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> Seven Reimagined, A new view of an old story
post Jul 28 2018, 04:38 PM
Post #41

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From: Between The Worlds

Acadian: Aela and Loria certainly agree that White-Hair would be perfect for their team. But can they recruit her? We will find a little more about the mystery regenerator this segment.

Chapter 5.3

Now there was only one man left on his feet, the Rasen in velvet whom White-Hair had originally crashed through the window with.

"You may really be the White Death," he growled. "But I don't care. Blood calls for blood."

Now it was his turn to advance upon White-Hair, holding his dagger in an under-handed grip. He kept one hand out before him to block, while the other held the knife at shoulder height, point always facing White-Hair. He moved in slowly and tried to circle her. But instead she cut him off, stepping directly into his line of advance.

White-Hair did not attack even then however. Instead she let him make the first blow. He stabbed, and she ducked under the dagger with lightning speed. She darted beside him and hooked one arm around his right shoulder. Continuing the motion, she swung her entire body up into the air and around his torso like a fulcrum. Her legs flew up above his head, while her own face dipped down toward the pavement. The Rasen was pulled off his feet by her momentum, and her legs locked around his neck as he toppled to the ground.

White-Hair retained the arm-bar on his dagger arm as they struck the ground, and rolled them onto his back, with her right side against the ground as well. This left her choking him with her legs, his weapon-arm pinioned helplessly.

She whispered something to the Rasen, too low to hear.

It was too low for mundane hearing at least. With barely a thought, Aela channeled mana into her ears. Suddenly even the slightest sounds reverberated through her skull. The breathing of Loria and the farmers was loud as thunder, as were the gasps of amazement from the crowd. The Arvern Witch concentrated on blocking the unwanted sounds out, and focused her attention directly upon White-Hair and the finely-dressed Rasen.

"Didn't you ever think it odd that every young, attractive woman in your father's service disappeared Sethre?" White-Hair asked. "Didn't you ever wonder where they went to?"

"The comings and goings of common-born maids are no concern of mine," the Rasen - now clearly Sethre Camna - gasped though the vise around his throat.

"Didn't you wonder about the book that is missing from your father's collection?" White-Hair continued to needle. "The one by Borellus?"

Aela caught her breath at that name. She had never taken much interest in the books in the restricted section of the Ingenium's library. She was much too busy with transforming her body from male to female. But that name stood out. His books were banned everywhere.

"Your dear brother Fanre was a necromancer." White-Hair spat the final word with more violence than any of her assaults upon the oathmen. "He murdered every woman he fancied. He reanimated them. Then he raped them, again and again."

"No, that can't be," the Rasen nobleman sputtered. Whether from the revelation, or the lack of air Aela was not certain. "That's impossible!"

"Your father knew all along." White-Hair continued. "He did nothing, until your brother kidnapped and murdered Hercna Ulthese. Yes, of House Ulthese. The others on the Captain's Council gave him the option of settling things quietly, before they stepped in. Since none of your oathmen would do the right thing, he turned to me."

"I don't believe you assassin!" Sethre swore.

"Then see for yourself," White-Hair insisted. "Go to the sub-basement. In the wine cellar, behind the third cask on the left, there is a secret door. Follow it, and see what your brother has been doing."

"No," the nobleman murmured. But Aela could see that the fight had gone out of him. Perhaps he now believed her. Or perhaps he was simply about to pass out.

"If you truly want justice, it has been served," White-Hair whispered. "Come after me again and I will kill you, your father, your uncles, your cousins, and every one of your family's retainers. Scorched earth, no survivors."

With that White-Hair released her hold upon the Rasen. His dagger clattered to the street, and he instantly reached for his throat with both hands, gasping for breath. The mystery woman rose to her feet, and did not even spare a glance at the crowd that had gathered in the street to gape at the incident. Instead she strode directly into the armorer's shop and disappeared from view. Sethre made no move to follow, or even rise to his feet. Neither did any of his oathmen, who groaned and winced in the street with disabling wounds.

"I wonder what she said to him at the end?" Vesia roared in Aela's ear.

Aela winced at the noise, and let the spell that had enhanced her hearing fizzle into the aether. She had forgotten that the others had not heard a word of the exchange. It was curious indeed, and made her think back to their recent deal with Serves Camna in a new light. He had ordered his own son's death to avoid a blood feud with another noble house, not to mention the ruination of his family's honor. She had imagined him like a wolf even before this revelation. Now she understood what he meant when he said that he had never been accused of kindness.

But there was no time for wool-gathering. Aela looked to Loria. As usual, the elf seemed to know what she was thinking. With a nod in silent reply, he sped after the mystery-woman. This was someone they wanted on their side in the fight to come. To say that she was skilled would be an understatement. Perhaps even more importantly she possessed the restraint to avoid killing when it was not necessary, even when she could easily have done so.

In the meantime Aela moved to the Rasen nobleman and his wounded men. If she could keep them occupied, that would give Loria enough time to talk to White-Hair and let her escape without further incident, hopefully in a quiet manner via by a rear exit.

"My lord," she began deferentially, "I am a healer. I can help you and your men."

Sethre Camna looked at her, then to the broken window of the shop. Clearly he was debating whether or not to give chase. Aela would have to help him decide, as diplomatically as possible.

"Your men have fought with valor." Aela moved quickly from one man to another, assessing their injuries both physically and in the aether. "You can take pride in their loyalty to you, and their willingness to endure any sacrifice for you and your House."

Aela settled upon the man whose injuries appeared the worst. It was the first oathman through the door, whose head the mysterious stranger had kicked in. His eyes were already dilated, and blood flowed freely down his face. She took hold of his broken helmet, and tried to gently remove it from his head. She made as great a show of this as she could, and looked to the nobleman.

"My lord, could you help me with this?"

That made up the Rasen's mind. He turned away from the armorer's shop - and his enemy within - and instead moved to help Aela with his fallen retainer. He knelt down in the street at her side, and held the oathman's battered head as Aela gingerly drew off his helmet. Blood and sweat dripped everywhere, and the Arvern tossed the wrecked spangenhelm aside.

"If you can just hold him still my lord, I can take care of him." Aela breathed. In reality he could have set the man's head down. But at least this kept the nobleman occupied.

Then Aela banished all thoughts of keeping Camna distracted from White-Hair. Instead she gave the injured man her full concentration. She took her time, and thread by thread, stitch by stitch, she reconstructed the fallen warrior's flesh and bone. She finished it off with a Cleanse spell to wash away the blood, and was gratified to see the swordsman's brown eyes fly open and stare up at her.

"What!" he jerked into a sitting position, and reached for sword and shield. "Where?"

"Easy Arte," the nobleman soothed. "The battle is over."

"Do we have justice my lord?" the oathman's eyes scanned the broken bodies of his comrades in the street.

"Justice?" Sethre Camna said. "That is now in the gods' hands. But we live to fight another day my friend. That is all that matters for now."

One by one, Aela moved to the remaining retainers and healed their injuries. When she tried to minister to Camna's own cuts and bruises, the Rasen nobleman simply shrugged her off. But he did pass her a bag of coins for her efforts, along with the thanks of his House.

Aela waited until he and his men had vanished before rejoining the Agrigentans. They parted when she approached, and she found Loria standing behind them. For once the Light Elf had remained out of sight, at least until Camna was gone.

"So how went it?" Aela asked.

"She turned us down." Loria frowned. "She was there to pick up her armor from the smith. She took it and said she had business elsewhere. I suspect it has something to do with that book she left the manor with."

"Did you get a look at it?"

"Of course!" the Light Elf exclaimed. "It was nothing interesting though. Just some ancient sketches of an old Arvern city."

"What would a sellsword want with something like that?" Ranazu said.

"What indeed my friend?" Loria said. "We are each and every one of us a story. I am afraid we shall be hearing no more of that particular tale. Unless she changes her mind. I did tell her where to find us of course."

"Did you even get her name?" Vesia asked.

"Phereinon," Loria shrugged, "at least for whatever that is worth."

"What do you mean?" the old Teodon Hyunsu scratched his headspines in confusion.

"Pherein Phonon is old Rasen." Vesia was the first to answer. "It means 'To Bring Death'. It's a myth."

"Some say she killed the Dark Elves." Ranazu whispered. Aela was not sure if the young farmer actually believed in the tales. But he must have heard the same stories as Vesia.

"Which Dark Elves?" Daehyun asked.

"All of them," Aela answered. "They say she's the reason we have a word for genocide. Every race has a stories about someone called Phereinon. She's the White Death, the Grave Walker, the Scale-Breaker, Elf-Bane, the Gray Wanderer, the Blight..."

At the mention of the Scale-Breaker, the two Teodon shot each other dark glances. They must have heard tales as well.

"Just children's stories," Loria scoffed. "Whoever she really is, this woman clearly has a sense of humor."

Aela looked down at the blood that stained the pavement. No one was laughing.

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post Jul 29 2018, 07:32 PM
Post #42

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From: Las Vegas

Cool spell to hear things not intended for Aela’s ears! To say White Hair could be a good addition to their hopeful little group is an understatement. In addition to the things Aela cited, White Hair seems to have a very tangible – albeit hard nosed – sense of honor that is likely unrelated to any pay involved.

I was pleased to see that Aela had no trouble finding the right words to move her purpose along when it involved healing the wounded. The healing force is strong within this one. wink.gif

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post Aug 4 2018, 04:09 PM
Post #43

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Acadian: While Aela is far from being a superhero, her chosen field of study - Vitamancy - allows her to use magic to enhance her physical form in all sorts of superhero ways. Like Daredevil's enhanced hearing. I found that was a great way to show what was going on with Phereinon and the Camnas, and why it would be kept secret by those involved.

Phereinon is indeed motivated by anything but money. But tapping into her real motivations might be difficult. We will see more of that.

Aela is indeed good at what she does. She can indeed find the words when it comes to practicing medicine. It is her profession after all. She can stop being self-conscious for a change, and just do what she knows best.

Chapter 6.1

The remainder of their tour of weapon and armor shops passed without incident. Aela let Loria do the talking, and simply stood back with the Agrigentans as the elf passed on the word that they were looking for warriors. In the end they did go to a tavern, and naturally not the one Aela would have preferred.

Waranari's was an unremarkable two-story building. The whitewash was peeling from its walls, and in many places shutters were missing from the windows. The inside was more of the same, with scratched, battered, and sometimes warped tables and chairs thrown in. A large 'U'-shaped bar dominated the central room, and a stair rose up to the second floor behind it. Dart boards were set up in several places. Wide openings led to rooms off to either side, filled with gaming tables for amusements such as bar billiards, skittles, shove ha'copper, and ringing the bull.

The entire tavern was worn, old, faded, and used. But Aela had to admit that it was clean. Waranari always kept it that way at least. It was the only thing that made the place bearable. It was still relatively early, so there were not many patrons hunched over mugs or adding more dings and scratches to the gaming tables. But Aela knew from experience that as the day turned to night, the number of loud-mouths and roughnecks would multiply, like rats on a lump of cheese.

