~ A N A R C H Y ~



Original poster




She crouched down to the moist earth, arrow poised, her body as tense as her drawstring. The moon-grey eyes were wide and focused on the delicate deer grazing only a couple feet away, no tree blocking the shot Keda was ready to make. She inhaled deeply and gently released the strain on the arrow with a calm lifting of her finger. The string shook as the arrow flew through the air, hitting the deer in the flank. At once, Keda sprang to her feet, leaping after the deer, which was running frantically for its life, winding through the trees, trampling fresh moss, jumping over small rippling streams. With grace and ease, the tall Enser woman stayed relentlessly a few steps behind her prey, too distracted to pay much attention to the feelings rushing out behind the leaping animal, hot, angry, frightened feelings that filled the air with an irresistible urge to run.

It was starting to happen. Keda narrowed her eyes and slowed down a little. She sensed the animal's desperation slowly fading away, replaced with hopelessness and misery. The tranquilizer Keda had coated her arrows in was finally setting in. The deer kept going strong for a while, but then quickly began to stumble and grow dizzy, its direction haphazard and unsure. Keda doggedly kept running after, yet at a more respectful distance. Hol had taught her that animals needed space and privacy to die – if a human eye violated their passing, their souls would still be closely bonded to the material world, and it would take them too long to pass on and evaporate. You are a part of everything you make – and destroy, his words echoed in her head. Be careful how much of yourself you give away.

At last, the deer was failing in its step, forelegs buckling, hind legs shaking with the strain of its suddenly leaden body. Keda felt the animal's emotions emanate from it like waves of heat, smoky tendrils that whispered of death. Animals knew when they were going to pass early to the spirit world, Hol had told her. They knew and that was why they gave up – to go in peace. When he hunted in the vast tundras of Eliydar as a child, he would often watch the red fox hunt caribou fawns in summer. The fox would choose a small, slow fawn, create mayhem in the herd by pretending to attack from several angles, and do its best to isolate the fawn from its protective herd members. If successful, the next step was simple – chase, until the fawn manages to make its way back to its family … or its strength gives out. Hol saw the fawns that were vanquished suddenly stop running and drop to the ground, their legs buckling under them, and just sit there, head bowed, tail still, not reacting when the fox arrived. The predator would circle, sniff the air, then quickly and mercifully pierce the fawn's jugular.

The deer fell to the ground at last. It spasmed fretfully a few times, then its eyes glazed over with sleep and its body grew limp, but still warm and throbbing with life. Keda sighed deeply. She was a practiced animal killer but it so often left her feeling cold when she finally did the deed – the flood of feelings so suddenly extinguished, with no trace left behind, as though the creature had never existed … so when she knelt before it, eyes tightly shut, and ran an experienced blade over the deer's neck, she sat quietly for several seconds before opening her eyes again and, one hand on the deer's chest, said a thank you to its departing soul. Thank you for feeding me. Thank you for protecting me.

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"Aaaagh! You Erog swine!"

Princess Ura reeled from the table, clutching her forehead. She almost collided with her brother, who laughed as he sat on the balustrade behind her. The princess's eyes were wide, frostbite blue as she glared at the one who had struck her. "I'LL HAVE YOU KILLED, HALF BREED!"

At the table where the princess had been sitting till a moment ago, Karseun Geburich arranged the folds of his fur cloak and rested his staff on his lap once more. "Nonsense. If you did, your father would have to find another Erog teacher, and by that time your brain would have festered beyond repair."

"Wise words, Sis," smirked Prince Lok, who ducked as Ura flung her quill at him.

"Teacher? HAH!" The princess straightened to her full seven foot height to laugh, and her breath misted in the winter air. "You're just an old fool who likes the sound of his voice!"

The two royals and their teacher were in the palace cloister, where four eaves enclosed a winter garden. Hand-clipped evergreens basked above a layer of snow, their flowers blooming savage purple, and overhead the sky showed a clear grey Eliydar morning. With guards and courtiers forbidden to intrude, the cloister was a silent haven from the bustling palace and industrious city in which it nestled.

Geburich squinted up at the towering Amazonian-like Ura. "And you are an errant child who will be too stupid to run your father's kingdom." His voice was scratchy and wizened, nothing like the pretentious tones of the twins. ''You make clearer decisions when you're in pain. So shut up and concentrate, before I hit you again!"

Ura spun to face her brother, who languished on the balustrade. "He can't talk to me like this!"

"Oh yes he can." Lok grinned, a boyish face framed by long, silvery hair.

"And you! Finish your essay!" barked Geburich, forcing the prince to drop his smile and carry on writing in his journal. The princess scowled at him, then flinched as the old man drummed his hand on the table. "Focus, Ura! You have to learn this language. It's essential, girl."

Ura glared at the wooden shapes that Geburich had arranged on the table. They were carved from hardy Bolen trees, from the western foothills, and had been smoothed and varnished. The old man had placed them, seemingly at random.


"IT'S NOT A LANGUAGE!" she roared, kicking the table and nearly wrecking the whole thing. "It's a bunch of wooden blocks!"

Geburich straightened one of the pieces. "This is the Rhamadara Code - used by the noble houses of Eliydar since before the Thrases War. It was a simple substitute for message scrolls and meant that even the messenger knew not what he was carrying. If he was captured, he would reveal nought under torture, and the blocks would be mistaken for firewood."

"I care not!" Ura turned and folded her arms, pacing the edge of the cloister. Beyond the eaves the mountains rose, majestic and fretted with the smoking shapes of mining towns. "When I am Queen I shall rule by fire and steel. The people will trust in my power, not these sage's tricks." She waved a hand dismissively at the table. "I shall give them conquest and industry, and they will love me for it."

"Fine words, Gelu," jabbered the old man. "But the nobles respect no ruler unless she knows the Rhamadara Code, and after your halfwit brother ruins the kingdom you're going to need all the noble support you can get."

Lok threw down his book and swung his legs off the balustrade, looming over the teacher. "How dare you? I should have you... AAAAAGH!" He dropped as Geburich brought his staff down on the prince's toes. Ura almost cracked a smile as she watched her brother roll around in pain.

Then Geburich drummed the table once more. "Again! Look at the blocks."

Ura returned to the table and stared at the wooden pieces.



Now the old man smiled, his beard flecked with grey like the mountain slopes. "Aah, now you're getting somewhere, my dear." His other hand came out from his fur cloak and started moving the blocks, rearranging them in a new order. "What you have you said is the very essence of sagacity. For just as music is found in the space between the notes, so does wisdom lie in the mighty leaps twixt truth and faith."

Ura was about to chide the old teacher for his riddles, but the words froze on her tongue. She looked down, scowling, then sighed as Geburich finished rearranging the blocks on the table.


"Sometimes the thing that is not there, is the thing that truly matters."

He passed her a book, with the Code written out in beautiful Erog caligraphy. "Learn the letters and the combinations before next week." He then shooed her away from the table and gave Lok a prod with his staff. "Right you, stop crying and sit down. You have an essay to regale with me with."

Lok slowly got up and limped to the other chair, taking out his journal and wiping at his eyes. The two royals sat quietly now, head bowed, and accepted their teacher's authority. The prince opened the leatherbound pages and took a deep breath.


Geburich jolted.

* * * * * * *


Geburich sat bolt upright in his bed, the fur blankets falling from him. His log cabin was shaking, pot and pans falling from shelves and windows rattling. Someone was hammering on the door, and a deep, garrelous voice was calling his name. "KARSEUN GEBURICH! WAKE UP!"

The wizard grumbled angrily and tipped out of his bed, kicking over old potion bottles and tripping on moth eaten books. The table near his bed was piled high with dried herbs and assorted crystals, and as he moved a herd of cats yowled and hissed. He kicked them aside and pulled on his red sage's cloak, cursing in the morning gloom that followed his dream. "Who dares disturb me! Be gone from this place!"

