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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Penwielders' LiveJournal:

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Thursday, October 18th, 2007
12:42 am
The compulsion was so powerful, so will-wrenching that Mall could scarcely hold his own memory in the back of his mind, one of the few anchors to his humanity. When the compulsion had faded, he rose upright and began to return to his human form, lockes of hair and wolf fur shedding away to reveal a relatively tall human, dotted with odd little scars from various battles that failed to seep to the top of his memories. It had all been a blur...he could not remember how long he had been gone this time, or even what the date was.

It had been a single name that had brought his consiousness back, a memory of what he had been searching for in the first place. Lovina. The memory that had drove him to begin his search so long ago and in a fit of utter frustration, lose himself to the will of the beast.

The Hilltop overlooking Vito granted quite the view to those who watched over the city, as it had given no less to Mallath. A great resounding sadness lingered in his eyes with the recollection of images, scents and smells from when he had lost himself, trapped in a cocoon of fur, muscle and pure instinct. He had found her during that shameful moment of lack of self control, and watched. He had stood protectively out of site, yet ever watchful.

It had been the realisation that she had found another that had finally convinced him to leave the danger of the city and return to the forest to roam and hunt, ever guided by instinct. Two honey golden eyes were all that were visible as the wolf lowered itself down into the shade of the long grass and observed the deer in the distance. With a great care and patience, the wolf slowly slinked closer to it's chosen prey while it's snout twitched at the scent of freshly roaming meat

Still, he waited.

When the deer bowed it's neck to return to grazing, the wolf struck. In that split second where the recognition of danger is clear, it came down to the reflexes of both wolf and deer. Surprise had caught the deer and prevented it's escape from the deadly game, while the wolf pounced and wrapped it's teeth around the deer's neck, tugging at the soft flesh. The game persisted for all of a heartbeat until the deer fell down to it's knees at first and then toppled to the ground, it's life having been exhausted from the attempted escape.

Without hesitation, he began to feed.

His memory flicked back to the present to be greeted by the rippling dusk sky, the air slowly turning a dull purple before it would inevitably give way to the darkness that always followed. How long had be lost to instinct? He couldn't tell. All he knew is that his hunt was over and there was nothing he could do to change that. With that final thought, his spirits sank

He simply watched as darkness flooded over the weakening light, finally rising up to his feet and throwing off his mortal disguise. Skin was replaced with fur, bone and teeth as he gradually transformed into an upright beast.

With all constraints of mortality cast off, the werewolf known as Mallath rose up and offered his greeting once more to the moon, a deep howl filling the air over the land and the city of Vito.

The deep call rang of sadness.

(I haven't wrote in so long...figured I would start by wrapping up some loose ends)
(Also to be continued when I'm feeling a bit more awake)

Current Mood: contemplative
Thursday, July 14th, 2005
5:13 pm
Shadows and doubt.
The cool night air blew althroughout the sleeping town of Jiyyd. For the first time in years, not a soul stirred save for Dalron and a few of the watch members unlucky enough to pick up night duty...Not an orc, or dark dwarf in sight. Through the darkness, owls perched upon the thatched cottages and spoke in whispering tunes in praise for the lack of daylight.Elsewhere rats scurried across the fields and hid under the cover of freshly growing grain. In the distance, a wolf howled to the dying moon in the early morning, offering it's woes and triumphs to the sky in consolation to Selune.

Atop the second floor room of the inn called the 'Regal Whore' , a rather inappropriately named Inn by all standards, stood Kara by the window, dressed only in a long blouse drawn about herself to offer a basic warmth in the cool air. The room itself had been a simple one ; a double bed, with a foot-chest at the bottom, several laqured wood cupboards in the corner of the room and a warm woolen rug dotting the wooden floorboards. Over on the tousled bed from where she had risen, a sleeping form was huddled under the blankets in a deep sleep, blessedly unaware of his surroundings and the silent worries she carried with her still.

(More to come later...just what I fished together with random pieces of inspiration)

Current Mood: creative
Tuesday, September 9th, 2003
9:47 pm
(I've been meaning to join this community for a while... Elsha wrote herself onto a blank piece of paper today and I had to type it out. Comments of any brand welcome)

Morning sun poured through the leaded glass windows of the smaller receiving room, turning the carved sheaves of wheat on the pine-paneled walls a rich gold. Miniature workers stooped over stooks of grain, silent witnesses to one of Coren Marchant's more pleasurable interviews during the year.

Mother Raiselle was a plump, dark-haired woman in her thirties. She wore a simple kirtle in the Mother Goddess's colours, a simple uniform that made her thickening waist and fallen breast irrelevant. She was a priestess like the matronly figure who ruled his home village throughout his boyhood. Coren loved the smile that spread on her lips when he was able to announce that, since the Goddess had increased the Grain Merchant Guild's profit this year, he could increase their annual donation to the Temple of the Blessed Trine again by half.

Raiselle's young protégé sat in the opposing chair, pale hands folded neatly in a blue-clad lap. T'els'sha Damente smiled with some real pleasure at his announcement, but she had yet to speak beyond a morning greeting. She couldn't be any older than twenty, but the crown of firey braids arond her head was capped with a married woman's veil. More than once Raiselle's sharp looks had kept the young woman's tongue in her head.

Charitable mood expanding, Coren turned to the young priestess and asked, "Are you new to the Temple's service?"

T'els'sha smiled demurely and spoke quietly. "I was made a novice in Sarain four years ago. At my age, I feel this is a considerable amount of time, but not everyone feels as I do." The smile she sent Raiselle was affectionate, but her eyes held a bit of bitterness.

Smiling indulgently, Coren leaned forward on his desk, steepling his fingers. "What great truths have you learned in service?"

"Your wife is a charitable woman, guildmaster Marchant. She often visits workers of the guild in their homes in times of joy and sorrow."

Coren cocked his head, puzzled. "Is this a great truth?"

One scarred hand waved dismissively. "Of course not. But I had the pleasure of meeting her on the occasion of the birth of one of your dockworker's children not a fortnight ago."

"I remember her recounting the incident. She remembers it was a particularily sweet mother and a healthy child."

"She left the mother a silver crown for the child."

"She did not tell me that, but it would not be out of her character."

T'els'sha rose and from her belt-purse she produced a tarnished silver crown. Pressing it into Coren's hand, she smiled tightly. "The father spoke with me on that same day of moving out of their tenement once he saved the money. As it was, his wife relied on Temple charity to feed herself. You know dockworkers don't make much; two days later, he spilled a bag of grain had to pay to replace it."

He was speechless, so she pressed on. "They had no money in reserve. Yesterday morning one of the rats in the tenement bit the baby and she bled to death. I was told to inform you that your wife's charity was no longer needed."

Coren stared a moment at the coin, but T'els'sha was already drawing on her gloves. "The Temple of the Blessed Trine thanks you for your generosity. As a priestess, I commend you." Coren found courage to look up, and was afraid of the expression he found in those hard green eyes. "As a wife and a mother, I hope not to met you again until you reconsider the true meaning of charity."

Raiselle herded her protégé out with an anxious mother-hen expression, and Coren sank back into his seat. Once the room was empty, his scribe hovered in the doorway, but with a barked command Coren ordered him out.

He turned the crown over and over again, searching King Jasson's profile, and the scratches on the Conte crest, but they yielded up no answers.

What did I do wrong?
Wednesday, September 3rd, 2003
9:49 pm
The Breaking
(author's note: This entry is going to be rather dark. Definitely R or X rating: rape, violence, master/submission things. Just making sure you know before you read.)

He sighed. "You make me angry pet." For all that his tone was quiet, she quivered on her knees in front of him. His hand caressed the top of her bowed head, smoothing over her hair.

"You know what happens when I get angry," he murmured, letting his hand drop back down to his side. She nodded mutely in response, her eyes coming into contact with the toes of his boots; the only things of his she should see from her position.

Moments passed. Waiting for his next action was as terrifying, if not more so, than the actual motions he went through upon her. "Yes, sire..." she replied, barely above a whisper.

For a long time he didn't react. She could feel him looming over her, watching every nuance of her posture. "Don't go anywhere. I will return." With that, he walked out of the dungeon room. The door, shrieking on its hinges, fell shut behind him. There was no bother with a lock.

No! Wait! Stay... please...., she nearly moaned, screaming for him to take pity upon her. She knew, to the very marrow of her bones, that when he came back, things would be far worse. She was in trouble. She was in very big trouble.

She shuddered at her own weakness. She couldn't move even if she had wanted to. Why did I have to anger him...? she thought plaintively, glaring at the flagstones under her knees.

In the darkened silence, she waited for her Master to return.

Things were so different before they had met.

Lovinia had spent her early years with her sisters, Iris and Cordelia, their mother, Agnus, and their father, the bread-winner of the family, Edmund. He was a wiry scrap of a man with salt-and-pepper hair and barely any meat on his bones. What he lacked in body he made up for in enthusiasm. Nearly every woman in their small town aside from his wife knew how energetic he could be.

If Edmund was a small minow, swimming about in a stream, then Agnus was his whale. She was a beam of a woman, and nearly as tall as she was wide. Standing a head and a half taller than her so-called husband, she was a loud, opinionated, haughty female with skin that had a penchant for warts and emotional hives. Red splotches occured over her neck whenever she got upset, and she was rarely calm.

Iris and Cordelia were the twins that came from the union, and Lovinia's younger sisters. While Lovinia herself took after her mother in height and unfortunate, mirror-breaking ugliness, her twin siblings were small like their father and petite. They had matching raven hair and hazel eyes that seemed to light up when they laughed.

Their unfortunate older sister was the blight of the family. Agnus refused to see her own faults, but saw an abundance in firstborn child. Her hair was the meek shade between honey brown and blonde; the color of rotting straw. Her eyes were a pastel gray and would have been fine on their own, but were offset by too-small lashes and sallow skin. Her nose was too large, her teeth were crooked and when she spoke Agnus could swear she could hear the dogs howling for the whistling when her daughter tried to pronounce the letter 's'.

To avoid her mother's constant litany of criticisms, Love often escaped into the written word. Books were a passion of her and she clutched them to her as tightly as a miser holds his coins. That's where she was one morning in her seventeenth year, curled up in front of a window in her room, her nose in a book.

"Vinnie! Come downstairs Vinnie! We're going to the market!" One of her sisters shouted up the stairs. She could never tell which one it was; they sounded as alike as they looked.
Saturday, August 16th, 2003
11:48 pm
Why no child can stand their parent for very long
Once they were all on the main floor, they adjourned for some refreshments. They were totally unnecessary of course, given that all their appetites were primarily of a carnal nature, but since they were all human at one point, they decided to have a bit of a nostalgia evening, and sup on 'normal' cuisine. Kiya prepared the food as she was ordered: fish and veal and late seasonal fruits and salad greens and whatever they felt like tossing together. The food would spoil long before they would, so they decided to take their time about it.

After dinner, they had a few drinks of wine and rum, and began to scatter as Ruel 'called' them for duties. Kiya to clean up the pewter dishes they used (silver wasn't exactly a good idea, since their bodies couldn't tolerate the material). Lillian flounced her way back up to her room to wait for a while, 'Nala standing guard outside her door. Ruel's only son, Shaemus, went back to his usual brooding and standing guard by the front door, a serviceable blade strapped to his hip. Ruel himself made his way towards the back of the house without a formal word to any of them.

Love sat back in her chair and sipped her brandy, relaxing until she heard a message as loudly as if her Sire was next to hear ear.
Come with me and take a bath.

What? Did she hear that right. She knit her brows slightly, tempted to flat out refuse.

You heard me. Come along, daughter. We have some catching up to do. And you smell positively foul.

With a quiet sigh she stood and placed her wineglass on the countertop near Kiya to wash and wandered back down the hallway. The walls were of sturdy oak, old portraits and wall sconces with burned down candles on either side. The rug under her feet was slightly worn. It looked gray-ish in color, but was likely once a dark royal blue. It was one of the only hints that the building hadn't been looked after in quite some time. Seeing an open doorway to her left, she stepped inside.

"You should give your cleaning girl a raise," she said idly.

Ruel looked up from the already prepared tub. "Oh, she will be given a raise, but she has no need of money at the moment." He raised a brow in slight disdain. "Please feel free to disrobe and step in. The water is quite warm."

Biting back a scowl, she turned her back to him and pulled the laces of her corset apart and pulled the contraption off, letting it drop to the floor. Next was the burgundy skirt she wore, a standard of hers. Nothing fancy, but it was light for the summer months. Once that was loosened at the waist and was pushed below her hips, it pooled easily around her feet. The white chemise top came up and over her head and her dark hair fell down her back in a cascade as she tossed the fabric down to join the rest of the pile. She stepped out of her slippers and bent over, pulling the white thigh-high stockings she always wore down one leg at a time. "Is this to your satisfaction, Sire."

He couldn't miss the undertone of sarcasm, but ignored it. Pricking at her pride and her vanity was a pastime of his. He gave her a low and leisurely glance from her heels all the way up her ack side of her hourglass figure to the top of her head. Of all his 'daughters', Love was certainly the most curvaceous. "I'll be satisfied once you are in the tub and washing the stench of animals off of your skin and out of your hair. I want you to explain to me just why you are feeding off of substandard creatures."

"One must eat," she shrugged and walked over to the water and stepped in. Realizing she would do well not to waste the warmth of it before it was gone, she settled in. "And what would you call a high enough standard for your children to prey upon. Aren't all prey equal in the eyes of a hunter?"

Arching a brow, he settled back onto a wooden stool by the tub. "Hardly. And I taught you better than to just go after the first piece of meat you came across, willing or no. I could smell you five miles up the road. Werewolves? and what else.. a cat? I didn't realize a daughter of mine was into the beastiality scene. Isn't the feline persuasion a little small to get a good meal out of?"

