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

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On her knees, the sounds of horrified screaming barely heard as Oralia stared silent and stunned at the charred body laying before her. Flesh still smoldered. Grey smoke wafting up in to the air carrying with it the foul stench of burned cloth and skin. Her hands that were previously frozen in position from dancing were now moving slowly. One brushing against her cheek, smearing droplets of blood across her face as she tried to wipe it away. The other was reaching slowly towards her father, stopping only a fraction away from the remains before she snatched it right back.

Only now did those muttered words near her ear register as she turned wide, tear filled eyes to the man kneeling next to her. The man with the red hat. The man that only moments ago had given her a gift and she promised a dance to. Her father dead on the floor, murdered by this same man.

He turned away, lashing out at someone else. Oralia scooted backwards on the floor, a choked sob escaping her. Far enough from the body, she jumped up to her feet. There were no words or even thoughts in her head. Just fear. Without any sense of direction or where she was headed, Oralia ran!
When Prestadeth was suddenly snatched and pressed between a wall and Zagara, her first instinct was to retaliate with a quick jab to his spine; however, such thoughts died quickly when she heard voices from ahead.

And for the second time today, Prestadeth's senses were overrun by a presence that made her skin crawl. The elf slowed her breathing and heart rate to near silence, a skill she was well practiced at, and peered around the taller man's shoulder to spy a glance of the two who passed. She knew the first for what he was by his scent, and the second. . . She did not know what it was about this human that made her guts freeze, but she was starting to spot a trend in this kingdom.

Prestadeth felt relief wash over her when the two were gone, glad that they could proceed unhindered. She nearly choked on her own tongue when Zagara declared he would follow the two, and started off down the hall.

This human was insane! They were nearly free, and he wanted to jump head first back into danger. She should leave him, she wanted to leave him, she would have left him- if she could find her way out of this territory, and safe passage home. But she doubted that would happen. Her kind were treated with hostility here, and she doubted she would find anyone else who could help her. Not that Zagara was doing that, at the moment, but he was still the best chance she had. She would never admit to needing help from a human, and had hoped where bargaining could not get her with him, intimidation would.

But now, he was walking alone into a lion’s den and there was no way he could handle that by himself. Muttering a few choice curses, Prestadeth easily caught up to the retreating mage, her pride smarting slightly.

Are you out of your aether-addled-mind?” Prestadeth hissed.

Zagara’s only reply was to look her up and down. "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."

Prestadeth took the dusty curtain, and held it all the while staring at Zagara as if he’d sprouted wings and proclaimed himself the Queen of the Nether Realm.

I’ll stand out?” Prestadeth let the thick fabric fall to the stone floor. “And I suppose human nobility frequently attend parties dressed as a poor mage and stinking of a dungeon.” The elf followed the mage into the grand hall, not bothering to cover herself, because it would only be a matter of seconds before they found out and attacked. Prestadeth didn’t want some dirty piece of cloth getting in the way of her breaking some hapless guard’s neck.

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!"

Prestadeth hated being right.

Out of the pan and into the fire.

Prestadeth dove away from Zagara before she was struck by one of the fiery birds, and rolled across the floor, behind the cover of a heavy table. Her eyes darted about the room, taking stock of her surroundings, trying to formulate a plan. If she had anything to say about it, they would not be sticking around here long to play magic fight.

But now they had the attention of a powerful, murderous mage and that was far more troublesome than the guards. Zagara and the mage were currently throwing spells back and forth at each other, and Prestadeth hoped her temporary ally would be able to keep him occupied long enough for her to act.

They didn’t have to defeat this mage, but they would have to distract him long enough to beat a hasty retreat, and once they were outside, there would be swarms of guards, soldiers and mages ready to attack the murderers of their king.

Somehow, Prestadeth didn’t think they would be able to get past them with a simple, “oh hey, we were breaking out of your dungeon, but the guy you want is over there.” They would need some sort of bargaining chip.

Prestadeth’s eyes locked on to the form of a finely dressed girl, currently shuffling to her feet and running like a frightened doe. At least her survival instinct was good.

Prestadeth's line of sight moved to the far right of the girl, then to the mage, who was still occupied with Zagara.

