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Forums : Your Characters' Story(s) > [Challenge] An Unlikely Adventure: Miacch
Lanaliathe (Officer) 2/5/2013 12:52 AM EST : [Challenge] An Unlikely Adventure: Miacch

Posts: 2345

Jaggie's Challenge:

I challenge you to take up to Six of your characters (and no less then two,) send them on an adventure together and write their tale.

The only core rule for this challenge is that the characters are your own personal characters and that they exist in game.  (Characters do not need to actually be RP characters.  You just have to own them.)

Style of writing and genre is up to you.”

Here (finally!) is my story in response to Jaggie's 'Unlikely Adventure' challenge.  I wanted to include characters that I don't RP often, if at all, and it was an interesting experience writing about them!  Things developed in a way I hadn't expected, and the story has ended up being far more about the interrelationships between these characters than about the actual quest I sent them on.  It's certainly left me with a lot of unanswered questions, and maybe I'll work on some more background for these characters at some point and see if I can answer those!

I had originally wanted to include Firiyen in this story, but he didn't want to play.  I think he's still sulking because I TRed him...  It was really hard to write any lines for him, and in the end I gave up the struggle and wrote in someone else instead - the story took off fairly well after Firi was let off the hook!  But it did mean that poor Miacch ended up surrounded by women instead...

It also ended up being a bit of a 'Harry Potter' type story, in that it's kind of a slow build up and then all over in a rush... something I always disliked about those books, so I apologise for inflicting it on you here!  I hope you like the story anyway.

[The NPCs at the end may be described incorrectly - I lost my more in-depth notes on the quest and quite honestly couldn't be bothered to go back and run it yet again just to check little details! ]

All right, enough excuses... on with the adventure!

1. Tavern

Miacch glanced up as the tall woman entered the Phoenix Tavern and several pairs of eyes turned to follow her silent progress across the room.  Many looked away just as quickly, for although the woman was striking there was an alien quality to her beauty that some found unnerving.

Miacch stood politely as she approached his table, nudging the girl beside him.  She looked up from the rune arm she was tinkering with, and acknowledged the approaching woman with a quick nod before attending to her task again.

"Khesh," Miacch nodded, stepping around the table with a smile to pull out a chair for her.

Kheshvakri smiled and inclined her head to each in turn, but did not take the offered seat.  "Master Miacch, Mistress Quionna.  I offer greetings, and bring news of vexing circumstances."

"Oh?"  Miacch's dark brows knitted together in a frown as he studied her in the vain hope of some clue.  She looked right back at him and he tried not to flinch - they were of similar height, and her gaze met his easily.  He always found it a little disconcerting to look into those piercing blue eyes, as though she could still see right through him and into his very soul, but he often hoped that perhaps one day he might catch a hint of what she was thinking in her expression.

Not today.  She regarded him with her usual serene smile and nodded.  "Orcs are kidnapping travellers in the hills.  It behooves us to offer assistance."

"Kidnapping?" Quionna echoed, suddenly interested.  "Do you have more details?"

"Indeed, Mistress Quionna.  The victim is a wealthy noblewoman who was travelling with her escort toward Stormreach when her conveyance was assailed.  A maidservant effected an escape and brought news of the attack to the docks, seeking aid for her mistress.  It would appear that there are few would-be adventurers disembarking at the current time, as she has thus far been unsuccessful in garnering assistance."

Quionna blinked, apparently still unused to Khesh's manner of speech.  Miacch merely nodded, his hand going to his sword hilt in subconscious habit before he sighed and reached for the staff leaning against the wall.  "She thinks we should help.  And I agree."

"Kidnapping should not be permitted to continue without intervention," Khesh agreed.  "The orcs seek to assure their survival, as all living things must, but their prosperity should not be acquired at the expense of innocent travellers' lives."

"Well..." Quionna grinned girlishly.  "Can't argue with that!  Let's go."  She closed up the device and reattached it to her forearm, strapped a sword that seemed far too large for her to her back, and moved to join the taller pair with a signal to the canine construct that lay under their table.  Khesh led the way, gliding through the tavern like a ghost, and the quartet stepped out to make their way through the marketplace.

2. Harbour

Khesh led them to the anxious maidservant who still paced the dockside, pleading her case to any that glanced her way.  She reached for the maid's arm as the woman hurried towards them, gently bringing her to a halt before she could once more launch into her tale of woe for the others' benefit.

"Pearl.  It is all right, I have acquired assistance for your employer."  Khesh's tone was full of warmth and reassurance, and Pearl visibly relaxed.

"You did, m'lady?  Oh, that's wonderful that is!  Right worried for her ladyship I am, what if those orcs decide to eat her or somethin' I wouldn't know what to do with meself and that's a fact m'lady I mean what's a girl to do when her employer gets et and--"  She broke off as Khesh put both hands on her shoulders, holding the agitated woman gently but firmly and commanding her gaze.  

"Pearl, calm yourself."  Her tone did not change, but the maid could not seem to look away from her eyes.  "All will be well.  You have achieved what you came for, you may rest now and allow others to see this through.  There is an adequate tavern nearby, await us there and we will come to you upon our return."  As she spoke, Khesh reached out with one hand and snagged the sleeve of a female halfling passing by with a basket of clothing.  

The protest died on the halfling's lips as Khesh transferred her intense gaze to the little blonde seamstress.  "What can I do for you, milady?" she asked, sounding eager to please this tall woman who had unexpectedly grabbed her.  Miacch and Quionna exchanged a look, and Miacch shrugged slightly and twitched his lips in a half-smile.  The girl rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to the halfling, who was by now accepting a small coinpurse from Khesh.

"Escort Pearl to the Wayward Lobster, see her settled in and buy her a hot meal.  Remain with her until we return, if you please.  She has suffered a traumatic experience this day, and would appreciate the company."  Her tone was as warm as ever, but Miacch had the feeling that Khesh was not making a request.  The tiny woman, however, bobbed a curtsey and shifted her basket of sewing to her other hip, reaching for Pearl's hand.

"Come on, m'dear, there's a quiet corner and a warm meal waiting up the street for you.  We can chat a bit if you like, or I'll just sit with you so you don't feel lonely.  No need to worry!"  She tugged gently, and Pearl looked back at Khesh.

"Go with her, she will take care of you.  All will be well," Khesh repeated, and Pearl seemed reassured enough to allow the halfling to lead her away.

Quionna made a disgruntled noise as soon as the women were out of earshot.  "Maybe she should have come with us.  Could have shown us where they were attacked, set us in the right direction at least."

Khesh shook her head.  "She is too distraught to be of much assistance, and the likelihood is greater that she would merely be a distraction or a liability.  I have already acquired as much information as possible, there should be no difficulty in locating the party's conveyance.  I believe they were within a few minutes of sighting the city gates."

"The orcs are raiding that close?"  Miacch's eyes narrowed as he considered the possibility of a large-scale assault on Stormreach.

"I do not believe it is a frequent occurrence at the present time, however there have been reports that their boldness is increasing."

"Then we should show them kidnapping won't be tolerated, should we not?"  The tall man strode towards the gates, and the others followed.

3. Hills

The Cerulean Hills were bathed in soft evening light as the little group stepped out from the city, and Miacch gratefully filled his lungs with fresher air before looking over at Khesh.

"Which way?"

"I believe we are to follow the road across the river for a time, whereupon we shall come to the remains of the noblewoman's conveyance.  From there we may ascertain the direction that the assailants took and follow their trail to the place where they have incarcerated their victims."

Miacch nodded.  "Over the river, find the caravan, follow the trail to their camp," he said, for Quionna's benefit more than anything.  "Lead on, then."

Quionna shot the man a glare as they followed Khesh, who strode confidently ahead.  "I'm not stupid, you know.  I understood what she meant perfectly well... just be nice if she said it in fewer words sometimes."

"I know."  Miacch stifled a smile.  "You'll get used to it, in time."  He cast a couple of protective spells over the group before Khesh got too far ahead, and kept a wary watch on the surrounding farmlands as they crossed the river and moved further into the countryside.

The road climbed uphill through huge white ruins, tumbledown remains of an ancient civilisation.  At the brow of the hill Quionna pointed out a grove of plants and trellis up ahead.

"What's that, Miacch?"

"Looks like a vineyard.  Haven't you ever seen one?"

"Don't think so.  That's where they grow wine?"

"Where they grow the grapes for it," he corrected, smiling tolerantly.  "You really don't know much about the world outdoors, do you?"

The girl shrugged, and grinned back.  "Machines are much more fun."  The construct at her heels barked in agreement, and she reached over to pat his head.  "See, even Abaven thinks so!"  Staring at the overgrown vines as she walked, Quionna almost ran into Khesh.  The tall woman had stopped dead at a curve in the road, and raised her hand as the others caught up to her.

"Please be quiet, we do not know what lies ahead."  She pointed at the gap between two ruined walls just ahead of them, and the damaged caravan that could be seen beyond it.  "I believe we have found the location of the attack."

Miacch shifted his grip on his staff, his expression serious, and cast another spell over the group.  "Stay together," he warned, readying yet another spell as he moved cautiously towards the gap ahead.  The women followed closely, each of the three looking around warily as they moved past the gap and towards the caravan.

Quionna's curiosity outweighed her caution and she immediately hurried over to the wreck and began examining it, whilst Abaven kept watch behind her.  The dog let out a warning bark at the same instant a streak of blinding light left Miacch's hand and slammed into the chest of a robed orc who had just stepped out of the nearby bushes.  The orc mage staggered, his own spell fizzling into nothing as his concentration was ruined, and Abaven was upon him before he could recover his balance.  Snapping and snarling, the construct kept the mage down until a blow from Miacch's staff crushed his skull.

Apparently pleased with himself, Abaven returned to his mistress's side and took up watch again.  Quionna reached out absently to pat his head.  "Good boy."  She looked up as Miacch joined her.  "I think I can get this working again in no time.  Only take a few hours, then we can use it to go after the kidnappers."

"A few hours?  Quin..."  Miacch shook his head and looked over at Khesh, who mirrored the action.

"We do not require a conveyance, Mistress Quionna.  Travel on foot will suffice, and will be more conducive to following a trail."  She broke off and dove to her left in a graceful tumble that brought her up next to a second orc, who had been trying to sneak up on the group from the opposite side of the caravan.  A swift blow from her right hand stunned him, and a punch from the left finished him.  She dusted off her hands and rejoined the others, continuing as if nothing had interrupted her.  "It will be far more difficult to note trail signs from atop such a contraption than if we are proceeding on foot and thus closer to the ground."

"Uh... yeah.  Okay."  Quionna blinked several times, and looked at Miacch again.  He nodded, his brown eyes twinkling.

"I'd have to agree, Quin.  We don't really need the caravan, but we should move on.  It'll be dark soon."  He bent to examine the road around the caravan, and Quionna joined him in studying the ground.

"How're we going to follow the trail when it gets dark?"

"I don't know."  He shrugged.  "Perhaps Khesh can see in the dark, along with her other... talents."

Quionna watched the other woman for a long moment, as Khesh also looked for trail signs a little further up the road, and leaned closer to Miacch.

"What is she?"