"Warriors will be found in this place?" Daehyun was evidently less impressed with the alehouse than Aela.

"This is where all of Veia's mercenaries - and other unsavory types - congregate." Loria found them a table and motioned for them all to sit. Aela made sure that she had a chair with a wall at her back. Just in case.

"So how do these ones winnow the good rice from the husks?" Hyunsu asked.

"Well now, that is the trick is it not?" Loria's eyes sparkled as a large Aymaran walked over to them. His head was shaved until his brown scalp gleamed, and a neat goatee set off his chiseled features. He wore a simple tunic and leggings, with an apron pulled down from his neck and left to hang from his waist.

"Loria, Aela," he nodded to the mages as he stepped up. "Some of the Frisverd told me you were back in town. They say things went well in the Stone Forest."

"Well enough Waranari," Loria said. "We came back alive, and with a small amount of coin."

"A small amount?" the Aymaran raised an eyebrow.

"Just a pittance really," the elf replied. "But it is enough to buy you a cup of tea, say at the Blue Orchid?"

"You know I don't like tea," Waranari smiled.

"Neither do I." Loria's eyes gleamed.

The Aymaran laughed, and looked to the others around the table. "New friends, or are you two already at work on another job?"

"A new adventure!" Loria replied with zest. "Let me introduce our employers, who have journeyed far from the mysterious land of Kye Rim in search of only the greatest of mercenary spellweavers!"

"Unfortunately they found us instead," Aela murmured.

"This lovely goodwoman is none other than Vesia." Loria continued without pause. "From what I hear, she might be able to teach even you a thing or two about brewing the finest of alcoholic beverages. This ruggedly handsome young man alongside her is the Mighty Ranazu, goodman and planter. The dashing Teodon dressed in white is Daehyun - you had better watch your purse around that one, he's a salesman. Finally we have Hyunsu, the wizened patriarch of the friendly settlement of Agrigento."

"Well it sounds like I am in impressive company then!" Waranari grinned as he looked over the Agrigentans. "What can I get you, ale or wine?"

"Don't you have any Arvern whiskey?" Vesia asked.

"I had to stop serving that." The publican made a sour face. "It starts too many fights. So I have ale or wine."

Neither Loria or Aela had to say a word for the Aymaran to bring them each a wooden mug of wine. Vesia tried the same, while the other Agrigentans chose the ale. All of them stared down at their mugs. Carved from a single piece of rich brown wood, each had horizontal lines carved around their sides, giving them the appearance of tiny barrels.

"Who serves wine in a mug?" Vesia shook her head.

"The solid wood is harder to break than crockery," Aela explained as she took a tentative sip. The wine was better than the vessel which held it, possessing a strong, fruity flavor. "Things here are often thrown, or smashed, or crushed."

"Warriors tend to be a boisterous lot," Loria said. "Anyway, we need to be choosy…"

"Good thing we came here," Aela said dryly.

"…about the people we hire," Loria continued as if she had not spoken. "Some of those in here belong to one of the three gangs that run Veia's underworld. Waranari's is neutral ground, the only place they can meet without killing one another. Take that Guzuk back there in the corner, that's Ihsen One-Tusk, the enforcer for the Toklumen gang. He'd kill us all if he saw a coin in it."

"If everyone knows they are criminals, why doesn't the law come and arrest them all?" Hyunsu stared wide-eyed around them.

"The zilath tries," Aela said. "But every time his oathmen squash one gang, it creates an opening for another one. Before you know it that one moves in, or a brand new one sprouts up in its place."

"Like roaches," Ranazu frowned. "No matter how many you step on, there's always one more."

"So what do we do now?" Vesia asked.

"I don't see anyone here I trust, so we wait to see who comes to take our bait." Loria pulled out a deck of cards from one pocket. "Who wants to try a game of whist?"

Aela sat out of the card game, as did Vesia. If they had been in better circumstances, she would have meditated. Communing with nature spirits always made her feel better. Not to mention that as a conjurer, she always needed to nurture her relationships with them. Nature spirits served far better when they wanted to. But Waranari's was not a place that she dared to let down her guard. You never knew when a piece of crockery might come sailing through the air. She had already gotten more unpleasant stares than she would like.

So she was surprised when a friendly face came through the door. An Asokar, the newcomer was covered in fur that was reddish yellow along his back, and turned to grey-white from his lower jaw down the front of his torso. He stood upright like a human or elf, and bore similar hands and fingers. But his head was shaped like that of a fox, and a long, bushy tail jutted from his rear.

The vulpine wore the ironleaf armor of his people. Aela knew from experience that the long leaves of the aronsawa plant from which it was created were as strong and durable as iron. A cuirass of its wide, dark green leaves formed bands around his chest. Similar strips created pauldrons over the shoulders and upper arms. Finally, smaller leaves created bracers and greaves to protect his limbs.

The Asokar warrior carried a one-handed axe tucked into his belt. Unlike those favored by the Skanjr, the tamac's striking edge did not contain a long, trailing beard. Rather it formed a short crescent. A small hammer rose from the back of the axe head, which Aela knew was meant to be a tool as much as it was a weapon. An unstrung flatbow was slung over his shoulder, laminated dark red, with a line of yellow diamonds running the length of its arms. A quiver of arrows also rose from one shoulder, and finally Aela noted a small wooden buckler slung from his waist, with an eagle painted across its leather face.

"Dhasan!" Aela waved to the newcomer, and his brown, vertically-slit eyes lit up with pleasant surprise as he met her gaze. The vulpine silently glided to the table where they all sat, and Aela motioned for the others to make room for him. Taking an empty chair from another table, the Asokar spun it around and hunkered down beside the Arvern Witch, with his forearms resting upon the backrest.

"It is most pleasing to see you again Aela!" The furred warrior sniffed the air. "How has that cream cake been treating you?"

"Oh, he's a handful, as always," Aela smiled with genuine delight.

"The cream cake is sitting right here you know…" The Light Elf, with his soft pale skin, rolled his eyes.

"Oh, this one had thought it was a tall bottle of milk," Dhasan grinned, revealing a set of short fangs. "And how are you this fine summer day Loria? Still smuggling banned books?"

"Oh no, not since we graduated," Aela smiled.

"Well, I still have my contacts," Loria insisted. He straightened up his collar, and did his best to make himself look distinguished.

"So you did graduate!" the vulpine's eyes lit up with delight. "Congratulations! There was never one so deserving of it as yourself. Especially after all of the trials and tribulations placed in your way."

"It was hardly a walk in the gardens for me either…" Loria said dryly.

"And who are your new friends?" Dhasan asked, looking around the table.

"These are our employers," Aela said. "In fact, there's room for more, if you're interested."

"Oh I am sure he is far too busy," Loria waved one hand in dismissal. "Chasing his tail, breaking into hen houses, a fox's work is never done."

"This one should be glad to accompany you upon any quest Aela," Dhasan smiled. "If only for the pleasure of civilized company."

Wooden mug

Tamac (tomahawk)

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post Aug 5 2018, 08:51 PM
Post #44

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From: Las Vegas

Your descriptions are wonderful throughout! You concisely bring the dingy but clean tavern, its chiseled proprietor and the Reynardesque newcomer vividly to life.

I was impressed again by Loria’s silver gift of words as he so adeptly and graciously introduced the accompanying residents of Agrigento to Waranari.

As soon as Dhasan spun a chair around, straddled it and began to speak however, it was clear that Loria had met his match as far as speechcraft goes. I was grinning as I imagined the potential ongoing, competitive banter between these two as their quest evolves. tongue.gif

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post Aug 6 2018, 01:50 PM
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From: The place where the Witchhorses play

AAAnd Dee Foxy makes his appearance!! wub.gif

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post Aug 11 2018, 05:00 PM
Post #46

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From: Between The Worlds

Acadian: I spent a lot of time working on Waranari's. I wanted to replace the straightforward dive of The Lonely Suitor with something a little more suitable for mercenaries and adventurers. Not classy, but not vile either. I decided to go with a place for physical, energetic folks to have fun. A sports bar. So I did some research on old pub games, and built Waranari's around it. Waranari himself is of course Luke Cage. At least that is how he looks. My Waranari is not a superhero.

I had fun finding ways for Loria to make the ordinary farmer folk of Agrigento seem as larger than life as he prefers to portray himself and Aela. And of course it is fun to introduce his speechifying nemesis in the form of Dhasan. smile.gif

haute ecole rider: I spent a lot of time working on the Asokar. I was first inspired by a Netflix series called Wild China, and the Dai/Tai forest people of Yunnan province. I was originally going to make them wood elves - because of how they lived in rural settlements close to nature (with wild birds living in their homes). But then I thought, haven't wood elves been done a million times? So I looked for a anthropomorphized animal race instead. I looked through legends on such, and the Kitsune just leaped out at me. So I decided they would be Fox-People.

Chapter 6.2

"Trump, and rubber," Loria crowed as he laid down his last card upon the table. Ranazu and Hyunsu groaned as they stared at the cards in the pot.

Daehyun grinned at Loria, revealing a mouth full of fangs. "Perhaps we should play some of the others here for coin. We might earn enough to hire an army before nightfall."

"Or get your throats slit," Dhasan observed from his seat beside Aela. They were still at Waranari's, much to the Arvern's regret. "Many in a place such as this take offense at losing."

"Yes, that is the trouble with gambling for a living." Loria shocked Aela by actually agreeing with the Asokar. "The better you are at it, the more likely you will need to be a good fighter. Rather defeats the purpose of trying to make a living without killing people."

The opened front door caught Aela's eye, as did the unusual sight that walked through it. The newcomer was a Skanjr standing at least six feet tall. She was clad in mail armor, but Aela noted that it was not comprised of ordinary steel. From the silvery glint of the links this must be astril, the lighter and stronger steel of the Light Elves. Stranger still, an elvish composite bow was slung in a combined bowcase and quiver at her right hip. Made of softly glowing solascran wood and bearing crystal tips, it drew the eyes like a bonfire in the darkness.

The round shield that was slung over one of her shoulders was of ordinary human manufacture however, as was the straight-bladed Skanjr sword at her left hip. An equally ordinary spangenhelm hung from her belt by its chinstraps. Aela noted a pendant made of black stone hanging around her neck from a simple rawhide strip, carved into the likeness of a bird.

The newcomer's hair was spun gold, and pulled back into an elaborate series of braids and knots. Two rows of thin braids ran along either side of her head, pulling her locks up from her ears. More short braids wove through a series of knots along the top of her head, pulling the rest of her glorious mane back from her face and spilling it down her back and shoulders in a waterfall of color.

She took a moment to casually slide her long, slender fingers across her locks, as if to smooth them out. Yet not a single strand in her resplendent coiffure was out of place. Aela wished that she could make her hair look like that, let alone stay that way, and wondered how the other woman accomplished such a magical feat.