Inhale . . .

Prestadeth was a blur darting across the floor, weaving in and out of sight so quickly that one would have to possess extraordinary sight just to catch a glimpse of her.

Exhale. . .

From behind the princess, a pair of feminine hands shot out, one hand clamping over her mouth, the other pulling her up by the shoulder with inhuman speed and strength. The princess was quickly pulled backwards, and pressed against a female body, before her surroundings began to blur.

When the princess blinked again, she was near the entry way to the great hall, and the hand over her mouth slipped away-only to be replaced by a sharp pinch at the base of her spine. In an instant, the dart’s poison worked its way through her body, making her limbs numb and heavy-immovable. She was paralyzed for the moment, but still conscious.

Prestadeth slung the princess over her shoulder like a sack of dainty potatoes and then growled to Zagara.

“Finish it already, and let’s flee!”

Seeing the Mage call to life a spell of great power, Zagara regained his senses, and saw the immediate danger that flew in a flock towards him. The spell he should have casted failed to be called to his mind, and his mind, and arms worked with instinct. Slowly he circled his arms in wide paths. The air around him lit ablaze, and sucked the oxygen from the air around him leaving it blurry. The hall cracked with raw magic as it seemed to pour straight into Zagara setting his eyes aflame. Their light radiated inside the hall for a moment blinding the occupants...


Zagara screamed hauntingly, and then slammed his palms together creating a spark of fire. The spark ignited on the oxygen, and spiraled forward into the flaming projectiles burning their fire with more fire. The vortex of flame seemed a being of absolute rage as it pulverized the eagles into ash, and continued forward.

"MAGI!" Zagara yelled once more, and pushed his hands forward adding to the speed, and power of his spell. As the spiraling beam of flame neared Steve he could see faces moving in between it. Five faces... a young human woman, an elf male, two small human girls, and an elderly looking human man. Their mouths opened in a hungered expression as they neared, and then....

The force slammed into Steve's chest lifting him up off his feet, and carried him into the air towards the wall. The force of the man being slammed into the rock was deafening, and left the Hall's occupants blinded by dust as the man disappeared from their sight leaving only an open hole with the view of the skies beyond the continents edge where the castle was perched.

Amidst the settling dust, Zagara had collapsed to the ground in a wheezing mess. He struggled to catch his breath, and his body wracked with coughing fits whenever he did catch his breath.
Steve was certain that if the spell rocketing towards him were to connect, He'd be obliterated. Fortunately back when he was but a First Caste Magi, his tutor had drilled into him protections against magic, before they were taught anything else. It had to be reflex, as natural as breathing, to guard oneself from magic of all kinds. Steve was no exception to this rule and as Zagara Launched his spell Steve immediately raised his defenses. The spell took the blast admirably, but still sent Steve flying. The wall shattered before his shield and then faded, as he flew through the air he began the motions of his final spell for the night, The Great Phoenix. To those watching he was engulfed in a great ball of fire, which then slowed to a stop, before reshaping itself, growing wings, feet, tail feathers and a beaked head. The Phoenix took flight and departed the castle, to be left to the horror it's master had rendered.
Silence cascaded upon Ku-Jon's mind like the crushing oblivion of Nocta Syr. Barely moments into the party and a serpent had struck the back of the lion. Ashes and fireworks, dust and treachery. Steadying a hand on a line-swathed table, Ku-Jon fought a sense of familiar vertigo. The aura from this man was the was so similar to the predecessors of the past. Even without the vestments of office, Ku-Jon could smell the Magi upon him. It was a scent sick with corruption and rot, trailing over Ku-Jon like the claws of a troll...thick and unwieldy. Even the cries of Kargon faded to a distant pound in his ears. Transfixed, he could no more move then think.

The roar of "Magi" broke the spell and suddenly he was locked in the present once more. Screams offended his sensitive ears and the mixing scents of fear and merriment played havoc with his nostrils. Turning to Kargon, the captain brought up his hand sharply across the mans face. Nearly knocked sprawling, Kargon was at least briefly shocked from his inner turmoil.

The captain only needed that brevity.

