not be assured they would 'batten down the hatches' as human sailors said, and wait it out. And the humans.... it galled most to admit but the humans and Lenus were a force to be reckoned with, far behind the Elves they were still the third most advanced nation overall and had one of the strongest armies he'd ever seen. If they were still a united force he doubted the Luxus cult would have pushed forward so far, but when Drek had died Lenus had grown unstable and the alliance between the Humans the and Mages had all but fallen apart and now with Frugal dead the line of succession was in jeopardy. It wouldn't be long before the Giants launched an assault on them, and if Concord wasn't ready when that happened then everything he was attempting would be in vain. All he could hope was that a good leader was chosen soon to replace Frugal, even a weak leader he could bully into line, but none?

Oh Lloyd, what did you do? He rubbed his face and poured himself a glass of wine, an Elvish green far older than himself, and took a long draw. He barely tasted it. Why couldn't you just grin and bear it? Poison him like any sane person would, you had to have known your own Mages would take care of it eventually and you might have even bee crowned in Frugal's place! He swirled his glass and smiled grimly to himself, Then again, you never were patient...

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5 years ago

Rou felt the boat and his stomach lurch in unison as he leaned over the rail of the boat to heave the contents of his stomach into the sea. I HATE boats! he thought miserably to himself as he wiped his mouth. He'd just been recently appointed as the ambassador to Lenus and was on his first assignment, to settle a trade dispute between the two nations. Some fisherman from Lenus claimed their catches were coming up short because some Concord fishermen were using water magic to make the water beyond the islands too warm and causing many of the fish to congregate conveniently around their fishing spots. The Concordians claimed this was a legitimate technique while the humans said they were meddling in waters beyond the nation's reach and thus stealing supplies from the rest of Pangea.

It was a fairly minor dispute and would normally be handled by pigeon, but the King had insisted Rou make the trip in person to settle it so he could get 'acquainted' with King Drek. Rou felt it was a waste of time and money to send him by boat to handle it personally, but he knew it was unwise to argue with the King. That was before he discovered he got seasick, if he'd known how miserable it would be he would have risked the argument.

A man came by and patted him on the back, beginning another round of sickness. "I begin to wonder if we're feeding you or the fishes," he said with a chuckle quickly vanishing up the rigging. The boat they had charted for him was a full-size Clipper, two hundred feet from stem to stern, three masts with more sails than Rou cared to count, and enough firepower to make sure any pirates would think twice before engaging. It was an impressive ship and just went to show how prosperous Lenus had become since Drek took over, and this was a civilian ship. Lenus' navy was widely considered to be the most formidable in Pangea.

"Land ho!" A voice cried above him, most likely the same sailor who had patted him on the back, and he glanced towards the prow to see the coastline of Lenus. Silently he thanked the gods, his voyage had been shorter than most, the clipper's speed had gotten them here in just under two days, but he was still looking forward to having solid land under his feet and a meal he could actually hold down for more than an hour.

Despite seeing land it still took them another hour to pull into port and the moment the gangplank was down Rou was gone, rushing down and even going so far as to kiss the ground, not caring who saw.

"You the ambassador?" A voice asked. Rou looked to his right and left trying to find the source of the voice but found no one. "Up here," the voice spoke again, drawing his gaze up.

The ambassador let out a yelp and fell on his ass in surprise. The man was a knight clad in dark blue leather armor with gold trim and a white cape over his shoulders, and he had been standing not two feet away from where Rou had been kissing the ground. He blushed realizing how stupid he must have looked and ashamed he'd apparently left his dignity on the ship, but unwilling to say so. "Yeah," he replied hoping the man wouldn't linger on the issue, "that's me." He stood up, straightened out his tunic and offered his hand to the knight, "Rou Yagrit, I'm the new Ambassador from Concord." The knight lifted his eyebrows, looking at his tunic, prompting him to look down and see his regurgitated breakfast all over it, "Oh my, I am so sorry," he wiped at it but it had dried on, "the sea simply doesn't agree with me."

The knight grunted and gestured to the ship, "Your stuff on-board?"

"Ah yes," he replied with a little laugh, "I'll go get changed."

The knight grunted again, "I'll pack your things while you get changed. Meet me at the end other end of the pier when you're done." Without another word the man walks up the gangplank, grabbed his bags and walked off.

Not what I was expecting, he thought to himself as he watched the knight walk off. He hadn't been expecting anything grand but he'd certainly expected more than a single grumpy man as his escort, Maybe there's more at the edge of town and they just didn't want to drag everyone in, yeah that's it! He walked back up into the ship and half an hour later emerged in a fresh pair of robes. Much like his previous pair these were yellow with the Concord symbol on the chest, a stylized pattern showing air, water, fire, earth, and lightning merging in the center.

He walked to the end of the pier and into the town, looking for the knight before spotting him bartering with a vendor near the docks. He put his hand up and walked toward him, drawing more than a few odd glances in the process. "I'm ready to go," he said with a broad smile.

The knight looked him up and down and laughed, "You sure know how to make an entrance." The knight had to look up at him, but he still managed to make Rou feel small, "Come on, horses are over there."

They mounted up and were soon on their way out of time, trotting through flat fields being harvested for the fall, and heading in the direction of the mountains. Rou was looking around trying to find the rest of the escort, but could see nothing but hard working farmers going about their business and the occasional traveler, all trying to sneak glances at the foreigner in their midst. "I give up," he finally said after searching in vain for over ten minutes, "where are they?"

"Where's who?" The knight asked, they were the first words he'd spoken since they'd left the docks.

"The rest of my escort of course!" He hoped the knight's sword arm was stronger than his mind.

"I'm your escort," the knight replied, "Lloyd Syuveil, High Knight, at your service my Lord."

"A single kni-" he began before he registered everything, "wait, High Knight?" He trotted up beside the man and studied his face, he couldn't have been more than twenty, "Aren't you a little young to be a High Knight?"

He laughed but didn't reply to Rou's question, "Trust me my Lord, I'm more than enough to keep you safe." He snapped the reigns and trotted ahead, ending the conversation as Rou, unused to horses due to his city life, struggled to catch up.

He finally managed as they passed beyond the grasslands and into the foothills, but said nothing not able to concentrate on keeping his horse in line and conversing at the same time and the Knight, Lloyd, didn't seem interesting in starting one in any case. Rou was unsure what to make of the man, he was rude and insensitive, but his station indicated he had plenty of experience in both politics and battle so he was reluctant to confront the man on the matter. So instead he just relaxed(as much as he could) and enjoyed the view.

They were traveling along the mountains, a curiously indirect route, so most of the view was of bare rock, but off to his left he could see the rolling hills and grasslands of Lenus, and he found this to be a very relaxing sight. None of the bustle of the city, no crowds pushing and shoving to get what they wanted before it sold out, the lack of constant noise, and the pure fresh air so rare in Concord's artificial landscape. It was the time of the year where the leaves on the trees were just beginning their shift to orange, yellow, and red so it was cool but not so cold that he felt the need for a coat or fire. That would probably change by nightfall, but for now it was just... nice.

They began a slow decent, entering a narrow pass with rocks high on both sides. When they leveled out at the bottom Rou spotted a monument off to the right, mid construction, of a man sitting a throne, but it had no head. "What's this place?" Rou heard himself ask. If they had a monument here it must have been a place of significance.

For a moment the knight looked as if he wouldn't answer, but suddenly he just began telling a story, "Ten years ago, when I was just beginning my time as a Page under Sir Morland, the King was confronted with a problem. The people in and around Garield had heard reports of Giants amassing near the border around the coast and pleaded with the King to send a company of knight and squires to deal with them should they attempt to invade. A logical request given the evidence, but there in lay the problem, the evidence had been provided by a ship's captain that had been sailing along the coast and claimed to have seen them preparing for battle. The captain was a notorious conman and both the High Mages and the High Knights believed him to be lying and hoping to catch some favor or reward for his false information. But the King went against their advice and sent a company anyway, a green company mostly just to appease the people and give them a sense of security. The High Knight and High Mages scolded the King for the waste of resources and thought it the end of the issue.

"But, much to everyone's surprise, that was not the end of it. Over a week went by without incident, but on the ninth day the company came under attack. The Giants had used a previously unknown passage through the mountains connecting Lenus and Arid and emerged here, at Drek's Pass. It was only dumb luck that the company had stationed most of their forces around the pass, but luck was on our side and the company bottled them up in the pass, forcing the Giants to fight one at a time with the company's own forces. This kept the Giants from overwhelming them immediately, but a Giant is a monstrous thing, capable of literally ripping a man in two with nothing but his arm and many men fell.

"They fought all through the night and into the morning, keeping the Giants trapped and the people safe, but by morning only two people remained. They fought bravely, holding them off, but all look bleak until reinforcements arrived. You see, the commander had sent word to Castle Galean the moment the attack began and the King himself, after receiving word, marched out with a battalion of men to retake the pass and make short work of the invading Giants, much to the surprise of everyone.

"You see, it was not just that the King himself led the charge, it was that the company got any reinforcements at all. The most sensible course of action would have been to let the men die, let the Giants establish a foothold, and then bombard their camps with catapults from afar. It would have been safer for his men and in the end he would have lost only a few small villages to their pillaging. But King Drek was unwilling to let his men die his own words were, 'Those men have given their lives to hold the pass, they are protecting the realm because that is their duty as it is mine!' And so it is named Drek's Pass in honor of the King who fought for them, the average man, woman, elder, child. He risked his own life and those of his best men so that no one would die."

"Seems like those two knight that held the pass should have been given that honor instead," Rou replied. The story was impressive, but the King had simply done what was expected of him by his people. It was the two who had held that pass who had risked all for their people.

Lloyd smiled, "Those were the King's exact words as well, but the people insisted. In the end it was the King who had believed the threat was real and stationed that force that held the Giants at bay, and when duty called he responded swiftly. But don't feel sorry for the two who held the pass, they were rewarded in time, though I do not believe I ever said they were knights."

"What else would they have been?" Rou asked genuinely curious, Lenus was the most uniform of the nations, they had few other species outside humans living in their lands and it would be vital information if they had expended their armed forces.

"One was a squire, the other was a page," Lloyd answered, his smile broadening as Rou's jaw dropped. "Zara Gin, squire, age eighteen, and Athrun Diakka, page, age ten. Zara was immediately promoted to High Knight, and for a while held the record as the youngest ever. Athrun was promoted to squire and trained by the King's own sword master for six years until he came of age and was promoted to High Knight as well, taking Zara's title out from under him."

A High Knight at age sixteen, and I thought becoming an ambassador at twenty two was impressive. "Isn't that a bit overkill?" He said aloud, "Giving a sixteen year old such a high position?"

"If he's at the castle I can let you fight him and see for yourself," Lloyd answered. When Rou made no indication of accepting the offer he continued, "Between the two of them they felled over a dozen Giants, after performing such a feat no one could deny them. By the time Athrun got his promotion he'd already beaten every other knight in the castle."

"That's amazing," Rou replied genuinely amazed at the thought of a child killing half a dozen Giants. "And what of you Sir Syuveil?" He asked encouraged by his success in getting the story of Drek's Pass, "How did you come to be a High Knight."

Lloyd's face hardened, "That's a story for another time my Lord." He looked around, "It's getting dark," he dismounted and pulled his horse into a nearby cave, "we should make camp."

Rou, afraid he had taken a step too far and offended the knight by asked, looked away and saw that the sun was indeed setting beyond the horizon, or rather beyond the mountains. He had been so engrossed in the story he hadn't noticed the time and it didn't help that traveling by this route cut out a lot of useful daylight. He wondered how far they must have traveled and how far they had to go, but was wary of further offending Sir Syuveil by seeming impatient. So he dismounted and brought his horse inside, helping Lloyd make camp. Soon they had eaten and settled in to rest for the night.

The night was uneventful and Rou woke fully refreshed, if a bit annoyed, as the sun broke over the horizon and spilled into the cave. He stretched, allowing his bones to snap back in place after a night on the ground, and looked around for Lloyd. Much to his surprised the knight had already cooked breakfast, ate his own share, and packed up more of their things, leaving just Rou's sleeping bag and his breakfast out.

"Eat up," Lloyd said from the caves mouth as he fed the horses, "the King's expecting you this evening and we took it too slow yesterday so we'll have to pick up the pace to make it in time."

Rou nodded and started eating as he rolled up his sleeping bag and strapped it to his horse. Finishing as he finally tightened the saddle in place. He might have been a stranger to roughing it, but he was very accustomed to eating on the run. In a matter of minutes they were back on the trail and proceeding at a canter towards their destination. Neither man said much of anything aside from Lloyd's directions and Rou's attempts to keep his own horse at a constant speed, and by midday they had crested a horizon and Castle Gaelen.

"It's huge!" Rou blurted out. The castle was still far away but it still took up a huge area and even miles out was the size of Rou's hand. It was all low tech compared to Concord he knew, but the sight of it was impressive and inspired far more fear than the defensive spells surrounding the Triceta. In his head he knew the Triceta would make short work of the castle's defenses, but he had to admit it was still daunting to look at. The ambassador composed himself before he could make more of a spectacle of himself than he already had.

"Strongest fortress in Lenus," Lloyd informed him, not giving Rou's outburst the slightest attention, "back during the Great War it was one of the few fortresses in all Pangea that remained unconquered. Not the capital at the time it still kept the King safe during the war and in reward was made his new seat of power over several much more luxuriant castles." Without another word he snapped the reigns of his horse and continued on, leaving Rou to catch up.

It took them another hour to reach the base of the mountain and as they turned the last corner Lloyd put up a fist, calling for a stop. The knight was looking around suspiciously at the trail leading into the grasslands. The last 100 feet was a rather steep descent that had to be taken slowly but it was the only way down unless you happened to be very sure of yourself. Rou looked off to his left and the fifty foot drop landing on ragged stones and gulped, he wasn't sure of himself, "What's up?" He asked trying to hide his fear that the knight would tell him they had to climb the rest of the way.

"Something's wrong," the knight replied staring intently at the end of the trail.

Rou looked ahead again. The trail was certainly steep, they wouldn't be able to take it at speed, but he couldn't see anything else amiss aside from a lot of sand around the bottom, "It looks fine to me."

The knight looked around, spotted and outcropping of rocks, and brought the ambassador around to them, tying the horse in place, "Stay here." Before Rou could say anything else the knight turned and galloped off down the trail much too fast, his horse struggling to keep his feet under him, and Rou was certain he was going to get the poor animal killed, but to his surprise he managed to emerge at the bottom at a full gallop and to his further surprise, half a second after he emerged from the trail, a row of spikes attached to a beam of wood shot up at the entrance. Had Lloyd been going any slower his horse would have been impaled and he would have been flung from his saddle, as it was he managed to just barely miss them.

Rou was shocked at the trap, why would someone put that there? But another second later he had his answer as five men emerged from behind rocks, one in front, one to the right and left, and two crossbow men emerging from the nearby forest. Lloyd didn't slow his horse at all, running the first man down before he could pull his spear around and kept going, pulling a sword from behind his back and beheading the man on the right in one swift move. The knight pulled his feet from the stirrups and got his leg under him as the first bowman fired, as the horse went down Lloyd launched himself, stabbing two-handed at the man before he could reload, and killing him instantly. The fight looked like it was going well for him and Rou considered stepping from cover and giving him a hand mopping up the last two. The King had given him a blade before he left, said he needed to be armed, not that he had the slightest clue how to actually use a sword, but now he was beginning to understand why he'd been given the weapon. Whether you knew how to use one or not it sure made you feel safer having a nice solid piece of steel in your hands, and Rou was sorely tempted to pull his out at that moment. The King had said, after all, that it could conduct magic, and he was a mage surely it would be some help. He had just about made up his mind and was reaching for it when he heard s sound that froze him in his tracks.

Snap! The blade, under too much stress with the knight's full weight on it, snapped clean in two, disarming him while two men remained on the field. In the space of a second Rou went from being sure the man would win, to being sure he'd soon have to take off if he wanted to live, and a second later reversed his opinion once again. Lloyd tensed his left hand as he fell, releasing eight hooks from his bracer, and stabbed the dead man, using his momentum to swing over the man's dead body and using it as a shield as an arrow from the second bowman slammed into the body. Immediately the knight rolled out, grabbing the dropped crossbow and a bolt, loading, and firing in record time, the bolt emerging from the back of the second bowman's neck.

In less than ten seconds the knight had taken down four men and now stood disarmed across from the last one. The last man was armed with a pair of wicked looking knives and looked more than capable of using it, while Lloyd was armed with nothing more than the bracer on his arm, and yet the bandit was trembling. He had the advantage in terrain and weaponry and had Rou been a betting man he wouldn't have put a single copper on the knight to come out of the confrontation, and yet he could not deny what he'd just seen and neither could the bandit. Without even trying to fight the man turned and ran, vanishing into the forest. For a moment Lloyd looked as if he would give chase, his body was tensed and he'd already dropped into a running stance, but he stopped himself, sighed and began dismantling the trap the bandits had set.

It didn't take long, a couple cut on the rope binding the affair together and the log dropped to the ground and Lloyd shoved it aside, waving to Rou to proceed. He took it slowly, the path would have been treacherous enough on foot, and he wasn't very good with his horse yet, but he made it down in one piece and without taking more than five minutes. In that time Lloyd had pulled what equipment he needed from his saddle, including a replacement sword, and had check to make sure each of the bandits was dead and out of the way. As Rou came up beside him he caught a glimpse at Lloyd's sheath, if one could call it that. It was simply a metal cap around his left shoulder and a clasp around his right waist, just enough to hold it in place at what had to be the oddest angle Rou had ever seen. He was just about to ask the knight about it when the man suddenly said, "We shouldn't stay long. I've taken care of this batch, but there'll be more and I'd rather not be here when they come back." Without another word he swung up in front of Rou on the saddle and snapped the reigns, taking her at a trot so as not to put too much stress on her with an extra passenger.

"That was impressive," Rou said once he was sure they'd passed out of range of whatever bandits might remain, "but reckless. If you knew bandits were there you should have called for back-up."

"I was ordered to get you to Castle Gaelen by sundown my Lord," he answered going no farther than that and Rou not wanting to anger the man that had just saved him.

They traveled the last half hour of their in silence over countryside. Rou was beginning to notice a pattern in how towns in villages were constructed in Lenus, or rather that surrounding everyone he'd seen were farms, fields of greens and grains as well as the occasional pasture for cows, pigs, and chickens. It was a beautiful country, the humans had certainly gotten lucky in picking the creme of the crop as far as land was concerned. He was certain they could harvest enough in one season to feed half of Arid and still have plenty left over for the winter, but he wasn't sure if this was greedy or simply good irrigation and proper planning.

They finally pulled up to the inner keep just as the sun was beginning to set and saw that King Drek was ready and waiting for them. The King was not what Rou expected at all, attired in a simple white doublet with a royal blue waistcoat and loose fitting black breeches, a modest assortment of clothing, but he managed to make it look regal, however that wasn't what drew his attention. The King was massive, nearly two meters tall he managed to make Rou feel small, and he was anything but fat, the King looked capable of tearing Rou's head off as easily as he would wipe his own ass. His black hair was pulled back into a tight pony tail, and his square jaw and hard face looked as if it had been chiseled from stone.

As the ambassador watched dumbstruck, Drek walked down the stairs and greeted them with a smile and a handshake with a hand big enough to swallow heads whole. "I was beginning to worry," he said with a deep and jolly voice, "I told Lloyd to have you here by sundown, but I admit I expected you'd be here at noon."

Rou began to reply but Lloyd cut him off, "My horse had some trouble and we had to leave it Your Highness." He shot a glance at Rou that told him to keep quiet, "I'm sorry about the wait." He dismounted and helped Rou down, whispering, "I'll take care of the bandits, I don't want the King to worry, so please don't say anything."

Before Rou would reply the King came forward and slapped him playfully on the back, "I'll have the servants take your things up to your room. You will come with me," he waved inside, "we have a feast fit for, well a King." He gave another belly laugh and led the ambassador inside. As he disappeared he glanced back over his shoulder and gave Lloyd a wink. The man had taken a huge risk to get him here unharmed, the least he could do was not blab about it to the boss.

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The next week was one of the best of Rou's life. He would wake up, be treated to a nice breakfast of ripe fruit and be taken to the yard to watch the castle guard at their morning sparring sessions. After that they would head in for lunch and work on the dispute together not settling an issue until both parties were fully satisfied. Then they would have dinner, a nice roast duck or pig, the King would take him for a ride and show him some of the sights around Castle Gaelen before they finally settled down for a nice glass of wine to end the day. Drek provided everything he could ever have needed and more and even gave him some tips when it came to negotiating. It was much more pleasant than he had thought and he knew that was just the King's kindness, he knew not all negotiations would go over this well and that he was likely to run into a couple where he'd have to run away rather than settle like men, but at the same time he was extremely grateful for the King's hospitality and for easing him into a role he was likely to occupy for some time.

But all good things must come to an end. They eventually settled the dispute simply, Concordians were welcome to use whatever means they wanted to get their catches inside Concord's border, but were to leave the waters outside their territory alone. To that end the Triceta would deploy a magic barrier over their waters to prevent magic from affecting them from one side or the other. So it was that on the eighth day, as the sun rose over the horizon, Rou Yagrit and King Drek shook hands one last time.

"I thoroughly enjoyed my time here Your Majesty," Rou said sincerely.

Drek laughed, "I'm glad you enjoyed yourself my friend and I hope you find your trip home to be just as enjoyable."

Rou clamped down on the nausea he felt rising at the thought of a few more days at sea and simply nodded back with a smile. He looked down the steps and saw that his escort was already ready and waiting with two horses freshly fed and watered and packed with all their supplies. Drek had offered to have one of his Royals, Clide or Darius, escort him, but Rou had insisted Lloyd be assigned. He felt safe with the knight and he still wanted to see if he could get the man to come out of his shell a bit more. Rou had been careful to avoid the details of the attack, but he had spoken of the wonderful story the knight had told him to pass the time. Drek had simply smiled and said, "Yes he doesn't look like much but the boy just loves his stories. You can barely get a word out of him, but when an opportunity to tell a story comes along you just can't shut him up." When Rou had questioned the king about Lloyd's story, how he came to be a High Knight the King had just shaken his head, "It's best he tells you about that. Give the lad some time, he'll open up eventually."

The words had encouraged him and that's when he had made his request. He was grateful the knight had accepted, he really did want to get to know him despite the rudeness he displayed at times. The ambassador approached the horses and gave a slight bow, "I thank you kind Sir for being my escort once again."

Lloyd returned the bow with more grace than Rou had thought he possessed, "Anything I can do to make you feel safe my Lord." He put his hand down and helped push Rou into the saddle before turning to Drek and going down on one knee, "He's in good hands Your Majesty."

