This One Realm: Chapter 1 "A Night To Remember"

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"Glad you like it, figured with it being your birthday and all, you might as well get something special," He laughed, seeing the princess smile, "It's just a simple trick really, all it really takes is imagination" he was smiling, glad to see the princess happy. deciding to be a bit bold, he asks, "so have I earned a dance yet?" he smiled at her. His Ebon hair framing his face in the moonlight, a smile still visible on his lips.

Oralia shook her head with a slight enigmatic smile, that must have seemed far more teasing than she meant it to.

"Maybe it did. But my Father promised me the first dance and he wouldn't dare break his promise." Tilting away from the balcony, she clasped her hands behind her back and rocked on her heels. Feeling a bit more comfortable after his extremely kind gesture, she gave way to her curiosty.

"You have a very striking hat. Would you let me see it? I might save the second dance just for you then! My promise." She wasn't even trying to be devious. Like her father, her promise was her word. Now, whether or not she chose to give it back, that would be a different story!
Steve thought for a minute, and figured he'd get his hat back soon enough, so he took it off with one hand and placed it on her head, it sank down over her nose and he laughed seeing her struggle beneath it for a moment, before pushing it up on her head "Well I suppose if your father promised, then go ahead, but I get the next one," he smiled slightly mischievously at her, his eyes twinkling in the starlight as she smiled back at him.

"I suppose it is a little too big for me." Too big might have been a slight understatement. The thing swallowed up her head. Probably not the sort of hat that would be practical to run away with, no matter how tempting. It took her several tries at getting it to sit properly on her head, but nothing made it stay! She finally pulled it off so she could at the very least, get a good look at the crafting.

"It's really very lovely. ...Um, in a manly sort of way, of course!" With that, she offered his hat back to him. "Thank you for letting me see it. I think I would like to find one a bit smaller." She grinned as she clasped her hands behind her back again.

"You can have the second dance, as promised!"

Zagara continued following behind Prestadeth as they made their way through the halls. As they neared the guard room, he felt himself starting to feel nauseous, and slumped against the wall for a moment when they paused, and Prestadeth starting asking him if he wanted to kill the guards. Placing a hand over his face, he took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly. The sick feeling was starting to come more often over the past few weeks... though it had him worried, he clenched his jaw, and pushed away from the wall, and took the lead.

"I have no desire to kill them, or harm them in anyway... they were just doing what they were told... if anyone's responsible, it's their king. And I doubt I'll get close enough to him to return his favors." He answered in a haunting tone. "We can retrieve your possessions as well as my own with out blood shed."

At that moment, Zagara sneaked up to the entrance of the room, and knelt next to the floor. Recalling a spell to mind, he lifted a finger, and began to trace a symbol into the air, and began reciting spidery words once again. "Seu kem atolt valenko de hast..." A pale indigo mist began pouring from the floating glowing symbol, and snaked its way into the room, and filled it in a manner of seconds.

The distinct sound of men in full armor slumping to the ground could be heard, and hinted to the spells success. He counted three falls, and then slumped against the wall again as he felt a wave of exhaustion flow over him... spells of incapacitation were still a bit much for him, and conflicted with his prime magic.

After another few deep breaths, he pulled himself to his feet, and turned to look at Prestadeth. "They should be unconscious now... let us retrieve our belongings and continue on our way... I'd imagine we'd like to be out of here if they happen to have a guard change beginning soon."

With a dance promised to a stranger, Oralia dispersed back in to the crowd. For a brief moment she found herself sampling some of the food at a table. Wonderful savory smells and sweet pastries that she was sure she could eat everyday for her entire life. Oralia even tried a glass of the champagne, delighting in that warm tingly feeling that spread all the way to her toes.

Glancing up at the large clock on the wall, she realized no one was going to get a dance if she didn't kidnap her father soon. He must have been finished with his business by now. It was her birthday! He should be spending his time with his only daughter!

Oralia made her way back to the big curtain near the throne, where her father had just stepped out. She greeted him with a wide smile.

"I did just what you asked and I reserved a dance with someone! Buuut, first you promised me the first one, didn't you? Are you finished with your business?"
The Grand Hall


Pulling a large pewter mug from his lips, Aberdan took a piece of cloth from his pocket, and wiped away the foam that coated his beard the moment he'd see Oralia. "Aye! Just tidied up my kingly duties tis all." Handing the mug off to a passing serf, Aberdan adjusted his shirt, and removed his cloak, resting it on the chair at the foot of the table. It was soon taken by another passing attendant to the court.