Miacch straightened and looked down into the young woman's pale grey eyes.  "Good," he said bluntly.  "Whatever else she may be, she's a force for good in this world.  Just as you will be one day, Quin."  He touched the Dragonmark on her cheek gently, then smiled and playfully tugged at one of her silver braids.  "Get your dog and let's get--  Wait."  He pushed the girl behind him and stared hard into the bushes at the other side of the road, then snapped out a hand with a word of command.  Blue rings glowed in the deepening dusk as they wrapped around a slight figure skulking in the shadow of a small rise.  Miacch strode towards the captive, a study in determination with staff at the ready in one hand and the other glowing with divine light, and confronted an indignant-looking young woman.

"Well now, you're certainly not an orc," he mused as he looked her over.  "And it doesn't look like you're-- OW!"  He rocked back on his heels as a large striped cat launched itself out of the bushes towards his shoulder and landed a set of deep scratches across his neck.

"Miacch!"  Quionna grabbed the sword from her back and ran towards him as he tried to fend off the enraged cat.  Her startled cry alerted Khesh, who hurried back to take in the scene but did not intervene as Quionna stood with sword gripped in slightly trembling hands, unable to swing at the cat for fear of hitting Miacch.  Abaven joined in, barking madly at the feline which hissed and jumped from Miacch's shoulder to stand at the feet of the trapped woman.  The fur that was visible around the curious leather 'coat' the cat wore was bristling as it hissed again, and it gave every appearance of being ready to defend the woman.

Miacch placed a hand to his neck and murmured a word, the gashes healing instantly, and grumbled as he wiped the bloody hand on his trousers.  "Fine, then."  He bobbed his head to the cat and made a gesture, releasing the stranger from her magical bonds.  She stumbled slightly as she was suddenly able to move again, and said something to the cat in a strange, almost musical language before turning a dark-eyed glare on Miacch.

"Why did you do that?  I was doing no harm."  The cat settled a little, sitting at her feet with its torn half-tail wrapped around its back paws, and its yellow eyes looked at Miacch expectantly as though it too awaited an explanation.  Abaven growled at it, and it haughtily turned its head away from the construct.  

Miacch ran a hand through his hair and sighed.  "Well now... it's getting dark.  It's a little hard to tell whether people lurking in the bushes are friend or foe."

The woman glared at the construct before giving Miacch a suspicious look.  "You were quick enough to kill the orcs.  Both of you."  She looked from Miacch to Khesh and back again.  "I am surprised that you did not just kill me too, rather than holding me like that."  Her soft voice seemed at odds with her words, carrying no hint of reproach, and Miacch was at a loss to know whether she was angry merely for the spell, for their dispatch of the orcs, or both.  He shrugged.

"They'd have killed us given the chance, young lady.  I apologise for the holding spell, but I would very much like to know what you were doing spying on us."  He recognised the woman's accent as Brelish and wondered what she was doing in Xen'drik - although the same could be said for so many others.  The continent drew people from around the world to explore its mysteries... and seek its treasures.

"Spying?  I am not a spy.  I was just keeping a watch on the area in case the serving woman returned while there were still orcs around."

"Pearl?"  Khesh moved forward, holding out a placating hand towards the cat as she did so.  "You bore witness to what occurred here?"

"Is that her name?  She hid under the luggage when the ambush was sprung.  The orcs took away everyone else, and then she crawled out and ran towards the city.  I do not know where she went, or if she would come back."

"If you saw it, why didn't you help?" asked Quionna indignantly, the bastard sword still quivering in her hands.  Miacch reached out and gently clasped his hand around hers, lowering the weapon.

"Put that away before you hurt someone with it, Quin."  He turned back to the stranger, interested in her reply, but watched out of the corner of his eye to be sure Quionna sheathed her sword.

The dark-haired woman lifted a shoulder in a slight shrug.  "I am one person, there were many orcs.  And I do not believe they intended to kill the travellers; they used only enough force to subdue them.  Some claim they eat people, but their usual method is to take prisoners for ransom."

"Did you see where they took them?"  Quionna looked up the road as if trying to see the trail in the dark.

"I did not follow, but they will have been taken to the Grul fort to the east.  Where they always take their prisoners."

"Well, what are we waiting for?"  Quionna looked at Miacch expectantly, and he shook his head.

"It's dark... I'm not sure this is the right time to launch a rescue.  How certain are you that the orcs will keep their prisoners safe?" he asked the stranger.

"I am sure they will be kept alive for at least two days.  They may not be comfortable or well-fed, but they will be alive.  After that..."  She shrugged.  "It will depend on Captain Gravnok's mood, assuming he still leads the tribe."  She hesitated for a moment, then indicated a circle of rocks up the hill.  "There is a small camp up there, they cleared out recently and moved on to another spot.  But there is a dry cave and a good fire pit.  You may sleep there overnight if you wish, and continue at first light."

Miacch looked at Khesh, who had been studying the young woman with her intense blue gaze.  She nodded.  "I do not believe that it will cause us undue difficulties to rest for the night.  Naturally I would prefer to effect a rescue with all haste, but as I unfortunately do not possess the ability to see in the dark," she twitched her lips in a smile as she inclined her head towards Miacch, and he realised she must have heard his earlier remark, "then we will no doubt be at a disadvantage should we choose to press an attack at night.  It would be well to wait until we are rested and have good visibility, if the captives are in no immediate danger."

Miacch nodded.  "I'll take that as a yes, then.  Milady, we will gladly accept your offer of hospitality.  Please, lead on."

4. Cave

The softly-spoken young woman identified herself as Mirae and her feline protector as Denni.  Introductions were made all round whilst Mirae served a rabbit stew that had been simmering over the fire pit, and the little group sat in companionable silence while they ate.

After the meal, Quionna began dismantling and cleaning parts of her construct companion whilst Miacch removed his breastplate and stretched out as comfortably as he could near the fire, his head resting on his backpack.  Khesh sat up straight with her back against the cave wall, in a state which Miacch had taken to thinking of as 'relaxed alertness'.  He looked over at Mirae, who sat on the other side of the fire with her cat curled up at her feet, watching Quionna with what seemed to be a mixture of curiosity and distaste.

"Well now, what brings a young lady out camping in the hills, Mirae?  Are you out here alone?"

She turned to watch him across the fire.  "I am not alone," she replied, reaching out to scratch the cat's ears.  "I have Denni."

"Fair enough."  A smile lightened his face for a moment.  "Then what are the two of you doing out here?"

Her serious eyes regarded him steadily.  "Living.  The whispers brought me here, and here I stay until they tell me otherwise."

"Whispers?"  He wondered if perhaps she was crazy, and began to reconsider the wisdom of spending the night in a cave with her.

She nodded.  "The whispers of the wild.  I would not expect you to understand."

"Why not?"

"You are quick to kill," she shrugged.  "You do not seem to have an appreciation for the nature around you.  I do not think my kind of life is something you would understand."

"Try me," he suggested, "you might be surprised."  

She shook her head.  "Perhaps, sometime.  But not now.  Now, you should consider your plan for tomorrow."

"Ah, yes.  Rescuing her ladyship."  He glanced around at the other women.  Khesh nodded in agreement, whilst Quionna continued to clean Abaven with an air of concentration that was so affected Miacch had no doubt she was listening closely.  "Will you lead us to this fort?"

"Lead you?"  Mirae seemed surprised.  "Why should I do that?"

"Perhaps because we'll get there quicker with a guide, and maybe rescue the captives with less destruction of the nature around us?  Do you think the orcs should be allowed to do as they wish with the people they ambush?"

She shrugged again.  "They do not bother me, and I do not bother them.  There are enough who come here to hunt them as it is.  There is an elf who seems to have made it his mission in life to destroy them, for example - I do not know what they have done to earn his hatred, but he has been here for many decades waging a personal war against them, it would seem."

"Oh?"  Miacch propped himself on an elbow, interested.  "Do you know where he is?  Would he help us?"

"I do not know.  He seems to have taken to living in the city, for some reason... I think it probably has to do with the human girl who now hunts with him sometimes.  I have seen him less over the past year or two, and she is often with him these days."  Her nose wrinkled slightly, apparently in displeasure.  "She does not seem to like the world outside the city gates, so I am not sure what he finds so interesting about her."

Miacch gave a low chuckle.  "Jealous, milady?"

"Of course not."  Her hand went to her throat, fingers absently stroking the wooden beads of a necklace she wore.  "I have no interest in him, although I have no doubt he is aware of my presence.  He is an elf, after all; they are known for their perception and I do not think he would miss the signs of another person living in his territory.  I think he does not see me as a threat, and leaves me alone to do as I please.  He cares for the land as I do, he is just more... violent about it."

"Huh."  Miacch was silent for a moment.  "You didn't really answer my question - will you lead us to the fort?"

Mirae seemed to consider the request, stroking Denni's fur as she gazed into the fire.  Eventually she raised her eyes again to meet Miacch's.  "Very well.  I will show you the way, but I will not kill for you.  I will try not to judge you if you do... that is your choice, and your peace to make with your gods."

Miacch burst into laughter so unexpected that it startled both Mirae and the cat, who leapt onto her shoulder and hissed at the man.  

Quionna stared at him in surprise.  "What's so funny?"

Miacch shook his head, still chuckling, and settled his head down on his backpack once more.  "Oh Quin... you have no idea.  No idea..."

"Tell me!"

"Not today, sweetheart.  That's a story that'll have to wait for another time.  Now put Abaven back together and get some sleep, why don't you?  We'll set out at sunrise.  Khesh, would you take first watch?"  He did not need to tell the woman that he also wanted her to keep a wary eye on Mirae - she would know.

Khesh nodded at Miacch.  "Of course."  She returned the pleading look Quionna was giving her with a gentle smile.  "Mistress Quionna, it would be well for you to forget about old stories for the time being and do as Master Miacch suggests, and reassemble your construct so that it may be of assistance in keeping watch."

Quionna huffed and stuck her tongue out at Khesh, who ignored the gesture.  With a sigh and a glare in Miacch's direction, she returned to the task of attaching the last few plates to Abaven.  Miacch gave Khesh a grateful look and settled down to sleep without another word.

Mirae sat a moment longer with a confused expression, then curled up with Denni by her side.  Abaven sat close to Quionna and kept watch on the cave entrance, and soon Khesh was the only living thing awake.

5. Thoughts

Miacch's turn at watch was as uneventful as Khesh's, and he was glad of the reprieve from dreams filled with the smell of death and fire that Mirae's innocent remark had brought about.  He awoke the rest of the little group as dawn began to lighten the world outside.  Mirae shared some bread and cheese with them, and by the time they were ready to set out the sun had risen fully.  Miacch gestured for Mirae to lead the way, and they set out along the road they had been following when they found the wrecked caravan.

The road forked not far ahead, and Mirae led them along the left branch and into the forest.  Miacch was sure that Quionna would have had questions about the ruined temple they could glimpse off to the right, had the girl been more awake, but it was obvious that it was currently taking all her concentration to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Abaven walked beside her, gears whirring gently, and nudged her back onto the path every time her steps wobbled too far.  Miacch shook his head with a smile, resisting the urge to comment, and followed the other women as Mirae confidently led the way with Denni on her shoulder.  He glanced at the road occasionally, wondering at the fact that she seemed to leave no footprints.  Host knew he was no tracker but even Khesh, light on her feet as she was, left traces of her passing.  

