Friday, February 25, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; Spearhead

Credits; Krell, Rea,

Tomastein had kept good files.  Apparently he was one of the surviving members of a cult.  Ages ago they'd managed to summon a demon, and those of them who had survived the summoning had gained immortality from the demon, Kaleth.  Rea had cautioned him not to say the name out loud, but Krell had already heard the stories; the phrase 'speak of the devil' hadn't been coined on a whim after all. 
"I recognize a few of these names.  Immortals I've killed already, and a few others I haven't." 
"Shall we pay them a visit?"
"Why Father Krell, are you suggesting we go kill people?"
"I don't like killing people, but anyone who makes a pact with demons clearly needs to be put down for the good of the universe."
"You would probably get along well with Adan.  If you weren't travelling with me I'd give you a letter of reccomendation or something." 
"They seem to afraid of you for that to work."
"Most people are."
He heard weapon's fire in the hall outside.  Someone howled in pain, then a woman screamed.  Rea kicked the door open and Krell followed her through closely.  One of the guards, servants..he was wearing a suit and he had a gun, was laying on the carpet in front of them clutching his chest.  Nao had managed to produce a very nice looking pistol from, he didn't really want to know where.  The scream seemed to have come from the maid who'd answered the door. 
"Oh, there you two are.  I think we should go now."
"Seconded, Krell?"
"Motion carries, I'll create a distraction."
"No need."  he heard something explode in the distance.  "That was the boat house, should clear a path to the ship.  I say we go through the window in the office, any objections?"  Rea didn't wait for objections, but instead just started to run back across the office and leapt through the recently replaced window.  Krel hated to see his work damaged so pointlessly, but since their presence was now clearly known to the whole building it didn't matter anyways. He rolled as he hit the ground, projecting a cushioning effect for the entire group.  Rea had landed on both feet and started running instantly, and surprisingly so had Nao.  Krell tried to focus on the running, but he could see dozens of armed servants coming from all around.  He set wards over the three of them, and conjured a force field to follow behind him and deflect any direct fire.  Nao began returning fire, with impressive accuracy. Rea was clearing the path ahead; she hadn't drawn any sort of weapon, but he could see her dodging shots and disabling guards.  He could hear bones breaking, but more the crunch of an arm or a rib then the distinctive snap of a spine. She was being non-lethal, Krell couldn't help but smile.  It was always a good day when Rea showed restraint.

They got onto the ship safely, and Rea had them off the ground and safely into space in mere minutes.  Moments later they were deep into subspace and far away from any potential intercept. 
"Sorry about leaving you guys alone like that, but I really couldn't resist the offer of a shower and some clothes."
Krell was getting ready to tell Nao off for firing the first shot, but Rea cut him off before he could start. 
"Understandable, and that suit looks quite nice on you."
"Thank you, I was surprised they had one in my size."
"And that was some fine shooting you did on the way out, you've got a good eye."
Nao waved it off and grinned.  "It was nothing, just instincts."
"Combat instincts, what exactly do you normally do for a living?"
"Did my century with the rangers, some odd escort jobs, a bit of guide work; what else does an Elf do?"
"Use a bow.  Rangers use bows.  You use a pistol.  What else do you do?"
"I may have done a bit of mercenary work for a while, nothing too big."
"You knew where Courtney's safe hosue was."
"Alright alright, so I did a little bit of espionage too."
Rea crossed her arms and spun her chair around to face him. 
"Ok, more than a little bit of espionage.  I was with Field Intel and Disruptive Operations back in the war."
Rea kept staring.  Krell couldn't imagine what else she could have been expecting to get out of him.  FIDO had been Tala's left hand during the Frostbourne war.  Courtney had been one of their top operatives, and most of the rest of the organization held high ranking places across the universe.  Those that lived anyways, most hadn't. 
"Ok, I was Spearhead."
Oh.  That was a huge claim, but he could see why he wouldn't say it upfront.  Spearhead was the codename for the number one operative.  Any school kid would have recognized the name.  He was the single most famous spy/saboteur of all time.  They said he was the one who found Arcania's palace.  Having met Arcania he didn't believe the rest of that story though, most of the Spearhead stories involved some kind of unbelievable hook-up.  He'd never been mentioned after the war though, it had always confused the fans.  Most people figured he died, some said he got married.  From the looks of it, he had no intention of doing either any time soon.  It was kind of dissapointing actually, he'd always sort of hoped he'd hook up with Dawn Fury, she seemed like the right sort of girl. 
"Does your wife know about all this?"
Krell had to resist the urge to gasp.  It was like she read his mind."
"I didn't do anything; I haven't done anything like that since the wedding.  Who do you think sent me to take him to the house in the first place?"
"Before you go any further,"  Krell interrupted.  "Is it Dawn?"
"Who?  Oh, right, codenames.  Yeah..Yeah its Dawn."
Krell pumped the air victoriously.  He wasn't normally this childish, but he'd met so many childhood heroes in the past two days he couldn't help it; first Petra, who'd turned out to be a total jerk, and now Spearhead.
"So she's keeping an eye on us through you?  Go figure the hunteress in the shadows would use spies in place of armies.  She must think this is important to send you."
"Well it is important, shades not moving, bounties on you, council calling Petra before them, Arcania says she's been having trouble too.  They're targeting you ladies."
"More than usual at least.  Alright, now I want you to give Krell your autograph before he has a fanboy freakout or something."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; the Demon in the Rafters

Credits; Krell, Rea,

After even a few decades of travel one would begin to realize that no matter where you were in the universe all humans lived their lives in about the same way.  Some said it was a curse set upon them, that they could never unite like the other races all had.  Others said it was a blessing of simplicity, that humanity never had to worry about the brewings of the greater powers.  But either way what it amounted to was that Nielda only came if they were adventuring or invading.  More often than not it was the former, but since your average human couldn't tell the difference between one of their own and a Nielda, save for the noticeable height difference, the Nielda were always remembered as a constant, external threat that seemed to have nothing better to do than to invade every forty or fifty years and then leave behind a ton of food and complete plans for reconstruction.  You could tell which planets actually used them because they tended to look much nicer and rebuild much faster.  Krell had helped make some of those plans in the past.  Strategic bombings, critical troop deployment, and managing to not destroy shipyards in orbit were some of his specialties.  It was a barbaric practice, constantly decimating human militaries and dissrupting their day-to-day life for what really came down to just bleeding off excess population.  Krell had always despised the practice, but the alternative was having to secure extra land and colonising.   Colonies were notoriously hard to keep under thumb, just look at Seclora.  From a species level stance it was the best plan, but on a nationalist level it was just a nightmare. 
He, Rea, and Nao had managed to reach their target's mansion unnoticed.  Rea's ship had a cloaking device, but they'd still landed out on the edge of the grounds to avoid the groundskeepers.  He hadn't been surprised when they'd noticed each of Tomastein's servants was carrying a sidearm; he was notoriously wealthy after all.  Some believed he was immortal, others, like Rea and himself, knew it.  No immortal, no matter what their standing, would have failed to keep armed guards around their residence.  With the number of magical artiacts they tended to accrue, ordinary mortals were often tempted to steal some paltry treasure to hawk at some suitably distant pawn shop.  And for the truely old immortals, those in their three or four thousands, even younger immortals would sometimes attempt such a crime.  Their goal here was hardly so petty. 

Nao didn't have quite the sense of stealth that He and Rea did.  The foolish Elf stepped right up to the front door and knocked on it.  A maid answered it.  Rea started to move to take advantage of the opened door, but Krell eld her back as he watched their companion go to work.  He may have been a complete idiot, but he was well practiced.  It took a mere five minutes for him to weave a story about being beaten up by a group of ruffians and left nothing but his current clothing.  The maid quickly drew him inside with promises of concelament, nurishment, and a wardrobe befitting a man of his charms.  In her haste to secret Nao off to some private part of the mansion she left the door open.  He and Rea managed to get through before another servant came and closed it.  With both Nao and the outer defenses cleared, Krell and Rea proceeded as quietly as possible up the stairs to Tomastein's office.  Rea put a thumb to the lock and it clicked open.  Krell pushed the doors open and they found themselves face to face with a very large, grumpy looking old man. 
"What is the meaning of this!  Come to steal a part of my collection have you?  You mortals are all alike."
The door slammed shut behind them, and he heard the lock reform and reseal.  The man walked over to his desk and pull a gun out of the drawer.  Krell set a barrier and looked at Rea.  She hadn't moved yet.  Normally she would have already killed the man, what was holding her back now?
"Why did you set a bounty on us?"
"Oh, so then you're...Oh my.  I..I didn't realize.  Tomastein stepped back further, almost to the window.  He looked down at the gun and then across the room at them.  Then he looked up and said almost inaudibly, "You said that they wouldn't find me.  You said there was no danger."
"I Lied.  What part of Demon didn't you get?"
Rea flipped her blades out the instant she heard the voice boom across the room.  "Krell, run."
The demon unfurled its wings as it dropped out of the high ceiling of the room.  Krell hadn't even realized how big the room was until he saw how much room was still between them and the great evil before them.  It sported a pair curled horns like the one he had seen in Thalia's Garden in Stormguard and a wingspan the size of a two cars laid end to end.  It was magnificent to behold, and for all the terror it possessed their was still a beauty to it. 
"Is that a demon?"
"Aren't you clever.  Ethan Tomastein, I claim your power for my own.  Your soul is forfeit.  It was good doing business with you." 
"What, but we had a deal!"  The man had already begun rotting away before the last word left his lips.  He didn't even have time to scream before he collapsed into dust. 
"Krell, if you won't run then you better be ready to fight.  Light is ineffective, demon's don't give a snot what people think is holy or not.  If you can contain the damage then maybe Tomastein will be the only one who dies today.  If you have to attack, don't hold back.  And whatever you do, don't let him get inside your head."
"I thought you only killed immortals?"
"You think dust master Tomastein over there is the first immortal to become so through a demon?  I kill lots of stuff, I just only target immortals." 
"And anyone else who bothers you.  You're a sociopath child, all lives are but blood on your blade."
"You're entirely correct demon, and right now you're bothering me." 
Krell could actually see her attack this time.  She darted beween his legs slashing both the monstrosity's ankles before jumping onto its shoulder form behind.  The menace turned and tried to grab her but she deftly vaulted his head and landed on the other shoulder.  THen she grabbed it by the horn and stabbed him in the eye.  Krell shielded both himself and the rest of the mansion against the shockwave that he emitted in an attempt to knock her off.  Rea had a shield of her own and managed to hold on well enough that she twisted his head, pulling him off balance and causing him to topple to the ground.  She back flipped off onto his stomach and pounced at his other eye.  But as she came down he vanished, causing her to punch the ground pointlessly.  Rea quickly straightened up and sheathed her blades. 
"He's gone."
"What, that easily?"
"We caught him off guard.  I don't think he counted on having bounty hunters catch up to us who were actually smart.  He'll be back though.  I took his eye and if there's one thing demons can be counted on to do its holding a grudge." 
"So what now?"
"We clean up the mess.  You fix the room while I make it look like Tomastein just passed away quietly.  I figure it'll be a while before Nao comes looking for us, that maid was very pretty." 
"Yes but after that?"
"That was a rookie demon, a mere tempter in the armies of Hell.  Guy like that is probably part of a larger effort.  Gwen and Adan mentioned that shade activity has been down lately.  I'd say they're plotting something really big, and judging by that bounty, they don't want us to be a part of it." 

