Magic, Mobsters, and a Good Pair of Sunglasses



Original poster
The sun was setting on a horizon of vast farmland. The land was lush and green, well tended to by loving hands. The harvest was just about ready to come in, fruits and vegetables plump and ripe for the picking. It was only a matter of days now before the farmers tended their land to prepare for winter.

A road split the land neatly in half, sturdy fences on either side to let travelers know to stay off. It was a dirt road, but sturdy and compact; a well-traveled merchant's road for the farmers of the valley.

Along this road, hidden amongst the farms was a sleepy community where the farmers would meet weekly for activities and meetings. It was a homely community, with a broad expanse of a main road with a large sculptured center-piece. It was a natural spring, concocted atop of it a piece of miraculously carved art and engineering to form a self-powered fountain. Around it was a natural town center, with the mayor's office and village meeting hall situated just behind, with a series of naturally occurring town staples up and down the street just adjacent to the hall. A blacksmith's, an apothecary, a tailor, and two different general shops whose owners had been in a feud for decades.

The land was the typical, ideal hamlet.

Or it had been, until the gangs had arrived.


Along the Main Road (as it had been dubbed by the farm peoples), a lone figure skidded along the path. The sun had continued it's descent, and cast a long shadow ahead of the man. He sat astride a steel horse, the hum of it's ghostbox audible even in the distance. Large sunglasses sat on his face, keeping the wind and what little light there was from his eyes, a bandanna wrapped firmly around the lower half of his face. Brown hair whipped around across his forehead, and sweat mixed with the dirt and grime of his skin.

A hand twisted one of the grips across the handlebars of his steel horse, the ghostbox changing the pitch of it's hum in response, slowing down as he crested a hell overlooking the village. His eyes lingered on the town before looking down at the items strewn about the small carriage along the back of his trike. He frowned underneath his bandanna and he reached back, taking the long sword sticking out so prominently and laying it flatter, hiding it amongst the other knick-knacks he had.

Shrugging one-armed, somewhat satisfied, he turned around and took back to his journey home.
The fiery red sky of sunset did not fade into hues of purple, but dramatically turned dark. A storm was brewing, and the clouds were racing into the valley. The eerie howl though was not the wind, for there was something that was coming into town. Something large, and menacing.

From the tavern, where a traveler or widower could go for a meal or a drink, a young woman looked up from her stew and looked out the window. "It hunts," she muttered softly, though no one was close enough to hear her words. With little thought about her warm food, or even her cloak, the raven haired stranger, for she was not from the area, quickly made her way out of the tavern and into the middle of the road.

Wind gently pulled at her cloths and whipped up her hair, but nothing else seemed to occur. Then in a flash, that was no lightning, it was there. The thing was almost as large as the general store. Nothing natural could be that large. The few people that had been out that evening quickly raced inside any building that was open. A few felt sorry for the girl that was about to become victim to the whims of the new gang, but most had too much concern for their own kith and kin to be able to spare any remorse for someone that chose the wrong place to travel through.

With greedy glowing eyes, the monstrosity reached down to grab the woman. It clinched it's clawed hands, and grasped empty air. Again it tried to grab her, and again came up empty. With a blood curtailing howl it slammed double fists into the street and as the first few rain drops began to fall, it lunged.
The storm winds swirling behind the Man on the Steel Horse had an eerie feel to them, a menacing undertone. He felt the hairs on his neck and head stand on end as the dark clouds coalesced onto the landscape above and behind him in an unnatural way, and he shifted his steel horse, cranking one of the grips to increase his speed. The ghostbox underneath him whined as he pushed it to it's limits to get to the shelter of his home town.

He began to feel faint pitter-pattering of rain on his face as he approached the edge of the village, it stinging along his forehead while he cruised at high speed, and he slowed his steel horse down. Exhaust bellowed from the back of his trike as he came to a crawl at the village's main center road. He spotted the tavern, looking livelier than it normally would in the distance, and pulled up. He wondered if Old Man Stevens still ran it, or if he had passed it onto his daughter.

Before he could even step down from his trike, there was a flash ahead of him like lightning. He swore underneath his breath, thinking one of the buildings might be in trouble of being lit on fire and jumped from his trike to help in that scenario. Instead, a thing terribly unnatural had happened. A beast had been summoned, a massive monstrosity of horror. At the end of gangly arms were long fingers with talons the length of short swords, and probably as sharp. Powerful legs were bent underneath it's massive torso, it's head nearly indistinguishable from the rest of it's body but for the massive maw of needle-shaped teeth and beady, black eyes. Acidic slobber dripped from it's gaping mouth, and it let out a silent roar that reverberated along the wooden buildings of the village square.