The newcomer stood in the doorway and scanned the crowd. Then her eyes met Aela's. She stared for a moment, and the Arvern recognized the look of discovery upon the Northerner's face. The Skanjr had seen through her female presentation. But rather than sneering, or laughing, the woman's features seemed to fill with regard.

The new arrival strode purposely across the room to the pair of corner tables where their group sat. The others looked up as she approached, and Loria set down the deck of cards before him. The archer ignored them all however, and remained focused upon Aela.

The Arvern Witch felt magic resonating within the Skanjr's gear as she stepped near, and out of reflex she shifted her senses into the aether. The newcomer's glowing composite bow instantly told her that its name was Silinblaen, which Aela knew meant 'Cherry Blossom' in Elvish. That was just the beginning however. The Skanjr's armor was named Creidlan, or 'Faithful', and Aela could sense that it was enchanted to not only protect her wearer, but also to increase her strength. The Skanjr's sword proudly announced itself as Frostbita, which the Witch thought might mean 'frostbite' in the Northerner's tongue. Finally her pendant glowed with great power, and whispered the name Hrafnvartha, into Aela's ear. She did not know what that meant, but could sense the ward it placed around the warrior, protecting her from magical attack.

Aela glanced over to Loria. He nodded back at her. Clearly the other mage had sensed the same power in the newcomer's gear that she had. If that magic were not enough, the Skanjr had the hard set to her frame, the swagger in her walk, and the glacial look in her blue eyes that said she was a killer.

"I am Hrafngoelir," she declared in a heavy Skanjr accent. "I am told you seek warriors."

"What makes you think that?" Loria raised his fingers into a steeple before his chin.

"Cutu told me, at the Bowyer's Bundle," the archer said. She paused to glance at Loria, then turned back to Aela once more. "He said two mages - a Silaine and an Arvern - were looking for extra swords on a long term contract."

"We are," Aela admitted. She was beginning to find the tall woman's gaze more than a little strange. What was Hrafngoelir so intrigued by, in herself of all people?

"Then I shall join," Hrafngoelir declared. "When do we begin?"

"This is an eager chwa'ai!" Dhasan exclaimed. "Don't you even want to know what the opposition is, or the pay?"

"It doesn't matter," Hrafngoelir said. "If a seidberendr is involved, I know it's going to be remarkable."

"A seid-what?" Ranazu scrunched his eyebrows in consternation.

"It's Skanjr for-" Vesia began, only to be cut off by Aela.

"I haven't heard your name before," she said to Hrafngoelir. "What sort of experience do you have?"

"As a child I was trained by Hallveig Troll-Burster," she said. "I've sold my sword for about a decade up and down Aulerci, fighting in wars, bodyguarding, hostage rescue, even hunted bounties. I've slain ice trolls and frost wyrms in the Jotunfjeldene Mountains. I've raided the Guzuks in the Alagars, and fought alongside them and the Brightfolk against the Rock Tolls."

"I heard about that," Dhasan rubbed the lightly-colored fur under his chin thoughtfully. "Nasty business, trolls wiping out entire settlements, using tactics, fighting in formation. Not at all like normal trolls."

"Aye, the elves suspected that someone, or something, was guiding them. Perhaps even controlling them." Hrafn looked to Loria. "I spent much time with your folk then. I am not too proud to admit that I learned a great deal from them."

"About war?" Aela felt her brow furrow in bemusement. This did not sound at all like any of the Skanjr she had ever met!

"About being a better person." Hrafngoelir said. "I made many good friends then, elf and orc alike."

"Is that where your armor and bow came from?" Dhasan nodded to her bright astril cuirass and translucent solascran bow.

"Aye, they were a gift from a... friend of mine." The Skanjr's eyes looked away, as if gazing back through the years. The ghost of a smile played across her fair features, but drifted past a moment later.

"That is some friend." Loria said.

"Ryolin is some man," Hrafngoelir replied evenly. She took an empty chair from a nearby table and pulled it up to the table. Aela and Dhasan made space, and she sat between them.

"We had quite the adventure together in the deep roads beneath Mount Mazani," she said. "We became... close."

"So what happened to him?" Vesia asked, "When it was all over?"

"He returned to his people," the Northerner shrugged, "and I took a ship to Hiakwia. We are from different worlds, and those worlds rarely meet."

"But still..." Vesia's words trailed off into silence.

"Why did I not run off to live with him in a magical tower?" Hrafngoelir smiled, but there was no laughter in her eyes. "The Light Elves are not quick to welcome strangers in their land, especially not those with round ears. Nor are they fond of venturing from their crystal forests and shining cities."

"Which makes me wonder what a Silaine is doing so far from home?" The warrior turned to look at Loria. "I have met many of your cousins from the sea in my travels. But your own folk... why I can count those I have met since those days in the Alagar Mountains on the fingers of one hand. Are you an ambassador of some kind, or a wandering trader?"

"Well I have been known to make a few transactions." Loria straightened up in what Aela recognized as his best imitation of an honest businessman. "But the truth is I was born here, in Alalia in fact. I have never even laid eyes upon Ainetir."

"You are all a curious warband." Hrafngoelir gazed from one to another. "A Silaine, an Arvern, and an Asokar walk into a tavern. It sounds like the beginning of a joke!"

Aela smiled in spite of herself. She had to admit, she liked the Skanjr. Clearly, there was a great deal more to this woman than one could see upon the surface.

"I came to Veia a week ago with a friend of mine," Hrafngoelir said. "He said this was the city of opportunities. But I have been nothing but bored. The greatest challenge I have had since coming here has been against my hair."

"Well, you seem to have won that battle!" Dhasan laughed.

Aela looked to Loria and nodded.

The elven wizard smiled. "Our warband grows curiouser by the hour."

Raven pendant


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post Aug 11 2018, 06:04 PM
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Wow! White Hair, Kitsune and now Goldenlocks – the warband is indeed growing in numbers and curiousness. Hrafn conjures Nord/Viking images and you did a wonderful job introducing her.

Her instant focus on Aela was interesting. Putting all the clues together, Hrafn obviously holds seidberendr folk like Aela in high mystical regard. So the fact that Aela cut off her explanation of the term does not reflect fear of being picked on; rather, it showcases that Aela simply does not like being the center of attention. Seasoned perhaps by her experience with seeing that not all folk who may be listening are as open or receptive as Hrafn. At least, that’s my take.

By my count, the band is four with hopes that White Hair will make five. I look forward to learning what will tempt White Hair to join them as well as expecting a couple more joins.

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post Aug 18 2018, 04:54 PM
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Acadian: I am liking how the Seven Magnificos are shaping up in this version of the tale. Because of the new setting, I am able to make them more unique than I think I did before, and provide more story hooks into their backgrounds. Things not always obvious in this tale, but which can be used for future stories.

You are right in that Aela has learned the hard way that when people learn she is transgendered, it changes how they treat her, usually for the worse. She just wants to be the same as anyone else.

White Hair will return in the episode after this one. So watch for temptations.

Chapter 6.3

The sun hung like a red ball over the western sky, bleeding long shadows across the parade ground beyond Veia's southern gate. Aela and Loria followed Hrafngoelir through the rough, sparse grass of the wide field. The high, snow-capped peak of Mount Ida rose up miles away to the south, and Aela's eyes traced the line of the stone aqueduct that sent its water across the plateau to the city behind her. To the east the ground gradually fell away, tumbling down into the great stone forest between Veia and Kye Rim. But it was to the west that the Skanjr led the mages, toward the setting sun.

The wind whipped at Aela's long, brown hair, and she was forced to hold it back from her face with one hand. The sound of waves came to her ears, and in the fading light, she could see that the field came to an abrupt end in the distance. Beyond that, the world vanished in twilight.

"You are certain your friend shall be here?" Loria raised a single eyebrow as they walked on. "Usually mercenaries prefer less idyllic surroundings."

"He'll be here," Hrafngoelir insisted. "Venca always watches the horizon at dusk. This is the best place in all of Veia to get a view."

"What is he looking for?" Aela asked, genuinely curious about the unusual quirk.

"I don't know," Hrafngoelir shrugged. "He never talks much about it. I think it's got something to do with Valfreia though."

"Valfreia?" Loria now cocked a second eyebrow. "Now that is just begging for a deeper explanation."

"He carries her Wheel." Hrafngoelir glanced back for a moment. "He has since I've known him. At least I think."

"You think?" Aela wondered aloud.

"Things are a little muddled for me around the time of the Sluagh," Hrafngoelir admitted. "I cannot remember much of what happened for the month beforehand, and nothing from that day."

"That is strange," Aela mused. She had still been living in Cymner at the time, so she had experienced the edge of the Sluagh herself. For a single day the spirits of her homeland had gone mad. There had been earthquakes, storms, tornados, and fires, all rampaging out of the city of Tregyn. But perhaps even worse had been the spirits of that's city's recent dead, whom had all risen up from their graves to assault the living. It had only lasted a day, but that day had seemed as long as a lifetime to Aela.

Even now, no one knew what had caused the calamity, nor what had truly ended it. Aela was simply thankful to have survived. Yet she had never heard of anyone missing the entire month beforehand. She could recall everything during the Sluagh with no difficulty. The same was true of everyone else she knew. Who was Hrafngoelir, that the Sluagh had devoured her life for the month before it had even happened?

"I count myself lucky," the Skanjr said. "Venca has it much worse. The Sluagh took his life with it. He cannot remember anything that happened beforehand. He's not even sure if his name is really Venca."

Loria whistled. Aela glanced in his direction and saw that he was thinking the same thing she was. Hrafngoelir and Venca had somehow been a part of the Sluagh. Not mere survivors, but active participants somehow.

"Here I thought the two of us made a pair," Aela said.

"We do," Loria insisted, "just a different kind."

The grass thinned out and gave way to hard rock, and they found the city walls coming to an end on their right. Now Aela could see the edge of the escarpment ahead, and the dark waters of the Spout beyond. Across the narrow strait rose a rocky bluff that stretched out of sight to the south and west, and opened up into the expanse of the Bronze Sea to the north and east.

Aela could see a figure sitting cross-legged near the edge of the cliff. Aela noted that he had broad shoulders, and was dressed in ordinary black linen. A sheathed longsword laid upon the ground beside him, with a hilt made of gleaming black lorcras. She was just barely able to sense that its name was Solagea, or 'Moonlight' in the elvish tongue. But she could feel nothing else from the elven weapon.

For Aela felt a power resonating from something on him that nearly eclipsed everything else in the area. Even more than a dozen paces away, it glowed in the aether like the moon in a clear night sky. She had never felt such energy from a magic item before, not even at the Ingenium. Even though she was not a master of enchantments, she could tell that it would devour any sorcery thrown at it, and fill its wearer with the power of the stolen spell. What its limits might be, if any at all, the Arvern Witch could not even guess.

But there was also another sensation coming from the artifact, beyond simply its enchantment. It was a strange thing, that made her think of ravens and black roses in moonlight. Aela suspected that was the touch of the amulet's creator.