The Assassin's Tale; En Route

Credits; Krell, Rea,

"Alright, so what's the deal with you following us around then." 
Krell and Rea had taken their seats in the cockpit.  Nao had taken one of the empty spots behind them.  The question was one Krell had been only moments away from asking himself.  Luckily Rea had asked first, sparing him the trouble. 
"You remember that other young woman?  The one who killed the shade out in the plaza?"
Krell nodded.  It would be hard to forget Petra, especially considering the fact only moments later she had nearly destroyed Rea. 
"She came up to me just before you left and started talking about how worried she was about her little sister here, and how she wasn't sure she could trust anyone else to take care of her.  You know, not to feel her up or yell at her or anything."
Krell glanced over at Rea.  He could see a mild resemblance, but how anyone could mistake Rea for Petra's sister was beyond him.  Among other things, Petra was an only child and had she any siblings it would have been nearly as public knowledge as her mother's identity.  Then again, Nao didn't seem to have recognized anything else about Petra, so perhaps he had just skipped class a few times and never payed any attention to the sorts of things he was sure were popular gossip on Stormguard.  Even then it would have taken quite a thick skull to have not recognized a living legend. 
"She's not my sister, and I'm older than she is.  I just have a bit of a problem."
"Growth defect?  Yeah, I thought it might be something like that, but I didn't want to say anything."
"Growth De!..fect, yeah, that's it.  Developmental problem, I just never really grew up properly."
"Yeah well, it's nothing to be ashamed of.  I knew this chick once who had a biforcated tongue."
"Genetics does horrible things to people, doesn't it."  Krell agreed. 
"Actually it was kind of cool, she could..."  Rea cleared her throat audibly.  Nao caught her meaning well enough to know not to finish the story.    "Anyways, yeah, genetics.  Wierd stuff, I totally know what you must feel like." 
Krell noticed Rea edging towards the prominently placed self-destruct button, which Krell realized wouldn't actually kill either of them but would get rid of Nao very quickly.  He quickly decided to rediect the conversation before she could go through with it. 
"So back to why you're here?"
"Right!  So this girl, she says how grateful she'd be if someone would keep an eye on you two.  And when she said it she gave me a look.  I'm sure you know the one I'm talking about?  Eh?"  He nudged Krell.  Even if he hadn't known the look, or at least some approximate form of it, that nudge was as good as a wink. 
"I know, I know, she's just trying to manipulate me into following you two around and keeping an eye on you.  But for a girl like that, any chance is enough."
"Yeah."  Rea voiced up, sarcasm dripping almost visibly from her words, "Even I wouldn't mind taking a Stab at her."
"Exactly!  She's so hot even the girls want her.  Nobody could blame me." 
Krell could already tell what sort of man Nao was.  If they were lucky, he'd get distracted by Tomastein's inevitable pretty secretary and they'd leave him behind.  Not having to deal with men like him had been the best part about leaving the navy.  There were a lot of good men in the navy; but somehow there was always that one guy no matter what rank you were.  His comrades in the army said it was the same there. Maybe it was some kind of law of the land; you always had to deal with That Guy no matter where you were or what you were doing.  Maybe shades had some sort of casanova equivalent that infiltrated perfectly decent groups of people and started talking nonsense and making themselves a nuisance to young women everywhere.  He suspected Petra would know, but from the sounds of it she wouldn't have been too miffed about it if it was true. 

"Hold on, Tesser coil active."  Krell buckled himself in as soon as he heard Rea make the rather familiar anouncement.  Nao must have been use to a more magical sort of transportation because he took no such precaution.  Krell put a barrier between he and Rea, and Nao.  Rea glanced over as she noticed the slight magical displacement of the new field.  She leaned over and mutered "Don't forget the upholstery." Before putting her hand on the lever.  Krell smiled and quickly extended the barrier fully around Nao as Rea engaged the rift.  The ship swelled as it passed over a vast portion of the universe that had been tucked beneath them and their destination.  Krell had never actualy managed to figure out why it swelled like that, since teleportation never seemed to have that effect.  No sooner had Rea released the lever, which sprung back upward nearly as fast as the universe did.  Nao reacted as expected; but no upholstery was damaged.  He weakly muttered that he needed to go change, and Rea directed him to a spare bedroom without pause.  As soon as Nao had left the room though she began laughing.  Krell managed to resist until Nao returned wearing what was clearly one of Rea's old T-shirts and a pair of golf shorts.  The sight of the fully grown man in plaid shorts and a shirt that barely came down past his navel was more than he could handle. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; Other People's Problems

Credits; Krell, Rea,

Krell slept that night.  It had been hundreds of years since he'd slept and it was quite startling to wake up the next morning.  Considering how late she usually slept in, he was even more surprised to find Rea awake, fully dressed, and waiting for him on the other side of the room.  He remembered having been by her bedside, late in the night.  He and Rea had talked for hours, she told him what her brother, the founder of the fleet he'd served in his past life, had been like.  It had been a very enlightening conversation, and long overdue in his opinion. 
"What time is it?"
"Two in the afternoon, you slept in."
"Two!  You let me sleep until two?"
"You looked like you were enjoying it." 
"But think of how much we could have gotten done.  Someone on the council is conspiring to do something to Petra, we should be investigating it."
"We aren't.  Courtney stopped in while you were sleeping.  She's already got a team of her best working on it.  Besides, I'm not much of a PI; I always work the other side of the field."
"Then what are we doing?"
Rea pulled out her little leather book.  It contained all the information she needed for every assassination she made.  It was practically her only guide in life. 
"It's reset."
"Who are we going after next?  The Queen of Athou?  The president of Haroun?"
"Holine of Danielland."
"She's already dead.  I watched you kill her and I helped."
"No, its reset.  This has never happened before.  When I killed her it just changed the information.  Now she dies on a different day, in a different place,'s like she never died at all."
"Then we find her and kill her again, and again if we have to."
"Arcania thinks it may be something demonic.  Petra says the book isn't that important, but she's always said that."
"What do you think?"
"I think that I'm going to get to stab her again, but I don't think I'll enjoy it as much."
"Where do we start?"
"I'm going to check where all the good adventures begin; a seedy tavern with a silly name."
"I'm not buying you drinks, just to warn you now."
"Hehe, one of these days I'll buy you a round."

