Author Topic: The Price of the Fall (RP)
Crispian_Pontiff 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
Crispian pulled on his breastplate, tugging at the straps to fasten it tight. Tannir hovered in the background, keeping well clear of the young Lord he had served faithfully over the last months. His worried look rarely strayed from the young warrior, but he was cautious about meeting his eyes, for something burned there, he did not want to face.
“Advise any who come that I’ve gone to the hunt with Chaplain Darnyk, boy,” Crispian snapped as he clasped his cloak in place. Settling his shield in place after securing his sword, he stepped toward the door. “And I am sorry if I have been difficult since…that night,” he said quietly, yanking the door open and swiftly leaving.
The lieutenants and sergeants of the Defender’s guild did not look at him as he strode through the building. They all had heard of the loud shouting at night, and the vast amounts of ale, that had plagued the young Centurion. He acknowledged salutes and little else as he left. His usually calm face was grim and it was clear that something naggered at him.
On passing out of the Defender’s, into the sunshine for the first time in almost nine days, Kerriann stood in his path. She towered over him, her arms across her chest. “Lord Crispian, you have slighted Tatyanna,” she said, accusingly.
“Don’t call me lord,” he muttered and continued on, leaving the Paladin behind him.
The gate warders nodded as he exited the east gate, a vague salute being returned.
Darnyk was already at the horses. His friar’s robes were in neat order and he radiated calm as always. “Where to hunt, Crispy? I’d like to check out the Barrows again. I hear the Tomb Wights are being pesky,” he mentioned with a glint in his eye.
“I don’t care where,” Crispian pouted, “just somewhere that I can kill something.” He swung up onto his horse and turned his back on Camelot. He could still hear the laughs of that mad bitch as she had been dragged away. Tears were in his eyes as he followed the friar out on to the road.
The clear breeze of riding did little to ease the mire that filled Crispian. His thoughts, his feelings, his wants had not been his to master over this past week. He could not clear his head to think right. The joy of battle was gone; the peace of humility denied him. He found himself contentious with friends and short with allies. However, the worst of it all was how he found himself noticing things – looking at them in a different light than before. Tannir’s smile and grace of movement had become so difficult to bear. Ilya’s dark colorings, and his laugh.
As he rode, he unstoppered a wineskin and drank deeply, pressing a hand to his eyes to clear such images. And the laugh came…cackling through him.

[mod] +300 rule.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
Council member, Omnia Patricius, General, Defenders
Http://www.warlordcentral.com - Omnia Patricius's home site
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Cloak72 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
Secaran handed him the tightly rolled scroll without a word. Ayslyn's gaze flicked between it and his friends serious face. He raised an eyebrow. "Bad news I take." Secaran offered the scroll again, not responding. Ayslyn sighed, heavily, and opened it. Slowly he read, his lips soon pressed in a thin line, then in an outright scowl. He checked the signature. All of his people were reliable, but the one who had sent this was among his most reliable. This was no mere flight of fancy. He crumpled the paper in his fist. "Another good soul lost in the dark. Someone needs to show him back to the light."

 

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Ayslyn Greenwillow, Night Elven Hunter, Runetotem
Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
"Pain shared is Pain divided; Joy shared is Joy multiplied"
Everything I needed to know, I learned from drinking at Callahan's
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midynn 
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more! more!

 

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{old}Alyzabeth 
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(ooc)

hrmm....

 

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Cloak72 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
Ayslyn watched the parapets from his perch high in one of the trees. The moon rose full and bright. Not the best night for this sort of thing, but he couldn't be too picky. Some time just after midnight he saw the signal. Someone with a Bullseye lantern was scanning the area around the castle. Suddenly the beam of light was shuttered twice in quick succession, then a moment later three more times. To anyone not looking for a signal, it would seem that the wind had caused the wick to flutter. With a grin, Ayslyn dropped out of the tree, swinging from branch to branch until he reached the ground.

He dashed from tree to tree, shadow to shadow, as he approached the wall. For a moment he had to wait, pressed against a large oak, while two sentries passed him in their patrol. Soon enough though, the wall stood before him. Castle Sauvage, Gateway to the lands of Albion. Slinging his bow over his shoulder, he scampered up the wall with all the speed of a manic squirell. As he crested the parapet, he came face to face with a highlander. They stood there, regarding each other for several moments until Ayslyn grinned. "Asten," he said as he haunched down on the parapet.

"Ayslyn," the highlander replied with a smile. "Ah gotcher message. Tis more then a li'l risky mehtin laik this."

Ayslyn nodded, "I know. But I had to confirm your report."

Asten frowned and nodded. "Aye, Ah though tha may be why ye came. Tis true ah fear. Lair Crispian has fallen into ah mighty bleak spell. He stays fer days in his rooms. Oft thar is a terrible racket comin from em. His temper is hair short, and tis said tha he seeks comfort in tha bottom o' an ale cask."

Ayslyn scowled as he absorbed all this. "And all this came about since the D'vena woman was deposed?"

"Aye. Ah do nae know what she did to tha lad, but et has messed him up somethin fierce."

Ayslyn nodded slowly. "I'm sure it did. Was it known whether she dabbled in magic or not?"

Asten frowned. "Thar be a hunerd rumours abut that wench, each more fantastic then tha last."

"I thought as much. Oh well. Something must be done for the lad. I can't stay any longer tongiht. It would be bad for both of us if we were seen together. I shall be back though." Ayslyn stood as Asten nodded and looked about. They were, thankfully, still alone on the wall. By the time he turned back, Ayslyn was gone.

 

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Ayslyn Greenwillow, Night Elven Hunter, Runetotem
Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
"Pain shared is Pain divided; Joy shared is Joy multiplied"
Everything I needed to know, I learned from drinking at Callahan's
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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
Battered, the duo emerged from the Barrows. The tall friar clad in an enchanted leather jerkin scowled. "It's mauve," he said, plucking at the front. "We should go to Camelot so I can buy dyes, but after I have changed into my old robe. So no one sees me."

Crispian, doffing the barrel helm Ronal had given him, scowled. "I hate it when they enamel these grey." He slung the barrel-helm from his shield as he started to walk off, a skin of wine already filling his hands.

Darnyk hid the grave look he gave his friend as he followed. He keenly took in everything Crispian had said or done these last hours during their hunt. Other than a taciturness more than normal, he seemed recovered.

The trip across the plains to West Downs was short, and horse from there to the City shortened the trip more. (Comment - writing in horse routes where I want them!) They passed through the east gate and Darnyk made directly for the tailors' shop.

Crispian moved as in a daze, avoiding the Defender's Guild completely. His steps wandered through the city, until he found himself deep in the Shadowed area. A run down tavern spilled light into the street, but even that was muted, diffused. He stumbled in, greeted by the reek of ale, sweat, and stale smoke.

Two gold coins dropped on the counter. "A room," he said quietly to the innkeep, a saracen with a bad scar and worse teeth. A sneer spread on the small eastern's face as he pocketed the coins.

"Take your pick," the man said, nodding up the hallway. "The rooms are the same, but the choices aren't," he completed with a wicked chuckle.

Resignedly, Crispian mounted the stairs, which creaked under his weight. He walked the narrow, dim hallway, peering into the chambers to either side. After some hestation, he selected one -- a run down room with a cot, a stand on the side with pitcher and basin. Lounging on the cot, clad in a thin shift, was a lean youth, muscled from work and blank of expression.

With a bleak expression, Crispian allowed the lad to start to undo the straps of his armor. A look of haunted pain settled in place on his face.

And below the castle, in deepest dungeon, a laugh erupted that echoed an insane joy and amusement. It echoed in the darkness, filling the void with its mad volume, and ripping through the mind of a young warrior-lad.

"Appetitio depravatio amatorius," she intoned, her voice a broken, dried croaking. Making the sounds pained her, but the cost she felt was worth it. "My hate drives my revenge, little boy! I hurl my rage at thee, for hate-sake alone!" she barked as she pictured him, as he had come to her those two nights. To aid that bastard Carrington and the pig-farmer! Let what he used to decieve her be HER revenge!

"Appetitio depravatio amatorius. Inversio aeternum expers incantamentum," she gasped in a pained voice, setting her revenge beyond the casting, exacting a price that could be lessened, but never fully paid.

And delight coursed through her. The first joy she had known in weeks.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
Council member, Omnia Patricius, General, Defenders
Http://www.warlordcentral.com - Omnia Patricius's home site
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Cloak72 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
Crispian woke in the dark of the night. Something was wrong. The boy at his side slept deeply, almost unnaturaly so. Suddenly, he realized his wrists and ankles were bound. "I apologize about the ropes," a voice said wryly. Someone lit the candle on the table. A tall elf sat calmly in the single rickety chair, scratching his chin thoughtfully. "The young Crispian that everyone knows and loves might have calmy chatted with an unarmed elf," he gestured toward the unstrung bow and pair of dirks that lay across the room from him, "But I couldn't be sure that this one would." He grinned.

"Who are you?"

The elf grinned again. Scetching a quick bow from his seat, "Ayslyn Greenwillow, one of Rhiannon's Chosen, and a champion of justice," he chuckled, "Sounds pretenious doesn't it. Oh well, can't be helped. You are Crispian Pontiff, Senechal of the West, and leader of the ST. Crispin's League. You are brother to Jashen, Lord to Tannir, Friend to Arguyle, Moryan, and countless others. You are a young lad who has lately shown some very disturbing changes of character. While a touch too serious, you were always jovial, and fiarminded. A lad that many of the Defenders looked up to. Recently however, following the capture of the Lady D'vena, you have fallen into a rather heavy funk. You have acquired a rather nasty temper, and your tastes in companions seems to have turned from pretty young lasses toward strapping young lads like him," he nodded toward the boy. Crispian felt his face grow hot. "Oh, wipe that look off your face boy," Ayslyn snapped, "There is nothing wrong with it. It is only wrong when one or the other is forced into it. And you needn't worry about the lad waking up while we are talking. He'll sleep quite soundly for some time. Though I wager his head will feel like a swollen melon when he wakes. I didn't have time to prepare anything gentler. Brew this into a tea and have him drink it. It will help." He tossed a small pouch onto the bed. "So! Here I am to help. Let's talk." Ayslyn looked at Crispian expectantly.

 

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Ayslyn Greenwillow, Night Elven Hunter, Runetotem
Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
"Pain shared is Pain divided; Joy shared is Joy multiplied"
Everything I needed to know, I learned from drinking at Callahan's
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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
Crispian swallowed heavily. Eyes closed tightly for a moment as his body tensed and he sat up, wrapping a portion of blanket around his waist in modesty. His head tipped downward, hands dangling between his knees.

"You could have just killed me. What can you know of D'Vena?" He looked up at Ayslyn, who raised an eyebrow at him, graceful arching of it in almost humor. "Or all the rest? Elves and all of Hibernia split from Albion when Arthur King died."

He stared at the elf, resting so casually across from him, almost close enough to strike. Ayslyn looked utterly unplussed in the least.

"Wise people keep many eyes in many places, as you should sure know," the elf said with a hint of humor. The coloring of Crispian's cheeks confirmed his suspicion.

"Well, yes," Crispian said, feeling stupid at the simplicity of the statement. "Since D'Vena, things have changed," he paused gauging the reaction of the elf, and looking for the wine jug he had set near the bed. It rested beside Ayslyn, who just quirked an eyebrow again and shook his head.

"It's the darkness that's the worst," Crispian said quietly, voice low in the darkened chamber. "When it comes, it is so compelling, so," his voice broke, "hard to fight." Jaw clenched and chin trembled. "It's like a calling, then an urging, a demand," he paused, tears welling and then rolling from his eyes.

Ayslyn sighed softly, fearing the depth of this latest working of D'Vena's, and the wounds it opened, or deepened.

No longer able to even look at the elf, Crispian let his eyes roam the faded, grey-wood walls. "I have no...no focus...no reason anymore. I just go, from place to place or mood to mood. And I ache, and hurt." He snapped eyes onto the Elf, Ayslyn, and his grey eyes smoldered. "And I crave...things. And I hate, more than ever before."

Chest heaving deeply as his breathing deepened, Crispian's face twisted into a snarl. "And what can Ayslyn Greenwillow, one of Rhiannon's Chosen, and a champion of justice," he spat the last title out, "do about this? or this?" he indicated the sleeping lad with a fierce jerk of his chin. He snorted derisively, "Or are you part of the cause? I've heard tales, about people like Brianen and what Hiberian can do."

He almost continued, but the look from Ayslyn stopped him cold in mid-sentence.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
Council member, Omnia Patricius, General, Defenders
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Cloak72 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
"My intentions here are to save a good soul," he glared at the young man. "It is why Rhiannon brought me here. It is why I can not rest." His hand flitted to his chest. Even through the armour he wore, he could feel the ring. He decided to switch tacks. "And I know more than a little about darkness. How old do you think I am?"

Crispian looked confused. "I know little of elves."

Ayslyn grinned. "Modesty. Maybe they were right. Guess then."

Crispian picked a number. "200" He knew that elves were long lived.

Ayslyn arched an eyebrow. "Were I anyone else, you would be right. I am, all told, over 1000 years old," he held up a hand to forestall Crispian, "Oh this body is only 200. I was originaly born in a land VERY far away from here. I lived there, grew old, and died. And for the work that I did there, fighting the evil that walked that land, I was," he paused, "rewarded by Rhiannon with a special honour. I was sent here, reborn in this form, to continue my fight," he closed his eyes a moment and sighed, "In the land I came from, I was, as a young man, a rake, more than a bit of a scoundrel at heart. Law mattered little to me, so long as good prevailed. I knew more than my share of women, flitting from one to another like a butterfly in a field of flowers. Until I met Esme. She was beautiful and kind, witty and funny, and against all odds, in love with me. Though she wouldn't admit it. It took me a long time to convince her that I had changed my ways, and would remain loyal to her," he shook his head sadly, wrenching himself from his memories.

"Anyway. Here there are but three dragons. Where I came from there were scores. I made a name for myself hunting the most evil of them. I and my friends were quite good at it. It's a lucrative occupation as well," he grinned, "We built a city in the heart of a massive forest. Esme and I were married. Everything was perfect for a time. Unfortuately, the rest of the dragons took our hunting them amiss and struck back," his eyes closed in pain as he remembered that day, "They attacked the city. Esme helped to defend the walls. We drove them back, but she was killed. Turned to ash in a breath of primordial flame. After that, I went mad. I went on a killing spree. Nothing remotely draconic was safe from my wrath."

"Rhiannon forgive me, I enjoyed it." he moaned, almost too low to hear.

"The only thing that brought me back were my friends, and my children. They helped to restore me. That is the help that I offer to you. You must learn to live with the rage, and there is no crime in that," he waved at the boy, "unless it is not your choice. Which in this case, it isn't," he hold up a stone, thick as Crispian's thumb and perfectly spherical, polished to a smooth sheen. He tossed it to Crispian, who caught it. Despite the warmth of the night, the stone pulsed with cold. "A gift from a friend of mine. You are under an enchantment. Find a cure, with your friends, or learn to live with it, again with their help. Those are your choices. Either way, Esme and Rhiannon both think you are worth saving, and I agree with them. Should you need my help again, I shall return. Just remember, there are dark forces in the world, and those of us aligned with the light need all the help we can get." He rose, and lay a thin bladed knife at the edge of the bed. "I'ld release you myself, but I fear that D'vena's curse might make things complicated," he hefted the jug of wine, "And you'll find no truths in the bottom of this." He placed it on the table along with a ring. "If you wear this, my people will know that you are looking for me. Good luck lad. You are in for a rocky road, but the destination is more than worth it." He slipped out of the room and into the night.


*******
Later that night, a number of letters arrived at the same time, each sealed with green wax, stamped with a willow. Arguyle, Moryan, Jashen and others broke the seals and read


Young Crispian needs you.

-A Friend.

 

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Ayslyn Greenwillow, Night Elven Hunter, Runetotem
Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
"Pain shared is Pain divided; Joy shared is Joy multiplied"
Everything I needed to know, I learned from drinking at Callahan's
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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Grabbing the knife, Cirispian sawed at the bonds, freeing himself. Naked, he spread toward hallway, looking for a sign of the elf, but there was none. He was just gone.

Crispian sat and stared at the stone for some time. The cool weight in his hand was comforting, but disturbing. The elf's, Ayslyn's, gift was yet another oddity, a quirk of this event, this passage.

He pondered the gift, then slipped it over his head to hang against his chest. He considered the wine jug, and the sleeping lad. With a sigh, he settled back onto the cot, curling into the warmth of his chest, and slept.


Deep under the castle, the laugher awoke. The sapping power she had been feeding on was less. She hissed at the treachery of it, but still felt something from the tendrils that remained. With a twisted smile on her lips, she drifted to sleep.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
Council member, Omnia Patricius, General, Defenders
Http://www.warlordcentral.com - Omnia Patricius's home site
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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
Awaking to the pale sunlight that penetrated into the run-down district of Shadows, Crispian pulled on his trews and tunic and made his way down to the innkeep.

"I need hot water brought up to the room," he said, avoiding looking at the leering face of the small, scarred man. "And I'll be leaving shortly, so hurry on that," he said harshly as he went back up to the room.

The lad slumbered on, and Crispian wrote a short note on a parchment scrap.

"Drink the tea to help with your hang over. Pack and leave. Tannir at the Defender's guild will set you lodging there if you give him this token." He slid his seal ring off and laid on the side board, with a pouch of coins, heavy with gold. "Settle your debt with the keeper here. I shall return to Camelot soon."

He donned his armor and left, stopping to collect his cloak, sword and helm before leaving for Cornwall.

His head was clear of the defuddlement, but still his thoughts were not fully in order, and his rage was unchecked.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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{old}Kerriann 
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Kerriann stood quietly in Cornwall as she watched Crispian straighten his shield on his arm. She sighed as he walked toward her direction with a sadness in his eyes.

"M'lord" Kerriann smiled as she sat on the steps into Cornwall Station. The ground still damp of morning dew.

"Kerriann, might I ask why it is you are here?" he asked with a strangeness in his voice.

"I am here to see you M'lord, as well as my young sister Tatyanna, to check on your welbeing. I assume from your expressions you still are in deepest thought?" She asked as she made room for Tatyanna on the steps.

"I am Lady Kerriann. I still am, at this time, working the past days events in my head trying to make some sense of it all as well as to use it to my best advantage." Crispian said as he smiled at Tatyanna.

"M'lord, if I can do anything, please ask. We are, are we not, your family?" Tatyanna smiled are stood to straighten her Darkness Falls Hauberk.

Crispian sighs with a slight grin across his face. "Yes Taty." he says quietly.

"Go meet with Lord Darnyk for hunting of the evils that consume Albion M'lord. Tatyanna will assist you, I must now ride to the distance Castle Savauge where I shall meet friends to remove the filth camping our frontier keep."

Kerriann waves as she rides down the hill enroute to Savauge. Deep in her throughts, she forgot to jump at the Avalon Marsh Station and instead finds herself at Caer Ulfwyc. While there, Lords Asotrem and Kromly are preparing for Cornwall.

"M'lords, we are in need of help at Castle Savauge, if you are coming please alert Lord Verberg as he is leading the C.S. Defense." Kerriann, pretending she had come for them, mounts the horse toward Cornwall to then backtrack to Savauge.

"I will alert Lord Senig as well as the others as to whats happening Lady Kerriann!" Asotrem yells as she gallops away on horseback.

 

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The young lad awoke, his head pounding mercilessly. He winced in the wan morning light and rolled over. The other half of the cot was cool to the touch and he frowned. He THOUGHT the warrior-lad had enjoyed himself.

Slowly, with many a grimace, he climbed out of the cot and noticed the scrap of paper. Squinting at it, he read the message and look at the ring. It was heavy, of gold, and clearly a signet. He had not noticed THAT last night. He drank some tea and looked at the pouch. Slowly, he worked the ties open. Inside, gleamed gold.

He sat heavily on the cot. In the two years he had been in Camelot, spending most of them here at the Mermaid Inn, never had anyone done anything like THIS. The purse contained more gold than he had ever dreamed of, and enough to buy him out of this place.

Reclining, he considered the offer. A handsome sum of gold. Quartering somewhere other than this flea-bitten hovel. A chance to break free, to pursue his dreams and wishes. The ring rolled on his finger, and his thoughts strayed to the blond warrior of last night.

Considering the people who came here, he had been exceptional. Quiet, kind, gentle, certainly handsome, if boyish. With a lazy grin, Tobyas indulged his recollection fully, running the course of events over in his mind, slowly. When he had finished, he cleaned himself and the chamber up, sliding the ring into his boot top and went down the stairs.

The room was crowded already, with the besotten and dregs of town. He walked to the bar, and set the pouch down, lighter by a few coins. "Take this," he said to the innkeep, whose wide, scarred grin he would never endure again, "and I am free. Five year contract paid in full and then some."

"Yer fadder owt me fifty crown gold, boy," the innkeep managed around a mouth of bad teeth and stale mutton. His permanent sneer failed, though, as he looked into the purse, and the gold within. "Wad ye do, boy? Kill't your tumble last night, didja?"

Tobyas drew himself up straight and tall. "Never speak to me again, sirrah, and pray I see you not on the street!" he snapped and turned heel, leaving.

The wretched stink of the street, used as a sewer by the miserable who dwelt about, greeted him. Stepping cautiously about, he made his way out of the district, passed the Guild of Shadows complex. Eating sweet-nuts he made his way around town, buying some fine leather armor to look more proper and even dunking his head in a fountain.

It was late morning when he entered the Defender's guild, asking about Tannir. He made way up the stairs and found the one who fit what he had been told. With a slight bow, he greeted him. "You are Tannir? I am Tobyas. I was told to give you this," he handed over Crispian's signet, "and that you would see to lodgings for me?"

Tannir eyed the ring suspicously, knowing Crispian had never taken it off in his presences. "Where did ye come by that?" he asked as his fist closed meaningfully on the hilt of his sword, sliding it free a few inches. "What have ye done with Lord Crispian?" His eyes hardened with killing rage.

"Easy, Tannir," Tobyas spread his hands wide in front of him, smiling as he offered the parchment scrap. "Your Lord will come by no harm from me, I pledge it."

Tannir snatched the paper off-handed and read it quickly. "I can see to my lord's wishes of lodgings for ye," he ventured cautiously.

Tobyas's smile widened. "My thanks. Are you - ah - special to Lord Crispian?" His heart was racing, pounding in his temples. Tannir was cute, he admitted to himself.

"No more so that another of the League. I am his Squire here in town, and he my Liege." Tannir said rather formally, noticing the blush on this newcomer. "Let me get you that room," he said as he turned away from Tobyas, wondering what circumstances had been in his meeting Crispian, and not wanting to know.

Tobyas followed Tannir to the small room selected and eased himself down onto a fresh, clean cot. "My thanks," he said, both to Tannir, and the strange young LORD (he grinned) who had helped him so.

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi stood quietly in the stable of Cornwall Station, just out of sight of her guild sisters, Tatyanna and Kerriann. She brushed a strand of golden blond hair from her face, smoothed her robes in nervous habit, and stepped back into the shadows. Normally she would have happily rushed to hug her dear new friends, but she thought the better of it as a large armored man strode up to the two. Azi glanced at the shield on his arm and the gleaming armor and knew instantly it must be Crispian. Although she hadn't yet been formally introduced to him in person, she had heard her sisters talk in hushed tones of his recent plight. Azi thought it best to stand in the shadows of the stable and not make her presence known at this time.

Their exchange was too quiet to hear, but seemed pleasant enough. Azi blushed at the thought of eavesdropping anyway. She always seemed to find herself in the most awkward situations. Just this morning she was making her way to the Academy to study when she caught a glimpse of Crispian, although she hadn't known it was him at the time, leaving one of those filthy taverns. Azi had smiled at him in passing and lowered her eyes shyly, wondering what such a strapping warrior would have been doing in a place like that anyway.. She wouldn't have even passed through that way normally, but she had been bullied too many times on her normal route by former classmates, and had been planning to enter the library early this morning through a less conspicuous door.

Shifting her weight and lifting her robes away from the manure, Azi thought back to later that morning. She was pleased with herself having finally mastered her latest Liquification. With her head lowered she mouthed the incantation while making her way out of the city. A handsome young lad passed her, leaving the same tavern in seemingly high spirits. He turned into the street before her and turned into a shop. Azi made a few stops along the way, and later saw the same lad enter the Defender's guild as she passed on her way out of the city.

Azi had spent the ride to Cornwall Station wondering what on earth was going on between that filthy tavern and the Defender's guild..and standing only a few yards away was the man who could answer her quandry. "Blast my shyness, and politeness," she muttered under her breath.

Suddenly, she heard footsteps coming her way, and Kerriann's voice booming "...filth camping our frontier keep." Azi's heart pounded as she ducked behind a horse. She saw Kerrian's large armored feet clump past toward the stable hand. Azi held her breath as Kerriann threw herself up on to the horse and rode away, and released it slowly as she stepped gingerly around a fresh steaming mound of dung.

She lowered her robes and headed down the road away from the Station, leaving Tatyanna behind her. Thinking of the fun she'd have with the young skeletal centurions and her latest icy blast, she cleared her mind of matters she was too young to be involved with.

(OOC aside- I hope you don't mind, Crispian, but your story is so compelling I've been thinking about it since I read it yesterday. I thought this would be a good way to introduce Azi to the boards as well as bump the post and ask for more!)

 

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{old}Alyzabeth 
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Moryan had alot on her mind. When didn't she these days? She was on her way to Cornwall to speak to Lynx about refitting her new epic armor. Some dumbarse had slapped it together haphazardly, and it was too bloody tight in the hauberk, she could barely breathe sometimes when she swung her left hand.

"Bloody idjits," she swore under her breath. And then there was this matter with Crispian. After exchanging some letters, she'd come to find out he was under some sort of enchantment or some such rot. What the fark did a mercenary wench know about things like that? She told him he ought to seek out Dru. If anyone could find a cure, it would be her. After all, she got Earthwulf to refuse drink, and Excelsius to speak in rhyme. Word has it she was trying to find a way to make people not swear anymore. Again, she reminded herself to keep on Dru's good side.

She arrived in Cornwall, and was surprised to find Crispian lingering there. With a hearty welcome, she greeted the young armsman. Poor lad was nervous and uncomfortable, and tugged her into the stable to talk. It was there that she found out the extent of his... problems.

Pointing to Pethos nearby, Crispian said something about him being a strapping young lad. Moryan chuckled and agreed, then realized just what he was implying. With a groan, Moryan asked the young man if he'd followed through on these ... urges.

With a look of pure embarrassement, young Crispian nodded. Sighing to herself, Moryan tried to tell the lad that he should at least bloody fight the urges, before he started enjoying it naturally!

It was about then that Lynx and Arionne strolled up. With a wicked grin and a mirth that she couldn't surpress, Moryan leaned over and whispered to Crispian, "Lynx is rather handsome eh?" Blushing furiously, Crispian could only nod his agreement.

Ah, as much as she wanted to help her friend, Moryan could not resist the evil temptation to tease him. Later, he begged to know if she'd told Lynx everything, and she humbly replied, nae. Of course she hadn't told him everything. Only she had warned Lynx to not be bending over anywhere near Crispian.

The conversation was later drown in more pressing matters arose in the life of the mercenary wench, as she promised her life and her love to Glavian.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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(OOC - Azi, WHY would I mind??))

Crispian awoke at Castle Sauvage. He had spent the remainder of the day yesterday, after speaking to Moryan, trying to distract himself with labors and hunts, and with mix results. Graid had requested a dozen iron ram beaks, and a hours had been spent crafting them. The red hot glow of the iron held none of the joy it had before. Used to be such a romantic idea to turn poor molten metals into a fine weapon, or to encase wood in metal for a fine shield. Now, it was just sweaty, hot, back-breaking work.

Ideas of hunting were equally hard to focus on. He had wandered toward Lyonesse, stopping for a pint, and JUST a pint, at the Yardley farm. But battling the giants that marauded the borders of Cornwall and Lyonesse too was unrewarding.

It was not until late, when he heard of Migard scum in Forest Sauvage that he had set forth. Fast horse to Abribard's and thence onto the Castle Sauvage. His first effort out was met with defeat, as a norseman fell him. Shakily recovering from the sickness brought on by resurrection, he ventured forth again.

At Castle Sauvage, he met Cheyenne, Rekhir and another Red Lion. Just the sight of those cloaks brought a snarl to his throat that he bit back.

"Room for a farm-boy with a sword?" he managed to get out, casually enough. Cheyenne, a lean, curvy woman and follower of the church smiled in agreement. Yet still, Crispian considered her much less so than Rakhir, and was glad for the heavy barrel helm he had gotten recently.

With little effort, thanks to Blori who smashes, the Midgardians were sent to their heathen rewards. Crispian felt some joy at that, standing over the corpses of the foes, bloodied sword in hand, but it was a grim joy. Finally, he stumbled to a corner, rolled into his cloak and slept.

 

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Sore and stiff from sleeping against the wall, Crispian woke. His head did not ache from ale, thank the maker. That little Elf's charm was doing some good.

Paying some silver to the stableman, he mounted up and rode hard for Camelot, arriving just to see Arguyle MacFadden stalking with a purpose into the stables.

Swinging down from his own horse, the grabbed the highlander's elbow, spinning him so they faced each other. A mask of fury and rage contorted Crispian's sneering smile.

"And just where have YOU been hiding?" he hissed at the general. Black rage welled up in him at the mere sight of his commoner-turned-lord. His right hand clasped his sword hilt tightly.

-------

In the dungeon, eyes sprang open in the dim cell. "Yessss," the voice hissed out, "do it! Ease your pains!" And the insane laughter erupted again.

 

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Slipping back into the city, Tobyas made his way to the Defender's building and those rooms let to the League. Tannir was not on guard as normal. He slipped into his chamber and settled on the cot, thinking of a young Lord far to the south.

 

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Tobyas napped fitfully for some time, passing the early evening in his own dreams. Waking to pressure from his bladder, he slipped out into the hallway headed for the gard-de-robe when he saw Crispian ducking into a chamber, Tannir close in tow and BOTH looking a bit nervous.

He tended to his pressing business and pause by the chamber door, listening, then easing it open.

Crispian was stripped to just trews and Tannir was trying to tighten down a strap on a greave. "This is no good! This stinking plate will never fit."

"Yes, it will Sir Jashen!" Tannir hissed, tugging at the strap again. "Your just muscled differently a bit!"

Tobyas eased the door close. Jashen? Who was Jashen? It LOOKED like Crispian. Collecting his cloak, he moved down the stairs and out, seeking a tavern he had passed this morning, Ye Mug. It had looked nice enough and better than the Mermaid.

 

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Tannir finished adjusting the tunic, having given up on armor. It would have to be hoped that the clothing was fancy enough to pass for Lord Crispian's. Stepping back, he surveyed his efforts.

"This might just work, but..something wrong."

The mercenary, picking at the foppery, looked up. "I look like a popin' jay idiot is what's wrong. Crispian has the stomach for this not me," Jashen complained, tugging at the collar of the tunic. "And worse than the blasted plate!"

"His ring!" Tannir yelped. "You're missing his ring." He rummaged about in the chest, finding an old, silverish ring with a willow design on it. "This will do, just don't let anyone look to closely at it."

And Jashen slid it on his finger, turning the design in, without a thought.

 

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The trial was over and sentence passed. Crispian partook of some ale and left Castle Sauvage, feeling oddly wounded.

And there he stood. Arguyle MacFadden. Highlander, Lord General of the Red Lions.

Out of reflex, Crispian salute. The gruff old highlander returned it, a smile on his face.
"Hail Sir Crispain!" he said, burr undercutting the words.

"General," Crispian said with a brisk nod of his head. He motioned the highlander to step outside the gates of the keep where fewer people would hear them.

"Well, if you insist," Arguyle said, watching the lad closely. There was a strange air about him, very un-Crispian.

"Long time since I have seen you last," Crispian said, turning away as they walked.

Recalling his time spent in Snowdonia, Arguyle smiled lazily. "Aye, I have been on Sabbitical in Snowdonia."

"I trust Snowdonia treated you well?" Crispian almost snapped, bile rising in his throat.

"It was rather - helpful," Arguyle said with an almost sly grin.

"Indeed?" Crispian asked archly. "Well, things have been - different- down here."

"How so?" Arguyle ventured cautiously.

Gritting his teeth, for the very aceent of the man seemed to hurt, Crispian replied through clenched jaw, "The D'Vena matter seems unfinished."

Gravely Arguyle nodded, thinking he saw now what bothered this earnest young warrior. An incomplete task could eat at a heart like his. "As long as the wench lives, it is not finished," he said gravely.

"Indeed not, Lord General," Crispian said lowly, "and I tell you this, highlander. You have work to finish with her." The chattering laughter at the edge of his mind was pushing inward. Crispian's face contorted into a sneer.

Concerned, Arguyle put forth his hand, resting on the shorter lad's shoulder. "Me? What work do I have with her lad?"

Crispian grabbed his head in his hands as the laughter roared louder, then looked at Argulye, eyes filled with anguish. "She feels your affairs are not compelete with her."

Arguyle's face was grave. "I have no affairs with that witch other than to light the torch that shall burn her." He watched Crispian closel as he burst out in mad laughter.

"SHE feels otherwise towards YOU!" he bellowed around laughter.

"How do you know so much about what she feels lad?" Arguyle said, moving toward Crispian. Concern was foremost in his mind but his eyes flicked to the dirk in his boot.

"I" he gasped, pain wracking him, "I - I must leave you now, Arguyle," he gasped around tears and turning fled to a horse, riding with speed south.

 

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Tobyas surveyed the room at Ye Mug for some minutes, nursing a tankard of ale. This was not the place he wanted to be, was not somewhere that he could feel at ease with al the he knew from the past day. He sipped and thought. And thought some more.

A young Lord, a Knight. More than he had hoped for ever. Well, at least since his youth, and the fields of his home. But those days, and that boy, were beyond him now, forever. But this new man... It gave pause for thought.

After a while, and a tankard, Tobyas wandered out and into the streets of Camelot, letting his feet take him where they may. The city was alive for him as it had not been before. The sights, the smells, the people - no longer were these the inflicters of a misery he must live with. Now, they were the life of the city, the very fiber of the world that surrounded him. And all this from one single act of kindness.

At length, he found himself in the great cathederal of the city. The saints of the realm depicting in fine stained glass, the glory of the Almighty shown in work after work. He gazed about at the works, taking them in. The splendor of it all was more than his mind and heart could absorb.

"My child, what troubles thee?" a quiet voice sounded behind him. He turned, seeing a kindly face turned toward him. A elder woman, of fine bearing he noted, stood in simple whimple and habit. Her blue eyes peered almost through him.

"Sister," he said quietly, in awe of the place and her serenity, "I am troubled with the world, but wondering at the might of the Almighty, and the majesty," he said, feeling odd to be in so holy a place after the life he had but recently led.

"What troubles thee, my son?" she asked, sympathy and understanding so evident that it made Tobyas's heart ache.

"I have found - a love, but one of which the law," he paused, his voice dropping off, "nor the church would approve of." He felt an unaccomstomed flush spreading over his cheeks. "And in a qunadry I am, sister."

"My son, if such are your problems, surely the Almighty," she said, making a holy sign on her breast, "may give ye answer, as he did me." Her smile was of one who had found a course and meaning in life that met the needs of all manners of her person.

"Perhaps," Tobyas allowed. "Yet, I know the station of this other is higher than mine, and the means of their life greater than I could aspire to."

"But the Almighty," she said, again making the sign but not impiously, "can provide ye with guidance and a course, my son."

"If it can be so," Tobyas said, a spontaneous urge coming over him, "then let me seek it out!"

She smiled, offering him a hand, and led him into the chapter house of the catherdal.

 

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Cloak72 
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Ayslyn sat back in his chair, brooding. The crystal on the table next to him was now dark, but moments ago it had flared with light. The charm that he had given Crispian, activated by the power of the curse, had sent an image of everything that had happened. "Arguyle," he mused. He nodded slowly. "Yes. It makes sense. Through the lad, she means to get revenge on those responsible for her fall." Secaran sat on the stairs opposite him, and Luaiel lounged against one wall.

"Watchu gunna do now Ays?" Luaiel rummbled.

Ayslyn didn't answer. He just sat there, tapping his chin with a single, slender finger. "Indeed," he wondered aloud. He took up the lapdesk that sat next to his chair and began to write a letter. Penning the words quickly, in his neat, precise hand, he folded the note and lit a candle. Using the candle to melt some green wax onto the fold, he pressed his willow marked ring into the seal. He held it out to Secaran. "Get this to Arguyle."






The next day, Arguyle Macfadden found a letter sitting on his desk. Breaking the green sealing wax with his thumb, he opened it and read.

Lord General.
You seem to be the focus of the trouble that young Crispian faces. D'vena is not finished with any of you. Take care around the lad and do not blame him for his actions. Help him as he has helped you in the past.

A Friend.

 

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Ayslyn Greenwillow, Night Elven Hunter, Runetotem
Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
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Awaking with a head that pounded wrse than the war-drums of Migard, Crispian rolled off the cot and vomited loudly into the chamber pot. Grabbing a ewer of water, he drank, rinsing his mouth and spat, placing the chamber pot cover back on. Gingerly, he climbed back onto the small cot in Cornwall station and rolled to face the wall.

The light slapping of hands brought him back around a short time later. He rolled over and squinted into the semi-darkness of the room. There was a figure leaning against the wall. Slowly, Crispian reached for his blade as the person continued to clap softly.

"What will you do next cousin? Drink until you can vomit on horseback?" Lynis said, turning the wick up on the oil lamp shieled behind his back. Lynis, Brother Lynis now, Crispian reminded himself, looked well for his travels, as much as Crispian could tell.

"whaduwant," Crispian muttered, the pain stabbng behind his eyes like a pygmy goblin's thrust. "comebacklader," he croaked again, throat rebelling against even that effort. He closed his eyes, hoping Lynis would just go.

"Well, before I leave you to your complete dyfilement, cousin, I bring you some news. First, here is the roll of membership additions. Tannir insisted I bring it. And word has it Carrrington Whitethorne is back in Albion." The meticulous friar set the scroll neatly atop the heap of Crispian's discarded clothing, now all folded and neat he noticed.

"Carrington?" Cris squinted up. "What's he doing back?" he gasped, levering himself off the bed and snatching the scroll up. His head pounded from ale and cheap wine- gods, what a thing to drink he had, but this word of Carrington chilled him.

With a languid shrug, Lynis continued, "I know not, Lord Seneschal. Oh, and Glavian has word for you to - clean your life up." He smiled, "I thought you would like to hear that one."

Crispian looked at Lynis sharply, and regretted moving his head so quickly. He looked back at the list, to give him something to do, and finally scribbld his name at the bottom. Four new additions was good for the League.

Yoji
Throdian
Jethinz
Tobyas

"Get me some water, would ye Lynis, and arrange for a horse. I think I need to go to Castle Sauvage and talk to someone," Crispian said quietly. "This Carrington should not be about in the Realm." The hangover pain was slowly subsiding, as a hint of laughter flowed up and into Crispian's mind.

As the door closed behind Lynis, Crispian stood and pulled on a gambeson. Lacing the ties up, he smirked, "No, the Lady does not want this Carrington about!"

His fingers froze on the ties and he grabbed for the crystal on the stand - he KNEW he had not removed it! - and shaking it pulled it over his head. As the sphere touched his bare chest, he cried out and collapsed, lying whimpering on the floor until Lynis found him some minutes later.

"Don't," he said weakly, "don' laugh anymore." As Lynis held him, Crispian wept.

 

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Arguyle watched Crispian as he ran off and mounted a horse. Something was very odd about the lad. He did not remember him being some jumpy and so distracted all the time.

As Crispian rode off Arguyle thought to himself, "What have you done now D'Vena?"

With a firm and steadfast resolution Arguyle MacFadden committed himself to putting an end to D'Vena once and for all. He would see her burned at the stake for her witchery. He would also see Crispian act like himself again.

With that he turned and strode into Castle Sauvage to purchase his writ of passage to Hibernia. As he turned toward the Mage Circle he saw his friend Glavian and he called out to him, "Hail Glavian! How are you old friend?"

 

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Tobyas knelt before Lady Winchell. His coppery hair gleamed in the light as she sworn the tonsure of an acolyte into the top of it. He had been examined by the Master of Acolytes most of the evening and had proved his knowledge well enough to enter into the service of the church. Perhaps this was his answer, devotion to the Almighty.

Following his sacring, he wandered out to Cotswold and met three fellows about to set out and battle the evil that filled the land. He journeyed with them, seeing horrors that even made him quiver with some fear, but he learned much.

The following day he received from Winchell the blessing and consecration of a cleric to the Church, and made his vows.

This new life was shaping well for him, but still he thought often of the blond-haired knight who had fled south, from what he learned.

 

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Crispian pulled himself up short at the sight of her. Moryan Tanriel positively beamed.

"You and Glavian must be very happy," he said quietly. The after-effects of last nights bout with ale still had him fuzzy and slightly unfocused.

"Aye, I lo'e him vera much," she purred, a grin tugging at her lips.

"You know Carrington is back?" he asked, controlling a wince against the sharp stab of pain that the name brought.

"Aye, but 'e nae been seem about te realm yet, just courtin' it seem," came her offhanded response.

"And?" Crispian asked archly.

"I'm married to Glavian, an' vera in lo'e. Caer is not my worra anymore," she said firmly, the smile at the mention of Glavian's name barely fading.

"You should worry about him. Because of him, D'Vena has marked you," Crispian said quietly, his voice cut with tension.

Moryan snorted, tossing her head. "Te King should hang the wench. I spoke ta Dru about your problem," she offered, as reigns to a horse were handed to her by the stable boy.

"Burn her," Crispian muttered as the mercenary wench rode off for Castle Sauvage and then Emain, to meet her beloved knight. As he watched her ride, Crispian was unsure if he meant D'Vena or Morayn should burn. A shudder passed through him as he paled.

Turning on heel, he stumbled toward the tavern in Cotswold, coin purse already much lighter from last night but able to support a few more draughts.

 

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Jashen walked across the bridge under the midday sun. Cotswold was it's usual burr of activity. He nodded and smiled at some people he recognized. A journey out to Mithra's Tomb last eve had helped to clear his mind and ease some of his tension, but he still was worried about his brother.

Pulling the door open to the tavern, it was easy to spot Crispian. Slumped against the wall in the back, his mail still gleaming and shined, a tankard clenched firmly in hand. His slid in across from his twin and lifted the tankard away.

"Time to come home, Cris," he said quietly, watching the crowd mill about them. "Don't you think you've had enough?"

Red-shot grey eyes, once matches to Jashen's own, opened. A wicked malice danced in them for a moment, then Crispian shook his head. "Whadya mean, Jashie? I ain't had near to enough," he belched the last couple of words. "Madder if fact, I'm gonna haf some more now, thank you." He started to signal the wench who made her way around when he noticed a ring on Jashen's finger. Willow...willow...something familiar.

"Crispian Michael Pontiff," Jashen hissed, grabbing the upraised wrist of his brother, "you have had ENOUGH!" He held Crispian's arm, wondering when his brother had gotten so strong and tried to avoid a commotion. Crispian looked at the hand encasing his wrist.

"Where'd you get that?" he asked, a sudden sobriety coloring his voice. "That ring. Where did you get that?"

Jashen considered the ring for a moment. "Tannir asked me to wear it in case I ran into you." He released his grip and took the ring off, offering up to Crispian. "Mean something to you?"

He snatched the ring from Jashen, a kind of greed-filled relief filling his eyes. Willow...ash...no..Ays...Ayslyn...ring...agents...know he needs...

Stumbling, Crispian rose from his seat. "I haf to get to Emain. Need an elf," he muttered, swaying his way toward the door. His sword smacked a mercenary nursing a drink but Jashen stilled the man's reaction with a gold piece.

"Crispian, you are in no shape to ride! Never mind fighting an elf." Jashen grabbed at Crispian, who just shook off his hand.

"LEAVE ME ALONE!" he barked, causing heads to turn. "You're just a little brother!" He wheeled, continuing out. "It's not like your Auntie or someone. I don't need babysitting!"

Staggering on, he continued to the stables and paid for his horse. Jashen stood mutely watching as his brother rode off, lurching in the saddle. A look of deep hurt was on his face as he saw the last glint of sunlight off burnished mail.

He pivoted precisely on heel and headed for the Laughing Lion.

 

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Sitting on the edge of the Salisbury Plains, a huge expanse Tobyas had never thought to explore. He had been battling here for nearly two days with a trio of guild mates from St. Crispin's League and had just accepted the offer of membership from Achou, a young cabalist.

They had all drifted off to sleep following a long day of trying to check the encroachment of the brownie gossamers and grassrunners. The battle had been furious and at times deadly. Brother Lynis, a pious friar, had called Tobyas back to life more than once.

"So, who is Crispian?" Tobyas had asked during a pause in the fighting. He sluiced water into his leather jerkin in an attempt to cool off some. "I had heard mention of him at the Defender's."

Lynis, stretched out upon the grass, gazed up from his breviery. "Crispian is my cousin, and Seneschal to the League," he said in his quiet tenor.

Tobyas had gown a little pale at that. "Senescal?"

"Aye, he is the leader of the League, with Toorc, each taking East and West as responsilbities."

"Oh," Tobyas had said quietly and let the matter drop. A Guild Leader, a knight, and apparently a drunkard. He felt more conflicted the more he learned of the man responsible for his freedom and change of life.

Now, with the evening cool settling in, Tobyas sat, looking at the stars of Salisbury and pondered what to do next.

 

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Cloak72 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
Ayslyn sat on the branch of a tree, resting agianst the trunk. A squirrel, perched on his knees, was chittering at him excitedly. Ayslyn nodded at him periodically. "Of course. How terrible. Your tree?" He fought hard to conceal a grin. Talking with a squirrel was not unlike talking to an excited 4 year-old. It was hard to get a word in. He heard a something crashing through the underbrush. Looking down he saw Crispian dashing through the trees, and looking none to steady. He frowned in sympathy. What the boy was going through was not easy. He held up a hand to the squirrel. "I am sorry my friend. Something very important has just come up." He closed his fingers, making a fist and then opened it again. Wedged his fore and middle finger was a brazilnut. The squirrel chittered happily as Ayslyn handed it to him. "Go now, quickly. I shall find you again and you can finish." The squirrel scampered away.

Crispian stopped underneath Ayslyn's perch to rest. He bent, hands on his knees, and breathed heavily. Ayslyn grinned mischeaviously. He took one of his waterskins out. He had just filled them from one of the streams in the mountains so it should still be cold. He opened the skin and upended it over the young armsman. Shock, as the cold stream of water struck him, almost drove Crispian to his knees. He shook water from his eyes and glared up into the tree. Ayslyn smiled innocently down at him. "I thought you might like something to help clear your head," he called down. "You should be careful. Your brother has been wearing my ring about town. Luckily some of my agents can tell you two apart." He grinned with amusement. "So. What can I do for you?"

 

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Ayslyn Greenwillow, Night Elven Hunter, Runetotem
Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
"Pain shared is Pain divided; Joy shared is Joy multiplied"
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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Shuddering from the chill water and still a bit groggy from the ale, Crispian shuddered as he glared up at the elf. All his training was needed to stay his hand from the hilt of his sword, for Hibernias had long been foes.

"Y-you have to help me," he croaked, falling to his knees. "I can't keep fighting her." He lifted blood-shot eyes to the elf, tears running down his face. "This thing," he thrust the sphere forward, "is no match for her."

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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TheLaughter 
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Insane and insidious laughter floated on the air of the dungeon level. Already, seven other prisoners had been removed when they went insane from the constant noise.

The two guards, ears stuffed with wool and ensorceled by magic to withstand it, stood before the cell. The once thin, now approaching emaciated, figure in the cell coward toward the far side. Whether from their presence or the light they bore none new.

"Now dis here one, Eli, you need to keep an eye out fer. She's mad as a lurikeen and nastier than a troll set to a baff, you git me?" the old guardsman said around his two teeth. "Ye git too close and dis one here'll be yer brain, what littles you got of it." He snorted and spat into the cell. "Git down ye witch!"

With malicious eyes, she watched them retreat to their safety. A ethereal barrier diffused them as they step through the door at the corridors end.

"Pain and hurt," she whispered. "They all shall know pain and hurt!" She muttered to the wall for a short time and then her head snapped up.

"What?? Elves? Hibernian magicks!" Her eyes showed all whites for several heartbeats. And then she laughed again, a low, merciless laugh. "Nay, brat-boy, ye'll not escape like that. Pretty, pretty boy to use a woman for the likes of Carrington. Should have stayed to the farm, pretty boy-o!" She spat thrice on the fall and made some swirls in the puddle of it.

With a laugh, she smeared symbols on the wall over ones long-since drawn and faded.

"Oh, no," was her quiet whisper as her fingers twitched and moved.

 

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Cloak72 
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Ayslyn smiled softly. "It wasn't meant to be. Not by itself at least. She's feeding off the darkness within you. The darkness that she planted. The sphere helps to close that off. With it, you have a chance. But the thing that will break you free is your own desire and the assistance of your friends. You talked to me of how you had lost your focus. Find it again." he dropped out of the tree and stood, nose to nose with Crispian. He poked the young man in the chest. "Look here for your answers boy. Hold tight to your pride, your sense of fairness. All the things that earned your friends hearts, and the respect of those you led. Those are the weapons and armour that will defeat D'vena. That is her weakness. They will help you to beat her. But," he paused. "If you truely want to break her," he reached into his packs and tossed something to Crispian. It was a bible, and a well read one. "I prefer the second half myself. Look to the advice your savior gives. It's good advice no matter which god you follow." He grinned at the confusion on Crispian's face. "Now if you will excuse me. There are other things that I must attend to." He leapt up, catching the branch above him, and swung up into the tree. Crispian tried to watch where he went, but he was lost in the foliage.



