Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; Sparing Partner

Credits; Petra,

Petra kept up a rather solid routine.  One class a week, office hours for five, then nothing but writing lesson plans in her spare time.  The demons were quiet now, they had been for several years.  She practiced her spells and her sword as best she could, but there were limits to what she could do without an adequate adversary. 
And she was only reminded it all the more as the first years grew strong enough to spar themselves.  Her own days in school came to mind, when she sparred with the teacher because there was no one else who could keep up with her.  And here she was again, peerless and alone. 
"Miss Zinksfeld?"
She was certain her heart stopped at that.  It was bad enough having to meet with him every every Friday so they could discuss lesson plans.  But in public?  She could barely talk when it was just the two of them. 
"Well, since you're still not talking to me, I'll just keep on going on my own."
"Oh no!  Please, just can it wait until after class?"
"Ah, so you can talk!"  Petra blushed and looked away from the class so they couldn't see.  She could already hear some of them giggling behind her back.  "Anyways, I was actually hoping I might be able to help you out with the class."  He reached over his shoulder and drew a fine, white-steel long sword, bladed on both sides and the channel was straight and true.  It was fine craftsmanship, and she'd forged enough to know the difference.  She could also tell that it was as strong as her own, and not just in steel but in spell as well.  She couldn't place it, but it felt..familiar.  There were runes she'd never seen enscribed on the guard.  As an enchanter it was both vexing and fascinating to see something beyond her own knowledge like this. 
"You want to...You want to Spar with me?"
He nodded. 
"What?  Are you afraid?"
"No!  Its just, I've fought demons, I faced a thousand shades on my own and won.  Surely you've heard the stories?  What if you get hurt?"
"Don't worry about me Miss, I'm a quick heal."  He winked and brandished his sword.  She reached to her her side and felt the familiar polished wood hilt of her own sword.  She lifted it from its scabbard and twirled the onyx-hued blade.  She hoped, no, she prayed that her own healing skills were enough to keep him alive if he made a mistake. 
"Class, Professor Alnutsrevn and I are going to demonstrate the way a proper sword fight works.  Try and learn something from this."
"Ah, but there shall be nothing proper about it."  He started with a basic thrust, which she easily parried.  As she cut across the block he side stepped and brought his sword across.  She flipped her sword over his blade and deflected the blow before wheeling about to face him, blocking yet another blow as she did.  He was fast, and he had talent.  There could be no doubt of that.  She spun and slashed, then quickly recovered as he ducked.  For every move she made he had a counter, and his attacks managed to stretch her counters further than any mortal had ever managed, indeed few demons had ever managed to push her this far.  Just as she began to wonder if she had met her match though he stepped back panting. 
"You..You're really good."
"Thanks," she gasped.  "You're not half-bad yourself."
"Am I all bad then?"
She started to laugh and saw something in his look.  There was something...deeper to that question.  It was a joke of course; he was obviously one of the best swordsman in the universe, known or otherwise.  But something about the way he looked at her made her wonder if maybe he wanted to be reassured that he wasn't bad, on a personal level.  What could a healer, who fought as well as a demon, have possibly done that could convince him that he was truely bad?
"No sir, I think you're pretty good."
He smiled and sheathed his sword.  She took the cue and returned her own to its place at her side.  She watched him walk away as the bell rang for the classes to change.  Then she realized that this was the first time she'd managed to talk to him directly.  She felt good, better than she had in years.  Her mom would be thrilled!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; The Healer

Credits; Petra,

"Come one people, if you can't keep the tip pointing up how do you ever expect to learn a basic parry?"
Petra knew she had been better than this her first year.  Only two students knew how to hold a sword and one of those two was a former general and tournament champion, the other one was the son of an Imperial Guard.  What had happened to a balanced education?

The headmaster came up at the end of the lesson.  He was actually impressed, which did not seem promising to her.  Maybe when she'd had a couple hundred years to reforge the future mages of the universe she could expect bosses that had higher standards. 
"Very good for a first year enchanting instructor.  I like how you managed to weave your own lecture into it."
"Thank you sir."
"Miss, Zinksfeld I believe it was?  Well Miss Zinksfeld, I can't thank you enough for stepping up to the plate on this one.  I'm afraid our usual Combat instructor has a bit of a flu this week, been having fits of that odd reverse sneezing Ga-Vok seem to get."
"Its the least I can do.  I just hope he recovers in a timely fashion." 
They walked back up to the school and made it into the great hall before he spoke again. 
"Miss Zinksfeld, Mr. Faol tells me that you're having a bit of trouble adjusting to a classroom setting."
It was true.  She'd spent years mentoring people in the field as she fought, a life time in fact.  Going from teach as needed to lesson plans and lectures was a huge difference. 
"Its nothing too serious.  Just a change of pace from what I'm used to."
He smiled falsely.  Faol would have been kind about it, but apparently the Headmaster was taking it more seriously. 
"Well, perhaps if you talked to one of our other junior instructors it would help you along.  I'd like you to meet our next most junior faculty member.  He's a third-year healing instructor."
Great, healers.  She'd dealt with healers before, they were all sanctity of life and pacifists, and more often than not they were vegetarians to boot.  She couldn't stand vegetarians, it was unnatural to cut entire food groups out of ones diet. 
"Sir, I don't know how well I would get along with a healer."
"Nonsense," He dissmissed it with a wave of his hand.  "he's a most likeable young man.  You'll get along splendidly."
"Sir I really don't..."  He opened the door to an office off of the infirmary.  The first thing she noticed was that he was taller than she was, and by nearly a half foot.  And it was as she looked up at him that she noticed he had curly blonde hair, very small curls too, like little rings.  And the way the light behind him shone through it looked almost like a golden halo was resting upon him.  She felt the room grow rather warm and forced herself to look down, and realized that the rest of him was no less attractive, a light tan on clearly defined muscles, and there was something in his smell that just...  She looked away and blushed.  The headmaster met her gaze and didn't seem to notice her plight. 
"Sir this really isn't..."
"Nonsense.  I'm sure you'll learn a lot from him."  He exited and closed the door behind him.  She tried not to turn around, afraid he might realize what she was feeling. 
"Miss Zinksfeld?  Are you alright?"
And a voice like a newborn rabbit in suede slippers.  She could have sworn her heart had stopped. 
"Miss Zinksfeld?"
"Oh!  I'm sorry, I was..."
"Are you going to turn around or should I pick you up and carry you over to the other side of the room?"
Yes, yes you should, she thought. 
"No, sorry.  I probably ought to."  She turned around and stared rather intently at the floor. 
"I'd say don't apologize but you look guilty.  Is it something I did?"
"No, no, you''re perfect."
"Not really.  I hope you never know the sort of things I've done over the ages."
"Really?  Do you know some of the things I've done?"
"All of them, I know everything you've done Petra."
"You read history I take it?"
"Something like that.  The name is Shad by the way; Shad Alnutsrevn."

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; Time

Credits; Petra,

"Professor Zinksfeld, how did your first class go?"
Petra didn't have to turn around.  She had been exceedingly aware of her surroundings, there was little else to do on a day like this.  She had only one class to teach for the whole week, but she had office hours.  But the intruder would have to be one of the other instructors, and only one of them had any actual business visiting her. 
"Master Faol, nice of you to visit."
"Not exactly a social visit Miss Petra, school policy is that I have to check up on you.  Mentoring you know?"
"Yes, I've mentored a few people myself.  I seem to remember one young enchanter who was quite insistent that I teach him how to construct backdoors into magically defended places."  She smiled at Faol.  He laughed, it had been nearly two hundred years since they had last been student and mentor, and things had changed rather a great deal since then. 
"Ah well, now I am the master."
"Only a master of enchanting Faol, you'll never be my match with sword or spell."
"But I am a master of enchanting, and school policy aside I am interested in hearing how your first proper class went."
"Not well I'm afraid.  Not one of them had their books and when I sent them down to buy them I was told that its against policy."
"Well the policy is wrong anyways, but I'm afraid the books is your fault.  Most teachers release their book list a week before hand so that the students can buy them, that gives them time to order them.  Do you have your lesson planned?"
"I have a lecture planned for my first week."
"Basic alchemy?"
"The fundamental principles."
"Theory?  I didn't think you cared about theory."
"Normally I don't even associate with anyone who doesn't know the theory.  Still, I don't want to make that assumption with first years."
"Well it's a boring subject for a first lecture series.  I'll tell you what, I'll pull some strings and get you their morning Combat training the rest of the week so you can get them up to speed on both.  How does that sound?"
"It sounds perfect.  But why would they let me teach them how to hold swords while I tell them how to draw with chalk?"
"Because everyone knows how good you are with a sword.  I'm surprised they gave you enchanting to be honest."
"I like enchanting better, and I'm nearly as good at it."
"I know, I vouched for you too."
"Thank you.  You know that my father was the enchanting instructor here ages ago?"
"You've mentioned it.  He was a good one according to the records too.  But I wouldn't mention things like that if I were you, immortality isn't exactly the best quality on your resume."
"Sorry.  I thought that..had changed.  Apparently I was mistaken."
"Twice have immortals taken the imperial throne, with things as they were these last few decades I doubt anyone would want one around.  I hear all that business with Gasca is finally over, maybe things will start getting better soon."
"I hope so too."
"So if I talk to them you'll be able to help with the Combat Training?"
"Of course I will Faol, the demons are quiet these days and I have nothing but time."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; Professor Zinksfeld

Credits; Petra, Zink,

"You ready for school honey?"
"Mom, I'm a teacher, not a student.  I don't need to be told to get up and pack a lunch anymore."
"Well I had Joan make a sandwich and a themos of punch anyways, they're waiting for you on the table.  And,"  Her mother pulled an hourglass out from under the long, hooded black robe of her office.  "Apparently you do need me to wake you up because its five minutes until class starts."
"Oh *Bleep*"  Petra stopped as she heard the shrill sound of her curse being censored.  She'd forgotten that her mother had that enchantment. 
"Petra, language.  Now get going."