The two left the Immersfeld residence after a quick lunch.  They'd made it to the dock before he noticed that they'd been followed.  Rea went on board to start up the engines, But Krell waited a moment for their tracker to reveal themself.  He heard a rock shifting and teleported behind it.  There was a lightly armored elf waiting for him with a ready spear.  Krell barely had time to dodge before it was thrust at his chest.  He quickly leapt aside and rolled as another strike narrowly missed him.  It was another elf, but this one was far stronger and better equipped than any guard he'd seen in any part of the city. 
"Kai!  Stop playing around and kill him, we'll get the girl."
"No!"  Krell dropped to his side and swept the legs out from under his assailant.  He charged at the other two intruders, who had made it to the ramp.  An arrow flew past him as he pulled his sword from the subspace in which all mages stored their weapons.  The third warrior was clad in heavy armor but still moved quite quickly to intercept him with a heavy broadsword of his own.  He ducked and parried around in an attempt to get in a decent shot, but the knight was too skilled and too strong for him to best at arms.  He could see the elf coming back and knew he didn't have much time before he'd be completely overwhelmed. 
"What's going on here?"
Just in the knick of time, Rea had showed up standing at the top of the gantry.  She'd managed to change clothes again, and was now wearing very high boots and a rather fancy leather tunic.  Then he realized that she wasn't wearing her gauntlet.  She hadn't come prepared for a fight.    
"There she is, Gwen."
Krell couldn't get to her in time to stop the arrow, but he didn't have to.  He snapped with his free hand and the arrow shattered mid flight.  Rea blinked as the splinters bounced off of her. 
"If the lot of you don't get out of here right now I'll knit sweaters from your flesh."  Rea drew a sabre with a blade as fine as a thread from the air.  "And I'll Look Like A Goddess In Them."
Everyone stopped.  The knight and the archer both looked at each other.  The archer seemed downright afraid, but he couldn't read the Knight's face through his helm.  The Elf's reaction was unquestionably the most interesting though. 
"Kid, nobody looks that good in a sweater.  Certainly not a pre-pubescent little runt with a price on her head."
"W-what did you say?"  Krell could almost hear the vein popping out in Rea's forehead. 
"I said you wouldn't look good in sweater."
"Do you have any idea how old I am?  I've been around since before your great-great grandmother fell out of her first tree, you primping Elf!"
"You wear twice as much make-up as I ever have!"
"Kaithoras!  Stop arguing with the quarry."
"She called me a Primper boss."
"You called me Pre-pubescent."
"You were threatening me."
Krell carefully backed out of the reach of the knight's blade.  It seemed that if they hadn't run into each other before then at least Rea and these three had been adventuring long enough that none of them took it quite seriously any more. 
"Rea, do you know these guys?"
"The Knights of the Radiant Skull are the best adventurers in the universe.  No one has thwarted more evil plots or recruited more revenge seeking orphans then they have.  The one with all the armor is Captain Adan, he's more or less in charge.  The angry looking woman with the bow is his second-in-command and passionate-aggressive spouse Gwen.  And this jerk is Kaithoras, third in rank, skill, and brains." 
The knight motioned towards Rea and Krell could make out even through the muffling effects of the helm something to the effect of him and Gwen having run into Rea before, and that had they known she was involved they'd have never come.  Only it was much longer and any inflection or tone was lost.  Based on Gwen's expression though, their last encounter had given them reason to take Rea's threat seriously. 
"Oh, so you're the psychotic imp then?"
Krell had to admit that to anyone who'd never seen Rea in a casual circumstance it would have been an extremely accurate analysis.  Still, the Elf seemed to have a way with words. 
"If I wasn't in such a hurry I might teach you a lesson."
"About time someone taught the squirt a lesson in priorities.  How are you little brother?"
Nao had come up from nowhere.  The family resemblance was remarkable, dark hair, tall, they both had pointy ears and a slight build.  Although to be honest all elves were tall with pointy ears and a slight build. 
"The slacker returns, found a job yet?"
"Yes actually, this very attractive young woman promised me a significant reward for trailing these two around.  Said they'd need a chaperone and that she'd feel deeply indebted to any man with enough honor to keep them from doing anything they'd regret.  How could I refuse?"
"I meant a job, not trying to win the favors of another manipulative seductress."
"Seductress?  On the contrary, she was neither lewd nor tawdry in her advances."
"You're an idiot Nao."
"You're a bore Kai."
The two continued to banter.  Krell zoned them out and slipped around to Rea. 
"We should go before they start tryingto kill us again."
"One sec."  Rea looked over at Gwen and Adan.  "Who wants me dead?"
"Bigshot millionare type.  Name of Tomastein, runs Mechnacorp.  He posted it and we could use the money."
"Really?  Never met the guy, looks like I'll need to pay him a visit.  What else is going on?'
"Astelle's got her first solo, Shade activities been down on all fronts, cults are pretty quiet.  It's a bad year for adventuring."
"Shade activities down?  That's never good.  Means they're planning something; you should step up recruitment."
"Good idea, thanks Rea."
"Now get off my gantry and stop attacking my friends."
"Yes ma'am."
Adan knocked on Kaithoras' head and the three of them stood a safe distance away.  Nao cheerfully hopped on board and bowed to Rea as she closed the door behind them.  It seemed as though they'd gotten there destination, an odd new companion, and any troubles that might be headed towards the universe were no longer their problem. 

The Assassin's Tale; Vulnerable

Credits; Krell, Rea,

Petra's estimate was perfect.  It was almost exactly five hours before Rea finally woke up.  Krell was starting to doze off when he heard her moan softly when she tried to sit up.  Petra had really done a piece of work on her, even immortal and all she still hadn't fully recovered.  Her bones had probably finished mending, but the bruising would probably take quite a while to heal.  He'd seen her grow back most of her torso not more than a day ago, but apparently recovering from a mortal wound was easier than fixing thousands of split capilaries and torn nerves.  It made sense in a way, replacing a heavily damaged ship was usually easier than repairing it; the body, it seemed, worked on the same principles. 
"Oh."  She muttered when she saw him stirring.  "Did you stay with me all night?"
"No, I tried to get Petra to explain all this."
Rea stared at the ceiling and muttered.  "Oh, what did she tell you?"
"Nothing at all.  Lots of talk about how we needed to sit down and talk."  He paused and he could tell that she'd relaxed a bit.  Then something occured to him.  "She kept calling you TS.  Why does she call you that?"
Rea was quiet for a while.  She tried to move around a bit before she gave up and went back to just laying there.    Finally she turned her head towards him.  She stuck her right hand out from under the sheets and held it out towards him. 
"Could you help me get this thing off?  I think it's swelling and it really hurts."
Krell carefully undid the laces on her gauntlet.  He moved himself a bit to the side, even though he'd never actually seen her stab anyone with it he knew that it was her primary weapon.  It was spring loaded as best as he could tell, so caution was mandatory.  He managed to undo the laces and gingerly pulled it off.  It sprung open the second he set it down, leaving massive gouges in the carpeting and floorboards.  Krell double checked his arms for any cuts it might have caused, mercifully he was unscathed. 
"You all right?"  Rea instinctively tried to get out of bed when she heard the blades deploy. 
"I'm fine, floor's a bit damaged though."
"Oh,"  She settled back down into the pillow.  "Sorry about that, thought I locked it in."
"It's ok."
Rea sighed.  She kept her hand sticking off the side of the bed, whether to air it out or just because she didn't want to move it again he couldn't be certain. 

"Krell, can you promise me you won't flip out, or yell, or anything?"
Nothing good ever came of someone asking for that sort of thing.  But if it meant getting the truth from her at last he had no choice. 
"Rea, I'm not going to just run off and leave you.  I owe you a broken curse; no matter what it takes."
"Tressa.  Rea's just the name I use now.  But my mother named me Tressa.  It's the name my father called me by, and the name my family knew me by."
"Tressa,"  Repeated Krell.  He thought about everything he knew about her history and then realized that he knew who she was.  "In that one account of the Great Ga-Vok war; you weren't a consultant, you were a witness.  You included yourself and your father, that's why it was different."
"Don't you remember who wrote the book?"
"Katherine Immersfeld, she's a noted historian, scientist, and magimatician.  Never gives interview's though."
"And that name doesn't ring any bells?"
Krell thought about it.  He had heard the name before.  Liss had refferred to Thalia as Mrs. Immersfeld.  But she'd been dead for half an age by the time the book was published.  Cyssie used her real name with pride, and she only had one surviving female relative.  Which could only mean one thing. 
Rea tried to nod, but stopped and winced before she could finish moving her chin back down. 
"Something's wrong with the book.  About six hundred years ago I turned the page and saw an entry with a birth date that was nearly  century into the future.  In all my years this had never happened to me before, so I went to the only person I thought I could trust.  Petra had spent thousands of years learning from her mother, and not just combat.  I thought, if anyone could tell me what was wrong with it, she could.  When I showed her she told me something her mother had told her.  It was sort of a prophecy, sort of a counter-curse.  She told me that her mother had told her that I would never grow up until I met...someone.  Not just any someone of course, someone I cared about more than this job."
"So I infiltrated the court and waited for the Emperor to have his daughter.  Petra's prophecies had never been true in the past.  I remember when she insisted that she would one day destroy every shade in a single battle.  Nine thousand years later it still hasn't happened.  I wasn't about to waste my time looking for some fiery haired priest with my brother's workmanship at his command.  It would have been impractical.  You promise you won't freak out?"
"Just keep going and I'll do my best." 
"Ok...  Well, I saw you when they announced Holine's birth.  You and your wife were there with Kvald and Chasia.  I...I sort of started following you after that.  Fighting alongside you and your men, proofreading your reports, you know..normalish stuff." 
Krell could see why she was so worried.  Proofreading someone's papers wasn't exactly normal.  And he realized with a bit of shame that he did have somewhat of a track record of flipping out over things.  Still, what she was talking about was only a little short of outright stalking.  It was fundamentally the same thing; keeping a close eye on someone and watching over them without their knowledge. 
"How closely were you watching exactly?  You weren't collecting pictures of me for a closet somewhere or peaking through my windows or anything were you?"
"I may have had one or two photos but God as my witness I never peeked through any windows.  And they were on a bulletin board, in a hall; nothing creepy, I promise."  Rea was starting to panic a little.  She seemed so vulnerable, even when she'd cried before she'd been vulnerable more from shock and fear than from any actual openness as she was now.  Krell reached out and took her hand gently.  Even though her bulky bracer had kept it stable he could tell it was still as sore as the rest of her body was.  Something about seeing her vulnerable made him feel more equal to her than he had felt since she'd first begun introducing him to the universe's leading ladies.  It was a nice change of pace, and were it not for the anguish it was clearly causing her he might have actually taken some pleasure in seeing her in this lower station.
"Rea, I got used to you being kind of creepy.  I'm not saying it's not a little creepy that you were following me around for what I get the impression was pretty much my whole life, because frankly it is.  But you've given me no reason to believe you meant anything harmful by it.  You just...didn't really know the right way to deal with it."
"You mean talk to you up front and make it clear how I felt and why?"
"Ok, so you did know.  Now it bothers me a little."
"Sorry, but I knew you wouldn't have helped at that point.  You were married, you had an important job, you had no reason to go galavanting around with a fourteen year old girl.    Besides the fact that it would have made you look like a complete pervert, you loved where you were and who you were with.  I couldn't bring myself to take that away from you, and you wouldn't have come." 
"You're right about that.  But I think the real question is; what is it you're expecting from me now that you've got my exclusive attention?"
Rea paused.  He was pretty sure she wasn't trying to figure out what she was expecting.  She'd probably known that since the day she decided to start following him around.  The mere fact that she'd brought Lewiza up meant that it wasn't exactly charitable.  And it meant that Lewiza would have definitely opposed it. 
"Well, at the bare minimum it means travelling with me.  Potentially it could be a lifetime commitment.  It really depends on how long it takes." 
"How long what takes exactly?" 
"I don't know exactly.  I think it means I have to choose you over completing an assignment on time.  It could mean hanging up my blades and being your adoring wife though if you'd.."  She started blushing and looked away.  Krell was a bit horrified at the idea of her being his wife though.  For one thing, just travelling with her made him look like a creep; being married would have made him an actual creep.  And besides that obvious problem, she was usually nice enough, but she never seemed quite stable.  Sure she was subdued and calm now, but only a scant half a day ago she'd been trying to murder someone for no apparent reason.  And while he didn't entirely blame her now that he'd actually talked to Petra, he'd had more provocation than she had.  But added to her general tendency towards jealousy and violence, a realtionship seemed unwise.  He didn't want to tell her that outright, besides the chance of her flying into a rage, he could see how serious she was about it.  Rea didn't normally embarass easily.  He'd suspected she felt this way since Medea, why else would her assailant have picked his form?  He could see liking her that way if she was older, emotionally as well as physically, but certainly not now. 
"Lets just stick with travelling together for now.  Ok?"
"Yeah..I guess."
"I'd be lying to say it wasn't personal, or to say that your age isn't a factor.  But I promise I won't go and hook up with some of the younger immortal jailbait." 
Rea giggled.  "Ok, and I'll try my best not to get into too much trouble." 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; Pastrami with a Paladin