Ayslyn leapt from branch to branch, not disturbing a leaf. He hated not telling the lad everything but he had more than a few suspicions about what the spell might intail. He thought that D'vena might be sensing some of what Crispian did, and that made it dangerous to let him know everything.

 

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Ayslyn Greenwillow, Night Elven Hunter, Runetotem
Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
"Pain shared is Pain divided; Joy shared is Joy multiplied"
Everything I needed to know, I learned from drinking at Callahan's
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Staring into the tree at where the elf had lept but moments before, Crispian swore. "FARKIN' ELVES! DAMN TREE LOVER!"

He stared around a few moments longer then look down at the Bible. A bible? he thought. He flipped idly through the pages. It was a beautiful work. The illuminations were truly artful.

He squinted at one page. He stopped on Psalm 40. Quietly he read.

"I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned and heard to me and heard my cry; He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand; He put a new song in my mouth..."

He closed the book and tucked it into his pack, shaking his head. "Farkin' Elf," and turned back toward the Albion frontier keep. The dappled sun was warm, it seemed. Grinning, barrel helm tied to his belt, Crispian walked back toward home and a battle yet fought -- for his own soul it seemed.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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Tobyas 
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Tobyas knelt in the church, head bowed in prayer. He clutched his scriptures tight as he prayed. He sough guidance, but none came. There was no great calming, no feeling of awe with the Almighty.

Finally, he stood and walked from the building, bowing to the night sacristin as he passed through the postern door. The great Chapter house loomed large against the night sky as he walked into the night.

He wandering steps carried him through Camelot, through parts of the city he had never dared to approach when he was just a tavern-boy. The life of the city was so different from a Cleric of the Church. He almost wanted to laugh, but could not make it happen.

He paused at the edge of a square where a commotion was raised, but slipped off before he could be noticed or called into service. What could any involved in that do for a young man in love with the unattainable? THEY were probably all caught up in realm-shaking politics. The grey streaks of dawn found him on the banks of the river near the east-gate, trying to make his choice between devotions - the young Lord or the Almighty Lord.

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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/bump (More, more!)

 

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Azi trudged wearily toward the east gates of the city, her mind heavy with many thoughts. She knew there wasn't much she could do to help. She had been through numerous tomes a few days before. Tomes on curses, demons, witches...she had exhausted herself reading page after page until her candle had burned to a wick in a puddle. But she had hunted a bit, and was ready for some more. Perhaps she would find something today...with a little more research.

She wandered along the riverbank toward the city, avoiding the roads as usual. It warmed Azi's heart a bit less than usual to cast her magic on the weapons of the young charges hunting river spritelings and other creatures as she made her way toward Camelot.

Then she saw him.. a young cleric, vaguely familiar, sitting on the bank, staring wistfully into the rushing water. She made her way to his side, and began her incantation to bestow his weapon with the power of the earth.

 

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Tobyas 
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The enchantments fell about him and the young cleric looked up, his eyes still red-rimmed from crying.

"Thank ye good lady," he said around a shy smile.

 

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Azi looked down at the cleric's tear-stained face, feeling a pang of guilt. She shouldn't have disturbed him, it was obvious he was not hunting here. But now..should she offer a shoulder to this stranger or carry on toward Camelot? She stood for a moment, awkwardly torn, took a few steps back and lowered herself onto the grassy bank.

She removed her soft boot, pulled out a small stone, and smiled shyly at the cleric.

"That," she held the stone up for him to see, "has been with me since Cornwall." She rubbed her foot a bit before slipping her boot back on, still feeling a bit awkward. "Sir," Azi hesitated a moment, a look of sincere concern in her eyes, "are you quite alright?"

 

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Swallowing back a sigh, Tobyas swallowed.

"Well enough, good lady, for a man in love that cannot be returned," he smiled. "Cornwall, you say? I hear my love is there," he smiled at her.

 

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Walking into the Guild office after many days gone, Crispian serveyed the place, noting the piles of parchment on what served as a desk for him, as well as some gear stacked up for inventory into the Guild vault. He sighed.

Sitting at his writing table, Crispian pulled forward a sheaf of blank parchment and picked up a quill. The delicate feather-plume in his thick, small hand looked odd, and as he set it to the parchment, it was clear writing was not his best or first skill.

He wrote: "Lord General of the Red Lions, Greetings - I would seek a time to speak with you, unarmed, at your conveince. Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal."

Laughter from the storeroom-cum-gathering room drew his attention. This morning, so far anyway, the Laughter had been less, a more bearable burden. He walked in, armor gleaming, new plate arms of deep blue contrasting with his burnished ensemble.

Mirashta Wynter stood bantering with some others of the League. Her tall figure was immaculate, as usual, her hair perfect and mirth filled her eyes.

"You're in a merry mood today, Auntie," Crispian greeted her, bowing deeply from the waist.

She turned, raising an eyebrow at him, and the mirth drained from her face. She straightened to her full height, and fixed Crispian with a stern glare. He swallowed in nervousnesss.

((OOC- Ok, Mir, your turn! (grin)))

Edit - Bah! Left something out, had to add it in!

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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TheLaughter 
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Neither morning light nor evening dark reached into the gloom of the dungeons. The perpetual dark was part of the punishment, yet it hid some of that those who dwelt within did.

D'Vena, former lady and noble of the Realm, paced the back of her cell, a rictus grin of mirth frozen on her face. What little sanity had once dwelt therein had been battered and hammered over the many weeks she had dwelt down here. Her fine robes were a tatttered remnant of thier former glory.

She paced and brooded, a lucid moment upon her. She mentally tried to list those who had been there that dreadful morning at her estate, and plan what she would do to each in turn.

The little fighter boy was waging his losing battle, she thought with a smile. Her ensnaring of him was complete, and she knew he would face a choice even in gaining his freedom, if such could be achieved by one so lacking in the Arts.

The pigfarmer she was plotting on. As with the mercenary wench. Had the impling mentioned something of love for that one? Her grin stretched into a hideous mocking of a smile.

There were others, she knew, but as she tried to recall them images came to her mind and the laughter boiled up again. Sweating bodies grunting in the dark, mooncalf eyes of lovers upon the Emain plains.

The guardsman looked down the aisle as the Laughter built, sighing. So early in the morn meant a long day of that racket.

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi smiled back sheepishly, a hint of a blush on her cheeks. She drew her knees up to her chest and smoothed her slightly stained robes, glad of an excuse to delay her visit to the Academy.

"Yes, Cornwall," she replied softly, "I hunted in the catacombs there, with many a companion." Her eyes wandered along the river to the grand achitecture of the city, and a barely noticable hint of fear flashed in her eyes before she looked away again. "Tell me, what is the name of your love? Perhaps we've hunted together."

 

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Tobyas gazed toward the ramparts of the city for a few minutes, then looked down to his hands. "Well, I'm not sure, good Lady, if it would be proper to reveal my love's name, for our stations are of vast difference. It may be, even, that my love is unrequieted."
He smiled wanly. "At least thus far, it is."

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi gazed quietly at the young cleric. This, she thought to herself, is why I shall never fall in love. Look at him, sitting here in pain while the one he loves roams the country without a care.. the company of a well-written book is good enough for me.

"I apologise, sir.. I meant only to ease your heart with some reassurance. But I should not have asked."

Azi looked at him, trying to place his familiar face..and suddenly it came to her. He was the same lad she had noticed in the city a few days before, leaving the same filthy tavern that Lord Crispian had left earlier in the day. She thought to the morning, earlier that week, when she had awoken with a start in Cornwall Inn, hearing shouting and banging in the room next to hers, which she later found out was Crispian's.

"I realise that we have just met, and you do not know me, but if you ever need a friend to talk to, I'm willing to listen." She smiled softly, "my name is Azi, of the Guardians of Albion."

 

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Nodding to her, the young cleric smiled an easy smile. "I am Tobyas, Cleric of the Church of Albion, and a member of St. Crispin's League. But, I should not keep you from your studies, good Lady. The kingdom, I hear, is sore in need of skilled wizards."

His smile slipped briefly as a guardsman passed near in the high burnished plate of the Camelot guard and he sighed slightly. "Love and magic craft do not mix well, I'd wager."

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi returned Tobyas' smile and nodded. "Yes," she said, "the art of wizardry is quite time-consuming." Her mind wandered to the task ahead, wondering whether she'd be able to reach the Academy without being tormented as usual by her former classmates. Wondering if that eery feeling would strike her again as it had recently when she entered the city gates.

"Perhaps we shall hunt together sometime, if you are a quick study. It seems the hunt is always lacking a good cleric. But you are right, I must go. Farewell, may you find some peace Tobyas." Azi curtseyed gracefully, and shakily made her way to the gates of the city.

 

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Tobyas 
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Tobyas watched Azi enter into the city and sighed. It would be so much easier to have but one focus of things in his life right now. He noticed the rock she had removed from her boot and picked it up.

What was Cornwall like? he wondered.

 

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Judging from Crispian's sudden change of expression from a mere stern look, Mirashta surmised that he was aware there were problems. That was a good sign. "Aye, Crispian, and ye'r recent stint of foul moods is not going to waver that", she said, allowing some of the mirth to come back to her expression. Best not push him too far. Besides, finally attaining the 45th Circle in her Wizardry was something to keep her spirits bolstered under nearly any circumstances. She smiled to herself at the thought.

"Why, whatever do ye mean, Auntie? I've no more bad moods than normal", Crispian replied taking a sudden gruff expression.

"Maybe he isn't fully aware", Mirashta thought to herself, "Best to find out." Raising an eyebrow, Mirashta said, "Ye know perfectly well what I mean. All these angry outbursts at long-time friends and Allies for no apparent reason." "I thought I raised ye better than that, LORD Crispian", she finished with a smirk.

"I haven't said anything to anyone they didn't deserve!", Crispian snapped, a dark expression taking over his entire countenance.

A quick glance around the gathering room told Mirashta that this needed to be a more private discussion. It was obvious that nearly everyone was treading lightly, speaking volumes of Crispian's recent behavior by obviously trying not to stare at the pair suddenly embroiled in verbal combat. Mirashta moved closer to Crispian, lowering her voice and drawing him back toward his office. "What, precisely, did Tatyanna do to deserve being slighted? And, I've heard of nothing Arguyle has done to deserve ye'r anger", she said.

A shocked expression came over Crispian's face. "I would NEVER do anything to insult Lady Tatyanna!", he replied in the same, shocked voice.

"Well, that's not what I hear," Mirashta said, lowering her voice again, "and, the way ye'v spoken to Jashen is absolutely unconscionable!"

"Well, Jashen should never have taken that ring!", Crispian retorted with sudden anger.

Drawing Crispian into his office and closing the door, Mirashta let a little anger into her demeanor. "As I was told, Jashen was GIVEN that ring, in order to perform duties THOU wer't unable to perform at the time, being that ye were too far gone in drink!", she said. At Crispian's sudden surprised expression, Mirashta let some of the anger go and said, "Just because Oakleif and I have been hunting the far reaches of the Realm, lately, does not mean that I don't keep my eyes and ears open."

Crispian slumped down into his chair, saying almost in a whine, "It's not like that, Auntie!" Sudden tears sprung up along with a pained expression around his eyes. His hands, almost involuntarily, raised to his temples, seeming to claw at the hair there.

Squinting at him just briefly, Mirashta took a sense of his aura, a thing she would normally only do to assess an enemy. Something was... wrong. His aura was diffuse with jagged lines of the worst putrid, dark green. "Mind magic!", she thought to herself, "As a few have suspected. Definitely best not to push him too far until I can consult with the Sorcerers at the Academy." Trying to lower her voice to a comforting tone, she said, "It seems it IS like that Crispian, and ye must do something about it. Unfortunately, as soon as I spoke with my Master at the Academy, he informed me of a most dire mission to thwart Morgana's further schemes. I must be off to wring some vital information from Uther's Shade. We'll speak of this further when next I can return." She paused and added, with a twinkle in her eye, "Ye must also tell me of this Tobyas, as well. A right fair coincidence ye'r seen mucking about the Shadow Quarter, only to have this young man come out of there with sudden coin, turn his life around, join the Church and then the League in short order, all the while asking questions about ye." To Crispian's sudden shocked expression, Mirashta replied, "People that care about ye talk to me, dear one. Enough for me to put two and two together. Wouldn't I of all people be able to puzzle things out long hidden even to ye'rself?" Cupping Crispian's face in her hands, she said, "Mayhap ye should seek out the lad again and not ignore everyone who cares about ye, Crispian."

To her surprise, Crispian suddenly bolted up from his chair seeming near a fit of rage. "FINE! Go off with Oakleif hunting, like always!", he nearly shouted, forcing her hands away from him.

Mirashta noticed a hint of embarassment in his demeanor. "Just like him to change the subject instead of confront anything directly. Almost as stubborn as me", she thought angrily. Drawing herself up straight again, Mirashta glared down at Crispian. "Don't 'FINE' me, young man! This is business of the Realm I must attend to quickly, or lives will be at stake! We WILL discuss this again as soon as I can return", she snapped.

"Whatever you say, AUNTIE!", Crispian spit between clenched teeth as he threw open the door and stalked out into the gathering room. "Tannir! My shield and helm! I'm going to the Barrows", he snapped. Everyone present nearly jumped at his angry tone, but had little time to react as Crispian stalked out toward the stables.

Mirashta sighed heavily, her head and shoulders slumping. "That did NOT go well", she muttered under her breath. "I hope there's help to be had for this", she thought to herself. She thought it odd that Crispian had chosen the same destination, but did not offer to accompany her; almost seeming an act of rebellion. "It's almost like this ensorcelment has dredged up every negative thought the boy has ever had, even from childhood", she mused.

"Chin up, girl. Best get to your work, before it's too late", she muttered. As she retrieved her staff from where she'd propped it near the door, she squared her shoulders and thought about where she was to go. Seeing all the concerned faces in the gathering room, she said, "If anyone can spare the time, I must seek out the Shade of Uther in the Barrows. He is a much stronger foe than Oakleif and I have ever attempted. We could use some help to put him at his rest this day." She turned to a squire lounging near the door. "Please send pages to the other Alliance Guilds. Tell them to meet Oakleif and I inside the Barrows, if any can make it", she said.

As she proceeded toward the stables to follow Oakleif south to the Plains, a smile spread across her face at the thought of her long-time protector and husband. "I must focus on the task at hand," she thought to herself, "this will take all our skill." A spring returning to her step, she hailed the stable master.

Almost as soon as she'd mounted a horse, voices began sounding in her head in response to the pages. She couldn't help but smile at the response; Keblen, Keisha, Chancelor, Caloron, many from one of the newest Alliance members, the Guardians of Val Sans Retour. She found herself offering a silent prayer that this much concern among brothers and sisters could be brought to bear to aid her still-young charge.

 

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Cloak72 
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Ayslyn watched the crystal as the images in it faded away. All the anger and hurt that the curse was dredging up powered one of the spells in the sphere. He chuckled as Crispian stalked away from his aunt. "Oh, I like her." He sat back in his chair and laughed. He looked at Secaran, lazing in a chair in the corner, reading. "Secaran." The young elf looked up at him. "I need some information. Find out everything you can about this Tobyas." Secaran nodded and rose to leave. "See what you can find out about Crispian's aunt as well. I think she'll be good for the lad."

 

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Ayslyn Greenwillow, Night Elven Hunter, Runetotem
Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
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Everything I needed to know, I learned from drinking at Callahan's
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Crispian stalked through the east gate of Camelot much like a storm blowing ashore. His dark expression and hand on hilt moved most people away from him as he walked to the stable man, handing him silver and swinging into the saddle.

"Who does she think she is? Not my mother!" he thought, urging the horse faster and faster as he thundered over the Cotswold gate bridge. Careening through the village, he felt so much resentment rising up toward Mirashta Wynter. He recalled clearly how she doted on Jashen's every little cut or scrape, but Crispian's? Not likely.

"You need to grow up stronger than he does Crispian," she would say, her eyes glazing slightly. "There is more for you to do sooner."

Bah! What Avalonian muggle that was! He jumped at the West Down, handing the reigns off, and stalked across the plains toward the barrows.

Lara was standing near the entrance, with Hel. Her eyes danced with a wicked mirth. "Care to join us huntin, tin man, or are you too drunk?" she chided.

Crispian threw her a dark look, settling helm on head. "Never that drunk, woman," he snapped.

She laughed. "Fine then, come along if you can!" She entered the Tomb, her lithe form moving with a grace and style most men noticed and women envied. Crispian came behind Hel as he entered.

The Barrows were dark as ever and the gibbering of the damned filled the air. Downward they went, gathering to them Esis and Quott, an old friend to Crispian.

"Is the sot ready?" Lara asked archly.

Crispian just nodded. The Vigilant Soul rushed to meet Esis' shot and Crispian met it with his sword and shield, catching the first blow as he slashed down into the things body. His sword bit deep and true even as the spells flew from Hel and Quott's hands.

As the creature died, he heard the shriek of pain in his mind and gasped. "One of D'vena's," he said aloud.

"What did you say?" Lara barked at him.

He shrugged. "That one was damned by D'Vena," he said casually, not sure how he even knew that.

"Don't say that name," she ordered. Crispian thought to challenge, but something in her manner forbid it.

"Whatever, bring the next!" he barked. Thusly it went for some time, and Crispian fell into bouts of silence and drinking.

After one nasty battle, Esis sat next to the young warrior and smacked his shoulder. "Thanks for blocking that claw slash!" the young saracen said.

"Too cute to let you die," Crispian said offhandly, not even catching the phrase.

"He's married," Lara snapped, "and I ever hear of you interferin with a marriage, you'll dance on my blades." Her voice had dropped to a low hiss.

"The Married and the Dead," Crispian said offhandly, "never touch either. You have no worries."

They fought more, and Crispian drank more. One cask became empty, but he produced another from his heavy pack.

"Don't ye think ye've had enough?" Lara asked, no mirth on her face at all.

"No," he said crossly. Hel sighed heavily of a sudden, and Crispian turned on him. "Whats bothering you?"

"Wife and home," the caster replied.

"Is that all?" Crispian asked, sitting against the wall. "Have we time for a tale?" he asked, looking about. The others nodded, and Lara leaned in closer.

"You worry about love? And She laughs. She laughs at it all. We love and strive, and she laughs." He grimly finished the tankard. A snarl was on his lips almost.

"Let's kill more," he declared, drawing sword and setting shield, but he felt flat inside.

The death and mayhem continued. Crispian did not even notice when his blows became erratic, his swing a little wide. The mages, Hel and Quott, worked hard to cover the gaps, shooting alarmed looks at Lara when she unstealthed to glare at him.

"Enough of this," she pronounced. "Time for me to seek some sleep." She looked at Crispian, "And for you to find somewhere else to drink," she said as she turned to the others.

"Can we make to the door?" Esis asked, feeling light and delighted from the belt he had acquired from the Vigilant souls.

"Aye, if SHE can find it," Crispian muttered. "Why did we have no cleric with us tonight?" he asked, head swaying slightly. "Damn church, and damn Tobyas," he continued, shutting up when Lara cuffed his helmed.

"If ye can still follow, come on," she ordered and they set off.

Outside, the night was clear. The stars danced. "I'm off to the Downs," Lara commented, taking in the others with a sweep of her eyes. "Any others?"

Crispian settled to the ground, patting it. "Here. I shleep here," he muttered, and slumped passed out on the ground.

_____________

And The Laughter rose in volume. "Close, so close," it hissed.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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Cloak72 
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The two guards leaned against the wall. The prisoner was in a foul mood today, cackling and cursing in turns. The darts hit them both at the same time, right at the nape of the neck. The powerful potion coating the darts put them both to sleep instantly. Ayslyn stepped out of the shadows and walked down the hall, whistling merrily.

The prisoner's head jerked up. She had grown used to the sounds of the dungeon, but she hadn't heard anyone whistling.

"I've been a wild rover for many's the year
I've spent all me money on whiskey and beer
But now I'm returning with gold in great store
And I never will play the wild rover no more

And it's No, Nay, never,
No, nay never no more
Will I play the wild rover,
No never no more "

A face peered into the cell. "Evening there M'lady," Ayslyn quiped. D'vena gaped at him. She heard a jingling of keys and the door opened. Ayslyn slipped into the room and closed the door. He twirled a ring of keys around his forefinger and looked hard at the woman on the floor. "We need to talk."

"I have nothing to say to the likes of thee." she spat at him. She eyed the keys closely. Her fingers curled into claws. She prepared to cast a spell that would bind him to where he stood now. Suddenly bands of force wrapped around her arms, pinning them to her body. She was lifted from the floor. She looked up. Ayslyn stood there, his posture fit for a lord, and he was surrounded by a brilliant white light.

"You have much to say to me," his voice boomed unnaturaly, filling the room with sound. "You will tell me all of what you have done to young Crispian, and what you plot against the others." Waves of sound buffeted her, and she still couldn't break free of whatever held her.

"You can not break the spell."

"Nonsense," he grinned impishly, "That which can be done, can be undone. Now TALK!" He held up one hand and began to make a fist with it. The bands around her chest began to tighten and constrict. It only took her a moment before she told him everything.

"Right then. Good talking with you." he smiled as he opened the door and then locked it behind him. The force holding her up vanished and she dropped unceramoniusly to the floor.

Ayslyn removed the darts from the guards, and poured something down each of their throats. "Sorry about that lads. Needed to chat with the lady. You'll wake in a few moments." And with that, he was gone.




********

Alec looked up as Ayslyn came into the room. "Everything go as planed?" he asked with a grin.

Ayslyn smiled broadly, "Yup." He removed a necklace, the glow about him vanished. "Love that thing. Loud voice and an aura work wonders when you need to loosen tongues." He removed a ring from his finger and handed it back to Alec. "And that worked beautifully. You should have seen the look on her face when I picked her up." They both laughed.

Alec tossed the necklace into the air and caught it as it descended. "Sometimes, the old tricks work the best." They both grinned and stepped out into the Tir.

 

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Ayslyn Greenwillow, Night Elven Hunter, Runetotem
Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
"Pain shared is Pain divided; Joy shared is Joy multiplied"
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TheLaughter 
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D'Vena shook with rage. How DARE he! An Elf! Of all things!

She stomped about her cell muttering under her breath, the occasional giggle escaping her like some demented adolescent.

"Fiat Fiat Lux" she said, fingers all a wiggle and light diffused above her. She smiled. Yes, it came back.

"In Loco Mea Jashenus Pontiffix," she stabbed the ground with a finger. "Fiat!"

And in a terrible surge, the world wrenched and she was in a tavern, with a comely girl upon her lap.

She stood, dumping the girl to the ground and rose.

With a smirk, she walked into the night.

 

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Cloak72 
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Alec tossed a srcying crystal to Ayslyn as they walked. "It appears as though we have annoyed her." He grinned.

Ayslyn peered into the crystal and chuckled. "It does at that. She's not as entertaining as Rose was." Alec gave a short bark of laughter. "This is good though. She was already half mad. Now that she is angry enough, hopefully she will begin to make mistakes. Lets bide a bit. We wouldn't want to do anything stupid. Remeber the hags?"

Alec snickered. "You're an evil evil man Ayslyn. Here's hoping I never get on your bad side."

Ayslyn grinned at him. "No worries there my friend." He tossed the crytal in the air and chuckled as he plucked it back.

 

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Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
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Crispian groaned, clutching his head as he rolled to his knees, then stood up. The world took a tip but he remained upright. He also kept this stomach down.

Elves, Aunts and Taverns. God, what was going on? He stumbled a few steps, fell, and got up again. Slowly, he made his way to West Downs.

Master Gerol scowled at his plea for healing. "You're a drunkard and I have no cure," he snarled at Crispian.

Miserable, Crispian shuffled to the stables and found a clean enough stall, falling asleep again against the far wall. He did not even notice when Tannir appeared, placing a clean blanket over him and order some simple food stuff be placed at hand.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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A hard night’s sleep in armor made Crispian stiff when he awoke. The basket of foods Tannir had arranged broke his fast, but he thought not about the squire. He took horse again to the south, thinking to be safe there, or at least alone.

Cornwall was a worn place to him, so the Retreat was his thought. Arienne was a member of the League, so he thought to impose on the Lord’s hospitality, knight to knight of course. Dismounting at the road, he followed the carefully laid path across on the sodden ground. Musing to the trial that had been here some time ago, he grinned.

Jathon being tried, and Arguyle testifying. Bold, and AH that pig farmer! What a bragart! That loud mouthed commoner!

So absorbed in thought was he, that he almost walked into a small knot of people at the bridge. “Hail Cousin,” Lynis called, smacking Crispian back. With a start, Crispian pulled up.

“Lynis! Hail,” he said, gathering his wits quickly. “And Achou!” Seeing the young Saracen surprised Crispian a bit.

“And two member Leaguers, Kayspon, a minstrel, and Tobyas, a cleric of the church.” Lynis motioned to include the two standing near to them.

Crispian marshalled up his best manner and bowed to each, smiling. “Greetings Brother Kayspon, and Brother,” he stopped, looking into green-hazel eyes he had seen once before, the glint of coppery hair peaking out from under a small leather cap, “Tobyas, is it?”

Tobyas met his look, feeling his heart speed. He had only come south the day before to hunt, and here he came face to face with the young Lord. He bowed, “Aye, it is.”

Lynis smiled, pleased that Crispian had finally been pinned into doing some Seneschal duties again. “We are off to clear the lake shore of quicksands. Seems they have popped up again,” he said, stroking his blond gotee. Tobyas noticed that next to each other, Crispian was indeed short, barely coming to Lynis’ shoulder. And he looked much younger than his accolades.

“Hmm? Hunting? Well, good luck to you,” Crispian said, bowing to each again and headed quickly for the tower.

 

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Tinalynth 
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Laraleloth watched the scene with interest. From the shadows she watched the meeting between Crispian and his guild mates. She had not missed the look that had been shared between the cleric and Crispian. It was slightly reassuring to see. Lara had followed the arms man after leaving the Barrows. Keeping in shadow so as not to be seen in his rare sober moments. She shook her head. His fighting had shown flashes of brilliance before the drink had weighed down his movements. She had been unusually harsh with him hating to see such skill sullied by drink. Furious when his inebriation had threatened the safety of her friends Heladus and Kelvyn. Thinking of Kelvyn made her smile to herself. Not that he needed any protecting.

Turning her attention back to Crispian she wondered what was wrong with him. He almost had the demeanour of a charmed sorcerers pet at times, at others surly and terrified, and of course drunk. She wasn’t sure which of these three was the real Crispian or if any of them were. Regardless, he needed help, which was obvious. Hoping she wasn’t in over her head; Lara settled down to see where he went next.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Crispian crossed the causeway to the Retreat and paused on the steps. It would be easy to head up. He was known to the Lord, but something stopped him. Abribald had a reputation for hating the Shadow Guild professions and for some reason that bothered Crispian greatly. Finally, he turned and descended the stairs, crossing the large clearing toward Outlaw's Landing.

Looking out over the water was a new venue for him, and Crispian indulged it. The cool soothing wash of the waves into the shore distracted him even as he bought some wine. The Marsh Wine was sweet but palatable. He vaguely recalled having good taste in wines.

The bustling activity of the people at the landing was pleasant to watch. Some of the shoremen were handsome, in their way. After two glasses of wine, he paused, then bought three bottles and went to sit on the shore, changing first into plain breeches and a tunic, walking barefoot and looking more like a farmer lad than a warrior with 41 campaings behind him and leader of a Guild of 100 souls.

He watched the morning wain into afternoon, sipping at the wine with a fair steadiness. Hints of green and copper in the scenery made him think of Tobyas, and hints of gold or blue made him think of the League.

Steadily, the wine went down, and Crispian was napping on the sands by late afternoon.

 

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Tinalynth 
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Lara unstealthed beside the sleeping Crispian. Shaking her head at him silently she surveyed the scene.

Grinning mischievously she decided to teach him a lesson. She picked up his armour and wandered off down the beach to wait.

 

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Cloak72 
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(*snerk* Yer evil lass. evil.)

 

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Ayslyn Greenwillow, Night Elven Hunter, Runetotem
Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
"Pain shared is Pain divided; Joy shared is Joy multiplied"
Everything I needed to know, I learned from drinking at Callahan's
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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Crispian woke, groaning, at the westerling sun shone into his face. He squinted into the light and grasped for one of the wines, finding it empty and through it into the surf. Pushing himself up, he looked about. His ARMOR! He scooped up sword and shield and looked about. There were no creatures about. Farkin' Bogmen! Anger rising quickly, he looked for the imagined thieves.

Thoughts ran into thoughts. Bogmen, Spriggins, Blackheath village, smoke, fires, the dead lying about, those desperate moments with Darnyk, Mirashta, Oakleif. He looked around, not seeing, unsteady on his feet, sword wavering in front of him.

More images crashing in. A young girl, a highlander, a marriage planned and ruined, rivalries, betrayals, his own body nude in the Woman's arms. Fire, more smoke, a collapsing manor house, a husband returned, slain, brought back to life by their daughter, a treacherous brother-in-law, arrest, a dank cell dripping water and smelling of offal.

And the Laughter. Crashing in like the waves of the water that had been so soothing. Cackle, snicker, giggle, laugh - mocking all, pressing down senses and reason.

"FARKIN' BOGMEN!" he screamed, whirling about looking for an enemy, his battle training, years of practice and ritual, snapping into play. No conscious thought, no reason, all instinct as he cast about, cotton clad chest heaving deep breaths as he prepared. He'd kill. Killing he could do...

He paused. The Elven stone on his breast flared warm in the light. Images flashed again.

Arguyle, smug in victory. Arguyle in a burning building as Crispian hurled himself into the Lord, pushing him out of the way of a beam. Moryan, betraying wench. Moryan, laughing friend. D'Vena as a high noble woman, and again in chain being led away.
Jashen, arm broken and bleeding as Crispian carried him home to Mirashta; Jashen, looking on in concern the last time they spoke.

He bit down on his ring, collapsing to his knees. He whimpered, hands to head, and slowly recited the Creed of the League:
"We proud few, we band of Brothers, are here met. Within these mystical tablets, you will find the wealth of our wisdom and knowledge. Here we tell you of who we are, why we have been drawn into this fight for Albion, to defend Her Shores, Her Lands, Her beaches. We proud and valiant few, scarred and battered by combat, blown across the Realm by the winds of Turmoil, stand

firm, shoulder to shoulder, as Brothers. We are anointed not with kingly oils, but with blood and sweat. The brine of life is what washes over us and from that cleansing we emerge, washed to the purity of soul, the clarity of purpose, and the righteousness of virtue that allows us to approach fair Camelot, to claim not the glory of grail or knighthood, but to claim the Glory of Albion -- the peace of the land which enfolds each citizens of this Realm. "

His voice was shaking as he finished, but reason was again in his eyes. He looked about the beach, collecting sword, shield. "It has to be Moryan or Lara," he called out. "Either face would be welcome right now!"

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Jashen pounded on the door, yelled through the bars. "You've got the wrong person in here!" The reek of the cell was overwhelming, a stench of more than bodily waste, but of spiritual offal as well.

"Let me out!" he called, but to know avail.

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

She skipped along the road, high spirits coming easily. The disused path meandered up into Lynn Barfog, to a much disused house.

A beard man bowed to her. "Welcome home, Lady D'Vena," he purred to her.

Her glance froze him with a chill that went to his heart. "My tomes and scrolls," she hissed as she glided past. Not even a place that appeared on the Writ of Detainder the king had issued, this home of hers.

She walked the broken corridors to her chamber, lighting candles with a wave of her hand. Settling on a settee, she mused.

Nice to be home again.

 

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Tinalynth 
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As if by magic Crispian's armour dropped at his feet.

Stepping out of the shadows Lara said, "Next time ye may nay wake up at all. I could have slit yer throat there. Sober up Crispian. Get the help ye need, now.

She vanished again sitting a short distance away, watching.

 

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Dulled mind not able to even react, he stood there panting for breath, the shock still heavy from the seige of his mind he had just gotten past.

He picked up his armor, rolling his eyes heavenward. "All these women care for me, and I keep thinking about To- well, Him." He sighed, shaking his head. In a raised voice, he called out, "I know you're near, Lara, and thank you."

He slowly made his way toward the Landing again, his armor a heaf in his arms. Gently, he laid it on the boards of the landing, and looked toward the wine merchant. He swallowed hard and bit the corner of his lip. Looking down at his signet, seal of Seneschal on the next finger, he swore under his breath.

"Know anyone who might have some milk?" he asked the Saracen merchant, who chuckled at him.

 

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Tobyas sat on a beach not far deeper in the swamp. His leather armor was sweaty and smeared with blood, mud and gore. The quicksands had fallen time and again to him and his companions. Lynis, Achou, Kayspon, Ziala, Wolvbane, Wintir, and briefly Andus.

He had worked hard, praying for the might and power of the Almighty to bless and heal them all, mostly Ziala, for paladins took a dreadful pounding from these monsters it seemed. He had often felt the energy of the Almighty flow through him, to heal and to bless. He felt wonder and awe at it. Lynis, a minor Chaplian to the Defenders, commented that it was always thus for him.

After much battling, Lady Azi stopped at the shore, casting some enchantments, but refrained from joining them. Tobyas recalled her from the banks of the river near Camelot.

Yes, being committed to the church was a good thing. He felt that now. But his heart still wondered about Crispian, whom he now could validate as a handsome man, if those bags under his eyes.

With a sigh, he stood, ready for battle again.

 

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Cloak72 
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Peering into the crystal, Ayslyn's grin became a confused frown. He passed the crystal to Secaran who looked at it a moment before handing it to Alec.

"So," Ayslyn began, "If she is in Barfog, who is in her cell?"

Alec took another crystal from his sleeves, "Give me a moment." He muttered over the crystal and weaved delicate patterns in the air. "It seems, Crispian." he handed the crystal to Ayslyn.

Ayslyn looked into the crystal for several moments before he looked up, "No. His twin. Jashen. Well, this had some rather unitended consiquences. I suppose, since we are, sort of, at fault for his being there, we should help him."



********

The two guards were, again, slumped against the wall, sleeping gently. Ayslyn took the darts back and turned to the door. He unlocked the cell and opened the door wide. Jashen stared at him incredulous. "Well come now lad. No time to be standing around. D'vena is out in Barfog and your brother is liable to wind up in harm's way. Not to mention Arguyle, Moryan and the rest. Scat!" He turned to the guards, administering the antidote to the poison. Singing he slipped into the shadows and vanished. Only his voice remained, echoing along the corridor.

So come fill up your glasses with brandy and wine
Whatever it costs I will pay
So be easy and free when you're drinking with me
I'm a man you don't meet every day
So be easy and free when you're drinking with me
I'm a man you don't meet every day

 

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Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
"Pain shared is Pain divided; Joy shared is Joy multiplied"
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Despite her earlier good mood, Mirashta was preocuppied. Thanks to the group of Allies that responded to her call for help, Uther's Shade had been laid to rest another day and she had been able to return the information he provided to Master Grundelth. She had even been rewarded a new cloak her Master had in stores, for service to the Realm. She did not feel her usual joy at inspecting a new item. She did not take her usual time contemplating its make and speculating how to make it better. Crispian was worrying her to distraction, her earlier jovial mood forgotten.

She knew he had gone to the Barrows before her, but he had disappeared into the bowels too quickly to speak with him again. Repeated entreaties mind-to-mind, as to his well-being fighting among the foul denizens there, produced no response.

Her consultation with the Sorcerers of the Academy had been fruitless. One excuse after another, or so she thought. "We must examine the lad directly", they had said. "Well, fark them all, if they won't help!", she muttered under her breath, stalking through the Guild House to her alotted rooms, stormclouds seeming to gather around her. The sight of energies crackling about her staff forced those in the hallways to move to one side tremulously. Upon entering her rooms, she flung the new cloak aside. "Hseru!", she called, trusting that her loyal scribe of so many years would be there.

"Aye, M'Lady?", he queried, with a note of concern in his voice.

"Hseru, I need you to speak to Tannir or Lynis, and get in touch with Arienne. Tell her that Crispian needs her help. The time for keeping his malady secret is long past, and she's the most experienced Sorceress I know", Mirashta said. "Help me pack for a few day's journey. I'm going to Lethantis to consult with my old mentors there. They seem to have more knowledge of older magics, and certainly different magics, than these simpletons here! 'Academy is the center of all magical knowledge in Camelot', my ARSE!", she snapped irritably.

Hurriedly, with Hseru's help, she packed several changes of clothing, rations, all she needed for several days, just in case she needed to gallavant about the Realm in further searches. As she was leaving her rooms, she paused, sighed, turned back and said, "Thank thee, Hseru. Ye'v always been a valued friend." With that, she left.

No sooner than she was on a horse for Campecorentin Forest than she began mentally questing for the mind of Mirial, Oakleif's sister, and a somewhat experienced Cleric of the Church...

__________________

Mirial was bored.

Fyrelet had dragged her to Keltoi... again. She wondered when he would ever fight a little on his own so they would be equal in training, and could go to tackle some of the stronger creatures invading the Realm. She liked his company, even though he wasn't all that talkative. He was a stalwart warrior of the Church, and quite attractive, for a Saracen, she mused, giving him a sidelong glance.

Suddenly, the sound of magical energies being harnessed drew her back to the moment. Two Recluses were closing in on the pair, one beginning to cast spells. Quickly, she stunned the spellcaster, then the foe Fyrelet had already begun cleaving at with his two-handed axe. Her thoughts drifted again, as she resolutely began swinging her staff at the closest foe, when suddenly, "Mirial!", sounded in her head. She recognized the mental voice as her sister-in-law, Mirashta. What Oakleif saw in that tall straw of an Avalonian, she'd never understand. Assessing the situation, things seemed well in hand, so she had no fears of holding a mental conversation. "Mirial!", sounded again in a louder, more insistent tone. "Aye, sister!", she thought back to Mirashta.

"Mirial, I need ye to look for Crispian. He may need ye'r ministrations", Mirashta sent.

Absentmindedly switching targets with her staff, Mirial queried, "Has something felled him, sister?"

(Unnoticed by Mirial, a third opponent, a Keltoi Banisher, had snuck behind Fyrelet and was merrily hacking away at the paladin with its sword. "Uhhh... Mirial?", queried Fyrelet, unheard by her, of course.)

"Does no one know where he is, then?", Mirial asked.

"I haven't heard from him in hours, just please go look for him", Mirashta sent, her concern evident in her mental tone. Briefly, Mirashta filled her in on what had been happening, minus certain details perhaps embarassing to Crispian, namely Tobyas.

"Very well, as soon as I can drag Fyrelet out of here", Mirial sent back.

"MIRIAL!", barked Fyrelet, bringing her back to the moment. Immediately, she knew she'd let them get into trouble, now noticing the Banisher attacking Fyrelet. She also realized that the foes had ceased to pay attention to her swinging her staff and realized that Fyrelet had gotten nervous again and started using his heal chant, aggravating them further. Just as she was summoning the energy to instantly bless Fyrelet with health, he gasped and fell to the stone floor, knocked lifeless. While uttering a string of epithets to make any drunken Friar proud, she finished off the last two foes, with aid of a few evil repelling spells and quickly made to revive Fyrelet.

"I'm sorry", she said when he was breathing again and coming back to himself, albeit reeling from the sickness of ressurection, "Mirashta was just telling me Crispian is in trouble and may need help." "I wasn't paying the best attention, was I", she said, sheepishly.

"I noticed", replied Fyrelet in a surly tone. "A man of few words", Mirial thought to herself, smiling. Fyrelet looked up at her with mixed concern and consternation. "Ye needn't be so pleased with ye'rself. I know ye'r bored here and ye'v trained beyond these foes, but I just hate fighting alone, even with the new magics the Elders have taught us", he said. In a lower voice, "I thought they might gain the better of ye, the way things were going."

"No worries", Mirial said jovially, smiling even broader at his concern. He was even more adorable when he was upset. "Come though," she said, hauling him to his feet, "we have to go to the Guild Hall and see if anyone's seen Crispian."



A few Gremlins, a run to Caer Ulfwych, and two horses later, they reached Camelot after several hours, not having camped for the night. Mirial hurried as fast as her knowingly short legs would carry her for the Guild House. Bursting in, she immediately asked, "Has anyone seen Crispian?"

"Last I knew, he was near to West Downs", Lynis replied immediately, being one of the few awake at such an early hour.

"Well, if any see him, do let me know. Mirashta's worried. Seems he's in a terrible state", she said.

"Aye," Lynis replied, "he's not been quite himself of late, stomping about and snapping at everyone."

"Well, let's just hope he realizes he has all these friends. I think he needs them", she said as she hared back out the door into the faint early morning light.

 

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Arienne re-read the little note the pigeon had dropped in her hand. Written by Hseru, it said Mirashta wanted her help with a problem Crispian was having. Not many details, something about moods and uncharacteristic behavior, and a suspicion of mind magic at work. Arienne reflected that she’d not seen Crispian in ages, and wondered if she could even find him to learn more about the problem. As her horse approached her father’s castle, she was mentally composing a few pigeon-notes of her own, thinking she’d ask her guildmates what they knew of Crispian’s whereabouts. Just then, she glanced up and noticed a figure in armor striding off the causeway toward the stable—it couldn’t be, too much of a coincidence! But in fact, it looked too much like Crispian to be anyone else.

She held her breath and slid off her horse, landing badly and stumbling to the ground. She pushed aside thoughts of the stain on her new skirt, and scuffs on her fine suede boots, and looked to see if she was seen. One of the guards had noticed, and was trying to hold his face calm: if he let out so much as a chuckle he knew she would freeze him at attention for the rest of his shift. But Crispian apparently hadn’t noticed; he was still heading to the stableman. As quietly and stealthily as she could, Arienne followed.

When the Senechal of her guild stopped to deal with the stableman, Arienne peeked around the curve of the nearby tower and examined his aura. She saw a confusing mass of influences: the haze of alcohol, wearing off but still fogging everything; a jumbled mass of foul memories, being fed by…yes, there was evil magic at work here, and powerful. In addition, there was some sort of warding spell, partially countering the curse.

Both the curse and the ward were beyond Arienne’s knowledge, but she quickly considered what she might do to assist Crispian, who was so important to so many people. Compulsion wasn’t right, that simply wasn’t done with friends, likewise mind-lock or brain-fog, they were simply too direct and potent to be of help here, something more subtle was called for. She considered trying to bolster the ward that was already in place, but…it was an alien magic, strange and unknown to her. No use trying to modify it. What else did she know that might help…

Of course! Amnesia! A bit of selective amnesia, to block the memories plaguing him! She quickly wove a block against the worst of Crispian’s torments: the foul laughter, and images of fire and treachery, an endless parade of foul alehouses and nights of self-torment, and someone named D’vena and someone else named Tobyas. She tied off her spell just in time as her contact with Crispian was broken; she looked up to see his horse spiriting him away. She knew the spell wouldn’t last long, a day or three at most, but maybe it would give Crispian some relief from his troubles and allow him to recover himself.

She turned back toward the castle. The curse, that was the real issue. She didn’t know its source, only that it was far away, but she had the feel of it now, and meant to investigate. Perhaps Magus Edaev had something in his library that would allow her to trace the spell to its source. It had been years since she studied in his library, and she quickly hoped he hadn’t changed the lock.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Crispian rode north, toward Castle Sauvage. His head was clear, he noticed. He could actually tell!

Throughout the night, he led. He commanded. Benowyc came back into Albion's hand, as did Hurbury, and he commanded. Old life surged through him. The pain was eased.

But still, he recalled the copper haired cleric.

 

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Kelvyn26 
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ooc - I feel slighted I was left out of the adventure with the Vigilant souls...

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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/OOC - Sory Kelvyn! I did not mean to slight you but I just couldn't remember everyone who was there the next day at work when I was trying to get that in!

 

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Kelvyn26 
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Tis ok, I figured ye were just to drunk anyways....<smiles>

/cry

 

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The chair was high backed, unpadded, and recently cleaned and oil. The table, a single massive cut of mahagony wood, also gleamed of recent cleaning. The chamber was otherwise nearly bare of adornment. Dangling from high chains, lanterns lit the room to near daylight brightness, despite it being deep beneath the ground. A ceramic stand glowed with coals upon the table.

D'Vena, cleaned and gowned in gossamer silk, glided into the chamber, a satchel in one graceful, pale hand. Her eyes danced lively, but her face was still frozen in the end-motion of a laugh. Sanity was barely evidenced in her gaze.

She sat in the chair and unpacked the satchel, removing two rolled objects and a small, silver figure with hair of gold. The first roll of padding she gently opened to expose more worn figures: a taller, thinner figure of a man with gold hair, carrying a hammer; a highlander, unmistakable for the kilt worked of fine stones. Both figures she cloaked with tiny cloaks bearing the Coat of Arms for the Red Lions.

The second roll opened to reveal small vials, each filled with different colored fluids. The shock each lightly, holding them toward a lantern. With a satisfied nod, she set each down in line.

Selecting the hammer-wielding figure, D'Vena toyed with it. It twirled in her fingers for a moment and then see set it down. "Beyond my reach just yet, little Whitethorne."

She took the highlander and considered it next. "Pig-farmer, you are in line, fear not that I would forget ye or the slight ye gave me."

Lastly, she picked up the newest figure, tying about it a miniature cloak of a tower with a bold, blue chevron beneath. Her finger stroked at the golden hair, so finely wrought. Yes, her little crafters were good, if even more evil than she. She grinned as the metal caught the light.

"Oh, the little seducer. Such a wicked boy to be paid wickedly." She hummed while erecting a wire-framed tripod above the burning coals. A catchy tune once popular with the farming community that used to be beyond Predwyn Keep, a community destroyed just a few short years earlier.

She continued humming as she set out her trappings, affixing a small platform to her wire frame and setting this new figure on it. The vials she uncapped and set in line, ordered for how she would need them. Then she sat back and looked at it all with hooded eyes. She focused herself, stilling her own energies, focusing her thoughts.

"Come onto me, Oh Bringer of Mirth;
Beckon to your servants Call,
Reveal to me the Path, He Who Laughs,
Show onto me Thy Spirit Awl,"
Her tone was flat, detached, even as a wind picked up in the room, howling louder, but disturbing nothing.

"My Soul and Being I pledge,
For the Power you can Impart,
Push this Pawn upon the Edge,
And in Fall, Tear it Apart."

Her fingers peppered the coals with liquid on each line, hisses spitting into the air. Her eyes blazed brighter and brighter, her mouth stretching into a more hideous twist as she went.

A voice not quite her's came forth from her lips.
"I hear my new made Maidens Call,
And bend the Being Toward,
But yet I cannot give her All,
Unless the Pawn Begs her Reward."

The wind died, the lanterns guttered and went out. D'Vena collapsed into the chair, her head upon her breast. She had been so close, so close.

But still, she thought as she smiled and levered herself to unsteady feet, more was almost as good as all. She smiled as she shuffled out of the room.

Even a stone tower can only survive so many assaults.

 

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Arguyle rode through the gates of his estates in Camelot and handed his steed over to the stablehand.

"Take care of him lad." said the Highlander.

"Aye, M'Lord. Tis good to have you back home M'Lord." replied the young man.

Arguyle smiled warmly at the lad. He had been employed by Arguyle for some months now and had always been faithful. Perhaps he would make a fine Lion. Then as quickly as the thought came it was gone and Arguyle was once again focused on the task at hand.

He entered through the kitchens knowing they should be fairly empty this time of day so that he could make his way to his study without much fuss. He had been on sabbatical for nearly a month and a half and now since his return almost 2 weeks ago he had been in the embroiled in the battles in Odin's Gate, Emain Macha and Hadrian's Wall. It seemed that there was no end in sight to the fighting. He longed for peace but steadied himself for war.

Reaching his study he entered and shut the door behind him. Sitting behind the large oaken desk he opened a drawer and pulled out parchment, quill and inkwell. Then he set to writing.


------

My King,

I pray this letter finds you in good health. I have been away for sometime now and upon my return I was greeted by your loyal servant and one of those responsible for foiling D'Vena's plan to assassinate you, Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal of St. Crispin's League.

The lad was acting very strangely and spoke often of D'Vena's malice and ill-content toward me. I asked the lad how he would know such things and he burst into mad laughter and fled. I fear that the witch has placed a hex on him and that if she is not dealt with straightaway that he may suffer permanent damage to his soul.

I beseech you as your friend and loyal servant to exercise your will in this matter and have the young Seneschal purged of this curse by the highest ranking of the clergy and your Master of Sorcerers. Perhaps together they can drive this demon or foul magick from our young friend.

Your friend,

Arguyle MacFadden
Lord High General
Order of the Red Lions

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


With that Arguyle neatly folded the parchment and dripped hot wax onto the fold. Then he placed his stamp on the wax. The mark of the Order of the Red Lions.

His task done the Highlander turned and looked out of the window. Looking down upon the gardens he thought about how good it felt to be home. Thought of his friends came to him and he smiled broadly. His friend Moryan had married another friend while he was gone. Glavian was a good man and he could tell that he loved Moryan.

Perhaps if he had not been away so long.....