"Now then... I think I remember how to dance, unless we're to move about this way, and that like you youngsters are prone to these days! I might very well be being scooped off from the floor. Go easy on me child. These bones are a little rusty!" He said with a chuckle, and offered his hand to his daughter to walk her to the floor.
Aching like a pulled muscle, the former captain of the Tourniquet regarded his first mate with bleary eyes. Years hidden in shadows had been unkind, reflected by the glare of lantern light swept across the deck. Black hair hung in knotted clumps over a face etched with more contours then the crew remembered. A trickle of blood, startlingly bright against the pallor of his face, trailed from his lip. Between rain drops and flickers the captain’s dark eyes seemed blacker, as though he’d carried a bit of prison with him…and perhaps he had. No one spoke after Kargon as the men were half afraid to let their eyes drift from the rigging, even to witness the confrontation few had believed would happen. Held between scarred fingers Ku-jon grimaced and spat a mixture of phlegm and blood onto the deck.

“Kargon,” he wheezed “Haven’t lost your humor in all these years?”

The pirate’s lip curled downward and with a grunt he hoisted Ku-Jon farther up the mast, his hand pressing tightly. Delivering another blow to the captain’s stomach, Kargon let the man tumble to the deck in a coughing heap.

“Good men died,” he stated solemnly “I’ll throw you to the winds if you can’t tell me why.” Murmurs of ascent ran through the motley men around the captain. Several years absence had distanced The Tourniquet from her master and Kargon had managed to keep her running. Clawing the cold deck with pain, Ku-Jon recognized he should tread carefully. Pirates concerned themselves with survival and gratification. Most hadn’t a home and more had a list longer then an anchor chain of crimes. Backs to the black these men chose to leap backwards and take the world with them. Ku-Jon had failed before and that made him weak, untrustworthy. Kargon had led his crew into the maw of the Abyss for a former captain and his pretty words of treasure.

Times must be tougher in the Lower Realms for Kargon to have even considered the rescue.

“The Tourniquet is in a right state isn’t she?” Ku-Jon muttered from the ground “Took her through a gauntlet you did and you’re lucky she’s still flying.” Rising to his feet, the captain glanced at the crew around him. Old faces and new, too few for a true crew, but each set of eyes were hard and defiant. Grinning through blood stenciled teeth, Ku-Jon threw out his arms as if presenting the storm behind him. “How do you think I came to be here? What kind of ship can navigate these currents safely without sight to guide them?” Kargon’s expression didn’t change but he took a step towards Ku-Jon in a wordless warning. “Eye of Tempest,” the captain explained, flinging the scraggly locks from his eyes “A gem to quell the bitterest storms and cut smooth sailing to any realm.”

Kargon raised an eyebrow, the only outward sign that Ku-Jon had caught his attention. For a pirate, sailing between realms was staring death down the throat. The storms between the different levels roared strong and fast. None could claim an airship had emerged unscathed from the between-realm Maelstroms and mitigation was more valuable then gold.


“Back into the line of fire, mate,” Ku-Jon answered with a sideways glance at the prison fading into shadow behind them “We set course for the Mid Realm castle and their docked pride, The Castigation.”

Kargon moved to intercept the captain as he backed from the circle, backed by the glittering eyes of the crew. The offer had been made and the stakes presented. The Castigation was one of the most feared airships in the King’s Navy. Captained by the only female to hold such a position in any realm, the Castigation still bragged a count of destroyed ships numbering in the hundreds. Now almost permanently docked outside the castle as both a symbol of justice and a heavy deterrent to attack, no pirate could claim ignorance from the unique sound of their guns. The sound of thunder and the sizzling of flesh.

“You would have us sail through Torsa Prime, pull you from the lowest hole the King could find, raid a ship no pirate has business seeking, and all upon the day Alberdan’s brat is celebrated throughout the kingdom?”

“I didn't ask you to join my crew for being a fishwife.” Ku-Jon shrunk back from Kargon for an instant before throwing his body into a blow at the first mate’s jaw. The big man stumbled backwards as Ku-Jon slumped to the deck. Three men roared outrage and drew their blades but Kargon thrust out an arm. Obedient, the men advanced no farther.