Credits; Krell, Rea, Petra,

Rea fell asleep just as she stopped crying.  Krell decided that it would be a very good time to go and find out exactly what happened before she woke up.  The last thing Rea would want was for him to go and get defensive of her.  Or be nosy, or whatever it was that she thought he was being any time he tried to help. 
Petra was downstairs discussing sandwich construction with Nao, who had long since finished his and now seemed interested in sating a rather different appettite.  It seemed unlikely that someone as old as Petra was unaware of this though, so he had no real concern.  His concern was finding out why his childhood hero and his..whatever Rea was, had been fighting. 
"Petra, we need to talk."
"Don't interrupt, I'm extolling the virtues of the Reuben."
"How can you just sit here and talk about food after you nearly killed someone?"
Petra turned towards him.  Nao became statuesque in an instant.  Krell found himself wondering if Petra could move as fast as Rea could, she must have to use a touch based spell like that without his noticing. 
"The Elf will be fine, I've just tricked his mind into thinking it doesn't exist.  Should buy us a few hours while it does the math.  Now, you wanted to talk about how I can break every bone in your girlfriend's body, rupture every capillary in her skin, and then just sit down and talk about sandwiches with a single-minded elf.  It's quite simple; Fighting makes me hungry."
"You Beat Her Up, and you're just shruging it off like it was nothing?"
"I'm hungry again."  Petra stood up and opened the refrigerator, which he noticed sported a clearly labeled self-destruct button. 
"How could you do this?"
"Uhm..I punch harder, faster, and more than she did.  It's not like I started the fight; she just flew off the handle.  You saw it.  Does this bread look moldy to you?"  She held up a slice of bread.  It didn't look moldy at all, but he wasn't interested in discussing bread.  Besides, it was clearly a Cystech refrigerator; mold was the last thing he'd have been worried about. 
"Not like it matters anyways, blood needs to eat too y'know."
"You're supposed to be the premier force of good in the Universe."
That got her to stop.  She sighed and set down the bread and closed the door. 
"I think you know better than that Father.  I'm the third most good thing in the universe at best.  It's just that the number one thing is so inconcievably good most people forget he exists.  The second one is my mother, may she properly die and get the rest she deserves."
"Right, well other than GOD."
"I hear that alot.  You've spent to much time studying Father, go live a little and get back to me about my being a force for good."
"You didn't have to beat her that badly."
"TS wasn't in the mood to talk.  I take it she still isn't."
"You keep calling her that.  You act like you know her so well, but she's older than you.  And Arcania says she travels alone."
"Other than you, doesn't that ever bother you?"
"I haven't had much of a chance to ask about it, we've been running around the whole time we've known each other.  Half the time we aren't fighting she's crying or sleeping."
Petra sat down in a rather comfortable looking chair.  She folded her hands and leaned back into it as a cat with tortise shell patterned fur jumped into her lap and sat in a pose that seemed to match hers perfectly.  He glanced around and noticed that the entire room had transformed into something resembling a therapist's office. 
"For the record, it is taking me more effort to not ask you how your relationship with your mother is than it did to beat your girlfriend."
"She's not my girlfriend."
"Then what is she?"
"Just a partner.  She helped me, and she's said that there's something she needs me to help her with."
"We'll come back to that last part.  Have you asked her what she thinks of you as?"
"Well, no, we've been..."
"Busy" Petra interrupted, "Yes, you've mentioned that.  Maybe the two of you should take some time to sit down and talk about it.  She should be awake in, say, five hours.  The sheer number of fractures and cumulative blood loss should keep her immobile for most of tomorrow, you should take advantage of that."
"Fractures you caused."
"You keep coming back to that.  Tell me, is it TS's age that makes you want to defend her?"
"What?  No!  It's just, she needs help sometimes.  She's just too proud to admit it.  She just throws herself headlong at things without thinking about the risks."
"So you think she's headstrong, so you want to try and offer a more rational mind by confronting me about fighting her?"
Petra shook her head and pointed a finger at him.  "You two are perfect for each other.  You don't even know it, but the only difference is weapons preference."
"Why do you keep talking like we're dating or something?"
"Talk to TS, she should be more willing to tell you the truth now.  And when you're done, tell her that she reached the end of the book and its time to start writing one of her own."  she stood up and the room, cat and all, dissapeared around her. 
"Why can't you tell her?  Why won't you answer my question!"
"I have classes to teach, demons to slay, and Delis to patronize.  The two of you have eternity to figure each other.  I think I may only have until Wedensday."
There was no pop to indicate her departure.  Petra simply departed, leaving pain, unanswered questions, and an unused piece of bread behind. 
"Hey!  Where'd she go?"
"Don't know, don't think I even care anymore.  As far as I'm concerned she can stay there."
"Damn shame, I think she was starting to warm up to me too."
Krell left Nao to his sandwich and fantasy.  He headed back up the stairs.  If he wanted any answers at this point, it looked like he'd have to wait for Rea to wake up. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; Villain's Hearth, Ghoul's Warmth, and Assassin's Tears

Credits; Krell, Rea, Petra,

The house was relatively simple.  After seeing the palace he had expected that any of Courtney's homes would be more lavish.  But in place of gilded stone collumns and intricate mosaics were wooden bookcases and floral wallpaper.  It seemed entirely unlike anything he'd have expected of so great and powerful a ruler.  Krell walked as quietly as he could from room to room, trying to find anything that could give him insight into Stormguard's countess. 
"Father, I have been instructed to attend you and the girl called Rea.  Do you have any needs I might attend to?  I am a capable scribe, enchanter, maidservant, lover, and if I might say so, an accomplished chef."
Liss, Courtney's ghoul maidservant.  She was only mobile because Courtney had used one of her latent abilities to grant her a sort of second life.  It would be hard to distinguish her from anything properly alive, but that would never change the fact that she was little more than a very intelligent and capable golem.  She could use magic apparently, which was quite rare amongst any sort of golem. 
"No, I'm just wondering why Courtney has this place.  Is it just somewhere to hide when she wants to get away from the palace?"
"My Mistress was bequeathed this house by a friend of hers, Mrs. Immersfeld.  Mrs. Immersfeld did not like to stay in the palace, so she had a house built here, and she permitted the Gravagan's to live in the gardens."
"Permitted...Gardens...Wait, Immersfeld, Thalia Immserfeld the queen of Gravaga?"
"Your deduction is correct.  This home belonged to Thalia Immersfeld."
He'd seen the Gravagan palace before on a diplomatic trip with Kvald.  It was huge, lavish; it made the Imperial palace look like a collection of tents with a fence.  And this house was owned by the same woman. 
"And she prefered this?"
"That was my impression.  I have been told that this is the home she lived in with her family prior to founding the Gravagan Empire.  All but her youngest child were born here, and prior to becoming the Countess, my mistress was her steward here."
Courtney a steward?  He'd have never guessed it.  It felt like he was a bit late to the party.  Everyone else was already established as heroes or rulers and here he was just getting back into the game so to speak. 
Then it struck him; this was the house Arcania had been born in.  So much had started here.  Arcania, Courtney; so much of the Frostbourne war had started right in this house. 
"Perhaps you would be interested in seeing the Mistress' most prized trophy.  She set it up in the garden as a memorial, it carries Mrs. Immersfeld's last words."
"Yes, I would like to see that very much."
Liss held out her hand.  It seemed strange, considering that a wave or simply pointing would normally have been the method of telling someone to follow them.  But, remembering his manners, Krell decided to just go along with it.  He let go quickly though, her hand was warm.  She was dead, and had been for a long time, her hands should have been cold. 
"Your hands.."
"I'm sorry.  I shouldn't have..Please forgive my indiscretion sir."
"But you're dead."
"I'm..."  She faded off and looked into the distance.  She did manage to regain her focus quickly though and motioned for him to follow her.  He followed her into the garden cautiously.  If she was still warm, natural warmth not a burn or some sort of spell, then there was no knowing what she really was.  But even Rea had thought her some form of ghoul, so it seemed unlikely she was truely alive. 
The garden apparently was the entire rest of the district.  The Gravagan's had built their homes into it in the most unobtrusive manner possible, and most seemed almost a feature of the local flora.  He'd always heard that she was a fierce villain and a powerful enemy, but between Cyssie and Arcania, and seeing the home she'd chosen for herself, Krell couldn't hope but think Thalia must have been quite the actress to have pulled off the villain persona. 
The trophy was sitting on the top of a fountain in the middle of the central plaza of the Gravagan District.  A horn the size of a person, and it was twisted in an open spiral.  Around the edge, in large capitol letters, were the words 'WITTY ONE LINER'.  He puzzled at it for a moment before snickering as he finally realized what had inspired her to engrave something so nonsensical. 
"My Mistress says she saw Mrs. Immersfeld's last words and recognized her sense of humor instantly.  She was famous for her dramatic timing, and her ability to produce witty remarks at a moment's notice."  Liss smiled, she had a very pleasant smile.  "I think she planned that one ahead of time, everyone expected her last words to be a witty one liner."
Liss took him straight back to the house.  She kept smiling.  She seemed so close to being alive it was eerie. 