Love picked up the soap bar nearby and began to scrub her skin, if only for the chance to enjoy the water and the feeling of being thoroughly washed. "I didn't realize you had forgotten that were-animals shapeshift, father-dear," she replied with a too-sweet smile in his direction. "I'll have you know I was sated for a good few days on each of them. The Wolf, twice infact."

"You will not be dragging home any 'pets' to try to convert," he said warningly.

"Of course not. I don't wish to become a parent by any means. Besides, don't you have your space full with Kiya's training?"

"That is none of your concer--" he growled and dragged her up by her arm, for she had just dunked her head under water for a moment to get her hair wet. "And you will -listen- to me while I'm talking to you."

She yanked her arm back and shot him a look of impotent rage. "You told me to wash, so I'm washing. Is that not good enough for you?!"

Suddenly he loomed over her, his hands digging into either side of the tub's wooden rim. "Watch your tone, as well as your tongue," he warned her icily, his snarling face inches from her own. "I'm starting to believe you need a little retraining yourself. Would that be good enough for you?"

No, she thought darkly. Never again did she wish to be under his control. She'd never be free of it. Not until either he or she were slain, but even what was happening now was better than having to be enslaved by him on a daily basis. Bent to his whims, his pleasures, his commands. She hated it. She had hated every violent, self-esteem breaking moment of it.

She stared him down, even at her distinct advantage, sitting naked in a tub full of soapy water while he was fully clothed and standing on dry wood. Once again she swallowed her pride and lowered her gaze. "I am sorry, Sire."

"What was that? I couldn't hear you." His tone was almost mocking.

Calling upon a reserve, she repeated herself more clearly. He nodded and leaned back, returning to a more relaxed position, crossing his arms over his chest. "You are forgiven. Though it does seem you've developed a bit of a spine and too much mouth since I let you go.. how many years ago is it now?"

"Ninety-eight, Sire," she offered automatically. She returned to bathing herself, using the soap upon her legs and arms.

"Almost a century? Already? Time does seem to fly when you live for so long..." He stood still for a moment, as if listening to something. Then he chuckled to himself.

Love raised a brow at his change in mood. "Did you hear something amusing, Sire?"

He shook his head. "Just Lillian. She's growing rather impatient waiting for me in her room."

She blinked. Lillian? That brainless, giggling little twit? she wanted to ask, but she didn't. "You two are feeding off of one another? Isn't that slightly incestuous for your tastes? She's been fully trained for three-quarters of a century now."

With a shrug, he looked down at her. "Neither jealousy nor its predominant color match you well, daughter. She is a suitable meal, and she knows exactly my tastes. I developed her to match them myself."

Love stiffened and ground her teeth together, trying not to scowl at him. He didn't miss the fire leaping into her eyes though. By whatever was unholy she was amusing to provoke. "I am not jealous, merely curious."

"Yes dear," he replied sarcastically. "You are also finally clean. Dry yourself off. You may leave if you wish, but I will want to catch up with you privately in a few days."

"Once you've recovered from Lil?" she only half-asked.

He chuckled and left the room without answering her. Heavy footfalls from his boots could be heard going up the stairs to the room.Do not disappoint me, Lovinia. I will know what you are doing. A feminine squeal of delight followed a door opening and shutting none too quietly.

"Of course you always know what I'm doing. Darkness beyond, save me from this nightmare," she growled to herself. Getting up and dripping onto the floor, she grabbed a nearby towel from a hook and dried herself off. The quicker away, the quicker gone. Just the thought of Ruel and Lillian together made her strangely queasy.. and hungry at the same time.

Once she was dressed again she slipped out the door unnoticed. It was time to hunt. And she wouldn't care one fig over the 'standard' of the meal. She'd fuck a tree-squirrel if she wanted and there was nothing her Sire could do about it.

Well, there was, but she'd rather not think about that just yet.
2:21 am
The Curse
Running...it was always running…everyone else seemed to be ahead of Terran as he sprinted to try and keep up with the rest of the group fleeing those on horseback. Yet not matter how fast he ran….they always inched closer and his comrades always that inch further away....always running…

Mallath awoke with a start, launching up to a leant up position from the bed…somehow he had been moved from haven to a cottage of some kind…he did not recognize it at first as he glanced around but before long…the pieces began to fall into place as he realized where he was. He illicited a small smile and drew himself up from his rest. All too aware of the fact he had been heavily sweating…and that he was unclothed, he looked around for a moment before calling out

“Cria...where did you put them?”

There came no reply other than a pair of breeches hurled out of the next room towards Mallath. With but a swift motion, he caught and drew them on after a moment of awkward manuvering from various fresh scars pulling. He looked around the mussed room and let out a soft sigh before pushing off to join Cria in the next room. The kitchen had been relatively small with a table placed in the right corner to give the most space around the hearth nearer the opposite end of the room....in-between had been dotted with shelves filled with potted plants, herbs...spices and books. Mall tilted his head slightly at the fragrant aroma of jasmine circling the room and looked to Cria who had been setting a plant within a new pot.

She had somewhat of a natural beauty about her…not haughty and prim but an ageless wild look in her emerald green eyes, only enhanced by the flowing fiery red hair running down her back. She had not been a tall woman and her stature had been a slight one, standing only five and a quarter foot…she made up for it in spirit however. She turned her head slightly from watching potting the plant and smirked as she found Mall watching her neck hungrily

“Don’t even think about it…there’s some stew in the pot over there which should tide you over till nightfall” He gave off a playful slight sigh and lifted an ornately carved bowl to dunk into the stew and draw it out once full before moving to lift a wooden spoon from beside the pot and saunter outside with nothing but a nod to move over and settle against the small stone wall surrounding the cottage where he ate in silence as he glanced out to the landscape before him; A sloping valley at first as you moved away from the cottage, stretching out onto a flat plain covered with flowing grass and stately trees. The finishing touch had been the wildflowers growing around the fields.

“How calm and simple…”

“So the silent knight talks does he?” Cria offered as she wandered from the doorframe to move over and settle against the stones. His reply was a somewhat unintelligible mutter, using the guise of eating his food to hide his discontent. She rolled his eyes for a moment and a quiet silence came upon them for just a moment.

“I’m not a knight.”

“You were once…”She took a breath before continuing on

“I know…you’re a terrifying beast which preys on mortals....devouring them whole when you do….do you realize how many times I’ve heard that?” She folded her arms against the slight breeze in the air. It didn’t seem to bother Mall.

He didn’t answer.

“Twice…and even then that is only after I saw your proper self…you really should learn to open up more…you might even earn some more friends…you know…that myth so hard to find?”

After a moment of thought, he answered “Who do I ‘make’ friends with…the vampires? My blood is sweet wine to them, they would claim it first chance they got....humans? They do not live long enough and are far too fragile…demons…usually lust after one thing or another….that doesn’t leave very many at all…does it?”

“Well aren’t we gloomy”

“I’m old.....I’ve earned my right to be gloomy and pessimistic...besides…how did I get here in the first place? Last I remember I was slumped in a corner…” He tilted his head slightly, reaching forward with a slight wince as one of his scars complained and sat the bowl down

“Your brothers....I suspect they follow you like a storm” He chuckled softly and shook his head “They are the storm…that pair are insane…did you know they don’t move during the day because they loath their human forms..? There was a time where I might have disagreed.”

“Yes Oh beast…” Her retort was quick and brought about another long and rather painful silence for a moment or so before Mallath finally broke it and pushed off the wall “Thank you for caring”

“Gods knows you don’t…” sounded the mutter as he moved back inside to find his things
Thursday, August 14th, 2003
2:12 am
Love and Hate
The moon hung low and ominous in the sky; the full circle so bright it seemed to cause the rest of the stars and streetlamps to dim in its wake. Hollows upon the surface played with the summer shadows in drifting shapes and stirring memories. Plaintive flickers from the other illuminations were barely seen, even if they wanted to be. Swimming between the branches of trees, humid seasonal fog reflected and warped in upon itself in bored despair, seemingly lost in its own world, and masking any others that passersby tried to see. A lone howl called to the melancholy orb. It wasn't a good night to be out of doors.

That was why she walked. To be alone among the ancient and living earth. To follow the gravel trail and stones of refracted moonlight under her slippers, smothered again under her skirts as they trailed behind her, covering her tracks. She felt no fear, for this was her habitat, among the living, but at a much slower pace than of those that she seemed to belong to, but did not. She did not belong among them, they who sprung to life and withered away within a century. The amusement was why she stayed, playing the masquerade to fool them all. That and her need to feed.

It amused her to toy with them --without their knowing it, of course-- seducing loyal husbands away from their shrewish wives with temptation of flawless skin and no promises past a night. To take young virgins and show them the beauty of desire, of the flesh, of sex. A few hours were what she promised, to teach, to show, but no more. No strings came with her puppeteering. She made them dance a merry dance for a while, and once sated, sent them on their way. There was never anything beyond that. They returned to their normal lives, and she was forgotten, perhaps reminisced as an amourous dream or ethereal spirit, but never as something tangible. Never something to return to.

Romance was something better left uncontemplated. With a human it would be fleeting, for they die too readily, and there was always the question of whether they stayed for their own intentions and of their own volition or was it because they were ensnared and couldn't see past the enchantment to view the demon for what she really was. Then there was the family of said poor soul to consider, first wondering of their sanity, then suspicion of her--No, it was best to have them for but a while, then send them on their way. As for another dark immortals, they seemed adherent to their own kind. Just as she was adhered to hers.

Family was also why she walked this night. Once part of a human society, she came out to the frayed edges of it now. Her human sires and siblings were long since passed on, but once in a grand while she spotted one with similar looks to her own..a great-nephew perhaps, she never could confirm it unless she heard the surname spoken aloud. Steton. They weren't a large brood; barely more than a handful that she could remember, and that consisting of her immediate family of mother and sisters. Her father had died before she had reached her 4th birthday. Her mother then became an obsessive matchmaker for her three daughters. This succubus remembered her beginnings well, stuck as an ugly duckling behind her swanlike sisters. It wasn't an easy time for her, or any in that family, barely above the poverty line as they were.

Things began to change when she met her as-yet-unrealized Sire. For all the horse-faced, awkward girl wished to find someone with whom to share her life and had no luck doing so, Ruel was the first to seem to have any interest in her in that respect. It was a stormy relationship, and as naive as she was, it was also rather frightening. Before she had fully realized her situation, she was nude in a refurnished stone wine cellar, playing sexual slave to her incubus Master. Thus her life began to transform itself. What was mortal became immortal. What was once ugly upon appearance became splendid beauty, and what was once moral naiveté became demonic experience.

Ruel was also why she was out tonight, instead of hunting as behooved her. He wished to see her. She could sense him nearby, in the stone house up ahead. Words and missives were hardly necessary with the magic they emanated. As her Sire, he did not need to command; she could not disobey him.

She walked up to his place of residence and raised a hand to knock on the front door, but it opened before she had the chance.

"It's about time you showed up. He's waitin' in the dining room," the man in front of her said.

One brow arched, she followed him into the front room and shut the door behind her. "Is he in a particularly aggravated mood, or is that just you Shaemus?"

He growled a response and went back to his designated area by the window, keeping watch. She padded her way by him and through another doorway, more opulent this time into a large dining hall chamber. The tables were removed and she padded along the hardwood floor towards the dais at the far end.

The Sire sat upon his self-appointed throne, his booted legs stretched out in front of him. He was dressed in his standard black breeches and white lace-up shirt, his sleeveless leather trench tossed over the back of his chair until it was needed. A smirk played on the corner of his mouth as he watched her approach with eyes as calm as as a windless lake. Standing by his side was another one of his children. Kiya was a mute Indian girl, dressed in her standard wrap sari in navy blue with silver scrolling detail on the borders. A jewel was impressed to her skin between her eyes and her black hair fell in a sleek curtain to her hips. She kept her head bowed and her hands folded in front of her belly until she was called upon.

"It's good to see you looking well, Lovinia." He spoke softly to her. He didn't need volume at this moment, or at least he didn't care to use it. Nor did he rise to greet her. That was just as well. She had no desire to be touched by him any time soon.

She did, though out of respect and duty, spread her skirts out and curtsy to him. "And you, Sire. Is the reason you summoned Your Children one of particular importance or shall we just be reacquainting ourselves?"

One auburn brow of his quirked up slightly in either displeasure or surprise. She had grown a bit of spine since he had let her go after her training was complete. "It is rather brusque of you to be asking such a question so soon. Whatever happened to your manners? I know I taught you better than what you are showing me now."

Love inclined her head out of sheer force of will, repressing the urge to clench her fists in impotent frustration. "My apologies, Sire."

"Very well," he replied. "You always have been the eager one." He rose from his chair and stepped down from the dais to her level, positioning himself closely in front of her. With one hand he took her chin and raised it, meeting her eyes with his own. "You have changed, my child. And I do not know if it is for the better."

Watching him with her rose-red eyes, she stuck the tip of her tongue out and ran it over her lips before replacing it to it's original location and speaking. Darkness below his touch brought back memories. The firsts she had with him, her training, everything. And nothing she cared to repeat. "I am sorry if I displease you, Sire. It has been many years since our last meeting."

He nodded, seeming to accept her answer. "Ninety-two, if my memory serves well, and it usually does. Kiya, be a dear and get some claret out for us. Six glasses full should be enough. And leave the bottle out. Call the others into the hall so we can speak freely."

A murmured "Yes, Sire." Came to Love's ears as the younger girl passed her and silently walked down to the wine cellar to do as she was bid. She arched a brow at Ruel as he dropped his hand from her chin. "She is your newest, is she not? A lovely child."

He smirked again, realizing her change in topic and knowing what it hid beneath it's polite surface. "She is. Very timid, but also malleable. A fine student, really." He waited for her to reply, but when all she did was shrug and watch him he chuckled quietly. "Such lack of conversation is odd from you, Lovinia. Is something troubling you?"