"We have our diversion!"
The captain roared at Kargon, spinning him around and back toward the door. "Let us be out before we're trampled!" A heavy hand on the trembling mate's back, Ku-Jon pushed his companion back the way they'd come. Wading through the tide of coursing guests, the guards were too stunned to stop them. None dared approach a Magi of Steve's strength and without a King, their resolve wavered. In an instant a successful monarchy had been consumed by Magi intervention. The captain had no time to think of circumstances or ramifications, only the chaos of the throng.

Feeling heat at the back of his neck, Ku-Jon pushed Kargon to the ground ahead of him as an eagle narrowly skirted above his immense frame, talons barely catching his fine shirt aflame. Scrambling forward, caution abandoned in the wake of such chaos, both pirates did not notice the elf taking their intended prey. Ku-Jon was only acutely aware of the air currents, the smells, and the sounds all swirling behind him and around the stranger howling for the Magi. But what fool faced a Magi unless another Magi?

It was familiarity which turned his head back toward the duel, a supernatural sense of recognition drawing dark eyes to the rising flame Zagara had generated. Amid those twisting tongues there loomed five figures, phantoms flickering inside the blaze. To any normal human eye, it was merely fire...but Ku-Jon was no mere human...and the back of one figure was...

Perhaps coincidence and perhaps no creature could tell the identity of someone from their ghostly flaming back, but Ku-Jon knew. In an instant she was gone, a fiery phoenix sailing into the misty night from a hole carved in the cieling, but there was no doubt in Ku-Jon's mind.

"Cap'n!" Kargon roared, bringing the pirate sharply to his senses. Ku-Jon nodded to his first mate, ducking back into the crowd despite the first mate's confused roar. Ducking through the swirling dust, he placed to rough hands around the mage's waist and lifted him onto his own shoulder. Beneath his skin, muscles twitched and throbbed, begging for release. Unwilling to tip his trump so soon, Ku-Jon bit back transformation and started through the crowd toward Kargon.

"Who.." the mage coughed on his shoulder, his face pale with rock dust.

"We share a common enemy,"
Ku-Jon snarled above the din of panic, "And you're one for the noose if you remain." While not the entire reason, at least he wasn't lying.

Kargon did not object, knowing well that the time for questions would be when they were all safe aboard the Tourniquet and safely in the Low realms again. Ku-Jon offered him no words, pushing against the living tide too dumb with fear to detain the apostate. Like Kargon, Ku-Jon knew that there was no longer time for discussion or debate, simply action and reaction. Within the hour and perhaps less, the guards would recover from their chaos and begin to restore order. The Tourniquet must be long gone within that time and with luck, far from the minds of the frightened witnesses.

Summary: Ku-Jon grabs Zagara, recognizing someone in that spell he they make way for The Tourniquet.

((If someone is handling our departure and the end of this chapter, I only ask that Ku-Jon do as he wanted and channel his Air magic through the gem, creating a storm around the castle to allow them unfettered escape back to the Low Realms.))

A sharp pain at her back was all Oralia could feel as she struggled to try and move her frozen limbs. Upside down and over a woman's shoulder, her attempts at screaming were only coming out as soft squeaks. Making the matter all the more confusing, she had no idea if she were being kidnapped or rescued! From her perch, she had an upside down view of an impressive display. Magic cast against her father's murderer, but the red hat man obviously had a great deal of power of his own!

Squeezing her eyes shut, she was able to at least shift her arms and curl her fingers in to the back of the woman's clothes, but still couldn't find the will to struggle. Nor could she decide if it were the best idea. They were going to escape this place, and right that moment she wanted nothing more than to get away from there too!

Zagara found himself lifted onto the shoulders of a man... the same man who'd been leading another when they'd entered the castle from the lower levels. His head felt as if it were being split open from the inside, and his skin was covered with sweat, letting the dust from the walls cake on his skin.

He looked like he'd dragged himself from hell, and may very well have after putting that much energy into his spell."Noose... enemy?" he managed to mumble out before his stomach was instantly relieved of it's contents onto the floor, and possibly Ku-Jon's shoes as well as the tail of his coat. "Augh...." the mage groaned as the event did little to calm the twisting, and turning of his stomach, nor the headache that pounded within his skull.