No sooner had they arrived home then Liss dissapeared again.  Nao had found the pantry well stocked and was occupying himself with an almost obscenely large sandwich.  Krell chose not to mention that they had a chef in the house, he felt it would be wasted on the elf.  He had just selected a book, 'Heroes and Villains; age old tale made social theory' by Thalia Immersfeld, when he heard the rather distinctive popping sound of space-time being torn open and subsequently sealed back up.  He set the book aside and went out to the foyer to find out who had arrived.  He found Petra standing there in her tunic, which was now coated in a mixture of powdered tile, blood, and small burns.  His jaw dropped in shock as he realized that the heavily bruised, blood soaked mess with the tattered clothes that Petra was steering with one hand was in fact Rea. 
"I think this young lady would like to have a word with you father.  Maybe you'll finally be able to get the truth out of her.  I'll be in the kitchen, it smells like obscenely large sandwich."
Petra let go of Rea and patted her roughly on the shoulder before proceeding past them both towards the kitchen.  Krell rushed over to Rea and managed to catch her before she collapsed. 
"What happened?"
Rea looked up at him and started watering up.  He picked her up and carried her upstairs.  Liss seemed to have already prepared for thecircumstance, as one bedroom had not only been left open but had been set up with gauze, antiseptics, and a manual on setting bones.  While the last two were unneeded, the gauze proved quite useful for mopping off enough of her face that he could see her properly.  No sooner had he managed to get the blood out of her face and most of her hair then she simply broke down crying.  Whatever Petra had wanted Rea to tell him so badly, it was going to be a while before she'd be able to muster the strength to say it.  But until then, he had the feeling she wouldn't object to the company.  After all, having her completely breakdown on him was starting to seem like it would be a regular occurence. 

The Assassin's Tale; The Gravagan District

Credits; Krell, Rea, Petra,

The Gravagan's of Stormguard had managed to capture the essence of their native lands perfectly.  As Krell came up the stairs to join Nao he noticed that the Gravagan's district tram stop hadn't been hidden away like the one in the Elven quarter.  It wasn't marked, but the little brick U that marked the top of the stairway was in the middle of a little park.  From the looks of it, it had been planted when the tram had been built.  The trees were tall, and the stones had been cracked as the roots had grown outward.  The buildings around it were of a very plain, octagonal design, most with vines growing up the sides. 
"It's nice isn't it?"
Krell paused at the top of the steps.  He had to admit, the Gravagan district had a very soothing sort of beauty to it.  The path had been lined with flowers, all geometricly shaped and colorful.  It wasn't a wild garden by any means, the trees had been neatly trimmed and the mulch in the flower beds was fresh.  Krell found himself wondering if his own Nielda had done so well in building their own district. 

Suddenly he heard the telltale pop of an incoming teleport.  A raven haired woman in a tunic appeared before him, with her back facing him. She spun around, braid spinning as she did. 
"Well gosh darnit, four meters and it would have been perfect."
"Who are you?"  Asked Krell in bewilderment.  She sounded familiar, but he couldn't quite recognize her. 
She stepped forward and stretched out a hand.  He noticed a set of rings, two silver and one gold, each with a single diamond of a different color.  It was too many to be an engagement, or even a wedding. 
"You can just call me Petra.  All my friends, colleagues, enemies, and most of my students do."
It may have been rude not to shake her hand, but Krell found himself paralyzed as he realized that he was face to face with the most powerful mortal in the history of the universe.  She was a legend of historical renown, and by reputation the greatest force for both God and Religion ever known to the Nielda.  She was the paladin, the destroyer of demons and slayer of shades.  Rea and Arcania both paled by comparrison, and he'd seen both in action.  And here she was, plain as day.
"I take it you've heard of me.  Well, that's only fair, I've heard an awful lot about you as well, Krell Casat.  I see you and TS have taken care of your Lichy little problem.  So if you won't shake my hand in friendship then at least let me shake yours in congratulations."
Krell broke himself out of the trance and shook her hand with great force and rapidity.  After all, it wasn't often one met the heroine of one's favorite childhood tales. 
"Sorry,"  Nao cut in,  "Do you two know each other?"
"Well, we both know of each other.  The man you've been so noble as to escort around town is none other than Father Krell, a noted theologian and recently cured Lich."
"Doesn't ring a bell.  How exactly do you cure a lich?  I always thought you had to choose to do that to yourself?"
"Get him to tell you the story some time Master Ranger, it's quite interesting.  Anyways, I'm not actually here for the sake of it.  Would the two of you mind following me at a distance; I expect to be run into by my old friend rather shortly."
She didn't have Rea's urgent pace.  It was much easier to follow Petra.  Krell zoned out Nao's questioning, and even Petra's patient, carefully worded non-answers.  He was still in awe.  Something about this time was different than when he'd seen her earlier.  Then she'd just been frustrated and fresh from battle, here she was in person, being personable, like any normal being.  Even when she wasn't fighting, she still wore her equally famous sword at her side.  Shadilne-thokan, Hell's gate in the high tounge of the Nielda, was its name.  With it she'd slain more shades and demons than any other immortal.  It was said that no magical artifact was more holy, or more powerful. 
"Hold here, and watch everything; something wicked this way comes."
"Hail Petra, daughter of Death."  A young man, by age most likely twenty-two, approached with a bared black knife.  "The Pantheon sends their regards."
"But it is not the Pantheon's good will you bring Elbret.  How long has that dagger mastered you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Give it to me, and tell the pantheon that they must wait until Wedensday."
"What use do you have for my knife?"
"Can you take it from your hand?"
"Of course I can."  He switched it between hands. 
"No.  Set it down, and go.  I promise you no harm will come to you if you do, but if you insist on holding it than harm will most definitely come."
He dropped the knife.  Petra was known for many things, but idle threats were not one of them.  The young man ran off quickly, leaving the knife behind in the street.  Their must have been some magic in the knife because the Gravagan passersby had formed a circle around Petra and the knife, almost as though by instinct. 
"Have you ever faced a shade Father?"
Krell glanced around and determined that he had addressed him.  "No ma'am."
"It does strange things to a person.  Once you've met the left hand of Hell you can't help but know which side you stand upon."
She put her right hand to her sword hilt and wtretched the left out towards the knife.  It hovered and oriented itself downward. 
"In the name of the King of Kings, come out and face me once again, old friend."
The knife shattered.  A black smoke issued forth from its shards and reformed into a man.  The shadows fell and a...a thing of pure black stepped forward. 
"Petra, Death's daughter, we meet again."
"Hello Shade.  Shall we dance or must we threaten each other further?"
"One day We will face you as one, and you will fall."
"Yes, I know."
The shade leapt at her, swinging a blade that issued from its arm.  She ducked under the blow and pulled her blade from its scabbard.  They spun, dodged and parried for nearly four minutes before she swept it's legs and plunged her blade through it's heart. 
"Not this time though."
The shade disintigrated.  Krell had always heard that a Shade screamed as it died, but this one died in silence.  Petra crossed herself and sheathed her sword before turning back to them. 
"Ah, hello there TS, had a nice..."
She sidestepped and grabbed Rea's hand as she stabbed from behind. 
"You forget yourself Feldain, we are not enemies."
"Let go!"
"Calm down."
"Let go of me!"
"Father, fourth door on the right, first street around counter clockwise; take the ranger with you.  TS and I shall catch up shortly, we need to talk."
Krell listened and went off with Nao, who had gone silent as soon as the shade had appeared. 

