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Old 09-02-2012, 12:51 AM   #1
satindesire
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The First Stone IC

Birds chirped happily in the aftermath of the afternoon rain. Odin's hooves slopped in the mud, and Iola sulkily regarded her damp situation. The spring rains in this area came sudden and hard, and she had been unable to find suitable shelter to wait out the torrential downpour. The frequent and nearby lightning strikes made her fain to stay on the road, though outriding the storm was a lost cause when the well-traveled path was almost instantly transformed into a quagmire of rusty-colored mud.

She had hurridly fetched her cloak from the saddlebag and huddled beneath it, teeth clenched through the thunderous peals that rolled overhead. Now the worst of the weather seemed to have passed, the forest was dense and steamy with humidity, leaves dripping rain. It was sweltering in her riding leathers, but she took heart at the beginning signs of civilization, a Nightwatch lantern on a roadside post. Drumgard was nearby. The mud turned to slate as farms sprung up like spring wheat, and Odin's ears perked at the promise of a bucket of oats and a moment's rest in the cool darkness of a barn.

She patted his dappled flank affectionately, her own desire for a dry place to rest empathizing with the beast. Slate roads turned to cobblestones as Drumgard rose up around her like a welcoming embrace. She was finally home.

Drumgard was one of the largest cities this side of the Makonde River, and most of the population was happy to forget the disaster that had nearly struck mankind from existence. The ashes of war had long been swept from the city, leaving it a gleaming example of man's ability to recover from such a mighty blow.

But Iola...she didn't forget the stories. She had been watching since she was a child. Nightwatch was in her blood.

The city hadn't changed much since she left, the bakery's blazing red door with white-painted accessories still stood out brightly against it's modest wooden frame, and the large fountain that provided the citizens with water reflected sunlight from it's pale golden marble. The thought of a honeycake fresh from the oven had her salivating in expectation, so she reigned the pouting horse up in front of the crimson door. Patting the beast again, she murmured "Only be a moment, love."

"Iola! Back from Frauline Gretchen's?" Berchard greeted her with a smile as soon as she pushed the door open, the bell chiming her presence in the dim fragrance of the bakery.

The baker was a jolly sort, red-cheeked and the kind of man whose eyes sparkled with humor, infecting everyone around him with good cheer. "You look wilted, my dear, come sit and eat." She immediately relaxed, allowing him to direct her towards one of the fireplace chairs with a relieved sigh.

Iola was a slight girl, vaguely feline from the curious tilt of her eyes to an arrogant mouth that softened the aggressive planes of her jaw. Although lovely, there was an inner sharpness to her that belied her self-possession. She let the baker manhandle her into a seat, her tired smile brightening with his presentation of a steaming honeycake.

Her favorite.

"Berchard. You never forget." She took a bite, it was scorching hot but the tender, crumbling cake melted onto her tongue like a lover's embrace. She closed her eyes in hedonistic abandon. "Please tell me you have more."

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

Odin lifted his head when the bell rang her exit. She had a large box tied with twine, filled to the brim with honeycakes. With a devilish grin, she heaved herself up into the saddle and headed to Nightwatch's barracks.
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Old 09-02-2012, 03:30 AM   #2
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Raven’s Claw was a small human village on the outskirts Honmar, the Minotaur Kingdom. It was at a cross roads. Trade and commerce could head over the Dragon Tooth Mountains into one of the Human Kingdoms … usually to the main city of Drumgard, or the trade could go south into the elven woods of Kilrim. The small village was a place to resupply and rest before further travels. The backdrop of the tall rugged mountains still covered in snow made it strikingly beautiful. The mountains were named dragon tooth for their appearance, but also because of the dragons that dwelled there. In the past, village folk occasionally would see the mighty beasts flying over the mountains, but that had not happened for many years.

Walking down the dirt road in the middle of the street was a lone minotaur. Dressed in golden leggings, with two short swords on each side hanging from his belt, a great battle axe slung over his back, golden plate armor covered his powerful chest sparkled in the sun, a brown red cloak covered his back, he was about 7 feet tall, and even covered in his cloak, people could tell he was massively built with rippling muscles. His bull’s face had a look of determination. It was saying “I’m on a mission and if you mess with me and I’ll tear you apart!” His eyes were fiery, and the large white horns added to his imposing face. If you did not understand he was tough … the large golden nose ring removed any misunderstanding. This was Zarik … warrior minotaur.

The humans of the village scattered out of the way as he approached. Unfortunately, one of the supply merchants looked Zarik in the eyes and froze. Just looking upon the massive minotaur filled the merchant with gut-emptying fear, paralyzing him in his tracks. The poor man just stood there as Zarik approached him. Zarik paused and then bellowed out a horrifying roar. “GET OUT OF MY WAY!” The merchant shook in fear and wet himself. Zarik looked down at the pool of piss at the man’s feet and did a very strange thing … He apologized.

“Sorry … I forgot to use my quiet voice” he said and Zarik pick up the man and moving him to one side. Then he walked past, the man still dumbfounded. Zarik arrived at his war horse, unhitched it and mounted. He rode off into the forest, in the direct of Drumgard muttering to himself “use your quiet voice …use your quiet voice”
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Old 09-03-2012, 06:19 AM   #3
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His eyes narrowed slightly at the assembled royalty paraded before him. Three queens and two kings; a formidable force in any respect. Behind the nobility, three much less noble men smiled and leered as their eyes glittered with the prospect of claiming victory and the riches that would follow. A particularly large, harry and ugly man with a scar running across his nose smiled, showing heavy teeth. It was this one who commanded the royalty in question.

