Monday, May 30, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; An Unexpected Visit

Cast; Petra,
Petra couldn't help but stare.  He must have changed clothes since she'd left.  He had something in the more practical sort on now; light armor.  His sword was in his hand; Petra had always liked his sword.  It's bright, almost light-like blade contrasted wonderfully against her own pitch colored sword.  And his stance was a perfect blend of pose and practice.  It made him look quite heroic, like a shining knight come to defeat the monster that had taken captive his fair maiden.  Oh how she wished she could be the fair maiden for once; she'd been the knight far too long. 

"Petra, could you please come here?"  There was a sternness to his voice she wasn't used to.  Not harsh, it sounded more like concern.  She couldn't imagine why. 
"Oh, what a pleasant surprise.  Petra, you didn't tell me we were going to be entertaining tonight.  I'll just call Joan and have her make us some of those croissants you like."  Petra spun around as she remembered that her mother was still in the room.  A sudden urge arose to shoo her away and prevent further embarrassment. 
"Mom, there's no need to bother her at this time of day."  She turned to Shad.  "The maid; she's usually in the chapel about now."
"Actually, if you wouldn't mind; I am feeling a little peckish.  The walk over worked up my appetite."
"Of course, I'll go get her then."  Petra turned and headed off down the hall.  The chapel was about five minutes into the house no matter which turns you made, one of the many marvels of her mother's mansion.  She walked in and found Joan in her usual spot before the altar, with a little circle of white candles around it. 
"Oh! Vous me manquez surpris"
"Sorry Joan, I didn't mean too.  We were wondering if you could make a snack; we have an unexpected visitor."
"Est-ce que Nice jeune homme ta mère a dit que vous avez passé du temps avec ces derniers temps?"
"I wish Mom wouldn't talk so much.  But yes, Shad is a friend of mine."
"Juste un ami? Je pense qu'il faut souhaiter d'être plus que si il est venu appeler à cette heure."
Petra blushed again.  It was one thing for her Mother to say it, but Joan was much nicer somehow, maybe because she seemed less blunt.  "Do you really think so?"
"Mais bien sûr," Said the scarred young girl, "Et elle me dit qu'il est très beau"
Her blush deepened.  "That's none of her business"
"Vous comme lui aussi je pense."  She stood up.  "Mais ce n'est pas ma place. Je vais faire le casse-croûte." 
Petra followed her out and made a right.  Getting back to the foyer was harder than getting to the chapel, she had to get lost to get back to the entrance.  She kind of envied Joan, even if she could be a bit cheeky sometimes.  As the maid she simply arrived where she needed to be as soon as she was informed she needed to be there.  Her mother seemed able to operate as though the house had a floor plan, which it didn't.  Why she had never been granted such priveliges was beyond her, and was a source of some disconcertment. 
Finally she managed to lose track of where she was and got back to the foyer.  Her mother seemed tense, as did Shad, but they both followed her to the kitchen. 
"J'ai fait les croissants avec fromage à la crème, juste comme vous l'aimez..."  Joan dropped the tray when she saw Shad.  "Que diable fais-tu ici?"
"Forgive me Petra." And she stared on in shock as his sword flashed across the room. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; Scandalous

Cast; Petra,

Petra was barely aware of the fact that her shoes had come unlaced thirty minutes ago and that she had stepped out of the right one nearly a block later.  She wouldn't have been aware of it at all had she not trodden on a broken wine bottle only moments later.  But it was little more than a trifle compared to some of the abrasions, bruises, and cuts she'd experienced in the past.  She could recall times when she'd been in more pain just from breathing, several in fact.  So it was that as she reached the dark stone portal to her mother's house she brushed the fragments from her sole and pulled the other shoe off as the wounds sealed seamlessly. 