Petra teleported down to the kitchen and grabbed her lunch. 
"Passez une bonne journée au travail Petra"
"Thank you Joan.  Keep an eye on Mom for me."
"Bonté divine! Cela prendrait une armée."
Petra laughed and teleported to the circle she'd already prepared in her classroom.  The school normally prevented being teleported into from outside, but she knew a pattern that allowed her to bypass the enchantment.  A sort of private backdoor, one that only she could use.  Strictly speaking it was against school code, but the code was more what you'd call guidelines.  Besides, all of the other teachers bent the code somewhere along the way.   Maybe it was having a favorite student, or a few unapproved textbooks, short of consorting with demons or aiding others in doing so you could get away with anything if you tried.  And Petra was certainly not the sort to consort with demons.  Indeed, quite the opposite; she was well known for having slain one while she had been a student herself. 

"Good morning Class.  My name is...I thought I told them I wanted a chalkboard?  My name is Petra Zinksfeld."
"Good morning Professor Zinksfeld."
"Petra would have done fine, but I rather like the sound of that..Professor Zinksfeld."  She stared off into space for a minute before looking back at the class.  "Right, sorry.  This is my first day and you're my first class.  I'm not quite used to this."
She could almost hear crickets. 
"Anyways.  How about we start at the begining, eh?"
More crickets.
"How many of you have already read your books?"
She was going to be hiring an exterminator to kill all these crickets. 
"Nobody, really?  Ok, how many of you have bought your books?"
She heard the first cricket and snapped, mentally and physically.  A torrent of energy bolts leapt from between her fingers and sought out every cricket in the room, killing them all.  Everyone reacted, a few of the kids screamed, one fell out of his chair, most applauded her display of magic. 
"Quiet!"  Nobody disobeyed.  "I have,"  She looked around her desk and then snapped, summoning the forgotten papers.  "Your syllabus's, Syllabi...I have your book lists, schedules, and such like here on my desk.  Come up here and get one, then return to your desk, read it over, and go buy your books.  They'll be in the shop in town.  I will wait here until you get back.  And You Will Get Back."
The students filed out rather quickly.  They were all first year students.  School policy was that new teachers started with only the first year class, and added new classes as the older students graduated.  The phasing process helped retiring teachers to mentor their successors and to get the new teachers built up to the ten or more classes a week that they'd be doing once the old teacher was phased out.  They varied in age, and other than a few cosmetic...curiosities..none of them struck her as especially talented.  Perhaps they would prove themselves later, but they all seemed like rather run of the mill powerful mages.  And as an exceptionally powerful mage herself, she could call the most powerful mages enrolled that year run of the mill.  Most of the other teachers were no more powerful than any of the students, but her mother had the nigh god-like power inherrant with being Death Herself and Petra had inherrited more than her fair share of that power.  That she had also inherrited her Father's impressive Enchantment skills was just a bonus by comparrison. 

"Miss Zinksfeld, a word with you?"  It was Miss Abernum, the chief hall monitor.  In an underglorified sense she was the chief of school police.  It was a rather unrespected position, especially considering the fact that the last fifteen people to hold her position had all been murdered over summer break and she had closed all of the cases safe in the knowledge that the students would solve them all soon enough on their own.  Petra herself had solved several such murders when she was a student, and had long wondered why the position wasn't simply filled with death row convicts in order to reduce legal fees. 
"A word?  Alright, but is it alright if I keep it in my bag?  I don't feel like carrying it around all the time."
"Very funny Miss.  I want to speak with you about the first year students I just saw leaving the campus."
"They didn't have their books.  I expect them to have their books by next class so I sent them to get them now."
"First year students are not permitted off campus."
"Then how are they supposed to get their books?"
"That isn't my problem."
Petra decided not to press the issue.  It was stupid, but the next chief hall monitor might feel different, and by next week there would be a new chief hall monitor. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Short Story; The Doctor's Orders, Part Two

Credits; Petra,

"...And that's why you should never, give a sword both a flaming enchantment, and a blood-chill enchantment." 
The class laughed.  She'd been telling the story for years, its effects had worn off for her.  Most of her stories were like that though now.  She had the feeling her adventures were drawing to a close, even though she had won her last battle.  It was only a matter of time before she would be the teacher of new heroes only, never herself the hero.  If she was lucky she might get to follow along as a mentor, she'd done that before.  In fact, it seemed to be happening more and more. 
"Well, that's all the time we have for today.  For homework this semester, enchant something that can be neither worn nor wielded.  I want you to bring me a weekly progress report, in the usual format of course.  Proposal and plan on my desk next week."
"Word count?"
"Four.  Or however many you feel you need to say what you need to say." 
The class jotted down notes and filed out.  She sat back down at her desk.  It was only the second day and she was already tired.  Admittedly she was still rather spent from her fight two days ago, but somehow her heart just wasn't in it this semester.  Maybe some of her colleagues would have some insight.  They'd all probably had such times before.  She stood up and stepped out.  She'd always doubled up her classroom with her office, and with all her files safely stowed in subspace there was no risk of theft.  She locked the room anyways.  Occasionally some evil student would try and set a booby trap up under her chair.  While she had never failed to either detect or easily defeat the traps, it was easier to just make the door impassable. 
"Miss Zinksfeld!  Miss Zinksfeld!"
"Yes?"  A young man in a black robe had run up.  He was winded and perspiring heavily.  He wasn't overweight, just out of shape, must have been a first year student then. 
"Miss Zinksfeld, everyone says you killed a demon in Stormguarde over winter break."
"Everyone seems to be rather in the know." 
"Well what?"
"Is it...Is it true?"
"Strictly speaking, yes, I did kill him.  But I didn't exactly beat him so it hardly counts."
The boy clearly didn't care that the odds had been stacked in her favor from the start.  With Courtney, Nao, and the ranger corps to fight the warlocks and Rea and Krell to help it would have been enough, even if Tala hadn't planned it all out from the start.  Legion hadn't stood a chance.  He'd come anyways though.  Surely he'd known, but that was one of the things she'd always respected about him, he always fought even though he knew he would lose.  And now his death was heralded by mere children, not even full grown and hardly a match for him at his weakest state. 
She continued up towards the stairs that lead to the lounge.  She hadn't visited in ages, litterally ages.  The last time she'd come was after Yuri's funeral, because they'd been having a party and she wanted to take some of her sorrows out on the pinata.  The room was empty save the headmaster.  He was an old man with a long white beard.  He wasn't actually old, and he certainly didn't have a beard, but it was what people expected of the headmaster of the universe's most prominent school of magic so he had made himself look that way in spite of himself. 
"Seamus, I thought you would be at lunch with everyone else?"
"Professor Zinksfeld!  I didn't know you even came here."
"I don't, not normally at least."
"Ah, well then, have you met the new mending and healing instructor?"
"Didn't know the position was empty to be honest with you."
"Really?  His death recieved a great deal of press."
"I've been a bit...distracted lately."
"Well, no matter.  Come, you should meet him.  Most extraordinary gentleman i've ever met.  Turned up out of the blue last day of winter break and asked if I had any positions open.  I asked if he knew anything about healing and he said he did.  He proved it too, healed everyone in the infirmary and even explained how he did it and what had happened to them."
"Sounds suspicious, maybe I should meet him."  She reached for her sword out of habit and sighed as she remembered.  If he was a threat she'd kill him by spell alone. 
No, she'd let someone else handle it.  She'd promised them she'd retire.  And this is what that meant; not saving the world.  It'd take some getting used to. 
"I thought so too.  Its one of the reasons I want you to meet him.  After all, perfectly qualified candidates rarely show up on one's doorstep unprompted and uncalled for."
Petra nodded in agreement.  She followed him back down the stairs.  They turned a corner and headed up the long hall that lead to the infirmary.  It was still quiet, two days of school had left the students little time to get injured.  Some of them seemed to have managed it anyways, and fell silent as they saw Petra and the Headmaster enter the office of the new Healer. 
Petra remained silent as they faced the new instructor.  The headmaster however, stepped right up to the desk and rapped on it lightly.  A young man closed the cupboard door to her right and stepped out from behind it.  He was handsome, and Petra found that her mind could take in little more than that. 
"Ah, Shad, I want you to meet Professor Petra.."
"Miss Zinksfeld."  The young man interrupted.  "I do believe we may have met before."
"We have?"
"You have?"
"Yes, several times in fact.  Perhaps you remember Corun, or Tara?"
"Quite well, but I do not remember you on either."
"Perhaps if I introduce myself.  My name is Shad Alnutsrevn." 
It took more courage for her to speak now than it had ever taken before.  She did not know the face, but she knew the name, for it was the name she had bourne at her side, bound in blood and steel.  But she had to speak or she would never forgive her own silence.  "Headmaster, could I have..a..a moment.  With.."
"Of course.  Get to know each other."  He leaned in and whispered.  "Tell me how things go later."  And then stepped out.  Petra was almost afraid to see him leave.  She could feel her heart beating like the flapping of a hummingbird's wings.  But this was what she'd always wanted wasn't it?  A chance to...
"I missed you, old friend."