“Full house.” He said evenly as he laid his cards atop the fairly impressive pile of coins and other assorted valuables between them. The other two men already plucked and out of the game, grunted and gurgled with mirth at their comrade’s luck. “And you?” Scarnose asked his opponent.

“Me?” he said, staring a bit harder at his cards, if willpower itself could change what he saw in his hand. “I only have two pair.”

The guffaws and sounds of mirth intensified as Scarnose reached out with his harry arms to wrap around the pile and draw it towards him. As he did, the stranger’s lopsided smile appeared. His long fingers plucked first two of the cards in his hand and neatly sent them spinning onto the pile, quickly followed by two more.

“A pair of red fours and a pair of black fours.” He said as the cards skipped across the pile between Scarnose’s outstretched arms. The sounds ceased instantly.

“I thank you fine gentlemen for this evening’s entertainment, but the night has been long and I must away.” He said, rising to his feet and drawing out his traveling cloak. It had taken hours for him to prep and prime these men; winning a hand here, losing a hand there, fence, bluff, call, raising the stakes a little at a time until the big pot was on the table. Now it was time to go…and quickly. One hand was propping the cloak open like a sack and the other hand sweeping the collection into the garment with haste.

Naturally, it wasn’t going to be that easy.

“Stranger comes into my town, happens to be handy at cards, and makes off with all my money?” Scarnose growled. “No one is that lucky.”

He met Scarnose’s eyes. “Says the man who has a full house on a three card draw…”

Scarnose’s eyes flickered with indignation…and worse. The other two lackeys, seeing the rout the conversation was turning towards, had an equal amount of malice bubbling up from their souls.
“No one is that lucky!” Scarnose said hotly.

“My good sir, are you suggesting that I was cheating?” he said, the hairs on the back of his neck prickling as the familiar sense of adrenalin began flowing into his blood. In fact, all four men had been cheating, but Scarnose and his idiots just hadn’t been as good as he had been.

With one long motion, Scarnose brought his knife out, up and back down, sinking the blade a good inch into the wooden top of the table, sending the remaining goods jumping with the impact. “NO ONE!”

“Well then,” he sighed, “surely we can come to an arrangement that will not lead to violence...” He already knew the answer as there was murder reflected in Scarnose’s eyes and it was doubtful that these stooges were along for their moral virtue either. So it was time for another course of action.
“LOOK OUT!” he called out, directing his gaze up over Scarnose’s shoulder and pointing wildly. “It’s a DISTRACTION!!”

One of the lackeys actually turned to look but Scarnose was smarter than that, instead rising to his feet and reaching to tug the knife free. The stranger was faster however and brought his knee up, slamming it into the underside of the table’s edge and flipping it towards the trio. The knife fell, pulled down before Scarnose could regain a solid grip. The trio was suddenly cascaded in a shower of cards, coins, walnut shells, and beer flung from tipped steins. The momentary hesitation was enough as the stranger bolted out the door, bundled cloak in hands with the three in hot pursuit a moment later.
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Old 09-03-2012, 10:22 PM   #4
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Zarik entered the forest path and soon the trees grew thick and covered the path, making it feel as if he rode through a living plant tunnel. Fragments of light made it through all the vegetation, so it became darker and more difficult to see. Minotaur’s had great night vision, but still required some light, from the moon or stars, to see by. His horse on the other hand was having more trouble in the dark gloom of the forest. But the path was well kept, with only an occasional fallen branch to step over.

Zarik had time to think about his mission. Something nasty in the northern part of the Minotaur Kingdom of Honmar had attacked a Minotaur mining camp. There had been no survivors. The Minotaur ruler, King Tarruso, wanted to find out if humans were responsible for the horrible attack. Zarik, who had visited the camp after the attack, had argued that there had been no signs of humans. Plus humans were too weak to have accomplished such a feat. But the King had asked for another explanation … and Zarik could not think of one. His mission was to find out if the humans had attacked the mining camp and if not, to ascertain if they knew anything more about this attack.

The king had made it clear (in typical minotaur style) … to be blunt. Ask them directly about the incident. Then assert authority over the humans. And finally as a caution, not to allow any other groups to appear to have the upper hand in this situation. He told Zarik “Minotaurs will defend their kingdom … and that defense might include attacking and invading their neighbors!”
Zarik was certain the King’s approach was not going to be affective or helpful. The Minotaur kingdom and his race did not get along with too many other kingdoms or races. Zarik was convinced it was because of their “alpha male” approach to everything. He should be asking for the human’s help in this matter, not threating to invade their lands. But that approach would show weakness. Bulls were not weak. Bulls worked alone. If there is a problem it can be solved by applying more force. If one head butt doesn’t move the object blocking your path … use another harder head butt on the obstacle!!

Zarik would follow the King’s orders … there was no question about that. But he was going to do it in a different way, a non-minotaur way. But what was that way? He was a minotaur and could not think of another approach. So he was going to do something unthinkable to another minotaur … he was going to ask a smart human for some help. Now he just needed to find a smart human.

It was the late evening, after a heavy afternoon rain storm, when Zarik arrived in Drumgard. The city was populated mainly by humans, and many of them had seen minotaurs before, but Zarik was heavily armed and appeared threating. A local farmer ran to the Nightwatch barrack’s to warn them. Bursting into the barracks, he shouted, “There is a huge Minotaur approaching the city … he looks like ALL kinds of trouble. Someone should go … stop him … or escort him or something” he said gasping for breath.
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Old 09-04-2012, 12:49 AM   #5
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The Nightwatch captain was a man who looked as if he'd seen battle. He bore the scars of fighting often, and well. His skin was deeply sunbrowned and bore the resemblance of finely tanned leather, his pale honey-colored eyes a sharp contrast that glittered with intellect and nobility.