"Hello Mum, I hope you made it back alright."  She winked a light into the chandelier as she stepped inside.  Her mother being what she was, the house was never well lit.  Wasn't right for the house of Death to be bright and cheery, even if Death Herself was.  Not that she was bright or cheery anymore, Petra missed when she was. 
"Awful frightening, but I'll be fine.  Been a long time since I saw anyone quite that bad.  What kept you out?"
"I had to see..someone about a book."
"It's nearly five in the morning.  Better have been a good book."
"Wish I could say, I wasn't really listening."
"Oh? Someone read it to you then?"
Petra cursed under her breath, the quiet sound of the house's censoring enchantment covering her exclamation.  "Yes, I just asked one of the other teachers if he could help.  I'm very tired.  I ought to go up to bed.  Good.."
She was interrupted by the rush of displaced air and the popping of her mother's teleport. 
"Oh? It wouldn't happen to be that nice young man I saw you chatting with in the halls earlier?"
"He's just a friend, there was coffee, it was good."
Zink laughed.  Petra could feel the warmth of a deep blush filling her cheeks. 
"You're cute when you're uncomfortable.  I shouldn't have taught you to be so calm and composed all of the time.  You'd probably do much better socially if you'd relax."
"Mummy." Petra complained.  She hated being teased like this.  A grown woman, especially one as acomplished as she was, wasn't supposed to get teased by her mother.  It was embarassing. 

A situation substantially compounded by the sudden appearance of Shad.  She didn't have a chance to run before he saw her.  Here she was blushing, shoeless; It was a complete scandal.  And there was no way to escape now. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; Shad's Secret

Credits; None

Shad watched as Petra walked back up the street.  He'd never guessed how she was when she wasn't fighting.  She was more wonderful than he had ever imagined.  And he had to smile as he thought about how obviously attracted to him she was; he'd done his research well when selecting this form.  And he felt rather surprisingly comfortable in it, although perhaps he had overdone it somewhat.  He'd tone it down slowly over the next few years and hope she didn't notice. 
But the more pressing issue at the time was how to resolve the Chori-Sada.  He had a suspicion who might be behind it all.  The story certainly provided a good starting point, but it would have been impossible for one to simply slip into a place like this unaided.  He knew they'd done it before, and there were enchantments in place to detect almost any concealment spell.  In fact, he realized as he paced his study, Zink had been responsible for setting those enchantments.  The old broad had made it almost impossible to do anything within the Arcane Academy without the staff and security knowing about it.  THe only way to bypass those enchantments would have been by using a shadithic power to strengthen an enchantment.  Of course, that too would have been detected, unless it was on a natural ability like the Chori-Sada's chameleon effect.  That would have been detected as a natural concealment, but with the shadithic empowerment it would be neither magic, nor nature, nor science, nor even properly demonic.  He'd have never tried anything like this.  Indeed, most of the upper tier demons were too committed to a particular plan or style to actually try something like this.  And none of the lower tiers would have been able to pull off something this bold.  Which really only left a few rather ambitious mid-level demons. 

"Shithou, Hama, Charibdi, Ecthon!"

The four reintegrated from the dust of the room.  All but Ecthon wore a mortal guise; Shithou that of a Ga-Vok, Hama a Harakai, and Charibdi had disguised herself as a Pythen.  Ecthon had shrouded himself in a pale frost, but his smoldering eyes were clearly visible. 
"Why have you summoned us?"
"Someone wields the Nieldic nightmare; find them."
"Lord," Said Charibdi, "The Nielda fear naught."
"The Chori-Sada, you senile seductress, they have become entangled in my affairs.  Find out who has done this, and bring them to me!"
"OH! You want Grethak.  He was bragging about how he had infiltrated the confidences of our great enemy, using a servant who bore the guise of a fallen one."
"Grethak? matter.  I know where his servant is, and if he wishes to play in my field, then he will find out why I was made Captain of the Unrepentant."
"Your grace," Ecthon muttered from behind his frosty veil, "Let me deal with him on your behalf.  There is no reason for you to set yourself to this task, when one is already before you."
"No, his actions have brought offense to me; I will do it myself.  Ecthon, a greater plan I have for you.  Go to the depths of space and there await the Ice Queen.  You will have plenty of time to make your plans for that day.  Hama, return to your plots and armies.  Shithou, Charibdi, return to your work as well.  I will summon you if further need arises.  You shall all be rewarded for your aid; that is all."

The four dispersed once more to whence they came.  Shad walked down to the kitchen and began to boil a new pot of water, as he measured out an uneven serving of coffee. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; The Tale of the Wandering Warrior and the Clean Town

Credits; Petra,
"So where do you want to start?"  Said Shad as he sat down in the chair next to hers.  "I've scanned through most of the official works and they all refer to them as 'fairy tales' and 'boogey men meant to scare young nieldic children." 
"Sounds like we should start with fairy tales then. Since apparently that's the only place they're known to exist."  Petra reached over to the stack of fairy tale anthologies and lifted the first of the many tomes from the top.  Just as she opened it, Shad plucked it from her hands and opened it to a dog-eared page. 
"I went through and marked the pages before you got here.  You just focus on the details, I'll do the reading." 
Shad cleared his throat and began to read.