“You're a fool” Kargon asked, remembering the docks of the mining towns and the starving workers begging to be fed…housed. The barren year leaving more than a few of the crew to die of sickness or hunger.

“Not a fool, nor a dogs to be kicked and beaten,” Ku-Jon grinned, staring up from his own shaking body “A wolf. I can put my teeth in the King because I am a wolf. What does that make you?”

With a sneer, Kargon brought his leg up into Ku-Jon’s jaw and laid the captain flat on his back. Nodding at the cabin boy, the Cast Soul Kargon returned to the prow of the ship. The gaunt youth scuttled to the unconscious captain and pulled him from above deck. Ku-Jon would recuperate out of the elements as he was still needed for the exact location of their quarry. Dying now would make the venture useless and Kargon had no patience for fruitless gains.

“Eight Abeam and we set course for Colossi Palace.”

In comparison to the cells, the quarters of the guards were luxurious. Oil lanterns threw shadow dancing around a sparsely furnished room. What they lacked in decoration was compensated with heat and security. Even the Soulless avoided this place. From these doors came the noise and all scattered from the clatter of the warden. None stood before the Cling Clang Man. Now his quarters were in ruins. Rain pelted the soft fur blankets on the narrow bed and damp pages snapped in the moaning clutches of wind. A single lantern flickered from its slot in the wall, the only indication there was a room at all. Two shadows stood before the crumbling rift where wall once stood and gazed into the slanted rain.

They were content to watch in silence before a third joined them. Smaller then both, the short figure held glints of steel brandished.

“You let him escape!” It was an accusation and a warning. “Why?”

“And what, might I ask, has spurred these outrageous accusations?” the voice was soft and melodic, almost lost by the clangs of shifting metal as the threatened turned to regard its accuser.

“You were in the cell hallway when the prisoner ran, I may not have seen you but it was hard not to hear you. I want to know why!”

“Well done captain,” the Cling Clang Man chuckled “How unfortunate for me to think you so dull. Unfortunate indeed.” The faintest chord of metal whispered between the shadows before the captain fell sideways, sword sliding out of his twitching hand. “Ah well, more to replace that one I’m sure.”

Raising his right arm, the Cling Clang Man pulled hard, the second shadow tugged off its lithe feet to crawl behind the warden. “Come,” the Cling Clang Man commanded as he exited the ruined room. “It seems we will need to pursue them ourselves.”

He chuckled. It sounded like metal dishes clashing together. “It’s been too long since we last saw the sun.”

Summary: Ku-Jon is after the Eye of the Tempest, a gem he alludes is kept within a feared warship outside Colossi Palace. Kargon gets some hits in and knocks the cap out...he'll be on the mend till they get to the castle. Meanwhile, the Cling Clang Man has let a prisoner seems he's eager to leave Nocta Syr as well.

Though he would never admit it, and though none of the crew would dare utter it.... Kargon was damned glad to have his Captain back. No one took a punch like Ku-Jon, and you can tell a lot about a man by the way they take a punch. Live beside someone for forty years, laugh and weep with them, live and breath and eat in their company, and you'll as soon learn the truth of who they are by dangling them over shark-infested waters. If a man hasn't bled on you then he's not to be trusted.

Standing on the bow, facing into the water-laden darkness, Kargon allowed a smile to nag at his lips as he listened to the captain being dragged below decks behind him. Ten years... they had both grown a little darker in that time, the souls sinking behind the shadows of the flesh. At least the captain had been fed, which was more than Kargon could boast. A quarter of the crew lost to hunger and another quarter taken by diseases rife in the drinking holes and brothels of the Lower Realms. As always, the shit was sliding downhill, the women gone foetid and the ale gone sour. There wasn't a place in the Low Realms that wasn't touched by plague. The crew that remained were gaunt and pale, ghouls of sinewed flesh roaming the night-skies.

They all looked a little like the captain now.

"We'll take the Dunrold Straits, Cap'n," wheezed a voice beside him. The Tourniquet's Sail-Master, Lungis, had his usual 'undertaker' look, a wide-brimmed hat keeping the rain from pale eyes and covering long, brilliant-white hair. He was the oldest of the crew but still had the steadiest hands, and beneath his longcoat the body was tense and knotted, like a well-rooted tree. Only his voice seemed to take the toll of the years, growing hollower as the lungs lost strength.