Short Story; The Doctor's Orders, Part One

Credits; Petra,

"Welcome students."
"Good Morning."
"My name,"  She turned to the chalkboard and conjured a piece of chalk in a little burst of sparks.  "Is Professor Petra Zinksfeld.  I will be your enchanting instructor."  She turned back and smiled.  "I will also teach you magic." 
The class tittered and giggled at her comment.  Petra lost no time, she started sketching alchemical patterns onto the board.  She used an old fashioned green chalkboard because it made the patterns look cooler.  It had an archaic feel that rather fit the field. 

First year students, nobody particularly special, kind of a dissapointing year over all.  Petra went to sit down and instinctively reached to move her sword out of the way.  It wasn't there.  She'd forgotten it while she was teaching, but since she'd gotten up that morning she'd been leaning to the right and bumping into things.  The weight of blade and scabbard had been like a third arm, her body was so used to compensating for it that she had to actively think just to walk straight.  It was so...wierd.  She went through the day listless.  She wasn't even sure if that was the right word for it, she'd never felt like this before.  She had always had a purpose.  Now she had nothing.  No more sword, no more hunting demons, no more.. Well that was a good thing, right?  He'd killed trillions, ruined lives, and..and then he'd saved Rea.  She wasn't even the first.  She'd seen it happening for years now, Shades would attack, kill immortals, and then for some reason there would be no collateral damage, no dead guards, and even innocent maids who said they'd died and had the clothing damage and blood stains to prove it.  He hadn't just been sparing lives; he'd been outright saving them.  He was one of the prime evils of the universe and he'd been doing undeniable good.  And he couldn't have possibly gained by doing so.  Other demons would have turned on him if they thought he was being humane. 
"But that isn't the only reason you miss him, is it miss?"  Petra's cat leapt up onto the desk and planted itself on the homework assignments she'd been trying to distract herself with. 
"I swear I have no idea what you mean Siggy." 
"Scratch my chin while I explain your repressed emotions."  Petra obediently set down her pen and scratched the half spectacled tabby, who purred as he began to explain.  "It all starts with your feelings yowards your parents.  You saw the happiness your mother derived from your father and were envious of her.  This is, of course, natural for any child.   But when your father died and your mother permitted it, you felt as though perhaps there were something wrong with men.  Your mother, being who she was, could not have been wrong to take him.  So when your mother replaced the time she had spent with your father with hunting demons, some large part of you felt that demon hunting must be the only worthy pursuit.  So in place of the usual dating and marriage that any normal woman goes through, you had the hunting of demons.  And your natural desire to impress your mother became a perfectionist streak which lead you to become the best at fighting demons.  And I should consider it fortunate that such was the case, for you met a demon of the highest caliber.  At first you fought, and you spoke as you talked and you studied each other when you did not fight, until one day he realized something.  On that day I think he changed.  He stopped mourning his defeats and began to view his fights with you as something more of an encounter.  I could go into great length about the symbolic nature of your repeated dominance over him, and of the significance of your impaling him on every encounter, but the sun is very warm on your desk and I like it here." 
"You have a very dirty mind Herr Kitty.  But continue, you shan't be quiet unless I let you finish."
"Quite right, I would yowl at my bowl quite early tonight if you were to stop me."
"and then play with my hair until dinner?"
"I think I may do that anyways, you're wearing the most fascinating baubble today and I feel the need to paw at it."  Petra sighed.  There was no controlling the poor man and his love of shiny, dangly things.  "But I digress.  I think that somewhere during that time you too ceased to view it as a battle.  To turn a phrase, you forged a friendship through crossed swords.  And I think, if only by your current state, that perhaps it was something more than a friendship."
"Well, I never.  Me and..and Legion!  He's a demon.  Or at least he was a demon.  I would never even dream of.."
"Oh but you have.  Perhaps not to your memory, but we cats are quite perceptive of our companion's unwaking fantasies."
"Stop!  I'll hear no more of this talk.  Me, fantasizing about him, a demon; that's deplorable, even from you Sigmund."  Petra stood up and walked to the door.  She paused at it, considering his words before hearing his parting shot. 
"You may repress your feelings as deeply as you wish.  It shall not change them."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; The End of an Era, Part Three

Credits; Krell, Rea, Petra, Courtney, Arcania,

Krell raced to Rea's side.  Thanks to Legion's miraculous assistance she was breathing and the wound the other demon had inflicted had been sealed completely.  But something else seemed to have changed about her. 
"Sshh.  You nearly, you actually did die."
"You got hacked by a demon.  There was blood everywhere.  If you weren't dead outright, you'd know it."
"Oh.  Yeah, I suppose so.  Did we win?"
"Yes we did Rea.  We did indeed.  Tala had a plan set up, there was lightning everywhere.  Then she broke Petra's sword and ordered her to retire.  It was kind of cool." 
"Hehe, what was the pass phrase?"
"Chastity McMomProblems, why?"
Rea started laughing.  "Yeah, that sounds like Tala alright."  She stopped and looked around for a moment.  He reached down and helped her up.  She looked him over for a moment.  "Krell, did you shrink?" 
Krell looked at her for a moment.  It took him a moment to realize what had happened.  She'd put him before herself, and then, just like the prophecy had said, she'd been relieved of her curse.  She'd grown nearly two inches and had...well, her leather breastplate was looking a little less loose. 
"And this armor isn't fitting right either, it's too small."  She started trying to adjust it and Krell found himself paralyzed by the sight.  It took a while for Rea to stop and look up.  "Krell?  Are you alright?"
"Rea, uhm, the armor didn't shrink, and neither did I."
"Sure doesn't feel like it; are you sure?"
"Yeah."  He swallowed.  "Rea, you're looking...a bit..."
Courtney walked over and set her hand warmly on Rea's shoulder.  Nao, for all his earlier behavior, didn't even linger on Rea.  "Sweetie, happy birthday."
It took Rea a moment to figure out what she meant, but the moment she did it was inescapably noticeable.  She started crying but her face had lit up like a sun.  She hugged Courtney and Nao and then pushed past them and held on to him for longer than it took for Nao to wander off and bring back lunch and a repair crew.  When she finally loosened her grip he looked down and saw that she wasn't happy anymore. 
"What's the matter?  Is it anything..womanly?"
"No it's just..I promised Tala I'd spend my birthday with her.  When she was still young.  Do you think we could?"
Courtney nodded and gestured.  She and Nao were quiet out of respect.  Whether for Tala's recent post-immortal show of strength or for Rea's sorrow he couldn't tell.  He did notice that the two never let go of each other the whole way.  Tala's grave was on a small platform off of the palace district.  There was a bridge covered with some sort of vine that produced long blue fillaments that hung just over their heads.  He could see why they'd picked it, it was the same shade as Tala's hair.  Her grave sat alone, on a little grassy mound.  The marker showed a storm cloud; he'd seen the same mark around the city, in the palace and outside the palace in the Gothic quarter.  They stood around the marker, Rea still holding herself close against him.  There was a pop and he saw Arcania step up beside them. 
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.  You were right, I should have come, I could have saved her if I'd only come."
"Ello Katherine."
"We were just paying our respects to the woman who won the battle with Legion.  I don't suppose you could be silent in the presence of the dead and buried?"
Arcania didn't say another word.  None of them did until Petra finally trudged up.  She was still holding her sword hilt.  Her armor had been discarded already, and she waited on the bridge for them to finally turn to leave. 
"I've decided to respect her wishes; all of your wishes.  Courtney, if you would find some suitable place to hang my sword?  I..I don't want to be reminded of today.  I'll go now.  I'm sorry, for everything." 
Krell stretched out a free hand to stop her, but Rea moved a hand over his lips. 
"Leave her be."
Petra let the hilt roll off the back of her hand and walked away, teleporting out midstep.  Courtney motioned and Nao retrieved it for her. 
"Take this, and if the blade remains in the hall of the pantheon have them set together and sent to the palace of Anatolia.  Their steward will know of some use for its power."
Courtney and Nao walked off towards the palace.  Nao waved over his shoulder as they went.  Krell turned towards Rea. 
"So, what now?"
"I think I could go for a vacation.  You in?"
"You sure?  I'm grown up now, your debt is paid."
"And I think you've still got a ways to go before you're properly grown up.  You still need me around  You have a problem with that young lady?"
Rea smiled and they vanished with a blink.

