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Old 05-13-2009, 06:31 PM
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Guild Wars~ Thoughts of Future Past
Kelly Nha Morgan had never been fond of saying goodbye. Not to people, or to groups or even places.
Some days even a simple ”see you around” would be difficult to manage. She looked around the room set high up in the guild hall central tower seeing if the was any last thing that she had forgotten. That’s what she kept telling herself for her reason to still be here in the room instead of onboard ship already.
With one hand she flicked her hair back out of her eyes as she leaned over it to quickly look over the small stacks of papers arrayed in neat piles on the desktop. A small frown of irritation began to form on her forehead. A lithe blonde just under average height in her mid twenties, well proportioned and a tendency to dress in armor or clothing that tended to show a generous amount of skin, Kelly usually had people trying to get her attention. Unless, of course, people knew who she was and she had an irritated look. At those times people tended to find somewhere else to be with an urgency that was almost appalling.

“It’s all done, everything is in order and NO, there is absolutely nothing at all left requiring your immediate attention” came from a cheerful sounding voice near the doorway.

Kelly looked up to see Artemis, the captain of the crimson company leaning against the doorframe. She had a relaxed pose, her arms crossed over her chest, wearing a wry grin along with her rangers gear.

“Well, well,… no hello, no is everything packed, or anything you need?” “Nope, we move right along to get out already, I should check my butt for boot prints” Kelly replied sarcastically, looking around in mock assessment for the aforementioned boot prints on her backside.

“Oh come on” quipped Artemis back. She walked across the room to lay a friendly hand on the elementalist’s shoulders. “It’s nothing like that and you know it” she paused to look Kelly in the eyes, “If I let you sit and think it to death, you’d most likely still be here at the next dragon festival, still trying to decide if you were doing the right thing or not”
Kelly sighed and shook her head. She looked up to grin at the short blonde woman. Artemis was an excellent ranger, with tanned skin and being very pleasant to the eye with long wavy blonde hair that fell halfway down her back. It was sometimes hard to imagine her as the captain of a successful mercenary company. Artemis had a raw sensual face with guarded eyes. While she was quick enough to smile or laugh her mannerisms were usually of a grim sort. At some point in her life something had scoured all the human weakness out of Artemis and it showed.

“It’s just that I feel I’m dumping everything on you and your people” Kelly began, “and I don’t know how quick we could make it back if there was, you know, a problem…..”

“Merciful Gods” exclaimed Artemis, rolling her eyes heavenward. “Just have to do it all yourself don’t you?” Artemis stepped around to face Kelly directly. “You’d prolly be willing to bleed yourself to death, rather than ask for help in getting a bandage. You’re almost as bad as Dancer” she said with a snort. “and he almost did bleed himself to death that time” She said tapping her finger on Kelly’s chest to emphasize each word.

“Look, we have the island secure, Alice’s company has the freehold well in hand, and anyone at all stupid enough to assault either place be they Canthan, Elonian or Tryian will quickly find themselves playing pick-up sticks with their butt cheeks in Grenth’s Underworld” boasted the short blonde with an evil grin. “You know that for a fact”

“You’re right” Kelly smiled, “I have no doubt in you or yours, all of you are competent enough. You have the rank to prove that” It’s just……”

“It’s just what?” snapped Artemis

“You’re right about that too, I am wondering if this is the right thing to do…” replied Kelly

Artemis looked close to exploding, “Name of a vengeful God!” yelled the ranger “why do you even have to ask yourself that question?”

“But” started Kelly

“Look” Atemis said as she seated herself on one corner of the desk, meeting Kelly’s eyes squarely.

“You and yours went off to the arenas to make a name for yourselves, and you did a decent enough job of it. You and Alice formed the independent Alliance and built up halls that could back up that claim”“Things happened, nothing that you could have foreseen, but you had to go take care of them” she continued softly, laying one of hers hands on top of the elementalists. “You were betrayed and you were lied to, is that how you want the song to end?”

“No” responded Kelly after a moment, her head hanging down.

“You already know what the right answer is, besides” continued the short blonde in a cheerful voice “You know how the arenas work now. Honor has little to nothing to do with advancement, deceit; betrayal and drama are the true meat and drink of the arena’s gladiators”

“That’s it, cheer me up, give me good motivating reasons to get back into this madness once again” replied Kelly with a rueful grin.

“Balla, you’ll be fine, you’re good at it and you know that. You know why you’re really doing it and what to expect. No unexpected surprises except for pleasant ones this time around”

An actual smile on her lips, Kelly straightened up. “True enough” she said, the smile growing wider, “Come on let’s get me to the ship before I start moping again”

As they made their way down to the docks Kelly went over the plans in her head again. It would be hard; there was no doubt of that. Time would be stretched thin dealing with two guilds at the same time but all had agreedit to be the best of choices in the end. Battle chaser and her band were going to house with a ritualist based guild. And work on the arenas with that guild. Kelly and the rest would return to a familiar guild that had changed itself around somewhat. The Lumis were a good guild. Somewhat strange at times, but solid enough. And in truth far less strange than more than a few that Kelly had seen scattered around the lands. They did have their quirks though. Kelly remembered a time clearing a path through the Magnumma jungle with a Lumi guild team. The heat and strain of constant casting had caused her mind to blank out for a few moments. The last thing she remembered was the party being hip deep in a pitched battle with a mob of jungle trolls. When she came to she was in the middle of a group hug with people in a decided lack of armor, with a naked monk pressed close breathing in her ear. The trolls lay dead scattered throughout the clearing.

The smell of the ocean became much stronger as they neared the docks. Kelly looked up with pride as her gaze swept over one of the two warships currently moored at the docks. From stem to stern the Arcadia left little doubt that it was built from the first two planks fitted together with the idea in mind for it to be a vessel whose primary reason for existence was to kick some serious ass. Two medium ballista were mounted both in the forecastle and on the rear deck. In addition a medium catapult was mounted in between the pair on the rear deck. The ship also carried six light ballista, three per side, in the middle section of the ship.
A variety of ammunitions were loaded for the ships weapons. From standard bolts for the ballista, to dwarven powder kegs and Asuran fire. The ship also carried a small store of Asuran powerstone bombs as they were called for the catapults. If the crew looked like a bunch of rough handed cut throat pirates, well it’s because they used to be rough handed cut throat pirates before she hired them on as a ships crew. Kelly was a firm believer in hiring competent people that knew their job. There were seldom any problems as long as they followed a few simple rules. In fact there had been no serious problems at all since she had made an example of the former captain.

Kelly had told him that she wasn’t speaking metaphorically when she threatened to nail him to a wall as an example to others if he didn’t get his crew under control. It had without question left a lasting impression on said crew that she had driven the spikes herself and stood there watching the captain die for the half a day it took for him to bleed to death. Apparently he hadn’t been all that popular with the crew. There hadn’t been any serious resistance to the execution and few muttered death threats afterward. All in all they had a good understanding. The pay was fair, and her carte blanche permission to loot, burn and sink any warship stupid enough to stop and challenge the validity of the guild flag that the ships flew regardless of the port of origin of the warship gave the crew a certain enjoyment of their jobs.