Yes something is troubling me. I have no desire to be here now that I am and have seen that you are still the same as I recall. I want to leave and never set eyes on you again."No, Sire. I merely wished to wait until we were all gathered as you ordered."

"Well y' won't have to wait long, lass," Shaemus said from the doorway. Danala appearing by his side. "Kiya's finally gotten th' hang o' The Call."

"Lillian will be downstairs in a moment, Sire," the quiet Hindu said as she brought up the wine and retrieved the glasses from a cupboard.

The Call was only Sire's fancy way of titling the mental and emotional telepathy they all had among each other since they were 'family'.. they were all turned or created in some way by Ruel. He didn't use his version of the call on all of them at once usually, but tonight must've been an exception. Love glanced between Kiya and Shaemus. Neither of them seemed overly nervous. Kiya was always quiet, and slightly spineless, and Shaemus was nearly constantly paranoid.

A noise sounded from the woodenstairs leading up to the second floor of the place and Love watched her 'brother' glance up and pull his cap from his bushy black hair. Wondering what caught his attention so thoroughly, she followed his glance up the stairs. She should have known. Lillian always liked to make an entrance.

Her hair was piled in a coif of golden silk, saphires and diamonds threaded in a crown and tucked into the curls. She wore a fantastic blue damask silk gown of the french persuasion, low cut to show ample clevage and her tiny waist. Pearly white brocade trim finished off the bell-like flowing sleeves as well as the long skirt. Tiny blue slippers that matched her eyes in their cobalt depths poked out daintly as she stepped down onto the floor. She was gorgeous.

Trailing behind her, the shadow of a goddess, was her bodyguard. A tall, ebony skinned woman of an extreme height, but posessing the grace and ease of movement of a gazelle. She was the antithesis of her mistress; dark as opposed to fair, tall and muscular versus small and slender, silent against gregariousness. 'Nala was Lillian's human bodyguard before each were turned. Instead of escaping back to her homeland, the black warrioress stayed with her mistress and shared her fate rather than let her suffer it alone.


Current Mood: darkly creative
Friday, April 18th, 2003
9:21 pm
Running the gauntlet
The skies opened up and fell down upon them as the battered company and their aid marched southward along the great north road. After their battle on the moors just south of Mindelan had ended with the extra band of troops joining the fray, they all had decided to slink home and find some well deserved rest. They owed it to themselves after so many battles and deaths.

For more nights than they could remember, they had been marching south slowly from the city of Mindelan to return to the Capital city, the number of wounded amongst them was taking a toll upon their haste. It had seemed for every league they made, time conspired to make sure they spent twice as long tending to the fallen. Be it snow or be it sun...the weather cared not for the fortunes of men and nor would it ever.

Even the forests conspired to hide their enemies on the trek home, twice now had they been attacked by roaming bandit patrols, they seemed to call the forest a home from home and who could blame them?. Great oaks towering over the skyline as far as the eye could see, letting fly their leaves to gently glide to the ground no matter the wars or turmoil. Nature was truely magnificent...an ageless beauty thrust into such an ugly land where disease and war were the norm.

The expedition had been forced to draw camp within a sheltered oaken enclave when the skies finally gave way for the approaching storm. It seemed if it was not the bandits keeping them from their home, it had been the raging storms. Depsite all this, the squirrels still scampered...the badgers still burrowed and the forest still grew. Shadows were playing upon the ground as the relfections from the campfires shon off into the distance, Even in the rain the flames danced in the shadows, a never ending excitement many failed to understand.

The sounds of merrymaking and camaraderie echoed through the forests in an unending crescendo of sound. All but a few of the consious troop were enjoying themselves around the blazing fires for the first time in what seemed like months, The few which were scattered, were praying. Off to the side, a shadow moved, disturbing thr careful balance as he approached one knight crouched down upon his knees. His hands were held out as if holding...something, the darkness sheathed everything around them completely. Suddenly the figure moved forward to thrust out a hand as if attack but his aim was wide.

He smirked and set down the bowl beside the praying figure, the 'stew' which could only have been described as slop was far from appealing but it was at the least nutricious, sutble heat waves could be seen wafting off the bowl as it lay in wait.

"Eat up, it'll get cold.."

The knight glanced up, he almost had amusement in his eyes before he looked back down to the bowl and lifted it to gingerly take in the aroma. "Would it improve the flavour?"

"Has it ever?"

He just grumbled and lifted the wooden spoon resting lightly on the slop, scooping out a little to taste, resisting the urge to gag when he did. A brave smile prevailed followed quickly by the sound of food being swallowed. "Oh...top notch crap...absolutely supreme..."

"Can you do better?"

"Er, that's beside the point.." Saying neither of them could cook had been an understatement, they had never learned to cook and actually add a degree of appeal into the food, the company were lucky they had been restricted to stew. There was a degree of amusement in the fact that most of their attempts could be used as weapons however and even had been on several occasions. "So what's the damage then?"

"It'll take a week at least with our wounded in the state they are...at least most are awake now.." Coaan nodded after a moment, waiting for the continuation of that sentence


"Well, lets just say we aren't out the cooking pot yet...the bandits are hot on our tails it seems, scouts have picked up trail-" He was cut off as Coaan stood, keeping a hand upon his shoulder as if shielding it protectivly, motioning for hush from his comrade and brother..not just in arms...

"We're in trouble."

His Brother just nodded

"Ways out?"

He smirked coyly, folding his arms over his chest to try and keep in the heat this far away from the fires, The north was not going through the same heat patterns as the rest of the world...and it was showing "Take a guess..."

(To be continued)
Thursday, April 17th, 2003
10:53 pm
"Damnit Echo..." she muttered under her breath. Five minutes in that man's company was enough to drive her nuts. He may have been twenty-six, but he had the maturity of a five year old. Things weren't working between him and Sar... for the fact that they never -saw each other-! It's like he was playing with some toy that lost a bit of paint to it, so he decided to throw it away. "If Coaan and I used the same logic we wouldn't have a relationship to begin with!" she hissed to no one in particular, walking along the docks.

Rosa didn't know what brought her there to begin with. It was just an area she was familiar with. Something that reminded her of her old life, before she was tied down. She eyed the ships in the harbor with longing. It wasn't pretty. The dockmen belched and scratched themselves between shifting cargo on and off of boats. Raunchy songs faded in and out of recognition as sails flapped in the sea-breezes. The entire area smelled of dead fish and the gulls swooped on anything remotely organic that had stopped moving for more than five minutes.

Everything seemed to have turned upside down. She felt tamed, chained down. And it drove her absolutely crazy. Being stuck in one place for so long. She didn't know how these city dwellers dealt with seeing the same stuff over and over again. Didn't they get bored out of their minds? At the same time she was completely worried. Ok, that was an understatement. For the past two weeks she'd had nothing but horrid nightmares about walking upon a bloody frozen battlefield and stepping over corpses in an attempt to reach a point on a hill she could never get to. It was a sickening sight to watch a sword was plunged into his windpipe an wrenched, sending his decapatated head and first few vertebrae scattering down the snow-covered hill to rest at her feet. She could never stay asleep long enough to see who had done it; she was usually conscious and in a cold sweat by that point, trying not to either scream or throw up.

And as the days rolled by it became more and more clear to her that his fate was similar to the depiction and he was never coming back. It didn't make her cry.. at least it hadn't yet. It made her feel cold inside, hollow. She only told two seperate individuals that he hadn't been around since November. Echo just blinked and said "wow". Mis refused to believe he was dead. Rosa sighed quietly. It wasn't that she had no faith in his abilities as a fighter. It was war. People died. It was harsh, but it was reality.

Thinking about Mis just got her more worked up than she already was. What her mom's lover did to her was disgusting, vile and disturbing. He should be flayed to within an inch of his life and have salt rubbed into his wounds until the process was repeated again. Too bad he didn't have a name to go along with such a nasty personality. She could go speak to some of Sir Myles' old spies. She had gotten to know them at a number of Palace banquets and was even offered a job in their ranks and writ of pardon from 'past transgressions against the crown', as one of the officers had put it. They had eyes and ears in nearly every Court surrounding Tortall at any given time. And with her foreign lineage, they'd be hard pressed to discover who she was working for.

She shook her head. A change in career paths wouldn't fix her current problems. Between Co and Mis, she had her hands full of them. And it was hard to figure out what to do when normally she'd ask one how to deal with the other. She tried to ask Mis what to do about Coaan, but she wasn't much help, and she couldn't very well ask Co what to do about Mis since he wasn't around. "What are you? socially co-dependent now?" she muttered to herself. She would go ask the spies for a favor on finding a sexual predator of children somewhere in Mis's origins, though she'd have to find out where the girl grew up first. Rosa made a face. This situation was getting more complicated by the moment.

Mischief -should- tell Dak about what happened to her. Especially if they were going to become intimate. She knew she was being hypocritical; there were plenty of things she never told Co about herself, and she knew there were things that he didn't tell her. It was kind of better that way. Don't ask, don't tell. But Mis needed to for the intimacy issue. It would be hard, trying to explain something like that to someone you cared about; hearing a story of a small child set upon by an older male figure that she trusted and taken advantage of, left violated and crying in the dark.

Rosa blinked. That sobbing was awfully loud and realistic for an imagining. She glanced around, not really seeing anything aside from the fact that she'd somehow wandered off the docks and back onto the city road. People were bustling around trying to get around her as she just stood there dumbly. She couldn't spot the source through the crowd, as frustrating as it was. Didn't anyone else seem to notice?

"Roza! Oh Roza. I am zo glad you are 'ere!" A little strawberry blonde head popped into her line of sight.

Rosa frowned. "-Analise-? What's going on?" But before she got an answer, a chubby little Scanran body started using her shirt as a handkerchief, sobbing thanks and praise in mixed Scanran and Common words. "Analise.. what's wrong? Where's Robby? What happened?"

"M-my husband Roburt vuz upducted!" she wailed. "Ve vere in ze coach, joost riding when a rider came vith mageek und Roburt vas trying to defend us und 'e vas blasted und dragged avay."

Rosa tried to make sense of all the rambling from her sister-in-law. Some of it began to register. "What? Where'd they take Robby? Did you see where they went off to?" Why didn't they grab Analise as well?, but she didn't say that outloud. Ransom was a highly paid trade, and her sister-in-law with her ties to Scanran political power would fetch a good price.

The girl shook her head, still sniffling. Poor child, she was only seventeen. A young wife shouldn't have to get into such a mess, least of all on her own. "No.. not zat I could see. They dizappeared, but left zis note. I cannot read it. My Tortallan iz not zo goot."

Ripping off the seal, the text inside read: If you want to see him alive again. Come to the corner of Lower City Road and Market Way with 5,000 gold nobles. He dies by midnight if you don't make it. "Dear gods. We don't have that sort of money..." When Analise only looked confused, Rosa shook her head. "Come on. We're going to go get my brother out of this mess."

"Vait!" Analise had to hike her skirts up and job after her husband's reckless sister. "Iz it von ov doz dreaded money-zeeker notes? Ve must pay for hiz life?"

"That's the idea. But since neither one of us has that sort of money..."

"Vat vil ve do?! He muzt not be killed! He muzt not--" she started getting hysterical again. Rosa sighed in frustration. Seeing people cry helplessly drove her slightly mental. Crying wasn't going to get them anywhere in this situation, even if it was a tempting emotional release right now. "We'll figure something out, alright?" People began to stare at them in the streets. One beggar tried to plead for a few coppers, but Rosa glared him off. With a muttered oath she took Analise by the arm and started dragging her. "Come on!"

Analise could do nothing but go along with her. Proper noble ladies weren't instructed to be angry or violent, so she couldn't very well pull away, though her arm was released once they reached the end of the road and stopped in front of a plain wooden building on the corner of an intersection. She made a face, blotchy-red with tears. "Zis iz not zee.. proper end of town, no?" she looked around frightfully.

"No," Rosa snorted out. "This is where the scum thrives. Watch it, you may get mugged down here." She pounded on the front door of the building.

"Mugged? Zomeone vud throw a mug at me?" Local idioms had a tendency to get confusing. Rosa turned around and opened her mouth to make an explanation when the door opened up and they were both dragged inside. It was pitchblack inside and rather dusty. Analise yelped when she nearly tripped over a loose floorboard and suddenly light flared in the candle sconces on the wall. It looked to be a dining room of sorts. Minus the table and chairs aside from one. In it was Robby, bound and gagged and looking barely conscious. Rosa tried to get over to him but was yanked back by whoever it was that opened the front door. A set of shackles were placed on her wrists behind her back, then she was let go.

"It's best you not move. We wouldn't want to have to kill you." the voice sounded as if it smirked. "At least not yet." The newcomer, female by voice, stepped in front of her. She was tall, dressed in all black, which contrasted oddly with her pale hair. She wasn't ugly either, though she did have a rather nasty scar going down over her right cheekbone towards her ear. "So this is the infamous Black Swan whore? It's not much to look at. Dante will have a bit of explaining to do, won't he?" She glanced back at Analise and smiled wryly.

Rosa snarled and tried to lunge, but stopped short. She glanced behind her and saw that the handcuffs were connected to a chain leading to a bracket in the closest wall. She glared at the woman again. "Who the hell are you? Let Robby go, now damnit!"

Analise smirked at her. "Vat vill you do, Roza? Glower us to death? You are in no pozition to be ordering us around."

"What the hell! You're -in- on this?!"

"Now now, Ana. Don't provoke her. She may start spitting." They both snickered and the taller one spoke to their new captive. "Since we're beginning polite introductions, I am Viola. I'm surprised my cousin hasn't mentioned me before now. Didn't she tell you you two would be coming here? No? no matter. And I already know who you are. And for a female who was formerly in a noble household, you've certainly turned yourself quite common, between the vulgar language and the mannish clothing. By the way, do you have the five thousand nobles?"