"Aye..." Kargon's own voice was like gravel stuck in tar. "Wind'll be sternwise. We'll drop at the fifth - meet the main shipping lanes."

Lungis scratched his hooked nose with a single finger. "Could be a ruse Cap'n. They let him go an' he turns us all in." Then he shuddered as he saw Kargon's face distort, the eye-sockets sinking and the flesh around the mouth decaying away. For a few seconds the Cast Soul switched places with the mortal, and Kargon drifted into the past, reliving the memory of the fight, the feel of Ku-Jon's flesh against his knuckles and knee. He felt every raindrop again, every inch of his blood stirring with a warmth that had lian dormant for a decade.

It only lasted a moment, then the two halves of Kargon converged again. His face resettled and he glared down at the pilot. "Man's jaw would'a broke if he were a liar."

The rain fell harder. Lungis doffed his hat and turned, striding back up the deck towards the pilot's cabin. He paused as Kargon called out again.

"And I ain't yer Captain. Not now."

Some of the deckhands overheard this, pausing to look up from their duties. It was only about a second or so, before they resumed their preparations, but in that second it was clear that the tides had changed. The Tourniquet banked upwards through the storm, rising like a predator to the calmer air of the Mid-Realms.

Just like the good old days...


Oralia laughed, walking out with her father to the dance floor. Being an old tradition, the muscicians knew when it was their cue to change the music. Something fresh but appriopriate for their older King. People stepped away, giving plenty of room on the dance floor for their reigning royalty. It was the one moment Oralia wasn't worried about the entire world watching! She curstied and he bowed, before they stepped smoothly to the rhythem of the song.

"Do you like the song? I made sure to request a slow one for your old bones." she teased gently. He always liked to say he was so old, but she knew he'd probably to live on to enjoy great grandchildren!

"Everything is amazing tonight. I don't think I told you thank you. Getting to try the food after being hushed out of the kitchen all day was worth the wait."
Zagara was only met with a languid blink, then an indifferent shrug of Presta's shoulders; whatever suited him best. She just hoped his little acts of mercy wouldn't drain him too much before they got to the higher levels. Though Prestadeth was stealthy and could hear and smell what was going on far ahead of them, she had no delusions of escaping this place completely unnoticed.

The elf waited for the air to stop prickling with magic, and for the slow, steady breathing of the now slumbering guards before stepping into the dim room. It did not take long to find the trunk that contained the effects of the prisoners held in this place, nor was it difficult to find her poison darts and Cúhigil. Since she had only been here a few days, they were at the top of the pile. Placing Cúhigil in the sheath on her left hip, Prestadeth felt an automatic comforting wave wash over her, she did not bask in it, merely hid the darts somewhere on her person and left the trunk open for Zagara to search through.

Spying a jug of water on the table, she picked it up and sniffed it. Besides an unpleasant metallic tang, it was clean. Taking a swig, Presadeth grimaced at the taste. This water was dead, devoid of nutrients and the taste of the earth, it did not bring any more life into her tired body, only managed to quench her thirst for the moment. What manner of beings were these humans?

"Here," Prestadeth turned, holding out the jug to Zagara. "Drink this quickly, it might help you regain some of the strength you lost casting that spell."
The Grand Hall


Aberdan muffled a laugh into his thick beard, and danced on with Oralia, as she teased him. "Aye, it can't be a night to sweep my remains from the floor. Best to take it easy with the elderly. Tis a wonderful song, my dear. Though I've a feeling it's a favorite of yours isn't it lass?"

"Everything is amazing tonight. I don't think I told you thank you. Getting to try the food after being hushed out of the kitchen all day was worth the wait."

"There's not a need to tell me my dear. It can see it in your smile, from the light it radiates throughout the hall, down through the fields, and out into the sky routes farther still. Though you are welcome. Now If I do recall this being your Day of Age... I believe that I'll finally get to share a drink with you as well. One that is legal I might add." He said in a mock scold, knowing that she'd gotten into the drink on previous nights. He knew because he had as well when he was young.