The Assassin's Tale; The End of an Era, Part Two

Credits; Krell, Rea, Petra, Courtney, ????,

Krell could hear his own heart beat.  He desperately thought of any spell he could use that would let him save her.  No healing would mend the wound, no medicine could stop the bleeding, there was nothing he could do. 
So he turned towards the demon.  He didn't know its name, but he would make sure it didn't matter. 
"Oh, was she your daughter or something?  So sad."
"Her name is Rea, and she's my partner."
"Not any more."  The demon laughed and Krell lost it.  He stretched out his hand and began to draw the demon's power.  "What?"  The demon began to hurl bolts of energy at him, but they all spattered harmlessly against Krell's now vastly more potent wards.  "How is this.  How can you?"
"He's draining your very life force you dumb clod.  We will not mourn your loss."
"Legion!  Save me!"
"Didn't you hear the nice gentleman, nobody will miss your loss."  Petra yelled from behind Legion.  THe two had circled back once more, destroying yet another wall.  Krell was nearly oblivious to their banter, his mind could think only of Rea, and of this demon he would destroy.  He let out a loud war cry and leapt at his foe, gathering all the demon's unabsorbed power and enhancing a single spell to the strength needed to strike down even the most powerful demon.  He slammed his open palm against its bare chest and called out, "Touch of Ash!"
The nameless demon's eyes grew wide as the spell wracked his body.  Cracks shot through his suddenly gray form, revealing the orange glow of embers buried within his core. 

"Not bad.  Petra, may we pause for a moment?  My bretheren will doubtless take an interest in this one and I think it would be ungracious of me to leave him to face them alone."  To the shock of all, Legion stretched out a hand and a white glow seemed to surround him.  "Rise Tressa Stone, witch of Anatolia."  Everyone stared as Rea's wounds sealed and she started breathing again.  Petra was the first to look away and face Legion. 
"What manner of trickery is this?"
"I assure you, the divine joke is on me.  Did you know the first time we met I was pretending to be her mother?"
"You are a complete..."
"Excuse me, it smells like burnt toast in here."  Nao and Courtney stepped through the open door, Nao blew on the end of pistol and stood behind and slightly to the left of the Countess, who was re-attaching her cloak. 
"Yes dear, that would be the burnt demon.  Sorry we're late everybody, lets finish this."  She caught Nao by the collar as he started to charge the demon.  "Not like that my sweet O Positive; Stormguarde Defensive Protocol, confirm access Courtney Yellsdana."
"System confirms.  Run program?"
"Activate Final Protocol Legion T S."
"Confirm pass phrase?"
"My apologies Petra, I didn't set the pass phrase.  System confirm Pass Phrase; Chastity McMomProblems is in danger."
"System confirms, engaging protocol; please stand clear of the demon."
"What is the meaning of this?"
"Voice recording active; Proceeding."  A hologram flickered into existance.  A short, thin blue haired woman hovering several inches off the ground, with wind clearly blowing through the hair.  "Is this on?  It is?  I knew that.  Anyways." 
"No way."
"Petra, this is my last favor, unless you activate any of my other recordings that accompany a favor, in which case suck it up."  Petra muttered something nasty under her breath.  "You probably said something very mean very quiet.  I don't care, I'm dead.  I'll explain the price of this favor after I take care of this."   The hologram mimed snapping and the a peal of thunder accompanied it.  Krell looked up and saw bolts of lightning course from the nebula around them and wrap around Legion's limbs, pulling him off the ground and imobilizing him completely.  "Bet you didn't see that coming did you, Shades?  And don't bother struggling, I'm running this off of the raw natural forces of creation.  ALL of the raw natural forces of creation.  Even you can't fight that.  Although I dearly wish I could watch you try.  Now, Petra, this is the price of my saving your life.  One, you hang up your sword.  Two, you know that other thing, that thing we all always said you needed to do?  You do it.  And you keep at it until you have a daughter of your own.  Then maybe you'll know why your mother dedicated her life to defending the universe.  Until then, well lets just say I don't feel comfortable entrusting the safety of the universe to someone who has nothing at stake in the matter."
"Can we cut to the part where I stab him?"
"Courtney, she is not to return to Stormguard without a baby in hand, or on her back, or wherever one carries babies, I don't really know.  Rea, since I know you're there, you should hang up your blades too.  I won't make you do anything, but I think some time off would help you get your head on straight.  Krell, take care of her."  The recording paused for a while.  Then it flickered and the pause seemed to repeat.  It did so twice before Courtney finally intervened. 
"Petra, you should stab him now, I don't think it's going to continue until you do."
"I hate that woman."
"She has wonderful hair though, doesn't she?"
"Indeed.  I never thought it would end this way."
"I didn't either.  I'll miss this, you know?"
"Not as much as I'll miss it, I promise you that."
"Tell Mom I said hi."
Petra stabbed Legion's heart.  He didn't scream, or yell, or curse, or even whimper.  In fact, if Krell had to describe it he'd have said it was more of a sob.  Petra probably would have started crying too if it weren't for the lightning bolt that blasted her half-way across the room.  She landed next to him, and her swordhilt landed between them. 
"An insurance policy.  To make sure you go along with it.  And don't bother trying to stop me, I got your mother's approval first.  Good to, say things to you all even though I'm dead and can't hear you.  I bet I miss witty banter whenever this is.  Toodles all."
The hologram vanished and left them all standing beside a fading demon's corpse. 

The Assassin's Tale; The End of an Era, Part One

Credits; Krell, Rea, Petra, Courtney,

It took them but a second to arrive on Stormguarde, and they could instantly see evidence of the fight.  Maybe it was just that Rea had dropped them in at the epicenter of the fight.  The hall of the Pantheon lay in ruins.  There were no bodies though, he would have expected the pantheon to have put up a pretty decent fight.  They were all supposed to be demon slayers after all. 
An explosion tore through the walls and they saw Petra flip in mid air and land on her feet in front of them, sword in hand and armor badly dented. 
"Ah, I thought you might try something like this.  Rea, do what you do best and go deal with the Pantheon.  They're warlocks, the lot of them.  I sort of expected it, but you should know it anyways."
"And since I kill immortals you want me to deal with them of course?"
"Or you could go fight the other demon, Legion brought a very dumb one-eyed friend."
Krell remembered the demon Rea had fought a few days prior.  She'd taken its eye out, and it had sworn revenge.  He had a feeling that the two demons were one and the same.  Especially since most demons didn't live against a foe who managed to injure them at all.  It had been rather impressive that he'd escaped. 
"Where's Courtney?"
"There are warlocks all over the city, wanna take a guess?"
"In the bath?"
"Remind me not to hit you so hard next time.  I hate having to chase you down."
Petra brandished her sword and spun around to meet the towering swordsman.  He was clearly her perfect foe, muscle bound, tall, and well armored.  He had only stumps of wings remaining, but they appeared to be an ancient wound.  He carried a sword of his own, a gleaming silvery white mockery of Petra's own black blade.  Were it not for her mythic strength and skill he would have thought the battle lost before it had begun, but even with such factors taken into account he could see why Rea was so worried. 
"D'aww, didja miss me?"
"I will miss these exchanges of ours when I use your sword to scrape your flesh from beneath my fingernails."
"Tsk Tsk,"  Petra rolled over his sword as he swung.  He and Rea were far enough away to be safe from the blade itself, but he could feel the surge of power as it passed by.  "You should be careful with swords, you might hurt yourself."  She sprinted at him, backflipping off his knee just in time to dodge a shadowy bolt that came out of the smoke just beyond one of the gaping holes in the walls. 
"For you my friend, I would sooner suffer a thousand swords than a single kiss."
Petra parried another blow and the stones around her exploded from the force. 
"Now that was just mean spirited."
"So was cutting off my wings."
"Oh dear does it..."  Krell didn't hear the rest of it, Petra and Legion were slowly moving back onto the street.  He wasn't sure which of them was causing more collateral damage, but he had the feeling Legion wasn't actually trying to do any damage.  He wasn't so certain about Petra.  He spotted Rea go into a crouch facing the first hole in the wall.  He pulled his sword from subsace and stood behind her. 
"Waiting for me?"
"What's your name, I don't like killing things I don't know."
"To bad you won't be killing me."
"Oh, why is that?"
"Oh, that would be us."  Krell spun around and saw ten men and women, mostly Nielda, standing in front of the door. 
"I'll take the demon, you get the pantheon back outside and Courtney will help you deal with them.  I'll hold him off."
"You stabbed him in the eye last time, just kill him."
"Not as easy as it sounds, I have to stab his heart or use the right set of spells."  The demon pulled out a long sword and stabbed at her.  She easily rolled aside.  "And I don't know any of the spells!" 
"Then you fight the warlocks and I'll kill the demon."
Rea dove asid to avoid another thrust of the Demon's sword.  "You think you can kill him?"
"Thalia lent me a book on the subject."
"You'd better know what you're doing Krell."  She teleported in front of him and began to charge the gathered immortals.  Another warlock crashed through the wall and a black fog billowed through it after him.  Courtney reformed and brought her heel down between the man's eyes as she incanted a spell.  Krell then realized he'd never actually seen an immortal kill one of their own other than Rea, who'd clearly had her blades enchanted appropriately.  But Courtney didn't seem to fight armed.  As Rea began carving through the enemy, Courtney seemed to just glide from one to another, more hunting than fighting. 
"Are you going to stand there all day or are you going to actually fight me?"
Krell turned back around to the demon at hand. 
"What's your name?"
"You too?"
"No, I just want to know who to say I beat."
"Beat me first and then I'll tell you."
"As you wish."  Krell planted his sword in the ground and conjured a sphere of flame, which he then hurled at the demon.  The hellish warrior swiped it from the air and unleashed a snaking beam of destruction across the hall.  Krell drew upon his own strength and held it at bay.  He could feel the Demon's strength, and with it a subtle whisper telling him of the things he could have if he swore himself over to hell's service.  He had expected more from a foe of this caliber.  Maybe they were right about the benefits of being an actual priest. 
He channeled a firey torrent of his own, and put his will behind forcing it through the demon's defenses as it was easily caught and held. 
"Is that the best you can do?"  The demon unleashed a dozen more blasts like the first.  Krell released his own spell and struggled to shield himself against the demon's might.  Then he realized that his enemy had used but one hand to do it all.  He had twice the ability to fight that he'd used so far and Krell could barely handle what he'd already had thrown against him.  "Too bad, maybe next time you'll...Oh right, there won't be a next time."
"Krell!"  Krell couldn't turn to see her, but he knew Rea was charging the demon at that very moment.  But he couldn't really do anything to help.  She actually kicked off of his head as she jumped at the demon.  It released its assault on him and struck her out of the air.  At first it seemed like nothing, then he saw the blood.  Rea had taken the sharp side of the blade directly across the stomach.  She was bleeding, and he remembered what Thalia had said about demons.  They could kill anyone, the wounds they inflicted never healed without divine intervention, and their own wounds healed quickly.  If Rea was bleeding than she might...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; Armory