Rosa didn't speak, couldn't really. Her mind was still reeling. What was going on? What did Dante have to do with this situation? What side was Analise on? What did Robby have to do with any of it? "Of course not," she snapped. "And I already know who you are. You're Dante's wife." she smirked before turning to Analise. "Cousins? I knew I should never have trusted you. What's your end in all this?"

"My end in all zis?" Ana arched a brow. "All vat? You knew zat my family vas under Maggur, did you not? Vell, too bad for you zen. And for your brother."

"You see, Maggur and his forces don't want to merely take over Tortall and other countries by land invasion. My task was to see to sea raids. That is why Dante was such a perfect match. While my cousin here was to go through from the inside and form alliances with the enemies and use them. That's where your brother became such a prime target. Who would suspect Scanra forcing its way into Tuisane through one of its own high families? Your nephews will be our relatives. Now don't think we didn't bring you here needlessly. We have a job for you as well."

Scowling, Rosa shook her head. "What makes you think I'll do it?"

Viola arched a brow. "To save your brother's life, perhaps? Since he's already married to my cousin, he's stuck for life with her. So we really only need him for insurance. What we need you to do is get that brute of yours, Trulli to cooperate. Maggur wishes to expand its horizons to the Inland Sea. And since Tyra's such a large merchant-trading area, we want you to get in there and secure cooperation of the Trulli house. Shouldn't be too difficult since the Counsil of Houses there will generally listen and go along with any idea one of them has."

There was no reply to that, but Rosa nearly laughed. They apparently didn't get the news flash that her 'brute' was off fighting in the war against them and likely dead. Not to mention the fact that he gets seasick at the mere mention of boats. "And if I don't agree?"

Analise lifted her hand and a zap of blue Gift in the shape of a lightning bolt came out, mildly electrocuting Robby. He shuddered and groaned involuntarily as a smoky smell wafted around afterwards. "He vill die. Slowly und painfully."

Rosa cursed. "Fine. Do that to him again and I'll personally come after you, sister-in-law or no. Let me out of here, now, if you want my cooperation so damned badly. I can't very well track down Tyrans while you've got me handcuffed to a wall."

Viola nodded to Analise and with another twitch of magic, the cuffs fell with a clink. "He stays untouched while I work, got it?"

"Fine, but only if you come back with a report within the week. If you don't..."

"I get it I get it!" she snapped. "Human roast. Good gods you two are disgusting." With one last glance to her brother, she stalked out.
Tuesday, April 15th, 2003
7:23 pm
Old Flames
At least it's warm out for once..., she mused, watching the sky. Indeed it seemed spring had finally arrived. The grass outside was green and fresh. It would get darker by the time summer came around. Flowers were coming up, as well as the bugs that patrolled them for nectar. Birds sat on new branches and called to each other. The sun was high, about noon, casting shadows on the palace grounds. Glancing out the window, she spotted a few pages taunting one of their friends with a raunchy sonnet about some novice milkmaid the boy apparently had a fancy for. Spring had definitely arrived, with all the hormones and noises along with it.

Rosa shook her head and leaned back in her window seat once more. After a restless evening at her parents' demands of Court functions, she had escaped to a small alcove half shadowed by a tapestry drawing of the Old King in his glory days. She only realized she was still in the same spot when the sun came in through the high arched window and glared her into wakefulness. It wasn't that annoying, but it did remind her of the 'Swan and being on there. She missed it. She missed her old life.

The sun, the sea, the wind in her hair. The rocking motion of the ship as it glided over waves. The constant companionship for months on end with some of the burliest, crudest people she had ever met, and being the only female on board to boot. It was never-ending excitement with fights and treasure hunts and escaping the monsters of the sea.

She glanced down at herself and snorted in disgust. It was a far cry from coarse linen shirts and rough breeches of her former days. It seems she had made a full circle, going from noble child, to outcast, thief, pirate and back to pristine daughter and sister of a Court family. It made no sense, she didn't care for it, but it's how it had worked out. She was still stuck in the same outfit from last night: a wine burgundy gown with gold trim to match her eyes. The corset was tight, the slippers impractical and the skirts were wrinkled from being slept in. Her hair had been up in decorative pins, but those were yanked out as soon as she left the banquet hall; her head had started to ache with the weight of it piled on her head. As soon as she was gone she had shook it out. By now it was in need of a good brushing. That or chopping it off at the base of her neck.

The idea of cutting prompted her to look at the tapestry again. It was a portrait of the Old King, Jonathan's grandfather, leading a mounted cavalry charge into battle. Dead bodies littered the ground, some bleeding, others with arrows through their backs. The Tortallan flag flew high as a standard bearer lept his horse over a fallen log. The king himself had his sword drawn and raised high, calling out the attack. The sword he held was a hefty thing by the look of it; it reminded her of Chaos...

"He's not coming back, you know."

Rosa whirled around and bumped back up against the alcove, reaching for a sword at her side that wasn't there. Dammit. "What do you want?" she muttered.

"Now, now," the man chuckled. "No need to get jumpy. I didn't mean to startle you." He grinned easily. "It's been a while."

"I wish it were longer," she muttered in response, glaring at him. "What in gods' names do you mean 'He's not coming back'?"

Dante shook his head, stepping up into the light from the window. "I know what you were thinking about. Always do. You had that expression on your face... the one you used to give to me sometimes when we were together. It was one of the few times you looked truly vulnerable, womanly. " When she just continued to glare, he sighed. "How long has it been? Months? Since you saw him last?"

"How would you know?" she replied through gritted teeth. "He could be right around the corner ready to slice your neck."

"He won't. He's not here. He's not anywhere in this city. He's not likely anywhere in this realm. Well his body, mangled and eaten beyond recognition--"

"Alright!" she snapped. "Stop with the gory details. Gods you're vile. What are you doing here. Damnit you're an outlaw. The guards catch you and you'll be thrown down in the catacombs."

"So will you be," he replied with a smirk. "once they realize you're the infamous Black Swan."

Barely refraining from punching him in his overcocky face, Rosa took a deep breath. "Ok... so what do you want? I haven't seen or heard of you in months."

He didn't answer her. Instead he stepped towards her and lifted her chin with a gentle hand. "I want you. I always have. You know this as well as I do. He's gone. You might as well move on."

"Move on, perhaps, but not back. Have you grown bored with your latest whore already? That was quick, even for you."

"Rosa, be nice." He brought his face closer to hers. "I haven't done anything to you yet. You cannot tell me you're not tempted in the least."

She stared up at him. The black hair, the silver-blue eyes, the cocky grin. Gods it was still as if she knew him. The days they had shared on the deck of the 'Swan. The nights on the beach; how he would teach her everything he knew and she felt good about being a woman for the first time in her life. Oh how she knew him, right up to the day he broke her heart.

She jammed her knee up into his groin with an anatomically impossible oath. He fell back and dropped to his knees. And for the first time that they knew each other, she ran from a fight.
Saturday, April 12th, 2003
2:00 am
Mail Call
Rain hammered down onto the darkened city streets. Thunder rumbled in the distance; a storm was approaching from the west. Most people were scattered in their hovels and homes in the Lower City. One hunch-back figure meandered over the cobblestones on her way through. One learned how to adapt in a concrete jungle. Sloshing down an alley, she took a right down another street, then another right, past a darkened corner with a dead cat rotting in a pool of its own blood, half-eaten entrails hanging out a gash in its underbelly. By the stench of it, the kill was recent.

With a cough, the courier grabbed a letter from a pocket on the inside of her cloak, checking the form of address. She took a left around the bend and came upon a large stone building. Smoke poured out the giant chimney at the top, dissipating into the thick black rainclouds. The sounds of repetative hammering, hissing steam and the grind of metal against a sharpening wheel came from beyond the heavy wooden doors. Shifting the bag over her shoulder, she knocked with the toe of her leather boot.

A weathered older gentleman opened the door. "Wha' d'ye wan'? Don' take on stragglers."

"Letter for Master Nix," she replied gruffly before he could shut the door in her face, nearly getting her foot slammed in the process.

He sniffed. "Fin' then. Git in, an' git out." Muttering, he went back to his position with a whetstone, putting a honing edge on a blade. The cavernous room was filled with men of all ages, most older buzzards too stubborn to let go of their work in even the most dire of circumstances. Most were wearing thick leather aprons and gloves for protection from the sparks flying here and there. A roaring fire was stationed on one wall, full of crackling logs.

Her father stood with a hammer in one hand gloved hand and a pair of long metal tongs in the other, holding a sheet of metal steady as he beat it into submission. She watched for a while, feigning cool disintrest. She grew up around this place, these people, learning the trade. Hands itched with memory of holding a blade or a shield for inspection when they'd allow her into their domain to help, or at least "stay out of the way". She used to be friends with almost all of them when she was a child, now that she was a woman, the place made her uneasy with it's high testosterone levels.

She shook her head to clear it. "Letter for you," she called over when he set the hammer down and dunked the plate into a water bucket for the moment.

"Eh?" He walked--or rather stomped--over, annoyed with the interruption. "Give i' an' be gone, brat. Go' work to do." Snatching the envelope outof her hand, he shoved it in a pocket. Gray eyes traveled over her ratty brown cloak with a smirk. "Have y' no respect? Yer mother'll be wantin' t' see yeh. Git o'er there. I'll meet up wi' yeh in a bit."

Farren bit back a scowl. "Why? It's been three years..." she trailed off with mutters as he gave her a stony look. With a huff, she left through the door she came in.

Trudging down the soggy street once more, she wandered out to the cobbled alleyway from whence she came to the forge. She ignored the catcalls of drunken patrons from inside a brothel and took another right down a road. If she hadn't walked this path dozens of times before -- alebeit years ago -- she would have likely stumbled and crashed into a pile of refuse or somesuch, it was so dark. Stepping over a smashed up ladder in the street, she walked up to a small hovel on the cul-de-sac and knocked.

A haggard looking woman opened the door with a smile. "Hello de-- oh, who're you? We don't take in visitors after nightfall," she said timidly.

"I don't plan on staying long, Ma," the courier remarked with a sigh. Nothing had changed. Her mother was still a meek woman with green eyes, mouse-brown hair and pale skin. The hair was grayer now and her skin had a few more wrinkles. She would have been pretty if there were any fire left in her. Not that there was ever much to begin with.

The woman gasped and stammered "Oh good gracious me. Farren, I haven't seen you in three long years. Come in child, come in. It's so good to see you." She stepped inside, keeping the door open for her daughter to follow and shut behind them both. "I've just started cooking supper. You'll stay for it of course."

Farren shook her head after pulling back the hood of her cloak. "No, I'd better not. Papa should be coming home soon. I saw him at the forge. He got a letter today from Eliza." She settled down on a rickety old chair at their makeshift dining room table and kitchen area in one.

"Oh my..." her mother replied, stirring a thin pot of stew on the fire a few times to make sure it wasn't burning. She turned back to her daughter, wiping her hands off on her apron. "I do hope she's not about to raise our rent again. We're scarcely getting on as it is." She glanced around as if they were being watched before continuing. "Your father's not as young as he used to be and his hands ache easily at work. You didn't hear that from me though, you know his pride. How're you though dear? You've grown since I saw you last."

"When you saw me last, I was little more than a child," Farren replied wryly. "And I won't tell Papa his hands have become useless. I highly doubt that the letter was a portend of bad news at any rate. The thing was stuffed with enough dried rose petals the smell will linger for a month." Eliza was her parents' crotchety landlady, older than Farren's mother by a decade, but taller and better kempt. They both knew the woman was also Master Nix's mistress. It kept their rent low. "I will never see why you stay with such a jackass of a man."

Her mother gasped. "Farren! I won't hear such things. Your father is a fine man. You'd best show him some respect. You haven't done so in a number of years and it's about time you did. It was because of your meddling that got him thrown into the stocks for two weeks and made him suffer a vast amount of humiliation. Asides that, it was because of you I married him in the first place."

Farren scowled, but said nothing, for it was the truth. Twenty years ago, her mother was living happily at seventeen and the fifth daughter of a low barron. One night she saw Maxim after wandering away unchaperoned from a party. He seduced her that one night and that was enough to ruin her by getting her with child. She was forced into the marriage and cast out of her family as a whore. Nine months later, Farren was born into a shamed wedlock.

"Ah well, it was long ago," Laurel replied, putting down mugs from a cupboard. "How have you been faring? What news is there?"

Shrugging, her daughter nodded towards her pack. "Work has been busy. News needs to travel quickly these days. The war keeps money in my purse and clothes on my back. It seems to still be going strong. I'm surprised Papa's not pulling in more money with the amount of armor and weaponry needed. His hands must be getting worn."

"Your father's gear is still getting sold. He just can't make as much as he used to. Why just last month he was complimented on a fine sword he wrought for one of Lord Raoul's men. He was rather tickled pink."

A sudden thud from outside made them both jump. "Speak of the devil," Farren muttered. She fought the urge to drag the hood back over her head to hide her features as her father stepped inside, slamming the door behind him. Glancing between his wife and his daughter, he nodded to Farren. "Ah, so yeh finally deci'ed t' respect th' wishes o' yer elders?"

"I'm not here because you ordered it," she replied with a smirk.

"Now now... dear, would you like something to eat? Dinner's about ready. You've been putting in long hours at the forge."

He nodded. "Aye. 'bout time too." When a warm bowl of stew was placed in front of him, he made a face at the lack of contents, but began to eat. Her mother glanced at Farren and frowned slightly. "You should eat something dear. You don't have enough meat on your bones."

"Hah," her father snorted. "Pro'lly don' 'ave th' money t' eat well 'nuff. Runt. Too goo' t' eat yer mother's cooking?"

Farren just narrowed her eyes and bit her tongue against a remark. She gave him a glare that could have stripped the flesh from bone if it had the power, which was just what she imagined doing to him. The first layers of skin melting off of his barrelchested body. His wretched hands shrinking in on themselves, bones and ligaments twisting around one another until they broke like shattered glass. Silvered-black hair began to fall out of his already balding scalp as the skin at the back of his head was stretched so far that the flesh along his face tore. First the corners of his mouth, then eyes, tearducts spurting blood, and the outsides of his nostrils until his face was ripped from his skull as the eyes exploded out in a scream of agony.

