Bravely brave Sir Keegan rode forth to kill a lot...

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Kai
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Bravely brave Sir Keegan rode forth to kill a lot...

Unread postby Kai » Sat Oct 11, 2008 2:30 pm

After the party's rather odd negotiation with the spectral remains of Sir Keegan, Kestrel was happy to take a bit of a rest with the others in the abandoned armory they'd found earlier. She was a bit worn, but others in the group were much worse for wear than she was. It was certainly appropriate to stop and rest until they felt they would be better able to contribute for the next leg of the journey.

It was helpful in cases like these that Kestrel did not properly sleep as most mortal creatures on this plane did. It meant that she could give humans and half-humans greater opportunity to rest without needing to take watch. This little squad was odd, though, in that they had a warforged and another eladrin with them. It meant that there was much less responsibility on Kestrel to ensure that the others could sleep safely.

This room was an excellent location, though. For all its lack of comfortable amenities, Kestrel appreciated being hidden behind the illusory wall that had shielded their enemies before. At need, she expected it to serve them at least as well as the undead creatures that had attacked them earlier. It had been an usual battle. But this whole day was shaping up to be rather unusual. The presence of her cousin was a continual reminder that she was not of this world, and that she could not stay here as long as she wished.

Still. This was a good place, despite being disconcertingly... inanimate. Kestrel was happy to have a part in protecting its people. If Shanti was any indication of the sort of civilians that could be found on this continent, it was well worth the risk. The girl had annoyed Kestrel a great deal at first with her seeming unwillingness to fight for herself and her allies, but the young wizard had hit her stride quickly enough. She seemed to be coming into her own as a mage and a warrior, which was a pleasing thing to watch.

By contrast, Ardam was merely confusing. Admirable, but confusing. He seemed constantly on the verge of doing some utterly mad thing, but Kestrel felt certain that the cleric would always have an appropriate justification for it. Her cousin's reasoning was often much less clear.

As Kestrel took off pieces of her armor to clean undead filth and her own blood from the leather plates, she considered his odd behavior in the last day or so. His loyalty as part of the squad had been a pressing question at first, particularly given the manner in which he approached them.

However, she and Merlin had fought together several times, and while she certainly seemed to take more care for his safety than he for hers, it was encouraging that he had not taken an opportunity to cut her down while she was busy with other foes. He was either softening in his resolve that his cousin and former friend had ruined his life, or he was merely becoming more cunning in the pursuit of whatever vengeance seemed appropriate. Or perhaps there were simply greater things to be dealt with than the matter of their family inheritance.

It was because of this that, despite Merlin's apparent change in attitude, Kestrel had not broached the subject with him. It was highly unlikely that they would need to sort the issue out now. He would think what he pleased, and it mattered little. If he wanted to believe she was a willing party of some vast family conspiracy to disinherit him, that was his privilege. He would simply be wrong.

But there was no need to discuss it. Her feelings on the matter were irrelevant, as were his. The decision had been made long ago, and if the two cousins could not discuss it when they were friends... it was certainly not going to happen now.

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Unread postby Raina » Sat Oct 11, 2008 3:01 pm

Shanti sits slumped up against the wall. She is exhausted yet happy. She sees the last battle in her mind's eye, feeling what it means to use her magic for its intended purpose, finding a bit of satisfaction there. Yes there are other ways to fight a battle, but not all have the intelligent mind that would allow them to fight her way. Shanti had never set out to become a warrior or an adventurer. It is just where fate seems to have taken her. She is falling into the role a bit more easily than she had thought possible and she wonders if this means she has a bit of a killer in her. But no, she is merely doing what is needed to make sure she and her friends come out alive. Surely that can't be so wrong.

Yet all this musing has happened in an instant and she barely notices it from the excitement. She has met Sir Keegan! She knows for sheer fact that his story is not just legend and song! Although her body is wearily resting, her mind is racing and the history buff within begins to surface. She pulls out a pen and parchment, quickly jotting down notes on what she has just seen and heard. Her account may be one of the only ones ever written. Perhaps the account will come to nothing, but then again it might be important to some scholar or another. The knowledge she has shouldn't be lost.

"I probably should be sleeping, but that was too exciting" she remarks to no one in particular.

Once finished, she puts her writings away with a satisfied smile. She can flesh out the details later. Glancing down at her clothes with disgust, she waves her hand and the worst of the gore vanishes. It wont last long, but at least she doesn't have to look at it for now.

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Unread postby Archmage » Sun Oct 12, 2008 12:07 am

Ardam sat down against the wall, wiping bits of gore off his sword. "Well," he remarked, "we got through that one okay! That was a bit close for comfort, Crusher. Be careful! Though I have to admit, that illusory wall was a nasty trick."

It had been a long day. At least it was pretty unlikely that anyone would bother the group in this room. So far the vast majority of the keep's inhabitants had been standing guard instead of actively patrolling for intruders. He doubted that the undead in this area had the intelligence to hunt them down. They had clearly been created only to defend a small space--hence the traps designed to alert undead to the presence of incoming enemies.

He was worried about Sir Keegan. True, there was little sense in worrying about someone who was already dead, but Sir Keegan was clearly tormented by the mistakes he'd made in life, and Ardam felt that he had a responsibility as a cleric of Avandra to comfort him. It wasn't his fault that he had been possessed and corrupted by Orcus. Sir Keegan had been enslaved by dark forces, and he could hardly be held responsible.

If coming into contact with the forces of Orcus could do that to Sir Keegan, Ardam thought, what if it happens to one of us?

The cleric shook his head, trying to clear the thought from his mind. That was precisely what the group had come here to prevent. They would surely be able to stop Orcus from coming into the world, no matter what. He would never permit some demonic force to trample all over the people who mattered to him.

Even if it cost him his life in the process.
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Unread postby Pendragon » Sun Oct 12, 2008 7:21 am

Since I can’t claim my birthright, I will be someone else.

So, I am Merlin Trask. Now that I find myself locked up in a room that smells like an old barracks with a ragtag bag of confused and fearful people, maybe it’s time to take stock.

Start with that Keegan being. That was a little weird.

All right, it was more than a little weird, it was really weird. Demi-bodied ghost dripping with protoplasm made to look like gore, I know for a fact it was all for show, he was trying to scare us. He sure wasn’t protecting that hoard, either he wanted us to leave him alone or he wanted to test us. Either way, I wasn’t about to give him . . . it . . . whatever, the satisfaction.

Her, either.

Even though he damn near scared the crap outta me.

Odd that he should have. I’ve been in such places before, there’s the Tower in the City that we built for the same purpose, other holes I found on the way here, and I’ve been in woods that harbor stranger things and never felt any of that. So, why . . . ?

Need to know that. Grapple with my own shadows so shades like that don’t turn me from my purpose. And the purpose these ragtags serve, that has value.

This time I held my ground. Even if the ghost knew I was scared, she didn’t. I’m not about to show her any weakness, she doesn’t need to think I deserve what she stole any less than her. And I got a nifty new sword for my trouble.

We’ll see if it was worth all this trouble.

Even though gates like that need to be sealed, I’m having second thoughts about all this. Came upon her in the woods, went along with them to find out why she wasn’t at home enjoying my wealth. And I find myself among . . . well. Ok, the cleric has a bit on the ball, can’t fault him, really, because I don’t have the background. And of course the oddball Forged is a good fighter. Wish I’d been well when he came across them (Gods! Stay away from the chicken!) so I could find out why he . . . well. He’s obviously got sense, he’s not just a doll or a gollum, so I could just ask him why he joined us. The wizard, though a female, is a halfling, and I don’t know what to expect from a female halfing. So I judge her by her pluck and her persistence. High marks there.