The Assassin's Tale; The Elven Quarter

Credits; Krell, Rea,

Rea was moving pretty quick.  Not the fastest she could, but fast enough to make it clear she was angry and didn't want to be followed.  Krell was following her anyways.  She'd calm down eventually, and when she did he'd apologize and never bring up the subject again.  Apparently the line between right and wrong was thin for immortals. 
The bridges that connected the different parts of Stormguard were themselves stone, like much of the exterior of the city itself.  However, he could see the metal framework the stone was built upon more clearly here, without any buildings around.  Looking up he could see more distant parts of the city attached by long stairways, all lit up with little lamps, hovering flames, or even just balls of magical light, not unlike the ones that lit the streets ahead.  He'd never actually met an Elf before, but he had heard of their magical prowess and could tell by looking around as he reached the end of the bridge that not an awful lot of physical labor had been done to build it.  In place of the gas lamps that had lit the previous section of the city, little blue-green lights hovered over stone pillars that seemed to grow from the ground.  There were no carriages here, all of the inhabitants seemed to walk, or simply teleport from place to place.  There were few loud noises, yet somehow few quiet ones too.  There were no crowds, no one was working.  It was the most serene and somehow boring place he'd ever been.  The Gothic quarter had been loud, and dark, and spooky and it was still more comfortable than this was. 
"Take the keys, go to the Gravagan district, and stop following me."
Rea had managed to slip behind him while he was looking around.  She held out a set of keys; Krell took them by the top key, a sort of purple crystal with a rune carved onto the top.  He wasn't going to argue with her, twice in one day was just asking for trouble.  Rea vanished as soon as he had them in his hand.  Krell glanced around and couldn't tell if anyone had even noticed they were there.  He could see a few pointed ears turned subtly towards them, but he wasn't sure if that was general suspicion or just coinciednce. 
He walked up the street until he found a map of the city projected over a central square.  A few other confused looking travellers were examining it intently, so he slipped into the area and looked for the Gravagan District.  Liss had mentioned that was where their belongings had been taken, and the purple crystal was clearly Gravagan technology; he'd need to head there then. 
"Excuse me."  An elf tapped him on the shoulder.  Krell turned around and looked at the newcomer.  He looked darker than most elves.  It was strange to think of anyone as pale as him as tanned, but compared to most Elves, he was.  Dark hair, which was actually, juding by the rest of the inhabitants of the district, rather uncommon.  Maybe he was from a different group of Elves. 
"I couldn't help but notice that your sister gave you the keys to something Gravagan.  I don't suppose you're headed that way?"
"Well yes, but she's not my sister."
"Oh, did someone curse your girlfriend then?"
"She's not my..anything really.  We're just partners."
"We're adventurers, of a sort."
"Oh.  Well in that case I don't suppose you'd need a guide.  You should know your way around Stormguard then, eh?"
"Actually, this is my first visit to Stormguard.  If you could show me to the Gravagan district I'd be rather grateful."
"Excellent!  I don't suppose you have any..."
He was looking for work.  Judging by his equipment he was a guard or a mercenary of some sort, so that wasn't surprising.  Krell found himself regreting the decision not to bring anything from Medea. 
"I'm afraid I don't actually have anything.  But if you stick around for a while my companion is one of the wealthiest women in the Empire."
"Which Empire?"
"Daniellandish, does it matter?"
"The Secloran money is no good.  They stopped backing it properly so they could pay for the invasions, now its inflated to high heaven and the exchange rate is all messed up."
"I already like you.  Which way then?"
"This way, and never trust the maps around here.  They enchanted it to lead you directly through the will weakening enchantments in the shopping district no matter where you're going."
"Good to know, my name's Krell."
"Nice to meet you Krell, you can call me Nao."

Nao took them through backstreets and into tunnels he'd have never known to look for.  Not sewer tunnels, although the smell was comprable, but a sort of hidden rail tunnel. 
"Hop in, these are public use, but mostly only vagrants and law enforcement use them anymore." 
"Are you sure it's safe?"  Krell had served on some rustbuckets in the past, but the little tram wasn't much more than a few cars suspended from a cable.  It had internal power from the looks of it, and an internal motor as well.  But between the rust, the graffiti, and the smell of mold he wasn't confident either still worked. 
"Unless you jump off.  Genuine Cystech systems custom tramway with internal repeating power supply, internal motor, autorepair drones, and it wouldn't be Cystech if there wasn't a large clearly marked red self-destruct button."
More of Cyssie's work.  He'd met her, and while she had been a bit unstable there was no questioning the quality of her work.  And considering when most of Stormguard had been built, she'd probably done it on location, for free, and under close scrutiny.  After all, they'd been fighting Arcania at the time and all of her family were under suspicion. 
"Cystech, well I suppose that's evidence enough for me."
"You've heard of them?  That's impressive, most of the tourists haven't." 
He joined his companion in the little car.  The lights turned on and a door opened up in front of them.  He felt the motor kick on overhead and they lurched forward before settling into a moderate speed.  They zipped along under the bridges connecting the parts of the city and through the underlevels.  They finally came to a stop in a station that looked exactly the same as the one they'd started in, although it smelled less like homeless people and more like dust. 
"Here we are.  Gravagan district as requested, don't suppose you know where we're headed?"
"Does the Countess have a house around here?"
Nao looked back at him as he reached the stairs that lead up to the streets. 
"Yes, but not many people know that."
"Do you know where it is?"
"Yes, but how do you know the Countess?"
"The girl I'm with, she's a friend of the Countess."
"And she has keys to the Countess' safe house in the Gravagan district?  Must be quite the little girl then."
Krell chuckled as he imagined Rea's outburst at the idea of being called a little girl.  "Yeah, she's pretty special all right."

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; The Gothic Quarter

Credits; Krell, Rea,

Rea was in a bit of a hurry to get them away from Courtney's palace.  However, judging by the view now that they were outside, she'd taken them out a side door or a secret passage.  He looked up at the tower; clouds obscured the highest levels, but based on the curvature of the walls he'd guess it went up as much over the clouds as it did under them. 
Of course, the clouds were magical.  The entire station was throbbing with it.  Tala had created the tower on a small space station, not much more than a small mining platform at the time.  She'd captured the winds of a thousand dying worlds and the fiercest storms of the universe and set them about her little fortress like a cloak.  She'd done a lot of work on it, and Stormguard had grown to the size of a large battleship by the time that the Yellsdana had moved in.  As Rea lead him by the hand through the streets he could see the darker streets and classical archeitecture that vampires prefered.  A few weaker, poorer residents went about in suit and tye attending to the needs of their masters.  He could spot the strangely named merchants; Vlad's Plaids, The Twice Struck Stake, and Bella's Pyre, even through the dim gas lamplight.  It was like a whole new, yet very old, world. 
"Mistress, all of your belongings were moved to the Gravagan district."  One rather stocky young woman had approached and was adressing Rea from a low curtsey.  He'd never really considered it before, but Rea almost certainly had a proper home of her own.
"Liss, go get dinner started.  Krell and I will be back in time for it, but I think we'll have lunch out here."
The servant walked off quickly.  Rea had servants then.  It didn't really surprise him, most immortals had them best as he could tell.  After all, no immortal owned only one house, and they rarely bothered to maintain there own home.  It was strange, considering that Rea had admitted to spending most of her time living with the Von Gravagas, who as best as he could tell did not have servants.  And yet here she was with her own place and servants. 
"Nice girl, so glad when she got turned.  She does a lot of the more advance work, teleporting guest's belongings and running errands."
"You weren't staring at her scar were you?  It's not polite you know."
"What scar?  Rea, who exactly was that girl?"
Rea backed up a little and looked him over.  "Who do you think that was?"
"Your steward or local property manager, some sort of employee."
Rea laughed and vanished for a second.  She reappeared coming through the crowd dragging the poor girl along with her.  By the pained grimmace of the other girl., she was gripping the other girl's arm much harder than she realized. 
"Liss, tell Krell what you are?"
"I'm her Ladyship's handmaid sir."  Liss was timid apparently.  An attractive trait in a servant maybe, but it did make her hard to talk to.  She replied quietly, and her answer didn't tell anyone anything they didn't already know.
"No" Rea replied a little more harshly, "Who do you serve, what are you, tell him about yourself."
The girl looked down and clasped her hands together as though she were praying. 
The girl looked at him, unblinking.  Then he noticed that blinking wasn't the only thing she wasn't doing.  She wasn't breathing.  And her eyes were glazed over like those of the dead. 
"I serve her Ladyship.  I am Liss.  I do what she tells me to do, and she takes care of me."
Even after centuries around the now fundamentally undead Daniellandish, Krell was still surprised when he realized that Liss was just a sort of golem.  A body with no soul and no mind beyond that it needed to do what it was told.  It certainly precluded any chances that Rea was the unnamed Lady.  The young assassin was many things, but a talented necromancer capable of creating a sophisticated golem was not one of them.  She was far more likely to have just bought a robot or simply done it herself. 
"Liss, tell him what you.."
"It's fine.  She's some sort of necromancy, that's all I need to know."  He remembered his training and turned to the unliving woman.  "Thank you for your assistance, you can return to your Lady and express to her our gratitude."  Liss bowed and walked away quietly.  Krell turned back to Rea.  He could tell she was having a bad day and decided to not point out how rude she'd been. 
"Yes.  Liss was the daughter of one of her servants.  She got sick and was dying, so Courtney did what she could."
"And necromancy was a solution to being dead?"
"She's's..Necromancy implies she was dead to start with.  She was just sick."
"Courtney killed her?"
"If you want to be blunt about it, yes.  A ghoul still retains most of its original personality when it's close to its master."
"A ghoul.  Being a soulless corpse that does someone's bidding is better than death?"
"Depends on who you ask.  Petra's told me what the middle plains are like; if you ask me it sounds like death isn't so bad."
"It's not about being dead, it's practically slavery."
"If you could have your wife back, but it meant you couldn't talk to her unless she was in the same house as..I dunno, Arcania, would you do it?"
"At the price of her soul and slavery?  No!"
"She's dead, the soul moved on.  She's wherever she was going.  But for her parents, it's almost like she's still there."
"As an eternal servant and a mockery of her former self."
"What do you have against allowing her parents a little comfort in their grief?"
"It's wrong."
"It's wrong to help them?"
"It's all wrong."
"You're impossible."
"And you're making excuses for evil."
Rea turned her back on him and started walking up the street.  Krell glanced around and realized that despite their having made what he expected was quite a scene, no one was watching.  He looked around and finally decided he really didn't have any choice but to follow her.  Besides being his ride, she was his only friend in the city.  And considering the dank, dark, gray stone alleys that seemed more numerous than shops and houses, he certainly didn't want to spend the night here. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; Like a Piece of Meat