Nay he would not think of such things. He was happy now for the first time in a long while.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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With great mirth and noise, they entered the city, carrying the Midgard banners that had recently been atop Caer Benowyc and Caer Hurbury. Crispian was awash in pride, a rare indulgence for him even in the best of times.

Lomas had, quite suddenly during the raid, asked Crispian to take command. With a certain hesitancy, he agreed. He had not thought to do much more than raid Sir Leftie's vault for the rams they would need at Benowyc, but he thought he could handle the burden.

The battles had been well ended. The forces, advanced at the Mile Gates in the frontier as well as the main body, had done so well. Brisk, easy work. The young warrior was all smiles and cheers for his mates.

Ye Mug was a welcome sight, and even the large mug of tea was acceptable, although it drew many scowls from seasoned warriors. He was in mid-swallow when it hit him, sharp as an arrow and blunt as a troll hammer. Eyes squeezed shut in pain as the amnesia spell snapped like a twig against the sudden onslaught.

Crispian's hand grasped a cord about his neck and yanked forth Ayslyn's charm, wrapping a fist about it. He held it to his lips as he murmured the Psalm the bible had flipped open to. "I waited for the Lord...I waited for..." he gasped, eyes wide, trembling. Still holding the crystal, even as the mounting cut into his palm, he grabbed tankard and drained it to the dregs.

"More," he gasped to the barkeep, slapping down a gold coin, "and then even more." He drained the new mug in a long swallow. The ale burned, a liquid fire coursing down his throat, but it also numbed his mind.

The visions surged forward again, but different. Jashen, again with broken arm and bloody; Asotrem fallen in battle with a river drake; Oakleif and Mirashta fallen from Pealiaghs; Darnyk, dead from Pikemen; friends and family, dead or wounded, and Crispian always sitting on the grass, sword sheathed, near them, helpless.

The second mug went down easily, as did the third, and even the fourth. Those who had mocked his tea order watched aghast as the young warrior, so recently smoothly commanding a raid, drank down ales like a Troll.

He looked up, looked about the room. "We're all dead," he muttered, and stumbled toward the door, passing out into the night.

-----------------------
Still bemused at the manner of it, Jashen none the less was enjoying being set free. The elf had been clear gone without a sign when Jashen got out of the cell. Asking no questions, he had slipped from the castle and made directly for the guild quarters.

Sprinting up the stairs, he shook Tannir awake. "Sorry, lad, but I need to get word out. D'Vena's free." Tannir paled at the words but fetched parchment, quills and ink for the letters that would need to go forth.

 

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Crispian stumbled through the dark streets, half blind with pain. The endless images of situations where he had been helpless continued to batter at his mind. He bought more ale, attempting to seek the relief of obliviously passing out. Four taverns, eight tankards. Finally, weaving and stumbling, he found a travelers’ lodge and took a room. He carefully removed and stored his armor, then curled up on the cot.

His mind berated him, the elven stone comforted him as he clung to it. He so did not want to be alone, but could not think of who to go to. Who had he not failed? Who had not been battered or killed under his command? He wept bitterly thinking how often friends and companions had fallen aiding him or fighting with him. Sobs wracked him as he cried pitifully, grateful none could see him, and those who could did not know who he was.

Then he thought of Tobyas. He had failed him, too. Slinking off like that in the pre-dawn hours and leaving him in that dreadful tavern. COWARD! He screamed at himself. A worthless coward, craven and dishonorable. Worthless, deceiver, seducer!

He balled himself up against the wall, eyes filled with terror. “I’ll be good, I can be a good boy. I can.” He almost beg for mercy, almost cried out for relief. The cool weight of the elven stone against his signet ring stopped him. He raised his balled fist to his mouth, stone inside and ring against lips. “I --- won’t ---- give ---- in,” he said through clenched teeth and braced for the next onslaught.

 

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Constantine, King of Albion, friend of Arguyle MacFadden, stood reading the letter he had received from the man.

"So she meddles even now?" thought the King.

"Guards!" he called out.

As the guard entered the chambers he instructed him to carry word to the Chief Dungeoner that the witch was to be isolated and bound until her execution which would be set for tomorrow. He had had enough of the woman and he now would do what should have been done long ago.

He then called the Captain General of his personal guard to his side.

"Find Crispian and bring him back here. Take him to the Cardinal and have them rid him of any demons that may be hounding him. Then have the Master of Sorcerers divest him of any ill magicks. We must help him." said the King.

The Captain General saluted crisply and set off to his task.

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


As Crispian lay balled up in the corner of his room he heard a loud knock at the door. Then another knock and a shout.

"Crispian Pontiff! Open the door in the name of King Constantine!" came a deep voice.

 

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Hearing the pounding on the door, Crispian's eyes get wide. The booming voice. The sound of soldier. He cowered for a moment. The King? Was he to be tried for all his failures? His knighthood, given by Oakleif, removed? The League destroyed?

He slunk toward the window, guaging the drop, and lept, speeding into the night.

 

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Ayslyn chuckled as he watched D'vena cast the spell. "Oh dear. She's meddling with some dangerous forces. You have to admire her courage, or her stupidity."

*****

Moryan and Glavian woke that morning to find a note laying upon their blankets, closed with the green willow seal.


Your exile is well know to me. However Crispian and all those responsible for D'vena's capture are in danger. She is free and hiding in a house in Lyn Barfog. Prepare yourselves. Should I learn more, I will inform you.

Ayslyn Greenwillow


*******

Arguyle wasn't sure when the note, sealed with the green willow mark, appeared on his desk. He broke the seal and read.

D'vena is free and in Lyn Barfog. She plots revenge on all who were responsible for her fall. You and Crispian most of all. Crispian is still suffering from her curse. He doubts himself and will be fearful of most anyone. Do not let any of your people remove the necklace he wears until the spell is broken. It is all that is giving him a chance to fight the curse.

Ayslyn Greenwillow, Rhiannon's Chosen, Champion of Justice.

 

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Bursting through a doorway, Crispian stopped. The world was confusing. His thoughts raced around like a Lurikeen on fire. He couldn't focus on his surroundings at all. It was a tavern or something he thought. He stood there, dazed.

A scar faced saracen stepped from behind the bar and approached, thinking at first to help this poor, drug-addled soul. Then he recognized him. A cruel sneer spread over his face as he motioned to a lurk hulk of flesh. "Kizial, find somewhere safe for this young knight." He lifted Crispian's chin and looked into the wide eyes, dilated pupils flashing back torch light. "Like the basement," he said with a sneer.

 

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/ooc

There will be some RP on this tonight, about 9 PM Central.

 

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/ooc This is all taken from a chat log in game of the events that follow. It has been edited into sequence and into a narrative format. I hope you enjoy.

Azi sat in the Academy. Scrolls where stacked next to her, indexed and catalogued. The message from Mirashta was still fresh in her mind and she knew now was a time to act. Rising, she marked the place she had been at and smoothed her robes. The Defenders of Albion guildhouse was a place she knew of, but was not fully comfortable with, but if that was where she might find Tannir, that is where she would go.
The number of people on the streets gave her some anonymity as she walked toward the stone buildings that made up the complex for the Defenders. Stepping inside, she let her eyes adjust to the dimmer light and looked about. She wandered the complex for a few minutes, hoping to catch sight of someone in the League cloak, but she saw no one.
Finally, out of desperation more than want, she approached a man seated in a large room. She curtseyed.
”Excuse me, sir, but I am looking for a young man named Tannir,” she said quietly.
Captian Rion looked up from his notes with a scowl. "Tannir?" he said, pursing his lips. "Oh, yes, the squire lad. I think he is off on some errands. What did you neeed him for?"
Azi thought of what she could reveal to this man, and decided to reveal as little as possible. "I seek the Lord Crispian," she said, watching Rion with keen attention.
Rion snorted and made a wry face. "You would be best to seek out a tavern to find that one. He is turning into quite the drinker, enough to rival a friar." He turned back to his work, wanting no more of one seeking the warruir he now thought of as a great failure to the Defenders.
Azi nodded, biting back a reort and headed out from the Guild hall. Her face burned with her want to say something, but she thought better and just left. Standing in the east gate square, she realized that for all her living in Camelot these years, she knew little of the city. Turnng left, she head down the cobbled street. As she went, she heard comments made quietly between some of a knight, in plate, drunkenly careening through the streets last night like a man possessed.
The Stone, as it was called, was not overly busy, but still Azi drew some raised eyebrows and considerations from the male patrons within. The place was half empty with stools about, a large bar with a surly looking barkeep beind it. Azi mused that his dispostion explained why he was working now rather than in the evening when more people would be about.
Dwerrav looked at the young girl and smiled, his manner changing immediately. "Help ye, miss?" he says, noting her grimace at the din from the loud and rowdy patrons, few tho they were.
Azi drew herself up and tried to look calmer than she felt. "I am looking for a man named Crispian, a young Lord and knight," she said, trying for her most commanding tone, but she heard the quaver in her voice.
Dwerrav smriked, "Young lady, tis a tavern. Many lords and knights find there way here. Might ye describe him?"
Azi blushed, feeling silly. "Yes, he is a smaller man, but thick of shoulders, with blond hair and wearing high burnished plate," she said, indicating what she thought was about the right height for Crispian.
Dwerrev nodded as she spoke. "He wears a towered cloak, aye?" When Azi nodded, he made a glum face. "He was here, a'right, and drank many ales, rather quickly. Rude man, he was. Surly, even, then he stomred out into the night, almost to tears, he was." The barkeep looked about for some privacy. "He seemed to not care for the praise given him for taking Benowyc or Hurbury"
Nodding her head, Azi thanked him and, amid calls from the men of the bar, headed into the street. Not looking up, she almost walked right into a patrolling guardsmen.
He grabbed her shoulders, at first thinking to just move the inattentive lass aside, then he caught glimpse of her face. This was Judan's girl! "Little Azi, what is the rush?" he asks.
Color rose to Azi cheeks. Silly girl, she thought, look where you are walking! She looked up to the guardsman, as she had to do to many of them, and smiled shyly. Another friend of her father's, no doubt.
"I'm searching for a friend, sir." she answered shyly.
The guard smiled widely "You have many friends little one!""
Azi looked down, trying not to blush, "Not too many. Perhaps you've seen him, his name is Crispian?""
The guard snorted loudly and shook his head "That one is bad news, Azi." He looks about to make sure you are unobserved. "He's gone to the drink""
Azi nodded, "Yes, I know. I've heard it isn't like him, and I'm searching for him in order to help. Have you seen him?""
The guard shook his head, "No, Azi, but he was at Ye Mug, drinking tea some say," he laughs, "but I think not""
Azi siezed the name. "Ye Mug? Can ye poiint me to it, please?"
"Tis near the round table gate, but Azi, that is a warriors tavern!" he said, a note of concern coming into his voice.
Trying to hide her uneasiness at hearing this, she nods. "Yes, well, I'll be careful sir. Thank you," she said, and moved off after a quick curtsey.
He watched her go and smiled. "So much like her mother," he muttered and resumed his rounds.
Arriving at Ye Mug, Azi pasued in the doorway and took a deep breath. Peering in, she entered. Many of the patrons took notice of her. She saw Salor, a friar friend and greeted him quietly.
"Hail, Salor. How are you this day?" she asked, as Salor again moevd his mug toward the barkeep.
"Refusing a friar a drink?" he said, sighing wistfully. With a sneer, the day man filled the mug again.
Azi made her way sheepishly to the bar as Salor snatched back his mug, turning his attention to the pretty face of Azi. A plate-clad warrior eyed Azi appreciatively as she smoothed her robes and looked to the barkeep.
Twist-lip, as he was called due to a scar, nodded to the young lady. "Hail young lady. Some wine for ya?" he asked, wiping his hands on his apron.
Azi leaned into the bar, whispering quietly, "No, thank you, sir. Have you seen Crispian?" she asked.
Twist-lip guffawed loudly. "The young drunk? he asked, voice loud enough to carry through the entire bar room.
Azi blushed a deep crimson and stared at her hands, not noticing Salor beside her at the bar. Salor, noticing her nervousness, said in a stage-whisper "I was getting worried, being the only one in a dress here," he joked, plucking the front of his friar's robes.
Twist-lip, misreading her reaction, adopted a kinder tone. "Lass, you could get better men anywhere," he said kingly, "and I've heard he cares not for the fair sex, if ye catch my meaning."
Salor, a bit into his cups, nudged the lookout next to him. "Aye, I saw his (cough) friend by the Vault earlier. Looked like he had just learned to ride a horse!" The lookout chuckled, knowing the way of some in the city.
Azi gasped at the barkeep and ignored Salor. Her color drained, face becoming serious as her best spell. "How dare you! I'm merely asking if you've seen him. If you are not going to answer, then fine!" Her gaze was dead stern at Twist-lip.
Shocked a the sudden change, he drew back. "Aye, lass, he was here last eve," he said much subdued, being caught off-guard by the sudden manner of this young woman.
Salor banged his tankard on the bar again, widening his eyse slightly, as if to ask "Why is this not full?" Twist-lip scowled and refilled it.
Recalling Salor's casually remark about Crispian's "friend" Azi turned to him, pointedly ignoring the barkeep's reaction. "Thank you, sir," she said and rose to leave quickly.
Salor called "Thank you, pretty face who's name I never caught!" even as Twist-Lip called "MISS!"
Azi turned from the door, looking back in. Twist-lip motioned her back in.
The lookout nudged Salor and leaned in, "That is little Azi."
Salor turned to him, a mild surprise on his face, "Oh my," he commented dryly.
"Her father," he continued, "was a great paladin, now gone mad."
Azi stepped back to the bar and Twist-lip offered a steaming mug of tea, which she merely looked at as she leaned in toward him. "There was something sore wrong with him last night, Miss," he said quietly.
Salor moved fluidly around the bar, appearing next to Azi and uncapping a falsk, poising it over the tea. "A little something to spice it up?" he offered.
As Azi sat, shaking her head at Salor's offer, the lookout moved nearer to Salor, the hushed manner of the whole exchange pulling him in. "Are ye not allied with the League?" he asked Salor, who gave him a look of disdain, even as he shrugged at Azi.
Azi leaned toward the barkeep and whispered, "What do you mean?"
The bar man looked about a moment, his eyebrows nettling together. "I'll tell ye, he was fine for a bit. A perfect knight of the Realm, then all of a sudden, he acted, well, forgive me for saying, like a birthin' woman, all bent up in pain." At Azi's nod, he continued. "Then, all a sudden, he gets all weird like and deamnded ale." He paused. "He was drinkin' 'em down as fast I could fill 'em, I swear!"
Azi looked sternly at the barkeep again. "How long ago did it start?" she asked in her best voice, firm and clear.
Salor was nodding in agreement to the tale, a slight twinge of jealousy at the speed of service told flashed on his face.
Twist-lip considered. "Oh, must have been about midnight last night.
The lookout again nudged Salor. "Are ye their allies?"
"If this be 'little' Azi, then aye, and Lord Crispian." Salor muttered, annoyed at the inrruption.
"Aye, tis both," the lookout whispered and stopped as Salor fixed him a look reserved for the sinful.
Azi sighed, "Thank you for the information, I must be going now," she said, standing to leave.
"Miss!" Twist-lip said, grabbing Azi's wrist, which she jerked back quickly.
"I am right here," she said archly.
Twist-lip lowered his voice, "He was not in his right mind, I tell ye! He was cried like a wee girl and ran out!"
"Really?" Azi said as she frowned. "Well, let's hope something can be done to help him."
Salor, taking advantage of the barkeep's attention being diverted, snuck around the side of the bar and snatched the 'good' stuff, leaving a few gold pieces where it sat.
Azi, seeing Salor, surpressed a giggle.
Twist-lip continued in a low voice, "I dinnae know what ye know, but word is he has been to the Shadow quarter, for - ah - relief if you know what I mean," he said as color rose in his cheeks.
Salor's glance is momentarily diverted to the Round Table.
Azi frowned deeply at the barkeep. "Do you take pleasure in sharing the personal misgivings of your patrons?" she asked, slapping a silver coin down on the bar and leaving.
Salor, happily filling the astonishing number of flasks from his robers, looked up. "Hmm, I suppose I should go.
The barkeep scowled at Salor. "She be your ally, Monk. Tell her it was her concern and not mine own."
Tossing a few golds on the bar, Salor nodded. "Tomorrow, barkeep?" He said smiling and left, heading toward the Round Table.
Twist-lip snorted as the friar left, but added the coin to his purse just the same.

Azi walked with a fury into the street, but dismissed the barkeep as she turned toward the Vault. She wasn't sure exactly what Salor met by Crispian's friend, but her concern drove her on. The balcony area over the Round Table was sparsely used today, she noted with some relief.
Azi saw him then, a young lad wearing light leather armors. His badge was the League's, but marked with Crispian symbol. She walked up to him and he bowed in answer to her curtsey. He obviously had some courtly training. Salor sidled up the staris and took up a spot a respectful distance from Azi and the young man.
"Greetings, sir," Azi said.
The lad blushed a pleasant, youthful blush. "I am nae a sir, but thank ye the same," he said, his voice rich with the aceent of country peasanthood.
Azi smiled and motioned him away from the vault area. The two of them walked down the balconey from the Vault as Salor busied himself with a transparent pretense of doing an exchange at the vault.
The lad stopped, turniing to her, "What can I do for ye, Lady?" he asked respectfully.
Azi, lowering her voice to a whisper, introduced herself, "Azi Icemistress, High Council of Guardians of Albion. Do you know Lord Crispian?"
Blushing, the young nodded. "I am his Squire, Lady," he said, a mix of pride and concern tinging his voice.
"Oh, you are?" Azi said in a pleased voice. Perhaps Mirashta was right that he could help, she thought.
Nodding again, the lad continued. "Aye, I attened Lord Crispian when he is in Camelot."
Salor, overhearing this, while pointing at items with his staff, wiped his beard to cover a smirk.
"Well," Azi interrupted, "then you must know where he is? I've been asked to find him."
The lad glacned about. "I ah I heard he was last seen in the Shadow quarter, Lady, but please tell no one." Concern entered his voice. "Last heard, he was there and quite drunk," he concluded with some unease.
Azi smiled gently at him. "I assure you, I won't tell anyone," she said, covering her own worry over hearing the Shadow quater, for she did not like the sound of it.
On instinct, for this Lady Azi seemed goodly and Tannir was greatly worried, he lowered his voice to a bare whisper. "Word has it, Lady, that he," pausing to looko nervously about,"has a lad there," he said.
Salor, somewhat bored, and somewhat drunk, launches into a stroy of his battle prowess to a disdainful vault keeper.
Azi covered a mild surprise. "At the Shdaow Guild?" she asked gently.
The boy nodded, "Or there about."
"How long ago was he seen there?" Azi asked.
The boy whispered, "I heard he went there last night, lady, but tell him not!"
Noticing the look of shame and worry on his face, Azi reached out and touched his arm. "I'll find him and we'll set things right, but I have to go quickly."
The boy's face lit with some hope. "Please , lady, for I fear for him!" he said.
Azi smiled at that. "You and many others." She paused, realisig she did not know the lad's name. He bowed to her.
"I thank ye Lady," he murmured as he striaghtened.
"Thank you," she said. "What is your name, lad?"
"I am Tannir, Lady," he said.
Azi curtseyed to him again. Salor moved down the balcony, out of earshot, but keeping the wizard in sight.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Tannir looked to Azi. "Please find him, Lady Azi."
"I shall Tannir. We'll set things right. Farewell!" she said, and left the Vault, heading for the Guild of Shadows and the unsavory part of town which suorrounded it.
Tannir watched her go, then silently said a prayer to the Alimgith that she might succeed.
Salor, unversed in the ways of stealth, trod behind her at a distance.
Azi hurried down the street toward the Guild of Shadows, worrying about how exactly she was going to find out what she need to know there. Salor, employing a bit of logic and inferring Azi's destination, beat her there and sat against a wall, patiently waitiing.
Mirilaloth, an infiltrator by trade, was in the Shadow Guild and scratched his head as he saw Azi running toward hi, "What's the rush, Azi?" he asked.
Azi paues, noticing the friar seeing the red-robed friar from the bar. Wasn't he at the Vault, too? she thought. Then she spied Mirilaloth.
"Miril!" she exalimed, grabbing him and pulling into an alley, out of site of the friar.
Miril winced. "Oww, why so rough?"
"Shh!" She said, holding a finger to her lips and looking back for the red-robed friar. Salor was crossing the courtyard and starting a conversation
with a guard.
Mirilaloth looked at Azi curiously.
Azi stared at where she thought her friend was. "Miril, would you please show yourself. I hate talking to air, sir!" Azi said a little testy.
As the guard chuckled at something Salor was saying, Mirilaloth said "Ohh, you mean unstealth? You know I am uncomfortable with people seeing me. I just forget that I am stealthed. he said. As Azi smiled, he unstealthed a little further down the alley and waved.
"Miril," Azi almost hissed in a whisper, "I need your help. I'm looking for someone who is inside the Guild of Sadows." She could not repress a shiver as she finished.
The guard nudged Salor, and looked toward the alleyway. "She's a fine lass, aye?" With nod and an "aye," Salor agreed, even as he muttered under his breath about ungrateful hussies. The guardsman nudged Salor and winked, "Vows, eh friend?"
Miril grinned at Azi, "Who?" he asked.
"Taty's friend, Crispian" Azi said, quite serios.
"Where is he in there?" Miril asked. Although the Guild of Shadows had formal buildings, there was also a large expanse of structures loosely associated with the publically unsavored association.
Azi looked around. "I was told he's insiide, but I don't want to in alone," she said quietly, fear of being overheard fill her with a dread.
Miril laughed at her. "Still afraid of the dark?" He shook his head. "Sure, Sure. I can go in there with ya." he dark"
Salor threw a look at the guard and moved around again to get the wizard within range of sight, and healing magics.
Azi sighed as she saw the friar take up his post nearby. "What here a minute, Miril." She walked over to the friar.
Salor, tucking newly purchased arrows under his robe, did not move.
Azi walked up to him directly, even as Miril faded into the shadows. "Hail Salor," she greeted him. "Might I ask why you've been following me all over the city?"
Salor shrugged, not noticing Miril moving close enough to listen. "You seemed somewhat hesitant to continue your search for Lord Crispian alone," he explained.
"Well, you could offer your help instead of following me around, you know," Azi said archly.
The guard laughed. "She's got you there, boy-o!" he called.
Salor nodded. "The thought had occured to me! But, I'm drunk and you left. I didn't really want to interrupt you."
Even as Azi glared at the firar, Miril had to laugh a tthe thought of a friar ever being sober. "Drunk. Perhaps you should go home and sleep it off. Worthless adiction!" she snapped.
The guard laughed again. "Got ye agian, Boy-o!" he called to the friar.
Azi sighed, and turned back into the alley to Miril.
Salor frowned. "No need to be cruel, missy!" he snapped back. Twirling his staff demonstratively, he continued "I can still handle myself well!"
"Miril?" Azi called into the empty alley. He waved, still stealthed. Azi looked around. "Blast it, Miril! I am losing my patience!"
Miril, busy admiring Sara Fletcher, had not been paying attention. "What? What? What?" he yelped out and favored Azi with a smile.
Azi shook her head in exaspeation, but smiled at Miril just the same, and gestured toward Salor.
Salor muttered to himself about having two burly men to protect her, even if one isn't wanted.
Miril looked toward Salor and nodded his head toward Sara. "Oh, the drunken friar?"
Azi included Salor with a gesture. "This is Salor. He seeks to help. Can you show us inside perhaps?"
Miril leaned toward Azi and whispered, "I think he kinda likes ya." Louder, he said "Sure, sure. Just this way gents and lady."
Azi almost kicked him, but whispered, "You know I'm not interested."
Miril smiled. "Welcoem to the Guild of Shadows, home sweet home!" He gestured vaguely at the compound.
"Murky," Salor commented as Azi shivered.
"Let me show, uh, Salor," Miril quickly filled in, "where the ale is kept up top."
Azi scowled. "He does not need to know that. We need to find Crispian," she reminded Miril, eyes getting the stubborn look he knew so well.
Salor smiled. "Aye, I've plenty enogh," he quipped as he produced a flask.
Miril took a draw off the flask. "Mmm. This is good ale. What brand be it?" he asked Salor.
"From Ye Mug, friend," he said.
Miril smiled, too. "Ohh, right right! Let's check down stairs."
As Azi peered around cautiously, Miril nudged the fiar, "Can I have some?" he asked, and Salor silently produced a second flask and passed it over.
Miril stepped into a near-hidden stairwel. "This is the secret way of the Guild of Shadows." he said. Azi's nose wrinkled a the musky smell as they headed down the staris.
Miril smiled and waved at a figure in the shadows, his old master Edric. "Hail, Captain!"
Azi paused as they made their way across the basement. "I don't like this at all."
Miril headed to the staris and led them down. Azi looked around the tunnel, seeing some chest, the shadows of Edric, but no Crispian.
"C'mon up, Azi!" Miril called. "No one down there. I just owed the Captain some money." He laughed.
Azi continued up as Miril and Salor turned off, and went down a second flight of steps. Azi looked about and realized she had lost her companions.
Salor paued, not seeing Azi and yelled back up, "C'mon down, milady!"
Miril laughed. "Even a drunken friar can follow me better than you!"
Azi yelled down the stairs, "You just told me to go up!" and stomped down there staris. Miril was taking another swig of ale from the flask as she yelled, "STOP!" and took the ale from Miril, handing it back to Salor with a glare. "One drunken companion is more that enough. Let's go."
Miril turned a corner and saw Crispian lying prone on the floor, naked and bleeding. He walked toward him, and nudged him with his boot. To his surprise, the young lord grabbed it weakly and began to sob and kiss it "Crispian?" he hissed out, shocked. "Azi! Salor! Down here!"
Azi heard the voice, but was unsure where it came from. "Miril?" she called.
Mirill ran up the stairs to find them, leaving a weeping Crispian behind him. Salor entered the room even as the infiltrator left it.
Crispian looked up, eyes hollow and empty. "Please, no more!" he cried out. Salor produced an extra robe from his pack and helped Crispian pull it on. "Thank you, thank you," he cried patheticall, grasping to Salor's legs.
Salor shrugged, never one to appeciate a sobbing drunk, "Of course, mi'lord."
Just as Azi felt panic closing in on her, Miril appearred and dragged her down to the chamber. Miril knelt next to Crispian and took out a flask, which Azi grabbed away.
"You look like hell, Crispian," Miril said.
Looking up at the infiltrator, eyes showing no reason or thought, "Take me home, please," he gasped out.
Salor, feeling the situation to serious, quiped, "But he is wearing a stylish robe."
Azi knelt by Crispian, even as Miril was slinging the knight's right arm around his neck to lift him.
"Miril, stop it!" Azi blurted out. What are you doing?"
Crispian leaned into the infiltrator, almost clinging to him.
"I'm going to take him to the healers," he replied.
"Please, no pain, sir" Crispian sobbed.
"Let the clerics helped him" Miril continued, even as Salor coughed discreetly behind him. "Some ale could ease his pains."
Azi shook her head. "We have to let his Aunt know that we've found him," she said, watching Crispian's fawning and pawing at Miril, who fught to keep the knight's arm abou his neck.
"That can wait," Miril hissed. "He need healing!"
Crispian stroked Miril's armor jerkin. Don't hurt me, master, please," he begged. The nights terrors washed over his mind.
Miril looked down at Crispian in concern. "I'm not your master," he said quietly, eyes reflecting his growing alarm. "Who did this to you, mate?"
Azi nodded, "Yes, he does need healing. Crispian?" she called softly.
Recoiling more against the infiltrator, Crispian sagged toward the floor as Azi said his name. "Please, master," he whimpered, remembering cruel blows for hours at as his name was said, "no pain, please."
Salor regarded the man in front of him. "Stylish, and he seems well enough physically. Perhaps we should take him to his aunt."
"Miril," Azi asked, "why does he keep calling you 'master'?"
Miril shrugged as Crispian collapsed to the floor again. "I guess I have that kind of presences about me."
Face hear to the ground, Cirspian pawed and fawned over Miril's boots, his lips against them as he continued to mutter, "don't hurt me Master," quietly, over and over.
"I think it's because I kicked him when I first came down," Miril concluded, looking at Azi. "He looked dead."
Azi shouted, "Crispian! What happened to you? Why are you here?"
Crispian cired out, grasping tighter to Miril's leg, "Pleae, master, plesae!" he croaked out, "don't let her touch me!" A vision of D'Vena filled his mind's eye.
Salor muttered "banshee," as he tugged his ear.
Azi looked at Miril. "You have to talk to him, Miril. He won't even asnwer me."
Miril looked down at Crispian. "What's my name, Crispian?" he asked in a carefully nuetral tone.
Crispian shuddered. He cringed and puled further back into himself. He looked up at the towering man. How often had he been asked that last night? "Master," he croaked out.
"Hmm," Miril paused. "What should I ask him, Azi?" he asked quietly.
Azi sighed. "We're wasting time. You're right," she looked up at Mirl. "He needs healing and we need to let his Aunt know we have him. If he thinks your his master, play along. It may help us get him out of here."
Miril gave Azi a look. "Help me, Azi. We'll get him there, but you'll have to lead the way. Salot, help me carry him."
Crispian gazed up at Miril, fearing the next question, the next blow, but unable to surpress an almost physical want to please him.
Miril struggled to get Crispian to his feet. "Azi, lead the way. My guess is that an infiltrator must have been him up. Is his aunt a cleric?"
Azi shook her head. "No. Where do you think we should take him?"
Salor shrugged, fastening his staff across his back.
"Salor," Miril asked as he settled Crispian's arm across his shoulders, "Can you heal him?" Azi words were right on the end of Miril's "Salor, can't you fix him up a little?" "You are a friar," Miril reminded.
Salor nodded, "Why thank you for noticing!" he said a bit crossly, having listened to the debate over clerics for the past few minutes.
Crispian clung to Miril's arm, head agains the infiltrator's chest. Was the kindness going to continue? he wondered.
"Crispian, stand up. Everything will be all right." He extracted the armsman from his grasp, setting him on his own feet.
"Yes, master," Crispian whispered, steadying himself on his feet.
Salor mustered a bit of energy to heal. Maybe he had had a tab too much to drink, as it seemed to be a little difficult.
Azi shook her head at the friar. "I told you!" she hissed.
Miril saw that Crispian was none-to steady. "Put your arm around me, Crispian, and put your weight on me," he said, keeping his tone as gentle as he could.
Salor fixed Azi with an icy stare. "Hey! Healing is difficult. I have to remember where everything is attached!"
Azi looked at Miril. "Where should we take him? He keeps saying to take him home, and as fas as I know, that is the Defender's Guild."
Crispian leaned into Miril, who shifted to balance batter. "Come on. Let's take him there than."
Azi nodded. "We can take him there and send for his Aunt."
As the healing power from the Friar washed over Crispian, Miril shouldered his weight up. Miril set him on his own feet again. "Follow me," he told Crispian, clear and firm.
The knight recoiled, "Please, master," he sobbed, sure the blows would start now, "no more pain!"
Miril started up the stairs, and Salor took up a position behind them all to ensure nothing happned.
At the first turn, Crispian lost sight of Miril, and sank to the stones. "MASTER!" he called like a lost child.
Miril turned, calling "Come up the stairs!"
Cripsian crawled the remaining steps, "Yes, Master," he eked out.
Seeing him weaving in exhaustion, Miril again shouldered his arm. "Help me carry him, Salor," he said as the friar nudged Crispian from behind.
"Wait!" Azi called, "Wait!" and paused in thought. Seeing the mid-day sky, Crispian shuddered. Hadn't that hateful little man said he would never see the sky again?
Azi shook her head. "Nevermind, let's go!" And the little troop set off, making their way out of the guild of shadows and into the city. The streets were still crowded as they passed toward the Defender's Guild. Few people even noticed their cloaked and robed burden.
They entered into the building. "We should find the beds," Miril said, setting Crispian down. He headed upstaors, looking for the sleeping chambers.
"We should find him a bed," Azi said to Miril, thinking of the broken man sitting at the bottom of the staris.
"Aye, let's find him a bed," Miril said even as a near paniced scream of "Master, where are you?" drifted up the stairs.
Miril sighed. "Come up the stairs, Crispian," he called down. A scowl crossed his face as he thought of what had to be done to reduce a man so,
Azi and Miril had reached an area obviously for training and discussion. "Must be in the other building," Miril said as they headed through an archway.
They headed back down the stairs and collected Crispian and Salor. Then, they started the trudge up the three flights of stairs to the let-out rooms in the Guild house.
Crispian paused, looking at all the familiar sights. He KNEW this place. He hurried to catch up and nearly bumped into Azi. Terror flooded through him, and he cried out. "Keep her away from me, master," in a broken sob.
Miril spun to see what was happening and barked out, "Crispian, come here!" In horror he watched as the young man scuttled over to him, Azi looked at Crispian sadly, but kept her distance as they continued on. Again, Crispian paused, examining a shield with a tower on a gold field, and a blue stripe beneath it. It was familiar, something nagging that he should know it.
Miril stopped when he saw Tannir and looked about, "We lost him," he said looking around, then seeing Crispian at the end of the hallway. "There he is."
Crispian turned to follow again and saw Azi. "MASTER?" he cried out desperately.
Miril grabbed him, pushing Crispian behind him. "Stay close to me and I will protect you from her," he said, throwing Azi a puzzled look.
Crispian pawed at Miril. "Thank you, master," he said, images of the pain, the woman, the hurt, welling in his mind.
Miril walked up the short flight to the room rented by the League. "Come up these stairs," he instructed Crispian.
Salor muttered "Your charge is a little slow in the head."
Azi threw him a glare. "He is obviously very agitated. You two put him to bed and watch him close. I"ll get his aunt."
Salor looked abuut. "How strainge, I recall sleeping here."
Miril shook his cloak out against a wall. "Lay down here," he told Crispian.
Tannir, coming into the area, saw them. "M'Lord!" he called in shock as he saw Crispian. Crispian started to get up, and Miril pushed him down. "Lay down, Crispian," he said gently.
Tannir looked about at these two men. "What is wrong?" he asked. Miril settled an extra cloak over Crispian for a blanket, ignoring the squire.
"We will watch him," he told Azi. "Go find his aunt."
Crispian lay on the floor, curled on his side, clnging to one of Mirl's boots. That young voice. Who? Did he hurt Crispian? Fear welled up. "Master?" he gazed at Miril.
Azi closed her eyes, reaching for the mind of Mirashta. "We've found Crispian. Come to the Defender's Guild as soon as possible!" she pressed the message through.
Miril looked down at Crispian, smoothing his hair. "Shh," he said, as though to a child, "go to sleep." He c;eared his throat and sang softly.
"Close your eyes; The night is here; The stars light the Way; The Moon is bright tonight; Protecting us from darkness;" and continued to watch until Crispian quieted into sleep, and then extracted himself from the hold on his boot.
Taniir looked at the two men, and asked much quieter. "What happened to him?"
Salor readied his staff again and shrugged. "No clue," he said, detached in thought.
Tannir's eyes filled with rage at the strangers before him. "Tell me," he said, his voice rising.
Miril raised a hand to the squire. "We do not know. Shh. He is sleeping."
Taniir turned, fixing a stare at Miril. "LIAR!" he barked.
Azi touched his arm gently. "Tannir, we found him, battered in the cellar of the Guild of Shadows. He insists on calling Miril 'master' and recoils from my touch." Her eyes spoke much of the sadness she felt.
Miril looked at the young squire. "Tannir, go watch the door and cool off. Tell us if someone is coming."
Salor, watching the swing in moods, wondered to himself if anyone in Crispian's League was sane.
Tannir glared at Miril, still unsure what to think. "I hold you responsible for my lord!" he snapped.
Azi felt a tendril of thought brush her mind and focused on the sending. "Milady!" she thought, a relief sweeping her. "After a long search, we found Crispian in the basement of the Guild of Shadows. He is in terrible shape. I didn't know what else to do with him but to bring him to the Defender's Guild."
The reply was swift. "A moment dear" filled with vauge images of fighting.
Azi turned to Tannir. "Please be calm. Remember what I told you at the Vault. We want to help. Now, can you show us a place where we can make him a but more comfortable?"
Mirashta's thought-reply came at the end of her sentence and Azi split her attention for a moment. "Ye've found him? What kind of terrible shape?" Mirashta's thought asked.
Tannir fixed Azi with a dread gaze, "I can care for him better than you!" he snapped, his young chin trembling in rage.
Azi threw the fast thougth back to Mirshta, " Bruised and bloodied, incoherent," but could not stop Salor from flaring in temper.
"Wow, an ungrateful sout," the friar said flatlly.
Tannir turned to Salor, "Shut up, Monk!" he snapped.
Azi looked at Tannir, "I'm sure you can. I never presumed to care for him. I wouldn't know where to begin, but sometimes things happen that are beyong one person's ability to help."
Mirashta's thought stopped her from saying more "For now, make him comfortable. I'm on my way back to Lethantis now."
Miril glared at Tannir. "Calm down, or I shall render you unconscious," he said flatly. "Your anger does not help us here. Silence, and the stairs," he griipped his sword hilt menacingly.
Azi gave Miril a stern look. "Leave the boy alone. Be nice." Salor, thinking this could go badly, began to gather the power for a heal...or twelve,
Tannir spat out "Dare!" to Miril as he glowered and stalked from the room.
Azi looked at her friend in surprise and ran after the squire, calling "Tannir!" She found him a tthe top of the stairs.
Tannir stood against the railing "What?" he said, his face full of misery.
Azi looked at him in understanding. "Miril can be gruff sometimes," she said gentlye, "but we are just trying to help. I'm sorry."
Tannir sighed heavily. "He is my heart and soul, Lady. Aid him if you can." His eyes welled to almost tears, but he did not let one roll down his cheek.
Azi looked at Tannir, realising how much they had in common, "We shall, Tannir. I promise." With that, she turned to head back to her companions. Pausing, she thought to Mirashta, What should we do in the meantime?"
Mirashta:replied "Make sure he still has the talisman he was wearing around his neck. I'll be working on a solution, I hope, with the mages at Lethantis, shortly"
On the roof top where all had happened, Miril pulled his own cloak tighter and looked down at Crispian. "Even in the rain he sleeps. He must be exsausted"
Azi, rushed to Crispian, and looked for the talisman without touching him. It gleamed upon his chest. She sighed in relief. As she looked up, she just caught Salor arching an eyebow at her. She returned his ;ppled/ "His aunt is on her way to Lethantis and then coming here. She said to make sure he still has the talisman around his neck, and he does."
Salor nodded slowly, accepting the wizardly means of communication. "The talisman?" he asked, clearly wanting to know more.
Azi shook her head. "I don't know, she just said to make sure he has it." Her look was confused but resigned to these things.
Salor shrugged and nodded accepctence. He looked out on the sky as the earlly moon rose, passing from the Hiberian horizon into Albion. The sphere gave a slight glow, and Salor looked down as Azi gasped and pointed. "Look!" she exclaimed.
Slowly, Crispian opened his eyes, looking up. The glaze was gone and they were agin claer and gray. "Azi?" he croaked out in a dry voice.
"I want one that does that," Salor quipped.
Azi dropped to her knees, calling "Tannir! Come here!"
Crispian's head moved about, taking in the faces of these three allies, and his squire.
"Salor?" he asked, for he did not know the red friar himself.
Salor inclined his head, 'Milord.'"
Crispian let out a small gasp and ginned sickly, "I am no Lord."
Azi recoled, "Crispian?" she asked again.
He smiled at her weakly, "Azi?"
Salor flashed a brief smile, "You look like hell," he deadpanned.
Crispian grimaced, "Well, I feel like shit," he said weakly.
Miril looked about, feeling slighhtly out of place. "Well, looks like everything is better i must be on my way. Hope you get to feeling better, Crisp." He clapped the armsman on the shoulder.
Crispian looked at his new friend. "My thanks, and I hope so as well," he said, even as Miril faded away into the shadows, and disappered.
Azi nodded, "Thank you Miril," she said as her friend faded, then turned to Crispian. "What happened?"
Crispian shuddered and pushed down a feeling of naseau. "Let it be for now," he said, meeting the young wizard's gaze as she nodded solemnly.
Crispian looked to Salor,."Brother, I beg foreveness," his serious tone let the firar know what he meant.
Sakir nodded, "Of course, it is given, without stipulation. But confession, they say, clears the soul." He fixed the young lord with a firm stare.
Crispian closed his eyes. "Brother, can I spare the details for the moment?" he asked in a slightly pained voice.
Saklor nodded again. "It is yours to tell, as you want it, friend," he said kindly.
"At a later time, brother," Crispian said, "But for now, your blessings please."
"Given," Salor said as he made a holy sign over Crispian.
WIth a great sigh, Crispian leaned back. "My thanks, brother."
Azi put a hand on Crispian's shoulder, cautiously, as she knelt beside him. "Sir, I hope you remain quite yourself. Tannir is here now. He shall care for you. I must go. I've negelected my own affairs too long tongiht," she said with a shy smile.
Tannir, stepping forward, offered Crispian a wan smile, "I have your armor, Lord."
Crispian smiled at Azi. "Good Lady, you have given much for me!"
Azi smiled back. "Nothing more than what you deserve, as friend to my guild and myself."
Salor arched an eyebrow. "If the Lady Azi is no longer in danger, I shall be off for a bit. My head seems to have exploded."
Still looking at Azi, Crispian grabbed her hand and kissed it. "I shall never forget. But leave me plesae with Tannir, until Auntie returns. You have my thanks."
Salor, rising, bowed to Crispian and he returned a saltue to the friar.
"Good day, mi'lord," Salor said as he departed.
Azi blushed violently and took her hand away. "Call on me again. I shall be happy to help you."
Crispian nodded gravely. "Thank you, Lady Azi. I shall repay the favor, and the deed!" he said solemnly.
Azi stood and curtseyed, then turned to Tannir, pattying him upon the arm. "You're in good hands, Crispian."
Recalling the horrors of the past night, Crispian nodded. "Aye, to your thanks, Azi."
Azi blushed again and turned, gradually making her way down the stairs, and back out into the city.



 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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Azi-Icemistress 
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As she made her way hastily back to her father's house, Azi reflected on the events that had passed. So many questions, she thought. But was this the end of Crispian's pain?

 

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Cloak72 
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Ayslyn lay back on a couch. The crystal on the table was dark now, thankfully. "Sweet Rhiannon," he murrmured, "That was truely vile. Thanks be that his friends found him. Hopefully his aunt can do something."

 

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Ayslyn Greenwillow, Night Elven Hunter, Runetotem
Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
"Pain shared is Pain divided; Joy shared is Joy multiplied"
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Crispian awoke the next morning to a splitting headache. He barely could shift through the horrors of the night before, but his head was clear for the first time in days.

(more later)

 

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Crispian awoke with a great pounding in his head, but found his body healed in full. He could not recall all the events of the night before, but the horrors he did remember made him shudder and nearly wretch. He held his head in his hands for a few minutes before rising and rinsing his face at the basin. Today had to be better than yesterday. Pulling on padded tunic and trousers, he began strapping armor into place as Tannir entered, bowing slightly.
“Lord, I brought some repast. You have slept heavy these last two days.” The young squire placed a platter of meats, cheese, and fruit on the cot. “Feeling better, milord?” He looked closely at Crispian, watching for some sigh of the events of two days past.
“Two days, Tan?” Crispian asked, stunned that he had slept so long, and so hard. “Two days,” he repeated as he ate hungrily from the platter. “Well, what news, then Tannir?” He chewed as his squire placed the plate leggings on him.
“There is word from the Guardians of Val San Retour of a hunt to Lyn Barfog, and Sir Leftie reports heavy siege supplies laid in, Lord.” Tannir smiled to himself, pleased to see Crispian returned to his normal business-like manner.
“Lyn Barfog?” Crispian commented, as a lance of pain hit his mind. He closed his eyes, remembering the touch of Azi, the prayers of Salor, and the kindness of Miril. “I shall attend, tell them. And make ready from rations, for I shall stay some days there. I have business there I think.” A vision of D’Vena in a windowless chamber moving figures about was suddenly in his mind. “Many days, perhaps,” he amended.

It took about an hour for all to be made ready, and Crispian spent the time busily. He sat on the high stool that was comfortable to use when clad in full armor and wrote. He despised his poor hand with the quill and wished Jashen were here to write it out. His hand was firmer, clearer. He sighed as he looked at the letters and began signing them and closing them with seals. Time, he felt, to face this malady head-on for a change.

“Lord General Arguyle MacFadden, Order of the Red Lions;

Hail and Greetings, friend to Albion, and myself. I am in fair mind as I write this, but forgive any lapses within. As ye know, I have been sore afflicted these past weeks due to a mutual acquaintance. I beg thee to contact my aunt, Lady Mirashta Wynter, if ye can be of assistance. I trust her judgement, skill, and knowledge to ferret out some aid in this matter.

Crispian Pontiff”

“Dearest Auntie,

I know I have caused ye sore pain over these past days and not been myself. I beg forgiveness and help. You know the ways of Magic and all that more than I ever could hope to, but you know how my efforts at learning came along! I’m still sorry for the dog.

I am leaving for Lyn Barfog this morn, as there are things I must seek there. Please don’t worry more than usual. Darnyk shall be with me.

Cris”

“Lady Azi Icemistress,

I thank you for your aid, unlooked for and so strongly given. I am embarrassed at the state in which you found me, and plead for you to press the image from your mind. You are a credit to Albion, to Wizards, and to your fair sex. Such bravery and sacrifice is rare in any. You have my eternal thanks and the dedication of my blade, should ye ever need to call on it.

Sir Crispian Pontiff
Seneschal of the West, Saint Crispin’s League”

“Brother Salor, care of Ye Mug,

I hope this missive finds you well, brother. I ask your prayers as I go forth. I have entrusted some gold to the barkeep for your meditative use.

Crispian”

Sealing the letters, he passed them to Tannir. “Get these delivered today, Tan.” He strapped his back-up sword, repaired from the pygmy battles, across chest, and took up his shield, then set it aside. “One more, Tannir. A moment.”

Dragging parchment forth, he set quill to page. His hand shook at first, then he wrote firmly.

“Tobyas,

I have heard of your devotions to the Church and wish you well in that life. May the light of Albion and the aid of the League be with you always.

With fond regard,
Crispian”

This he sealed with his undeferenced sigil. Jaw set in a firm line; he took up his shield and sword, nodding thanks to Tannir. “I can’t repay your dedication, Tannir, and I am the poorer man for that,” he told his squire. “You have been faithful beyond call. Thank you,” he finished, pulling barrel helm on to hide the tears welling in his eyes.

Striding out of the room and the building, he did not see the wash of concern come over Tannir’s face. “Be well, good Sir,” the squire said quietly. Then, tears rolling on his cheeks, he cleaned up the chamber for Crispian’s return.

 

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As Azi sat at her desk, the faint humming of her mother's voice wafted up the stairs. She read Crispian's letter again, blushing deeply at his praise, and thought back to the previous nights and weeks.

So much had happened in her life recently, so many wonderful and horrible things. She had been welcomed into the League, and taken up her field studies once again. It had been a few weeks since her parents' happy reunion, and Crispian's plight had been a welcome distraction to her disturbing nightmares, although worrysome.

She took up her quill and began to write an answer to Crispian's note in graceful, even script.

Milord,

I hope that this response finds you well. It was duelly a pleasure and an honor to be of assistance. Should you need any aid in the future, in research or in any other fashion, please to not hesitate to call on me again.
Azi

Reading the note over and finding it a bit too formal, she added:

I look forward to seeing you and Tannir again, please send him my greetings.

With that, she rolled up the parchment, tied it with a length of soft blue ribbon, and sent it off.

 

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Thudding heals in horse, Crispian robe north to Snowdonia station. On the field before the waystation, a vast group was gathered of Guardian of Val San Retour, a few Leaguers, and some Wessex. He grinned in pride at this assembling of the Alliance. They formed their lines and set out to hunt, deep in Lyn Barfog. Diamondback toads, and other fiends, fell before the combined skill, might and spells of the assembly. The air crackled with power, and quips, as they hunted on, moving swiftly like an avenging force of god and, for a time, clearing the land of the great evils spawned there. With the setting of the sun, many retired to the station, for repast and company.

Crispian found a small glade and camped there. He was much acustomed to sleep in armor and had even over the years figured out the exact why to fold a spare cloak atop his shield to relieve neck cramps in the morning, not that waking after such a night was pleasant ever. He massaged his neck, shook out the tightness and geared up again. Today, he would look for D’Vena on his own. He had not seen Carrington or Moryan in days and only had the one, brief, bitter exchange with Arguyle.
The fog clung to the ground, obscuring vision as he set out. The sun, slow creeping over the horizon, burned if off. Toward midmorning, he passed through a burn out village, recent from the looks of it. The dead were exposed to the sun, and the stench of death was strong. He moved around the edge, carefully skirting the core of the destruction.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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Crispian spent the day scouting the area, looking for any accessible sign of some type of structure, but all he found was the trade village, the ruined monastery. Nothing that could be gotten to that might be a haven for the vile witch. Spending another night in his armor, he made his way to Snowdonia station and thence to Camelot.

 

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He passed through the North Gate, rested and refreshed, oddly enough for having been afield three days hunting D'Vena. He was smiling as he passed the church, turning to head toward the defenders. Children were playing and laughing all about, people bustled on business and the city hummed alive.

He stopped in his favorite garden with the large stone in the center. He loved the engravings here. Camelot, capitol and more of Albion. A true symbol.