Then there’s her.

She fights. Not bad, for a female. Course, a man would be using a long sword, a brother might have earned the new one. She defends herself well, she’s survived this far. Judge her by her pluck or her persistence, she gets high marks too.

But I know what to expect of a female Elardin. And that ain’t it.

Can’t trust her.

Now then. Where do I rest? Wait til she lapses and move as far from her as possible. She may have no reason to hurt me, she’s already inherited, it’s already official.

But I can’t say I’ve no reason to hurt her.

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Unread postby Raina » Sun Oct 12, 2008 8:10 am

Adrenaline is still rushing through Shanti. She is tired but only just beginning to calm down. She hears Ardam's words and begins to chatter.
"That illusory wall was brilliant! Very well done, I never would have suspected a thing. And whoever animates the undead around here also does well, although it is sort of weird to be fighting those that should be the city watch. Then again, not much of this makes sense to me. Why am I here, trying to stop Orcus from entering our realm? Surely there must be someone better equipped for the task than a young hobbit mage! Then again, how many young hobbit mages are there? Do you think your deity set this up on purpose? We are an unusual group."
Realizing she is still rambling on, she makes a visible effort to shut up. She really is tired, even if it doesn't seem that way to any on lookers.

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Unread postby Pendragon » Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:46 am

Merlin sighs, regarding the halfling. "They say there's a reason for everything. 'N if we truly are the instruments of the gods, and if the gods can foresee far enough, then wouldn't they forge instruments suitable to the assigned task?"

His weary gaze shifts toward Kestrel. A brief, puzzled frown changes his features before he turns his face away.

"i'll be dozing for awhile, if noone minds."

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Unread postby Kai » Sun Oct 12, 2008 11:46 am

A tilt of Kestrel's head in her typical slanted nod was her reply to Merlin. "Do as you will." She could trance later when one of the others was awake to keep an eye the ranger.

Her reply to him was short, but the retired soldier was once again left silently chewing on her cousin's words. He had commented to Sir Keegan before that no one was beyond redemption. His statement was either telling or tremendously hypocritical from a man who could not forgive his cousin for being something other than he had once believed.

Though, to be fair, it was probably nearly as odd for Merlin to begin thinking of her as a woman as it was for her to do it herself. For many years Kestrel had been "he" or "him" to everyone, including "himself." And now there was this difference. Kestrel wasn't sure how much of it was uncertainty--which she did not expect Merlin dealt with well--and how much of it was real anger at her betrayal. Difficult to guess, and still more difficult to determine for certain. That would have required Kestrel and Merlin--what amounted to two men--to sit and have a long talk about their innermost feelings.

Would've been weird. Not going to happen.

Though she wished often there were some other way to let him know what she had planned. Things he didn't know. Things he deserved to know. If Kestrel were honest with herself, there was something else that mattered very much to her. They were things that might change his opinion of her. Perhaps if he truly believed that no one was beyond redemption, this would make a difference.

Then again, maybe not. If they were truly going to be fatalists about it--as Merlin seemed willing to do--then perhaps her parents' manipulation and her accompanying betrayal of her childhood friend was also part of some grand plan. If that were true the gods were no friends of hers, and even Kestrel's distant affection for Dol Dorn would not have survived. Ardam would have been scandalized to hear such a thing. The thought made the corner of her lips quirk in a brief suppressed smile.

No, the soldier in her couldn't believe in destiny. She believed in the cruelty or compassion of mortals, and the gods could be no less erratic.

"Shanti," she got the girl's attention quietly, her voice coming as a surprise even to herself. But one of the squad was questioning their ability, and someone had to ensure good morale, didn't they? Kestrel had good tactical justifications for her faith in this squad, and perhaps it would improve Shanti's esteem somewhat to hear them.

"I have seen much less diverse and much less cohesive squads accomplish a great deal. We have... made enemies. But we have also made allies. I believe that our abilities will be adequate to the task." An energetic cleric of a near-forgotten goddess, a warforged, a halfling wizard, a woman who once lived as a man and the cousin she disinherited. And Tommy. Kestrel added, "However... odd an assortment we may seem."

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Unread postby Raina » Sun Oct 12, 2008 2:40 pm

Shanti smiles at Kestril's confidence. Odd assortment or not, they did seem to be getting out of all their scrapes alive. "I guess we have been doing alright. No thanks to some..." She glances at Tommy's back, not sure if the halfling is even awake. One can never tell with shifty types like him. Although wide awake, she curls up to try and get some rest. Heh, now people won't know if she's awake or not, although her intentions are not to be deceptive.

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Unread postby TommyFlitfinger » Mon Oct 13, 2008 12:42 am

Tommy hung to the back. A position not entirely unfamiliar to him. When he had met the group they had seem like an easy mark. He never wanted them to be anything more.

He remembered watching them. The idealistic priest, sure not to suspect anyone that claimed to follow him. The halfling with her nose in the book. The high elf with her suspicions of the world so hign that surely someone small as me could sneak under them.

Why didn't the job seem so easy anymore? It should be just like when he joined that old fool wizard Mercanitis just wait for them all to be asleep and make off with the booty. I was in Aundair before they noticed it was gone.

Or with Colonel Boran's troop. Just stay to the back and let a few shots go bad and let the ghouls have the bodies. Come back in a few days and they had all walked off to their new unlives and the swag was all mine.

But he was letting this group get into his head. When that other High Elf showed up and started bickering with his cousin he remembered fighting with his sister as a child before ... No he couldn't let his thoughts go there. Not now. I am supposed to be on the Job here.

On the job, he laughed to himself. I could have robbed them blind 10 times over or made any number of "tactical errors" to garner profit. Dholour, I have sometimes even helped these pidgeons, cooing to be cooked.

As if the cousin didn't drag up enough memories, hearing the 'forged stories of waking up to find everyone ... Come on Tommy! Keep it together here. Let the old demons run where they want but we can't go crying in our ale here.

Laying on his cot wasn't doing him any good here. He got up and started poking through the shelves again. Rusted bits of weapons, aged tools, rotted bows, nothing worth the sweat of carrying. Nothing to garner a bit of profit for a few months of living the high life and a little to sock away.

He looked at the party, FLAME! Look at that sword, what did that horrid spirit call it? Aecris? Now that'd fetch a dragon or two at least. Not to mention the talking armor. He new just the fence in Lazhar too, always looking for the truly exceptional magic items, no questions asked. Or that holy symbol, and best of all that spellbook and wand. Oh so many ways to sell that. Nicely profitable.

But when he started thinking of a plan, he started think of the people. Of how he knew their lives all had pain.

Like his.

He looks at the group, he checks the shelves, he looks at the group considering, then he looks at his shoes seeming sad, he lays down on his bedroll, He looks at the group, he checks the shelves, he looks at the group considering, then he looks at his shoes seeming sad, he lays down on his bedroll...

Then finally you can see what ever is bothering him has reached a head and he has made a decision. You can tell it isn't one he likes. In fact he is sure it is just simply wrong.

Finally he speaks, "Anybody got some tobacco? I've run out." He clears his throat. "I've been meaning to talk to you all about tactics, maybe I could help out a little more? Perhaps if I kept flank it would all be over a little more quickly."

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Unread postby Archmage » Mon Oct 13, 2008 7:22 am

Ardam snapped out of his pensive daze. "Huh? Oh, no, Tommy, I'm sorry, I don't...not much of a smoker, to be honest."

