Liberty

Training Time

22nd of Patchwall 2am, Meagers Room, Eiradun

Description

“A… defensive technique. But effective. Use it if you do not wish to be hit, or if you are facing many opponents with ranged expertise. With a Waylen Blade and enough skill in deflection, it is an excellent offense against Ranged Weapons, but in other situations, it merely delays the inevitable.”
―Guard Mouse Kiera

Meager Looked at the sketches and tried to assimilate the information. Learning to become a sword master was difficult, particularly when one tried to learn it from a book. He took a deep breath and reread the previous page

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For the Soresu opening stance, the duelist held the blade back in a one-handed grip, angled forwards with the left arm held parallel, the off-hand held up in a challenge. The dominant foot was positioned back. The brace-ready stance had much in common with the “Ataru guard,” with the hilt held at waist height on the dominant side in a two-handed grip for greater control, extended vertically upwards. The dominant foot was placed back while the other was extended forwards and to the side in a brace-position. A variation on this stance featured the blade held high in a drop-parry position, though the foot positions were the same.

Against individual ranged attackers, Form III duelists were encouraged to apply the “deflecting slash”. This move served the dual purposes of allowing a Guard Mouse to redirect the momentum generated by deflecting an enemy projectile into a slashing attack at an adjacent target, and allowing the Guard Mouse to advance and close the distance before the attacker could fire off another shot. A careful application can allow a Guard Mouse to redirect the shot back at the attacker, though this skill is more commonly applied by Shien practitioners. Against multiple bow-wielding attackers, the “circle of shelter” was advised. This technique could allow a Soresu practitioner to hold off as many as twenty shooters by dropping into a moving meditation, relying on the Weave to perceive the various positions of the attackers and the necessary movements to evade or deflect their shots. As this maneuver was executed while in a meditative state, prolonged use may open a weave-adepts mind to visions of the future.

Meager scratched his head bemoaning “what does this mean?”

“It means, young Meagar, Z’at you must learn with ze blade in hand, not ze book in hand,” Meager sat up, seeing the ghost of Benjie walk into the room and sit down.

“Can you help me Benjie, sometimes I feel like I am starting to grasp this, and other times it all seems like a mess” Benjie smiled at the young Waylen, it had been a long time since he had had an apprentice and the old ghostly guard mouse had forgotten how much he enjoyed these talks

“Meagar, one must remember ze weave, and ze power of it when learning Zurezu. Zurezu is about caring, caring and loving otherz, loving z’em enough to put yourself between z’em and harmz way. You must love to practice this form, as it is a form for ze loverz… allow me to explain.

You see ze Zorezu form was devised to counter ze wide-spread emergence of Ranged Weapons amongst ze Elves and Pixies, many many thousandz of yearz ago.The previous Makashi form wasn’t equipped to combat ze bows you see. Ze efficiency of Form III became ze most defensive of ze seven forms, and utilizes tight moves, consisting of subtle dodges and efficient parries, intended to provide maximum defensive coverage, and minimize exposure to ranged attack. Over time, Form III came to transcend this basic and pragmatic origin, and became an expression of non-aggressive Waylen philosophy, of Love, of Caring and of selflessness… these Meager are the true roots of Form III and you will need to tap into ze emotions of Form III if you ever truly wish to master it…”

Meager listened and let the silence hang for a few moments before nodding his understanding, “But Master Benjie, how does it work, what do these drawings actually mean”

“Z’ey mean Megar, Z’at Zorezu utilizes tight motions, Ze Waylen Blade moving every second in an attempt to achieve near-total protection, and expend as little energy in ze process as possible. Form III stressez quick reflexes and fast positional transition, in order to overcome ze rapidity with which ze bow can be fired. This technique minimizez ze body’s exposure, making a well-trained practitioner practically invincible, which allowez Zorezu to be effective against both single enemies and multiple opponents, as well as Ranged Weapons and Waylen Blades. Form III involvez preparation for prolonged battles where the user observez and learns as much as possible about z’eir adversary’s technique while engaged in combat. Also, being more optimized for lengthy battles, a zorezu user had the ability to gain control of a combat situation, creating multiple options for the Guard Mouse employing the Form. A Form III user could choose to kill, disarm, or even reason with z’eir opponent. And thus it is also ze form of mercy, not an eazy emotion to harness while in battle, you will need to know better yourself Meager, to truly know if Zorezu if for you…”

Meager nodded starting to gain some understanding from the talks.