"Air... I need air..." was all he was able to say before his body went limp as he passed out. His mind then drifted to something long forgotten... Sleep. He hadn't had sleep in a long time. It had simply been a passing of the hours when his body rested, but the mind... his mind continued it's constant wandering... it's constant questioning. Searching for answers to questions he hadn't asked, and didn't know...

But for now... Zagara slept as peacefully as could be in a long time.

A strong, and apparently close by voice called out amidst the chaos of the Grand Hall. "You've no where to run, murders! I will see you all aloft in the air until your limbs grow cold, and wither off your bodies!" The man was stood in the main entrance with his hand gripping a longsword that was strapped to his belt.

The blade itself was unremarkable as was the man's attire... however he wore one single item of distinction... a black eyepatch. Only one man in the King's entire army bore such a memento of battle. Sindar The Tempest. King Aberdan's most trusted, and battle proven general. The leader of His Majesty's entire military.

He was known to be a very formidable warrior who had trained extensively with all the weapons employed by the army... be it sword, spear, mace, bow, or axe... Sindar wielded them like a nightmare of war. "Men, bring them to me alive! Do not grant them the afterlife in haste!" He commanded as four armed, and very aggressive soldiers charged into the Hall towards Ku-Jon, Kargon, and Zagara.

"The Mage will die by fire as he doomed our King..." Sindar as he then slowly drew his sword, and began walking towards them allowing his men to clear the path of civilians with shoves as they charged.


Ku-Jon had hesitated to check the vomit on his boots, then again when the Honour Guard arrived. But a shove from his First Mate spurred him onwards.

"Keep moving!" roared Kargon as he overtook his captain and charged off at an angle, picking up one of the overturned buffet tables. With a snarl he heaved it and brought it square to the charging soldiers. All four collided with the wood, momentarily bracing before Kargon's strength and momentum won out. They were sent toppling backwards with the pirate rolling over them and landing in a heap nearby.

"Ugh, my back!" he muttered as he tried to get up again. One of the soldiers had already recovered and was driving the pommel of his sword towards him. Kargon caught the wrist and his other hand shot out instinctively, gripping the crotch of his enemy. There was a growl then a yelp, but Kargon kept his hold and reclaimed his footing, lifting the man by the arm and groin and body-slamming him onto the next table. "Cover your balls, Son. First rule of..."

He didn't have time to finish the line. Grabbing a plate of appetisers, he slapped the face of the next soldier, rolling along the edge of table to avoid his sword swings. His hand grabbed whatever it could find, eventually picking up a roasted chicken and driving it into the second soldier's face. The opponent stumbled away and Kargon took a bite of the chicken, thinking this might be his only opportunity. Then he dropped it and grabbed a tankard of ale.

"Come on ye bastards!" he punched with the tankard, shattering it on the breastplate of the next soldier. Then he rolled over the table as the fourth man, an axe-wielder, cleared the contents of the buffet with a furious swing. Kargon ended up on the floor near the wall. "Hellfire!"

He got up as quickly as he could and pulled out the nearest curtain, wrapping it around the charging axe wielder and relieving him of his weapon. "AHA!" he roared as he lifted his prize, then "Shit!" as he saw the other three soldiers coming towards him, one with chicken-fat on his face, one covered in ale, and a third clutching his balls.

"Er... catch!" He tossed the axe to the first soldier, who caught it instinctively, then Kargon rugby-tackled him at full speed, lifting him up and barrelling him through his two friends. They tripped over the original buffet table and landed in another heap. "Uuuugh, my front!" he moaned.

His head splits open, the skull shattered by the force of the blow, brains and blood spilling out to join the rubble...

The warning from his Cast Soul came just in time. Kargon rolled as the buffet table was cleaved in two by a single strike. Sindar was standing over him, his stride unbroken. Kargon scrambled backwards on all fours as the Templar chopped the table-legs to pieces around him, each swing falling inches from his face.

Thank the gods for impeded depth-perception, Kargon thought, though in less eloquent terms.

He tried to scramble to his feet again, but a swift kick from Sindar sent him flat on his face. "Aagh!" He grabbed a buffet fork, waited a moment, then twisted and brought it into the Templar's ankle.