"By the gods alone, old man! Open up!" retorted the voice, and the door shook again. The whole cabin seemed on the verge of collapse.

Geburich stubbed his toe on a cauldron, tripped on his staff, yelled at a cat, then finally got to the door. He yanked it open and a gust of mountain air struck his wrinkled face. "If you seek to trick me, I'll turn you into a..." He stopped. There was nothing in front of him - just the open air and the trees on the mountain slope.

"Oi!" Something poked him in the stomach. He looked down to see an Acluv in full travelling year, holding out a cloth pouch. The stranger had a ginger beard that hid most of his face, and his stout, muscular body was padded with fine leather. On his cloak was the symbol of House Devarkey. Clearly he was a royal messenger.

"Get off my mountain!"

"Take the bag!"

Geburich glared at the Acluv then snatched the pouch from him. It rattled as he held it, and through the opening came the scent of moorland pine. It was a distinct aroma - one that Geburich remembered from long ago. "Stay exactly where you are. My cats are watching you." He turned from the messenger and moved to his table. Clearing some old scrolls and broken wands aside, he tipped out the contents of the pouch. A few dozen finely carved wooden blocks scattered over the table. They had been varnished in pine oil - an expensive lacquer used only by those who could afford it.

The message had come from the King himself. A man he had not spoken to in ten years.... a family he had not dreamt about till this night.

Frowning, Geburich arranged the blocks as the messenger watched him from the icicled doorway. With each letter he formed his heart sank lower. From the nothingness, from the space between the notes, from the gap between truth and faith, a tragedy unfolded.


Sometimes the people who are not there, are the ones who truly matter.
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{Adan Armando}

The pulse quickened, the mouth opened and closed rapidly in an attempt to draw in oxygen, the body shook with violent spasms in a feebly attempt for survival. But a single brown hand was all it took to restrain it, the calloused skin gently caressed the shaking body, relishing in it's helpless struggle. Regrettably, it's life was draining quicker then the hand obviously would have liked, for in one swift movement it grabbed a knife and jabbed it into soft flesh.

Blood quickly leaked out, spreading it's dark tendrils across the pitiful body and onto the wooden table. It had yet to die though, the brain was still sending signals even as the hand expertly cut down the middle, ripping the flesh and exposing the pulsating organs beneath. For one moment the hand rest around the organs, feeling the tremors of terror and pain before violent grabbing and ripping them out. The brain finally stopped sending signals and it faded into a blissful nothingness.

Adan looked down at his blood soaked hand, relishing the moment, his breakfast lay on his table; a salmon. It's wide eyes stared into the ceiling and it's mouth lay agape revealing many tiny, razor sharp teeth. He sighed as he began slowly cutting up the fish, it was refreshing to feel the terror as he held it's life in his hands but it was still primitive. Animals were stupid, they did not bring in the same emotions and feelings; their expressions were narrow and they could not articulate their pain and suffering.

He longed to have the same type of control over a sentient species. Any would do, Geli, Enser, Bower, they all expressed their suffering wonderfully. It had been so long since he had spilled the life blood of one of those, their feeling of panic was the best. Even now, thinking back to those long ago days were hunted people as much as he hunted animals brought a flush to his cheeks and a whistle to his lips.

He grilled the fished and served it with a side of bread and cheese, hardly tasting the food as his thoughts consumed him. After finishing his breakfast he exited his hut and stretched in the fresh morning air, he had already been out here before the sun was up to catch his breakfast, but that was before the sun was up. It's rays warmed his limbs and wrapped around his body, but it was this exact kind of serene nature that was getting him annoyed. Everyone and everything seemed to be so happy and carefree, when was their violence coming? War, chaos, civil unrest, anything but this maddeningly frustrating peacefulness.
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{Yudee Willowclaw}

A soothing breeze played through Yudee's hair, a brief blessing from the sun that burned on her olive skin and intensified the scent of blood, filling the Gwydde's nostrils as she squatted on the grass with three dead hares in front of her. Grabbing her knife she made a long cut along one hare's stomach and started removing the intestines, cutting the liver into slim strips and placed them on a stone to dry, then she took a smaller and sharper knife and started skinning the hares. Carefully edging the blade under the hide, cutting through muscle and tendons until all three furs lay on the ground before her, scraping the hide clean from meat she washed it in water before stretching it between two thin trees to dry making sure there was no wrinkles while the hides were not too tightly stretched.

After following suit with the remaining two hides and putting them up to dry Yudee took care of the meat, shredding them and hung them above her birch wood fire and when they were dry she flattened them out with a rock before rolling them into small balls. The intestines she cleaned and hung them up to dry before she would store the meat in them. Yudee didn't particulary liked this messy part of hunting, her bond with nature was strong and she only did it to survive herself or earn herself necessities to trade with or sell in villages or cities.

Thankful in a way that she'd only caught a few hares and not a large deer as that would have taken a lot longer, Yudee finished up by cleaning the tendons, flatten them, sorted out the isngle threads and then dried them and rubbed fat into them to keep the tendons soft and flexible. When the sun started to sink beneath the trees and the sky darkened Yudee was done, her camp was clea, the hare's were all finished up and she had eaten her evening meal, the rolled meat easily sustained her together with some vegetables and fruit she'd picked earlier and settled down by her fire watching the stars slowly start shine in the sky. The orange light from the open fire played on the purple hues in her red hair and placed amber flecks in her hazel eyes. Stretching out her mind and tendrils of magic Yudee let the plants around her tell what they sensed in their surroundings, feeling safe she let the endless whispers of the trees and the grass eventually lull her to sleep.

When the sun peaked over the horizon Yudee had already been up for awhile, fixing her pack and fastening the belt with her quiver around her hips, rolling up the hides after making sure they were still soft and that the fur had not fallen off, she'd rolled up her food and tools inside her winter cloak she put it all down in her simple leather bag that she strapped across her back together with her bow before she set off towards Edel, the capital of Argentum. Normally she prefered smaller places to enter when she needed but she was closer to Edel than any village or other city and she needed to sell or trade her wares.

Her destination took her over gently sloping grass plains, by the side of a river and through a smaller forest she knew this area well and needed no help in finding the way to Edel though the nature around her always were ready to help whisper what she needed. The sun had passed zenit when Yudee could see the tall gates to Edel, the gates stood open as always but guards kept a look out over the people entering, after the incidents with the royal heirs everyone had turned more suspicious. Drinking from her water skin Yudee straightened her bow before heading down the slope and entered through the gates of Edel.
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{Aveline Archcloak}

Another quiet day for the young Aveline. She was sitting down on the plush green grass with her legs tucked neatly underneath her, staring at a blank grave stone in front of her. Sorrow filled her hazel eyes...this grave was her own. It had been years since that tragic accident that set her entire village up in flames. The memory was strong in her mind. She could remember every little detail of what went on that very day, and the day that followed when they recovered her nearly lifeless body from the wreckage.

Aveline had still been breathing when they found her. It was her older brother that was the one to find the young Aveline, whose body was trapped underneath the burned up beam of their own home. It was a shock to all of the remaining villagers that the weak and fragile little girl they all knew was still alive after all that. Though just moments after she was brought out of the blackened remains of the wooden house, Aveline took her last breath. The last thing she saw before, supposedly, moving on was her brother's face.

The day that her body was recovered was also the day of her funeral. Aveline watched from a distance, her body weightless, her figure barely visible. If anyone saw her then they would of merely have thought they were hallucinating and dismiss the idea that little Aveline was actually there.

Coming out of her memories, the young ghost girl looked down to the dead flowers that lay in front of the of blank, weather beaten tombstone. Leaning up against the stone was Aveline's old stuffed rabbit doll that her mother and brother made for her weeks before her tenth birthday. She smiled to herself, the happy memories of that day canceling out the sad ones of her thirteenth birthday.