“So, Master Benjie, as a Soresu user, I should stay on the edge of combat? Away from the core of the fight? That seems at odds with what I have read of the Guard Mouse order so far” Benjie laughed before responding

“…Ze core tenets of zorezu encourage duelists to place z’emselves ‘within ze eye of ze storm’ to maintain a calm center, undistracted and undisturbed by ze conflict around z’em. In keeping with this idea, zorezu incorporatez powerful defensive techniques z’at are flexible enough to adapt to almost any circumstance, at ze cost of never reaching past ze “eye of ze storm.” In other words, zorezu focusez almost entirely on defence, often at the expense of offensive capabilities. Ze tactics encouraged by ze style involve ze reliance on pure defense while waiting out ze opponent, holding back until ‘is frustration or fatigue inevitably causes ‘is defense to lapse, z’en employing an alternate, more aggressive attack to take advantage of this. Overall, ze whole point of Zorezu is to deflect bow fire out of harm’s way and safely prolong a Waylen Blade fight in hopes of wearing an opponent down. Truly focused masters of Zorezu are extremely formidable due to z’eir strong defensive technique, as well as ze well-rounded nature of ze form itzelf, effective against both Ranged Weapons and Waylen Blades. However, it should be noted z’at Form III facilitates survival and mercy rather z’an victor. Zorezu possessez no dedicated offensive sequences of its own. Form III initiates are more z’an capable of defending z’emselves from attack, but z’ey need a considerable amount of experience to learn how to effectively counter-attack and entrap opponents. Masters have to maintain an incredibly strong focus on ze center of ze combat circle, since ze defensive tactics of the form includes guards and parries z’at engage very close to the body. Guard Mice with small lapses in z’eir otherwise strong defense leave little room to avoid injury. As a result of this defensive mindset, Zorezu practitioners often have a great deal of difficulty in seizing ze offensive initiative in combat situations. Also, the goal of many zorezu practitioners has been to prolong ze fight, ze idea being to cause ze enemy to become fatigued or frustrated as z’ey attempted to keep up their offense. However, z’is tactic runs the risk of fatiguing ze user, if said user was to face an adversary who could maintain an aggressive but cautious offense… such as for example… Lord Shepard.”

Meager nodded at his masters words, it was a lot to take in.

“Finish ze book young Meager, but z’en, you must look to practice both with ze blade, and knowing yourself, z’at will lead you to greater success.” Meager nodded again glancing at the book preparing his next question, but when he looked up again, he found Benjie was gone, and he was left alone with the next few chapters

They read as follows:

Applications and History

“You lack the physical strength required for the powerful attacking strikes of Djem So or the other aggressive forms. You must rely on quickness, cunning and, most of all, patience to best your enemies.”
―Guard Mouse Shepard

“This Form [Soresu] maximizes defensive protection in a style characterized by tight, efficient movements that expose minimal target areas when compared with the relatively open styles of some other forms.”
―Guard Mouse Drallig

When the devil Blazeil first began training Zannah the fallen as his apprentice, he pragmatically judged that her small size and light build removed the more aggressive Waylen Blade forms from her potential repertoire. Teaching her to wield a Waylenstaff, he trained her to redirect an opponent’s attacks rather than directly blocking in order to maintain her own energy. She took to twirling her weapon in order to maintain momentum and to set up a defensive shield against enemy attacks.

In combat, Zannah also relied just as much on tactical know-how as Waylen Blade skills. As evidenced during the Duel on Tython, Zannah sought out strategically advantageous positions on the field, able to make do with a simple room corner, using the two walls to cover her flanks. Also, she was skilled at playing her opponents against one another, allowing lesser combatants to continue fighting in order to inadvertently hinder their fighting partners, as when she played Wyzal Othone against the Pixie Xaj. However, Zannah was not without her weaknesses; her defense was designed to counter against all-out assaults, a method devised from her experience sparring with Blaziel. Xaj’s powerful attacks were tempered by caution, and Zannah was forced to expend huge amounts of energy to fend him off without finding any openings for her to exploit. She only succeeded in killing her opponent because he was momentarily distracted.

Guard Mouse Benjie originally specialized in Form IV, trained in the form by Guard Mouse Jinn. However, upon witnessing his master’s death due to Ataru’s lack of defensive capabilities, Benjie decided to switch his focus to Soresu in order to eliminate this weakness in his own technique. Benjie’s resulting skill in Form III stood him in good stead against masterful Bowmen such as Althera, or during the chaotic firefight on Hills of MacinDaw. His tight defense and energy-efficient moves enabled him to pull through and survive where most of the Guard Mouse strike team could not. However, when confronting Shepard, Benjie’s skill in Soresu was insufficient to effectively counter Shepards mastery of Form II Waylen Blade combat. Though Benjie was a skilled Soresu practitioner, he was unable to match Shepards precision and economy of motion. During their duel, many of Benjie’s cutting parries outright missed Shepards blade, forcing Benjie into numerous scramble situations and rapidly fatiguing him. Benjie was ultimately brought down by light, incapacitating cuts across his left arm and leg.