He wend his way out of the garden and thought about going to the forge for a moment, but decided a bath and a meal would be better first, so he turned toward the Defender's. If only their Guild House purchase would be approved!

He was passing a small alley that ran off into the Guild of Shadows when he heard it. A voice. THE voice from that night. It hissed and rasped. He'd never forget that sound. Terror nibbled at his mind. "What's your name?" it asked. He closed his eyes, shaking his head. The Elven crystal was there, he knew it. Under his breastplate.

He stumbled, mind reeling as laughter followed the voice. He stumbled on, shoulder against the wall. He staggered on, each step a chore. The laughter echoed in the vaults of his mind.

At Ye Mug, he stopped, slapped a gold piece down on the bar top.

"Ale!" he gasped, grey eyes wide.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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With a sigh, the barkeep tapped out an ale and set it on the counter, sweeping the gold piece into a box.

He turned and cleaned a section of bar, signalling the serving girl to him. In a hushed voice, he told her, "Find that young mage girl, and Lady Wynter. If not her, young Tannir the squire. Ye know, the one you eye over when stops for a topper of ale." He grinned at her as she blushed. "Go on now, lass, and be quick if ye will!"

Crispian set the empty tankard down and signalled for more, even as the voices echoed in his mind.

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

Jashen had made good an escape from the city, for things were getting just too strange. He loved his brother, but these past few days had been bizarre indeed, even by his own standards. He went deep into Mithra's Tomb and stayed for a time, using battle and slaughter to clear his mind, focusing on the sweet hiss of his swords through the air.

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

In a deep fortress in Lyn Barfog, D'Vena stroked a gold-haired figure. "You will crawl to me for release I promise you!"

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

The Tower Library at the Retreat had been reknown for some time as a repository of great knowledge, and the poor scribes had been digging for three days when one of them found a scroll, bound in vermillion silk, that he thought might contain something of us. With a heaving chest, he rushed to the Lady Arienne.

 

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Tobyas sat watching the sun wester at the Downs. The crumpled letter was in his hand. Tears wet his cheeks.

 

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Worried, Azi rushed through the crowded streets toward Ye Mug. She knew he was liable to start up again, but she hadn't thought it'd be so soon...

 

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Crispian lowered the mug of ale and closed his eyes, steeling himself to turn around. The look of the barkeep had told him something or someone was behind him, and he turned.

She looked so refined, he thought. Poised, holding herself with grace. And anger. He dropped his eyes, adding another failure to his mental list.

"I'm shorry Azhi," he drolled.

 

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Azi shook her head, disappointed. Tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear, and resting a hand on Crispian's shoulder, she managed a soft smile. She gently took the mug from his hand and placed it on the bar, throwing a grateful glance at the barkeep.

"Come on, Crispian, let's go talk," she said softly.

 

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With bent head, he followed her, looking more like a scolded child than a powerful warrior, a knight of the Realm. He walked through the twilit streets watching her. A part of his mind wondered what his mother had been like, a calmness coming from that, even as maddening laughter gibbered from other parts of his mind.

 

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Her newly emblazoned cloak flapped gently with each step as Azi led poor Crispian through the streets. Thinking of the stories she'd been told of his glorious battles and fearless leadership, she vowed to herself that she would soon see the young lord restored. He seemed a just and fair warrior from the stories she'd heard, she thought, almost like her father. But her father never turned to the drink, even after all he'd been through...

Azi sighed, wondering exactly where she was going to bring the poor soul. Certainly not to her father's house, or to the Academy. Up ahead, the Church stood proudly, casting a long shadow before it. Of course. It was the perfect place for a quiet talk, she thought. Perhaps the perfect place for him to finally find some peace.

 

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Tobyas 
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The steed reared to a stop at the stables of the east gates, and Tobyas slid off the horse with the ease of someone who had been riding for most of his life, which was close to true. The hood of his cloak was high, shielding him from the rain and wind as he hustled through the gate. He made his way through the streets and entered into the cathederal through a postern entrance.

He was making his way toward Lady Winchell when he saw them. The wizard and Crispian. He was too close to stop as he locked eyes with the young lord.

 

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Crispian looked at the young cleric, his throat going dry of a sudden. "Tobyas," he said with a stiff and formal tone and a bow. "Ye come here to train?"

He felt his pulse quicken as the lad bowed back, coppery bright hair agleam in the candle light. "Aye, Lord, I came to seek out Lady Winchell." Tobyas replied with equal formality. "Permit me attend this busiess," he said stiffly and, bowing, moved on.

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi blushed awkwardly as she watched the stiff exchange between the two men. She watched Tobyas, trying to give him an encouraging look before he walked away. She thought of the day that she saw him on the riverbank outside of Camelot. She remembered thier short conversation, and the pain the young cleric had felt.

When Crispian turned back to her, she raised an eyebrow at him reprovingly.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Crispian felt color rising in his face and just nodded curtly. "A new member of the League," he muttered, moving deeper into the cathederal, his head beginning to clear from the effects of the ale. A chior of monks was keeping the vigil and their low chant drifted in the air as sweetly as the incense.

Looking toward the corner where Brother Michael healed all who came, Crispian scoffed. What good was the man to him? A healer's touch had brought no aid from that which stalked his mind, and he doubted any could.

Stepping through the door into the cathederal garden, Crispian leaned against a stone railing, bracing himself for what he was imagining to be worse than a rush of tanglers, or deamons from Darkness Falls. He mentally took a stance while trying to remain appearing relaxed.

"You said you wanted to talk?" he ventured quietly, recalling the last time he had seen Azi, and how she had seen him. He almost blanched, but fixed his jaw firmly and met her steady gaze.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi followed her friend into the garden, his sudden change in disposition startled her. She was cautious, but not frightened or suprised as she leaned on the rail beside him. She had dealt with her father's madness for so long that she knew she could handle this situation well enough.

"I wanted to talk, yes," she started quietly, not knowing exactly what to say. When she had gone to find him, her main objective had been to keep him from drinking...

"Rather, I wanted you to talk," she said quietly. "Milord, I don't pretend to know what has happened to you. I don't pretend to know how to begin to help." Azi tried to keep her voice at agentle tone. "I do know that your recent habits of drinking will do nothing for you, but to push aside your troubles, even add to them, only to have to deal with them another day." She looked for his reaction, but his eyes only grew colder, more distant. She touched his arm gently.

"As I said, I don't pretend to know how to help you. But we both agree I've seen you at one of the darkest times in your life. Sometimes a listening ear will not solve a problem, but it can help to lift some of the weight of the burden."

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Crispian let an explosive sigh out and looked heavenward. He did not want to touch what he held in his mind, did not want to risk what might happen if he let it forth. He shook his head, an ironic grin on his face.

"Azi, we came to know each other through events in your life, what,a few months past? Tatyanna's respect for you confirmed my suspicions. But this," he gripped the railing firmly, "this is ... more than I can ask another to take on... or expose them to. This," he breathed in a shuddering breath, "rage, this hatred," he hissed through clenched teeth, "is so consuming, so filling," his voice became stern, lowering to a whisper, "that it can only sometimes even be held in check." He turned smoldering gray eyes on her. "Do you really want to share THIS?" he almost shouted, slamming balled fists against his head.

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

Deep in the fastness of her hold, D'Vena peered into the milky dome which enclosed the small gold hair figure. She watched the glowing movement of other small, conjured figures on the glass surface and grinned.

If he would not break, and the other two seemed unreachable, perhaps these others.

"Yes, show us more," she chuckled, stroking the dome with a clawed hand. "Show us, my little pawn, so you can have playmates!" An insane cackling ripped from her mouth as she collapsed back into her high-backed chair, a froth of spittle dappling her lips as she laughed.

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi jumped as Crispian slammed his fist to his head, he was beginning to frighten her. She was shaking from this display, from seeing him in so much turmoil. Her mind raced as she tried to think of something, anything she could do to help.

She wondered where all of the man's friends were, she was so new to the League that she was unsure of who was even available there..aside from Lady Mirashta..

She reached up and took fist gently, closing her hands around it.

"I don't know what to say, Milord..." she said shakily, "Except that I think it's important for you to surround yourself with friends at all times. You may feel that you're protecting others by barring this evil inside of yourself. In reality, you cannot defeat this alone. You need the support of those who care for you, at all times I think. Until someone finds a way to stop your agony."

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Crispian's hand relaxed in hers and he looked again to the sky as clouds scudded across the star lit darkness.

"This...pain...it hammers, Azi, always. I have fought no foe less kind than this. None!" He swallowed hard to keep control of himself. "Nor one more ruthless." He eyes blinked rapidly to keep tears from coming, for he had enough of those. "I thank you," he said, kissing her hand. A flash of Moryan's face crossed his mind as he did so, recalling a tavern so long ago it seemed. "Please, stay with me this night, as a friend?"

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi drew her hand away, blushing slightly at his gesture.

"Yes," she said after some contemplation, "I will sit with you. As a friend."

 

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They sat in quiet at the railing, and at some point Crispian sat down, leaning against the outer wall of the church and drifted to sleep, still holding Azi's hand tenderly.

The dream came as it had sometimes. A raging fire, the beams falling, being carried out of the manse as it was consumed. Arguyle, broken and bleeding, being healed, and healing energy flowing through Crispian. Jashen and Tannir there, as always, brother-of-blood and near-brother, attending his wounds. And Her, being led in bonds, then hands free, a spell, the stun of it hitting him, and then a lassitude.

The visions following were a tumult, a cascading of failures and losses. The deaths, the times the shield was too slow to block a blow that a friend took. The times standing while Oaklief, Mirashta or Darnyk were dead. The disasterous retreat toward the Milegate from Bledmeere Faste,when Arguyle, Kalfear and Edeor all fell before Crispian did, as Midgard warriors swarmed them under.

And then, the respite. Her. D'Vena, pale and naked upon a settee, arms stretched, wine chilled, expectant. And the revulsion at that image that was almost physical, bringing instead the image of Tobyas, in pale morning light, tusseled hair.

Fire. Rushing gouts of flame, flight down that hallway as beams collapsed. Slamming into Arguyle's back to push the massive highlander lord out of the way. His fault the pig-farmer lived. And Moryan, warning her of all that was happening. His fault again that she was free and in love. His fault. So his punishment.

Leaning in sleep, Crispian twitched and groaned occasionally, as a sad-eyed Azi looked on, honoring a pledge of friendship.

 

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Tobyas 
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From the shadowed doorway, he watched them. Their quiet whispers, raised voices, Crispian's head-hitting, and then the tender hand-hold. He watched as they settled to the flagstones, and Crispian drifted to sleep. Still, she held his hand.

Blinking tears, Tobyas stood, watching them.

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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She held his hand still, kneeling beside him as he slept. His expression twitched occasionally, occasionally he jerked or groaned in his sleep. Sighing sadly, she watched the moon rise slowly in the sky, casting its blue light across the flagstones.

As quietly as she could, she slipped her hand from his and shifted on the hard stone. A slight movement in the doorway caught her eye as she stretched her sore neck. She squinted into the darkness and saw him watching. A pang of sorrow touched her heart as she remembered the cold exchange between the two men. She realized what he must be thinking, seeing her there with Crispian.

"Hail, Tobyas," she whispered softly.

 

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Tobyas 
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Hesitantly, he stepped from the shadows. The soft soles of his boots hissed on the paving stones. He bowed, the robe he wore swirling as he did so. "Good Lady Azi," he said quietly. "I see you also know my Liege, Crispian." He was glad for the low light of the moon, for it hid the color that rose in his cheeks. "I meant not to disturb you."

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi smiled sadly.

"Disturb us?" she whispered, waving her hand. "Nonsense. Crispian is going through a bit of a troubled time. I'm pleased to have someone to talk with to pass the hours while I stay with him." She watched as the handsome lad's eyes wandered to her sleeping friend and rested there.

"That is, if you care to stay and talk," she smiled softly.

 

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Tobyas 
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He felt his cheeks warm as another blush rose, and shyly nodded. "I have no pressing obligations, Lady," he said quietly, indicating a recessed bench near to where Crispian slept. He sat, tucking his legs up under his robe and leaning against the wall. He wondered just how much Azi knew, or had guessed. The fact that she was a wizard gave him no pause, but every woman he had known seemed to have deep flashes of insight about matters of the heart.

"You say he is having a troubled time. This has been spoken of in the League's hall a time or two, but none care to speak much on it." He watched the dark-shadows of the hedges move as the moon slid behind a cloud. "I fear I may be part of the cause."

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Crispian groaned in his sleep. Azi shifted nearer to him, resting a gentle hand on his shoulder. She watched him for a moment, his breathing calmed at her touch. She turned back to Tobyas.

"Why do you say that?" she asked quietly, following his gaze to the shadows of the garden.

 

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Tobyas 
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With a near shudder, he swallowed, loud enough for Azi to hear in the silent garden. His gaze went distant for a moment. With a sigh, he began.

"Lord Crispian is responsible for my station, as it is today, Lady Azi. Twas he who...bought my freedom from endentured servitude," he paused, lacing his fingers together and placing them on his lap. "I was he with whom Crispian spent a night in the Guild of Shadow's quarter. I, I think there was some sort of visitor that night, but I don't recall." He smiled as he recalled that night, near to three weeks ago now, or longer? "He is a, um, gentle companion compared with some. But when I awoke in the morn, he was gone. He left a note, some gold, a ring and instructions to find his squire. I did as he asked, then joined the church as an Acolyte, and after that, the League." He paused, the smile having faded as he talked. Now, a slight scowl decorated his face.

"I have seen him but twice since, and the last he was deep in his cups, but warmer than he was this day." He raised a hand to wipe a tear away. "I fear he blames me, in some way, for all that has happened since."

 

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Azi blushed as Tobyas revealed his story to her. She had only recently known Crispian, as the troubled young lord. It warmed her heart to hear that even through such a difficult time he would offer his help to another with such kindness. In her heart she knew that the old Crispian was still alive inside the troubled shell now sleeping beside her.

She gazed at Tobyas, the poor soul. If only he knew that Crispian's troubles went much deeper than either of them could imagine... She sat for a moment, watching the breeze rustle the young cleric's hair, thinking of the best way to word what she wanted to say.

"Tobyas," she said softly, "Crispian does not act of his own free will. Something haunts him, something unnatural. I don't know what it is...except that it is powerful magic. He has not been himself, and I am almost certain he doesn't blame you."

 

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Allowing silent tears to roll down his cheeks, Tobyas gave a rueful laugh. "I have so heard, Lady. But I cannot help but feel myself even to some measure bearing a burden of the blame. Perhaps it is best that I felt a call for the Church." He leaned his head back against the wall, staring at the black expanse of sky, dappled with clouds. "But how I feel for him, and what we share," he said in a dead whisper, "are prescribed by law, and punishable, even in the face of enchantment."

He raised his hands and wiped his face dry. "And I have enchantment not as an excuse, for it is but how I feel."

 

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Azi drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. Crispian shuddered restlessly. Resting a cheek on her knee, she contemplated Tobyas' words. She didn't know how to comfort him, for he was right. She sighed inwardly at the ridiculous thought of being punished for feeling. She admitted to herself that she did not understand how one man could love another man so, but it was not her place to judge.

She sat in silence, waiting politely for Tobyas' tears to subside, thinking of his description of the night he shared with Crispian. The Guild of Shadows...she thought. A visitor...

"Tobyas, are you certain you can't recall anything of the visitor you mentioned?" She asked suddenly, her voice a bit louder than it should have been.

 

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Tobyas 
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The sudden shift from the wallowing in self-pity he had started jolted Tobyas. The visitor. His eyebrows nettled in thought as he ran a hand through his coppery-red hair, fingers lightly brushing the coin-sized tonsure.

"I think not, Lady." He bit his lower lip in thought a moment. "Crispian arrived somewhere near the nineth hour I think." He laughed slightly. "I was releived to see he was a handsome young man," he dropped his eyes for a moment, "as you can imagine most that come to such places are not. We, uh, well, were, ah, together, and I recall drifting off as the watch called eleventh hour clear." He paused, closing his eyes and reconstructing it. That horrid little room, so squalid, the narrow, hard cot. The smaller Crispian lying in the crook of his arm as they slept.

"YES!" he hissed excitedly. "Yes, there was someone. The room was dark except for a small candle, and Crispian had almost shouted something that woke me. Then, just as I was drifting, I heard a noise, feint but there. And," he shook his head, "someone must have knocked me out at that point or something. By the Almighty, I did have a headache in the morning like we had been drinking rather than," he stopped and shook his head, "well, like we had been drinking."

He peered closely at Azi, "Why is this important now?"

 

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As Azi raised her voice, Cripsian stirred. He looked around the burning hallway. He knew that voice, that was a good voice. Other voices hissed at him, tormenting phrases, questions that hurt him to think about answering. He shrank against the wall in fear, hearing above all the laughter, the wild, insane laughter that seemed everywhere.

Then another voice. A voice he knew, recalled some clearly. He turned, moving deeper down the hall. If he could maybe find those voices...

 

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Azi frowned and shook her head. The moon had fallen low to the horizon as they spoke, lightening the sky to a purplish hue. So many fragmented pieces of Crispian's plight floated in her head, but none of them fit together enough to make any sense. She rubbed her eyes sleepily and pulled her cloak around her, shivering in the damp pre-dawn breeze.

"I don't know that it is important at all, sir," she said aloud, too tired to think on it any longer. She brushed a strand of hair from her eyes and looked down at Crispian. He stirred, and she rubbed his arm gently, looking at Tobyas again. "Tell me, do you know where to find Lord Tannir or Lady Mirashta?"

 

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Tobyas 
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He nodded. "Aye, Lady Winter is hunting with her husband, I believe in Lyonesse, and young Tannir has been working in the Vault with Father Camlin on the League treasury."

Tobyas quietly crossed to Azi, settling next to her cross-legged. He allowed himself a moment to look at Crispian and smiled, blushing knowing Azi saw the smile. Slowly, his smile turned to a scowl. "What's that ring? He had it not the night we ma...met," he said, catching himself with a smirk. "I'm quite sure that is some new item."

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi took up Crispian's hand in hers, turning it gently to look at the ring. She could not remember if it had been there when they had last met. She looked at Tobyas and shrugged, but the look on his face was insistent.

Gently, Azi slipped the ring off of the young lord's finger to have a better look.

 

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Ayslyn watched the crystal in front of him. He shook his head ruefully as he listened to first Crispian and Azi, and then Azi and Tobyas. "I pity the poor lad. Humans have always made love difficult." He listened as Tobyas related his memories of the night Crispian was with him. "Dammit," Ayslyn muttered to himself, "I'll have to work on my potions. I must be slipping, to have him remembering anything about my visit." He watched as they discussed the ring, and as Azi slipped it off Crispian's finger and examined it. The finely detailed willow on a silver band of twined ivy. "Oh dear. Best be careful with that lass. If the wrong people see that, and understand what it is... That could be trouble for the lad."
He sat back and watched, and waited.

 

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Azi turned the ring around in her fingers. It was strange, a warrior wearing such a delicate ring.. It almost reminded her of some of the Hibernian illuminations she'd seen in an old tome somewhere. She slowly slipped it back on Crispian's finger and looked at Tobyas.

"I don't think it holds any magic," she said thoughtfully, shrugging again. Crispian stirred as she patted his hand gently. She yawned softly and stretched her stiff back. "It's almost morning, perhaps I should wake him.."

 

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Tobyas 
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Tobyas peered at the ring, noting the slender, delicate willow-image worked into the silver. His mother had worn something similar, commented about bringing it home from Emain. He frowned in thought.

"Aye, Lady, tis almost daybreak, and Lauds is nearly upon us." He rose, smoothing the monk's robe over his frame and stretching. "I had best be away before he wakes. It would be best," he said with a tight smile. "Thank you for your graticiousness and time." He gave her a solemn bow and smiled again before leaving the garden, entering the cloister gate.

 

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Azi smiled sadly as Tobyas left. She sighed, fearing she hadn't been helpful in easing his mind or his heart. She looked down at Crispian, sleeping soundly in the dawning light. It seemed a shame to wake him, but her vigil on the hard stones had left her stiff and tired. He had slept peacefully for the most part, she thought, and without the aid of drink. For that she was glad.

"Crispian," she called softly, patting his shoulder gently, "milord, tis morning.."

 

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The flames well leaping all about and the beam on his back pinned him firmly. The heat was becoming more and more intense. A mocking voice whispered that with a word, release from all the pain would come, a renewal of life, but there was a tinge of something vile to that offer. But the pain, the anguish was so much, ripping and rending at the very fibers of his mind.

As he opened cracked, sorched lips to plead for that release, he heard a voice, "Crispian, milord its morning." The voice was sweet, holding no offers of release but carrying no fright. His eyes flew open as he pulled in a great breath. He grabbed Azi about the shoulders, clinging to her.

"Thank God it's you," he mumbled into her shoulder. His chest heaved in great panting breaths for a moment, then settled as his pulse slowed. Why had D'vena used the manse and the fire? "I was having a bad dream," he explained, levering himself up against the railing. He smiled shyly at Azi. She looked a wreck, tired, deep smudges under her eyes.

"Let me get us breakfast, as a thank you," he offered, crooking his arm at the elbow for her hand.

 

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At the mention of breakfast, Azi's stomach growled loudly. She managed a smile and pushed herself to her feet. She stretched her arms to relieve a knot in her tired shoulders, and made a vain attempt to smooth her wrinkled robes. Straightening her cloak, she gingerly slipped her hand into Crispian's offered elbow.

 

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Crispian placed his sword-hand over Azi's as they walked from the garden into the waking streets of Camelot. His back was ram-rod straight and he looked every inch the warrior-knight escorting a fine lady of the Realm, even if she were slightly taller.

A slight swagger in his step and commoners moved out of the way. He winked playfully at Azi, his spirits high and confidence returned, even if there was a slight air of haunting about him. As they passed a clot of boys rough-housing in the morning light, Crispian fixed them with a stern gaze, making sure they saw Azi. He nodded grimly at the tallest of the group. He knew what these lads were like, and had seen how they treated Azi from time to time when she made her lone way to the Academy compound.

He bought two sweet nut rolls and scotch-eggs from a vendor, passing one of each to Azi.

"I hope I did not cause you much trouble during the night, Azi. I must confess, you were often in my dreams," he said, hiding a blush by wiping his face. "But not in an ignoble way," he rushed to add, losing the battle of complexion badly, going red to the ears. "And I do thank ye."

 

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Azi smiled brightly as she watched her friend strut through the streets, exuding confidence. She giggled at her former classmates' wide-eyed stared as he paraded her past them.

The sweet nut roll melted in her mouth as she nibbled at it thoughtfully, listening to him talk of his dream. Dreaming of her? She laughed inwardly. Surely he was just flattering her as a grateful friend. A smile stretched her lips.

"Dreaming of me, Crispian?" she teased gently, "And you woke with such a jolt? Am I that frightening?"

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
He smiled at that, a bit forlorn perhaps. "No, gentle Azi, not you." He finished the egg and bought two mugs of milk from the diary man, avoiding the sweet Breakfast Ale being offered from a keg not five feet away.

"I dreamed about the night that..." he paused, swallowing milk and fear, "she was taken in the raid. Twas the last time I saw Moryan or Carrington, and but one of the last times I saw Arguyle." Even though fear glinted in his eyes, he pressed on. "It was morning, just at dawn, when the whole place just...burned to the ground. Arguyle and I charged in to the building like two pygmy goblins caught wind of a Paladin. The whole place started to collapse and I shoved Arguyle from a beam, that landed on me," he grinned, bobbing his head slightly. "It wasn't much of a saving move, since I pushed him under another section of falling roof."

He traced the wall top with his eyes, the grey stone against blue sky, as the scene played back in his mind. "Then some Red Lions were carrying me out of the place, and clerics were going about healing. The King was shouting orders, and D'Vena was captured. I, I think her husband is Arguyle's brother or something and they parted badly, D'Vena and he, that is."

He paused, playing with the heavy gold signet ring. With a deep exhale, he pressed on. "She was being led away when she worked the spell. It was so fast, just a few motions and some strange words." He jawline shifted from a pulsing muscle, clench and loosening. "But I felt it hit me, like an arrow. Then the pain passed, and I thought it was gone." He avoided meeting her eyes, for if he did, surely he could not press on.

"But, the pain," he squinted into the sun, letting it fill his vision with burnt umber to keep his mind from bringing up other pictures. "The pain is there, almost always," his voice was low, a frown stretching the corners of his mouth down. "Always except, except when I drink, or," he let out an exasperated sigh, "kill, or, well," he glanced aside at her, "I think you can guess on the last."

With a small grimace, he took her hand again, setting on his elbow and started to walk, less someone hear too much. "And your company seems to ease it some," he smiled at her.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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Tobyas 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
Gliding quietly behind them in a deeply cowled hood, Tobyas watched them together, jealousy mixing with pride. His confusion was warring within him.

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi frowned as Crispian confessed to her the events leading to his torture. She listened in silence to the description of D'vena's curse. Going over the description and his symptoms in her head, she grew silent. Slowly, she remembered a passage from her research. She stopped short in the middle of the street, gripping Crispian's arm tightly.

"Milord," she whispered, "I've read of this curse... Where is D'vena now?"

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
He looked at her oddly. "Lyn Barfog, in her manse. I'm sure of that." His face grew grim.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi frowned.
"I thought you said she was captured?" She thought a moment, trying to remember what she had read.

"In any case, milord, I've read through over two hundred tomes of curses," she blushed deeply as Crispian gave her a questioning look, "for personal reasons. If yours is the curse I remember, then to lift it..." She stopped a moment to think. She hated to say it if she was wrong, she had only vaguely remembered what she had read, and with what little description she had, she could not be certain. She whispered almost inaudibly, "You must kill her..."

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Crispian started to laugh, "Kill he..." His brows nettled together, and his teeth gritted together. His eyes pressed tightly shut, fingers clenched, one hand grabbed Azi's as it had been covering it. Knees buckled as he sank to the road.

"She w-w-won't let that happen," he croaked out, his throat constricting, and collapsed to the ground.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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Azi-Icemistress 
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Panic-stricken, Azi looked around frantically as Crispian's collapse drew the gazes of passersby, stopping them. She dropped to her knees beside him and grabbed his shoulders, shaking him gently.

"Milord, please..please, I'm sorry!" She patted his face gently, "get up," she whispered pleadingly. A pair guardsmen eyed the display from the wall, a small crowd was beginning to gather. Azi blushed a deep red.

"A little too much ale," she lied, forcing a nervous laugh. The crowd murmured and slowly wandered away, the guardsmen rolled thier eyes.

"Get 'im off the street lass." One of them called out. Azi blushed deeper, shaking Crispian again.

"Crispian, please..."

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
Crispian lay on the pavement as Azi shook him, gently trying to wake him. The mere thought of harming D’Vena had brought terror striking at him, and his mind had shut down. The searing images she had dredged up flooded into every venue they could find in his mind, not seeping like so often in the past, but cascading in like wave battering at the foundation of a flooding house. Failures, rejections, regrets all came to the forefront of his mind in one Tsunami like wave of pressure and pain. Blackness brought sweet oblivion.
In her fastness in Lyn Barfog, D’Vena watched the tableau play out. She smirked at the gentleness of the young wizardress. Nothing came of such gentleness, she thought bitterly. She knew that well. Mithain, Arguyle, Moryan. All had sought to rob her through their ‘gentle’ and ‘noble’ means. Moreover, this stripling of a man had thought to take arms with them, using his guile, charms, and looks to disarm her. She shuddered, pressing palms to her face. Her beauty was not so faded that she should have fallen for such a ploy, yet she had. And she knew that his gentle attentions were indeed sweet, even intoxicating. A warrior’s stamina tempered with scholarly upbringing. The boy had patience, she admitted with a small chuckle. Ah, but she had not finished with her little revenges for that lie he had made her party to.
She returned her attention to the dome of glass, casting about for those she sought. Arguyle was still beyond detection, and Moryan was in the Elf-land it seemed, out of range for what little work she could do from here, deprived of the grand instruments her manor house had once held. Still, perhaps there were somethings she could make to happen. She mused on this as she collected up particulars. Her hands busy, she recounted events of the last few weeks and set her mind to a course of action. There were matters she should address in some fashion.
Taking dried elements from jars, she cast them into a steeping pot, listening as each made it’s particular sound: the hiss of dried diamond-back toad eye, for piercing through fogs of mystery; the popping sound from dried Telamon brains, mostly to thicken the brew, for Telamon were stupid; the tongue of a novice friar, dried in a ruined church, for turning the untruths into revelations; and lastly, a fragment of dried cloth from the burial shroud of Jasper Pontiff, to better know the lineage of her prey.
She waited, sipping at a white wine, as the brew boiled and bubbled, the laughter of her mind suppressed for this working, this bold endeavor. Finally, she lifted an ebon rod, carved from the darkest wood for a dark working and traced sigils in the air over the pot. Glowing runes floated, casting a hellish light on the work surface. She squinted at the dome, flicking droplets of the mixture on its surface. An elf, an Avalonian, a twin, and a cleric. Hmm. Her lips pursed in thought, eyes blazing as she watched some scenes flit too and fro on the opaque dome. First, the elf, she decided and allowed a small chuckle at that.
Raising claw-like hands in the air, she wove them in patterns that would make most practitioners pale and quaver, but D’Vena was far passed simple fear at this stage of the bargain.
“Elfling, Elfling, in your wood;
I would strike thee if I could;
But you world would be my death,
So I dispatch a little Pet;
Pet of bone and flesh and Rot;
Stepping forth from Yon Pot;
Poison Claw and Wicked Horn;
Seeks the Elf Upon the Morn;
Take from him his heavy Life;
So He won’t shield my Target’s Strife;
Revenge on green Hibernia bring;
Kill the Elf, that’s the Thing!”

With a stab of the wand-tip and a murderous laugh, a blob-like form rose from the boiling pot. It was vaguely manlike and grew more so as it rose. A horn stood upon it’s head, curving with a serrated bar. Talon-like claws manifest on its hands and it laughed a pitch to match D’Vena. Then, in a scamper of dripping feet, it scuttled out of the rune-light and into the wan Lyn Barfog sun.
With a chuckle and a nod, D’Vena turned back to her musings, her mood much improved. She pondered the Cleric, a boy, she laughed. Ah, yes. Not A Boy, but His Boy. Her fingers worked nervously for a moment, for a misstep on this path would derail her plan. Perhaps something small, a nudge rather than a push. Lips pursed in thought, she wiggled a small pattern with her fingers.
“Heart sobourned and love desired;
Not yet quenched your physical fire;
Seek him out, at all costs;
Make him risk a noble’s loss;
At an inn or in a Glade;
Make him risk the Ax-man’s Blade;
Turn not away Love’s awesome Force;
Or Take the scorned Lover’s Course!”
She stab more dramatically at her own heart, releasing the emotions she held pent from the scornful use she had suffered. Let him be on the receiver’s end of that this time.
The Twin was her next consideration. She chewed a lock of graying hair in thought for a moment and began to work, fingers reduced to little more than a twitch. She savored the Wizard for last. Meddlesome little strumpet. But first, the likeness that was not her object. She nearly cackled, but held her focus.
Brother yours the Praise is Given;
Two so alike among the Living;
If he were gone, your trouble soon;
Would give way to Victor’s Boon;
Boys were two who should be One;
Pause not ye til task is DONE!”
She snapped her fingers and pointed out, unleashing a force to twist a deep bond upon itself. The spell snapped forth with all the hate she threw behind, but she had misstepped. The heart she stabbed at was more pure than she had thought or calculated for. Jashen’s love for Crispian was as true this day as when he had first laid eyes on his twin, and knew the other half of his own soul. Though deep in the Swamps, and in battle, his aura, his kata, shrugged off her petty stab with the resistance of a greatly enchanted foe.
D’Vena reeled and fell backward, chair and cauldron going to the ground also. The Laughter came, but was not hers. A force that had long waited for just such an error buffeted her mind, and it fed on her essence even as her catatonic eyes looked to the ceiling. She was now in a battle of her own.

Crispian’s eyes fluttered for a moment. Azi felt like he had lain there for hours. With the help of some guard’s she had at least moved him off the main roadway. His gray eyes met hers and he smiled weakly.
“Sorry about that,” he mumbled as he rolled onto his knees, and with some help, stood.
Azi looked very closely at him, almost scrutinizing. “Are you alright now?” she asked, grabbing his offered elbow to support more than to accompany. “You were down for some time. I was very worried,” she chided him, not even realizing the tone she had taken. He grinned over at her, being only fingers taller himself.
“Aye, I feel…different. Sort of like the pressure has eased a bit,” he shook his head as he spoke, lifting Azi’s hand into the crook of his arm. “And now that we have had breakfast here in fine Camelot, what say you we travel to Lyonesse? Darnyk and I want to thin down the Tanglers some,” he smiled to her. “The learning would be great for you!”
Azi blushed, shaking her head, “I don’t think I’m ready for those yet.”
“Nonsense, I shall protect you,” he crowed gallantly, leading her toward the east gates of the city and Cotswold beyond. Today was a good day, so far, and he was determined to keep it so.


OOC- this brings the story to last night in game, so there may be a wee pause while more unfolds on some fronts.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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Cloak72 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
Ayslyn crouched on the branch, looking down at the forest floor. It had been a long time since he had played the hunted and he forced himself to admit that he was enjoying it more than a little. The creature roamed about below him, cackling to itself. It had reached Hibernia with terrifying speed. Had Alec not been spying on D'vena at the time, they would never have had what little time they had to prepare for it. They had dispatched Secaran to Albion to warn Crispian about the latest attacks. Ayslyn could only hope that he got there in time.

The creature looked up at him, suddenly aware of where its prey hid. Ayslyn grinned down at it. The creature rushed the tree. It was fast, damn fast. Its viscious claws tore into the trunk, the poisons on those claws causing the wood to mortify almost instantly; the wood blackening and rotting away. Ayslyn's grin vanished, replaced by a fierce scowl. He slung his bow and quickly shimmied along the branch until he was next to the trunk of the tree. He called out. "Wake up! You're in danger. Hurry." He held out his hand and a pair of chipmunks scurried out of hole in the trunk, up his arm, and into his hood. He prayed to Rhiannon for some of his old strength, then punched his fist through the entrance to their nest. Scooping up their store of food, he tossed it into one of his pouches. "Hold on," he said and threw himself away from the rapidly dieing tree. With less than his usual grace, he grabbed hold of a banch from the closest tree and swung himself up onto it. Waiting only long enough to catch his balance, he leapt to the next tree, and again to another. He tossed the pouch down on the branch and then placed the chipmunks down next to it. "I'm sorry," was all he said before once again leaping away into yet another tree.

He was now angry. Because he had toyed with the creature, a family was displaced from its home. It was time to end this farce. He dropped out of the tree and landed on the ground in a crouch. The creature stared at him, hatred and malevolence shone in its eyes. Ayslyn stood, slowly, rising to his full height. Calmly he unslung his bow and drew an arrow. It's head had been filed with deep grooves; it would not slide easily into its target but would instead rip and tear as it drove home. He spun the arrow along his knuckles and then nocked it. The creature charged at him. He stood stock still, glaring at it. At the last moment, he leapt high in the air, spinning round as the creature stumbled through the space where he had just been. He came down, hard, on its back, driving it to the ground, and leapt away gracefully, drawing the arrow back to his ear. The creature jumped to its feat, rage distorting its already hideous features, and spun round to face him. He let fly the arrow. It tore through the distance between them like a bolt and tore straight through the creature's left eye and into its brain. The creature flopped to the ground, twitching in it's death throes. Ayslyn quickly checked on the chipmunks. They were already starting a new nest, he noted with an amused grin, and headed back to check on how everything else was going.

 

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Ayslyn Greenwillow, Night Elven Hunter, Runetotem
Mokti, Troll Hunter, Runetotem
"Pain shared is Pain divided; Joy shared is Joy multiplied"
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Arienne looked over the scroll the scribe handed her. It was clearly old, seemingly written in blood and it appeared to be relevant to the current problem.

"Eril, where did this come from? I've been over every scroll in the keep and I never saw this one. You keep a secret library?"

"No, milady, that comes from...well, it was from your grandfather's day. There was a raid on a group of necromancers, they were defeated and your grandfather honored for the victory. All of the necromantic items taken were to be destroyed, you see, but..." his voice lowered to a near-whisper: "I cannot bear to burn books. I kept them, locked in a trunk in the cellar, among some old trash where no one ever goes." He spoke the next a bit louder-- "It does describe the problem at hand, does it not?"

Arienne re-read the document more carefully. It was a spell of summoning for a MENTARIATH, a demon of the mind. Unlike most demons, which possess the body, this one would influence the mind of the victim, working from within. This made the demon immune to mere exorcism. The spell was long and complex, and included many connections and references Arienne did not understand.

"Yes, Eril, I think you may have something here. Thank you for bringing it to me. Keep those other scrolls locked and hidden, though, this is not the sort of thing that should ever slip out." After working with the Academy to stamp out the last vestiges of necromancy from the realm, Arienne did not want to see a new source spring from her own home.

A third scan of the aged scroll, and Arienne was ready to take action. She quickly sent a mind-message to Mirashta confirming that she was still working at Lethantis. As soon as she received a confirmation, she moved to the nearest window.

<<Mirashta, I've found something I think may be important, but I have no counter-spell. It's too lengthy to explain mind-to-mind, but I'll send it along via courier.>> A passing crow looked just large enough to carry the scroll, and Arienne wasted no time in convincing it to do just that.

The crow flew off in the direction of the nearby woods, covering the distance quickly. Arienne sat back down and began answering some of Mirashta's questions, those she could, anyway. With this discovery she began to truly hope that a way might be found to help Crispian out of his torment.

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi watched the young lord as he swung again at the keep door. "Stay back there, girl," he had shouted over his shoulder at her as he rushed forward with the most seasoned warriors.

So there she stood, outside the outer door of Dun Crauchon, looking in longingly at the action, casting occasional enchantments on anyone with a sword or sheild. She picked him out from time to time, the blue chevron on his back easy to spot in the confusion of melee.

Normally, her heart would be soaring with glee at the thought of the devastated elven faces as they watched thier keep fall under Albion's great army. She sighed inwardly and made a quick gesture toward a passing paladin. Her mind was elsewhere tonight. She spotted Crispian again through the crowd. Her thoughts drifted to thier conversation in Camelot two days ago, of D'vena. It had to end, and by his own hand.

 

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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
The pygmies screamed across the clearing again. It had been thus all day. Master Toorc, the other Seneschal to the League, would hurl some sort of magic at the tree the bloodthirsty creatures hovered near and than come running back toward the safe-point. Sanicca, skilled sorcerer of the Guardians of Val San Retour, would throw out a cloud of magic to stun the rushing mob, and then the work began. Kromly and Darnyk, both Marshals of the League, would spring forward with Crispian to meet them; pole-arm, staff, and sword at the ready. Mercurilius and Mandreland would stealth and strike. They came consistently in crowds of fifteen to twenty, and time again they ripped them apart. For the longest while, there was no healer save Darnyk, but the group had such mastery over the horde that it mattered little.
“Make at the Ready!” Toorc called to them, hands moving in spell work. He had much practice at summoning foes with his element pets and had been doing so for many campaigns.
“Think you can sober up enough to fight?” Kromly scowled, his one eye glinting in the dim-light.
Crispian glowered as his Marshal, a man he himself had bestowed the rank upon. “I am not too drunk to fight,” he muttered as he loosened his sword from the scabbard.
“Tis a change, then,” Kromly countered, hefting his polearm. “Ye be drinkin’ enough for Leftie,” he quipped as they braced for the rush of pygmies. “And he be a seasoned drinker, pup!” he continued, even as his great polearm smashed into the head of a pygmy goblin.
Crispian, turning a blow aimed at Kromly on his shield, glowered at the tall highlander. “My drink is my issue!” he blurted, sword taking a goblin down with a second blow. “And none of yours.” The thwack and noise of battle was high as they worked to dispatch a dozen or more of the little fiends before Sanicca’s stunning spell could wear off. Some did streak past and toward the casters, but Mercilius and Manderland were both upon them before a swipe of their small blades could cut the cloth of the casters’ robes.
“Just see it don’t ruin thee, lad,” Kromly said gravely as the last of this batch fell. “Yer a good lad, and a good leader. Keep yer head about ye,” he advised, hand coming down on Crispian’s shoulder, who was glad for his helm to cover how his face colored. He nodded briskly in assent and made ready for the next fight, not continuing the conversation at all.
Azi still had not arrived as the sun sank into the pool that covered much of the land of Lyonesse, long shattered and fallen. Crispian grew worried, but a few tankards took the edge off. He did not feel the insistent pressure of D’Vena on his mind and could not decide if that was for good or ill. He knew nothing had been actively done to relieve him of his torments, but still she was, for the moment at least, gone. The night passed uneasily, with many more rushes of the tiny beasts being put down. Kromly left for Darkness Falls to slay demons, and his spot was soon filled at the hunt, for many valued the learning of this place for tight-combat styles. It could make a difference on the frontier.
Mid-day of the second day in Lyonesse, the party pulled up stakes and journeyed back to the Yardley’s huts. Horses could be gotten there and the farmers were keen traders, taking in items from the fell creatures in the area in exchange for coin. Excepting a few small items of great value, and a piece of chainmail he thought a guild-member might want, Crispian sold everything. He begged time of the group to ride north and spend some time with the trainer of Armsmen at the Retreat of Lord Adribald’s. Reluctantly, they agreed to keep his place in their little group and he rode north.
The Retreat stood high on a low spot in the swamp, dominating the view of the area, but the trainer of Armsmen oversaw tower guard, and so Crispian sought his training there. It turned out he had been using less force on the upswing of his amethyst slash style and he practiced correcting that. As he worked, he saw Achou, Kayspon and Jashen heading toward the shoreline south of the Retreat, a glum faced Tobyas in their train. It pained him to see the young cleric suffering so, but he could yet bring himself to act on that particular front. He redoubled his efforts in practice until the trainer nodded in satisfaction and his sparring partner, a young recruit, heaved a sigh of relief.
Sweating under his armor, he strolled across the green to the tower to visit the healer, as he had been feeling a bit worn lately and he suspected it was from a bind-stone recovery. The healer cast small magicks on him, and Crispian immediately felt much restored and ready to again take on the pygmy goblins in their Lyonesse haunt. The sun was westering already as he headed to the stables for a horse.
A group of unkempt fellows barred his path as he approached and he drew himself up. “Might I help you gentlemen?” he asked calmly, helm tucked under his left arm.
One of them, smiling a gapped toothed smile, peered closely at his boyish face and sneered. “You’re te one called Crispian, aye? Knight o’ the Realm and Liard over the League o’ St. Crispin?” he half-said and half-spat through his gapped tooth mouth. He reeked of cheap beer and stale sweat. His lank hair hung in clumps at the collar of his ragged jerkin and his boots were sprung out in at least three places. That being noted, he was the best equipped and kept of the six of them.
Crispian shifted his stance; tightening the grip on his shield but keeping his right hand clear of him. “Aye, I am that same, but lord I am not. I am chosen by the League as leader, no more,” he kept his face calm except for a slight narrowing of his cool, gray eyes. “And whom might I be addressing?” He assessed how the six were ranged and found it sloppy indeed if the one’s demeanor indicated the thoughts of them all.
The gapped-tooth man spat at Crispian’s feet, off-colored spittle spotting his gleaming mail boots. “We be hearin that ye keep company with boys, ye cretin,” he spoke with venom dripping from his tone. “But, praise the A’mighty, one ye defiled has found the church and now we be aimin’ to show ye the errors of your choices, ye cur!” He took a bold stance, legs shoulder wide and arms held out to the ready, right hand suddenly holding a dagger.
Crispian snorted. “Stand aside, sirrah. I’ll not be judged by the likes of thee or thine for the cost of the curse laid upon in good service to the King!” He moved his left arm, allowing his helm to drop to the ground as he drew his blade, reward of a quest and house of a great stunning magic. These men obviously knew little of the folly in challenging a Centurion-ranked Armsman, fully trained as Crispian was. “Now, stand aside. I warn you I shall pull no blow if you strike!”
Even as he spoke, two made to move at him from each side. Crispian did not hesitate in the slightest. With an upswing of his shield, he smashed one in the chin, shattering it from a force that would have stunned a troll or even a telamon. His sword-arm connected with the other, blade turned flat. The smack of steel on flesh-covered bone was loud and the man crumpled, his eyes unfocused and glazed. The remaining four adjusted to their losses, but Crispian was now in full combat mode, even if he used not killing force.
Gap-tooth swung his dagger up, and Crispian parried it with a negligent flip of his own blade, smacking the man upside his head. As happened in combat, the sword unleashed its magic and the man fell dead even as a companion of his was meeting the face of Crispian’s steel-skinned shield. The crumple of metal to flesh as a little quiet than the snap of the man’s nose and cheek bones and he fell with a ruined face.
The final two were backing off as Crispian turned on them, rage in his eyes. “Stand your ground!” he called, closing on them even as they back peddled. For all their foolishness, neither was stupid even to show his back to an armsman in a murderous range and that probably spared their lives. Crispian smote at each with a single blow, flat bladed still, and dropped them senseless to the ground. Not even breathing hard, he surveyed them all, one dead and five downed. Turning to the Captain of the Tower, he bowed his head. “I meant not to kill that one and place my pledge as my ransom.”
The Captain nodded. “Lord Adribald will hold inquiry, Sir Knight, and the Officers of the Court shall pass verdict,” he responded in formula. “I take your pledge as Ransom for ye to appear hear one month hence at the High Court of Lord Adribald.” He bowed his head in acceptance and broke a small grin. “I would have killed more than one for what they said, even if it be true.”
Crispian paused in putting his helm back on and met the gaze of the Captain. “It is true, as far as one is concerned, Sir.” He settled his helm as the Captain scowled in thought. “But I am no pederast or rapist, nor do I keep catamites.” He swung up into the saddle and settled his gear. “I shall be back for the Lord’s Court,” he called as he touched spurs to flank and rode south to battle.

