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Old 12-13-2007, 11:47 AM   #2081
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((OOC: Yet again, I start a new page. Cool. ))

"Although...with our delays, I don't know that we'll make it there before nightfall. If we do, we'll be rather lucky."

"So, another cold night out under the stars," Aya said dryly to Kyo. "Great."

Standing at the edge of the camp, a few yards away from the fire, Bob snorted and shook his shaggy maned head.

"Well, of course you don't mind," she said to her pony. "You've got warm fur... erm, hair...." She sighed. "I mean, a coat! You've got a coat, Bob. Mags and me, well... we just had blankets."

She glanced at Audra who had slid herself over to sit even closer to her. Aya nervously cleared her throat. "So..., Audra," she started. "Where were you headed when you...." Aya was about to say, 'when you ambushed us,' but somehow that just didn't seem the right thing to say. "...erm... found us? Enkahiru?"


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Old 12-13-2007, 07:43 PM   #2082
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A strangely amused light took Audra's eyes. "I was headed for nowhere," she said elusively. "And then I... found you." She glanced over at Bob and then back to Aya. "You speak to your pony..." She stared into the fire with the faintest trace of a smile on her face. "This group gets more interesting by the moment..."


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Old 12-13-2007, 11:29 PM   #2083
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Found? Interesting word choice, Aya thought. She shifted a bit, slightly uncomfortable at the fact that Audra seemed to know what Aya had been meaning to say, even though Aya hadn't said it.

She looked over towards Kyo, then at Bob, and then Audra.

"Erm... Bob and I have... an understanding," she said to Audra. "He's been with me for a very long time." She frowned slightly. She always had 'talked' to Bob. Not that Bob actually 'spoke' back to her, but she always just seemed to intuitively know what he meant with his snorts, neighs, whickers, and non-verbal cues. "We've got a connection."

It suddenly occurred to her that her 'connection' with Bob might be seen by others as a bit unusual. She looked at Kyo. "Is that weird?" she asked him, sounding unsure and looking for a bit of support. "I mean, not weird in a 'don't-sit-by-her-she's-crazy' sort of way, but weird in an 'out-of-the-ordinary' way."


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Old 12-13-2007, 11:33 PM   #2084
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The warrior shrugged lightly, nonchalant as he chewed at the latest mouthful of food, waiting to finish chewing and swallowing before answering.

"I can't honestly be sure." he answered, tilting his head to the side. "I've never seen anything quite to the strength that you have - I've seen some who are able to understand what goes through their animal companion's mind...but never quite to the extent that you and Bob seem to be connected." he said, glancing up at the pony as he finished speaking. "Then again...I've never seen a steed quite like Bob."


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Old 12-13-2007, 11:40 PM   #2085
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At Kyo's words, Bob seemed to carry his head a bit higher. He let out a rumbling sort of snort, shook his mane as magestically as he could, then pawed at the ground a few times with one of his front hooves.

Aya's brow raised, and she looked at Kyo askance. "Erm...." She was sort of reluctant to say what she was thinking, but then decided to say it anyway. "He likes what you said."

Bob's ear's flattened and he pawed the ground with a loud and demanding thud.

"Erm... particularly your use of the word 'steed'," Aya added.

Bob let out a low satsified whicker.

"You're so weird," Aya softly at him.


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Old 12-14-2007, 03:22 PM   #2086
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Audra laughed out loud. "And the communication runs both directions, does it?" she asked, still giggling. "Fascinating." She looked at Bob. "And you are quite remarkable in your own right... but you've got pride issues, if I read it right."

She stood and moved slowly around the fire behind the seated company, well aware of how uncomfortable that might be for some of them. "So let me see if I read this group right... young and naive merchant with prideful pony..." she looked straight at Aya and then turned to Carwyn, "... ranger with an assassin for a sister..." and shifting her gaze to Takumi, "... a bard, who's been remarkably silent for one in his occupation, I might add..." To Maggie, "... a girl with the look of one who knows how to fight, but the demeanor of one who's been accustomed to not fighting..." and finally, turning to Kyo, "... and the leader of the group, a master of the sword, accustomed to the harshness of the road."

She sat down where she'd been initially, across the fire from Aya. "You're all so very different that one has simply got to wonder what has brought you together."


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Old 12-17-2007, 12:19 PM   #2087
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"You're all so very different that one has simply got to wonder what has brought you together."

Carwyn, who until this point had been sitting off the side quietly, looked up. He studied Audra's face for a few moments, then shifted his gaze over to Chryseis, who was still tied to the tree, unconscious. What has brough us together indeed... He took a deep breath, placed his half-eaten plate of breakfast food on the ground in front of him and rose out of his seat. Making his way to the middle of the encampment, he stood in front of his companions and cleared his throat. As they all looked to him, he remembered that public speaking wasn't his strong point, but he knew he had to say something to them.

"Everyone, I know I owe you all an explanation for my actions," he started. "I've been needlessly violent and angry, and I want to let you all know that that is really not who I am." His lips said this to everyone, but his eyes were locked onto Aya's. The young merchant had looked at him very oddly after he had subdued Chryseis; he could tell she had been disappointed in him or worse. The realization of that fact was one of the major things that had snapped him back into reality. He needed to make sure she, of all people, understood why he had done the things he did.

Carwyn took another deep breath before continuing. "As you all know now, Chryseis is my sister. She's also the whole reason I started out on this journey." He looked to Aya again. "I know I told you that she ran away from home, but I didn't let you know under what circumstances." He clenched his hand into a fist. "Chrys had fallen in with this 'cult' when she was just 16...I think they called themselves the Yama-Oni or something odd like that. She was in pretty deep and naturally, our mother, our sister and I disapproved and tried to tell her to stop. Of course, she didn't listen.

"One night about four years ago, I come home from hunting and meet Chrys as she's on her way out the door. I try and ask where she's going, but she brushes me aside like I'm nothing. She looks absolutely incensed, yet tremendously hurt at the same time. Before I can stop her, she disappears into the night. I want to go track her, but just then, my older sister comes staggering out the door, covered in blood." Carwyn paused, closing his eyes and pressing a finger to his temple before resuming his story. "She tells me that Chrys has hurt Mom badly. I go inside and find our mother lying on the floor in a pool of blood. To this day, we still do not know how exactly Chrys hurt Mom. My older sister has looked after her ever since, using her healing abilities to keep our mother alive."

Carwyn opening his eyes again; they had a hard and determined set to them. "I've been looking for Chryseis for years. And now, just when I find her again, she tries and succeeds in hurting people I care about. When I saw Tellis lying there... it was like watching my mother getting hurt all over again. Add to the fact that it was Aya she was trying to hurt... and I just lost it. I had hoped that over time she had come to realize how much she's hurt our family, how much she's hurt me, but it's obvious she doesn't realize any of that."

He opened his hands. "So I hope that this makes you understand where I'm coming from. I love my sister, but I loathe what she has become and how far she has gone to hurt those I care about." Sighing softly, he took a few steps to the side and sat back down, his eyes glossy.




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Old 12-18-2007, 01:02 AM   #2088
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"... a bard, who's been remarkably silent for one in his occupation, I might add..." said Audra.

Takumi smiled as he ate his breakfast, swallowed, and then said "My mother taught me never to eat and talk at the same time. Of course, I was up rather late last night, and I'm not the best morning person. We bards tend to be creatures of the evening. In any case, now that the excitement worthy of many fine stories has calmed, I find myself in need of some matching socks for my rust-colored suede tunic. My green ones require cleaning, as Carwyn knows. Not that they match rust, anyway, so I shall retire to my tent for a few minutes to dress properly for the day." Takumi got up from his seat, thought a moment, and then turned to their leader.

