Fallen Grace

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    "A roaring fire might have ignited with a single spark, but it would take many twigs to sustain its flames."
    - Initiation 3:11 (From Litany of the Saints, Absolutist holy text)​

    Makara 12th, 359 D
    Downtown Meusing (pop. 95,000), Dao Regency
    Cloudy overcast, 12°C/53°F


    That morning was sunless one. Like a typical Hellas morning, the shores fogged up with drops of moisture. But when it was nine hours past midnight, it did not clear. Typically, spring in Meusing meant slow mornings for everyone. The Daonese, and other folks that lived and passed by the port city walked slow and relaxed; though their bodies left the comforts of their blankets, their thoughts remained asleep. But by midday, all the hustle and bustle would pick up. This was when the sun normally broke through the mists, casting its rays on the Martians, urging them about their daily businesses.

    The fourth day of this year’s Makara was different. The fog lingered past eleven in the morning, and when it finally dissipated around twelve, massive grey clouds replaced it. On the streets, the houses and the market, people of Dao felt different too. The regular care-free mood was absent; as soon as the night passed, people were up and about, marching nervously and anxiously through the roads. Though one man’s routine never changed; Tong the Seer settled into his seat, in the market square, six am sharp. This man, who lost his sights a decade ago, carefully strutted around his stall. Sniffing the fog like he did every morning, Tong took two extra laps today. At quarter past six, he returned to his chair.

    “A northerly wind blows!” Tong shouted to anyone caring to listen. To an outsider, this feeble old hunchback exemplified lunatics. Who in their right mind heeded words from a crazy fool? Visitors often asked. The locals would frown at such questions, no citizen of Meusing would doubt Tong, for he never made a wrong prediction.

    On the night before, Edwong Gradura dreamt of 354, when he first arrived in Meusing. So much have changed in those five years; a typical ruler disposed, replaced by a supposed champion of justice. This city, one that was founded a colony turned to the heart of a proud, independent nation, now stood on the verge of another change. Edwong witnessed it first-hand, he fought in Khein Qinchowua’s campaigns of conquest; he saw kings brought to their knees, he saw cities burned in flames and he saw people bled under blades of steel. Patayia was a particularly bloody battle; eight month ago, the Patayians fought to the last soldier. It started as what Khein predicted to be “a simple show of force”, but no plans survive contact with the enemy. On three fateful days, more than a thousand Daonese soldiers, militiamen and mercenaries died. While on the opposing side, three thousand Patayians were cut down, half of them civilians.

    So when sudden door knocks reached Edwong’s ears, a dream-mural consisted of Paeng’s whip, a dead Patayian boy and captain Rej impaled on a mamophant tusk was still fresh in the young priest’s mind. Reluctantly, and somewhat bitterly, Edwong reached for his curtains to let in some lights. Unlike most people, Edwong slept in his tunic and trousers, all he needed for the morning was his boots.

    “Gradura, open up!” Whoever it was, the voice sounded urgent. Therefore, Edwong crossed the small room that held nothing but a bed, writing desk and a chair, in two quick strides.

    “What is it?” Edwong’s voice was raspy when his door unlocked, he needed some water if he was to talk properly. But the man standing across the doorway showed no sympathy, his stern face, highlighted by the grey priest robe, turned into a annoyed frown. Ah right, Edwong remembered, father Breck hated people interrupting his morning prayer, which means…

    “Ten minutes, Gradura.” Breck craoked and walked away as quickly as he came. Ten minutes, like yesterday and two more days before that, Edwong slept through his breakfast again. Shaking the nightmare away from his head, the still groggy Edwong slumped down his chair and took a long swig from the leftover in his cup. The water felt smoothly refreshing inside his throat, it calmed him for the time being but leaving him wanting more.

    “Tellus’ tits,” Edwong muttered. The thought of Breck hearing the curse and his inevitable reaction brought a faint smile to Edwong’s lips. However, the empty cup in his hand and flurries of footstep outside of his door turned his smile to a frown. With little water and no food, it was going to be a long morning.

    “- and we shall carry forward with Gaia’s blessings,” the monotone prayers droned on. In the last fifteen minutes, Edwong couldn’t do much beside gazing blankly towards the altar. For whatever reason, arch-priestess Lusia was absent this week, which meant Breck was in charge instead. When the shuffling of feet interrupted the previous minute of silence, Edwong breathed a shallow sigh of relief.

    “I thought we were done,” seeing Breck approach him once again, Edwong couldn’t have been more frustrated.

    “Our holy duty will be done once we return to Gaia’s embrace,” Breck preached and pointed a finger at Edwong. “Whether you deserve that embrace is another question. But that’s not a question for me to answer, I am simply here for your task today.”

    “My task? From you?” Edwong defended and crossed his arms; the last few days were relatively peaceful, it was indeed sometime since he was approached specifically. “Shouldn’t this be from the arch-priestess? Where is she anyways?”

    “It was from a faithful citizen,” Breck corrected. He raised his eyebrows at Edwong’s questions, but only responded by shoving a small envelope into his arm. “See to it immediately.”

    “An odd omen occurred only last week,” out of Breck’s sight, Edwong quietly ripped open the seal and read to himself in a whisper. “The saberwolf packs became increasingly aggressive; four sheeps were found dead yesterday. We wish for your graces’ blessing to aid us through these difficult times.”

    “Eddy, what is that?” came a inquisitive hail from behind. Turning around, Edwong found Lizzel Hils, one of the few he called friends, standing at his left. The young woman shifted closer to Edwong, her eyes darting to the parchment in his hands.

    “Ah Liz; nothing important.” Edwong cleared his throat. He instinctively stuffed the paper into his pocket; but under Lizzel’s concerned gaze, he read out rest of the contents.

    “Blessing the masses, that’s a first for you.” Lizzel jested and padded Edwong’s shoulder in a mocking manner. But unlike their normal routines, Edwong did not smile. “Come on Eddy, Tam betted twenty pounds for this not to happen, don’t let me down now.”

    “Shit, I’m just tired.” Edwong sighed. “That and not having anything for breakfast.”