At the camp, nothing much had changed. Sanicca, the skilled sorcerer, had left for Emain to fight with some Guardians of Val San Retour and an Earth Wizard had replaced him. The fighting continued and it was not until the next morn that Azi finally arrived. Her robe was spotted from the ride, but still she possessed every ounce of poise and grace Crispian admired. He bowed to her in greeting and she curtseyed with a small blush. “I thank thee for permitting me to come, Sire,” she said, a small smile dancing on her lips, for she knew how Crispian felt about such formalities.
“Nay, Sister, tis not my permission ye need, just a stout heart, for we shall learn much here!” he replied, giving her another slight bow. He reached for a topper of ale and caught her scowl of disapproval. With a shy blush, he passed the topper to Darnyk, who smiled.
“Thankee,” he said as he hoisted it, smacking his lips at the taste. The friar was aware of what was going on, but felt it not his place to stand between a man and God’s given ale, whatever the cause. Still, he had known Crispian for a long time and he did have his concerns.
Again the call came as the foes were summoned to the slaughter. Swords and polearms, spells and staves fought them off, and they fell. It had gotten to the point of almost too easy, even with the occasional death. In the aftermath, as they stood about, catching breath and checking gear, Crispian set a small kettle to boil and steeped some tea, noting the pleased expression on Azi’s face as she drank from a skin. He doled some honey into the mint tea, which Azi had given him in Camelot.
“Tea?” he offered Kromly, grinning slyly. A large steaming mug filled Crispian hand, replacing the topper which he was so fond of.
“Nay, I’ll stick with me ale,” he said, drinking from a well-worn travel skin. “But ye can have tea if you like, little man.” He grinned to show that no harm was meant, but Crispian still scowled slightly.
Thus did most of the day pass, the slaying of the pygmy goblins that infested Lyonesse, called forth by Morgana’s dread magicks, with pauses to refresh themselves from the labors. Soon, their camp housed ten valiant souls fighting the mobs from the east and another eight taking those from the west. The small strand they were on bristled with the beasts at almost every turn, and as it happened, they were overrun.
Darnyk had gone forward to startle some of the pygmy goblins, much to everyone surprise. He crept close in, his staff gripped tightly with a sweating hand. The low-lying land of Lyonesse was humid and there was no breeze to give him respite. He peered intently at the prey, but a few feet from him. He prepared to send a small annoying prayer its way. As he did so, he knew almost immediately that something had gone wrong. He sprung from his concealment, racing to his companions, and even as he heard Crispian’s shout of “Tangler,” it was evident that they would be overrun.
The numbers of goblins that streamed forth from the base of the tree was more than anyone of them thought had a liar here. Instead of the aggressive party of twelve to twenty that normally came forth, nearly two score scurried across the plain. They were leaping at the warriors even as they were engaged, swarming passed them and onto where the casters stood. There were shouts to flee and run, but few had time and only Azi made it clear of them, running along the lakeshore.
Dracarn and Belil, who had been with the western group, wheeled around in time to split the goblins, taking down those that made it passed Crispian and the others, stunning some with magic, dispatching others with sword blows. When all was still again, none of Crispian’s party stood among the living. Dracarn and Blodoc, a noble cleric of many campaigns, began to chant their prayers. They besieged the Almighty with pleas and supplications, and called the fallen back to life, an infusion of faith lifting them from among the ranks of the dead.
Crispian vomited. He always did after being resurrected. It was something his body did not like going through, being dead and called back to life. There had been times he had almost not heeded the call, but not this day. He had to find Azi, to have her restored to life. If he had only never called her to Lyonesse, she could be pouring over old scrolls and musty tomes. Now, they were not even sure where she had fallen. Dracarn and Crispian set out along the lakefront, and Darnyk and Kromly headed out as well, each taking a different curve of the shore when it broke beyond the spit. They ranged out, looking for her, even calling vainly in case she would answer.
As Dracarn and Crispian moved near some ruins from the Roman occupation, the pygmies struck, renting claws and blades against armor. Crispian was not yet fully recovered from his earlier mishap and fell quickly. Dracarn again summoned the holy mighty to bring him back to life, followed by a weak thank-you and more vomiting. Just as they turned northward again, they heard the sounds of fighting. The unmistakable sound of a stave breaking bone warned them that Darnyk and Kromly had been set upon. They rushed toward the sounds of battle, only to find the three bodies near to each other.
Kromly and Darnyk lie within feet of Azi, so close to completing their task it was almost heart wrenching. Dracarn bowed his head in prayer, raising a clench fist to the heavens as he prayed. Light seemed to engulf him, a pillar of white on white, and he called forth to Darnyk. In a shimmering pulse, Darnyk’s body seemed to rise from the ground, wounds closing as he weakly settled next to Dracarn, who set heavily down next to him.
“A moment,” the paladin gasped out “The Almighty says I have called on him often this day.” He bowed his head to clasped hands, praying silently, even as Darnyk pulled himself up with staff. He too prayed, moving his hands in a gathering motion, as if to show all the life that was around him. He pointed as Azi as he raised his hand open-palmed hand toward heaven. And it was done. Azi stood, shaking, then sitting, next to the friar, who greeted her with a tired smile.
“Let’s not be doing that again!” he chided good naturedly at her, one finger waggling at her. She turned an appropriate pink and curtseyed.
“Thank you, good Darnyk,” she said, rising on toes to kiss his cheek. The gruff young friar managed a smile at that even as Dracarn was again beseeching the Lord for the life of Kromly.
Soon, a tired group of five clomped back into the camp area, to be greeted by many happy faces. They rested from their ordeals for a bit, breaking out camp fare and drink, ales mostly. The stale, coarse bread and dried meats were munched in silence.
“An ale, just one,” Crispian amended quickly, looking sidelong at Azi, “would go do nicely after that.” He tried not to look at her, but found he couldn’t. There was something compelling about the way she watched over him. It was not a romantic entanglement, but rather a feeling of overwhelming care, like a surrogate motherhood. Crispian tried not to think about all the complications that could arise from that.
“If you want an ale, you can have one, Sir Crispian,” Azi said, a bit formally. Her tone carried no reproach, but rather a cautioning. It was like she was telling him that his limits were going to be his to test and find, and all she could do was point out when he went too far.
Rather awkwardly, he accepted the passed topper of ale, and drank sparingly from it. Since leaving Camelot three days ago, his headlong rush into alcoholic stupor seemed to have slowed, and he could not exactly figure out why that struck him as odd. It took him the remaining time they rested to nurse down the one tankard, and he found that it only slaked his thirst.
As they prepared for yet another rush, Yvain, a young paladin in service of the League, arrived. He bowed to Crispian, who saluted in return, and grasped Kromly’s hand warmly. “Lord, might I join thee in thy hunt?” he said, rather stiltingly. Crispian could not help but grin at the other man, a couple years his senior in age.
“Aye, there is always room at the hunt,” he said, extending his hand in greeting.
“Perhaps I should be going back to my studies,” Azi said suddenly. “I have learned much, but I feel I might be in the way.” Her sudden turn of mood caught Crispian off guard.
“Nay, Lady Azi, please stay and hunt on with us. There are many foes to fell and we learn with each how better to use our skills,” came his rushed reply. He found himself a little panicked at the idea of Azi leaving so, and that unnerved him a bit.
“I could fight with ye, lass, perhaps a bit to the side so ye can work on your spell use,” Kromly offered, his massive polearm leaning on a shoulder as he slicked his hair back and pulled arming coif up. “That way ye can still learn, and I can be protectin’ ye.” The older highlander saw through the issue better than Crispian. Azi was blaming herself in some way for the spate of deaths just past.
“I thank ye, Sir, but it is not necessary.” She was readying her packs, securing the items that they had gotten off the bodies of the pygmies that were of some small worth. “I think I might be slowing the process and the hunt.”
“Nonsense!” Kromly yelped, his highlander brogue twisting the word into a great oath. “Ye’ll be doin’ some fine learnin’ and te Realm cin always use more skilled finger-wigglers!” he declared, making it sound more like a declaration of war than mere praise for her skill. “Now, come aside wit’ me. As they summon in the foes, I’ll pick a few off from the edges and ye can support me with yer magic. If’n I be needin' healin’, Darnyk or Rhizzia can be healin’ me.”
He grabbed her elbow and pulled her aside as Darnyk again crept forward toward the goblin tree. Crispian stood to the ready, again his band was making ready for the onslaught, but he kept tossing glances over to where Azi and Kromly stood to the ready.
“Azi, I’m jealous,” chided Rhizzia, the highlander cleric who had recently joined the hunt party but had long been part of the League. Her bearing and manner did not seem very church like, and Rhizzia made little secret that her past was not that of a virginal maiden.
“Jealous?” Azi asked, a slight blushing pinking her cheeks. “Why would you be jealous, Rhizzia?”
Rhizzia smirked, the humor plain written on her face. “Kromly has never taken me aside for his individual attentions,” she quipped, giving a nearly lewd twist to the phrase, as was her want with most things.
Kromly scowled. “Tis not like that, Rhizz!” he protested, almost too quickly. “Do ye forget my lady wife?” he continued, his discomfiture at the line of exchange showing in his manner as well as his face.
“Aye, Lyndariel. I wonder what she would think,” Rhizzia prodded, enjoying her moment of setting the highlander Marshal to odds.
“It’s not like that, Rhizzia,” Crispian found himself jumping in, not wanting this gesture to be sullied. His tone was firmer than he had intended, and he caught the arching of Rhizzia’s eyebrow at him as it crept into the metal rim of her bar-nasal helm.
“Indeed not, Lord. I was only making light.” She bowed to him, but the speculative look she gave him did not change in the least.
“If you’re done bandying words, might we hunt?” Darnyk shot at them as he came running over the field, robes hiked up and saddles slapping the turf. “Tanglers!” he called loudly, and again, they fell into the fight, all side conversation ended.
During the next several hours, there was little talk. The routine ground on. More pygmies, sometimes led by a dread Tangler, who brought many with him, sometimes not. These smaller groups barely got the attention of the full party. Kromly complained repeatedly that Crispian or another had taken the foe he was fighting for Azi, and many slights were exchanged quickly, in high humor and jest.
At the end of the day, the fourth on the plains of Lyonesse, they quit the field; heading for the safety of Cornwall Station and some much needed rest. Packs were heavy with loot that would fill coin purses. Plans for training was laid in for most that had been down to the hunt.
Azi headed north to Camelot, bowing a good-bye to Crispian at the Yardley’s farm, the first place a horse could be had.
“Are you sure you have to be off?” he asked, his voice breaking against his will. He cursed himself under his breath. Twenty-three years old and still he could not sound like a full-man all the time, and Lord knew he was still often though a boy due to his size.
Azi smiled one her sweet, disarming smiles, eyes dancing merrily. “Aye, Lord, you have given me much to think on, but my studies do call me back.” As he raised his hand, she placed hers on it and he bowed over it to lightly brush lips to the back. She smiled again at him. He could be gallant and charming, but for her nothing more was an option, even though it seemed at time he might wish it.
“Then be well, dear Azi, and travel safe.” He watched as she swung into the saddle of the palfrey and turned its head north, riding out of Cornwall and for the city of Camelot. He sighed a bit louder than he wanted and Darnyk smacked him on the back heartily.
“Ye need to hunt more, Crispy, and worry less.”

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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{old}Jannis_Solaran 
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Llyn Barfog was sere and empty. It was a lonely, unforgiving place, by turns oppressively hot at noon, and icy cold at night. Jannis sighed. She hated Llyn Barfog. She grimaced at her brother, Lance shrugged.

Pacing delicately along the shoreline of the great lake, she counted her steps with care before pausing suddenly, the wind teasing her hair. She turned away from the lake into the depths of the stony hills, pacing carefully in measured strides. The land was bare, sun streaking down and baking the soil and rock.

Suddenly Jannis felt a chill and a shiver pased across her skin. She felt the power strands of the spell swing back into place as she passed through its web, vibrating again as her brother followed her through. The spell quivered a bit casting faint rainbows through the air before stilling and vanishing. So simplistic... well, Jannis corrected herself, so efficent a use of power, illusions were far less draining to maintain than the more powerful spellwards and just as effective.

The two Avalonians turned, and walked slowly up to D'Vena's retreat. Lance pushed open the door, and they walked in, noticing immediately the lack of any sign of life, a terrible pall seemed to hang over the building. Lance frowned and drew his sword.

 

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TheLaughter 
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It was feasting on years of torment, some self-imposed, some inflicted on others. It relished the base wickedness and spite of this vessel. She was more than amply suited to almost any task. Oh, and her obsessions! What delicatable tidbits of base-born wants those were. Pity the little blond man-child had not tarried longer to find out about her own hidden appetites. Yes, the deep cess-pool this one called a mind was fine fodder.

She lay staring at nothing. No servant approached, no vermin drew near her. The chill of beyond the grave radiated from her, and they all sensed it. Dogs moved in a wide berth of the building, and even the vile beasts of Lyn Barfog shunned it.

A disembodied laughter echod through the house at times, a mirthless chuckle at others. Servants cowered and hid, clutching symbols of faith hidden from the mistress but now dug out frantically.

There was a pulse, a disturbance. It twitched, feeling the life-forces pass through. A threat. She must be the one to respond. It was not ready to reveal itself. Too many things were happening elsewhere in the world. Too much at stake.

D'Vena jerked spasmodically, twitching, then slowly stood up. Her eyes focused, but she looked scared, frightened. She shuffled to the door, pulling it open, and climbing slowly up the stairs.

 

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{old}Lynx_Apollo 
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*entering Llyn Barfog brought back memories to the Avalonian Paladin, Lance Solaran, as he hadn't been among this forsaken place since he was very young, and a frown crossed his face as he remembered happy memories of a happier time. His aunt didn't seem quite so bad to him then, sure it might have been just his childhood desire to play and frolick that blinded him to his Aunt, D'vena, and what she was.*

*upon passing the Tower overlooking the only entrance to this District, he noticed his sister's forlorn look, and shrugged. They both knew what they were here for. D'vena escaped from the King's custody, and their Uncle Lord Adribard sent them to try to find D'vena and try to persuade her to be reasonable. Basically, Adribard knew that in D'vena's thirst for power, the Solarans were of no threat to her, thusly made them prime prospects for this undertaking. The Solaran twins had no desire for politics, they found it incredibly irritating, and D'vena knew this*

*Upon approaching the shore line, he cleared his mind, and began centering himself. He calmly let his sister do all the tedious work of counting the steps and casually walked behind her.*

*As Jannis found the entrance to the Illusion Casting, Lance looked around to make sure no non-Avalonians were in sight, then seeing the coast clear, he closed his eyes and entered the barrier.*

*The two siblings looked at one another, and without speaking a word to each other, nodded as if they both knew the other's thoughts*

*Lance went up the stairs to the huge Teak door first, and shoving the door open, the two entered. Lance could sense Jannis' uneasiness as they stood in the Foyer, and couldn't deny that he felt a bit of the same.*

*Lance drew his sword, and took the point position, with his sister following closely behind him, they approached the stairs. He looked up them momentarily, and seeing nothing, walked passed them. He approached what looked like a wall with a painting of their mother on it, and calmly approached closer and closer, then went right through the wall as if it wasn't even there.*

*A sense of foreboding came over the Avalonian Paladins as they entered this hallway, halting Lance in his steps. He stepped forward two steps and readied his sword in a fighting stance.*

*Out of the corner of his eye he saw a silhouette, yet he couldn't make out the shape before it vanished. Then he heard a shrill laughter emanating inside his head, so shrill it sent pain coarsing through his head and down his spine. He lowered his sword and looked on at his sister, trying his best to contain the agony from spreading to his face, and Jannis stood there, unaffected it seemed.*

 

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TheLaughter 
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It felt the recoil, the envigorating taste of agony. The purity of the mind, the soul was so intense, so devout. It lashed at it, pulling at it, probing the impurity it knew to be there.

She sensed it, she could feel the exultation of the contact. She closed her eyes to the joy of it, momentarily basking in the duel-meal she shared with her companion-being. But there was something wrong, something off. This was not what she sought to feed on, who she wanted to relish the agony of. This was...an essence close to her own...Avalonian, if not kin, at the very least.

Her eyes snapped open, fingers moving in a gesture, as she whirled down the stair. Her lips peeled back to expose white-pink gums as a near insane rictus seized her.
"Primus Scopus Restituere!" she moaned out, giggling at the end. Her finger stabbed at the small, golden hair figure inside the milky dome even as it sought out the mind it had but recently touched.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
Azi watched the young lord as he swung again at the keep door. "Stay back there, girl," he had shouted over his shoulder at her as he rushed forward with the most seasoned warriors.

So there she stood, outside the outer door of Dun Crauchon, looking in longingly at the action, casting occasional enchantments on anyone with a sword or sheild. She picked him out from time to time, the blue chevron on his back easy to spot in the confusion of melee.

Normally, her heart would be soaring with glee at the thought of the devastated elven faces as they watched thier keep fall under Albion's great army. She sighed inwardly and made a quick gesture toward a passing paladin. Her mind was elsewhere tonight. She spotted Crispian again through the crowd. Her thoughts drifted to thier conversation in Camelot two days ago, of D'vena. It had to end, and by his own hand.
((back in sequence now))

Crispian hacked at the door, listening to the yelled commands of Laraleloth. She was snapping out orders left and right, instructing, coordinating. All the things a good commander did. The Hibernian keep door was falling quickly as the ram slammed into it again, springing the seams of the wood and they were through!

The surged up the spiralling ramp, midgardians and hibernians falling to blades and spells. The Midgards were trying to sneak in through the confusion and dislodge the Albion force, but it was not to be. They rushed the Lord, swords slashing into his body, even as he tossed Albion warriors and casters aside. Finally, with a great cry, he fell. The blood-slick floor heaved under Crispian's feet for a moment and he staggered out the doorway.

He had trouble focusing. His eyes shifted about. Who was still running the ram? Where was that pounding coming from? He yanked his helm free, sweat running down his face. Were Hibernian keeps always this warm?

Again, the pounding. It seemed like there was another right after each blow, like an echo. He careened down the ramp, hugging the wall, sword dragging tip-down on the ramp. Finally, with a misstep, he fell the near two stories to tower floor. He landed with a loud crash, armored arms and legs akimbo.

Azi rushed to his side. "The Lord did not make ramps for you to fall off of, Crispian!" she jibed him, as she inspected for broken bones hidden under armor. But he was standing, shaking his head.

"The good Lord made stairs for us to walk down, not these twisting ramps," he joked, allowing the pain from his head to blend with that from his back, legs and knees. He greatfully accept Azi's arm under his own for the support, but how long could he mask what he felt from her? And thank god Auntie Mir and Oaklief were in the Falls instead of on this raid.

He stumbled with her out of the smoke and carnage. His left leg dragged a bit, wrenched from the fall, and he could not make his eyes focus for more than a couple of seconds it seemed.

Then it was there again. The SMACK against his mind, as sure as a ram-blow to a door, and the echo, a deep wretching agony, a near scream of terror. He felt a recoil, a purity, an anchored faith and resolution. He winced, staggering into Azi.

"Are you alright, Lord?" she asked, easing him down near the ruined gates that craftsmen were already trying to patch.

"Fine, I'm fine Azi," he murmured. His eyes closed as the blows rained in again.

'You have to beat me first, bitch!' he thought with utter rage. 'Me first!' he hurled at the force pounding into his mind, and then felt the full force a blow that left him near gasping for breath from the force.

"Lord!" Azi exclaimed, calling for a cleric.

Crispian slumped back to the wall more, sagging a little to one side. With a pained swallow, he marshalled himself. "No, I'm ok, just get me up."

He shuttered off the pain and agony he felt, making for the safety of home. Tomorrow, there was more to do out in the Frontier, he thought. Tomorrow, just focus on that. He shuffled a step in front of the other as they moved off.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
The day was a blur. A run on the relic. Death near a lake. The pulling power of the Bind Stone. The weakening retching that always followed.
The room was cool, lit by some source he could not see. There was a glowing milky light that suffused the place. Was he dead? Had the bind stone magic failed, as it sometimes did?
“Not dead,” said a quiet voice. “But we needed to talk, you and I.” He looked about, and there was a man. He was cowled and hooded. A prominent nose dominated his face over a ragged beard shot with gray. Hooded eyes of a smoldering brown looked dispassionately at Crispian.
“Who are you?” he asked, hand creeping toward where a sword should hang. But there was none. He look at his waist and then noticed he was stripped of all armor, clad in simple peasant cloths much like he had grown up in. No, exactly like what he had grown up in. The outfit even that he had come to Camelot in. “Where am I?” he asked, bewildered.
“Who I am is not important, and where we are could be anyplace you like,” the man said, settling on a bench that became a rock as the room became a lake shore in Lyonesse, near to the sunken house of the clerks. “Is this better?” he asked, mouth quirking in a near smile. “Or this?” and they were suddenly in the warm, cozy suite that Mirashta had raised them in, he and Jashen. “Or this?” and they were in the cluttered room of a tavern in the Shadow Guild, a sleeping Tobyas on a narrow cot near at hand. Then, back in the room. “If it matters, I can make this anyplace you wish,” he said, hands resting in his lap calmly.
“What is the purpose of this?” Crispian asked, mouth going dry in near fright. If he had blade and shield, he thought, I could put this being down and be free.
A tongue-clucking sound from the man brought his attention back. “You cannot kill me with steel or stone, Crispian. I am not of that Realm you war in.” The man smoothed his robe out and let his hands rest again on his lap. “I am here only to help you, but not in a fleshy way.”
Crispian scowled at him. Had he not been through enough these past weeks, even with the brief respite of the past two days?
“Yes, you have been through much,” the man said, plucking the thought right from his head. Crispian looked up in shock. “It is easier if you just speak it out, Crispian. It takes energy to do all of this, you know.” The man leaned on the wall and watched the youth.
“You are here to help me?” Crispian ventured tentatively.
“In a way,” the man said, hands again smoothing the front of his robe in an absent-minded gesture. “I am here to give you some idea of what is happening, if not why it is happening.” He paused, leaned back in comfort.
“You mean with all of this?” he asked, gesturing toward his own head. The man nodded, eyes closed for a moment. “Then speak on, man! For the torment has been great, and I fear what comes next,” Crispian implored, his voice beginning to shake.
The man open his eyes, looking at the warrior-lord. “You stumbled upon something corrupt, and becoming more so, and foiled a plan, a desire, that was very dear to it. It wants recompense.” He paused again. His eyes met the keen, honest look of the lad’s gray eyes. Oh, how he had loved another with those eyes. The man sighed. “You are being the means of exacting that recompense.”
“I don’t understand,” Crispian muttered. “All I did was aid some friends in trouble, turned an evil aside,” his eyebrows nettled together in thought and the man almost gasped.
“Do you think evil defeated is evil gone, Crispian?” the man prodded, barely moving at all, but intently watching every move of the Briton’s face. “If so, you have much to learn. There are those who think, from examining the nature of the world around them, that evil and good are finite things, with sometimes shifts between them. An evil defeated can reshape, sometimes into good, or sometimes into more evil, even greater evil.”
Crispian stood, grimacing as he followed what the man was saying. “That makes no sense!” he snapped. “If, if,” his mouth worked soundless for a second, “If you defeat evil, if, if you put evil down, then the evil should just be gone!” he declared, pacing in front of the seated man, who smiled slightly.
“If that were so, boy, don’t you think the pygmies would be extinct? The Predwyn bridge safe of boulderings? The demons of Darkness Falls cast down?” The man tilted his head a bit to one side. “That is a foolish notion we can visit later. For now, what you need to know is that what you did has a price.”
“A price? For doing good and right? For being pure of intent?” Crispian challenged.
“Pure of intent. An interesting way to view those events.” Again, a smile quirked but one side of the man’s face. “You used means and tools hardly pure, boy,” the man said, face growing stern. “And she wants her revenge on you all. You can pay your price or all of it, but you must decide.”
“I don’t, I don’t understand,” Crispian pleaded.
“Watch,” the man whispered.
A Tableau appeared and scene came quick to it. Crispian, hale and well, cheerful and happy, but apparently dispossessed of station, in a small home, far from the centers of the Realm. He was repairing a harness for a horse, and Tobyas was chopping kindling not far away, bare chested in the late day’s sun. Then a great guild hall, and a somber, serious Crispian reviewing documents, smiling at members of the League, but content, not happy. Next, a street crowded with the traffic of the day, with people bustling about on errands and tasks, and against a wall, in rags, Crispian sat. His florid complexion showed the signs of years at hard drinking, and he begged coins from those that came near, a pathetic, broken once-warrior.
“But, none of those are what I want,” he complained, knowing he would not give up the League, but nor could he see his life devoid of romance and intimacy, of the commitment to one person. He also would not accept that he would throw his life away to ale.
The man looked at him almost devoid of any expression. “It is up to you, boy, as to how you will pay the Price that this being has set against you.” He watched as Crispian churned over in his mind what he had seen and heard. The boy set his jaw firmly, squarely and met the man’s eyes without hint of a flinch or recoil.
“I will not allow another to dictate the terms of my life to me through her spite or wish for revenge. And I cannot see letting my friends, whom I aided, shoulder the burden for me, although I would do so for them.”
The man nodded gravely. “So you choose the path of continued suffering, then?” He pinned the boy in place with his eyes, holding him in full attention. “And you know what that could mean?”
Crispian saw that last vision, of him drunken and broken. “Aye, and will fight against that happening with all I can, and every tool at my disposal.”
The man nodded again. “So let it be. You have made your choice in this battle then, Crispian Jasper Pontiff. Draw up the battle line of your soul, for you have pitched it against the foe. But, I warn thee, if you fail, your soul will be the Price,” and with a movement of his hand he returned the lad to Albion, staring at the spot where the boy had been.
“Be brave, my son,” he said, as a tear ran down his cheek.

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Azi ducked into the catacombs again, fleeing for her life from the ghostly Legionaire. Something was terribly wrong. Her bolts had been missing all night..

Perhaps as she had feared, she had become spoiled by the great night of learning with Crispian and Kromly and the other members of the League. The learning had come so easily that night, and was such fun. A blush came o her cheeks as she remembered Crispian, offering her a mug of mint tea. She chuckled to herself as she recalled the puzzled looks on her guildies faces seeing the young lord drinking tea amidst the pygmys.

Azi peered back outside. The legionnaire had lost interest and was returning to its post near a standing stone. She stepped out again, conjuring a ball of flames, and gestured toward another legionnaire whose eyed glowed bright yellow in rage. The firey bolt hit it hard, and she quickly released an icey blast, slowing his charge. Another gesture and shout, and the ghostly form fizzled and crumpled.

She smiled with satisfaction, glad of the distraction from the recent troubles of her dear friend.

 

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Crispian walked into the Guild hall, full from the fights of the passed days and puzzled by his strange vision. Aceramar greeted him with a bow. He saluted.

"I spoke to Arguyle MacFadden," Aceramar said. "He told me to tell you that you are not the Savior of Albion, but a cog in the machine."

Crispian snarled. "He would not know a savior if he descended from heaven!"

"And," Aceramar pressed on, "you are to attend him in his estates in Snowdonia." He scurried away as his lord and seneschal scowled.

Crispian turned and left the Guild hall, annoyed now. He stalked the street and nearly collided with Glenin, of the Wayward band. He had gone to the forge from habit and she was laboring over weapons, as he was want to do from time to time. He bowed.

"Hail Lady Glenin," he said, taking his own tools up. She smiled at him. "How fare you?" he asked, setting down with mithril and hammer.

"I am well," she smiled, "and you?" She looked closely at him, not even trying to disguise it.

"I am well enough," he said, straddling a bench to work a bit of mithril into better form. She nodded, muttering "good" under her breath as she worked a weapon into form.

Crispian scowled suddenly. "That pig-farmer is trying to ruin my League!" he said, hammering at a part that would not fit.

Glenin barely looked up. "Who? Arguyle?"

"Aye," he muttered.

"What is he doing?" she asked, appearing not to watch for a reaction.

Crispian hawked in laughter. "He says I am to attend him at his estates." His brows closed together in concentration.

"Well, go!" she said, fixing more attention on him. "Find out what's happening!" Her work was immediately forgotten.

"Bah!" he scoffed. "Like I want to be with that hairy ape of a man!" He slammed hammer into metal.

"He is nice," she said quietly, "and nae that bad." She set hammer aside.

"No," he said, shaking his head, "she tells me he is evil." His voice dropped to a low whisper, eyes going a little unfocused.

"Who tells you?" Glenin asked, her fighting senses honing in, watching for the smallest change.

He shuddered, a physical wave sweeping him. "D'Vena," he said quietly, knowing that no member of the Wayward Band would not know of her.

Glenin spat. "He nae evil," she snarled. "She is evil," she said, grabbing Crispian's hand. "Ye shouldn't listen to her." She watched as he recoiled, pulling hand from her grasp.

"I hear her," he gasped, "in my mind, always, and the laughter!"

"Well," Glenin pressed on, "ye need to to get rid of her!" Her simple view of the world saw it as a fight, you defeat the foe.

"Oh Lady Glenin!" he sobbed, breaking slightly, "if only I could! But she is HERE!" he said, pressing his fingers against his temples.

"And think o' the lies she is tellin' you!" she pressed, harder, holding his gaze. "Confusing you!" She watched him, a scowl of near rage crossing her face. "Ye need to see another sorceress!"

He gasped in near physical pain. "I...I...I can't push her out. She is always there, mocking me, my ife, my love!" he almost cried out, holding the woman's eyes to his own.

"Ye can push her out," she said, a firm whisper. "Ye HAVE to!" her scarred hands again grabbed his. Her eyes softening at the sight of such tormnet.

"She assaults me!" he choked out. "She drived forth these, images, all my FAILURES!" he cried, as other smiths looked over at the pair, only to look away as Glenin surveyed them.

She looked at him, a tenderness in her eyes. "Bah!" she said. "Everyone has them. Ye just letting her get to ye! Go, see Arguyle. He can help ye."

Crispian's head snapped up, a lance of pain seering his mind. "That man!" he sneered. "He ruins what he touches!"

Glenin drew back, as if struck. "He disn't!' she exclaimed. "But I must think on this." She stood, looking down at the young man before her. "Let me think on this. Somethin' must be done." She patted his shoulder.

"She mocks me," he said, grabbing her hand and kissing it. "Until later, Lady Glenin."

She patted his arm. "Ye'll get through this," she said quietly.

Tear filled eyes met hers. "I pray so, Lady Glenin," and he released her, watching her cross the courtyard.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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/bump

a short pause is all

 

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Jannis' nerves were all afire, though she could sense nothing, see nothing out of place. The manor was as still and silent as a tomb. Even the soft clang of their metal boots against the floor was muffled down to nothingness in the soft swirls and delicate curvacures of the lush woven carpets. Lance started at her for a moment; Jannis grew uneasy. The silence seemed stifling, oppressive, and the sound of her breath echoed painfully loud to Jannis' straining ears.

She clutched reflexively on the hilt of her new rapier, feeling threated though unharmed. Faintly, as if in the distance, she heard something. Her heart thudded, and she tried to rein her emotions in harshly, calling to bear years of strict, unyielding discipline imposed since almost birth. She laughed at herself softly, to be so easily startled.

Seeing Lance still hesitating, Jannis drew her rapier as well and took point, leading the pair further down the secret hall to.. a dead end? Jannis frowned... there was something wrong here...

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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(sits and watches what Lance and Jannis are doing, since we can't move too fast and leave them taking days to walk down a hall)

 

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Greymalkin332 
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Drinks another ale in Ye Mug.


Keisha

 

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((been editting some stuff and let this slip, more to come honest...))

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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Big tease! I saw this bumped and thought it was finally ready!

<glares at Crispian>

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Oh NO! The ready version will be a whole new thread! I'm thinking "The End of Elix and Tinalynth's Price for the Red Cleric Alone"

 

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Kelvyn26 
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Hmmmm....<stares at the title> Hmmmm....<looks off into the distance> Ummmm....<looks more confused than he was>

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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I dont know what to say except rofl..

 

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Cloak72 
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Ack.... Now THAT is a name..... A painful name happy

 

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Ayslyn Greenwillow, Night Elven Hunter, Runetotem
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Crispian_Pontiff 
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((OOC- Many thanks to Azi for yelling at me, and a devious friend from Scotland, known to us all as Toorc, but more intimately to me as Pinhead (grin) for getting this moving again. The below is a post of his from our board, and an add of my own))

Toorc regarded the scowling young Cabalist before him. Could she really contain the essence of the astral traveler known as "Arc"? He wondered. Certainly, all his research pointed to a yes. Unfortunately, he was rapidly finding he didn't like her.
The entity known as Arc was said to have come from another reality, or dimension. There her soul was a great mage of some sort, and had caused a bridge to open across the realms, just as Crispian was fighting back the hordes of Midgard alongside the League founders. Arc's intervention had undoubtedly allowed such unskilled young warriors to defeat midgard raiders, but the actual nature of Arc remained a mystery.
And here, to all intents and purposes, was the vessel in which the Wanderer was housed. Toorc gave serious thought to the survival of this entity were he to snuff out it's current home.
Arcalan Hemlos glared at Toorc. She hated this old theurgist, with his frowning countenance and his rigid code of ethics. She hated him almost as much as those grumbling old fools at the Academy. Arcalan had a great deal of hatred in her young frame.
"So" she continued, "For the mere sum of 100 gold you can but my silence on Crispian's 'doings' in the Shadow Quarter of late" she smiled with such charm that only a defender of Albion would see through to the serpent beneath.
"Indeed" said Toorc, toying with the ice blast spell that rose to his mind. Instead, a motion from him let Arienne know now was the time to drop a Mez on her. He thanked his friend before examining the proposition of Arcalan. The base little creature wanted gold, and not too much at that. But this was extortion, and furthermore Toorc was not convinced that she really would keep her word. Crispian had of late suffered a lot, and further aggravation, though it would pass, would best be avoided for now.
With a sigh, he wrote her a promissory note that the League would redeem for the value of 100 gold. A small price to entertain this viper ‘til he was at leisure to know what to do with her. Aellona's safety depended on his carefully dealing with the puzzle.
**********
Arcalan snapped out of the mez to find a promissory note to the effect of 100 gold, and Toorc long gone. She instantly knew a witch from the Academy must have entranced her. Curse them all to the pits of hell! Now she knew that Toorc would feel her wrath too one day. But as yet she was not strong enough to carry out the plan... and the master was not yet ready.
A few moments later she set out to talk to Crispian..., she would use her knowledge to gain a foothold into the League.
**********
Crispian leaned back in his chair, scowling at the bash Saracen before him. Tannir stood quietly near the door, and Jashen was, well, close. “What do you want?” he repeated, his seneschal signet tapping at the writing table.

“It is as I said. I want admission to the League, access to her vaults, and membership. There are those who are not friends to the League and would value the information that I have,” the young woman said calmly.

“I’m not worried about my enemies,” Crispian snapped. “I can handle them myself.” His gray eyes flashed anger and rage at her. “Do not threaten me, woman!”

“There are those who would see your squeaky clean League, all shining and fair, ruined. Despite your amusements, shall we say, in the Shadow Quarter with young Tobyas, it is well known you are not a friend to those of the Shadow Guild.” Her look was derisive, bitter.

Crispian snorted. “How little you know of the League,” he snarled at her. “Some of our highest officers are from the Shadow Guild. We truly are open to all.” He was growing impatient with this little vixen.

“Obviously, some in your Guild value my silence, for I have already been paid, but gold only goes so far.” A slender eyebrow arched up. She studied Crispian closely, but his tight shuttered expression gave no hint or tip as to what he might be thinking.

“If you intend to harm the League,” he said with a deadly calm, “I will destroy you in fashions even you cannot imagine.” He had moved not an inch, remaining calmly watching her as he would a skald coming into crossbow range. “You will be watched closer that you can possibly imagine. One false step, one hint of betrayal and you will die.”

Arcalan repressed a smirk of satisfaction. “Just for the record, I do have, shall we say accounts, of my knowledge in safe hands. Should something happen to me, they will be brought to light.” Even as she suppressed a slight rush of fear, she saw that this engagement was hers. “Would it not be better to watch me from a close distance than to wonder what I might be up to out there?” She gestured vaguely out at the courtyards and streets of Camelot.

“I’ll see to your induction, but you will be watched, Cabalist.” He snarled the last word as he waved dismissal to her.

She rose, passing out of the office, and even before the door was fully closed, Jashen was out the window to make his own contacts, sliding from third floor to the ground like a squirrel down a tree.
************************

"You let her join?" Toorc's voice was incredulous.
"Aye" admitted Crispian "She has promised to renounce her evil ways in return for a place where she can learn from us"
"You've a soft heart Crispian" said Toorc, "I knew the mere threat of trying to scandalize you would not be enough. But mark me well, she's pure evil. I have my own reasons for keeping her alive and well right now, but I'd have kept her a safe distance from us. Her word means nothing to her."
"Dear Toorc you fret over this too much. That young Cleric Ceowyr, brother to noble Ceowyn, has become her confessor, and tells me he does think Arcalan rightly repents of her sinful past" counseled Crispian.
Toorc left it at that, but now he knew that things were going to get worse here before they got better. And he'd have to ensure Ceowyr didn't take his eye off of her....
******
Ceowyr passed a goblet of wine over to Arcalan, and she drained it dry. The two sat in a deserted shack in Campacorentin Forest, free to talk away from the crowds of Camelot.
"We've done well this week" she purred "and grow in power daily"
"I agree" he replied "But we've not finished this yet"
"Patience" she said "And don't take your eye off of me... I have the feeling Toorc will meddle with the plan, and I don't want to be caught off guard"
"My guise as your confessor makes that very easy" Ceowyr said, smiling with devious glee "I don't expect we'll have too much trouble from the League"
They exchanged a conspiratorial, intimate stare as the flames in the fireplace began to die.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Crispian spared few thoughts for Arcalan, or any else, as the battles raged across the frontier. Since the two strength relics had been brought back to Castle Excalibur, it seemed that a moment of peace in the vast wilderness of the Frontier had been unknown.

Midgard hordes streamed through the Mile Gate and Albion rallied for defense. At one point, Crispian had commanded a splintered force spread through four keeps and with his own patrol making fast for the Mile Gate. The Children of Ether, Royal Order of Knights, and members of Omnia Patricius were out in deployment with him.

The constant push of command, making decisions with little hard information, was showing. Crispian snapped and barked out orders where he would request things otherwise, knowing that the request would carry weight. He constantly sent word back to the Alliance for more people, and even admonished Auntie Mir and Uncle Oak for continuing to clear the Diamondbacked Toads from Lyn Barfog, something that in normal moments he knew would aid the region as much as frontier defense.

His breaking point came at the Mile Gate. The unintended ursurpation of Glavian's command finally snapped reality into place. With shame, Crispian informed his splintered groups that Glavian commanded. Moryan and Gwiniviere scowled at him, his rash actions so out of keeping with what they knew of him.

He intended to retire to Cornwall. The battle had worn him through. The port was just over, bringing him back to Sauvage. He stepped out into the Albion sun and yanked off his helm. His golden hair was plastered to his head with three days of sweat and grime and his gambeson was offensive even to him. His feet found way to the stablemaster, and he was digging out the silvers for a horse, checking to make sure he had plenty for ale later. A voice interrupted his thoughts.

"Crispian?" the light tenor called. Crispian turned around and was face to face with Tobyas.

The young cleric, he had to admit, looked splendid. The alloy studded leather he wore was broken in and accentuated the build it hid. His fine titian hair gleamed in the sun. And his smile...so welcome after the last days.

"Brother Tobyas," Crispian said, feeling a smile come to his face. "What brings you here?" He felt a surge of relief and thoughts of deep ale kegs with Cornish brew in it fled.

"I was riding to Camelot. I was told Camlin has some armor that I might be able to borrow," he said, eyes playing over Crispian's face in a fashion that made him very aware of his stubbled chin and dirt smeared face.

"Well, care to stop over to Ludlow, then? I could use a bath and some company would be welcome," Crispian said, telling himself it was just the comradeship of the League, brother to brother. But the young cleric's nod filled him with other feelings.

"That would be very pleasant," Tobyas said, turning shy as he did.

***************

As the two made their way toward Ludlow, hiking over the pass out of the Sauvage approach, a snicker rose into a chuckle and then a laugh.

"Drink will drown your thought,
The Lad will deal with ought
Else as is Needed.
Soon thy soul will be bought,
The Last battle havin' been fought.
And I will hold the deed!"

D'Vena sat back and surveyed the scene playing before her, watched them retire into an inn together, and toyed with a letter, soon to be sent. Sometimes, the best tools were the simplest, she thought as she laughed again, thought fleeing even her mind as she did so.

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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/shameless OOC bump

((You're welcome for yelling. Don't leave poor Crispian hanging in D'vena's grip! He's been through enough already!))

/end shameless OOC bump

 

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Crispian pulled a fresh tunic on having packed his armor carefully into his traveling bags. The bath had invigorated him and refreshed him. Now, he and Tobyas sat in a small room above the tavern in Ludlow. Tobyas finished lacing his jerkins back up. An awkward silence filled the room as both of them restored their clothing and personal items.

Finally, Crispian broke the silence. "I'm not sure things can continue like this, Toby." He was pulling on his city boots, worn leather that had long seen much service. "I know that, well, whatever it is that I feel and," he finished lacing the side of the boot up and tied it, "well, do with you is driven by D'Vena."

Tobyas paused, the laces dropping from his fingers. His eyes narrowed. "Just by D'Vena? So this," he gestured at the mussed cot Crispian sat on, "was just the by-product of some spell?" His lips tightened into a thin line. "And I guess I am, too, then, right?"

Crispian watched Tobyas' every gesture and change of expression. "No, Toby, it's not like that." He stood, looking up at Tobyas. "I mean," he tried to figure out all the confusion, what was magicks, what was him. "I dunno what IS what. But, until she cast this, this curse or whatever on me I never would have..." He let the sentence hang in the air.

"Known man, in the biblical sense?" Tobyas sneered at him, fingers tugging the laces of his jerkin into place. "Is that it? What you wanted to say? Well?" His green eyes bore into Crispian's gray, until the armsman turned away.

"I guess so, yes," he said quietly, scooping up belt and sword. He tugged the end of the belt into place, looping it to secure it in place. The plain white leather of a knight contrasted with the simple garb he wore, but Crispian felt no need to conceal his knightly status ever.

Toby came up behind Crispian, hands setting on his shoulders. "Consider this, your Lordship. D'Vena's curse may be pushing you into indulgences, but at least I won't torture you about it." He felt Crispian's shoulders sag.

"I worry about being, I dunno, I guess genuine, honest, or something, with you, Toby." He drew a deep breathe, closing his eyes for a moment. "I think we should just try to get through this D'Vena thing without..." He paused again, the air eating his words it seemed.

"Indulging?" Tobyas finished, turning Crispian to face him. "It shall be as you command, noble Seneschal," he smirked. "But I don't think it will be as easy as staying sober."

Crispian laughed. "It seems the witch has challenges aplenty for me then, Toby." He drew away, finishing his packing of gear. "But now, to Camelot." He hefted his pack as Tobyas finished settling his gear in place.

They slipped out the back and into the eve, blending with the people of Ludlow before turning for the hike over the hills into Camelot. Tobyas was nervous, for he had not been to the city since the night at the Church and was nervous. What would the League think of them arriving together? Or others? He breathed a prayer to the Almighty as they passed the warders of the North Gate.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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The Welcome in the city was indeed brief. The Council of Seneschals, leader of St. Crispin's League, had assembled. The Guardians of Val Sans Retour had left the Alliance.

Much arguement and debate arose, some with voices barely in check. Demotion was discussed, but in the end, Crispian stood to his own fault for the matter.

Following the conference, he and Darnyk, who was charged with his behavior, retired to Cornwall and Lyonesse.

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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/bump

<waits impatiently for more...>

 

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Toorc 
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The League Hall was quiet, for almost all memers had been sent on errands this morning. Sunlight had begun to filter across the rooftops of Camelot, and there was a hint of rain to come later in the day. A soft breeze floated behind Toorc, stirring things as he walked softly down the hall, ready to billow into a speedy run at a moments need. He turned the corner to be confronted with the young Lord Crispian, looking out of the window.
Toorc approached his friend Crispian with some reluctance. He had always believed that Crispian's strength of will would pull him through the trials with which he was recently beset, but the letter from Arienne's research showed he faced more than anyone had suspected. The demons Crispian faced were all too real, feeding from the soul of D'Vena, the pain of Crispian... consuming and blackening all.
The gigantic Avalonian towered over Crispian, a moment that would have been comic had the situation not been so grave.
"My friend" Toorc began "The League is in good hands, and the countryside is well patrolled by our alliance. Midguard has lost much of her glory in battle, though they reamin a dire threat." he sighed "but I mean not to trouble you with other matters..."
Crispian sighed, his head in his hands
"Master Toorc, she's in here, all the time" he tappped his head "and the Laughter... the pain of it" his face contorted briefly, but in pain or rage it was impossible to tell.
"Toby awaits you outside Crispian, Ceomyr and Phalos stand watch alongside him. Soon you will set out for Llyn Barfog, but I have something to give you first" Toorc moved over to a cabinet and opened it to reveal a block of stone. He placed his hand against the smooth surface and it sank into the depths of the rock. The element seemed like water to Crispian, when under Toorc's touch, and as Crispian watched a ripple did indeed seem to cross the surface.
Slowly Toorc withdrew something, a flash of gold was seen, black leather and an emerald set in... a hilt, yes, as his hand withdrew the blade emerged from the stone. It's metal was black and dull, and a strange patern was etched very lightly down the blade. The craftsmanship was astounding, and Crispian best of all appreciated the masterpiece he set his eyes upon.
"I had the privillage of handling the Tome of Fate" remaked Toorc, holding the blade up to the light "before it fell into the hands of Morgana. Most of it was beyond my ability to decipher, as was intended, but some things of interest were to be read there." The sunlight did not gleam off of the blade, but instead it's surface seemed to hold the light, reflect nothing, and remain impenetrably dark. "I read of this very blade, and I know it's destiny." Toorc placed the blade reverantly across Crispians outstretched arms, that he may examine it better "It was taken from a Reaver, dread servants of Lord Arwan, who hold dominion over the dead. I came by it in pursuit of a great evil that s now taking shape, though I cannot tell yet quite what that is..." Toorc turned to Crispian "It is the blade that slays D'Vena"
Crispian began to shake violently, and the blade clattered to the ground. For a moment Toorc moved to steady his friend, but Crispian held up a hand to stay him. Slowly, and with great effort Crispian stood up straight and ceased his palsy. The gleam in his eye was like the diamond dug from the bowels of the earth, maginifcant yet terrible in having been dragged to the surface. Toorc could only guess from where his friend's fortitude arose, but he knew for certain it was no magic that aided him thus.
Slowly Crispian stooped and picked up the blade. Held it, and tested it's balance.
"You will know when you are strong enough to use it" said Toorc.
Suddenly Toorc glance over his shoulder at the empty air. His face broke into a grin, and his eyes instantly sought out the silver ring on Crispin's finger. "I have one more thing to tell you, dear friend... but it's not for the ears of elves!"
With that a sphere of magic settled around them, obscuring the scrying of certain Hibernian magics </grin>
When Crispian emerged, horses were saddled and waiting for him. Toorc appeared at his right hand.
"I have another journey I must undertake Crispian, to the Halls of the Corrupt. A lot is resting in the balance this day, but only my blessings can accompany you on the road you must tread"
The brothers in arms saluted each other, and Toorc mounted his steed, and rode off.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Crispian rode in the company of Phalos, Ceowyr, Tobyas, his brother Jashen, and Achou are far the Retreat deep in the Swamp. His horse minced at the ground under his control as he watched the group dismount.

"Keep yourselves safe," he said, raising a hand in farewell, "and grow stronger for the realm." Jashen, decked out in new chain armor, saluted his brother with a grin.

"Stop worrying, Cris. We'll be fine. Phalos has promised to protect us." The mercenary smirk impishly at his armsman brother. "And who better than a sorcerer to guard you, right?"

Phalos scowled at the quip. "I just might not mezz the ones headed your way, Jashen," he said mildly, arching an eyebrow.

Turning his horse in a tight circle, Crispian could not help but smile. That his brother seemed safe from the curse he carried was relief, even for all else that was happening. "Keep yourself well, too, Tobyas."

The young cleric met his leige's eyes for a moment then looked away. In the past days, Crispian had been removed and distant from him, and it pained him. He knew that laws, convention, and even Crispian himself did not make romantic entanglements easy. However, the recent emotional removal had hurt him.

"And you, m'lord," he said with a formal bow. He did not look as the armsman rode off, but made a pretense of checking his gear, hiding his face from all others. "And may the Lord Almighty watch thee," he whispered.

Crispian rode the rest of the way to Cornwall, thinking on the blade, D'Vena, the strange absences of Carrington, Moryan, even Arguyle. This whole mess was dragging on and he felt at times near to breaking, and at others as resolute as ever. Azi was even around less these passed days.

He stabled his own horse and sought out Darnyk, but even the Black Friar was apparently not around at the moment. With a shrug, he entered into the tavern/roadway house and sat at a scarred table. The business of Cornwall filtered heavily into this place and many familiar faces came and went.

The quiet was annoying. Not that Cornwall station was a solemn place, but the way people would move away from him, seeming to go out of their way. Finally, with a signal, he ordered ale. The fine Cornish brew went down in an easy swallow.

When was the last time he had had Cornish ale? The night of the letters, before Tinalynth suddenly left the Covenant, before Kelvyn, the tower, the dead elf. Gods, that was weeks ago. So much tormoil. Alliances falling, Guilds being shattered. As he started the second mug of ale, Crispian reflected on it all.

How much tied to D'Vena? Or was there something more going on? Or was it just politics?

The third ale helped to clear his thinking of those matters and he chuckled. What did an armsman, a farmer with a sword, know about politics anyhow? He laughed again, a bit louder.

And deep in Barfog, hidden from hunting parties who had been about in the area, many led by Mirashta and Oakleif, another laughed, and sipped at her third goblet of wine.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Stumbling up the stairs at Cornwall, Crispian took to a familiar room. He paid extra to have it clean, with water for bath and a stand for his armor. He sagged down on the bed, eyes vacant, ale fumes filling the small room as he slumped down on the narrow cot.

The night's dreams were of a familiar type to him by now. Failures rolled out, one atop the other. Deaths in battle, smaller failures in life, his own lost love from late childhood, absent friends, the slighting of Tatyanna, the losses to the League of so many good people, the departure of Guardians of Val Sans Retour from Omnia Patricius, his own failed drive to hunt more agressively, raids on the frontier...not one shred of possible hope revealed itself as he slept, tossing and moaning with the torment brought forth.

D'Vena toyed with her mini-figure of Crispian, enjoying the moment and the wonderful taste of his pain and anguish. Why had she not found such a joyous pass time before? So much easier than her many past meddlings, even if the cost to her was greater.

But she had her freedom, and more. She smirked as she turned to the blond Briton sleeping in her bed chamber, already thinking of the horrors he would go through for his resemblence to he who had slighted her, used her passions against her. Oh yes, this little toy would suffer for Crispian's boldness, she thought. And none would stop her. So many foes were gone from the land and she had not even lifted finger against them.

She smiled to herself, allowing the sinister laughter in her head to fill her with a shiver of joy. But, now was time for work...

A scream pierced the halls of her manse at the exact moment Crispian sat bolt right up in the cot, a sudden pain in his palm waking him.

 

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/bumpity bump bump

 

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Crispian sat up with a groan, his head swimming. The world tilted for a moment then steadied itself. He held his head in his hands for a few moments, breathing deeply. The tankard and pitchers in the room spoke enough to him of all that had passed the night before, or was it two days ago?

He could barely keep track. His entire body felt like he had been on the frontier for a week, with aches and pains all over the place but not a bruise to be seen. He limped slowly to the chamber pot and managed to use it without incident. He knew he had not been to the frontier, indeed had only been to Camelot in the last few days.

He recalled the Church, seeing Gybryn promoted in the Black Shield, adding the Dragons of Avalon and Children of Light to the Alliance. He also recalled Mirashta taking care of something with Cow Tipping Marauders. He winced, in pain mostly. But what else? This dull ache was with him almost constantly. Why?

He looked over some correspondence, left at the bar downstairs and brought up sometime during the night.

Throdien was dead. A madness possessing him. "Damn her," he whispered as he looked through more. Tinalynth gone from the Covenant...Laraleloth and Kelvyn, also. He groaned at that, for he had much respect for the Covenant.

A report from Jashen about Arcalan. He squinted as he read it, not liking some of the tone. He quaffed some ale and chewed on dried chicken legs as he read, grease smearing the pages.

"Cris-
Have been watching the recruit you wanted watched. Reports of odd meetings and I have added others to observation list as well.
I do not trust her, but have spent much time hunting with. A foul wench that even your Moryan would not want to bandy words with.

Am not convinced that her intent was only bribery. More treachery could be afoot.