Iola's bow was deeply respectful. "You wanted to see me, Sir?" The captain appraised the girl with a sharp eye. "I need you to ride out to the square. There was a report of a dangerous looking Minotaur disturbing the citizens." Iolas eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "Dangerous looking?" The captain nodded grimly. "No reports of anyone harmed or any property damage. Some of the people were frightened, but that's the extent of it."

She nodded, her expression darkly eager. "I haven't had the pleasure of meeting many Minotaur." The captain raised his eyebrows, his tone a warning. "They have a rather...brusque...manner. Be aware." She nodded again, and gave a smart, sharp salute. "I'm on my way, Sir."

In the stables, Odin had already been saddled. He had been fed and brushed, his hide gleamed from the currying. She gave a lopsided grin to the young stablehand, mussing his hair affectionately. "Good job, lad." Digging into her pocket, she fetched out a few coppers. "Keep it up. At this pace, you'll be Squire in a month." With a saucy wink, she heaved herself onto Odin's saddle and clicked him towards the door. The stablehand waved farewell to her, still blushing from an innocent admiration.

The Nightwatch barracks weren't far from the Square, and she saw the Minotaur standing easily three heads taller than the largest man there. He didn't look particularly violent, but she stayed astride the horse just in case she needed to beat a hasty retreat. "Hail! Hail, Stranger!" She raised a hand in harmless greeting, her welcoming smile was benign and wholesome. She reigned up Odin next to the Minotaur so that she could look him in the face without craning her neck. "What brings you to Drumgard?"
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Old 09-04-2012, 01:53 AM   #6
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Zarik had dismounted once he was in the square, but had not found anyone that would talk to him. Then he had heard the female’s voice hailing him. He turned in her direction … and he paused to stare at the beautiful woman riding towards him. Her eyes met his and there was no fear in them. She studied him as he was studying her. She had to be a warrior … He had heard human used females in their armies, but seeing one … still surprised him. His pause was ended with a grunt. He was not sure how to address her … was she his equal? His better? … Or did he need to talk down to her? He decided to copy her.

“Hail …Warrior” he answered her … he had wanted to say “hail cow” … but humans did not say that … he decided on “hail warrior” he also held up his hand to show friendship. He did not quite smile … but there was a suggestion of happiness in his face.

“My name is Zarik … from the Honmar kingdom … I’m here on diplomatic business." He stated bluntly. Then with some difficulty he asked for help in a lower voice. “But I need to find a place to eat and rest for the night. I’m not familiar with your city. Can you help me?” He ended the question firmly … as if to say “if you can’t help me, I can do it myself”
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Old 09-05-2012, 01:21 AM   #7
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Drumgard

Behind one of the city's many taverns a young elven female rested against the side of the building, a sword clutched in one hand and a glass bottle in the other. She seemed to be fast asleep, but anyone that approached her with ill intentions quickly found out she was keenly aware of her surroundings... even if she was drunk off her ass. After fending off a couple of thieves the young rōnin resumed her imbibing of what little alcohol remained in her bottle. She was tired and sweaty, and the recent string of miserable weather did little to lighten her mood.

To make matters worse, she still had nightmares.

Shouts and screams haunted her dreams, and to silence those cries she drank, and drank heavily.

It was enough for her to forget... at least for a short while.

Caliandra grunted as people walked by, staring at her for a moment before focusing their attentions elsewhere. They had their own problems to deal with. Why, then, should they try to help some wandering and drunken lowlife? Thoughts of suicide certainly crossed her mind, but she managed to stave off such impulses by clearing her mind of all thoughts and desires... and to that end she turned once more to the bottle.

But now she'd run out of money. She had only the clothes on her back and her prized weapon. It would certainly buy her enough alcohol to last her a lifetime, but she couldn't be convinced to part with it, even when she was completely plastered.

"Damn it,"
she groaned, and although her head ached she managed to get up onto her feet.

Without anything left to sell, Caliandra had to find some sort of work. She found a large stick to lean on while she walked, and as the day turned into night she moved from one end of the city to the other. She heard talk of a 'menacing' Minotaur approaching one of the main gates, but surely the Nightwatch would be able to deal with such a creature. There was no money for her in that.

Even so, Caliandra found herself drawn to the square where the massive humanoid bovine was being confronted by one the Nightwatch guards, a young human female, while still mounted on her horse, was still a bit shorter than the creature before her. The situation was amusing, honestly. The Minotaur called himself Zarik, and spoke of diplomacy.

"Hah!" Caliandra burst out, and she "took" a couple of steps forward while still using the stick as a walking prop. Without it, she would have certainly fallen down.

"Diplomatic business... that... by that you mean... you plan to knock on the gate before bashing it down? Hah!"
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Old 09-05-2012, 10:54 AM   #8
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Peeking out from behind the rump of a tied horse, the stranger surveyed the situation quickly. He had managed to give Scarnose Harryarms and his goons the slip, but probably not for long. In the meantime, a small crowd had gathered to watch the commotion in the street ahead of them. A couple of women had confronted a minotaur in the middle to the town square and the crowd seemed tensed for what might happen next.

“A woman, a minotaur and a drunk walk into a bar…” he thought, his mind coming up with a handful of possible jokes and limericks regarding the scene before him. In the meantime, he had taken the opportunity to pocket his newly-acquired loot and replace his cloak around his shoulders but then ducked down again as Scarnose popped into view just down the street behind him.

“Damn…” he thought. The crowd was momentarily hiding him, but was likely going to draw these sore losers right up the street to where he was eventually. Looking back at the minotaur, he suddenly had a crazy idea… “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
Screwing up his courage and his shoulders, he stepped out of the crowd and marched towards the assembled…. er, group,.. coming to a stop beside (and behind) the Nightwatch woman just like he was supposed to be there.