Shanti had said something. He realized that he'd been ignoring her, inadvertently. Oops. At least Kestrel had said something to comfort her. Meditation and reflection often provided him with a great deal of internal clarity, but occasionally he delved too deep into his own soul and the rest of the world simply blanked out.

"Avandra..."

The young cleric shook his head. "No, I don't think Shanti's right about this being set up by Avandra. That's not really the way she works. She doesn't mastermind things that way. But sometimes she shows you the way by giving you a clearer impression of many possible choices. She wants you to decide for yourself what to do. But she also wants you to have the information you need to make a choice that you'll be happy with."

"I came out to Winterhaven because Avandra told me about the temple, but I knew that restoring it wasn't my only choice. I could've done something different. Avandra was just making a suggestion, trying to help me find something fulfilling to do. If she knew about the rest of this...well, I'm sure she knew that I would do whatever I felt was right. I have no regrets about any of this."

An image of the temple flashed in Ardam's mind. He still hadn't consecrated it in Avandra's name, but he felt that he hadn't actually done enough for the cause of freedom to simply walk into an existing temple and dedicate it to a different god. It had been a temple to Avandra in the first place, and the temple cleric seemed pleased with the idea. If that hadn't been the case, Ardam thought, I would've turned around and gone home.

Avandra didn't live in temples. Avandra existed wherever there were people who lived their lives unburdened by excessive doubt. Her presence could be felt wherever people were free to choose their own paths. She dwelled wherever laughter and liberty triumphed over fear and oppression. And she was manifest inside Ardam, or so he believed, which spurred him to fight for the weak. He used the powers granted to him by his goddess to stand up for those who could not protect themselves. He figured she was proud.

"Orcus may be the Lord of Death," Ardam remarked softly, "but taking the lives of the innocent is the ultimate form of tyranny."

He knew he was doing the right thing.
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Unread postby Pendragon » Mon Oct 13, 2008 7:39 am

Merlin shifts as if uncomfortable in lotus position, and exhales a long breath. "Ardam - is it?" he asks, his eyes still closed. "Whatever you say about Avandra and the liberty she gives her followers, consider - She's not the only one concerned with this goal. Other gods are less indirect, and you might be on loan. Not only that, but tools are flexible to a point - you just can't use a hammer like the Forged to paint a picture. Be ye a hammer? Or a brush? Even a self-willed brush can't drive a nail. I've you've been chosen for this drive, then Someone needed a brush.

"An' Tommy - tactics? You're skilled with tactics? You need a speak up sooner, bucko, er you'll none to hear your advice. Now will you PLEASE sit down and be still?

"A Ranger needs a little rest . . . "

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Unread postby Kai » Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:10 am

The eladrin soldier nodded to herself at Shanti's response. She knew she was not the warmest person from whom to seek reassurance, and she had no desire to develop her nurturing feminine side. She was a woman by accident and not by choice, but it was good to know that she could occasionally fake her way through when empathy was called for. At the very least it seemed to have been sufficient for Shanti.

So Kestrel listened to the others converse, only half-attentive to them as she moved on to another piece of her armor. She had little interest in the philosophizing of the others, and was surprised that Merlin had the patience for it. Kestrel had two ways of making decisions: her own whim, and obedience to duty.

As a result, she had little to contribute to this talk of gods and fate. She did what she did because she was who she was. There was nothing more to it than that. She chose not to consider the fact that for this to work, she would have to know just what and who she was. And she didn't.

But none of them had answered Tommy, and his inquiry was much more within her comfort zone for conversation than the deeper matters. Practicality was first and easiest.

"I do not carry tobacco, either. My apologies," she replied in a low voice. If her cousin wished to trance, she did not wish to disturb his rest. "But I would certainly appreciate your assistance in our next fight." She chose not to mention that he had been a remarkable nuisance thus far, and that he had better keep flank if he wanted to continue travelling with her. He'd made an offer of help, and despite her resentments it was best to accept. Perhaps it would teach him the value of such behavior in the future.

"It will be a great deal more practical for both of us if we can strike down our enemies together. I am personally much more effective under those circumstances," she clarified. "And if I am able to be more effective, I will be more use to the rest of you."

Kestrel was not personally accustomed to close friendship of any kind. The best she could say of anyone was that he was helpful and reliable. As a result, it was her greatest ambition for the time being to make herself useful to her allies. They had done right by her so far, and deserved her best effort. If Tommy could assist with that, so much the better.

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Unread postby Raina » Mon Oct 13, 2008 3:05 pm

Shanti glares at Tommy. She wondered why he bothered to stay with the group and whether or not it was a good thing. She doesn't trust him and he hasn't given her reason to do so. She's known people like him and she wasn't afraid to let them know what she thought about them. Infact, the few times Shanti has needed to get Tommy's attention she hasn't used his name, instead refering to him as "You".

"There's not a person here who can't see you've been out for nothing but yourself. I don't appreciate it or trust you. If your motives truly have changed, maybe the trust will come later."
Yes, from time to time Shanti's age shows a bit, and even now there is a hint of sass in her voice. She is truly annoyed with Tommy, even though she doesn't want to be confrontational. As the only other hobbit in the group, it really would be nice if Tommy could just be one of them. She pauses, taking a deep breath so she can continue on in a matter of fact tone of voice.
"In the meantime Kestrel is right, if you actually fight with us, we all will benefit. I won't say no to surviving a fight any more than you will."

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Unread postby TommyFlitfinger » Mon Oct 13, 2008 7:50 pm

"Well excuse me your worship but have you ever considered what might have come at us from behind? I know that you're one for charging in blindly but I got someone to look out for. Me. Now if you want to talk about tactics, like I recomended. I happen to be a distance striker. That means my attacks have to come from a distance. I stay to the back because I need to keep a distance from the defenders. Since no one else is watching our backs, as they all run blindly from the front, I usually end up taking that job. IF you want to watch the back, and well control, since you are the spell caster, then I can move around, but I am not leaving my back ungaurded."

"And if my motives are in question then what are yours?"

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Unread postby Raina » Mon Oct 13, 2008 9:51 pm

"Quick to point the finger, aren't you? I assure you that I've never tried to deceive this group. Can you say the same? By the way, I strike from a distance too, ya know. Did you really expect to offer help and have me start calling you my best friend ever?"

Shanti takes a deep breath before continuing in a more contrite manner. She knows what she has and hasn't done. Her actions speak for themselves and she is sorry she started this.

"It's just... I'm not exactly like that. But I have already said your flanking would be welcome, or that's one of the things I was trying to get at anyhow. I've never really had to think about tactics or battles before. And when I did it was all theory. Still, I do think that if we operate together this stuff will work itself out as time goes by. And I would listen to anyone who had suggestions, even you."

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Unread postby TommyFlitfinger » Mon Oct 13, 2008 11:40 pm

Tommy clearly wasn't ready for Shanti to be so conciliatory. Great he thought. In spite of all she's been through recently, in sprite of all the changes she has had to make, she is still willing to work with me.

"Ok, We'll try it out that way." He said. Now what had he done. It was true what he said about the back and defense. But he also hung back in case he needed to escape. Could he really fight along side these people? Could he really fight the desperate battle against incredible odds?

Maybe it would be better for everyone if he just left. There wasn't any profit here. But why do I keep thinking about these people and their goal? I haven't spent so much time thinking about someone else since... Bah. I can fight a little for them. Take down a few goblins, see where it goes. Perhaps treasure hunting can bring in the gold for a while.

