Monday, April 25, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; Coffee and Cooperation

Credits; Petra,

Petra stood outside the door apprehensively.  Even if it weren't for the fact that she'd never visited someone else's house, let alone a single man's house, and uninvited to boot, she'd have still been nervous.  This was His house, his inner sanctum.  It would be like..well rather like him stopping by at her house uninvited.  She'd be nice about it of course, Mom wouldn't but she would, but it was Her House, and you couldn't just visit without asking first. 
"You're going to have to learn how to knock one of these days, Petra.  Left on your own out there without a jacket you could freeze to the doorstep.  Get inside, I've got a fire started already and there's a pot of water on the stove."
She glanced around and realized that it had started snowing while she'd been staring at the door.  There was a heavy dusting on her shoulders already, and it had started to pile over her boots.  How long had she been standing there? 
"I had the feeling you'd be by at some point, so I pulled up an extra chair.  I hope you don't mind, its really soft."
"I love soft chairs, but why did you think I'd be by?"
"I checked out all of the books on the Chori-Sada.  I'm afraid I don't know much about them so I needed to do some research.  I kinda had the feeling you wouldn't know much about them either, what with your mother being Death and all I'm sure your bedtime stories were of a completely different sort."
"Demons slain nightly, Knights slain demoniclly, and much mercy taken upon little girls who shut up and listened to their mothers." 
He laughed.  It was the truth though.  Often as not she had been the little girl, but there had been stories of all three sorts.  Mom's true stories had left little time for Dad's vastly more enjoyable fairy tales. 
"Yes, I imagine we've all heard a few stories about your mother's adventures.  But I imagine they all got a lot better with exaggeration and embellishment."  They heard the tea kettle begin to whistle and Shad thumbed towards the kitchen.  "Coccoa or Tea?"
"Really? You know, not many Nielda like coffee."
"I'm aware of it."
"Well it is nice to meet a fellow drinker."
He turned and stepped into the kitchen.  Petra walked over to the fireplace.  It was solid stone, and had been carved hollow to make room for both the fire itself and the chimney.  From the looks of things, the house had been built around it.  It wasn't much to look at, and most of what there was was obscured by the mountains of books.  She spotted the top of a grandfather clock over a collection of loose diary entries, and between the full editions of both Baskarina's Better Bestiary and Encyclopedia Horrifica she spotted what appeared to be a chess set.  The lighting wasn't all that great, but it did give the entire room, a living room she guessed, the feel of a very large old fashioned study.  Well, the lighting and the books did, the furniture was clearly meant for a living room.  A sofa and the chair he'd brought out especially for her. 
"...Your coffee?"
"Sorry, what?"
"I said how do you like your coffee?"
"Oh! Uhm, Two sugars, three creams."
"Really? I always do mine the other way around."
Petra laughed and took the coffee.  He'd brewed it perfectly, not that it was the best she'd ever had, just that it was done exactly the way it was supposed to be done.  She had to admit that it had actually lost something in that perfect execution.  It was like summoned cookies; They were technically perfect, but they still didn't taste as good as a batch that had a teaspoon too much flour, or had baked half a second too long. 
"Its good.  Thank you."
"I don't know why but it always tastes better when other people make it.  I don't get it, I do it exactly like it says to."
"Maybe you need to be a bit less percise then."
"Maybe."  Shad paused and from the look on his face he was seriously considering the situation.  Petra had never seen anyone think so hard about coffee.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; Library Visit

Credits; Petra,

She had recognized it instantly.  Frankly, any Nielda would have known the face of a Chori-sada though.  They were one of the only creatures the Nielda would have actually reffered to as a monster.  Her mother had raised her on a rather different sort of story, so Petra had to admit that she didn't really know much about them.  That really only left one option, but she hated it. 

"Welcome to the Academy library, can I help you find something?"
"I want everything you have on Chori-Sada that is written for adults.  And could you bring them to my office?"
"You too?"
"What, did the hall monitors already request them all?"
"It was another teacher actually, Professor Alnutsrevn"
"Shad?  But he was still down at the.."  She stopped and corrected herself, no need to go spreading the story that the chief hall monitor was dead so soon.  " place we were at, together."  She paused as she realized how suspicious that sounded, albeit implying a rather different sort of circumstance.  "Coffee!  We were just in town...getting coffee.  An-and talking about we always do, we always talk about class..just class."  It almost felt like someone was laughing at her pathetic excuses.  Why couldn't she just calm down?
"Ok. Sure. Right, Hope you two enjoyed your coffee then."
"We did! It was great coffee!"
"Uhm, sure. Well I can assure you that he was just in here and he picked up every bestiary, historic account, and half-eaten journal entry on the subject.  Since the two of you seem to, erm..Know each other, maybe you could ask to borrow them."
"I bet that he'd be happy to lend you a few of the books for some 'Coffee'."
"Its not like that!"
"Of course, I mean, if you say so."
"We're just friends."
"Right.  Well, I'll notify you if anything becomes available anyways.  Good luck."
Petra felt like her ears were on fire and she could have sworn every passing student began giggling at her nearly crimson cheeks.  The cheek of that librarian, she ought to show a little bit of respect for a teacher. 
Even if she had tottally blown it and it really had sounded like..that. 