    “Worry you not, I’ve got you covered.” Reaching into her bag, Lizzel produced a half loaf of bread. Without hesitation, Edwong immediately snatched the bread and started taking greedy bites.

    “Whoa, always prepared aren’t you?” After swallowing the last mouthful of toast, Edwong finally felt a bit less groggy. “Wonder how they’ll get you with your trial.”

    “I’m sure they’ll find something in two weeks,” Lizzel remarked. “It’s a busy world out there.”

    By the time Edwong reached the city gate, midday was already approaching. On his way there, Edwong could feel people’s uneasiness. There was a small group of angry folks outside of the regent’s palace, a brawl between competing merchants in the marketplace and beggars camped outside of the shipping guild. However, Meusing proper was nothing compared to what happens around its gates.

    About a dozen meters ahead of him, Edwong saw two rugged adventurers led by a brute-like woman. The woman, who was arguing with a pair of city guards, proceeded to strike the guardsman square in his jaw, knocking him on the ground. At that instance, seven more guards poured out of a nearby building. The woman and her companions managed to punch out four of the eight remaining guard, before finally being restrained and led away.

    Relieved for the incident to end, Edwong only managed an inch forward before the gate was blocked by a giant mamophant pulled carriage. The carriage driver, someone with a thick Hesperian accent, made several offensive gestures at the guards blocking his way.

    “Visitor, your vehicle is too large for city clearance.” The leading guard, a masked man, argued.

    “Ποια είναι η έννοια της αυτό!?” Speaking in Comlang, the driver threw up his hands when no one seemed to understand him. People nearing his carriage shouted at him to move, to which the driver responded in broken Creole before doing the same to the guard. “Pass me now, I from the circus.”

    “How about you move that carriage out of people’s way first, then we can sort this fuss out.” the guardsman ordered. Seeing no other choice, the carriage driver dismounted from his mamophant, opening the busy gateway once again.

    “I am sorry, there’s nothing more I can do.” after talking to a small farming hub not far from the city, Edwong blessed the crowd and their local chapel. There were roughly thirty-some agrarian households in this cluster, with varying patches of grass holding oxen and goats, all surrounding a under-repaired chapel. “If the wolves keep coming back, I would talk to the regiments.”

    “But you know they won’t help us,” an elderly woman, whose face was wrinkled and clothing tattered from decades of farm work, led the farmers’ pleads. “There’s got to more than that, you of all people should know.”

    “But I don’t,” Edwong began to slowly back away from the gathering. Some of the people were just off the fields, and they still had their farming tools ready. This frightened Edwong, for these tools could easily be turned as weapons against him. “If this is Gaia’s test, then all you can do is endure it.” Now nearing the last of row of houses, Edwong noticed four farmers still followed, their pitchforks in hands. From their faces, they were clearly frustrated with Edwong. To bad, he thought. If they thought hurting him was the solution, they picked the wrong day.

    “That’s it boy!?” one farmer approached, tip of pitchfork nearing Edwong’s chest. “You temple bunch preach all day, asking us for obedience. Yet now, none of you can solve the problems you claim to.”

    “We’re done here, get out of my way.”

    “Not a fucking chance kid,” the farmer, now within two meters of Edwong, swung the shaft of his pitchfork. However, Edwong saw the strike coming from body expression. His left hand grabbed the center of the handle, while his right hand twisted the pitchfork near its tip, yanking the tool from its previous owner.

    “Its over, go back to your homes.” gesturing with the pitchfork in hand, Edwong made several thrusts towards the remaining farmers. Though still unsatisfied, they grudgingly backed away.

    It was almost six in the afternoon when Edwong returned to Meusing. The sunset was setting on Hellas, late afternoon rays glazing the water surface in warm orange glows. After a foggy morning, cloudy afternoon, the sun finally broke through around five pm. However, most of the city’s day activities were drawing to a close. Dominant traffic near the gates were now outbound, and many daytime merchants have already left their stalls, leaving only locked chests and storage barrels.

    On his way through the city, Edwong noticed a couple dressed in finery arguing with a guardswoman. He heard them complain about some thieves who stole their bags. Looking around the corners shadowed by sunset, Edwong was glad he suffered no such incidents. To be honest, he knew this city fairly well at this point; which included potentials spots criminals would frequent. The opera house definitely was not such a place. With the night drawing near, evening shows were now brewing in the large granite hall, with its gate packed with wealthy lords and ladies. On an alley adjacent to the opera, Edwong saw a familiar face. The carriage driver had not only managed to pass the checkpoint, but somehow also managed to move his oversized mamophant and a two-story-high carriage in as well.

    Grumbles in his stomach reminded Edwong that he only had half a bread today. Breck’s orders were clear, he had to return as soon as possible. But Edwong felt he had favored Breck enough today. Instead, he turned to the waterfront district, where the Rim’na, a triple-level inn, shone between dull warehouses.

    It was a long and trying day for Edwong, and he cared little for how crowded or lively the tavern was. Without hesitation, he walked through the double door and sat himself at the nearest empty table.
    #1 Glaciercold, Apr 13, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2015
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  2. Makara 12th, 359
    Downtown Meusing (pop. 95,000), Dao Regency
    Cloudy overcast, 12°C/53°F

    Xander stood outside the city gates with his arms crossed. Some big lummox was blocking the whole gate and yelling obscenities at the guards. Xander looked around and noticed a priest moving away from the city. Xander made a quizzical face and then peered around the line of travelers to the circus beast and its unruly handler. The young man was beginning to grow impatient but fortunately it hadn’t gotten very warm today. His fingers tapped on his elbows while the line stalled out. During this unforeseen and unfortunate delay to his plans, Xander allowed his mind to wander.


    “I forbid it!” The elderly man nearly spat and his face was beet red. “Th-th-this CANNOT be allowed! I will not allow it in my house! No member of this family has EVER shirked his duty to the Guard!” The yelling was echoing throughout the large room most often used for parties and meetings. It was also the place were ancient sets of armor of ancestors were meticulously displayed [though it should be mentioned that some older sets are very crude]. Xander stood as any grown man does when his father berates him; still, silent, fuming.

