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The Jockey's Accident


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#1 Egann

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 10:37 PM

Three days ago Egann's career had been looking up; getting promoted from Sergeant straight to Acting Lieutenant, getting transferred to the Koridai Army Corps of Engineers, and handed a quite lucrative inspector contract. Three days later, thanks to him saying more true things than were prudent, he was on one hell of a blue-milk run; chasing after ghosts of gossip for the Goddess.

Stretching the truth a bit, aren't we? The Colonel might've been too lazy to read the dossier, but telling him to shove it up his ass 'in hopes that a few figures and numbers would percolate into his brain' was going a bit far. You and your big mouth. I told you to stop; why don't you ever listen? Acting Lieutenant, and now we're back to Sergeant. Not Master Sergeant, not Staff Sergeant, just plain Sergeant. So close to getting commissioned! I swear, if we ever get pips, it won't be because of any help from you.

Egann shook his head to bring himself back to the present. If this mission really was on the order of the Goddess, if he succeeded, it could be the key to a lot more than just a commission. That thought seemed to please his self, or at least placate it. And then there was the morbid gladness at the thought of failure; at least the Goddess's wrath would be swift, much better than the protracted nagging, goading, irking, patronization, and otherwise incessant bitching his self would have in store for the duration.

All this over a race horse. That's milk without cream, all right.

He looked up to the welcome sign. 'Romani Ranch.'

Just don't tell anyone you're suspended and you'll be fine.


#2 JRPomazon

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 11:48 PM

Lord Darius of the inquisition had aided Solomon during a very extensive investigation, using his personal connections to capture several Calatian spies. In gratitude, Solomon offered that he himself would take over any investigation Darius would want to be rid of and take no fault for doing so. It was today that this favor was called upon, even though the empire itself was facing a very dire threat. Upon his black stallion, he rode in his more 'causal attire' of red light armor and leather bracers with a pair of slacks and jambs. There was no need for him to wear his full armor, not for a simple thing like this.

Darius asked Solomon to look into rumors about the goddess' prized race-horse being poisoned, although a matter that was not of the highest priority, still a matter to be dealt with. With these trying times, the goddess herself would be distressed by these oncoming threats and would not find the time to enjoy many simple pleasures. If going to check on livestock would give the goddess some piece of mind, then there would be no opposition from him.

Solomon looked on and saw Romani Ranch appear on the horizon. Heads would roll if that horse wasn't right as rain.

#3 Egann

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 11:43 AM

First things first. Find out who's in charge. Egann glanced around; his eyes exploding from their sockets when they came across another red sword, riding up on a big black horse. Only one person in Koridai carried such a thing as a rust-red sword -Egann had never even heard a rumor of another who would dare look the part, and look the part he did.

Well, you wanted to know who's in charge....

"Milord Solomon," Egann began, offering a salute. "Sergeant Egann Gauvin, 109th Infantry Scouts. My letter of introduction." He dug into his tunic to retrieve the note; offering it, but trying not to be belligerent about putting it forward. "I apologize for being out of uniform, sir."

Good. There's a story behind that letter, though, isn't there?

Egann walked into the disciplinary office with the black slip, and out demoted to sergeant. Suspended. Six months. Without pay. On his way back through the mess hall a new parchment caught his eye. New fliers were common, but this one had two amending notes, trailing toward the ground Egann had eyed so much so recently.

Apparently the Goddess had heard her favorite race-horse was in danger, and had sent a request -the parchment on the bottom- to the 109th Infantry Scouts for an officer volunteer. Then came a note tacked on the side, signed by the Major and written in his elegant hand, explaining that all the officers of the 109th Infantry Scouts were presently occupied taking care of an immediate threat to the integrity, safety, and security of the division and that a trusted enlisted man was being sent in lieu of an officer. Then came the last note -a tacked on strip of paper besmirched with the Captain's chicken-tracks- reading 'InSPEction iS NeXT wEEk. pUT yOur NamE aNd rANK in ThE blANK."

The Major has a way of making the mundane sound like a catapult bombardment, doesn't he?

Edited by Egann, 24 March 2010 - 12:05 PM.


#4 JRPomazon

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 04:38 PM

Solomon read the letter briefly and tossed it aside.

"I'm sure there is a reason for this casualness you seem so fond of, like how you were demoted from lieutenant a few weeks ago." he said. He had read Gauvin's report before arriving.

"I don't know what kind of behavior is being accepted in the military these days but heed my words Sergeant, this obvious lack of respect for your duties will not be tolerated by me. Let's take a look at the livestock and finish up here."

Without another word, the two of them headed towards the ranch and were greeted by the head of the homestead.