Over the course of the Fey Wars, Benjie continued to develop his skills. His arrow-deflection technique advanced to the point where Benjie could walk “unscathed through hornet-swarms of bowfire.” Benjie’s skill as a Waylen Blade duelist also improved considerably, developed by thousands of hours in Waylen Blade sparring with Shepard and others, and hardened by numerous engagements with enemy duelists, such as Thien Gotava, Elenor Drethic, and even Shepard himself. Even unarmed, Benjie was a formidable opponent, evading enemy attacks and working his way inside an opponent’s defense to physically assault them, demonstrating this tactic against the likes of Drethic.

By the end of the war, Benjie’s mastery of Soresu had developed to the point where he could compete with Shepard. In his second to final duel with Shepard, Benjie initially utilized basic Waylen Blade techniques and strategies, aiming to lull Shepard into a false sense of confidence. When he suddenly shifted to the advanced fighting methods they had practiced and developed during the interim, Benjie displayed his full mastery of Soresu. In his final duel with the eight armed devil Thien Gotava, Benjie provided one of his purest demonstrations of Soresu. His blade’s intricate pattern of blocks and parries moved just fast enough to subtly interfere with Thien Gotava’ multiple strikes, while his slight dodges and shifts of stance facilitated his evasion of the rest. As a frustrated Thien Gotava ramped up the intensity of his assault, Benjie countered by altering the angle of his parries, clipping off two of Thien Gotava’ wrists. However, it should be noted that Thien Gotava had been badly injured by Guard Mouse Marcel during the Battle of Concordia and had had virtually no time to recuperate before facing Benjie, which may have contributed to Benjie’s victory.
During his long isolation in the Winter of Solace Benjie’s skills as a swordsman atrophied, as he engaged in only one Waylen Blade duel during this entire period. Despite this, he remained a formidable Form III practitioner, and he was able to hold off Shepard for a short time during their final duel. However, unlike their previous bout, Shepard maintained a cautious, controlled offense instead of a reckless onslaught, and Benjie was unable to find any openings to exploit. As a result of Shepard’s alterations to his technique and his own atrophied skills, Benjie tired rapidly, and ultimately lost that engagement and his life
The key to truly mastering Soresu seemed to come from grasping the concepts and philosophy of the form rather than adhering to its tactics and maneuvers. While Benjie displayed a strong preference for Soresu, he continued to apply elements of the relentlessly dogged Form I as well as the erratic strokes and acrobatics of Ataru. At one point Guard Mouse Marcel acknowledged Benjie as “the master of Soresu.”
Practitioners

“Ze road is long, but it is worth ze journey, for a true master of Form Three is invincible.”
―Guard Mouse Benjie

Developed to combat Ranged Weapons, Form III was in existence for thousands of years. One of the older practitioners of the form was Guard Mouse Surik. Her tutor during her rehabilitation, Guard Mouse Kreia, also possessed knowledge of Soresu.

By the time of the Devil Invasion, the Devil Blademaster Kas’im had mastered Form III as well as the six other forms. Kas’im trained several apprentices in the style, including Fohargh, who used it against Blaziel’s Form V. Blaziel himself possessed considerable skill in the Form, training his apprentice, Zannah, in it.

Soresu was mastered by the Guard Mouse battlemaster Drallig, who in turn trained many in its use. In fact, towards the end of the Fey Wars, Soresu was the most common Waylen Blade form in the Guard Mouse Order. Guard Mouse Master Duval was also proficient in Soresu, as was Council member Othaol whose focus on the purely defensive form ironically proved to be his undoing when pitted against the gunslinging skills of Althera. Shepard maintained a working knowledge of Soresu, sufficient to train Thien Gotava and his Wyzal Guards in it. During this period, one of the highest masters of Soresu was Guard Mouse Benjie.

End of Chapter

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Retreiving Rand Pt 4

21st of Pathchwall, 11:15pm. Eiradun, House of K

Rand, Gil and Horace scaled the walls, pulling Bradly and George up behind them. As they approached the stairwell the five crouched on a small ledge to make their plan.

“Two Jackabytes at the door, we kill them it’s going to be a running fight” Gilan whispered he took a long glance at George and Bradly, he didn’t say what they were all thinking, those two men were in no shape to run or fight. He looked at Horace and posed the question he was pretty sure he knew the answer to. “Any chance you can get us past them?” Horace was already shaking his head

“I am already pretty tapped from the first jump, I may be able to get myself and one other… two if I could be carried on the other side, no way I could do three” Rand hung his head on hearing this, he was only a half Honalian and had no real magic compared to the trained knight or the Honalain Ranger. He sighed and nodded

“Ok, Gil you and Horance each take a passenger help each other with the magic and get to the other side, then Gil you make enough noise to distract our friends here and I will slip past them, then we all help each other out of here” Rand explained. Gilan looked hard at him

“If they spot you we will be in no shape to come help you, and you’ll be on your own”

“Well I guess I should make sure they don’t spot me then huh” Rand said, he wasn’t happy about the plan either, but he knew displaying confidence would be the only way for his friends to accept it. The other two came around to his way of thinking and the details of the plan was hatched.