Drek came forward and put a hand on Lloyd shoulder, "I know," he said softly. Then more loudly he pronounced, "The ambassador's boat leaves in three days, I expect him to be on it, I know you won't disappoint me." He removed his hand, the knight stood, bowed again, and saddled up.

They left the castle behind and began their track back through the fields, and heading to the mountains and the trail where they had been ambushed barely one week earlier. Rou shifted uncomfortably at the thought of encountering another group of bandits, but Lloyd saw this and calmed his nerves, "Don't worry. I took care of it like I said I would. I took a band of knights out a few days ago and cleared out the bandit's hideout while you negotiated with the King. We shouldn't encounter any problems this time around."

Rou relaxed a little, "Good to hear. I didn't say anything about the ambush to the King."

Lloyd nodded, "Thank you."

"Though I am puzzled. You did your duty, I was perfectly fine. Why keep that a secret?" Rou was genuinely puzzled, he would have thought it a worthy tale, something to regale his friends with back at the barracks.

"I didn't want to worry him," the knight answered vaguely. They emerged at the path before Rou could inquire further and Lloyd pointed at the sky off to the north where they were heading, "Looks like rain. The shelter we used on our way to Castle Gaelen is one of the few along the mountain road that offers suitable shelter from storms and the nearest one to us now. If we push our horses we can make it before the storm hits," he looked back at Rou, "stay close and do what I do and you should be fine, I'll slow us down if it seems too dangerous." Before Rou could agree or disagree the knight snapped the reigns and his horse was off.

Rou did likewise, copying the knight's exact moves and as long as he kept his eye on what Lloyd was doing he found he had no trouble keeping up. The trips on horseback through the city's sights made him much more comfortable around the beasts and while he was still relatively green with the beasts he found his confidence growing each time he mounted.

They made good time on the trail, though because of his focus Rou missed out on a lot of the scenery this time, and were closing in on their shelter just as the sun began cresting the mountain tops. The two slowed as they approached and the ambassador seized the chance to ask the knight what he'd meant by 'worrying' the King when the knight suddenly yelled, "Look out!" and tackled him off his horse and into the dirt as an arrow shot by and shattered on the rock face. Lloyd rolled and began reaching for his weapon, but long before he could reach it a monster of a man jumped off a ledge above him and slammed into him with the largest hammer Rou had ever seen, easily five feet in length.

Lloyd went limp and Rou began scrambling over to make sure he was alright, but before he could even get his feet under him he took a hard blow to the head and went down. He lay conscious but unable to move as a trio of shaggy looking men gathered around Lloyd, one of which looked familiar.

"This him?" The one with the hammer asked.

"Yeah that him," the familiar one replied.

"Well take of him," the archer spat, "we still gotta figure out what to do with the blue one." He waved to Rou.

"I know I know," the familiar one drew a wicked looking knife and that's when Rou realized who he was. He was the bandit that had run from Lloyd when they'd been ambushed, and now he was back for a bit of revenge. He pulled Lloyd's head up and fingered his blade, "This oughta teach you to mess with the Roaming Spears!"

No! Rou forced his body to move, flinging out his hand and yelling, "Fuuma!" A vortex of wind picked up and hurled Lloyd away from the bandit and over the cliff. If Rou remembered right there was a forest that hugged the cliff below this part of the trail, with any luck Lloyd would land gently in one of their branches. The hammer bandit cursed and hit Rou in the face with the handle, knocking the rest of the fight out of the ambassador and making him go limp. As the darkness swirled around him he closed his eyes and wished, Get help Lloyd, get help!

----------------------------------------------

Rou woke hours later in a dimly lit cave. His head hurt like hell and as he attempted to rub it he found that both his hands and feet were bound tightly together and his mouth had a gag in it. No hand motions, no voice, I can't cast any spells! he realized in a panic. He was completely defenseless and he had no idea where he was or even which way led out of the cave. He took a couple calming breaths before he could hyperventilate, panicking wouldn't solve anything, he needed to look around and glean what information he could from his surroundings. He wasn't sure how much time had elapsed as he couldn't see any daylight from where he was, in fact he couldn't see much of anything except a flickering light coming from around a bend in the cave and shadows passing back and forth in front of it, but he could hear voices and if listened carefully.

"Hey Jorj, this guys some big wig," one of them was saying. He could hear papers being rifled through.

"Whadda ya mean?" A familiar voice, presumably Jorj, responded. The man sounded a bit like the man with the knives but he couldn't quite tell from this distance.

"Hey Jamie, com'er! You can read right?" The first one shouted, he sounded like the man with the hammer.

Another ruffle of papers, "Oh come on!" A third voice said after a moment, probably the Jaime man, "Jorj what did you do? This guy's the Concord Ambassador! You know how much shit you got us into? You know what they'll do to get this," silence for a moment, "Rou Yagrit, back?"

"So we ransom him," Jorj replied with a grunt, "they want him back then they can pay for him."

"Brilliant!" Jaime shouted with a note of sarcasm, "We'll just set up a meeting, all line up in a row so they can bury us together after they add a dozen more holes to each of us! They aren't going to just let this go, Drek'd rather risk killing him than give in to demands."

"You dun know that!" The hammer guy chimed in, "Maybe he's too valuable to lose."

"Ya?" Jaime came in again, "You willing to bet your life on that?" Silence. "Ya I didn't think so. Look just take his stuff and kill him, the knight didn't see our faces and they might never find his body if we take it deep enough."

"Ya, a'right," Jorj said after a minute, a sound like metal on leather, "I'll take care of 'im."

Rou felt his panic coming back and this time he tried to use it. He pulled and twisted hoping a knot would come loose. He wasn't a particularly fit man but he still had some muscle on him, enough to lift the Prime Minister off his fat ass when he fell and that was no lightweight, but he still couldn't get any give on the ropes. He could feel his heart pounding as he saw the shadow grow larger and finally come to life in front of him as the bandit emerged, both knives drawn and a wicked smile on his face, "Well look who's awake," he slowly walked around Rou, savoring the ambassador's fright, "I always have wondered what you blue boys bleed. You could bleed candy or acid, I don't know," he brought the knife up to Rou's throat, "but I look forward to finding ou-"

He stopped suddenly and jerked towards the tunnel. Rou had no idea what had grabbed his attention but he was grateful for even the momentary respite, but he was only in the dark for a moment as he heard a scream emerge from it a second later.

"Dan! What the hell's goin on out there?" Jorj asked, his voice shaking already.

"I don't know," the hammer guy shouted back, "I can't see any-" the rest of the sentence was cut off in a gurgle.

"He's here!" Jaime yelled, his own shadow growing larger as he ran towards them, "it's the-" a sword flashed by, embedding itself in his chest and the wall. The body slumping against it, but not falling.

Jorj ran back and grabbed Rou, lifting him to his feet and holding his knife to the ambassador's throat as a man, soaking wet, in a white cloak emerged and walked towards them, drawing back the hood as he did so to reveal it was Lloyd. "Stay back!" Jorj yelled pressing his knife into Rou's throat so hard a bead of blood began to form, "Stay back or I'll kill 'im!"

Lloyd stopped, but made no move to leave, "Turn him over, now."

The bandit pulled Rou even closer, "You think I'm stupid? I give him up and you kill me. Nah, what's gonna happen is you're gonna stand right where I can see you while me and the blue cueball here walk out of this cave and ride away."

Jorj started to move towards the exit but Lloyd stepped in his path, "There's two ways this can go down. You can kill the ambassador, in which case I will make the rest of your days the more painful than you can imagine. Or you can let him go and I'll let you take your chances with the storm. Your call, but I am not leaving here with that man. Now what's it going to be?"

Jorj's grip tightened and for a moment Rou was afraid the man would kill him just to deny the knight his prize. Rou closed his eyes and silently prayed to his gods that the man would let him go, no on else had to die, couldn't he see that? Why spite him? What good would it do him? Was it really worth his life just to get back at the man? it made no sense, but the amount of pressure the bandit was putting on his throat, he was sure he wasn't going to live to see another sun rise.

For a long moment no one talked, no one moved, they just stared at each other as Rou prayed. Then Rou felt himself being pushed forward, falling into Lloyd's arms and being twisted out of the way as the bandit screamed and attacked, hoping to use the ambassador's body as a shield to kill both him and Lloyd. But the knight twisted as they both fell, using his armor to deflect the knives, then lunging out with his left bracer. Click! the hooks emerged and slashed the bandit's face, not killing him, but cutting deep into muscle and bone. As Rou and Lloyd hit the ground they rolled away out of reach, and by the time Lloyd emerged on his feet Jorj was already out of the cave and into the storm. For a moment he looked as if he would give chase, but he stopped himself at the last second and set to work untying the ambassador.

It felt like an eternity before he was finished, but when the last rope fell away Rou felt like he'd been given a second chance at life. He rubbed the circulation back into his wrists with a broad smile plastered on his face. He was just about to turn and thank the knight when a thought struck him. His smile turned into a frown and he rounded on the man, "What the hell were you thinking?" He burst out startling them both, "I pushed you away so you could go get help! Instead you come right back for me alone? What if there had been more than you could take out on your own huh? What would you have done then? Why do you insist on doing everything alone?"

His last words echoed around them trailing off into silence. Lloyd's smile vanished and he looked ashamed, "I made a promise-"

"I don't care! Do you think Drek cares? Do you really think he would scold you for getting help when you needed it? Is this some macho bullshit?"

"No-"

"Then what?" His body was heaving with the anger, "Answer me!"

"Because I don't deserve it!" Lloyd shouted back, silencing the ambassador with the confusing statement. Before he could ask what me meant the knight continued, "Look they kept our horses, for whatever reason, probably to sell them. I'll get them saddled while you get yourself together, they made a mess of your papers and we need to get going. It took me an entire day to find you and as it is now we'll have to ride all night to get you to your ship in time. So just, meet me at the mouth when you're ready." Lloyd walked away, leaving Rou there with his thoughts.

Dammit why did I do that? He thought to himself, He just risked his life to save me and I yelled at him. What's wrong with me? He got himself on his feet and headed around the bend towards the candle. He emerged in a large chamber, larger than the one he'd been held in, with one exit directly opposite him, a large table at the center surrounded by chairs, and sleeping mats along the walls. The candle that was giving off the only light in the room was probably the only thing not knocked over. The chairs were all in different states of disarray, the table was leaning to one said on a broken leg that had probably snapped when 'Dan' had fallen on it with half his torso shaved off, and his papers were everywhere. He sighed and set to work, gathering them together in short order and spending the next ten minutes sorting them into place before putting them back in their original satchel, all the while regretting the outburst he'd had with the knight. He knew he should have been grateful but it was all just so reckless and he couldn't figure out why the man would accept no help, And what did mean he didn't 'deserve it'? He shook his head and headed out, following the cave until he saw daylight, or rather lightning.

Lloyd was standing at the mouth of the cave, both horses beside him, and a pair of dead bodies across from him. Outside it was night time and storming pretty hard, it was the wrong type of weather and very treacherous in the mountains, but he knew the knight, for whatever reason, was obsessed with keeping his schedule. So he simply hoped on his horse and followed the man out into the storm, pulling a cloak out first and donning it to keep himself as dry as possible.

They rode for a long while without saying anything, only the patter of rain and the crack of thunder breaking the silence. Both men were in a sullen mood and the rain didn't help one bit, both knew they should apologize, but both too stubborn to budge. Finally Lloyd sighed and fell back alongside Rou, "Do you remember when you asked me how I became a High Knight?"

Rou turned his head away, "I don't really see how that matters n-"

"Just," Lloyd interrupted a dejected look on his face, "listen, please."

Rou turned back to him, looked him right in the eye and saw his sincerity. He really did want to talk, "OK."

"When I turned nineteen I was promoted to knight by the King and sent to the border guard at Fort Roshaun to get some experience under my belt. So I did just that, I didn't care how much of a shit posting it was, I was just happy to finally be a knight and even more happy to learn I would be under the command of Mihael Sobria, a High Knight of Lenus. The year I spent there was boring, I got no real combat experience, but I did learn from Mihael. We spared regularly and became fast friends and within six months I was widely regarded as one of the best fighter at the fortress. In truth it was the best year of my life, I had good friends, a great mentor, and an easy life. I was respected and I never lacked for 'company' on long nights." The Knight actually smiled at that, "But it was too good to last. At the end of my year Mihael got a letter requesting him back at Castle Gaelen. Now most High Knights travel alone because no bandit is suicidal enough to try and rob them, but it is still tradition for any knight to bring an escort to spell them for night's watch.

"Well we were such good friends that he chose me to accompany him, so I accepted in glee. I was thinking to myself, 'I must be special, he wants me to meet the King!' So giddy was I that I insisted we set out that night and Mihael, against his better judgment, agreed. We rode all night and all day, energized as we were by each other's company we saw no point in taking breaks for food or rest. After all, who in their right mind would assault a High Knight? It was unheard of and besides, we were two cocky knights, more than enough to take out anyone who challenged us, or so we thought.

"That night, as we were looking for a place to make camp we were ambushed. We never saw them coming, they snuck up on us, whether by their own skill or just our own tiredness I'll never know, but they managed to get the jump on us and subdue us without a fight. I was knocked out in the process so the next thing I remember was waking in their camp, tied back-to-back with Mihael. They must not have realized we were awake for they continued to speak of their plans while we sat restrained. They planned to assault Roshaun in the night, take the fortress for themselves, and then sell it to the Giants or the Shapeshifters, whoever offered more, and they figured they could use us as hostages if things went bad and trophies if they went well.

"We were knights, tired, weak, and hungry maybe, but knights all the same and we knew we couldn't let that happen. You remember my bracer?" Lloyd held it up, it was the one with the hooks, "This was originally Mihael's he had it custom built because he always believed in having a weapon to attract attention and another to do the damage, or in this case 'one for them to find and one for you to keep'. So he began sawing through the ropes, playing dead whenever a patrol passed in view, until we were free, then we wait for the next patrol and ambushed them, dragged them out of sight, and took their weapons. Freshly armed and free we then had to come up with a plan, we couldn't let these guys take Fort Roshaun, but at the same time just running for it would have got us caught. So instead we found the nearest tent and began working our way through the camp, taking out what men we could without being seen and gradually working our way around to the trebuchets... they were rather well armed. There we found the oil they would use to soak the arrows and rocks they would set ablaze and send at the fortress. We took what we could and splashed it everywhere we could around the camp and when we were finally done we lit it up.

"The camp went up in a ball of fire drawing immediate attention from both the occupants and the Fort. We knew even with the set back and the warning signal they could still mount an assault if they rushed and maybe even succeed, and we also knew there was only one way to stop them. We stood in the road, blocking their path and daring anyone to try and pass. I don't know how long we held that line, it could have been minutes, it could have been hours, I fell into a trance and just focused on surviving and killing as many of the bastards as I could. What I do remember is how that night ended, I don't know exactly what happened, if I failed to finish someone, or if one of them just managed to get past us, but somehow one of them ended up behind me and I knew the moment I saw him that I was dead, but Mihael had different ideas. He leapt in the path of the blade, his stomach spilling open on the man's sword and gave me just enough time to remove his head from his body. I wanted to cry, I wanted to ask why, I wanted to turn back time, but there was no time for tears, no time for grief, I just had to keep fighting, and Mihael kept fighting beside me. Oh he knew he was dead already, we both knew that, but he had a reason to fight and dear lord did he fight. I had never seen a man fight so many or so gracefully then or now, I don't know if he'd just been holding back on me or if as a reward for his service the gods granted him this power for what time he had left, all I know is I still strive to live up to his last moments.

"It wasn't long after that that our forces arrived and routed the men. We lost only one man that night, Mihael, his sacrifice bought our forces the time they needed. They wanted to take him back to the Fort, see if the doctors could help, but he and I knew it was no good so we kept going, riding as fast as our steeds would take us and even made it to Castle Gaelen before he died. He was given a hero's funeral and buried with honors and I, as a reward for my part in the battle, was appointed as his replacement." Lloyd removed his bracer and handed it to Rou, it was old, older than it looked at any rate, but well maintained. It looked as if he polished it daily, "His last words to me were, 'take it Lloyd, it saved my life countless time and I hope it'll do the same for you,' they were the last words he spoke to me, or anyone." Rou handed it back and Lloyd slid it back on, "And I don't deserve it."

The rain had stopped, and Garield was coming into view. "Mihael thought differently," Rou tried to encourage him, "he wouldn't have given it to you if he didn't."

"Not this," Lloyd waved the bracer, "I didn't deserve to be saved, and I am nothing compared to him. I don't deserve to be a High Knight."

Rou looked at him askance, "Is that why you insist on doing everything alone on keeping all your orders? Because you don't feel you deserve to be a High Knight?"

"I couldn't even keep a High Knight safe, couldn't escort one of the most capable warriors alive through the damn forest," he rubbed tears away, "how can I keep anyone safe?"

"Look Lloyd, what happened isn't your fault, he did his duty and he kept everyone safe, that includes you. Don't mope about how you couldn't protect him! Live up to his memory! Repay his sacrifice by keeping what he most loved safe, his country."

Lloyd was quiet for a while, long enough to them to leave the trail and begin the final leg of their journey through the grasslands. Rou worried he might have made the knight more introverted than he was already and was contemplating what to say to lift his spirits when the man finally replied, "Thanks." And rode on ahead.

It took Rou another hour to make it the rest of the way to the docks and when he finally dismounted he found Lloyd waiting, guarding the rope holding the ship to the dock and chasing off any of the ship hands the tried to get close. The captain finally spotted Rou and came running, "Sir please, we have to get you on the ship now!"

Rou was confused as the men grabbed his bags and ran up the gangplank, "What? Why?"

The captain guided his horse forward, "That crazy man won't let us leave until you're aboard!"

Rou burst out laughing. So that's why the knight had rushed on ahead without a word, to keep his ship docked long enough to get him there. It was all so ridiculous he couldn't help himself and his laughing drew all sorts of odd looks. When he finally settled down the captain looked confused. Rou leapt down off the horse and grabbed his duffel of papers and pulled a long cylinder from his sleeping bag, I wondered why he gave this to me, he knew I wasn't a fighter. Maybe this is why. "I'll talk to him," he said and walked up to Lloyd.

"About time," the knight said with a smile, "thought I might have to actually hit someone." He stabbed the battered broadsword into the pier, "I kept my promise."

"That you did," Rou replied with his own smile. He supposed, in their own odd way, the two of them had bonded, "I have something for you." he unwrapped the cylinder to reveal a pure white sheath holding an intricately carved broadsword. Lloyd picked it up carefully and tried in vain to pull the sword out, "Use the trigger," Rou supplied pointing out a hanging piece of curved metal that, when the knight pulled it, released the top of the scabbard and allowed him to pull the blade free. Lloyd lifted his brow at the odd mechanism, questioning why it was necessary. "It's a universal scabbard," Rou added, "it can hold just about any sword known in Pangea so it doesn't really grip any of them tightly. Without the locking mechanism, the sword would slide out every time you went over a bump."

The knight still had an odd look on his face but he seemed to accept the explanation. "It's light," he said, surprised, swinging it around a couple times. It was a fine piece of craftsmanship, but very plain, and more in line with what humans considered a claymore than a broadsword in length, "Really light."

"And strong," Rou chimed in. "It's Concord Steel, nigh unbreakable and able to absorb magics. The King gave it to me when I left for Lenus, to protect myself, but I have a feeling you'll make much better use of it than I ever could."

Lloyd shook his head and resheathed the sword, "I can't take this, it's too great a gift."

Rou pushed it back into the knight's hands, "You saved my life, twice. In comparison it's really not much of a gift at all." The man really didn't know how to accept help of any sort.

"That was my job," Lloyd tried to give it back.

The ambassador was annoyed for a moment, trying to figure out how to get the knight to take it when an idea struck him, "Then it's a down payment. You made me keep a promise, now I have one I want you to keep." He put out his hand. It took a moment for Lloyd to do the same, confused as he was, "Promise me you'll never stop. Never stop being who you are, a High Knight, for I can think of no man better or more dedicated to the job. Promise that, no matter what happens, you will keep these people safe as you have kept me safe. Promise me you will honor Mihael's memory and sacrifice."

The knight looked confused, and unsure, not wanting to let either man down but not sure he could keep such a promise, but eventually he nodded, "I promise. And I will keep that promise or die trying."

Rou smiled, "And in turn I will keep my promise to you, not a word of this will ever go beyond the two of us."

------------------------------------------------

Present Day

Rou set the empty glass down and flopped into his seat, I never told a soul. He looked glumly out the window now annoyed that the Brigade's scheduled check-in was late, but knowing at the same time that there was little he could do about it. They would contact him when they could and if they didn't then he would have them arrested. He hoped to just keep them too busy to find Lloyd as he'd yet to find a way to privately communicate with the Knight, but if they proved unreliable then he could remove them altogether. But for now all he could do was sit and have another drink, he was beginning to feel that's all he ever did anymore.

"Sir," his secretary interrupted on the intercom, "there's another call from the Scarlet Temple, do you want to take it?"

"Is it on an encrypted line?" Rou asked fairly certain it wasn't but still hoping the Brigade was only a little late.

"No sir, public channels."

Rou rubbed the bridge of his nose in annoyance. The cult had been trying to get him to join for months now and growing bolder every day. He'd stopped taking their calls weeks ago, but they never stopped and were up to calling him at least once per day. "Then I'm not in, make up an interesting excuse, you're good at that Yash."

"Yes sir," his aide replied.

When the line didn’t immediately go dead Rou prompted the aide, “Something else on your mind Yash?”

“Yes sir, you told me to keep an eye on guard reports for anything out of the ordinary?”

A pit formed in his stomach, “Yes I did. Have you found something?”

There was a pause, “Yes, though I’m not sure what. A couple days ago a report was lodged of a human mercenary with white hair near the Poor District and now I’m getting chatter over the comm crystal of a fight that’s broken out between some foreigners and a group of mercenaries right next door. It’s probably nothing but...”

He considered the implications of what she was saying for a moment. It fit in only the most broad of ways, white hari on humans was rare at a young age, but not unheard of and the Poor District was rife with crime at any given moment. Yash was right, there wasn’t much there to gamble with it, was most likely just a conincidence, “But we can’t afford to take that chance,” he finished aloud. “Send Commander Fajbat to investigate, she’ll know if it’s him.”

“Very good sir,” the intercom went dead and Rou was left with just his thoughts.

He hoped he was making the right call, if this turned out to be nothing more than a coincidence he may well have just blown his only chance to help his old friend. Even if it did pan out it would place him in a very precarious position, helping a known fugitive. He downed the glass, hoping it would drown his fears, I kept my promise Lloyd, why couldn't you do the same?