"Welcome, Welcome! I am Marconi Darius, the boss of the ranch."

Darius? This explains the request from Lord Darius, it was a familial matter.

"We are here to see the goddess' horse." Solomon said, blunt and straight to the point.

"There have been some accusations of someone attempting to poison the beast."

Marconi twitched as he heard Solomon say that, striking a rather tender cord.

"And I've heard people saying MY PIGS fly off into the sky! If you would be so kind as to come with me, I will show you that no such thing is taking place! Not at this ranch!"

#5 Egann

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 05:52 PM

"I'm sure there is a reason for this casualness you seem so fond of, like how you were demoted from lieutenant a few weeks ago."

Holy Shiznit. OK. Stay calm. This is a character test. Bite the tip of your tongue; it'll force you into a slight fake smile.

"I don't know what kind of behavior is being accepted in the military these days but heed my words Sergeant, this obvious lack of respect for your duties will not be tolerated by me. Let's take a look at the livestock and finish up here."

...And Solomon spun on his heels and was off towards the house. So much for a test. Egann walked briskly to catch up. Right after the Goddess and Selena, the thought of an omniscient Solomon entrenched itself on Egann's most-feared things in the universe list.

Well...maybe Selena shouldn't be up that high; she might still be alive, but the Goddess did hand her her own ass....

Egann brutally suppressed a giggle. He was still perturbed, but most of the fear was now gone.

"Welcome, Welcome! I am Marconi Darius, the boss of the ranch."

"We are here to see the goddess' horse." Solomon was really the no-nonsense type. "There have been some accusations of someone attempting to poison the beast."

Marconi twitched. "And I've heard people saying MY PIGS fly off into the sky! If you would be so kind as to come with me, I will show you that no such thing is taking place! Not at this ranch!"

Egann was already only half-listening. It'd be hard for Mr. Darius to prove something like that.

Why would someone want to poison the poor beast, anyways?

He ignored the question; he knew he didn't have enough information to even make the slightest guess. How, on the other hand, was another matter.

Uh oh, looks like they're planning on moving out again. Better get goin' or Solomon'll think you're useless...Not that you aren't. Do your thinkin' on the fly or die!

#6 JRPomazon

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 08:31 PM

The ranch head took the Koridains to the stable area, where the horse known as "Labbry" was being housed. The pungent scent of livestock was offensive, the horrid combination of feces and hay among other oddities. The sounds of the other animals shrieked in Solomon's ears, the urge to slaughter the noise makers was growing quickly. However, the simple joy of silencing lambs and putting a cork to the pork was to wait for another time. Marconi opened the stable, revealing the horses who were resting in their respected pens. The one closest to them was Labbry, an odd horse that was black and white almost as if it had jumped into a fountain of ink and briskly leaped out. They called it a "Painted Horse." Accompanying the horse was a ranch hand, who had placed a bag of feed around the horse's neck.

"Simon, these are our guests for the Arbiter's Grounds. Mr. Egann and Lord Solomon, they're here to see Labbry." Marconi said, introducing the two parties.

"Ah, welcome. I was just feedin' Labbry here, gotta keep 'er fed so she can win at the Bi-yearly circuit."

"Remove the feed bag from the horse." Solomon said, his eyes on the ranch hand.

"Lord Solomon, I know you've heard some nasty rumors about someone going to poison Labbry, but Lawrence has been here-"

"I said remove the damn bag." Solomon interrupted, placing his hand on the hilt of his saber.

Marconi, fearing his safety around Solomon motioned to Lawrence to remove the bag. As the feed was removed from the horse (who seemed displeased by the loss of it's meal), Solomon took the bag from Lawrence's hands.

"Show me the food stores, I want to see what the horse has been eating. Sergeant, look after the horse."

With that, Marconi and Solomon left the stables.

#7 Egann

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Posted 26 March 2010 - 10:45 AM

OoC: Curveball time.

"Simon, these are our guests for the Arbiter's Grounds. Mr. Egann and Lord Solomon, they're here to see Labbry." Marconi waved his hand.

This is the Goddess's favorite race-horse?

"Ah, welcome. I was just feedin' Labbry here, gotta keep 'er fed so she can win at the Bi-yearly circuit."

Her color was nothing spectacular; a bespotted pain horse, an uncommon appearance to be sure, but by no means rare. But her shape...

...She looks like a pickle propped up on toothpicks!

"Remove the feed bag from the horse." Solomon glared Simon down.

"Lord Solomon," Marconi began, waving his hand as if to dismiss a fly, "I know you've heard some nasty rumors about someone going to poison Labbry, but Lawrence has been here-"

"I said remove the damn bag." Solomon's hand twitched to his sword's hilt. Surely this was just a threat.