    The old man continued to lay into his eldest son. “Do you have ANY idea what this does the reputation of my name?! The Von Wolksheimmers have NEVER abandoned a post in the history of the Guard!” The old man, though smaller in both height and stature than his son spun around and backhanded the younger man. The slap resonated off the ceiling, the walls and rattled back from the windows. Xander stood for a moment with his head down where the blow’s force had placed him. He reached up a hand to dab the blood which dripped from his right cheek. He stared at it a moment and then kissed it from his skin. His eyes, now filled with a burning hatred, stared into the surprised gaze of his father. The surprise was due to two things; the striking fist as his father had never been physical with any of his children and the expression that he bore from his son.

    Xander moved in slow deliberate steps as he spoke now circling his father. It was his turn to speak. “You talk of these things like any of it matters. Did you not hear me, father? The Guard has been overrun by nonbelievers and the heart has left the ranks.” Xander took a step towards his father and gave him a pleading glance. “Help me save the order from itself. The Lutz and Macadi clans are behind this. If we joi-“

    “Enough!” His father had gone from unsure to livid. The talk of regime change was suddenly too much for his stubborn heart. “No son of mine would say such things! Get out of this house!” The old man took a step towards his son and firmly pointed towards the door in a sweeping motion that accompanied his shouting. “Get out of MY HOUSE!”


    Xander was brought back to reality by a bump on the arm as people moved around him in line. He grumbled to himself and went about moving forward inch…by painfully long inch. Once he got to the gate after what seemed like hours, Xander was met with an unpleasant surprise. “You want me to just give you my axe?” He laughed and loomed over the guard. “On what grounds?”

    The young man, younger than Xander was a bit intimidated by the warrior’s stance but held to his duties. “Sir, the Regency is full of many people from all of the lands because of the festival… we will take good care of it and you can keep your shield.” The young man’s eyes went to Xander’s axe and lingered for a moment. Xander made note of this and a rumble in chest brought the guard’s gaze back up to his own.

    “What’s your name, soldier?”

    “Vin, sir. Vin Daloo.”

    Xander quickly and methodically unbuckled his axe, holster and all then handed it over to Vin. “I’ll be back for this, Young Vin.” He smiled at the young man and walked on through the gates without any further trouble. There were so many things going on and so much hustle and bustle that Xander nearly missed the signs that were posted everywhere. One did catch his attention that stated beware of pickpockets. Xander shuffled his coin purse from his waist into his hand and made a firm fist. He then marched onward towards his destination.


    Later that night, Xander headed back to his residence at the Rim-na. It was here that he found a good use for his money. What use you ask? Strong drink. The warrior’s shield and gear were stored in his locked room and he sat at a small table away from the crowds silently sipping on a glass of… something. His eyes wandered from the regulars playing something like a game of Mahjong and the new festival crowd which ranged from performers to sellswords to …well, it’s not polite to say such things out loud now is it? Xander laughed to himself at the mini circus and kept drinking.
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  3. Makara 12th, 359 D
    Downtown Meusing (pop. 95,000), Dao Regency
    Cloudy overcast, 12°C/53°F
    Character: Maxie Noville

    Rim'na, a bustling tavern in the middle of downtown Meusing. A loud cacophony of sounds could be heard there, of people drinking, partying, and some enjoying a good time. Most of the patrons spent their time whittling away their funds via large mugs of fine, or perhaps not so fine, liquor. Others were in the corners, gambling in an attempt to buy their way out of life.

    In one corner of this commotion, sat a woman in a black cloak, looking down at three old turtle shells. Across the table from her was a sailor, a rather mean, tough looking fellow by any standard. Underneath one of these shells was a pearl, the object that would signify the return of considerable funds for the sailor. The sailor gave her a look, attempting to fish for a reaction from her as to which shell would contain it, but she remained as emotionless as before. Tired of waiting for a reaction, the sailor picked the shell on the left. The lady smiled, and revealed the shell, a pearl glistening out of the container. A smile streaked across the sailor's face as the girl payed him a handful of cash. "You win again?! Just how lucky are you anyways!" the woman said, pretending to be quite baffled by the sailor having won twice in a row.

    "Haha Maxie, you should know better than to gamble against me." the sailor boasted.

    "Haha, true you are. Bartender, get this guy a drink on my tab please!" Maxie replied. She peered at him, attempting to discern his feelings. They were prideful, gleeful even at his constant victories. The perfect target, especially when given some encouragement via strong drink. The trap was laid.

    "I don't know that I want to continue this anymore, at this rate you'll bleed me dry!" she exclaimed. The rowdy locals then attempted to persuade her otherwise. "Well, okay. One more bet, winner take all!" she said. The sailor, now properly drunk by this point, said "Of course! Tomorrow I leave that ****head of a captain behind and buy my own boat to sail the seas with!"

    She put the shells down on the table again, then showed him the pearl. With several quick hand motions, she shuffled the shells around, leaving him to guess as to which shell had the pearl. However, this time, her foot pressed down on a pedal underneath the table. While the sailor was pondering his decision, small holes opened up underneath the shells, sending the pearl down into a small compartment. It was an old trick table that she had bought from a novelty shop, one that would ensure her swift gains. Eventually, the sailor picked the middle shell, only to reveal an empty space. Her foot pressed upon another pedal, which shot the pearl up into the left shell, just in time for her to raise it up. "Sorry to say, but you've lost this one. Now pay up please!" she said with an innocent tone. Reluctantly, the sailor relinquished his winnings and then some. Upon playing the game twice more, he was completely broke, or almost so. The sailor cursed his luck, then left before he lost anything else, saying to himself "At least I got some free drinks out of this..." to comfort himself.

    Maxie leaned back in her chair, counting the pounds that she obtained by her illegitimate game. She smiled, content with the money she had for tonight, then left out the front door to get some fresh air. She was happy with how easily she had manipulated the fools in there. It was a nice compliment to her daytime escapade, selling customers trinkets that would protect them from the end of the world.