_________________

Thanks to Dr.Rabbit for the epic sig ^.^

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Aardvark on Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:40 am

Lloyd backed away, left arm forward with bracer ready to take any attacks Mako might launch, and sword held behind him, hidden from view. He studied the old man standing in front of him, watched those calculating eyes for any flicker of movement, while plotting his own attack. He'd quickly taken back to his old weapons and realized that for all their apparent differences, he could still use many of the same techniques he'd use with the katana and kodachi. His sword was slightly longer and double-bladed, opening up more quick attacks and reversals for him, but it was heavier and slower meaning his best course of action was usually to feint and thrust rather than slashes and spins. Lucky for him the blade was Concord Steel, very light, so it's real weight wasn't that much more than a katana. His bracer had been the most difficult thing to get used to and adapt, compared to the kodachi it was far faster and better for blocking, but it's reach was non-existent. This fact had caused him quite a few bumps until he realized he had to view it as a reverse grip. If he thought of it like a kodachi held backwards against the forearm, the reach was the same, and the hooks gave him reach, surprise, and a way to disarm his opponent if he could time it right. Right now his hooks were deployed, taking away his surprise, but leaving him the opportunity to disarm the old man should he get a chance.

He saw Mako drop his sword point and lashed out, slashing up with the sword, getting blocked, and redirecting it to another point to force his opponent back a step. Seizing a on a small opening this caused in Mako's defense he lashed out with a fist aimed at the old man's face, careful to keep the bracer facing out should he try to intercept the fist with his tanto. But Mako did no such thing, instead he pushed forward so that his chest took the impact instead and aimed a swing at Lloyd's throat. The Knight elbowed his arm up, grabbed his shirt, and pulled back, kicking him overhead and hoping to land on top of him, but instead Mako relaxed and kicked off at the same time, making Lloyd release his grip and flying safely over to land on his feet a meter away.

Lloyd continued his roll and emerged standing, quickly spinning and using the residual moment to aim a lunge. Make deflected it but instead of jumping back and repositioning himself the knight drew back and tried again, falling into a style he rarely used anymore, fencing. Darius had been a very flexible Knight when Lloyd had served under him as a Page and then a Squire, allowing him to learn his own technique without insisting on an exact duplication of his own technique, but he had demanded one thing of his squire, fencing. As he had explained, "You can use whatever weapon you want, whatever style you want, but if you wish to be a Knight you must know how to use a sword, and fencing is the easiest way to teach you. It can be applied to just about any type of sword you pick up, even Great Swords if you're strong enough." Lloyd had never been much good at fencing, one of the reasons he didn't become a knight until nineteen was specifically because he'd yet to master it to Darius' standards, but he couldn't deny that it was a good technique to know and now he was very grateful the man had made him learn it.

The style played exactly to his sword's strengths and, as he'd discovered, could buy him vital thinking time while denying it to his enemy. It had certainly given him an edge against Mako, putting the man firmly on the defensive for most of the last hour. He pulled back one more time and lashed out with a kick to force Mako back and give him some space. He was breathing hard now, and the handle of his sword was getting slick with sweat. He didn't know exactly how long they'd been at it, but judging from the smell of his own outfit it must have been at least six hours, and yet Mako still looked as fresh as if he had just stepped out of the shower. The man was infuriatingly calm and unflappable, focused certainly he never gave the knight a moment's rest, but impossible to anger or frustrate and he never tired. He tightened his grip and jumped back into it, settling into a fencing back-and-forth immediately, paying closer attention to Mako's defenses. The man had to be tired, he was just better at hiding it. He'd been at this as long as Lloyd had and had less sleep as well he was much older and smaller than the knight so each action would cost him more energy. There just had to be an opening, he just wasn't looking close enough.

They went back and forth like that for another five minutes before Lloyd saw his opening. Mako's foot would always stutter just a little when he went to attack with his knife, just for a second, but if he could position himself right he could take him down. The knight, as subtly as possible, brought his left foot up close to his right and pulled his left hand back to hide it from the old man's view and continued, watching for his moment to strike. Fencing from this position was much harder as each retreat and lunge required another half second to reposition him, and he was just beginning to falter when he saw Mako foot rise, Now!

Lloyd battered the katana aside just as Mako leaned forward and brought his tanto around in a sweep. The knight brought his bracer up and deflected the blade on the steel sheet then quickly turned it and pulled down and back, grabbing the tanto and yanking Mako off his feet. The surprise on the old man's face was delicious and Lloyd wished he could savor it, but he was dedicated now and had to finish this before the sensei recovered. The knight launched a headbutt, making sure to bring the top of his skull into direct contact with the bridge of Mako's nose assuring he would take the brunt of the blow, and in the process of taking the hit drop his knife. It worked and he reeled back, his eyes shut and and guard down. Lloyd swept his sword up into the old man's gut, doubling him over, then reversed the grip, swept his feet, and landed on top of the old man with the sword at his throat.

He'd won. Lloyd began to laugh and fell back on the mat, overjoyed that he'd finally taken the old man down. He didn't care that it'd taken him two days, he didn't care that Mako had gotten the better of him countless times before, he didn't care that he would probably be swatted by Jun for leaving himself open. He was just enjoying the moment. When he finally did stop laughing he saw that both Jun and Mako were standing over him, smiles all around.

"Congratulations," Jun said giving him a gentle bonk on the nose.

Mako nodded, "Indeed. You are now a fully honed, fully foolish, killing machine," he offered him a hand, "well done."

Lloyd took the hand and stood. He turned to Mako, put his hands together and bowed, "Thank you for everything, sensei."

Mako returned the bow, then laughed, "So you finally call me sensei when it's all said and done. I should expect no less from a fool." He nodded to the his clothes, "I think it's time we took that off."

Lloyd looked down, puzzled for a moment, until he saw the weights, I forgot they were even there. Without a word Jun stepped behind him and pulled a string making the weights all crash to the floor at the same time. He stepped out of them and was surprised at the difference, "I feel lighter? No that's not the right word, I don't feel any stronger I just feel like my body's responding more."

Mako nodded again, "You haven't been wearing it long enough to get any stronger of faster than you were, but you'll find your react better now. And more importantly, you now know how to fight an opponent faster than yourself." He tilted his head at the backroom, "You'll find your armor and weapon back there. Go get changed and come back."

Lloyd went to do as he was told. The armor took him five minutes to assemble on his own and another five to get used to moving in again. It felt odd to be back in it, his range of movement wasn't any more limited than it had been with the weights, but it was still weird to feel like he had some sort of protection again, At least I won't have to explain every bruise to the rest of the group. He smacked his forehead, he was an idiot. He'd been here for over a day and he hadn't told anyone where he was going, Smooth Lloyd, leave a note next time.

When he emerged, still kicking himself, he saw Mako changed back into his old outfit, a red shirt and black pants, booth loose on him, with a store logo on the chest which consisted of a circle of weapons of all kinds with a picture of the store in the center. In the old man's hands were two swords, real swords, a katana and kodachi, with black handles and forest green sheaths.

Jun came up beside him and motioned him over to Mako. The two walked over together to stand in front of the sensei, "Kneel," Jun whispered in his ear, guiding him through the ceremony.

As soon as the Knight had gone down on one leg the old man began, "Lloyd, you were the rudest, most impatient, and most foolish of any pupil I have ever had the displeasure to instruct." Lloyd winced at the insult, "But you are also the fastest learner I have ever seen, and the most dedicated warrior I have ever trained. So it is my honor to promote you to the rank of Master," he patted his head at that.

"Now stand," Jun whispered.

Lloyd stood and looked into the most serious face he had ever witnessed, it was sobering. "As proof of your rank I present these blades," Mako handed him the katana and kodachi, "they were forged by my own hands as you have been, but they are only as strong as their wielder. Remain true to your honor and true to your training, and they will never fail you."

Lloyd examined the blades, admiring the craftsmanship for a moment before putting them back, "I won't fail."

"Good," Mako put out his hand and it took Lloyd a moment to realize he was asking for a handshake. He grabbed the offered hand and gave it a good firm shake, "I know you prefer to be a fool, but promise me you'll break them out every once in a while."

Lloyd smiled and they both laughed. And for a moment they were just a group of friends enjoying each other’s company, but the moment didn’t last. Suddenly the wall erupted in a plume of dust, and they all ducked instinctively out of the way, Lloyd grabbing and shielding Mako on the way down.

When the rumble of impact finally subsided the knight turned over onto his back and came face to face with rock as large he and Mako combined. It had crashed down right where they were standing, they were lucky to still be alive. Lloyd stood and waved the dust away from his face as he looked for Jun. The old samurai was emerging from behind the boulder, looking to have just nearly missed being crushed as well. Both men were confused for a while, unable to grasp exactly what had happened until they heard a familiar voice.

“Frick,” Damean’s voice shouted as another thud rocked the ground, “whatever you’re doing don’t stop!”

Lloyd and Jun looked at each other a nodded. Jun bolted through the hold and disappeared down a side alley while Lloyd slipped the katana and kodachi through his belt and pulled his own sword off his back, “Mako-sensei,” he called over to the old man, “call the guards I’ve got to help my friends!”

Mako nodded and disappeared into the back room while Lloyd popped through the hole in the wall. Immediately he noticed the two Kinder, Damean, and Kelgori off to his right. Kelgori looked like he was keeping conscious by just a hair and his magic was doing little good against the mercenaries that were coming from that direction. Frack looked completely unconscious, Stock was no where to be seen, though his handiwork was evident, Damean looked tired and worn as if he’d been going at it too hard for too long, and it took the knight a moment to actually realize the Halfling with dark skin and nearly white hair was Frick. The little man was emitting dark shadowy tendrils from his hands towards their attackers, and, at the moment doing the most damage.

The knight knew what he was seeing, strong Darkness magic, but he had no idea how or when the Kinder had picked it up or what had happened to cause his appearance to change so drastically and at the moment it didn’t matter. They were down two people and Damean and Frick looked to be on their last legs. Lloyd looked to his left, saw that Jun was engaging a pair of attackers there, but that there were far fewer of them and he made his decision. He lashed out with his left hand and set a ball of fire spiraling at one of the two Jun was engaging then turned back to the group and yelled, “Damean, defense, the rest of you fall back!”

Damean looked back in shock, Kelgori with a small smile, and Frick looked like he would have hugged him given the chance. All of them looked like they had questions, but none of them asked, they just began pulling away. Damean gathered what energy and water he could pull and flashed his hand up, creating a wall of ice nearly as high as the surrounding buildings, then turned and helped pull Kelgori down the alley while Frick was forced to carry Frack on his back. Lloyd looked up, spotted Spock on the rooftops and motioned him to help Jun who had managed to bring down both men and was now slashing his way out into the open. Four men were on the ground, writhing in agony but not dead as they approached. Lloyd understood what the samurai was doing and he even sympathized, but he couldn’t risk these four coming back to stab them in the back so he quickly dispatched them as he ran to join Jun.

Lloyd jumped into the fray, taking the two in the back by surprise and dealing them each a fatal blow, then spun around and went back-to-back with the Samurai as more mercenaries flooded in to close the gap. “They just keep coming,” Jun shouted over the din as he deflect one blow into the air and delivered a follow-up slash with his second blade’s back edge to the man’s temple. It wasn’t a killing blow, but it would probably keeping him out of the fight, “And I don’t like the look of them,” he nodded over to the right.

Lloyd caught a glance as he deflect one attackers mace into another’s head. There looked to be a row of Mages on both sides, well away from the melee, but within striking range. “Artillery,” he answered as he kicked one attackers knee-caps out while grab deflecting a strike from another on his bracer, grabbing him, and hurling the two into each other before stabbing down through both of their sprawled bodies, “the minute we eliminate the short range threats they’ll open up with magic.” He took a moment to look around at the half a dozen remaining men and back at the alley the others were emerging from and further down at the ice wall that was being broken apart as he watched. This wasn’t an idea situation, Kelgori was all but useless, and Frack was dead weight, which left Stock, Frick, and Damean their only answer to long range magic. Damean and Frick were almost dead on their feet already and Stock couldn’t have many arrows left by now.

Jun flourished his katana and spun, giving Lloyd enough warning to duck as the samurai swept his blade in a circle, opening up two more opponents and forcing the rest back a step, enough for Stock to put an arrow in three, and open the last up for a dull blade to the skull. Suddenly their cover was gone, and just in time for the rest of the group to emerge with the two warriors, as if they had planned it to have them completely open the moment they were all bundled together. “Damean, Kelgori, cover!”

The two mages jumped out in front, bending walls of sands, water, and ice up to intercept the attacks being thrown at them, giving the rest of them a moment to rest. Stock dropped in behind them just in time to avoid a bolt of lightning, “It looks bad,” he said with a more grim than usual expression, “there’s at least fifteen of them out there, not counting the company we’re about to get from back there,” he waved at the crumbling wall of ice back in the alley.

Lloyd looked down at the stone in his hand, hoping to see it glowing powerfully and ready to be used, but disappointed to find the glow still weak. He cursed his luck, with the Dragoon power he could have ended this in seconds. It figured the one time he really wanted and needed it that it would fail him, “Frick,” he called, he didn’t want to do this because he had no idea what the Kinder’s new power meant, but they really didn’t have a choice, “you and Stock hold them off as long as you can, fall back to the fountain if it gets too hot.” He spun to the others, he needed to make a distraction, get the fire away from the rest of them so they could strike back or even escape, but Damean was the only one mounting decent defense, he was even spelling Kelgori, but he needed cover himself if he was going to draw the enemy’s fire. He was completely at a loss for what to do, Kelgori wouldn’t be able to cover him, and if he told Damean to cover him he’d be leaving the others exposed.

Suddenly another man dropped down into their midst, cloaked in plain clothes and with a hood down so low his race was completely unknown. His hands were glowing, and before Lloyd or Jun could pounce on his he’d already placed both hands into the backs of Damean and Kelgori. Both men gasped, more in shock then pain, and suddenly their bending became much faster and stronger. He danced under Jun’s attack and backed away from Lloyd’s follow-up, raising both hands, “You don’t have time to worry about me,” he said, “I’ve placed a spell on your friends, but it won’t last long, I suggest you take advantage of it.”

Before either warrior could ask questions the man ducked out of cover and began running towards the nearest collection of Mages. Lloyd wasn’t sure whether to curse him or praise him, the young man was a complete unknown, but one thing was for sure, Damean and Kelgori were back up to par for the moment and they needed to capitalize on it.

“I’m out!” Stock yelled back at them from beside Frick. The duo seemed to have done a decent amount of damage and Frick was managing to bunch their attackers up in confusion.

“Grab Frack, and fall back to the fountain,” Lloyd called, an idea forming, “Frick you too, Damean will cover you. Kelgori,” he looked to the dark mage, “give Jun and I support, we’re going to take the fight to them!”

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Daether danced across the field, spinning away from attacks and bounding over and around stalls to avoid being hit. These weren’t talented Mages, they had a lot of power but not much control and it was easy to tell when they would attack, where they would attack, and with how much power. The only thing that was making this diffcult for the Elf was the sheer number of angles he had to watch, but that would all change the moment he got within range.

The Ranger bounded up a stack of crates and ran along the wall, defying gravity for a moment before crashing into their midst. Like he expected the five Mages he dropped into immediately broke ranks and ran. The first one barely managed a step before the Elf opened his throat, the second didn’t fare any better as Daether caught his pants leg, flipped him on his face, and ran his scimitar through the Mage’s spine, the third managed three steps before the Ranger flipped over his head and opened his stomach and kicked out to send the body sprawling onto his other two comrades who he finished with a pair of knives to the back of the head. He stepped back, and admired his work, he was just about to signal the dragoon that a path had opened when a gust of wind knocked him off his feet. He tucked the fall into a flip and came up a few feet away to see another group of Mage mercenaries emerging from the crowd. It was then that he noticed they, along with the five he had just taken out all had the same tattoo on their wrists, the same symbol, though they didn’t give him the time to see any more then that as another, more powerful gust forced him back towards the fountain at the center of the square.

Daether was sure the mistake had cost him his life when he spotted a ball of fire blazing in his direction faster then he could dodge. He put his hands up instinctively to shield himself, but the hit never came and a moment later he opened his eyes to see a wall of water in front of him, catching the fireball. “Consider us even,” the human mage said without stopping, “now give Frick a hand,” he nodded towards a Kinder who looked like he was about to pass out from exhaustion.

The Ranger didn’t argue and rushed over, about to cast another healing spell when he noticed a stone in the back of the Kinder’s neck. Not sure what he was seeing he came up short and checked the Kinder’s aura, he had expected the light playful aura he normally saw when he encountered Kinder in the Sundered Island, but this one was tinged with a powerful darkness that seemed both separate, yet entirely inseparable from the Kinder. Whatever had happened to the Halfling, Daether didn’t know, but his healing magic wouldn’t work on such intense dark magic. He’d been able to overcome this with the dark mage because the darkness was part of his personality and not related to his magic, though he sensed it once had been, and so it wouldn’t conflict with the spell, but this Kinder was something else, something he’d never seen before. But he still needed help, so the Ranger dashed down the alley and into the fray.

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Stock felt helpless. He was out of arrows, and out of range. He had his knife out and he was pretty good with it when he got close, but none of the Mages were anywhere near him, and unlike Lloyd and Jun who had armor and the stranger who seemed to be able to tell exactly where the next hit would come, he couldn’t risk leaving the protection Damean was providing. Even Saph was getting more action, having stuck with Kelgori at Damean’s command to keep the dark mage safe from close range attacks. But there was nothing he could do, only watch as the battle unfolded around him.

Frick was alternating between his dark tendrils and his staff. The tendrils seemed to confuse anyone they touched, causing them to turn on each other, and with his staff he could intercept any ranged attacks the Mages down there might be launching by intercepting them with explosive force. He even seemed to be working well with the stranger as the tendrils would skitter around the man, open and close when he jumped, and even move away when he approached a target. The stranger was himself a blur of motion, twisting, slashing, twirling, even ascending vertical walls at times to flip over behind a group of people. The two of them seemed to be in perfect sync, as if Frick could read the strangers intentions and anticipate them, but the effort looked to be draining the Kinder of more then just stamina. If he didn’t stop soon there was no telling what would become of him.

Stock looked to see if anyone was open to lend the Kinder a hand, but Damean had his hands just covering him, Frick, and the incapacitated Frack. Lloyd and Jun, meanwhile, were drawing most of the fire as Kelgori deflect as much as he could away from them while they closed the distance to the nearest group. Lloyd was out in front, using spinning his special sword to catch and redirect the smaller magic bursts and occasionally using them to fight back, but to little effect. As he watched Jun leapt out behind the knight and put on a burst of speed belying his age, his first lunge pierced one Mage’s heart, killing him instantly. Stock had noted the samurai’s unwillingness to kill the first few people he engaged, going out of his way in some instances to avoid killing the person he engaged, but that had fallen by the way-side when this became an obvious concerted effort to kill them and now he was demonstrating a level of skill he doubted any of them had seen before. Instead of pulling the blade out the old samurai slashed out to free it, flourishing it back to his left hand and lashing out with a move so fast it would appear as if the Mage beside him had just keeled over dead. He ducked with the falling body as a shaft of plasma passed by overhead, then grabbed his short sword in a backhand grip and jumped ahead, plunging it into the Mage’s heart even as he pulled his katana up in a slash to remove the fourth, then spun low in a leg sweep that missed it’s target, but forced the last Mage into the open where he caught the third target’s redirected shaft of plasma from Lloyd. They were clear for a moment, with an open access isle, but before either man could capitalize on it they were beset by an onslaught of earth and steam as more mercenaries emerged from the crowd to fill the whole, forcing the two to beat a hasty retreat back towards the fountain as a wave of fresh fighters began assaulting them.

As Stock watched archers began appearing along the roof tops and took aim at the beleaguered trio. “Up!” Stock yelled, getting Kelgori’s attention long enough for the dark mage to gather a batch of sand, form it into a sicle and hurl it at a pair of archers, cutting them open and removing the immediate threat. It was pure luck Kelgori had had the strength to perform that given his injuries, but the move gave him an idea. The young ranger turned to Damean, “You can make shapes with ice right?”

“Yeah, why?” The young mage answered between gasps.

“Think you could manage arrows?”

Damean actually smiled, “Yeah, I think so.” He jammed his foot back, and twisted it, an odd move, but the area behind him splashed up and turned to ice, each splash of water forming into a rugh approximation of an arrow. They wouldn’t be easy to use, or very accurate, but they were arrows and Stock still had his bow.

Stock smiled, unslung his bow, grabbed a handful of arrows, notched and fired. One went wide, but the other two found their mark, eliminating two more archers who had found their way up after the first pair fell. Oh yes, he thought as he notched another arrow and turned to the alley, these would do just fine.

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Frisk wasn’t sure how he was doing any of this. The stone was giving him power, but he didn’t understand how or why, he just knew what to do. He knew if he concentrated on someone he could invade their mind, cast illusions and force them to see and believe impossible things. He knew where the stranger was going to be, what he was going to do before he did it and his tendrils adjusted for it. He knew where everyone was, what they were doing, how well they were faring. And he knew they weren’t going to win. He didn’t know how he knew this, but he did and he also knew that wasn’t good, the voices were getting stronger, he could even identify a couple and what they were saying wasn’t good.

”Strong this one.... delicious.... weaker.... death... his death... cannot allow... unavoidable....”

He knew what they meant, he had “seen” what happened when the stranger and Jun had broken through the mercenary lines and now he could feel them out there, the hidden in the crowd. There were dozens at every point, reinforcements that wouldn’t activate until the front line fell in battle or from fatigue, their only objective was to keep the pressure up, exhaust them so they could be killed. That last part he knew for certain, these men were not trying to capture them or send a message, they were there to kill them, but each time he tried to go deeper he was met with a wall of pain and a sinister laugh that would haunt his dreams.

Frick went down on a knee. His body was getting weaker, but he knew he could keep this up if he pushed, something the voices were against, ”Weak... more... no longer.... death.... flee...flee... FLEE!” He felt like grabbing his head and screaming out, but if he did that he would black out he knew and he wasn’t about to leave Frack and Lloyd to die. “Come get me ya bastards!”

The voices receded, until just one remained, ”Not yet, we have not been sated”

Frick vision swam and he screamed out in pain, before he knew it he was on the ground, darkness closing around him until nothing remain, nothing bu the voices.

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Lloyd heard Frick scream as he backed towards the fountain, spinning magic away as quickly as he could move. He chanced a glance over and saw that Frick was on the ground at the edge of the fountain and that the tide of bodies he’d been keeping away from them was now surging through the alley where the stranger was fighting. In a moment the mysterious man vanished without a trace in a sea of bodies, Lloyd looked away, sorry for the loss of an ally but more concerned with the Kinder they could still save.