"Kyo, I know of a small tavern not too far from here. Chryseis should not weather a cold night in that condition, despite her considerable skill and...fine...conditioning." Catching Carwyn's dark look, the bard continued, "The Yama-oni is not a cult. It is one of the most secretive and dangerous assassin guilds. The fact that you survived a fight with her, Carwyn, is testament either to your fighting skill or her hesitating a moment during the duel. The Yama-oni demands absolute obedience to the Soke, and if he ordered her to kill you, she was absolutely committed to doing that, at least in her mind. What her heart told her at the very last moment may have been different."


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Old 12-22-2007, 04:36 PM   #2089
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Maggie gulped in apprehension as she listened to Carwyn's speech, her eyes darting over to Chryseis every so often as the ranger described her past actions. Carwyn's voice got progressively heavier as he went on, and given what he was telling them, Maggie didn't blame him. In light of these revelations, his harsh actions against his sister did not seem so cruel in retrospect, though she kept that thought to herself. As he finished up and sat back down, he looked so dejected and hurt that her heart reached out to him, but again, she kept those thoughts to herself.

Brushing away a tear she didn't realize had formed in her eyes, she sat motionless, looking at each person, trying to gauge their reactions. Audra, being the newest member of their group, had a curious expression on her face, not fully comprehending all of what the ranger had told them. Takumi offered his condolences to Carwyn, adopting a somber expression on his usually jovial face. Both Aya and Kyo sat motionless, neither of them reacting to Carwyn's revelations immediately.

Maggie let out a breath, then faced Carwyn again. "It's all right," she called out to him. "I understand." What he needed right now was the reassurance that everyone knew he hadn't transformed into some monster and beaten the living daylights out of his sister for nothing, and Maggie knew she could give him at least that.
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Old 01-01-2008, 09:44 PM   #2090
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Aya had remained uncharacteristically silent during Carwyn’s disclosure of his personal tragedy. Honestly, she hadn’t known what to say. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ to Carwyn didn’t quite seem enough. ‘I know how you feel’ was just a lie as Aya couldn’t even fathom how he must have been feeling. And saying the same as Maggie’s ‘I understand’ well… that wasn’t any use as Aya really didn’t.

She glanced at the unconscious Chryseis. Even though Carwyn had said she had done awful things, she still felt sorry for the girl. How could anyone let themselves be so misled as to go against their own family in such a heartless and evil way? And why did this cult, this assassin guild, this Yama-oni whatever-it-was want her dead? Aya hadn’t done anything to anyone, at least as far as she knew she hadn’t.

Takumi was indeed correct when he had said that Carwyn’s skill at fighting his sister attested to his own fine training. And if it hadn’t been for Carwyn’s quick reactions, and Tellis’ self-sacrifice, Aya would sure be dead now. The realization of what had just happened to her started to kick in, and Aya suddenly felt drained. It was a very good thing she was sitting down, for had she been standing, she certainly would have collapsed.

Aya looked around the fire. Kyo, the brooding leader of the group, super-proficient swordsman and unexpectedly wise scholar. Carwyn, the once carefree, but now melancholy ranger and expert bowman. Takumi, the worldly, unconventional bard who was equally skilled with his quick-witted tongue as he was with his sword or whip. Maggie, her long time friend, now turned traveler and an expert fighter in her own right. And, lastly, Audra, the newcomer with a penchant for fashion as well as fighting. All of the group were skilled in some form of weaponry. All except for herself. Dragons, Wolf, Rock Snakes, and now assassins--if Aya hadn’t had her friends with her, she would have been dead a long time ago. And obviously, that’s what someone had in mind for her. But why? Was it because she was the ‘glue’ that held them all together? Would Kyo’s quest for the Obake Blade fail without her support? She suddenly saw her role in the group as something other than navigator-cook-healer and ‘tag along’. Even without having any real fighting skills, Aya was just as important as any of the others.

She put down her plate of food she had barely touched, then rose slowly, pausing to make sure that her knees wouldn’t buckle first, before moving toward where Carwyn was sitting. Without a word she knelt in front of him, reaching out to take his hands in hers. As their eyes met, she leaned forward and gave him a gentle, lingering kiss on the lips. It was the only way she knew how to tell him, ‘I understand’, ‘I forgive you’, ‘I still need you,’ ‘I love you’, and ‘thank you for saving me’ all in one single gesture.

As she pulled away from him, she smiled at him. “We must keep going,” she said, her voice soft but firm and loud enough for all to hear. “There are unseen forces at work here. Forces that do not want us to succeed.” Her eyes sought Kyo’s now. She understood now that their destinies were twined. He must find the Obake Blade, and she must keep the group together to help him do that. “But we must succeed.”

She rose, slowly releasing Carwyn’s hands as she did so. She looked at Takumi. “I know this tavern,” she said to him. “And we should go there. Spend the night indoors and rest ourselves for the remainder of our journey.” Her brow furrowed. “And come up with some sort of a game plan to avoid any more assassins.” She glanced at Chryseis, and then back at Carwyn. “And while we’re there, I’d like to try to heal her.” She tapped the side of her head. “Here.” She tapped her heart. “And here.”


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Old 01-01-2008, 10:33 PM   #2091
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"You're all so..." Audra began softly. She stopped, as if searching for an adequate word. It wouldn't come and she shook her head in amazed silence. "I am overwhelmed. Never in my life have I met so many... good people in one place. There is no place for one such as me here... and I am sorry I ever thought there might be..."

"There is a place for all of us here," Aya said to her. "Everyone has something special to offer. Carwyn has his bow. Kyo, his sword. Maggie, her staff. Takumi, his...." She eyed the bard over carefully. He was holding a frying pan at the moment and gave her a wobbly sort of grin. "...weapons. And you, you have not only skills with weapons but with stealth as well. What if we needed to sneak up on someone? We certainly couldn't send Takumi. Carwyn, maybe, but perhaps his bow would be needed elsewhere. But you could do the deed. Couldn't you?"

"I-I..." Audra stammered, startled that anyone in the group wanted to keep her around. "Y-yes, I certainly could manage..." She frowned. "But you're not making sense. You'd trust a complete stranger to do something for you?"

Aya looked at the girl. She certainly was a stranger, but.... "You were sent to us for a reason," she said plainly. She looked skywards. "I believe all of us were."

"I was... sent?" Audra asked, startled at the thought that the path of her life may not have been up to her to shape.

Aya grinned. "I think, and I'm not by any means a priestess so don't hold me to this, but, I think that there are higher powers at work here. Guiding us on our path." She looked at Kyo. "A mission, a quest, that must be completed." Turning back to Audra, she said, "And your place in all of this will be revealed." She grinned again. "Eventually."

Audra was so overwhelmed that she fell into thoughtful silence, trying to wrap her head around the ideas Aya had introduced.


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Old 01-03-2008, 01:56 PM   #2092
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"There is a place for all of us here," Aya said to her. "Everyone has something special to offer. Carwyn has his bow. Kyo, his sword. Maggie, her staff. Takumi, his...." She eyed the bard over carefully. He was holding a frying pan at the moment and gave her a wobbly sort of grin. "...weapons.

"Weapons, indeed. The tongue is mightier than the sword. In certain situations, of course...." Takumi gave the group a sassy smile. "I'm quite terrible at stealth. A bard is supposed to _attract_ attention, after all. Now a little misdirection now and then can be a very good thing.
"I'm not so sure about divine influence, but the 'little voice' that is my intuition tells me something will happen, perhaps soon. So, we now know a powerful assassin guild is involved. Which means there is a very powerful patron paying the guild if it's not the Soke himself funding this. We need to find out who that patron is. That might also give Kyo more information to locate the blade."