She knew instantly that this was the Lorlonrhod or Ravenwheel of the goddess of death and magic. To the elves she was Mhorlor, to her own people Morigu, the Rasenna called her Nyktera, and the Skanjr Valfreia. Aela was certain that the other races had their own names for the same omnipresent entity as well. Those were simply the ones that sprang to life in her mind, as if conjured there by the Wheel itself.

Where many others might feel a chill at the touch of the night goddess, Aela instead felt nothing but warmth from her touchstone. The Arvern was a magician, and like all of her kind she walked between worlds. Morigu did the same, carrying souls between the worlds of life and death, as well as magic between the worlds of the spirit and mundane. That made her the ruler of transitions, something Aela was quite familiar with herself…

"Venca," Hrafngoelir said as they stepped nearer, "I have found a quest for us."

"A quest?" The black-clad man snorted derisively. He did not turn to face them, but instead continued to stare out into the straits. "Who even says that? You mean a job."

"No," the Skanjr said. "A shopkeeper has a job. A donkey salesman has a job. Warriors embark upon quests, and Tiewaz smiles upon our glory. It is our sacrifice to him."

"You can take Tiewaz and shove him up-" Venca could not finish before Hrafngoelir cut him off.

"You would prefer to sit on your lazy arse and brood for another week?" She rested her hands upon her armored hips. "Well, we can just go and slay those dragons all by ourselves then."

"Your sense of humor has not improved," Venca grumbled. Finally he did turn, and Aela saw from his dark hair and olive skin that he was a Rasen. He had a face that she imagined most women would call handsome, with short, curly locks and a neatly trimmed goatee. If she had to guess, Aela would put his age somewhere between thirty and forty. Not old yet, but not young anymore either.

His eyes were hard though. Even though he was sitting, Aela noted the stiff, erect posture, and the seemingly tensed muscles. Where Hrafngoelir's bearing had proclaimed herself as a warrior, his said that he was a soldier. He looked like a man who had stood at attention and marched in lockstep for so long that his body had forgotten how to do anything else. A huscarl or oathman was Aela's first guess, or some other professional military man.

"Your disposition has not improved either," Hrafngoelir countered dryly.

"So what is it this time?" the Rasen sighed, "vampires? necromancers? Or did you really dig up a dragon somewhere?"

"Raiders are threatening a village to the east." Loria rested his hands upon his hips. "We're looking for a few experienced people to stop them."

"To the east you said?" Venca thoughtfully stroked his beard, and turned to glance back at the eastern horizon, where the stars now began to shine in the dark sky. The raucous cry of a raven split the evening air. Its black shape briefly winged past Aela's eyes, only to vanish into the oncoming night.

"How many outlaws?"

"Fifty," Aela said.

"How many do you have?" he turned back to face them.

"Four," the Arvern said honestly.

The Rasen's cool demeanor finally broke, if only for an instant. "Well you certainly have stones, I'll give you that!" he nearly laughed.

Then he turned serious again. "Now you have five. I'll do it to follow the raven, if nothing else."

* * *

The foursome was making their way back through the darkened streets of Veia when a Teodon stepped out of the shadows along their path and blocked their way. His dark yellow scales bore stripes and irregular shaped bands of green across his entire body. Likewise, the spines that crested his head were banded in yellow and green. He was easily one of the most striking members of his race that Aela had ever seen.

He was dressed in little more than a loincloth and a belt. In one hand he clutched a long spear with a leaf-shaped head of steel. In the other hand he held a crescent-shaped shield of wood that was painted yellow, and emblazoned with a pair of large crimson eyes drawn at a slant.

"It is said that these ones are seeking warriors," the Teodon declared. "Alcheon shall join them."

Like the others, Aela studied the Teodon. The flickering light of the street lamps glistened off his lustrous scales, a sure sign of youth in one of his race. While his face seemed set in stone, his tail twitched, revealing his nervousness to all with an eye to see. His gear, or lack of it, again spoke of his inexperience. But most of all his eyes lacked that flinty edge that one got after having killing other sentients. Not from the first time, but the time after that, when you did it again even though you knew what it meant, and part of your heart went cold.

"You don't have what it takes boy," Venca said what Aela knew they all were thinking. "Go home, and live to see your scales fade."

"I am a warrior," the Teodon insisted. "I may not have fancy armor or magics, but I am strong, and I can fight."

"What do you know about fighting?" Venca growled. He stepped forward, and grabbed the spear from the youth's hand. "We aren't spearing fish boy, or hunting razorbacks. We're killing people. People you have to look in the eye as their life drains out of them, as they scream, and cry, and beg for their mothers. Can you do that son?"

"I am ready," the Teodon declared. The spines on his head rose up high, and his tail began to sway behind him.

"Then show me kid." Venca slapped the spear against the Teodon's chest, and the youth took hold of it with his right hand again. "Come on, stab me with that fish-sticker."

Aela felt sorry for the Teodon. He was clearly out of his depth. She hoped that he would just walk away, and spare himself the humiliation that was so plainly coming. But given his youth, she doubted that would happen.

Alcheon's eyes flickered from Venca to her, Hrafngoelir, and Loria.

They all stepped back to give the pair room. "Don't hold back Teodon," Hrafngoelir cautioned. "Give it all you have. Kill him if you can."

The Teodon stabbed with the speed of striking serpent. But Venca appeared to have seen it coming. Aela only knew a little of sword-fighting, and far less of spear-fighting, so she could not tell what the name of the move was the Rasen used to disarm the youth. All she did know was that an instant later Venca had the spear in his hand, and whacked its wooden butt against the side of the Teodon's ankle.

Alcheon fell to one knee under the blow. But he did raise his shield over his head to ward off more attacks. Venca did not follow up his assault however. Instead he simply threw the spear down upon the cobblestones at the Teodon's feet.

"Go home son," he said quietly. Without another word, he walked on down the street. Loria opened his mouth to say something. Then he shook his head and walked on as well. So too did Hrafngoelir.

Aela stared the young Teodon, and debated whether or not she should try to heal the bump she could already see forming upon his leg. She could not help but to feel sympathy for him. She knew all too well what it felt like to be humiliated before a crowd. But she could appreciate that Venca had not been motivated by cruelty. Of course, whether or not Alcheon would understand the lesson the Rasen had so painfully tried to impart was another matter.

Aela decided not to heal him. All actions came with consequences, sometimes painful ones. Alcheon would have to endure them all. It might help him decide his fate.


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post Aug 18 2018, 07:52 PM
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Woot! Number Five is Alive! Another wonderful introduction – this time to one blessed by some serious military experience, I’d wager, as well as by the Mistress of Twilight!

Speaking of the Mistress of Twilight, I enjoyed how you tied her to Aela as the goddess of transitions.

I can see already that Venca’s martial skill and manner will come in handy for the likely bit of militia training the town in jeopardy will need. You’ve certainly tantalized with plenty of mystery about Venca that we will hopefully gain glimpses into moving forward.

Hmm, something tells me we haven’t seen the last of the eager young teodon.

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post Aug 20 2018, 02:05 PM
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From: The place where the Witchhorses play

Oooh, who is that Venca? Where have I seen HIM before?

I continue reading your take on the Mag Seven with fascination. Sorry that I’ve been mostly silent, but be assured that I read every installment with deep interest and admiration for your imagination and world building. The tantalizing bits you keep offering up keep me intrigued, such as the recent introduction of an event called the Sluagh.


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post Aug 25 2018, 03:45 PM
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From: Between The Worlds

Acadian: Venca is indeed our Seven Magnificos' army guy. Given the new format, I was able to give him a much deeper background than he had in the Beth setting. In fact, I see an entire book about just who he was and what he did in the past. Of course Venca does not remember any of this. Yet.

The Mistress of Twilight is not quite what she was in the Beth setting either. I am drawing heavily upon comparisons to The Morrigan, Freyja, and Hekate for this world's goddess of death and magic. Hence the association with ravens (The Morrigan and Freyja), and the transgendered (Hekate, who was served by transgendered priestesses known as semnotatoi). Though as I will show later in the story, all magicians are people who walk between worlds. Likewise, so are all GLBT people, which I think is why IRL they were often considered the most powerful of all magicians by many cultures.

haute ecole rider: Venca is indeed our old friend Valens from the original Seven. He has undergone a lot of changes due to the new world, and his new history. Though on the outside he is still much the same.

I am glad to see you are still reading. I had a lot of fun building the world for this version of the story. I can see other tales taking place far in the past, that show major events which still effect the current story.. Such as the Sacerdotium conquering Rase, and the great war that destroyed the Dark Elves and freed humanity from slavery.

I am thinking of cutting out some of what I had about the Sluagh in the previous segment. A lot of it feels like telling rather than showing. Upcoming episodes also make references to the Sluagh, and in a more natural manner. Googling the name will give you an idea of what the Sluagh was, but that is just scratching the surface. It is a huge piece of the overall story arc I have in mind.

Chapter 7.1

Aela sat up in bed, allowing her brightly colored wool blanket to pool around her hips. Like all Rasen affairs, the bed possessed a wooden frame slanted up at the end to raise the head and shoulders. This one was only a simple wooden frame with a hay-stuffed mattress. She could only imagine what sumptuous devices wealthy aristocrats like the Camna's might sleep upon. Still, it was better than laying on the earth, or even the plain rattan bed her dorm room at the Ingenium had offered. However, it was not as fine as the feather-stuffed mattress she had slept upon as a child, long ago in Cymner. The freedom to be herself was well worth the trade in sleeping arrangements however.

Aela swung her bare feet out onto rug beside the bed. Again, it was no sumptuous Aymaran masterpiece. But it was colorful, and kept her feet warm. A quick drink from a cup upon the bed stand was followed by a visit to the chamber pot. In moments she was dressed in her white and brown adventuring clothes, followed by a Cleanse spell to chase away the funk of a night's sleep.

The room around her was simple. The plastered walls were painted light green and blue, and decorated with occasional images of ordinary Rasen women going about their daily lives. A few throw rugs surrounded the bed and plain dressing table. Otherwise the floor was bare wooden boards. A single window let in the morning sun, flanked by hanging pots of aromatic rosemary and basil plants.

Aela stepped to the dressing table, and reached into her small makeup kit. She opted for only a light touch of color to her lips and eyes. She was not trying to impress anyone today. Nor would she be for a long while. After an interminable period fighting with her hair, she put on a pair of short earrings of simple glass beads. No one was likely to see them though her hair, but she could still enjoy the feeling of them dangling from her ears. Finally, she settled her necklace around her shoulders, and enjoyed the warm feeling of mana stored within the spiral pendant as it rested between her small breasts.

She stared into the little mirror hanging from the wall above the table. Hair, makeup, jewelry. Simple things, that had taken her a lifetime to possess. Things that she had been forced to trade her old life for. She never doubted they were worth it.

"Be the person you see inside," Asaryl said. "Make that your reality. In time others will see her as well."