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Unread postby Raina » Tue Oct 14, 2008 11:20 am

There is an irritated huff from Shanti as she expects a sharp comeback from Tommy. When it doesn't come, she has no answer for him and she decides instead to wait and see what happens before passing further judgment. Although her original assumption was that she had Tommy all figured out, she scarcely knows what she is doing here, let alone him!

What is she doing here? While she can't go back to her school, it is true that she could go home. She knows she would be welcomed there with open arms. But what about the reason she left in the first place? Her mind would be wasted there, was wasting there. She was created for something more than pushing seeds into dirt, weeding fields and praying for rain. On top of that, she has the feeling that somehow this group needs her. After all, not one of the others has the mind or training for spell casting. And the cause they fight for is a grave one. Obviously Orcus shouldn't be brought into this world, whether or not Shanti perceives Tommy as a poke in the eye.


((I so wanted to type the words "with great intelligence comes great responsibility." I just didn't want it to seem cliche.))

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Unread postby Archmage » Tue Oct 14, 2008 2:28 pm

Ardam had stayed quiet through Shanti and Tommy's argument. He figured that they could resolve their differences on their own. It was true that Tommy's usefulness in recent battles had been limited, but Ardam had no reason to suspect that Tommy didn't want to help. There would be no running away if Orcus breached the barriers keeping him out of this plane. If Tommy thought that he was contributing the most he could by staying back and making sure the group wasn't ambushed from behind then there was no reason to doubt his intentions.

Shanti was interesting. He understood pacifism, but Shanti was no pacifist--just a girl reluctant to fight. She was precisely the kind of person that he fought to protect, knowing that not everyone could pick up a sword to defend their freedom. But she was doing her best, and he felt that despite her clear inexperience in combat that she was doing remarkably well. She was developing more courage every day, and he could see it happening.

Now the argument was functionally over, and the two halflings had reached an accord. In a room this small, the silence was almost suffocating. He wondered what was going on inside Shanti's head.

"We don't need to argue about this," Ardam noted, forcing a smile. "Everybody has to work together if we're going to stop the forces of Orcus. And everybody's contributions are valuable, whether they're laying waste to armies with bolts of force or hurling an occasional dagger to pick off a sudden threat."

"I don't have any formal military training," continued the half-elf, "so it's good to hear your perspective, Kestrel. I just served in a local militia for a while. I guess we were trained pretty well, but there's no way it's like serving a huge city, and I wasn't really involved in the war. Sure, it affected me, but I wasn't fighting on the front lines or anything, I was just helping protect my community in Breland. I just improvise tactics and hope I'm doing the right thing, so any advice you have is definitely helpful."
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Unread postby Kai » Tue Oct 14, 2008 3:02 pm

"Hn," Kestrel grunted, still focused down on her armor. "Your instincts are good."

That was a gross understatement, and Kestrel took a moment to ponder how to remedy it. Ardam's ability to keep track of everyone else on the battlefield in addition to slaying their enemies was admirable and vital. Further, since Kestrel was uncomfortable in leaderless groups she had come to see the cleric as their officer, even if he was a bit reckless. Kestrel counted herself lucky that this was the worst she had to deal with from a superior.

But what a thing to say. Still, morale must be maintained. Kestrel needed to learn to start praising people eventually. She must try. The retired soldier looked up to make her follow-up attempt.

"Your abilities and expertise are essential, and if it was a militia that trained you, you reflect well on their capabilities. I do not believe you require my advice at this time. But... I will offer it if the need presents. For now this is... no more in my area of expertise than yours."

How to explain her real job? What exactly could Kestrel tell a crusader for liberty that her job had been primarily to silence troublesome individuals before they could upset the balance of power? She was certain he would not approve.

"However, I have frequently worked in small groups such as this one. We do quite well. I believe that... if we continue to work together as we have been, there should be few problems." A glance to Tommy--who had begun to rise in her esteem--and another to Merlin, whose loyalties were the least solid in her mind, even if his abilities were beyond reproach. "Few unanticipated problems, anyway."

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Unread postby Raina » Tue Oct 14, 2008 7:09 pm

Shanti smiles as Ardam speaks. Knowingly or not, his words were of great comfort to her. He spoke of working together and everybody contributing. This was something that Shanti was familiar with. It took people working together to run a farm. Where she came from, people who habitually didn't help out (without good reason) were often left out of community affairs. It paid to chip in and make things work, so generally people did.

Again she wonders what forces have brought this band of people together and is glad there is a cleric among them. Growing up, her community would pray and give offerings so that there might be soft rains and bountiful harvests. She knows precious little about Avandra, but is glad that there is someone here to pray. The nerd in her arises again, and she reminds herself to ask Ardam more about his deity. Anything she can learn and write into a book could be valuable to someone. There are volumes and volumes on the Sovereign Host or the Silver Flame, not so with more obscure dieties such as Avandra.

"Thank you, Ardam, your words ring true. I know little of Avandra, but she must speak through you. It would be interesting to learn more."

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Unread postby Archmage » Tue Oct 14, 2008 8:34 pm

Ardam's eyes lit up like those of a child who had just been handed a puppy.

"Oh, yes! Avandra! Avandra tells us that life is a long journey, and that everyone has to find their own way on that path, but that you should freely offer advice to others and help them when they're stumbling! She says that everyone has the right to determine their own destiny, that free will is the most important virtue and that oppression is the ultimate evil. She says that we should stick up for the weak whenever we can and pursue justice and liberty whenever possible. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and views, but anyone who infringes upon another's free will is committing a great sin."

He paused for a moment, frowning slightly. "Of course, we have to make our own decisions about which is the lesser of two evils, in a sense. Sometimes to secure the freedoms of others we have to rob those who would oppress those weaker than themselves of their 'freedom' to...well...be oppressive. It's...it's complicated, and we have to try to figure it out for ourselves."

"Like...for example, someone who kidnapped people and sold them into slavery. To put a stop to a slaver's ring is hypothetically denying the slavers the freedom to live as they wish. But when you think about it," Ardam continued, "they 'started it.' They committed the first sin. They were the first to infringe upon the rights of other people, and in doing so they have forfeited their protection. You have to evaluate what actions will contribute 'the greatest good.'"
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Unread postby Kai » Tue Oct 14, 2008 9:15 pm

Kestrel stifled a groan as the conversation turned once again to gods and assorted otherworldly things. It was not surprising that Kestrel would be curious about Avandra, given the girl's inquisitive nature. Kestrel was honestly a bit interested herself.

No, the real problem was that the soldier could not get over the uncomfortable notion that Ardam was talking about people like her. It was true enough that she had merely been following directives from her superiors, and she had also had a dim sense that what she was doing was in the pursuit of order, which was the same as peace.

Unfortunately, her job had been to silence dissidents. The kind of people who felt a strong moral or religious imperative to fight those in power to subvert their control of those below ended up, often as not, on the wrong end of Kestrel's blade.

Well, I'm not doing that now. I can travel with this cleric without any conflict of interest between my personal inclinations and my duty. It's not an issue.

With that, Kestrel did her best to dismiss the matter. She and Ardam were not meeting as enemies, and the fact that they would have been under other circumstances was irrelevant. Still. The fact that several months ago Ardam should have been committed to her death and she to his was vaguely disconcerting. Duty was complicated if one also indulged in personal friendships.

She didn't want to think about it. Fortunately she was finished with her armor, and folded her bedroll over a few times to make herself a comfortable place to trance. "If you two plan to remain awake to discuss theology, I will take this opportunity to rest. Please alert me if both of you are likely retire before I finish."