On either side of her grave lay her mother and father's remains. Her parents did not come back as ghosts, nor did any one else from her village that died that day. The reason why she came back still eluded her to this day.

Spending just a few more moments at the graves, Aveline stood up and looked around the area. Her village, which was left alone after that day, was merely a few hundred feet from the graveyard. The young Gelu ghost had not left the site of her demise. Not even once. Over the years of wandering the all too familiar clearing where her village rested, Aveline had only seen a few people pass through. None of them paid any respects to the dead, and merely passed through. One was even rude enough to search through the houses to see if there were any valuables. Being the gentle spirit that she was, the young Gelu could not bring herself to harm the man. Though she was capable of doing so.

The last time she had a visitor was a little over a year ago. A couple who simply passed through and didn't bother a thing in the village. Aveline wished someone would come through again, just so she could have the company of another being. Yes, there were animals who came through, but they ran away from feeling the presence of a ghost lingering around the area.

The girl sighed to herself and sat upon an stump of a cut down tree, charred from the fire all those years ago. The thought to leave this place crossed her mind many a time over the years, yet she could not bring herself to leave. Aveline was more than capable to leave though.

Feeling bored, Aveline started humming the tune of the song she heard a band of travelers playing as they passed through the village.
{Jun'Tzia Flowingspirit}

A cold, salt wind blew hard in over the coast line whipping the tough grass and preventing trees from growing, the tall Gelu woman were shielded from the brute force of the wind by the forest a bit outside Aisak, standing in an open glade her swords elegantly slashed through the air. Her beige skirt swirled around her legs as Jun took a long step forward, turning in the air and continued her movement with ease to the right her movements were more a dance than fighting practice if notfore her sharp double swords in her hands swinging through the air without hesitation. Even as she made mistakes and moved awkwardly Jun did her best to continue through the movement without stoping, grace and continuity was as important in using swords as the correct handling of the swords themselves were and her biggest problem was just that.

Taking a step sideways she changed course, her concentration unwavering, fully focused on the weapons in her hands, the sun on her skin, the breeze through her hair and the melodic songs of birds from the forest mingling with the loud calls of the sea birds. Jun kept track of it all and yet she wasn't hindered by it, being aware of her surroundings without letting it cloud her mind was an important lesson she had been thought by her old master, Kyanuh, he had learned her the basics of using double swords and the importance of a calm mind.

"No!" Kyanuh yelled from his place by the wall. "Do not rush into battle, if you do not think then you die. Let the calm water guide you and deal fierce blows like the thrashing storm but be vigilant and patient like the mountain Jun'Tzia, lest you will be one of my youngest pupils at your demise, now again but use your head this time." The old man barked, he was strict and harsh in training but he cared for all his student though he was one of the few Gelus that didn't show his feelings and his teachings were valuable.

Jun smiled absently as she remembered her master's lessons, he was a skilled practioner of magic and swords and mixed the two without trouble, believing that the elements could teach you the values in life and how to act to survive. She missed him deeply, as she missed her family and her village, and her friends. Shaking her head Jun's eyes narrowed, refusing to think too much about her past. Her step wavered slightly before she gathered herself and continued her stride.

Moving sideways in slow pirouettes, placing her feet carefully on the grass as she shifted her swords through the air, slicing at imagined enemies, held up to guard her but never being still for even a second. sweat broke out on her brow, her tongue caught in her mought and her throat ached for water but Jun continued, chasing off her tiredness with pictures of her dead friends, the blood, the screams and finally the silence as the light in their eyes died. Clenching her teeth Jun moved with more purpose, taking quick aggressive steps forward and for each step stabbing one blade forward and when she reached the edge of the clearing Jun took a final step and jabbed both her swords forward into an imagined target, her arms shook and her hands ached after the weight of the double swords. Tiredly she clamped the swords together, the low click as they locked together soothed her and she placed them in their scabbard, it was originally meant to hang around her back but when she was this tired she feared to harm herself so she kept the scabbard on the ground.

Emptying her entire water sack Jun felt a bit better, the sun had passed zenit meaning she'd been out here for over three hours already, she'd have to hurry back if she were to bath before it was time to start work in the library. She walked through the tree line and saw Aisak rise in front of her, the wind hit her full force, whipping her clothes about and tangling her hair, the cold air and sharp rocks further off might seem inhospitable to others but to Jun they was familiar, but with the troubles breweing that may not last so long. Walking into the city Jun weaved through the crowd, the scabbard heavy against her back, soon reaching her small apartment in a poorer part of Aisek not overly far from the library. Locking up her door she went inside, leaving her sword by her bed and went to fix up before heading to work.
{Ida Kyyle}

She sprinted down the slaves narrow hall, dodging and ducking under the many people who used the narrow pathway. She came to a halt at a side door and put her ear to it. The door led to the training grounds. She always did this, listening to the ringing of swords. Ida loved the sound the swords made, though she despised the weapons themselves. They were beautiful things, but meant for death and destruction.

"Hey! Move it!" Someone pushed her from behind. Without turning to apologize, she trotted off. No one was polite or nice here. If you were nice, it would be beaten out of you. Or you learned to hide it. Thats what Ida did. She disliked being rude to people, but she had no choice. Here, you never had a choice.

She veered left and through a closing door. Seconds before it crushed her, she slipped through and into the gardens. Sighing with relief (this always happened), she turned left again. "And so the day begins!" She said to herself. Today was her day to face the bee's hive, which she very much hated. Entering the grove of trees where the bees lived, she sighed. "I swear, these bees ain't natural... their stingers burn for days and their honey is the best in Shear."

With her seventh sigh this day, she scuttled up the nearest tree. She could here the bees humming in their hive. The day made them tired, though they were lively during the night. That was when the moon flowers bloomed. She pulled herself onto the thickest branch and looked up. There, right above her head, hung a huge hive. There were a few bees flying lazy circles around it, but the rest were off to bed. Ida ran a hand through her short, white hair. "These bees ain't natural." She shimmed up to the bees branch.

Up close, the hive was even bigger. If Ida wanted to, and she surly didn't, she could fit herself in it. With a groan, she sung onto the hive. She knew, without a doubt, that the hive could hold her weight. She carefully settled into her position, then stuck her hand into the bees entryway. Right away, she received several stings, but she ignored the pain. This, she did every other day. The pain never faded from her hands, but she got used to it.

She pulled out huge chunks of honey cone, and carelessly dropped it to the floor. It was caught by another slave, and put into a basket. Ida continued tossing the honey cone down, then climbed off the beehive. With a grin, she spread her slightly larger then average wings and leaped to another tree. Of course, she could not fly, but she always felt that she had more control if she fell. Hours passed, Ida doing the same thing over and over. Every now and then, she would come across another slave, but nothing eventful happened. She would just find another tree to work with.

Finally, the last hive had been emptied. Ida looked at the sky and wasn't surprised to see that the sun was already low. Time always went by faster when you were doing something painful. ... Well, thats what she always told herself. She padded down the trail and turned towards the door when a voice stopped her.
{Tattersail Bladesinger}

"Tattersail! Word's come in from central, you're to head back to Aisak at once for a new assignment. After we take this beach from those cowards!" The armored Captain yelled to the Warrior Priestess over the din of crashing waves and rain as their squads landing boat was coming in range of the beach, mock defenses strewn about. Set up by Eliydar's army.

"Yes Sir!" She yelled back, "I take it im walking back?" Tattersail replied without complaint as she look over the sides of the boat to see hundreds of similar boats up and down the coastline all heading towards stretches of similar beaches to take part in Eliydar's war games.

"You got that right, with the war games going on in the area we cant afford to spare a boat. I'll get ya a map later! For now just stick to formation!" The armored Captain yelled as the landing boat was drawing closer to the shore now, the rest of the squad becoming more tense every second as the time to charge the beach grew near.