“See ya on the other side Rand” Horace said before he left. Rand smiled at him and nodded, wishing his friend all the best, then wrapped his cloak closely around him and prepared for the task ahead.

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In the News Again

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Retrieving Rand Pt 3

21st of Patchwall 9:18pm, Eiardon, House of K

The three at last emerged from The house of the Crimson Death. Rand and Gilan had slit the throats of the Door Jackabytes and had just finished dragging them off into the ally as Horace aided the two Customs Officers out the front door and into the shadows. Combat had been light on their exit so far, and they hoped to keep it that way. They all knew they were on borrowed time, the fact that no one had come across any of the bodies they’d hidden so far was a small miracle, but at any moment they could be found, and then it would be a mad fighting dash to escape. Gilan and Rand surveyed the area once more, surprised at the newest developments. Most of the Jackabytes were gone, and there was only one or two of the Red Vested Humans. Where they had all gone to, they did not know, but what was interesting was the six men in dark robes at the base of the stairs. Failure to win in the battle of curiosity, Rand ushered Gilan to aid Horace while he went in for a closer look. Carefully creeping from shadow to gloom covered shadow he scuttled his way as near as he could and listened carefully.

Before him were about twelve Jackabytes, and a massive stack of the bodies of the former residents of the House of K. Four of the Jackabytes appeared to be stripping the corpses of their clothing, while the other eight worked hard dressing them. Rand stuck out his tongue in concentration while he sidled to another shadow for a closer look, it took all his training not to let out a long low whistle at the revelation that he appeared to him. The Jackabytes where dressing the corpses in Don-Tonian military uniforms, and equipping them with Don-Tonian spears and shields. He looked closely at the six men speaking with the red vested man he listened carefully

“…I want them to attack in a standard military phalanx shoulder to shoulder, they are to kill as many people as they can who enter before getting cut down, understood…” the red vested man said. The six others nodded. Rand guessed they were necromancers by their dark apparel, foul smell and various instruments that they carried, the one man with a bandolier of bells was a dead giveaway. “Good…” the man continued “… as soon as they are raised and have their orders you can slip away with the Jackabytes” he turned to a nearby Jackabyte and tossed several scrolls on the ground “Make sure these go on every fourth man… that will ensure even Eiradon can figure this out” the creature nodded dumbly at its master and went about its work “Now Gentlemen…” Rand felt it was best to leave before their meeting broke up and quickly slunk his way back to his group.

“We good?” Gilan asked?

“Nope” Rand said simply “if we live, we need to talk on the other side… our window is quickly closing though, so let’s move” Bow out and taking point he lead his team from shadow to shadow heading back to the cliff on the far side of the stairs to work on their assent and exit.

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Rand's Retrieval Pt 2

21st of Patchwall 7:03pm Eiradun, House of K

Gilan and Horace slipped past the two Jackabyte guards and scaled down the small cliff beside the stairwell bringing them into the House of K as it once stood. At the base of the stair Gilan pulled out a canvas map and glanced it over while Horace stood watch. Orienting himself to his environment Gilan waved to Horace and the two began to slink from building to building from ally to ally. The going was slow, the hamlet was by its nature confined; many of the passages and roadways were blocked, and whereas Gilan may have found a way to blend, his knightly companion most assuredly would not. It took the better part of an hour to get to the House of the Crimson Death. The doors stood open with two Jackabyte guards. Gilan looked to his companion and mouthed “Slow or Fast”. To his surprise Horace mouthed “Slow” to him. Gilan looked up at the place reaching into a pouch for a handful of pebbles. Slipping as close as they could to the Jackabytes he tossed the pebbles to their far left. Both creatures turned away to look at the noise, going so far as to take a few steps to investigate, Horace and Gilan slipped past during their confusion and quickly rushed to the cover of the stairwell. From here Gilan knocked an arrow in his bow; Horace slipped his shield from his should and drew his sword, there would be no hiding in the narrow halls or in the stairs, their best hope would be to silence a guard before they could raise the alarm. Down the two descended moving across the first floor and beginning to descend to the next level when Gilan raised his arm.