Crossing his arms across his chest, he affected a listening, thoughtful pose as the conversation unfolded.
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Old 09-05-2012, 09:04 PM   #9
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“My name is Zarik … from the Honmar kingdom … I’m here on diplomatic business." Iola's lips curved into a warm smile. "Of course, Honmar, that's just North of here, yes? Well...welcome to Drumgard, Citizen." He paused and seemed to regard her very seriously. She could appreciate that. He was a stranger in a strange land, and she recognized the gravity of his situation.

"Hah!" A sudden outburst startled her, and her head whipped around to regard the drunken Ronin with narrowed eyes. "Diplomatic business... that... by that you mean... you plan to knock on the gate before bashing it down? Hah!"

Her expression was hard, disappointed. She recognized the inebriated samurai, and had been called more often than she cared to remember to come and pick up the woman from various taverns around Drumgard and give her a place to sleep it off in Nightwatch's barracks. "Stay your tongue, Caliandra. This stranger doesn't deserve to feel it's lash. Why don't you come with us and sleep off all that whiskey, and perhaps you'll be in a better mood come morning?"

“But I need to find a place to eat and rest for the night. I’m not familiar with your city. Can you help me?” The Minotaur seemed to ignore the drunken woman with some grace. She could appreciate that as well. No need to make waves when you're new in town...his mere presence alone was enough to frighten people.

She nodded briefly. "Of course. I'll take you to see Captain Vincent, he can get you an audience with the King. The Nightwatch barracks aren't far from here. " She looked down at the Ronin again, from atop her lofty perch. "Can you walk to the barracks, or will Odin have to carry you?"
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Old 09-05-2012, 11:38 PM   #10
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Zarik had seen the elf approaching … Zarik HATED elves!! Elves were so clever and crafty with their words. They always seemed to turn conversations around on him and get him all confused, and make him look stupid. Luckily, the Nightwatch guard stepped in while he was still trying to think of an answered to the elf’s statement.

Zarik eyes narrowed, trying to burn a hole of hatred through the plastered elf woman. She was tall, with beautiful long dark hair; her skin was fair and smooth. But her most noteworthy feature were her eyes … green like fresh young grass … piercing … she was not to be under estimated. But those eyes also spoke of some internal trouble …the fact that she was quite drunk also said volumes about her mental state. But pull away all the defensive covers she was wearing … she was very beautiful and deadly.

Zarik turned to the young female Nightwatch guard, and asked her about a place to eat and rest for the night, ignoring the drunken elf cow. The female Nightwatch guard was handling the situation well. She suggested taking him to see a Captain Vincent … that sounded like progress.

“I accept your suggestion” Zarik reasserting his control.

He turned to follow her and he now noticed the large group of humans that had been watching the small drama play out. Most had kept their distance … but one member of the crowd had joined the Nightwatch guard propably there to provide backup in case there had been trouble. He was lean with black hair and blue eyes. He did not look like a fighter … but one never knew.
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Old 09-06-2012, 01:14 PM   #11
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Caliandra scowled at Iola when the human female bade her to hold her tongue in the presence of the new stranger. It certainly wasn't wise to rouse the anger of a large minotaur, and yet, had the circumstances been otherwise, the feisty ronin would still have greeted him with skepticism. But Iola was a fine woman, and one that commanded respect, so the inebriated samurai held her comments to herself.

"... perhaps you'll be in a better mood come morning?"


"I doubt that," she mumbled, turning to look at the crowd. With the Nightwatch at work their tension seemed to ease, but they still acted nervously around the small group. Their lives were simple enough, and they didn't like change.

Caliandra huffed as she looked at her walking prop, and when asked if she was able to walk she let it drop to the ground.

"I can... I can walk just fine. An Elf can certainly hold her liquor!" she stated proudly, and she started to take very slow, calculated steps to ensure that she wouldn't fall over. The prospect of a warm bed to sleep in was too much for the young elf to pass up, so she decided to follow after the Iola and the minotaur, and she cast a piercing scowl at the young man that had taken up a position behind the young guard.

"Mmm. I think I've seen you before. What do you want?"
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Old 09-07-2012, 11:24 PM   #12
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He had a momentary thought that it might have been safer back with
Harryarms, seeing at the intoxicated woman seemed determined to provoke a fight with the minotaur, but fortunately, cooler heads prevailed as the guardswoman took charge. Apparently these two ladies had a bit of a history; he would have to remember that.

Still his initial plan seemed to be working. Back in the crowd his pursuers fumed at the sight of him, but as suspected, dared not confront him nor make a scene in front to the guard or the minotaur. It was a good plan, until it was challenged. He expected it eventually, and as predicted, the elf woman finally took notice of his presence.

"Me? I don't think so my Lady. I am just a concerned citizen, trying to do my part to help." He doffed his hood and made a slight bow to those assembled.

"If I may, I can offer to pay for a table, some good, hearty stew and beer that we might sit and advance peaceful diplomacy between us."
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Old 09-11-2012, 05:54 AM   #13
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"Of course. I'll take you to see Captain Vincent, he can get you an audience with the King. The Nightwatch barracks aren't far from here. " The Minotar seemed to consider this for a moment, then gruffly, “I accept your suggestion.” Iola's smile was all charm, and she turned to nudge Odin towards the barracks.

She looked down at the Ronin again, from atop her lofty perch. "Can you walk to the barracks, or will Odin have to carry you?" "I can... I can walk just fine. An Elf can certainly hold her liquor!" The Ronin slurred with what seemed to be slightly bruised ego, and began taking very measured steps towards the barracks. Iola, with some difficulty, suppressed a grin at her expense. It would be best to not make the situation more tense or hostile, after all.