When the landing boats hit sand, hundreds of pairs of armored feet followed out the side of the boats seconds later, as the squads drew blunted blades and rushed up the beach towards it's defenders yelling an incomprehensible battle cry that reverberated for miles round.

After the mock battle was over an hour or so later Tattersail found her captain who promptly gave her a map and directions that led through a nearby abandoned village to a trader track which would take her to Aisak. Retrieving a carrying pack for her own armor, Tattersail changed into walking leathers and got together some rations for the walk. Blessing her squadmates before she set out Tattersail quickly offered a prayer to Ouranos to grant a safe journey.

Twas hours later as the sky was turning to dusk that Tattersail came upon the village. Seeing the husks of where buildings once stood from afar she now understood why the village was abandoned. On the trek down to the village Tattersail came upon a graveyard. Stopping to pay respects and a prayer that the dead were now happy and free Tattersail continued on to the village where she set out her bed roll next to what might've been an old smithy.

Watching the star's come out one by one, Tattersail's mind started wondering about what it would be like to fly. To be able to soar with her god, naught a worry in the world. Sighing she slipped into her bedroll to try to sleep.

“Begging is an art. You think you can just sit down anywhere and started sorrowfully weeping about some fabricated sob story you made up on the spot? Smear your face in dirt, drip water down your cheeks, and pitifully claw at the legs of passerby’s? If you want spit in your hat and a boot to your face, then yeah, go ahead and give it a try. But if want to make good money, then it's going to take a little more class then that. Try not to be dirty, at the very least have your face cleaned, your a beggar not a bum and people wont' give you money if they think your going to waste on drink; which of course, your are.

Dress well, not fancy, expensive crap but make it look like you haven't been sleeping in mud. If nothing else works, then yes, cover yourself in mud and cry often, but expect copper in your palms instead of the cool feel of silver. Hang around the wealthier sides of town and look for young, well dressed lads or if possible, lasses. Approach them, compliment them, and offer to buy them a drink when you have exchanged pleasantries and they have filled you to the brim with useless information about their boring lives, hit them with the sob story.

Start it slow, a casual mention of how your wife passed away when they talk about theirs. Every so often interject on how hard it is to feed your multitude of kids, spout some emotional crap about how you just want to make sure they can get pass their tenth year. Remain humble throughout, people like people who humble themselves; your more likely to get money. The saps will be giving you silver like it's water. They're too stupid to see a lie.

Well this is how I've been begging at least, and let me tell you, it works. Well I mean it works most of the time, like forty percent of the time or eighty, one of the three.”

The bartender's smile faltered as he glanced at the tavern door, praying to any of the gods that somebody would come in and shut up the filthy fellow before him. But as he saw the haggard man clumsily grabbing at his mug, he found an excuse.

“Alright, you have had enough, it's time to leave.”

The man got up and stumbled backwards, almost loosing his balance. The bartender came around the corner to instinctively help him, but the man regained his balance and pushed his face within inches of the bartender’s; who could heavily smell the cheap whiskey on his breath,

“Make me...boy.”

The man glared at the bartender and it was painfully obvious that he was winding up for a punch, the bartender ducked under the wild blow and socked him in the gut, causing him to collapse in pile; looking like a dirty mop. The bartender helped him to his feet and led him outside and shoved him down the stairs,

“Take your pitiful advice to somebody who cares...beggar filth.”

The bartender's was long back inside before the man picked himself back up and was able to shout,

“Don't you jest me! I fought for this damn country with my own blood. I am Gil! And...and...”

He could think of nothing else to say and instead just waved a hand at the door, as if the long gone bartender was wasting his time. He shuffled down the cold alleyways, trying to remember where he lived before he realized that he didn't have a home; he slept on the streets. He decided he needed to take a leak before bed, he braced one arm against a wall and relaxed. When he felt the warm sensation of urine running down his legs he concluded that it probably would have been good to remove his pants first.

He slumped down in alleyway, drifting off into a stupor, when in a brief moment of clarity he understood that sleeping on the streets, covered in filth and piss, was a common occurrence and he was truly one of the lowest forms of life. He cried himself into a bliss nothingness.


The sun cheerfully greeted him the following afternoon; and he angrily cursed it back. With a throbbing head he performed his morning ritual of puking and washing his face with a dirty rag before being satisfied with his hygiene. He slowly walked around the harbor town, waiting for the sun to dim down or his head to stop throbbing. People parted before him with out looking at him, despite his own advice, he was covered in filth and pass the pity point. Begging was getting harder and each day was a struggle for food or drink, but he managed to fit gambling in their half the time.

At the town's bulletin board there was a piece of paper that caught his eye, normally he avoided work offerings, people could smell him a mile away and that had negative effects on employers. He knew just enough of the written language to know what was being offered might be in his abilities. If he was fully himself he would have turned around immediately and started a fresh day of begging. But his brain was still foggy and he headed towards the docks.

A ship was being loaded and it didn't look like a merchant ship, he concluded this is what he was looking for. He approached a man dressed in a full suit of armor, one of those Elidar races, Acluv maybe, giving all the orders of the loading of many crates and barrels. He turned towards Gil and his nose wrinkled in disgusts, his voice was deep and grating,

“Aye, you stink worst then a stye. What do you want, you don't look like you can afford clothes and certainly not a place on the Desdemona.”

He wanted to turn around and walk away at that point, he didn't care how much more they would be paying then what he would make in a lifetime of begging. If it put his life in danger, he wanted nothing to do with it. But before his brain could tell him to stop, he said,

“I used to be a solider. And I've worked on many a ship during my time there. You need me.”

The Acluv growled,

“Any other day I would have laughed and turned you the other way, but your right, I'm short of men and we have to leave port by today. Fine your in, payment comes with completion of journey, jump ship halfway and you get nothing.”

Gil just smiled and nodded, maybe he wouldn't have to wake up in a gutter everyday, he began climbing the gangplank,

“And oh, stye boy, could you at least jump into the water before we set off, you stink worse then a wet dog.”

Gil laughed and shook his shaggy mane,

“I can't swim.”
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"Veleus Honrain? Pah! The man's an idiot!" Geburich spat on a statue as he walked past the Veleus Honrain Academy, a giant marble basilica in the centre of Aisak. He had been in the capital of Eliydar for only half an hour, and had already made a list of the things that annoyed him.

"Much has changed in the decade of your absence," spoke the Royal Minister. He was a Gelu - tall and ivory-skinned, silver hair fluttering in the winter air. He moved with deliberate slowness, taking long steps in the snow that Geburich trudged though. He walked on the wizard's left, whilst the Acluv Messenger walked on his right. They looked like something from a comedy sketch: the tall Gelu, the medium Erog and the short Acluv.

"Yes," Geburich muttered as he squinted at the jewelled streets of Aisak. His voice was even scratchier in the north-east air. "You've wasted more gemstones."

"I'll waste your gemstones if you don't pipe down!" snapped the Acluv messenger. The little man had ridden with Geburich for three days now and had almost reached the end of his tether. The Acluv's ginger hair and beard had almost turned to grey.

Geburich glared down at the messenger. "I'm starting to dislike you."

"This way, please," interrupted the Royal Minister, his soft voice cutting through the argument. "The King is most impatient for your presence."

* * * *

High above the smoke of the ceaseless mines, the Palace of Aisak was built into the mountainside and bedecked with rare jewels and marble pillars. The trio crossed a frozen lake before ascending one of a dozen staircases that arced towards the main gates. The guards - heavily armoured Acluu - parted in humble silence. They passed beneath the great icicles that hung from the gate then traversed a promenade through a gauntlet of towering statues. Represented here were the soldiers and scholars who had built Eliydar. Geburich only spat on a third of them.