The other ship, The Lovely Angel was co captained by a pair of female rogues that were positively ecstatic about wreaking havoc and destruction under a guild name. The households third ship The Dauntless was crewed by more regular sailors and guards and did more of supply runs and exploration than it did of ass kicking. Though any of the three ships would hold its own and then some in that department.

“So” began Artemis as they came up to the ship. “any word yet from Dancer?” “has he made it back from the steel worlds yet? Or is he still wrapped up where no one can get ahold of him?” she finished with a grimace.

Kelly laughed, “He’s in s deep as ever, but he has most of it taken care of from the last I heard from him”

Artemis muttered something vaguely threatening under her breath too faint to make out.

“I know” Kelly said, grinning widely, “he can be quite the pain in the ass, but if he gives his word on something he will keep it” “and” she added “If he says he has your back, then he’ll do his best to be there, even if it kills him to do so” She gave Artemis a knowing look, “And how often do you find people like that?”

“Seldom enough” Artemis nodded, “It’s just…”

“But all we can do is repress our urges to strangle him at times, watch the silly man’s back, and be very, very glad that he is on our side” finished Kelly.

With an obvious effort of changing the subject Artemis asked “So how goes the acquisition of titles and honors in the Northern lands?”

“Bah, long and tedious” replied Kelly, rolling her eyes heavenward. “It seems like it is a career in itself, takes up as much or more time than the arenas do”

“Then why bother wit hit all at?”

“Well” began Kelly, “the artificers at the monument in the Norn lands only respond to status. They say that the monument holds things of wonder and power, but , they only answer questions or search for items for people who have status” Kelly continued gritting her teeth. “And to the artificers the only status they recognize is that which people have earned by what they have managed to accomplish.”

“Why don’t you just reason with them?”

“Well if I kill them they can’t unlock anything for me and if I burn down the hall of monuments because I’m well and truly pissed there won’t be anything for me to unlock. So, for now, I guess I play the game” Kelly replied a bit glumly.

“Huh, sounds like your back is against the wall on that one” said Artemis. “Have they actually unlocked anything yet?” she asked hopefully.

“Actually, no.” replied Kelly. “And at the rate they are making progress, just maybe two or three hundred years from now, perhaps one of our descendants will get some answers”

“Thinking of settling down and raising a family now are we? Asked Artemis brightly
Kelly stopped to glare down at the ranger, saying in an even tone. “You know it won’t be the best if the last thing I do here before getting on board ship is to boot that cute little ass of yours off the end of the pier….”

Captain John Silence was not having one of his more understanding days. He stood on the forecastle of his ship The Dauntless looking at a bank of fog off in the distance that by all rights should not have been there. A man of medium in his mid thirties with close cropped brown hair and hard blue eyes. Captain Silence didn’t have the good looks that drew notice in a crowd. Swing a stick and you’d hit a dozen that looked just like him. But once you heard his voice barking out commands or he caught you with the force of his gaze, there was no mistaking the determination or the iron will of this man. You would find yourself wondering how in the name could have ever overlooked him in the first place.

“Found a problem have we captain?” asked Frost, a tall muscled blonde in light armor with eyes as deep and as blue as their skies of her homeland.

“Could be frost” replied Silence evenly. “You tell me, you’re the wizard. All I have is a spyglass”

Silence looked back at the distant fog bank his expression grim. They had been in open sea for 5 days, just beginning to get into the more sketchy areas of imperial maps. Finding something new in waters not commonly traveled was hardly something new. What concerned Silence at the moment was that he had sailed through these waters two years ago and all he found then was open sea and more open sea.

It could be the edges of a storm pushing out but there weren’t any other signs of a storm. Also, the fog bank didn’t seem to be moving. A fixed fog bank suggested a landmass, such as a large island at least. The charts for these waters didn’t show any islands in this area, nor did he remember finding any two years ago.

“Well the fog is definitely of a magical nature” began Frost, her eyes fixed on the distant bank. “Even at this range I should be able to get some idea of what’s behind it. But, all I can sense is fog, so it’s blocking me from seeing whatever is behind it”

“Well then, that’s an excellent reason for turning the ship in another direction and sailing a different course than to continue to get closer to an unknown magical force”


“But” responded Silence “we went out this run to explore new waters and after five days without any sight of land I’m sure most everyone on the ship would be happy to set foot on some solid ground for a bit.”

“Very good captain” Frost said, her smile stretching into a wicked grin. “With your permission I’ll put together a landing party. Though I assume it’s a forlorn hope that you’ll stay aboard the ship instead of accompanying the party?”

“Like hell I will Frost” snapped Silence, collapsing the spyglass as he turned to survey the crew currently on deck. “First and foremost of those willing to brave unknown magics and horrors to be able to walk on a solid surface that doesn’t pitch or creak is myself.”

A little over an hour later found Captain Silence conducting a formal inspection of the members of the crew Frost had chosen. As he expected, there hadn’t been a shortage of volunteers. Despite the unexpected appearance of the fog bank and the muttering s of superstitious seamen two of those that had sworn the loudest that absolutely nothing could drag them anywhere near a conjured island full of demons were in fact standing in front of him now trying to look innocent.

While the crew of the dauntless wasn’t pirates or professional treasure hunters or adventures. All of them knew that the job would demand that they stand in harm’s way at some point. And each of them were competent at their job. Silence smiled tightly. If the jingle of hazard pay or danger bonuses’ in ones pocket didn’t bring a smile or couldn’t buy enough comfort, then one tended to find a new line of work very quickly. Following along at Silence’s right was Frost. She would dispense a harsh glare or a sharp word if someone couldn’t keep still enough while waiting for the inspection to be done. Frost was a war wizard trained not only in all the lore and craft of the elementalist’s profession but was just as familiar wit ha warrior tools of the trade as well. She was unquestionably a force to be reckoned with in a fight. Human with Norn blood in her, Frost stood almost seven feet tall and had muscles that could crack wood. When she was first assigned to the Dauntless some of the more adventurous crewmen had tried to engage her time in a more physical if not romantic manner rather than in a professional one.

Frost had ignored all the advances and hints magnificently until they had started becoming rather blunt. At which point during an evening meal in which she had several “admirers” starting to compete for her attention she had picked up a full cask of rum and hugged it close to her chest. She braced herself and threw the strength of her arms into the embrace shattering the cask. To the cries of dismay, and open expressions of shock around her Frost had replied “My legs are much stronger, which of you feels that you are sturdy enough?” Not one of the crew felt suicidal enough or drunk enough to try. While it was whispered that Frost more than likely preferred her own gender for company the crew never said as such within her hearing. The crew was also very appreciative of her presence on ship. She carried the largest sword Silence had ever seen sheathed across her back and a large mace studded with heavy spikes was slung from her belt on the right side. Both were impressively made. The mace was covered in dwarven runes Frost had told him once that a dwarven king had given it to her. She had allowed him to heft it once to get the feel of the weapons weight and balance. If he hadn’t been concerned about poking a hole in his skull on accident with one of the many wicked spikes studding the head of the mace Silence would have used it as a weight bar to build up his muscles. Silence had never asked about the weight or balance of her sword.

Sixteen members for the landing party. Eight for each of the two long boats that they would be taking. The boats were already loaded and everything was prepared. This inspection was more a matter of formality sake.