    Gullible fools.
    #3 Maxim, Apr 18, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2015
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  4. Makara 12th, 359 D
    Downtown Meusing (pop. 95,000), Dao Regency
    Cloudy overcast, 12°C/53°F
    Character: Senio Setla

    Senio hated when he had to take the morning patrol. He hated the night patrol significantly, and the afternoon patrol slightly less so, but the morning patrol took the cake for the one shift Senio loathed more than anything in the world. He was definitely not a morning person - as a soldier, he had learned to rise quickly from bed and get ready as well, but that didn't mean he enjoyed it. On the contrary, many of his fellow guards remarked on him looking so much like a zombie that they nearly called the church to take care of him. Like always, Senio had nearly no reaction to these jokes, and his fellow guards began to stop saying these jokes to Senio's face, and instead told them behind his back. Senio had no problem with this - let them have their joy and fun. After all, they only joined this guard to feed their families. They were all trained well by the lieutenants, and all of Senio's regiment could certainly hold their own in battle. But Senio was not sure that they were up to the task of being able to strike down innocent people where they stood. Senio knew that he couldn't - he saw the faces of those three soldiers he killed, barely 10 years old apiece... and he knew that if his fellow soldiers had to go through what he did, they would break.

    Regardless, Senio got up every morning, groggy and barely keeping himself from crawling right back into bed, but managed to stay awake. There was a complicated schedule for guards to follow, but Senio knew that today he had the morning patrol with the group going through the lower market. As Senio and his patrol passed through, shopkeepers set up their wares, children kicked a small leather ball around, and the occasional chicken ran through the patrol's feet. It was quiet this early in the morning, with only a couple of thieves that they had to arrest. Still, Senio was still not fully awake, having only eaten a small amount of bread before heading out. He knew this would be the death of him if his patrol was ever attacked while he was like this, but somehow, this had less meaning to him than it once did.

    After the morning patrol, Senio was allowed to go back to the barracks and stuff more bread into his mouth before taking point at the city gate. As he approached he noticed a small brawl between the city guardsmen and a small group of people. Senio's eyebrows raised when he realized that a woman and a couple of others in the group had managed to take out 4 of them. Who is she? Senio wondered as she was dragged away by the guard. Senio took his position at the gate as a large mamophant was led out of the way. Senio noticed a priest leaving the city, wondering what he was going to do, although he said nothing. Being on gate duty was fairly easy, and Senio hated it less than patrols, as he got to stand still instead of walk around. The only downside was having to deal with foolish people, unwilling to give up their weapons, or foreigners who didn't understand a word the guards said. Still, it was easy enough, and Senio was at least more awake for this.

    Senio only had to deal with one fool on his patrol. It was a man about his height, with tattered leather armor and a dagger. He looked like he didn't have much, and seemed a little unnerved. Senio stopped him as he tried to stride in with his dagger. "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to give me your dagger. No weapons allowed in the city," Senio gruffly stated. The man looked at Senio with disgust. "Huh?" He said. "Why should I have to give you my weapon? It's mine, dammit!" He looked panicked, like he was about to try something. Senio saw him start to reach for his dagger, but grabbed the man before he could do so, wrenching the dagger from his holster. "You bastard! Give me my dagger back! It's all I've got left!" The man screamed. Other guards moved in to bind his hands and bring him to the jail. Senio felt pity for the man, bringing the dagger inside the barracks near the gate. The man was obviously being thrown in jail, so there was no point in the guard keeping the dagger confiscated - it was going to be put into the armory, so Senio placed it in a drawer in the armory.

    By around six in the afternoon, his shift was over. He waved a priest into the city, who Senio recognized as the priest from before, and then another guard came to take his shift. Senio stopped at the barracks to change out of his armor and put on normal attire, putting away his polearm and shield and replacing them with a small dagger. Putting his belt on, which had his money inside, he ate some bread and cheese in the mess hall, and walked out of the barracks and headed for the tavern he went to every night, Rim'na. It was a very busy, noisy tavern, full of drunkards and gamblers. Senio sat down at the bar, ordering a drink. This was how it was every night - he went to the tavern, drank his sorrows away, and headed back. He never got entirely wasted, but he wasn't exactly sober by the end of these, either. He ordered a mug of ale, and drank, reflecting on the day.
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  5. Makara 12th, 359 D
    Downtown Meusing (pop. 95,000), Dao Regency
    Cloudy overcast, 12°C/53°F

    Hadrian Kesh

    "...and knocked the slob out cold. He never stood a chance!"

    A girl across the bar joined him in laughter, adding a subdued giggle in with his roar. She was a five... Maybe, in better lighting, a six out of ten. Hard to say.

    She clapped her hands, still laughing in her speech. "Wonderful story, Captain! What happened next? How'd you wind up here, in another damn tavern, of all places?"

    Kesh grinned. She was hooked; He could feel it. Get in there. "It's quite the tale, lass! I reached the city gate around midday..."

    "Halt! You've got to leave your weapon here, sir."

    Hadrian tore his gaze from the whale of a beast aside the city gate. It'd been blocking the way long enough for a good crowd of people to gather, cursing, around, with the angriest electing to throw small rocks at the thing. Now that it had retreated to the sidelines, though, the flow of mild travel quickly resumed. The beast's driver now seemed to be in furious negotiation with another guard.

    He turned to face his. "Look, uh... What'd the axe-type call you, just then? Fin?"

    "Vin Daloo, sir."

    "Din Mildew! Right! Anyway, Din, can you tell me what this object is?" Hadrian raised his club in both hands.

    "My name isn't... It's a wooden club, sir. You need to leave it here before you can enter."

    "Exactly! You should know it's old too, Din," "Vin..." ", and I'm such a clumsy man sometimes. See these biceps? I foget my own strength! What if I hand it over too hard, smashing it into you like you were no more than a sack of nuts?! How strong is that helmet, Mr. Mildew?"

    "Daloo... It's a strong helmet, sir, and I don't think you could break it even if you tri-"

    "Break it?! Oh no, Gin, even I couldn't break that helmet in one swing! That scrawny head would take one hell of a beating, though, and my poor little club would probably shatter into a thousand, eye-splitting splinters on impact."