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Old 01-06-2008, 04:21 PM   #2093
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The warrior turned his gaze from the group as Aya leaned in close to Carwyn, knowing full well what was about to happen. Though it could easily have been interpreted as a simple movement of politeness - giving the couple a moment of privacy, as it were - but in reality, Kyo couldn't stand to watch the display, as strange as it was to admit. In fact, it took him several moments to become aware of the reason, seeing as he almost flat-out refused to believe that these feelings were taking hold of him again. Aya meant nothing more to him than any of the others in the group, and that was that...right?

Even as the group continued to talk amongst themselves, Kyo's gaze didn't return to them. He listened to each word said, recognizing each voice, but he didn't turn to look at the speaker. He himself said absolutely nothing, even in the silence that had followed the last of Takumi's words. Without even looking, the swordsman knew that every eye was on him, waiting for him to speak...and so he quickly banished the dark look in his eyes, blocking it out with a flat, unreadable expression. Standing up without a word, he quickly grabbed his pack and slung it over his shoulder. "We should be going." he said simply before turning his back to the camp and taking a few steps to the edge of the hill.


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Old 01-07-2008, 04:38 PM   #2094
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Maggie quickly heeded Kyo's command, gathering up her belongings and making herself ready to leave. Glancing around at the group as they did the same, she was a little shaken up as to how swiftly their party had been altered. Takara, Tellis and Katsuro were gone and it was unknown if they would be rejoining everyone. In their place, the newcomer Audra had been added, but she was still quite the unknown entity. Even now as Maggie observed her, the odd girl fidgeted to herself, looking quite furtive in her borrowed clothes.

Maggie's gaze then moved over to the still-unconscious blonde woman bound to the tree off to the side. Chryseis Stormchild...yet another unknown. What would become of her? She glanced over at Carwyn, who still sat on the ground, looking somewhat lost, even in light of Aya's stirring speech.

Maybe this wasn't such a great idea. Good going, Mags.
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:32 PM   #2095
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It didn't take Aya long to help Takumi pack up the cookery gear and load it up on Bob. Carwyn's unconscious sister Chryseis was also carefully loaded onto Bob, with Carwyn taking great care in ensuring that if she did wake, she wouldn't be going anywhere without Bob firmly attached.

In less than an hour, the group was moving again, heading west to the town of Enkahiru. What they would find there was anyone's guess, but Aya knew of one thing that would be waiting for them.

"So, when we come to the pale blue troll," she said, in a quite casual manner, "we'll need to pay in advance. Harry's a cash up front kind of guy. Doesn't trust anyone. Always thinks everyone's out to rob him." She rolled her eyes. "Weird, especially when you see the size of him. He's huge! No one in their right mind would ever consider ta...."

She paused, suddenly aware that she was getting some strange looks from some of the others. "What?"

Bob snorted.

"O-oh...." Aya nodded with understanding. "I wasn't talking about an actual pale blue troll," she explained. "It's the name of the inn in Enkahiru. Harry's the innkeeper." She grimaced slightly. "Not that Harry couldn't possibly be mistaken for a troll. He's ill-tempered and homely enough, but underneath it all he's...." Aya couldn't really call Harry 'nice' or 'pleasant' or even 'good-natured'. In fact, he was pretty much the exact opposite of all of those descriptions. But he was honest, his inn was tidy and warm, and his word was always good. But, always trying to see the best in people, she settled on, "He's fair."


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Old 01-18-2008, 02:00 AM   #2096
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Carwyn looked up from the bowstring he was picking at to focus on Aya walking a few feet in front of him. "I'll take fair," he said. "As long as Enkiharu is more hospitable than Ryuu-Tokai was. I've had my fill of dragons, 'mancery and the like." He turned his head to look at his still-unconscious sister. "I've had my fill of general nastiness, actually..."




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Old 01-21-2008, 10:24 PM   #2097
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Audra walked near Kyo in silence for some time. Then, she spoke in a hushed tone, meant only to be heard by Kyo's ears. "The Bard mentioned 'the blade'... as something you all mean to be finding." She paused thoughtfully. "I have given you no reason to trust me yet and I think your merchant friend Aya is overly naive in doing so... but if you would satisfy my curiosity... what blade?"


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Old 02-06-2008, 05:35 AM   #2098
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Kai had had his own adventure in the few day's he had been apart from the group, for out on the hill as he had slept a creature had attacked him and he had fought it into a ravine, and then when he was cleaning up in a river he'd discovered a hole in the water that dropped him into a cavern, and it had taken him some time to get out of the cavern. When he had finally returned to the Monastery he had discovered that Kyo and the others had already left. So he had moved to follow them as rapidly as he could, and now he could see them ahead on the road.

And then he was suddenly walking next to Kyo and some new woman, he peered at her. He seemingly had appeared out of the air beside her, "Obake," he said, in response to the question he had over heard.

"Kai is sorry for abandoning Kyo, Kai had some issue with a small rock snake, and a hole in a river, and a cavern full of mazes," He nodded his head to Kyo, "Kai still wishes to help Kyo though, and has found him once again."


There is no Peace. There is Anger.
There is no Fear. There is Power.
There is no Death. There is Immortality.
There is no Weakness. There is the Dark Side.

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Old 02-07-2008, 08:20 PM   #2099
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The warrior's slight jump was quickly hidden beneath his stoic exterior as the other man appeared on Audra's other side, seeming to pop into existence out of nowhere. He couldn't help but allow himself a small smile, and he nodded a head to the old friend. "It's good to have you back, Kai."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It was just as the sun began to set that the group neared the edge of the small fishing settlement that Kyo had spoken of, Enkahikru. When he said that it was a small settlement, he had meant it - the entire village, if it could be called that, was comprised of a few shabby huts gathered around a dirt square, as well as two rows or so of moss-covered lean-to's that expanded in a radius around the center square. There was only one two-story building on the edge of the dirt square, and the warrior assumed that that would be their best bet for a place to stay, until they could find a fisherman or sea captain willing to ferry them across the straight back to the mainland.

It was true that they drew stares from children that were being called back home as the sky turned an inky black, their mothers eying their group suspiciously. The men returning from the docks seemed wary of them as well - but Kyo couldn't blame them. A rag tag band of rather dangerous looking warriors didn't often come through this part of the world, he suspected, and he would have been extremely surprised to have been welcomed with open arms. They followed the steady stream of two's and three's heading into the two-story building, pushing through the door to step into a rather spacious room, dotted with crude wooden tables and chairs and lit by several kerosene lamps, which stretched out from the walls like cheap sconces. He glanced around at the few men that already populated this floor, which was quickly starting to look as if it served as the settlement's only tavern. Bidding the others to find a seat at a corner table, he proceeded to the man behind the bar.

The man, gruff and a bit bigger boned than most, wore a beard that looked as if it had seen better days and hair that appeared to be slicked back with hair grease that was a few years too old. His cheeks, fat and rosy, shone in the light - altogether a rather unpleasant person to look at, but...well, beggars can't be choosers.

"Na'o na'o - we don't want no trouble in hurr, ya hear?" he said, putting a meaty elbow soundly on the bar top as Kyo approached. The warrior had to fight to keep his face straight - though he was sure that he himself probably didn't look all too 'prim and proper', he was rather...repulsed by this man's apparent lack of personal care.

"Neither do we," he answered briskly as he came to stand at the bar. Glancing towards his friends, who were already arranging themselves around two tables that had been put together to accommodate their large number, he spoke again. "We're actually looking for a few rooms - just for the night. We plan to find a captain and a ship by morning."