Credits; Krell, Rea,

The palace was just as it had been when they'd left it yesterday morning four thousand years ago.  The mosaics were still intact, every tile still vivid and bright.  He could see that all of the armor and easily destroyed urns had been replaced by flower arrangements and statuary.  It was quite pretty.  Cyssie and Igor looked completely out of place here.  Even at their nicest they didn't look nearly nice enough to live in a palace like this.  Thalia had given her daughter a lot of freedom to be who she wanted to be, but she clearly had made the palace for someone of her sensibilities.  Cyssie and Igor would go back to the lab soon enough, but for today they were the King and Queen of all mad scientists. 
"The armory is up the hall that way.  We're going to tour the palace, it's been a long time since we've been up here.  God be with you both."
"And be careful, if you make it back alive I'm of a good mind to make the two of you the godparents."
"Thank you Cyssie, Igor.  For everything.  Krell?"
Krell waved as Cyssie and Igor walked off up the hall, lead and followed by a regiment of Gravagan courtiers, guards, and officials.  Rea tugged on his sleeve and pointed down the hall.  "We need to hurry, Petra could already be fighting.  All of the male armor is Hal's, take whatever works best for you."
"What about you?"
"I keep some armor here and there.  This is one of those heres'."

It was a long hall, plastered with purple warriors facing off against all manner of fierce monsters and even more fierce bands of heroes and adventurers.  Thalia had always been fairly dramatic, and she'd done a lot of work to make herself seem egotistical.  In fact judging primarily based on the things she kept around and let be written and recorded about her one would think she was insanely self centered.  But even here he could see the things she actually cared about.  There was a mosaic where she towered over an army of Gravagans, but every one of the soldiers had his own face and it was their order that was shown more than her authority.  On another wall she sat at the end of a table, in the center looking over on those gathered.  But he could recognize them by the backs of their heads; there was Tala of course, and across from her was Courtney in her black dress.  Arcania had her head down as she poked at a salad beside Sara, who raised a wing over her head.  And across from them was a sight he had to stop and laugh at.  A dark haired girl facing to her left where a young man in a priest's garb laughed over lasagna.  Thalia had every mosaic done in great detail, and she clearly was doing more than just placing a focus on herself.  It was a perfect record of everything that had happened in her lifetime to her or Gravaga. 

The armory was at the end of the hall.  Hal's armor was all on the left, and Krell quickly picked a composite mail with a particularly impressive pedigree.  Rea had gone off to the right and had presumably found her own armor.  Krell pulled it on and laced it up before looking around for a helmet.  There were far fewer to choose from.  Ultimately he settled on just not using a helmet.  It was too confusing and all of them restricted his vision.  He did however find a very nice set of metal plated boots and a set of mail backed gauntlets.  The set of enchantments all seemed geared towards fighting demons, or at least shades.  Lots of counter shadithic and protective enchantments; the sort of things that would let one resist corruption. 
"You ready yet?"
"Yes.  How about you?"  Krell stood up and spun towards Rea.  She'd switched out for pants and a shirt, with a composite breatplate and a set of greaves.  She still looked good, but in a much more prickly way than usual. 
"Not a chance.  I have no idea how Petra does this so often.  Demons are scary."
"I'm sure between the two of us it'll be fine."
"Krell you ignorant fool, I'd kill for your confidence."

Post #300

Seems like only yesterday that I was doing post #200. 
Well, this one may not be quite as interesting but I like trivia so lets go with that. 

First person to tell me, in a comment, the headline of the first Magazine Rea is seen reading gets to name the next character I create.  Or some other negotiable prize.

Ding Ding Ding!  We have a winner! 
Prize may be redeemed as you please. 

The Assassin's Tale; A Triumphal Procession

Credits; Krell, Rea,

"Morning Shannon."
"Admiral!  It's an honor."
"Thank you Shannon, could you send a message up to the palace for us?"
"Then the day has come at last?  I shall wire the steward at once.  How many will be going?"
"Four of us, Cyssie and Igor of course, then Rea and I as well.  Nothing to exorbitant mind you, just that they know we're coming."
"Of course.  My Mistress is not a formal person.  Perhaps the Creator loved dramatics, but My Mistress is not of the same mind."
"You knew Thalia?"
"Knew?  Oh, yes I suppose I do, did.  Perhaps I have not properly introduced myself; Viscountess General Shannon Krouney of Her Imperial Majesty's Fourth Legion.  I was assigned to My Mistress' protection detail following the war, so that she need not worry about her own safety."
Was anyone normal any more?  Even the receptionist had rank and title these days.  Nao the guide had turned out to be the Spearhead, Rea the cheery fangirl turned out to be a dour and dedicated assassin, Liss the maid would probably turn out to be the lost lady of Anatolia at this rate.  What made it worse is that he actually knew of General Krouney and the Fourth Legion; he'd studied her use of mixed infantry back when he had started playing TacSim, she was regarded as one of the most effective defensive commanders in all Gravaga.  In any normal society she'd be giving lectures and touring bases, not answering phones for the mad scientist who apparently ruled the country.  Krell took a deep breath and continued. 
"It's an honor to finally meet you General; I've studied you quite intensely over the years."
"I am glad to have provided a suitable example to future generations."

Cyssie and Igor stepped out of the elevator.  She was wearing a purple blouse and skirt, and a leather apron covered in burns and sprouting wrenches and screwdrivers and pouches all along the belt, with a holster for some sort of pistol.  Doubtless it did far more, or less, than simply shooting things; after all they were mad scientists.  Igor was wearing a leather jacket and a long black shirt.  He had a whole array of tools and gizmos sticking out of pockets, and he was sure every pocket was far deeper than the jacket was long, and it was quite long.  They looked nice, in their own rather practical sort of way.  And they'd bathed that morning, which had made a very noticeable improvement on their appearances.  Both stepped outside cautiously, and Rea followed up behind.  She had worn a dress.  He'd seen her in a dress before, but he hadn't seen her with quite this little make-up.  What's more her hair had changed color.  The odd thing was that it wasn't dyed or enchanted; apparently she was a natural redhead.  She'd braided it too, presumably to match Cyssie's hair.  She had her gauntlet on, and he saw the amulet he'd given her for Junsrew hanging from her neck.  She looked...well it was just as disturbing as ever really.  She was pretty, and even without trying to look older she did look older than her age, and a lot younger than her true age.  He doubted it would ever stop bothering him that he found her attractive.  She was...a problem.  And one of these days he'd have to face it. 

Despite his requesting that there not be too much fuss, all of Gravaga seemed to have turned out to watch them go up to the palace.  The Steward of the palace had sent a car down to pick them up.  It was rather traditional looking, low flying and open roofed, and the driver was flying purposefully slow.  As they entered the city a guard escort fell in around them and he could see that the streets had been closed off ahead.  It wasn't quite a parade, but it was obvious that the Gravagans would have held one if they'd had another four hours notice.  Confetti was already starting to appear from the windows around them, and he could have sworn he saw sparklers. 
"They're quite excited, aren't they?"
Krell looked back at Rea.  She looked a little bit cramped in the back seat.  Igor and Cyssie were both much taller than she was, and their clothes were rather heavier so it didn't leave her much space. 
"They haven't had a proper ruler in two thousand and a bit years.  Of course they're excited."
"Still, its rather loud isn't it?"
Krell then realized how uncomfortable Rea was.  Not just being crammed in the back seat with much larger people, she was also the focus of attention.  She was in the middle of a cheering crowd, and they weren't just cheering for Cyssie and Igor, they were cheering for him and Rea for bringing them Cyssie and Igor.  And Rea wasn't used to being cheered for.  She lurked in shadows and sat in corners.  She was as much a hero as Tala or Petra was, but she'd never gotten the same sort of attention.  And now that she had it she wasn't sure how to react. 
"Yes, it is.  Bet this doesn't happen to you very often."
"What?  A parade you mean?"
"People cheering for you."
"No.  Usually crowds come after me with torches and pitchforks."  Igor started up at the phrase torches and pitchforks.  Rea got jostled a bit and grimmaced at him.  Krell turned towards the driver. 
"We're on a bit of a schedule here, think you could pick up the pace?"
"I think it is possible."
There was no attempt to speed up.  Krell glanced back and saw that Rea was starting to fidget. 
"Could you speed up, now?"
Still nothing.  Krell took a deep breath. 
"Get us to the palace, now."
"I am."
"Sorry, I can't do that."
"Then get out.  The Mistress and her companions are on a schedule." 
He could recognize Shannon's voice over the radio and saw a Mechanized Armor Suit walking alongside them with a mark of a combined four and an L.  They really weren't sparing anything for this day. 
"But by the command of the Steward..."
"The Mistress' needs come before those of the Steward.  And her need is swift arrival.  Obey or Defy?"
"I obey Viscountess.  For The Mistress."
The car accelerated to three times its prior speed and in mere seconds they arrived at the palace.  Krell looked back as the gates began to shut and saw the Armor suit manage a salute.  He returned it and then went to join the others.  He should have known not to underestimate a receptionist who wore Army boots. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; Girls