Aela allowed herself a brief smile. She missed the old elf. 'Old' being subjective of course. Her spiritism teacher had looked hardly any older than she did now. Yet what was he, a century old? A young man for his own people, ancient for her own. Who knew, with her own mastery of vitamancy, she might even live half and again those years. Assuming she did not get herself killed trying to pay off her debts.

"I will miss this room," Aela said to no one in particular as she took one last look around. She quickly loaded her scant possessions into a backpack. Makeup and some cheap jewelry, the mirror from the wall, a skirt and spare chemise, a few drakma novels, a cup, plate, and utensils, and other little odds and ends. She did not have many possessions to show for her life.

"A life is not measured in objects, but how it is lived."

Again, Asaryl's words came back to her from across the years. She nodded, as if to the elf, and shut the door to the rented room behind her. It was time to move on with life.

A few steps around the balcony that ringed the second floor of the boarding house's atrium brought her to Loria's room. She almost hesitated to knock. While she frequently rose with the sunrise, the elf was another story. Long nights tended to make for late mornings, and Aela was not sure how the Silaine had passed the time after they had returned from Waranari's. She had spent her own night in the aether, communing with the spirits of rock and air that predominated in the cliffside city. She suspected that Loria had spent his time in more earthly pursuits…

She rapped lightly on his door, and was about to repeat it again when the wooden portal slid partly open, revealing Loria's disheveled features peering out through sleep-fogged eyes. Disheveled with elves was of course just as subjective as age. Aela would have sworn that his crimson mane looked better than her own, even though he had obviously just risen from bed. Even in its wildest state, his hair only fell out of place when it would make him look more rakish. While Aela's own brown tresses always seemed to conspire to mortify her.

"Shhhh," the Light Elf whispered. "We don't want to wake our guest now do we?"

Aela made a show of trying to look past the bare-chested elf to see who was in the room behind him. She glimpsed a still arm and leg protruding from the covers of the elf's bed, but could not tell whom their owner might be.

Loria pushed out into the hallway, and gingerly shut the door behind him. Aela now realized that he was not scantily-clad, as she had first assumed, but completely naked. She resisted the urge to shake her head.

"Who is it this time?" Aela teased. "Someone you met on the walk home from Waranari's? Or did he just fall into your bed?"

"Well if you must pry it is Cai Atna," Loria whispered.

"From that clothier's shop?" Aela said, making no special effort to keep her voice down. "I didn't even know you liked him?"

"Well, like is so open to interpretation," Loria said. "A person might like a rosé one day, and dry white the next, and spicy shiraz after that. I was in the mood for a Cai."

"I thought you said he was too bony?" Aela could not contain a sly grin.

"Shhh, he'll wake up!" Loria exclaimed as quietly as he could. "Did you want something, or did you just come to bask in the glory of my love life?"

"Well, it is indeed majestic," Aela said, "and while I would love to soak up the warm glow of your amorous brilliance, we are supposed to be leaving today. Or did you forget about the cannibal bandits in Kye Rim?"

"Well of course I have not forgotten!" Loria declared. "We'll get there. Eventually."

"That's what I thought," Aela said. "I had better go on ahead to Waranari's, in case any new hopefuls arrive looking for us."

"And I shall rendezvous with our gracious employers and meet you at the docks." Loria said. "Before the ship departs."

"Remember that," Aela said, "Before this time."

"That only happened once." The Light Elf waved off the admonition with one hand.

"Once?" Aela raised an eyebrow.

"That other time does not count," Loria insisted. "It was not my fault."

"Then whose fault was it?" Aela asked.

"Well it was Aksil's of course," Loria breathed, "or was it Derrian? No, it was definitely Marce."

"Of course," Aela rolled her eyes. "What could I have been thinking?"

"Well I can tell you what I was thinking…" Loria grinned. "He had the most-"

"I can imagine," Aela waved off further descriptions. "I'll meet you at the ship."

The Arvern made her way around the second floor balcony and descended the stairs to the ground. Already there were sounds of activity in some of the other rented rooms, and she wondered if any of their occupants might catch a glimpse of Loria's naked frame before he returned to his room. It would be just like the elf to lock himself out with no clothes on. Not that any lock could stand in the way of his spellcraft.

Aela stopped at the landlord's apartment. As usual, her door was open, and on the table outside she found that the rotund woman had already laid out a tray filled with fresh rolls and a bowl of olive oil.

"Oh, you are divine Hennu," Aela said as she snatched up a roll and tore it in half. She dipped both pieces into the oil, and began a quick breakfast of the still warm bread.

"You are leaving today no?" the dark Aymaran woman said in broken Rasen. "Where is your friend the elf? He was out late last night."

"He's out late every night," Aela mumbled around a mouthful of breakfast.

"He still has to pay for his rent!" the landlord complained. "You, you are a good tenant. Sango bless you. I hope you come back when you are done, wherever you are going. But that one? Out all night, sleeps all day! Never thinks to pay!"

Never wants to pay, Aela thought, but wisely did not say.

"He will be down shortly," she said by way of explanation. "I am sure he will have the last of his rent for you then."

Aela sped out of the open air atrium and through the building's vestibule, pretending not to hear the Aymaran's loud complaints about her friend behind her. The Arvern was in the street a moment later, and made her way through lanes of white-washed brick buildings with red-tiled roofs. With the sun barely above the horizon, traffic was still light. It was mainly bakery employees making deliveries, and a few other early-morning workers.

Aela knew that would change soon enough, and transform Veia's streets back into the packed, noisy, smelly mass of humans and animals they usually were. She enjoyed the quiet and fresh air while she could, and was almost disappointed when she finally came to Waranari's. A quiet walk was always refreshing.

Aela's room

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post Aug 25 2018, 07:57 PM
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A wonderfully girly morning and pause in the action as we gain more insight into our pair of mages. The contrast between the witch and elf is stark indeed. Whereas Loria spent the night with someone warm and his hair is still coiffed upon waking, Aela communed the evening with rock and air – and must battle with her hair in the morning. tongue.gif

Though not bound to possessions, Aela does take what she feels as her responsibilities to others very seriously – such as paying her rent, rousing her partner in adventure, and ensuring she is not late for her pending voyage.

Nit -- ’She opted for only a light touch to color to her lips and eyes.’ - - Seems like the double use of ‘to’ disrupts this sentence. I’m guessing you may have wanted ‘only a light touch of color to her lips and eyes’ or perhaps ‘only a light touch to color her lips and eyes’.

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post Aug 29 2018, 03:32 PM
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A relaxing morning scene, other than some hair-fighting and bed-discovery. wink.gif How does she accomplish the act described below? She go into a trance? Or dissociates mind from body? Or, something more simple?

QUOTE(SubRosa @ Aug 25 2018, 10:45 AM) *

She had spent her own night in the aether, communing with the spirits of rock and air that predominated in the cliffside city. She suspected that Loria had spent his time in more earthly pursuits…

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post Aug 30 2018, 12:50 AM
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From: From: From: From

5.2 - 5.3

Delicious, delicious combat. The technical details are spot-on and I’m absolutely head-over-heels in love with Phereinon White-Hair’s combat intelligence/precision/brutality/economy. The way she ‘bridged’ when she committed to the suplex, her immediate retaliation to a checked low kick (catch-and-pitch, as my MT coach likes to call it, though it’s not limited to leg kicks haha), her mouth-watering use of her cloak to trap and blind opponents, the way she responded to that Orc’s teep (I thought she would pull him in for a knockout hook Coban-style but breaking his leg is nice too KEK), her poison-cold calmness in the face of her foes’ numerical superiority...

And the trips! Dear lord the trips! Her subtle and disruptive trips made it x10000000 better than it already was! I’m a simple man, tbh. I see trips, I foam at the mouth in ecstasy.

If there’s one thing that kinda took me away from the whole thing, it was her decision on taking the final lad to the ground with that flying triangle-armbar hybrid. It’s more of a personal opinion than objective criticism, and I think I have an understanding on why she did it. Could be wrong ofc, but here’s how I saw it.

(Use a flashy move only experts can pull off to finish the fight AND further establish her dominance on her enemies WHILE using the aforementioned technique as a literal position of power to reveal what his brother really was.)

If that was the case, I like it. It touches on the fact that a fight’s mental as much as it is physical. You listen to the martial whirlwind who rampaged through your crew and is currently crushing your head between her legs, after all. With that said however, a grounded position is still a grounded position. The disadvantages it offers are many, especially considering the encounter’s in the street. She might’ve mollywhopped the frick out of her present/visible enemies but the unknowns in the crowds and maybe even those inside the armory...? Too risky for my tastes, tbh. In fact, this decision coupled with the way she nonchalantly dislodged the sword in her shoulder by simply ripping it out sideways leads to me think that she’s either dangerously dependent on her unnatural regeneration/resiliency or there’s some sort of self-destructive tendencies going on around inside her. Maybe even both. I’m very interested to see how she fares and what she’ll do if she ever loses her otherworldly traits.

All in all, I rate it an unforgiving 9/10. NOICE WOIRK.


So uh. Hey, SubRosa. KEK! I haven’t really read the story that much, tbh. I was actually planning to start from the beginning today but I was bushwhacked by the combat scene in Chapter 5.3. It caught my attention and well, here I am, jumping chapters because of a juicy fight scene. HA!

I wanna slap people and tell them I love them
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post Sep 1 2018, 03:17 PM
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Acadian: I really like those old Roman beds, with the elevated head and shoulders. Those would be really nice for people (like myself) who suffer from acid reflux at night. In fact I love that whole room in the pic I posted. That would be an awesome place to live.

That whole segment was a nice little piece of character building that I enjoyed writing immensely. It shows Aela simply being herself, and it gives us a view into Loria as well. As you pointed out, Aela is the dependable, reliable, responsible one. While Loria is out having fun, she is paying the bills and keeping appointments.

Nit fixed. Thanks for catching that. It was just a typo, the kind that the spellchecker never catches.

Renee: If you ever saw Frozen, when Princess Anna wakes up is what I imagine Aela's hair is like in the morning.

Aela's mental projection into the aether is somewhat described way back in the first chapter, when she summons the air spirit from beyond the confines of the dark barrow. I will also go more into it later in the story. You can also refer to the There Goes The Neighborhood link in my signature, which features an early version of the same thing that I wrote for Elder Scrolls Aela.

Uleni Athram: Hi Uleni! I did a lot of research for that fighting scene in the street, as I am not a martial arts person like yourself. I only know what I read or see in videos. I am glad it was exciting. I imagine that the Orcs invented Muay Thai kickboxing. I got that push kick that the orc tried to finish Phereinon off with at the end of the fight from a video of an mma fight where I guy used it to knock his opponent out cold.

You are right in that Phereinon sometimes gets arrogant and shows off. She is 5,000 years old, and knows every fighting style that exists. Some of them she invented.