He'd moved to the chest after Prestadeth, and retrieved a plain looking sword from it, and strapped it to his belt. The blade itself seemed to be quite old, well cared for, but nothing apart from that really stood out. If anything it looked stolen... Zagara shut the chest, and looked at the jug that his partner held out to him.

Taking it, Zagara brought it to his nose he sniffed at it, and turned his head away from it. "No... I'll have none of that. I mean... I can't have any of that." he corrected, and handed it back to Prestadeth. He then rubbed his forhead lightly just underneath the metal band he wore, and took a deep breath. As he lowered his hand, his focused his eyes on the doorway. His eyes had begun spinning faster it seemed... or was it simply an illusion.

"We should keep moving. It feels as if Dark Winds blow this night..." His tone was slightly nervous, but why couldn't be guessed. So far their little escape had gone rather well.
He dreamed of nothing. The shadows of Nocta Syr still clung to Ku-Jon’s mind as obstinate cobwebs. Before, his dreams had merely grown dimmer. The nature of the prison ebbed the life from body and mind, spirit and personality. They whispered in the corridors that losing the ability to dream was the first step in becoming a Soulless. The dreams died first, the soul would follow.

Awaking in his own dank sweat, the sight of the wooden walls was jarring. It took a moment to remember where he was. Easing back beneath the patchy blanket, the captain blinked away exhaustion. The ship had become still around him, no doubt what woke him. Slipping from the cot, he ascended to the deck. The night sky greeted him warmly and the moonlight caressed like a familiar lover. Pausing in the stairwell, Ku-Jon basked in the first evening he’d felt since descending into Nocta Syr. So similar and yet indescribably beautiful at the same time. The crew went about their business maintaining the Tourniquet but kept a wary eye on Ku-Jon as he walked among them. To these he offered no words, only mute nods of recognition and the rare smile of approval. Hold a man within the pit for a hundred years and the sailor within him will never decay. Kargon stood near the prow, a brutish shadow against the moonlight. Ku-Jon stopped next to him without a word and shared his views. Before them lay glittering fireworks above a looming shadow. Lamplight danced in every window and the ground frothed with bodies. Evidently the king had spared no expense in his celebration. Miles from view, the Tourniquet idled in lightless gloom. It would be risky to set down with the rest of the airships and assume to not be noticed. Instead, Kargon had opted for a quieter approach.

He had grown since Ku-Jon had last seen him.

“Orders?” Kargon asked gruffly, his face carved in stone. With the return of the captain, Kargon had seamlessly transitioned into his role of before. Most of the crew had viewed him as a captain for years and yet he held no aspiration to retain his position. After all, he had only borrowed it till Ku-Jon returned.

“The hour is late,” the captain murmured, noting the festivities “Most will be merry with drink and unable to resist.” He indicated the floating behemoth a small ways from the castle. The Castigation on display as though a rare animal from lands unknown…truly the king was arrogant in his security. “Our target is her. The gem is kept in the captain’s quarters and her belly should be filled with wealth.” Glancing up to his first mate, Ku-Jon grinned. “She’ll be run by a skeleton crew and don’t be thinking they won’t have had a bit of merriment themselves. If we’re quick and bite fast, she won’t even sound an alarm.”

“And what of our approach?” Kargon reminded “How can we take her without our ship being recognized?”

Ku-Jon rubbed his chin in thought, mulling over the difficulty in boarding The Castigation. His ship was too bulky to go without notice by the guests and to a greater extent, the guards. Even if most were intoxicated, the castle defenses alone would take the Tourniquet out of the air instantly…and that was without the high attendance of mages likely inside. Closing his eyes, Ku-Jon felt the air around him. No doubt the mages had created a perfect atmosphere for the celebration and yet Ku-Jon could not sense any will imposing a hand on the current climate. Perhaps there was a way for the Tourniquet to approach the Castigation. “We travel through fog,” Ku-Jon answered curtly, kneeling on the deck. “Give me a few moments peace, I haven’t attempted this in years.”