Her parents hardly took notice, figuring she was in a daydream, as she often went into as a child. "Dear?" her mother whispered to her husband. "You remember what the Healer said...about my cycles?" A blush crept up her cheeks.

Max turned to her with a grin. "It tim' then?" When all she did was look down and nod, he laughed. " 'll ge' a son off yeh yet, wench!"

With a shudder, Farren got up from her chair and shoved it back in. Her parents were half the way to their bedroom in the tiny house by the time they registered it. Her father turned to her with a scowl. "Where're yeh goin' brat?"

"Away from you two. I've got work, remember?" She didn't want to stick around for when they tried to... she shuddered at the idea of thinking it.

"Oh... " her mother said in disappointment. "Well, dear. I hope to see you again soon."

She nodded. "I'll be by tomorrow." Likely with the Healer to patch up all the cuts and bruises you'll likely get from him tonight. Part of her itched to stay, but it'd be useless. She tried to fight this twisted system before and it didn't work. It wasn't her place to do so again. She picked up her bag and walked out into the rain, with the muffled laughter of her parents trailing in her ears.
Tuesday, February 25th, 2003
11:37 am
Soft (Idle musings)
Moonlight had started to reflect off the pond as night time had crept in almost as silently as an assasin moving in for the kill yet as the water rippled from one man's gentle meandering of his hand through the pond, none of that had mattered. All that was important had been the soft carressing of the cool waters against his hand, the hairs which stood upon end as the water tickled his hand teasingly. A memory of what could have been and never was. Forever and a day had passed in bearing such a torture but none of it mattered.

His eyes could be seen to almost twinkle against the backdrop of the soft moon light, it was indeed a moment to be shared in appreciative company. A light smile seemed to tickle his features as he reached out with a hand, the silk garment around his arms fluttering in soft breeze wind. He was rewarded with a teasing sensation running up his arm, a woman of almost heavenly beauty; tenderly running a finger tip along the trail of vibrant hairs. He smiled and moved his arm to almost suggestly trail his long yet firm fingers down her cheek softly

"It is late my petal...you should get some rest"

If her sheer beauty had not been enough to enthrall hopelessly, the soft blissful smile that followed, lighting her face up against the gentle moon light would do so completely, tenderness running through her touch, she reached out with her hands to captivate him completely, running her light touch along his arm and up his face slowly so as to attain the best effects. It was quite successful

"I know my love...but it seems empty and cold without your warming presence.."

He smiled softly

"Let us remedy that"

Current Mood: Still confused but content.
Wednesday, February 19th, 2003
8:05 pm
All Arros could see from such a high up position was the three hundred strong cavalry group as it departed for their suicide mission in the middle of the fields of battle, He had been powerless to prevent his nephew from going, the possibility of losing family again pained him deeply and yet he stood powerless to help unless he defied his orders, a decision that would cost him his knighthood and possibly his head if he chose to take action.

He sighed and laid his head against the wall in thought "He's damned if I don't and and we're both damned if I do" Cold stone was his only reprieve this night, where he needed comfort, all he recieved were the harsh solid surfaces of the stone fortress, even the aid of a scholar and seer was lost to him, contained within an invisible prision of his own devising. Quickly he drew in breath and considered his options: Defy one Liege to ride into the gates of another to save but a handful by now, probably perish in the attempt or let them die dishonourable deaths at the hands of scum and live... slowly he raised his head and opened his eyes, steeled purpose deeprouted within his darkening eyes, he was nor hatred, not joy. Only justice....only justice... "Damn them....Damn them all to the hells "

Quickly he snapped up and drew his blade, crossing the room with an air of finality about him as he threw the oaken doors apart, lashing out with a quick blow to the back of the guardsman's skull , conecting clean with the pommel just before the guard dropped to the floor unconsious, he would live but his head would regret such. Arros betreyed no emotion whatsoever as he strode down the winding staircase to the stableyards where the horses and those he had convined to join with him on this fools quest, in truth he had decided to react well before Erin had ever known what would befall him, it had been just waiting for the right moment to react, It was time to right a great misdeed.

"Lord Duranos..Everything is prepared, We stand by awaiting your command" The senior knight merely nodded and gestured to Death's mouth, the soaring gates which had held so many foes and their kin at bay while in turn protected the Tortallen lands countless times yet with each parry and riposte the Scanrans made, they seemed to close upon the very walls themselves, only the stalward defenders had saved the line the last time, they would not be so fortunate next time...and that is why they had to ride forth and do what they must, There was little chance any of the forward group was still alive, there had been an even smaller chance for this group, almost three times the size of theirs in Scanrans would make it back past the great wall should they falter. This would be their hour, their triumph of honour and glory in the name of righteousness. Othellos ofcourse would be furious by the time he realized almost a quarter of his garrison had ridden forward to meet the enemy on the field of battle.

"Company!...Lets hunt down every single one of those Scanran bastards! Yahh!" With that, Arros spurred his mount into a gallop, Riding from the great citadel with near enough a thousand men in close pursuit of his charger, Even through the flat snow filled plain, their mounts pressed on at their command, the battle had been said not to further ahead than Dead man's lookout ; a small rocky outcrop , carefully hidden from sight by the cover of both mountains and stone. Tortallen legend had said that point unpassable in the past but it seemed they were about to change history...

Leagues ahead, the small remaining group of those who had been earlier commanded to assault the great catapults the Scanrans were moving into place were fighting for the lives, and dropping like flies because of it, there had just not been sufficient numbers to push them back, all they could do now was to try and keep their lives. As the battle had progressed, the Scanrans had circled them until they had nowhere else to run, In a last ditched effort to keep their lives, the small group formed a circle , back to back with each other, keeping closely to the parry and riposte style of fighting, it was all they had as they cut down foe after foe, slowly but ultimately losing the fight, there was no way in the nine netherhells they could prevent defeat, only toy with death and dodge his fatal touch, they could not hold forever though.

Erin yelled out in pain as he cut down his opponent, his wound from the previous fight had since reopened with the assault and was doing nothing to aid his chances to remain alive. Suddenly he stumbled forward as something from behind him slammed forward and down to the ground, He glanced quickly backwards to find his cover, a young soldier he had never gotten the chance to know the name of, lifeless on the ground, With the circle broken...they were all dead, Erin looked up slowly just in time to spot the blade arcing downward cut him down, this was it...

Suddenly the soldier stopped and lowered his weapons as those around him and those surrounding the three remaining had assumed a guarding formation around them, their blades had been ready to cut the three down in a moments notice and in moment of it all, Erin hadn't heard the Scanran Hauptmann in charge of the group yell to hold their weapons. As the soldier stepped backward to let through the commander, An icy cold feeling ran up Erin's spine, this was not good he thought as his head was raised by the hauptmann gruffly before he gripped the sides of his jaw, Hauptman Bremmeln had been a tall man, well built and ruthless, his face was all but an ice statue, rigid and worn by the constant storms of snow, His eyes had been the worst, a icy cold blue full of malice and hatred. As he stopped to speak, Erin sighed softly to himself for what was coming

"Tortallen Cur, the field is lost and you are beaten...surrender now and save what remains of your men....you may even live."

"I would rather piss on your grave and be denounced as a heretic." He almost growled it out, heaving heavily as he tried to catch his breath and stay warm at the same time, he had been failing miserably. Even in defeat however he vowed himself never to surrender, to do so would be a fate worse than death, a fate he would rather spare those who still remained under his command from.

Bremmeln released his jaw and reached over to wield the sword of the guardsman beside him for a moment, carefully examining the blade and diamond shaped pommel upon it for a moment before he lashed out suddenly to strike him violently across the cheek, casting him to the ground wincing as the pain from his side shot through his body like a white hot poker just freshly inserted

"Now, for the last time...surrender or perish. I will not offer mercy again."

Erin rose to his knees despite the stabbing pain shooting through his side and drew in a deep breath, his cheek throbbing all the while, looking up at him before drawing back his head to spit blood onto his face in response, his resolve was had already been decided.


Enraged, Bremmeln drew up and brought the blade in his hands down brilliantly fast to slice a gaping wound along the knight's leg in responce, quickly reversing the blade to batter him upside the jaw, drawing to a stop upon his feet as he held the blade out hilt first back to it's owner whilst Erin writhed in pain upon the ground, trying to hold the would along his leg from bleeding like a fountain. He smirked as he gently smoothed a hand with a thumb "Kill the-"

(What I have so far, still working on it)
12:06 am
All Arros could see from such a high up position was the three hundred strong cavalry group as it departed for their suicide mission in the middle of the fields of battle, He had been powerless to prevent his nephew from going, the possibility of losing family again pained him deeply and yet he stood powerless to help unless he defied his orders, a decision that would cost him his knighthood and possibly his head if he chose to take action.

He sighed and laid his head against the wall in thought "He's damned if I don't and and we're both damned if I do" Cold stone was his only reprieve this night, where he needed comfort, all he recieved were the harsh solid surfaces of the stone fortress, even the aid of a scholar and seer was lost to him, contained within an invisible prision of his own devising. Quickly he drew in breath and considered his options: Defy one Liege to ride into the gates of another to save but a handful by now, probably perish in the attempt or let them die dishonourable deaths at the hands of scum and live... slowly he raised his head and opened his eyes, steeled purpose deeprouted within his darkening eyes, he was nor hatred, not joy. Only justice....only justice... "Damn them....Damn them all to the hells "

Quickly he snapped up and drew his blade, crossing the room with an air of finality about him as he threw the oaken doors apart, lashing out with a quick blow to the back of the guardsman's skull , conecting clean with the pommel just before the guard dropped to the floor unconsious, he would live but his head would regret such. Arros betreyed no emotion whatsoever as he strode down the winding staircase to the stableyards where the horses and those he had convined to join with him on this fools quest, in truth he had decided to react well before Erin had ever known what would befall him, it had been just waiting for the right moment to react, It was time to right a great misdeed.

"Lord Duranos..Everything is prepared, We stand by awaiting your command" The senior knight merely nodded and gestured to death's mouth, the soaring gates which had held so many foes and their kin at bay while in turn protected the Tortallen lands countless times yet with each parry and ripose the Scanrans made, they seemed to close upon the very walls themselves, only the stalward defenders had saved the line the last time, they would not be so fortunate next time...and that is why they had to ride forth and do what they must, There was little chance any of the forward group was still alive, there had been an even smaller chance this group, almost three times the size would make it back past the great wall either. This would be their hour, their triumph of honour and glory in the name of righteousness.

"Company!...Lets hunt down every single one of those Scanran bastards! Yahh!" With that, Arros spurred his mount into a a gallop, Riding from the great citadel with near enough a thousand men in close pursuit of his charger, Even through the flat snow filled plain, their mounts pressed on at their command, the battle had been said not to further ahead than Dead man's lookout ; a small rocky outcrop , carefully hidden from sight by the cover of both mountains
and stone. Tortallen legend had said that point unpassable in the past but it seemed they were about to change history...

(To be continued when I'm consious)
Sunday, February 16th, 2003
12:53 am
Child's Kraken
A few hours later, Yasmin woke up with a pounding headache. She sat up on the cot with a groan and yanked the bandages off of her head, scratching her scalp to ease some of the tension. It didn't help much, but it was something.

Things were quiet. There must've been a break in the fighting. I wonder how many we've lost so far... The grittier details of war weren't too pretty to think about most of the time. Glory, honor, valor and such noble sentiments tended to fall by the wayside when your friends were getting slaughtered in front of your eyes.

Judging by the shadows outside the tent, Yas guessed the time to be somewhere just after dusk. She glanced to her left to check the candlemark and winced as the light flickered off of her shield nearby and reflected into her eyes. Blinking and muttering "damned metal..." the Rider dug around for her equipment. It was tucked at the foot of her cot: her bow, quiver stocked with arrows, and her sword and dagger set. Luckily it was all accounted for and not having been stolen during the skirmish.

That thought got her up off of the makeshift bed and grabbing her swordbelt and buckling it around her waist. The snarled mess that her hair had become was yanked back into a braid and tossed over her shoulder and out of the way, settling down to the middle of her back. Long hair was a vanity point of hers, and probably not the most intelligent thing to have when you're fighting for a living. It could easily be yanked or torn and too easily seen, especially hers since it was such a glaring shade of red. Or at least it was mostly now, thanks to that woman.

Yasmin leaned down to pick up her quiver and spotted a blue package. Carefully she picked it up and placed it on the bed, unwrapping it. The violin rested easily, the candlelight giving the wood a honeyed glow. With a sigh, she ran a hand over the instrument. "I don't know if you'll ever make it back to your master," she murmured. Or if he'll make it back to you.

Suddenly there was a crashing noise outside and Hugh stomped in the tent. "Ah! You're awake. Wonderful. Now stop pining, excuse the pun, and come on. Theodric's down. We're calling an emergency meeting."

She spun around. "What? Down? You mean..."

"No! No... wounded, unconscious. We need to get a strategy going. They're beating our arses out there. There's been a standoff. We need to use the time we have to plan. Now come on!" With that he took her by the arm and steered her out of the tent, weeding through the rest of the encampment, to a larger tent near the central fire. Tira met up with them at the doorway. "Ah, there's the Fox. Finally up? Good. I take it Hugh filled you in?"

Yasmin nodded dumbly as she was led inside. The entire healthy section of the encampment was packed inside in front of a makeshift table. Sadly there weren't too many left of them. She caught Daric's eye and got a nod from him. He probably would have waved, but his arm was in a sling. The rest of the group wasn't too much better off, between makeshift splints to eye patches. They were called rag-tag before. Now they were just ragged.