“Reports are back Exalted Brother…” he heard a voice say. Gilan waved to Horace and the two back tracked to the nearest room, and slipped in before they were seen. Gilan pressed his ear to the door and listened carefully. “It appears the Zakaram fellow decided that Eiradun was to be a better ally then our gold” the first voice intoned calmly “The City Watch have blocked the entrance to this cavern and are waiting” “Waiting? For what?” a second, deeper voice queried

“Unknown exalted Brother, but they show no signs of moving forward”

“A pity for them, they could have done some real damage, ah well this accelerates our timeline but does not dash it, assure everything is in place for Don-Ton to take the blame, and have Zakaram discredited, tortured and killed please”

“Of Course Exalted Brother, before I go however there is another matter…” at this point the voices had grown to faint for Gilan to make out anymore. Horace looked at the Ranger expectantly

“What did they say?” the knight whispered

“Nothing pertaining to us, come on, we have to get moving… quickly” with that the door was opened and the two examined the hallway; assured it was empty they stole into the stairwell and hurried their way down towards the room where Rand was to be hiding. They descended another floor and were about to exit the stair well when their heard a guttural barking. Slipping around the bend they saw Rand, he was supporting two men, one very large and plump, the other tall and muscled. Both men appeared near exhaustion and seemed to be barley standing. Baring their way were four Jackabytes, snarling and growling at the Ranger, who in is attempts to support the two men did not have his bow in hand. Words were not needed; Horace leapt forward slicing down a Jackabyte before it knew what hit it. Gilan was nearly as quick, setting three arrows forth quickly slaying a second Jackabyte. The monsters yowled slashing with claws and snapping with jaws, Horace deftly deflected their attacks as Gilan shot down another. The remaining creature seemed startled that his companion had been felled, giving Horace the moment he needed to run it through with his sword. The beasts defeated the friends conducted a quick reunion. “Rand!” Horace said with a giant grin spreading across his face. He quickly cleaned his sword and moved forward to embrace his friend. Despite his efforts to remain aloof Rand couldn’t suppress a grin. He’d been truly worried of how he would get the two Customs Officers out of here by himself. That didn’t stop him from teasing his friends slightly “Took you long enough, did you stop for coffee or something?” Not missing a beat Gilan jumped into the banter “It was on sale a Geoffrey’s, you know how Horace loves his scones… had to drag him out of there.” “That’s not true Rand, we came right here…” Horace defended the joke going over his head… the two Rangers chuckled letting him know they were pulling his leg. “Gil, Horace, meet Customs Officers George Harley and Bradly Ocean” Rand indicated to the two men he was still supporting. On que Horace shrugged his shield back onto his shoulder and took over supporting the larger of the two men, Bradly. That done Rand maintained his hold of George, but now had a hand free to pull out his larger knife. “Gil, you got the lead?” the Ranger knocked another arrow in his bow and nodded. With that the little team began to work their way up the stairs.
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Retrieving Rand Pt 1

21st of Patchwall 5:03pm Eiradun, Grandview

Gilan waved Horace over, they had had a slow start and things were not picking up by any means. After receiving the tip from the odd group of Eiradun Contractors. They had attempted to gather what resources they could and head straight into the sewers to free their good friend Rand. It had taken about two hours to equip and prepare and another hour to approach the sewers, what they saw did not give them much hope. The sewers in the area immediately surrounding the tunnels they needed to enter. Gilan noted some thirty city watch members in the area. He looked them up and down as he casually changed directions and moved away. These were not the standard “Bobby” Watch he knew. These members were dressed in Chainmail instead of the standard leather they normally wore, each was also equipped with a tower shield, short sword and pistol in addition to their standard clubs. They had a menacing look to them. Gilan led Horace a number of streets away finding an unguarded sewer access and silently dropped down. He winced at the slight noise Horace made as he joined him. Horace may be the stealthiest of all Pelegeian Knights, but that was still far too loud for a Kings Ranger. Gilan led him slowly through the twists and turns of the sewers quickly finding that every entrance to his destination was covered by more City Watch Still. Their appeared to be over a hundred well-armed watchmen in the tunnels blocking any approach or escape from the cavern below. He let out a low sigh, perhaps he had the skill to sneak past them and continue, but he could never get Horace past them all unseen and if this truly was the Scarlet Brotherhood down here he would have need of Horace’s blade in the caverns below.

“We are going to have to use magic to get past the guards” he whispered to the knight. Horace scrunched his nose

“Aren’t you the one who considers the use of magic ‘cheating’?” Gilan glared at the knight

“I’m not the one who clunks around like a giant tin bell and I don’t have time to go any other way… besides I said reliance on magic is cheating, not its use when applicable” the knight nodded to the rangers words, he was only giving him a hard time, and agreed that the situation called for some magic. Gilan continued “Can you handle a brief jump based on the map?” Horace thought about if for a moment. The ley lines that ran through Eiradun made his innate magic much stronger, but this would be a trickier piece of casting.

“I think so, but I won’t be able to do it again for a couple hours, might make getting out harder” Gilan nodded to this

“Fair enough, I would rather try and explain to the watch why we are leaving then why we have to go in before them, if it comes to that we will do as we must… ready?” the knight loosed his sword in his scabbard and watched as Gilan strung his bow. He nodded his readiness and the two tapped into the natural magic’s of the ley lines of Argyle and whisked themselves to the next stage of their rescue.