“Jun!” Lloyd shouted over the din of battle, catching the samurai’s attention and nodding to the downed Halfling. He didn’t need to say another word, the warrior split off, scooped the little man into his arms and rushed back to the center of the fountain. The knight turned to Kelgori, “Back to defense, we’re not going to breakthrough so our only hope is to hold out until help arrives.”

Kelgori shook his head, “If help was coming it would have been here by now, face it Lloyd we’re on our own.”

Lloyd understood the reasoning, even agreed with it. They’d been fighting for damn near ten minutes now, plenty of time to respond to a call in a city like Eparg. The guards weren’t coming, whether they had been payed off by whoever hired the mercenaries, or someone in power had decided they were on his shit list the knight didn’t know, but they couldn’t rely on being rescued this time. He looked at Kelgori, then Damean, both were tiring against, the healing magic had worn off and with the stranger gone they wouldn’t be getting a third wind. Both Kinder were down, Stock was using arrows Damean had fashioned out of ice, and Jun and Lloyd had been training for days before this, they weren’t going to pull out of this one.

Lloyd set his jaw, “Then we’ll make a last stand,” he finally replied to Kelgori. “We may die, but I’m sure not going to make it easy for them!” The knight turned and bolted to the edge of the fountain where the alley attackers were coming from and began hacking away, removing the arm of one man while digging his hooks into another, and spinning both bodies back into their allies. Jun jumped in beside him, copying an Iajutsu technique he had seen Mako and Lloyd use to gut two men in a single swing, deflecting blows with his wakizashi and armor when necessary.

They made a considerable, a blur of blades that made the mercenaries pause, but for every one they got to back away, two more rushed in and while most met an untimely death others managed to strike blows on the pair. A cut leg here, a bruised or broken bone there, and enough broken ribs to satisfy a Giant. They were slowly losing and by the time they’d been at it for two minutes their efforts had turned from inflicting damage to preventing injury. Lloyd felt as if the weight suit was back on and had been increased by another hundred pounds and Jun looked as if his sword had quadrupled in weight. Stocks arrows had long since stopped coming as Damean was forced to constrict his defenses more and more and forgo providing more arrows for the young Ranger who had himself turned to using his knife to defend the unconscious Kinder with Saph. Kelgori was all but down already having completely withdrawn inside a hardened ball of sand to protect himself and keep from being a liability.

“Down!” Damean yelled pulling his hands up. They all hit the deck as the mage pulled all the water they were in up and frozen it in a bubble over them, even freezing the mercenaries that were inside with them. He thumped down on the now dry floor, “That’s it, I’ve got nothing left,” he nodded to the bubble, “once this fails we’re completely open to attack.”

Kelgori’s sand fell away, he tried to stand, but collapsed the moment he got to one knee, “I’m dry too I doubt I could even pull the shield around myself.”

Stock knelt next to Saph and stroked her fur, coming to the inevitable conclusion they all had, even Saph seemed to know there was no point in fighting. Lloyd looked to Jun and saw that the samurai was sheathing his swords and heading to check the Kinder, leaving Lloyd alone with his thoughts. He checked his left hand again, but the stone was still dim, it could not save them and he could no longer keep it safe. He sighed and sat down with his legs crossed, “It was a good run,” he said to no one in particular, “sorry for getting us all killed.”

“One hell of a speech fearless leader,” Damean replied sarcastically, he didn’t even have the energy to smile at his own small joke.

“I never imagined this was how it would end,” Kelgori spoke up after a moment, “I fought Satan, somehow going out against a bunch of mercenaries just seems pathetic.”

Lloyd looked at their bubble, it was already beginning to crack under the strain of constant bombardment, “Trained for two days, and now that I’m finally a master I’m about to die,” he laugh mirthlessly.

“Could we get Kinder out?” Jun asked looking them over, “Maybe Stock?”

Stock shook his head, “I may not look it, but I’m barely standing myself, no way I could carry two Halflings out under fire, I doubt I could carry myself out.”

The bubble was webbing and beginning to splinter now, they had less than a minute left before their protection was completely gone. Lloyd stood and walked to the edge of the bubble, sword ready, “I’ll try to clear a path, buy you guys as much time as I can.”

“Lloyd...” Damean began.

“No arguments,” the knight interrupted. “I got you all into the this mess and I know I can’t fix it, but I can at least give you guys a chance to escape.” He was going to die, he knew it, but it would be on his terms fighting to save his friends. He’d go down swinging, Just like Mihael.

Jun nodded and stooped down to grab the two Kinder, holding one under each arm. Stock likewise, bent and propped Kelgori up by the shoulder. Damean sighed and waved Saph over, “You know this’ll never work.”

“Maybe not,” Jun replied, “but it better to die trying than wait for death.”

Lloyd smiled and looked up, the entire ball of ice was trembling, little shards raining down around them like glass. It was time, the bubble burst, collapsing all around them. The knight leapt out without waiting, swinging at the first shape to take form in the collapsing ice. His sword met steel and stopped, his eyes were still adjusting to the sunlight but he made out a spear. Whoever was wielding it was very strong as their grip did not budge as he put his full weight into the blow, switching tact he lashed out with a kick the user predictably avoided and then he shot out a fist hoping to catch the spearman in the face and blind him for a moment, but that too missed. Thinking quickly he twisted his arm to bring the serrated bracer around and yanked back, expecting to tear out his opponent’s throat but instead coming into contact with the shaft of the spear? But that was impossible, there was no way anyone would have been able to account for his bracer, not in this mess of a fight.

Suddenly a very familiar voice chided him, “Whoa there Lloyd, I know it’s been a while but damn!

Lloyd slackened his grip and let his eyes adjust to the light. He looked up and all around them were guards in yellow and red armor, arresting their attackers or battling stragglers unwilling to surrender. The entire square had gone from destruction and pandemonium to a tidy little round-up by the guards of Eparg, some of their attackers were even being treated for wounds, even now a group were heading towards them with the intent of treat Kelgori and the Kinder. And the person leading it all was standing in front of him, a tall Mage with white hair, pointed ears and a powerful build, dressed in yellow armor with a black shoulder pads signifying the rank of Commander. A woman Lloyd hadn’t seen in years, “Jen?!”

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Lloyd bounced as the carriage they were riding in dipped into a pothole for a moment. Normally the discomfort would have annoyed the knight and he would have scolded the driver with reduced pay if he did not watch where he was going, but the situation they were in was anything but normal at the moment.

“This is a weird day,” Damean said sitting across from him with his hands behind his back. Immediately after being saved by the guards they had turned around and arrested the group, claiming they were a safety hazard. They had cuffed them all with a mana binders and thrown them into an old horse and wheel carriage still used in the Poor District. They were now in the process of being transported to an undisclosed location. Normally they all would have bulked at that, but they’d all been to tired and grateful to care when they were taken into custody.

“This?” Kelgori asked beside the young mage, “I tell you I fought Satan to a standstill, you don’t blink, but this is weird?”

Damean shrugged, “He turns into a mythical Dragon Knight,” he nodded to Lloyd, “so the Creator being real, not so surprising. Being saved and then arrested by Lloyd girlfriend in the course of five minutes, that I didn’t see coming.”

Lloyd groaned, he was never going to live this down. “She’s not my girlfriend,” he finally responded, “I told you it was a fling.”

“I’m pretty sure it stops being a fling the fifth time you go down on her,” Damean answered with a smile.

“I’m confused,” Stock said from the back of the carriage. The boy looked dazed, like he couldn’t believe most of what was happening. Lloyd had to give him credit though, less than two weeks ago he’d been living in a forest, scavenging his own meals and living by no rules other than that of the wild, and now he was in a city more advanced then he had ever dreamed, caught up in affairs that related back to his early childhood. “Who is she?”

“Her name’s Jennella Fajbat, she’s apparently been promoted to head of the Body Guard Corps, but when I knew her she was simply an escort for the ambassador I escorted back and forth across Lenus,” Lloyd explained.

“And you were boning her,” Damean interjected.

The knight banged the back of his head against the carriage wall, he was definitely never going to live this down. “It wasn’t like that. She and I were so tied up in our work we never really had time for social lives and we were both so different that even when he could get time away from our duties no one ever approached us in... that way,” he cringed, this was going to be more awkward then he had thought, “and we both still had... needs... so we came to an agreement.”

“OH!” Jun shouted. They had been conversing in Lenuvian since they had left the dojo, and while Jun could manage the language, he wasn’t always quick to pick up on subtle meanings, having been raised speaking Nipponese. While Lloyd understood and spoke Nipponese well and knew the old samurai was actually quite eloquent in his own way, the rest of the group didn’t and he ended up coming off as naive too much of the time. “Marriage of convenience yes?”

Damean snickered at the usage of the word. “Yes,” Lloyd answered, gritting his teeth, “we would take care of our urges whenever she happened to be escorting the ambassador, but that’s all it was.”

“Only you could make sex sound painful,” Damean spoke up.

Lloyd bashed his head against the carriage wall again, hoping it might finally knock him unconscious if he just kept at it. The worst part of all this was he’d have to explain this all over again when the Kinder woke up and he was not relishing the prospect of explaining human intimacy to the two Halflings. But at least he would have time, the Kinder and Saph were being transported separately, Saph because she required a special harness to restrain her, the Kinder because they had serious injuries. The guards had put Kelgori in with them after determining he simply had a concussion, but Frack had a fractured skull that needed to be treated immediately and Frick’s mysterious circumstances were troubling enough to warrant precautions. The knight was worried about the two, they’d been with him so long he had stopped worrying about whether or not they could handle themselves, he’d never stopped to consider that their size meant they could take as much of a beating as others.

The carriage jolted to a stop and the back snapped open to reveal bright sunlight and Jen along with a couple of Body Guards. “Out,” she motioned with her head. She had become much colder when it was obvious others were close enough to hear them and Lloyd had lucky had enough wits about him to recognize that they were still not entirely safe, but he had no idea beyond that what was happening, he just trusted Jen.

Lloyd slid out and looked around. They were surrounded by well-maintained, but very plain buildings of mostly square shape and varying sizes. What shops were around were few and very straight forward with their products and the people were dressed in all manner of styles from plain and ratted clothes to brilliant bouquets of color and fine clothe, but all had a look of bored resignation on their faces. They were in the Government District.

As the rest of them slid out of the carriage the two Body Guards lined up in very specific spots, planted their feet, and gestured down in unison. A rumble began and as the knight watch a ramp descended into the earth to reveal the entrance to what looked like a prison or dungeon. Jen motioned them ahead and as they began their descent Lloyd’s guess proved correct. The walls were perfectly rectangular and made out of the natural earth around them, the walls were interspersed with a doorway and a shield emitter every five meters and in between them were fire lights, magic illumination.

They pulled to a stop at the bottom and Jen joined them, yelling back up, “I’ve got it from here boys. See you back at base.” The structure rumbled as the entrance ascended back to street level and they were cut off from day light. Jen looked around for a second before pulling a blue crystal from her belt and twisting it. “That’s enough of that,” she said as the cuffs vanished.

“About time,” Lloyd rubbed his wrists, the cuffs didn’t cut circulation like steel cuffs did, but they cut off all mana flow and the stone in his hand had been throbbing since they were put on, “what’s this all about Jen?”

She crossed her arms, “Nice to see you too.” She cupped her hand to her ear, “What was that, oh ‘Thank you so much for saving me Jen, I’m eternally grateful!’ Why you’re welcome Lloyd.”

The knight smiled despite himself, “Sorry, it’s good to see you Jen, it’s been too long.”

“Yeah I hear you’ve been busy, assassinating a king, becoming the Prophet of Luxus, all sorts of shenanigans.” Jennella sighed and shook her head, “To answer your previous question, Rou’s been busy. He’s been trying to get to you ever since you turned up at the Scarlet Temple a few days ago, trying to protect you more specifically.”

“Protect me? From what?”

“From Rangori Luxus,” Kelgori tensed at the name for a split second before he got control of himself back, Lloyd was curious as to what that was about but Jen was still talking. “He’s after you for some reason. From what information we’ve been able to gather he claims you’re a heretic and theif, but Rou thinks there’s more to it then that.”

“So those attacks we’ve endured?” Damean asked.

Jen nodded, “All organized by Rangori. He’s planning something but we haven’t been able to figure out what yet,” she waved them to follow and began walking through the prison complex, “what we do know is that your arrival has sped up his plan. He’s taking risks and that’s what has allowed us to move you out of harms way. There’s an obscure law that allows for the detention of foreigners who get into one or more public disputes while in Concord, the purpose of this is to determine whether or not they are a threat or being threatened by elements within the city. This is supposed to be used to make the city as safe as possible, but for the most part it’s ignored and we let the City Guards sort it out. However in this case Rou’s used it to secure a private meeting and move you to a secure location, you see this law is classified as a diplomatic issue and because the Prime Minister is still a diplomat he is allowed to pass judgment in person.”

“Rou’s the Prime Minister now?” Lloyd asked. He hadn’t kept up with Concord politics after Drek died because Frugal had all but banned any diplomatic talks or envoys in Lenus.

“Yeah and I’m the Commander of the Body Guard Corps now, so straightened up,” Jen slapped his backside making him jump. She smiled and continued, “I’m taking you to Rou now, but I have to warn you, we have no idea who can and cannot be trusted so unless Rou or I give you the go ahead this must stay strictly between us. Understood?”

“What about Frick and Frack?” Stock asked.

“And Saph,” Damean added.

“The Halflings?” Jen glanced back, “They’re being treated and they’ll be moved when they’re stable, as for the... dog, she’ll be held until we can find a way to get her back to you that won’t draw too much attention.”

“What’s your story?” Kelgori suddenly asked. He’d been so quite it was startling to hear him speak and the question was odd given the circumstances.

Jen cocked her head at him, “My story?”

“You’ve got mixed heritage,” the dark mage supplied, “that’s rare enough on it’s own, but to have mixed heritage and be part of the Guard Corps, their leader even, is unheard of.” He squinted, “That and I can’t tell what you’re heritage is.”

Jennella scoffed, “Oh that, I suppose the hair is a dead giveaway isn’t it? To answer your question though, I’m a little bit of everything, my dad was half Mage half Elf, my mom was half Human half Giant. So my skin’s blue, my ears are pointed, my body’s ripped, and my hair’s white. Dad was a minor diplomat and used his pull to land me a job, though he insisted I had to learn some kind of magic, and of course that meant my mother insisted I learn how to fight on my own. So I appeased them both, I’m great with a spear and shield and I can use Enhancement and Clairvoyance magic to augment my abilities, the Corps immediately noted my unique skill-set and I advanced quickly.” She shrugged, “Not much to it then that, I don’t have a sob story about how tough it was growing up or some inspiring bull shit about overcoming prejudice. If someone had a problem with me I cracked their skull, and they never made the mistake again.”

The group was silent for a moment as they took that in then Damean turned to Lloyd, “How exactly did you two ever do it? She’s your complete opposite.”

Jen laughed, put her arm around Lloyd and gave his head a good rub, “Ah I took pity on the poor guy. Have you ever seen him try to flirt? It’s embarrassing to watch, made all the worse by the fact that he really tries. I have never seen worse pick-up lines, and I’ve been propositioned by Giants. So I took pity on him and even gave him a little souvenir,” she rubbed his hair again.

Lloyd blushed and Kelgori laughed, much to the confusion of everyone else. It took a good two minutes before he stopped long enough to explain, “When a Mage and a Human have sex, if the human has no magic, and I mean absolutely none, then the Mage’s genetics force mana passages open in the Human. The result, oddly enough, is white hair.”

“You’re kidding,” Stock replied, complete disbelief on his face.

“Nope,” Jen replied, “might as well have peed on him because he’s marked for life.” They all had a good laugh at that while Lloyd felt like crawling in a hole to die, Jen was a nice enough person but she had no concept of privacy or subtlety.

“Jen,” a new but familiar voice chided, “try not to make our guest die of embarrassment before we save him.”

They had been walking for a good while now and Lloyd hadn’t been tracking their progress at all, but apparently they’d gone quite a ways as standing before them for, just outside a large crystal shaft leading to the surface, was a man Lloyd hadn’t seen in years, “Rou.”

The Prime Minister bowed slightly, he was still wearing the same old robes he’d always worn, but these were made of a much finer material and the symbol in the center was embroidered with colors to match each element. He was a little pudgier than Lloyd had remembered, but otherwise he was exactly like the knight remembered. “Nice to see you Lloyd,” he said in a gentle voice, “looks like I’ll be saving your ass for a change.”

_________________

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Aardvark on Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:40 am

It took three days to reach Concord and by the time their ships docked it was already evening on the island. Snake and Needle, with the appropriate courtesy for humans, bid the captain farewell and hurried away. They looked around the city, lost in a maze of stalls and buildings far larger and more numerous than any they had seen in either Darlar or Lenus the few times they had visited. Snake found it new and facinating, badly wanting to explore the city and see all it's exotic wares. Needle on the other hand hated it all, calling it obscenely opulent and constantly wincing at the flood of unfamiliar aromas in the air.

"What do they need with all this?" Needle was saying as they strolled through a side street lined with all sorts of cloth from all over Pangea, "What's the point? Clothes are clothes, they serve one purpose, so why have so many?" He spotted a particularly thin piece of cloth, "And I'm not sure that even counts!"

Snake shrugged, "They want to look good, and that's how many humans and mages do so." He patted his companion on the shoulder, "Enjoy it brother! We're the first shapeshifters in centuries to walk the streets of Concord! There are things here I didn't even dream existed!"

Needle snorted, "Oppulence, nothing more. We've gotten by for centuries with none of this," he lifted a hand to indicate the city at large, "we didn't need it then and we don't need it now."

Snake nodded. They both knew they didn't see eye-to-eye on this and there was no point in arguing further. It would only serve to drive a wedge between them and bring tension that could get them killed in the heat of battle. Unlike humans they didn't argue semantics and try to prove their point when it was obvious the other wouldn't agree, they simply stated their opinions and their reasons and left it at that, if it brought them to blows later so be it, but further arguing would only hasten the conflict.

They walked up a steep cobblestone path bringing them so high that to someone unfamiliar with the city’s design it would appear as it they were looking down on an entirely seperate city. Finally hours after landing on the island, they came to the Scarlet Temple and just stared for a moment, mouths agape. The arcs at the Oracle's oasis had been impressive in scale, but this was just over the top. The pillars and statues guiding people to the entrance were the size of buildings in some cases and each was different from the one beside it, sometimes in minor fashion like a staff becoming a wand, but others were in entirely different stances and a couple were of species that had not walked the land since the time of the Great War. The temple itself was even larger, with red and pink marble framing an entrance so large their boat could have sailed through without touching the sides, the Temple itself was covered in crystal and so finely shaven that if you tore off a large enough chunk you could feed a family of four for a month with the money you got from it.

"I think we're in the right place," Snake said quietly.

"It's so luxurious it makes me sick," Needle whispered back with open disdain. Luckily this didn't gather any attention as most people who walked by it seemed to fall into the same slack-jawed awe. Needle dropped his eyes to the entrance and the hooded guard at the entrance, "Look."

Snake looked at where Needle nodded and saw what his brother meant. The guard was checking something on the wrist of each person who entered before letting them pass and whenever someone came up who didn't have whatever the guard was looking for they were turned away. All except other mages who were led through a separate passage by a second guard. "Looks like we'll need to ditch these bodies soon than expected," he muttered. Both of them were mimicking humans at the moment so they would be denied, they'd need to find a Mage of two to ambush. Which was fine with both of them, they were getting weary of these bodies already, so the only real question was, "Do we go after members or hopefuls?"

Needle put a hand on Snake's shoulder and guided him off to the side, out of earshot of the path, "A member would be simpler, but a hopeful might be a little faster. It's a religion so they might have some sort of indoctrination ceremony, you know one away from the congregation. Easier to get away and find what the Oracle sent us after that way." The Oracle had told them they must seek the Scarlet Temple out, that they'd find what they needed to know there, but she hadn't said what they needed to know, or if it was even something they could learn from a person, a writing, or simple observation.

Snake nodded, "Makes sense, but we should get as much information as we can before we pick our victims. It wouldn't do for us to get in there only to discover they indoctrinate us in front of the entire cult."

Needle looked away for a moment as if thinking. "That's another thing. I think it may be best to have just I go in that way," Snake began to object but Needle held up his hand, "if they figure us out for whatever reason it would be better to have you tailing to work as backup. You can change into a spider and sneak in on the my clothes, that way if it is a public ceremony you can still get away and try to find what the Oracle sent us here for. And you've always been better than me at sneaking around."

Snake understood immediately what his brother meant, and now that he thought about it he could provide better backup without a Doppleganger in him. The devices were wonderful for infiltrating, but they forced you into whatever appearance they copied, and changing into another without removing them was difficult and tiring. They could usually only maintain a change for a few minutes before they lost control and reverted back to the copied appearance. "You're right." He looked around, trying to find a center of activity where they could eavesdrop and ask questions without attracting too much attention and eventually spotted busy cafe a hundred meters down the street from the temple, a yellow building with both indoor and outdoor seating extending all the way to the main road. He pointed it out, "What do you think?"

Needle nodded reluctantly, "Not as good as a bar, but it'll do."

They spent the better part of the next hour eavesdropping on the oblivious patrons, and asking innocent little questions or the waitress and nearby people. The people were rather free with the information they wanted and almost encouraged them to ask more. It seemed the religion was called Luxus after the high priest and was popular at the moment all over the nation. Normally they accepted adult visitors of any race, but lately they had closed their doors to all non-members and only accepted certain hopefuls, something to do with a brawl in town that many members of the cult had been involved with. The High Priest privately indoctrinated each member and afterwards they were never quite the same, some saw this as positive as they tended to be more generous and kind, while other were suspicious of the sudden change, though the suspicious were in the minority and treated with hostility by the others. The members were also branded with a tattoo of a wand spitting a ring of fire around their wrist, that glowed when the guards passed a hand over it. They learned about the cult's history and more than a few pointless details along with a boat load of gossip about this or that member, but got no more useful information. It was getting dark and as they had really only had enough money to order refreshments and some fruit, they couldn't excuse sticking around any longer.

They left and sat on a nearby bench outside the Temple under the guise of enjoying the view, but really watching for a Mage to separate from his comrades and head somewhere the two could ambush them. They got lucky as a young Mage, without the mark of membership, headed around the back of the cafe, probably looking to take a shortcut home. The two swiftly but subtly approached the same ally, proceeding along and looking for where the Mage has gone when they ran right into him. Needle didn't waste a second, he pulled his Doppleganger out, allowing him to shapeshift easily, transformed into a boa constrictor and quickly cut off the man's wind pipe. The Mage struggled for a few seconds before passing out and letting Snake drag him behind a nearby dumpster.