The process of magic was difficult to explain. Even when one had it, the feeling of greater manipulation through arcane means was forever elusive to their masters. Perhaps the most apt comparison was to a communion on a universal wavelength. Reaching out with the all of a being, one was answered by the all of the universe. Ku-Jon sought only to alter the weather around the castle and yet the area alone was staggering. Most aeromancers had little control over what they created. Brewing a storm was simple. Controlling the same storm was an effort mired in futility. One could release the boulder down the mountain, but gods help those caught within its wake. Ku-Jon sought no such havoc however, opting for the silence of obscuring mist to wreathe the shipyard and courtyard with a touch of enigma. Kargon turned from Ku-Jon’s prostrate form and ordered the crew to make ready the advance. No doubt the Magi in attendance would be suspicious of the unforeseen fog and attempt to dispel it. In the few moments of time granted by the concealment, the Tourniquet was expected to soar beside the Castigation, board, and be quick to the quarry before retreating. The men knew the risk, but necessity drove them onwards. Hardened creatures of rainwater and gale winds, their stomachs protested their fortunes of late. Failure would be met with death and success with full stomachs and pockets…odds each man was accustomed to.

The fog rose from the fields and forest smelling of loam and barley. Wafting up and around the Tourniquet it spread slow fingers to entwine the castle. The airship was already moving as the mist spread itself between the celebrators, descending on the fat Castigation like a mangy bird of prey. The damage to the ship was extensive, but luckily flight and navigation had not been unduly hampered. Kargon helped in throwing the boarding planks between the two ships and returned to Ku-Jon as the silent pirates crossed into the warship. Placing a hand on his shoulder the larger man shook Ku-Jon from his trance.

“Well done captain, shall we board with the rest?”

Ku-Jon shook his head slowly, the aftereffects of the trance a bit stronger then he’d remembered. Standing he put a hand on Kargon’s shoulder to balance.

“You didn’t sell my captain’s coat and other garments did you?”

“No one would buy them,” Kargon answered with a hint of smile, “Your taste in color offends most civilized people.”

“Excellent, now don your best outfit and throw down a rope from the rail.”


“We need some insurance to prevent the faster ships of the King’s navy from turning the Tourniquet into splinters and to get it, we’ll need to at least look the part of guests.”

Kargon’s smile vanished quickly and was replaced with an uneasy frown. Ku-Jon always had a flair for dramatics and yet this unexplained part of the plan seemed reckless…even in comparison to past misadventures. Taking the chipped piece of the Tourniquet core, Kargon slipped it into a pocket. The Tourniquet would always take a heading toward the smoky shard and it was a helpful insurance that they’d have a means to escape if needed. Watching his captain depart for his old quarters, Kargon wondered if perhaps the man was best left unconscious for now.

Summary: Through aeormancy, Ku-Jon summons fog to cover his approach to the Castigation. Although instead of boarding with the crew, He and Kargon will be attending the party for the elusive 'insurance' Ku-Jon seems determined to have.
"Indeed," Prestadeth nodded and set out into the dark passage again, "further we get from this place, the better."

They were able to make their way up the next few floors with little problem. All of the guards seemed to be on the upper floors tonight, and the few that were posted in the basement levels, Prestadeth handled quickly with her poisoned darts. From all the noise coming from the ground floor, the two found that there was a grand party in full swing; all the better for them.

"Perhaps, we should find the servant's entry and slip out through there?" Prestadeth mused as they made their way up another set of stone stairs. She briefly glanced at Zagara from over her shoulder to see if some of his strength had returned. While she was hopeful in their chances of sneaking out unnoticed, Prestadeth wanted the mage in better condition in case they did have to fight their way out. There was definitely something strange about the human, but Prestadeth could not quite put her finger on it. There was something about the air about him, the way it crackled, it was unnerving. She did not know why, but this man made her skin to break out in goose bumps.

The elf wondered, not for the first time, what manner of man he was, and why had he not escaped sooner.

Zagara and Prestadeth had to flatten themselves against the stairway wall as the door ahead of them burst open. Two figures shambled through, the smaller one dressed and walking like a noble, while the larger one was still trying to put on a footman's coat and having great difficulty doing so.

"You see, Cap'n, the Ogres don't have too many parties these days. Plus them Ogres have a nasty habit of smearing shit on their clothes. And what's worse, they don't HAVE ANY CLOTHES! So when we raid the Ogres looking for loose-fitting finery for six-foot-five Low-Realmers, WE AIN'T TOO SUCCESSFUL!"

"I thought you might've lost weight."

"If patience were ballast, Cap'n!" muttered Kargon as he hopped on one leg, trying to adjust his boot, "If patience were ballast!"