She had largely ignored the rogue standing on the sidelines until the Ronin's drunken combativeness got the better of her as they passed where he was standing. "Mmm. I think I've seen you before. What do you want?"

He swept his hat off, every bit the gentlemen. "Me? I don't think so my Lady. I am just a concerned citizen, trying to do my part to help." Iola's eyes were piercing, her expression both an apology to her confrontational nature and the awkwardness of her inebriated state. "If I may, I can offer to pay for a table, some good, hearty stew and beer that we might sit and advance peaceful diplomacy between us."

Iola patted Odin's dappled neck fondly, as an afterthought. There was something that didn't quite sit right with her about this "gentleman". Her instincts prickled her about him, but as presently, he was doing no wrong, she had to treat him as any other fair citizen of this kingdom.

"Not necessary. The Nightwatch provides for it's members." Was that a tiny hint of pride showing in the gleam of her pale blue eye? Well, it wasn't every day a woman got into it's ranks, after all. Drumgard's royal military and peacekeepers was a noble band of fellows, and it was rightful that she was pleased. But she tried not to be too pleased.

The situation had been dealt with, and the crowd swiftly became bored since there was no violence, harsh words or bloodshed, and began to slowly trickle back to their business, leaving the group alone in the square.
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Old 09-13-2012, 01:28 AM   #14
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The group headed off toward the Nightwatch barracks. “This is working out GREAT!” Zarik was thinking. His huge hulking form walking besides the right side of the Nightwatch guard, as he pulled his horse along. The hated elf was on the other side of the nightwatch guard … so it would be difficult for her to trick him with her fancy words. He took a deep breath … he promised himself he would try to get along with all the different race during this mission and he was already breaking that promise. He personally respected most of the other races, even if they were weak. He needed to do better … even with the elf! But maybe not tonight … maybe he should try the “concerned citizen” first? He seemed very likeable. Humans were more like minotaurs … he understood them better. So he turned towards the citizen.

“My name is Zarik” he stated … and prepared to head butt the “concerned citizen” but he held himself in check. Locking horns was the way, male minotaurs exchanged greeting, but human … what did they do again? … shake their hands …that was it. He stuck out his hand and shook the “concerned citizen’s” hand. He squeeze the human’s hand a bit too hard as he saw his face pinch up in pain. Zarik relaxed his hand right away.

“I’m not use to shaking hands” Zarik explained “Male Minotaurs don’t shake hands when greeting … we bang our heads together. It is a tradition developed from our duels over females. Male minotaurs fight for the right to mate with females. To minimize unnecessary bloodshed, the fight is a ritualistic duel. A fantastic display of horn locking and barehanded fist fighting, never intended to kill, but occasionally accidents have occurred. This tradition evolved into our head butting greeting.” Zarik explained with element of pride … at how smart the minotaur race was to have come up with this great idea.

“What is your name?” Zarik finally asked the concerned citizen.
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Old 09-14-2012, 05:57 PM   #15
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Oban Greysteel

Arrows, as it were, are fragile things. And, as such, they were easily broken.

They must be replaced often. A good archer knew this and kept a ready supply at hand.

The point, whether it be field tip or broadhead, would typically shatter or splinter the shaft as it buried into its target. More often than not, too, the fletching would peel away as the shaft sped past the bow, propelled along by the bowstring.

These things were what led Oban Greysteel to this town. He had arrived on horseback and had found his way to the fletcher's shop. He placed his order with the old man, a man whom he had met before on many outings, and he waited.

Greysteel had dozed off as he had sat on the wooden floor of the fletcher's shop, his back leaned against a support pole for the shop's roof. The old man had been humming softly while he cut the wooden arrow shafts and split feathers for the fletching. It had taken him a few hours from early afternoon to the evening before he had finished.

"Knight Commander?" the old man asked softly, gently prodding Greysteel from his nap.

Oban's blue-grey eyes opened, and he answered the old man. "Please do not call me by that name," he said softly in return. Once, the title had had meaning to him. Oban grimaced inwardly. It had been many years since his knighthood in the Mistwatch of Ehdan. Still there were those that only knew him as such.

The old man bowed his head in apology. "Forgive me, sir, but your arrows are ready."

Greysteel collected his new arrows and paid the man in silver. He took his leave of the fletcher and his shop and made his way into the town's square. Oban's next stop would be the Nightwatch barracks where he would check in with the captain of the guard and learn of any new bounties or other work that may be for offer.
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Old 09-17-2012, 01:12 AM   #16
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“GAK!!” he gasped as the minotaur ‘shook’ his hand which had damn near crushed it. “Easy there big guy, some of us human-folk are delicate!” he said, shaking and flexing his hand in an attempt to get the feeling to return as the minotaur explained how their traditional methods of greeting had evolved. He supposed that explained why there were so few minotaurs around anymore…

“Ok, Zarik you said? Good to know if I should choose to fancy a minotaur female, but my name’s Bernard.”
“Admittedly I have never met one of your kin before. So what do you do for fun, besides beat each other up?”
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Old 09-18-2012, 12:39 AM   #17
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Zarik took no offence to Bernard statements, as minotaur really did not understand sarcasm. Zarik was not sure why, but he liked this human and he thought the human must like him too for asking so many questions. So he answered all of them.

“Let me first say … that I admire you for jumping in to defend against my perceived attack in your town square … that is similar to the minotaur’s idea of herd defense. Where the male minotaurs form a protective circle around the females and young when under attack.

Secondly, may I recommend against a female minotaur as a mate for you. They have horns and they are not afraid to use them … and the constant nagging …enough to force the males to go underground and hide complex mazes get away from them … Finally, the nose ring is a wedding present from our mate!! I don’t think you’d look good with a nose ring!