Hugh made his way through the small crowd to speak a few words with the second in comand. Gerome, the second son of a wealthy merchant. His older sister was one of Thayet's close friends, so it secured his position around these parts. He was a good looking young man, not yet in his thirties, with soft blonde hair and warm brown eyes. He hadn't been with them very long, but he was good with a sword and made pretty speeches. One of which he launched into, turning to face his audience. "My fellow Riders, so few faces here among us, but we shall endure. Now is the time to act. These northern vandals have to be stopped before they cause more damage..."

Yasmin started zoning him out. The guy could go on for hours just to hear himself talk. As good as his intentions were, he got on her nerves from time to time. Not that she was generally in the mood to be all that cooperative at the moment anyway. He went on, pacing back in forth, punctuating his speech with a wave of a fist or an emphatic nod. The low candlelight in the tent flashed off of his plate mail. It reflected back into people's eyes, which made her all the more annoyed.

"... care nothing for human life," Gerome was saying. "Maggur's forces keep plowing into us, ignoring attempt after attempt at a peace treaty. His lust for power has no bounds--"

No shit... why else do you think we're here, pal?

"The war machines, terrifying. One alone has the ability to tear apart a full batallion of mounted knights--"

And probably have by the time you're done yammering on...

"Powered with the dark magiks of their battlemages--"

"No," Yasmin snapped in a mutter. "They're powered by the souls of children." She didn't realize she had spoken aloud until all eyes turned to her. "What was that?" Gerome asked, a brow raised.

She flushed in embarassment from all the stares. "The war machines. They're powered by the souls of children. It's sick. And damnit we already know why we're here. We're wasting time with all the idealism you're spewing. Yes, they're monsters for what they're doing, yes we're getting our asses kicked out there. But we gotta figure out what we're going to -do- about it."

He chuckled easily. "Well what do you propose we do, Lady Fox?"

She was starting to get -really- annoyed with that nickname, and it showed. "Isn't that kind of -your- job to figure out? You're running this show now."

"In that case," he nodded and glanced around the room. "I propose we scrounge for ideas. I know I'm not the most experienced one of the group, but I'm sure if we work together, we can succeed. Now, who's got a plan, or any bit of a plan, that we could use?"

Ideas got tossed around for a while, some better than others. Once a heated argument got started over the amount of firepower they could actually expend, both in mages and manual ability. Some sat back, not quite sure what to do, only knowing something needed to be done.

Yasmin glanced around the room, biting back a sigh at all the tension. The candles were starting to sputter in their own wax, the hour was growing so late. Suddenly she grinned. "I have a plan..."

* * *

The air was crisp in the predawn hours. Riders shifted uneasily in their positions on the edge of the ravine, the final preparations starting to fall into place. Yasmin stood in front of her mare, slipping a bridle up over Athena's muzzle. The horse nuzzled her softly after she was done. Sighing quietly she patted her loyal mount on the neck. "I know girl... you feel it too. Hopefully this will all be over soon." She grabbed her shield and swung into the saddle. She made her way up to her post on the front line.

On the way, Gerome met up with her. "Are you sure about this?"

"Are we sure about anything? It's a chance," she shrugged in reply. "We can't be certain it will work until it does."

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair before yanking on a couple of gauntlets. "Look, I don't want to lose anyone through this. Least of all you. You're one of the finest fighters we have. You're already getting a name for yourself. You don't want to cut that short. Why not let the others deal with most of the hard work? Do what you can.. but.. you know, don't push yourself. You're already injured as it is..."

Her glare sort of put a damper on his attempt at keeping her safe. He cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Right then. Good luck." After he left, she growled a vile epithet. How dare he tell her to lie low like a snake while everyone else took on the hard work! Part of her wondered if it was because he wanted to take credit for the idea...if it worked. He was a little self-serving, but even that was a little much for him. Wasn't it?

Everyone began to file in like ants on their trail. They faced into the ravine, all silent and and wary as they waited for their foes to ready themseles for the battle. The sky began to lighten from navy to a pale gray in the winter dawn. The sun was about to rise. Once it did, all hell would break loose. It's what they were counting on.

Down in the ravine, the camp began to stir. The tension ran up a notch once the opposition realized they were a little behind schedule. Frantically they yelled to each other in Scanran and grabbed any spare weapons lying around.

Mithros must've been on the Rider's side, because just then the sun rose up and flashed against all the metal plate and gear they had on them. The beams of light then flew into the ravine momentarily blinding the Scanran party.


The call went out with the blast of a horn. Chargers reared and yells split the sky as they rushed down the hill. Quickly the battle ensued as arrows began to fly and swords clashed together. Luckily their surprise tactic provided them with the advantage of time. It was only a few moments, but it was what they needed for an edge.

That wasn't to say they didn't receive any opposition. The Scanrans were quick to react, stringing up their crossbows as the tidal wave of Tortallan fighters flooded down the hill. It was easy to pick a few off, then meet them once they were on the same level. Bodies fell or were trampled underhoof. The Kraken had arrived.

People began to divide off by opponents, one-on-one and groups of twos and threes all concentrating on trying to stay alive and beat the other side. Yasmin brought up her shield just in time to intercept a heavy blow from an axe. The on-foot soldier wielding the weapon was a huge gorilla, covered in leathers and furrs. he swung up again for a kill shot as her shield arm shuddered under the impact. She saw an opening and thrust in with her rapier, ripping through cloth, skin and vital organs. He stumbled with a groan and she lashed out with a harsh kick to his skull, sending him toppling to the ground.

Athena danced uneasily to the side, getting riled because her mistress was already in a temper. Anger was no way to rule yourself in a fight, and Yasmin realized this a moment too late when a scream came out of her throat as a crossbow bolt shot through her lower leg, nearly impaling her to her own horse. The mare whinnied and reared, trampling someone underneath her.

A few yards off, she heard Tira yell "Gods, Yas, you alright?!" Her call was barely heard over the sounds of metal clashing and bodies moving around.

Yas nodded and ran a mounted attacker through. "Just...fine...!" she ground out through gritted teeth. From the knee down, her right leg was nothing but a mass of burning pain, but she couldn't stop to deal with it. Not at the present moment. Anther Scanran charged her, swinging his broadsword around to cleave her in half with it. She lifted her shield just in time to intercept the blow and the sound of steel grinding against steel jarred down her spine. Her own sword tip punched through his throat and he toppled from his saddle with a last gurgled cry.

She stared down at him; at the man she just sent to confront the Black God. Did he have a family? Did she just murder someone's husband? or father? The idea of it made her sick to her stomach and if she had anything in her system, it would have likely gotten rid of it rather unpleasantly.

"Not pretty, are they? These acts we commit," the White Panther watched her from the side. Yasmin turned to look at her. She was oddly serene, perched atop a white mare and without a trace of weaponry (at least that could be seen), but a child settled on her lap. "Almost doesn't seem to be worth it."

Yasmin swallowed hard. Blood was leaving fast, staining the leather of her boot. Her leg felt numb and her body was weakening. "It's a coward's game to use human shields to protect yourself."

The woman laughed and stroked the child's hair. "Ah, but the little one wanted to take part in the fight. She wanted to see the adventure and the history being made. Not that she can see much of anything. "

"Sonia... "

The child stirred and glanced in her general direction. She smiled wearily. "You came back. I knew you would."

"Ah, I see you two have become friends," the woman interrupted, nudging her mare forward. "That works well in my favor," she turned her attention to her opponent. "Let us pass, and we will not harm her. Don't, and she will die."

Yasmin snarled. "She'll die either way if you take her. We know all about your overlord's precious 'machines of war'. Let her go. Now."

The Panther tsk'ed, shaking her head. "Temper, temper. It will get you nothing but trouble, you know." Behind her the battle began to shift. She kept her focus on the Rider in front of her as a second, Daric, snuck up from behind.

Dear gods... what does he think he's doing? Yasmin wondered, praying to any god who would listen. She scowled at the woman. "Don't presume to give me advice on proper conduct. I'm not the one bent on kidnapping. Are you that afraid of a fair fight?"

"Afraid? Me? You Tortallans are all the same. So damned cocky--"

Suddenly with a roar, Daric charged at her. "Ah'll show yeh cocky, yeh bitch!" His sword held high, he ran straight for her back. Too late he saw her spin around in the saddle and yell an arcane word, blasting him with ball of ivory malice. He fell to the ground with a crunch and didn't move again.

"No!" Yasmin shouted, charging her in a burst of pure fury. Swinging her blade from the side, the woman's head was swept clean off of her shoulders before she could turn around again fully. The body slumped and began to fall out of the saddle. Sonia tried to hold on and only managed not to get trampled when the Rider grabbed her by her clothing and hauled her onto her own saddle. "Hold on..."

Nudging Athena forward, she moved over to Daric's limp form. She slumped down out of the saddle with a crooked thud, cursing her leg, and wandered over to her comrade, sword in one hand and child tucked in the other arm. Kneeling akwardly next to him, she set her blade down to feel for a pulse, finding none.

"It's alright," the girl muttered against her shirt. "He's gone to a better place now. He's happy."

Yasmin nodded dumbly. He was too young, much too young for this to have happened to him. He didn't deserve it. It wasn't fair. She swiped at eyes that were suddenly wet with tears. What was the matter with her? Fighters didn't cry. Get a grip on yourself! Shakily she closed Daric's eyes and grabbed her sword, using it as a crutch to stand and look around. She expected to find someone else trying to tear her down, but instead saw Scanrans falling back and beginning to surrender. Was it really over?

Gerome trotted towards her on his charger and dismounted. "Are you alright?" He glanced to Sonia. "Where are the rest of them?" When she glanced around blearily and nodded towards the cages he put a hand on her shoulder. "It's ok. We've won. I'll get a few to scour around for keys. If that doesn't work, we'll pick the blasted locks and get them out of there," he smiled a bit. "Hey, chin up now, Fox. It's not as bad as all that. I don't like to see you so upset." He shook his head as he remounted his charger and strolled off to shout a few orders and round up the troops.

The Scanrans, those who were left alive, were huddled together in a group, guarded by a few of the Riders as the rest scrounged for left overs, buried the dead, or got their wounds tended to. Sonia and the other children were settled by a few of the Healers, getting a bit of food and a nap before they had to set out again. Hugh muttered over Yas and Tira, both of whom sustained quite a number of injuries in the fight. "Back in my day, women were in the kitchen or the bedroom... none of this running around business getting themselves in massive amounts of danger..." He scowled more over Tira, who now had claim to a sling around her arm and a broken rib.

She smiled at him. "Oh admit it you old coot, we keep you on your toes. Without us you'd be bored witless."

He just sniffed and turned to Yasmin. "And -you- again with the taking on of mercenary mages." He shook his head. "You'll walk with a limp for a while, thanks to that arrow, but at least it only got muscle and not the bone itself," Handing her a walking stick, he went back to bandaging up her calf. "Now, don't go around without that thing for about a month. Massage your leg once a day or so, so the muscle doesn't spasm on you. It'll be sore, but it should clear up fairly soon. And no more fighting for a while. You've already earned yourself an impromptu title, that should be enough to satisfy even your pride."

She just nodded with a wry grin. "Yes sir."

The call went up a few hours later to head out. Most were exhausted, but glad to leave. They finally got to go home.
Monday, February 10th, 2003
10:48 pm
Clouds floated across a sapphire sky and a bird flew on wings outstretched. The sun shined down in vivid clarity, brightening the idylic landscap. Tall pines brushed their tips against the sky. Grass swayed in the soft breeze and flowers reached up to show off their myriad of shades. Yasmin found herself laying back in this landscape and covered a lazy yawn with her hand, waking up slowly. Sitting up, she looked around for anything recognizable. It was a long ways off from the frozen north and falling bodies she had been in not too long ago. She wondered if this is what the Realm of the Gods must look like. "Am I dead?"

" 'Minny! Minny! What're you doing all the way out here? Mother and father will be worried, you know." A small boy ran up and skidded on his knees, grass staining his first pair of long breeches. "What're you staring at me like that for? We're supposed to go down to the Leirnoch, remember?"

She -was- staring. Dear gods, she must be dead. His hair was lighter than hers, strawberry blonde and innocent blue eyes to match. They were alike in facial structure, but he was still rosy-cheeked with youth, being five years her junior. His frame was still small, but beginning to grow; now wearing a white, collared shirt and dark breeches. Her brother looked just the same as she remembered him. "Oliver... what're you doing here?"

He grinned, cheeks dimpling. "Getting you, duh. Come on. The fish are starting to swim upstream. We'll catch a bunch!" He offered her a hand and she dumbly took it, still trying to absorb everything. She hadn't seen him in nearly a decade. But now wasn't the time to debate finer points of mortality. Suddenly he took off. "Race you!" and bolted down over the hills.

"Wait! Oliver! Wait up!" Yasmin picked up her skirts--skirts? She looked down at herself, seeing she was indeed wearing skirts. Something she hadn't bothered to do in years. They were navy, as was the matching bodice over the white puffed shirt she wore. Small slippers poked out from underneath. She shook her head, not bothering to attempt and unravel this latest part to the mystery. Her brother was getting away! She ran after him. "Damnit Oliver, wait a moment!"

He just laughed and kept running, dodging trees and the occasional squirrel in his path. He skidded to a halt at the edge of the river, narrowly managing not to fall in. "Now young lady, what have we told you about proper language? I heard you shouting all the way up there."

That deep voice sent a chill down her spine. Slowly she turned and looked up into her father's eyes so like her own in their darkness. He chuckled. "Don't give me that look, you know I can't stand it when you or your mother do that." Sunlight glinted off of his graying hair as he settled a hand on his wife's shoulder. The woman turned to look at her daughter. "What's wrong dear? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Yasmin was close to pinching her own arm to see if she was dreaming. Her parents were right in front of her, a happy couple. They were very much so in love, having had the rare luck to find a match both fitting for blood lines and the heart. Her mother watched her quietly with a serene expession. Even with her advanced years, she was still a beautiful woman with emerald eyes and fiery red hair. Rumors used to fly that she was made of the very earth itself.