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Unread postby Pendragon » Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:20 am

Merlin exhaled a long, silent sigh, and opened his eyes.

Much better. Well rested.

He knew there had been voices, often raised, but as they were party members and no weapons chimed or glinted, those voices were not the sorts of sounds he'd schooled himself to react to in trance. So he'd had a good rest. Now it was time for the other Eladrin to rest.

The other. His cousin.

He cast a glance at her. She was already settling in, her armor cleaned. As she began, Merlin had observed how she had dismantled it and attended to the first piece in detail, and since she was finished he guessed he'd been out for about four hours. So of course he was rested. But she closed her eyes before he'd opened his. Did she mean to risk her companions? Selfish. Natrually. Did she know she was disregarding duty? What kind of duty was she used to?

He could guess from her armor. Her techniques. Her weapons.

"Assassin," he said aloud.

What could be more natural for her?

Merlin shook his head sadly, and stood up. "I'll take watch," he announced to the room, "if anyone would like a rest. And I encourage it."

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Unread postby Pendragon » Wed Oct 15, 2008 12:10 pm

Merlin looked from face to face. Two hobbits, a halfElf, and a . . . aye, a thing. Did the War Forged need sleep? Did Elves trance? What of a halfElf? One eye sleeps, and the other . . . ? And didn't hobbits sleep all the time? Evidently the old myth was false, and if so, Merlin knew nothing of these folks' sleep habits.

He shook his head sad.y. "Or . . . do whatever you do." He contemplated the edge of his new sword, wondering where to carry the old friend it would replace, when he noticed his vision was not as sharp as it should be even in this light. Was that exhaustion? Without the sun or stars as a marker, he had no way to guess, really, so he had to ask.

"How long . . . Ardan? How long was I out?"

And if it wasn't four hours, why had he felt so good a moment ago?

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Unread postby DungeonMaster » Wed Oct 15, 2008 1:02 pm

((OOC: Warforged need no sleep or trance, however they will rest if required to regain spells or prayers, this one needs neither, so the 'forged stands silently in the corner observing the illusiary wall waiting for any intruders.

Excellent roleplay once again. Everyone take an additional 50 XP.

Edited by Kai so that it's easier to tell this is OOC stuff. Content was not changed. Never mind the admin behind the curtain...))

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Unread postby Archmage » Wed Oct 15, 2008 1:21 pm

"About an hour, I think," Ardam replied, "but it's hard to tell down here with no sunlight. I'm thinking I might try to sleep myself." He reached into his backpack and produced a bedroll to cover the hard floor of the keep, loosening his chainmail and hanging it on a conveniently-present armor stand. "I think that between you, Kestrel, and Crusher we shouldn't have any trouble keeping at least one set of eyes open for danger."
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Unread postby Raina » Wed Oct 15, 2008 3:26 pm

"Yes, between them and the illusory walls, we should be well protected. And while Avandra may be fascinating, all my talk about chipping in will be in vain if my spells aren't refreshed!"

Shanti has paid close attention to everything Ardam said about Avandra. Her head is still spinning with outlines, subtitles and chapters when she should be focusing on magic. Once more she pulls out a pen and writes down her ideas to clear her head. Then she makes a visible effort to empty her mind of anything that is not magic. Her face screws up as if she is trying to remember something and then she goes into a look and pose of meditative calm. Reaching for her pack, she removes her spell book and glances through the pages. Once she seems satisfied, she pulls out a bedroll that is actually human sized and folds up one end to use as a pillow. She places her spell book underneath the pillow end for safe keeping before curling up and going to sleep.

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Unread postby Kai » Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:04 pm

Kestrel listened dimly to the others as she fell deeper into a restorative trance. She trusted that Ardam and Kestrel would keep an eye on her cousin for her, since they had been here when he'd first joined them. Immediately they had been at odds, and her first worry had been that he would seek vengeance on his usurper of a cousin immediately.

Surely they had picked up on that. Even if Crusher had no reason to suspect that his mortal allies could be in danger from one another, he would probably not allow it. Even if Merlin tried to justify himself, surely Crusher would not permit such a thing to occur unchallenged.

She drifted in a state of half-sleep and half-awareness, the voices of her companions making only distant noise in the wanderings of her imagination. No one came near to her or touched her, and she didn't hear her name. Just as nothing had warned Merlin out of his brief repose, Kestrel heard no noise to signal to her that her cousin and the warforged were on watch. It was a situation that she'd hoped to avoid.

As a result, it was with some surprise and great annoyance that she roused herself hours later to find that this was the case. Her companions obviously had greater faith in Merlin's allegiance than she did.

"Merlin," she said frostily. "If you wish to continue your trance I will keep watch for the remainder of the night."

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Unread postby Pendragon » Thu Oct 16, 2008 8:57 am

Merlin stops his examination-from-afar of the bipedal machine with the hammer. "i was just thinking I could use a little more sit-down." After all, he thought again - with the rights of descent settled back home, Kestrel had no reason to harm him. "So I'll just . . . " He stretched and moved to resume his lotus posture across the little room from Kestrel's spot. Before he did so he displayed a momentary frown. "Did you . . . " Could he share this? Did he need to? "Did you ever . . . " Who else might be able to explain it? "Did you ever come back feeling rested, after only an hour? What would that mean?" Enchantment? Curse? Or simply exciitement? He watched her face, then gave it up.

"Never mind. Crush, watch my back, will you?"

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Unread postby Kai » Thu Oct 16, 2008 9:30 am

Kestrel frowned, the expression mirroring her cousin's given the unusually dark eyes that eladrin in their family bore. She could have answered his question--she believed that in Common they referred to his experience as a 'nap,' a frequent enough occurrance among beings that slept--but the surprise of being on the receiving end of such casual conversation from a person who hated her was overridden by one key concern.

The only one in this party who seemed to consider violence against his allies even the remotest of options was Merlin, not Kestrel. She was wary of him, but she had never threatened him. She had done her best to return every courteous overture by her cousin, and gone out of her way to ensure that enemies who struck out at him did not remain breathing for very long. She had even permitted him his childish anger against her, since it seemed to be his only way of dealing with the circumstances that had come between them. His righteous indignation and bitterness toward Kestrel seemed to make the change in his life easier, and if it was easier for him to get through by hating her... so be it.

But that did not mean she would allow what she considered to be a grave insult to pass unremarked. However many slurs to her honor she permitted from Merlin, Kestrel still had her boundaries.

"It is... considerate of our allies to ensure that no one keeps watch alone," she began, her voice soft and careful but carrying a growing warning. "But I assure you that as a member of this squad, you do not need to watch your back while I am on guard. Except perhaps if you imply one more time that I am likely to turn on my allies while they rest."

She sat perfectly still, deliberately making no move toward her weapon but leaving her gaze locked on him. "Whatever you think of me, there are limits to the insults I will allow. Even from you." Her stillness was not the frozen posture of prey, but the long-tested (and now strained) patience of a predator. Waiting. "Mind that you remember that."

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Unread postby Pendragon » Thu Oct 16, 2008 12:20 pm

Merlin tsked his tongue, which served to stifle a smirk. “Well, well, well, where do I begin?” he said. “Oh! How about this? I told our watchman here to ‘watch my back.’ He’s standing watch, what else is he supposed to do? Three words seemed easier for me than adding, ‘I’ll be out of it for awhile, so I can’t watch my own back.’ After all, I’m very tired, and at the time all those extra words seemed unnecessary because I was speaking to a sentry. And this particular sentry will tell you, or anyone who asks, that I said nothing else. I did not say, ‘Watch my back, keep my cousin from attacking me.’ ” Merlin pivoted to regard Crusher. “Did I say that?”