    "My name... And splinters wouldn't... Sir, you really shouldn't be s-saying things like tha-"

    "That'd be unfortunate, Pin. Really! The other guards couldn't help pick up the pieces, either; Look how far away they all are!"

    "A-Are they really that far out? I, um, they should... And soon, with... I think it's really, uh, i-imperative that I-"



    "...Really? That's fantastic! I knew you'd see things my way, Vin! I have a great feeling about this city, man. See ya around!"

    Passing through Meusing's walls, Hadrian twirled his quite sturdy club in triumph at a passing priest. Vin Daloo stayed at the gate to ponder his career choices.

    On the steps of the Central Meusing Treasury, it was Kesh's turn to rethink some decisions.

    He'd walked in with 101 Elysian rupees; That much was certain (Honestly, he wasn't sure where or how he'd come across the 101st rupee, but he knew it was definitely in his wallet at the time). Hadrian had proceeded to exchange 100 of those for Daonese pounds, at a 10:9 exchange rate. Meaning that... 100... Take off a zero... Turn it into nine... Add the zero back on the end...

    ...Kesh was no mathematician, but 40 pounds was just a little under the right amount.

    He'd been robbed.

    Of 50 pounds.


    He turned back to storm the Treasury, shoving one protester after another out of his w-

    "Wait, whoa, hold it. You're broke?" The girl interrupted, a look of disgust twisting her features.

    "That's harsh! I prefer 'Financially challenged'."

    "But... You don't have a stash of treasure or... Like, a map for hidden gold or something with you?"

    "Only my looks and my luggage, baby."

    She stood up to leave. "I... I can't believe this. You're a piece of trash! Loser!"



    "Nothing. Carry on."

    The girl looked like she had more to say, but settled for a final sneer before storming off to greener pastures. She'd be sure to find a long and happy relationship. Maybe two, given her personality. Yeesh.

    Had sat at the bar for a minute, thinking it over. So they liked money here in Dao, eh? He could do money. Money was easy! All you had to do was grapple the ship, fasten the lines, climb aboard with your crew... On second thought, this might be somewhat difficult. He looked around for ideas. Gamblers, prostitutes, bounties... Aha! Wait, no; You spent money for the prostitutes. Maybe the bounties? Yeah!

    Kesh ripped one off the board, barely bothering to read it. Something about a fort and 750. That's all he needed to hear. Treasure in sight! All he needed now was a crew.

    He scanned the Rim'na. Uh... Hey, had he seen that guy by the door before? He'd witnessed the club-twirl at the gate, in fact. Bingo! Brilliant as usual, brain. Now only to bring him onboard.

    "Father!" Hadrian slammed his bounty on the table, spreading his fingers wide and his grin wider. "Name's Captain Kesh, professional privateer, and I'm broke as all hell. Looking to make a profit?"
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  6. =====
    Makara 12th, 359 D
    Meusing Countryside
    Cloudy overcast, 12°C/53°F


    The countryside was washed with orange, making the soft gusts of wind that toyed with the tall grass into blazes for miles for the eye to see. A pleasing sight, and one that calmed Marlow, not as hard a deed as it was in his younger years, but still not easy. Never looking for trouble but always ready for it, they said of him. His past days in the Forest Watch still had their hold on him and old habits had him awake with the birds as if the training was still fresh in him. It wasn’t fresh, but it was in his bones, deep as the itch that drew him closer to battle in his younger days and tight as the binds that held him close to the challenge of a fight, rooted like a tree braced against the storm winds, waiting for a gust strong enough to blow it down.

    That was Marlow, stoic, stern, strong. A man who looked like he’d never want a family, let alone keep memories of one taken in blood and another in illness. Their faces still held shape though others subtly shifted and morphed, as faces do in memories left too long alone and never refreshed. His mother, his sister, his father, who he took more than a jawline and eye color from, but also a warrior’s soul. His wife and her fair and beautiful features, skin whiter than snow made more shocking by her flowing raven hair. His child he remembered the most, taken by something he could never exact vengeance from. No tribe of Southern nomad raiders killed could make him feel like a price had been paid and he could spill enough blood to drown all of Mars and still, his child’s life would still be gone.

    That was Marlow, a son, a brother, a killer, a wanderer, husband, father. A mourner, too. He looked up and drew a long breath through his teeth, rising to his feet, bracing himself with a hand on his knee. As his hands rose towards the sparse clouds, he yawned wide enough for his jaw to pop. Always rise before the sun, dawn is when the enemies come. One of the 28 Ranger’s Commandments that any irregular troop in any army lived by. It was an ancient set of rules for the ranger as the ancient ancestor Sun Tzu’s Art of War was to the general. The Patron Saint Robert Rogers, not recognized in Tellusism nor the Old Faith but held close and believed true by rangers immemorial wrote them long ago, and like a priest living by musty tomes, Marlow rose before the sun.

    Makara 12th, 359 D
    Cloudy overcast, 12°C/53°F


    Marlow stopped at the gates where a guard was waving travelers through. He kept his head down, not looking for trouble and more than happy to comply with the guard. He didn’t feel it’d be appropriate to give them a hassle. He’d seen a few travelers relieved of their knives and other weapons, but he reckoned he could hide his knife well enough, tucking it into his boot deep enough not to be noticed. When he looked back up from his task, he heard a commotion at the gate and saw a peculiar fellow giving the guard a hard time. He talked circles around the poor lad, who he now saw was indeed little more than a lad with the fortitude to match.

    He stepped up to be looked at by the gate guard. He tried his best to compose himself, watching the fellow from before leave with a pep in his step. Marlow shook his head, unsure of what he had just seen unfold. The young guard cleared his throat addressed Marlow.

    “Anything to declare, traveler?” He asked, still sounding out of breath from the encounter.

    “Nothing to my name but what you see on my body, Chin.” Marlow answered, looking as disinterested at the encounter as the young lad looked nervous.