“Sail ho” came the cry from the watchers post high up on the main mast. “Sail to the north”

“Party dismissed, to your stations” Silence barked out.

Immediately the landing party broke ranks and made their way to their assigned positions on the ship in case of a hostile encounter. Frost and Silence moved to the railing to look out at the sails that were coming into view over the northern horizon.

“Defiantly a warship, can’t make out her flag yet though” muttered Silence, staring through his spyglass, trying to catch what details he could about the new ship.

“Simply solved captain” said Frost. She gestured wit hone hand and a flat shimmer like heated air floated before her eyes. “She’s flying a luxon flag; it looks to be the colors of the guildhouse KING”

“Silence cursed fiercely, while they were on good terms with luxon households, undoubtedly the KING ship would want to come alongside and help them investigate the island. KING members always seemed to manage to do the most damage when they were trying to be helpful, and seldom was it to the enemy.

“Bet’s on whether they offer to help us explore captain?” asked Frost

“No bets” replied Silence glumly. “They are well known for tending to follow success whether it helps to continue the success or not”

“Captain” inquired the first mate coming up beside him and Frost

“D’ye know the flag of the ship yet sir?”

“Luxon flag Mr. Timor. She flies the standard of guildhouse KING”

The first mate immediately responded with a colorful and appalling curse. Spitting over the side of the railing he turned to the captain. “Not house KING captain, they'll want to come along and help. D’ye think we could just chase em away or sink em when they get close? It’d be a safer bet in the end”

Frost looked over to the first mate and asked coolly. “Well Mr. Timor, would you like to explain to Nha Morgan why we broke the terms of the treaty then without any provocation?”

The first mate paled visibly. “ah, that’s quite alright, I’m not sure which is a worse way to die, either an island full of monsters or being helped to my death by guild KING, but I’ll take either before I choose to end my life that way”

“Mr. Timor give the order to stand down but ready” Silence said folding up his spyglass. The king ship looks to intercept us in just under an hour. I’m sure they will want to join us. Perhaps with two crews to explore, the island won’t pose any problems at all.”

Frost shook her head, dismissing the plane of refracted air. “Not our luck captain” she said “it’ll all end in tears….”

Cherry sat in the warm sunshine of an open air café nursing a tall frosted glass of ale just enjoying the brief sunshine in what had been a period of dismal weather for the past several weeks. A taller than average redhead with a bit of Canthan lineage evident in her appealing features she found compliments easily. So far today none of the compliments had gone much farther past that which suited her current mood. Not having to set fire to any of those being a little too complimentary made the day go smoother it seemed. It wasn’t that Cherry had anything against men she just preferred women for more intimate exercising. The way she looked at it having sex with most men was like eating boiled rice without milk and sugar. Filling, but not at all that appealing. If all one had was plain boiled rice, well then one made do with what they had. But, She reasoned, if one could have their rice and their milk and sugar too……

She smiled to herself, then remembered why she was here and immediately frowned. Truth be told she sighed softly; she had been skipping too many meals of both sorts as of late. Actual food that nourished the body and the food that nourished the heart. People had noticed, and had asked what was troubling her, gently at first. They became more insistent as she avoided most of the questions. Some acquaintances from the arenas had stopped dropping by and some had apparently forgotten her completely or written her off as useless. And them some people had refused to be put off and sat on top of her and made her talk about it. Cherry smiled as she remembered Sarah’s method of “gentle” persuasion. One would not normally think a monk would opt for violence. Especially when the monk was barely over 5 feet in height and generally adored by all. Having her arms pinned down by Care Bear’s knees as the monk was seated squarely on her chest was a bit disconcerting. Having Sarah wave a fiery black bladed gladius under her nose to emphasize some of the points she was making was even more disconcerting by an order of magnitude.

No newcomer to the guildhouse’s island would guess that the person on the island with the largest variety of swords on hand wouldn’t be a warrior or a ranger, but a short, stunning, cheerful monk whom everyone affectingly referred to as “Care Bear” dancer had been quite sweet in his way. He had offered to kill whatever or whomever was troubling her so much. And while Cherry had no doubt at all that he meant every word of it, she also knew that he had more than enough to deal with at present. Cherry grimaced. Dancer could be quite a sweetheart but his method of solving problems at times could give new meaning to the words direct and ruthless.

Cherry sighed and took a drink of her ale. Her real problem wasn’t so much of a person as it was that was that she was unsure. She sighed happily, not only from the taste of the ale but remembering simple days. Firs working as a clerk in a warehouse off the Canthan docks. Following that was going to work for nha Morgan, counting and organizing loot the guild members had brought back from expeditions. Easy enough, no status in most societies, just a simple clerk. All she had to claim was the general luck of the household as her reputation.

Then the household began exploring the arenas through hired fighters. They learned the basics and managed to acquire the first rank of note. Then one night after a comment made in a discussion, nha Morgan had decided to go into the arenas all on her own and earn the household some honor. Cherry’s frown deepened. Oh. The priests of the war god Balthazar would be first to tout honor and glory in the arenas and to speak of the deeds that paved the path of hero’s ascent. But from what Cherry had seen at the end of the sum was that honor and glory seldom had much to do with it. And it was hard to glorify a top ranked gladiator that acted as a spoiled brat in the arena or out. And then there were those who would win honor only to sell the standing to the highest bidder.

Cherry slumped down in her seat. She had attacked the arenas with an energy and determination that equaled the effort she had put into her former career as a clerk. She had helped earn the household the first three rank badges of note and made a bit of a reputation for herself. However it had cost. There had been countless hours of practice and learning. Watching match after match from the reserved boxes or the general stands to learn tactics and skills that wee useful. There had been many long nights that ran early into the morning or late into the next day of planning strategies and learning teamwork. There had been a thousand arguments it seemed at times, mostly over stupid, petty things. It had not been the easiest of times, and even though she had met some amazing and talented people, she had also met some of the worst type of people as well.

Draining the last of her ale she grimaced at the bitter taste. Cherry signaled for another as she tried to sort out her list of troubles in her head. She knew that she tended to be too helpful or too nice at time. Winning fame in the arenas was not an easy task. Groups tended to be status driven. To earn rank you needed a good group. However, it was almost impossible to get a good group if you didn’t have any rank. Cherry snorted in disgust. Exactly how one was supposed to earn the rank needed to get into a good group in the first place was something few people had a decent answer for. She remembered how she had done it and was not really willing to recommend that path to most. Spending hours in a single day competing match after match to win a single mark of fame was not a pleasant experience. So Cherry had tended not to follow the structure and tended to give arena competitors breaks when it came to rank. Along the way she had found out that it wasn’t always lack of rank that kept one from finding a good team…..

Still her enthusiasm and skill had made her popular. It had seemed most days someone was always vying for her attention to ask her about skills or strategy or for her to join with their team or to ask if she knew of a team. Quite the change from an office clerk. She grinned at that. At that point the server arrived with her ale. A pretty enough girl with long dark hair. Cherry had spotted the girl glancing her way now and then over the past couple of hours when she had thought Cherry was too immersed in her thoughts to pay attention. She took the ale and flashed the girl a bright smile thanking her or the quick service. The girl bowed quickly, and seemly nervous by the direct attention left as quickly. Cherry watched her walk across the café’s courtyard. What had the desert that the steelworlders loved so much? Oh yes she remembered, they called it ice cream. She hid an impish grin behind her lifted ale glass. Add in some for flavoring and there would definitely be a Cherry on top of that.