Jash"

----

He signed the missive, sealing it with his siglil, and put it into Tannir's hands. "He's in Cornwall, again," was all the young mercenary said to the squire.

Shifting his hauberk, he stepped out of the Tower of the Marsh. Tobyas, Achou, Arcalan and others were there. "We ready to hunt?" he asked plesantly.

Arcalan quirked an eyebrow. "Are you sure you can fight, mercernary?" she quipped, venom dripping from her words.

Jashen checked his temper. He wished things were moving forward with Crispian's curse, or getting rid of it. Then he could have at this Cabalist. "But of course, Arcalan. Are you sure you can cast a spell still?"

"HiYas! Let's go fight!" Achou hopped up and headed off down the road, not allowing much more time for arguing with the cabalist. The little saracen knew it would be a long hunt as it were.

 

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Azi gracefully dismounted her horse in the Marsh, delighting in the soft jingle of her fresh new suit of chain mail. She shifted her sword on her back, adjusted her plain blue cloak, and breathed a deep breath. Even the murky swamp air seemed refreshing after her long retreat, she thought to herself.

As she squished her way along the shore, she thought of the League, and wondered whether they would understand her choice, after knowing her as a wizard for so long. Jashen and his friends had accepted her as a paladin, though he called her by her new name now, which was her old name... Azaeli. "Azi" had been too familiar, he had said to her before she had gone off on retreat, when they had hunted together in the Marsh. Somehow that made her sad, as if she had been two seperate people, and her old self had been forgotten.

But, she thought, Jashen was kind to keep her secret from the League. Mostly, she was lonesome for the old chatter of the guild as they hunted. But more than that, Azaeli was concerned about Crispian. It had been too long since she'd seen him, and she knew that the curse of that wicked woman still tortured him. Maybe her tale of overcoming a curse herself would give him hope. Yes, she thought, it was time to tell Crispian of her choice, and that she had been meant to be a paladin all along.

And so the mud of the Marsh sucked at her boots as she searched for Jashen...

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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The days of hunting had pulled them ever south, and Jashen found himself not far from the Station at Cornwall, slaying the hunters who preyed on Albions who passed through the area, in addition to other wild prey.

Not often during the hunts had he been far from the Cabalist Arcalan. He found it hard to fathom how Achou could be a light-hearted, fun-loving individual and Arcalan could be so full of festering anger. It concerned him, but her constant running jibes put him on the offensive when near her. And today, he had reached a breaking point.

“Achou, you best keep a close eye on this one,” she had said, leaning back in the grass. “It is in his family to turn to drink.”

Achou had laughed. “I’m no worried. He fun hunting companion and keep Achou plenty safe.” Jashen had been glad for the vote of confidence from Achou, and Phalos had nodded in agreement as well.

“But just look to his brother, who has sunk to such depth. Of course,” she quipped cruelly, “he probably drinks to forget Jashen is his brother.” Her lips twisted into a cruel smile.

“That is enough out of you, woman,” Jashen hissed. “I’ll have you not speak about my brother so again.” His anger was high, a vessel pounding in his forehead and his light coloring not hiding how his face flushed with blood.

“Then perhaps you should learn to respect your betters, boy,” she snapped back, eyes flashing anger.

“You’d have to be my better first,” he spat back at her. “My brother fights foes akin to your kind, casters who loose evil upon the world. He is a stronger person than you can hope to ever become!”

Her eyes narrowed. “Be careful, young mercenary, for curses may run in your family.” Her eyebrows danced in anger even as her eyes flashed.

Tobyas looked up from the breviary upon his lap. “Should such a thing happen to Jashen, I’ll be aware of it,” he said, his voice a calm tenor amid the hissing comments tossed about.

“Then you can care for him when he is so beset, and keep an eye out,” Arcalan through at Tobyas. The young cleric’s expression changed not the least little bit.

“Of course, I’ll know the source as well, Arcalan, and actions will be taken,” he said just as calmly as he started. More would have followed, no doubt, had a Cornwall Leader and two hunters not chosen that moment to spring from the tree line and attack.

Even in the heat of battle, harsh looks flew back and forth between the group, although neither blow nor lethal spell landed on any but the foe.

 

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Azaeli picked her way out of the mud to find more solid ground. It had been a weary search, and the sun had set more than an hour ago. She resigned herself to give up for the night, and headed south toward Cornwall's Inn. She winced at the thought of the tavern's smokey stench and stinking crowd, but it was too late to ride back home to Camelot, and her legs ached from her struggle with the mud.

She kept off of the road, hoping the wet grass would clear some of the muck from her boots as she walked. Then, toward the treeline, she heard a faint bickering, and the clash of battle. A familiar voice called out, Jashen's voice. She smiled to herself and made her way over.

 

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((Copied from the St. Crispin's League Guild Forms with some time-line additions))

The Hunt in Cornwall had ended near the catacombs, with the members splitting up. Jashen and Achou headed to Caer Witrin, while Arcalan and Ceowyr both expressed need to return to Camelot, as did Phalos.

The trip to Witrin was nerve-wracking for Jashen, for he hated letting the Cabalist Arcalan out of his sight for longer than was needed. Upon arrival, he sent word to Allanon, a fellow mercenary and a Seneschal of the Leauge, to keep an eye out for Arcalan, and to deploy other eyes. The Infiltrators of the League would be busy for as long as she was in town.
--------

Pompin the Crier was a happy man. Several ales and a lot of flirting with that wench from the tower had put him in cheerful spirits this night as he walked back towards the gate, and the chill in the night air did little to spoil his mood. He whistled to himself as was his want to do (for Pompin had narrowly missed a calling as a minstrel) and walked briskly yet somewhat erratically through the streets of Camelot. A mounting pressure on his bladder told him he'd not make it home in time to relieve it, so Pompin staggered a little into an alley way and began to fumble with his breeches.
His world exploded into a wall of utter darkness, with strange impossible colours zigzagging and bursting before his eyes. Then the pain caught up with him. The back of his head had just been hit with what he presumed was a Trollhammer, and his face had split upon the wall of "The Stone" tavern, leaving a bloody gash across his cheek and a nose mashed into an unrecognisable shape. His cry was a whimper, his mouth filled with blood and bits of his teeth.
Pompin tried to spin round and face his attacker, but his vision was blurred from the impact. He spun enough to catch sight of what was no doubt a troll. It's massive fist caught him in the belly, sending the contents of his stomach burning up through his throat, and knocking the wind out of him. He fairly bounced off the wall again and slumped to the street, the blueish grey mountain in front of him swimming in his vision. He knew he was a dead man, and his brain filled suddenly with wondering how a troll got inside Camelot, and if that wench from the tower would cry for him. He pondered briefly if he'd have had a better life in Humberton or Lethantis, but realised he'd been happy in Cotswald. Fifty trivial and silly thoughts seemed to echo in his head as he faced death head on. The stone fist was raised once more and he realised it wasn't a troll at all.. it was a simulacrum, a Cabalist's Golem...
Pompin tried to scream out murder, but the most that emerged was a rather gurgling screech. The fist flew towards him, seemingly time slowed down to a crawl as the massive inexorable fist that would end his life loomed large. A second passed and Pompin realised the fist had stopped an inch or two from his face. He'd been spared! His brain immediately sobered up and ran through a list of who this beating could be from. Who had he upset? The Guild of Shadows? Perhaps he'd find out now. A figure appeared behind the golem.. a woman. She'd explain. The blue-grey stone stone giant stood back a little, and light flared aroung the womans's hands. Maybe the spell was to heal? To capture? To...
Red mist swirled above Pompin's head and he realised that he had not been spared at all.
Arcalan held the Soul Gem she and Ceowyr had taken from a Moor Boogey in her hands and cast the Essence Consumption spell on the bleeding mass that was Pompin. With care she focused the last of his lifeforce into the crystal, sucking his soul into an eternal prison.
Pompin screamed. regardless of his wounded body, regardless of how little fight was left in him, the tortured howl of Pompin the Crier ripped through the night as body and soul were forcibly torn apart.
Inside "The Stone" Tavern Ceowyr heard the scream. Everyone leapt up, and one or two of the guards drew weapons and rushed out of the door. The alley was deserted save for the mangled form of Pompin. Arcalan was some distance away and moving through a tunnel beneath the city that would lead to the Guild of Shadows, clutching the now Glowing Soul Gem tightly in her fist, and bursting with excitement and success.
Ceowyr pushed his way forward in the crowd around Pompin.
"I'm a Cleric, let me past" he declared trying to see where Pompin lay. A guard went to stop him then withdrew his hand.
"Hey there, you're one of master kel's boys aren't you? I served in Swanton for a spell a few years back, and we was friends. Can you heal this here fella?" He gestured to Pompin's corpse.
"THe Lord does not always grant the boon of life again, for his ways are infinitie and Divine" said Ceowyr piously "But we shall see"
Ceowyr gestured in prayer and supplication, and chanted low under his breath. Those who knew the exact meaning of those words he chanted would have paled in terror, but no member of the Clergy was here to interpret, and all eyes were focused on poor Pompin, or searching the area for his attacker.
With a dazzling burst of light Pompin was restored to life, shakey and feeble, but clinging to life nonetheless. "Merciful Heavens, praise be to the Lord our God for this restoration of the precious gift of life!"
People cheered and a few quick prayers of thanks were sent heavenward.
"Pompin?" asked a guard "Who did this? Who attacked you?"
Pompin looked up bleary eyed and weak as a kitten "Sa.. say.." he stuttered "Saint Crispin..." he all but passed unconcious.
The guard eyed Ceowyr with alarm. "What does he mean?" the guard asked "A member of Saint Crispin's attacked him? Or did he just recognise your emblem" he said pointing to Ceowyr's League symbol.
"I know not, but you'll get no more from this man tonight" said Ceowyr lifting the unconscious Pompin in his arms "He needs rest and recouperation, for he's not a warrior, and is not used to this sickness"
The guard nodded sullenly "When he comes round inform us good Cleric"
"I shall that" and Ceowyr passed out of the crowd with his burden. He took him to a small room out in Cotswald, that Pompin called home, and laid him upon the bed. A shadow in the corner moved to reveal itself as Arcalan, lurking in the dark. She lit a candle and carried it to the bedside.
Pompin's eyes fluttered open and a voice emerged from his lips, a voice that sounded like two men speaking... one Pompin, the other a richer, deeper voice, full of arrogance and gloating. "Excellent" it said.
"Welcome Master" said Arcalan, with a curtsey "Glory and Approbation to thy name"
"Welcome Master" chimed in Ceowyr "We are your servants, and await your command"
"You have done well" said the twin voice "go now and get me sustenanace. I have much to do"
Arcalan produced a pendant "I have already begun Master" and she backed out of the room, curtseying as she left. Ceowyr stayed a little longer, to tend to the body of Pompin and it's new inhabitant.
______________________________________________________

Somewhere in Llyn Barfog Oaklief and his wife Mirashta shuddered in unison. Something was very wrong...

 

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Greymalkin332 
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/thinks Crispian has been taking writing lessions from Azi

/shudder

/bump

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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(most of that was Toorc's not mine)

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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<rubs her goosebumps>

 

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darnyk 
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/shameless bump

'cause I got a star!

 

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{old}LadyWinterborne 
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ooc

I don't know if anyone has said this lately, or perhaps they have, but damn, man...keep it coming. It is great that threads like this can always be seen on the first page of the VN Boards everytime I check it in the morning.

Heck, if I was half the writer as you and Azi...

Cheers!

-Winterborne

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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OOC- but you are.

 

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Jashen came down from the tower of Caer Witrin having just met with his trainer. The skills he was learning were progressing nicely, but he had enough of hunting for today.

In the traveler's room, he met Achou. They settled into a table, a tankard of ale in front of him, frothy from the tap and a flask in the Cabalist's hand. They sipped at their drinks and sat in silence for a few moments.

"So, what do you make of this Arcalan woman? Is she as bad as she builds herself to be, or do you think I overreact to her, because she threatens Cris?" Jashen asked when half his tankard was gone.

Despite being 'employer' for this hunt, Achou was also a good friend and a trusted advisor.

 

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darnyk 
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Sipping on his whiskey, Achou was lost in thought of his own. Not that any of his traveling companions seemed to care, He had his hired sword Jashen always comparing him self to some Crispian, and a cleric the happened a pond them with Crispian always on his mind. And lately he has acquired a Sorcerer name Phalos and another cabalist named Arcalan, one would thing these two mages were an old married couple from the way the bicker back and forth. And this Arcalan wench has mouth on here to send a troll back to his ‘mama.

On top of all of this, he came to find out he is no longer welcome at the Adrobod’s Retreat. It appears Lord Adrobod has taken a disliking to the guild of shadows for some reason and will not but up with hem in his keep. But Witern has been a welcoming home for now, until I can get back to my home land of Lyonesse. Back at the Lord’s Arse
Achou had head that Lyonesse had fallen under Morgana’s evil ways. So he had decided to head home and “cleanse” that Morgana has done to the once beautiful.

Just as he was starting to remember how nice his home once was, Jashen came down from one of the Guild trainers at Witern, pick up the tankard of ale that was placed down for him and ask
“"So, what do you make of this Arcalan woman? Is she as bad as she builds herself to be, or do you think I overreact to her, because she threatens Cris?"
“Simple Jashen, she is playing with you, her breed all seems to think they are better than any one, and she lacks the ability to have fun!” Achou said almost gleefully “ think of the Hunter we were battling with the other night, she was More than willing to send her Golem in to combat and say FAR away from then casting her spells, but the first hit or even the threat of a hit, she takes off running around”

“aye, sire, I guess you may be right on this one” Jashen mumbled ordering another Ale.

“Like I said, she just thinks she is all might, remember Phalos, same back grounds, but he is much more civil, and down to earth” Achou said getting off the stool. Well, Merc, I think it is time for some rest, we still need to get back to Cornwall, and await Tobyas’s return.

With that Achou headed out side and called for Emily,
“Jashen, before we camp the night here, care to see Emily play, just a bit”

 

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They strolled out into the evening light of Cornwall, walking down the road, dusty from the lack of rain. Achou, with a gesture, sent Emily, his emerald simulacrum, off at a Cornwall hunter who had the poor luck to be close to the road.

"She worries me, with her secret meetings," Jashen said as he calmly knocked an arrow to his short bow and sped it off at the hunter. Not that Emily needed much help pummeling the poor man.

Achou shrug. "Times will tell."

They continued on and reached the station at Cornwall, awaiting the return of Tobyas.

 

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Smiling happily to herself, Azaeli strode gracefully past the Guardian’s guild toward the market square and the Dye shop. After days of hunting in Keltoi, her pack was heavy with Vindicator plate mail, and she could finally wear it, having reached her twentieth season.

“Red, ugh.” she mumbled to herself as she ducked in to the shop. In her excitement, she almost collided with a tall avalonian. Golden-brown hair tumbled against her freshly-dyed reddish tunic, and she set an icey glare on Azi that made her shiver.

“My apologies, lady cabalist,”Azi said quickly. The cabalist slowly ran her eyes along Azi’s face.

"It is well.. do I not know you from somewhere?" She narrowed her eyes.

"Perhaps we have hunted together" Azi answered, noting that she wore the League’s emblem.

"By thy Season I think not" she sneered.

"Well then, I have hunted with Jashen and Tobyas of the League. Perhaps they spoke of me and you remember my name." Azi tried to still herself, there was something about this woman that made her very uncomfortable.

"I have hunted with them much, but no I recall thy face.."

"Well, my father is the smith here...perhaps you visited his shop with your hunting companions?"

The cabalist’s face darkened slightly. "You have been in the company of young Lord Crispian I think.." Azi hid her surprise well, so she had been, but not for weeks, and what business of hers was it?

"Yes, Crispian is a friend, though I have not seen him for some time"

"Yes I recall you on his arm once" Arcalan pointed a slender finger at her, waving it slightly in thought. "Tis plainer now you are out of armor." Azi had removed her old sleeves and vest as they spoke, to sell to the merchant. The woman’s voice was grating, though unremarkable. Azi felt something familiar about it, something dark and unpleasant. She tried desperately to pinpoint it, this cabalist was trouble, she could tell straight away. And why all of the interest with Crispian, she wondered.

"Well,” Azi said cheerily, “I apologize, but I know not your face. Are you new to the League?"

"Aye, kind Crispian was good enough to give me shelter and such delights as the League offers..." She laughed to herself, a wry grin twisting at the corner of her mouth. "Yes indeed... and you have not become part of it's structure? This Guild of Peers that accepts even a Cabalist?"

"I shall be joining the League soon enough. It is such a pleasant group,” she caught herself from saying I miss them, “I had been waiting to see my lord Crispian...but that is a long tale that I wish not to speak of." The cabalist raised her eyebrows with interest.

"Nay speak and I'll relay your words to him my dear child." She said gently. Still, Azi felt a chill. This woman had no good heart, how had she gotten entry to the League?

"I wish to tell him myself, but I thank you."

"As you wish," she waved her hand dismissively.

"Has he been seen as of late?"

"He has, I believe some Holy men are to hold a ceremony in Hadrian's Wall this eve,” she watched Azi closely, "He has gone to attend it."

"Is that so? I had not heard of such a ceremony, though I have been training so hard lately it is a wonder I still know how to make my way along the city streets." She chuckled, and felt a cold stone in the pit of her stomach as the cabalist’s eyes narrowed yet again.

"You look not unlike young Tobyas, a Cleric of the League... and close personal friend of Crispian's.” She watched Azi closely, as if to guage a reaction from her.

"Well it does not suprise me to hear you say that, we are both of the Church, so we carry a holy aura with us I am certain." Azi shivered again, the cold warning was growing stronger, the woman radiated foulness. Why did Crispian or the League officers not see this in her? "Tobyas is a pleasant fellow."

"Aye, pure and Holy indeed. Just exactly the type for a life of devotion..” she hesitated, her eyes darkening, “to God.” She flicked her eyes back to Azi’s face quickly, noting the girl's shiver. “Ah I have made you stand and talk too long a while in discomfort.” She smiled warmly. “Be about your ways young.. what did you say your name was?"

"Azaeli, or Azi if it pleases you."

"Azi... hmm.." A look of recognition crossed her face, "Well, I hope I'll see more of you before long.."

"Please do me a favor if you will, and speak not of me yet to the League, until I can find Crispian and explain." Azi knew she could not trust this woman to keep any promise, but it had been too late to avoid her when they had collided in the litle shop, and so she had to ask at least.

"I'll give Crispian your regards though shall I?" she smiled wickedly. Azi squeezed her eyes tightly closed and sighed. Her head was beginning to ache from the cold warnings.

"I must take my leave," she said, desperate to be away from the woman.

"Be well Azi," the woman smiled, "I would not hold you any longer..."

"And you, lady... " Azaeli raised an eyebrow in question.

"Arcalan."

"Arcalan." Azi repeated, shivering again and pulling her cloak around herself.

"I'm sure we'll know each other better in time," she stepped aside to let Azi pass, and together they walked out into the street.

"I am certain of it," Azi answered.

"Much better," she murmured, the evil aura emanating further.

"God bless you and keep you in his Goodness," Azi said kindly, if not rather loudly, crossing herself and gesturing a blessing at the woman.

"Mmm," Arcalan lowered her eyes, and for the first time looked uncomfortable. "And you Azi.. be safe." She made a motion, and a shield fell around her.

"Farewell until next we meet." Azaeli said, taking a step back. She set her eyes on Arcalan with a meaningful gaze. She was not about to turn her back on the cabalist and walk away. Arcalon nodded curtly in resignation.

"Until that time then,"Arcalan waved a graceful hand and rushed toward the gate.

Azi made haste to the Church to see Lady Triss for training, and to pray for guidance with this Arcalan. The answer came clear, she must find Crispian and warn him, but she knew not where he was. Jashen had been in Cornwall hunting,she knew. She resolved to go there quickly to find out more about the cabalist, and to warn Jashen.

Hastily, she purchased a fare to Caer Ulfwych and rode hard, dismounting as close to the keep as she could to fetch another horse to Cornwall. A chill of warning flushed through her again. She was surprised, and yet not so surpised, to see Arcalan standing there before the stablehand. The two curtseyed cordially to one another.

“We meet again so soon, lady,” Azi pulled off her barrel helm and shook out her golden hair.

"And your armor looks splendid."

"I thank you."

"Are you making your way to Cornwall?" Arcalan asked, as if she knew the answer already.

"Yes..that I was," Azi answered cautiously, "are you?"

"I am indeed.” Her eyes lighted with evil delight, “Why then I shall accompany you on the ride!"

"I shall be happy to ride with you, milady," Azi replied, hiding her displeasure at the prospect of spending any more time with the woman than was absolutely necessary.

"What a pleasure to speak with you further," Arcalan said. She, too was pretending. The tension was obvious between the two as the horses were brought out.

"Indeed." Azi answered. "Well..shall we ride then?"

"After you..." Arcalan bowed mockingly.

Azi mounted the horse gracefully and nudged it hard, desperate to get as much distance between herself and the cabalist as possible. Her body tingled with the warning of evil as the horses’ hooves pounded through the muddy marsh.

"You ride very fast!" Arcalan shouted to her. Azi frowned and nudged the horse again for speed.

"Aye, all the sooner to hunt!" They arrived in Cornwall and she lowered herself from the horse and landed lightly in front of the cabalist.

"You are indeed an accomplished rider," Arcalan smiled.

"My thanks, lady," Azi answered, growing weary of the woman’s false attempts at kindness. "Well, here we are then, and where does your hunt take you this night?"

"I seek on young man in Jashen's company.. and you?" Arcalan answered. Azi fought back a frown.

"I was going to seek Jashen, myself." She managed a smile. "So our travels together continue, I suppose."

"How odd." Arcalan said pensively, "I think there's the hand of.. Fate in this."

"Yes, the Lord works in strange ways." Azi said. Arcalan shifted uncomfortably.

"Yes, well.. lead on Paladin, lead on." She bowed with more flourish than was necessary. "You know your way out here then? Do you hunt in Cornwall oft?"

"I know my way."

"Does the Lord guide you?" she chided. Azi made a wide circle around a moor boogey and pulled her cloak tight around her, ignoring the woman.

"There is a chill in the air tonight." Azi said.

"You do shiver." Arcalan sounded almost amused by the observation.

"Yes.."

"Perhap you are not well," she goaded.

"I assure you I am well. Quite well."

"That's good to hear.. I’d hate for you to be in any discomfort." Azi felt rather than saw the sneer, and stopped short in the middle of the field to face the woman.

"What a strange thing to say,” she said critically. "Why would you think that I was?" Arcalan waved her hand dismissively. Or so Azi thought.

Before she could react, a rooter collided violently with her from behind, knocking Azi hard to the ground. Its deep purple eyes glared visciously at her as it raked a hoof across her chest. Teeth clamped into her arm, shredding it as another hoof tore at her face. Arcalan stood idle, watching as darkness overcame Azi. And as Azi stood over her own body, Arcalan spoke into the air.

"And yet the creature left me unharmed. I'd make peace with their masters if I were you Azi." She said coldly.


Azi woke at the bindstone and reeled with the sickness that always overcame her after death. Hastily, without even seeing a healer, she rushed to the stable and rode hard to Cornwall. That foul woman. Had it been done on purpose, had she wished to rid herself of Azi for the time? She pushed the thought away and rode faster, arriving at Cornwall in record time. Arcalan was nowhere to be seen, but Azi was relieved to Jashen milling with a group of the League just down the road from the Catacombs. He bowed low to her as she neared, and Azi curtseyed.

"Jashen, greetings!" She pulled off her helm and delighted in Jashen's shocked expression.

"Hail Dear Azi!" he smiled with delight. "How have you been?"

"I am quite well, thank you." Azi gestured to her new armor with pride. Jashen eyed her appreciatively.

"Cris is going to freak ye know," he grinned.

"Is he?" She smiled, blushing deeply.

"In armor like that?” Jashen smiled broadly. “Aye, he will." Azi’s expression darkened, she lowered her voice considerably as the others chatted amongst themselves.

"Would that I could speak with him, know you where he is?" she said.

"Aye, he will want to speak with you as soon as possible, dearest. But he is away in Hadrian’s Wall, on the frontier. Tis far too dangerous a place to travel for us." Azi nodded.

"I need to speak with you, as well, friend. As soon as possible, without all of these ears about." She said to Jashen. He nodded, and said for all to hear,

“Would ye care to join us in the hunt Azaeli?"

"I would love nothing more, Jashen!" She answered, glad of a way to clear her mind.

"Join us then!" He turned to the rest of them. "Shall we to the hunt?"

 

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~~~OOC~~~
The preceding was a result of an impromptu Rp session when Arcalan and I bumped into each other in Camelot, and then again in CU.. Glad I turned on chatlog! Thanks Arc, was tons of fun happy

 

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OOC- Posting these in sequence of events for me in game....

(Before Azaeli comes to Camelot)

The forge near the round table was as crowded as it usually is when Crispian arrived. He heard an odd name, Perigrin, being said of a highlander.
“You’re name for a Carolingian king?” He asked, mind a swirl in the early stages of a good, healthy drunk. The highlander looked up from his work. “I know nae meaning to me name other than me mom and da gave me it.” The Scot looked a bit uncertain of this new arrival to the forge area.
Crispian nodded as he settled at a workbench. He set a fresh keg of ale beside himself and organized his tools. “Aye, Perigrin the Short he was called. A descendent of Charlemagne himself,” Crispian explained, as he looked over his work area.
The young highlander nodded with a grin. “Mercenary king, I’d be! Well, I’ll take the title if they are offerin’ it!” Others smiths about laughed and grinned at the comment and Crispian raised mug in salute.
His grin turning to a scowl. Perigrin said, "Crispian ye look ta hold yer wepons an armor well enough, but seems yer ale has more hold of you than you of it.” He laughed deprecatingly.
Crispian brandished his tankard boldly for a moment and said, “Nay, the ale ish little fer me to hold!” He smacked his mug on the keg and topped it up.
The mercenary lad laughed. “Ye never spilt a drop? HAR!” he slapped his leg in humor.
Crispian tipped the mug down. “Well, not never,” he grinned. “Horse rides can be jarring!”
Perigrin shook his head and sighed, “ye drunkard dont ye know tis why ye put it in a skin if ye are ta travel with it"
Crispian tipped the tankard to lips again, and when it came down, the brief mirth was gone from his face. “But let me tell ye, laddie, that sometimes the evil o’ the world ish sho bad, ye a drink to push it off.”
His face clouded in thought for a moment. “Skin? Skinsh don’ hold enough laddie for the long huntsh down to the pigmen and treesh!” He pounded the tankard on his bench.
Perigrin shook his head again, “Yer wastin’ good ale on the ground then,” he said quietly.
Crispian gestured widely to a taller armored man at the forge. “Ask Dracone there. He knowsh what issh like.
The tall, seasoned armsman looked over at Crispian. “What?” he said, eyebrows nettled.
Crispian scowled at him. “You’ff been down to the pigmen and treesh!” he said overly loud. There were skill things about the prolonged hunts in sunken Lyonesse Crispian recalled all to clearly.
Dracone tipped his head back with a laugh. “Aye, I have!”
Borgen, working near to Dracone, looked up. “Evil’s shamans are enough to make anyone drink!” he said with a laugh.
Dracone joined him in the humor. “AYE!” he said, louder than before.
Apolexia, who knew Crispian by sight, raised her eyebrows. “I’ve never heard of a ‘good’ shaman,” she said.
Borgen looked at Lexi with a slight grin. “Good at their craft, I meant,” he said.
Crispian set his mug down with a bang. “Shamansh? SHAMANSH?” he carped, voice rising high for a moment, then he turned more quiet. “Our own Sorcerssesh can be twisthed to evil,” he said darkly, draining of more ale.
Dracone laughed again. “That’s why I am an armsman and simple minded.” He picked up a piece of metal and considered it. “They have no interest in my thoughts whatsoever!” He set the metal down and started to order his tools for his next task.
Draining off his mug again, Crispian scowled. “Thatsh what I thunked too.” He muttered darkly. His tools were forgotten as he went over the haunting course of events these past weeks.
Dracone, still moving his gear about, continued on. “The darkiside look to corrupt me, then sees there is nothing there to corrupt.” He finished with a smile. Crispian pondered his words for a moment, beginning to move deeper in thought.
Perigrin, noting how serious everything was getting, slapped his legs again. “Well, good day to ye all!” He smiled. “I get no learnin’ done from the bottom of a mug!” Borgen laughed his own agreement with that sentiment.
Crispian looked up, a grimace on his face. “I wished life was sho sumple all the times, friends, I do in truth. “ His voice was thick and muddled with ale, fingers curled on the mug in his scarred hands.
Apolexia looked up from her work, seeing the pain that the others seemed to be missing. “Life is never easy, m’friend,” she said quietly. Her own experiences had put her through difficulties and she wondered for a moment what could be torturing Crispian so.
Crispian nodded in agreement to here. “Nay, tis not Lexi.” He thought of some things said about and again. “And ye know it can be, I bet.” He tapped out some more ale, offering it about to the others who were hard pressing their crafts at the forge spot. He wiped his eyes dry and took another deep drink of ale.
“Almost all to well, old friend,” Apolexia said quietly. This Crispian was not the same as she recalled from the days before at the forge. Before Valour, and other things…She nodded in solemn agreement with him.
Crispian swept his mug in a wide arc to include all about the forge. “Now, this here Lexi,” he said, swinging the mug toward her, “is one tough lady, I tell yaz.!” He finished his proclamation with a self-congratulating drink.
Apolexia shook her head. “I wish I were, m’friend,” she said quietly, uncomfortable with the attention that Crispian seemed bound to call upon her.
Crispian scowled at her, then broke into a grin, made silly by alcohol. “But yer are. I’ve heard the talk around the tavernsh!”
Apolexia sighed. Tavern tales indeed! “Alas,” she said, shaking her head, “they only know the truths that are told.” She watched Crispian, concern flashing in her eyes for a moment.
Crispian, barely following everything going on about him, in addition to the conversation, nodded exaggeratedly. “That is sho like people, too,” he exclaimed, like a cleric sudden imparting some divinely inspired truth, “speakin’ only half truths!”
He stoood, swaying on his feet a bit. “But ye be safe, lassh, and I am off to Ye Mug to seek a room and shome sleep!” He staggered his way out of the forge area, and with a few gentle turns from guardsmen, reached Ye Mug. Word was sent to Tannir that Crispian was here, and shortly after the young armsman had been settled into a room, his squire arrived.
The daily order of things started then, with Tannir setting aside armor and placing fresh small cloths on his Lord and Liege. Then, the squire settle against the door to sleep until Crispian awoke and it all started again.

 

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Meanwhile, In Cornwall...


Azaeli greeted the hunting group with a polite curtsey, which looked a bit off in full armor. Each man, Iphemiar, Vaseth, and Jashen was greeted with a formality and courtliness not often seen in the hunt. Kalsaak, a sorcerer who had hunted often with Jashen, Achou and Tobyas, arrived just after Azaeli and he too joined them in the hunt.
Azaeli favored them all with a stunning smile. “Well met, friends!” she said, openly happy to be among the League again. “Kalsaak!” she exclaimed as the sorcerer joined them.
Iphemiar swept back his mail coif. “’Ail tae ye, Azaeli! Yer name I’ quite familiar for sae reason. Dinnae why ‘ough,” he said.
“Hail Azi!” Kalsaak greeted her, his face too a wide smile of joyful reunion. Azi favored him with a shy grin.
The casters, Vaseth, Kalsaak, and Cowyn, began to weave their magicks about the group as Tobyas made prayers over each for the upcoming fight. Powerful forces swirled and formed around each as powers of wind, earth, fire and the divine were plied on them all.
Azaeli looked over the group. Some she knew, some she did not. “Iphemiar, your not recognizing my name does not surprise me,” she said with a shy smile before turning to the sorcerer. “How do you do, dear Kalsaak?” she said with her smile still in place. It was then that she noticed the cleric blessings the others still. His chain armor gleamed in the pale and fading daylight. The bar-nasal coif hid much his face, and that was why she perhaps had not recognized him at first. “And Tobyas!” she exclaimed, her voice taking on a very non-paladin tone.
He favored her with a shy grin as he continued saying the sacred words for strength and speed over Mensc. Adaya, companion of Mench, was also blessing people for battle. The quiet murmur of prayer filled the evening silence for a few minutes as the two clerics implored the Almighty.
Cowyn, his spells cast and magic power regaining, smiled at Azaeli. It had been some days since he had seen her last. She looked very good in the plate mail of a Paladin. “Welcome Azaeli!” he said. “Has been a while.”
She favored him with a smile as she pulled Jashen a bit away from the others. “Would that I could speak with Crispian!” she almost hissed in her effort to not be over heard.
“Master Kalsaak, if it is alright,” Jashen said, “Tobyas will follow along and take care of healing me as there is need.”
The sorcerer nodded, “That would be fine by me, Brother Jashen.”
Jashen nodded to Azaeli, lowering his voice to a tone that would not carry. “Aye, he will want to speak with you as soon as possible dearest.” He could not help but grin at Azaeli, former wizard, now paladin, as she stood there in her fine armor.
Azaeli, seizing the moment of the others being distracted, whispered urgently, “I need to speak with you as soon as possible, without all of these ears about.” She looked fertively about at the others, trusted League members all, but some too removed from events that Azi knew all too well.
Cowyn stood. “Ready?” he asked, calmly looking over them all.
Tobyas closed his prayer book, tucking it into a pouch and taking out a smaller tome of healing prayers. “I fear I am all out of blessings now,” he said quietly. The others checked their gear and they group started to move into the Cornwall plain.
Azaeli was looking about, watching the area they moved through. Her senses were sharp for foes from long practice in the field. “STOP!” she called suddenly, spotting the large pig-like beasts called Rooters ahead of them. “Rooters despise me,” she explained. As the group gathered about, Azaeli realized she had been so focused earlier and had not truly greeted everyone. “I have missed you all!” she said a bit abruptly.
Iphemiar smiled at her. “Gree’ins to ye again, lass.”
Kalsaak favored her with a slight bow. “And you were missed as well, M’lady,” he said, barely taking his eyes off the field, for he had learned the bad way about being inattentive.
Jashen targetted on a moor boogey, the local predator to rooters. He knew that through some means the rooters knew those who killed the boogeys and would not attack them. He knocked an arrow to his short bow and fired. The shot went wide, but not wide enough. The Boogey charged.
As the dread beast rushed, Jashen slung the bow and grabbed his Bloody short sword and Inlaid long sword in hand. Iphemiar and Mensc also readied themselves for combat.
The moor boogey was upon them. The casters, staying a safe distance behind, began to work magicks on the beast the sort of which Jashen knew not. He swung his sword, missing the boogey completely and the beast bit at him, twice striking his leg. Tobyas was already murmuring prayers of healing from behind them. Jashen prepared to use his skill for Twin Spikes, a special attack with two weapons. He struck true and the beast howled. Iphemiar and Mensc both also struck at the beast.
The fight became fierce, with swords striking at the beast as it bit at Jashen. It would not give up on him, and seemed focused on killing him. Slowly the sway of the fray swung to the hunters and the boogey went down, bleeding from many cuts and a slight steam rising from its body.
Jashen and the others were panting from the fight and the casters were all sitting to regain the energies they drew on in battle. Jashen wiped the back of his gauntlet across his forehead. It seemed that the others were ready, so he again got his bow ready.
“I shall bring them back to us,” he said, oaken shortbow in hand. He knew he should replace it, and made a note to talk to Thovan as soon as possible about making one from him. It was hard to find decent short-bows in this land of the Great Bow and powerful scouts.
He again sighted on a boogey again and let fly his arrow. The brief fray of a few minutes earlier repeated itself, and soon the beast was dead at their feet. There was no reasoning or pattern to how long or how many of the boogeys had to be slain in order to make the rooters of the area friendly, but Jashen would not stop hunting them until he was sure that the rest of his party could safely move through the low areas where the great pigs fed.
As the second fell, he moved quickly toward the third, calling “This way!” to the others as he moved. They slew another in quick order. Jashen had fought these earlier, but he now had two or three trainings behind him. They fell much easier. Also, this time out, he had more blades with him, although he did miss Achou, who had gone to Witrin to train more.
The young Saracen cabalist was greatly growing in power and his skill with Cabalist magic seemed to need review by his trainer at Witrin with high frequency. Jashen mused on this for a moment as they slew a fifth boogey. Some of those with him were showing a little fatigue from the hunt, but Jashen knew they were each learning their craft faster this way.
Jashen sighted on a boogey, but it was too far for his bow to reach. Kalsaak calmly raised his hands and made a pass. The boogey felt the magic befuddle it’s mind and through it out of gait. It charged at the group, animal rage fixed on Kalsaak. Jashen, swords coming out of the sheaths called, “That works too!” as he launched into the attack.
Due to his unreadiness from the attack, Jashen found himself panting on the grass at the end of the fight. He looked about at the others. “Please try to approach the rooters from time to time to see if this is working.” Azaeli smiled at him. He smiled back. “Master Kalsaak, could you fetch the foe?” Jashen had learned that being ready for the attack was as good as controlling the rate of the foes coming in. He was also comfortable with the way a sorcerer would confuse or enspell the foes before they arrived.
Iphemiar, also a mercenary and using a short bow, was standing and aiming. “I got one!” he called, bow knocked to his ear and let fly.
The boogey came, charging with its massive head down and great paws throwing clots of sod and soil behind him as he ran. His nostrils snorted wide with each sucking breath of angry air. The large eyes were a palish purple. Jashen noted all of this even as he took his stance for battle
The short sword, an enchanted and so-called bloody short sword, he held higher than the Golden Inlaid longsword in his right hand. Unlike the heavier armored armsmen of the realm, his stance was slightly to the side of the approaching foe. Mensc, an armsman, stood near to hand with weapons at the ready, shield poised for the blows that would come. Iphemiar, as mercenaries were trained to do, had discarded the bow and readied his weapons.
The boogey hit into them with a great crash. Its body, while putrid and full of the stench of the plains, was solid. The huge head was wider that any one of the three and the jaws were as wide as the skull. Sharp, flashing teeth lined upper and lower jaws and caught the moonlight as it rose. This was a harder foe than those before, and Jashen found himself pressing hard every little ounce of advantage he could get. His swords flashed in the light, and he was quickly all that the boogey was sighting on.
Blood flowed from where their blades struck, and from where the jaws ripped against the chain mail that protected him. He back-pedaled, glad for the aid of Iphemiar and Mensc, both of whom were pressing in on the attack. Bright magicks flew from the casters hands and the prayers of Tobyas and Adaya both were heard over the random noises of the exchange. A certain ordered mayhem was about the fight. This two was something that Jashen had learned to live with over the past weeks.
Azaeli laid about with her great sword, wearing no shield at all. The blade seemed so large in her hands, but the skill with which she laid about her was impressive and made Jashen give her another measure of respect. Soon, the foe lay dead before them. As tough as this one had seemed, they all took a measure of satisfaction from laying it low in death. A taxed, sweating group, they paused to gather strength of arms and power before they sought another.
When each seemed ready, Kalsaak rose, his arms at his side for a moment as he hurled magic at a distant boogey. True to their nature, it paused and then rushed at the sorcerer. Kalsaak stood impassively, knowing that his warrior companions would be on the foe in short order.
True enough, Jashen, Iphemiar, Mensc and Azaeli were upon it before it got close enough to bite at the sorcerer and their blades flashed in skilled combat as they fell to the beast. Six blades flashed and fell as spells were unleashed and healing powers called up. Jashen caught a clawed-foot on his short sword and turned the blow aside only to see a sight that made him queazy. Another boogey had caught sent of the blood and carnage and was charging at them.
“ANOTHER!” he called as he pressed the first boogey. If they could not dispatch this one before the other arrived, there was a good chance that they would have to fight two foes at once, and he knew from experience that it could go badly for them, despite their skills.
Kalsaak changed his attentions quickly to the incoming beast, hands moving quickly in a spell of mezmerization. Words rolled from his mouth in a measured, even tone that was belied by the sweat rolling down his face. A second foe was something that they had not been conserving energies for. The spell was unleashed and the boogey stopped in place, seeming to still try to move forward against the invisible bound of magic that held him in place. Kalsaak swallowed heavily and called out. “The foe is mezzed!” he said, the haste of the situation causing him to use the commoners term for the type of spell he had cast.
The warriors pressed their attack on the first, hoping to get it down before the second broke loose of the spell, for these types of battle magic did not hold long on an enraged foe, be it troll, elf or moor boogey.
The first foe fell and the warriors swung to the second. Each was winded but not totally spent. Their blows fell a little slower, and did not bite quite as deep as on the first, but still the blows told true and harmed the beast greatly.
As their swords bit into the beast, a shaking revelation came to them all. The enspelled one was still fifteen feet away. They were fighting a third boogey that had been rushing them. Jashen swore under his breath and heard Azaeli mutter a prayer under her breath as they all considered the worst.
The second beast was slow in the going down. Kalsaak, Cowyn, and Adaya were grouped behind the warriors, doing what they could and trying to save some measure of energy for the third foe. Kalsaak felt the slight surge that told him his spell was weakening. He looked at the embattled second boogey and knew his spell would fail before its health did. “My mezmerization is failing,” he said calmly, much more calmly than he felt. And then it did fail. And the third rushed them. Great jaws wagged side to side as it sped across the short distance.
Jashen lunged at it, his swords striking. “Stay on that one!” he called to the other three. He was spent, he knew, and could not press to use his skills, but he had to stop the first one from reaching the magicians, or he knew they would all die. In desperation, he plied his twin spikes for the last time and gained the beasts attention. Kalsaak threw a small magic at it that interrupted its normal animal grace and Cowyn threw hands to the sky, summoning up beasts of the earth to aid Jashen.
As he scurried about, avoiding the huge paws and gaping mouth of the foe, Jashen missed Emily, the emerald simulacrum that Achou could summon up to fight for him. Since their earliest outing, Achou had used one or another kind of construct, and Jashen rarely realized how nice they were to have in combat with him. Indeed, she had come to be another blow that he depended on. He fought like a man possessed, holding the beast on him.
He did not know how long it was before the second went down, but soon he had Azaeli, Mensc and Iphemiar at his side, dropping the third finally to ground.
The fatigue from their previous fights did not compare with the near exhaustion they all felt from this last and they sagged down to the grass, directly at the bodies of the boogeys just killed. Panting and gasping for breath, the warriors rested, even as the magicians seemed to be nodding in sleep. Tobyas and Adaya each prayed from small prayers books and seemed the faster to recover from their exertions.
Jashen felt it was time to move on. Boogeys had not been his plan for this hunt to begin with. He had intended to go after the skeletal legionaires who stood foul vigil before the ancient catacombs. The risen bones of these long dead Romans were the work of Morgana and he hoped to be able to dispatch some and make the area safer for those who tended the land here. He was from peasant stock himself and knew what it was to be plagued by such things. Indeed, it was partially that upbringing that had fixated him on defending Albion at home first, and then going to the borderlands to face Midgard and Hibernia.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)