    The lad looked like he wanted to say something but swallowed his words after a brief moment between them and he waved Marlow along to see to the next traveler. Marlow was grateful the boy didn’t bother patting him down or other uncomfortable procedures. He snorted and spat once inside, looking about the crowds and picking out anything interesting. A few arguments in the streets, nothing too unnatural. He felt a bit uneasy though, not used to city life, and a flash of an oddity caught his eye for the split second it took place. A plain looking man brushed shoulders with another, a flick of the wrist and he hid again a small blade and a modest coinpurse. He and Marlow met eyes and the old ranger simply nodded, placing his hand on his coinpurse strung to his hip and not letting the hand leave as he entered the tide of the crowds.

    A few minutes of walking had him at the Rim’na, a rather large establishment by Marlow’s standards, standing three levels high. He looked at the sign and spat again, not able to read the writing. He shook his head as he stepped inside, looking about at the faces of the other patrons. A priest, a man with the look of a warrior about him sitting at the bar. He thought he recognized the face of the guard that manned the gate before the young lad made his mistake of relieving him and having to deal with the loud-mouthed fellow, who he didn’t notice until he yet again heard his voice and he noticed the priest not being as welcoming of the loud-mouth as some. He sniffed and ventured deeper into the tavern.

    Putting up 15 pounds for a plate of fried rice and a basement room, he decided to settle down for the day. The fried rice, he wolfed down almost without breathing, having survived mostly on berries, rabbit and even the occasional insect or worm when things were rough. Having real food in his stomach in a comfortable place was a welcome change, as was the bed he paid for. To avoid getting roped into whatever loud-mouth had planned, he moved to the bar, sitting near the off-duty guard and his ale as he observed the festival crowd. Marlow slid two pounds across and received a small pewter cup of sake in return. He downed the drink and without turning to the fellow, he spoke, “You’re a guard, ain’t you? Know where a man can find work?”
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  7. 6:15 PM
    Rim'na, Waterfront District, Meusing

    Edwong Gradura and Hadrian Kesh

    Gradura looked up from his flask. His day was long enough without the drunken ravings of a sailor. And here they were, another of those drunkards with nothing better to do then bothering priests. Stuffing the last piece of ginseng pork into his mouth, Edwong fixed his bothered gaze on the sailor while wiping his mouth clean.

    "What?" as the napkin dropped onto the table, Edwong's frowning face was clear. "No."

    The grin didn't waver. "Yes."

    "No. Has whiskey made you deaf, man?" The priest sniffed, surprisingly, Kesh smelled slightly better than other boozers, just slightly.

    "Still as sober as when I walked in, despite my best efforts."

    "You're this obnoxious without alchohol?" For a moment, Edwong shuddered to think what Kesh would be when actually drunk.

    "It's an opportunity. Mind if I take a seat?" Not bothered by Edwong's bitterness, Hadrian made for the other chair.

    "Very much." With a quick move, Edwong dragged the opposing seat away.

    The sailor winked as he drew up another chair. "Hospitality like yours is hard to come by."

    "I don't do hospitality." Edwong beamed. All around them, people were crowding in, yet few of them paid attention to Kesh. "Where's your crew captain? The rest of your 'professional privateers'?"

    "My old gang's scuttling Syrtics on the high seas." He cocked his head, considering. "Probably want to cut a few holes in me, too, but that's a discussion for another day."

    "And your current crew?"

    "Discussing a bounty by the door of the Rim'na, of course." Hadrian cleared his throat, squinting at the parchment in his hand. "'Assistance Needed- Important Documents Lost.'"

    "So what's the point? Chasing papers?"

    "'Printing Guild Offers £750 In Reward.'"

    "Use it to buy a working ear, Captain."

    "'Documents Last Seen in Grynbrook Fort, West of the City, Believed to be Occupied by Bandits, Vagabonds, and Savages.'"

    Edwong paused. "...Outside the city?"


    "With robbers, thieves, and other undesirable characters?"

    "Hordes of 'em, man!"

    "And we'd be gone for..."

    "A day. Two at most. What do they call you 'round here, Father?"

    The priest paused once more. He stared into the distance, the corner of his mouth twitching up in amusement as he extended a hand. "Either 'Edwong Gradura' or-" mulling over some less-than-pleasant designations, Edwong quickly decided against it. "Just Gradura. Lead the way captain, don't want to miss the scenic route now, do we?"
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  8. Makara 12th 359 D
    Early Morning


    She'd lost herself in the flames, once more. Her eyes peered into the dancing fire with an unfathomable kind of clarity, very much unlike what someone who'd lost themselves in their own thoughts looked like. There was a certain methodical weight to her motions, it all seemed deliberate, despite her seemingly entirely removed from the here and now. She turned the length of raw iron over and pushed down on the bellows. The motion repeated itself several times, over several minutes, before she finally retrieved it, and set it upon the anvil.

    Hectic was the work of a craftsman, even for something as simple as a woodsman's axe. A simple tool, but paid for fairly - and she was dedicated to making it a tool to be proud of. Perhaps, with the right care, it would be passed down the generations. The blacksmith smirked to herself at that notion, and continued to fold the iron into the shape of an axe-head. She pondered the ancients, as the hours ticked by - legends held that they possessed wonders of creation that could shape the same simple tool she worked on several times as fast, with unmatched quality. For the sake of her professional pride, she hoped those were merely myths.


    Later that day...

    ''Saint's perky tits.'' her patron, the weathered old blacksmith Gao muttered to himself in the other room, as Laharil polished the newly finished axe with an old rag. ''Girl, come over here..we have a problem.''

    Normally, his grumblings didn't issue a second thought. However, this time there was a sense of genuine urgency in the old craftsman's voice. She set her work aside, and lazily lifted the apron over her head, bunching it up in her hands.

    ''What is it?''

    ''Look here.'' her motioned to a small pile of coins, strewn over the counter.

    And look she did. Although unusual, her patron's latest customer seemed to have paid in nirgali mecs. Laharil's brows knit together in a frown, as she started to sift through the coins, weighing them in her hands. Moments later, she let them clatter to the worn wood once more. She breathed out a heavy sigh.

    ''How many of them are real?''