Turning around, the girl wandered over to the water. What was going on? Was any of this real? They weren't, that was for certain. They had gone from the living world nearly a ten years ago. She would have likely died along with them if circumstances had been different. With a sigh, she turned back around to face them. "I..." They had disappeared. She looked around, but the entire scenery had started to shift, fold in upon itself. "No... no... not now!"

Suddenly she found herself in her childhood bedroom, tucked in an oversized bed, a pitcher of water on the side table. The door on the opposite wall opened up and her mother stepped in, walking over to the bed. "Hello sweetie, how're you feeling?"

She opened her mouth to respond and winced when only a croaking noise came out. Her throat felt like it was on fire. With a nod, the older woman sighed and sat on the edge of the mattress. "Still no better, I see. I'm sorry. I know it must be uncomfortable for you right now. But you'll be better soon. Not fun to be sick on your sweet-sixteenth birthday. A lot of the boys are going to be sorely disappointed."

When her daughter blushed to the roots of her hair, Lady Archenbryght laughed quietly. "Oh now now. I'm only teasing. But I do want you to stay in bed until we get back. It shouldn't be more than a week. And I don't want one word of argument. The ship's leaving tomorrow at noon, and your father and brother are outside packing everything up. We'll be back soon though. I promise."

Boat?! No, it couldn't be. This couldn't be happening again. She tried to sit up, try to warn her mother that the ship was doomed to sink in a squall off of the coast. That she and Father and Oliver would never come home again. No matter how hard she tried to get up, something kept forcing her back down. Her mother's shape became blurry and everything started to fade again.

"No! Don't go! Please don't go!"

"Yasmin! Calm down." The sharpness in Hugh's tone brought her slowly back to reality. She blinked a few times and groaned when a sharp pain clenched down on her skull. Wincing, she tried to bury her face back into the pillow on the cot. "Ugh.."

He sighed and settled back down onto a nearby stool. "You gave us all quite a scare, missy. I advise you not to do it again."

"Wha... what h-happened?" she mumbled in reply.

"Well, when you got into that catfight with the White Panther -- and just what're you doing taking on full fledged mercenary mages, anyway? -- you two were going at it, and she attempted to blow you to bits with a spell. It seems to have backfired. Rather oddly too. By the end of it, you and she were both collapsed on the ground in a bloody crater, . It seems your Sight shielded you from most of the effects, though it has given you a slight concussion, and something else. Nothing major."

Yasmin sat up blearily, managing to decipher only bits and pieces of his verbose speech. "What do you mean something else?" She reached up to scratch absently at the bandaging wrapped around her head.

Before he could answer, Tirana stepped inside. "Great Mother above, you're awake!" She ran over. "Are you ok? Everything in proper order? Hugh!" she spun around to face the Healer. "Give me some answers!"

"Tira!" Yasmin groaned, "not so loud... please?"

The older woman looked a little sheepish when she turned back to her friend. "I'm sorry, love." She blinked. "What in the gods' names happened? You look like a fox with that streak running through your hair." When the only response she got was a grumbled "what're you talking about?" she walked over and threaded a finger into the white patch running lengthwise through the dark red of Yasmin's coloring. "This. Not a bad look really. Ages you a bit though, especially when you're lying there like a cripple"

Hugh cleared his throat. "Yes... the other side effect from the spell backfiring. She'll likely have that mark for the rest of her days. However long that may be."

Tira arched a brow at him. "Now aren't you the optimist."

"When you're in charge of room-fulls of dying men and women and can do nothing, then you'll see what optimism is, dear."

"Oh lighten up, will you?" She glanced at the standing candle then turned back to Yas. "Think you'll be ready in two candlemarks for another bout of this? Theodric's rallying the troops again."

Hugh got up and took her by the arm. "Come on, Tirana. She needs her rest. I'll come back to check on her in a little while. We'll drag her out of bed soon enough."

As they left the room -- portion of a tent really -- Yasmin sighed and closed her eyes. A concussion and a white streak. Not too bad for a day's work. She slipped into a dreamless sleep. The fighting could wait a little while.
4:39 pm
"The Call"
Carefully he shielded his side from all prying eyes as he rested in the saddle for but the few moments they had before all hell was going to break loose, He had been three days in recovering from the blood loss alone before he was battle ready once again and even still it was still a close call in terms of battle fitness, the wounds to his side had been far from tended to and still bled freely of their own accord when they wished but he had little choice all the same, he came to fight and fight he would even if it should cost his life.

He looked to his sword in hand in a thoughtful gaze, even if he had been able to mount up, his tattered frame could not support a weighted lance at the moment yet strangely enough, he felt at home with the feeling of cold steel in his grasp and the wind blowing a gale around him, The weather had worsened since their arrival but this had done nothing to lower spirit, indeed it had seemed to raise it if anything. Meanwhile from high above in the keep towers, his uncle watched the hasily formed legion form up. Tentatively he shook his head and turned from the window to focus, malice unbecoming of an Errant deep within his eyes as he watched the elderly sage within the room, not taking a mere heartbeat to blink his eyes before he finally broke the silence within the poorly adorned room

"Why do you keep me from riding out with my Nephew and the others?"

The sage by the name of Brioccus sighed in responce, twice had he been over this with the knight before him and twice had he ignored Brioccus, there was nothing worse the elder hated than to be ignored...well other than death that was. Quickly he narrowed his eyes back in defiant responce, a silent dare to ignore him just one last time, the sword bait would learn what it was to cross a sage then!. His responce was somewhat more cautious however

"For the third and last time, The General ordered you remain here to augment the defence while those being sent out make their assault upon the Scanran war machine before they have the chance to assemble their machines of war and tear down the great wall."

"But it's suicide!" He protested, there had not been a clearer word spoken all day, the plan to assault their foe's positions before they had time to assemble their siege weaponry was at best a slaughter. Those going out would not expect to return at all, those which had been selected had been the lightly injured and those who were badly tiring, they would have been little other use to anyone else in their state, those siege engines would reek untold havoc upon the great walls should they be assembled.m they had to come down and as such, this had been one particular mission with a large amount of glory tagged along with it, those who went would be remembered for their courage and bravery in defending the line with their lives just as so many in this bitter war had...

"It needs done but Mi'lord Othellos also needs you to remain alive hence why you are not being sent and your nephew is, I wish him all luck"

Arros just growled in responce and turned back to look down into the courtyard, muttering a silent prayer to the Gods whilst he focused on Erin , He knew it would nary be answered but he remained hopeful all the same. "Gods be with you lad.....you'll need it..."

Below in the assembling yard of the fortress was the 'Legion', Rag tag bands of the wounded and the die-hard soldiers larger than life itself, refusing to go down in battle whilst the enemy still drew breath, there were few that could stand in the way of such devotion, such fury. Erin carefully lifted the reins attached to Milnos and glanced up to the rest of the assembly to address them

"All of you know why we are here...and what we have been charged to do, I will not bore you all with long speeches...May the Gods guide our aim and our wrath be true." Was all he said on the matter as he bowed his head, readying for the charge to come quietly, was this his end? the grand deed he was to take part in? Perhaps. Perhaps not, time would tell.

(to be continued)
Saturday, February 8th, 2003
10:30 pm
La Zorra

The owner of the voice stepped out of the shadows. Tall riding boots fit snuggly to calves, tucked into breeches that traveled up long legs. The shirt was tightly laced and long sleeved, and a leather overcoat kept out the chill. the entire ensemble was as dark as night, and just as sinister. They seemed intertwined with the shadows.

The face was quite another story. Crystaline amethyst eyes watched shrewedly beneath long lashes. The nose was aristocratically straight and the mouth below was bow-shaped, sensual, and blood-red. Dark hair framed a face of alabaster skin and trailed down to the hip. She was a very beautiful woman.

She smiled, moving into their line of sight. "You seem to have stumbled into a sticky situation. Now what would a bunch of rif-raf like yourselves be doing in a place like this?" Some glared at her, but no answers were forthcoming. With a sigh, the lady continued. "This is no way to save your necks. You'd better leave and act as if you've never seen any of this. It is none of your concern."

"So you admit you have something to hide, then?" Yasmin remarked, arching a brow. "If you didn't, you wouldn't care whether or not we stayed."

"And our -concern- is with the protection of this country and its people," another Rider piped up, a hand to their sword hilt.

The woman smirked. "Ah, a noble sentiment. Though I very much doubt you'll be able to back it up with force. We've already seen the rest of them. I've already given you ample chance to turn around and go home. And no, my dear. If we had anything to hide, we'd make sure to kill you so you couldn't go back and send word out."

"You think to frighten us? There don't seem to be many around here, unless you count the children you plan to steal and turn into fuel for the Scanran war machines. I'd say it's as good a reason as any to run you through."

"Temper, temper." The woman smiled, raising a hand in an innocent gesture. "It's no way to handle this sort of situation. But I wonder if you can back up your claims."

She went from calm negotiator to snarling virago with the wave of a hand. Henchmen seamed to swarm out of the woodwork, literally. Some held pike-staffs, others knives and daggers. There were just too many of them.

With a curse, Yas grabbed an arrow, knocked and fired at one, who went down with a groan, clutching his chest. "Fall back! Get towards the hill!" If they could just get in reach of it, they could at least get some sort of cover.

Chaos was errupting all around. Swords flashed, arrows flew and people moved all around. At times like these it was difficult to tell who was the enemy and who was a friend. A hand lashed around her arm and she kicked out, stunning him with a shot to the ribs. With a curse he let go and pulled out a knife. "Time to die, girly."

"No, leave her to me." It was the woman again. She had pulled a sword out, twirling it between her hands. "Though I do agree with the sentiment."

The man bowed and snuck off to cause havoc elsewhere. "Now... if I recall correctly, you were giving me an ritcheously indignant speech, yes?"

Yasmin smirked. "Why waste the breath? I do want to know one thing. Who are you?" She dropped her quiver. It was useless at this close range. Unsheathing Sybil, she backed a pace, shifting into a guard stance.

"I go by Constance, the White Panther, not that it is any of your concern, since you will be dead within a few minutes." With that, she lunged, sword cutting through the air.

The smaller opponent blocked and ducked. The two were twined together in fatal combat. Before it ended, one would likely be standing in a pool of the other's blood.

Their blades clashed, steel sliding against steel until their hilts locked together. Constance had the advantage and bared down, using her superior weight and build to force Yasmin to the ground. "Give up. You know it's useless. We could go easy on you."

"What would be the challenge in that?" Yas growled, her boots skidding on the earth as she lost her footing. As a last-ditch effort, she lunged backwards and dodged a swipe, kicking out. The other woman went sprawling into the mud, but quicklly recovered.

Wiping hair out of her eyes, she smiled. "None, but at least I gave you fair warning." She raised her arms and swung down with a kill strike. The redhead jumped out of the way and cursed as her ankle made a painful crunch. "I didn't think you'd be one to be overburdened with a conscience."

A laugh escaped the White Panther's throat. "Oh you'll show the gods some amusement." Like lightning she slashed, the blade screaming through the haze of bodies hacking and falling all around. They thrust and parried, dodged and nicked, but neither gaining much ground in either direction.

Yasmin's ankle pained her, but it wasn't until she nearly tripped on a tree root that it became a liability. Constance saw the stumble and came at her, the tip of her sword aimed at throat level. Their blades met again and Yas twisted her arm and yanking painfully, pulling the blade out of Constance's grip and sending it flying.

With a curse, the woman backed up a step, pulling out a dagger. "Come on. Finish the job," she was still smiling. It was a creepy feeling to see someone showing amusement at such a bat situation.

Yasmin hesitated, not sure what to do. It was dishonorable to just run her through when she had no more than a three-inch blade as protection, but could she really afford not to?

Pulling a dirty trick, the white panther threw dirt into her eyes. Cursing violently, she swung her blade around, seeing only spots of brown and black. Suddenly her sword was ripped from her grasp and a hand snuck into her hair, yanking her neck back. An easy shot for a dagger to take.

Blindingly hot white pain shot into her skull. With a scream, Yasmin collapsed. then all went dark.
Thursday, February 6th, 2003
11:51 am
"Hun, what's wrong? You've been silent for the last hour and you're as white as a sheet," Tirana wondered, bringing up her gelding next to Athena in the ranks. "We're almost to the border. It's a bit of an odd time to start getting nervous."

Yasmin shook her head, trying to yank herself out of her thoughts. "It's nothing. Are we seriously near there?" she looked around. "All I see is a bunch of horses rear ends in front of us."

She chuckled, then stopped herself. "None of that. You use that trick too often. And it's always when you're trying to avoid things," she held up a gloved hand. "Don't bother arguing with me. I may not have the Sight, but I know you well enough, youngin'. Did something happen back there at your home?"

"How in blazes did you come to that conclusion?!"

"Because Theodric has no idea how to be quiet. Why else would he need you to come with him if you weren't extremely familiar with the area? And furthermore, the area's symbol: the gray mountain on dark blue background, that's on the flags; it's the same picture you've got printed on your saddlebags. Why did you keep it such a secret for so long?"

Yas shrugged helplessly. "I... I dunno. I guess... damnit! I just didn't want people to get all judgemental about it. Or that I somehow snuck into the ranks based on my title rather than my abilities. I don't want to be different," she shook her head. "Here I'm just one of the group." Sighing, she looked at her friend. "You're not going to get all funny on me now, are you?"

Tirana laughed. "Hardly. Why would I care? Are you that worried that people will treat you differently? It's got to be a great job though. You get to boss people around! Come on!"

"Ha! That's what you think," her friend grinned a bit behind the woolen face-and-neck warmer. "It's not all lazing around and yelling at people to get things done. Well... that's not how I do it anyway. To command is to serve, no more no less. I wouldn't expect anyone to do anything for me that I wouldn't be willing to do in return. I'm not a dictator."