He shrugged.  It was just one more curious thing about her, and she was but one more curious person in a continent filled with them.  How did I end up on a rescue mission with a bunch of women? he pondered gloomily.  He could wish for more martial backup, but the ladies would have to do.  Well, Khesh and Quionna, at least, if Mirae refused to fight.  All right, he conceded to himself with a mental sigh - Khesh.  The kalashtar might prefer to negotiate, but he knew how swift and deadly she could be when needed.  Quionna meant well, and was a fair shot with that thing she called a rune arm, but she was still a child and he fully expected her to break and run at the first real fight they encountered.  Although she had come running, sword drawn, when she thought he was in danger last night...

He considered this.  Since he'd taken her under his wing she'd come to regard him as a father figure, he knew that.  He still wasn't entirely sure how he'd ended up with a 'daughter', only that he couldn't have left her where he'd found her.  She'd really been a little too old for the orphanage, and he'd tried to palm her off in any number of other places - the Cannith Enclave, the Temple of the Sovereign Host, various families in good standing that he knew of - but she'd stuck to him like a Flamer on a were-hunt and he eventually gave in, agreeing to be responsible for her well-being.  Only once her Mark of Making had manifested had House Cannith fallen over themselves to find her a place as an apprentice, and she now spent most of her time happily surrounded by bits of machinery and things that were beyond his comprehension.  He smiled at the memory of her with grease marks on her face almost every time he visited.

"What is it?"  She had moved up beside him without his realising it, looking more awake and alert now.  He looked down at her and grinned wider, reaching out to gently tug at one of her braids.

"Just thinking how much trouble you are, Quin."

She grinned back, pale eyes bright in a face the colour of milk chocolate.  "I try!"

"You're very trying, yes."  He patted her shoulder fondly and wondered, not for the first time since she came into his life almost two years ago, if there was a daughter in his past somewhere.  He had a nagging feeling that there might be, but they had not left him any memories of family and friends... perhaps to keep him from going insane, he mused.  It was hard enough being displaced in time, without the knowledge of who had been left behind.  His attention wandered further as he found himself appreciating the sight of Khesh swaying gracefully ahead of him, and he was suddenly aware that he couldn't recall the last time he'd been with a woman.  Not that she would have him, he knew, even though he was one of the very few she trusted.  Even with him she never let her guard down completely, and it was a wonder to him that she trusted him enough to keep watch over her while she slept.

Perhaps, he pondered, it was time he looked for someone to act as a mother to Quionna.  He did not think he was an appropriate role model for the girl, and did not really want her growing up to emulate his particular brand of divine retribution.  He still found, despite his... 'mission', he supposed... that the urge to heal was weaker in him than the urge to dispense justice by whatever means worked quickest.  Although he had grown into his unaccustomed powers, and slowly mastered them to the point where he could often kill with a mere word, he still took comfort in the presence of a sword at his hip.  He missed his old strength, even as he despised the amount of death it had enabled, but they had gifted him instead with the strength and ability to protect.  And protect he would, he swore silently as he glanced down at the girl by his side again.

She was looking up at him with an amused smile.  "You're thinking about her again, aren't you?" she asked softly.  He frowned, and she continued.  "Why don't you just ask her?  I'm pretty sure she likes you."

He shook his head.  "She wouldn't.  And don't you have some new contraption you should be thinking about building, young lady?"

She chuckled and reached for his hand, and they followed the others in silence until Mirae halted them at the edge of a ravine, pointing at the stone bridge ahead of them.

"The first of their guards," she said.

6. River

The group huddled in the concealment offered by the trees and undergrowth that clung to the top of the ravine, and Miacch and Khesh studied the road ahead.  At least one orc patrolled the bridge, and Miacch could not be sure if there was movement on the other side of it.  It looked as though the road continued into the trees on the other side but he wasn't certain.  He looked sideways at Khesh.

"Well now, how do you want to deal with this?"

The tall woman studied the orc for a moment longer, and turned to him.  "It is very likely there will be several enemies defending the road ahead.  We have the choice of disposing of them, or attempting to pass by them without attracting attention."  She glanced down at Abaven, then at Mirae.  "I am sure that Madame Mirae would prefer we choose the latter option, but I believe that Mistress Quionna's construct will present some difficulties with passing by undetected."  She paused a moment as if in thought and continued.  "I could attempt some form of distraction, but I do not have reason to believe that these orcs would willingly accept my presence in their minds and I dislike working with psionic abilities when the recipient is resistant to my attempts."

Mirae was staring at Khesh.  "You mess with people's minds?"

Khesh inclined her head towards the young woman, her ever-present smile not changing.  "Madame Mirae, I assure you that I do not invade people's thoughts or alter their habits as a matter of course.  In the majority of cases I make use of my abilities only when requested or given permission."

"The majority?"  Mirae looked suspicious.  "What about the others?"

"I was merely attempting to be honest and thorough in my explanation, not to arouse suspicion.  The other cases would be situations such as people who are extremely agitated, whereupon I apply my skills with emotions to assist them in calming themselves.  I am not a 'mind reader', as people like to call it - I cannot hear individual thoughts, I am more attuned to emotions.  It is rare that I use my abilities for harm, although the possibility exists."  Khesh did not show any sign of discomfort at this admission; it appeared that she considered it just another skill, such as cooking or leatherwork.  Mirae gaped at her.

"You can harm people... using your mind?"

"Madame Mirae, please.  I assure you that I have not used such abilities on yourself or any of our companions here.  However, if you are feeling unnecessarily agitated then I am able to restore your equilibrium if you wish and will allow.  I shall not act upon your emotions without your permission unless you appear to pose a threat to the safety and well-being of this group as a whole."

"I... what?  A threat?  Me?"  Mirae looked incredulous.  "I... have never heard anything so ridiculous.  My oath is to protect, not to harm."

"Indeed.  Nevertheless, your agitation and your discomfort in my presence may be detrimental to our chances of success in this mission.  We are here to return the captives to their proper place, not to make you feel comfortable.  It distresses me to feel that I am the cause of your distrust, but I will not allow you to prevent us from completing our task.  If it is important to you, we will attempt to achieve this with the minimum of casualties but I cannot guarantee that there will be no death.  Do you understand?"  Khesh met Mirae's dark eyes steadily, and the other was the first to look away.

"I understand.  I do not know what you are, but I will have to trust you for now.  As I said earlier, if you want to kill that is up to you - I will not stop you, but I will not help and I would prefer that you not do it.  I do have to share the Hills with this tribe, after all."  Denni grumbled on her shoulder, and Mirae reached up to scratch his ears.  "Denni will not get in your way either, and is quite capable of moving silently on his own if we are to try and sneak past the scouts."  She nodded towards the other side of the bridge.  "Unless they have changed things, the road ahead will be blocked with a wooden barricade so as to force travellers down the path towards the river.  There will be more guards on the second bridge and near the river."  She pointed over to her left, where the others could see down into the river valley.  "There are many tiny islands down there, and the water is shallow.  I have not explored thoroughly since the tribe moved in, they do not take kindly to visitors whether I intend them harm or not.  But I think they will have more scouts on the islands.  Their fort is somewhere downstream, I have not seen it myself."

Miacch remained silent throughout this exchange, whilst Quionna fidgeted uncomfortably.  When it seemed as though the ladies had finished, he stepped forward.  "Now that we've got that out of the way, can we move on?  Mirae, what are our chances of getting past the scouts unnoticed?"

Mirae sniffed and nodded her head towards Khesh.  "She was right, the mechanical dog will make it harder to sneak past.  Is there any way to keep it quiet?"  She looked at Quionna.

"Abaven's not an it, he's a he!" complained the girl.  "And I don't think so... I've been trying to work on things to make him sneaky, but it's really hard to make the gears work silently.  He can be pretty quiet but, y'know, not really silent."

Khesh was looking down at the river again.  "If only there were some method of situating a temporal displacement unit further downstream... we could deploy the resonator coupling here and easily continue our journey without attracting attention."

"A... temporary what?" Mirae asked faintly, whilst Quionna's face brightened.

"That sounds really exciting, Khesh!  What is it?"

"Regrettably, we do not have access to one, Mistress Quionna, or it would certainly have the potential to ease our travels considerably."

Mirae frowned.  "Why mention it if you do not have one, whatever it is?  Is she always like this?" she asked Miacch.  He grinned.

"Sometimes.  Let's just say her mind doesn't work the same way as ours."

Mirae shook her head.  "Talking about things we do not have is not helpful.  If you are to rescue the captives we must get down there somehow.  I will go first, and you may follow as quietly as you can.  If you are spotted, you will just have to deal with it as you see fit."

"Very well.  Wait," he added, as Mirae went to move away.  "Let me give us all what protection I can, at least."  Mirae nodded acceptance, and he cast several spells over the little group before motioning for her to continue.

Denni jumped down from Mirae's shoulder and strolled nonchalantly across the bridge whilst the others waited in the shadow of the trees.  As soon as the orc sentry turned to watch the cat pass, Mirae camouflaged everyone with a spell and then stepped out and sprinted silently towards the orc.  Miacch strained his ears but could not hear the slightest sound as she ran.  

Quionna was obviously doing the same.  "I gotta get some boots like that!" the girl announced as she watched Mirae halt just behind the orc in a tense posture.  Denni wandered off the other end of the bridge and the orc turned back to face towards the group, Mirae carefully stepping in time with him so that she remained out of his sight behind him.  Quionna stifled a giggle as Mirae ran for the end of the bridge to join her cat.  "I can't believe he didn't see her!  How dumb can orcs get?"

"Mistress Quionna, he does not appear to have noticed or heard us in all the time we have been standing here in discussion.  I am of the opinion that orcs may have quite limited sensory perception, however there is no doubt that Madame Mirae is also highly skilled at moving silently.  I do not believe we will experience the same degree of success, although there is no reason not to attempt a similar strategy."

"Uh... yeah.  Who's next?  Shall I send Abaven over and try the same trick?"

"Quin..." Miacch sighed.  Sometimes it seemed she really did think the thing was truly alive.  "Denni doesn't stand out, he's a forest animal.  Abaven... well, let's just say he doesn't look natural.  I don't think even an orc is going to fall for that one."

"Let me try anyway..."  Quionna halted her forward motion as Miacch's hand descended firmly on her shoulder.

"Not until I say so.  Khesh will go next, that way you'll have one of us on each side when you try to cross."

"You don't think I can make it, do you?" she grumbled.

"Quite frankly, Mistress Quionna, I do not,"  Khesh put in.  "But Master Miacch's plan is sound.  We shall both be on our guard when you cross and you will be well protected from both sides.  You shall not come to harm."

"Huh.  Yeah, well, thanks I suppose.  Off you go then, we've got people to rescue."

Khesh smiled and turned away, scooping up a small rock and stepping out of the trees.  She tossed the rock in a high arc past the sentry, and waited until he turned towards the sound of it landing before she ran towards him in the same manner as Mirae.  He began to turn back just as she reached him, and she swiftly delivered a precise blow to the back of his head that dropped him before he could raise the alarm.  She motioned to the others to join her and hurried across the remainder of the span.

Miacch, Quionna and Abaven ran across as quietly as they could, Miacch raising an eyebrow at Khesh as he reached her.

"Change of plan," she murmured, and he smiled slightly.

"Did you kill him?  I didn't stop to check."

"It should not have.  My intent was merely to render him unconscious for a time.  If we are not detained, we should be downriver and out of range of his eyesight before he wakes."

Miacch nodded and looked over her shoulder at Mirae, who was returning from scouting down the slope to their right.

"There are no sentries visible on the second bridge," she reported, "but I saw movement in the large bushes on the other side.  I believe there are at least two orcs hiding in them."