Needle quickly transformed back to a not quite perfect Fred, while Snake grabbed a Doppleganger and jabbed it in the Mage's arm. It took a minute to absorb the identity, so Needle used the time to remove the Mage's clothes while Snake grabbed a crate out of the dumpster to hide the body in. The needle glowed green to show it was ready and Needle yanked it and jabbed it in his body, his brother stuffing the body into the crate, covering it, and dumping it back in the dumpster, while he underwent the transformation.

A minute later a fully clothed Mage walked out of the ally and headed towards the Scarlet Temple, a spider clinging on inside on pant's leg. Snake hadn't had time to learn any of their victim's details, one of the pieces of information they had learned was that once the sun went down the Temple closed, and the sun had been skirting the horizon as they took the Mages down. He shouldn't need any of it, but it was risk not to know, one could never be sure what situation would arise.

The ride was bumpy, and he couldn't see a thing, so instead he had to rely entirely on what he heard and what he could see out of the bottom of Needle's pants. Soon they came to a stop and Snake heard what he assumed was the Mage's voice, "I'd like to join Luxus," Needle said directly.

He could hear cloth shuffle as if the guard was looking around, "A little late don't you think? Better to come back tomorrow."

Snake could feel Needle tense for a moment, as if he was about to strike, but he soon relaxed. "B-but," he began putting a waver in his voice, "I need the High Priest's guidance! My father's just died and I have no idea what to do with the company he left me," Needle continued, playing on a mutual weakness of both Mages and humans, money, "I want to use it for the good of Concord and someone told me the High Priest might be able to help."

The guard was silent, as if considering his options. For all he knew the Mage could be lying, but if he was telling the truth the High Priest wouldn't be happy with him for turning away a potential asset, or so Snake guessed. Finally he said in a muffled voice, "Take him in."

They began moving again as Needle was guided through the Temple by what sounded like several guards. It took a long while and they passed through many doors and along many halls without Needle giving him the signal to jump off. Wherever the High Priest's office was, it was deep within the Temple. He was just beginning to wonder if the guards were leading Needle in circles when they came to a stop and Snake caught some muffled shouting too muddled for him to catch any of the words. Needle pulled his foot up and tapped the floor twice with his toe, the signal to get off and continue on his own, and it wasn't too hard to figure out what his brother wanted him to do. They would only keep him outside the room if they didn't want Needle to learn what the occupants were shouting about.

Snake dropped off and quickly skittered under the nearest door he found. He emerged in a room of plain brown stone with a raised platform in the center, on the platform was a wooden desk with many sheafs of paper scattered about and a chair in front and behind it. Along the walls were many tapestries depicting events Snake couldn't begin to guess at and various odd looking instruments he didn't understand in the slightest. Along the back wall hung a red curtain cutting off a good position of the room from view and in front of this curtain were a pair of Mages, one with a long white beard and violet robes, the other completely devoid of hair, much younger, and with red robes. The older Mage was yelling, "I give you unrestricted access to our funds to buy the best mercenaries you can find, you fail. I allow you to recruit directly from our members at great risk to myself and Luxus as a whole, and you fail again. Now I've got to appease the King and Yagrit's pulled the 'Prophet' out of our reach!" He pulled his hands up and flexed his fingers on the word 'Prophet'.

"I-I'm s-s-sorry your Em-em-eminence," the young Mage stammered, he seemed afraid for his life, "it w-won't happen a-g-gain."

"You're right, it won't," the old Mage replied. He reached out and grabbed the young one's head, his hand spilling pure blackness spread to encompass the whole room in darkness before finally coming back up to normal and releasing the young Mage.

The young Mage's attitude changed dramatically, his fear was gone and he seemed to remember nothing of whatever they had been talking about, "What is your command?"

"Bring me someone competent, I don't care if you have to search the entire island, just do it!"

The young Mage stood and opened the door, nearly bumping into Needle and the guards before winding his way through the group. The old mage had seated himself and was holding his head with his eyes closed so he didn't notice the group of people outside his open door until one of them spoke up. "Your Eminence? We have a new hopeful who wanted to see you immediately, he has questions about what to do with his father's company."

At the mention of a company the old Mage sat up straighter and beckoned Needle forward, "Come in then, let's talk." Snake had to scramble out of the way and up a wall to avoid being stepped on as Needle entered and too his relief, only he entered. The guards pulled the door shut as the old Mage continued, "So what's your name young one?" He asked coming around the desk and leaning on it in a more informal manner that would garner more trust and encourage openness.

"Narn," Needle answered, "Narn Kulpin."

"Hello Narn," the old Mage put his hand out, "I'm Rangori Luxus, the High Priest of Luxus. You seek guidance yes? What exactly is it your father's company does?"

Needle hesitated for a moment. Apparently the Mage hadn't actually had a father running a company, that would have been too easy and convenient for them, so now he had to come up with a company... and they hadn't been on Concord long enough to actually learn of any specific ones. "He runs a trading fleet, I mean I do," he looked down, managing to fake sorrow, "I'm still not used to him not being here."

Rangori looked at him askance but said nothing to challenge the claim, "I see. I'm sorry for your loss, but be glad for he is now in the arms of the Great Maker!" He smiled at Needle, a very disarming smile, "So what guidance do you seek?"

"I want to know how to best use it to benefit Concord," Needle replied quickly.

Rangori frowned and stood, walking around the chair, "That's a little odd, asking business advice from a priest don't you think?"

Needle floundered for a minute, neither of them had expected this much perception from the Priest and while they'd planned for many contingencies, they'd forgotten to actually come up with a cover story. "You're right," he finally managed, "this was stupid, I should go."

Needle began standing to leave, but Rangori pushed him back down, "No stay. It's quite alright, you're confused, your father just died, it's fine," something in the man voice seemed to suggest otherwise. "Why don't we go again, slower. What skills do you have?"

"I'm good at stalking and a great fighter," Needle replied. Snake winced at this, his brother had likely forgotten to slip back into the Mage's personality and instead answered directly.

"Oh?" Rangori lifted his brows, "That's quite rare for a Mage." He stroked his beard as if he was thinking, "So you perform Cloak magic? Or is it Enhancement? Would you mind showing me?"

Needle blushed and was probably cursing his own carelessness, "No sir, my magic is Surge. I don't think it's really safe to perform it in such a small room do you?"

Rangori's eyes narrowed for a moment, his suspicion was growing palpable, "Oh don't mind me, I can handle it." When Needle made no move to comply he said, "I can't really admit you if you don't at least show me what you can do. How will I know how to guide you if I don't see for myself what you're capable of?"

Needle stood hesitantly, searching his mind for a way out. They knew they could copy a victim's magic ability to an extent, but Surge was an advanced magic and required far more than a basic understanding to use. Even if you knew exactly what to do advanced magics were not always possible for a practitioner as it required very acute control over their own mana, something they couldn't transfer with the Dopplegangers yet. His brother went to the center of the room and, as subtly as he could, cast a glance around to look for Snake, most likely trying to signal an attack. The moment he tried this Rangori would know something was up, but if they timed it right Snake could pounce while he was distracted.

Snake shot up the wall, climbing as fast as he could towards the ceiling, but still unbearably slow for Needle. His brother delayed as much as possible, clearing the area, shaking the stiffness away, but Rangori was becoming impatient, "Why don't you drop this charade?" He asked, slowly approaching, "You've been lying to me since you entered the room." Needle straightened at this and the old Mage just smiled, "Oh don't look so surprised, you did pretty well in the beginning, but you're not good enough to fool an old pro." He stopped a few feet away and held his hands up. One was sheathed in complete darkness, the other in pure white light, "I am a Master of Dark and Light magics, so not only can I read your mind, I can put you through so much pain you will beg for death's sweet release. So why don't you tell me who you are and what you're doing here?"

Snake was just about ready to jump the old Mage and sort all this out later when Needle saw him and gave a barely perceptible shake of his head. The message was obvious, I've been caught, don't blow your cover. Whatever it was the Oracle wanted them to find was more important than either of their lives. He turned his attention back to Rangori, "I'm looking for something that someone told me you'd have it, or know how to get it."

It wasn't technically a lie, but it was vague, and this seemed to give the old Mage pause, "What are you looking for and who told you about me?"

"That's as much a mystery to me as it is to you," Needle replied. Again, this wasn't technically a lie, they really didn't know what they were looking for and they didn't know the Oracle at all. It was a stretch, but in the right state of mind this would come off as the truth, it all depended on how Needle viewed the Oracle.

Rangori grabbed Needle by the throat with his Light magic hand and held him there for a moment, but nothing happened and a second later he dropped him and turned away, "I see." The old Mage took a seat behind his desk and steepled his fingers, "So what is it you want with me... shapeshifter?"

The sudden revelation of their species nearly caused Snake to lose his shape, How did he know? But Needle didn't seem surprised, and Snake felt decidedly left out of the loop, "I want in. Like I said I don't know what I'm looking for, but I know it has to do with you. I'm a good stalker, a good fighter, and as you've already seen, I can change into just about anything. I'm sure you can find something for me to do."

Rangori was silent for a while, thinking. "You're not surprised I discovered your secret?" He finally asked.

Needle smiled, "I may not be able to perform magic, but this body knows much of the subject. Light magic can cast illusions, but in the hands of a master it can also reveal them. Normally this would be a failure, but you stand nothing to gain by revealing my nature and everything to gain. A shapeshifter can go places you can't reach."

"True enough, but why should I trust you?" He asked carefully, "Once you have what you're looking for you've got no reason to stick around, and I already know I can no longer trust anyone to be who they are."

"The question you should ask is: Can you afford not to trust me?" Rangori's eyes narrowed at the implication, but Needle continued, "I'm not stupid, I know you've got a problem, and I also know I can solve it. Besides, you have my secret, and if nothing else I stand more to lose if news gets out that Shapeshifters invaded Concord than I do to gain by betraying you."

The High Priest glared at his brother, obviously angry that he'd been tricked, but tempted by the offer or having them as tools to further his goals. Snake just hung there, unsure what the old Mage would do and what he should do if the man turned on Needle. Despite the importance of his mission, he would risk attacking if he thought they could get away with it. But he didn't need to as Rangori simply nodded, "Very well, I'll keep your secret in exchange for your assistance. I've got someone I need found and your skills would fit the job perfectly."

--------------------------------------------

The Lunar Brigade walked the streets of Concord impatient and agitated. After agreeing to work with the Prime Minister he and Clide had discussed details all through the night, lasting until daybreak, finally ironing everything out just in time for them to gather their things and head out to a meeting spot near the the center of town with Mr. Yagrit's contact inside the Scarlet Temple. From there the man had taken them through another maze of walkways and alleys to ditch any tails they may have picked up ultimately bring them deep into the city’s poor district. After nearly 8 hours of constant walking they had finally settled down in an inn to rest until their contact saw an opportunity to insert them into the Temple. Their opportunity came the next day near noon, they had been sleeping in after so much time spent walking and hammering out details with the Prime Minister so when their guide had rushed in and told them he’d gotten word that a large group of cult members had died in a failed ambush attempt and the Temple was looking for members to replace them they’d had no choice but to accept the opportunity or risk not getting one at all.

So they had mobilized half-asleep and walked through half the city to a secret meeting spot set up by one of the priest's to recruit new 'members' near the docks and been told they needed to trudge to meeting place in the poor district. Zara was about ready to level the priest when they’d heard and Laro couldn’t blame him. They were in full armor with helmets and everything and lugging Plate Armor around was tiring, but the guide said he knew a shortcut that would cut an hour off their travel time.

It was now sunset and there was no end in sight. The city had long since ceased to be amazing and was now just confusing and agitating with the sudden dead ends and winding roads. Laro had flipped his visor up and was just about ready to ask if they were lost when they passed a market square that looked like it had been the site of a major conflict. Stalls where trashed with their contents scattered all throughout the square, walls were burned, cracked, or missing altogether in one case, and quite a few bodies were littered all over, one was even frozen inside the fountain at the center. Guards were all over the place, blocking the scene off from gawkers and examining the bodies for evidence.

"The hell happened here?" Zara asked aloud, flipping his own visor up. but nevertheless one of the guards blocking the square answered.

He hadn't asked anyone in particular but regardless one of the guards they were passing answered, "Brawl between some foreigners and some of the Luxus nuts." All of the guards were wearing identical sets of armor with the Concord symbol embossed on the chest, the only real difference being that some wore red armor while others wore yellow, the one that answered Zara's question was one of the yellow guards.

"Everyone alright?" Zara asked, it would draw attention if he didn't at this point.

"Cultists are mostly dead," the guard replied, "some are injured and we've taken them into custody. The foreigners were taken in as well for their own protection." The guard looked them over real quick, "The cultists don't like foreigners and while you look like a capable lot I still suggest you be careful."

"Will do," Zara replied and they kept going.

Laro waited until they were out of earshot to ask, "What was with the different colors?"

"Different guard posts," Darius flipped his visor up as well. "Concord has a lot of visitors of all different sorts, so instead of using different symbols for different posts they use colors. Red is a standard city guard, Yellow is more of a bodyguard posting used for high ranking officials, and Green is for the Royal Guards."

"What about their military units?" Laro asked, each type of guard would likely have different levels of skill and he wanted to know what to expect should he need to fight one.

Darius cocked his head as if confused, "I don't think I've ever seen a military unit in Concord. Blue maybe, or White. They haven't had to mobilize in a long time."

"It's all of them," their guide spoke up. He had never given them his name for 'security' reasons so they just called him Guide. He was a little man, human, shaggy blonde hair, not much past five feet in height, and very weak by the look of him. As he had explained he had managed to get indoctrinate late one night while he was drunk and whatever had apparently happened to the others had never changed him, but because he had the mark he could access the Temple any time. When the Prime Minister had stumbled across him raiding his garden they had gotten to talking and when the Prime Minister found out about the mark he had hired the man to be his inside spy. But the little man had never gotten much past normal member so the information he could feed was limited, but still enough to possibly get the Lunar Brigade lodged deeper in the organization. "Concord doesn't have a military," he continued, "when they need to send troops they recruit from the three guard corps you mentioned and when they come back they are sent back to their previous stations. The King discovered a while ago that having an idle military was a waste of resources, so he assigned them a guards and just calls up what he needs when a problem occurs."

"Efficient," Darius nodded impressed, "but only feasible because Concord is so advanced. A single fully armed Mage squad is comparable to dozens of our own troops."

"I do find it odd you know about Royal Guards though," their guide said after a moment. "The Royal Guard protects only the King, his family, and the throne, and I know for a fact they never leave the Triceta. So how exactly do you know about them?"

"They do leave, if the King leaves."

Their guide looked confused, "The King hasn't left the Triceta in more than thirty years."

Darius smiled, "I may not look it, but I'm nearing fifty myself. I was just sixteen, a squire to one of the High Knights of the time, when the King came to personally congratulate King Drek on the birth of his son. Not only did I see the Royal Guard while they escorted the King, I got to meet him briefly."

The guide looked astonished, "That's a great honor. Only a select few have ever met the King in person."

"I keep hearing you call him King," Laro interrupted, "but you never say his name. Why not?"

"Concord's King has no name." The guide frowned at him, "He gives up his name when he is elected."

"Elected?" Laro was now confused, "You mean when he's crowned, when the old King dies."

Darius shook his head, "No he means elected. Concord doesn't have a monarchy like Lenus. The King is just a name for the leader of Concord. A King is elected whenever the old one dies and they serve their entire life. The exact politics elude me, Concord's government is... elaborate."

"That's putting it delicately," Zara chuckled. "Every high position requires an election, and each office serves a different amount of time, on top of this there are restrictions as to who can run for each office but anyone who meets them can run, even if their a bar tender."

Their guide shook his head, "It's not that bad. In order to run you have to be a Mage species, have at least five years experience in the field you want to run for, and be over fifty years of age."

"Fifty!?!?" Laro's mouth was agape.

"Mages can live to be three hundred," Clide supplied, as before he was the only one of them without helm, their public face. "The current king has been ruling a century already." The leader looked over at Laro, "You have to get used to thinking outside the box Laro. When we're outside of Lenus all your knowledge of the world becomes useless. The Elves can live twice as long as Mages and the Lost were said to live for thousands of years. Giants live to be fifty at most, Shapeshifters can hit a century without much effort, and Xel'Naga can live indefinitely when submerged. You have to know these things Laro, know your enemy and you will always have the upper-hand."

Laro nodded and fell silent. Darius seemed puzzled about something and was staring at Clide a good five minutes before he finally spoke, "What's bothering you Clide? The kid's a newbie, but he's trying."

Clide shook his head, "That scene back there. There were scorch marks, arrows, and ice shards everywhere, not to mention several cuts and outright decapitations on the bodies. Sounds a lot like Lloyd and his little band of misfit's work to me and if he's in the custody of some high ranking official it'll be that much harder to get to him."

"Clide, it's Concord." Darius explained, "This is the source of all modern magic, of course there were scorch marks and ice shards, the arrows and cuts were probably from the foreigners the guy was talking about. Do you really think Lloyd would be stupid enough to engage in open conflict? He's trying to hide for god's sake!"

"Yeah and maybe he didn't have a choice!" Clide answered.

"The Prime Minister wants Lloyd off the island as much as we want him back in Concord," Darius replied, "he'll contact us if he finds anything."

Clide shook his head, but agreed anyway, "I suppose you're right. I just don't trust him."

"We don't really have a choice," Zara spoke up, "if he spills the beans on us we're dead. We have to trust him."

Clide put up his hands in surrender, "You're right, so let's just get this over with. We're hours overdue to report so let's stop talking and get a move on."

The Prime Minister had given them a green communications crystal tied directly to his private line when they had left had asked for reports of their progress around midday each day, but as the opportunity to actually infiltrate the Temple had arisen around the time they would normally contact Mr. Yagrit they had decided to put off contacting him until they actually had something. But at the moment the sun was already dropping behind the horizon and if they didn't contact him within the next couple hours the man would assumed they had run and out them as High Knights from Lenus.

The rest of the trip passed in silence. It wasn't very long before they reached their final destination and Laro could hear a crowd of voice coming from what sounded like a street over when the guide pulled to stop and turned to face them. He took a deep breath, "Once we go through this ally," he point to an alley off to the left, "we'll be among members and hopefuls to the Scarlet Temple. So that means no talking, if someone asks you a question ignore it, if a priest asks you a question answer with as little information as possible. Your cover isn't very good, and providing you fake credentials would only remove any chance you have of gaining access. They only want mercenaries for whatever reason and only those that won't be missed. The High Priest has run into a bit of a problem and he's desperate to solve it so as long as you don't draw too much attention to your back-story you'll be fine. I'll help you from behind the scenes as much as I can, but from this point forward you're on your own. Are you ready?" When they all nodded, he waved them to follow.

They emerged in a large square full of mercenaries with a wide variety of equipment and cordoned off from the rest of the city by priests, even as they left the alley a few priests emerged to prevent anyone else from following them. The square was old and ratty, completely devoid of any stalls and all the shop fronts that normally sold wares out of the buildings were all boarded up though whether for what was about to happen or just because no one could afford the rent in the part of town he didn’t know. At the other end of the square was a priest standing on a podium and looking out on the gathered crowd. Once they joined the crowd and the last entry point sealed up he began. "Greetings potential members," he intoned, "you have been gathered here to replace our fallen brethren who protected the Temple from all manner of heathens!" The priest hissed out the last word, "Normally we would take the time to indoctrinate you all here and now, but a situation has arisen!"

"I don't like where this is going," Zara commented.

"The heathens that threaten our great Order have escaped justice! Those who were sent after them were not righteous in their cause, they did not believe, and because of that they failed, but no more!" He raised his hands, "The High Priest has requested the most devout among you to undertake this cause, to find these heathens and bring them to justice! It is a dangerous undertaking, but those who succeed will be rewarded!" The crowd cheered, they liked being payed. The cheering continued for several minutes before the priest managed to get the crowd settled back down, "I appreciate your zealous drive, but it is not so simple as that. Only the most righteous may pass undertake this assignment, you must prove your abilities!"

"I'm beginning to regret leaving our weapons behind," Clide muttered, eying the crowd. They were all armed of course, but Clide wasn't referring to that, he was speaking of the Moon Weapons. It was unlikely they would be recognized by anyone they encountered, but they had decided to air on the side of caution and not take the chance. They hadn't really expected to have to fight here and now, but it was looking as if they wouldn't have a choice the way the priest was talking.

"To this end," the priest continued, "we shall hold a tournament. All of you are invited to participate of course, but you are not required. You will be inducted if you choose not to participate, though your reward will be less than those chosen for this mission. I must warn you though, this tournament is to the death, so if you do not feel you are righteous enough to prevail, back out now. You have five minutes to decide." The priest left the podium and the crowd broke out into a cacophony of mutters and murmurs.

Clide turned to the rest of them, "Well? What do you guys think?"

"Might get us more trust," Zara put in, "get us in deeper."

"It could also get us killed," Darius countered. "We don't have our Moon Weapons, we have no advantage over the others and numbers can easily overwhelm us."

"It's a tournament isn't it?" Laro asked. He'd seen many tourneys in his time as a Page and then Squire under Lloyd. They were all one-on-one matches. He was pretty sure they could win in such a match-up.

Darius shook his head, "He says that, but at this hour with this many people? It's more like to be a battle royal with the last group standing being the victors. It's too dangerous!"

"And what if Clide is right?" Zara suggested, "This assignment probably refers to that 'brawl' back in the market square we passed and if it Lloyd is responsible for it we might be giving up our only chance of catching him."

"That was my thought as well," Clide put in, "we stand more to gain from this than we stand to lose."

"We stand to lose our lives!" Darius replied, "And if we die who catches him?"

"If we let him go who catches him?" Zara answered.

Clide looked to Laro, "What do you think? This is a vote Laro and if even half of us feel this is too dangerous then we won't do it."

Laro thought about it a moment. He really wanted to catch Lloyd, but without the Moon Claymore he was little better than a normal knight which meant he stood little chance against so many. It was a hard decision, but his hatred was just a little stronger than his self-preservation "If it's Lloyd he'll escape beyond our reach if we don't do this and I won't allow that. I say we go for it."

Darius sighed but nodded, "Fine, but if we all die I reserve the right to say 'I told you so!'"

Clide smiled, "Noted."

The priest took the podium again and called for those who didn't want to participate to begin heading to the Scarlet Temple, while those who wished to fight stayed behind. The group watched as well over a hundred people began heading towards the back of the square, a huge number, but it still left over fifty mercenaries behind. The priest nodded his approval with a smile when he saw the large batch of people left, "Rest assured brave warriors, if you fall here the Great Maker will favor you in the next life." He lifted his hands and as he did so a large, nearly clear, shield rose over the square, "This shield will keep yourselves and your weapons from leaving the square and neutralize all sound, so no guards will be coming. So without further ado," he clapped his hands, "may the most righteous prevail."