“Ah if I was only a little less busy” she thought. “Balls” she said aloud suddenly, “you just haven’t made your mind up girl, that’s all it truly is. Starting in one her third ale she’d ordered since she came here to wait, cherry made herself think about what had really troubled her. The method of the arenas was disheartened one, no doubt of that. The grind of match after match. Day after day would wear down most anyone after awhile. Seeing good warriors wanting to change the system and make something new only to close ranks and join the system since it was the easiest and fastest way to get what they were there for stung far worse.

However what got her most was rank. The house had earned the badge of the tiger. Certainly no small feat. However along the way. No matter how helpful she was to others in gaining their rank. No matter how long she had stayed awake to compete or how much effort she had out to build a team, or settle arguments or plan strategies. Every time her household had driven for those last few marks for the badges of deer, wolf or tiger she was the only one there from the regular groups. Others grew discouraged by losses or tired and called off for rest. She could understand getting tired and she wouldn’t have gotten as far as she did as quickly without knowing good people. But every badge was earned with strangers. It was a disheartening thought.

Worse than that were the guild leaders. There had been a few that that shard team had joined forces with to help them build up their teams. Some had been a great influence and Cherry had learned much. However there were two that had been the opposite. Each time Cherry had seen the guild leaders push and drive people to get the marks they wanted for the day. Once that was done, they called the day at an end and off they went to drink, whore or sleep. In one guild she had been a few marks shy of her badge for wolf. She had commented on it earlier on yet when they won the last match to get the guild leader his next rank he called it at an end for the day and people broke off to find groups as they could. She had discussed it with nha Morgan and they soon left that guild for brighter prospects. Unfortunately those turned out to be worse. The other guild leader that had earned a dismal opinion from her had convinced her to cancel a set run she had with a good team to lead his guild team for a weekend event. He had spoke much of her responsibility to others and had dropped more than one hint that a friend of Cherry’s would be there competing and that they would of course want as many marks as possible. He had left it with how it would be disappointing to her friend if she didn’t lead.

So out of duty Cherry had agreed and got a tenth of the marks that she could have had. And in the end once the guild leader achieved his rank, he called it done for the event. Funny enough, during the course of the event her main reasons for agreeing to go with the team had spent most of the event praising the guild leader and had stated that their purpose was only to get the guild leader his rank, they would be happy with that. Strange how things work out at times. Cherry had ignored the guild leader’s call to break the team and went once again to get a young gladiator his first rank when a mutual friend has asked for her help. Cherry drove on for a final run and won him his rank soon after. Feeling somewhat cleaner Cherry had then called it a night turning around and leaving without answers. After that she had a long talk with nha Morgan about things. They finished the drive for the badge of tiger soon after that, again it was won with strangers.

The gods had provided with an answer of their own and not too long after some associates of Dancer had found themselves in a very difficult position. Since the mage was all off and ready to go despite long odds. Kelly had opted to join him with the rest and lend a hand. They had sat and talked about it for awhile and at the end had all voted that the arenas and the games both on the field and off could all collectively go to Grenth’s deepest most frozen hell. At the sum of things family is family, whether they be of blood or not. And so they had “retired” from the arenas for a time to go put a swift and rather final end to a situation. While she had kept her tongue quiet in bad situations in two guilds out of concern for the feelings of other, Cherry had sworn there would not be a third such time.

Draining half of the remainder of the glass she leaned back in her chair. Shaking her head slightly she muttered under her breath. “And now Kelly bloody nha Morgan is all set to go back into the arenas and drive at it all the way up to the hilt. She sighed. She knew the arenas were like a drug almost. It was more exhilarating to defeat a team of trained fighters that it was to spend all of one’s time wandering about in the middle of nowhere digging through ruins looking for the odd bit of treasure. One could only dig around in the dirt so much before one started feeling like a farmer. Cherry looked glum, she knew that she could do it, she just didn’t know if she was ready to again. Sadly the glass of ale offered her no answers to her problems.

A tall imposing wall of steel filled the clerks view. This was not comforting to the least to the clerk since the wall was in a suit of plate armor being worn by a tall and very annoyed red headed warrior. Even less comforting was the fact that this warrior was not only a barbarian, but was in a guild house that had a reputation for destroying whatever happened to be obstructing their path and then later checking the rubble to be sure it hadn’t been something important. The most disturbing aspect was of course that the barbarian warrior currently perceived that the clerk was currently being an obstacle in their rightful path.

“Honorable Cathari” began Sar Lin “I understand that the Lumi’s are respected guests of the Canthan people and that they have earned the praise of the emperor himself. However,” he continued, “there are procedures to be followed.” The clerk smiled graciously, spreading his arms wide.

“I understand that “replied Dagmara, “I also understand the emperor has pardoned nha Morgan fully for the last ah, shall we say, misunderstanding. What I don’t understand” she continued, leaning down to stare into the clerks eyes, “ is even though nha Morgan and her household are on their way to the imperial city even as we speak, somehow the word of the pardon has not been passed on to the Am-Fah, the Jade brotherhood or even the imperial guard.”

“nha Morgan is on the mainland again?” breathed Sar Lin in a panic, his eyes going wide.

“Has been for quite a bit” replied Dagmara with an unpleasant grin; she knew that the canthans had long standing plans and procedures for dealing with all sorts of disasters, natural or otherwise. She also knew that they had been trying to come up with new ones to adequately deal with the rogue elementalist and her household. “So far she has been far too busy to spend much time in the capital, but I’m sure she will make it here eventually.”

“But, but… the woman is a menace!” Sar Lin said in a truly panicked voice.

“Are you questioning the wisdom of your emperor?” asked Dagmara casually

“Of course not!” Sar Lin said quickly, “It’s just…”

Dagmara continued smoothly, “And of course you know what will happen if a party of armed individuals confronts any of her people on the street thinking that the bounty is still valid?”

Sar Lin shuddered; he knew full well what the likely outcome would be of such an instance. Apparently there had been long standing bounties on most if not all members of that household from several different individuals and organizations. Sar Lin would have believed it possible for one household to have made so many enemies if he hadn’t seen the list with his own eyes. As far as the barbarian elementalist went, most of the warrant specified that they only wanted her head. Most people were treating her as a vampire or similar creature demanding that the head and body be separated and only the head brought anywhere near them under the belief that she was too stubborn to stay dead. Sadly, to date no one had collected on any of the bounties. Sar Lin understood the Tryian term for those who persisted in trying was “suicides”

Sar Lin wrung his hands. “Honorable Cathari” he whined, “think of the expense, how much it will cost to get the documents printed, and for the messengers to rush the delivery of the documents. Perhaps, if you could…somehow…. Help the process along perhaps?”

“Are you suggesting that we pay you to do your job?” Dagmara began dangerously.

“No of course not honorable Cathari” responded Sar Lin quickly, shocked that the suggestion of a bribe had been even brought up, out in the open anyway.