After pausing for their rest, Jashen lifted his head and scowled at Kalsaak. “Three?” he said, an edge in his voice that was unusual for the young mercenary.
Azaeli chuckled as she tightened her shin guard. “There were three,” she quipped, winking mischieviously at Jashen.
Iphemiar smiled at her and nodded. Jashen felt his ire raise at their offhandednesss. “We should be good to move now.” He stood, adjusting his cloak about his shoulders. The fresh-sewn emblem of the League was still stiff with needlework, but he was proud to have it on him. “Let’s move to the Legionaires. They should be ok for us hunt now.” He was not over worried about how good they would do, the group seemed very capable.
They set out toward the catacomb hill. It was a weathered hillock that stood above the rolling plains of the area. The Romans had taken sacred ground, dug deep into it and built catacombs for their own dead. Now that the vile magic of Morgana was rampantly unchecked about the land and the remains of the Romans stirred and prowled the corridors of the ancient burial area. Guards long dead now again stood sentinel outside before kiosk stones that arrayed around the low, hilltop shrine that gave entrance to the crypts below. It was a place that drew many who thought they were stout of heart and proved a good portion of them wrong.
It was to there that Jashen now led his companions, prepared to fight the ancient evils that now animated the bones of the dead and made a mockery of all who in truth stood to guard the realm and her inhabitants. They moved through Cornwall at a good pace, not spreading out overmuch and keeping sharp eyes out for the dangers that lurked. This was a bad area to become distracted in. The day was nearing its end when they at last reached the catacombs. There was another group of people combating the eerie skeletal guardians of the catacombs, and Jashen led his group to the far side so that they would not be confused as to who was killing whom.
The group was harder pressed to set themselves well for the fight, but they used the stone structure of the catacombs themselves for a safe guard. Tobyas and Adaya were prepared to flee inside the foul burial chambers if there was need and the mages were arranged in an arc along the shallow stairs leading in. The four warriors stood in front of the casters and were ready. Kalsaak drew himself to full height and turned.
“From the south,” he said calmly, raising his hands to again unleash magic power to confuse and anger the foe. A faint mist seemed to surround the looming skeletal figure and it charged forward in a rage. As one, the four sprung forward and met the charge. A huge ghostly spear lashed out and struck Kalsaak even as the melee was joined. Adaya called forth a prayer of healing to sustain the mage even as Tobyas began to heal. He had been focused before on healing Jashen, but the skeletal foe seemed more focused on Azalea, and struck her many sound and solid blows.
“May the Almighty make thee whole to fight the foe and win the day!” he prayed, unleashing a lesser prayer of healing to the paladin. She straightened, facing the foe more firmly, but Tobyas immedaitely had to unleash more healing power of the divine, for Adaya was still healing Kalsaak.
The towering skeleton rocked from the blows rained in on him, but still pressed his attack against the sorcerer. His undead, single mindedness cause Jashen consternation as he hit blow after blow. His companions slashed and struck, Azaeli’s great sword hammer time again again. With an unworldly calmness, it would stab at Kalsaak, then sweep a blow into Azaeli. Finally, with a great horrid cry, it fell to the grass, defeated. It was dead already, but the ability to retain the animating was tied to the adherence of the bones, and they had rent the bone beyond ability to adhere together.
Cowyn sat at the steps, then smiled shyly at them all. “I feel I have mastered another Circle of Theurgy!”
The decorum they had all mastered for the hunt melted for a moment amid backslapping, congratulations and hoots of victory. It was always this way when on the hunt. Someone would perfect a new skill in some way and all would share in the excitement, knowing that soon it would be their turn. Jashen broke out a skin of wine and some sipped from it, but sparingly so as not to dull their response to the dangers here.
Jashen stood. “To the Center. Tobyas, can you heal Azaeli this go around?” The young cleric nodded. It seemed that Azaeli had pushed him into an uncharacteristic silence.
Kalsaak rose again, preparing to summon a foe. “Would you like speed enchantments again, Sir Jashen?”
Jashen considered it. “Aye, as long as we are not moving, that would be fine.” He surveyed the group, preparing for a new foe when he heard his name. Helamann, a friend who was with the Dragons of Avalon had emerged from the Catacombs. “Hail Jashen!” he called.ued with the strength of the earth.
Jashen turned in surprise and then executed a graceful bow. “Hail, Lord,” he said as he rose again.
Helamann grinned. “Hail Jashen!” Companions were emerging from the catacombs as well and Iphemiar bowed greetings to Laredric, another allie of the League’s.
“How fare ye, Lord?” Jashen asked as he checked his gear.
“Excellent, m’Lord Jashen,” Helamman boomed. Tis time I headed to Thidranki,” he said, serious and yet somehow jovial. Thidranki was a contested keep between the three realms.
Jashen nodded gravely, having neared that keep for battle just a few days before. “Be ye well in that fight, Lord,” he said, clasping sword arms with Helamann. Then, the fighter and his companions were striking out for Cornwall Station and the fast horses that would bear them north to the battle.
“Shall I cast a confusion on them or a discoordination?” Kalsaak asked.
Jashen thought for a moment, the others getting ready for the next skeletal warrior that they would fell in combat. “Discoordination, please,” Jashen said as he loosed his swords, ready for the foe to come to them as Kalsaak cast the spell on the undead fiend for a second time.
The skeleton, which towered at nearly seven feet or more in height, sprang toward them. Its vacant eyes still seemed to echo a murderous desire and it was said that none who were called back so by Morgana could abide the living. This time, the battle was better controlled by the group and the fiend went down with a better speed. With but a nod from Jashen, Kalsaak brought another foe in quick order. The group was falling into a rhythym. Twas rare to find such in the hunt, and Jashen relished it. Too often, hunts were spoiled by one ill-timed blow or spell. This group was working together well. Enchantments were even renewed during combat when the ethereal enchantments would fade. Such work usually required one spell caster directing the others, but this group seemed to be doing it by instinct and it was pleasing to Jashen.
Again the group brought the foe, and again they defeated it. They were really melding on this hunt, and Jashen could not help but think how much Achou would be enjoying it. The little Saracen cabalist seemed to enjoy the heave and pitch of a real battle as much as Jashen himself did. The little man would throw his arms out and cast evocations that would cause the enemy to erupt in open wounds, or to poison them. Sometimes he would make acid form a cloud that would harm the foe, but be no thicker than air to his friends.
And, of course, there was Emily. A simulacrum is an awesome casting in the first place, as it brings into being an animated force from nature that responds to the caster’s command as if they were linked in mind. Jashen has seen how other cabalists directed and managed theirs, and he had to admit that Achou had it down to something on the level of art. Emily, the latest in the line, switched targets as smoothly as any living companion that Jashen fought with, most of the time. Tobyas would even place blessings upon it, and it was more effective when he did.
One large plus to the Simulacrum was that it could die in battle and be recreated. It did not suffer from sickness upon being recreated, and it didn’t drink Jashen’s ale. The hulking mass of rock could also be enchanted to somehow have attacks back on the foe. Jashen was amazed at that but given his increased exposure to that, he was less and less wonder filled at the event.
The group was preparing for another of the Roman skeletons and pulled Jashen from his musings. He readied himself and swung into combat as the being neared. He had noticed during their pause that Adaya and Mensc were indeed very close, especially for an armsman and a cleric. Mensc would, when it seemed no one was looking, blow kisses to the comely lady-cleric. Jashen had supressed a smile at first. Then he noticed in a quiet moment how they would look at each other, and the way that Mensc bowed to Adaya after each battle was over. He had never seen Mirashta and Oakleif act like that, but he supposed they must. Even amid battle, it seemed, love found a way to be present.
The foes were being dispatched with greater ease it seemed. The group was working so well together that Kalsaak barely paused as one foe went down and another came up. Just as soon as they had one about to fall, the sorcerer would be eyeing the next and bringing it forth. After they have sent perhaps four to their unliving rewards, Kalsaak crouched down by Jashen.
The sorcerer, as most Avalonians were want, was calm and confident. His mastery of his magics was not in doubt for a second and he exuded a confidence in himself. It could not be called arrogance, but that was owed more to Kalsaak himself than anything else.
“My friend,” the sorcerer said, taking the wine skin that Jashen offered him, “I think we could take two of them at once. That would speed both the attacks, and our learning.” He squirted a stream of wine into his mouth perfectly and passed the skin back. “But only if you agree will I summon two.”
Jashen thought on it for a moment. They were nine in the hunt, and if it did go badly, Tobyas or Adaya would surely be able to get inside the catacombs themselves. As long as they met no danger there, it would be an easy matter for them to emerge later and call the dead back to life. He nodded.
“Aye, I think you have the right of it, friend,” he said, standing and securing the wine skin again in his pack. He had not carried one at his hip since Arcalan had melted one for him. “Friends, prepare for two of the foes. Master Kalsaak will try to mezmerize the second, but we should be prepared incase it should fail to take.”
He looked at each of them in turn. Crispian had often talked about the need to show confidence when in command, and Jashen found it easy to meet the eyes of this group. Some had been friends for a while now, and some he had just met. He still felt a bond to each one. Each was a League brother or sister, or else a dear friend. Their gazes returned the feeling of confidence that Jashen felt. He nodded ready and they reformed into their attack lines, with the two clerics near to the entrence to the Catacombs. Kalsaak calmly repeated his spell and the skeleton was rushing them agian.
Close behind the first was a second and Jashen saw the bluish swirl about its feet that said magic was at work, but the foe resisted! Vaseth quickly threw forth a cage of ice that covered the beast and stuck it in place.
“That only last a few seconds!” he called as he turned his lethal wizardry loose on the first target. Great orbs of deadly fire shot forth from his hands to hit the skeletal warrior even as Cowyn was summoning up his small earth spirits to rush the skeleton like an army of small mud children.
Azaeli, Jashen, Iphemiar and Mensc fought with a savagery against the undead beast, trying to lay it low as quickly as possible. Their blades struck, sometime with just raw might and other times with the graceful moves of trained warrior. The second skeleton began to move before the first was down.
Kalsaak, being the target of the second one, stood his ground, tall and proud. He did not flinch back from the blow, but met it rather head one. The spear stabbed deep into his chest, just as the first skeleton crumpled to the ground. Wihout pause, Jashen and Iphemiar were on it, shortly followed by Azaeli and Mensc. Their paired blades bit into the bone of the fell being, and then the bite from Azaeli’s heavy blade was upon it, renting ribs from sternum. This one did not pause, it wheeled about on her with its cold spear and stabbed directly. Tobyas yelled forth his prayer of healing even as Azaeli reeled from the blow.
With the combined skill of all, the second was brought down, but not before there was blood on Azaeli’s plate and Kalsaak’s robe was a near ruin. The shattered bones of the skeleton lie strewn on the grass as they all collapsed against the stairs, nearly spent from the closeness of the battle. .
Jashen leaned on his forearms, bracing them on his legs. “Well, that was close!” he panted in great breaths. Can we do it better next time?”
Kalsaak stood, smoothed his robes with a gesture. “From the southeast!” he called and began to cast. Jashen crammed his helm back on and leapt up. Azaeli and Iphemiar both made ready. Mensc stood, adjusting his armor for a moment more and yelled out “Jump on my sword while ye can Evil! I won’t be gentle!” even as the foes rushed them.
Again, with an ungainly stride, the skeleton was upon them and they were engaged. They again fell to with great efforts, their weapons striking and making noises countered by the spellcasting from behind them. In but moments, it was down, a much easier victory than the last.
Thus is was until they retired toward Cornwall Station for the night.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
The hunt has gone late in the day and finally the companions decided to retire for the night to Cornwall Station. The station sat aside the road, a two-story affair with a stable. Some of the rarest metals and woods of the realm were sold there. Tanners from the out-realm areas brought their highly desirable wares to the station for sale. It was also the last civilized place before Lyonesse except for one small trading post. The other bid Jashen, Tobyas, and Azaeli farewell and made their departures. Most took horse north toward Camelot.
Azaeli smiled as her two friends. “The chain mail suits you well, Toby,” she said quietly as Jashen made room arrangements for the night. The young cleric had gained power in the church indeed, if he were permitted to equip up with chain like this. And from the looks of it, it was crafted chain, not dungeon found. The alloy metal glinted in the light of the common room.
“Thank you, Azi,” Tobyas replied, bobbing his head shyly. He was still adjusting to Azi in armor and sporting a large sword. He had come to know her as a caster of wizard magic, and shy, even retiring. This was so different for her. He prayed she had made a good choice. “It has taken some getting used to, of course,” he found himself explaining. The newness of this armor was still evident to him, but Azaeli just smiled at him.
“I know what you mean by that, my friend,” she patted his hand in affection as Jashen made his return. He nodded them in greeting.
“Two rooms,” he motioned toward an empty table on the far side of the room. “I figured you would like your privacy, Azaeli,” he continued as he sat, indicating with a slight shake of his head that Tobyas should not join them.
“I shall take my leave then,” he said, a bit stiffly, for he too had not seen Azi in some time. But he knew that Jashen and Azi probably wanted to talk about Crispian and accepted that he was not fully in their confidences for that. “My Lady Azi, Jash,” he nodded curtly and left, going up the stairs to where the few rooms of the station were located.
As the serving girl brought them two mugs, one steaming and one frothy, Jashen favored Azaeli with a smile. He had to admit that she looked quiet good in her plate mail. It was burnished to a high shine, much like Crispian’s, but the armorer had paid attention to the curve and fitting of Azaeli’s body, for protection no doubt, Jashen mused, and the effect was stunning on her. Her blond hair fell to the shoulders of her breastplate and her eyes looked more blue than before.
Taking a short drink of his ale, Jashen broke the silence first. “Ye wished to speak with me, private like?” he said, mouthing quirking a small grin. He trucked in the work of the Shadow Guild for a profession, and applied his skills to the protection of the League. He knew that Azi was more accustomed to books, libraries, and other civil niceties.
Azaeli turned her mug of sweet tea in her hands, still so small but now callused and hardened. She met Jashen’s cool gray eyes with her own placid blue. There was no trace of a smile on her face. With a slight lean forward, she spoke. “Jashen, what do you know of this Arcalan?” Her hushed voice breathed into the space between them.
He paused for just a moment. He should have considered this topic. Azi was certain to notice the new Cabalist in their ranks, and her strange attitude. As Shadow Master of the League, Jashen had watched her already, but was surprised that Azaeli had met her so soon on her return. He lowered his ale to the table, licking his lips of the foam. “I can tell you I trust her not,” he said quietly, even as his eyes scanned the room for possible listeners.
“Indeed, you have good reason not to,” Azi said with a calm certainty. Her face betrayed nothing more, but her fingers tightened on the coarse wood of the mug. “How did she come to join the League?” she asked, voice a low hush still.
Jashen considered lying. Phalos had recruited so many new ones, it could be passed as that. But this was Azaeli, a knight of the League even as a wizard, and sure to prove her pledges of purity and honor time and again, as if she had not already. She deserved the full truth, even if Jashen was uncomfortable with that. “Cris is soft hearted,” he said quietly, drawing again from his ale mug.
The shock was more than Azi could mask. Her eyes widened slightly and her mouth almost did not work to get the next words out of it. Jashen was glad he had not waited for her to be drinking. “Crispian invited her?” she gasped, unable to keep the note of disbelief out of her voice. A Knight was supposed to know the foe, and here it seemed Crispian was oblivious to such a threat as it seemed Arcalan posed!
Jashen released a loud breath and rubbed his hands against each other, then smooth his cloak. “Aye, he did,” he explained, “but over my protestations!” He suddenly wanted to explain more to Azi, relieved to have found someone to confide in, for he sensed Arcalan was a problem waiting to happen.
“Jashen,” Azaeli murmured, then cleared her throat, taking a sip of her tea. “How may I say this,” she started, pausing as the words hung in the air. She was not one to make accusations or cast doubt on the content of another’s character. But this Arcalan...She was unsure how to proceed.
Jashen reached across the table, taking one of her hands. “Honestly, of course, Azaeli,” he said, meeting her gaze calmly.
Azi swallowed, withdrawing her hand to fold both of hers on her lap. “I happened upon her in Camelot,” she began. “As soon as I heard her voice, I felt a chill evil run through me,” she looked down a moment as she spoke, recalling Arcalan’s voice, and another voice from her past that carried that same tone.
Jashen nodded. “Aye, Cris does not trust her, but he did let her join.” He found himself still wanting to justify Crispian’s decision to admit her into the League.
Azi noted the slight fidgeting of Jashen’s hands. She knew she might be pressing into areas best left alone, but felt she had to go forward at this point. “Jashen,” she said quietly, “I do not know if Crispian told you of that night when we,” she paused, still recoiling from the memories of that horrible night, “found him in the Shadow Guild,” she paused slightly as the icy expression that came to Jashen’s face, “but when Arcalan laid her eyes on me, it was the first time I had felt that..."
“Felt what?” Jashen hissed into the silence when she paused. He knew exactly what night she was referring to.
“That icy, cold evil pressing me,” she held his gaze. “It was the first time since that night I had felt anything like that.” Her eyes reflected the memories of that night she was recalling.
Jashen nodded slowly. "Aye, I know what you mean. I saw Cris that night...I, I, well, lost control.” He chose not to continue, for there were things that even Azi should not know, especially as a sworn paladin of the Church.
Azi either did not notice or did not pursue the pause. “Perhaps,” she said, with a sly grin, “it is well to have her in the League. Easier to keep track of her.” She favored Jashen with a wry look for a moment.
He grinned in return. “Exactly!” He chuckled, taking a drink of ale. “And Tannir does love stealthing along after her.” His eyes danced with the mirth of it. Tannir, native lad to the city of Camelot, had managed to follow Arcalan without detection for weeks now.
“Well, I should like to say I’m comforted knowing that you are aware of this.” She paused, looking down briefly. But still… Could things get any worse for Crispian?” she paused, composing herself. Her look grew speculative. “What could she be up to?”
Jashen looked about, not looking at Azi for a moment’s time. “Something dark, for sure.”
Azi pressed her lips into a narrow line. “That is obvious. And yet,” she toyed with her mug, “she was so pleasant to me”
Jashen tossed his head in a small chuckle. “I don’t under how she and Achou can be the same profession!” He shook his head slight. “But, aye, she is pleasant, as she wishes to be.”
Azi felt badly for not noticing that the Saracen cabalist was not with them this hunt. “Where is Achou this night?” she asked as she looked about. “And how does he?”
Jashen shrugged. “He is well, but abed with a headache from studying his magicks.”
Azi’s face slowly lit with a shy grin. “I know that well!” She thought of the hours in the old library in Camelot, and her dear Uncle looking over her the whole time. A nostalgic look past over her face.
“Now, you just contend with sore muscles,” Jashen mused as he signal for two more mugs.
“I seem to enjoy that more, somehow,” Azi said, passing her cooled tea off for the new steaming mug.
Jashen sipped as his new tankard. “Maybe Wizardry is your real vocation,” he allowed, intentionally misunderstanding Azi’s statement to mean she enjoyed study more than physical work.
Azi shook her head. “Nay, it is my fate to be a paladin,” she said, rubbing a hand on her neck, stiff from the barrel helm she had been in all day long.
Jashen grinned wickedly. “Honest, I liked ye better in robes,” he said as his grinned widened.
“I did not choose my profession for the clothing!” Azi said, hastily and a bit harsh.
Taken aback, Jashen’s grin faded. “Just saying it was flattering on you,” he said, eyes downcast.
Azi immediately regretted her tone with him. “My apologies. I miss it sometimes, and so,” she shrugged her thin shoulders, “I am defensive.” She knew that many were still adjusting to this ‘new’ Azi, and not all were doing so smoothly.
Jashen smiled again. “Worry not, dearest,” he murmured. “Imagine being the younger brother of a near-legend.” He himself still found it odd that people afforded him a great deal of respect bought on the coin of Crispian’s achievements.
Azi sighed. “Better to have a brother to begin with, than none at all,” she said, her face taking on a down-turned expression. Jashen felt he had to lighten the mood a bit and laughed.
“You don’t know Cris well!” he said, his face alight with humor.
Azi took the statement a bit wrong. “Oh, I do not?” she said, a bit archly.
Jashen back-pedaled his words quickly. “Did you ever have someone steal your courters?” he asked, still smiling.
Azi turned the most pleasant shade of pink as she lowered her eyes. “You know that I do not court.”
Jashen chuckled. “But, I am sure you had callers?” He felt slightly wicked to be pressing the issue of romance with Azi, but better she be uncomfortable than dwell on what life had not gifted her with.
Her blush deepened. “Yes,” she said shyly, drinking some tea. “Often, I would be glad if someone stole them away.” Her blush drained away and she allowed a shy smile. “But I can see your side, of course.” Jashen leaned back, calmer now that they were on a safer topic than Arcalan. “And I am sure you noticed that Cris is, well,” he shrugged, “a handsome man with a thicker chest than I.” He had no discomfort with admitting Crispian had filled out more than he had.
Azi smiled pleasantly, but answered honestly. “Honest, Jashen, I cannot tell you apart,” she said into the brief pause.
“And thicker arms.” He looked at Azi, registering her comment. “Well, dear, ye saw him as the Lord brought him into the World, so to speak,” he said, with a raising of eyebrows.
Azi blushed again. “My eyes did not linger.”
Jashen smirked. “Not even a wee bit?” he asked, mildly amused that a warrior and wizard of Azi’s caliber would be so discomforted by this topic.
Azi open her mouth in shock. “No!” she said, loud enough that others glanced over briefly.
Riding the humor of the moment, Jashen rolled on. “My Lady, ye protest too much, I fear,” he said with a wink.
Azi however had turned serious. “Jashen, friend, I am quite content with my love, Ascot, and Crispian was such a fright that night,” she shuddered at the thought of his state that night in the Shadow Quarter. “My only concern was to come to his aid,” she finished gravely.
Jashen inclined his head gravely in return. “Well, I shall take it at that then,” he gave a half-bow of acceptance to her.
“You are a handsome man,” Azi said plainly. “Surely women fawn at you?” Was this young mercenary, so confident usually, about to have a self-image crisis with her?
He nodded. “But Cris is as handsome, and has more muscle. As lads in the village, he could swoon any lass,” he said with a small smile, recalling the simpler life to which he and his brother could never return.
“That was so long ago,” Azi observed, “and you are much more carefree than he.” She felt the need to point out that Jashen was more humorous to be around, even before the curse.
Jashen grinned his sly grin. “Cris has always been more serious than I, and young lasses appreciate that,” he said, even as his own eye caught that of a tavern girl.
“It depends on the lass,” Azi said, her eyes challenging. “ Some prefer a good sense of humor.”
“Oh, Cris has that too,” Jashen said, “when he wishes to show it,” he pressed on seeing that Azi was about to interrupt him. Her face turned into a frown. “What, Darlin’?” he asked as he took a drink from his ale mug.
Azi sighed, looking deep into her tea mug. “I worry about him,” he said quietly, the recent topic bringing the young Armsman to the front of her mind.
“So do I,” Jashen admitted, “but he is tough as troll.” He did not want Azi to get caught up in thoughts of Crispian.
“I suppose,” she said quietly, not sounding to convinced.
Jashen decided it might be time to tell Azi some of Crispian’s past that he knew he would not have shared yet. “You do not know of her, do you?” he asked quietly, eyes down cast, for the memories of their childhood ending were not pleasant for him, or Crispian.
“Her?” Azi asked, “D’Vena?” she asked, naturally concluding that she would be a nameless woman called simply “her.”
Jashen grinned a weary grin. “Oh, no. Not her,” he said with a slight shake of his head.
Azi sat a little forward. “Who?”
“Her name was Eirennelle,” he said quietly, eyes focusing somewhere beyond the wall of the station.
Azi sipped at her tea, waiting for him to continue. The pause grew, and finally she prodded him with a simple, “Oh? What became of her?”
“Aye,” Jashen replied, quietly. “He loved her. We were,” he looked at the ceiling, “about fourteen or so, training with Oakleif,” he paused, a slight smile on his lips, “Sir Oakleif, even then.” He turned his mug about. “Well, Cris had decided to farm the land around Donegal, our village.” He continued to wear an amused smile for a moment. “We were about to get our first swords. He proposed to her, after talking with Auntie, of course.” Azi’s eyes widen in surprise. “Well, our village was sacked a few days later, by Spriggens and other. Many died, and could not be brought back, as we had no bindstone there. Eirennelle was one of them.”
Azi seized the moment to fill her curiosity. “Wait,” she implored. “Tell me of her. How did she look?”
Jashen closed his eyes for a moment. “Oh, she was a good lookin’ lass.” His eyes were open again, but it was clear he was not seeing the room. “Reddish coppery hair, taller than either of us,” he said with a small smile. “Lean and sleek, like a good horse,” he grinned. “And with all the curves you could want.” He came back into focus on the present. “Crispian loved her, no doubt,” he finished quietly.
Azi looked down into her mug, a sadness passing over her. “Oh, Jashen,” she said in a mournful voice. “How terribly sad!” She looked to be on the verge of tears, and Jashen felt bad for having given her another cause to worry about Crispian. “How foul, cruel and evil,” she blinked back tears as she spoke.
“He has loved no other since, really,” he paused, “until, well, the curse. But, Azi, that was ten years ago.”
She nodded, composing her emotions. “Yes, but it is still sad,” she said, her face now grave rather than sad.
Jashen drained down more ale. “Cris vowed to clear the land of evil,” he said, toying with his mug again, “and until Tobyas, that was all he thought of,” he signaled for another ale.
Azi looked at him closely. “What are you saying, Jashen?” Her tone was low and full of concern.
Jashen thought on it as his ale was brought. “Cris has room in his oh-so-serious heart for few things, but Toby is one. And to be honest, I think it is not just the curse at work,” he nearly whispered, drinking his ale at the end.
“Well, that is his choice, is it not?” Azi declared. She tired of this matter of mettling in the heart.
Jashen looked up in surprise. “Ye know tis a crime, aye? And he could be stripped of office, titles, and exiled or worse?” His concern was evident in how he spoke.
Azi sighed in exasperation. “Yes, I know this. But what can anyone do if it is truly what his heart desires? Certainly, you know that the heart is one thing that cannot be commanded, or tamed,” she paused as a look of her own pain passed over her face, “or forgotten,” she finished quietly.
Jashen met her eyes, a softness showing in his own. “He is my brother, and I love him,” he said quietly, “and will support him in whatever he wishes, but the risks,” he paused. “And with his trial coming up,” he said in an explosive sigh. The look of surprise on Azi’s face startled him. She must have been very focused on her training indeed! “You did not know of that?” he asked quietly.
Azi still looked at him in near shock. “Indeed, I didn’t!” she declared, almost too loudly.
Jashen leaned in as he looked about the room. There were many people about and he felt a need to be cautious. “Cris killed an unarmed yeoman,” he whispered.
Azi’s face registered even more surprise. “What! WHEN?” she nearly shouted, then leaned in and lowered her voice to a mere whisper. “What is this you speak of?” she asked urgently. “It cannot be so!” Her knowledge of Crispian did not allow for such things.
“A few weeks ago,” Jashen sad quietly, “Cris was being heckled about, well, Toby,” he said with a heavy breath. “He sought not to kill him, I believe, but his sword is magical.” He paused at the helplessness of it all.
“Why did he strike out at them? Why did he not turn and leave?” she asked, still unable to believe it.
“His temper is as bad as mine,” Jashen said quietly, thinking of a dead innkeeper from Camelot.
Azi shook her head. “Surely, if he explains that he is cursed, it will be forgotten! He is not a man in his sane mind!” She was shaken at what this curse of D’Vena’s was doing to her friend.
Jashen sighed again. “He did not SEEK to kill. He even flat bladed them,” he finished lamely. “Lord Adribald is trying him.”
Azi grabbed his hand. “Tell me the day, I shall be there!” she vowed in an urgent tone.
“As shall many others,” Jashen said quietly, not adding that all who attended might not be friends to his brother.
“Jashen,” Azi stated in dead earnest, “the Lord knows the truth and He is just.” Jashen was not sure if she meant Adribald or the Almighty. “This will come to a good end,” she said with a clear conviction.
“He tried Jothan, the Cleric, not too long ago, and it looked very bad for him, until Arguyle and the Red Lions showed up,” Jashen reminded Azi, who had not been in attendance.
All of this was more than Azi could absorb upon her return and she need time to think. She stood, tucking her helm in the crook of her arm. “I fear the hour is late, and I should be seeking rest.”
Jashen nodded as he finished his ale. “Sleep well, Azaeli, and not a word to Cris of what I told you,” he implored with large eyes.
“Never, I swear it,” she replied with all gravity of her being.
He smiled at her. “Many thanks, Azi,” he said, lips pressed into a worrisome line. “Cris can still kick my arse,” he quipped, trying to lighten the moment.
“Promise me word of the trial. If you send it to my father’s house, I will surely get it,” she said, holding his eyes.
Jashen nodded. “I know Judan well, and shall do so,” he said quietly.
Azi was again surprised, but pleasantly this time. “Do you now?” she asked.
Jashen grinned a relieved grin. Aye, Crispian is a weaponsmith, you know,” he leaned back as he spoke. “Most people forget that I work in armor.”
Azi was a bit surprised, for she had forgotten. “Ah, then you have spent many hours beside him at the forge?”
Jashen laughed softly. “Some, not like Cris though.” He shook his head, knowing his meager skill with armor did not compare with Crispian’s weapon crafting skill.
Azi smiled. “Pappa is a good man. He and Crispian have much in common,” she said.
The comment brought to mind something that Jashen had heard. “Aye, he is,” he looked away from Azi. “I was so sorrowed to hear of your mother.”
Azi’s face grew still. “Talk not of that, Jashen. She is at peace.” She sighed a sorrowful sound.
Jashen looked at her. “I never knew my mother. I envy you yours,” he said as he examined the bottom of his mug.
Azi whispered in a pained voice, “Speak not, it is too soon still for me.”
Jashen took Azi’s hand and kissed it. “I meant not to cause ye pain,” he said.
Azi smiled sadly. “You are right though. I have memories to cling to, if only a few,” she said, slipping her hand free.
Jashen’s smile mirrored Azi’s. “My memories are all of Auntie Mir,” he said, affection for the Avalonian in his voice.
“But then,” Azi said, “I know what I have lost and you do not. And I do not know which of us is the better for that.” Her eyes were remote, sad.
Jashen looked away. “I would say you are. I think a poet once wrote ‘Tis better to have loved and loss than to not have loved at all,” he said quietly.
Azi nettled her brows for a moment. “I suppose,” she said with a small sigh. Then she shook her head. “What a melancholy visit! We should promise each other that the next time we sit and talk, it will be a happy occasion Jashen!”
Jashen had to laugh. Azi could do that for him. “The Great One willing, I know I am!” he pledged.
“And do not forget this time!” she admonished him.
He shook his head. “I shall not,” he said with a slight bow at the waist. “May it be soon for both of us!”
Azi pulled into an embrace, which startled him. “Farewell, then, Jashen,” she murmured as he returned the embrace.
“And you, dear Lady,” he managed with all the sincerity he felt, to the depth of his heart, for this was a fine woman, and a good friend.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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CarringtonSony 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
/bump!

Damn Crispain...you've become a much better writer than I ever will be...but don't worry...I plan on getting back into the swing of things... grin

Ah, and this is a fabulous thread...keep it up.

 

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Mali principii malus finus.
Don't open it.
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Tobyas 
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Tobyas listend to the two of them end their conversation. Quietly, he slipped from Cornwall and paid the five silvers for his horse. He road for the swamp. He felt the dire need to meditate in prayer on many matters.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
OOC- Thanks Caer! Wish I could claim credit for it all. Lots of Log editting has gone into the last few posts.

/bow the compliment is greatly appreciated.

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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After unstrapping her armor and setting it lovingly in a corner of the tiny inn room, Azi kneaded her sore neck and knelt beside her bed, bowing her head in deep prayer.

After some time, she pulled herself onto the cramped straw mattress and rolled onto her back like a log of dead wood. Jashen was right, even out of her heavy armor, her body was a massive sore muscle. She stretched her arms over her head and arched her back, letting out a long yawn.

Her eyes flicked around behind her lids as she lay there trying to sleep. It had been two days of straight training and hunting for her, with no rest. She was overcome by exhaustion physically and mentally. Try as she might though, she could not relax enough to hope for sleep. Her thoughts raced beyond her control...

Was there a connection between D'vena and Arcalan? Why had Crispian allowed her to join the guild? Didn't he see the evil in her? Where was Crispian? Had he taken to the drink again? Would his curse ever be lifted? Who would D'vena strike against next? Would the League accept her again? As a paladin, now? Did they miss her as much as she had missed them? Had she made the right choice to give up her robes and magic? Was Ascot lying awake in Lethantis, as she was here?

The thudding and crashing of a brawl in the tavern downstairs jolted her awake just as she had begun to drift to sleep. She remembered Tobyas' sad expression as he excused himself from herself and Jashen earlier.

Was he still as smitten with Crispian as he had been that evening when the two of them watched him sleep in the Church's garden? He was so pious now, so changed...She wondered if he knew that her friendship was unconditional? That she would never tell the church, even though as Jashen had said, it was a grave crime? She sighed and blinked into the darkness, watching the moonlight flood through the thin crack in the shutters and splash onto the rough woolen blanket that covered her.

Softly, Azi whispered a prayer for peace, and was soothed. Finally, thankfully, she drifted into a deep sleep.

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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/bump
<holds her breath in anticipation...>

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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/bump right bck

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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The quiet of the swamp had always been something that gave Toby a sense of peace. From earliest childhood, his family had come here to trade goods during the mild days of fall and early spring. Their Dartmoor home, now lost to Stonecallers and worse had made this tower-fortress one of two convenient spots to sell goods and purchase new supplies. Now, he came here to pray and reflect. The tower hall was mercifully empty as he entered and made his way to a window embrasure. He sat, back to the cool stones and considered all that had passed in his life.
He was now a Sargent of the League, allowed to wear the Emblem and to invite new entrants. He really had not planned that, but his exposure to the others of the company through lodging with them had made it almost inevitable. He was also a Curate of the Church, having achieved the twenty-mystery to the Divine. He spent much of his time out in the field, fighting the evil that lay on the land since the great schism between Morgana and Merlin. Days spent away from civilization and creature comforts had hardened him in body and spirit. It had also fattened his purse on his own merits, something that was new to him.
All of this was well and good, but he found that there were still things unresolved, unfinished. It was those things, which drew his attention this night. He looked at the sky, scudded with clouds that threatened rain in the morning. The pale moon slid behind a bank and the night became darker. He could hear the murmur of conversation from the group he had passed. From their looks, they were great lords and ladies of the realm, or at least rich.
Thinking of lords brought his mind to Crispian. The past weeks had gone by with barely a word between them, not that Crispian was to fault there. Toby had chosen to keep himself away and apart, and he rarely spoke in the guildhall, if ever. His time was spent praying, or sleeping, and on the hunt. The young Lord, although he did not like that form of address, was a problem for the young cleric. He had mostly stayed true to his vows to the Church of Albion, excepting that one afternoon in Ludlow, and a few times when alone. But it was not just hte physical. That would have been dealt with easily.
No, his problem was more of the heart. He found himself feeling drawn toward Crispian as a companion, a partner. He hesitated to use the word lover, but that was what his heart wanted to say. From what he had learned, there was some curse laid upon Crispian by some sorceress who now was about and free. And she was somehow able to continue this spell even over distance and time. But, more to his problem, what if the curse was lifted? Would Crispian be ashamed of what had passed between them? Would he even want Tobyas in the League?
Certainly, Crispian did pay high accolades to all within the League, using Brother and Sister to address them all and trying, unsuccessfully, to not have them address him as Lord and Liege. It was true that many felt that way toward him, and it was equally true that although he accepted it, he did not bask it. Of course, Mirashta always had a word or two to insure that he did not get over-invested in his own ego.
Tobyas clasped his hands together, praying for discernment, for courage, and for wisdom. The days ahead would be fraught with peril for him. He knew that once the curse was lifted, everything might change. He had the feeling that the curse could not last forever, or go on too long without Crispian being further harmed. He prayed for the resolve that he would need when the day came, as it must, that he and Lord Pontiff met, both unfettered by curse. He did not know how that would play out. It was for acceptance of whatever became of it that he prayed for last and more fervently.

 

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Toorc 
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Arcalan emerged from the endless night of Darkness falls. Her power had grown in leaps and bounds, as though the very energy of the place fed her. She had worked endlessly, safe from that meddling Squire Crispian insisted on sending to trail after her.
It really was pitiful, but the dog did his service faithfully, on her heels from morn till night. Ah well, he'd have to have a suitable reward then.
Taking off towards Camelot to complete an errand for Sir Bors she once again noticed that Tannir had begun to follow her. She slid a sealed envelope into the hand of Magus Agyful, in order to set her plan in motion, and delivered her message to a Scribe. It seemed Sir Bors life was in danger, as those Arawnite's were to spread their philosophy by sending him to his eternal rewards. The dilema was resolved when she realised the potential for having Bors under her influence. It had been easy to gather the favours of more than a few infiltraitors in the last month, now this larger pawn would be hers. The sunset was streaming through her golden-red hair as she mounted a fine steed from Camelot, and set out for the Border. By the time she got there the Moon hung low in the sky, and light had given way to a chill Snowdonian night. Snow began to fall from the clouds, and soon the pass behind her would be difficult terrain indeed. Perfect.

Inside the Fortress her instincts came alive. She'd had little trouble getting in, but she knew she was being watched closely. In this lay her advantage. Sappy the Simulacrum stayed a faithful watch at the gate while she proceeded to the commander of the watch to deliver news of the assassin. She moved quickly through the fort, keenly aware of the presence stalking her. Tannir was more clumsy than this, and should by now have more on his mind right now. The assassin slid through the shadows close behind her...

Arcalan delivered her message and instantly all entrances and exits were sealed. Guards rushed to secure the Gates, and Arcalan took this oppertunity to loiter in a hallway to one side, alone and quite seemingly oblivious. The whisper hissed it's taunt into her ear even as a long knife flashed through the night dripping with poison.
"You thought we'd try to kill Bors? Ha! He's too well guarded, but you will make a much more humourous trophey!"
Arcalan whirled round as the blade bounced off of her Warding spell, for she'd faced many a Shadowblade out at Thidranki faste.
Her grin was pure evil as she stepped away from the assassin and directed her gaze upwards. He glanced at the ceiling just in time to make out the form of a Simulacrum braced wall to wall, back to the ceiling, having positioned itself while the assassin busied himself stalking Arcalan. It relaxed it's hold and fell much like the two tons of rock that it was.

Arcalan stepped out of the way of the mangled remains of the assassin. His breath hissed out a final thanks for ending his life, so complete was his devotion to Lord Arawn. It pleased her greatly. The Simulacrum placed one massive hand atop the assassins head and pushed itself up. The sickening sound sent a shiver of pleasure through Arcalan. Now what might Lt. Rhodri not do for her now that the assassination was foiled by her hand?

___________________________

In the snow Tannir made his way half blind and freezing behind the route Arcalan took. It had become too perilous to ride through, and he greatly feared losing her. Crispian had commanded him to follow her, and little as he seemed to be able to do for his lord these days this was one task he could perform.
As he clambered onto a rock nearby and shook the snow from his cloak he became aware of a presence behind him. "'Ello Tannir"
Tannir spun round to see the snow had stood up and was poiting a crossbow at his head. A flurry of movement transformed this walking snowman into Aceramar, an infiltraitor of the League.
"Aceramr" gasped Tannir "'tis good to see you Brother, but please point that somewhere else.. it's making me nervous" he joked.
Aceramar levelled the bolt at Tannir's face "Heh seems you've not heard the news yet Tannir... I left the League quite recently" Aceramar quipped "And now I'm temporarily freelance" His grin was not pleasent. "We're goign to have a little chat, you and me"
The snow fell heavily into the mountain pass, and the two figures were lost from sight of the road.

_____________________________________

A little freedom bought for the night, Arcalan decided to make the most of it. The pass was now choked with snow, so she took off into the frontier, following the standing stones through the night towards Castle Myrridan, A Relic Keep, but currently empty. That suited her perfectly. She traversed the distance in little time and stepped through the Gateway inside the keep.. back into the Falls. Selecting the exit carefully she returned to the demon infested ruins in Camelot hills, a journey of many hours in a few short seconds. And leaving Tannir far far behind.
The night was now fading fast and she felt tired. It would be best to be in Camelot soon, to hear the news firsthand.
She slipped into Cotswald village to the house of Pompin and handed him the amulet. For nights she had quarreled with Crispian and Jashen, brought up the curse time and time again, and cast it all as though the wrathful Crispian and his brother were victimising her! Many saw through her ploy, but none guessed it's purpose.
Pompin's body held the amulet. "I can taste their hate" hissed the dual voice of Arcalan's Master. It was almost as though the emotions trapped by that pendant were sucked into Pompin's body, coursing through his veins. Their ire had been great and D'Vena's curse brought the fullest measure of Crispian's hate to the surface. Pompin drew on the energies for some time.
"Excellent. They have exposed their hearts to me through this. Easier to hate than to love, and they glut my appetite with their strength of feeling." He smiled in the torchlit room, and even Arcalan felt fear at her Master's inhuman grin. She swallowed it quickly lest it displease him.
"Now we await Ceomyr, brother to Ceowyr" he said his voice becoming one far less hideous tone. Pompin seemed to shrink somewhat, and the room began to hold more light than it had a few moments ago, as candles returned to strength.

A short while later Ceomyr the Armsman arrived from Camelot, with two guards in tow.
"I hear yehv got some accusations" he spat the word "a'gin the League? Ah'd like to hear whit ye have tae say" The guards moved to make themselves comfortable in the room, and Ceomyr cast a suspicious glance at Arcalan. "I'm here to to offer the league's voice in this matter" She said piously. She was generally respected in the League, and close to Ceomyr's brother, but Ceomyr didn't trust her as far as he could throw a Dragon.
"it's.. it's umm, delicate" said Pompin in a nervous stutter, All his menace had been replaced by a shy cowering form, and even Arcalan was utterly taken in.
"Speak of it" said Guard Braelin "I'll make sure justice is done and you need fear no reprisal. It was about the attack made on you was it?"
"Ye-es" stammered Pompin "But I do fear the man greatly.. he's well respected and .. ah.. of some considerable station. I risk much to accuse him, for he may seek revenge on me!"
"We are your Guardians" said the guard "You need not fear pompin, all know you as a good and just citizen. No haughty noble will be allowed to murder, no matter what his station"
Ceomyr looked on with horror, guessing what Pompin would say next. Arcalan surpressed a sly smile, changing it to a scowl instead.
Pompin looked deadly serious, and trembled with fear
"Crispian... it was Lord Crispian who battered me to death"

 

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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
<jaw drops>

 

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The Dawn saw Azaeli rather unrested, and a knock at the door of her room forced her from her half slumber. Dawn's fingers already crept into the room and motes of dust spiraled in the early rays of light.
Azi's hair was matted on one side, and her head ached a little from her lack of rest.
She threw on some clothes to preserve her modesty, and opened the door a crack, expecting Jashen to be there.
Instead it was the innkeeper, with a mug of hot tea and a parcel under one arm.
"Sorry to disturb you miss" he said, trying very hard not to let his eyes roam to the tiny patch of exposed leg beneath Azi's coverings "But this was to be brought up to you urgent like. There was instructions to give you some hot tea too. The messenger was a little Saracen man, but he's off to the Yeardly's place in quite a hurry, so I 'ad to give it you myself." He smiled in what he hoped was an unarming way, since the youn paladin looked non too impressed.
"Thank you" said Azi, doing the rather awkward dance of getting the parcel and tea without emerging from behind her door. She closed the door firmly, and then put the key in the lock.
She sipped the tea gratefully, for it relieved the dry throat of waking, and it's hot fumes revived her somewhat. The Parcel was wrapped in cloth and fastened with a pin of the League. She undid it carefully, and unwrapped the bundle. Inside she found a piece of parchment and a slim tome.
The tome was charred a little down one side, but mostly undamaged. It's leather cover was inscribed with arcane etchings, proclaiming it to be a book of spells.
The parchment, hastily flattened out, was written with a very shakey hand, scrawling across the page with no heed for neatness. It read:
"Dear Azi forgive this note but I am in desperate need. I am entrustiung this to your care, for I know you are most skilled in these matters" The next line was unreadible until "...of Sorcerors spells, specifically my curse. I beg you a short return to your wizardly ways in order to find out more.
Yours in need,
Crispian Pontiff"
There was no mention of what she had to look for, or who had delivered it. But could this tome unlock the mystery of Crispian's Curse?

 

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Azi shivered slightly and set the mug on the little night table without taking her eyes off of the note. It was Crispain's hand indeed, she remembered his to be shakey and a bit less legible than she was used to. She lowered herself to sit on the bed, resting the tome on her lap.

"The messenger was a little Saracen man," the innkeep had said. Could it have been Achou? But if this was such an important message, why didn't Crispian have Tannir deliver it? Her fingers played with the edge of the bookcover, and she sipped from the mug again. She was certain if Crispian had indeed wished her help, he would have sent someone he trusted with the parcel. But perhaps Tannir had been busy on an errand? Jashen had said that the squire was sent often to watch Arcalan..

She set the tome on the night table and pulled her knees up under her chin, sipping the hot brew. Her eyes never left the tome, its charred cover, its ragged pages...She had read about cursed books, she knew full well the risks...and why had Crispian not given it to her himself? Surely if the note was true, he would have been excited enough to sit and watch her decipher its contents..

But it was sealed with the blue chevron and tower that she had come to associate with the warmth and friendship of the League. And Crispian was a busy man, she was certain he was probably just too busy with matters of the League to deliver it himself. If it could help him break the curse... she had sworn to do anything he asked of her in order to help. She imagined herself being the one who could lift his burden, and a smile stretched across her lips.

Azi slid the tome from the table and slipped a finger under the cover, setting down her mug slowly. A familiar tingle ran through her as the ancient magic of the tome touched her.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
OOC- Alittle out of order, this comes before Toorc's first post