The greasy man looked at him with a wary expression - apparently very uncertain about giving anything to this man and his strange company. "Well, er...we're a real small village hurr..."

Kyo arched an eyebrow. "We can pay well."

That seemed to spark the barkeep's interest. "Weel, welcome tuh th' Pale Blue Trowll - Ahm Harry." he said, offering a hand filled with sausage-sized fingers towards Kyo. The warrior took the man's hand for a moment, seeming slightly hesitant about it. He might have been strong, but it seemed as if, should he allow his hands to get caught in the small space inside the other man's fist, his fingers might be pulverized to bone meal.

A few moments later, the warrior was crossing the bar to the table where the others were sitting. Pulling back a chair, he swung it around and sat down on it backwards, his chest against the back of the chair as he leaned towards the table. "Well, it turns out that there are only two rooms available on the upper level." he said with a light sigh, "From the looks of things, we're going to be a bit...cozy tonight. However," his eyes flashed over to Aya, "He did offer us a stall in this place's only stable, out back. So Bob should be fine for the night."

((Sorry to totally ditch out on Kai's introduction...but I needed to kick this thing in the butt ^.^''' Oh - and congrats to whoever gets the 2,100 post XP))



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Old 02-08-2008, 08:48 PM   #2100
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Toa smiled and waved appreciatively to the monks back at the monastery, grateful for their service and hospitality, before turning back to the road ahead. He had some ground to cover if he wanted to reach the group by nightfall, if he could reach them at all. Not an expert at the sun, Toa could still tell when the sun was nearing its time.

He walked on the road for about an hour or two before he started to get bored, and Toa noticed that the sky was beginning to cloud and darken. To counter this, he used an army of his little fire soldiers to light the road as it began to completely darken. The Pyromacer was completely confidant that he would be able to travel through the night when it began to rain.

“Pyrain bat fodder!” Toa hissed as the sudden torrent of merciless rain came down to extinguish his soldiers and strand him in total darkness. He ignited his hands in retaliation, though it was still near pitch black around him, and moved in a direction off of the road where he had seen a suitable tree for hiding. It had grown muddy and slippery in the short torrent that had endured so far, so when Toa took a single step off-road, he slipped and fell right on his back in the mud.

Letting out a long line of old Pyromancer swears to show exactly how angry he was, Toa pulled himself out of the mud and let the rain, however much he might hate it, wash it away. After that, he headed straight for the tree. When he reached it the area under the branches was surprisingly dry, allowing him to drag a few branches going and start a self-sufficient fire.

He sat back against the tree, letting the fire dry him off and relaxing for a moment, even closing his eyes to enjoy the sound of the crackles of the fire over the rain. That was when he heard it. It was the scratching of claws against bark, faint, but still there. And when he opened his eyes to face the perpetrator, Toa found the snout of the ugliest animal he had ever seen right starting right back. The next few moments after that were up to speculation and, as he would tell it, even more speculation. It’s just safe to say that the immediate area around Toa was virtually almost incinerated after he was finished dealing with the creature (A raccoon), with the exception of the tree, his pack, and the Hydra in it.

Toa slumped against the tree, a fire burning in front of him again and the ground scorched beneath him. This felt homier much to his delight, and soon he was blissfully asleep.

In the morning when he woke up, things were actually looking good. Well, they were until he had to do the two things he had simply never been trained to do: forge for food, and handle a fever he had somehow developed overnight. They both complicated each other to say none the least.

The Pyromancer plucked an apple from a tree nearby, looked it over to the extent his eye, and moved it to his mouth to take a bite. Then, without warning, a sneeze of fire erupted from his nose and turned it into an apple crisp, no pun intended. What Toa held afterward were ashes much to his hunger’s dismay. Five more attempts like this and he decided food could wait.

Now Toa was heading down the road again, though at a slower pace due to his sickness which had escalated to being able to cook an egg on his forehead. (No joke: he actually tried an egg he managed to steal from a nest, and it mostly worked. Well, except for the fact that he was attacked by a swarm of birds shortly before it was finished) Still, he moved fast enough that he would be able to overcome his companions by tomorrow morning for sure. Hedri was walking besides him, to lighten the load on his back and give the Hydra a breath of fresh air.

They were walking through an open area where there was only a bit of tall grass on either side of him when Hedri suddenly started squeaking and letting out hisses. Before Toa could respond or see what was setting off the little creature, an arrow suddenly soared right by his face from one grass area and planted itself in the other, causing him to plant his feet where they were. He turned his head towards the area where the arrow had come from, attempting to make out anything in the tall grass, and heard a voice somewhere behind him shout “Don’t move!”

Toa froze as he heard the sound of footsteps moving through the grass on both sides of the road, and he saw some figures emerge from the area he was looking at. People clad in ragged clothes that shown of worn and abuse, but reliability none the less. Some had bandanas and armbands, while others were full covered. Bandits, he managed to piece together in his clouded mind. His fever was rendering some mental and physical processes difficult.

There were seven in all, all lean and looking very unfriendly to the fever-induced Pyromancer. The lead one, a young woman who actually looked very good for a bandit, stepped up to him and stated “I don’t think we’ll have to say what we want.”

“Aright,” Toa replied sounding defeated and looked down at Hedri. “Give them the stuff.”

The Hedri looked at him like he was insane, as was the lead bandit, and let out an accusing hiss.

Toa drew back as if angry and asked “What do you mean ‘what stuff’? The stuff that you were supposed to get for the merchant!”

Hedri hissed and let out a few squeaks in response, spurring Toa to appear even angrier and say “Don’t give me the old ‘but no one gives stuff to a pygmy Hydra excuse! What are we going to say to Jim when we reach town?! That you forgot to pick up his items?!”

And this proceeded to go on for 10 more minutes of arguing before the bandit, snapping out of her confusion and disbelief, intervened.

“What the hell are you talking about and why are you talking to that thing?” she asked moving her face close to Toa’s, real anger apparent in her own voice as she stepped between the Pyromancer and the Hydra. All the other bandits, who were chuckling among themselves as they watched the two argue, snapped to attention as their leader moved forward.

“Firstly, I’m talking about the stuff. Secondly, this is not a thing. This is Hedri, my best friend and companion. Lastly, has anyone ever told you that you have beautiful eyes?” Toa asked, complete calm in innocence in his voice despite his apparent fury just a few moments before.

“Well, um, ah-,” She replied as she drew back, surprised, and managed to snap out of it. “Complements won’t get you out of this. Don’t move while my men search your pack or you’ll taste my blade.”

To emphasize this, she immediately drew her dagger and had it to his throat quicker than he could respond. Not much considering he was sick, but it was still quick. Toa stood still as his pack was taken and rummaged through, much to his personal dismay. Then it happened. He felt a sneeze building up, and looked at the bandit imploringly as it became clear as to what was happening. She glared at him for a moment, but none the less eased his dagger a bit so his throat would be spared.

Toa’s throat was spared, but when he sneezed fire at her, her face wasn’t.

The bandit let out a cry of surprise as the burst fire scorched her face (Actually her eyebrows as Toa might or might not learn later). Toa drew back in surprise, but none the less used this to his advantage. He spun to face the other bandits and let fire flow from his fingertips, the flames intent on devouring them. They, being bandits, turned tail and ran like hell as they were nearly burnt alive. Toa let the flames follow them for a bit before calling them off, laughing nearly uncontrollably to himself as he did. He turned around to find that the lead bandit too had run away, and Hedri looked up at him with a look of disgust.