    ''Less than half. The rest are either painted over, or missing official seals. Bastard was smart, left the real coins on top of this counterfeit shyte.'' - old Gao was typically a soft-spoken man, but the vagaries of fate took their toll on him, as well. This was the third time in the last few months that someone had tried to pull a fast one on him, and this time it worked.

    ''We'll melt down the counterfeit ones, then. Use them to make something else.''

    ''Aye, that we will, but...'' - Gao paused, and his dry, calloused hands reached up between his swiftly receding hairline - ''I was relying on that damn commission and now we're in a tight spot. With taxes being what they are, I'm being bled dry.''

    Laharil pulled up a tall stool. ''Don't talk circles around me, old man.'' she started. Playful, cutting banter. ''How bad off are we?''

    Gao's tired old eyes squinted as a broad smile reached his lips, the crow's feet around them turning into veritable valleys on their own.

    ''You're about as blunt as the tools we use, girl. I'll be honest, though - I'll have to sell the shop by next month if we don't make the difference.''

    ''I thought business was good. We've had a good year.''

    ''Business -is- good. But taxes keep climbing and -we- can't keep up. If I could afford more than one assistant, maybe we could take bigger commissions, maybe even turn a -real- profit once in a while. But I'm old, poor, and you're the only young shyte that wanted to work for me.''

    ''Great choice on my part.'' - the inexperienced would've likely started to panic, worry about their future and their livelihood. Both she and Gao had been through enough in their lives to see this as merely another hurdle to leap over. ''We'll figure something out. In fact, I'll go take a walk to that end.''

    ''Knock yourself out. Just keep in mind we might be stuck eating porridge once a day 'till we have a -great- year.''


    Even in the late afternoon, the streets of Meusing were bustling with activity. Trade and entertainment never rested, so long as people had purses they wished to empty. Even after nearly a year in Meusing, the sight of Laharil still turned some heads along the streets. Indeed, she was quite different from your classical Daonese woman - she walked with a straight back and eyes lifted to peer ahead for herself, and into the eyes of anyone she spoke to. She wore simple, functional clothing, a worker's stock. One might say - men's clothes. She was exotic to the people of Dao in many ways - pale eyes in particular were rare. And the way she wore her mahogany hair - tied back with a solid knot, but shaved along the sides and the back of her head. Functional, attractive in its own way, a style worn by fighting men and women - but far from ladylike.

    It was a fitting look for one such as Laharil - one who was no stranger to the harrowing that is real combat. Steel against steel - and sheer dumb luck.

    Her boots scuffed the ground as she came to a sudden halt before one of the barracks of Meusing's standing guard force. A surprisingly efficient and well-trained force, though stretched thin. Hence, the numerous postings outside their gates. She reached for one poster in particular. No-doubt, the riskiest proposition for an auxiliary, but it paid quite well. 750 pounds, however split, might be enough to keep her new home afloat for a little while longer.

    ''You should head to the Dancing Pig.'' - a gruff, irritatingly tired-sounding voice from beside her said. Turning to face the source, revealed the heavy-set guardsman it belonged to. He leaned on his halberd at his post, seemingly bored out of his mind. At her perplexed look, he breathed out a sigh that reminded her of her bellows. ''Bunch of others came by looking at that job. Saw them head for that dive. Don't know why you'd be desperate enough to risk your neck out there, but if you want company...''

    ''You're eager to send me off on it.'' - she mused, testily.

    ''You look like you can handle yourself. I can tell you've seen some shit, woman. Just trying to better your odds.''

    A moment of perplexed silence followed once more. Curious though she was about this fellow's atypical temperament, she had to catch the rest of these mercenaries before they left.

    ''My thanks.''


    Later still, at the waterfront...

    The doors of the Dancing Pig flew open before her as she stepped in. Though most of the patrons pretended to heed her no mind, their eyes lingered. Rarely did one see a woman in full armor. Some eyes flitted to object held tightly in her left hand, bound and concealed in tightly strapped cloth. Few had to wonder long what it was. Silence lingered, though - wasn't their business to care who she was, or why she was there, lest she start causing trouble.

    She in turn, eyed each of the patrons in kind. And fortunately enough, at least one man among them all seemed to scream ''mercenary'' from afar. He was loud, obnoxiously so, and in the strange company of a priest. If he wasn't the fellow to take the job, perhaps she could entice him with it. Wasn't much time to be particularly selective with her companions. Brazenly - she walked up to the table the pair occupied, and set the poster, now rolled up neatly before them. Her steely eyes glanced between the pair, seemingly unconcerned with her intrusion into their conversation. There was daring, a challenge in that stare.

    ''Gentlemen - I find myself in need of skilled hands.''
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  9. Makara 12th, 359 D
    Downtown Meusing (pop. 95,000), Dao Regency
    Cloudy overcast, 12°C/53°F
    Character: Maxie Noville

    Maxie was just about to leave the bar at that point. Later at night some more...shall we say unsavory characters tended to hang out in the bar. Unsavory characters that had a penchant for some rather more illegal activities from what she had heard. However, just as she cracked open the door, she saw out of the corner of her eye some men talking to each other about some kind of job. She closed the door, went back in and checked out the job listings for what they were talking about. Apparently some local bandits were making the proletariats outside miserable, and somebody was offering a huge sum of money to get rid of them. Wait no, they just wanted some documents from the bandits.

    An evil plan popped into her head at that point. She could join the little group that was quickly forming to help pilfer the documents. It did not really matter how they got the documents just as long as they got them. Once they had gotten them, she reasoned, the trip back would take long enough that she could find a spot to grab the documents, and then claim the prize as her own. She would probably have to skip town afterwards, as some of them looked like military folks, but for 750 Pounds that would be an awesome haul for just a little bit of work on her end. It was with this deceptive plan that she confidently strode over to the forming group.

    She put a smile on her face and said "Skilled hands? I could definitely help you with that. What is it that you need?"
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  10. Senio glanced at the man drinking sake next to him at the bar. He was almost astonished to see in his eyes the same lifelessness that was in his - the eyes that have seen the horrors and cruelty of the world. He seemed more dangerous than Senio, however, so he kept a wary look on the man.