Dag studied the desk thoughtfully, trailing one mailed finger along the surface of its smooth and richly polish top. “I see you’ve repaired the desk since my last visit”

Sar Lin winced, “Yes honorable Cathari, the crack your fist left in it had seriously undermined its structural integrity.”

“Did you also repair the wall that nha Morgan had blown a large hole in as well? “ Dagmara asked casually

Suddenly the air seemed much too thin as Sar Lin’s chest tightened up remembering that day. “Yes honorable Cathari, we replaced the wall as well” he said in a tight voce.

“You might want to consider” Dagmara began with a thoughtful, almost innocent expression on her face. “that once nha Morgan finishes dealing with her attackers, she is no doubt going to wonder why they are still trying to collect on the bounty” Dagmara continued, drumming her fingers on the desktop, staring past the clerk at the office behind him. “She will of course find out that the warrants are thought to still be active, despite what she was told” Dagmara paused to let the implications sink in. “And of course that will eventually bring her right here”

Sar Lin blanched, all of the color draining from his face, his eyes grew wide and very still. “But she wouldn’t …..” he began softly.

Dagmara looked around thoughtfully, “I would also assume that your department had the wards upgraded. They didn’t work as well as they were supposed to last time as I recall”

“But honorable Cathari” blurted Sar Lin, “As nha Morgan is under your sponsorship, it is your responsibility to inform her of the situation and ensure she stays under control”

“Ah, you are entirely correct, but first nha Morgan has to get the message, and she is very adept at avoiding messengers when she feels she has something to take care of first. And sometimes, she chooses to interpret messages or orders in a manner that most of us would find ah, unusual…”

“But…” stammered Sar Lin

“And while I would of course make every effort to inform nha Morgan of the current situation and ask of her fully understanding” Dag swiftly cut him off and finished with a truly unpleasant smile. “You understand of course, these things take time…..”

Dagmara walked along the byway whistling a merry tune. She grinned a wicked grin thinking of the general panic the minister’s office was in when she had left. Let a storm blow in off the ocean and the inhabitants of the imperial city would close the shutters and ride it out, let an ancient evil awaken after thousands of years and start slaughtering people in the streets and it was business as usual. But let nha Morgan return to the mainland and the government was in a worse panic than if some great ancient monster had risen from the sea and was stomping on buildings on its way to the imperial palace. Dagmara paused reflectively, all things considered, in the amounts of general chaos and mayhem caused; Kelly just might be as bad as an ancient monster. Dagmara ginned. It could be fairly said not too few would probably prefer the monster. The smells of the sea air cut through the general stink of close city living and open sewers. It reminded her that she was not only a bit hungry and waiting in the minister’s office for what had seemed an enternity but that Thresh, Kyrtos, Metroid and Juggernaut were having lunch today in a nearby restaurant.

Lost in thought she failed to notice a cutpurse coming up behind her till he had started to cut the strings of her belt pouch. Dagmara spun around landing a solid punch squarely in the middle of his forehead. The would be thief’s head snapped back and he stretched out his full length on the ground with a satisfying thud. Some of the locals looked around at the commotion perhaps hoping for some midday entertainment but none made any move to interfere or to join in for either side. After half a minute while Dagmara was debating on what to do with the thief. He came to his senses and after shaking himself aware he picked himself up and made a swift escape for the alleyways. Dagmara watched the man run off openmouthed to bemused to stop him or even call out. She readjusted the knuckleduster under her glove thoughtfully thinking she had been skipping too much sleep as of late and was the worse for it. They usually didn’t get back up again after she hit them.

Dagmara shrugged, she would catch up on her sleep later she thought as she continued on towards the restaurant, and the thought of a good meal doing much do lift her spirits. The rest of the walk went by swiftly without further incidents. She almost collided with an imperial phoenix that was waving it wings wildly and trilling in an upset manner as she rounded the corner. The phoenix was coming around the corner at speed being chased by a line of retainers and a minor noble that seemed by be highly agitated. Dag flattened herself against the wall and let the mob pass by rather than risking the stampede.

The canthans were obviously in a great rush as they didn’t even stop to curse or even sneer in her direction. If anything they ran faster after quickly glancing in her direction. Dag pondered that as she made her way into the restaurant’s courtyard .Looking around she saw Juggernaught seated at a table by himself, a wide area of vacated table around him making a barren area in one quarter of the dining area.

“Sup Dag, pull up a chair, you can join me for dessert” Jugg said as Dag walked over to his table. Jugg leaned back and patted his overfull stomach. He was obviously content for the moment. Several mostly empty plates and bowls were piled high around the table, scraps of food remaining, giving an impression of how expansive lunch had actually been.

“I’d offer you some chicken, but it ran off as they were bringing a grill. You can probably flag down a waiter now though, they’ve gotten better and responding quicker”…..

“Thanks Jugg but I’ll have something that’s already been killed first. Where is everyone else by the way? I thought there was going to be a few of you here this afternoon.”

“Thresh, Metroid and Kyrtos left suddenly” Jugg said following a loud belch. “They asked me to finish their meals up for them”

“Ah I see, where did they go anyway?”

“Not sure, they left pretty quickly; luckily Thresh has an account here, so I didn’t get stuck with the bill.”

A somewhat harried looking waiter stopped at Dagmara’s chair. “Good day Mistress, will you be joining us for lunch then?” At Dag’s nod, he continued on “what could I bring you then? “ Dag ordered a simple lunch platter and a pot of tea which the waiter seemed almost relieved to hear.

“Very good Mistress” turning to Jugg he asked “And is this to go on Master Thresh’s account also I assume?”

“Of course” said Jugg looking a little hurt that the question would even be asked. “Hey can I get some more of those honey cups maybe? The wine tastes better in them” Jugg raised a slightly battered iron tankard which Dag was sure was not part of the restaurant’s regular dinnerware.

“Perhaps sir I might be able to find one for your guest but I’m sorry to say that we are starting to run quite low at the moment.”

“Really? How come all the other guests have the honey goblets?” Jugg asked with a suspicious scowl looking around at the nearest seated tables.

“That’s simple sir, they are using the same goblets they have started the meal with. “

“The same goblets?”

“Yes sir” said the waiter as he bowed quickly and moved off the put in Dagmara’s order. “They haven’t been eating theirs”

Cherry hadn’t quite made up her mind on what to do with her day when he looked up to see a few familiar faces on their ways to her table. Alice and Spartan were walking towards her with a half dozen sailors behind them. She gave them a cheerful grin as they grabbed seats from nearby tables and made space for them all to sit down.

“Come on you” beamed Alice cheerfully, “No sitting around drinking yourself into new states of depression all day long, you have things to do”

Cherry couldn’t help but to smile at the necromancer, Alice always possessed the cheerful enthusiasm and boundless energy that would raise one’s spirits no matter how hard you were trying to sulk. One had to admit she was a good person with a bit of a mischievous side. A far cry from the usual gloomy or twisted lot that took to the necromantic arts. And she could put on an impressively believable “who me” innocent look even when found with a small horde of animated minions. The bodies of foolhardy attackers lying around. Even the keep’s seneschal couldn’t stay angry with her after one of her and Dancer’s epic food fights. He would still grumble, but one could almost see him melt after she would put on her cute face.