It didn't even penetrate the fabric of his foot. Sindar's second kick caught Kargon full in the face and sprawled him on his back. His mouth was filled with blood, one of his own teeth sliding down his throat and almost choking him.

Sindar's sword was beneath his jaw. "Yield." was all the Templar said.

"Cha... chan..." Kargon muttered as he spat blood.

Sindar stooped a little as he tried to make out what the pirate was saying.

"Chand... cha..."

"Your spells will not save you," Sindar said as he reached for a pair of mannacles, keeping the blade against Kargon's throat.


There was a snap above them and Sindar's gaze shot upwards, just as one of the chandeliers of the Great Hall, burning from the mage-fire, gave way and plummetted towards the floor. Kargon slapped the Templar's sword away and rolled, a second before Sindar himself leapt back. The chandelier crashed between them, candles and cast-iron fittings shattering apart.

Ku-Jon and Zagara were already through the main archway, joined with the other fleeing guests, and Kargon scrambled after them, limping and bitching with his injuries. "Wait.... WAIT FOR ME!!"

When Prestadeth became a Guardian, she watched every man, searching for familiar lines and eyes-trying to find her father’s face in them. She didn’t expect him to approach her.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

“You’re too hotheaded,” he stated, one large, callused hand clutching the wrist that held her sword, his other balled into a fist and slammed into her face, sending blood flying.<o:p></o:p>
Prestadeth fell to the ground in a heap, blinded by tears and blood, her shoulders shaking in anger. After a moment, she was able to glare up at her father, one hand covering her bleeding mouth. He regarded her for a moment, his expression unreadable.<o:p></o:p>

“A sword does not benefit you, you charge into battle without thinking,” he removed a small leather sheath from around his waist. “Perhaps a smaller blade will ease that black temper of yours,” he held the sheathed dagger out to her. Prestadeth hesitated for a moment, before taking it.<o:p></o:p>
“It is called Cúhigil and it has saved me many times. It is no mere dagger, child. Keep it close.”<o:p></o:p>

Blood still pouring from her mouth, Prestadeth clutched Cúhigil with her free hand.<o:p></o:p>
“It was never my wish to have you share in this life, but you are here, and I cannot control your destiny, any more than my own,” he continued. “You have a darkness in you, child, and if you do not step carefully, it will consume you.”<o:p></o:p>
“When I return from the killing field, I will show you how to use Cúhigil.“<o:p></o:p>

But he did not come back, and Prestadeth was again alone.<o:p></o:p>

. . . Until she saw his face again in the swirling mass of magic. For a moment, Prestadeth was dumbstruck, all she could do was stare as Zagara was hoisted up by the stranger and taken away.


Prestadeth quickly snapped back to her senses, and in the next second she was at Ku-Jon’s heels, easily keeping pace with him, despite having a girl slung over her shoulder. It was a good thing she weighed next to nothing, and was so small, or else she might have been too unwieldy for the elf to carry and run at the same time.
She barely acknowledged Sindar or his Templars, they were being soundly beaten by another man, anyway. At the moment, all Prestadeth cared about was getting out of this castle, and staying with Zagara.

Prestadeth fully intended on retrieving him from the lycan and beating some answers out of him, as soon as she was able.
In all the years Ku-Jon had known Kargon, there was rarely a time he questioned the mans judgment. So when his first mate dropped back to deal with the castle guards, Ku-Jon continued on. Confidence was a rare commodity in the Low Realms. Where lives were lost or traded like the ore pulled from the ground, few could believe in any more than misery. For the pirates of the Tourniquet however, confidence was the saving line holding them together. "Leave No Man Behind," while noble, the phrase was too expensive for the Low Landers. When pressed with overwhelming odds, to make a stand for sake of a comrade could be to forfeit both lives. Thus no man on board questioned a cry to continue. In bygone days, Ku-Jon and Kargon had traded off the role of flank guard a hundred times. Even in the blackest of situations, neither man doubted the other would be swift on his heels if he turned around. It was a familiar comfort to so confidently trust someone again and Ku-Jon sped forward all the faster. The muttering mage bounced on the captain's shoulder as he leaped over tables and pivoted around chairs. Each move was a frenzied gambit, sharp edges battering softer sides and jarring bones as both Prestadeth and Ku-Jon made their way to the entrance.