Miacch looked at Quionna, pointing at the device attached to her arm.  "Does that thing have a 'stun' setting?"

She giggled and shook her head.  "Not really, but I can just not let a full charge build up so it won't do as much damage."

"Fair enough.  Stay back at the start of the bridge, and use it only if you have to.  Don't cross until it's safe."

The girl grumbled under her breath, but nodded.  The small group made their way down the slope to the next bridge, and Miacch and Khesh stepped out confidently with Mirae a short distance behind.  They had almost reached the other side when an orc stepped out to confront them, swinging his sword at them with a yell.  

Miacch hastily cast a holding spell at him, which failed.  He quickly cast a different spell, blinding light bursting around the orc and disorienting him.  A second orc stumbled out from the foliage, blinking his eyes as though blinded, and Mirae stuck out her staff to trip him before he could injure anyone with the weapon he was waving about wildly.  Khesh delivered another of her knockout blows to his head whilst Miacch stepped forward to deal with the first one.  He was just reaching out to grab the orc for Khesh to disable, when the blinded creature staggered too close to the edge of the bridge.  There was a startled cry and a wet-sounding thud, and Miacch turned to the ladies with a look of apology.

Mirae frowned.  "If there are others nearby, they will have heard.  Prepare yourselves for attack."

"Blade barrier?" Khesh asked.  Miacch shook his head.

"They'll die for sure."

"Then what?"

The sound of pounding feet reached their ears, and Mirae stepped forward.  "I can slow them down."  She pointed at a patch of ground halfway down the next slope, wincing as the oncoming orcs spotted her and howled angrily.  A large patch of spiky plants appeared on the slope at her command, quickly followed by an emergence of tangling vines a little closer to her.  She moved back swiftly and nodded to the others as cries of anger were replaced by those of pain.

"Thank you," Miacch said, and hurried forward with Khesh.  A pair of orcs had managed to escape both of Mirae's traps, and rushed at the intruders.  Miacch sidestepped an axe and tripped one orc, whilst Khesh swiftly dealt with the other.  He looked at the kalashtar and smiled slightly.  "If I try to knock him out I'll probably hit him too hard..."

Khesh smiled back, and indicated a spot on the the prone orc's head.  "Just here," she said, demonstrating, and looked down the slope to see how many more there were.  Two others struggled to escape the vines that wrapped around their legs, and she started towards them.  A flash of energy sizzled past her and struck one of the entangled orcs, sending him flying backwards.  Unfazed, Khesh turned to look back up the slope.

"Mistress Quionna, I do not believe that was strictly necessary."

A light brown face tinged with pink appeared at the edge of the bridge.  "Sorry... I was trying to help."

"Please desist.  I would prefer to see more evidence of your marksmanship before you 'help' in such close proximity."

Quionna blushed brighter.  "Y-yes ma'am... sorry...  Um, he's free now..."

Khesh turned back to face the orc that was charging her, deftly sidestepping and chopping at the back of his neck as he stumbled past.  She continued down the slope, pausing a moment until the druid's conjured plants vanished, and checked on the orc Quionna had hit.  She looked up as the rest of the group joined her.  "Mistress Quionna, if that is a reduced charge then I would suggest you do not employ it again in an attempt to disable or stun."


"He is quite dead."

"Oh.  Um..."  The girl turned to look at Mirae, shamefaced.  "I'm really sorry.  I didn't mean to."

Mirae looked upon the dead orc for a long moment, and shrugged slightly.  "Your intentions make no difference to him now.  Perhaps this is the peril of using such unnatural weapons... a skilled archer or swordsman could have disabled without killing."

Quionna bit her lip, choking back a response, and turned away to hide her face in Miacch's shoulder for a moment.  He patted her back reassuringly.

"Let's not stand around all day.  What's done is done, and we should move on."  He stepped forward, pulling Quionna with him, and the others followed him down to the river.

The water was indeed as shallow as Mirae had indicated, and they spent several minutes wading between islands without incident.  All of them kept a sharp watch on the many groups of huge plants they passed, but none seemed to be hiding another ambush.

Khesh was the first to spot the group of orcs on one of the islands ahead of them, gathered around one who looked stronger and better armed than the rest.  She held up a hand to halt the party and pointed them out, looking at Mirae.

The druid squinted ahead, shading her eyes, and nodded.  "One of their captains," she noted.  "I cannot recognise him from here, but I do not believe it is their leader."

"How many?" Miacch asked.

"At least six," Mirae responded.  "There may be more of them hiding or scouting, but it looks like these may be gathered around their spoils and sharing them out.  They could be distracted enough for you to disable them easily."  She did not sound confident, and Miacch looked at her sharply.  She shrugged.  "It is possible you may have to kill one or two."

He raised an eyebrow.  "Well, I'll try not to..."  He led the group to another island close to the riverbank and placed a firm hand on Quionna's shoulder.  "Stay here."  His tone did not allow for argument, and the girl did not even try.  "Stay safe.  We'll come back for you in a few minutes.  Abaven, guard her."  The construct wagged his tail and gave a soft bark, and Miacch patted his head before turning to Mirae.  "Can you do that thing with the plants again?  Get them tangled up?"

She nodded.  "I will do that much for you, yes."

"Thank you."  He nodded to Khesh, cast a handful of protective spells, and the three moved out towards the group of orcs.  When they were close enough, Mirae cast her 'entangle' spells at the island and moved back out of arrow range just before all hell broke loose.

Chaos reigned for several moments, but when the last orc fell Miacch remained untouched.  His eyes sought out Khesh, and he nodded in relief to see that she also appeared unharmed.  He moved back to where they had left Quionna, and frowned.  The girl was nowhere in sight.

"Quin!  Abaven!"  Wild barking began from a point west of where he had left her, and Miacch hurried towards the sound.  The construct stood over what looked from a distance like the mangled body of an orc, wagging his tail as though extremely pleased with himself.  Miacch looked around for Quionna as he closed the distance, and spotted Mirae's dark head bent over something on the ground.  Dappled sunlight glinted off silver hair.  "Oh no..."  Miacch broke into a run.  "QUIN!"

Mirae looked up as he reached her, her brown eyes sorrowful.  "The construct defended her well," she began, something like respect in her tone as she nodded at the dead orc, "but I could not save her."  She glanced down at the bloodied figure on the ground, and back at Miacch looming over her.  "I am sorry... she is gone."

"No..."  Miacch felt the tingle of divine power in response to his emotions, as he knelt beside Quionna's body and gathered her into his arms.  "No."

Mirae reached out to touch his shoulder gently.  "Death is a natural part of life, Miacch.  All things end, in time."

"Not if I say they don't," the man growled roughly, taking a pinch of something glittering from a pouch at his belt and sprinkling it over Quionna.  He laid a hand on her forehead and drew power around them like a cloak, focusing on her face as he concentrated on calling out to her soul.  Khesh quietly joined the little group and knelt close to Miacch, her presence a silent comfort to him even though he barely acknowledged her arrival.  Abaven barked once more and sat down nearby, watching his mistress closely, and Denni climbed onto Mirae's lap to snuggle against her.  The air was thick with anticipation as Miacch bent over the girl in his arms and whispered to her.

"Come on, Quin.  Come back to me.  Choose life..."

There was a long moment of breathless silence before Quionna stirred, taking a shuddering breath and turning to bury her face in Miacch's arm.  The strain on his face turned to relief, and he closed his eyes to offer a silent prayer of gratitude as he held her tightly and let her cry.  Abaven barked excitedly.

"So dark," Quionna gulped between sobs.  "It was so dark, and cold, and I was so scared..."

"You're safe now."  Miacch rocked her gently, comfortingly.

She nodded against his chest, swallowing more sobs.  "I heard you in the dark, calling me."

He kissed her hair and smiled.  "I'll always come for you, Quin.  Always."  She nodded again and reached up shakily to wrap her arms around his neck, wincing as her injuries made their presence known.

Mirae put Denni off her lap and reached out towards the girl to help mend her obvious wounds, but Khesh closed her hand over the druid's wrist and shook her head.  "Let him do it," she murmured, and Mirae nodded and sat back.

Miacch held Quionna for a moment longer, then spoke the words of another spell and let a wave of healing energy wash over her, mending the injuries and easing the resurrection sickness.  He disengaged her from his neck and checked her over, ensuring he had missed nothing.  "Well now.  How do you feel?"

She nodded.  "Better.  I think I'm okay."  She made no move to get up, however, so Miacch scooped her up and stood, setting her carefully on her feet and keeping an arm around her until she was steady enough to stand unsupported.

The other women rose as well, and Miacch met Khesh's eyes over Quionna's head as the girl knelt to hug her dog.  He nodded a silent thank you for her mental support, having felt her bolstering his concentration as he called for Quionna.  She nodded back.  "It is the first time I have seen you call a spirit back from death," she commented, "although I was aware that it is possible."

He gave her a tight smile.  "Haven't done it often.  I prefer to try and keep people alive."

"Of course."  She inclined her head in recognition of the dent his pride had taken, and smiled warmly at him.  He felt his spirits lift in response, and stood a little straighter.  "You could have chosen to stand with Mistress Quionna, rather than remain at my side," Khesh continued.  He shook his head and stepped around the girl to stand beside the kalashtar.

"It was my assessment that she was safe back there with Abaven.  Obviously I was wrong, but..."  He sighed.  "I want to protect you both.  Sometimes that's hard."

Khesh placed a hand on his arm and favoured him with a stunning smile that risked turning his knees to water.  "I do not require your protection, Miacch," she said, very gently.  "I am quite capable of keeping myself safe.  Although I do appreciate the sentiment.  Very much."

"Yes, well, I--  You do?  Oh.  Um."  He looked away from her, flustered by her use of his name without the customary title that she seemed to give everyone.  "We, uh, we should probably get moving.  You know.  People to save and all that."  He coughed and reached down to pick up his staff.  He saw Quionna, arms still wrapped around Abaven, grinning up at him.  She mouthed the words 'told you so', and he felt his cheeks burn.

"Let's go," he ordered abruptly, striding away before anyone else could see.

7. Fort

Miacch led his little band of would-be rescuers downstream without another word, marching ahead of everyone until he regained his composure.  What was Khesh thinking, smiling at him like that?  Didn't she realise the effect she had on him?  She could sense emotions, surely she must know.  What did it mean - if anything?  Perhaps it was just an automatic response on her part, he thought gloomily, a way to disarm him and take the sting out of her words.  She didn't need him.  His purpose was to protect, and she did not want protection.

He pursed his lips thoughtfully.  He remembered seeing her injured more than once, and she had accepted his healing without protest then.  Perhaps, then, it was a sense of independence beyond her control, a consequence of her nature, that she could not afford reliance on another person.  He had no idea if kalashtar relied on one another - she was the only one he had ever met, as far as he knew, and he wasn't about to ask her a lot of questions.  He did not even know if a person with twin souls could be called back from death, and that worried him.  He shook his head and pushed the matter to the back of his mind.  They had a job to do, and personal matters would simply have to wait.

There had been no other orcs to ambush them but now he clearly saw two making no attempt to hide, guarding a gate across the narrowest part of the stream up ahead.  He raised a hand to halt the group.

"Well now, this must be the entrance to their fort.  We don't know how many are in there, it could get nasty.  Quin, I want you to stay a good distance behind us with Abaven.  Mirae, stay with them."