Geoffrey Adegan was stunned, but only for a moment. He had not seen an eldritch beast of such magnitude for a long time now, but he was not shook to immobility. He saw it lunge as the rain began to come down in earnest, and what sent him into action was seeing the reason for it's lumbering, if highly reactive movements: it had a target. A young woman.

At first he had gripped at his left hip but then he remembered he had been traveling. Lunging for his small carriage, he pulled out the wrapped bundle that was slightly more than half the length of his tall form of six foot even. He unbound the covering and revealed a two-handed sword with a gentle curve to the blade. The hilt was wrapped in a dark, midnight blue dyed leather and ended in a heavy bronze pommel. The crossguard slanted upwards in two different directions, ending in elaborate quillions, and the sheath was a simple dark brown leather with a metal throat and tip.

Throwing aside the leather sheath, Geoffrey Adegan, known as Braid in the world at large, threw himself at the mighty beast and without pausing, struck at it from behind.
Once more the beast roared, but this time it was a glass cracking sound. It's hide ripped as it was injured and turned to look at the man with the sword that dared foolishly to attack it. Geoffrey was close enough to smell it's breath.

Typically, even when coerced with heavy bonds, a beast of this class would instantly attack after having a large slice of it's hide cut off. Instead, it hesitated. There was no power on earth a monster such as this from defending it's self.

The dark hair woman did not leave the road, though she was starting to get drenched, never mind the danger. Instead she tilted her head, trying to see what had distracted the monster. The great head then turned it's attention back to her. It once more reached to grab her, and she sighed with a sense of regret. Of course, it still did not seem to grasp her.
"Run!" The man known as Braid yelled at the dark haired woman. He threw his arm out to emphasize for her to move, and turned his attention back to the beast between them.

It had ignored his vicious strike along it's back to turn and attack the woman, and Braid was determined to make the beast regret that choice. The long curved blade cut through the air and thickening sheen of rain to cut yet another vicious blow across the creature's back, and as it roared in pain, Braid darted to the other side of it's back, cleaving his blade into the ankle of the beast. The blade bit into it's ethereal flesh, runes glowing faintly along the length of steel, and black ichor bubbled up from the wound around the blade.

Braid wrenched the weapon free of the beast's leg just in time to duck a clawed hand reaching around to grab him. He spun away and slid several feet away in the mud, cursing as he began to lose his balance in the slick earth. Spinning around and stepping into Braid's maneuver, the beast backhanded him across the chest as he momentarily lost his footing and set the warrior flying back and flaying the leather cuirass that covered his chest.

Bright blood bubbled up from between the cuts and the front of his torso ran red with the rain water, but the wound was far from greivous. With a roar, Braid raised his blade in a two-handed high guard, ready to strike, and charged the beast. The monster roared back his challenge and before it could land a punishing sweep with it's clawed hand, Braid leaped and spun in the air, bringing the sword in a two-handed grip down in the center of it's head, right between it's eyes.
She did not run, in fact other then taking a few steps backwards to give the monster more room to die as the man fought, she did not show any sign of concern. It was difficult for those in the buildings to see what was happening for the rain was coming down heavy now, but everyone knew when the thing died, since it let out a shriek that made ones blood run cold before it finally hit the ground.

The woman walked carefully over to the man, avoiding the worse of the puddles that were forming in the road. "You slayed it mightily," she said softly. She was now close enough that Braid could see more then just her general shape and hair.

Black hair that was drenched, as was her clothing that was clinging to her frame. The lights from the buildings let Braid see that her skin was light and fair, and no one he recognized from town. It was when he looked in her eyes though that he felt that even though he didn't know who she was, he had heard of what she was. Her iris were slowly changing colors in front of him.
Braid stared at the girl, and found himself mesmerized with her. Long black hair framed a striking face, skin pale and fair, especially in the reflection of the night lights of the town and the sky. The rain hardly masked her beauty; as a matter of fact, it happened to accentuate it. Her clothes clung to her, soaked, and Braid tried his best not to gaze down and stare at the gorgeous curves of her body. It would be ungentlemanly, and unbecoming of him to do so. Still, the urge was there.

The beast had fallen quickly and mightily to his blade work, but not without Braid suffering through his victory. He grunted in pain as he felt the warm blood continue to trickle up through his leather armour, and bubble down the front of his torso. He knew he would need some kind of medical attention, and soon; he was loathe to find out the severity of the wound. Before he could say anything more to the girl, he noticed her eyes, and collapsed face-first into the mud.

And then, there was the peace of darkness...
It was a brightly lit room, warm with a fire and the sounds of downstairs were well muffled. The pitter patter of the rain was more evident. Less fierce, but still very wet. There was the smell of clean linens, cedar and the light sent of some mix of herbs that might have been a tea. The room above the tavern was small, but not cramped.

The door opened, barely even creaking and then closed softly again and the aroma of food mixed with the other scents in the room. Foot steps came over to the bed and a tray was set down beside it.