Spartan was a metamorph. Kelly had explained that he was a soldier from one of the steel worlds. From what she could make out it seemed he was an accomplished warrior of many different talents. He had gained some renown for himself in the arenas in Tyria. The sailors were mostly a large collection of burly thugs from the Arcadia, pirates, not thugs Cherry corrected herself silently. The Arcadia’s crew took great pride in their chosen line of work and could be surprisingly touchy about being misnamed. One of the less burly but far more attractive specimens was a lad named Anton. He was a good looking blonde haired Tryian in his early twenties. Anton had been part of the Arcadia’s crew for a little over a year. He was always kind and polite to Cherry even when he got good natured ribbing from his shipmates for his behavior. It was almost cute they way he would respectfully make shy advances.

Cherry clearly knew what he had in mind was more than the occasional nigh of healthy exercise. From early on she had firmly pointed out to Anton that if he wanted a wife to cook and clean for him as they raised a family then he should change careers post haste. Pirates didn’t tend to have stable lives or long ones sometimes. She had also made it a point that he should find a girl that would enjoy that kind of a life. On the other hand her family had had pretty much adopted Anton the first time he had escorted her to her house. Her grandmother had pronounced him a “good young man that needed some rough edges polished” While Anton would be the first to deny it, Cherry knew that having an actual home and hearth, even an adopted one had meant the world to him.

“So brat what brings such a determined looking crew here?” Cherry asked with a cheerful grin

“We have a problem in seems”

The quiet but serious tone of Alice’s response caused Cherry to raise an eyebrow at the young necromancer. As she sat down in her chair and the rest gathered in close Alice went on to explain that local sources had informed them that even though the emperor had withdrawn the bounty on the members of the household, the ministry of information had somehow not gotten around to making sure that information had gotten to several relevant parties. Among those not informed had been the jade brotherhood, the am fah and somehow the city guards. Cherry looked around in shock.

“But no one has interfered with me all day” she said slowly, shaking her head. “I even saw a patrol of guards pass by earlier…”

“City guards aren’t stupid enough to try and attack one of us regardless of how high the reward is ….”

“But the bounty hunters would have….”

One of the crew members snorted loudly “they are even less the suicidal type, always enough crooks in the imperial city with a bounty. Far easier to arrest one of them for a bonus than to try and bring down a member of the shards”

Cherry had some truly appalling thoughts at the information. People had to know that members of the household were in the imperial city. Information was another form of coin to many. It was a commodity the same as rice or lamp oil. Besides the Am fah and the Jade brotherhood had taken a serious kick in their collective pride from their past attempts to bully the household. Neither organization was known in the least for being the forgiving type. It would be unthinkable for either of the groups to pass up an opportunity for revenge. If no one had moved in yet, the only reason could be that there was a larger plan in motion. Nothing else that she could think of would make the individual bosses hold off.

“So I take it you’re not here for some ale but as an escort?”

“Got it in one ms drunkard” Alice responded with a cheerful grin “As soon as Anny found this out and got word back we started gating in groups to gather people up and get them back to the docks.

“Does Kelly know any of this yet?

Alice shook her head, “Nope her ship left for the mainland about 2 hours before the message came in. Which is why we are heading towards the docks, so all of us will be there to greet her?”

“Have you gotten word to Kasumi yet? She had gone shopping earlier with her friend and I haven’t seen them since” Cherry was concerned about her friend more than she was herself. Kasumi used to be an assassin in training for the Am fah till the household had brought her contract. All that part was settled but she knew that the Am fah would not pass out a chance to kill one of their former members that has wound up causing them so much grief in the end.

“Anny is on her way to give them the word and bring them to the docks, which, is also where we should be heading”

“But my family” Cherry began, “we have to let them know..”

“Not to worry” said Anton, “Alice had a dozen members from the company head down to your family’s house to make sure things were okay and to pass the word along”


“Artemis shipped them directly through the portals” Alice responded getting up from her chair, followed by the rest.

Cherry’s eyes widened again as she got up to follow “how many people is Artemis sending….”

“Half the crimson company and half the reserve crew for the arcadia” responded Alice as they made their way out of the café We should have more than enough people to stand off most anyone that comes our way”

Cherry fell in beside Alice as the small group moved down the streets at a fairly brisk pace. Everyone was alert and kept on the watch at any one person who seemed to be coming close to them. “Then let’s step lively and with good time, before something unfortunate happens and Nha Morgan decides to declare war on the government of Cantha”

The group all stepped the pace up a measure quicker at the words, since no one doubted that such an outcome might just happen. Most would not consider a hundred and a half soldiers, sailors and adventures gathered on a dockside as an army to declare war on country whose armies numbered in the tens of thousands. Everyone in the group knew though that those same hundred and a half troops under the freeholds banner held quite a different opinion.

“Balthazar’s great ballsack!” growled Artemis as she strode down the central corridor “how long does it take to get one mother blessed ship ready to sail?”
People were moving swiftly and in some casing outright running in directions, carrying supplies or messages. The Asuran powerstone ammunition had to be loaded at the last since it was deemed too volatile to be kept on board the ships. Both the Arcadia and the Lovely Angel were being loaded to their teeth and then some. The message had come in not two hours after Nha Morgan had left on the small ship she had rented for her trip to the mainland. It had been decided that sailing in on one of the freeholds warships might send the wrong message. So had using the portals. The warship might have been taken as too strong of an appearance and just porting in wouldn’t give the opportunity for a proper ceremony of goodwill. Reflecting on the situation it was prolly best it worked out this way, if Nha Morgan had been on a warship and got the news of the situation in Imperial city, calm and reason would most likely not have been her first reactions. Artemis scowled at the thought, but she had to agree, her reaction might not have been the most peaceful one either. Still Kelly had a talent for wreaking more mayhem and destruction than most would deem possible in an incredibly short time.

Artemis made her way to the armories double doors as the last of the sailors were hauling away crates of the powerstone ammunition. She looked around the interior of the room to make sure they were all gone then nodded to the arms master as she spun on her heel and went to go check on preparations for the keep itself. There wouldn’t be enough of a force to hold the island of the canthan navy decided to bombard the island then land a force but they would bleed deeply from the attempt. She passed by a small alcove and saw one of the keeps current guests seated at a small table with a drink and wearing a worried look.

“Having a problem Mistress Nina?”Artemis asked as she walked over to her table “If you prefer not to remain on the island I can assign a detail to escort you back to your guildhall to ensure that there are no ah “problems” along the way”

“No, that’s quite kind of you to offer captain, but if foolish people choose to put themselves in my way. I am quite able to look after myself”

Artemis studied the slight ariscroatic Mesmer. One simple had to look at her and they could see that she was from a noble line. Old money at that. She carried herself with an air of authority that called for respect as natural as most people found walking. Unlike most nobles though she was hardly stiff or formal to the point where you wished you were elsewhere. She had been quite courteous whenever she had been at the keep and had been appreciated at parties as much for her liveliness and good cheer as she had been for her looks. She was of medium height and had deep red rich hair that she usually wore in some complicated fashion according to a popular style that was the current fashion in some court. She always dressed well in colorful outfits that tended to show off her figure while still being tasteful. The only thing that made Artemis pay so much attention to her though was the girl had a cold streak. Nothing too easily seen or displayed openly. Something always kept under the surface. It wasn’t anything Artemis could see so much as she could feel. Artemis had believed for a long time that one killer would always recognize another when they met. Nothing had been said of Nina’s current or past activities to suggest such, but Artemis always got that feeling. So instead of smiling and moving on she had always given Nina a second look. Currently the Mesmer was at the keep researching the library for techniques for warriors that would offer a higher chance of survival that the current accepted doctrines. She was an acquaintance of Dancers and as Artemis had understood it he had suggested Nina check the libraries here for ideas.