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AS BEFITS MEDDLESOME DWARVES

21st of Patchwall 381 ONT, 9:53pm Bazar District Eiradun

Tobar Bravemace returned home from another long night. He walked into the kitchen of his small house on the end of the Bazar and took a deep breath. He couldn’t help but smile; his wife Honora was frying up liver and onions, his favorite. He poured some mead into a tankard and flopped into a wooden chair at the table head.

“Hard day honey?” Honora asked as she continued cooking. Tobar grunted nodding as he took a deep draft. He heard her put down the pan and walk up behind him, he felt her hands come to his shoulders and couldn’t help but wince a little as she started to massage his pour bruised body. She noticed his wince and looked hard at him, “Did you fall again?” she asked “I keep telling you you’re too old to do the physical comedy all the time, I don’t know why the Annex won’t hire you an assistant” he smiled at her as she eased the pressure.

“It just a few bruises love, really its nothing, and the Annex doesn’t have the money for another drama teacher, they can barely afford me” he said as he took another long pull from his tankard.

“I know, it’s just they have you working all day, and then night classes four times a week, with no extra pay? It’s a lot, we miss you here, the kids miss you” he’d heard it all before, and she was right, that didn’t change anything, but it made him feel less guilty admitting it to himself. As if on que, upon being mentioned his children raced into the room.

“Farthen!” they called in unison as they raced up and threw themselves at him for a giant hug, he stole himself against the onslaught of pain he was about to feel. He threw open his arms and embraced the two little dwarves. Cadwell was the oldest, maybe 15, and little Deidre was just toddling at 5. He scooped them up and spun in a hug.

“How are my two favorite little dwarves!” he thundered as he spun them; they laughed and giggled for a few minutes as he played until his wife put a stop to it

“It’s bedtime, you’re supposed to calm them down not rile them up!” he stopped, surrendering to his wiser love. “You two head upstairs and get ready for bed, Farthen will be up in a little bit to say goodnight and tell stories.” The kids gave him a peck on the cheek and ran giggling up the stairs. He took another pull finishing his tankard as she spoke again. “Tobar, I need you to head down to Ned’s house, I am out of garlic and want some for the mutton, if you hurry I’ll be finished cooking by the time your back” It was hard to argue, she was cooking for him after all and had waited. He stood, still stiff from an evening of hard work, walked to the door and pulled his coat from the peg

“Farthen, where are you going? You were gonna tell us stories” he turned and looked up the stairs to his boy Cadwell and smiled

“I’m just heading down the street to Ned’s, I’ll be back in a few minutes” Cadwell nodded and headed back to his room. Tobar threw his coat on and headed out into the cool rainy evening.


He hadn’t been gone long, maybe fifteen minutes, Ned was out of garlic as well and he had to walk around the bend to Marcy’s house. He was most of the way back when he caught the smell of smoke. It wasn’t the normal smoke of a happy hearth but the angry putrid smoke of a fire gone wild. He could see the glow from down the street, and his heart ran cold. The night had been misty and cool, a slight rain in the air that made it hard to see, but somehow he knew. He began a hurried walk, and quickly as he felt the dread in his body rise the walk became a jog and then turned into a full out run. As he approached he began to mutter to himself “no, no, no, Oh Hithilum please no” he could see now that it was his house on fire, he could see a few of his neighbors coming outside, already some were calling for buckets. A quick scan did not reveal his wife or children. “Honara!” he cried bulling past the crowd and straight at the burning house, he put his shoulder down and slammed into the ignited door smashing it to nothing. “HONARA! CADWELL!! DIERDRE!” He bellowed through the gouts of thick black smoke that assailed him. The fire was everywhere on the ground floor but not upstairs. He plowed through the flames throwing himself onto the stairs and then took them three at a time charging like a rampaging rhino “CADWELL! DIERDRI!” his throat burnt from the smoke he was choking down but he didn’t dare stop, didn’t dare fail to yell, they would know that Farthen was coming. At the top of the stair he could see little the smoke was thick here but the fire had not burnt to this level yet, a glimmer of hope raced through him as he turned to the left kicking open his sons door “CADWELL!” his voice boomed the room was empty, he crossed the hall and slammed his shoulder into little Deirdre’s room, again it was empty. He turned and went the only way left, to the master bedroom. With a mighty roar he threw open the door “HONORA!” the room stole his breath.