"But Miacch..."  Quionna began to protest, as he knew she would.  In truth he would prefer to have her at his side within easy reach of his healing spells - or not there at all, but safe in her workshop.  But to be with him could be more dangerous, and he would not risk her life again.  Losing her once had cut him too deeply.

"Quin, it's a very important job to be the rear guard.  I need someone as emergency backup, to keep an eye out behind us and make sure no one sneaks up on us.  Do you think you can do that?"

"Oh!  Well..."  The girl drew herself up proudly, and he could tell her thoughts as though she spoke them aloud.  Not hiding, but guarding.  That was different, and important.  "Of course!  I won't let you down."

"I know you won't."  He kissed her forehead fondly and tugged at one of her silver braids.  "Stay close to Mirae, okay?  And try to keep Abaven quiet."

"Okay."  She saluted and grinned up at him, and he shook his head in amusement.

"Both of you stay safe.  Don't be reckless... we need you alive.  Mirae, that's your job."

"Sir."  To his surprise, Mirae snapped to attention and saluted as smartly as he had ever seen in the army.  He frowned.  Why would a druid have military training?  As quickly as the change in her attitude had appeared Mirae was back to her usual demeanour, and Miacch couldn't help but wonder if he'd imagined it.  But Quionna was staring at the woman in surprise...  He shook his head again.  Perhaps Mirae had soldiers in her family and had learned from them.  He had more important things to concern him, and he turned back to the river gate.

"It's too open - no way to sneak up and surprise them."

"I possess an item that may be of assistance," Khesh said, reaching into her backpack and drawing out a slender stick of wood.  "This wand casts a Sleep spell that should be effective from some distance, although I am uncertain of the duration of this effect."

"Worth a try," Miacch mused, "but what if it doesn't work?"

Mirae pulled a bow from her back, quickly stringing it and tucking two flint-tipped arrows into her belt.  "I am a good shot.  I can disable them so they cannot run to raise the alarm, but it will not silence them."

"That will have to do... let's hope the wand is effective.  Move out."

The group quickly crept as close as they dared to the gate, keeping to the more overgrown areas.  When Miacch judged that they could not advance without being seen, Mirae camouflaged Khesh and the kalashtar moved ahead alone.  When she was in position, Khesh raised the wand and nodded to Mirae.  The druid loosened one of her arrows in her belt, nocking the other and sighting carefully at an orc.  Miacch took a deep breath and nodded to Khesh, who released a charge from the wand as Mirae drew the bowstring taut against her cheek.

Both orcs crumpled to the ground and the group heaved a collective sigh of relief.  They hurried to the gate and Khesh threw the curious lever made of a skull and bones, lowering the gate.  Everyone stepped through, looking around for more sentries, and she closed the gate again.

"With luck, they will not have the wits to realise that anyone passed through."

"Let's hope," agreed Miacch, leading them on into the compound.

Not far ahead of them, around a bend in the stream, the group could see two small hilly islands that had been transformed into a fortress, connected by a bridge between them.  Fences constructed of stone pillars and wooden poles surrounded the islands top and bottom, leaving no way through except for another gate below the bridge that was also guarded by sentries.  More orcs could be seen moving around up on the hills, but none appeared to be watching the water.

Employing the same tactics as at the first gate, the two sentries were quickly put to sleep.  Khesh bound and gagged this pair and the group passed through the gate unheard.  Miacch halted them under the bridge and they conversed in whispers.

"It's hard to tell how many are up there, but we're not going to be able to hit them all at once with the wand."  He looked at Mirae.  "There may be killing, or at least wounding."

The druid stared into the water for a long moment.  "Do what you must to rescue the captives, but I will remain here with Quin."  As the girl opened her mouth to protest, Mirae continued.  "We will be the rearguard, and if I see any following you I will delay them."

"Rearguard," murmured Quionna, nodding in agreement as she remembered her assigned task.

Miacch nodded back.  "Good girl."  He pulled her into a fierce hug, and she clung to him for a long moment.

"Be careful," she whispered, and he grinned down at her.

"Always.  You too.  No heroics," he added, letting her go and ruffling her hair.

Mirae refreshed the camouflage spell on Khesh and applied the same to Miacch, and the pair stepped out from under the bridge to search for the captives.

8. Rescue

Khesh pulled her head back from the rocky corner of the island and looked back at Miacch, holding up three fingers.  She gestured to the wand at her belt, and he nodded.  The kalashtar stepped around the corner silently, wand in hand, and there was a gentle splash as three bodies hit the shoreline.  She stepped back quickly and pressed herself against the rock, both she and Miacch straining to hear any sound from the compound above.  When the splash seemed to go unnoticed, Miacch nodded again and they moved forward.

Around the other side of the larger island was yet another gate, this one opening onto a slope up onto the top of the island - and unguarded at its base.  Khesh pointed to two orcs near what looked like a rough cage at the top of the slope, and guttural voices drifted down to them.  Khesh listened a moment and turned to Miacch.  "They say they are giving the captives potions to ensure they remain asleep and do not cause trouble.  We will need to wake them if we are to get them out with any speed."

Miacch frowned.  "At least they're still alive.  But the moment we open this gate, the orcs will hear us.'

Khesh glanced back at the sleeping figures behind them.  "I do not think we have much choice.  Since neither of us is capable of flight, I do not see any other method of effecting ingress."  She readied the wand again, and nodded for Miacch to open the gate.  It clattered out of sight into the ground, and a surprised shout came from above them as the orcs realised it had not been opened by one of their own.  Khesh discharged her wand at the onrushing orcs, dropping one of them, and Miacch sidestepped the other and tripped him.  The orc rolled down the hill to Khesh's feet and was swiftly rendered unconscious.  The kalashtar looked up as more shouts sounded.  "Behind you," she observed unnecessarily.

Miacch ran up the hill, casting a spell that exploded with light as he reached the top, hardly bothering to aim at the orcs rushing out of a large tent on the hilltop.  It was an easy matter to trip one blinded orc with his staff, and to jam the end of it into another disoriented creature's belly.  The orc sat down with a grunt of pain, and Khesh took care of both whilst Miacch struck a third across the back of the head.  He looked across the bridge to the smaller island, and back at Khesh.

"The noise roused the rest of them.  Find the captives and get them out, I'll keep the orcs busy."  Without waiting for an answer, he strode towards the gate that separated the islands, flipping the lever on a nearby cell as he did so.  Orcs ran towards the gate from the other side, and he readied his magic and waited.

Behind him, Khesh's voice urged people to wake up and move.  He heard an outraged roar from beyond the gate, and watched as an orc larger and better armoured than the rest ran towards the bridge, pointing towards the escaping captives and shouting what sounded, from the tone of his voice, to be curses and threats.  "Khesh, run!  Take them and run!" Miacch yelled, releasing a burst of light at the orcs scrambling through the gate towards him.  He was taken aback to see a woman in fine robes run across the bridge in front of him, casting spells of her own.

"You would dare to hold me for ransom?!" she screamed at the commander, fury as evident in her tone as in the destructive spells she aimed at him and his cohorts.  Before Miacch could stop her, three of the four lay dead or dying at her feet and she was trying to dodge blows from the orc Captain.

Miacch hesitated a brief moment, torn between his need to protect the woman and his promise to Mirae to try and avoid killing.  The large orc swatted the woman aside contemptuously and strode towards him, and his decision was made.  At least he could ensure death was quick and relatively painless.  "Destruction," he murmured, pointing a finger at the orc, and a few particles of dust settled to the ground where he had stood.  Miacch hurried over to the woman on the ground and cast a healing spell on her without delay, assisting her to sit up.

"Ma'am, we have to get out of here.  There are other orcs, mostly asleep but I don't know long for..."

"Where are my companions?" the woman demanded, looking around her.  "Termon, Milni... where are they?"

Miacch looked around but saw no one else.  "Hopefully with my friends.  Can you stand?"  He helped the woman to her feet and hurried her as fast as he dared towards the ramp and the others.  He saw the three formerly-sleeping orcs struggling in a mat of entangling vines and gave silent thanks for Mirae's presence of mind.  Khesh rounded the corner and took the lady's arm to assist her, freeing Miacch's hands to wield his staff if needed.

"The other captives are safe.  The orcs have awoken - the pair beyond this gate are still bound, but the others outside heard the commotion and entered the compound.  It was necessary to render them unconscious again.  It will be troublesome to effect an escape without pursuit, and my wand is spent."  She looked behind Miacch to the entangled orcs, and met his eyes.  "How do you propose we disable those?"

Miacch looked beyond the kalashtar towards the gate, and saw the anxious faces of Mirae and Quionna peeking around the corner.  He sighed, turned towards the group of orcs and spoke a phrase that had them all lying flat in a second and struggling to get up.  "It may not hold them for long.  My lady," he looked at the woman Khesh held, questioningly.  "You are obviously a mage of some power - do you have any spells to get us out of here quickly?"

The woman gave him an imperious look.  "My good man, if I had been able to teleport do you think I and my companions would still be here?  I did not have the spell prepared before my unseemly capture, and those creatures took my belongings so I have no scrolls."

Miacch glanced up the hill.  "Wait here..."

A swift search of the tents and supplies on the two islands turned up a number of travel packs, and the former captives reclaimed their belongings.  The haughty woman searched hastily through her bag and drew out a scroll, gathering everyone together.  One of the commanded orcs sat up just in time to receive a wink from Miacch as the little group vanished.

9. Tavern

Miacch watched Lady Azdel depart the Wayward Lobster with a very relieved and grateful Pearl in tow, and turned to raise a puzzled eyebrow at Khesh as they found a table in a secluded corner.

"I don't get it. If she could teleport directly to the Tower of The Twelve, why didn't she just do that from wherever she started her journey?  Would've saved a whole lot of trouble."

The kalashtar smiled serenely and shrugged a shoulder.  "Perhaps her ladyship thought it more seemly to arrive in style aboard a luxurious conveyance and attended by servants, rather than merely popping into existence in a room somewhere with no fanfare?"

He smiled back.  "Perhaps."  He paused a moment, then began uncertainly.  "Um.  Khesh--"

"Where are the others?" she asked, interrupting him almost as though she knew what he was going to say.  He shook his head with a small sigh.

"Quin is sleeping in her room at the enclave.  I don't think she even cleaned Abaven first, she was so tired.  Mirae left the city as soon as she could politely get away, and I assume she's gone back to her cave in the Hills.  It's just you and me now.  Alone."  He tilted his head at her, dark eyes serious, and wondered how she would respond.

"Indeed."  She smiled softly and met his eyes, reaching out to place her hand over his in a gesture that made his heart flip over painfully.  "Miacch, I believe that there are some matters that you and I should discuss."


-- Valianna d'Eberron (Elf ranger, Thelanis; Fellowship of the Golden Night)
Valianna's Journal   (last updated 2/9/09)
"A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love."  - Stendhal

Lanaliathe (Officer) 3/23/2013 6:49 PM EST : Mating Dance ('An Unlikely Adventure' - aftermath)

Posts: 2345

[ Reserving a space for a somewhat emotion-laden discussion between Miacch and Khesh that I may decide to post at some point.  :)  ]

[Well - it's been close to a year, and I don't write here anymore.  But I found this piece and decided to post it in here for anyone that might stumble across the story and be interested to know details of the missing conversation.  :)  It does discuss 'adult subjects', but is not graphic or detailed.]