"You'll want to eat it while it's still warm," said the soft voice of the black hair woman as she walked from the bed and over to the window to look out at the rain.

Braid found himself in a bed, stripped of nearly all of his clothing and covered in a few blankets. The wounds he had suffered fighting the beast were but sore scratches and not the bleeding wounds that he had felt during the battle and before collapsing. To replace that though was hunger, or perhaps that was due to his long travels and fight.
"Of course," Braid said lamely in response. He didn't know what to say, or think, or feel, really, as he sat up in the bed to accept, gratefully, the tray of food being offered him. He found himself surprisingly famished, and fought the urge to wolf down the food as hard and as quickly as he could. Instead, he ate with as much manner as he could muster.

He ignored the fact he was naked, or near enough to it. He would have had to be stripped to have his wounds addressed to, to get him out of the wet clothes to avoid sickness... Suddenly, Braid became still as he noticed something off. Strange, he thought. I should be covered in bandages...

A hand went across his chest and his fingers traced over the faint scars of what should have been devious-looking wounds. There shouldn't even be any visible wounds, he decided; he should be covered in thick, heavy bandages! Bandages that should be soaked through by now! But now he knew why he was so hungry.

Eying the girl calmly as she sat at the window, he spoke with a voice much more his own, filled with the calm confidence others were accustomed to hearing. "Thank you."

He took a few more bites of his meal, finishing it off thoroughly, before washing it all down with a glass of clean-looking water. He then asked the question that had been floating in the air since he arrived in town.

"What was that thing?"
The woman looked away from the window and at Braid, her head tilted slightly. "It was aether made flesh," she started. "Though you must have known that much." Her hand rose and a lazy finger pointed to the fireplace where his clothing was hanging to dry, and his sword was leaning against brick, sheathed.

"It was the pet of one of those that came here. It was never a protector, but it was bonded like one." There were spirits that protected places like lakes and woods, and others that seemed to protect communities. They were for the most part only whispered about and most people would not dream of interfering with them. Sometimes though there would be someone with power that would bind them, sometimes for the good of the community, and sometimes for personal gain.

"They will notice it is gone I believe," she finished and she no longer seemed to be looking at Braid, but looking off into space. Her voice seemed almost like a whisper of someone privately musing to themselves. There was silence in the room until the fire happily made a loud popping sound as it gobbled up it's wood fuel.
The fire snapped in the silent room, and it brought Braid out of his silent thinking.

"I had a suspicion. I've seen... things, in the world. But only on battlefields." He took the tray from his lap and set it gently on the night stand next to him. He made a face as he twisted a bit, to pull one of the pillows out from under him, and adjusted it at his back so he could sit comfortably. His muscles flexed and tightened as he felt the phantom pains across his chest; feeling your torso rend open wasn't something you quickly forgot, even if the physical proof of that wound was all but gone.

"I can't believe someone here could make something like that, their pet," he said calmly, if a bit incredulously. He then raised a brow a bit, looking at the girl more curiously. Obviously, someone here could bind something like that, but she had said it was the pet of one that came here. Not hers. At the very least, he believed that about her. But that also raised another question.

"The one who... came here. He's with the ones that will notice it is gone, won't they?"
"Yes," she said simply as her gaze continued to be no where.

Finally she stood up and on bare feet she walked over to the foot of his bed. She must have changed at some point while he was unconscious for her homespun dress was clean and dry. In fact her hair, which seemed to have a bit more life to it now, was no longer wet, though by just looking it was hard to tell if it was still damp or not. She looked him right in the eyes, and it seemed to be both determination and timidness in the act.

"You have fought they're ilk before? In some other place? What compelled you to come here?" The woman held her hands in front of her, and leaned ever so slightly to hear his next words. Her changing eyes barely blinking.
Braid suddenly felt uncomfortable, a feeling he wasn't used to. He generally faced all things head on, no matter what they were. He wasn't someone that liked to put things off, or let sit uncomfortable in the air; if there were unspoken words, he spoke them. But at this very moment, with how close this young girl was to him, with the way she was staring so hard into his eyes...

He was uncomfortable. Hopefully, he wasn't showing it.

"Yes, I have," he said, not moving an inch forward or back as she leaned in. He gazed back into her eyes, and found himself suddenly both mystified and frightened by the shifting colours, by how she never blinked. "In the wars south of here, I was a... soldier," he said simply. It was obviously something he didn't feel like delving into. "Wizards and their kind, they didn't like using simple weapons. They liked using... ethereal means, to fight." He left it at that, but he was now fingering another of his older wounds-- a deep scar that ran along his abdomen.

"I'm here, because I'm home," he said to her other question. "I grew up here. But I don't remember you... You must be new here."
Wizards and their kind, she mouthed the words as he briefly explained how he knew how to slay the beast. It was not much information, but she had not asked him to tell him his story in detail.