    "Well, if you're looking for more dangerous work, I know the Captain of the Guard posts some bounties on the board over by the barracks." Senio tried to remember what the bounties were. "I remember one of them goes for 750 pounds. I think it was to retrieve some documents from some bandit group." He took another sip of his sake. Just then, he heard a loud bang from behind him. Looking behind him, he saw a woman in armor, which immediately caught Senio's attention. Who is this girl? Senio wondered. She was standing by the side of a table with the priest he saw from the gate and another, very loud man - he seemed to be a mercenary, from the looks of him. The woman was holding a poster, that seemed to be the very one he had mentioned not moments before. Senio turned back to the man next to him and said, "Well, it seems that woman there is exactly who you need to talk to. Now please leave me be." Senio finished off his sake, and nearly asked for another glass, but stopped himself.

    Senio thought for a second. Why am I still sitting here? There's prime opportunity for adventure just behind me. Senio nearly put down that idea in his head - his adventuring days were over, he was content to the slow life as a guard, earning a meager wage and being fed little...

    I could do so much more than this. The faces of the soldiers Senio had stabbed came to his mind at that time. The cry for help in their eyes, the quick acceptance of their end, was all he could think of. Senio could never forgive himself.

    Or could I? Tears came to Senio's eyes at that moment. He quickly wiped them away so that he wouldn't draw attention to himself. If I devoted my spear to doing good work, perhaps I could redeem myself. My sins could be cleansed. Senio looked at the man who had sat next to him - he had obviously met death and despair face to face, yet he still seemed to try to find things to do. I'm meant to do more than this. I can't just drink myself to death in this tavern. Senio hadn't forgiven himself - perhaps he never would. But he decided then to try to stop needless death, to make the world just a little less filthy and rotten. He desperately needed to escape the city he was in - he had quickly grown to hate the corruption of the guildmasters, and everyone could sense the tension just waiting to burst in this city.

    But how could I leave this city? Senio thought. I'm a guard. They'll never let me leave my post until they officially release me. Unless... Senio knew he had the night shift instead of the morning shift tomorrow - he could, perhaps sneak out during the morning, when the guards were tired. He knew the layout of the walls, and knew exactly where he could leave without being noticed. This plan may just work, Senio thought with a small amount of glee - the most he'd had in a long time. Senio set down the coins for his drinks, stood up, and walked over to the lady with the armor. He whispered in her ear, "Meet me under the tall tree outside the east gate an hour after dawn. I will be joining you." That tree had a thick branch that extended to the wall that no guard had bothered to cut off yet. Senio knew he could easily climb into the tree when no one was looking and make his way down from the wall. With that, Senio turned and left the bar, heading for the barracks to prepare. He felt incredibly nervous - but also incredibly exhilarated. It was the best he'd felt in a long time.
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  11. Makara 12th, 359 D
    Downtown Meusing (pop. 95,000), Dao Regency
    Cloudy overcast, 12°C/53°F

    The bar room had become much more lively in the last hour or so and Xander was all for it. He made note to never gamble with a certain woman. He also made note to never drink the swill he had been served and motioned the bar maid to close his tab. There was a punchline hanging out here tonight. A priest, a brigand, a warrior maiden and a guard walk into a bar…

    Xander moved quickly from his place and headed up to his room. He shed the cloak he had been wearing as something of a robe then moved towards his gear. He began to strap himself into his leather armor and mentally preparing for what may occur. Xander’s body was in peak condition for physical stress but he had learned long ago the value of exercising his mind. For a man who was not the most astute, practicing lead-ins and fall-back mantras was as much a part of preparing for battle as swinging a sword at a tree. The young man continued to adorn himself in the protective shell called armor while rolling over various scenarios in his mind. He knew the folks gathering together were planning on going after the highest bounty on the board. No one risked much for small change.

    Having finished his ‘pre-game’ warm up, Xander walked out of his tiny room and slung his shield onto his back. He locked the door behind him and made his way back to the bar. He paid the woman the twenty-seven pounds for his drink and room and returned his change purse to a very secure location within the confines of his attractive and well-made leather armor. If it wasn’t so damned old, it’d be way more effective at its purpose to say the least. Regardless, it would suffice until a few big paydays allowed for an upgrade.

    Xander moved along the sides of the room taking in conversations of those gathered around the priest. There was something brewing and he could tell from their eclectic nature that he was in the right place. He also noticed that no one else had a shield which would make him a very handy person to their group. He made a few steps while the women were entangling themselves in the conversation which brought him a few feet to the right flank of the priest. When the air had cleared and there was a pause in the dialog, Xander made himself known.

    “Pardon the intrusion, but I believe I could be of assistance.” Xander matched eyes with each member for a brief moment before bowing his head to Edwong. Having broken into the group, Xander moved his large frame with a sidestep into place within the semi-circle the individuals had naturally formed. His hands followed his eyes to the rolled up posting. The dim light didn’t allow much but he caught a glimpse of one word through the underside of the parchment; ‘Bandits’. “Yeah, I’m definitely in the right place.”
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  12. Marlow sat there, perplexed as the man he’d just started talking to started to glance around the tavern and at him a few times, seemingly deep in his thoughts. He would have thanked the man but for the amount of facial expressions he exhibited within a few seconds of pointing him to the table of fellow vagabonds and adventurers behind him. Some expressions were contemplative, others bordered on hurt, before he got up from his chair suddenly. Perplexed, Marlow watched him walk over to another person in the tavern, whisper something to them and leave. He wondered if that was how all city-folk handled their conversations. He shook his head and stood after a moment.

    Sauntering over to the other table where a party was fast forming, he leaned over and placed his hand on the table, looking at those gathered in turn and nodding, “You’ll like someone handy with a bow and quiet on his feet.”

    He nodded again, taking their looks as an answer. Out in the wilder parts, you need only prove yourself and show a bit of backbone to be accepted by your fellows. It might have been different in the city, what with the odd man he’d just encountered, but one thing never changes. Men always appreciate those who show their worth. He’d show his. “What say you lot?”
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