Credits; Krell, Rea,

Krell and Igor sat on the couch watching the girls, it was difficult to call either permanently adolescent Rea or still grease stained Cyssie a lady.  He had managed to come up with a plan to get the equipment stored in the palace without stealing it.  Cyssie and Igor would enter the palace for a tour and public whatsit; as the rulers of Gravaga it was actually rather overdue for them to do so.  He and Rea would accompany them as an entourage.  Cyssie would inform the guards that they were to open the armory for he and Rea, and then he and Rea would take the needed equipment and head directly to Stormguarde via teleport. 
Of course, since they had most of a day to wait before entering the palace, Rea had insisted on helping make Cyssie presentable for her appearance.  Judging by Cyssie's resistance and Rea's sheer pleasure it would be a long time before they would make any progress. 
"When's the last time you two left the lab?"
"The funeral.  Mom's funeral that is.  Her Mom's, my mother in law."
"But that would have been nearly two thousand years ago."
"Its a big lab."
"And you never had to go out and get anything even?"
"Nope.  Everything gets shipped in.  We have teams move anything we need down and we use it when we need it."
"Just the two of you?  You never go to parties, or conventions or anything?"
"We used to, before Mom died.  Cyssie really took it hard, she and Mom were always really close."
"I've noticed.  But its been a long time."
"Really close.  They were business partners, best friends, mother and daughter.  Only Hal and I had as much of their affection as they did for each other."
"And she lost him on the same day as she lost Thalia.  But Two Thousand Years?"
"Kate hasn't exactly helped.  She's so busy trying to apologize she doesn't stop and leave time for the wound to heal.  If she'd just back off for a while maybe Cyssie could move on, but until then..."
"Ah, Maybe if I have a word with her?"
"It wouldn't make any difference.  Kate's too stubborn."
"Maybe if I have a Fist with her?"
"Ah, no that wouldn't help either.  Cyssie's tried that."
"Cyssie actually hit her?" 
Igor laughed and leaned in.  "Didn't even leave a mark."
He looked over and saw that Rea had tied Cyssie's hands down and had her sitting in a chair while she brandished a pair of scisors and a fine comb.  She was snipping bits of singed hair and evening the length in general.  The unfortunate blonde couldn't extract herself from the situation, but was switching between loud objection and spitting out bits of hair. 
"Scary to think that those are some of the most powerful people in the world."
"Yeah.  The capacity to rend mind and body, sunder planets, snuff stars, and lay low armies and here they are fussing about hair."
"If they have to exercise one of their abilities, I'd rather it was haircutting then mind rending."
"Krell, you do realize that I'm every bit as capable as she is, right?"
"Well, yes, but you seem more under control."
"I did my share of mind rending back in the day.  I can raise the dead with minds intact better than any vampire, outrun elves, and I designed the original tesser coil.  I'm the original mad scientist.  I just don't show it the same way she does.  She's much more sane than she acts, a lot of that is just the sort of dramatics Mom always taught." 
They sat quietly as Rea braided Cyssie's hair.  Rea was very good at it, Krell had watched Lewiza braid their daughters' hair before and he could see the difference.  It was a very complicated style, with the braid going around the top of Cyssie's head in a sort of tiara.  It looked rather nice with Cyssie's hair and complexion, like a princess out of a fairy tale.  Rea finished up and conjured a collection of dresses.  Igor snickered as Cyssie began arguing with Rea over whether or not she would need pockets tomorrow.  Krell couldn't help but join in as Rea lost the arguement and retaliated by snapping, vanishing all of Cyssie's pockets and rendering her entire arguement void. 
"She's right you know, pockets really are rather handy."
"And Rea cares why?  Girl would put a spare planet in subspace if she thought she needed it."
"Krell, she DOES keep a planet in subspace."
"You have no idea the lengths she's gone to in order to kill targets."
"She's dropped a planet on people?"
"No, she just needed something to launch missles off of.  She's got batteries of surface launched missles set up in case she ever needs to make something extremely dead."  Igor smiled. 
"Now you're just pulling my leg."
"Yeah, she does keep an impressive set of non-lethal hammers, a wardrobe big enough to fill the Palace, and more than her fair share of explosives." 
"Oh, that doesn't surprise me.  Everyone keeps explosives, right?"
"Well yeah, but most people wear clothes more than once too."
Krell could see his point.  He had never seen Rea wear an outfit more than once.  Today she was wearing a plain white shirt with a black apron and pants, it had made her look very professional while she wove Cyssie's hair.  Now she'd managed to get Cyssie into a purple gown of some sort.  It looked nice enough on her, but he could tell that both she and Igor would have liked it better if she was still wearing her usual greasy jumpsuit and stained khaki overalls.  Krell decided it was finally time to intercede and give Cyssie a break. 
"Alright, that's a bit too fancy.  It's a good color, but it's too poofy and and it would look better if it came up a bit higher, maybe if it covered the shoulders?"
"She's going to a palace, not a shop meet.  She should look like it."
"She's going to Her Palace, if she wanted to naked nobody would say a word."
"I would."
"Sorry Igor, but you get the idea?"
Rea sighed.  "Yeah, I just haven't had anyone to dress up in a while."
"You dress yourself every morning.  If you want to wear a dress, wear a dress."
"But I need to be able to run!"
"And she needs to be able to wield a welding torch and conjure massive quantitites of grease."
Rea crossed her arms and threw herself back into one of the chairs.  "Your Mom is right, you two need to have kids so I have someone to dress up again."
Igor and Cyssie exchanged another glance and Krell stared at Cyssie for a moment.  Then he looked over at Igor and decided to ask.  "When's the due date?"
"Twins, Fifth of August.  We were planning on going back to the fifth of August three thousand years ago so that Mom could be there."
"Congratulations, make sure to have the clean diapers on hand before you take the old ones off."  Krell patted Igor on the back and shook his hand.  Rea started bouncing and squealing.  Cyssie smiled and snapped herself back into her jumpsuit.  Krell realized that Thalia probably already knew when she'd yelled through the time gate that morning.

The Assassin's Tale; Futures Both Past and Present

Cast; Krell, Rea, Thalia,

"Are you sure you must leave so soon?"
"I'm afraid so.  We'll be sure to return when we can." 
"Just don't get hurt too bad.  I'm looking forward to..hehe, well you two can find out about that later now can't you?"
"Don't be a tease."  Rea looked over at Krell in surprise.  He didn't blame her, normally he never would have said anything like that.  Thalia was the sort of person who was doing it on purpose though, and Krell was getting quite fed up with the constant hinting that she already knew how it all turned out.  Besides the logic problems involved in someone from the past knowing how their future ended, it was frustrating to have such information dangled over their heads. 
"Oh, is it bothering you?"
"Yes, a lot.  How would you like it if we told you how you die?"
"A Demon enslaves Kate, starts a war, and I break its hold on her at the price of my life.  I've known that since I was sixteen."
"Oh.  And you know about Sara?"
"Axe crazy little Mmnmhm goes and joins her willingly, then gets knocked up by the emperor of Danielland and ultimately dies at the hands of Hariel the fire mage, Earl of Star Haven.  Cyssie is the greatest scientist of all time.  And Koren is a librarian.  Hal dies fighting to create a distraction so that I can die."
"And you just?"
Thalia nodded.  "Petra is horrible at keeping secrets.  But yes, I know how my life ends and I know what happens to everyone I care about, but I live on anyways."
"How do you manage it?"
"Why should it change anything to know how it ends?  I know things other than my death.  I know that Kate never gets over my death, I know that Cyssie has a family one day, I know that Sara gets her comeupance, and that Hal and I never have to live without each other.  I know that I live a full and satisfying life and that much good comes of it.  Krell, Rea; stop worrying about knowing the future.  God knows what will come and what he says will be will be."
"Thank you Thalia.  For dinner, and for everything else."
"Its my pleasure.  Its an honour to know you both."  She curtsied low and both Rea and Krell returned a bow. 
"As it is ours to know you."
Thalia waited and watched as the door opened in space.  They could see the time machine and Cyssie and Igor waiting for them.  They stepped through and turned around to see Thalia waving and smiling. 
"Cyssie, Come visit as soon as you have some grandchildren to bring!"
The door closed, cutting off Thalia's laughter mid breath.  Cyssie and Igor looked at one another and smiled. 
"Do you two need to go anywhen else?"
"No, we need to go and pick up that armor of your Dad's from the palace."
"Ah yes, its in the armory.  Should be able to walk right in."
"How hard will it be to get out?"
"For you, a cakewalk."
"That hard?"
"Wait, what if we didn't steal it?"  They all looked at him.  He was a little worried at the prospect that no one had actually considered asking for it. 
"Well,"  Said Igor as he began slowly pacing.  "I suppose if we pulled rank.  And technically Cyssie and I do own everything.  I guess if we asked nicely..."
"Wait," Rea interjected, "Since when did you own everything?"
"Oh, it's in Mom's will.  She left me the country."
Krell looked at Rea.  He was surprised at the news, but he was even more surprised that she was surprised.  For that matter, hadn't Rea said that Thalia's will was on the staff? 
"She left you, you, Cyssie Von Gravaga, mad scientist and general, well, irrational little girl, in charge of the most powerful nation in the universe?"
"Who else could she have given it to?"
"True.  Just, you?"
"I think I've done a fairly decent job of it.  I've never lost a war, I've never caused a genocide, and the Gravagans love me."
Krell laughed as he saw Rea slump.  It was true.  Thalia had built a military machine strong enough that it had been able to carve through the Frostbourne hordes with ease, and then even after the destruction of millions of soldiers and entire battle fleets had simply retrained, rebuilt, and then struck back unlead with a fury still un-matched.  And Thalia had put all of that in the hands of Cyssie, strange, cheerful Cyssie.  She was the one person guaranteed to not use it.  And ultimately, Thalia didn't want to rule the world; she just wanted the capacity to rule it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; Dessert