“What?” Toa asked the Hydra, putting on a face of innocence. “Laughter is the best medicine I’ve heard of.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Nothing really interesting happened to Toa after that, thank the gods. By the time he reached the town however, his fever had escalated to the point of delirium at times. Nothing to serious, but if he didn’t at least take a moment to sleep and get rested, he was going to lose it.

Toa walked through the doors of the tavern, his posture perfect yet his expression reflected exactly how he felt: terribly sick and ready to lose his stomach again. When he saw them he strolled straight up to the group, attempting to replace the look on his face with that of cheer. He stopped next to Kyo and said, an apparent strain on his voice, to everyone “Hey guys, how’re you all doing?”

He himself, besides his sick demeanor, was a bit dirty to say none the least due to the mud incident, but was otherwise unscathed.
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Old 02-09-2008, 04:10 AM   #2101
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Carwyn almost jumped at the sight of Toa appearing next to them, covered in mud. After the sudden reappearance of Kai, the ranger didn't expect any other of their companions to crop up again; obviously the pyromancer had pretensions to the contrary. "Toa," he greeted the bedraggled mage. "You okay? You look like you've gotten into a fight with a mud puddle."




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Old 02-09-2008, 09:44 PM   #2102
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The arrival of Kai had been startling enough, especially since he'd appeared directly next to Audra. In response, she'd lurched sharply away, grasping at weapons that had not been returned to her since the brief session with Kyo. But now, to have another come back to the group?

With a look that seemed a peculiar mix of amusement and disgust, Audra spoke for the first time since asking Kyo what blade they were seeking. "Just exactly how many 'stragglers' to this group are there?" she demanded, fixing a decidedly 'pissed off' glare at Toa. It wasn't that she knew him or anything... but for reasons none of the group would be able to fully understand, she didn't like him.


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Old 02-09-2008, 10:22 PM   #2103
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“I'm the last,” Toa replied, letting out a laugh and brushing some crusted mud off his shoulder. He looked at Carwyn and replied “Course between mud puddles, creatures of the night, and bandits harassing me, I’d say that I’ve had my far share of being away from the group.”

He wasn’t blind as to the look Audra was giving him, so when Toa looked at her to say something, it was very unfortunate that at that moment he sneezed. A burst of fire suddenly erupted from him, lighting up the area above the table before dieing down and leaving Toa with a sheepish look. “And I’ve caught a fever, damn rain.”
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Old 02-10-2008, 04:21 AM   #2104
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Kyo watched the proceeding situation with silent observation, his eyes narrowing slightly as he noted Audra's rather cold look towards Toa. "Is everything alright, Audra?" he asked, his voice low.

Audra's eyes hadn't left Toa since he joined the group, but now she glanced at Kyo and turned her eyes to the table. "Sure," she muttered. "Why wouldn't it be?"

"You seemed a little..." he glanced from the girl to Toa and back again, "Tense."

Audra slowly raised her eyes to meet Kyo's. "Tense?" she echoed. Then, she scowled. "Well, perhaps I was... am." She shot another glare in Toa's direction, this one less veiled than the first.

He leaned slightly towards her, dropping his voice. "Can I speak with you a moment?" he murmured. "Alone?"

Audra hesitated for a moment, and then nodded abruptly, standing and pushing her chair out behind her, gesturing for Kyo to lead the way. He stood as well, spinning the chair he had been sitting on so that it could be faced back into the table. Turning, he motioned for her to follow him back towards the other side of the bar.

"What exactly is going on?" he asked, folding his arms over his chest as he turned to look back at her. "Do you know Toa?"

"Not personally, but I know his type," Audra answered cryptically. "And that is what I don't like."

His confused frown from earlier deepened. "'His type?'" he mimicked, "Pyromancers, you mean?"

"Sort of... well, not..." Audra sighed. "I don't know how to explain... it's... complicated."

He smiled faintly. "Sounds interesting," he said, "Try me."

Audra made a somewhat less amused face. "Picking through the drudgery of my past hardly seems 'interesting'," she replied dryly.

"I'm a scholar." he answered, "I've drudged through things that I'm sure are less interesting and far longer - I'm pretty sure I can handle your past."

The mysterious girl leaned forward with a curious smirk and asked, "You really wanna know about me?"

He stood straighter, dropping his hands to his sides, a slight eyebrow raised. "Yes," he said, "Actually, I do."

"Then call for Aya," Audra suggested calmly, sounding almost bored.

Once more, his eyes narrowed in confusion. "Aya?" he questioned, his green eyes turning from Audra to the table where the others sat a few feet away. "Why Aya?"

Audra's blue eyes sparkled with a strange mixture of emotion, not quite readable. "She's a Miko, and don't dare tell me you had no idea." She turned and pressed her back against the bar. "It's either that or... well, get both, actually... Aya and Takumi." She smiled faintly, as she was sure it would be next to impossible to connect the importance of Aya and Takumi both with Audra.

His eyes narrowed further. "Aya a miko?" he asked, "How did you come to that conclusion? And what does Aya or Takumi have to do with anything?"

"Aya to see deep," Audra replied, giggling softly, ignoring his first question. "And Takumi to tell a story, what else?"

The warrior watched her for several long moments before releasing a resignated sigh. "Very well." Looking over her shoulder, he called to the table. "Aya? Takumi?" he called, flagging them over with a hand.


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Old 02-10-2008, 03:05 PM   #2105
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Aya squinted, her eyes fixed on the fizz on the top of her ale. Everyone at the table around her had ordered one, mainly because that was basically all there was to drink in the Pale Blue Troll.

She nudged Carwyn, who was sitting beside her. “Is that a bug?” she whispered quietly. “Or something… else.”

Before Carwyn had a chance to respond, Aya heard her name being called by Kyo.

“I’ll be right back,” she promised Carwyn, and she left the table to where Kyo and Audra were talking quietly in the corner. “What’s up?” she asked innocently.

Audra grinned. "Hey, Aya," she said cheerfully. "Got something to ask of you. It's fairly simple... no deep thought or anything like that involved..."

Aya gave Kyo a quick glance, and then shrugged. “Ok,” she said to Audra. “Shoot.”

"Hold out your hand, if you please," Audra instructed. "Press it to my forehead."

Again, an uncertain look at Kyo, and then a shrug. “Is this one of those ‘pull my finger’ kind of tricks?” she asked tentatively, though even as she asked, she pressed the flat of her palm to Audra’s brow.

Audra cringed at the physical contact, but she allowed it to continue. Slowly, whispers came to Aya's mind. Then, images. Then, the floodgates broke loose and Aya was overwhelmed by the images, and the screams. Abruptly, Audra pulled away, just as Aya was beginning to waver.

"She's not strong enough," Audra observed with a frown, resting a hand on Aya's back.

“Oh, what was that?!” Aya asked, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I’ve got such a headache now!”


Veni, Vidi, Velcro. (I came, I saw, I stuck around)
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Old 02-10-2008, 03:13 PM   #2106
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"Welcome to my world," Audra murmured. "All hellfire and headache city..." Then, she turned to Kyo. "Had I allowed her to continue, she'd be unconscious now... just so you know, I've got your friends' health in mind as well..."

She turned to Takumi, who had also come when called. "To the Bard, then... tell us a story, will you? I'm sure you've heard it. Tell us of the 'Downfall of the Twin Cities: Empire of Emerald and Jade'."


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Old 02-12-2008, 04:54 PM   #2107
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Takumi peered around the inside of the dull, dingy bar and decided immediately that the place needed help. More precisely, his help.