Credits; Krell, Rea, Courtney, Petra,

Krell heard another popping noise and saw another woman enter the room.  She was armored and had her sword drawn.  She sheathed her sword and took her gloves off. 
"Courtney, I thought I didn't have to be here until Wedensday?"
"You don't, but now I don't have to be there at all."  Replied their host, who Rea had referred to as the Courtney Yellsdana, countess of Stormguard. 
Rea nudged him and pointed to the newcomer.  "That's Petra."
"No title?"
"Professor Petra Zinksfeld if you insist, but she prefers to just be called Petra, even by her students."
"Then her mother was?"
Rea nodded.  It was all the answer any Nielda would have needed.  Krell had heard a lot about Zink in history.  It was the only time when the imperial line had ever been dissrupted.  She had usurped the throne from her mother, because her immortality had made her inelligible.  Her successor had been a cousin on her father's side, because she had killed all of her immedeate family and their children.  Legally speaking the current line was still part of the same family, but they weren't blood and to some historians it made them a different line altogether.  But besides that, Zink was responsible for one of only three times the palace had ever fallen.  The war she'd conducted against the rest of the empire had caused more deaths than would be seen again in the empire until the Shade Invasion.  But none of the historians had mentioned a daughter. 
Not until the shade invasion anyways.  It had seemed a bit contradictory when the books had mentioned the death of Petra 'Zink' Laerdsfeld in the Battle of Anatolia, and then later mentioned Petra as being the hero of the battles of Tara and Corun, but if this Petra was the daughter of Zink, then it all made sense. 
And if what Arcania had said was true than this was the most powerful of all the immortals.  He had it by the same account that Rea was the second most powerful, but there seemed to be no resemblance between the two.  Petra was young, as immortals are, but she seemed more thoughtful than Rea, and more stable as well.  She was no more attractive, but he couldn't detect most of the effort that Rea always put into her appearnce, no make up and her garb was chosen for practicallity rather than aesthetics.  And in what Krell couldn't help but notice, she kept her armor polished and clean, something Rea never made any effort to do. 

"Then they finaly did it.  It is such a shame to see Tala's work so corrupted.  Thank you for calling me, can I go back to my fight?  There's a shade running amuck in one of the monastaries of Himal, and he has done a lot of damage because you couldn't wait."
"My apologies Professor, happy hunting."  She snapped and Petra vanished.  Courtney turned back to Rea and continued.  "Very sorry about the interruption, I called you here so I could get a better idea what's going on."
"In private maybe, but I want all of us here before I discuss anything."  Rea glanced at Krell.  She was still keeping secrets, from the sounds of it he was never going to be in the know about even half of what she did.
"Then I'm afraid it will have to wait until Wednesday.  Petra won't want to be interrupted twice in one week.  Arcania should be here soon though. 
"Tell your scryers to check the aqueous planes; she and ZeeGee will be there.  And tell them to leave a message, no one likes it when they just get called away from things so you can panic about other things."
Courtney smiled.  It was sort of a wide smile, the sort that was just to wide to be natural. 
"Of course, so this is your friend then?"
"Krell has been my companion for several months now."  Rea seemed agitated again.  Krell remembered Arcania asking much the same question when first they'd met.  He was starting to feel like he was a piece of meat being fought over with lying smiles and sharp words. 
"Oh, The Krell Casat?"  Courtney glided down the stairs to them.  He noticed her cloak dragged a bit, but the dress was just short enough that it never touched the ground, yet hid any trace of her feet.  Though, as there were no footsteps, perhaps she had none.  "I was quite saddened to hear of what happened.  It brings me much distress to hear when any being's soul is stolen away."
Krell summoned up his best courtly manners and managed a quick bow before replying.  "A situation that has been taken care of.  I do appreciate your concern."
"I sent orders to have you watched but I have no reports, on your travels have you encountered one of my nieces, Vionelle?"
He had, back when Kelvin had first dragged him out of his church.  Vionelle was the name of the ambassador to Gasca.  She'd directed them to hunt down members of a cult, which she had mislead Kelvin into believing was responsible for the plague.  He'd never met her before that day, nor had he met her since.  "I have, but only once and rather briefly."
"I shall have to have a word with her.  She's a very good ambassador Vionelle, but I'm afraid she isn't much of a spy."
"You should transfer her, she seemed to be having problems with a local."
"Now that you are safe and sound, there is little reason to have one of my own there anyways.  Your advice will be taken into consideration."  She leaned in and whispered.  "Between you and me, the position on Tara has just opened up, and Vionelle has been quite hoping for it."
He wondered who the secret was being kept from and glanced around the room.  Other than an increasingly annoyed Rea, he couldn't see anyone.  Perhaps Courtney was just being dramatic, or maybe it was just to annoy Rea. 
"Well she has my vote.  Never once heard anything bad about Stormguard my whole life.  And the aid you sent right after the plague was greatly appreciated."
Courtney curtsied almost to a kneel before Rea came over and pulled her away.  He wasn't perfectly certain what it was that was bothering her.  Maybe there was some sort of old joke at Rea's expense that he was being used in. 
"Well."  She said more harshly than he'd ever heard her when she wasn't killing something.  "If we're not needed until Wednesday, I think I'll take Krell on a tour of the city.  Have Arcania get ahold of me when she gets here will you?"  She didn't actually let go of Courtney until she'd manuevered fully in between them.  No sooner had she let go of the Countess than had she taken hold of Krell's hand and begun leading him to the door.  He didn't strugle, he knew that he was outmatched by anyone in this room.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; Transit

Credits; Krell, Rea, Courtney,

Making it out of the vault was far easier than getting in.  For starters, all of the guards were either dead or had fled in terror.  Besides that he and Rea had managed to break more than half of the traps.  Krell noticed that Rea was actually resetting the mechanical traps as she went, but the magical ones were beyond her knowledge to repair.  The Medean's may have been insane, but he still found himself hoping that they would be able to reset everything.  He'd been sure to not take anything, and Rea had done the same.  It wasn't as though it had contained anything they couldn't afford to get on their own.  Or rather, Rea could afford to buy a better version of anything in the vault, and Krell had no use for any of it.  He had his compass, his sword, and now that he had a real, living body again he was actually leaving with more than he'd come in with.  It was marvelous seeing how quickly he could stop, and being able to feel and smell.  The world seemed so much more vibrant now that he was aware of senses he'd always taken for granted. 

The ship was waiting for them right where they'd left it.  In the middle of an open field, not a scrub or sign of life in sight, was Rea's personal starship.  It wasn't much for looks, although he'd certainly seen worse.  He stopped on the entry ramp, wondering why she would program a ship that could look like anything to look like a clunky older model starship that didn't blend in even in a docking facility. The halls were full of crates of trash and trashy magazine, junk and junk food, and what he was never sure was clean clothes, dirty laundry, or clothes she had never even worn.  There was no way of knowing for sure; and he wasn't really certain Rea knew or cared either. 
"You ever going to clean this place up?"
"You ever seen a field of tin cans moving at light speed?"
"No, is this why you keep garbage and clothing sitting around?"

Rea nodded.  She started to say something and then stopped short.  She glanced around quickly and then grabbed him by the hand. 
"Hold on, something's.."  Reality bent around them.  Whatever she had said was left behind as they stayed standing through the void.  Krell tried to say something but there was no air to carry the sound.  He saw a blur of color spread around them and suddenly their feet were on the ground again.  He quickly glanced around and tried to figure out where they were.  Tan stone, ornate railings and moulding, walls decorated with mastercraft paintings of powerful mages fighting and reveling; it was finer than most noble's palaces.  If he had to guess he'd guess they were in the Arcane Academy or possibly the private residence of an immortal.  He looked at Rea, who seemed to be making the same observations as he was.  She stopped and looked directly over his shoulder, so he turned looked to see what had caught her eye. 
Behind them, on a grand staircase that stretched three floors up and all about the room, a woman in a hooded black cape that hung straight at her sides and an equally black dress that was cut just a little short for Krell's liking was standing at the top of the broad flight of stairs that lead down to their level. 
"I am dreadfully sorry I had to call you up like that Rea, but something terrible is under way.  Arcania and Petra should be arriving before day's end, my scryers are still trying to locate them."
Rea turned to Krell without acknowledging the newcomer.  She wore an expression of complete seriousness, although she still seemed somewhat confused by this turn of events. 
"Father Krell, this is her eminence the Countess of Stormguard; Courtney Ecthonsbane Yellsdana."

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; Together Again

Credits; Krell, Rea,

Rea had the decency to turn around before he finished reforming.  She may have been a oddity, and at fourteen yet nearly twelve thousand years old there was no other way to put it, but she didn't have any issues with giving others privacy.  She didn't seem to particualrly want it herself, but that was an issue for another day. 