With his last question, she shook her head and broke the intense eye contact. "I am not here to stay. They are expanding, and no one is out here that can counter that. This village can not ask for help from the metropolis any longer. They already have established themselves so quickly." She was looking away again. "This is very complex. City problems invading the countryside."

She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again her face seemed serene. "You came home to rest. If you wish to do so, tread lightly and eventually things will change again."
Braid bumped the back of his head as he sat back. This girl spoke in so many riddles, and it was almost irritating to hear it all. But he hadn't made it as far in life as he had without developing a strong sense of instinct and understanding, and he made out some of what she had said.

Apparently, people from the city had expanded, for whatever reason, this far into the country. The villagers were helpless in the face of this. These people, also, used magic-- that much was evidenced from the fact that they had leashed, at least for a time, that beast. Unless they hadn't lost control of it, and it was sent to attack this girl...

"Who are you?" He finally asked. "What is your name?"
The woman with the rainbow eyes had a startled expression. "My name?" she asked slowly. She then blinked. "My name," she repeated then trailed off.

"Oh, right. It's Natalia," was the final reply. She looked embarrassed. The truth was it had been a while since she had to tell anyone her name. For any normal person that wouldn't be enough for the lapse, but as time had gone by she had become more and more inclined to have these lapses of normal mundane information.

She had dropped her eyes after giving her first name to Braid, however she was more curious then embarrassed and started to glance back up at the man that she realized was not very dressed.
"Natalia," he repeated, testing the name and committing it to memory. Truthfully, it wouldn't be difficult; she had a very unique... look, to her. Not to mention, the circumstances of their first exposure to one another.

"My name's Geoffrey, but call me Braid," he said simply. "That's what everyone else calls me." Before she could even begin to inquire, he flipped his hair around and, noticing it for the first time, realized his hair had been un-braided. Long brown hair came down over his shoulder in a wave, and he smiled both amusingly and somewhat embarrassed.

"Well, most of the time, this is done up in a.. well, braid," he said as he looked her in the eyes once again. The shimmering rainbow colours were hypnotizing, entrancing, and he couldn't help but find himself suddenly attracted to this young, eccentric girl whom he had just met. He suppressed the feelings as best as he could; it was feelings like these that led to a man's death.

Tilting his head, he decided to go in a different direction, while still staying on the same road. "What... are you?"
Natalia gave a slight frown at that question. She even looked a bit uncomfortable by it given she had been leaning slightly forward before now. Her back was straight and while her arms were not crossed across her chest there was an unconscious protective style to the way she had her arms wrapped around her body.

"I remember once, an village elder in the town of, of, some town, they had a problem, this elder, he was very kind. He said though that he knew me not to be a wizard. He thought of me more like their best farmer, but more."

While she had started talking, she had been looking down at the blankets, but eventually she looked back up at Braid. "There is even a name he gave it."

She didn't say it, but the words seemed too powerful to stop and too primal to be spoken even though the individual words were very mundane. That was the power of names though.

Children of the Earth

Daughter of the Earth
"Their best farmer, huh?"

Braid didn't know what to make of the girl, Natalia. She was a strange creature; beautiful, and enigmatic. Forthcoming, yet unwilling to give the answers, or unable to?

Heh, just like a woman... he thought jokingly.

He took a hand through his long brown hair, brushing it in between his fingers. He was at a loss for what to say to this woman, as she bore down on him with those jewel-refracting eyes, all of the colours of the world reflecting at him. He suddenly had to look away, unable to stare into them any longer. It wasn't fear that made him look away, nor was it uneasiness. It was... something he couldn't quite describe, or understand.

After a moment of brushing his hair and looking away, he finally looked back up to her, a confident set in the way he clenched his jaw. He didn't quite look into her eyes again, rather, he found a point just between them.

"Are we to be companions tonight, Natalia?" he asked. It was a loaded question, and a simple one all at once. Were they going to share a bed together, or would she simply watch over him for the remainder of the evening? It was carefully worded, as well; any inference of the question would be entirely on the person being asked.
Natalia had a puzzled expression as she looked back at Braid. Then slowly a smile appeared. "We can be companions as long as you wish." If one was to take her at first glance, the answer was very naive and trusting. There was no hidden meaning to what she said. Beyond that though was an emptiness, not quite a void for a void could never be filled. She was in every way imaginable alone, but was not advertising it. That is until Braid offered the opposite of that.

"I, I mean," she started to fumble. Her hands clenched the fabric as she looked up and then at him. "This is your home, and until the wrongness is gone..." It was obviously she had reached a point of frustration from the small frown on her face as she looked at him silently for a long moment. "You need rest and this is the best place for that tonight," she finally got out.

With that she stood up and walked over to the fire and poured herself tea from the kettle, though she did glance over at him before she picked up her cup.