Once upon a time, there was a wandering warrior.  He was as clever as he was brave, and his skill was matched only by his virtue. 
"Kept birds I'm sure." Petra quipped. 
One day as he journeyed he found a town unlike any other.  Hidden deep in the Shadowmurk, it was clean and polished.  The warrior felt that it was his obligation to investigate the cause of this uncharacteristic quality, found in no other town of the Shadowmurk.  He found a solid stone house just off the market, and after making inquiries he determined that it was the home of a leading citizen, a wealthy landowner.  The Landowner invited him to spend the night, so that he could fully explain the nature of the town.  The warrior warily accepted the invitation, for the mystery was more than he could bear to resist. 
That night the house's master introduced him to his young daughter, a bright and beautiful young maiden.  It was not the first time the warrior had been presented with such a temptation, but he graciously humored them and strolled with the maiden about the town.  And as they strolled he noticed that, alone amongst all the town, her clothes had worn and were stained with time and toil. 
"No, I was just reading."
"You read my name?"
Shad looked back at the page and inspected it carefully.  Petra tried to shuffle about in her chair to get a view of the book but found that her legs had moved into his lap and for reasons she wasn't willing to confront she had no interest in moving them. 
"Yes, I did.  But it seems like something slipped into the text.  Like someone enchanted it later."
"Well go on, What's it say?"
"You already read that part."
"Shush and let me read."
Petra shushed and sat up as best she could, which involved keeping a rather tight grip on his waist. 
Petra, I want you to pay close attention to the story and stop intterupting..........And when the time comes, I want you to remember who you are, and what I've taught you.  And bring..him..home tomorrow, I'm sure I'd love to be properly introduced. 


So the warrior pulled her into a secluded, dark part of the town and asked her where no one else could hear.  "Maiden, why is one so fair as you garbed in the oldest of clothes while the clothes of even the meanest barkeep in town are more spotless than when first they leave the seamstress care?"
And she replied, "I am a foolish and clumsy girl, and only I of all the town have spilt our stew and wine.  Only I have torn my gown upon the cupboards and wine racks, because all the others are more deft of hand and foot than I."
Now the warrior was no fool, and knew that not by clumsiness alone could anyone explain the difference.  But he gazed into the maiden's eyes and saw that she did not lie knowingly.  He told her to wait in the stables with his wolf, and went back up to the house himself.  He was greeted by the master of the house.  But the master no longer wore his gilded robes and spotless sandals, but waited naked on the step. 
"Sir, cover yourself; you dishonor your people."
"Dishonor?  You and your kind speak of honor, but you forget to honor any but yourself.  Where have you taken my fair maiden?"
"She awaits my return, but first I wish to know why your town is clean as it is, rather than tainted by the muck and vines of your neighbors?"
"To better lure in travellers such as yourself.  For we are the hunters of men, and a warrior like yourself shall sustain me for a thousand years."  And the man leapt.  As he did the light struck him and the warrior saw him as he was; a beast with claws like daggers and a ring of teeth lining its gaping maw.  He snatched his blade from his side and he struck the beast.  It bled cobalt and stumbled to its knees.  And as it bled a murmur parted its carnivorous throat.  "My brothers shall hunt you down for your actions.  The Chori-Sada shall revisit your act of war upon the Nielda tenfold for five generations of the gods and in those days our blood lust shall not yet be sated."
So the warrior took the maiden and fled.  And he told this story to all who would hear it.  But when the King of the North stretched out his left hand to see if the stories were true, he found no town, but only an open clearing, and the skeletons of a thousand hapless travellers crushed and shredded as though by the maw of the nightmare. 

"Don't sound to threatening to me."  Petra said as Shad closed the storybook and set it aside.  He was quiet for a while before he turned towards her. 
"Not for the wary warrior who knew to fight at least.  But for the maiden who was trapped in the town, or the travellers they ate, they were unstoppable.  The girl never even knew she was surrounded by them.  And they were clearly capable magicians, besides having a natural affinity for illusion.  They aren't dragons, I'll give you that, but that doesn't mean they aren't threatening."
"So what do we look for?"
Shad shrugged and motioned at the other books.  "Keep reading, maybe we'll find more."  But she could see that he'd already begun formulating a plan.