Finally, besides duels and fighting” Zarik said with a big grin on his face … “Male minotaurs are very competitive by nature and enjoy outdoing each other's. This in turn has led to our superior civilization. This is true for fun as well, they enjoy games, puzzles, and especially riddles!! Each year there is an annual riddle festival where the best new riddles are told. Many minotaurs from all over Honmar kingdom come and participate in the competition. We use to invite other races to compete … however” Zarik glanced over to the drunken elf “the elves kept winning … so it has become a minotaur only event.”

Zarik bragging about the minotaur’s superior civilization and a few examples of the best winning riddles … and the group arrived at the nightwatch barracks. It was an impressive structure built from stone, with numerous defensive arrow slits and overhangs from which to pour boiling oil. The main gates stood open and the two guards stood at attention as the group got near. Both guards looked at the strange group … and then turned to look at each other with puzzled looks on their faces … a look that said “what the hell is Iola doing?” They turned their attention back to the arriving group …. An elf, who seemed a bit unsteady … some kind of friendly human that was chanting with the minotaur, a minotaur covered in golden plates of armor, a huge battle axe over his shoulder, leading his war horse and Iola on her horse leading this odd bunch.
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Old 09-18-2012, 02:01 AM   #18
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She led Odin at a slow but steady clipclop down the cobblestone road towards the Nightwatch Barracks, and although she was intent on the conversation between the rougish commoner and the massive Bull, she was silent. The hood she wore concealed most of her face, but the little that could be seen was set in stony lines.

"...Finally, the nose ring is a wedding present from our mate!! I don’t think you’d look good with a nose ring!"


She covered her bark of a laugh with her hand, as if coughing, before raising that gloved hand in a hail towards the other Nightwatchmen as they approached the large stone complex. "Sheriff, what strangers do you bring?" Said one guardsman, his aimiable smile splitting his face in a wolfish grin. Her lips twitched in an answering smile, then her face settled back into it's normally grim caste.

"These citizens wish an audience with Captain Vincent." a woman of few words, indeed. The guardsmen nodded, and made a motion with his gloved fist. The heavy steel-and-wooden door raised slowly, the gear making heavy clanging sounds as it's ropes were pulled.

She led her party into the main complex of the Nightwatch barracks. It was bustling with energy and life, craftsmen everywhere, chickens and cats and children underfoot while blacksmiths tingting tingtinged away on their anvils. An entire wall was dedicated to nothing but carts and small wooden stands for all manner of goods, from colorfully woven bolts of cloth, to vegetables, wheat and fresh lamb, to the more solemn accoutrements of war. The structure looked new and well cared for, with a small but beautifully carved marble fountain that echoed it's larger sister in the main commons square.

Guardsmen were everywhere, their distinctive wolf-leather cloaks and darkly dyed hooded riding leathers standing out from the brighter clothed commoners and merchants, chatting with peasants, stacking firewood, or practicing throwing axes into large carved wooden targets. Iola reined up Odin and dismounted, leading Odin and her party through the hubbub.

"Welcome...to Nightwatch..."

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

THE FIRST STONE
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Old 09-20-2012, 02:57 PM   #19
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Greysteel offered a greeting to the guards at the entrance to the Nightwatch barracks. They seemed to be engaged in conversation about the previous entrants into the compound. Oban himself had to admit it was a bit unusual seeing a minotaur here. In town, he meant. Well, this town for specifics.

In Oban's hometown of Ehdan, the rich seaport of the coast, there had been a minotaur. Oban's father had been a shipmaster there in the city. One day at the docks a large warship pulled in. It was different than the longships his father built. This one had tall, broad sails on many masts, like that of a galleon or fast frigate. The sails had been lowered and the oars had brought the ship to dock. But, when the sailors departed the vessel, only a minotaur came up from the below deck. One minotaur had rowed the ship in! A minotaur had done the work of a crew of oar hands! Oban, even then being only into his 10th year, knew this was something to behold.

They recognized him, of course, as he was somewhat known to the men of the watch and a regular trader with those who offered their goods here.

Upon stepping through into the compound, one of the tradesmen called his name and he turned to look. It was a leathersmith with tack to sell, and as Oban's horse was stabled at a tavern outside there was no way to measure for reign or stirrup. Oban tried to communicate as much over the chatter of conversation, and he turned to and fro trying to make out precisely what the smith was saying.

Greysteel threw his hands up in exasperation, and in so doing accidentally struck the minotaur's horse in the flank. He had not seen the group just entered stop along his way, nor did he realize he was in such close proximity to the great war horse.

Oban immediately realized what he had done, and he moved closer to the minotaur. He looked up into the bull's face quickly then immediately lowered his eyes to the ground.

"It is my offense," Greysteel said quickly, "and I ask your forgiveness as I did not see your mount. The eyes in the back of my head do not see as well as they should."

Greysteel then winced inwardly. He knew it would hurt much and require a good amount of mead to help should the minotaur choose to ignore his apology.
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Old 09-21-2012, 12:16 AM   #20
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There was a loud “SMACK” as his hand struck the massive shire/clydesdale war horse. The horse neighed in surprise by the blow and stepped sideway toward Zarik and away from human that had stuck it. Zarik grunted and SHOVED the horse back with the strength of a raging bull. The horse slide, hooves scrapping on the cobblestones, back to his previous position as Zarik came around his horse, his brown red cloak flapping behind him, to see who had struck his horse. His 7 foot tall frame bugling as his muscles got ready for a fight … His bull’s face had anger written all over it … His eyes were fiery as he lowered his large white horns just slightly as if readying for a charge.