Beyond, men and women vanished into the creeping mist. Ku-Jon skidded to a halt just within the roiling vapor and swept his head up. Descending from the smoky blanket came the belly of a battered ship. The captain recognized familiar scars and pitted furrows where both magic and steel and torn at wood and nail. Neither succeeded and still she flew with the saucy energy of her maiden journey. Glancing back to his battered comrade, only a look passed between the elf and he. It had been years since Ku-Jon had laid eyes on the willowy folk but it was not her head that drew his gaze. The slumped princess Oralia lay limp on her shoulder, breathing lightly but obviously subdued. He offered only a grin, the only invitation she needed to board his beloved Tourniquet and turned to the sound of a thump as a ladder of knotted rope and wood was thrown at his feet.

Hand over hand they ascended the ladder, Kargon croaking his curses and spitting blood with his usual joviality. The elf was silent however, no more then a thin shadow burdened with a guarantee the Tourniquet would come to no harm. Hauling the mage over the deck first, Ku-Jon hurtled up to grab a crossbow from a grim crewmate's hands.

Behind Kargon came the cavalry.

Sindar led, his regal thread glinting by the waning flames of the Great Hall. Five men followed, heartened from inaction by the decisive stride of their leader. With Kargon limping, pursuit had been easy. As the heavy man struggled up the ladder, Sindar poised beneath him. A far more nimble creature, the templar grasped hold of the rising ladder with one hand and swung his lithe body upwards and slashed at Kargon's back. The first mate roared as sword parted flesh and fabric, kicking down to dislodge his persistant foe. Sindar was quicker however, dropping just low enough to avoid the flailing leg.

"KARGON!" Ku-Jon roared from the deck, leveling the crossbow downwards. By this time, the elf had made the rail and threw herself and her quarry away from the captain's attack. Sindar perceived his threat in an instant, raising his sword to ward the deadly bolt.

But Ku-Jon was no marksman...and Kargon knew it.

Letting the ladder fall from his sweaty grasp, all the hefty weight of Kargon smashed into Sindar from above and knocked the man askew. His favored sword flew from his bruised grasp into the waiting night and Sindar shortly followed it, twisting even as he fell to avoid a fatal impact. Vanishing into the mist, Kargon growled a gargled insult after him, one hand surely holding the end of the ladder.

"Quite a celebration," Ku-Jon said as he helped Kargon onto the deck, "But I do believe you're ruined your outfit."

"Next time cover yer own arse,"
Kargon spit as he ripped the garb from his chest, "Yer addle minded plan nearly had us in the gallows!"

"How was I to know the Magi planned a coup for a birthday party?"
Ku-Jon protested innocently, throwing out his arms "And why didn't your damned Castsoul warn us ahead of time?"

The few crew free from setting course of the ship away from the castle surrounded Prestadeth, the Princess, and Zagara. Grim faces marred with blood menaced the three stranges as each of the eight men pulled weapons and tightened the circle. Letting the Princess drop with as much care as she was able, Prestadeth quickly drew her curved dagger, eyes cycling around each opponent as they backed her against the rail of the ship.

"For the last time, it aint an oracle! Ye told me to watch the guards, not the king!"
Wincing in pain from the wound on his back, Kargon heavily sat upon the warped wood and leaned against the rail. "You always had a troll's luck cap'n," he said with a sigh, one hand touching his back and coming away wet, "We best hope the purple bellied Sindar didn't get a good gander at me."

Zagara stirred on the deck, but only briefly. Wracked with coughing he soon succumbed to silence once more.

"Had a run in with a templar?"
Ku-Jon asked incredulously, "What sort of lunacy have you been doing in my absence?"

"Times were tough Cap'n," Kargon shrugged, "We did what we could to survive." With another glance at the blood soaked hand, Kargon groaned. "We can talk after ye've sewed up me back. Sindar is a cross-eyed pisspot, but he can swing that damn sword o his."

Seeming just to notice the condition of his first mate, Ku-Jon dropped the crossbow and turned toward the crew. "Look alive dogs! First Mate needs a medic!" Lowering a blade, one of the men around Prestadeth stepped out and was quickly replaced by the tightening circle of blades. Helping the woozy pirate to his feet, the two descended beyond view.