Miacch was silent for a long moment, looking down at her hand resting on his as he concentrated on getting his thoughts under control.  After what felt like an eternity, he looked back at the kalashtar.

"Well now, what did you have in mind?"

Her serene smile did not waver.  "I am aware that you harbour a degree of attraction toward me.  I am uncertain if I am correctly interpreting your body language, but there appears to be a possibility that you desire to mate with me.  Is this an accurate assumption?"

Miacch made a strangled noise and looked away, feeling the heat rise in his face.  "That... that's a very blunt way of putting it, Khesh."

"I have offended or embarrassed you.  Please, forgive me."

"No no, it's... it's all right..." he lied, as he shook his head and cleared his throat.  "I, er, I suppose you're right.  It's just that, well, human women aren't usually quite so... direct."

She tilted her head at him curiously and he felt obliged to continue, although he found himself unable to look her in the eye.

"You are, um, certainly a desirable woman but, er, well..."  He paused, trying to think of a more diplomatic way to phrase what he wanted to say, and gave up.  "Well, I'm human, and you're not."

"It is known that humans and kalashtar are sexually compatible.  There have been many examples of offspring over the years which prove this beyond doubt."



"Of course, but...  Um...  Is that the only reason your people, er, you know..."


He nodded, feeling foolish for his embarrassment.

She considered this for a moment.  "Miacch, my people are too few in number.  It is the duty of each one of us to reproduce, to bring forth new brothers or sisters of our line or another's.  Our enemies must not succeed in their efforts to destroy us completely."

He looked at her then, a little surprised by her talk of 'duty'.  "Do you have any children already?" he found himself asking.

"Of course, although few in number.  I have lived for fifty-seven years but have only brought forth three offspring thus far.  One sister of Vakri, and two brothers of Harath."

"Oh.  You, er, you have a husband?"  Suddenly the answer was very important to him.

Khesh tilted her head and thought about this, then shook her head.  "I understand little of other races' mating traditions, but I believe I know to what you refer.  My people do not mate for life, although certainly there is affection between the parents of any given child.  I do not have a permanent bond with a mate, my male and female offspring have different fathers."  She watched the human as he sat silently, and squeezed his hand.  Her voice was warm and gentle as she continued.  "Miacch.  I have never taken a human lover, but you have proven yourself to me more than once and I do feel affection towards you.  I would have no objection to mating with you, but if you seek a..." she paused, clearly trying to think of the word other races used, "a wife, then I cannot be what you need.  I am sorry."

Miacch looked up, frowning.  "A wife?  No... I mean... well, perhaps, but, um, that kind of takes time, you know?  I, er..." he swallowed his nervousness and lifted his free hand to her face, stroking her cheek gently with his thumb.  "I do desire you, yes, and if you can only be mine for a short time, then I suppose I can live with that..."  A thought struck him, and his eyes widened in surprise as he looked at her more closely, searching for lines or signs of aging in her lovely face.  "Wait... fifty-seven?  You... you look much younger than me..."

She smiled again, raising her hand to cover his where it rested against her cheek.  "We are blessed with long life.  I should be capable of bringing forth offspring for many more years yet."

"Is that what you want, Khesh?  Another child?  What would happen to it if you did?"

She looked at him steadily.  "If you and I were to procreate it may be a benefit, certainly, although there is the consideration of what would happen to the offspring should it be male.  A female child would carry my line and would be raised by my sisters, as is our custom, but a male child would be completely human.  He would thus be your responsibility more than mine."  She seemed to sense his confusion, and explained further.  "The offspring of a kalashtar and another race is either kalashtar, or it is not.  There is nothing in between.  I am uncertain if we have the capacity to breed with races other than human, but if this is the case then any offspring of such a mating would adhere to the same rules.  If it is the same gender as the kalashtar parent, it is a kalashtar.  If not, it matches the other parent's race."  She smiled.  "It eliminates many of the prejudices commonly experienced by persons of mixed race.  Any non-kalashtar offspring are wholly the other parent's race and will experience no more discrimination in their own society than any other member of that race."

Miacch nodded in understanding and sat quietly, considering the situation.  "I can't lie to you, Khesh," he said eventually.  "I don't think I could cope with caring for a baby, and I don't think I want one.  Quin is difficult enough at times, and she's old enough to look after herself.  I don't even know if I've ever had children, although it feels like maybe I did..." he trailed off, a mixture of sorrow and resignation on his features.

"I am sorry, Miacch."  Khesh squeezed his hand comfortingly, and he looked into her impossibly blue eyes.

"I don't suppose..."  He couldn't ask, knowing what the answer was likely to be.

She shook her head.  "I am sorry," she repeated.  "The memories are gone, completely expunged.  It is as though a skilled surgeon has carefully excised only specific memories and left the remainder untouched.  I do not know of a method to discover what was there and restore it.  From what you have told me, perhaps their absence is the best thing for your sanity."

"But, I feel like... it's like the memories are there, I just can't quite grasp them.  It's like how being with Quin gives me the feeling that I had a daughter of my own once, but I can't remember her.  How can I have the feelings and not the memories?"

"I truly wish that I had an answer for you," she said gently, the compassion in her voice a tangible thing.  "To my knowledge, I have not previously encountered such a situation.  But it is understood that an outside stimulus such as a scent or a sound can awaken memory, and I am sure the same is true of other things.  The sight of a person who is similar in appearance to someone you once knew, for example.  It is possible that in your case such stimuli are still inducing the emotions associated with certain memories, even though the memories themselves no longer exist."

"You think that Quin looks like my daughter?  Or my... my wife?"

"That is not what I said, although it is possible.  You do not remember if you had a wife or child or friend with similar colouring or features, but if one had existed then Mistress Quionna's appearance may indeed engender the feelings of love and caring that you would have felt for that person in your former life."

"So I don't care about her for who she is, just for who she reminds me of."

"Miacch.  You must not torment yourself with such thoughts.  It is irrelevant whether or not a familiar appearance is what initially inspired you to take her into your heart and care for her well-being as if she were your own.  What is important is that you have continued to do so, and that she cares for you equally."

"I suppose.  I...  Khesh, can we just stop talking about that for now?  I want to talk about us."

The kalashtar inclined her head gracefully.  "There is more you wish to say."

"Yes."  He took a deep breath.  "I, well... the baby thing.  You said it's your duty to produce more children, and I don't think I can deal with that.  If you would only be staying with me for a while, is it possible you would consider some kind of, um, preventative measures?  I understand there are potions and things..."

She smiled.  "It is not a requirement for every act of mating to produce, or attempt to produce, offspring.  While it is true that kalashtar rarely do anything without purpose, bringing happiness to others takes many forms and is a purpose in its own right."  She reached out to stroke one of the thin braids that held his hair back at each side of his face, where the black was lightly touched with silver.  "I care for you, Miacch, and I wish to bring you joy and happiness in whatever manner I may do so.  I would not sully that by imposing an undesirable situation upon you."

"I'll take that as a 'yes', then.  But you did say earlier that you didn't need me..."

"Your protection is what was referred to, I believe.  I do not need it, no.  That is not to say that I would not like it.  And it is not the same as your affection."

"Oh.  Well, that's all right then."  He chuckled softly, reaching for her and pulling her into his arms.  "And now I'm going to do something I've wanted to do for a very long time."

He kissed her.

-- Valianna d'Eberron (Elf ranger, Thelanis; Fellowship of the Golden Night)
Valianna's Journal   (last updated 2/9/09)
"A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love."  - Stendhal

Lanaliathe (Officer) 3/23/2013 7:04 PM EST : [Tumult] Descent into Chaos

Posts: 2345


Miacch hummed as he waited for Quionna, browsing among the curiosities on display in the House Cannith enclave.  He was peering closely at a particularly obscure item, trying to discern its function, when he heard footsteps behind him.  He turned in time to catch the girl as she threw herself at him for a hug, and spun her around.

"What are you looking so cheerful about?" she asked as he set her down.

"Nothing," he smiled.  "It's just a nice sunny day."

She stared up at him for a minute, and broke into a wide grin.  "It's Khesh, isn't it?"

"We talked, yes," he said loftily, turning towards the gate.

Quin's eyebrows almost disappeared into her hairline, they raised so high.  "Talked.  Uh-huh.  And that's all?"

"There was most certainly talking, I can assure you."

"But not just talking," she crowed, dancing around him as they walked.  "Woohoo!  I knew it!  It's about time!"

Miacch scowled.  "Quin..."

"Oh, lighten up Mister Grumpy!" she chuckled.  "It's not like I don't know anything about sex, after all.  I'm not that young.  And no, I haven't," she added, seeing his scowl deepen.  "Come on!  You oughta be happy today.  Isn't it what you were hoping for?"

"Well, yes... and no," he sighed.  "Not quite what I hoped, but good enough."  He smiled at her and tugged one of her braids.  "You're right, I do feel good this morning... and I shouldn't be letting nosy little girls get under my skin.  Not when I have an important job to do."

She chuckled.  "My very own shopping escort - I bet all the other girls wish they had one too!"

"It's not a laughing matter, Quin.  The city's getting more dangerous by the day.  If you have any friends that need to go out and would like protection, they can come along too."

She sobered, and thought for a moment.  "There might be one or two... they can really come with us?  You don't mind?"

"Of course not."


Hours later, when he finally escorted the young ladies of House Cannith back to the safety of their enclave, Miacch had begun to reconsider making such offers in the future.  But no... he knew he could not really refuse.  Enduring a few hours of girlish chatter, tea and debate over clothing was a small price for ensuring people were not accosted by the gangs that were slowly dragging the city down into chaos.

Quionna waved off her friends and turned to give her guardian a last hug.  He held her shoulders and looked into her eyes, making sure he had her attention.

"Quin.  I meant it - it's getting too dangerous for you to be out on your own, even if Abaven was with you.  Promise me you'll stay here in the enclave unless you have me with you, or someone else capable of protecting you."

He half-expected her to protest, but she looked as though she was listening for once.  "Are things really that bad?" she asked in a small voice.

He nodded.  "Unfortunately, yes.  Too many people are being robbed or beaten, or going missing.  I don't want to find that you sneaked out for a spot of shopping and got yourself murdered."

"But you'd come and bring me back again, wouldn't you?  You said you would..."

"That's not the point," he growled.  "You don't go around thinking, 'oh it doesn't matter if I get killed because Miacch will just make everything all right'.  You have to take some responsibility for your own safety, and in this case that means knowing when it's sensible to stay home until I come to get you.  All right?"

Her lip quivered.  "But... you said you'd always come for me."

"Oh Quin..."  He hugged her tightly and kissed her hair.  "Of course I will, love.  By all that's holy, don't you ever doubt that.  But that doesn't mean I want to have to.  I'd much rather you stay safe in the first place, don't you see?"

She nodded.  "I'm sorry, Miacch, I didn't mean to make you angry."

"I'm not angry with you, I'm just trying to make you understand.  I worry about you.  You're at that age now where you think you're pretty much grown up, but you're not necessarily capable of making sensible decisions.  I want you to be extra cautious until all this mess is sorted out, and send word to me if you need to go anywhere."



"I promise."

"Good girl."  He hugged her again.  "Even the City Guard is having trouble keeping order these days.  I'm going to see what I can do to help."

"You tell me to stay here, and then you want to go out there and look for these gangs yourself?!"