“What Son of a Donkey's Turd … Struck my HORSEl!! Zarik yelled (he did not used his quiet voice!!) as he saw all of the human scramble back away from him … except one. An archer … or maybe a ranger … who moved closer to him. The ranger looked up into the bull's face then lowered his eyes to the ground.

"It is my offense," He stated quickly, "and I ask your forgiveness as I did not see your mount. The eyes in the back of my head do not see as well as they should."

Zarik was still hopping mad …but he did not know what to do …he greatly respected the man’s courage to admit his mistake. And his monstrous horse had only been startled by the blow, no harm was done. But would letting this incidence go with a simple apology show weakness? Was he being tested by the humans?

"Ahh …blood and piss!” Zarik said in frustration “ …. Nightwatch … guard woman …” Zarik stumbled to find the right title. What had the gate guard called her? He tried to remember. Sheriff, that was it! “Nightwatch Sheriff, I seek justice … this human, stuck my horse … but he has also apologized. What is the appropriate punishment?" Zarik asked.
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Old 09-21-2012, 11:13 PM   #21
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'Bernard' hopped away just as quickly when the minotaur shouted. He hadn't even seen just what had caused the ruckus, but when a beast-man roars, better to react first so to bleed less.

He cocked his head a bit at the verbal exchange, feeling the thick, heavy tension as the minotaur seemed to wait for permission to ...do something painful.

Great, he had escaped a beating, only to teather himself to another beating right in front of the guard shack....time for some quick thinking.

"Son of a donkey's turd?" he said quizically, looking up towards the minotaur. "You're kinda new at this calling insults sort of thing aren't you, friend."

He looked between the two warriors, commenting loudly; "If it is to be a tit-or-tat Zarik, then you can say something like; 'If it is the eyes in the back of your head that are at fault, then turn your cloak about your face, grab your knees and walk backwards so that all might know a clumsy ass when we see it coming.'"

He looked back to Zarik, "This way, the insult is returned and the choice to escelate the fight, and the fault mind you, lies with him."

He looked back to the newcommer. "Or he can choose to back down. Thusly the fight is over with nary a blow being struck, and both may move on to compensation."
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Old 09-23-2012, 09:57 PM   #22
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A small group of Nightwatchmen accosted the Sheriff as soon they had entered the barracks grounds, and they were in a tight circle speaking in low, agitated voices. Her body language was tense, taut enough to twang if a stiff enough breeze went by, but her voice was as arcadian as usual. The sudden pop of leather to flesh made her left her head, the hooded darkness swinging back towards the group.

“What Son of a Donkey's Turd … Struck my HORSEl!!" The volume he had reached was...impressive. To say the least. The barracks ground to a screeching halt, even the chickens looked up at him, their heads cocked questioningly to the side. "Ba-kaw?"

To one side, a lady fainted dead away in shock. No one moved to help her. All eyes were on the Minotaur. But her eyes...they were on Oban Greysteel.

"It is my offense," his soft baritone sincere with apology "and I ask your forgiveness as I did not see your mount. The eyes in the back of my head do not see as well as they should."

At first, she was frozen, as if some chill wind from the far northern Barrens had come and sapped her of strength. Then, shaking herself as a wolf would when it emerges from the water, she took four large steps towards him as if she would strike him in anger.

Instead, she knelt, her hand across her chest in a deeply respectful salute, the hood of her cloak bent low.

"Ahh …blood and piss!” his booming voice was choked with the agony of forgetfulness “ …. Nightwatch … guard woman …Nightwatch Sheriff, I seek justice … this human, stuck my horse … but he has also apologized. What is the appropriate punishment?"

The hood raised. The stranger was speaking loudly, comically, trying to diffuse the situation, but to Iola, his voice merely faded into the background. "If it is to be a tit-or-tat Zarik, then you can say something like; 'If it is the eyes in the back of your head that are at fault, then turn your cloak about your face, grab your knees and walk backwards so that-..."

The sunlight struck her teeth as it fell on her vicious smile. "Zarik, this man would kill all of us before we could decide on a punishment." She stood, her voice reverent. "Knight Commander Greysteel. To whom should I send my thanks for bringing you here?"
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Old 09-24-2012, 02:17 AM   #23
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The woman had labored much of the day to bury the few dead in the ravaged remains of Twillingsmarch. An impressive name for a spot on a map on the northern border. With a sigh of relief and great sadness the last child's body, torn to shreds by the horrors of war was covered over and the woman sat heavily panting and weeping.

Medica, get hold of yourself. Yes you did ease the mother's labor delivering him, and tended his various ills and injuries in the short life he had. He had been a happy child, with a hug and a joy filled smile whenever Livy stopped by with her cart and healing skills. She'd made it a point of hiding sweets to magically produce them for the villages children she visited. Now Twillsmarch's littlest citizens would never have sweets.

She looked around, examining the remains of the dead and the farms and taverna. Somethings had done an effective job at destruction, yet left no evidence of Their presence or departure.

Livy stood and squared her shoulders. These people would have justice! She calmly hitched Beau to the cart and chucked him on and had turned to the major town to seek answers and help.

Two Weeks Later...

Livy lead the cart and Beau through the town gates and approached the guard. In her soft southern Castiilian accent she spoke to the guard.

"Hello, I am Medica DeSantos, I need to speak to the garrison commander of important news from the northern borders. Where may I meet this esteemed officer?"

"You mean the Nightguard, Miss DeSantos? They be up at the citidel up a yonder." Livy looked up in the direction the guard pointed and turned back to him.