Dancer had been in and out on business for the past couple of weeks so Nina had dropped by when she could and they had caught up when chance had permitted. Today had probably not been the best of days for a visit Artemis reflected on with some amusement. But then most plans never work the way one wants them to.

“If there is a problem mistress, then perhaps I may be able to provide you with a solution”

“Well I could use a heavy axe” responded Nina

Artemis tried not to openly goggle as the thought of the attractive young noble sitting before her braced up on the ramparts wielding a double bladed axe , holding the walls against an assault in hand to hand fighting. She had no doubt that Nina could take care of herself but something in the image made her want to giggle and her instincts told her that would be a very bad choice.

“Well I’m sure that the armorer could find something that you would like, or if you preferred “Artemis continued “I’m sure since you are a guest of Dancers that the castellan could find you something from the house armory.

“No, that’s quite alright” Nina waved a hand idly to dismiss the suggestion. “I’ve already talked to them and while it seems Dancer has told them I’m to be granted all courtesy with any weaponry that I may need, he made it quite clear to them that I was not to be allowed an axe.”

Artemis studied the young Mesmer carefully, unsure as to how to respond to the information. “Well… I’m sure he has his reasons” she said with a slight shake of her head “though I must confess I have no idea why he would give such instructions. Perhaps when you have a chance you can talk to him and clear things up”

Nina nodded her head still obviously deep in thought on some issue “yes,…”

“Well mistress, not to be short but I yet have much to do, if you’ll excuse me I’ll be back to my duties. Hopefully you and dancer can catch up soon and work things out”

Nina had a faraway look in her eyes as Artemis turned and walked off in search of someone to yell at to move faster. h I have no doubt” she said softly, her eyes fixed on something only she could see very far away “after all, he has to sleep sometime….”

It was shaping up to be a good day for Kasumi so far. She had just finished and excellent meal at a decent open air restaurant, and had a tall cool glass of good ale to sip on as she watched the afternoon crowds pass by the open air restaurant. Although, she reflected the drinking contest at a nearby table was going to be far more entertaining than most anyone who would be walking by. An attractive blonde Tryian girl most obviously by her clothing and gear an elementalist by trade was seated at a table with a huge hairy hulking sailor. They were adversaries rather than companions and the contest was not of strength of arms but one of fortitude. Some of the sailors crewmates and some locals were gathered around and money was changing hands with each rounds and new bets were made or formers ones paid out. They had been going at it for half of an hour almost and the crowd could sense that one of them would soon fail to keep the pace. Kasumi had placed a good sized bet on the elementalist early on; she knew Roxy well enough and had no doubt of which way the smart coins fell.

Roxy was one of Ascalon’s more attractive specimens in Kasumi’s estimation. Mid length blond hair with wondrous blue eyes that reminded one of the surfaces of a playful sea. She kept herself in good shape for a caster of spells. Her figure was delightfully full but well shaped and she was stronger that she appeared at first look. All of her wonderful physical attributes was nothing as to the fire that burned inside of her though. Roxy gave new life to the meaning of the word “determined” and did a good job of bending the definitions of a few other words as well. “Energetic, strong willed, temperamental and exuberant among them. Personally in Kasumi’s opinion one could also add single minded, incredible, stubborn and quite mad with it as well, though she tended not to bring those points up too often. All in All she thought Roxy shared quite a few traits with nha Morgan. She still hadn’t decided what to think on that. Most days the world wasn’t sure what to do about one of her, in Kasumi’s opinion most people would have an apoplexy at the thought of two. Kasumi grinned at the thought, while no one had made a religion yet naming nha Morgan as the horseman of the apocalypse some had muttered about it. Give it a few months she thought. It just might come along now.

The sound of mugs thudding down on the table brought her attention back to the contest. Both had just finished a round and had slammed their upended mugs down on the table to show they were done. Roxy and her adversary were drinking jugs of gula local pungent liquor brewed from a mixture of fruits. It was a pungent and powerful brew favored by canthan sailors and generally adopted by sailors who made it to canthan ports as a “man’s drink” Roxy and her opponent had their eyes locked on each other as fiercely as two swordfighters contesting in the arena giving as little ground to the other as if each held blades instead of mugs.

Kasumi didn’t fail to notice a familiar face as a canthan girl on black Mesmer leathers made her way into the courtyard and after scanning the tables for a few quick moments headed in her direction as soon as she spotted Kasumi.

“Hai Anny, what brings you this way? “ Kasumi asked as the Mesmer reached her table and pulled up a chair while glancing around.

Anny seated herself with an economy of motion taking her set while signaling a nearby server. “Things aren’t s simpler as they had seemed it would appear” she said in an unhurried manner.

Kasumi snorted” when are they ever? “She asked talking a sip of her ale

Anny ordered a glass of wine and waited till the girl had left to reply. She leaned in closer and lowered her voice to a bit above a whisper and said “well it would seem most of imperial city still is under the impression that there is a good price on all out heads” she said softly

Kasumi avoided choking as the ale turned to lead in her throat. She sat down her glass and looked squarely at Anny.

“Tell me you’re joking….”

“Nope, not all…” Anny cut off Kasumi’s guessed line of questioning “Explanations of how can wait, along with most of what is going on in response. I’ll fill you in as we go. I came to grab you and the blonde hellion and get our cute butts down to the docks where people of ours will be waiting”

Anny looked over to see the elementalist and her large opponent down another round to shouts of encouragement of jeers from the onlookers. “And how did this come about, or do I really need to ask?”

“Well we were just having a bite of lunch after spending the morning shopping”

“Of course” Anny said smoothly “It always begins with us were just…..”

Kasumi continued on without rising to the bait” And of course the large lout and some of his fellow were in here drinking their lunch, and perhaps they were disappointed that we didn’t seem to be interested in responding to their invitations”

Anny gave a sardonic laugh at the choice of words “Well that’s one way to politely phrase their intentions I’m sure…”

“And of course the big lout had to make a comment about how we would hardly be worth the effort since women couldn’t drink like men, and as such our uses were limited….”

Anny winced, “yep, got it in one, no further need to tell how Roxy reacted to that one…” she looked over at the nearby crowd “or how she will react if I suggest to “let him win” so we can get the hell out of here” She shook her head at the thought “ah well I hope she’s not so drunk as to throw a fireball the wrong way if worse comes to worse….”

Kasumi looked around the patrons of the open air café. They seemed mostly a collection of merchants or craftsmen. Not mercenaries or street thugs. That didn’t rule out assassins though. She shifted her weight slightly so that the gleaming scythe was just as little easier to grab if things suddenly went to worse. She decided against finishing the ale, while she wasn’t near drunk yet she had always gone by the saying “worse for the drink” and decided and now was a good time for a sharp edge rather than a dull one.