Stepping between the men, Ku-Jon shoved the pirates away from the elf. "Blades away men, I'll not have the blood of such a guest spilled on my deck. Least not after she brought us such a valuable gift."

Prestadeth narrowed her eyes, slits of venom as she poised over the princess. "She's mine."

Ku-Jon grimaced, blades whispering as the crew drew their swords once more. "You're on my ship now elf, and it would not be so hard to throw you overboard."

Prestadeth smiled mirthlessly, holding the dagger out and body crouched. "You can certainly try."

Chin captured with his hand, Ku-Jon evaluated his options. "Fine, keep the girl your prisoner for now...unless you have wings tucked somewhere 'neath your skin I doubt ye'll be leaving." Nodding at a man to take Zagara, Prestadeth only followed the dragged mage's form for a moment before returning to Ku-Jon's level gaze. "So long as ye won't be using that pretty knife of yours on my crew or myself, I see no reason to shed needless blood."

"Am I a prisoner then?" The elf asked, her voice a cold threat within the shrieking wind.

Ku-Jon turned from her and waved his men to follow, traveling toward his quarters at a saunter. "A passenger," he answered without turning, "And ye best be thinking about how you'll pay us for your passage." The slam of a wooden door cut off her response and Ku-Jon took a seat in the middle of the room. The crew waited for the door to shut before grinning, each man pulling a drawstring bag from among their unkempt clothes and jangling the sound of coin and gem.

"A good haul Cap'n,"
one man, Sharty, said with a gap toothed smile, "Our hull is filled with silk and gems from the High realm and..." at this he shook the bag emphatically, "A little gift of coin from the coffers of Lady Elanore and the proud Castigation."

"How thoughtful," Ku-Jon grinned, "We'll have to spread word of her generosity...but what of the gem?"

"Here Cap'n," wheezed Rascol, an older member of the crew with his left eye cast in wood, "It was hard to find it was, but a pirate always finds a treasure." He held up a smooth blue orb about the size of a human heart and Ku-Jon gingerly took it from him. The raw magic sizzled within the nearly flawless gem and Ku-Jon could feel the radiation of this legendary item. Only one spot on the bauble was rough, a small sliver cut into its otherwise perfect shape...a small matter certainly, but troubling. Could a shard of the gem hold the same abilities and if so, where was it?

"Lights to starboard!"
Came a muffled cry from beyond the room, "The navy comes!"

"Back to stations," Ku-Jon ordered curtly, grasping the orb in his palm. "We make for the Low Realms!" Scattering away from the captain, the men left Ku-Jon seated cross legged on the floor of his quarters.

Extending his mind and influence into the gem, it was hard not to be lost within the swirling potency of its magnitude. Certainly no aeromancer could even summon half the force contained within this single item...a powerful tool to leave so relatively unprotected. Beyond the Tourniquet clouds darkened and gathered with the speed of locusts, filling the sky with the angry retort of thunder and the twisting fingers of lightning. As the storm began to brew, Ku-Jon hurled off his clothes, body already shifting into that of the beast. He could feel the power beyond his room of wood and stone calling to him, communicating with the wrath of the monster within him. Forcing the thoughts away, Ku-Jon bent his mind into the storm. No simple squall would do, nor menial tempest. Ripping from the heavens, a maelstrum was given birth in a torrent of destruction. Sailing smoothly within the center of the storm, the crew of the Tourniquet could only watch as the faster navy pursuers were hurled toward earth as timber and tiny bodies.

The magic flowing through his body, Ku-Jon was concentrating too hard to feel the sharp twist of pain from his chest. Beneath his skin, the tendril of a vine burrowed deep within his body, spreading roots and influence throughout his system. Fed on the magic of both himself and the orb, the geomancy curse imbued in all Nocta Syr residents began to slowly...but surely...kill its host.

Summary: On the ship, templar deferred...Kargon and Zagara taken for medical attention, Prestadeth allowed to keep watch and ownership of princess. Mission success, new blue gem makes big storms. Path set for Low realms and Ku-Jon's curse is growing.
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