''I'll be back after I change into something appropriate for our fine host and these good townfolk," he announced to the small crowd. He leaned over to Carwyn and said in a low tone that only the ranger could hear, "Make sure my ale doesn't have any bugs in it, please. It's bad form to choke while performing, you know. And do make sure to have a bucket of water or sand by Toa. I've had too many brushes with burning buildings. I'd rather he not immolate us sneezing."

Carwyn lifted his eyebrows in surprise at the mention of burning buildings, then grinned. "Somehow that doesn't surprise me...."

Takumi trotted up to the cramped room that all the men shared. He pulled out his bag and lifted up outfits one by one. "Too boring...not clean...definitely too fancy for this place. They wouldn't know what to do with someone in court garb...ah, just right for this place, if a bit conservative for me."

The bard pulled on the bright emerald green tunic and trousers and decided against the matching cape as being a tad too flamboyant for these local folk. He paused to look at his lean frame in the cloudy mirror hanging on the back of the door, turning slowly and smoothing out wrinkles. Then he smiled brightly at the reflection. "Show time!"

As he walked down the stairs, he made just enough noise to attract attention. The patrons and nearly all his fellow party members looked up at him. Kyo and Audra were off to the side talking in hushed voices. He stood tall, but she was hunched a bit, her shoulders knotted tight. Her jaw was set and her furrowed brow belied her tension. She cast a furtive look at Toa when he sneezed a stream of flame, and her frown deepened. Toa makes her nervous.... Takumi glanced at Hedri, who squawked and ducked down into the backpack til only his eyes showed.

"Nice green socks, Takumi," grinned Carwyn.

The bard winked back. "They're clean, too." He looked at the greasy barkeep. "Would you have another mug of ale handy? Telling stories can be thirsty work."

"A bard you are, eh? We could use a mite of entertainin' t'night." He reached for one of the spotted glass mugs covered with a film of dust.

Takumi thrust his own mug at the man to keep him from pulling one out, and smiled brightly. "Oh, please use mine--I wouldn't dream of causing you the extra work of cleaning another mug." He heard Carwyn cough back a laugh. "Besides, it fits my hand just right."

"Is that the only thing that fits your hand just right?" Carwyn asked, his face schooled in innocence.

"Perhaps when you're old enough, I might teach you about some of those things," Takumi retorted.

"Harharhar!" the keep roared, and his local patrons joined in raucous laughter, helped in no small amount by the copious amounts of ale they'd already consumed. He pounded Takumi on the back and nearly knocked the bard over.

Takumi caught his drink just in time, spilling only a few drops. "I'm simply stunned by your enthusiasm."

The locals laughed louder. "It's a small town harr. We don't get sturreytellers often," the barkeeper explained.

"I'll try to give you something memorable, then."

Kyo motioned to Takumi, who walked over to join the leader and Audra. Aya had just joined them as well, but she held her forehead in obvious pain.

The bard laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "My dear, are you all right?"

"The miko will be fine as soon as the effects of our brief connection wears off," Audra said.

Takumi's lifted eyebrow was the only outward evidence of his surprise. Suddenly the connection with Bob made sense. But how did Audra know, much less make a mind-connection, unless.... He said in a hushed tone, "It might be wise to discuss this another time. Somehow I suspect our guests are not terribly comfortable with different magics." He tilted his head slightly at the locals, who in between swigs of ale watched the fire-sneezing Toa with a mix of suspicion and anxiety.

Kyo glanced at the patrons and nodded agreement. "We need to get Toa to someplace more flame-proof anyway." He shook his head. "Now would be a good time for a healer. But that's not why we called you over."

Audra said, "Tell us a story, Bard. I'm sure you've heard it. Tell the story of the Downfall of the Twin Cities: The Empire of Emerald and Jade."

Takumi searched Audra's eyes. "What an intriguing choice, my lady. Would you care to tell me why?"

The locals started banging their mugs on the table. "Sto-ree. Sto-ree. Sto-ree..."

Audra gave him a small, cryptic smile. "It will all become clear in due time, Bard. Your adoring fans await your telling this tale."

The banging on the tables grew louder. "Even this brand of adoration is better than none, I suppose." Takumi turned and gave the small crowd one of his winsome smiles. "Ladies and gentlemen, tonight I have received a special request for a story. It is a saga of good and evil, fire and ice, heroes and villians. Tonight I present for you the Tale of the Downfall of the Twin Cities: The Empire of Emerald and Jade."


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Old 02-13-2008, 04:10 PM   #2108
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Toa took up a mug of ale that had been handed to him by a random patron, in preparation for the tale, and was about to take a sip when, again, he sneezed. The burst of flame went directly at into mug, turning all the liquid inside into a puff of pure steam that floated up to the ceiling. The mug itself was red-hot, and after receiving more than a few questionable looks, Toa decided that a drinking while sick wasn’t a good idea.

He leaned back a bit in the chair he had chosen at the groups table, getting comfortable for the tale that the bard was about to tell.
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Old 02-13-2008, 04:21 PM   #2109
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Kyo's fist still hadn't released from when he had closed it when noticing Aya stagger beneath Audra's hand, though his shoulders were no longer tense. While he didn't quite expect any foul play from their new companion - anyone who bothered to follow the rules of swordsmanship probably wouldn't sink to such a back-handed level - but his suspicions weren't completely settled. He still couldn't help but watch Audra's every move - and when he saw Aya's facial expression turn, his first instinct was to attack. But no...it would appear that what had gone on was no true fault of Audra's - but that still didn't set him at ease.

"Aya, come here," he said, his green eyes on her as he held a hand out to the side of him. Perhaps he was being paranoid, perhaps he wasn't acting enough. Either way, he wasn't about to leave Aya too close to anyone he didn't trust, not at this point. When she drew near, he bent his head towards her and lowered his voice. "What did she do?" he asked, "What did you see?"


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Old 02-13-2008, 04:44 PM   #2110
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Aya was reluctant to answer. "Stuff," she said vaguely. "Just...." She shrugged, then rubbed her crinkled forehead.

Kyo put a reassuring hand on her arm, and Aya met his eyes.

She shifted uncomfortably. "I don't think it was her fault," she whispered, looking askance at Audra, "that they all died." She paused for a moment, looking first down at the floor and then up at Kyo again. "It was like witnessing hellfire and damnation for a whole city."

She pressed her lips together thoughtfully. "I think...," she said slowly and only so Kyo could hear, "that it was sort of a premonition as well. What would happen to everything here, across the whole land, if we don't find the Obake blade."


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Old 02-13-2008, 08:24 PM   #2111
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His eyes hardened, his frown deepened. Exactly what had she seen? "'They'?" he asked, "Who are 'they'? And why would it be her fault that they died?" His confusion shone plainly - and he was getting a tad bit more frustrated by Audra's enigmatic past as each moment passed. There was a reason she had shown Aya...But the question was - what had she shown her? Her past? Their future? Was it a memory or premonition, explanation or warning?

And why had she called for Takumi? What could a bard's story have to do with her or her past? Or Toa, for that matter? Though he was a historian, Kyo was hardly one for tales told by often unreliable bards - and even though he had heard of the subject of this story, he was reluctant to believe that anything was meant by it or could be taken out of it.


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Old 02-13-2008, 08:56 PM   #2112
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Aya shook her head. "I don't know," she said in a hushed whisper. "I saw people--men, women, children... just people. And fire. Lots of fire. And they... died. All of them. All the people, all the buildings... they were consumed by flame until they were... just... ash...." Aya's voice trailed off, and she took pause for a moment. "All except one."

She cautiously looked over her shoulder at Audra, and then gave Kyo a sheepish grin. "But I don't think it was her fault."