God she hoped Shad wouldn't hear about this. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; The Face of the Enemy Revealed

Credits; Petra, Zink,

The only upside to crime in as magically saturated a place as the arcane academy was that it was very easy to make the hall ways simply bend around the scene and divert bystanders away from it.  The only people who could find it were, as cliche as it felt, those who already knew where it was. 
The downside of course was that there were too many random spells and enchantments muddling up the atmosphere and enough people had died in the school over the course of its existance that there was no way of even magically determining cause of death.  Not that it was hard to tell of course, something had eaten large portions of the poor woman.  Shad had been able to help the investigations team seperate out the constituent bits and assembled it into more or less a human form, although far more less than more.  After the blood had been collected for testing and cataloging, they had begun to examine the body. 
Which left the unpleasant business of witness interviews.  Her mother had already given a statement and left quietly.  Everyone had relaxed noticeably as soon as she was gone.  Petra couldn't blame them; they probably saw death regularly, but rarely did she stick around with the body.  Shad had given his statement first, but he was lingering to render medical knowledge to the investigations team.  He didn't seem bothered by the death, but then again he was a hard man to read.  It was rather impressive to watch him assisting the professionals though. 

"Miss Zinksfeld, could you try and pay attention?"
"Oh, sorry.  Could you repeat the question?"
"Did you know the victim, Miss Abernum?"
"I met her once.  She was the Chief Hall Monitor.  Wouldn't that make her your boss?"
"When did you meet her?"
"After class, she informed me that I had broken certain rules."
"And how did you react?"
"I think I blew her off to be perfectly frank with you.  But that was back in the first week of school and I barely remember any of it.  Haven't spoken to her since."
"You are a first year teacher here, correct?"
"Are you aware that Miss Abernum filed a report advising that you be released?"
"She did?  That...all due respect to the dead, had I known I would not have felt nearly so bad about finding her dead."
"I see.  So how would you describe the scene when you came upon it?"
"Blood and tissues everywhere, My mother was leaned over the body, I think she must have come soon afterward because the blood had splattered onto her a bit."
"I see.  Well, thank you for your time.'
"I'm not a suspect am I?"
"Well, the healer vouches that you were with him when he heard the scream.  Unless you know ways of causing people to be eaten while having conversations, then your alibi will do for now."
"Gee, I feel so reassured."
"If I were you, I'd head home and get some rest.  This is a pretty gruesome scene and I doubt you'll want to stay here until we solve the case."
He was right.  If Shad wasn't still over there helping she would have left in a heart beat.  But somehow she didn't feel right just leaving him there without trying to help a bit herself.  It was probably just some sort of competitive thing. 
"Is there any way I can help?"
"Don't suppose you know of any spells that can pull the magical records from the hall?  In theory it should tell us exactly who did it.  Its just that nobody can get any one enchantment out of the place."
"Miss Abernum wasn't a mage by chance?"
"She was actually."
Petra cracked her knuckles.  Truth be told nobody could have pulled the records without a lot of work, years most likely.  However, since she was a mage there would be evidence of any fight, transfer of power, or at the very least she could pull time of death and final mental state.  She flicked a piece of chalk into her hand and took one of the vials of blood.  A small pattern was all that was needed in order to get the bare minimum, but with a slight modification her father had taught her she could actually access the dead woman's memories.  She finished making the slight leaf pattern on the third branch and stepped back. 
"Just to warn you, this is probably going to be rather unpleasant."
"What is?"
A roar of power tore through the hall, consuming the entire vial.  A vision, as though seen through Miss Abernum's dying eyes, leapt into the air and lingered.  A deep, blood red obscured the entire image, but even through it they could make out ring after ring of razor teeth within a great maw.  It was a creature of waking nightmare, the shadow's of Nieldic legend.  It was a Chori-Sada. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; Scene of the Crime

Credits; Petra, Zink,

"Ah, I see they kept the Michaelangelo."
It had been nearly three thousand years since ZInk had last visited the Arcane Academy.  They'd let her visit when Petra had been a student, since she'd been a rather involved parent.  Since then, and in part because of it, they hadn't let her back into the school. 
Which was not to say that she had not visited the school several times a year despite their best efforts.  There was no way to bind Death in the performance of her duties.  Litterally, Petra, and her father while he had been alive, had attempted it many times.  They'd never managed it, for all intensive purposes only the rather curious time slip that let near-death, and post death, experiences take place in an instant allowed her to have any life at all.  And it did seem to give her a lot of spare time.  Besides writing and reading she did nothing but look for things to read and write about.  Outings like this were about as exciting as her life got.  Especially since there had been no demons sighted since the war.
"Well, they could hardly afford to get rid of something like that.  But did you have to model it in..well.."
"Man was gay Petra, it was like changing clothes and stopping to look at yourself in the mirror."
"MOM!  I meant did you need a statue of yourself in the altogether to be on display in a school?"
"I didn't need any statues of myself at all, I just felt like it was a rare oppurtunity that had to be taken advantage of.  Simple as that.  I have no idea where you get this prudishness."
"You mean a sense of common decency?'
"Decency just means not being a tease.  I knew perfectly well he didn't care.  Besides, he's one of the finest artists of all time.  It's not like I was posing for a first year art class."
Petra sighed.  She knew she wouldn't win.  Her Mom was just a product of a vastly different era.  She may have developed spiritually, but she hadn't really developed all of the things that normally accompanied it, like a sense of decency or a habit of regular worship.  Of course, she did have that thing about cursing so her behaviors rarely lined up nicely. 