Other times she simply discards niceties, and just takes the pain instead of dodging or blocking, and counters with something devastating. It is a side-effect of her regeneration that she and Wolverine share. It is also inspired by an episode of Sharpe's Rifles. Sharpe is a Peninsular War veteran and returns home after the war. He gets goaded into a fencing match with a young dandy, and loses badly, because it is a nice, regulation match fought for touches. At the end of the movie they fight for real. The dandy stabs Sharpe in the shoulder with his rapier, and Sharpe grabs his sword, pinning it. Then he puts his broadsword against the dandy's throat and says something to the effect of "When it's for real, you take the pain." Phereinon is like that. Pain is nothing to her.

Chapter 7.2

The mercenary bar was nearly empty, and Aela wondered how many of the patrons she saw scattered about had been there all night. She thought that Waranari closed up at some point. But she had never stayed long enough to find out. For all that she knew, the Aymaran publican never slept.

"Aela," the very same tavern-keeper's voice rumbled from the bar. The tall, shaven-headed Aymaran was wiping cups clean. He paused to jerk a thumb to one of the back corners of the main room. "Someone's been asking for you."

"Thanks," Aela nodded. She headed that way, noting an indistinct figure in a gray cloak and hood seated there, back against the wall. An oversized book was spread open on the table, with a filled mug nearby.

The Arvern hoped that this person would bring their number up to six. She would have liked to remain in the city longer to recruit, but there was no certainty when the bandits would return to Agrigento. They would have to make do with whomever they left with this morning.

When she reached the table, its occupant looked up, and threw back her hood to expose iron-gray eyes, moon-pale skin, and stark white hair. It was the mystery woman she and Loria had crossed paths with first at the Camna estate, and then in the street outside the armorer's.

"You are Aela?" The mystery woman leaned forward with interest. "The Arvern mage trained at the Ingenium?"

"I am." Aela said, "My partner said your name is Phereinon?"

"Yes of course, the elf who followed me into the shop," she mused. "I am Phereinon. You sound surprised to hear that name."

"Well, when I do it is normally part of some lurid tale of vengeance and mass-murder," Aela said. "But those tales go back thousands of years."

"I have heard them." The other woman gestured to the chair across from her, and Aela sat.

"You were there in the street the other day, and at Camna's." Phereinon continued. "All this time I have been seeking you, and now here you are, for the third time. I don't know if this is fate, the bony claw of some divine power, or just the multiverse trying to get my attention. Well, you have it."

The Arvern thanked Waranari when the publican walked over with a mug of ginseng tea. She took a faint sip of the bitter drink, and turned back to study the mystery woman across from her.

Aela's gaze traveled across the scars that cut across the left side of Phereinon's cheek. They were jagged rents, which led her to discount the thought that they might have been caused by a knife or sword. They were also too unevenly spaced to have been the claws of a beast. Her experience in vitamancy suggested that whatever had caused the scars had been rough and irregular, like an outcropping of coral, or a bed of broken glass like those some builders put atop walls to discourage thieves from climbing over. From their lack of color, it must have happened some time ago.

"You have been looking for me?" Aela wondered. "Did you change your mind about joining us?"

"No," Phereinon said. "I seek the expertise of a conjurer who is skilled with the element of earth. Someone not daunted by long odds. Someone who will not break. I have been told by many that you are the second best in the city."

"Who did they say is the best?" Aela asked with genuine curiosity. While others might have taken it as a snub, she had to confess to feeling more than a little satisfaction at being held in such high regard as second.

"Every summoner I asked said they were the best," Phereinon said. "So I have been looking for you."

Aela stifled a laugh. If anyone else had spoken, it would have been funny. But nothing about the white-haired stranger evoked mirth. The Arvern shivered, and was not even sure why.

"So you want to do some digging?" Aela asked. "I can do that. I have experience working with earth spirits in underground spaces. Like back in the Old City under Alalia."

"Good," Phereinon leaned forward. "How are you with wild spirits? Can you calm them? Can you control them?"

"That really depends on the spirit," Aela replied honestly, "and why it has gone out of control. One that has simply slipped the grasp of an inexperienced summoner is a trifle to manage. But those that are genuinely aggressive or enraged, well those are more difficult."

"These are extremely aggressive," Phereinon said. "Lethally so."

"Where are you going where the spirits are…" Aela's words trailed away as she looked down at the book spread out between them. As Loria had said before, the pages laying open showed sketches of an ancient city. At first she thought it was Arvern, albeit thousands of years old. But the unmortarted stone in some of the drawings pointed to an even older age than her own people's civilization. Those had to be from the time of the Mound People.

"You are going to Tregyn," Aela breathed, "to the City of the Dead."

"Yes," the white-haired woman nodded. "I have lately come from there. What I seek lies buried deep beneath the modern city, beneath the ruins of the older cities underneath. I could dig myself, but it would take centuries."

"You came from there?" Aela looked around to make sure no one was in earshot. "Are you mad? Do you know how many return from expeditions there?"

"Not as many as those who remain," Phereinon almost seemed to smile then. "But really, it is not as dangerous as it once was. Eight years of tomb raiders have thinned out the deadwalkers considerably."

"Only the most powerful are still there," Aela observed, "that is not reassuring."

"Perhaps I sought the wrong person after all." Phereinon leaned back in her chair, and seemed to reappraise the Witch. "I was under the impression that the first ardhanari to graduate from the Ingenium was not one who required reassurance, or who balked at danger."

"I won't hesitate to kill anyone or anything that threatens me," Aela growled. Her arcane shield was instantly in her mind, ready to spring to life from her fingertips. By reflex, she partially shifted her senses into the aether, and felt a wood spirit sleeping within the beams of the ceiling. She reached out, gently waking the dryad and coaxing her attention. It would take only a second for her to fill the spirit with mana, and bring her fully into the physical world.

"Being a two-spirit in the Ingenium taught me to fight," Aela continued. "But it also taught me to pick and choose when and where I do. Tregyn is the graveyard of adventurers whose reach exceeded their grasp. Money is not a good enough reason to go there."

"Good," the white-haired woman leaned forward again, as if satisfied by Aela's response. "I can take care of the dead. They and I have an... understanding. I only need you to deal with the nature spirits."

Aela wondered just what an 'understanding' with the dead might mean. Was she a necromancer? Given the contempt Phereinon had displayed for necromancy in the street fight with Sethre Camna, that seemed doubtful. But Aela of all people knew that the face one presented to the world might not match what truly lay underneath.

"I had an experience with a mad spirit once," Aela mused, "during the Sluagh. It created a tornado, and tried to flatten my family's home outside of Cymner."

"You dispelled it?" Phereinon asked.

"I calmed her," Aela said. "I soothed her. She was far too much for me to simply defeat with raw power. Not that I even knew how to do that back then."

"How old were you?" The white-haired woman furrowed her brows in thought.

"I was, oh, thirteen," Aela said. "It was before I went to the Ingenium. In fact, it convinced my parents to let me study magic there."

"And the spirit?" Phereinon asked. "What became of it?"

"As I said, I calmed her." Aela shrugged. "Whatever madness the Sluagh had infected her with was gone. She drifted around the house afterward. But I have not seen her since I left."

"You pacified a mad spirit?" White-hair stared back at Aela. "You restored its sanity?"

"I don't really know what I did," Aela had to fight the urge to squirm. She felt like she was back in school, and one of her teachers was grilling her about some boring subject - like materiality - that she had failed to study about the night before. "I cannot put words to it. I just reached out and made a connection. I shared my warmth... my compassion. I felt her rage, her terror, her violation, and I... doused it, drowned it, with... well... love."

Aela had to fight the warmth rising to her cheeks. She hoped that she did not sound as trite and soppy as she imagined, talking about love.

"If only such a thing would work against swords," Phereinon murmured and stared away. If she had noted Aela's discomfort, she gave no sign of scorn. Then she looked back, eyes hard as steel. "You are the one I seek. I have no doubt."

"I am sorry, but I cannot go with you," Aela shrugged once more. "Loria and I already have a quest. We have given our words, we cannot break faith."

"But even if we did not, I still don't know that I would want to go with you," Aela said. "Like I said before, no amount of money is worth it. I advise you to look for treasure elsewhere. Leave Tregyn to the dead, it's their city now."

"I cannot," Phereinon said. "But I never said anything about treasure. I have little need for trinkets. Oh, there is gold, and jewels, and artwork, and other valuables aplenty within the Dead City. That is how I intend to pay you after all. It is not what I seek however."

"Then what?" Aela wondered aloud, "fame, power, glory?"

"Don't you want to know what caused the Sluagh?" Phereinon answered with a question of her own. "Don't you want to know how to stop it from happening again?"

Aela stared back at the other woman in sheer amazement. She did not know what to say. Was this mystery woman mad? That would explain her using the name of a millennia-old urban myth. Then Aela remembered how Phereinon had fought in the street, and her mastery of ancient magic such as aura cloaking and binding.

"You have some idea of what caused it?" Aela cautiously probed.

"I do," Phereinon nodded. "But I need to get down under Tregyn to be certain. Will you come with me?"

"I..." Aela had to admit that she was intrigued by this strange woman, and her quest. The Sluagh had nearly killed her and everyone she had known. It had killed hundreds of thousands of others who had been less fortunate. It felt personal, close to home. In truth, it was.

"We have a contract with the people of Agrigento," Aela rose to her feet, reaching for the rare comfort of ethics. "Our oath is our bond. Perhaps afterward… I'll need to think about it."

"Then I will come with you to Kye Rim," Phereinon stood as well. Closing the book of sketches, she slid it into the pack beside her chair. "And afterward, we shall see."

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post Sep 1 2018, 07:44 PM
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Using White Hair’s need for Aela’s spirit-calming was the perfect way to coax her into the little Agrigento group. The verbal probing and slight sparring between the two women was great fun to read. White Hair was impressive but it was wonderful to see Aela more than hold her own when challenged – in her Aelish way. happy.gif

"Every summoner I asked said they were the best," Phereinon said. "So I have been looking for you." - Typical mages! laugh.gif

"Being a two-spirit in the Ingenium taught me to fight," Aela continued. "But it also taught me to pick and choose when and where I do. Tregyn is the graveyard of adventurers whose reach exceeded their grasp. Money is not a good enough reason to go there." - - Well put!

Nit- ‘They would have to make due with whomever they left with this morning.’ – I think the idiom is ‘make do’.

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post Sep 1 2018, 09:16 PM
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From: The place where the Witchhorses play

Oooooh, this is getting even better than I have come to expect from your masterful pen. Okay, not a pen, but still the same thing.

Knowing what I know about Persephone's backstory from Skyrim, I am really looking forward to seeing how this plays out after Agrigento. Do I scent a second story in the making here? Because as I recall it, your original Seven played out over quite a lot of ground, enough for a full novel. And here I see the makings of yet another, just as in depth, if not more, looming in the not so near future.

This is getting really exciting, and I'm looking forward to more!

Oh, and Acadian already put dibs on what is easily my favorite quote regarding who's the best mage in town. laugh.gif

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post Sep 8 2018, 04:36 PM
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Acadian: I was pleased with how I was able to dovetail Phereinon's goals into the current story, using Aela herself as the reason for her joining the defense of Agrigento. It took a while for that to come together.