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Old 02-13-2008, 09:19 PM   #2113
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Carwyn pursed his lips as he leaned back in his chair and took stock of the situation. Ever since they'd left the monastery, things had gotten progressively weirder. He was disturbed by his sister's sudden attack on their group and their subsequent loss of Tellis, Takara and Katsuro. He wasn't sure what to make of the appearance of Audra and her impromptu joining and he was certainly taken aback by having both Kai and Toa rejoin their group. It was as if the gods could sense the balance in their groups being shifted and were responding by shuffling people back in. He shook his head and dismissed that thought.

Now Audra was being secretive and acting very oddly, speaking in hushed tones with Kyo at first, then beckoning Aya and Takumi over and speaking to them. Carwyn became a little concerned when Audra had placed her hand on Aya's head, but the young merchant seemed no worse for the wear. Kyo wouldn't have let Audra hurt Aya either, so Carwyn's concern was assuaged. Now Takumi seemed to be gearing up for a story at Audra's prompting, causing the ranger to wonder what exactly the strange girl had in mind.

He had his own strange girl to worry about, however. He had taken Chryseis straight to his room once they'd settled at the inn and bound her there, taking every precaution to make sure she didn't escape. He had also given her another dose of the sedating liquid he'd used on her to keep her unconscious, but he knew that it would wear off soon and he didn't really want to keep using it as too many doses would eventually harm her. And despite all the pain she'd caused, Chryseis was still his sister and to hurt her any more than he already had was something that he wasn't comfortable doing.

Throwing one last glance Aya and Kyo's way, Carwyn got up from his seat and quickly padded up the stairs.




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Old 02-14-2008, 08:55 PM   #2114
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Kai sat quietly sipping water. Not really paying attention to anyone.

(Sorry didn't have net for a few days, and now I'm off for a short vacation, I will post something better/longer when I return.)


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There is no Weakness. There is the Dark Side.

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Old 02-15-2008, 02:35 AM   #2115
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When Audra had said it, the title of the story she'd requested from Takumi had not seemed to have any great effect on her. Instead, it was as if she felt a sort of amused indifference at the mention of the Empire and its downfall. But when Takumi announced it to his ever-growing audience, Audra flinched visibly. The color drained from her face and she turned toward the bar, hunching down a little further in her chair. For a moment, she seemed paralyzed by indecision, but then, she turned back to watch the Bard as he wound up for his telling of the story.

In all honesty, Audra was curious to learn of whatever embellishments had been added to the tale since she'd heard it told last. At the same time, she couldn't help but be more than a little uncomfortable with it. And so, as she caught Aya glancing in her direction, she turned away once more, pale at the revelation to come and the unwanted memories resurfacing.

Because there was one thing Audra was sure of: after Takumi's tale, Kyo would know, bright scholar that he was. And for reasons Audra could not pinpoint, that thought terrified her more than anything else she'd faced before.


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Old 02-25-2008, 08:00 PM   #2116
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Takumi took a quick sip of ale to wet his throat properly and looked at the small crowd. Someone must have run to tell the rest of the village that the inn had some special entertainment. The room had filled up with people, enough that some were left standing in the back.

He took a breath and smiled at the crowd. "She was born with a shock of blazing red hair, thanks to her father, and ice-blue eyes, just like her mother's. With her cream-colored skin and cheery smile, she was the joy of her parents; indeed, the joy of the entire tiny village. She was still just a tiny child when the plague swept through that village, killing everyone except her. The poor child was all alone, and would have been doomed to die. When soldiers came two days later, it was her pretty little smile shining through her tears that won the heart of one of those hardened warriors. The man picked her up and took care of her as they journeyed back north to the twin city-states. He knew he couldn't take care of her properly, being a soldier without a wife, so he did what he thought was best. He gave her over to the care of his liege, King Malitor.

"The king's daughter, Princess Elina, was about the same age and needed a playmate and servant. The king named the girl Aenya."

Takumi took a quick look around the audience. The locals hung on every word. His fellow party members listened carefully. Audra watched him, shoulders tense, eyes glittering hard. She knows this story...and it's personal for her.....

The bard continued with a flourish of his hand. "That was one of the few good things Malitor every did during his reign, for it is true that he had a black heart. He took what he wanted from his peasants, leaving them to die of starvation in the winters. He waged war with neighbors and arranged for assassinations. He abused his servants, beating those he didn't like, and having his way with the women and girls. No one dared defy him, or they were killed instantly. His penchant for evil and his unholy...appetites only grew with the years. A cloud of darkness lay heavy on the land during the years that the country groaned under the heavy burden of a king who thought only of himself.

"The Princess and Aenya grew and became more beautiful by the day. They were twin rays of sun in the dark kingdom, loved by everyone whose lives they touched. On the Princess' wedding day, the kingdom rejoiced and mourned at the same time. The Princess radiated happiness for it was a true love match to a man who cherished her. For that, they were happy. But it also meant she was leaving to live and rule as Queen in another kingdom, and the loss of her light would only make the kingdom a darker place for those left behind.

"The Princess knew that her leaving would make Malitor unhappy, and she urged Aenya to stay behind as a remembrance to the King of his daughter's love. Aenya agreed out of her love for the Princess, who was nearly a sister to her. Princess Elina presented the girl to the King, and then left with her new husband.

"King Malitor had other ideas, however. He took Aenya and beat her brutally, using her in ways no man should ever treat a woman. It was not many months before Aenya was heavy with his child, and even then that did not stop the abuse he heaped upon the beautiful woman, who reminded him that he no longer had his daughter nearby."

The bard stopped to take another sip of ale and gauge his audience. He saw the crowd becoming angry over the mistreatment of Aenya. He also saw Audra blanche and swallow hard.

"Aenya gave birth to a girl. She endured the abuse for the sake of her daughter, who would have been homeless if her mother died. However, her hatred was kindled the day the king first hurt her, and the fire of hatred burned deeper by the day. She endured the abuse until one hot, dry day in midsummer.

It had started as a very warm spring that turned into a hot summer. The sun was relentless that burned away any rainclouds before they could water the land to quench the drought that developed. It was that same hot, dry day, one of too many that summer, that the king turned his eye to Aenya's daughter, who was growing to be as beautiful she had once been. Aenya saw the leer he gave to the girl who was too young to understand what such looks meant. The burning coals of hate deep in her soul burst into flame as Aenya saw the king reach out to stroke the young girl's cheek. Aenya drew on a strength she never knew she had, and streams of those flames suddenly flared out from her hands, setting the king on fire. 'You'll never touch my daughter!' she screamed at the king, and spat fire on him. He fell to the ground, howling in agony. The room erupted into fire, and the entire palace followed. With the extreme dryness, it became a wildfire that engulfed the entire city, turning everything to ashes in mere minutes. No one could escape the flaming wrath as it burned away all the injustice suffered by Aenya. The king went to the hell that he so richly deserved.

"When the coals and embers had cooled enough for people to search for survivors, they found only burned husks. They found the king's body, but curiously, they never found the bodies of Aenya or her daughter. The blackened remnants of the twin-city state were left as a testament to the evil that was destroyed that day, never to be rebuilt.

To this day, no one knows what happened to Aenya or her daughter. Some say they died in the fire. Some say Aenya's pyromancy protected them both and they escaped to live in some distant part of these lands. I believe it is the latter." Takumi raised his mug and looked directly at Audra. "Long live Aenya and her daughter. May her flames of justice ever burn bright."


From MST3K's spoof of "Hercules Unchained"--heard as Roman medic soldiers carry off an unconscious Greek Hercules on a 1950's Army green canvas stretcher: "Hi, we're IX-I-I. Did somebody dial IX-I-I?"