"Petra!" She felt her knees lock and she watched her mother continue as though she had heard nothing.  "Petra, what are you doing with..."
"That's..that's my mum."
She could feel Shad standing just past her right shoulder.  He seemed oddly tense.  He was normally relaxed even when they would spar, something that had become a regular occurence lately. 
"That's...Zink?  The Zink?"
"Yeah, the one and only, Death Herself."
"Huh."  He was quiet for a moment and then continued.  "I thought she was bigger than that."
"You thought my mother was fat?"
"Not fat, plump."
"You're saying my mother is overweight?"
"Well, all the books always say that she filled out after she died."
"Have you seen what she looked like when she was alive?  You wouldn't have known she was alive if she hadn't still been moving around."
"Well if you put it like that..."
"I do put it like that." 
"Alright, alright; your mother is a normal weight, sorry."
"Apology accepted."  She grinned smugly.  It was nice to have won one today. 

Suddenly there was a scream from further up the hall.  Petra sprinted towards it.  She saw Shad keeping pace with her out of the corner of her eye.  For a healer he certainly had good combat reflexes.  They turned the corner and saw her mother knelt over a body.  Normally this was nothing surprising, she was Death after all.  But the body looked like it had been attacked by a great monster.  Judging by the state of the corpse, it would have needed jaws as wide as a trash can and teeth like razors.  Entire limbs had been devoured, clothing and all, and there was gore and splatter everywhere.  They had all seen worse, or at least she and her mother had, but it was definitely top ten on the gruesome things list.  A few of the hall monitors turned the corner down at the end of the hall and started coming towards them.  Then Petra realized where she recognized the victim from; it was Miss Abernum, the chief hall monitor. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Paladin's Shadow; Home

Credits; Petra, Zink,

"Mom! I'm home."
"Oh hi sweetie, how was school?"
"It was great!  You know how I told you about that one healer I told you about?  The one they have 'mentoring' me or whatever?"
"Of course I do sweetheart, what about him?"
"He came down and we sparred today."
"He's really good too, I think he's as skilled as I am."
"Really?"  Zink finally looked up from her book at that.  It was a rather appropriate response; Petra's skill was nearly as famous as her strength.  For her to have actually met her match in either was incredible.  And worrisome to some extent. 
"Yeah, I mean, I didn't want to hurt him or anything, but I couldn't get one past him if I had been trying."
"How hard were you trying?"
"Pretty hard by the end, we only stopped because the bell rang.  And I even managaged to talk to him."
"Wait, I thought you two were supposed to review lesson plans and stuff?"
"Well, we are.  But I can never quite bring myself to..."
"Ooohhh, I see.  So what kind of man is he?"
"He's nice."
"Yeah, he's really sweet, and strong, and tall, and funny, and hes gorgeous.  He knows all kinds of great stuff.  Like, did you know that there's a gardener on Appeni who's been taking care of the planet since the day it was discovered?  Or that Grand Admiral Stone had a little sister who's immortal?"
"Sounds like quite the young man.  I wonder why I never heard of him before?"
"Mom, you've always told me you didn't know everything.  What are the odds I'd actually meet someone you didn't know?"
"Rather poor I think.  I don't suppose I could come and visit you at the school one day and meet him?"
"I could ask.  But they don't really like you very much."
"Can't imagine why."  She said sarcastically.  Truth be told, Zink had probably done more for the school than anyone else across history.  She'd built half, if not more, of the buildings, rennovated the rest, stocked the library, and all of the statuary older than two millenia had been put there by her order.  Of course, most of those statues were made in her image.  She had ruled the Empire with a necromantic fist from the Headmaster's tower after all.  No one had forgotten that, and it was one of the reasons that immortals still were viewed as a threat more than an asset.  That both Zink and her Ancestor the Junlaerd had been under the influence of the very same demon seemed lost on the mortal Nielda.  It had been an ongoing problem for Petra, and a source of no small distress for her mother. 
"I will talk to them though.  If you wore a disguise of some sort than maybe I could pass you off as some other relative.  They'd be much more likely to allow that."
"Then we'll do that.  Popular opinion has not likely turned in my favor over the years.  I did an awful lot of damage after all."
"Yes, I suppose you did.  Well, I best get off to bed then; need to be up for school tomorrow."
"Good night sweetheart, dream deeply."
"You too mom."