The square erupted as all fifty men pulled their weapons and attacked the person nearest them. The Brigade dropped their visors and went to work. Laro looked to his right just as a large man with a mace came swinging at him, without thinking he grabbed the sword at his belt and his personality changed completely. He had been backing away when he grabbed his broadsword, but now he put his foot down and pushed forward, hitting the mace's chain and tangling the weapon then pushing the hilt up and pushing forward, plunging the blade into the man's chest. The whole affair took a couple second at most, but as he pulled his blade free he was already defending himself from a another wielding a spear. Laro brought his sword down on the shaft, risking himself by rushing past the tip to do so, and the moment the sword snapped his brought it back up in a sweep to take his opponent's head off. He turned and caught a third man's sword on his hilt, turning it aside and slashing his neck open a second later.

Out of the corner of his eye Laro saw Darius pull his own short swords and go to work, slashing right and left as he dove under swings and spun around shields, never using more than a single swipe to take an opponent down before moving on to the next. In the time it had taken Laro to down three men, Darius had removed half a dozen from battle. Laro stepped back as an ax came down, and turned to face the man, cutting off his view of Darius. The man was about Zara's size and heavily armored, the young knight saw only a few openings and took advantage of the nearest one, cutting up under the giant's arm at the joint making him drop his ax, then aimed a kick that knocked his helmet off and swung an overhand blow that split the man's skull. He put a foot on the dead man's shoulder and pushed off to dislodge the blade, then turned back to the melee.

For the moment he was at the edge of the fight, and no one had noticed him, giving him a few seconds to check on Zara and Clide. Zara had pulled a shield and spear when the fight started, and was fighting smart, never risking himself unless a kill shot opened up, and deflecting anyone who got too close. He'd only taken out two men so far, but he wasn't out of breath like Laro was. Clide was sticking with Zara, taking advantage of the shield at his back to concentrate on opponents one at a time. As the young knight watched he pulled a knife from his belt and slung it at an archer that had managed to gain enough ground to begin firing down on them. The archer toppled over and landed on a man below, causing a chain reaction and giving Clide an opening he took ful advantage of. Ten seconds later a dozen more men littered the floor the square as the Royal Knight forged ahead and killed anyone who had the unfortunate luck to be off-balance due to the body falling on them. More than half the mercenaries in the square had fallen now and a good portion of them due to the Brigade's proficiency. The other mercenaries seemed to be coming to the conclusion that they posed the most threat and several were teaming up on them even as Laro watched.

Laro had been still a bit too long though, and hadn't noticed the two mercs sneaking up on him until one of them swept his legs out from under him. He hit the ground with a thud and saw a sword flashing at him. He rolled, avoiding a fatal blow, but taking a gash to his left arm that spewed far more blood then he'd thought possible, some even landing in the swordsman's eye. Laro took advantage of it, rolling back into the man, toppling him over, than rolling up on him and impaling him. But the move left his back open and he felt a sword jab into his side having skidded off the armor over his sword arm. He shot his elbow back as hard as he could, snapping the sword in half then rolled away, grabbing the broken piece out of his side as he did, and came up, hurling it at his opponent's throat and hitting it much to both their surprise.

Having bought himself a momentary respite he checked himself over. The wound at his side was a simple flesh wound and the one on his shoulder had managed to miss any tendons or bones. They were painful, but he'd live. The young Knight stood and immediately had to back-step as a war hammer came flying down at him, the wielder another big man, but without the armor this time. He put his foot down in the hammer's hilt, pinning it, and stabbed through the man's heart. The hammer dropped and so did the attacker, revealing that most of the battle was now over with, only a few stragglers were still giving Zara a hard time, and even as he watch the big man dropped his weapons, crushed one of his opponent's wind pipes with a punch before delivering a spin kick that snapped the other's neck.

They all stood heaving, trying to catch their collective breath as they surveyed the scene. The battle was over, fifty men lay dead in the square and no small portion of them had been taken down by the Brigade. Laro seemed to have gotten the worst of the injuries, though Darius had quite a few cuts and bruises himself none of them seemed to be series, and while Zara and Clide looked exhausted, they had no signs of injury. Laro slid his broadsword back in the hilt and immediately reverted back to his old self which found all the carnage disgusting. Was all this really necessary? Did Lloyd realize the number of bodies his actions had left behind him? Were they even right to pursue this when they caused so much death along the way? In the end he had to question if they hadn't killed more people than they would save by catching the traitor. He shook his head, those weren't questions for him. He had his orders and he would fulfill them and bring his former teacher to justice.

They heard a slow clap coming from the podium and glanced up to see the priest standing there with a broad smile on his face. He seemed to almost not notice that the cobblestone square had gone from gray to red in color or that a good deal of the path he took to reach them was literally on top of dead bodies. He just seemed overjoyed to have found what he was looking for, no matter the lives it cost. "Congratulations righteous warriors!" He began with his arms out as if he wanted to hug them, "You have passed the test and earned the right to do the work of the Great Maker!" Darius simply shook his head at all of it, but the priest wasn't the distracted in the slightest, "Your names will be sung in the halls of the Temple for all eternity should you succeed in the task set before you and you will sit by the-"

"We understand," Clide cut in sheathing his sword and putting on the same act he'd used with Yagrit's aide, "and we know how important this task is to the Great Maker, but our comrades are injured,” he waved to Laro and Darius, “so if you could first give us a few moments to treat our injuries before you guide us to the Scarlet Temple to receive our orders, we would be eternally grateful."

The priest nodded enthusiastically, "Of course, of course. Take what time you need, when you are ready come see me." The priest turned and headed toward the back of the square.

Clide waved Zara over to Darius, “I’ll take care of Laro, you check Darius. Make sure he doesn’t have any internal bleeding.” Their leader knelt down next to the young knight and checked him over, “Nothing too bad.” He pulled a vial out a bag at his waist and dabbed some into each wound, it burned at first but it quickly subsided into numbness, “You’re lucky you have this stuff on instead of the leather armor they assigned you or you’d be missing an arm right now. So pay attention, next time you might not be so lucky,” he tightened the bandage in place to emphasize his point.

Laro gritted his teeth and nodded, “Understood.” He’d gotten used to the Moon Claymore’s enhancement, it had made him cocky and nearly killed him just now. He should have kept his eye out, but ever since Athrun’s death he’d been worried about failing the group, not being there to watch their backs as they watched his. It was a hard balance to achieve, keeping enough sense about you to watch yourself while keeping an eye out for your comrades and, until a few weeks ago, it was something he’d never had to worry about. He was learning though, he just hoped he picked it up before someone else could pay the price for his inexperience.

Clide patted him on his good shoulder, “You’re all set,” he cast a glance over to Darius and saw Zara give him a thumbs-up, “and so is Darius.” He stepped around and waved them in behind him. As they approached the priest, he bowed, “We are prepared to meet his Eminence and beg forgiveness for our sloppy appearance.”

The priest waved the comment away, “Think nothing of it. Your prowess outweighs any rough appearance.” He smiled and motioned toward an alley, “Now, if you’ll follow me?”

It took less than ten minutes to reach the Scarlet Temple's back entrance through dark alleys and deserted streets and by the end Laro could see the spires and towers of the Scarlet Temple off in the distance as their neared the rear of the Temple structure. Suddenly the priest turned and entered what looked to be an abandoned house, something that was confirmed when they entered and saw and empty room with rat infested walls and floor boards that looked like they couldn’t be trusted to hold the weight of a child, much less a fully armored knight. But the priest never stopped, he threaded his way along the floor avoiding the weakest parts of the floor and pulled a door open on the other side that lead to a set of stairs, “Right this way,” he said andwaved them ahead.

Darius gave Clide a curious look behind his faceplate and their leader just shrugged and followed the careful path the priest had taken, the rest of the Brigade following in his steps across the floor and down the steps, as the priest closed the door behind them. The basement was barren, but the stone work looked well maintained and along the wall was an old wooden door. The priest threaded his way past them and whispered into the door so low they couldn’t make out the words. The door swung open to reveal a aplain brown cooridor with torches along the walls and nothing else, no guard or priest, just an empty hall.

As they entered the door of what Laro assumed was the Scarlet Temple, he was amazed by the lack of opulence. With the Temple's beautiful exterior wrought in crystal he had expected the interior to match in some way, but instead they emerged into simple brown halls with stone floors. There was no art, no antiques, nothing, just brown halls leading to plain wooden doors, leading into even more brown halls. It took them a full five to make their way along the winding corridors, through endless doors and around so many corners that the young knight doubt he could retrace even half the route if he had to. Eventually they pull to a stop at the High Priest's office, obvious as it was much more prominently placed at the end of a hall and was the only door they had come to that Laro could hear voice coming out of, though the voices were so subdued he could even begin to make out how many were in there or what they were talking about, though it was obvious very private.

Laro was sure they'd be made to wait until the High Priest was done and was looking for a place to sit, but the priest knocked on the door anyway. The conversation abruptly stopped and a moment later the High Priest answered. He had a long white beard an many lines in his face, if he were human Laro would have guessed him to be about sixty or seventy, but given what Clide had told him about how old Mage's lived it was more likely he was older than all four of the Brigade put together.

The priest they were with cut in, "Your Holy Warriors, Your Eminence," he bowed deeply.

"That was fast," he give each of the group a skeptical look, measuring each one with his eyes as if he was sizing up an opponent. "You don't look like much," the old Mage commented with a frown.

"They were the last surviving members of a fifty man melee, Your Eminence," the priest replied. Adding later, "They entered as a group and emerged whole, not one of them died."

The High Priest's brow shot up, "Impressive." He looked at something behind him, before deciding to open the door and let them in, "I'm with someone now, but I think this might save me some time and explaining." The four entered the room and immediately noticed the Mage sitting in a chair in front of a large wooden desk sipping a cup of wine. He was dressed in a simple shirt and pants of dark green and black and looked them over with a critical eye, it felt like the eye of a predator sizing up their prey. "Thank you, you may go," the High Priest said to the man that had escorted them and shut the door. He patted each of them on the shoulder, a gesture of camaraderie, as he worked his way around to his chair, his smile diming as he did so, "So, you're a competent brigade?"

Laro straightened at the word. It might just be a simple turn of phrase, a lot of mercenaries liked to call themselves brigades or warrior, but this didn't seem to be that innocent, something about the specific nature of the comment made him wary. Clide, however, remained unphased, at least on the outside, "Yes, Your Eminence," he bowed. "We call ourselves the Wolf Pack."

The High Priest chuckled, "Please, call me Rangori, we're all friends he aren't we... I'm sorry I didn't catch your names."

"Clif," Clide supplied, "my comrades are Don, Zax, and Lars," he continued pointing at Darius, then Zara, then Laro.

Rangori nodded, "Nice to meet you Clif, friends." He stood sat in his chair, "So I understand you want to become members, and not only that you want to take on such a dangerous mission. You'll have to excuse me for this, but I must be sure. You do realize the last people to try and remove the heathens were all captured or killed correct? They weren't fighting an army, they were fighting a group of seven and they outnumbered them in one case three to one."

Clide nodded, "We understand the risks, your Eminence, but we cannot allow these heathens to continue!"

Rangori looked surprised, "Such conviction, and yet you're outsiders yourselves." He frowned, "That's a little suspicious don't you think? You have no idea what I want you to do, no idea who I want you to pursue, and you've yet to be indoctrinated. So why do you sound so genuine? I don't know you, you won't know me, none of your friends have said a word and they've all got their helmets on even after a fight with the visors down."

Clide narrowed his eyes, thinking. This High Priest was perceptive, most of the time when knights had their visors down they were treated as faceless warriors to be sent into battle, but otherwise ignored. The fact that this simple trick hadn't worked was disappointing, but not in and of itself surprising, but the trick had a second factor that usually made it past inspections intact, the fact that no one expected them to speak, so when they didn't no one was surprised. Obvious the High Priest was experienced with armored soldiers, and more than a little paranoid.

"You're right," Clide finally answered, "the truth is we're just interested in the money and the reason my comrades are visored is because they're fugitives of Lenus." Laro smiled inside his helmet. It was a good lie, and convincing enough to be plausible. It was a risk calling themselves fugitives, but they were speaking to the cult leader, who was himself a conman in all likelihood. If they had read the man right he wouldn't turn them in, but use this fact to his advantage. Cheap, talented, labor he could blackmail into silence, if he bought their story.

Rangori smiled, "There now, that wasn't so hard was it? Of course because you're fugitives it puts me in a difficult position..."

"Half pay," Clide put out, anticipating the haggle, "but we stay in the Temple."

Rangori nodded, "Acceptable. I trust you'll keep anything said in this room to yourselves? After all, I can easily transfer your stay to a Concord prison."

Clide scowled very convincingly, "Yeah, yeah, we scratch your back you scratch ours. Can we get to the mystery assignment?"

The High Priest stood and made his way around the desk, "Very well. Recently we had an incident in the Temple. A human, disguised as a priest and a dark mage managed to infiltrate our holy of hollies and pose as harbingers from our prophecy. They conned our priests and managed to steal our most sacred relic, and have since been taking advantage of our more zealous member's generosity."

"And you want them taken care of?"

Rangori smiled, "They have committed a heresy, it is not for me to decide their fate, our beliefs are absolute in this. All heretics must die. So I charge you with this task, kill the heretics and recover our most sacred relic, the Maker's Tears."

Clide crossed his arms, "Simple enough."

"Not quite," the High Priest rubbed his brow as if remembering something unpleasant, "they were recently taken into custody, and my sources say they have been moved to the Triceta."

Clide cringed, "The Triceta's off limits to any non-citizens, your heretics must have some powerful friends, but that's beside the point, we can't get there."

Rangori patted the other Mage on the shoulder, "That's where my friend comes in. He can get you into the Triceta and even find these heretics for you. All you have to do if kill them, granted that's proved to be a difficult task."

Clide looked the Mage over, unimpressed, but knowing it was better not to argue the point, "Seems like you've got everything setup then, all that's left is to tell us who we're after."

"The two in question are a human warrior with white hair, blue armor, and a sword strapped upside-down on his back, and a much older human with purple robes, a cowl, and a staff with a crow at the top. They travel with two Halflings equipped with staff and short swords, a young ranger, a mage, and an old samurai all human."

The Brigade looked at each other, confirming their suspicions. The samurai and dark mage were unfamiliar, but the others were all dead ringers for Lloyd and his misfits. They had been right to take the chance. With Lloyd in the Triceta it would have been all but impossible to reach him.

Rangori didn't miss this exchange, "Someone you know?"

“You could say that....”

_________________

Thanks to Dr.Rabbit for the epic sig ^.^

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Ptolemy on Tue Jun 26, 2012 9:27 pm

Deathr was never happier to be right. The tendrils of magic that emanated from the splayed fingers of the kinder seemed to adjust to allow him movement. They seemed to be able to predict where he was going to be. Deathr’s movements were fluid and as efficient as possible, his cloak allowed him to wink in and out of the sight of his opponents. The manner of his attack was almost beautiful to watch, the flow of the weapon was elegant with no wasted moves. Deathr’s senses were hyper sensitive and his heightened reflexes seemed to allow him to read minds catching and deflecting blades on his scimitar in his left hand and his last throwing knife in his right. Slash/duck/parry/riposte Deathr moved with no pattern movements from different styles merged into a dance that was as deadly as it was beautiful. With the dark tendrils causeing confusion and conflict where ever they touched, and the skill that Deathr was displaying had plugged the alley. Reinforcements were not getting through there.

Deathr leaned back to dodge a spear thrust and threw the knife in his right hand side armed striking the spearman in the eye. He crumpled without a word. Deathr grabbed the spear and swept the legs from under several opponents and embedded the point into the wall on one side of the alley, through the chest of an attacker. He then drew the edge of his blade across the throats of the fallen mercenaries almost decapitating them. He then spun to the left to get inside the guard of another before slicing his chest open through the leather armor the merc was wearing. On instinct he then grabbed his cloak and disappeared before climbing up the wall of the building. The elf looked back and saw that the tendrils of power were no longer at work with a glance back at the kinder he saw the knight from Lenus fighting and back stepping toward the fountain. He saw the kinder there curled in a ball seeming unconscious and yet screaming. The aura of darkness had all but engulfed the Halfling. A pang of regret briefly pinched at him. He shook his head, there was only so much he could do, and nothing he could have done would have helped the kinder. As he watched the fountain emptied of water seeming to surround the fountain then the fountain was encased in a dome of ice. All of the people under that dome needed help but his mission was to secure the stone. He was hoping to get the stone in a less violent manner and the knight was a fierce fighter. The mercenaries gave a shout and began to pound on the sphere making some head way as more mercs came from the crowd to beat on the hemisphere trying to break it down.

Deathr sighed and readied himself to jump back in the fray to get the stone this time then, seemingly from nowhere, a score of soldiers in armor of yellow and red converged on the fountain, the soldiers were outnumbered two or three to one but surprise and the skill of the new arrivals made up for this shortcoming. The remaining mercs either were killed or fled in short order. One of the soldiers, who seemed to be in charge, thrust a spear at one of the mercs that decided to fight ducking to the side as the mercs blade came in contact with the helm that the soldier was wearing, the helm went flying and the coif underneath crumpled to the back of the soldiers head. Deathr had to do a double take, the being was obviously a female, but the hair on her head was snow white but there was no way she would be old enough and she had the ears of an Elf. The merc went down just as the dome of ice finally shattered. The knight fairly exploded from the fountain attacking the woman fiercely. The fatigue of the fight was evident in his movements and it did not appear that the woman had any problem fending off his advances. Suddenly the knight stopped and there appeared to be a conversation taking place, a rather animated conversation. The knight slumped and, resigned to his fate, cleaned his blade and put it in the scabbard across his back then, reluctantly he handed it, sheath and all, over to the woman.

With the Knight safe, for the moment, Deathr sat on the edge of the building and dropped his blade to the roof beside him. He sat there his elbows on his knees and took a deep breath. The rush of combat left him as if all the wind was let out of him at the same time. His hands started to shake as exhaustion took hold on him. It had been a while since he had been able to train for that kind of fight and even longer since he had been in the position to be involved in such a brawl. He muttered a spell that would refresh him and take the edge off of his fatigue for a time. Feeling better, he rolled over backwards pushing off the roof with his hands, doing a backwards somersault landing on his feet. He retrieved his blade and pulled a length of cloth from a pocket and cleaned the blade then sheathed it. He then walked to the opposite side of the building and made his way down the side of the building to the street below, straightened his cloak and made his way back to the market to follow the Knight Errant. His mission was to get that stone back, and the body guard corps was not going to stop him…

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

B’rich quickly and carefully inscribed several runes on a square piece of parchment. He waited a moment and first the runes then the paper itself began to glow.

‘High Knights, I must urge you to return quickly,’ B’rich said clearly, ‘The council of mages are attempting to appoint a king without the full council in attendance. Upon the receipt of this message I urge you to execute your business quickly and return here with all haste. If your quarry is out of reach, consider this message permission to return with that issue unresolved. This is a matter pertaining to the health and leadership of Lenus.’

Carefully, B’rich rolled the parchment and moved toward the throne. Reverently he went to one knee and bowed his head. This was protocol when approaching the throne. He rose and looked at the right arm of the throne. The throne was a gaudy affair solid hardwood gilded with gold and silver, Red velvet cushions covered padding the was refreshed every week when Frugal sat on the throne and completed the gaudy appearance. In the right arm there were several indentions that bore markings indicating different sections of the bureaucracy Crossed swords indicated the High Knights, a bolt of energy indicated the mage council, there were other indentions and markings for the territories and other branches of the Government. B’rich muttered a simple incantation and pushed the message through the indention. The indentions are the switch board of a communication system that was almost a lost art. Each of the members of the council and high knights carried a small box that would contain the message as it was placed in the indention. These boxes were not just relegated to the higher ups, every soldier in the armed forces be they commander or soldier, warrior or mage. There was a center to the left of the Throne that contained the indentions for the warrior or mage corps.

B’rich paused, If Lloyd still had his box this would get to him as well. ‘Cannot be helped’ B’rich thought and he opened the box in the arm of the throne and slipped the note in. After 5 seconds there was a flash of light and it was done. The message sent to the High knights. He sighed hevily. Now all the B’rich had to do was stay alive.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

‘Come on!’ Frack said ‘Lets see what’s in that cave!’

Frick stopped and looked around. The town of Kindermore looked as he remembered, but that’s not right. Frack looked 40 years younger than he remembered. He then looked at his own hand and saw that he was younger as well. A huge grin broke Frick’s face as he broke into a run and followed Frack to the mouth of a cave. Everyone knew there was nothing in that cave, but Frick and Frack had never been in there and needed to find out for themselves.

The pair stepped into the mouth of the cave and hesitated to let their eyes adjust to the darkness. Frack gripped a knife and Frick held a staff across his body. The pair advanced down the cave, suddenly the ground shook as the roar of something emanated from deep in the bowels of the cave. The pair grinned at each other. Something had come into the cave! There was another roar and a grunt that sounded like someone got hurt. The pair eased down the passage and saw a huge Deego just as he threw a human in armor against a wall. There was a crunch as the man hit the wall and landed on the floor of the cave with a splat. The Deego roared and stalked over toward the man. He picked the man up and his head lolled to one side…

‘That looks like Lloyd…’ Frick thought as the huge Deego let out a bellow that went from victory to pain. From behind the Deego Frick saw Frack with his knives shoved into the side of the Deego. Frack was struggling to pull them out but they were stuck fast. Frick could not move. He should run and help distract the Deego from killing his friends but he could not move. The Deego struck the kinder Frack flew across the cavern and hit the wall head first with a sickening crunch, falling to the ground in a heap and not moving. The Deego regarded Frick with a disdainful eye and ripped the throat out of the body he had in his hands almost ripping the head off. It the flipped the body toward the kinder, and Lloyds body struck the floor and slid to Frick’s feet blood pouring from the wound in his neck pooling around his head and torso. The eyes of the body were wide open and terrified moth moving trying to form words.

Frack could not take his eyes off of Lloyd’s dying body until he heard a scream that was choked off. Frick raised his eyes in time to see the beast rip the head off of Frack with his teeth and crush the skull with his jaws. The beast leered at Frick as he chewed on the head of his friend, the blood of Lloyd and Frack running down its chin.

The beast looked at the body of the dead kinder and put the torso of the kinder in his mouth and ripped the torso from the body the bowels of the kinder burst from body, spilling on to the floor in gristly coils. The smell of blood and fecal matter mingled in the cave causing Frick to wretch and vomit all over Lloyd’s still form. The look of disgust that showed on Lloyd’s face was evident. Slowly lloyd’s body rolled over still pumping blood out on to the floor of the cave. Frick did not think that one person could hold so much blood. Lloyd got his hands under him and pushed himself up to his knees then to his feet. He back handed Frick and knocked him to his hands and knees into the growing pool of blood. Lloyd’s head flopped on his shoulders with little muscular support.