Credits; Krell, Rea, Tala, Arcania, Courtney, Thalia,

Desert proved much less individualized than dinner had.  Brownies, and in no small quantity either, had been set in the center of the table just about as they finished up their dinners.  Some, like Rea and Tala, had finished earlier than others, but most of the rest of them finished around the same time.  They were very good brownies, and the meals had clearly been portioned to ensure that everyone had room for desert.  It occured to Krell that Thalia must have been using magic to know how much people would eat, not to mention what and that they would all like brownies.  Or maybe, he considered as he helped him self to a second portion of the melty chocolate confection, it was that she'd enchanted the brownie so that everyone would like it.  Or perhaps it was just that everyone did like brownies as a sort of universal law and Thalia just happened to know it and worked out one of the best brownie recipes in all of history so she could exploit it.  There was no way of knowing without asking, and he wasn't sure if it would be polite. 
"Lovely dinner Missus Immersfeld, thank you for having us over."  Courtney was the first one to finish with desert, not surprising considering her apparently miniscule appetite.  She stood to leave and Tala rose with her. 
"Pardon me Thal, I need to speak with miss Yellsdana for a moment.  I'll be back shortly."
"Of course, take your time, I doubt any of us are in any hurry to do anything after such a satisfying meal."
"Thank you."  Tala accompanied Courtney into the next room and closed the door behind them.  Krell could see from Thalia's raised eyebrow that he was not the only one to find it curious that Tala had blocked sound from passing into the room.  But Tala and Courtney were both adults and they were entitled to their privacy, so neither he nor Thalia said anything about the matter. 
"Kate, Sara; could you run along and if you insist on not going to bed then at least occupy yourselves.  Hal, could you put Cyssie down for the night?  I believe Rea and Krell need to speak with me."
Hal nodded and picked Cyssie out of her high chair gently.  The two sisters walked out silently, clearly accustomed to this sort of thing.  No sooner had the two girls left then the table and dishes vanished.  Hal left just as Thalia and Rea stood.  Krell chose to stand as well, and just in time as the chairs joined the table in subspace. 
"So what do you need today?"
"Besides letting Krell meet you?  We need you to show us how to do something."
"Ah that would explain...nevermind.  Continue."
"The time is at hand.  Petra and Legion are preparing to battle.  We only have a couple of days.  We need to know how to sap power from a demon safely."
"There is no such thing as sapping power from a demon safely.  But I could show you how to do it dangerously."
"Then do it.  We need to know."
"Why not?  Petra's life is at stake."
"Besides not being overly fond of Petra, it's not the sort of technique to be taken lightly.  You have no idea the danger it poses.  I will not teach you."
"I will, however, teach your partner.  Krell is..more prudent.  I think he can better judge the appropriate times to use it.  And I believe he will be better able to combat the demon's poisons then you would.  Perhaps if you would choose good over your current system of balance then you could handle it too.  But add demons to the shadow and it would take God himself to bring you back.  Remember the Tome of Zink?"
Rea frowned and crossed her arms.  Thalia wasn't angry, she was more just mentorly and calm.  She'd managed to avoid angering Rea even while denying her what she wanted.  Seemed to be a common trait amongst the powerful people he'd been meeting lately; they all either annoyed her instantly or managed to keep her under control.  In fact, it almost seemed an indicator of an immortal's maturity that they managed to do so. 
"Fine.  I can't make you teach anyone, but if you're willing to teach Krell then its better than nothing." 
"Good.  Thalia smiled.  "Now what else is there I can do to help?  Even sapping his power won't be enough to defeat Legion.  And I doubt he'd be stupid enough to come alone, so you and your fine Father may be too busy to help at all."
"Kate is very powerful in our time.  She recently recovered your staff and believes your will is recorded on it.  Could you do something to try and convince her to help us?"
"Of course.  She won't listen though, she never does."
"I think she'd be much more open in our time."
"Ah.  And unless I'm mistaken Tala has already determined a course of action of her own.  You should be sure that the fight takes place in Stormguarde so her plans can be effective." 
"Yeah, that's a good idea.  How long should the training take?"
"About an hour."
"Only an hour?  Its supposed to be one of the most powerful techniques in all history and you can teach it in an hour?"
"I learned it in about ten minutes, so yeah.  Krell already has most of the prerequisite skills and he has the perfect sort of off-balance for it.  You really neglect the benefits of ordination Rea, you should take the time to go to seminary or a monastary or something at some point.  It's quite worth it."
"Yeah, I'll look into it."  Rea turned and headed out through one of the doors on the side of the room.  Thalia turned towards him. 
"Man, I like her better in the future.  She..right, spoilers.  Shall we get to work?"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; Dinner

Credits; Krell, Rea, Tala, Arcania, Courtney, Thalia,

Thalia spared no effort on dinner.  And it had to be said that way because part of that effort was involved in getting the best of every ingredient for a cost roughly equivalent to a gently worded death threat.  She payed it in money of course, but she got everything wholesale, clearance, and what she refered to as gun point discount but was actually more of an affectionate tribute discount.  The Gravagan's legitametly loved their ruler and creator.  She may have made a show of bullying them around, but when push came to shove she was right in front of them taking shots and swords in their stead.  They knew she was on their side, and so even if for appearances she had to shoot one in the leg now and then, they knew it all came with full-coverage health and dental and Junsrew festivities.  Besides the expenses though, Thalia actually supervised the kitchen staff herself, working directly with the head chef to plan the meals and then cooking dessert herself.  Where she found time to do so much nobody knew, maybe she, like Rea, had the ability to alter the flow of time in order to do more in the time provided.  To the best of his knowledge, no one had managed to figure it out even by his time. 
He glanced around the room as everyone began to take their seats.  There seemed to be no designated seats, but everyone sort of knew where they would best fit in.  He sat between Rea and Hal, Thalia's more heroic husband.  Hal sat next to Thalia at the triangular table, and on her left was Cyssie, recognizable in her high chair only by the tuft of blonde hair and the way she seemed to actually calculate the trajectory of each catapulted spoonful of green mush.  On her left, across from him, was Arcania, who he had been forwarned to call Kate.  She looked nothing like her future self, she had curious brown eyes, and brown curly hair like her father's.  There was none of the boldness, saddness, or mystery she would one day posess, just the same sort of clever fascination that would lead her down the dark path.  Next to her was a fiery redhead, she wore three axes and plate armor.  It must have been Sara, Thalia's second daughter and the future Lych Queen; she would be more the villain of the Frostbourne war then Arcania would, and the Lych she commanded into battle would be a plague on the universe until nearly five hundred years ago when he himself struck down Xanadu on Cariol.  Beside her was Coutney, who looked none to happy with her boisterous neighbor.  She looked much as she did in his time, dark clothes and pale skin.  She didn't even look that much younger, maybe six years at most.  Across from her, beside Rea, was Tala.  She'd tied her blue hair back and was chatting with Rea quietly. 