When no answer came, Merlin resumed his position. “Or how about this?” he said. “Define ‘truth.’ Define ‘lie.’ Define ‘insult.’ Because in my experience . . . especially my experience with you, chum and bosom buddy of my childhood . . . men . . . that is, persons, usually find the greatest insult in words of truth they wish to deny.

“Or this. I saw your face just a few moments ago, as you surveyed the room after your rest. Weren’t you just thinking to yourself that this device and I should never have been permitted to guard you alone? You are free to think that, but if I reflect your suspicions, it is I who offends?” Merlin squared his shoulders. “You may be right to regard me with suspicion, but for a lengthy while now I’ve resisted my impulse. I am man enough to admit my . . . shortcomings. Who knows what you will do if you don’t confess yours?

“Or . . . there is this. I have reasons to dislike you. You took my expectancy with a lie. Oh, I am aware that the lie was born with you, and in the beginning it was your father’s lie.” Merlin’s lip curled with a bitter sneer. “Your father. My beloved and generous uncle. But there must have come a time . . . when your grew breasts? Began your monthlies? . . . At some point you reached the age of discretion, and by then you must have known you were no boy. Being of the age of discretion, your choices legally became your responsibility. From that time on, your participation in the lie that robbed me has been reprehensible.

“But I should expect no better. Look at you. Your armor, your weapons, your methods, even your posture and gait, all these mark you as an assassin. Common enough in our militia, maybe, but you are an unusual assassin. You were not trained to guile, deception and betrayal. You were born to them. How many innocents have you murdered? How many non-combatants left orphans and unfinished business because you followed orders? How do you rest with your numbers? And the worst of it is . . . ”

Merlin clenched his jaw and glanced away, but by might and main he forced his head to turn until he regarded Kestrel. “The worst of it is, that with you in this Realm there is none at home to plant or harvest. No one to shepherd or shear. None to invest, no one who can or will steward, none to spend. Our wealth lies fallow, our influence in Council wanes with no spokesman, and while you lie buried down here . . . While you lie buried down here our line dies! And all that our fathers and their fathers strove to build is lost to the Council and their cronies!”

Merlin took moment after moment to quiet his breathing so he could take his rest. “I like talking in this little room,” he decided. “The family can’t interrupt me here.”

Saying so was stupid, he realized, just one more way to disturb the rest he needed. Every time he saw the verge of mental balance and the peace of the trance it brought, he remembered why that verge seemed so far away and he lost sight of it again. Finally, he turned his back on Kestrel. “Look. Do your worst. Use one of your assassin’s tricks to still the truth that you deny, so I can get some rest.”

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Unread postby Kai » Thu Oct 16, 2008 3:27 pm

Kestrel bit down on her retorts while her cousin ranted at her, and just let him run. She knew from his demeanor that they had been on the verge of a brawl over this for a good while. If she was honest with herself she'd known it for years. Decades, even. Someday the only person in the family who even thought he was her friend would decide that they were no such thing.

And then it would just be her and her parents. And whomever they had her marry, and whatever manner of child she bore.

She took a deep breath to steady herself before speaking. It had long been her habit to avoid emotional outbursts as they were dangerously feminine and could have given her away. Her reputation for steadiness and stoicism was now--and had always been--a cloak for what everyone perceived to be her true nature. She would not be the irrational and shrill woman scorned now. They would have this out like men, whether she was one in body or not.

"Really. You condemn me for my disloyalty by leaving home to have a little piece of life for myself before I spend the rest of my existence in drag married to some man of my father's choosing. And yet I know you resent me because I followed orders until now. Because I always did what I was told even though I could probably have stopped it all for your sake. While we're admitting your shortcomings, we should include your apparent inability to discern just what it is you want from me."

She rolled her shoulder, popping the joint. One of many particularly masculine gestures she had learned by imitation from a young age. The ex-soldier continued in a low voice to avoid waking the others. "And yet it has not occurred to you that the two might be connected. Perhaps--and I would like you to consider this seriously--I disliked what I was required to do. I remember a girl--a girl you were never permitted to know--who was told from a young age that if she dared crack through someone else's lie even for a moment that she would be betraying her family. That no one would want her anymore because she was no good. She's long gone of course," she added with a shrug. The girl had been replaced by a boy, and the boy by a soldier. The pain of transition was long healed over, and even bitterness was difficult to muster except when Merlin was needling her. "But she certainly wasn't wrong. You know as well as I do that she was perfectly right to suspect that all anyone ever wanted was for her to shut up and make the right people wealthy, either by living her father's lie to make him rich, or rejecting the lie to benefit you."

The truth was that Kestrel did not think her cousin was particularly well-suited to life as an heir. He'd been permitted to develop an independent streak that Kestrel had always envied, even though it was not a luxury she could afford. Her life, her choices, and her destiny were not her own. It had always pleased her that Merlin would not have to make the sacrifices she did, but all he could see was money. His money, her money, whoever's money. She hadn't guessed he cared so much, just like everyone else. The realization that he cared more for their wealth than anything... it was disappointing. It meant that she had been wrong about the one person in their family she thought might have understood.

But he'd goaded her to do her worst. As an assassin, as a man, as a woman, as his childhood friend, Kestrel figured the worst she could do was keep talking. Crusher's presence was forgotten for the moment as she continued on, pressing her advantage.

"And further, to assuage your anxieties about the headship of our family," She sneered more as a private remark to herself than to Merlin, skeptical that he could really be so deeply concerned for the fate of their family's legacy. "My father is more than willing to manage things in my absence. My presence is unnecessary, as I suspect he would rather have his money with him than have me. Common enough in our family. I will be called back when he has use for me again, but until then, I..."

She hesitated. This was touching on more personal matters, and Kestrel wasn't entirely certain it was prudent to give her cousin such ammunition against her. Still. Do her worst? "...have tired of accepting orders that have nothing to do with my own inclinations or conscience. You might say that I have... learned from our experiences. That should answer your accusations about my work as well."

She waved her hand in an indulgent sort of shooing gesture. "Feel free to take the rest of the evening rationalizing all that away. I know how much it means to you to see yourself as the sole victim of a grand and heartless conspiracy. An apology from me would only make that more difficult, so I will spare you."

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Unread postby Pendragon » Fri Oct 17, 2008 6:35 am

Merlin had to close his mouth to form a word, finding only then that it had dropped open.

“So. Uncle Buck raised a monster. Raise a boy, get a boy’s attitude toward a woman’s role. Naturally - but he’s taking advantage of that too. Like you said yourself, while you’re gone, he’s in charge.

“I don’t know what he’s been feeding you, but it doesn’t work the way you think. Sure, if you’d been raised a girl you’d probably be looking at an arranged marriage, and if that were all you had to run from I’d understand. I’d encourage it. But think for a minute.

“Under our custom and laws, every extended family is a business. Everyone in the same landed family works for the eldest male, who sits on the Council, helps pass the laws and raise taxes, and enjoys the best of everything. But when he dies, the family’s entire estate and all its businesses go to the first born mail of the youngest generation of descendants to come into being while he lived. Inheritance devolves on an earlier generation only if there are no boys at that level.

“In our case, Gramps passed everything to you. When you came out as a female, why do you suppose the Council didn’t enforce tradition and retract your inheritance? Because they’re Elves. Worse, they’re High Elves, they’re more subtle than that. You were already in the military. They knew if you died there without issue, our line would end and our family’s assets would devolve upon the Council Chair to be redistributed. If you think about it, that might help explain the course your training took, the assignments you got. They wanted you dead.