Krell glanced around, his new eyes already adjusted to the flickering torchlight of the relic chamber in this Medean vault.  He quickly conjured up some clothes.  It had been ages since he'd had to wear casual clothes, but after four hundred years in a habbit the last thing he wanted was more robes.  And since he was technically dead, he no longer could wear his old naval threads. 
"Say Rea, you're good with fashion right?"
"I do own a makeup company, why?"
"I don't suppose you could reccomend me some clothes?"
He could almost feel her excitement.  Before he knew it there was a towel wrapped around his midriff and she was circling him with a clipboard and a tape measure he was certain had not been in the room a moment ago. 
"First order of business is going to have to be underwear.  That's your problem, I don't do underwear."
"Right, been along time since I needed that."  He quietly summoned some underwear, and for good measure a pair of socks and some boots.  Rea stopped in front of him and looked down. 
"Boots?  You can do better than that, all that time hovering around and you want to wear something heavy and inflexible?  I ought to make you run barefoot."
"I happen to like boots."
"Well I don't, but I suppose it's your choice.  I can't make you."
"Thank you."
'You aren't welcome.  Formal or casual?"
"Casual, I've got nothing to be formal for."
"Adventurer casual or civie casual?"
"Depends, how much adventuring do you think we'll be doing?"
Rea stopped circling again and looked up at him.  "You said we."
"Something odd about that?"
"No no, I just..I like how it sounds."
"You need to stop saying stuff like that, it makes you sound creepy."
"Sorry."  She conjured a pair of cargo pants and a gray T-shirt covered with little red-gold specks that read 'Touch of Ash'.  A nice touch, and with any luck added to his new youth people would assume it was for a band they'd never heard of.  Then he realized that he was young, and alive.  He glanced around for a mirror, even though he knew full well that there wasn't one around. 
"Sneakers would go so much better with that outfit."  Rea was leaning back to inspect him better.  She still had her own clever joke T-shirt on from when she'd been impaled by wall earlier, it seemed like some sort of calling card for her conjurations. 
"Just let it go."
"Just saying.  Now, we'll need to buy you some proper gear when we get back to civilization.  Then we'll set up your bank account with Stormguard and I'll introduce you to the Countess, who will in turn introduce you to the pantheon."
"Why can't you introduce me to them yourself?"
She reached into her pocket and pulled out her book.  The meaning was clear; her little leather book of marks consisted almost entirely of immortals.  The pantheon, the high council of the immortals, would be obligated to attempt to bring her to justice on sight.  He suspected that at least a few of them knew her casually and knew better than to challenge her, but the rest would try it as soon as she was recognized. 
"Right.  Don't suppose it says who your next target is?"
She paused and looked down at it.  Her smile fell and she closed it, then quickly reopened it.  She did this three times before putting it back in her pocket. 
"Something wrong?"
"Maybe, but I'm not sure.  I'll check it again tomorrow."
Krell looked at his hands.  Alive again after so long, all this skin and blood was amazing.  He could feel the cold of the chamber, and hear the gentle hum of the protective wards over the various artifacts in their cases.  Then he noticed something on his right hand.  There was a red scar around his right ring finger.  It stretched all the way around the finger and went from one knuckle to the next without stopping.  He hadn't a blemish or mole to speak of, not that he'd had any while he was alive, but here was a scar that he had never seen before. 
"Rea, do Lich normally come back with a scar?"
"Only one other guy has ever come back, and I assure you he didn't come back with a new scar." 
"Then how'd I get this scar on my finger?"  She looked away and started sketching a bit of alchemy on the wall. 
"Rea, how did I get this scar on my finger?"
"I 'unno"  She mumbled. 
"Well, maybe if something hadn't been with you when you were destroyed, a knuckle or something.  It could, maybe, leave a mark."
"What did you do?"
She turned around, but still couldn't bring herself to meet his eyes. 
"Rea, did you do this to me?"
"Why would you take a man's knuckle?"
"There's a spell."
"There generally is; what was it for?"
"You can make a lich reform at the piece instead of the phylactery."
"Why would you want me to reform at you when the plan was to destroy me and have me reform at the phylactery?"
"Because when you got destroyed again you would have reformed at the phylactery again.   And if you reformed there than..." She trailed off, clearly trying to find the right words.  Krell held up his hand and stopped her. 
"The truth."
"I wanted to make sure you came back.  I was afraid you'd get caught up in the spotlight, or sent to jail, or worse.  I'm sorry, I just wanted to make sure you came back."
Krell took a deep breath, it was nice being able to do that again.  She just...why?  She just kept doing things without telling him.  And always in the name of not hurting him, or because she wasn't ready.  What did she have against the truth?
"You could have asked."
"You would have said no."
"No, not about the knuckle; that was stupid and ridiculous and never should have worked.  Why didn't you just ask me to come back for you?"
"Let's just go.  We need to get you to Stormguard."
"I expect answers Rea.  You made a promise, not just what I need to know, or what was relevant, all of it."
"Fine, just...later."
"On the ship, and I won't get off until you tell me."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Short Story; Apprenticeship

Astelle Aeron had been in the adventuring business since she was fifteen.  The initiation process was rough, her village burned, her parents killed, and biker ninjas everywhere.  She'd done what any reasonable Nielda would do in the circumstance; sworn revenge, tracked down the best sword in town, and followed them. 
Luckily, like any reasonably successful adventurer, she'd run into people who actually did know what they were doing.  That was four hundred years ago.  Captain Altar and the rest of the knights had adopted her as one of their own.  She'd learned to fight, how to disarm most traps, and even managed to earn a few runes of her own.  She approached the young man at the bar on the captain's orders.  It was a test.  She'd proven herself a capable adventurer in the past, and the next step for any of the knights was to show that they could teach those skills as well as they'd learned them.  It expressed a great deal of faith in her abilities.  Many, nay most, knights failed this test.  And few took it so young.  She managed to suppress her pride before she tapped the youth's shoulder. 

"What's a kid like you doing in a rough place like this?"
The young man turned.  He wasn't drunk, he must have just eaten something bad.  He seemed determined, if somewhat uncertain of his surroundings. 
"I was hoping to meet someone.  Place like this, with all the shadowy figures and bad guys, I was hoping someone would say something about the Empress' death."
Astelle drew back.  The Empress was dead?  She could only assume it was the Daniellndish one, the Seclorans had an emperor last she'd heard.  Holine had finally kicked the bucket then?  The Lieutenant would certainly be glad to hear of it, Holine had said some rather nasty things about Gwen's grandfather. 
"When did this happen?"
"Two days ago.  They say a Lich tore through the palace wards and summoned a fire elemental and turned her to ash."
It was scary to think of anything being strong enough to tear through the palace wards.  Only Stormguard and the stone circles were better defended.  It had only fallen three times of the course of history; once from within by Zink, once during the shade invasion, and most recently to Arcania who crushed the defenses in person.  Astelle remembered listening to the officers talking in private once, only three immortals had the magical strength to break the wards without being on the palace grounds.  One of them they called 'Petra the Paladin', she was a teacher though, on Krove.  The second Kaithoras had called a serial killer, some sort of impish woman who hunted immortals and killed them gruesomely with a sportsman's cheer.  But the undead Daniellandish weren't technically immortal, if what they;d said was true then the murderer wouldn't have bothered with the Empress.  Even if the process of elimination hadn't dealt with the other two than the last, and supposedly weakest of the three, would have been the top suspect.  She'd been appalled to learn of Arcania's survival.  The queen of the Frostbourne had already proven that she could enter the palace, and she was a constant target of public mockery under Holine's rule.  Perhaps she'd finally snapped and sent one of her minions to kill Holine.  After all, to as accomplished a villain as Arcania, even a powerful lich was practically a foot soldier.  But Astelle knew her limits, Arcania may have been the prime suspect but she was far to powerful for a mere knight to challenge.  Perhaps the whole order united would defeat her, but even then the chances were not good. 

"That's horrible!  I don't suppose anyone knows anything about what happened to the Lich?"
"It must have gotten away.  I heard from my sister, a maid in the palace.  She said the guards only found enough ash for one.  Somewhere, the..the monster who killed the Empress is still alive."  He pounded the bar and then looked up in surprise as the bartender instinctively set a beer down on the counter.  Astelle caught his hand before he could reach it. 
"How old are you kid?"
"Fifteen.  Why?"
She picked up the beer and took a swig.  After she swallowed the brine, which tasted of burnt cranberries and had the texture of slimy cabbage, she set it back down, lightly so as to avoid a refill. 
"Only fifteen?  And you already want to try and take on a lich?  You're going to need more than an education to take down something of that caliber."  He drooped as he realized she was right.  She grabbed his shoulders roughly and pulled him back upright.  "Which is why I'm going to help.  I know a thing or two about adventuring, but anything that can get into the palace is more than I can handle alone.  I'm going to need help, you up to the challenge?"
He lit up.  She felt kind of bad working the kid up like that.  Truth was they were probably never going to find the lich, or Arcania, or anything powerful enough to break the wards.  She wasn't even sure if she wanted to meet anything that powerful, not even on friendly terms.  Still, the kid had the spunk to try and she needed to prove that she could give him the skills and instill the courage and wisdom it would take to do it if she ever wanted to be more than a foot soldier herself. 
She dodged a thrown chair and pulled the kid off his stool.  A fight had started, which considering the clientele wasn't surprising. 
"You've got at least another three weeks of school.  You ought to finish, it could come in handy sometime.  I'll meet you tomorrow at three, in the plaza.  We'll start your training then, deal?"
He shook her hand vigorously, oblivious to the fight going on around them, she'd definitely need to work on that.  "Thank you!  Thank you, so much.  I won't let you down, promise."