She looked back to the crowd as the dull thunk indicated another round had just been downed. The crowd cheered or cursed depending on the bets they had placed. Roxy sat straight in her chair wearing a satisfied grin. Her opponent had a knowing scowl on his face sure in his victory. He reached across to grab the clay pitcher to pour the next round and his hand missed the jug with the agility of a drunk. Surprisingly he kept reaching for the jug his entire body shifting out of the chair as he followed with the motion, his expression never changing. Cries of alarm and protest went up from his supporters and those who had been wagering on the sailor. Those nearest him tried frantically to push him back in his chair or stop him from falling at least. It was a futile effort. The massive sailor massed half as much again as the larger men and in most cases twice that. Caught unprepared and off balance they might as well tried to hold back an avalanche from toppling off a snowy peak. The cries wailed to a crescendo as he hit the floor of the courtyard with a heavy thud.

Roxy stood up none too steadily but surely and raised her arms in a victory cheer. Those who had bet on the elementalist raised their voices in praise and clapped her on the back or touched her lightly on the arm either in congratulations or to try and receive some of her luck for themselves. She gathered up her winning s off the table with a cheerful smile and tucked the coins in her belt pouch. She turned away from the table then as an afterthought spun around and grabbed her own pitcher of gula and her mug before sauntering back over to join Kasumi and Anny. She walked with the careful happy assurance of the truly drunk but Kasumi knew from her friend’s movements that it was more show than anything else. The Ele was at least half sober still.

“Sup Anny” Roxy said a little loudly as she said down heavily in a free chair “So glad to see you!, wanna join us for some drinks?”

Anny grinned at the invitation “You know another time that would be the best idea that I had heard all day, however, this time I think I will have to wait till another day”

Roxy pouted at the Mesmer’s reply, then after a few moments of careful consideration shrugged her shoulders with a cheerful grin “S’pity…. More than happy to drink with you, but if you’re not up to it…… well, then more for me!” she ended with a beaming smile.

Kasumi laid her hand on Roxy’s arm “Your generosity to share does you credit my friend, however we need to be going”

“S’kay we can drink as we walk…”

“I don’t think….”

“Trust me “said Roxy “nothing to it all, I’ve done it plenty of times”

Anny grinned at Roxy’s enthusiasm “I’m sure you have, however we have something of a problem at the moment”

“You’ve got that right you cheating sorcerous bitch!” growled a sailor

The three of them looked up to see that half a dozen of the losers sailing mates had walked over to their table and was gathered around in a semi circle wearing a most unhappy set of expressions.

“I beg your pardon…” began Anny

“I knew there was no way that Orgd would lose a drinking contest without something unnatural being the cause” the sailor nearest them began. “He was doing fine until you showed up and then a round after you sat down he falls from his chair stiff as a board”

“Are you suggesting I cheated?” Roxy said with a dangerous tone and she turned in her chair to face the sailors

“In as much as your friend here fixed it so as you would win bitch!” countered the sailor hotly

The café’s owner was coming out a door as the sound of the raised voices “See here I want no trouble in my place”

“Shut it fat man” one of the sailors snapped drawing a long wicked looking knife from his sash “we’ll not be cheated of what we’re due by some stinking Mesmer”
The Scraggly looking sailor in the center of the group continued on “Pharr is right, this is our area bitch, and ye’d best go back to where your kind belongs. Though first we’ll be having our money that we was cheated of back. Plus something for our troubles, and the offense to our honor of course” he finished with an unpleasant grin

“Here’s for your honor!” yelled Roxy as she came up out of her chair like lightning. She kicked the sailor squarely between wind and water. As he bent over from the pain in his gut she shattered the clay pitcher against the side of his head, knocking him to the cobbles senseless and bleeding.

“Name of a god!!! Now you worthless cretins have made me waste good booze!”
The other five sailors drew knives or spun to grab Roxy as she was closet anger showing clearly on their faces. Kasumi snatched up the scythe that had been leaning up against the inner wall and flipped the butt of it upwards using it as a staff to hammer the end cap squarely into the forehead of the sailor closest to Roxy. The sailor flew back to crash into an empty table unconscious even before he hit the flagstones. Roxy instead of stepping back to cast a spell or grab a weapon simply grabbed another sailor by his vest and tripped him up by tangling her legs in his she pummeled him about his chest and head with her free fist as they fell. The remaining two sailors on their feet gaped with astonishment as they realized how quickly three of their fellows had been dropped. What followed was a fairly quick exceptionally brutal fight as the three girls mopped the floor with the surprised sailors to the general amusement and cheers from the cafes customers and owner.

Roxy stood up and grabbed a rag off a table to wipe the blood off her knuckles before readjusting her clothing to a more proper fit. She looked around in disdain at the moaning bleeding and bruised figures lay out across the open court. She sniffed, turning away from them to examine her garments.

“So much for fighting skills” she said angrily “at least none of them bled on me”

“What happened to reasoning your way through an argument?” asked Anny with a grin

“I usually try to” said Roxy “though as little as these can fight, I would suggest that it be something they get much better at it” she said haughtily “they are likely to live longer that way”

“Never a dull moment with you around, I enjoy that. However we really need to get to the docks” said Anny

Roxy looked at her puzzled “you were gonna say something about that before the smelly men of the sea interrupted”

“Yes, we have a small problem it would seem. Trust me you will most likely be able to fight to your heart’s content soon enough” Anny said with a grin “however, for now we need to avoid getting caught up in fights or contests of drinking proweress if we can” she gave Roxy a sideways look at the last part.

“Hey!” Roxy began hotly

“she’s right you know” said Kasumi “ you’re good people, no doubt of that Rox , but let something even hint that they can outdo you in something and you give new meaning to the word competitive”

“I’m not that bad…”

“Yes you are and ten times worse if you’re drinking” said Kasumi shaking her head. “You really do go to the extreme sometimes in showing you can do more than people think you can”


“And the gods forbid if you lose at it…..”


“No? Remember that first time on the island when you ran into Dancer? Just had to outperform Mr. Epic to keep him in his place…..”

“That was different….” Roxy said a little hesitantly

“Oh” Kasumi cocked an eyebrow at her friend “And who was it that came up with whatever you do I can do better once she got drunk enough?”

Roxy stopped down a foot in anger crossing her arms “he cheated on that one”

“Oh? I thought you said he could pick the contest” Anny asked with a sly smile

“How was I to know he would pick a contest to see who could piss farther?!?!” Roxy said in a low ominous voice

The sailor that had been mostly unconscious at Roxy’s feet started to stir weakly as the discussion had risen in volume. Roxy stamped down hard on the back of his head venting some of her anger. Everyone that had been standing watching the one sided brawl and listening to the discussion afterward winced. The sailor gratefully sank back into complete oblivion.

“well now that we’ve got out blood all up for a good fight, let’s see how close to the docks we can get before we find one” Said Anny. “Innkeep my apologies for the damages, as per tradition the unconscious men on the floor will be happy to reimburse you with whatever they have in their pockets”

The three of them gathered up some packages that had been the result of the morning’s purchases and headed out of the courtyard for the dockside fairly close but apart enough to have room if it came to a sudden fight.

~ K more to follow~
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