“But if you go back, Uncle Buck, and my dad, and me, everyone who descended from Gramps’ grandfather would be working for you. Uncle Buck must know that - you think the lie of your gender was the last one he ever told? But he may not understand that if you die without issue, he’ll lose everything. He can’t inherit from Gramps. I can’t inherit from Gramps. The Council already posted the banns, you’re head of our family now and they missed their chance to revoke it.”

Merlin stopped, watching her reaction. Something in it softened him. “Kes? I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry if you’d rather be selfish, both for your sake and for mine. You’ve found yourself in the same position as every heir apparent to every throne. Your birth position was not your choice, you see independence, personal choice, to be so attractive, you want to shuck it all and go play. But you’ve got to think of others. Your decisions now affect hundreds of people, many you don’t even know.

“Please. Think of somebody else for awhile. Come home. You’d be the family’s chair, you’d be the one making decisions, you could live in any of a dozen houses and banish Uncle Buck from your presence. Put him to work mucking stalls. Put him to work pimping for you for all I care. You’d be making the family rules, you would be the only one with the authority to decide who anyone would marry, including yourself. You could remain single as long as you want. But if you die without issue, today or 150 years from now, the rest of us and our descendants are all out of jobs. I know it’s happened before. Who do you think normally makes up our militia? It’s one of the few careers in our culture for the disinherited. The Council looks for opportunities, it’s why our militia is so big.

“On the other hand, have a son, delegate a little authority by putting some paper in the records, and you can go and do whatever you like. Do it dressed however you like. You are the head of one of the largest and most influential families in our Realm, but you can be lonely for the rest of your long life if you want. Once you do your duty.

“And you’re wrong. I can discern with perfect clarity what it is I want from you. I want you to accept responsibility for the decision you made to obey orders, even if it means you get to give them for the rest of your life. Why do you think I found you out here? I came looking. I’ve been home since you left, and when me Da found out what I’d learned in the woods he decided I was the only one who could track you. So I did. And I’ve told you what’s what. And next I’ll keep doing what I can to keep you alive, though . . . I have to admit . . . that may be easier now that you know the score. Now I’m going to pass out, so leave me alone. You have something to say, the halfing has paper, and I can read. Or don’t bother, unless it’s ‘yes.’”

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Unread postby Kai » Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:18 am

That ignorant insolent whelp. He wasn't the one being raised to take over everything. What exactly did he think he knew that she didn't? Lecturing Kestrel on duty. Tithaefarason Echilenthandraug, who had destroyed their friendship, who had lived and breathed nothing but duty and obligation since the day she had been born wrong.

He was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong on so many counts. Her father didn't have to go through the Council now that money and power was passing through his family instead of his brother's. Perhaps the Council would prefer it, but he'd find a way. He always found a way to get exactly what he wanted, no matter whom he destroyed. He would destroy his own children to ensure that wealth and power came through him before passing on to the next generation.

He gave her father too much credit, a surprising thing from someone who clearly resented him at least as much as Kestrel did. Kestrel smirked, quite probably the bitterest expression she had summoned since leaving home.

"Our customs and laws are inefficient and inadequate. Left to his own devices my father will happily marry me off to an officer or a cousin," she spat, ensuring he did not miss her meaning. "And unless the customs are changed there is nothing any of us mere descendants can do about it... unless I assert a little of the power he threw at me assuming I would be bound by it but never use it. So I assure you I had intended to return, chaperone or no." The weight of months of planning and intention darkened her words.

Suddenly she had an idea. She didn't wish to continue this discussion much further, because it was clear that he cousin was never going to understand. He loved his freedom and their money, and as long as he didn't have to do any of the hard work he was happy to damn whomever he liked. Well, someday he might have to settle down, too. Who knows, maybe when it happened it would be her fault. Kestrel wondered if he would thank her or blame her.

She had already sent a letter to her parents outlining her feelings about her situation and her plans for her inheritance should she fall in battle without an heir. She'd written it when she left, and sent it closely thereafter. In the letter she told them that it was likely her life would end before she could produce an heir, and so she wished to designate one who would understand. Not one of her own sisters, not a military friend. Not the eldest in their generation. Someone who clearly wanted the position far more than she did, and someone who would understand the scope and weight of the damage such power could do to everyone it touched.

But he didn't know. She'd been carrying a letter for him in her pack for her allies to find. She had expected that it would need to be sent to him after her death. She had not expected that the ranger would have been sent to chaperone her, and would be so near at hand.

"If you wish to know my plans, I have been carrying this for you." She reached into her pack and flicked a sealed envelope through the air toward Merlin. It bore the name Aefaradien, the Elven name that people back home would recognize and not the nickname in Common that she used. "It was intended for you after my death, so you will have to forgive my presumptuousness in delivering it now. I obviously did not expect you to be here. Trance now, and read it tomorrow if you wish."

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Unread postby Kai » Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:25 am

Letter to Aefaradien:

If you have received this letter, odds are that I have fallen in some battle or other. I do not know when I died, or when you are receiving this, but obviously someone with me was kind enough to send it along. They deserve my thanks, but I hope you will give them yours in my stead.

There is a great deal of unfinished business between us, and I fear the opportunity to settle it properly has passed. I apologize for taking the last word and leaving you unable to respond, but it seemed important that you know I never wished to betray you. Of all the people in our family with whom I had contact, you were the only one who did not see me primarily as a means to an end. I did not enjoy lying to you, because in doing so I lost an opportunity for friendship with the only person I might have been able to trust, the only person in the whole mess who made any sense.

Unfortunately, the way things turned out, by the time I was old enough to evaluate the choice my parents had made for me… it was too late. The decision had been made. There was no going back at that point, not without incurring the consequences that ended up occurring anyway. You must confess you reacted rather poorly, and while I will not accept all of the blame for my parents’ choices… you do deserve an apology. You were angry and bellicose enough the last time we spoke (at least at the time of this writing) that I had no room to give you the apology I owe to you.

I am sorry. I was sorry every day that I lied to you, and while I cannot hope to make up for that I can perhaps make up for the loss of your inheritance. I have informed my parents that my first act (and only act, at least in light of my apparent death) as the current heir is to end this idiotic competition. Enough adults have destroyed enough children over it over the centuries, and I will not have it again.

Henceforth heirs will be chosen from the next generation based on perceived merit at the age of assumption and not birth order. Every potential heir should have an opportunity to prove him or herself (I do intend to include females and you should have expected this). It means that the next one in line will have to educate all of his children and not merely the first, but it also removes an incentive to move up in the line by assassinating whoever comes first. If the military can promote officers ostensibly based on qualifications, I see no reason why our family should not as well.

Since I have undoubtedly died without producing an heir and by way of beginning this precedent, I wish to designate you (if you are willing), and I hope that you will likewise designate your own successor based on merit and not on age. My parents have also received a letter to this effect, and I advise you to remind them of this… lest they conveniently forget what I have decided. Take care that you do not allow your position to tax your freedom too much. I am wary of taking it from you, as I have taken so much else. You will mind the responsibility and accompanying loss of liberty much more than I have… though I assure you that I did.

I regret that all I can do is make the first step toward reconciliation. I am afraid that there will not be opportunity for anything further. Take this in the spirit it is given: contrition, and the memory of the friendship that was once my only refuge.