"Thank you Guardsman. May your day be pleasing." She turned away and gently lead Beau through the crowds. She enjoyed the hub-bub and swirl of the big city's market and kept an eagle eye out for herbalists stands or shops to replenish some of her stocks. She did rather guiltily stop at a vendor offering grilled meat on skewers with a delightfully tangy sauce when she saw The Minotaur. (And there is no other way to say that for someone who had only read about them, seeing a LIVE one standing and looking angrily at a shorter man it was doubly impressive!)

While the arguement was being settled, Livy stepped up to a soldier and coughed softly to get his attention.

"Excuse me. I am Medica Olivia DeSantos and I have dire news from the north and need to see the Commander. Take me to him now please?" She stood at her full hieght and studied the face of the soldier. "Also afterwards, see me for a salve for your rash. It will ease your discomfort and speed healing."

She'd seen the inflamed areas under his caplike helmet and knew the exact salve to give him, a few days and he'd be cured.
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Old 09-24-2012, 03:15 AM   #24
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Zarik took in the advice of Bernard and the Nightwatch Sheriff and he stood a little straighter, his muscles more relaxed.

“I do not understand humans” he said sadly shaking his head. Then he looked at the Knight Commander, “I accept your apology.” Turning to the Sheriff “I shall tend to my horse.” He concluded. With the situation resolved, Zarik walked his horse to the stables, leaving the Nightwatch Sheriff and the Knight Commander time to catch up.
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Old 09-24-2012, 09:48 PM   #25
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In the stillness that followed, Oban listened to Bernard's suggestion and nodded in agreement. Such a comeback would be well placed and appropriate. Greysteel had no wish to further the minotaur's anger. He looked to Bernard, this stranger who had offered help, and nodded in appreciation.

As he did so, he saw out of the corner of his vision the figure of a hooded female approaching him. She had purpose to her stride, and Oban thought she meant to attack him. He slightly dug his right heel into the ground steadying his balance and, at the same time, he reached his hands behind him as if he were simply adopting a posture of non-resistance.

The truth be told, though, was this feint of defenselessness allowed Oban's hands to hover over the handles of the twin curved daggers that rested in sheaths horizontally across the belt at the small of his back. These were the only weapons he carried, save for the small skean dhu assassin's knife nestled in his left boot. His bow was unstrung and hung from a sling across his back along with two leather covered quivers of the arrows he had just purchased. His longsword was secured upon his horse at the inn.

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Originally Posted by satindesire View Post
The sunlight struck her teeth as it fell on her vicious smile. "Zarik, this man would kill all of us before we could decide on a punishment." She stood, her voice reverent. "Knight Commander Greysteel. To whom should I send my thanks for bringing you here?"
Oban stood still and gazed for a moment at the Sheriff who knelt before him. She had greeted him formally, if incorrectly. The title of Knight Commander was one he no longer held. And, although he could full well wreak havoc among those that stood here now, he knew his mettle would surely be tested against the prowess of the minotaur. Or, he reckoned, hers.
---
In the city of Ehdan, on the shores of the sea, every morning and evening at the rise of the sun and its setting, the mist rolled in and blanketed the town in fog. Because of this the city watch was called the Mist Watch.

Oban's father had been a shipmaster. Oban, however, had a different plan. He began pulling a bow his father had gotten him when he was only in his seventh year. And, although he taught his son the arts of designing and building the longship, Jurel Greysteel knew his son would one day become a Knight of the Mist Watch.

Oban was indeed accepted into the Mist Watch's schools. Language and writing and the sciences were studied in the classroom. Every morning and every evening brought pain, though. The pain came with training. Training with the sword, the mace, the wearing of armor, and especially for Oban: the bow.

In time he was given the title: Knight of the Mist Watch. Dubbed "Sir Oban Greysteel" and given the black and silvered armor of his station. And, over time, his prowess in battle and his pennant for leadership earned him the ultimate station: Knight Commander of the Mist Watch of Ehdan. His orders came directly from the king. The men and women under his command, though, swore their loyalty to him first, their king second. Though this was not common knowledge, it was well-known that Greysteel's honor and integrity was without question. He followed the old code. He served the law.

It was thus that would be his bane. When a rash of theft and burglaries wrought upon Ehdan's citizenry, Oban ordered his Mist Watch to track and bring the thieves to justice. The Knights of the Mist Watch were skilled at bow and sword, but also at the black arts of spying and assassinations. Such skills were used to route out the thieves. Oban himself led a group of hand-picked knights to their lair. They found, though, not the scoundrels and brutes they expected, but children. Starving, ragged souls who had no homes, no parents, no family, nothing save for one smart adult who knew how to steal. This man Oban brought before the king of Ehdan.

The king ordered the man's immediate execution. Oban himself carried out the deed. Justice was served. But the king went one step further and ordered Greysteel and his knights to bring the children of the thief's hold before him and them also be put to the blade. Oban refused. He would not slay children.

To go against the king was treason. Oban was arrested and charged. But, the king was no fool. He knew he could not order Greysteel's death. The king knew no one in Ehdan would put Oban Greysteel beneath a blade. Therefore it was decreed that Oban was stripped of his rank and title, that he would no longer be Knight Commander of the Mist Watch of Ehdan, that he would no longer be allowed to bear arms in the name of the king, and that he would forever be banished from the city gates.
---
With a sigh, Oban removed from a quiver an arrow, and he twirled it between his fingers to show it to her. "This brings me here," he answered her, "for the finest fletchers beyond Ehdan make their shops here."

The minotaur announced acceptance of Oban's apology. Greysteel looked up to give his thanks but the minotaur had already walked away. Oban put the arrow away and looked beyond the hooded cloak and into Iola's eyes. His breath caught in his throat for an instant, and his face softened.

"My Lady," he said, his voice a near-whisper, "I am at your service."

Greysteel then offered her his hand.
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