"I have a lot more ways to keep myself in one piece than you do, young lady, and I doubt I'll be working alone.  Besides, I'm not about to let anyone take me away from you.  Okay?"

"Not even Khesh?"  She was pouting, but he could see the smile in her eyes.

"Not even Khesh," he affirmed with a grin, ruffling her hair and shooing her on her way.


Miacch took the time to stop in and see Quionna every few days, and made himself available any time she requested his company or protection.  Otherwise he kept himself busy around the harbour and market, helping the Guard and the general public wherever he could, often in company with Khesh.  As the attacks on city dwellers became more frequent and more violent - and seemed, beyond mere coincidence, to particularly single out those who considered themselves part of the Fellowship of the Golden Night - he made it known around the guildhall that he was available to any who felt the need for an escort about town.

It felt like it would never be enough.  No matter what he and others tried to do, it seemed like every day the criminals gained a little more ground and the city became a little more cowed.  It pained him to see citizens scuttling from place to place like frightened rabbits, looking to conclude their business and get back to their homes as quickly as possible.  It was fast becoming a place without hope, and even the Guard seemed to have given up on it.  He was shocked to realise how many of them were in the gangs' pockets, and saddened to see that even the incorruptible Iron Watch struggled to keep the peace in the face of such flagrant disregard for law and order.  

His adopted home had sunk into disarray so rapidly that Miacch could not help wondering if the whole thing had been planned for months beforehand, and only put into action once everything - or perhaps everyone - was in place.  Perhaps the group calling themselves the Bilge Rats plotted to take over the city for themselves and their allies.  Founded by pirates, conquered by thieves.  They had certainly managed to force the Coin Lords into hiding, and the rumours of freshly-dug tunnels being discovered under the Lordsmarch Palace not so long ago were worrying.  Maybe an attempted Droaam invasion was not the source at all, and the intent was to gather all the leaders together in the supposed safety of their own compound and then bring it down on their heads.

Miacch did not know... but the new hero of the people, some minor noble with guts enough to match his bank account, seemed to think otherwise.  Miacch had been as inspired as the poor folks of the harbour by the man's speeches and example, but he wasn't sure he agreed with Lord Mosev's assessment that the Coin Lords themselves could be behind the entire thing.  He just could not see what they would have to gain from allowing their own city to sink like this.

Nevertheless, he followed Mosev's example and did what he could, trying in his own small way to push back the darkness and bring a little light to the city.  Even if that light was frequently of the divine sort, blinding or destroying those who would prey upon the weak.


The kitchen was quiet when Miacch went down for breakfast; only the cook and Lillypetal were there.  Miacch thought Lilly looked unusually pale, and she was obviously not eating much.  He was going to ask after her health but then remembered hearing a recent rumour that she was pregnant.  That would explain it, then.  He recalled who her man was and suppressed a smile... if there was one thing a Vadalis knew about, it was breeding.

He discovered why she seemed particularly preoccupied when she stopped pushing food around her plate long enough to inform him of another attack on one of their own the previous evening.  Thugs taking on burly fighters and people who could defend themselves was one thing, but apparently the pair lurking near the guildhall last night were cowardly enough to pick on a frail little drow musician.  He knew Suki; she always seemed to him to be even younger than Quin, although he was unsure of a drow's rate of aging.  Certainly barely more than a child, whatever her actual number of years might be.  His scowl deepened as Lilly told him as much as she knew about what had happened, but he nodded when she described the stranger who had rescued the girl.

"I know of Ranard, Lilly.  He's a good man, trying to do his best to help control the chaos.  The city needs more people like him."  He sighed and pushed himself to his feet, taking a tray and gathering some food.  "I'll take her some breakfast, talk to her a bit.  See if she knows anything else.  I can check on her ankle while I'm there, too."  Lilly nodded, still looking a little green, and he added kindly, "try sipping some ginger tea, especially in the mornings.  I hear it's helpful."  He took the tray and left, smiling.

A soft, almost musical voice answered his knock at Suki's door.  "Who is being there?"

"Suki, it's Miacch.  May I come in?"

He opened the door at her agreement, deftly balancing the tray on one hand and presenting it with a flourish to the girl lying in bed.  "I brought you breakfast."

Her amber eyes lit up.  "Oh!  Is being very kind, Mister Miacch.  I am thanking you many times!"

He chuckled and set the tray on her dresser.  "My pleasure.  How is your ankle?  Can you sit up?"

"I am not being sure... I am little bit scared it is hurting if I try."

"Does it hurt now?"

She shook her head.  "Is being... funny feeling.  Is being like many little needles, but is also not being pain."  She shrugged, unable to describe the feeling.  "Is funny."

"Well... may I take a look at it?  Lilly said that you were given some healing berries last night, and I'd like to see if they worked."

"Oh, yes!  Big man but very kind.  Red face hair.  Wolf is licking my face.  Berries are tasting yuk but he is saying they are mending me."

Miacch chuckled.  "Sometimes the things that are good for you do taste a bit yuk," he agreed.  "Let's see, then."  He drew back the covers over her feet and touched each foot in turn, the slight redness and heat from one indicating that it was the healing one.  "Right foot?"  She nodded, and he studied her ankle a moment before gently lifting it - the delicately-boned foot looked lost in his big hands, and he tried to handle her as carefully as possible.  "Does that hurt?" he asked as he turned her ankle.  She shook her head, and he turned it further, then rotated it in the other direction.  "How about that?"

"No... is feeling fine, Mister Miacch.  No hurtings."

"Good," he smiled, resisting the urge to tweak the dainty toes.  Surely he must have had a child of his own once, to get that feeling.  He sighed and lowered her foot to the bed.

"Is being something wrong, Mister Miacch?"

"Oh, no no, it's nothing.  The yukky berries did the trick - your ankle seems to have healed very well, but I'd take it easy for a day or two just in case.  The joint might still be a bit weak, so no running up and down stairs just yet, okay?"  She nodded, and he offered her a hand.  "Why don't you sit up and have something to eat, and if it's all right with you I'd like to talk about last night."

She allowed him to help her sit up, plump her pillows and get her comfortable with the breakfast tray on her lap.  He pulled up a stool and sat next to her bed, waiting until she had eaten and drunk half of what he'd brought before he spoke again.

"So Suki... will you tell me what you can remember about what happened?"

The girl related her encounter with two people, a deceptively-strong human male and a halfling female who had stopped her on the steps mere yards from the guildhall.  Her hand went to her ribs as she described the man hitting her with her own lute after taking it from her and damaging it, and she nodded slightly.  "Is being no hurtings here now either.  Yukky berries are being very good at mendings."

Miacch looked over her tiny frame, not really surprised that she was easily hurt.  His face darkened, wondering how tough the thug had felt for hitting a frail little girl.  "He might have cracked a couple of ribs, but if the berries healed your ankle so well I'm sure they didn't have any trouble fixing that too.  Lilly only said your ankle was hurt..."

Suki wrinkled her nose.  "Foot is being many much more pains, side is not hurting so much.  Foot hurtings is making me forgetting side hurtings."

"I understand.  So after he hit you, what happened next?"

"I am thinking they are wishing for hurting me more, but woman is tripping me with her foot and I am falling down steps.  Is very bad hurtings in foot and I am not being able for standing.  They are throwing my lute and breaking it," she added sadly, looking at the remains of the instrument where it lay beside her on the bed.

"I'm sorry, Suki.  I'm sure we can get it mended for you."

"Is not being sounding the same after mendings.  Yukky berries not working on lutes."

He reached over and patted her hand.  "We'll think of something, don't you worry."  He urged her to drink some more tea, and continued his questioning.  "And after you fell down the steps?  Did they come after you?"

She shook her head.  "Is being man coming from bridge, he is making shoutings and drawing swords.  Nasty persons are drawing swords also, and I am being very scared.  I am not wishing for fightings and persons being hurt, but men are making fightings with swords.  New man is being better at fightings, I am thinking, and he is stabbing other man and he is falling down.  Woman is hurting new man but then is running away, and he is carrying me to tavern for finding Miss Lillypetal.  I am not knowing what is happening to nasty man, we are leaving him behind."

Miacch decided not to tell Suki that her attacker was dead.  "The town guards took care of him.  But Ranard, the one that rescued you, he's a good man.  He's trying to help people as much as he can, because of all the trouble there is right now.  You were very lucky he was nearby, they might have killed you otherwise."

"Oh, I am knowing he is good person, Mister Miacch!  He is being very nice and helpings and things, and he is having himself injuries for helping me and I am feeling bad for this.  Is very brave man for coming to rescue, other persons are making pretendings not to see."

He nodded sadly.  "I know.  People are scared, Suki, they don't want to get themselves hurt trying to help someone else, so they don't dare to help at all.  This is what the bad people are counting on, people being too afraid to help each other.  But what was it you said they called you, when they stopped you?"

"Fellowship trash.  They are saying things about city burning, and not making noticings of things happening.  But I am knowing this is not being truth!  Fellowship persons are helping other persons!  Maybe they are being right that I am not helping, but other persons are."

Miacch frowned.  "There is definitely something going on here.  They're picking on us more than anyone else, I'm sure of it.  We need to figure out why.  Suki, why did you go out alone when you knew it was unsafe?"

The girl looked downcast.  "I am thinking is only short trip to tavern, is only taking minutes.  I am not wishing for bothering persons for coming with me for such little trip.  I am being stupid and making other persons have hurtings for being silly girl."

"No no, Suki, you're not stupid.  Don't think that.  It was a mistake, that's all, an error of judgement.  You'll be just fine, and so will Ranard.  Just don't go out alone in future, all right?  Ask someone to go with you, even if it is just a short trip.  Those thugs must have been watching the hall, waiting for someone to come out alone, and they got lucky with you.  Fortunately, you got lucky that Ranard was nearby or today would be very different for all of us."  He patted her hand reassuringly, and she nodded solemnly.  "Come and find me if you want to go out, or ask someone else, okay?  Promise me you won't go out alone again, even for a short trip."

"I am promising this very sincerely, Mister Miacch.  I am not wishing for more persons having hurtings because of me."

"Good.  Now, you rest a bit, and when you feel like getting up then go and find Lilly.  I think she said she has something for you.  Remember, no running around for a couple of days."

Suki smiled.  "Yes, Mister Miacch!  I am being good girl and walking slowly and not going outside alone."

"Excellent, don't forget.  I'll check up on you later, okay?  For now, I'm going to see about asking some questions around town."

"Please for being careful yourself."

He smiled as he closed the door behind him, his voice carrying back to her.  "Don't worry, I'll be fine."

-- Valianna d'Eberron (Elf ranger, Thelanis; Fellowship of the Golden Night)
Valianna's Journal   (last updated 2/9/09)
"A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love."  - Stendhal

Lanaliathe (Officer) 3/25/2013 11:43 PM EST : RE: [Tumult] Making Waves

Posts: 2345


After letting her rest her ankle for a couple of days, Miacch took Suki to meet Quionna and go shopping for new boots to replace those that had needed to be cut off.  The two young ladies seemed to hit it off; Suki was fascinated by Abaven, Quin's canine construct, and Quin was entranced by Suki's musicality.  The drow girl protectively carried a lute that she said had been loaned to her by Lillypetal until they could arrange a replacement for her own broken instrument, and she was happy to play whatever kind of melody Quin requested.