Aela can be extremely stubborn when she gets her dander up, and Phereinon certainly knows how to do the latter. Part of her taunt was of course just to see how Aela would react. Aela is not just a fighter, but a thinker, so naturally both came out in her responses.

I must confess to the second best mage in town not being entirely my own invention. In an old episode of Magnum PI, someone hired Magnum because every other PI said he was the second best in Hawaii. You can guess who they said was the best...

Thanks for catching my 'make do' miscue. Another one that spellcheck does not catch, because technically nothing is spelled wrong.

haute ecole rider: Seven is indeed just the first act of a much larger story. It is really just an introduction to the characters. There is a much larger story waiting behind it, starting with the expedition to the City Of The Dead. Besides that story arc, I can see standalone prequel novels focusing on individual characters in the past. One on Phereinon and how she became undead, and exterminated the Dark Elves. One on Venca, and the rise of the Sacerdotium and the Rasen conquest of Aulerci thousands of years in the past. One on Hrafngoelir and her adventure with the orcs and elves in the mountains, and the Deep Roads beneath. And finally one on Aela and Ungarion's time in the Ingenium. It wold be nice to have one on Dhasan as well, I just don't know enough about his history yet. I only know that he is driven by a need to outdo his father, who didn't come back from a war.

I also made a minor edit to the previous segment, added a more detailed description of Phereinon's facial scars.

Chapter 8.1

Less than an hour later Aela found Loria and the others gathered at Veia's docks. The mercenaries all wore their armor and weapons. Hrafngoelir was clad in her full astril panoply, and carried her elvish bow and Skanjr sword. Dhasan wore his own people's ironleaf armor, and carried his flatbow and axe. Loria practically strutted in a new suit of green silk robes, and Aela wondered when he had gotten that. Then she remembered the clothier sleeping in his bed earlier that morning.

Aela noted that Venca was now clad in armor: a gleaming black lamellar cuirass of slender lorcras plates that ran vertically down around his torso, shoulders, and upper arms. Its long skirts hung down to his knees. Bracers of the same black steel plates wrapped his forearms, as did greaves that ran from ankle to knee. It was difficult to be certain against the fierce aura of the Ravenwheel, but she could feel no magic from the armor. Though given its material, it hardly needed enchantment.

Phereinon accompanied Aela of course. The white-haired woman was clad in a long-sleeved mail hauberk under a vest of hardened white leather that was embossed with eagles. Identical leather bracers were strapped to her forearms, and a pack was slung over her shoulders. Otherwise she wore the same white leggings wrapped in gray cord as before, along with gray boots.

"I thought you were not coming?" Loria wondered aloud. His eyes traveled from the mystery woman to Aela.

"Your friend changed my mind," was all Phereinon would say.

Aela fought the urge to blush as all eyes turned upon her. It was not as if she had said or done anything to convince the warrior to come. Phereinon's decision had been entirely her own.

She was rescued from the attention of the group when one of the ship's officers cried out that they were ready for boarding. Aela followed the others up the wide gangplank from the dock to the wide-bellied cog. It was much like the hulk that had borne them from the Stone Forest to Veia a week before. She and the others stowed their gear below deck and prepared for the journey ahead of them. Eager to escape the confines within, Aela was quick to return to the deck, along with many of the other passengers who had boarded the ship with them.

Aela saw that among the other travelers on the ship was a young Teodon with yellow and green scales. Aela recognized him immediately as the brash, would-be warrior from the street. She wondered how long it would take the others to notice the young Teodon. The cloak he now wore somewhat obscured his appearance. But she knew that on a ship only fifty feet long, he could not remain unnoticed forever.

She said nothing to the others, and instead made her way to the prow of the vessel. Like most cogs, this one had a small castle built up around the bowsprit. It was really nothing more than a flat platform with a crenellated wooden wall around it. She climbed inside and sat down with her back against battlement, legs stretched out before her. Craning her neck to the left, she looked out through the gaps between the merlons to watch the water below as it foamed up around the ship's prow.

She closed her eyes and shifted her senses into the aether. Almost immediately she felt an undine dancing within the water that sprayed up from the prow of the ship. The unearthly being seemed eminently pleased with this simple thing, and Aela easily slid her consciousness down into the waves beside her.

All too soon something else intruded upon her escape with the nature spirit. Aela felt it in the aether first. Bright and faithful elvish armor, accompanied by a composite bow that floated like a cherry blossom. Then came a stinging chill, like a frost wyrm's bite, and the ragged, yet somehow soothing, croak of a raven.

It was Hrafngoelir, and the varied assortment of enchantments that hung about the Skanjr like perfume about a flower. Aela was about to open her meat eyes, when she felt another enchantment, much weaker than the rest. It was barely even noticeable above the warm glow of the Northerner's own aura.

Unlike the strong and bright energy of the blond woman, this was dark, filled with loss and regret. It possessed no specific enchantment. It was just a miasma of sadness and pain, soaked up by some object like a sponge. It paused with Hrafngoelir at the nearby ship's rail, and hovered there above the waves.

Aela did open her eyes just in time to see that it was a palm-sized stone. It tumbled from the blond warrior's fingers, and the Witch saw that a Skanjr rune was carved into one of its faces. If she had paid more attention in her enchanting or language classes she probably could have identified the character. But Aela could not even put a name to it. She could only tell that it consisted of two vertical lines, joined by a single, slanting bar.

Then the stone was gone, vanished into the sea. It took all of that regret bound up with it to the sunless depths below. Aela hoped that the water would wash away the sorrow within its soothing embrace.


Aela started at the blond warrior's voice. Had she spoken her thoughts aloud? Or had Hrafngoelir only now just noticed her behind the merlons of the forecastle?

"I'm sorry," Aela stood up. "My mind was elsewhere. I noticed your carving."

Aela nodded to the waves, that had so recently swallowed up the Skanjr's dark offering.

"Aye," the Skanjr said. "I was just saying eloi to someone."

"Hello or goodbye?" Aela recognized the unusual word as elvish, favored by the Silisce. It could be either a greeting or a farewell, depending on how the Sea Elves used it.

"Both I suppose," Hrafngoelir frowned. "What brought you up here?"

"Just staying out of the way," Aela shrugged and looked back to the waves. Clearly the other woman did not want to talk about the strange stone she had cast into the sea. Aela was not going to pry. She of all people understood the value of privacy. "I just like watching the water. It always feels peaceful to me."

The taller human climbed over the crenellated wooden wall and sat down beside Aela. The Arvern stared down at Hrafngoelir's armored legs as they stretched out on the deck beside her own. Looking back up, she noted that not only was the other woman's hair a masterpiece, but that even the powder above her blue eyes gave them a brilliant shine in the morning sun.

Aela could not help but to feel a twinge of envy, and turned away from Hrafngoelir. For the thousandth time, she wondered what it was like to be born normal, and have the option of living an ordinary life.

"That is a lovely necklace." The Skanjr's words broke Aela's reverie, and she followed the other woman's gaze to the crystal pendant that she wore. Shaped in a spiral, it hung above her small breasts from a chain of thin silver links.

"My spiral?" Aela said. "Among the Asokari - and we Witches here in Aulerci - it symbolizes the never-ending cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. We all come from the Earth, and we all return to it. It also happens to be enchanted to store additional mana."

"Then you keep to the Asokar gods?" Hrafngoelir asked. "Or not gods. As I recall, they see all the Earth as a god, and all of us on it as well."

"You have traveled indeed," Aela noted. "I grew up in a city - Cymner in fact - but I have always loved the countryside. The forests, the rivers, the mountains, the sea… The wild places of the world are where I feel most alive. They are the places I feel connected to something beyond myself. In fact, it is in those places where I first met my spirit guides."

"You have spirit guides?" Hrafngoelir raised an eyebrow again. "Now you really do sound like one of the Fox Folk!"

"I am a Witch," Aela shrugged. "It is about the same thing. Oh I don't see them or smell them the way Dhasan does Wolf. But I do feel them, and I can learn from them."

"They really do see them then?" Hrafngoelir said. "I spent some time in their land, and some told me so. But I have always wondered if they were having a laugh on a foreigner."

"Oh, they see their guides," Aela insisted. "They are as much a part of their world as the earth or sky. In my case I met Turtle during a trip into the woods. There was a real turtle there, crawling ever so slowly across the path. But I felt so much more from him than just an animal. He taught me patience. Turtle is all about getting there, no matter how long or difficult the journey. Later I met Butterfly, who taught me the secrets of transformation."

"You sound like quite a Witch indeed!' the Skanjr exclaimed. "But I would not think that one with your gifts would require more magical energy?" She nodded toward the enchanted pendant.

"I don't anymore," Aela felt a wry smile come to her lips, and stared down at the spiral, "Well not usually. But when I first started casting spells in real combat, I had a tendency to use much more energy than I needed. I was like a fighter throwing a haymaker with every punch. It took me a while to learn to only use as much mana as was truly necessary. I keep it as a reminder to pace myself. And because it was a gift from a friend."

"You did not make it yourself?" Hrafngoelir looked confused.

"Oh no," Aela confessed. "Loria enchanted it for me. He has always been much better at that than I am. He did all of our gear in fact: his old robes and ring, my clothes, even Dhasan's axe and shield. Now that he has a new outfit, I am sure he will be enchanting that during our voyage as well."

"Forgive me," Hrafngoelir said, "the only other seidberendr I knew had been an enchanter. I just thought…"

"That we could do everything? Not hardly." Aela smiled. "The truth is Loria is a much better mage than I am in most of the schools of magic. The only ones I ever really had much interest in are vitamancy and spiritism. So I devoted all of my energy to them at the Ingenium. Well, and arcanism of course. Using it is part of all higher forms of magic. I never spent much time on the other disciplines. I only took the basic classes required by the school."

"Oh," the Skanjr blushed. With one thick finger she swept aside an imaginary lock of hair from her eyes. "Ever since I was a child I was taught that people like you have fearsome powers. And my brother…"

"It is true that people like myself have certain advantages as magicians," Aela admitted. She had not missed the other woman's mention of a brother, or how her words had trailed away into silence after his mention. She imagined he might have something to do with the seidberendr she had mentioned as well. "To use magic, one must walk between worlds. People like me, who change gender roles, also walk between worlds. I suppose we are made to be magicians."

Lorcras armor

Hagalaz rune

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post Sep 8 2018, 07:38 PM
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Nice character development here that begins with Aela’s delightful communion with the water spirit and is interrupted by the magical cacophony of Hrafngoelir’s approaching enchanted gear. What a fascinating perception of the world Aela can glimpse into!

I like that Aela has specialized in the magic schools that suit her and sacrificed some ability in the others. It supports the idea that one only has so much mojo. I also enjoyed her insight on mana management/efficiency in combat.

And finally, we learn a bit more about the girl with the golden hair. Oh, and I’m sure we’ll hear more about that young Teodon who ‘just happens’ to be sharing their ride.