Snow had covered much of the fortress, leaving pockets of exquisite architecture peeking through. Geburich glanced at them now and then, noting the battlements where he had chased young Lok as a boy... the cloisters where he had instructed Ura... the pools in the lake where the three of them had fished one morning, when the twins had persuaded him to finish lessons early.

Memories, hidden beneath the snow.

* * * *

A half hour later his two companions halted and motioned ahead to a doorway. They had climbed the spiral stairways of the palace, the number of guards growing less and less with each floor. Now there were only two Gelu Honour Guard ahead of him, and they stood to one side as they saw the wizard approach. Geburich glanced at the Minister and Messenger, grunting farewell before trudging forward. His staff punched the ground as he walked, echoing through the marble-lined darkness of the royal chambers.

It wasn't longer before he heard the tears. A long study stretched beyond the doorway, one wall lined with leatherbound books and the other with paintings - murals of the famous wars of the empire. There was another door at the end, and behind it a woman was rushing and weeping, the light beneath disturbed by frantic activity. There were no servants in sight. It was as if the woman had been given as much space as possible.

"She will have none of it."

Geburich stopped as the voice sounded. He squinted and noticed another man in the study, hunched over a desk and wrapped in a great swathe of fur. He had his back to Geburich, but even so the long blond sweep of the King's hair was unmistakeable.

"The Queen refuses to believe her children are dead. She calls it lies, spread by foreign agents, to poison her mind."

Geburich continued his advance, circling the study and approaching the writing table where the King sat. The Gelu was bearded - a rare trait amongst the race, but a mark of virility. His well-built frame had softened with age and his hands were wrinkled as they clutched a framed painting. Between the King's fingers Geburich could make out the faces of Lok and Ura, in regal pose.

The wizard reached across the table and, without asking, took the jug of mead the King was drinking from and poured some into the second goblet. "Still drinking this cat's piss?"

"Finest in the land."

With a grunt, the wizard eased himself into the chair opposite the King, placing down the bag of woodblocks he had sent him. The sound of the Queen's hysterics filled the chamber beyond and formed a bizarre backdrop to their silence. The King was watching Geburich as he guzzled from his goblet.

"You got old."

"You got fat."

Something stirred on the King's face - the ghost of a smile, a memory of the friendship that had ended 10 years ago. But it was blanketed over soon enough by a fresh layer of sorrow. Geburich could see in the man's face that he had been crying, for the skin between his wrinkles was now red raw. "No one ever liked you, Kars. They said to me, 'Sire, how can he teach your children respect when he shows none himself?' They were right, of course."

"Wouldn't have made a difference. They were spoilt brats."

There was a thump. The King had slammed the painting down hard, a burst of anger and heartache. His face shifted through a dozen emotions - rage, laughter, sadness - before softening once more. "Aye, Kars... I spoiled them... and you spoiled them too..."

The jokes faded. Geburich looked down at the painting, noting Ura's smile and the way Lok's hand rested upon her shoulder. It was one of the few times they could stand to be with each other, when they posed for the royal artist. Even in paint, they were a vision of fire and ice. They would have moved the mountains of this world had they been crowned.

"Remember when the Hygrin Gem was stolen?" said the King. "You tracked the Enser bastard and his conspirators - traced his spells back to his hideout. You were good, Kars. You saw things my soldiers couldn't."

Geburich drained his drink and looked away, but suddenly his wrist was gripped. The King had taken hold of him, and his fingers were trembling. The wizard looked again into the eyes of his friend... the eyes of a father who had outlived his dearest children. "Find the ones who did this, Kars. For my sake and the Queen's." He glanced at the painting. "For their sake. I know you loved them... as much as I did."

...the eyes of a King, forced by ministers and nobles, and by his very people, to answer this crime with warlike shout. It was inevitable now. The armies would be raised, the swords sharpened, the blood spilled. The drums were sounding, and Shear and Argentum would burn in the Eliydar rage.

The King's hand was forced... and yet the man would strive for one good deed amongst the bloodshed... one assurance... one closure.

The truth of what happened.

"There's a boat making port tonight. The Desdemona. It's heading south, Kars."

The King's hand loosened and Geburich looked away, scowling at the far wall as the Queen continued sobbing. There was no need for further theatrics. For what man can refuse a King?

What man can refuse a friend and the dead who haunt him?
--Vivili Kilmoi--

</SPAN>She had been staring at a rock. Yes, a rock, gray in hue, not very interesting, and barely distinguishable against the gray cement floor and the equally gray cement walls. She sat upon a mat of straw, the only possession in which she had apart from her ragged clothes of no particular color. No, at one point it had simply been a dark purple shirt, but now it sported many different patches of other colours, sewn on very roughly, but better than the holes she had in other parts. Her pants seemed to be the same, although they held a fair bit more of beige cloth than any other mismatched colour. And all she did, as she sat on this straw mat in her horrible rags, was stare at that rock, concentrating.</SPAN>

Her voice spoke up, calling for a woman named Kliiana. Another one of the slaves, the Kliiana called, approached her, touching her shoulder lightly. It was a tall woman, her lithe body curved lovely, giving her beauty in her simple frame. Her hand was pale against Vivili’s dusky skin, for this woman held less of a tan, appearing more like a snowflake, which matched nicely with her gray-blue eyes, and her blonde luscious curls. A beautiful Enser, like Vivili herself, ad it was all the more reason to hate the woman. Vivili resisted the urge to shrug off the touch of the hand, not wanting the other girl to leave quite yet. </SPAN>

What are you staring at Vivili?” The soft-spoken voice asked, its soft-spokeness entirely faked and ringing falsely within her ears. Vivili never broke her dark orbs away from the rock as she replied. </SPAN>

A giant bug.” And, suddenly, it was. The dull gray rock had become an immense beetle, with a dull brown shell and staring black orbs for eyes. The woman behind her screamed as the beetle made a clicking noise, although it never moved, and she ran towards it. Vivili gave a small sigh of relief when that too-white hand left her skin, and felt as if a retched weight had been lifted from the shoulder. Kliiana’s pale foot came stomping down upon the ugly bug, which seemed to remain uncrushed. The woman’s foot was bleeding from the jagged edge of the rock, but she did not seem to feel it, instead feeling a smooth hard shell as her foot came down upon it again. Suddenly, the hideous beetle was once more a rock, and Vivili pretended to cast a confused look. “Why Kliiana, what on earth are you doing, stamping on a rock?”</SPAN>

Kliiana looked to Vivili, then her bleeding foot, then back to the red-splattered rock. She blinked in confusion, and lowered her foot, wincing in the process, for no longer did it simply feel as if it was lightly being dusted a purple-blue bruise from the strength she had put into trying to break the bug, no now she could feel the sharp pain of the jaggedly cut wound. “There was a bug…” She mumbled, looking over to Vivili in confusion. The later simply raised an eyebrow, and the former simply hobbled away, mumbling to herself. A small grin graced Vivili’s lips.
That’s what the witch gets for trying to set me up. To believe she actually tried dumping her turn with the Master on me! Little Goddess damned witch…</SPAN>
She smirked to herself at the irony, calling Kliiana a witch. If anyone here was a witch, it would be the one who made bugs from stones; the dark eyed woman who sat still, plots involving magic going a million miles in a moment within her mind. If anything, it was a compliment to be called a witch. Because that would mean they held what Vivili had finally put her grasp on. Power.</SPAN>
Ario Solinus

Ario was standing in the window of the Inn he had been staying in, looking out over the dark and inhumanly hot landscape in which he had grown up. He had a shirt of black with silver patternings along the sleeves in intricate designs. On his legs he wore loose pants of black and grey at the wrinkle lines where he sits and moves about, coupled with knee high riding boots. He sighed and shook his head and took a glass off of the table near him, filled with wine of a deep red color. Sipping it, he smiled and shook his head as he looked about the room.