Miacch thought that the shy little musician sometimes seemed a bit overwhelmed by Quin's outgoing personality, but she made no complaint even when the human girl discovered her ability to influence others' emotions through her music.  Miacch had to put a stop to Quin's repeated ploy of getting Suki to play mournful tunes around other people to make them cry, but instead encouraged the drow to play cheerful melodies to bring a little joy to the scared townsfolk.  He took Suki to visit with Quin often, both to get her out of the guildhall for a while and to give his ward someone new to talk to when he couldn't be around.  The arrangement seemed to suit everyone quite well.

At the same time, Miacch and Khesh continued to assist those who were attempting to maintain some kind of order in the city.  Miacch had made a point of seeking out Ranard Mosev to thank him for his timely actions in saving Suki's life and offered his services to the noble in return, taking on patrols and inspections around the harbour and sometimes directly accompanying Ranard on his rounds.  It was obvious to a former warrior that the nobleman had probably never set foot on a battlefield - his bladework was good enough, but with the kind of style so typical of wealthy families who wanted their sons to learn fencing more for appearances than effectiveness.  Ranard was still far better than the untrained lowlife haunting the dark alleyways of the city, and Miacch saw no reason to comment on his style.

When not working with or for Ranard, Miacch and Khesh spent a good deal of time acting on their own plans to resolve the city's growing problems...


Khesh sat back on her heels and looked up at Miacch.  "He does not possess further information."

"Are you sure?  Can you lean any harder on him?"

"It will break his mind."

"Do it."

A few moments later the kalashtar shook her head.  "If the knowledge is not there, I cannot attempt to retrieve it.  He knows no more than the last three."

Miacch clenched his fist in frustration.  "Move away, then."

One good thing about his command of higher levels of divine power, Miacch thought as he regarded the smudge on the basement floor, was that it eliminated the problem of what to do with a corpse.

"We're never getting to the bottom of this, are we?"

"Miacch.  We have been successful in preventing a number of crimes over the past several days."

"Only because you managed to persuade a handful of people to turn spies for us.  We're no closer to knowing why all this is happening, or who's behind it."

"Indeed.  If we knew who had ordered that assassination attempt, for example, we may have made more substantial progress in our investigations.  The people we have been questioning are what I believe is referred to as 'street trash'.  They are mere minions of some higher power and are not privy to the information that we require."

"Then we need to find someone further up the chain of command."

"How?  We do not possess any information that would assist in ascertaining a suitable suspect, let alone incriminate anyone."

"It's got to be someone with money.  A crime lord, a wealthy noble, even a House scion, maybe.  Someone with the funds and the influence to control this."

"We cannot interrogate every wealthy person in Stormreach on such a suspicion."

He sighed.  "I know, Khesh, I know.  But it's so damned frustrating!  There must be some reason the Fellowship is being singled out in all this too, but," he gestured angrily to the mark on the flagstones, "all they say is they're told to attack us whenever they see an opportunity.  They don't even think to ask why!"

"I am of the opinion that they do not care.  These are the kind of people who take pleasure in violence, they do not require a reason to indulge their proclivities."

"Perhaps, but it's like whoever is behind it has a particular resentment towards us.  And I don't understand why."  He held out a hand to her, and she moved closer for him to embrace her.  "What are we going to do, Khesh?  This is getting us nowhere."

"I am currently at a loss to suggest an alternative course of action.  However, if you wish me to I can calm your mind to enable your thoughts to process with greater ease."

He gave a short laugh.  "I'm not sure that would really help me think of something, but thank you.  Let's just keep trying, see if we can get lucky and find someone who actually knows something useful.  If nothing else, at least we're depriving them of a few thugs."

"As you wish."

They cautiously exited the rented house in one of the harbour's seedier neighbourhoods and headed back out into the night, playing potential victims for those who were unaware that they were the ones being stalked.


Miacch had been spending more time out at night recently, and it was late afternoon when he awoke to a message from Quin.  After a hasty meal he headed out for the Cannith enclave to see what she wanted.  When he arrived, she led him to her quarters and handed him an envelope.

"What's this?"

She shrugged.  "I found it on my pillow after breakfast, but it's addressed to you.  Don't know why they didn't just send it straight to you."

"Did you open it?"

"Of course not!"  She was indignant.  "It's got your name on it, not mine!"

"Sorry... just asking.  I know how nosy you can be."  He tried to keep his tone light and playful, but he was curious and a little concerned.  He broke the plain wax seal on the envelope and drew out the letter inside.  He frowned as he began to read it.

"What's wrong?"  He continued reading and did not reply.  "Miacch?"  Quin was anxious now, and reached out to where Abaven sat next to her, resting a hand on the construct's head.  "What does it say?"

He looked up from the letter.  "You just found this here in your room?"

"On my pillow," she nodded.  "Someone must have sneaked into my room while I was at breakfast.  What does it say?"

She watched with obvious curiosity as Miacch studied the envelope.  It was plain and cheaply made, the sort that was readily available in many places around the city.  His full name was written upon it in straight, uniform letters that he suspected even an expert in writing would gain little insight from, and the letter it contained was printed in the same way.  The seal had shown no imprint, it was only a featureless blob of wax.  He looked back at her.

"Get your things together."


"Do as I say, Quin.  Now."

"But what does it say?" she begged, but he scowled so fiercely that she ran to gather her possessions and stuff everything into a pair of large packs as Abaven whined pitifully.  "Where are we going?"

"You're coming with me, and you're not telling anyone you're leaving."  He slung the heaviest pack over his shoulder and handed the other to her.  "Let's go."

"But I don't under--"

"QUIN!  Do NOT question me right now!  We are leaving and that's that.  Now be quiet and hurry.  Keep the dog quiet too."

She shrugged the pack onto her back and followed him out of the residential halls in silence, suddenly very scared.

"What's the least used exit from the enclave, Quin?"

"Th-this way," she murmured, and led them around through some quiet back streets and out through a partially overgrown side gate into the marketplace.

As far as Miacch could tell they were not observed leaving, but he could not be sure.  He took Quin on a circuitous route around the market, doubling back several times, and eventually halted at a fruit stand near the gates that led out of the city towards the Searing Heights.  He made a show of choosing a selection of fruit, checking to make sure there was no one looking their way.  The 'vendor' nodded to him and raised the flap at the side of her stall to allow them to slip behind it and fall under the Screen illusion that disguised the wall behind her, then opened a secret entrance into the Fellowship hall for them to duck into.  A short tunnel led them out into a small storeroom piled high with crates.

"Wow.  Miacch, I never knew there were secret doors here," Quin ventured in a small voice.

"That's because they're secret."  He thrust the bag of fruit at her and headed for the door, shooing her and Abaven through it.  "And they will stay secret.  Understood?"  She nodded quickly, and he continued.  "I'm pretty sure there's an empty room near Suki's, we'll put you in there."

"I'm staying here?"


"But... what about my projects back at the enclave?"

"They'll have to wait."

"But Miacch... you didn't even let me tell Master Meredith I was leaving.  She'll wonder where I am... what if she gives my projects to some other student to finish and I don't get credit for them?  I worked so hard on those..."

He rounded on her angrily, but the words on his lips died at the sight of her frightened expression.  He sighed.  "Quin, I can't explain right now.  I'm sorry.  But you have to stay here for a while, and your projects will just have to wait.  I'll see if I can get word to your teacher later, but getting you here was more important."

She followed him in silence up a flight of stairs, then tried again.



"What's happening?  What did the letter say that made you so angry?"

"Dagger take it, Quin, I told you I can't explain yet!  Will you please be quiet and be patient.  Here."  He directed her into a small but functional room halfway down the corridor.  "Leave your things here, and remember where it is.  I'll show you to Suki's room, she's just down the hall."

The little drow was in her room, practicing a melody on a beautiful new lute that she told them had arrived that day 'from kind Mister Ranard', and was delighted to see Quin and Abaven.  Miacch left the two of them conversing animatedly and hurried away to find Khesh.

The kalashtar took one look at his face and ushered him into her room, closing the door behind him.

"What has occurred?"

"I brought Quin here.  We have to find another way to figure out what in the hells is going on in this city."  He thrust the letter at her, and she took it and read.

    Attention:  Miacch O'Dian, guardian of Quionna d'Cannith.

    Mister O'Dian, it has come to our attention that you and your companion, the woman known as Khesh, have been making our lives rather less comfortable of late.  We hereby demand that you cease and desist your activities in the harbour, and refrain from eliminating any more of our valued associates.

    I am quite sure that you would not wish any harm to come to your lovely young ward Quionna, as a result of your interference.  She is a quite delightful girl, but I fear that her construct companion would be insufficient to the task of protecting her should we wish to repay you in kind for your actions.  As you can see from the delivery of this letter, we are quite capable of reaching her if we desire to do so.

    This will be your only warning.  If you do not cease your activities, the next message will be a young lady's head on your own pillow.  Without the rest of her body attached.  Do take care.

Khesh looked up from the letter.  "An exceedingly polite threat.  This was given to Mistress Quionna?"

"Left on her pillow in her room at the enclave.  Where I thought she was safe, damn it!"  He paced the room, seething.  "How dare they threaten a child?  How dare they?!"

"It appears that we have at least been successful in attracting the attention of someone of power with our activities."

"Khesh!  They threatened Quin!  They'll kill her!"

"Miacch."  She reached for his arm as he paced near her, pulling him around to face her.  "Miacch.  They have not killed her yet, and you have brought her here.  She will be as safe here as anywhere in the city, and there are always capable people awake at any time of day.  I have noticed this in my time residing at this hall."

"Khesh..."  He pulled her into his arms and held her tight, his voice almost a sob.  "I can't let them hurt her.  I won't risk her life for this.  I can't."

"I understand."  Her voice was warm and compassionate, and she wrapped her arms around his waist and leaned her head against his.  "It will be all right.  She will be safe here.  We will of course abandon the current plan and find another way."

"What can we do?  We have to do something, we can't let these people ruin the whole city.  But... Quin..."

"We will find another way," Khesh repeated soothingly.  "We shall... I believe it is referred to as 'lay low'?  We will stay here for a few days and let them think they have beaten us.  And then we shall find a different way to strike at them that will not endanger Mistress Quionna."

"If I ever find out who wrote that letter..." he growled.

"In time, Miacch.  Whomever is behind all of this will be revealed in time.  But for the present, you must be calm and patient, and wait."

"I suppose."

"Where did you leave Mistress Quionna?"

"With Suki - I found an empty room just down the hall from her.  Maybe Suki will help keep her quiet and safe, and at least Quin'll have someone to talk to."

Khesh nodded.  "I would suggest that you ask Mistress Suki to give a tour of the building and introduce Mistress Quionna to whomever is currently here.  It would be well for her to know where to go, and who she can call on.  And for the current residents to know who she is.  Did you inform Mistress Quionna of the contents of this letter?"

"No.  I dragged her here right away and scared her to bits, but didn't tell her why."

"Perhaps it may be prudent to explain the circumstances of her abrupt departure from her home?  So that she understands you act from concern for her well-being?"

"Perhaps.  Maybe later.  Let me go and talk to Suki, and then I'll come back."

"I was about to meditate, but you are welcome to sit with me while I do so."

"Maybe I do need some peace and quiet for a while.  I'll be back in a few minutes."

"I concur, you are in need of peace.  I will be waiting."

-- Valianna d'Eberron (Elf ranger, Thelanis; Fellowship of the Golden Night)
Valianna's Journal   (last updated 2/9/09)
"A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love."  - Stendhal

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