Suddenly, Thalia tapped on her glass. 
"Ladies, and Hal, Krell, and Sara, Dinner is served."
It was a perfectly coreographed entrance.  Krell suspected that everything in the palace was, but dinner was probably particularly well coreographed on account of its being for the benefit of non-relatives.  Tala and Rea seemed to shrug it off, but he could see Courtney light up as she watched the Gravagan servants glide across the room carrying silver platers so perfectly polished that Krell could make out the individual tiles of the mosaic behind him.  He saw the head chef, a stocky looking Gravagan, step out of the kitchen and proceed directly to Tala.  He waved and the servant removed the cover, revealing a very ordinary looking burger with equally ordinary looking onion rings and a slightly better than ordinary looking dipping sauce to accompany them.  He allowed Tala to inspect the food, making sure she was completely satisfied with it before proceeding to Rea.  She too had a burger, but with fries and rather a large amount of cheese slathered over both the patty and the fries.  Again he inspected it and proceeded directly past him and around to Arcania.  She had a salad, a very nice salad with plenty of caesar and no shortage of croutons.  Apparently her appetite was one of the few things about her that hadn't changed.  Sara had a heaping plate of wings, all soaked in a combination of what he suspected was buffalo sauce and lard that had been poured over a batter that smelled of very strong alcohol.  Courtney looked away and whimpered slightly at the sight.  Her own meal seemed much more appetizing by comparison; a small medium rare steak.  The plate itself was mostly just garnishments and decorations, but Courtney did seem to be the dainty one at the table.  Thalia had a bowl of chicken noodle soup, small basket of garlic bread set between her and Hal, and a side salad.  Hal had the same, but his soup had more chicken while hers was mostly noodle. 
Finally, after Cyssie was introduced to a fresh bowl of applesauce, the head chef approached his place. 
"And for you, Mr Casat, lasagna; twice baked, light on the sauce.  And a side of garlic bread to accompany."
How in the world could they have known?  He hadn't told them, he hadn't even told Rea what his favorite meal was.  And yet here it was exactly the way he liked it.  HE sampled it as the chef watched intently.  It was perfect.  The best sausage he'd ever had, and exactly the right combination of cheese, meat, pasta, and sauce.  And the seasonings complimented every element perfectly.  He'd never had a better meal in his whole life. 
"This is the best lasagna I've ever had!"
Thalia and Hal laughed.  Kate seemed amused, but his reaction seemed to annoy Sara.  Courtney smiled, as did Rea and Tala.  And from the look of pure joy on the chef's face, this was the reaction he'd hoped for. 
"Mr Casat, I thank you for your kind words.  I have spent many years perfecting this recipe, and it brings me great joy that it should bring you such pleasure."
"You should be pleased, this is amazing!"
Thalia laughed again.  "Alright Ended, you've done well.  Go set up for dessert please."  The chef continued beaming as he spun and departed.  "Now, shall we pray?"
Sara dropped her wing uncerimoniously and Arcania rolled her eyes.  But everyone else in the room looked attentively towards Thalia.  Courtney seemed curious more than anything else, but Tala, Rea, and surprisingly Cyssie all seemed fairly reverant.  "Father?  Would you do us the honors?"
Krell looked around and realized that they meant him, rather than the father of three of the room's inhabitants.  He folded his hands and bent over the table. 
"Bless us O Lord, for these Thy gifts, which we're 'bout to recieve from Christ our Lord.  Amen."
"Thank you." 
"Indeed, nicely done." 
Rea patted him on the shoulder and leaned over.  "You did good.  I keep forgetting you're a priest; surprised Thalia remembered.  We must be very different in the future she knows us from.  I ought to ask."  Tala thumped her on the back.  "Fine, I won't.  Still interesting to think about what we'll be like in the future."
Krell nodded.  "Yeah, especially seeing what everyone else was like."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Assassin's Tale; Old Friends

Credits; Krell, Rea, Tala,

Rea hurried out of the room.  Krell was keeping up rather easily.  Rea was clearly trying to keep from being winded, but there was an eagerness to her gait that was apparent nonetheless.  Krell tried to remember everything he'd learned in school about Tala as they went along through the palace.  The storm mage was legendary for her exploits during the hierarchy wars, and then for her leadership during the frostbourne war, but other than that he only knew of how she'd helped found Seclora.  They were always important stories, but it was history.  He'd loved stories like the Adventures of Spearhead and the Battle of Petra Death's Daughter and the thousand shades, and meeting them he'd found that they were nothing like what they'd seemed.  Thalia, who'd always been portrayed as a villain in both media and history, had proved to be kind and gentle despite her reputation.  What would Tala, a war hero and a great leader prove to be in her off time? 
Fortunately, the one thing the stories had not exagerated was her sky blue hair.  He recognized her the second he saw her fall out of the cabinent ahead.  He heard her curse briefly just before Rea helped her up.  Her face brightened as she saw Rea and the two hugged for what Krell felt was slightly longer than strictly necessary. 
"Rea!  I didn't expect to..Careful with the leg hun, I twisted it jumping out a window the other day..I didn't expect to see you here.  What brings you round these parts?"
"Sorry.  I needed to see Thalia so she could teach us something."  She kind of tilted her head towards Krell as she mentioned him.  He waved and Tala let go of Rea and turned to inspect him. 
"Future Rea, always wanted to meet you.  I always thought you stopped when I..."  She paused and stared off into space for a second before recovering.  "But that's another day, isn't it?  So you're here to learn something?  What would make it worthwhile to come back again?"
"I shouldn't tell you.  It's after your time and I don't want to worry you." 
"We're partners, no secrets, right?"
Rea sighed and waved Krell over.  He stepped over silently, not sure how to greet her.  Tala took three steps back and put out a hand to hold him at that distance. 
"So you're the new guy?  I knew you'd hapen at some point.  Let's see what you are."  She began to circle him slowly as she looked him over.  She made it around twice before stopping next to Rea and pointing at him.  "Well, you've got good taste; he's a handsome young man."  She seemed to block Rea's punch on instinct; if she really had been Rea's partner in the past then she would have had to develop such an instinct.  Tala blocked a second punch and a roundhouse kick before she began to dodge.  "You know I don't mean anything by it hun, I don't do young guys."
Rea stopped and stepped back.  "Sorry, its been a while."
"You've been getting stronger."
They both stared and relaxed.  Krell's mind boggled at the idea of someone actually talking Rea down from a fight, but there it was.  Petra had welcomed the fight and crushed Rea, Arcania had gotten help, but Tala had stood there, defending herself, and just reminded Rea of her better nature.  He was impressed.  He noticed that Tala was facing him again and faced her in return. 
"Clearly Rea's been dressing you, but there's no way she'd give anyone boots, certainly not with that outfit.  So I can assume you're military.  No pistol, so you must be navy.  You're adventerous and apparently immortal, so I'm guessing upper ranks, probably a High Admiral.  You've got a very nice necklace there too, silver cross.  A priest?"  She looked over at Rea.  "Hun I know you've got a lot to atone for but it's not like there's a shortage of priests that you've got to bring your own along with you."  Rea smiled. 
"You're really good at this.  You're Tala then?"
"He calls me by name too; Daniellandish then."
"How does my using your name make a difference?"
"The Seclorans call me Svel.  Tell me, where'd you find this guy?"
"Gasca, in the spaceport."
"And Gascan to boot.  Well then sir, what kind of crazy quest has she dragged you along for?"
Krell looked over at Rea, who sighed and swiveled around and stepped over to be next to him.  "We need Thalia to show us how to drain, absorb, and transmit shadithic power."
Tala was stiff as stone for several minutes.  When she finally resumed breathing she put a hand to her head and pulled a chair up behind her.  "Rea, that's a really powerful technique.  Are you sure you can handle it?"
"You took the entirety of the natural forces of a world and channeled them through yourself; a portion of a demon's power divided between two people is barely..." 
"It is a thousand times more than that!"  Rea stopped and both she and Krell pulled chairs of their own from subspace and listened.  "Rea, you kill immortals.  We're very strong.  But Demons are a lot stronger.  Most immortals are lucky to beat a shade, two if they're good.  You, me, Chastity McMomProblems; we're a rare breed.  Just being able to beat a demon is amazing, taking their power?  Rea, even if it weren't one of the most corruptive things in existance that would be more than anyone could bear."
"By my time it's already been done.  But I don't have time to learn it then, I have two days."
"Then come up with a different plan.  Rea, I won't let you go and die, or worse, just so you can assassinate another stupid warlock."
"This isn't about the book."
"Then why are you doing it?"
"Because..The book's not working.  It's told me to kill the same person for almost six hundred years now.  Last week I did and it just changed it."
"Oh."  Tala reached into her pocket and jotted down a few notes on a small book of her own.  "I'd wondered when that would happen.  Rea, have you considered that maybe its just her time?"
"She doesn't have a time!  I asked her mum ages ago when she was fighting Palaptos.  She shouldn't exsist, so she isn't in the books properly.  She thinks its her time, but it isn't."
"Because she hasn't suffered enough yet!"
They both paused.  Krell hadn't realized how much Rea didn't like Petra.  She wanted to save her life, so that she could suffer?  Suddenly he wasn't sure what side was what any more. 
"She's still all uptight and mommy issues then?"
"Fine, I'll help.  But I'm dissapointed that even after how many years since I died no one has managed to get through to the stupid girl."  She stood up and banished all three chairs, dropping he and Rea uncerimoniously onto the floor.  "Tell her to take a page from her mother's book, hang up her sword, and listen to what her damn cat's been trying to tell her for the past nine thousand years."  She brushed her hair back in an attempt to calm herself down and started walking towards the dining room.  "Honestly it would do you a lot of good too, hun."
Krell started to follow her and felt Rea's hand on his. 
"Krell, I didn't mean that.  About wanting her to suffer."
"You sure about that?  It seems like everyone hates her.  I don't like her much myself, but that's just awful..."
"Krell, Tala and I used to be, kind of still are, really close.  When we say we want her to suffer, we mean the sort of emotional suffering that the rest of the world takes for granted.  Petra's always aloof and apart from society; we just want to see her deal with normal stuff like sex and breakups and unrequited love and all that kind of stuff.  It's not cruel, mostly.  It kind of is.  But you've met her, don't you think she could use it too?"
He did.  Even if it weren't for the reputation he'd seen how self-righteous and stuck up she was.  But still, the idea that they were only trying to save her so that they could see her weak wasn't right.