The room was sparcely furnished, it held a bed, a table, and a few chairs, and a chest for his belongs. Although, what he liked about it was the window, it allowed to look at the land he pledged himself to, Shear. Even though pledged to Shear, he refused to lease himself to a lord, because, in his mind, that would force him to align himself to someone else's goals, and would be ineffective as a Warrior of Shear. He yawned and smiled barely, he couldn't afford to waste the day. Ario was on a mission.

With movements calm as gentle streams, Ario walked to the chest and picked up the top with a slight kick, and atop a few changes of clothes, was a rapier. A black handled and black sheathed, with bright golden inlays on the sheath and hand guard, and inlaid within the pommel laid a ruby. He took the sword up and belted it around his waist as he allowed a smile to pass across his face, his icy blue eyes looking at the pommel, and the memories of the blade. He did not indulge himself for long, and walked out the door.

Gnorak Sherson

Sand, always sand, always shifting. changing, shaped by wind, the underlying land. Just like fate, a man's face, politics... always changing but always there.

"You called for me, liege?"

Gnorak was on his knees his legs folded under himself, his hands folded in his lap his head bowed. Submission before his patron.

"You know why you are here tarnen."

"I'm sure I do not.."

"War looms and to the bold will go the initiative. I want to know what the other players are up to."

"You have the reports on the other wa..."

"I am not worried about the other warlords, they will support a war because they see gain. It is these.. foreigners I want to know about so that we can strike where they are weak.

"That seems the job for a spy my lord, I am a.."

"You are what I need you to me at the time. Play them against one another tarnen, offer both sides out support should they prove the stonger and everything you find out send back to me."

"As you desire."

The absence of a reply told him the meeting was over. Warlord Gyshuk wad been sending him on a lot of assignments away from the city lately, it was almost as if he were keeping a threat at arm's length...
/Ida Kyyle\

She entered the slaves quarters silently. Her thoughts where whirling, knotting and tangling up. She sat down on her tiny cot and stared around. Pad, the kitten she had found and taken care of, ran up to her. He mewed and begged to be picked up. "OK, OK, I'll pick you up!" She mumbled, and scooped him up. He purred and rubbed against her stomach.

So I'm going over seas to who knows where.... On a ship called the Desdemona. And I'm going... now. She got up, still holding Pad. They told her to take all that she owned, but all she had was a kitten, and her mothers brass necklace. She reached under her shirt and pulled out, examining it. It was worthless to anyone else, made of the most common metal around. It was a locket, but she had no idea how to open it.
She sighed and got up. "The new Master will be wanting me now." She told Pad. "He had a cat with him... maybe he'll let me keep you." No one but the slaves knew Ida had a cat. She never feared that they would tell, because Pad was one of the only joys they had left in this miserable hell.

"Master, I have collected my belongings." Ida said, and bowed. Pad at down next to her and mewed.

The Enser male raised an eyebrow. "A pet?" He asked. Ida thought she heard amusement in his voice.

"Yes, my lord. I... found him, and took him in." She mumbled quietly. Please don't make me leave him... She looked down at Pad, still bowed. He mewed again, and batted at her tattered clothing.

Her new Master contemplated for a moment, then nodded. "You lucky, I have a deep love for cats." He bent down and stroked Pad.

"Thank you, my lord."

"Follow me. We must leave for the Desdemona. We mustn't be late."
--Vivili Kilmoi--
Over an hour had passed, and little had changed with Vivili. The amusement remained faint but sure, her malice animating her otherwise blackened spirit slightly. Her dark eyes still stared at gray, but this gray was the gray of the ceiling instead of the rock. In fact, everything was gray within there, the stone walls, ceilings and floor all identical, the stray chips of stone gray as the rest, the gray clouds of smoke that stayed faintly around the noses and mouths of each slave, an almost invisible sign of the slight chill within the cellar where they all slept. Vivili was now also on her back, elongated but with her arms snapped closely tight to her body for a slight bit more of warmth. Many of the others, including the injured Kliiana, were asleep. A few beds remained empty, the slaves who were currently on duty. As if she had thought of the devil, since she had never spoken, one appeared, her steps going ‘clunk, clunk, clunk’ on the gray stone stairs and ‘clunkclunkclunk’ as she quickly approached one of the slaves’ bed. And it was not her own, but Vivili. Vivili’s eyes shifted from the gray to the pretty face, a common sight within the home. All of </SPAN>Emmilla Sanclair’s slaves were lovely, and very few of them were men. Emmilla was fond of woman, although the public believed the opposite, rumors she had spread to preserve her ranking among society. Emmilla’s fingers dealt pain, and expected gentle caresses and touches in return, but Vivili figured it was less painful than what her last Master, a male, had done to her. The owner of the face, Maylee, Vivili believed was the woman’s name, looked solemnly down at Vivili. “The Mistress has requested you for her bathing.”</SPAN></SPAN>

Vivili did not complain that it was not supposed to be her time to serve, that it was her only time for sleep all day, or even that it was not her job to bathe the Mistress. No, she simply rose silently, nodded at Maylee before the other girl ‘clunkclunkclunk’-ed back up the stairs to return to her duties, before following herself, her footsteps much lighter and almost unheard. She had spent years developing the ability of silent movement, for she had realized that if her mistress did not realize she was there, it was less likely she would be called upon. Unless it was bathing time, because it seemed Vivili was called often for the bathing time... and for the bit of time afterwards. </SPAN></SPAN>

But for once, Vivili was not complaining or grumbling within the safe confides of her mind. She made a quick stop before knocking at the bathroom door. She was told to enter, so she did, her Mistress eyeing her with an unmasked lust. “Ah, I see you brought the sponge. Set it down and undress me.”</SPAN></SPAN>

Obediently, Vivili tugged out several knots and pins, before her Mistress’s complex dress fell to the ground. The woman stepped into a bathtub filled with steaming water, probably pulled by Maylee before she was sent to play fetch. The Mistress gave a pleasant sigh, and cast a cold glance at her slave. “Begin with my back.”</SPAN></SPAN>

Still silent, Vivili picked up the item and began making long strokes on the woman’s back, beginning with the shoulder blades and slowly trailing down to the hip. Her Mistress shivered with a painful delight, her eyes closing as Vivili continued. Soon, her dusky arm reached around the throat, and all Disillusions were dropped. The Mistress’ blue eyes managed to fly open in shock, a small gasp of pain managing to escape her throat before it was cut clean by the knife. A smirk graced Vivili’s gorgeous face as the dead Mistress crumpled, her face splashing in the reddening water and exposing the bloody back, with scars running crisscross upon it’s expanse. Vivili’s voice began speaking towards the corpse, a note of sadistic amusement clearly ringing. “I simply love magic, do you not? I was thrilled when I learned that even the feel of the touch of an object can be modified. Ever since I had learned I could do it, I set myself on mastering it, a plan to visit the Chef’s kitchen and disguising a knife as a sponge for your bath formed immediately in my mind. Today I had finally decided I had mastered it, and tonight you called upon me, as if by Fate’s hand! The Goddess, I believe, has taken my side.” A small laugh escaped her lips. “Speaking of the Goddess”</SPAN></SPAN>

She lifted the corpse by the hair, and smeared her bloody hand across the dead woman’s face until it was all completely red. “Your mask has been removed, and you have become my greatest sacrifice yet to Harcamset. My Goddess, you of masks and deceit, I offer you my prize. Through deceit it has been achieved, so therefore, she is Yours.” She brought her bloody fingers to her lips, as if to kiss the mark of the dead. With a splash, the face was dropped back into the tub, revealing the word ‘Harcamset’ clearly etched in the back to the world once more. Vivili quickly washed using a nearby bucket, that had originally been meant for keeping the bath warm as it cooled, and she dried it all off. Then, she left the washroom.</SPAN></SPAN></SPAN>
Ario Solinus

Ario quickly walked down the stairs, but there was no rush in his steps, he just was a quick walker. Ario reached the innkeeper and looked at him with a cool glance. The innkeep was an older, portly man with thinning, grey hair. Giles, was his name, and Ario had known him for about five years, and regularly ran up a tab whenever he was in the area.
"Good morning, Giles." Ario said, a light smile on his face.
"Mornin, Solinus." Giles said, "Got the rent?"
"Yes, Giles." Ario said, sounding almost hurt, "When have I ever not paid my debts?" Ario reached into his pocket, taking out a golden coin and laid it on the table, tails up. Something he tended to do whenever possible.
"That 'bout covers it... Yer a bit over." Giles said, "What's the catch, Solinus?" the mans eyes narrowed, Ario never overpaid.
"Watch what I've left behind, Giles." he said as a smile spread across his face, "And point me to the Desdemona."
"Yeh mean that ship for the investigation?"
"Yes, which way to the port?"
"North, is to the north."
"Thank you Giles." Ario said, nodding his head, "If news reaches here that I've died, don't sell my things, I may still want them." He finished with slight sarcasm in his normally polite tone as he walked out the door.