‘You call yourself a friend,’ the body of Lloyd croaked from his ruined neck, ‘you abandoned us to this fate!’ Lloyd kicked the kinder in the ribs and flipped him on his back the wetness of the blood instantly soaking his cloak and clothing. In horror, Frick rolled and pushed himself up on his knees and sprang to his feet and ran down the corridor away from Lloyd.

‘more… Stop this… we must feed… we cannot …’ The voices in started in his head.

‘You will not do this!’ A voice exclaimed and a light exploded behind the kinder’s eyes. Then the light was blotted by the head of something coming into focus. A broad forehead and concerned blue eyes under bushy brown eye brows and a broad nose that looked smashed.

‘rest’ Frick felt the words as much as heard them, then darkness consumed him.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Frack groaned and opened his eyes and blinked against the onslaught of light that flooded his brain. He yelped and had to squint his eyes against the blinding light. His head was throbbing and the pain was almost unbearable. Chanting. Frick felt rather than saw the people around him. He felt confined, like there was a band of iron across his chest, holding him to the table. He could not move his arms and legs either. In a fog he thrashed about eliciting a sharp pain from his head. That made him lie still.

‘Put him to sleep!’ he could hear a male voice.

‘I am not going over to that cabinet till the other one is moved!’ a female voice said.

‘For the Maker’s sake’ another female voice swore.

The chanting did not stop and there was another pain in his head like his brain was being pinched. Frick thrashed as the pain got worse. He heard a cabinet door open and close from across the room and there was a pinch in his neck just as he heard the scream of a female choked off, then he was enfolded buy the loving embrace of the night.

= = = = = = = = = =

After a minute his eyes were adjusted and he was able to look around he was bound to the bed by a strap across his chest. His hands and arms were free so he spent a minute feeling the strap and buckle that secured him to the bed. He got the buckle loose and sat up. There was a rough cloth that was covering his head. He put his hand to his head and felt the bandage that wrapped his head. He gripped the bandage and pulled the bandage off his head and looked around the room. From the other side of a door he could hear the snarls and growls of a dog… ‘no that sounds like Saph’ he thought, and looked to the other bed that was in the room.

The slight figure that lay in the bed was not bound, but was not moving. Frack walked over to the bed and saw that the figure was barely recognizable as a kinder. It was Frick but his appearance was not the same. He seemed old his hair had turned white and his flesh was hanging from his bones like he had been used up or all of his insides sucked out. Frack let out a strangled cry and grabbed his friend’s hand in both hands. Frick’s hand was ice cold and Frack could feel the bones in his friend’s hand. He searched the face of his friend looking for a flicker of life. There was nothing, then color started to return to his face causing Frack’s face to light up then freeze. He could feel energy flowing from his hand into his friend. It was as if he was sharing his life force with his friend. Frick’s face darkened from grey to faded black. Frick’s eyes opened and looked at Frack with horror and tried to get his friend to let go of his hand but Frack held on till he was weak enough for Frick to pry his hand free. Without the support of holding his friends hand, Frack fell to the floor landing on his back. He lay there for a moment panting. The pallor of his skin faded and turned tan once more as his body quickly recovered from the drain that holding his friend’s hand had allowed.

‘You cannot do that’ Frick scolded the other kinder sitting up on the bed ‘this stone will kill us both if you do that again.’

Frack looked up at his friend nodding. ‘You needed something and I bet these humans would not…’

‘This has killed a human already,’ Frick said as he swung his legs over the bed and hopped down.

Frack looked at his friend. He was completely different. His features were the same but his skin had a darker tint He seemed to be thinner than he was yesterday… was it yesterday? The fight was a blur to Frack after killing the two attackers. One of them had gotten a lucky hit on him and knocked him out.

‘How long has it been?’ Frack asked

Frick considered the question and answered ‘2 days I think, the humans will not come in here again for a while.’ Frick searched the pockets of his cloak and retrieved a pair of gloves.

‘You look better…’ Frack said, ‘ not as weak… Do they expect us to wait for them? There are not even bars on the doors or windows.’

‘No’ Frick said pulling a on pair of gloves that he got from Lloyd’s room ‘they are not trying to hold us.’ The gloves would be big, they were more like gauntlets to the kinder, but they will do until he got something else. He had to be careful of letting anyone touch him. It seemed this stone was vampireic in that it fed on him when he used it, and on others when they touched him. Frick considered the reality of this development. The humans had wrapped him in his cloak to get him to the bed. When a human female had grabbed his bare flesh, she shriveled up. This had left him sitting on the bed, unable to move, listening to her screams. She could not let go and he was too weak to pry her fingers off. She had ended up turning to dust that was swept up and taken from the room.

Frick looked at the gloves again and was pleased to see them fitting better. He knew his hands were not getting bigger, so they must have a spell on them to adjust to the wearer. He reached out and grabbed Frack’s arm… there was no transfer of energy so it must only be with flesh to flesh contact. The sooner that he could get rid of the stone the better. The power and expanded awareness was not worth this cost, the stone would eventually kill him. He knew that from the voices. Some of them were not yet insane but they had all tried to use the stone for their own gain. Thieves, kings and warriors had all used this stone. They had all had the stone consume their souls, well consumed is not quite right. The power of the stone slowly made your soul a part of the stone as payment you got immortality. Imprisoned forever in the stone, Frick had counted 20 distinct voices in the cacophony that was unleashed when he tapped into the stone. Some are helpful; Frick suspected that those were the ones that wanted to trap him in the stone. Some were just barking mad, and as such, were a complete distraction. A couple of the voices refused to tell the kinder how to use the stone. Then there was the face that revealed itself to him. He will not speak of that face but there was something familiar about it, and there seemed to be a genuine concern.

Frick released the hold he had on his friend and went to the door with sounds of barking and scratching on the other side of the door. He opened the door and Sapphire looked at him warily, not shrinking away but being careful not to come within arm’s reach. He bounded around Frick and jumped on Frack. Licking his face and almost knocking him down. About that time another door opened and a human female walked in, Saph rolled off of Frack and growled at the bored looking human. She looked startled at first and put her hand in her pocket as saph gathered herself to pounce, then Saph froze. Glowing around Saph’s chest and forelegs was a harness, The harness was the color of the hound when it was off but glowed a mana green when it was active.

‘I was hoping not to have to do that again’ The white haired human said disapprovingly.

‘We didn’t know that…’ Frack trained off as the human pointed at a sign on the door. That read; ‘danger, do not open!’

‘Oh‘ Frick said

‘For an observant race,’ the female went on ‘You do not seem to pay attention.’ She reached down and took the small box that Frack had just taken from her pocket. She motioned another human, this one a male, into the room. He was pushing a small cart with a wooden crate sitting on it. Gingerly he picked up Saph, who could not move, and carefully placed the hybrid dog-hound carefully into the crate and pushed the cart out of the room. Patiently the Female took another bauble from the hands of one of the kinder. Frick cursed his gloved hands; he could not feel like he needed to be able to handle effectively. Problem was she felt it when he was putting the thing back…

The kinder followed the two humans through several corridors and to a door that slid open when they approached. The female motioned to the Kinder.

‘This lift will take you to the Tricetta.’ She said ‘We will not accompany you from this point on.’ The male pushed the cart into the lift and the kinder followed. The inside of the lift was a white tube 10 feet tall with a mirrored celling and floor, well they thought it was mirrored. When the doors closed, the floor and ceiling went transparent and the lift quickly accelerated into the sky. It Turned out the tube was transparent as well. As the lift shot up Frick caught a glimpse of something, something he would have missed if not for the stone in his neck. There were moon weapons in the area. Frick expanded his will and was able to see that the remaining members of the brigade were working their way toward the Citidel. Frack was not sure how they were getting there but he knew that is where they were going. Frick pulled his will forcibly from the stone and stood for a moment, leaning against the wall of the lift panting slightly. He would need to tell Lloyd and the others about this.

Frack looked at his friend, his brother, concerned. The stone was killing him. He could tell when Frick used the stone, Frick seemed to shrink, become smaller, thinner.

‘We need to get that stone off of you,’ Frack started only to be shushed by Frick.

‘Kelgori should be able to help with that’ Frick hissed as he straightened from leaning on the wall of the lift. ‘It will take a while, till then I need to learn to live with this thing.’

‘I am not sure you can,’ Frack said concerned ‘I can tell when you use it.’

‘Thing is, you get used to it being there,’ Frick nodded, ‘and the power… is intoxicating, and painful.’ He chuckled cynically and this escalated in to a full laugh, this ended up in a fit of coughing. The coughing went on for so long that Frack started pounding on his back. Frick had just straightened up from the coughing fit in time to see the doors open. Outside the doors was a huge courtyard, a full 300 yards square surrounded by stone walls that were capped with walkways and parapets. There was a bustle of activity as the doors opened the kinder stepped out and looked around and a human reached in and pulled the cart out of the lift. Another human stepped up to the kinder and bowed.

‘Welcome to the fortress of Tricetta’ He said, ‘You are honored guests of the Prime Minister Rou Yagrit.’

Frick and Frack looked at each other ‘Who?’ they asked in unison. The man looked confused for a moment and cocked his head to one side as if listening to something.

‘A friend of Lloyd knight of Lenus.’ The mage said again, ‘this way.’ He motioned for the group to follow.

‘The walls of the fortress had to be 100 feet high’ thought Frick looking around. Suddenly a flash of insight. ‘how far above the ground does the Tricetta hover?’ he asked.

The mage turned his head without slowing his pace, ‘The fortress can attain any altitude needed to protect it or gain access to any objective.’ He said turning his head back to the front, ‘there are some altitudes that should not be breached because there is not enough air up there to sustain life.’

Frick nodded ‘Are we going to join Lloyd and the rest of every one?’ he asked as they passed a check point and through a huge set of doors.

‘Is everyone there?’ Frack asked he did not know if everyone survived the fight.

‘Everyone survived’ Frick told his friend ‘We were all exahsted from the prolonged fight… not all of us got to take a nap.’ He said good naturedly.

‘HEY!’ Frack protested as they turned down a corridor ‘I got hit on the head.’

‘And a nasty wound it was’ Frick said soberly, ‘You need to be more careful, If not for the healing magic’s of these mages, you would be dead…’

The mage stopped and gestured toward a door. Frick looked at him and pushed the door open. The light in the room was almost blinding.

‘Lloyd!’ cried Frack and ran to jump on the human. ‘Jun!’ he cried again untangling himself from Lloyd to leap onto the old warriors back. Everyone was there and all were greeted in turn. Frick shied away from touching anyone contact and briefly explained.

‘This stone feeds on me when I tap into its power. The magic resistance inherent to kinder folk is the only reason I am not dead.’ Frick explained, ‘If I have skin to skin contact with someone, The stone sucks the life out of them. Makes me stronger but kills the victim. There have been 2 mages killed in this way since the fight. The power was… delicious,’ Frick suddenly looked ashamed, ‘I cannot allow this anymore.’ He gathered his cloak around him and turned from the group. Then he turned back and looked at Lloyd.

‘I sensed the Moon weapons in Eparg. Heading toward the Tricetta.’ Frick looked at the Prime minister ‘Rou Yagrit I presume? Your errand boys are heading this way to kill Lloyd and the rest of us. I must rest’ Frick turned toward the divan along one wall and curled up in a corner. He was asleep in seconds.

The friends looked at each other and then toward Rou Yagrit…

‘Hey,’ he said, ‘I can explain’



_________________

Life is hard... Its even harder when you are stupid...
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Ptolemy
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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Aardvark on Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:16 am

Rou sighed and walked around his desk, his mind spinning, trying to figure out how to word it right. He knew Lloyd would hear him out, the two knew each other too well to believe either one of them capable of outright betrayal, but the others, especially the young mage, who looked like they were about to tear Rou's throat out. "Your friend is very well informed," he said stalling for time to compose the explanation.

The young Mage, Damean, crossed his arms expectantly, "Yeah they're pretty good at sniffing out rats."

"I trust Rou, Damean. He and I go way back, so give him a chance to explain himself before you jump him," the knight turned to the dark mage, "same goes for you Kelgori, put that thing away for now." He nodded to a knife Rou hadn't seen the man draw.

Rou coughed to clear his throat, "Right well, I suppose straight up honesty is the best way to go. When I heard that Lloyd had killed Frugal-"

"How do you know that?" Stock interrupted, "I thought that was a closely guarded secret."

"It is," Rou replied quickly, "but I have sources inside Gaelen, good sources, so I knew about it before the day was out, just like I knew Lloyd would come here, seeking asylum. I got to know him very well when he used to escort me, I knew he wouldn't kill anyone without a good reason, especially not his king, and I also knew what the response would be." He spread his arms in a shrug, "From there it wasn't hard to figure out what he would do. I'm one of his few friends outside of Lenus and the only one who would believe his reasons were justified, and even if he couldn't find me, Eparg is an easy city to get lost in."

"All that's well and good," Damean replied, "but it still doesn't explain why you hired the Lunar Brigade to chase us down."

"Yes well, that's where it gets complicated. I had a man stationed at the docks to catch Lloyd as soon as he landed, but he somehow got passed him and into the city without being detected-"

The dark mage's face softened, "That's a long story."

"I imagine it is," Rou continued, "but regardless I missed my opportunity and by the time I learned where Lloyd was he'd already managed to firmly ensconce himself into the local cult, so he was temporarily out of my reach. It was then I realized if I couldn't protect Lloyd directly, my next best bet was to throw of his pursuit, so I left my man out there, staking out the docks until he found the Lunar Brigade and brought them to me. I in turn sent them off on a wild goose chase, trying to buy myself some time to come up with a plan to get to you. Luck was on my side however, and Lloyd and the High Priest did that for me and I sent a friendly face, Jennella, to bring you in." He smiled and clapped his hands.

"Do you really expect me to believe that?" Damean asked after a minute.

Rou frowned, "If I was lying, don't you think I could come up with something more convincing?"

"He's got a point," Kelgori pointed out, "I believe him."

"Still doesn't explain why Frick sensed the Moon Weapons converging on our location," Damean fired back. "Besides, he could just be a bad liar."

"Well that part is my fault," Rou said hesitantly. "I didn't think the High Priest would want you dead, at least not this soon after meeting you. I sent the Lunar Brigade to the Scarlet Temple, figuring it would out them faster once the priests learned who they were after, but with the Temple's resources now being directed solely to getting your head on a platter, Lloyd, I fear I have just exacerbated the problem."

"It's not your fault," Lloyd walked over to pat the portly man on the back, "everything you did was logical. Just that my life seems to be anything but logical at the moment." He looked at the stone in his hand, "Personally I blame magic."

At that comment the entire group burst out laughing, laughing at the absurdity of it all while they could. They would enjoy the moment, enjoy every moment they could, for this journey was long from over and almost certain to have it's share of tragedies along the way. So they laughed, all of them, save two.....

----------------------------------------

It was hours later before they settled in for the night. Hours of drinking, feasting, and enjoying each other's company. Damean and Kelgori got into a drinking contest, draining bottle after bottle of Concord wine and yelling good-natured, if foul-mouthed, slurs at each other the whole time while Jen cheered them on, it ended in a tie with both men thumping to the floor unconscious at the exact same time, a dozen bottles later. Stock, unused to having so much food before him stuffed himself with everything he could get his hands on and eventually rocked back in his chair asleep a happy look on his face. Frack and Jun went deep into conversation about swords, each man occasionally getting up and motioning as if they were attacking an unseen demon, showing off for each other, both men almost forgetting to eat at all. Lloyd and Rou meanwhile watched it all with a smile, Rou glad for the company when so many nights anymore were spent with paranoia his only companion, Lloyd just happy they could all sit and have fun for once in what seemed like forever. Frick even managed to make it to the table for a while to get some food, though his demeanor was much changed from what Lloyd had come to expect of the Halfling. He seemed subdued, rude but not the unintentional rude Kinder were known for, the kind of rude that said he just didn't care, the only person he seemed to still get along with was Frack and only together did they manage to have enough fun to get happily drunk and soon after, dead to the world. At the end of the celebration only Jen, Jun, Rou, and Lloyd were still vertical.

"It almost seems a shame to wake them," Rou said, "they all look so peaceful."

Jen snorted, "I doubt you could wake them." She sighed and walked over to the two Mages and hauled them both up, one over each shoulder, "I got these two," she looked over at Jun, "hey, sword boy, you think you can grab the kid?" She said nodding to Stock.

"Sword boy?" Jun repeated confused, though whether at the source of the name or the words themselves Lloyd couldn't guess, but regardless he picked the ranger up and the two warrior walked out with their living baggage.

"You need a hand?" Rou asked nodding to the Kinder.

Lloyd smiled and shook his head, "No I'll take care of them, gods know they've been taking care of me for long enough. No you go ahead and get some sleep."

The Prime minister smiled, "For the first time in a long time, I think I will." With that the two bid ado and Lloyd picked Frack up and put him under his arm, then reached for Frick's hand to do the same-

"No!"

Lloyd retracted his hand with more speed then he thought his dulled senses could manage and looked around for the source of the voice. He saw nothing, no one in the room and no one out in the hall, and yet he knew he'd heard that voice before. He couldn't place it, but he was sure he'd heard it before.

"You have."

This time he recognized the voice, it was coming from his hand, from the stone. He'd almost forgotten about the voice, it had been so long since he had heard it and in truth he had never quite been sure he hadn't just hallucinated hearing it before. "Who are you?" he asked.

"It would take too long to explain and I cannot keep this up for long, suffice it to say I am a friend."

Lloyd rolled his eyes, "Why can't anything ever be simple with this thing?" He looked back at the stone, "OK so why did you stop me from picking him up?"

"He is corrupted."

A lead weight settled in the knight's stomach. He looked down at the Kinder, specifically the drastic change in his skin, the unnatural color of it. "What do you mean by 'corrupted'"?

"It would take too long to explain. He is not in mortal danger yet, but those around him are. Any who touch him directly will have their energy drained and touching the stone in his neck directly will result in instant death."

"Stone?" Lloyd bent over and pushed the Kinder's hair aside to reveal a dark gray stone. Save the color the stone was a dead ringer for his own Dragoon Stone and it seemed to pulse with seductive power. He wondered what it felt like. Was it warm or cool? Smooth or rough? If he just reached out and-

"No!"

Lloyd came back to himself and yanked his hand back, for the life of him he had no idea what had possessed him to try and touch it, especially with his own stone's warning about what it could do.

"It is corrupt, it corrupts all around it and it seeks to feed and spread itself."

Lloyd looked at his hand again, "What it is?"

"It is a.... mistake."

The knight's brow furrowed, "Explain."

The voice grew fainter, "I cannot, I have run out of time. Heed my warning and watch him closely if..... att.... have..... act....."

"Hey don't do this!" Lloyd yelled at his hand, "Come back!"

But the stone remained silent and Lloyd was left wondering yet again if that conversation had really happened at all. He looked at Frick, something was obviously wrong with the Kinder, but was it really as dangerous as the stone claimed? He grabbed the Halfling's cloak and wrapped it around the little man... just in case.

-------------------------------------------------

Jennella dropped the two mages in their room and immediately decided she wasn't nearly drunk enough. Lloyd kept interesting company, certainly much better then what he used to consider friends back in Lenus, and she had wanted to be sober enough to actually get to know them before she decided to get blitzed off her ass. She smiled and shook her head, they were certainly a diverse group and one he would never have normally associated with.... well maybe the samurai, but a dark mage? Kinder? That was new.

She entered the lift tube and descended to Triceta street level, where the least wealthy among the Triceta's residents stayed. Of course that wasn't saying much, even street level in the Triceta was still richer then any being had a right to be. The streets were perfectly spotless and a pair of guards was stationed every hundred meters to provide security, directions, and of course to catch anyone who looked like they didn't belong and send them back to Eparg, though no one talked about that last one. She walked down the street and immediately found the dirtiest, seediest bar in the city, for the Triceta it was barely acceptable, for anywhere else.... well you could still walk up to the bartender and order any drink from any vintage and get it in under a minute. The entire place was dimly lit, though that was more to simulate other, more dangerous locations then to hide the grim and holes in the walls caused by brawls this city had never and would never see. The blue glow emanated from the edge of everything in the bar, from the bases of tables to the rims of glasses, it provided more then enough illumination to make your way around, but you couldn't really tell who anyone was unless you were within a couple meters of them, or they wore something so distinctively out of place.

It was just such an outfit that led the woman to the bar counter where she sat right next to the last person she had expected to see, "Lloyd?"

The knight started at the mention of his name and nearly spilled his drink, "Jen? What are.... nevermind I know what you're doing here."

"Yeah, I like to get drunk, why are you here?" She slapped him on the back hard enough to make him drop his glass, something she belatedly realized was a shot glass. "What's wrong?" She asked, suddenly dead serious.

The knight tried to smile, "What do you-"

"Don't give me that bullshit," Jen put in before he could finish. "In all the time I've known you, you've never gotten drunk, and I've never seen anything but water and wine hit those lips."

Lloyd shook his empty glass and the bartender refilled it, "People change Jen, I'm not the man I was even a month ago." He lifted the glass to his lips.

Jennella slapped the glass out of his hand, "Don't give me that, yeah people change, but you don't go from a gallant knight to a bar fly in a month, not the man I knew, not unless there's something seriously wrong."

Lloyd sighed and rubbed his face, "What isn't seriously wrong? I was a High Knight in service to a loyal King, sworn to protect Lenus. Now? Now I'm a murderer, a traitor, and the people I wanted to protect hate me. My friends were once knights and priests, now I lead a young mage who had to grow up much too fast, a naive young hunter enraptured with the presence of nobility, a dark mage I know nothing about who I was in life and death conflict less than a week ago, a samurai who can only understand every third word I say, and two Kinder who have probably protected me more times then I've protected them." He looked at Jen and she could see the weariness in his eyes, "I have no home, my apprentice wants to kill me, I'm protecting a power I don't want and who likes to make riddles out of life and death conversation, and last week I had to fight Satan." He laughed with no mirth, "So pardon me if I want to get drunk for a few hours."

Jen listened to the whole rant in silence, only motioning for a drink for herself until the knight had aired out everything that was on his mind. When he was finished she put the drink down in front of him, "If that's all this is then drink away, I'll join you, even help you stumble back to bed, but I don't think that's all this is and I think you know that as well. So here's your choice: Get drunk and continue getting drunk until you lose those friends we both know you care about because you're afraid of what you might have to face when you're sober, or we talk and I kick your ass into gear when we're done."

Lloyd looked at her with a blank expression for a while, then burst out laughing, "You haven't changed at all."

"And I don't think you have either," she replied with a smirk. "Don't worry, I'll have you sucking all the fun out of a room by morning. Now lay it on me."