"How's my hair?"

"Like a horse's arse!" Kargon tried to put on a hat then gave up and flung it a nearby pot plant. "I could'a been up top killing people like a normal person!" He started fixing the collar of his coat, cursing with every breath. "Dressed up like a prize peacock for inbred champagne-sippin' toffee-nosed palace whelps!"

The two pirates, unarmed and dressed in their finest plundered garb, stepped between the gauntlet of servants and guards as they entered the Grand Hall. An elderly man in black, the Royal Chamberlain, nodded towards them whilst holding a roll of parchment. His grey eyebrows arched expectantly.

"Lord Founteroy of Isling," declared Ku-Jon, flashing a signet ring impatiently.

The Chamberlain checked the name and then stepped aside with a bow. Ku-Jon and his 'footman' continued onwards.

"It seems that raid was good for something," grumbled Kargon as he pushed over a child at the edge of the dancefloor.

"There was nothing wrong with those pilchards."

Kargon stepped over the crying kid. "What kind of scurvy son-of-a-whore noble travels with pilchards?"

"It was good practice for the men."

"They have more challenge pissing in a pot!" Kargon grabbed a goblet of wine from the nearest Duchess.

"Before you go completely deep cover, care to give me the shipping forecast?"

They paused on the edge of the dancefloor, between the buffet tables and the minstrel stage. And as Kargon lifted the goblet to his lips he glared over the rim, his eyes glazing slightly. Ku-Jon stood to one side, returning the earlier favour by maintaining total silence as Kargon attuned himself to the room.

Two guards... they step past the buffet tables on the left, halting as a drunkard falls, the cheese-plate scattering. They pick him up...

The captain of the watch... he dresses covertly, his eyes ever watching, arms folded as he moves between the pillars. He is on the right of the dancefloor. He moves to the throne and passes words with the custodians...

A halberdier, by the far promenade.... he passes the archway, stares into the hall, eyes lingering on the buxom ladies... then he looks out again, to the gardens...

The Royal Mage... his senses sharp, four chairs down from the king... always watching... but then a child runs up... begs for a trick.... the old man smiles and appeases... a frog leaps from the boy's pocket and a Countess screams... the other guards look on...

Had there been any in the Grand Hall with a sense of the Nether-realms, they may have seen it: the ragged shade that moved beyond Kargon and out across the room, occupying the seconds beyond this one. The Cast Soul rode upon the wave of future events, mapping the movements that would come until the wave broke and it faded out once more.

Kargon shivered slightly and drank deeply from his goblet.

"Twenty seconds, Cap'n, then we move for the princess. I've got ye a path."


If Oralia had been sneaking drinks at any previous parties, she didn't admit a word of it! She only wore that deviously innocent smile and shrugged her shoulders.

"I'd like to try the champagne. Or the red wine. Hmm, but not the beers. You can keep those to yourself!" Oralia twirled herself under his arm before taking her place again. Flashing a sudden haughty smile. "I don't think beautiful women much like the smell of beer, don't you think? Since you mentioned meeting potential mates, maybe you could rescue a peasant woman and make her dreams come true. Have brother and sisters for me?" He so often refused, and she didn't mind it a bit. Consider her spoiled, but she did enjoy being the only woman in his life!
Musical theme in Spoiler

As Oralia and her father laughed, Steve rose as if by an unknown signal and approached the king, the air grew uncomfortably hot around the mage, his eyes blazed like hot coals as he raised a single hand towards the king.
"By Council decree, your contract is void, Abderdan" his tone turned darker, as smoke began to exude from his body "and the penalty be paid in fire!"

It was as if, with one word the king collapsed to his knees in agony, his skin bubbled like a boiling pot, and as they burst his blood was slowly showered onto everyone nearby. Flames licked up from his wounds, singing his clothes and adding to the sickening smell of burning flesh, and before long he lay on the ground naked and flayed by fire.

With one last fearful gaze to his daughter his eyes exploded in their sockets, showering her with burning gore, he writhed and wailed as his flesh slowly boiled, layer by layer until at last he was at last still, though barely more than a blackened skeleton at this point, even that slowly collapsed into ash. Leaving nothing behind but a great stain of boiled blood and gore, everyone in the hall that had not initially fled simply stared in disbelief, their minds refusing to accept the events that had just occurred before them.

one such person was Oralia, she knelt by the bloody ash pile that was once her father, the king, covered in blood spatter and half burnt gore. Steve Knelt next to her saying "Aww, did I bring up some daddy Issues?"