"No, you're definitely not. But you don't need to scurry into a hiding hole every time even the idea is mentioned. For you it's your job. Nothing to be ashamed about. Don't worry, Yas. People won't get all uptight about it."

With a nod, the two fell silent once more as the troops moved on. It was dawn, so most weren't even that awake in the saddle. For hours they road through the snow-crusted trails to the border area their country shared with Scanra, Galla and Tusaine successively. The winds had kicked up, so most were bundled down and the horses needed extra care not to over-exert themselves. They stopped once after someone had dozed off and fallen out of their saddle and a few of the mounts began to have problems with joints. It was hard work, but at least they were almost there.

That afternoon the bandits were sited holing up in a little ravine area. A few hundred years ago it must've been a riverbed, but it had since dried out. Quietly they made camp, staying for the most part hidden under the heavy conifers bordering the trench. Theodric called together a meeting after most had gotten a bite to eat and their weapons ready. "I know you guys are ready for this. We've been training for months now. I know our number is small, but if we can do this right, maybe we'll just make it home heros. Now this is the plan. I want the archers and scouts to go out after sunset and check out the area. Your job isn't to fight, but if you need to, do so. I want you to go in, see what they have for forces. From what I heard from the local authorities, they just got done raiding a village northwest of here. They'll likely be slow since their egos and bellies are now full. I don't believe they're hard-core criminals; just out to scratch a little fame for themselves while our backs are turned and most of our forces are up north. Come back with a report. I want the rest of you to divide yourselves into two areas, along the edge for the first watch. If those who are going down get into trouble, you have to cover their tails on their way back. The rest catch some sleep, you'll take over the ghost-watch in eight hours. Now go."

The group split up. Yasmin and a few others took their weaponry and began their descent into the ravine. The made their way down slowly and a few hundred feet away from where the actual camp was. The hill wasn't as steep over here, and thus allowed them to be silent as their boots skidded along the rocky terrain. She shifted her bow over her shoulder crept up with the rest to the edge of the trees near the camp.

It was a quiet area, relatively; aside from the occasional swallow from a wineskin or a belch. They were dressed in ordinary dark clothing, not of any extraordinary quality, with wrapped turbans covering their heads for protection and warmth. A motley crew ranging in any size of shape. Most were quiet, a few holding weapons to them, but most not all that wary. They felt safe. They were fools.

Equipment was strewn in a semi-organized area. There was a central fire, and a few berolls and horses. A few of them began talking. Yasmin knit her brows, trying to make it out. "Any idea what they're saying?" she whispered.

Daric shook his head. "No' a bloody clue. Foreign speak t' meh," he muttered. "Can' we jus' git in there an' take 'em out now? They wouldn' notice uh thin'."

"They're Scanran!" one of the scouts hissed. "Only they speak that hoarsely, and look at the hair. Most of 'em are blondes. Somethin' about the pale sun always up there." He was right. One of the two men speaking had taken off his turban and started scratching at it his scalp. It looked like he had fleas. The rest of him certainly had the mangey appearance: skinny, shrewish and half-starved. Yasmin almost pitied him. "They don't dress like Scanrans. Don't they all wear furs?"

"Disguise? Mebe th' weather's too 'ot for 'em."

Yas shook her head. Too hot my arse. If we don't move soon, we'll be frozen statues. "Come on. Let's get a closer look." She started moving off, closer to the actual campsite. There wasn't much to look at, but something caught her eye. Metal cages were scattered around with piles of rags inside. "Would make sense for the furs," she muttered.

She went to take a step and something grabbed at her side. Looking down, she nearly jumped out of her skin. It was a child. What in the goddess's name was a child doing all the way out here? It, or really she, didn't seem to be all that panicky. She seemed to have a glazed look about her. "You're not one of them." her voice was typical of a child, higher in octave, but definitely not frightened.

"One of who?" Yasmin asked.

"The dark ones," she said quietly. Her hair was light, like theirs, but streaked with mud. She was small, even for her age, maybe around nine. The dress she wore was no more than some stiched-together rags and her legs were bare down to her feet. Her eyes were what grabbed the attention though. Glassy, with a blue-gray tint to them. The Rider blinked in surprise. The girl was blind.

"You're with them?" she asked, glancing over to the camp.

She nodded. "We all are. They're taking us. They let me out they think I won't go anywhere without them," she grinned a bit. "They'll be mad now."

Let you out? She looked around the area and saw what she was talking about. The rags shifted in one of the cages and a child sat up, rubbing sleep from his eyes. Kneeling down to the child's height, Yas nodded. "They probably will be. What's your name? Do you know where they're taking you?"

"Sonia," she replied. "I don't know where they'll take us. They speak oddly. Took us from home. I know we are to go with them. Do work and keep quiet," She eyed her without sight. "Who're you?"

"Yasmin. My friends and I are going to get you and the other kids out of here. But to get you guys out, we need you to do something for us. Will you?" When the girl just nodded, she continued. "Go back to the others. Let them know we're coming if you can, but tell them to be quiet about it. If these 'dark ones' know we're here, we'll be in trouble."

"But you'll come back, yes?" Sonia wanted to know.

She nodded. "Of course." With that the girl headed back to camp. Yasmin sighed in relief and turned to the others, who had been watching with interest. "This is going to be more complicated than we thought."

A nasty voice came from the shadows behind them. "You have no idea."
Monday, February 3rd, 2003
1:41 pm
Battle Abound
The room was barely lit, candle flame had only just provided the light for the room while casting shadows in every direction, It had been as if they had been permeating from the darkness within the room where all manner of deprived creature had lurked, seeking the temporary solace provided by the intoxicating effects of ale and similarly whiskey. The common room had been alive with the sounds of conversation and brawls, challenges and hearty laughter; it had been easy to hide within such an environment....

He sighed from under the darkness which covered him, the last thing he wanted was to reveal who his companion or himself was in such an area...it would be more than likely they would have lost their arms and perhaps more importantly.... their lives. The main reason they had stopped was for supplies for the long road ahead to Scanra, during which the weather had stepped in to aid in their residing within the run down Inn for the night

Sharply but yet as low as the older knight could manage, he jabbed at his nephew's jitters, obviously frustrated himself at getting stuck in such a disreputable establishment "look, will you sit still and stop moping...with the amount of attention your paying this mission, I would think you want to get killed"

"I cannot help it, surely you of all would understand" Quietly he sighed and settled back, glancing to the Elder with questions about him "what can we expect when we finally arrive?"

"If we are in luck...You can expect daily assaults with not only men but the machines of war...they say one bolt from such a machine can skewer a throng of men while their Spidrens tear armoured knights asunder like they were rag dolls.... If we are not in luck then Mithros save us all..."

"That's not very reassuring...." Erin muttered under his breath.

"If you pull your head out the clouds, you may even survive lad" Arros smirked in return and settled back, He couldn't hide the fact his patience was also wearing thin with such a place, He may have been an Errant but that did not mean he was bound to particularly like the people he served, most of the people around him were self serving slime, only looking out for number one...

"See, that's the problem with this world...noone stops to help the elderly like myself anymore, I wonder when they all stopped caring.."

"You Old?...that will be the day" The younger knight grinned and stood, dusting down the plate that had shone through from his cloak, his shield from all who would attack them in such a place, it had been time to go with the rain over "Come, the rain ended some time ago, let us be gone from this place.....It is unnerving."

"For once I think I agree..." With that, Both of them hastily departed the shabby inn to the stables just out front to check their supplies had been loaded and their mounts were ready, when all was in order, Arros nodded and handed the stablehand a couple of silvers for his trouble, quickly they mounted up and rode off, Scanra awaiting.

As the Days rode in with the blizzards and supplies dwindling, they could clearly see the mountains before them, snow encrusted peaks bearing the weights of the world on their noble shoulders, it was if the sky had reached down and touched the mountains with it's own particular beauty and appeal, Erin could do naught but goggle in awe, never had he been granted such an honour as to appreciate such beauty...well, he had but this had to almost be a close second.

"Timeless is it not? No matter the wars, the disease, the corruption or the illness that is mankind can put a blight on such raw beauty...Mother nature is vengeful you see.." Arros glanced ahead and quickly drew steel in alarm "'Ey up lad, the outpost ahead has Scanran company" Quickly Erin snapped out of his thoughts and similarly drew steel, glancing once to Arros before kicking Milnos into a charge to join the battle. Even if it had been only a small raiding party by Scanran standards, their number was still easily in the hundreds, enough even to overwhelm the small fort's defences, it had been clear that the reserves had not arrived yet....

Both charged and waded into the foe, hacking and slashing to take off limbs and defend themselves and their comrades in arms, Such was his zealous fury, Erin negated to see the halberd which had been swung just before him, only in the nick of time did he manage to raise his shield to deflect the blow but such was the power of the swing that he was dismounted rather abruptly to the ground, only narrowly avoiding another's blade as he clattered to the ground. No sooner had he hit the ground had he jolted to the left as an axeman brought down the massive blade in his hands to embed itself in the ground just beside Erin, Instinctively he lashed out, using his shield first to lash out with a blow to his midriff before bringing down his heavy blade to slice through his attacker's poorly armoured limb, bringing forth a cry of agonising pain. No sooner had his attacker been dispatched...Had he gained another and another, frantically he fought to get off the ground and ultimately keep his life.

Quickly he blocked a blow and shifted to the side to avoid another, time was against him as inevitably he would run out of space dodging like this, he needed off his back and just then oppertunity reared it's head. The attacker just off to his side lashed out with the heavy blade in his hands, Erin tried to dodge but his luck was fast drying up it seemed, The blade caught his side, more than sufficient to draw blood and cause quite the wound...He yelled and fired up his longsword to gut the man before turning onto his side, unable to roll around any longer. His other opponent capitalized and stepped over him bearing a dark smile just before he brought his axe down in a killer arc...All Erin could do was close his eyes and hope for a clean blow...

He waited for it, the blow that would end everything, his hopes, dreams and possibilites...and still he waited. What was taking the Axeman so long? Carefully he opened an eye to the sight of Arros standing over him with a hand held out to him to help him off the ground, He smirked " finished playing worm yet?"

He felt like complaining but didn't have the heart to, instead he accepted the hand up, moving one of his own to gingerly hold the gaping wound that was his side, it was however the least of his worries right now. Quickly he glanced around, his view laden with fallen corpses and Tortallen soldiers helping clear the dead and finish off the wounded....in war, specifically one as brutal as this; there was no time to keep prisoners alive, they were merely a drain on supples. "Um, Wasn't there a battle being fought just a minute ago?" He inquired half heartedly, his bleeding midriff and how to shut off the flow of blood was more his concern right now

"There was..." Arros moved forward quickly to catch Erin as he slumped forward, the blood loss was beginning to have an effect, he motioned the best he could to the surrounding soldiers "See them? I suggest you buy them ale after we get you looked at...they just saved our hides"

He shook his head and pushed himself gently back onto his feet, he was looking shakey but he was on his feet all the same, once again he glanced to the mountains and furrowed his brows...even in the midst of such bloodshed and war, they retained their natural beauty. "No healers...'tis nothing...a scratch.." With extreme caution he leant over to retrieve his shield and sword, His wound was worse than he had admitted, Both men knew such but neither wanted to push and argue about the issue, They were both tired from battle as they had been fighting still road weary but such was life, tonight they would sleep properly or so they hoped...

The fort itself was nothing more than a collection of small wooden cabins surrounding the Keep, The only structure of worth was the great stone wall which guarded the mountain pass into Scanra...Both men surveyed the wall and the surrounding buildings...it paid to know what would need defending when the time came; They saw no more than what must have been four hundred soldiers, most battle wearied and in need of a good night in a tavern. Of those non combat there must have been roughly one hundred, all mixed up off: strecher bearers, healers, master cooks, servants and one chaplain, Their foes would undoubtibly face fierce resistance from what were steeled men and women, they all knew their place in this war and to the bloody end they would stand their ground.

"The commander must be in the keep.." Remarked Erin, his face was a mask of concentration, focusing on trying to calm himself to stop the flow of blood from rushing, the rag tied around his midriff was already blood soaked enough as it was

"We go and report in....then I'm taking you to the nearest healer, No arguments here Erin."
With his Uncle's aid, Both men made way for the keep , a short distance to cross at most...hopefully they would not get too much of a berating for being as ungainly late as they were...

The Keep had been warm at the very least, so very warm or perhaps that might have been the bitter cold just outside it's protective walls, keeping elements and Raiders akin at bay whilst loyal soldiers slew them where they would stand...Not in one hundred years had the keep ever fallen to enemy forces and they were not about to begin now. General Othellos was a tall and broad man, his face a harsh battlefield of it's own after so many years of combat yet despite his appearance, He was the best Tortall had to offer on the lines...so many had perished, so many good men....good leaders..

The General was seated at a small oak desk, filled with documents and supply listings of the fort, it was any wonder the Fort's commander had not lost his sanity yet. As Erin and Arros approached, offering a nod as salute, Arros set the younger knight down in a chair while he stood, he fell silent as he was addressed

"Ah, You bring the .." Othellos lifted a small piece of parchment from the table and scanned it for a moment before returning his glance to Arros "seven hundred strong reserve group which was due a week ago I trust?"

The elderly knight raised a brow "General....what you see is what we have with us, we were given orders to report to you and offer any assistance which you might need..."

"Let me get this straight....I needed an army...and they sent you two..."He Sighed and rubbed his forehead in thought, Troops were in short supply especially where they were needed it seemed.."I just hope you can fight like titans or we're all dead.."

"Yes Sir...If you'll excuse me?...my nephew needs tending too, he took a hit from those Scanran raiders, it seems to be getting progressivly worse as time goes on.."

General Othellos merely nodded as Arros lifted the barely consious Erin out the chair, using his shoulder to support him on his way to find a an unoccupied healer "Hold on lad, we'll see it tended too in no time.."

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