Leaving the inn, he handled the pommel of his sword, taking the road north, making his way to the port, his motions like quicksilver.

{Enilede Clawhunter}

"Five silvers is the most I can go for such magnificent pelts!" The Elek merchant told Enilede.

"Eight silvers." The Ranger quietly replied "Though for such fine pelts I should be charging a silver for each, and I do believe I have ten pelts here."

"But you see, I'll hardly be able to make a profit for such a high price!" The merchant tried to argue.

"Do not try to trick me, you and I both know that you'll sell these each for at least two silvers a pelt." Enilede replied, slightly raising his voice this time.

After a moment he gestured over the arrayed pelts, ranging from deer, to sagants, to one fair sized grizzly. The results of his hunting and scouting out in the wild for the past three months. "Now either eight silvers for these pelts or I leave, I am beginning to tire of this noisy port town."

The merchant sighed, shoulders slumping he pulled out a small coin purse and withdrew 8 silver coins. "You drive a tough bargain my friend, but very well." With that he extended his hand and placed the silver coins onto Enilede's outstretched palm.

Striding away from the merchants stall Enilede strode on down the avenue, smell of fish and salt on the air he eventually made it to the small garrison where he had dropped his pack off temporarily to get his various supplies that the Quartermaster couldn't supply. Getting inside the garrison the small Elek Quartermaster looked to be steps away from Alun's gate. Slightly Alarmed Enilede slowly walked over to the Elek and said in a low voice:

"What has happened?"

"The ship Desdemona is currently in port. The ship that is going to be used for the investigation of the death of the prince, and the other royal heirs." The Elek slowly said, his gaze coming to rest upon Enilede's eyes.

Slightly paling Enilede thought for a couple of moments, then replied "But what is it doing in this port? Shouldn't it be elsewhere?"

"Aye, it should however an order has come down, the next available Ranger is to join this investigation. To make sure that the truth is discovered." The Elek responded

Realizing now what he would have to do Enilede nodded slowly, took the paper with his orders, and requested for more arrows and bow string. The Quartermaster quickly getting these items and some others while Enilede made ready his gear.


Desdemona dwarfed the tiny harbor with it's size, pulling his cloak tighter about him Enilede set off for the ship. Whereupon reaching end of the Wharf stood what Enilede believed was an Acluv standing guard to ship's footbridge.

The Acluv, who upon seeing the Gwydde approach called out to him "How can I be of assistance?" Enilede having forced himself not to wince from the call merely reached into his cloak and withdrew the paper signifying him as part of Argentums official investigation and held it out to the Acluv.

"Hmmmm, I better go get the captain for this. Stay here." With that the Acluv shuffled off onto the ship and out of sight.
{Yudee Willowclaw]

Standing in the bustling market of Edel Yudee fought the uneasy feeling of being stuck in a crowd of people as she haggled with the man selling and buying furs. She usually very attentive when seeling here wares as the people often tried to give less than a ware was worth and the Gwydde didn't like to be tricked, but today she was not fully concentrated as she heard a conversation behind her.

"Really?" A voice said in a smooth tone.

"Yes, we'll finally find out what happened to the heirs and whether we shall go to war or not." A male said eagerly. "Maybe I'll sign up myself."

"You can't even hold a sword,"
the younger man answered with a chuckle. "Sign up on what though? Is there already so far planned?"

"Haven't you heard? The ship Desdemona is currently traveling around ports picking up willing adventurers to help in the search. If this murder is indeed the fault of one of the other countries then we can go to war, and even if it is we can push out all the vagabonds wanting revenge from our country." The man said eagerly, apparently wanting to be in on it himself.

The men started moving further away and Yudee started wondering about what the men had talked about, the chance to get rid of the looming war, to save the beautiful Argentum from the destruction and most of all she could continue her solitary life if all remained how it was. Making a decision on the whim, quite unlike her, though this was not a normal situation really, Yudee finished up her haggling quickly, knowing she had been ripped of by the fur salesman but she didn't really care today.

Making her way through the city Yudee refused asking for directions to the harbour, her solitary life made her wary of other people and cities. Instead she breathed deeply and spread out her mind towards the trees growing in the city, their leaves plaing in the wind created a song of peace but Yudee could sense exactly what the plants saw nearby them. There! A large port, yet it looked quite mediocre to the large ship that had lay anchor by a large pier. Satisfied Yudee closed the connection to the plants, a bit sadly as their company was almost preferable, and headed down the correct road.

Finally she came around a corner and the magnificent harbour came into view, large, small, new and old boats and ships had anchored in the port of Edel and even Yudee who was not a ship person could see the largest, newest and most expensive looking ship laying still, the name Desdemona intriquatly carved on the hull.

"Are you the one to talk to about signing up to the Desdemona?" Yudee asked the Acluv standing by the footbridge calmly, her voice slightly husky from lack of use.

"I am." He answered. "What can you offer for a place on Desdemona? Certainly not money," he added with a look to Yudee's well worn clothes and simple gear.

"I admit I'm not a trained soldier but I'm a skilled archer, I can scout both by myself and with magic and I can heal any wound."
Yudee said, matter of factly though with hints of pride.

"Well, why not, we are still shorthanded,"
the Acluv said. "You'll get payed after the missions completion andremember this is not a leisure cruise, be prepared to help with what you can onboard."

Yudee only nodded, together with her bargaining earlier sha started to feel she'd talked enough for today. But now she had ensured the chance to rid her home of the intruders and then she could continue her life in peace.

Flavya felt no sympathy for her friend. She knew the man for the slippery fish that he was. No doubt this was a ploy for money. She watched Eloran Guthrun closely out of the corners of her yellow-green eyes, their slitted pupils a dead giveaway as to her race. But her head was draped in a wig of long, straight blonde hair that fell in a shimmering sheet to her elbows. She was actually fond of this look. She found it complemented her eyes and softened her sharp features. The hair was real, of course, Flavya could afford the best, and it would sure be painful to take it off, but she couldn't risk exposure on the Desdemona. She had enough to worry about already and too many people in Shear resented her for her to stay long.

Guthrun ran his hand across his dark beard again.
"We'll have to stop for repairs soon," he added. "It really is such a pity that you can't stay with me till Ellien. It is indeed a far stop from Adria where I hear business awaits you … but you know you are always welcome on a ship I lead. After all," he added sagely, his voice bending like a scaly snake, "that's what friends are for. To be there for each other." He smiled his crooked-toothed grin, his dark eyes not half as kindly.