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Old 02-25-2008, 09:14 PM   #2117
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Toa, though obviously disgusted with some aspects of the story as any moral person would be, smiled as the Bard closed the story with the destruction of the cities. Justice was a dish best served with flames and a touch of brandy. No, seriously, there's a Pyromantic dish called "Justice" that's a favorite among the Pyromancers of the West and is almost never seen outside there.

"Good on her," Toa said as he leaned forward onto his table, managing to keep back a sneeze that was actually building up this time. "Never been too fond of what I've heard of the North, with all the Hydromancers and... other stuff more common there."

The other suggestion that Toa had so hesitantly changed actually put a sick look on his face. Well, one might have assumed that until the sick Pyromancer sneezed a burst of flame so hot it literally burned a hole in the table. Toa looked at the hole, a bit stunned, and then embarrassed, looked up at those who had crowded in.

"Sorry."

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Old 02-25-2008, 10:33 PM   #2118
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Kyo's flashing green eyes didn't leave Audra for a moment once the bard had started his tale...and as the woman had indicated that there was something about the tale specifically that she had wanted him - and the rest of their companions - to hear, it wasn't too difficult for him to discern the meaning behind the tale. Breaking his gaze from her for the first time since Takumi began to speak, his gaze flashed over to the table along with his other companions when Toa sneezed yet again.

"Perhaps we should put our own pyromancer to bed to recover, lest the same fate befall us." he said, humor in his voice - though it never quite reached his face. Allowing his hand to fall from Aya's shoulder, he turned towards the back of the tavern and, with little more words than that, began to make his way out into the back courtyard of the building - if it could be called that, in a town so small. As he went, he caught Audra's eye and made a smart motion with his chin, silently motioning for her to follow.


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Old 02-26-2008, 02:18 AM   #2119
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After hearing a story about a pyromancer burning an entire city-state to the ground in minutes, the inn's patrons were understandably nervous when Toa burned a hole through the entire thickness of the heavy wood table with a simple sneeze. Takumi was afraid the suddenly silent group would kick not only Toa but their entire party out of the inn, and the bard was rather enjoying the warm evening, the warm ale, and the coy glances from a particularly buxom serving girl who looked like she kept a lot of nights warm. He certainly did not want to be kicked out into the cold night that was threatening rain yet again.

As Kyo ushered the ill Toa out of the main room, Takumi decided to draw attention away from them as quickly as possible. "Who here knows 'Finnegan's Wake'?"

The crowd cheered its approval and banged mugs on the table.

"Well, then, sing with me, everyone!" He led the enthusiastic group through the song.


Tim Finnegan lived in Walkin Street,
A gentle Countryman mighty odd
He had a brogue both rich and sweet,
An' to rise in the world he carried a hod
You see he'd a sort of a tipplers way
but for the love for the liquor poor Tim was born
To help him on his way each day,
he'd a drop of the craythur every morn

Whack fol the dah now dance to yer partner
round the flure yer trotters shake
Bend an ear to the truth they tell ye,
we had lots of fun at Finnegan's Wake

One morning Tim got rather full,
his head felt heavy which made him shake
Fell from a ladder and he broke his skull, and
they carried him home his corpse to wake
Rolled him up in a nice clean sheet,
and laid him out upon the bed
A bottle of whiskey at his feet
and a barrel of porter at his head

Whack fol the dah now dance to yer partner
round the flure yer trotters shake
Bend an ear to the truth they tell ye,
we had lots of fun at Finnegan's Wake

His friends assembled at the wake,
and Widow Finnegan called for lunch
First she brought in tay and cake,
then pipes, tobacco and whiskey punch
Biddy O'Brien began to cry,
"Such a nice clean corpse, did you ever see,
Tim, auvreem! O, why did you die?",
"Will ye hould your gob?" said Paddy McGee

Whack fol the dah now dance to yer partner
round the flure yer trotters shake
Bend an ear to the truth they tell ye,
we had lots of fun at Finnegan's Wake

Then Maggie O'Connor took up the cry,
"O Biddy" says she "you're wrong, I'm sure"
Biddy gave her a belt in the gob
and sent her sprawling on the floor
Then the war did soon engage,
t'was woman to woman and man to man
country law was all the rage
and a row and a ruction soon began

Whack fol the dah now dance to yer partner
round the flure yer trotters shake
Bend an ear to the truth they tell ye,
we had lots of fun at Finnegan's Wake

Mickey Maloney ducked his head
when a bucket of whiskey flew at him
It missed, and falling on the bed,
the liquor scattered over Tim
Now the spirits new life gave the corpse, my joy!
Tim jumped like a warrior from the bed
Cryin will ye walup each girl and boy,
t'underin' Jaysus, do ye think I'm dead?"

Whack fol the dah now dance to yer partner
round the flure yer trotters shake
Bend an ear to the truth they tell ye,
we had lots of fun at Finnegan's Wake!


By the time he'd finished the song, the crowd was singing boisterously, slapping each other on the back, laughing, and drinking deeply. A few even managed to find enough space in the small inn to dance one of the local country-dances. The buxom serving girl took his mug and refilled it, then brought it back with a wink.

I think I'd call tonight a successful performance, Takumi thought, smiling.


From MST3K's spoof of "Hercules Unchained"--heard as Roman medic soldiers carry off an unconscious Greek Hercules on a 1950's Army green canvas stretcher: "Hi, we're IX-I-I. Did somebody dial IX-I-I?"

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Old 03-01-2008, 03:20 PM   #2120
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Audra caught Kyo's motion and its meaning, and slipped smoothly off her barstool to follow. She was several paces behind, though, and found Kyo as he was just turning to face her. Undaunted, she said evenly, "You wanted to know about me."

"I did." he said with a nod of his head. The cool air was fresh on his skin - and it was quite a relief from the stuffiness of the crowded room before. However, he was hardly distracted from his thoughts. "Though I can't say that I was expecting something quite like that."

Audra shot him a glare. "What did you think it would be? Some down-on-her-luck Northern girl left to steal for her needs? That no one would take her in?" She let out an exasperated sigh. But then, there was a change in her expression, and she whispered, "I-I didn't... it wasn't..."

He said nothing for several moments, simply taking her slight outburst with a quiet stare. He sighed after her voice drifted off, his arms falling to either side from where they were folded across his chest. "I understand that you didn't mean for it to happen." he said, his voice gentler than usual. "It's simply...a surprise, is all."

Audra's stony scowl returned. "Didn't mean it? What else was I supposed to do?" The scowl faded. "But I-I didn't..." She moaned. "All these years trying to forget it and..." Scowl. "That... thing was a poor excuse for a man, let alone a king. He needed to meet an Audra."

Kyo's face twisted into a frown, his eyes shining with confusion and worry. He took a few steps closer to her. "Audra? Are you alright?"

"Fine," the girl snapped abrutply. "We... I... fine, yes..." Her face twisted up in confusion. "Do I..." She paused. "I'm..." She suddenly looked as though she were about to collapse. Abruptly, she regained her stability and glared past Kyo. "I. Am. Fine," she stated firmly.

He saw that her eyes were distant - and he knew that she wasn't quite seeing him. Taking a few steps closer, he was suddenly regretful that he had said anything at all about her past. Was the grief of what she'd done the cause of her strange behavior now? "It's getting late," he said slowly, "Perhaps we should all head up to the rooms. We're going to be leaving early tomorrow."

The glare faded. In a low voice, barely audible, she murmured, "I worked so hard to forget the past, but the past would not be forgotten. The power wouldn't leave. Aenya remains. Audra grew stronger... the storm is not to be stopped..."

She flinched and then nodded slowly. "Early departure, yes." And with that, she moved past him and up to the room.


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