Crispian was crafting in Camelot. He had given up on trying to even be focused enough to hunt after the last several days of constant headaches. Ale had brought some relief, but generally, he was just happy to not be overly surly with anyone, when that could be achieved. He had returned to working on weapons, in mithril metal as much as possible. He also noticed that it seemed few if any were willing to work in Iron or Steel, so he did some work in that as well, when citizens called for it.
He had decided to take a break from the work and entered the Guild Hall. The Banner of the League and those of her allies hung from the walls. Several finished tables had been placed within by those who crafted in wood, and there was much evidence of traffic, large mud tracked on the floor. Along one wall hung the emblemed cloaks of those recently left, Kromly, Graid, Leftie and others. The roster of the League was updated and lately it seemed that more were leaving than coming. Darnyk had retired, focusing on his ministries, and Achou too had left.
Crispian waved greetings to Ceowyr, Nalwein, Alios, Iphemiar, and Oakelif. Many hails were traded. Arcalan, the Avalonian Cabalist, was perched atop a stool in studies after returning from her recent foray into the Falls.
“Hail all, Nydori called as she entered. Many paused in their work to greet her as she shook out her cloak. “I always feel as though when I say ‘Hail’ to ye all, ye stop what yer doin’! No need for that!”
Oakleif frowned. “Not at all Nydori!” he said as she settled herself on a bench. Arcalan smiled her sickly sweet smile to Nydori.
A young woman in burnished plate entered the hall and proceeded directly to were Crispian sat. She curtseyed graceful and removed her helm. Azi smiled. “Milord!” she cried out in joy at seeing him again, much of her concerns addressed at seeing Crispian in evident good health. Azi grinned widely at the expression of sheer surprise on Crispian’s face as he looked at her.
“AZI!?” he exclaimed, surprised as seeing her kitted out like a full warrior. The plate hauberk was well crafted, as were the leggings and arms pieces. A great sword was across her back, the hilt showing much evidence of use to Crispian’s seasoned eye. It was very evident that she was comfortable with it as well. “Did you freeze a guard or something?” he asked in disbelief.
Azi grinned and nodded, turning about so that Crispian could see her fully. “Is that how I look, milord?” she asked around her spreading grin. To see the seasoned armsman taken by surprise was a bit of a thrill to her, for she had longed for this moment for some time now.
Crispian shook his head in disbelief as he looked at her, Wizard, friend, and on one occasion, savior. “Well, ye are a wizard!” he said, “A fine ice wizard, I might add!” he added as he set his mug of ale to one side, very aware that Azi would notice it.
She shook her head. “Not any longer, friend,” she said, settling at the table where Crispian had been at work on the League rolls of membership. No one else in the hall seemed to have noticed Azi’s entrance, or were not giving any not to another plate clad fighting woman, for there were many in the League.
“WHAT?” Crispian gasped in surprise. The fullness of what Azi was talking about began to register on him. “What did you do?”
She looked a bit sheepish as she started to explain. “I have taken up the sword,” she said quietly, “as my mother and father before me,” she paused a moment. “And as I was always meant to and as I always had dreamed of.” Her fine blue eyes met his redden gray eyes and held them, not in defiance or anger, but in a measured meeting.
Crispian sat stunned as he listened to her. He recalled a conversation long ago about how even the touch of her hand to a sword blade would set Azi to trembling, how she would always drop the blade. Then r he recalled the more recent tales of her foray into Hibernia to meet, and ultimately defeat the curse of the blade, and how that had played out into even larger events. The ruination of an Elf Enchanter who was building his own mindless army from the peoples of Albion, Hibernia, and Midgard. And also, the valiant death of Azi’s mother in that same fight.
His jaws moved soundlessly for a moment as he grasped the entirety of it. “But you were so skilled at magic, Azi,” he said quietly.
She smiled at him sweetly. “Yes, I shall miss my old schooling, but I swore to use it no longer so that I could become a paladin as I dreamed since I was a child, in my mother’s arms,” she said a bit sadly. The choice had been hard to make for her, but she felt destine for this role she now served in. “I wish to join the League under my proper name, if you shall have me, dear friend,” she said, hand resting on Crispian’s.
Crispian could not contain the smile on his face. “Of course! I could not turn you away, you have done so much for me!”
Azi smiled. “I did nothing more than aye friend wold do for another, my Lord,” she said quietly as Crispian pulled her to her feet.
He stood, leading Azi from the League Hall and out into the street that ran before it. An upended barrel was there, and he sprung atop it lightly. “Friends! Albions! Countrymen!” he called out in a loud, battlefield voice. Many of those passing turned head to the young blond man in shining armor. “I ask your attention for a moment!” He held his arms high to further gain their attention as Azi began to blush deeply, not thinking that Crispian would do such as this. “Today is St. Crispin’s League proud to be reunited with Azaeli Hammerfel, now a paladin where once she was a mighty Ice Wizard! Join me in welcoming her home to us!” Vinn clapped loudly, Ethazar, also crafting near, stood, exclaiming, “Celebration seems to be in order, Lad!” to Crispian as he jumped down from the barrel top.
Crispian beamed at Azi. “Hardly just that Azi,” he said, picking up their earlier conversation. “None, save Tannir have seen as you did.” His eyes welled a bit with tears, but he blinked them down.
Azi shook her head. “Speak not that way, sir, friend. We all have our troubled times.” She knew she had only recently been freed of her own problems and difficulties beyond her control.
“Twas more than just trouble,” he said quietly. Just as the awkwardness of the moment seemed to be stretching, Drae Loresinger, minstrel of the League, came up the street. “Welcome Home, Azaeli!” she said. Her own works in the Capitol had nearly made her a master tailor.
Tears standing in her eyes, and then rolling freely down her cheeks, Azi entered the League Hall, with Seneschal and minstrel-Knight in companionship. “HOME!” she said loudly as she entered. The weeks of training and worrying about her acceptance were over. Finally, she was able to call the League family again.
Mirashta, setting aside her tailoring work, embraced Azi. “HAIL!” she said, her own voice filling with emotion.
Azi was smiling wide, looking as carefree and peaceful as Crispian could recall. “I have missed you all so deeply,” she said as her eyes took in all that filled the chamber.
Kalsaak rose, bowing deeply. “Allow me greetings, Milady!” he said in his fine, cultured voice.
Arcalan looked Azi with a blank expression. “Greetingssss,” she hissed. Crispian tried not to notice.
“Even Arcalan must share my joy today!” he said firmly. “Azi is returned, no longer a wizard, but a paladin!” he added, true joy showing in his voice.
Azi allowed a slight nod to the cabalist, whom she had met the day before in Camelot, prior to riding to far Cornwall to hunt with Jashen, Achou, Kalsaak, and others of the League. “Arcalan,” she said, level voiced. She was determined to not let the cabalist spoil such a joyful moment for her.
“Indeed, Crispian,” Arcalan said smoothly, “I am MOST pleased.” Her sarcasm was unmistakable, nor was her baiting of the Seneschal of the League.
Crispian’s smile faltered, for he was never pleased to be dealing with the Cabalist, and tried to not have to deal with her at all. “I could tell!” he quipped. “Your scales rubbed so nicely together,” he continued with a small smirk on his face. “This day is now good and blessed!” he exclaimed to the rest of the League.
As Mithralin entered the hall and greeted people, Arcalan allowed a small chuckle. “Do you propose a drink, Lord Crispian?” she purred.
Azi, missing the exchange that was beginning, smiled at all in the Hall. “It is good to be home! Thank you all for the welcome and the congratulations!” She was standing still as Crispian invested her with signs of knighthood; a broad white belt for purity, spurs for mastery of battle, and a hat which needed reblocking.
Crispian smiled at Arcalan with little warmth. “Indeed! Let us all lift our tea high to Azaeli’s honor!” he called out, taking a tankard of tea from Mirashta’s spot and lifting it in toast.
Azi grinned at him. “Yes, I have tea for you, milord, if you are fresh out,” she said, offering the grinning Seneschal a small, pungent packet.
As he lifted his own tankard of ale, Oakleif offered Mithralin a hardy “Hail!”
Kalsaak raised his goblet of wine. “To Azaeli” he called out and took a deep drink.
Azi was again smiling broadly. “Oh, how I missed the League so!” she said, as new tears stood in her eyes.
“So difficult to get,” Arcalan said, toying with her mug of ale, “what with tea being the drink of choice among all strong warriors.” Her dry tone and smirk sent the barb home to Crispian. .
“Welcome, Mithralin,” he said, a moment behind Ceowyr’s greeting to the young wizard. “Tea is the drink of choice for civil people, Arcalan,” he commented as he sat. “Thus, I am sure you have never tasted the brew,” he continued in a dry, off-handed manner.
As Azi grinned, and made a pointed effort not to acknowledge the cabalist, Arcalan made a sweeping gesture with her hand. “Your jibes bounce off me, Crispian, so save your breath for other fights,” she said archly.
Sigowan chuckled. “Not to mention that Cabalists have a Reflect Wittism spell.”
Azi whispered to Crispian, “That woman is a demon, Crispian, or if she is not, she is as close to one as you can be!” She kept her voice low so that it did not carry beyond him.
His face setting into a firm expression, Crispian looked directly at Arcalan. He still found her to be disagreeable in the extreme, and knew he played much at being innocent, but was far from that. “I need not waste breath on you,” he said calmly, “when I have facts gathered to my side.” He paused, holding her gaze. “Do you think all your and Ceowyr’s work is unnoticed?” He watched her, wanting so betraying tick or sign to let him know he had landed a good strike, but her expression remained calm and frosty.
He took the moment’s pause to reply to Azi. “Indeed,” he said quietly she works to a different goal, I fear.”
“Perhaps not so very different, dear friend,” Azi replied quietly.
“Indeed, Crispian,” Arcalan said coldly. “I believe you appreciate little I do. So, yes, unnoticed.” She leaned back in her seat, resting against the wall. She smiled.
Coewyr, Cleric of the Church and companion to the cabalist, stood. His patience were a bit thin at the moment and he did not intend to let this banter get out of hand. “To be frank, My Lord Crispian,” he said as he rose, “you are biased against Arcalan. I believe there is much good in her. We just have to give encouragement.”
Crispian was not about to be unbraided by a cleric whom he was sure had compromised at least vows, if not more, in his time spent with Arcalan. “And I trust you are true to your pledge of purity and truth, Ceowyr?” he threw back at the cleric, pleased to see that it brought him up a little short in his reactions.
The cleric gave Crispian a chilling look. “I am a servant of the church always,” he said in a tone that could make the warmest red-wine servable.
Crispian arched an eyebrow at him, otherwise checking his own reaction. “In truth?”
Arcalan drew herself up. “Ceowyr is among the few who can overlook the occasional harshness I deal out and see deeper,” she said. “Beyond the bottom of the barrel, at any rate, Crispian!” she snapped. Her temper was rising and the Seneschal had gotten some good barbs in.
Crispian kept his eyes on the young cleric. His expression was flat, as it would be examining any potential enemy. “Indeed? Overlook is it?” he paused, “or condone?”
Ceowyr straighten up at the scalding remark. “I have faith that Arcalan will do us proud,” he declared, his voice thick with anger.
“I have faith she will do something,” Crispian quickly countered. “You best keep your eyes focused on heaven, Brother Ceowyr,” he chided mildly, knowing there was more between these two than just confessor and penitent.
Arcalan stood, stepping into the middle of the Hall. “I am oft too quick anger,” she said, her voice now taking on a hurt tone. “Yet, Ceowyr is patient with me.”
Azi watched her without changing the calm expression her face had taken on as this matter continued to brew on. “Indeed?” she observed dryly.
“Where your insults inflame, a kind heart,” she said, hands clasped to her bosom, “can instead teach me more.” Her tone and manner struck Crispian as false as a tax-man pleading duty as he took your coin.
“Tis not patience you need to be taught, woman,” Crispian said in a low, dangerous tone.
Azi tried to derail the conflict that was growing, for she did not feel this was time, or place, for such an argument. “Milord,” she said directly to Crispian, “I feel we have so much to talk about. It has been so long.” She hoped to be able to get Crispian out of the main hall, at least, even if he insisted on bringing Arcalan along so that they could hurl more insults at each other.
Crispian turned to her, taking in the armor, the sword, and symbol of a paladin. He smiled. “Aye it has indeed!” He too hoped that this conversation with Arcalan could be stopped. Azi colored at his words.
“Is it that much of a shock, sir?” she asked, her voice tender and full of question. She had known from Jashen that Crispian was very likely to take the change of vocation as a shock, but she had expected him to rebound quickly.
Arcalan towered, her back rigid in anger. Her eyes glinted with all the warmth of agates and the muscles of her jaw line danced. “Oh really, ‘master’ Crispian, what DO I need to learn?” she spat out, anger fueling her words with venom and scorn twisting them into weapons.
Azi looked at Arcalan, her expression intentionally mild and pleasant. “Arcalan,” she asked mildly. “Is all well with you? Last night, when we spoke, you were much more cordial. Now you seem troubled.” She raised her eyebrows in mild surprise and smiled pleasantly. The cabalist did not even turn to pay her any attention. She just continued to stare at the young seneschal.
Finally, Arcalan turned and considered Azi. “I am cordial to those who have a civil tongue Azi, but when Crispian does bait me I am apt to return the thrust of his wit. Such as it is." She quirked an eyebrow cynically at Azi and turned back to meet Crispian’s gaze.
Crispian’s gray eyes smoldered at her. Long months of warring against the enemies of Albion and the foul beings called forth on the land caused him to show no other reaction. He had faced worse than this young caster and was facing worse now. “You may use Sir or Lord to address me, young miss,” he said levelly. “You need to learn the values of compassion,” he raised a finger into the air, “charity, and kindness, chief most of all.” His steady gaze did not falter in the least as Arcalan met it. He ticked each value off on a finger as he named them,
Ceowyr turned to face his seneschal now. His face was ruddy with the flush of anger. “Arcalan was entrusted to my care,” he said a bit sternly. His hand clasped about the holy symbol he wore. “With time, and patience,” he continued, emphasizing the second word, “I believe she will become a highly valued citizen of the realm.” His tone was pure admonishment, and one any good cleric was skilled in the use of.
Crispian met the cleric’s retort straight on, barely giving him time for breath at the end of it. “I would trust her more under the eyes of one such as Lady Wynter, or his Lordship, her husband,” he snapped at the young cleric. Then he again turned to Arcalan.
“My wit is not your concern,” he said defiantly to her. “Arcalan, I fear what damage you can do to the League with your,” he paused, reaching for the right word, “well, callow actions!”
Azi again felt the need to try to head off what was shaping to be a bitter and acrimonious exchange, more so than she had feared earlier. “Still, those are strong words toward the League’s Seneschal, and your elder,” she said to Arcalan, who did not even react.
She scowled at Crispian, instead, fixing her eyes upon him. “What actions do you speak of?” she hissed quietly. “Save to defend myself against your tongue, and your brother’s malice?” She hissed the last out at him.
Crispian was not going into the innocent approach with Arcalan, nor did he feel inclined to bandy words with her. “You know, full well,” he said calmly. “I shall not have all reports of your doings dragged out here in public!” he said with a tone of finality.
Arcalan’s glare became even more bitter. “I am content,” she said with deadly quiet, “for my conduct, save for these spats where you rouse my anger, and has been flawless.” Her flat expression gave great testament to her anger.
Ceowyr cleared his throat. “I have found that Arcalan has some problems with authority figures,” he said rather apologetically, “and as such it would be a bad idea for her to be put in Mirashta’s care.”
Nalewin, riding the edge of the verbal storm, could contain herself no longer. “Goodness, everyone!” she declared loudly, “All you need is love.”
Arcalan smiled to Ceowyr for his timely comment. “Aye,” she murmured, “after all, Lord Crispian was of her care, and she seems to have neglected to teach him manners in dealing with women.” She twitched an eyebrow at Azi.
Crispian shrugged her comment off and turned to Ceowyr again. “Arcalan has problems, I agree,” he said in a heavy tone, “but I think them not limited to authority, for she deals well enough with that.”
Nydori was nodding in agreement to Nalewin’s statement. As Arcalan quipped, “Indeed, love is all you need.” She favored Crispian with a bland look. “But Crispian invited me here, and yet he bears me no love.”
Nalewin caught the comment. “Forgive me if I seem lighthearted, but I mean what I say.”
Crispian looked again to Arcalan. “’Tis not women, Arcalan, as Drae, or Azi or Nydori could tell you.” He included each woman named with a move of his eyes. “I have no issues with the fairer sex.”
Nalewin grinned down at the seneschal. “Except that we tower over him”
Arcalan looked at Crispian with disdain and amusement. The corner of her mouth quirked up in a cruel grin. “Indeed,” she flicked her eyes over him. “No issue at all with the fairer sex.” She turned away from him. “No issue from the eldest son...and the line passes to Jashen to continue.” She sat on a bench in profile to Crispian.
He glared a type of cold death at her. “Keep a civil tongue in your mouth, Arcalan!” he hissed in pure anger. She was starting to get the better of his temper, and he knew he should keep it more in check.
Nydori, having observed this all, cleared her throat. “Though, Lord Crispian, I must say,” she said calmly, “I’ve seen nae wrong doing from Arcalan since I’ve joined a wee bit ago.” Her highland burr was a gentle counterpoint to the Avalonian and two Britons who had been sparring verbally thus far.
“THAT is her intent, Nydori,” Crispian said quietly. “That none see her secret works.” He could feel the tide of sentiment shifting toward the Cabalist, and he most certainly did not want that.
“Not one to say it,” Ceowyr said in a mild tone, “but that sounds like paranoia.” He pursed his lips in thought.
Arcalan sighed explosively. “I have made...mistakes in my past,” she almost cried. “Who has not? Yet Ceowyr,” whom she favored with a kind smile, “has taught me more noble ways to live and breath and be with a family or friends, such as Nydori, Nalewin, Marzan.” She looked at Crispian. “But this hate of yours stems from my past, and I wish you could forgive.”
Crispian snorted derisively. “Your past?” he asked calmly, seeing the opening he hoped for. “What of your present?” Arcalan jumped in. The turn of Crispian’s attitude to her seemed a lapse toward weakness. “Could it be I am a lesson for YOU, Lord Crispian?” she shot at him. “And not the other way around? Or are you secure in an arrogance that you can learn nothing from me?” She flicked he head archly.
“Arrogance?” Crispian said quietly. “I am ever a student of life.”
“And WHAT about my present?” Arcalan rushed over his statement, her words as much a challenge as a gauntlet.
Now it was Crispian who smirked. “What say you of the late night meetings you have?” He watched her hawk like. “The skulking in shadows? The hording of items best destroyed?”
Nydori was truly distressed at the way these two were going at each other. “I have nae seen any wrong doing, and with no proof, I think it unfair to accuse her o’ such or suspect.” Her eyes watched both for some reaction. “We should all be suspect then.” She concluded softly.
Arcalan again fixed Crispian with her icy stare. “Than open your eyes and learn, student of life. Learn to forgive me my dealings with the Shadow Guild, and overcome your fondness for prejudice,” she said, her chin quivering in near tears.
Crispian laughed. “Think I have a problem with the Shadow Guild?” he asked her. “When you know my brother? Jashen is a mercenary and he too follows the Shadowed path,” he reminded her, with a raised finger.
Arcalan clenched her jaw, gritting teeth. “I said MY dealings with them,” she spat out. “There are layers to an onion Crispian. Don’t twist my words!”
“I did not twist your words,” Crispian spat back. “YOU made the assumption about me. YOU said that I could not deal with the Shadow Guild!” he reminded her none to gently. “YOU said I was closed minded to YOUR dealings.” Arcalan’s chin quivered as she put on her best miserable face. “All that I say you twist against me!” she sobbed out. “Very well! I shall keep my peace and speak not, if you will use my own words as weapons to hurt me.” She fretted with her hands, noticing the effect her apparent misery had on the on-lookers.
Crispian shook his head slightly. “I but observe what you do. Tis you,” he raised his eyebrows at her, “who must hurl the first insult, the first slight.” He intentionally kept his tone mild, calm, giving her no cause for further excitement.
Arcalan threw her head back with a cry. “Witness League! I bear him no malice, for he goes through a difficult time. I merely pray one day he will find it in his heart to accept a Penitent as the Church does!” She clasped his hands before her in an attitude of piousness that Crispian found strangely revolting coming from her.
“You bear me no malice?” he shot at her, the mockery of her pose too much for him. “Then why is it you who must first open the wounds I struggle with daily?” The hurt in his expression was genuine to those who knew him, mostly by the slight narrowing of his eyes. “Tis you who always bring up the evil curse upon me!”
Arcalan snorted in disdain, her delicate features curling into a near snarl. “Your wounds are yours to tend, Lord Crispian! I inflict none.” She turned her head away in contempt. “I do not wish to speak with you if you will torment me thus!” Her voice and tone were both brittle with emotion.
Crispian could not bear this. “Torment YOU? You insight my ire, and then lay blame on me?” he asked incredulously. “Tis like a troll saying we are wrong to slay him at the Relic for he was but looking!” He could not believe she was protesting innocence.
Ceowyr looked at Crispian with the blandest of expressions, his hands clasped across his abdomen. “I think I would be aware if she were casting evil curses, my Lord,” he said with bland drollness.
Arcalan toyed with an amulet, turning so that none saw the small smile that crept over her face.
Crispian gave the cleric a dismissive look. “She casts it not, but she works in its cause it would seem!” he commented. “Why else would her every word be a barb to me?” He leveled his question squarely to the cleric. It must be possible to get him out of Arcalan’s camp. “And you, Ceowyr, who defend her and fawn at her side like some ineffectual lackey!” He fixed a stern scowl on the cleric.
At that moment, Mensc entered the hall. Hail brethren and sisters in arms!” he called jauntily into the charged air.
“Hail Mensc,” Crispian said, an easy smile on his face at the sight of the young fighter. “Jashen speak very highly of you.” Arcalan was doing her best crying at the moment.
Ceowyr could not the opportunity pass. “I think you have the wrong idea, My Lord. Are you so biased against Arcalan that you will taint all who associate with her?” He shook his head slightly. “I do my best to steer her onto the path of light through the teachings of the church.” His hand was again curled protectively around the symbol of the church that hung upon his breast.
Arcalan managed to offer a truly pious look for a moment. “I am the object of your ire because you suffer, Crispian,” she offered her most sincere tone. “I will bear it, for tis part of your curse,” she finished with a sob. “Please do not turn on Holy Ceowyr though.” She lifted her red-rimmed eyes to Crispian. “His reputation, unlike mine, is spotless.” Her hands pressed to her lips in a moment of anguish, or what Crispian supposed was to be seen as anguish.
Crispian had had enough. “Oh, is THAT how you wish to cast it, Arcalan?” he challenged her. “Be warned, I have your first words to me, and witnesses!” He had no intention of letting this swamp-spawned caster of magicks twist it all on him. He had enough of that already through D’Vena. The last thing he needed was yet another caster placing their own sufferings and wrong-doing upon him.
Arcalan truly did an impressive job at that moment in playing the wronged, Crispian had to admit. Her face was stricken, almost as if she had feelings to hurt. Her eyes welled, chin quivered. Had he known better, he would have been certain that she was truly jibed by what he had said. However, having read what Jashen sent him, and more, having seen her himself, he knew that was not the case. She was an agent of some sort, and he would press her so that she found no easy road during her time in the League, where at least she could be watched as closely as he had been having her. The Almighty alone knew what her real intent and purpose was.
She pressed her hands against her face, and then dropped them, tipping her head back so that she was looking heavenward. “I shall be silent,” she gasped in a choked voice. “Vent your wrath, Lord. I will be as a willow in a storm and yield to it.” Her Lord was either a direct reference to Crispian, or a plea to the Almighty, and Crispian did not care which at the moment.
“Perhaps like the willow,” he challenged further, “you could seek the light and not dark alleyways?” He wanted to press more, to let her know that the League offered no haven for her deeds if they were evil in nature.
Her eyes swept those in the Guild Hall. “Ceowyr, Nydori, Adaya! Pray to heaven for his soul, I plead of you!” Her eyes brimmed with tears again and cynically Crispian wondered where she summoned them all from. “May the Lord our Savior make him what he once was!” Her clasped hands were pressed into her lips in an attitude of prayer. In all your orisons, be he remembered!”
Azi signed herself and did indeed pray, although she had not been so implored by Arcalan. She had already included Crispian in her prayers for some time, and had even tithed at Vestutala Abbey to have special offerings made for his intentions. However, she could not contain her feelings for Arcalan. “Foul, foul creature she is,” Azi whispered quietly.
Nydori again had the feeling that this was all going beyond her. “I do nae know the jist of any of this, and lay nae wrong with either o' yea, nor prayers at this moment.
Arcalan turned her crushed expression to the highland lass. “Crispian is not at his best, Nydori,” she said softly. “I thought he was open with his affliction with all in the League. Or, thus he said to me,” she said as she turned eyes that glinted with some victory on Crispian.
Azaeli looked to trusted friend and new adversary. “I shall pray for both of you, for both of you are in need of the Light,” she said gently.
“Sister Arcalan,” Nydori said as a hint of steel crept into her voice, “I would better wish nae know what you think of the other. Ye are both given to your own assumptions, it seems.” She included Crispian in a most vexed look. “I shall make me own!”
Arcalan kept the wounded martyr look upon her face. “Poor man, resent not his wrath,” she called to the League as a whole. “Tis but a remnant of the struggle he fights with mad,” she caught herself, “I mean, with the...curse...he is suffering.”
Crispian was not about to let her turn his plight into something that would make him shunned. He was fighting too many others small battles to let that happen. “I will be clear with all that plagues me, if ye wish to know it,” he said as he took a seat in the midst of the League members. “Allow me to speak a few moments, Arcalan,” he said in a tone of exhaustion. “Surely I do merit that?” he asked her, plaintive voiced.
Nydori shook her head. “Nae, for tis naught that I have seen meself. If it is so terrible, I trust our council’s wisdom!” She made as if to leave the guild’s hall. Arcalan sat rigid and silent, waiting for Crispian to begin.
Crispian scanned the faces of his brothers and sisters. His feelings were so strong toward them all that he knew he must trust his fate in their opinion. He took a deep breath and began.
“Not long ago,” he started, allowing images long buried to come to his mind. “About two months, no more, there was an issue involving some companions of mine, good folks and true.” He allowed the faces of all those from that time to come to mind. So many he had not seen in a very long time, and others he had not heard even rumor of. “Tied to this one name, D’Vena, a sorceress, mighty and dread.” He paused as his mind conjured up all the images of that day. The fire, D’Vena’s milky skin and warm, dry touch. He noticed Azi shudder slightly, for she knew much of this tale as well. “Well, D’Vena possessed and guarded secrets that she hid in the deepness of her personal chambers.” He recalled his consideration of other courses, of others who could have tried what he had tried, and laughed lightly.
“There was but one way,” he said quietly, a slow blush coloring his cheeks, “to lay her defenses bare, and I did take it.” He could well recall the courtly lady’s pleasant surprise when he arrived that night, with wine and sweet candies. And when he returned again later.
As he paused, Arcalan blushed, and Azi looked away.
“I plied her with wine, compliments, and other, ah, charms,” he said as it became his turn to blush, “to win her trust for a few moments at least. And, well, from there, as is said, nature took its course.” He allowed a moment for everyone to fill in his unspoken comments.
“As she slumbered,” he continued, his tone low and subdued, for these were still actions he was not proud of, and had it not been for the risks involved, they were actions he would not have taken, “I found her secrets, and revealed them to my friend, who then sent me back to get more evidence. And I did, compromising body and virtue in the cause of good.” He cast his gaze to the floor. “Her plot was far reaching, and in the end, it was the king’s troops who were brought against her, and some then members of the League, the Red Lions, Wayward Band, and others.” He recalled the great fracas at the manor house.
Azi shook her head sadly.
Crispian’s throat worked to swallow the lump of emotion that was threatening to choke him. “But even in defeat, she was not harmless. She did get a last spell off as they led her away. And from that day, I have labored with a burden on my heart and soul, and a, disorder to my wants in the world.” He paused, composing himself.
Tashtego, young armsman of the League, wiped at his eye for a moment. “’Twas beautiful, Crispian.”
Azi looked at her liege with compassion filling her eyes, for she knew seen much of the toll this took on him.
“I have sought solace in ale, in battle, in death,” he continued on, voice flat and lifeless. “And, I confess, with other men,” he added quietly. Or at least one other, he thought to himself, not willing to let Tobyas be drawn into this cesspool that was dealing with Arcalan. He stood up. “So, that is my curse, my burden, which SHE,” he stabbed a finger at Arcalan, brings ever before me.”
Azi grasped the hilt of her sword so tight her knuckles were white, her nails showing pale in her finger tips. “It shall be put right, my dear Lord,” she vowed, her intensity carrying her quiet pledge throughout the hall. “And I swear you my aid, if you should need it!” She drew her sword, holding the cross guard up, as if a cross, and kissing the relic housed therein. Her eyes were filled with compassion.
Crispian looked at his dear friend. “Daily, good Azi, and the aid of ye all!” he said to the assembly of the League that was present. “So, now you know the worst of me,” he said with a grim smile. Arcalan was notable quiet as she watched.
It was occurring to her that she might have underestimated this young armsman, who some said was modest because he was unskilled. Humble, because he could not motivate. It appeared that at least some of those reports were indeed in grave error. She herself had just seen that he could be an eloquent speaker, bearing out in truth with his heart on his sleeve, and to quite a good effect.
Tashtego clapped Crispian on the shoulder. “Well, we still like ye,” he said as he moved through the hall.
“And I do appreciate that, Tash!” he said in response, clasping the warrior’s arm in passing.
Arcalan decided to take another tack at the matter, as things were not playing out as she wished. She drew a great breath and sighed loudly. “I stand accused,” she said levelly, calmly, “of tormenting your soul, Crispian, yet you are free to wander the forge at Camelot drunk and upsetting others.” She paused. “I have done you no harm, and yet you flare at me as though I bestowed this curse! Do not say I cast it up when half of Camelot knows your woes through your drunken revels!” She had managed quite a head of self-righteous indignation at the end of her speech.
Azaeli patted Crispian’s arm in a comforting gesture, her anger vying to get the better of her. “He cannot help himself, Arcalan. Can you not see that?” Her voice, though low, was full of passion.
Crispian’s face became a mask of pain, as he allowed his self-imposed mask of control to yield to his true feelings. “And when I drink, I harm none,” he said, his voice too dropping, but full of aching emotion.
Azi again squeeze Crispian’s arm. “I disagree, milord,” she said. “You harm yourself.” Her voice filled with pain.
“I do, Azi,” Arcalan pressed, trying to keep the turn of conversation to her advantage. “This is why I practice the forgiveness and endurance that Ceowyr preaches to me of,” she gave Azi that frosty smile of hers again.
Crispian patted Azi’s hand and chuckled. “Aye, but none other!” The concern of Azi for him was truly comforting.
“None other, Lord,” Azi continued, but that does still count as harming one.”
Crispian sighed. “Aye, well, ‘tis my burden, and my harm,” he said in a voice barely more than a whisper. He had accepted the damage he did to himself long back now, when he decided that none other would suffer as he did. Azi’s continued look of forthrightness brought color to his face.
Arcalan looked at Crispian with something that might have passed for compassion on another face. “The hatred you feel for D’Vena,” she said as a shudder passed through her, “spills out of you sometimes. If I must mop up excesses, I pray that I have learnt the strength,” she said quietly.
Crispian looked at her, not completely sure if her feelings were being completely feigned in this matter. “You need not complicate matters, Arcalan,” he said quietly, trying not to raise this back to the near-shouting match it had been.
Azi favored Tashtego with a warm look as the two verbal combatants took a pause. “Dear Tastego, you who has brought me to the bowels of Keltoi and back, I owe you my deep thanks. How well it is to see you in the guild halls!” she said to him.
Before such topics could be pursued, Arcalan got things back to the track she wanted them to stay on for a bit longer. “I do try rightly to help,” she said, “but that I am buffeted by cruel words in return I understand.”
Crispian shook his head. “Let it go, woman,” he said, at last having had enough of this, “and truly set aside your workings.”
Arcalan drew herself again, to play the injured. “I work only good, and shall continue to do so!” She managed a good note of pain and suffering in her declaration of good intent.
Crispian looked up at her. “Your pure heart will tell in your actions, Arcalan, not your words, I caution you,” he said mildly. He sighed his vexation at the entire issue. He shook his head. “But more than that, I cannot do.”
Arcalan, keeping her face in the fixed look of the wronged, sighed. “I hope already other can attest to my good will,” she said in her hurt tone.
“And your good works?” Crispian challenged mildly. He had an expression that asked for real confirmations of Arcalan’s protests.
She again took on the look of the one wronged. “I only beg you to cease to torment me, and my new found strength,” she said in a pleading fashion, “while Ceowyr instructs me further.”
Azi shook her head. “Crispian, Lord, let it lie. Time will show. Words shall not.” She so wished that they could move beyond this especially on this day, when she had revealed her own joyous secret to the League.
Crispian was still staring at Arcalan. “And you the same,” he said to her. “Test not my resolve toward you, nor that of my brother. We twins are closer than you realize,” he said in a cautionary but not challenging fashion.
“Only the other day,” Arcalan nearly sobbed out, “did I freely dispense advice, seals of emerald and fine cloth among my fellow League!” She sobbed for a moment longer. “And fear not about my quarrels with Jashen, Crispian. I have buried them now. I realize you brothers are but a knife’s edge apart.” She threw her hand up to her forehead. “Now, this eve’s struggles within my home have wearied me. I must make camp and refresh myself for future battles.”
With that, she swept from the Guild Hall and proceeded to her quarters, leaving the rest of the group weary and tired from the more than spirited exchange.
Azi called to her back as she left the hall, “God bless you, Arcalan, good night and be well.”
“Good Luck tae ye, Arcalan,” Iphemiar added.
Pausing at the door, Arcalan looked back. “You too, Azi. May the rooters let you be peacefully. Fare thee well League,” she shot to them all as she left. Azi watched her go through narrowed eyes.
“Well, yes,” Azi said mildly. “Thank you Lady Cabalist.”

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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Crispian_Pontiff 
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The door opened with no sound at all, as Jashen slipped into the room. Azi was tucked up on the bed, drinking tea. He smiled. It was so like her.

"What you got there, Azaeli?" he asked, sitting down himself.

"A tome, a magical tome that had to do with Crispian's curse," she whispered. "It came with this note." She passed the parchment to Jashen, who read it quickly, examining it.

"Azi, something is wrong," he peered at the note again. "Cris wouldn't sign something to you with his full name, nor would he neglect his signet seal," he said, looking at her sideways. "but maybe, you should play along. I'm off to the city. It is time to see some old friends," he quietly handed her the document. "And speak to my aunt as soon as ye can please."

He departed for the city on his horse, holding curses in check under his breath. That wench Arcalan had some explaining to do.

 

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Toorc 
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Azi quickly perused the first few pages of the work, the strange symbols falling into place in her head and she worked through it's preamble. She delved into the next page with great excitement, for indeed these were works of sorcery, and she had seen much of them through the Academy. The ancient use of some of the symbols phased her not one bit, she deciphered them with a mind bright and agile for being so long from her craft.
Her eyes fell upon one single symbol inserted in the line. Two sets of concetric circles pressing against each other stared her in the face.
Her limbs were suddenly reluctant to obey her commands. Her eyelids fixed open, her eyes fixated on that one simple sigil she had so carelessly read. Her breaths came in shallow gulps, as her lungs slowed. Her lips felt numb. There was no mistaking a mezmerization spell.
How foolish she had been in trusting this tome! And Crispian had inadvertantly trapped her! Azi caught a motion in the periphery of her vison, but could barely move her eyes to look at it.
In front of her was a small and hideous imp, like a Molochian Tempter reduced in size to a mere handspan.
But what if Crispian hadn't sent the note? What if.. D'Vena.. oh. No. The burned cover flashed through her mind, the discription of D'Vena's mansion wreathed in flame, the accursed symbol she had tripped in reading D'Vena's Book.
The tiny imp positively squeeked with joy. Long had it been bound in this volume until it's one task was performed, then it could be free. It began to gesture, looking straight at Azaeli, making sweeping movements of it's arms. Visions of Master Visur repeating those motions burned in Azi's brain.
She flexed her muscles as much as she could, she fought with all her will, and sent forth a prayer for divine intervention. Not all her strength nor will could break the spell.
The little imp completed it's motions, swirling a blue orb and flames around it, it flung it's arms wide and cast the Gateway spell.
Azi was flung through space frozen still as stone and mind racing with fear. Where would she appear?
__________________________________________

D'Vena cackled. Ripples of laughter passed through her like the convulsions of a dying man as his organs are removed while he is still breathing. She shrieked with hysterical laughter, and then subsided into a chuckle, a low moaning chuckle. Blood cacked her nails where she had dug them deep into the flesh of her own palm.
Someone had tripped her ward upon her Grimoir. She had thought the pretty volume lost in the flames of her house, lost to the lapping flames and the stupid pig farmer and his cronies. She howled in laughter once more and fought to stay upright.
The energies swirled in the room, and coalesced into a single point, depositing the paralysed form of Azaeli before her. Her laughter changed to a demented tittering as she surveyed the young cleric. She quickly renewed the Mezmerisation, and Azi felt her mind spiral away from her body, losing all control...
D'Vena spat on the floor, and staggered towards her new plaything. "AH" she drawled through strange little gasps and giggles "You my pretty little girl, should not have meddled with me." She drew closer, and a long finger twireled a lock of Azi's hair. Azi feverantly wished she were in armor, though she knew that was of little good, it would have made her feel better.
"You were sent to me-heheheehehe heeh heh... h.. to complete the last piece-heech heeheehe of the curse" she snorted out "You'll seal the fate of Crispian Jasphurr-hur-hur-hur P-p-pontiff" and punctuated her sentance by stabbing her finger into the eye of Azi.
D'Vena thrilled over this new twist of fate... surely the old gods of Avalon were on her side.. Azi was the vessel into which she'd pour her malediction, and deliver her to Crispian like a poison chalice to his lips. She began to work her plan immeadiately, obliviously tugging out fistfuls of her own hair as she worked.

</bump over to you Crispian! happy >

 

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Azi-Icemistress 
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OOC

<Jarred with excitement and anticipation!! WOOOOT!>

BTW paladin not cleric though happy

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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(prepares his own defense)

 

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Azi watched the insane creature with disgust. Chill warnings of evil stabbed through her, even through the mesmerization that held her fast. So this was D'vena. This wretched, wasted, tittering hag was the cause of Crispian's pain.

At that moment she did not regret in the least opening that vile tome. She kept her mind calm and even as she had been trained by the church to do, and set her thoughts to prayer. But her eyes, little as she could move them, kept a steady watch on the madness taking place before her.

 

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Word of the charges from Pompin was quick to spread. The Lords of Justice began to work on the warrants; the High Marshal of Camelot began to work on the decritals for attainder of lands. Word was passed to the King. The Defenders of Albion received word. The work of sorting out private holdings from League holdings was begun in the Lord Chancellors offices. However, there were somethings Arcalan had not accounted for.
Warrants were missent, or contained errors and had to be redrafted. The Lord High Chancellor, due to his meticulous work in seeing to that the right lands were seized did not sign attainders. And somehow, the patrol that the Defenders sent out to take Sir Crispian Lord Pontiff into custody went to Snowdonia Castle, having received some questionable information that the young Armsman Lord was at Caer Hurbury on an assignment. However, Corporal Ardy MacArdy, a bonnie highlander lad, was sent south to Lyonesse. His stated mission was to pass word to Lords Ulfwych, Adribald, and Witrin that Crispian was under warrant of the King.
There might be some who would later question the judgement of Captain Rion in sending a young man like Ardy south, especially seeing as how he somehow made statements about the charges in every stable yard he passed through, once within earshot (Ardy had moved three times to make sure) of a young blond Briton armsman in burnished platemail.
Thus it was that Crispian had word of what was going on while he was out of the city. An invitation to hunt in Lyonesse with Mirashta and Oakleif, in the company of Arguyle MacFadden had been too tempting to him. His warrior edge had been getting dulled by making weapons. The enthusiasm of the young armsmen and mercenaries purchasing his wears had begun to make him sullen and surly. So, when Arguyle had asked him if he would be interested in thinning out the animated trees and wormwoods that preyed in Lyonesse, he had said yes.
He still harbored some resentment toward the highlander Lord and General for his absence during the recent problems with D’Vena, but the truth of his friendship was not in doubt to Crispian. Of course, a few tankards of ale to dull that resent seemed wise. It was three horses down to Yardleys, and Crispian waited. The evening sun was just sliding under the far horizon as he stood on the road by the small trading encampment mulling over all that he had heard. He purchased parchment from the traders and dashed off some short notes. Kelvyn, Hyacynthe, and Laraleloth were his correspondences, and he hoped that word reached them quickly enough to make some sort of a difference. They had all been good friends, over the last difficulties, and Hyacynthe for sometime before that. He considered Moryan and Glavian, but word had been scarce of them lately, and he needed firm friends in his camp.
With a certain dread, he hoped that Azi, Jashen, Tannir, and others were well, but there was naught he could do for them. Jashen and Azi were both skilled in their works and he had little doubt as to their ability to take care of themselves. Tannir was another matter. He was still a lad, and looked to Crispian as a hero and role model. He hoped that the boy’s hero-worship and unquestioning acceptance of tasks from his Lord would not lead him into harm, or worse, an early grave.
The coming of Arguyle was heralded by nothing more grand than a snorting horse, but somehow the highlander made even that an event. He swept down from his horse with his great cloak sliding down behind him. Despite his office, he always paused to have a word with the stable man and his boy about the care of his horse, even sliding a few extra coins out of his belt pouch.
Crispian felt his pulse jump at the sight of the man, though. Their last conversation had been the bitter exchange outside of Sauvage Castle. He braced himself for the onslaught he knew would come from D’Vena’s working. He only hoped he could master it long enough to emplore the aid of the paladin.
“Hail, Lord General,” he said, giving a firm salute.
“Hail, Crispian! Has been a long time, lad!” the older lord greeted him, clapping a large highlander hand on Crispian’s shoulder. “How fare ye?”
Crispian could not contain the sigh he had been holding in. “Not well, General. I have found out that I am to be charged with assault, and I am already due to stand trial for killing an unarmed man.” He tried to keep the pain and disappointment of it all from his expression, but failed.
“What is this?” Arguyle almost roared, only barely checking himself from a very raised voice. “What are these charges about, lad?” he asked as he watched the younger man in the lights from the camp. “Are they true?” Arguyle had already stood by other friends who had been tried for a variety of things, some true, some false. But, he had always been there for them.
“Nay, General, both are not true,” Crispian said quietly. “The first is a false charge, but I am guilty enough of the second.” He thought it would be better to deal with the worst and true charge first, so that he could enlist Arguyle’s aid in the second.
“What caused ye to slay a man unarmed?” Arguyle frowned deeply. As a paladin, and a Lord, he had never raised sword to an unarmed person of the Realm. What mattered the assault if murder was a true charge?
“I was waylaid sometime ago by a small group of men. I didn’t intend to kill anyone,” Crispian explained, as others of the hunting party began to arrive. “I was even using the flat of my blade, but it is a magical blade. As I struck one, the magic was unleashed.” Arguyle scowled at the tale. “Lord Adribald is to sit the trial.” Crispian felt badly relating this all to Arguyle, who had been friend true and noble.
“Well,” the highlander said, scratching at his chin, “the Lord Adribald is a good man, and will mete out justice once the truth be known.” He watched Crispian closely. “And the other?”
Crispian closed his eyes, exhaling loudly. “I am accused of assault Pompin, a crier. And those charges were brought in Camelot. The king will try me there.” He watched Arguyle’s reaction. “I am going to need some help on that, Lord-General.”
Arguyle nodded. He knew well that the King’s Justice could be swift and terrible, when given just cause. But he also knew Constantine would listen to reason. He would have to see about getting some of his old friend’s time.
“How fare ye otherwise, lad?” he asked as his mind began to formulate ideas.
Drinking deeply from a skin, Crispian paused. He braced himself, hoping his resolve would hold. “There is still trouble with D’Vena,” he said, looking toward the horizon.
“Bah! That witch troubles ye still? Where is she held up?” The anger of a highlander was swift, but a grudge this old made for more than anger. This was now a matter of pure rage at D’Vena’s repeated injustices.
“Last I heard, Lyn Barfog somewhere,” Crispian said mildly, not wanting to have to go into his own forays into Lyn Barfog in an effort to find her.
The highlander paladin shook his head. “We shall have to do more about her later,” he said quietly, as the other companions to the hunt began to arrive. “And we shall do to that one!” he said as he adjusted his shield and turned to greet the others for the hunt.

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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darnyk 
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/late morning bump - had to deal with a four hour car dive with crisp editing.... so... he gets bump

 

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Tobyas overheard the young highlander at the stable yard. His heart leaped into his throat. Crispian surely could not be guilty of beating anyone! He was too kind, and gentle. Such was not a truth! He sped back to the city on horse and went straight away to find Tannir, but the lad was missing.

It was most unlike Tannir to leave the city for more than an errand. Toby began to ask around the church area, seeking those intinerants he knew, and the friars of the defenders. Finally, in desperation, he headed into the Shadow Quarter, beyond the Shadow Guild complex.

This had been home to him until recently. He easily made his way about, passing through areas most citizens of the city would not go. It took him but a few minutes to find the old areas he knew so well. He passed the Mermaid, for he would never go there again. Then, he ducked into Mama's.

The sleazy dive had almost been like a second home on those days he could get away from the Mermaid. Most of the faces that looked up at him now, though showed apprehension. For this Tobyas was a full-fledged battle cleric, not the boy-prositute he had been. He walked directly to the bar and paused to survey the room. "Wine," he said the barkeep, slapping down a copper coin. The wine was bitter and watered. He sipped from the clay goblet and then saw the face he sought.

With a bold stride, he walked up to the woman. "Ulega," he smiled to her, "I need your help."

She openly appraised him for a moment, and then recognition set in. "Toby, ye need a help I cinnae give ye," she purred, leaning into him. "Or has the noble-boy tired of takin' the poke, eh?" She grinned a wicked grin, knowing perhaps more about Toby's bedroom habits than any other.

Toby actually blushed, having forgotten the casual manner of sex in this part of the city. "Not that kind of help," he said as he drew he to a quiet corner. They spoke for some time, in hushed whispers. Finally, the woman stood, kissing Tobyas on the cheek.

"You must be in love, Toby. A year ago or less, you would have rolled 'im fer 'is purse and moved to the next one." She smirked. "I envy dat, lad, and I'll 'elp ye." Then she left the building, vanishing into the street with skills an infiltrator would kill for, as she was well aware.

Within an hour, there was not a gate or doorway near the Shadow Guild that did not have eyes or ears in them. And more watchers were about than one would expect.

Tobyas sat back, hood pushed from his head. His plain cloak and chain mail kept the splinters of the worn bench from poking through. He smirked. Arcalan might work deadly magicks and dangerous plots, but no one could cross the dregs of Camelot and get away with it. A new emotion crept into his heart - Just Vengence. And he swore the Almighty that retribution would be his.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Subject: The Price of the Fall (RP)
The two twins sat opposite each other. Crispian looked haggard, ragged, and almost spent. Jashen looked like better, but his eyes danced with anger and a malicious glee.
“There’s not else to it, Jash,” Crispian said again. “I’ll just have to turn myself into the King and resign my post, before he can take it.” His words were thick from ale and he gestured a bit more than he needed to.
Jashen shook his head. “Who else could lead as you have, Cris? And no one will believe these charges! They’re insane!” He had almost had enough of the self-pity that Crispian was wallowing in, and was even debating taking him outback of the station for a sound drubbing, even if Jashen himself might end up losing.
Crispian rubbed the back of his neck with one scarred hand. “I’ll put you up to replace me as Seneschal,” he continued on, as if his brother had not spoken. He was now leaning on one elbow, head bobbing forward. “You’ll do fine. Hell, some people might not even notice,” he muttered, tipping the mug up and getting more on his shirt than in his mouth. “It’ll be good for you,” he managed to get out, eyes failing to focus on Jashen, sitting two feet away.
“Cris, you don’t understand what is at stake,” Jashen said, launching into the argument for the hundredth time, but then he saw that Cris was quite passed out. It was interrupted by the approach of a guard in the King's Livery.

((Editted to match the next post's line))

 

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Crispian Pontiff, Seneschal, St. Crispin's League
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King_Constantine 
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As Crispian sat drinking his ale with Jashen and arguing over who should take over his role as Seneschal of the League the door swung open and in walked a troop of armed soldiers. All of whom were wearing the crest of King Constantine.

One of them, the officer by the looks of him, stepped forward and extended his hand toward Crispian. He was holding a parchment and offered it to the young Lord.

"Crispian Pontiff, you are charged with the assault of Pompin the Crier. You have been accused of unlawfully and maliciously attacking and unarmed man and must answer these charges before His Majesty, King Constantine. Surrender yourself at this time and accompany me to Camelot." said the officer most matter-of-factly.

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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Crispian looked up from his ale, and then at his twin. He gave him a grim smile as he rose, taking his sword and offering it pommel first to the officer. "I surrender myself to the King's justice," he said rather formally, giving his shield into Jashen's keeping. With a set of shoulder worthy of any in his station, he faced the officer.

"Let's be to it then," he said.

 

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King_Constantine 
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Two of the guardsman stepped forward and began to shackle the young Lord but were stopped abruptly.

"Nay! His Majesty gave strict orders that if Lord Crispian surrendered himself peacefully that he not be shamed by wearing the shackles of a common criminal. We shall take him at his word and allow him to ride, armed, with us to Camelot." said the officer.

With that he handed Crispian's sword back to him and led him from the hall.

The ride back to Camelot proved to be quite uneventful as Crispian was true to his word and came without a fuss. The men led him through the back gates so that they might not draw undue attention to the man.

They led him through the dimly lit halls until they came to a room that bore the crest of the King. There they turned him over to the King's personal guard who in turn led him into the chamber. As Crispian entered he saw the King first. Sitting in a high-backed chair staring intently at him as he entered. Then he noticed his accuser, Pompin. He sat red faced and obviously scared. The man looked as if he had been crying for hours.

Then from behind a pillar stepped a familiar face. The long red hair gave the man away as surely as his deep voice.

"Crispian, lad, come and sit. We have much to discuss." called Arguyle MacFadden.

 

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darnyk 
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His Hired hand just got another mission or some thing from some Crispian. His friend Tobyas has gone, Achou thinks it is time for a mission of his own.
“I do not think I need to tell him, his brother his here and it is one a short ride to Camelot. Btu Could you let Jashen know that I have left if he asked” Achou asked the bar keep as he slid him a silver and a small note.
“aye lil’ one I can tell him and give ‘em this if he asked” The bar keep said placing both the coin and the note in one of his pockets
“I shall return in a day, three at the most, just be sure he finds out, ByeYas” and with that Achou let Cornwall.

The ride north was uneventful, with only his thoughts to keep him company, The who point in this trip to the capital was to speak with the master Cabalist for some mission he wanted Achou do take care of. Not like he has the time for these little tasks. But it pays the guilds dues, and they are not that tedious just out of the way. His thoughts often wander from wandering what Tobyas was doing and where he went to what Crispian needed with Jashen. Ahou’s only guess is that every thing had to do with the “lady” Arcalan; if she can be called that; and some mess Crispian had gotten him self in to.

I was shortly after noon when Achou arrived in Camelot. He had not spent much time in the city, but as a kid spent enough time to know his way around. Getting to the Master Cabalist was easy, far easier that he recall. But then with all the new merchants and the seemingly shrinking capital, that is not to be surprising.

After a short talk with the cabalist, Achou needed a drink, walking to Mama’s for it was the best place in the city. Achou was mumbling something about being a farking massager boy, and had if it would not cover his dues, he would have just laughed at the quest. But his dues are due, and this will take but a ½ days of travel to take care of.

“Ulega, I need a whisky! And Emily would like a cognac!”

 

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Tobyas 
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The cleric looked up from his wine to see the hulking emerald shape lumber through the door. The short Saracen before it could only be Achou, aspiring Cabalist. Tobyas slid from his seat and made his way over to the former Guild mate, and constant hunting companion.

"Master Achou, what good timing is your arrival. Join me at my table?" He indicated the worn table near the rear of the place and turned back to it, settling into his seat again.

 

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darnyk 
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Emily, the sim was the first to go, Achou followed after grabbing he drinks.

"Well, of the people I expected to find here, you were not one of them, but..." Achou had started to say "HiYas Toby! what brings you to the finest and funnest pub in all of Camelot?" setting the now three drinks down on the table and seemingly not to take a breath
"I have come to be and Erron boy, sounds fun huh? but you have yet to tell me, what brings you to this fun place? I do like to now, also have you see the"
achou pauses of a monent and lowers his voice quist a bit
"...the Lady, Arcalan, Crispin or Jashen, or know whay I passed some horsed guards on the way here"

After all that Achou leaned back and sipped is wiskey waitingh for a relpy ot few

 

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Tobyas 
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Tobyas sat back with a small smile. If he had thought the Cabalist was a bit squirrelly on the hunt, his endless stream of dialogue would only add to that impression now. He sipped again from the bitter cheap wine. "This place used to be sort of like home, before I found the church," he said quietly, making a sign of blessing. "In truth, Master Achou, I used to earn my keep on this street." He was completely unselfpossessed of the statement.

"To your second question," he looked about and also lowered his voice, "I have not seen Jashen or Crispian since I left Cornwall for some time in prayer. However, I did hear that the Seneschal has been arrested, or at least is under warrant to the king." He smirked a wry smirk. "And I have people looking for Arcalan." His blue eyes went flat for a moment. "And I aim to find her."

 

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darnyk 
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“well, I shall guess we will see the Crispian soon enough, but I must ask you propose with Arcalan. She does not matter to me in the least, but having been around your self, Jashen, and a few others for a while. One does tend to get curios about things” pausing long enough for a sip “I am not sorry if I pry, as Emily needs to know this” Achou finish with a wink to the greenish simm standing right next to him with a Mug of Cognac.

“one more thing, it is good to see you did not stay long on the street, as this place if full of Rouges, Vagabonds, and other not fun people” with a huge smile he signaled for another round of drinks “beside, I am but a lil’ Saracen Cabbalist, I can harm few… so Tobyas, once of the street, now a man of the cloth, and a Sergeant of the league, please tell, me… tell me a nice story, it will be fun” With that he took another sip of the whiskey.

 

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Tobyas 
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Tobyas sat back, weighing this Saracen in his mind for a moment. Achou had been a good companion for some time now, hunting and learning, and drinking together.

“To be honest, I am not sure what I would do with Arcalan. However, she must be trusted to move about unobserved.” He glanced about. “I feel in my heart she is evil, my friend. And not because she is a cabalist. You have put a lie to that thought,” he lifted his goblet in salute, finishing the first and starting the new one that had just arrived.

“A fun story, eh?” he smiled whimsically. “The only tales that come to mind at the moment, friend, are poor tales of requited love and friends in trouble.” He tipped the goblet again.

 

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darnyk 
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“tales of requited love and friends in trouble” looking thoughtfully in to the young priest eyes, “well, that story does not sound fun at all, no it does, not like me see if I call tell a tail, a tail for two cities, one much more run down than the other, one that seems to be the life of the country. We can call the smaller one… Abredine, and the larger one Omedyre. With in these two cities we have to large and weather families.”

“these family have been feuding for some time now, and at some point in the past an evil elven mage had helped one become far more superior. The Omedyre family had this elven mage cast a spell of sorts on the fertile fields of Abredine, making them unable to grow any thing other than Turnips. Now, where that may not be all that bad,” Achou said pausing to take another sip “ it does not alow for much growth. Think, would you want to go to the capital of turnipia?” Achou smirk “ I did not think so.”

“any way, I digress” taking another sip “you know, after three of these I tend to for get my stories,a dn there was going to be a point… but let us not talk of these things, tell me young Brit. Hows does one go from the streets, to Crispian to the church? I do care to hear that, how Lil’ Toby picking pockets, becomes a member of the Church?”

“Emily, please get us some more” and with a flick of the wrist, The Simm, walks over to the bare area “Tobyas, I know you have known me only a short while, however, I do not want to see you get hurt to badly, a little is good for you” with a laugh, Achou start on the new drink Emily brought back yo him, and hands Tobyas a new whine

 

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Crispian_Pontiff 
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D’Vena considered her new blond plaything. The last was gasping the end of his life out now, and she had been amused with him. But this toy, this Azi…

“So, you are his little bolster of strength, eh?” she muttered, the laughs interrupting about every third word. “Now, you are here,” her eyes grew distant, “but I know not how, just that it had to do with my Grimoir.” Her fingers sketched a line on Azi’s face. “Ah, I sense that you have been a vessel of Will before,” she said with a low cackle. “So, some channels might be open,” she said with her eyes holding closer to Azi. “Now, allow me to see what can be done to,” she paused, a grin playing her lips, “help you help me!”

The work of tampering with a mind can be subtle, but D’Vena was far past her old subtleties. So much had been shattered in the months of her reduction. Her work was swift and brutal, setting compulsions and drivers in place, enough to make that little blond man miserable. In the end, the dual laughter was eerie, and Azi’s own eager look as she stepped from the hidden house would have chilled Crispian to the bone.

 

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Tobyas lifted his wine, taking a drink. God, how he hated cheap wine now that he had been exposed to better. “A young Toby picking pockets?” He smiled. “No, I never did that.” He paused, then decided to tell a bit of it all.

“My father was a noble man, made not born. He was given lands in Dartmoor that now the ponies over run. It was once beautiful. We had grapes and other small crops we grew, and a house that is now a shell for giants.” He could see the house perfectly. “As my parents got older, my mother died, and then my father turned to drink.” He hoisted his own goblet. “A lot of drink. Eventually, he lost it all. The Land, the house, and finally, the son,” he managed a grim smirk.

“So,” he continued, “at twelve, I found myself a possession of a Cornwall leader. He was kind enough I suppose, for he did not kill me, or use me badly. He passed me along later to the owner of the Mermaid, may he rest in hell.” He swallowed, checking his own anger and fear. “He used magicks to keep us all in check at first, until he could figure out your vice, and turn it against you.” Tobyas looked deep into the emptying goblet. He seemed reluctant to press on.

“My vice was, or is really, a desire to,” he paused, having never really said it aloud, “be with a man, as with a woman as the Good Book would phrase it. And thus did I start to pay my father’s debt off to the trader in human miseries. Oh, I was not alone in my wants, I can tell you. There are more than some think here in fair Camelot, and from elsewhere.

“Thus is was that Crispian found me, some weeks ago. He paid his coin like any other man, and then we were together that night.” He almost smiled at the memory, but too much pain was happening now. “In the morning, Crispian whom I knew not other than a customer, left me a handsome sum of gold and instructions as to how to find Tannir. So, I bought my freedom and left that place.

“But what does a veteran of that trade do after it is over? I was free, for the first time in years, and could make a life for myself.” He smiled finally. “Because of a young Lord with a kind heart, for which I love him. But the Church called to me, and there I have made my new life, my new start.” He examined the table for a bit. “And now, I have the League, I have some good friends, and I still have the Church. Lord Crispian’s role beyond this mess right now is, well, undecided,” he fell quiet.

“But my friend, I must check on some information now, if I may have your leave?”

 

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darnyk 
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