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post Sep 15 2018, 04:39 PM
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Acadian: As I have been going back through the story and rewriting it, I have been really pleased with how ordinary Aela often feels. While surrounded by elves, lizard-men, fox people, unliving urban myths, and so on... To me she often feels like an everyman character, like Bilbo in The Hobbit. Then once and a while she shows that she is just as unique as everyone else. Like with how she lives in not just the physical world, but the spirit world, at the same time. She literally does experience reality differently than most people (although so would other advanced magicians).

More about the girl with the golden gun hair this episode, as we conclude their conversation. Then we will be going back to the young Teodon...

Chapter 8.2

"It is obvious you would study vitamancy to change your body." Hrafngoelir considered. "So why spiritism too? Why not something like enchanting or materiality?"

"I have always enjoyed conjuring," Aela mused. "Summoning nature spirits is all about nurturing your relationship with the spirits of the world: of the rocks, of the trees, of the sky, and so on. When I am with the spirits, I can be myself. They always see me for who I truly am, not what other people think I should be."

For a hired sword, the Skanjr knew quite a bit about magic. At their first meeting Hrafngoelir had said that she had spent some time among elves. Clearly the Skanjr had learned much, and with a more open mind than many others of her race. There was definitely more to her than met the eye.

That thought gave Aela a brief snort. She should be the one to know!

"But during the Sluagh, well that changed everything. spiritism wasn't just a way to escape from the company of people anymore. It became a matter of survival. Many of the spirits around Tregyn seemed to go mad, and my magic is what saved me from them. It made me realize just what I could do with spirits. It also got me into the Ingenium."

"The wizards at the school heard of your exploits?" Hrafngoelir scrunched her eyebrows in bewilderment.

"No," Aela laughed, "it made my parents take me seriously. They always said magic was just a phase, something I would get tired of and grow out of. But when I stopped a tornado from leveling our manor, even they had to accept that this was my calling."

Hrafngoelir smiled wryly, and nodded her head. "It was like that with my brother. My mother wanted him to be a shield maiden. Well, shield man. But magic was always in her runes too."

"Did they enchant your things for you?" Aela asked. She did not fail to note how the Skanjr had mixed up genders when referring to her brother.

"Aye, Hetha did make my raven." Hrafngoelir looked down to the black stone raven pendant that she wore, and held it up with one hand. As if wakened by her touch, Aela felt the magic within glow to brilliant life in the aether, a ward to protect Hrafngoelir against all magical harm. "He even carved it from basalt himself. She had always been good at that sort of thing, even when we were little."

"So what does Hrafnvartha mean?" Aela did not know a great deal of Skanjr culture, but she did know that Hetha was not a man's name. Now she was beginning to understand Hrafngoelir's interest in seidberendrs.

"Ravenward," Hrafngoelir said proudly. "Hetha said it would protect me from harmful magics. So far, it has saved my life more than once. But how did you know its name?"

"It told me," Aela said. "Except for those upon the simplest objects like warm cloaks and dry socks, all enchantments have a name. They are unique, special, so they must have a name, just like people."

"You sound so much like Hetha sometimes…" The Skanjr looked away from the Arvern mage, and stared off across the waves.

"So what about yourself?" Aela wondered aloud. "I can see from your aura that you have some magical ability as well. Is that how you do your hair?"

"Oh no, I do that the old-fashioned way!" The Skanjr warrior laughed. She reached up with one hand to touch the elaborate tapestry of golden locks that made up her hair.

"I only know a few spells," she said. Her free hand patted the glowing shaft of the composite bow nestled in the bowcase at her hip. "I know one to cloak Cherry Blossom here. Otherwise you can see me from a mile away at night. Another will muffle my foot falls, even on dried leaves. I know a Night Sight spell to see in the dark, and a few other little things."

"All useful for a hrafn," Aela observed, using the Skanjr word for raven. "So then your name means 'raven' and something else?"

"Hrafngoelir?" the Skanjr warrior turned back to look at Aela. "It means 'Makes The Ravens Sing'. My mother gave me that name because a conspiracy of them took roost around the house when she went into labor with me. They would not leave. She said that when I was finally born, they all began squawking at once. I made them sing. She said it meant that I would be a shield maiden, like she was."

"So what does Aela mean in your people's tongue?" the Northerner went on to ask.

"I don't know!" Aela laughed. Then she turned more serious. "In truth, it all depends on who you ask. Some people say it means 'rock' or 'rampart'. Others say it means 'amour'. Still others say it means 'divine messenger'. But I have simply liked the way it sounded, so that is why I chose it when I changed."

"When you-" Hrafngoelir stumbled momentarily, then went on, "of course, I forgot for a moment. When did you make your change?"

"I went to living female in my fourth year at the Ingenium," the mage said. "Afterward I met Loria. He told me that I should have waited. But I just could not bear it any longer."

"It could not have been easy," the Skanjr woman observed. Aela wondered just how much personal experience she had in the matter, given the matter of her brother, or was it sister now? "They say the elves and Asokari are much more accepting in this. Indeed, I saw more than one two-spirit among the Fox People, and they were all treated with great honor. But we humans…"

"We are not so comfortable with people being different from us," Aela finished the other woman's sentence. "My parents were furious. They tried to make a magistrate send me back to Cymner. But I had reached my legal age of majority by then, so they could not. Instead they disowned me and cut off my funds."

"Then the Ingenium turned down my request for a scholarship. They said my family was too wealthy for me to qualify. So I had to borrow the gold from a shark named Mamarce the Knee to pay my tuition. Many of the staff tried to have me expelled, and the other students… well, as I told someone else today, the Ingenium taught me to fight. I graduated a few months ago, but I'm still paying off my debt. I will be for a long time."

"Why did they do those things?" Hrafngoelir looked confused. "Because you are a seidberendr?"

Aela nodded, but said nothing.

"But that is mad!" Hrafngoelir exclaimed. "I would think they would want more people like you in their Ingenium? Aren't all these new magic schools I hear about based on the elven ways of teaching? Bringing teachers and students all together in one place, to gain further knowledge than could ever be done in the old way of master and apprentice?"

"They are," Aela sighed. "But they are still run by humans. And you know how we are. You are supposed to be like everyone else. Learn the same trade as your parents, inherit their property, positions, and titles. Marry who they tell you to. Have children of your own and do it all over again to them. Duty, loyalty, and obedience, that was all I was taught as a child."

"Aye," Hrafngoelir nodded, "and I know my own people are probably the worst of the lot. For all that these Rasen would not allow women to bear arms or use magic before King Knutr Serpent-Eye came south, in many ways they are far more enlightened now. Even though we conquered them, sometimes I think they are the ones better for it. The last of the Skanjr successor kingdoms fell what, two and a half centuries ago? Now Skanlond is just as poor and backward as it ever was. But these southern lands are rich, and people have more freedom than ever, men and women alike. They are certainly a lot more open to other races and ideas than back home!"

"They say my people were never bad in the old days," Aela frowned. "Now you can hardly tell the difference between a city in Aulertil and one here in Rase. But in the west, across the straits in Arvethair, they say we Arvernach are still like we were in the old days. I had some distant cousins living there, and they always shocked my parents with their impropriety. My parents once said they were more like elves than humans."

"The elves say that every person must find their own true calling in life." Hrafngoelir murmured. "They say no one can choose the fate of another. For no one can live the life of another."

"You seem to know a great deal about elves," Aela noted.

"As do you," Hrafngoelir replied with a smile. "You and Loria seem to get on well. Are the two of you…"

"No," Aela shook her head. "Loria has never been attracted to women."

"Oh," Hrafngoelir stared wide-eyed. "Oh! So then he and Dhasan?"

"By the blessed Earth no!" Aela laughed. "They are just friends. They just act like they are married from how they love to argue!"

"And what about yourself?" Hrafngoelir asked. "Which are you interested in, or both?"

"You first," Aela had to suppress a giggle. It was beginning to sound like they were a pair of teen girls. She had to admit, the feeling was not unpleasant. It was something she never had the chance to experience before.

"Well men of course," Hrafngoelir said matter-of-factly. "But they can be such crumheads most of the time. I cannot see why any woman would ever want to marry one."

"What about Venca?" Now it was Aela's turn to cast a sly gaze in the other woman's direction.

"Him?" Hrafngoelir sputtered. "Bah, he's too busy brooding - and looking for more black clothing to wear - to find the time for a woman."

"So the two of you never…" Aela let the question trail off.

"Well, there were a few times," The Skanjr stared down into the sea. "But those were just physical. You know, after battle celebrations. You have to put out the fire somehow. It's not like I want to have his children or anything."

"Well you might if you are not careful." Force of habit brought out the vitamancer in Aela. "It only takes one time..."

"Yes, yes, I know mother!" the Skanjr woman held up a hand to ward Aela off. "I learned a long time ago that a little princess nettle and tanet flower will keep that from happening. My mother taught me in fact, when I had my first courses."

"I wish I had a mother to teach me these things," Aela sighed. "I had to learn them in a class in school."

"Ach, you are doing just fine woman," Hrafngoelir waved a dismissive hand. "Besides, that is what friends are for. I learned more about hair and makeup from my friends than I did from my mother. She liked to shave the back of her head like the men do, said it made her helm fit better."

Aela could help but to gape. She could not tell if the other woman as being serious or not.

"Please tell me you did not really mean that," she blurted out. Instantly she regretted the words. What if the Skanjr would take offense? After it seemed that they had been getting on so well.

"I do!" Hrafngoelir nodded. "She wanted to shave my head when I was sixteen, but I would not have any of it. I like my hair. I plan on keeping it until I am so old it all falls out!"

"Well you wear it very well," Aela admitted as she looked into the Skanjr's eyes. She hoped that she was not blushing. "You're beautiful."

"That is kind of you to say," Hrafngoelir smiled. "But look at you, with that lovely long hair, and those soft brown eyes."

"Aye, hair brown as dirt, and eyes brown as bark," Aela grumbled, looking back down at the waves below.

"Nonsense!" Hrafngoelir exclaimed. "Well, your hair is rather sandy, and your eyes are brown of course. But there is so much more to you than that."

With that, the Skanjr leaned back. The next thing Aela knew, Hrafngoelir had pushed her forward, and was gently taking up her hair in her slender fingers.

"Let's do something with this," the Skanjr suggested. "We'll start with a braid around either side of your head, then tie it all in back into a tail. Then we can do something with your eyes. We'll start with some eggplant color on your lashes. That will make the whites of your eyes really shine. Then we'll put some gold on your lids, which will make the brown in your eyes glisten. It will give you more color, without being overwhelming. When you want that, we can use cobalt shadow, and deeper black on your lashes."

A small, white-winged butterfly danced across the rail before Aela's eyes. She could not repress the grin from her features, and knew that she was blushing now. But she could care less. For the next few hours she forgot all about prejudices, seidberendrs, loan-sharks, and everything else. She was just a young woman having her hair and makeup done by a friend.

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