Thank you for that, and all the best to you. -Kestrel

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Unread postby Pendragon » Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:15 am

“Big room,” Merlin said, stupidly.
He was distantly aware how stupid it sounded, after the set-to they'd just been through, but when one is handed too many puzzles all at once, it’s best to start with the obvious.
At the bottom of the list of puzzles was, why was Tommy suddenly helpful? Suddenly skillful? His daggers wouldn’t do as much damage, thrown from safety, as Merlin’s swords could at arm’s reach, but on the other hand that cowardly halfling had dealt the killing blow not only to three shielded soldiers but to that monstrous spider. If Merlin counted right. And Tommy looked just as surprised by this as everyone else.
Higher on the list of wonders was his cousin. That letter . . . wasn’t that why his swords had not struck true every time? That letter revealed to him a cousin who was not the scheming, conniving betrayer he’d thought she was since the day she and her immediate family had revealed her for a “her.” Instead that letter, in light of Kestrel’s demeanor since he’d found their forest camp, revealed her as a deep well of bitter gall that people would be better off avoiding.
Seemed she was apt, at any moment or the least provocation, to slit the nearest throat that wasn’t her own because of family pressure and her own lies, past, present and expected future.
Was murderous better than suicidal?
And it was all the fault of the man Merlin had come to think of, disrespectfully, as “Uncle Buck.”
OK - well. If Merlin was guilty of mistaken judgment, maybe he could atone. Maybe he could help Kestrel get out of here alive, persuade her that as Family Officer she could dress as she liked and exert the power of position to exact a measure - several measures - of revenge. Her father couldn’t inherit from her so having her killed would do no one any good
* once anyone of influence knew she’d returned *, and with her living presence he surely couldn’t continue to exercise her authority. Could he?
And if he intended to try . . . well, his daughter was an assassin. Skilled. Creative. Intelligent. He’d taken her life, so before she made her presence known to the Council she ought to be able, easily enough, to make her presence felt in Uncle Buck’s privy while his robes were open and explain that she could take his.
Or maybe there were better ways to alter the status quo. He’d give it some thought. After all, Merlin was an Elf. Worse, he was a High Elf.
They’re subtle.
In the meantime, there was this big room.
“Crusher!” he called. “What say we cover that pit?”

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Kai
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Unread postby Kai » Thu Oct 23, 2008 8:11 pm

As her cousin and Crusher prepared to close over the pit, Kestrel somewhat wearily dragged over the spider she'd spent the battle chasing. It had served its purpose, poor dimwitted thing. Still, it was gratifying to have given it such a fright. Predators were not often accustomed to being hunted themselves, particularly when they were man-sized leaping venomous arachnids.

It seemed that Kestrel was full of surprises, wasn't she?

Eventually the sport was done, however, and it would have been cruel to continue baiting the beast beyond necessity. It had given her a merry chase, though. She could understand why the Woodsman might wish to spend millenia hunting, though infinite sport also meant the need for greater and greater prey to stave off boredom and disappointment.

She glanced over to the other bodies. If they were to spend the next several hours here, it would be inconvenient and probably unsettling to the others to do so in a room full of their fallen enemies. Particularly if this place were as prone to infestation by the walking dead as Kestrel had reason to suspect.

"Before you cover the pit, we should inspect it. It might be a sensible location to dispose of all these bodies so that the room will be more... habitable. We could ignore them for now, as I do not believe there will be a significant odor for another day or two. However, given the inconveniently high population of undead in this area... I recommend taking precautions with our slain enemies, lest negligence leave us forced to slay them twice."

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Archmage
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Unread postby Archmage » Thu Oct 23, 2008 9:45 pm

"May Avandra forgive them their crimes against liberty," Ardam murmured, tracing a few wavy lines in the air with his fingers. "I'm not terribly concerned about giving them a proper burial. There isn't time, and I don't really feel compelled to do elaborate funeral rites for people who try to kill me. Besides, I don't know what kind of funeral they'd want anyway. And I don't think I'd do an Orcus-themed funeral even if I knew how."

"Putting the bodies in the pit and covering it works," continued the cleric. "Then we should get some rest. That was a rough fight."
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Raina
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Unread postby Raina » Fri Oct 24, 2008 12:10 pm

Shanti is a bit disappointed. She was hoping to see what a full Avandra ritual was like. It would have been more material for her book. She listens to Ardam anyhow and shudders at the thought of what an Orcus themed funeral might be like. Good thing she's not writing on that subject. It couldn't possibly be anything even remotely pleasant. She watches the bodies go down into the pit, wondering if there is any law about this. Even if there is are laws, this would be an exception. Although bodies frequently become members of the watch in Karnath, if these were to be animated, they definitely wouldn't be protecting anyone currently in this room! She turns her head, glad she won't have see the slain bodies any longer.

Looking away from the gruesome sight, her clothes catch her eye with mild disgust. She herself could be considered a gruesome sight, and her magics cannot clean the mess indefinitely. She wants to pull her hair out with frustration. None of this is what she expected to become of her when she left home. How did she end up in this mess, and why is she here? She had only wanted to be able to use her intelligence to its fullest and...

Suddenly the wheels in her mind begin to turn. Words fly through her head, and she knows exactly how she wants to start the introductory paragraph about Sir Keegan. She never would have had this knowledge if she hadn't been here! And it was knowledge acquired first hand at that! Her book could be the one some scholar is seeking as he or she travels across Khorvaire just to get the information! She happily rushes over to her things, and begins to write. "Guess the battles are a necessary evil. Then again, it is good to get to put casting theory into action..."

She abruptly stops both talking and writing, pen poised in the air. The wave of sudden realization hits her like a sonic boom. Her words had been addressed to no one specifically, merely thoughts tumbling out to be processed, and she couldn't put them back in again. Could it be true that she liked combat, or at least some aspects of it?? Liked the thing that took one of her brothers who fought in the Last War and never came home again? She still didn't like killing, but there was a certain satisfaction in being able to skillfully use her spells for their intended purpose. It felt good in a way that she couldn't quite put her finger on.

"I am not me anymore." The words aren't emotional or judgmental. Merely a statement of fact. She is young and changing. Whether or not it is a good thing in her own eyes remains to be seen. She files the thought away for the future when it can be examined more closely, puts away the Sir Keegan writings and pulls out her spell book. She has abruptly come to an understanding of some magic theory she's been studying and wants to be sure she's got it right.

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Kai
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Unread postby Kai » Sun Oct 26, 2008 12:07 am

As the last of the bodies disappeared down into the pit, Kestrel crossed her arms and thoughtfully slouched a bit. Ardam had suggested that her expertise might be helpful, and the last battle had been... difficult. The retired soldier had been pondering why they'd been having such difficulty, and decided that for all their group's diversity of ability... they still focused on remarkably similar areas. Tommy and Crusher, Kestrel and her cousin, they all focused on dealing out physical harm to their enemies.

But magic held many possibilities. Kestrel had worked with wizards before--among eladrin they were actually somewhat difficult to avoid--and the only limit seemed to be the creativity of the mage. Shanti was capable for a civilian, and Kestrel was pleased with her determination, but the girl was... perhaps still in need of some guidance. Even if Shanti was intelligent and perceptive enough to command the weave of arcane energy flowing beneath the physical world... she might not have the experience necessary to balance her abilities with the capabilities of her comrades.

"Shanti," the eladrin said suddenly, her posture straightening again as she acknowledged the presence of her companions once more. "When you reach a stopping point, I would like a moment with you." It was the first time Kestrel had actually sought out conversation with any of these people of her own volition, and it felt a little odd to her.

But, she reminded herself. This is hardly frivolous socializing.

Still. It was a start, at least.

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