"MOTHER OF HELL!" spat Kargon, flinging away his drink as the acrid stench flooded the room. Guests were scattering, parting like horrified waters around the two pirates and the mesmerised guards. The buffet table nearest them was tipped over in the panic, food and ornaments littering the floor. His hand grabbed instinctively at the empty space where his sword should have been.

WOULD have been, if the Captain hadn't insisted on this ridiculous plan.

"What are we doing?" he barked, glancing at Ku-Jon as the space around them opened up to reveal the princess, her father's remains, the hesitating guards and the kneeling assassin, like rocks amid receding waters. "Cap'n..."

His Cast Soul was pulling against his will. The dark spirit tried to move behind him, back into the seconds before this one, to relive the moment, to wallow again in the screams of the burning king. Kargon's senses almost followed and pain drove like a blade through his brain. The big man clutched his head and fought against it. "CAPTAIN!" he yelled.


Seeming to have gained a second wind, Zagara was following gamely behind his elf compatriot, and seemed incredibly alert. Taking to the wall while pushing Prestadeth back behind him on instinct, Zagara held his breath as two individuals burst past them in what looked like to be an oddity of logic. A very large man, cursing, while trying to put on a coat that seemed a few sizes too small, and another who was dressed in finery, walked with a regal step, but still just didn't seem like the type.

Watching them pass by, his eyes stopped spinning for a moment, and the light they cast dimmed completely as he seemed to be deep in thought. Seconds later, his eyes began glowing with a pale Viridian light. "No... I think we should follow those two... something in my mind prods me to think that they're not guests, and they smell like the air..." Zagara said cryptically, as he slowly took a step forward, and motioned for Prestadeth to follow. "You've no reason to trust me, but I'm going in their direction..."

Following far enough behind for Zagara to believe he was being stealthy, he soon saw the halls weave into a finer style of craft, and noted that he wasn't below anymore... he was now on the main floor of the castle, and things would be more dangerous due to the guards he knew would be patrolling for the party. Drawing his hood over his head, Zagara turned behind him to see Prestadeth had followed.

"You're ears will give us away like a blood stain on clothes of a Man of the Cloth." He said plainly, and looked around. Seeing a thin curtain of silk, he grabbed it, and tore it from the walls, then handed it to Prestadeth. "Wrap yourself up, and try to look rich. We're going for some Snobbery."

As they entered the grand hall, from the west, Zagara noted a man dressed in red, with a ridiculous hat, and a woman dancing with an elderly gentlemen in the middle of the hall. The rest of the occupants were what they were... Nobles... but those three stood out to him.

He then felt a sharp pain in his mind, and threw his arm out before him "No! NOT THE MAGIC!" He yelled as if in a crazed frenzy, and was unaware of himself until the King was lit ablaze. The smell almost made him wrench his stomach, and forced him to bring a hand to his face to cover his nose and mouth. "Dear god..." He murmured in disbelief.

His spinning, glowing eyes moved from the king's corpse, to Oralia, and then to Steve. As his eyes landed on the assassin, he clenched his teeth, and yelled out in a murderous howl "MAGI!"

Steve turned with preternatural speed, Bright orange flames leaving a long trail as he enacted the motions of his next spell. That creatures that had called him out was an Anathema to nature and magic as he knew it. The smoke around him thickened to the point where all that could be seen was his silhouette, and twin trails of bright flame. He called the inner fire from within his soul, as everyone taught at the Citadel of Fahm, to fan those flames through sheer will, and then release them. As a Cousland of the Second Caste, The flames within his soul were more a nigh unquenchable wildfire.

His hands suddenly stopped, and that's when everything went to hell.

Steve lashed out in full fury, now uncaring about any bystanders, they'd either move out of his way or die, and most it seemed chose the latter. he loosed his flames, a dozen birds, the size of an eagle, made of pure flame shot out of the smoke cloud, clearing it around his face and torso, where his eyes now burned like twin suns. Each eagle tore through the crowd, and the surrounding areas of the castle like paper, and left several guests injured or dead, before they closed on their target, Zagara.
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