Honora lay face down on the floor, a red circle of blood around her. His eye shot to the bed, where Cadwell and little Deirdre lay, copper pennies over each of their bleeding eye sockets, a knife in each of their chests, above them written in blood on the wall was “AS BEFITS MEDDLESOME DWARVES”

“no…” this time it was barley a whisper that escaped his lips, he could feel the strength draining from his body. He ran to his kids “no, no, no… Hithilum, please no, no” he numbly reached out checking for a pulse or anything, he could hear the crackling of the fire and coughed on the smoke but all he could do was reach out and wrap them in a hug muttering to himself “oh gods… please no” he held them close as tears poured from his eyes. The smoke got thicker and the room became warmer, he was not sure when, but at some point he had pulled the body of his dear love into the bed with him and the kids, and held them there crying openly as the fire and smoke consumed his little home around him.

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7th Diary Entry of Gemma the Time Travelling Gunslinger

7th “on the fly” Diary Entry of Gemma the Time Travelling Gunslinger

After looking over the Pranny and making sure she was ready for travel, I quickly did a check of my firearms, making sure they were loaded and ready for the battles ahead. I kept looking over my shoulder expecting to see Anya coming around the corner. I missed her and I wondered if she was really dead up there in the tower? Why did she leave us? She handled all that political stuff. She didn’t ask for it, the burdens of it were placed upon her, and she was doing her best to handle things to the best of her ability. Anya would know how to talk to the Pranny, she was always a much better leader than herself, and a much better leader than she gave herself credit for but I think she thought that she could only do these things when she was on NZT.

When I get back to Eridun, I need to talk to Jamieson, I need to talk to him about the Plague guy. Those two gentlemen from the Dwarven district, that we didn’t manage to get on that boat are still in danger, including all the other people there. I will look at Anya’s notes to find out all the information she found out about the Plague and what she was doing before she collapsed. Maybe Jamieson and his people can help with the situation. I’m not sure how long the government in Eridun will be functioning to be honest. If they can impersonate the Prannie and customs agents, then who knows how many people in Eridun have been compromised. They are probably just waiting for Alanna to return to fully enact their plan with the Plague. I want to help but I’m just not sure of my role or what I can contribute.

I made sure I knew exactly where I put the silver bullets, I might need to access them quickly if we encountered that vampire. I was glad I had those firearms from Arkus’ for sure. My musket definitely needed some repairs, but I did not have the time to work on them right now. I looked at my Blunderbuss and hoped that it would be more effective against those enemies with whatever protections against bullets they seemed to have. I also hoped that when they got out of there, I would be able to spend some quality time gunsmithing. I really am interested in double barrelled muskets or pistols. And I need to manufacture some alchemical cartridges. They will reduce my reload time as well. And I need to also work on that prototype for that Clava firearm.

I am not sure how we are going to get out of this “belly of the beast.” I’m feeling guilty about leaving Rand behind. What kind of people are we to leave him there? We should leave no person behind. He helped us get down here and gave us information. Maybe there are other prisoners down there that could help us? If we could find a way to get them out, at least getting the customs agents out of there for Rand. Maybe any one of those numerous service personnel that we attacked would have had helpful information? If we checked the body of that maid down here, maybe she would have keys or something? How about the guard, I have his belongings, would one of his items be the key? Or there could be other service personnel hiding down here, they would have more information. It is definitely possible that the only one who has the means to release the magical jail cells would be that vampire or one of the other higher ups. Or we could find other means to get them out. Could one of us pretend to join this house? They seemed to be in a recruiting mood, maybe one of us could bluff their way to get needed information and delay things long enough for us to figure out what we are going to do? I think we should try at least. I mean, who knows what we are going to face getting out of here? I would think there must be alternate ways out, maybe a back way or something?

Ok, time to get my game face on. I need to project an air of confidence and kickassery. I definitely am eager to kick some ass but would prefer to have everybody with us while we are doing it. I would like to convince them to stay behind for Rand and the customs agents. But regardless, we will get out of here, because I have unfinished business up top and I am definitely “Taking Care of Business.”

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Anger turns to violence,

20th of Patchwall 381 ONT, 11:32 am, The Suzuki Hall, Suzuki Grove, Evermoors, Northern Argyle

The afternoon was sunny for a day in mid Patchwall. A satyr lazily plucked at his mandolin in the corner while those assembled went about their business. The hall of Suzuki was an ancient place, the building be comprised of sung trees tightly knit together, many sections were outdoors and it blended so often sometimes it was hard to tell if one was out or in. The twelve or more druids assembled wondered back and forth in the main reception room. Speaking of upcoming missions, where resources were needed, and often circling over to the large Oak table at the far end of the room that held a spread of meats, breads, cheeses and fruits. Grand Druid Caius stood over a smaller sand table looking carefully at the maps, he had three druids huddled with him as he pointed out a new course of action.

The doors to the room flung open! The temperature dropped by ten degrees as a frost flowed into the room, plants shrivelled, water dusted with ice, breath became visible. In the doorway stood a rat, clade in dark armor and helm. The rat glared across the room at the Grand Druid.