Flavya couldn't help a lopsided grin in return. She liked Guthrun because they were so alike. In that sense they were predictable to each other. Some of Flavya's closest friends believed she had a history with him. You read his mind like only a lover can. How wrong they were. To think of loving a gritty, feral captain who dabbled in black markets and had henchmen stationed across Eliydar, his home country, actually disgusted her, even though she knew how closely their occupations merged in this respect. "True," she said, and left it that. He had his answer. Guthrun let off on oozing the charm and returned to his usual harshly set features and rigid, uncompromising posture. Better. The friend she knew.

So she would be going all the way to Ellien with him after all. If Flavya hadn't known the old bastard would hear, she would have exhaled with some annoyance. But there was amusement in her heart. The business in Adria was indeed pressing, but she did feel genuinely sorry that Guthrun's brother had died. Targen was his name, or something of the sort. Tafneg. Tergol. She never could get Eliydan names straight. Her own name was certainly not Flavya Alyanna Empyrri. What a ridiculous appellation, really, when you held it in your mind like a thought. But when you released the clenched fists of your analyzation and just spoke it aloud, you could sense the delicate beauty of the name. Words and rhythms sculpted into one beautiful title that was worthy of any queen. And the de Rose was her true name, if sculpted to the Argenian language. The Shear version – Rossda – was most unsuitable.

And anyway, she reflected, if her travels were so well known that Guthrun's many ears had picked up the word, why not let anyone wallowing there for her arrival have the satisfaction of her arrival postponed by some time? Assassins could wait. Should wait. Patience was a crucial trait in any ruthless businessman, and it was a practice to be repeated diligently. Suddenly something bothered her. Targen or Tergol or Tafneg or whatever had had a wife. She was certain of it. Four years ago – it seemed like only last week – when she had first met Guthrun's older brother, the man had brought that woman with him. His wife, she was certain of it. But Guthrun didn't like being asked about personal matters, and she didn't like asking about personal matters. Let alone hearing of them. He probably wouldn't even have mentioned it to her had he not been trying to get her to come with him. Why did he want her there anyway? She mused that perhaps their friendship had at last become another one of those disappointments she had bitterly borne across the years – an ambush, awaiting her in the harbor. She knew how easy it was to kill a friend.

Yet she had nothing to back this up and innately, she actually trusted Guthrun more than she liked to hold in her consciousness. Eliydans in general did usually, in the end, have your back. Even if they were holding it as you fell bleeding from a mortal wound that they had inflicted. Flavya frowned. She was a terrible poet and yet her thoughts frequently grew too romantic for her liking. When was the last time she had felt the flame of passion? Far too long. Time to inquire about that wife. "Guthrun," she said, deciding to get right to the point (after all, he had coerced her just now), "I seem to recall that your brother had a wife." She faced him. "What would have become of her, if, as you say, this has … impacted your financial state so significantly?" She refrained from slyness, keeping her tone sincere. Perhaps a bit too grave. She was not, despite what most people believed, a heartless woman. Wasn't she?

"Died. A year ago," Guthrun said smoothly. "Tragic, most tragic." He nodded absently to himself. Flavya back nodded once, shortly to let him know she was a tad skeptical, and resumed her silent waiting, a bit more impatiently now. It bugged her deeply that she could never tell when Guthrun was lying or not. It was one of the reasons why she trusted him so implicitly. Every other person she'd met with a deceptive gift like this – most notably Flavya herself – used it to lie their souls out to anyone. Most used it for evil, too. But not Guthrun. His lies were self-defence and keeping other people's snobby noses out of his personal life. She respected that. A lot.

"How much longer do you think the Port Master will keep us waiting?" she asked after a length, not bothering to restrain a mild scowl. This was atypical of Shear officials and deeply upsetting. She looked at Guthrun sharply again.

Before she could proffer the insinuation Guthrun said patiently,
"I told you, the cargo is really nothing unusual. I have no idea why this is taking so long. There must be something serious the matter. She'll admit us soon."

Eliydans and their "soon". Flavya knew this from visiting the country frequently. They seemed to have no perception of time. Things were always about to happen. Nothing was far into the future. The seas rising to swallow the land and the sun falling to burn the seas as legends foretold – the world would be ended as it had been made – was foreseeable future. Weddings, children, appointments, their own deaths – these things were practically present tense. They were present tense for years. What a strange way of seeing the world, their own desperately short lives.

The door opened and a willowy tarnen man – that pale skin and the dark hollows of his eyes was unmistakable – opened the door to admit them into the Port Master's office. "The Port is sorry to have kept you waiting," the man informed them airily."There was a bit of trouble about the international waters. Port Master Secella has been called to Eliydar and the Assistant Port Master will see you today."

Flavya cast Guthrun an intensely curious look before the two of them entered the Port Master's office. Indigo. It had always been Laiika Secella's favorite color, and it was absolutely everywhere. Indigo tapestries, indigo wallpaper, indigo book bindings in the shelves. Indigo paintings and indigo view from the window – right down to the cobalt sea, blurry with mist at the horizon – and even indigo ink on the desk, overflowing with important-looking documents. A harried-looking enser sat unhappily in the middle of it, a sweep of iridescent white hair tinted indigo in the refracting light and a worried expression on his face.

"Ship," he said curtly in a hoarse voice.

"The Desdemona," responded Guthrun amiably. Who knew if Secella would return, and it was always good to make friends with people in high places. The Shear Port Master was not unknown to mess with cargo that should best be left alone. There were some people out there – especially among the feisty Eliydans – who would like to see her off the scene.

"I see," responded the man unnecessarily. He sighed deeply and began searching through the papers, still seated on Secella's gilded chair, sculpted for a female body and clearly uncomfortable for the Assistant Port Master. Before long he had found a certificate, signed in Secella's broad, unlearned scribbles, and exhaled audibly with relief. "All cargo accepted," he said, sounding almost more pleased than Guthrun felt about it.

When they did not leave he looked up questioningly from his paper shuffling. "Yes?"

"I am Endreeta Hioffal,"
said Flavya in a provincial southeastern Eliydan accent without blinking an eye. "I left correspondence for the absent Port Master. She was going to give me a reply. Has she told you about me?"

"Oh," said the man. He frowned and produced something from his pocket. The seal had not been tampered with. Flavya could tell immediately. Secella always filled in the diamond-shaped i-dots of her first name manually once the name seal was pressed upon the envelope so that even if they used her personal seal the recipients of her letters could be warned. Either this man knew that, or he was an extraordinary spark of honesty in the Shear Port. Flavya strongly guessed the former.

"Thank you," said Flavya blankly, accepting the letter and dropping it swiftly into her mother-of-pearl-studded purse. She would slip it into the bodice of her dress the moment they left the room. The less people knew where that letter was, the better.

Guthrun stood and politely let Flavya rise and leave the room first, following closely at her heels and leaving the door open. They exchanged meaningful glances. Whatever curiously urgent event had detained Laiika Secella, the letter was sure to shed some much-desired light on the matter.

They left the Port building in companionable silence. They had renewed Desdemona's international travel permit once again. In two years, here they would be again. But for now – mission accomplished. Flavya allowed herself those few precious moments of satisfaction before more tasks required her attention. She looked forward to the journey to Ellien. She would read that letter tonight.


Flavya and her friend Eloran Guthrun, the captain of the Desdemona, visit the Shear Port building to renew the Desdemona's international traveling permit (enabling the ship to pass through waters of any country). Flavya is in disguise, wearing a wig of long, straight blonde hair, and going by the name of Endreeta Hioffal. They are kept waiting because the Port Master, Laiika Secella, has been sent to Eliydar for an important meeting. The reason for this is explained in a letter that is given to Flavya, but which has not been read yet. Flavya learns that Eloran Guthrun's brother Targen has died in a shipwreck along with Guthrun's most valuable fleet of merchant ships. Since the brothers had worked together, this is a serious blow to Guthrun's finances. Flavya inquires after Targen's wife, only to learn that she supposedly died a year ago.


OOC: For those of you who are interested, Eloran Guthrun's text color is: #003366 (
navy blue).