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Ptolemy on Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:20 pm

The town of Kindermore looked as he remembered, but that’s not right. Frack looked 40 years younger than he remembered. He then looked at his own hand and saw that he was younger as well. A shadow covered Frick’s face as he broke into a run and chased Frack to the mouth of a cave. Everyone knew there was nothing in that cave, but knew that today would be different.

‘Come on!’ Frack said ‘Lets see what’s in that cave!’

Frick stopped and looked around. This was not right, there was something there, something that was too much for them. Frick could not say anything, could not stop.

The pair stepped into the mouth of the cave and hesitated to let their eyes adjust to the darkness. Frack gripped a knife and Frick held a staff across his body.

‘no!’ Frick managed to croak as Frack advanced down the cave, suddenly the ground shook as the roar of something emanated from deep in the bowels of the cave. Frack turned and looked at Frick. Something had come into the cave! There was another roar and a grunt that sounded like someone got hurt. Frick hurried to catch up, and the pair eased down the passage and saw a huge Deego just as he threw a human in armor against a wall. There was a crunch as the man hit the wall and landed on the floor of the cave with a splat. The Deego roared and stalked over toward the man. He picked the man up and his head lolled to one side…

‘Lloyd…’ Frick shouted as the huge Deego let out a bellow that went from victory to pain. From behind the Deego Frick saw Frack with his knives shoved into the side of the Deego. Frack was struggling to pull them out but they were stuck fast. Frick forced his leaden feet to move and scooped up a stone and hurled it at the Deego. The Deego struck, and Frack flew across the cavern and hit the wall head first with a sickening crunch, falling to the ground in a heap and not moving. Frick skidded to a halt as the Deego regarded Frick with a disdainful eye and ripped the throat out of the body he had in his hands almost ripping the head off. Frick’s eyes flashed with anger and he felt his will swell and he knew what needed to happen. Frick looked up eyes wide as the Deego flipped the body toward the kinder, and Lloyds body struck the floor and slid to Frick’s feet blood pouring from the wound in his neck pooling around his head and torso. The eyes of the body were wide open and terrified moth moving trying to form words. Frick leapt over the body quickly regaining the use of his limbs and becoming aware of the stone in his neck.

The beast leered at Frick as Lloyd’s blood ran down its chin. In two steps the Deego was on top of Frick, swinging a huge clawed hand at Frick. The kinder dodged the blow but was not quick enough, and part of the creature’s hand hit the kinder spinning him and knocking him onto his back. There was a splat as he landed in the blood that had come from the wound in Lloyd’s neck

The beast stalked over to the wall where Frack was groaning and trying to wake up. The creature grabbed the kinder’s legs, picking him up and regarding his body with a critical eye. The creature looked at Frick struggling to stand and slipping in Lloyd’s blood, The creature grinned and put the torso of the kinder in his mouth and ripped the torso from the body the bowels of the kinder burst from body, spilling on to the floor in gristly coils. The smell of blood and fecal matter mingled in the cave causing Frick to wretch and vomit all over Lloyd’s still form. The look of disgust that showed on Lloyd’s face was evident. Slowly lloyd’s body rolled over still pumping blood out on to the floor of the cave. Frick did not think that one person could hold so much blood. Lloyd got his hands under him and pushed himself up to his knees then to his feet. He back handed Frick and knocked him to his hands and knees into the growing pool of blood. Lloyd’s head flopped on his shoulders with little muscular support.

‘You call yourself a friend,’ the body of Lloyd croaked from his ruined neck, ‘you abandoned us to this fate!’

‘No!’ Frick yelled finding his voice ‘there was nothing I could do!’

Lloyd kicked the kinder in the ribs and flipped him on his back the wetness of the blood instantly soaking his cloak and clothing. In horror, Frick rolled and pushed himself up on his knees and sprang to his feet and ran down the corridor away from Lloyd.

‘more… Stop this… we must feed… we cannot …’ The voices in started in his head.

‘You will not do this!’ A voice exclaimed and a light exploded behind the kinder’s eyes. Then the light was blotted by the head of something coming into focus. A broad forehead and concerned blue eyes under bushy brown eye brows and a broad nose that looked smashed.

‘You must prevail if you would survive.’ The face said

‘How?’ Frick groaned morning the loss of his friends ‘It is to strong!’

‘You must find a way’ the face said ‘You have the tools, now… rest…’ Frick felt the words as much as heard them, then darkness consumed him once again.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Frick awoke with a start, and looked around the room. There was an inordinate amount of noise for an empty room. He put his hands to his face and grimaced at the leathery feel of his own skin and the hard bones that could be clearly felt against his face. Wearily Frick sat up on the divan and gathered his cloak around him. There was a chill in the air even though the fire blazed in the fireplace. From the next room there was the sound of laughter and the clatter of crockery knocked across a table.

With a groan Frick rose on bones that seemed to creak, with some concentration the sling staff that he carried morphed and changed in to a gnarled walking stick, almost the size of a Halfling sized staff. Leaning heavily of the staff, Frick made his way to the door and pushed his way in to the room. He winced as the light burned into his eyes, taking a moment to acclimatize to the bright light, his senses were assaulted with the sounds and smells of the rest of the ragtag croup eating and drinking themselves into to oblivion. Frick watched as Damean and Kelgori traded jabs and insults, downing mug after mug of ale and mulled wine. Some of the oaths they were trading would make a sailor blush but Lloyd and a woman that seemed to be in the local guard looked on with obvious amusement. Realization dawned and Frick realized that Lloyd and the… mixed breed?... woman were lovers, and probably the source of Lloyd’s white hair.

How would he know that? ‘The stone is encroaching on my mind’ Frick realized and walked over to the table ducking under the arm of Jun as he made a cut against an imaginary foe.

‘FRICK! I didn’t want to wake you,’ Frack explained ‘You were exhausted’

‘I tire easily and will until I master this stone.’ Frick said irritably reaching for a piece of meat that lay on a platter in front of the kinder. Jun looked at Frick with an appraising eye which was returned with a little hostility by Frick. Jun stood and regarded the Halflings for a moment longer and, at length turned and watched the contest going on between Kelgori and Damean at the other end of the table.

‘can’t you get Kelgori to take the stone out?’ Frack asked, ‘Isn’t that what you want to happen?’

Frick’s annoyance softened as he saw the concern on his friends face, ‘I do, but I need to be able to help to. When I lose this stone, it will leave me too weak to do anything!’

Frack nodded, ‘I know we need to be able to help Lloyd but, you are dying slowly, that thing is killing you.’

Frick’s gaze bored into his friend’s eyes ‘The power of this stone saps my strength, as I master it, this will get worse. Am already powerful but my body is wrecked…’ A fit of coughing seized Frick as Frack held his friend around his shoulders.

‘I will be there to protect you my brother,’ Frack said pressing a napkin into Frick’s hand.

‘I know what I need to do,’ Frick snapped pressing the napkin to his mouth and coughing into it ‘I need to rest to be able to do it… I cannot seem to rest, there is a dream…’ he looked at the napkin and stared at the blood that speckled it.

‘that cannot be good’ Frack said.

Frick shook his head. ‘Does not matter, maybe if I get drunk I will be able to rest.’ He said and reached for a jug of liquor. He raised it in toast to Frack and turned it up and drank. The rest of the night the kinder ate and drank together like the times past in Kindermore. The two ate and drank trying to relive the days before they started out in the wonderlust. The night wore on and Damean and Kelgori passed out from their drinking contest. Frick had not realized it but that was actually the source of most of the noise present in the room. Stock was asleep upright in his chair, head back mouth open and snoring like a banshee. Suddenly it was silent, Frick thought that the stone had engulfed him but as he looked around he saw that Frack had put his head on his own crossed arms and was snoring quietly.

‘Maybe I can sleep’ Frick thought In an alcoholic haze and imitated his friend drifting off to sleep.
Frick jumped awake as the ground shook. He looked around as the roar of something emanated from deep in the bowels of the cave. Frack turned and looked at Frick. Who was sneaking into a cave. There was another roar and a grunt that sounded like someone got hurt. Frick hurried to catch up, and pass Frack as they eased down the passage and saw a huge Deego, Frack ran forward but Frick grabbed his collar and held him back as the Deego threw a Lloyd against a wall. There was a crunch as he hit the wall and landed on the floor of the cave with a splat. The Deego roared and stalked over toward the man. He picked the man up and his head lolled to one side…

Frick took a tentative step and made a connection with the stone. Sweeping across his body with his staff casting an illusion around the head of the Deego making his head appear to be under water. The Deego sputtered and choked as he fought for air against the illusion.

‘Go get Lloyd and drag him out of the cave’ Frick told Frack

‘Get who?’ Frack asked ‘The human?’

Frick nodded struggling to hold illusion around the Deego to hold him in place. The Halfling waved a hand and the Deego whirled away from the man and charged the wall, hitting it at a full run head on. The Deego stood as it was knocked up right. It staggered back and lost its footing and fell hard on it’s back. Frack had reached the man and grabbed his armor, dragging him toward the entrance of the cave. Frick ran forward and grabbed Lloyd and between the two they were able to drag him to the entrance.

Frick searched his pockets and came out with a vial of liquid, pulled out the cork and poured the contents into the mouth of Lloyd. The effect was almost immediate there were several cracks and pops as ribs righted themselves and popped back into place the man’s arm straightened and he opened his eyes and screamed as the badly broken arm was set and began to heal. The human thrashed around a bit and then was still. His breathing was ragged but evening out. Soon the man had a serene look on his face as though he was asleep.

Frick sighed and collapsed against the side of the cave opening. A weight seemed to lift from his shoulders. There was a burst of light and the world faded to white and there was a face that appeared with his brows furrowed searching Frick’s eyes.

‘This is not over’ the face said. ‘You must remember how this happened and repeat your victory here. Now you have earned a rest.’

The white light faded to black and Frick drifted off to sleep and slept soundly.

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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by tRibaL on Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:18 pm

Rangori indicated for Needle to take a seat by his table, and then made himself comfortable in his chair, obviously preparing for a long conversation.

“You see, I have a bit of a delicate situation, its becoming a bit nerving.” Rangori was explaining. There was an obvious hint of anger in his voice. He was obviously hiding rage, Needle could tell that whatever he did last time to try to fix his problem, failed horribly. “You have clearly been here for atleast a few days, so you have seen the plaza, or heard of the massive brawl. There is a small party of people who are surprisingly diverse in every way. They also have been nothing but trouble since they got here.”

Needle was sitting on the floor, in his false image, noticing how his hands would glow in reaction to certain words. He asked the only intelligent question that was in his mind. “This party, how many of them are there? And do you know where they are staying? Also I’m a good fighter, but merely a single lion. I cannot kill them all if you ask me.” He was trying to figure out what exactly that Rangori was asking im to do. If he knew the answer to any of these questions then he clearly was not needed.

“Your overcomplicating this, of course I know there whereabouts and that they have killed a disturbingly high number of mercenaries. If they were any normal party, well they would be dead, its not difficult to make something appear as an accident.” Rangori was getting a bit nerved, stalling time while he decided how much Needle needed to know.

At this point Needle finally saw something more, it wasn’t just glowing on his hands, it was specifically his left hand. And it narrowed to a ball. “Your left hand, something is in it, isn’t there?” Upon asking his the sphere that looked embedded in his palm exploded in light. A brilliant white light that was blinding to all in the room. Needle winced at first, worried about what this light might do to a spider that was working its way back to his leg. He didn’t risk a glance around to walls and floor to see if he could spot his brother, knowing this was an obvious giveaway.

Rangori pulled back his left sleeve to reveal his hand. He turned it about, giving a clear view for the shape shifter. “Do you know what this is?” He asked as he began to start to dim the light. Needle had heard stories of legendary stones holding impossible magical powers, of course being fairy tale magic to him, he never believed it, artifacts that held souls and powers beyond possibility, that were never fully untapped and grew in power as you did with them, such magical powers that held no limits was believed impossible. Stories crazy hermits told, that went in search of things that didn’t exist, drove them insane. But they all called the artifacts the same name:

“Dragoon stone, Apart from that everything I know is legend, not to mention impossible.” Needle answered honestly. Dragoons were a myth, supposedly they lived in the ancient times, and walked with the lost, then again nobody knows anything about the lost, so the same lies came to describe the dragoons as well, much less though, because dragoons were always sought as a legend. A fairy tale.

“Humor me, I’m already amazed you recognized it, you didn’t learn that in Darlar.” Rangori smiled, this was going to be much easier for him, if they already heard about it.

“Well, they say that they contain spirits of the gods, or dragons, everybody says something different, but the general consensus is incredible power.” Needle was revisting every hermit he talked to, they always had good tales to tell, and most of them are a riddle or tale that would be relevant to find your path threw a cursed land or swamp. “And I’m rather well traveled, as much as I dislike it, I’ve been places, and I always listen to stories.”

“Well, It holds power, anyway there are others like this, each a different color, and power. The leader of this party holds the red one. But that is understandable, the red stone has always gone to a human. There are other stones too. Don’t hold quite the extreme power, but they are seductive, corrupting. I believe one of the kinder has one of these. Tell me if you find another way a kinder comes to become demon possessed.” Rangori went on to explain, as he was pulling out an oddly fashioned piece of leather. “The kinder had dark tendrils extending from his fingertips. He looked horrified, I’m sure he’s possessed. I believe that the party is going to try to remove that stone from the kinder, this will kill the kinder, while they are all grief wrought, I need you to steal that stone for me. I will give you a pouch that you can sling around a lions paw. It will be a race between you, and an old man.”
“What happened to not revealing shapeshifters on Concord? Wouldn’t this be completely counterproductive?” Needle was worried, this seemed like a suicide run, getting a stone then getting out. Probably inside of a hospital. No, not a hospital, this party would be way to out of place.

“Oh, this part gets better, they are inside the wardens headquarters, don’t worry, they will fracture soon and only a small number will remain with the kinder. Rangori seemingly read his mind. Then he understood. This stone might be part of the clue to unlocking what they need to learn. “Not now however. It will take a few days for the stone to kill the kinder. The older warlock in the party knows better than to try to cut out the stone.”

“You said warlock this time? Last time he was a mage, do you know this person?” Needle was going out on a limb, trying to pry any and all., Relevant and irrelevant information out of him. Also if he did, then there must have been a dispute in the past between the two, in which case information on this mage would prove useful to him, helping him achieve his objective, hopefully without dying.

“Oh.. Hadn’t noticed. You can say we met before. But if you tell him I sent you he might kill you on the spot. So I don’t advise it. If I were you, I would say that the oracle told you to come to concord with this potion to give to a kinder with a stone in the back of his neck.” he fondled a vial out of his robe. With clear purple liquid inside of it. “Its not a deadly poison, would only lock him into a coma, faking death, giving enough clear time for the stone to kill him without causing too much grief.”

“So let me get this right, you want me to poison a possessed kinder, redundant again. No that potion does something else and you don’t want me to know.” Needle knew a flat out lie when he heard one.

“And here I was thinking that you weren’t perceptive, or thought ahead. I mean, you can’t blame me after your first impression, walking in here without a back story.” Rangori smiled at him. He continued on nodding his head in disappointment, knowing that now he had to give more than he wanted. “That ‘Poison’ Will cleanse the stone. So the effect would look perfectly honest, this is of course, if you find the kinder perfectly in tact, by some miracle he masters the stone, that will remove the threat.

“So you want me to walk into the wardens headquarters and just demand that this kidner drink this potion while they have no clue who I am? I won’t even get to the front door. They will question who I am before they let me in. and I will have no answer, unless of course, your providing that too.” Needle was beginning to understand, Rangori feared this power. He was removing a threat, brute force didn’t work, so subterfuge was the next best option, and since all of his followers would be easily identified by the markings on the wrist and obviously tied to him, he couldn’t send one of his followers in. “When do I go?”

“You can stay in the room these kind men lead you to. I’ll have them come and get you when its time, it will be a while, but not more than a week.” Rangori gestured to the door.

Out of nowhere Snake had this impulse to jump off his brothers leg. A thought in the back of his mind telling him that he needed to stay in this room, and see what this mage was going to do next. What his response in private was going to be.
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Re: Tales of Pangea

Post by Ptolemy on Tue Nov 06, 2012 3:31 pm

Frick jumped awake as the ground shook. He looked around as the roar of something emanated from deep in the bowels of the cave. Frack turned and looked at Frick. Who was sneaking into a cave. There was another roar and a grunt that sounded like someone got hurt. Frick hurried to catch up, and pass Frack as they eased down the passage and saw a huge Deego, Frack ran forward but Frick grabbed his collar and held him back as the Deego threw a Lloyd against a wall. There was a crunch as he hit the wall and landed on the floor of the cave with a splat. The Deego roared and stalked over toward the man. He picked the man up and his head lolled to one side…

Frick took a tentative step and made a connection with the stone. Sweeping across his body with his staff casting an illusion around the head of the Deego making his head appear to be under water. The Deego sputtered and choked as he fought for air against the illusion.


‘Go get the human and drag him out of the cave’ Frick told Frack


‘What?’ Frack asked ‘The human?’

‘YES THE HUMAN!’ Frick shouted

Frick nodded struggling to hold illusion around the Deego to hold him in place. The Halfling waved a hand and what he was showing the Deego changed in to a huge fire drake the Deego whirled away from the dragon and ran head long into the wall. The Deego stood as it was knocked up right. It staggered back and lost its footing and fell on its back. Frack had reached the man and grabbed his armor, dragging him toward the entrance of the cave. Frick ran forward and grabbed Lloyd and between the two they were able to drag him to the entrance. White light exploded behind Frick’s eyes and everything washed out.

A familiar set of eyes swam into view. ‘Good this will not be as easy,’ a comforting voice said as a wooded glen swam into vision just as 5 men on horseback came out of the trees…

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

The last test, Frick was sure of it. This had to be it. The first test was not hard anymore simple realy, that bad thing was going through them from beginning to end, EVERY time. The deego in the cavern having to save Lloyd, The fight outside the cave facing the spectral lunar brigade, in that the test was not to kill all of the brigade, that was easily done, but to get everyone out alive. Win the fight without killing anyone. Then the room with the pedestals, he had to obtain an object while remaining unseen. That was not easy when the high priest seemed to have enhanced sight.

Now he was standing in the midst of the market in the lower city of Concord. After three tries, he was so weak, but he was resolute. If he did not get this he would die and the voice that was guiding him had almost told him as much. He expanded his awareness in the stone and is saw the entire battle field. There were the mercs that Lloyd and Jun were facing and the group beyond them that were waiting to begin their attack, then the next group waiting to begin their attack, and so on. There were another 20 groups of mercs waiting to press the attack under orders to wait till the group n front fell to engage in battle. They were going to lose unless Frick did something. He worked the magic furiously and doing his best to keep the mercs at bay. He kept getting weaker and weaker until he was having trouble standing. In desperation he expanded his will into the stone.

There was a bright flash of light as everything physical faded from view. Frick had sight beyond sight and power, SO MUCH POWER. He was a God, the God of darkness and insanity. Frick reveled in the power that was open to him. He could see entire city and know who and what meant them harm. With scarcely a thought the group of mercs attacking Lloyd and Jun screamed and fell to the ground gouging the eyes from their heads. Through the crowd there were screams and shouts of by standers as other groups of mercs fell into a stupor or cut each other to pieces. Mages self-destructed. Frick opened his eyes and looked around, he saw his friends looking at him suprised and realized he was hovering several feet off the ground above the fountain that they were arrayed around.

He withdrew his will from the stone and lowered himself to the ground collapsing breathless on the ground as he withdrew his will from the stone all together. He was tired but not as tired as he had been in the past. He leaned back against the fountain and began to laugh, not a maniacal laugh but one of relief. The scene faded to black and the face came into view. With a bit of concentration the features sharpened and a kindly face with a white beard and piercing yellow eyes came into focus. Just a hint of a smile creased his face and the lines of worry could be seen.

‘you have done what none have been able to do’ he said ‘mastery of my stone is not to be taken lightly. You mastered the stone young Kinder but I am the stones master.’

‘who are you then?’ Frick asked ‘You created the stone?’

‘Aye, that I did,’ he said ‘My name is Ptolemaus, Ptolemaus Wrenfoot. An alchemist of some small skill betrayed by a mage and tricked into creating the stone you now possess.’

‘Tricked?’ Asked Frick

‘The tale is long and exciting to be sure’ Ptolemaus said wryly ‘Years ago, ages now I am sure, I was approached to create a stone that would be able to hold the essence of the power of a mage. The concept intrigued me, if successful; I could duplicate a less powerful version of the dragoon stones. This stone would be different because a mage would be able to pour their power and skill into it and call on its power in time of need…’

Wrenfoot paused and straightened. Frick looked around and saw that they were in a room filled with glass tubes and bottles, coils of glass and copper and a large oven at the opposite end. A deep sigh emanated from the man, He looked human but was shorter than a normal human and a little pudgy around the middle.

‘The mage that commissioned the stone was a dark wizard, full of guile and over confident. I warned him that the properties of the stone were such that he would have to be careful of what and how much power he could put into the stone. He wanted to test the stone so he took it and injected some of his power into the stone. It turned grey and opaque, it was everything that he wanted.’ Ptolemaus squinted at the kinder. ‘He took the stone and began to infuse it with his power, something else happened as well. His personality and knowledge went to the stone in small amounts until one day the stone became self aware and grabbed him and sucked everything out of him. Left him a drying husk on the floor.’

They both jumped as there was a loud banging on the door. ‘Beyond that door are all of the souls that have been taken by the stone. The nurse helping to save your friend’s life even a piece of your friend is back there.’ Ptolemaus continued, ‘when I retrieved the stone it tried to take me as well. I could feel the mage in there screaming for the souls of another and I knew that if I left this stone I would be responsible for the death of many as they tried to take the stone. With each soul the stone gets stronger until it is mastered. I allowed my self to be drawn into the stone and, as its master, have kept the stone from killing everyone that it touched. None have been able to master this stone, until now. There are 20 souls in this stone. Each bring a different flavor and all of them are quite mad. You will control them with my help and you will be able to live a long life if we fail to control them or someone removed the stone from your head. You will die, sucked into this stone to spend all eternity just as mad as the rest of these trapped in here with me.’

‘Why did it not kill me right away?’ Frick asked

‘It fed off of you,’ Wrenfoot said ‘untill I stopped it. I saw in you the possibility of having true control over the power of this stone. We can only do this together.’

Frick Nodded and looked around the lab. ‘this is a construct of yours, can I retreat here if I need to?’

Wrenfoot nodded. ‘you need to sleep now. You have been through an ordeal and your body will show it. The stone still extracts a price for its power, tapping into the power the way you did in the last test will cause you great weakness. If you tap that power to long you will find it hard to let go and you will die, eventually and I can promise your passing will not be easy. Now sleep.’

The room faded Frick fell into a dreamless sleep.

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Life is hard... Its even harder when you are stupid...
John Wayne








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