“Leave Us” the rats voice was impossibly deep for such a small creature and carried the tone of command. The Grand Druid sighed in annoyance and opened his hands in a placating gesture as he began to approach the Rat

“Lord Shepard, this is a sudden and unexpected visit…” he was cut off as four druids and the satyr levitated from the ground. They began grabbing at their throats and gasping for breath, fear quickly entered their eyes as they found no breath forthcoming. The Grand Druids face grew red with anger “That’s enough… ENOUGH!” he called. At last, just before the druids lost consciousness the Rat relented and allowed his victims to drop, falling to the ground gasping

“Leave Us” the rat repeated, his tone made it clear that there would not be a third request. Hastily the druids collected the satyr and scrambled from the room giving the Rat a wide berth as they departed. The Rat entered the room and with a wave of his hand the double doors closed behind him and locked.

“Lord Shepard…” the Grand Druid spoke working hard to maintain his composure “What urgent business brings you to my hall on this day? If you had sent word I could have better prepared for you” The Rat strode across the room and in a single bound jumped the final 10 feet landing on the sand table in front of the Grand Druid

“Bellator Libra” The deep voice said, his anger clear. The Grand Druid took a minute to find the meaning

“The Bringer of Balance? I have heard the term before… what of it?” The Grand Druid said, no small amount of annoyance creeping into his voice. Lord Shepard waved his arm and the Druid staggered back, it had felt like he had been back handed by an ogre. Blood tricked from his cut lip

“Remember your place Caius,” the Waylen Lord said “You were put in this position to assure that there would be no Bellator Libra, now I find one skulking around in Eiradun, with a Guard Mouse no less” Caius raised his hands again

“Lord Shepard, I had heard rumors that there was an unregistered druid in Eiradun, and it is being handled, Arch Druid Fraxious is currently working towards this end. To assume this individual is the Bellator Libra; that simply cannot be, I have killed all those who had knowledge or training on that path, It just cannot…”

SMACK

That time Caius lost his feet as the back hand sent him flying, he smashed into the table and felt the sturdy oak break under him. Food and fruit went flying and he felt the dampness of blood on his robes as a splinter jammed into his side. He moved to rise but thought better of it as the Waylen leapt across the room landing on his chest

“I have seen this druid dance into ‘the between’ and slip back into the mortal realm, that is a sign of the Bellator Libra. He walks and learns with a Guard Mouse; that is a sign of a Bellator Libra. That is two of the five signs, both of which were your job to prevent! I have heard word that he brought Hibernium down upon my army at Arbor Portum! Hibernium, something that would take your entire hall to cast, done by one man!”

“Lord Shepard… surely…” Caius started but was quickly cut off
“I…
DO…
NOT…
ALLOW…
FAILURE…”

Each word was accented by a powerful blow smacking the druids face over and over. The force held the power of a hill giant, and jumped with the grace and speed of the Waylens tiny hand. When the Waylen had calmed down the druid was breathing raggedly. He spit blood and several teeth to the side.

“My Lord… I… I will correct this… please…” he was interrupted by a coughing spasm as more bloody trickled from his mouth and nose

“If this druid or guard mouse fulfill even one more of the Sigils of Oclum I will hold you personally responsible. I will no longer hold back my anger in our discussions… am I clear?” the words were spit through gritted teeth, amplified and echoing inside the rats dark helm. The druid did not trust himself to respond, he merely nodded. The Rat leaned forward and with a small finger dipped it in the blood trickling down the druids face, he put the finger in his mouth savouring the flavour “Good, now get to work” with that he let one more blow hit the druid and then turned the doors ripping themselves open as he approached and slamming behind him.

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Staying on task...

Emrys looked about the group, waiting for someone to make a call about their next course of action. Breaking in had been easy. Too easy as it turned out. The power of shape shifting had exhilarated Emrys. It was like he was feeling it for the first time all over again. The strength and power of the earth elemental was almost intoxicating. It had made him feel invincible. Vague memories of his time with Obrasyn and their fights against all manner of creatures played at the back of Emrys’ mind. Emrys longed to be that powerful again. He longed to be that connected to the wilds again.

The strength of his body was waning again. He knew it. The curse was starting to take hold. It wouldn’t be too long before he lost the use of his arm again. Maybe a month, maybe two weeks, maybe less than that. Emrys hoped that his body’s natural strength let him hold out a little longer.

Emrys put it out of his mind and focused on his surroundings again. He remembered Obrasyn’s teachings about focusing on the ‘here and now’. He could muse about his arm later when the party was safe. Everyone needed to perform at their best if they were going to get out of this, and Emrys has no intention of letting them down.

Emrys quickly sized up the space they were in. The floor was rock, the halls were wide, the ceiling a fair height, and apart from the wide staircase, the whole place was relatively straight.

Emrys grinned. This would do nicely.

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