Well, this IS Solomon we're talking about....

Marconi -a full two shades paler in the face- hastily nodded to the stable-hand. Labbry snorted in shock and displeasure at the abrupt truncation of her meal.

"Show me the food stores, I want to see what the horse has been eating. Sergeant, look after the horse." Solomon slid his fingers from his sword's tip, but it didn't ease the tension.

Egann saluted Solomon's back as he and Marconi departed the building.

"It won't take 'em long, girl." Simon patted down Labbry's mane. "In just a minute this'll be all cleared up 'n you can finish your chow. In the mean time, I have chores."

Help him.

"Mind if I give you a hand?" Egann interjected. "Doin' something's better than just standing around and waitin' for nothin' to happen to a horse."

Simon blinked. "...Sure." Simon walked over to a corner of the stable and came back with two pitch-forks. "It's that time of day agin'-"

"-To scatter the scat." Egann took one of the forks.

"I was gonna say remove the dung, but it's all the same. Work in a stable before?"

"Father was a farm-hand. Helped him most days when I was a kid."

Simon was a well built young man, well built, at least, compared to Egann the scrawny git. Even so, Egann kept pace. Pull the horse out of the stable, hitch 'em up, scoop the nasties into the wheelbarrow, scatter fresh hay, pull the horse back into the stall. It's one of those many menial tasks which require just enough thought that you can't let your mind wander.

"So, what exactly did you mean when you said all this would be cleared up in a minute?" Egann's pitchfork scraped stone.

"Oh," Simon flung out some hay. "It's just that it's impossible that anyone could poison Labbry. Every horse in this barn eats from that silo over there." Simon waved the handle of his pitch-fork at a shoot in the back of the barn. "You poison one, you poison'm all."

"Go on." Egann unhitched the horse and led it back into the stall.

"Well, there's more to it than that. That silo's just a small one. Maybe last us a week, tops. That's when we refill it from the big silo. Everyone and everything on this farm from the rats to the chickens to us the farm-hands to Labbry eats from that silo. There's just no way you could poison that enough to kill a horse without rats and chickens dying first."

"What about water?"

" 'You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.' " Simon chimed. "Horses are really good at sensing fouled water.

"And treats?"

"We have a thing of oats and another thing of carrots outside the barn. Trainers can reward the horse as they bring them in. But, you see, that's just the thing. We don't do anything to the oats, and all we do with the carrots is dunk 'em in water to clean 'em off. Besides, Labbry don't like carrots so much, don't you girl?" Simon finished his circut by patting Labbry's mane again. "Like I said, there's no way you could poison Labbry. No way. No how."

#8 JRPomazon

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 07:19 PM

The two walked to the small food stock, where all the feed for the entire ranch was kept. There was no discussion between them, Marconi fearful to speak up and Solomon looked for "tells" on Marconi, something that stood out from normal. He walked steadily to the destination, no indications of nervousness aside from his overall fear of Solomon. It was an honest fear.

"Here we are Lord Solomon, this is the food stock." Marconi said, opening up the door to the storage silo and letting out the combined smell of oats and grains. The feed had a very pungent smell. Solomon stood and let the scent waiver, letting his memory record the odor.

"I see. Perhaps I was being to . . . suspicious of your workers. I suppose it would be near impossible to poison the stores without harming ALL the animals, isn't that right?" Solomon asked.

"Well, er, yes. That would be correct." Marconi said, stammering in surprise to Solomon's less intimidating response.

"Aside from Simon, who else works with the horses? I can imagine that a ranch as large as this one require more than just one hand."

"Well, Simon usually take care of the horses, but there are times when I send hands to give him a hand. All the horses we have in the stable with Labbry are some of the finest racing steeds in the empire, racing is practically in there blood." Marconi said, moving towards

"All of those horses are for racing?" Solomon asked, rubbing his chin as he processed the information. This was a peculiar truth indeed. He walked inside with the ranch boss, looking around the various barrels filled with feed.

"I would like to meet the hands who work with the horses, I think we are done here for now."

The two men left the silo, Marconi closing the door as soon as he exited after Solomon. As they walked back to the stable, they found Egann and Simon digging away with shovels. Solomon stood there a moment, looking at the sergeant shovel away.

"Do you shovel shit in the military Sergeant or have you considered a new profession?" He asked loudly, interrupting his work.

#9 Egann

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 09:49 PM

"Do you shovel shit in the military Sergeant or have you considered a new profession?" Solomon admonished.

Report time? Already?!

Egann's back arched, his eyes small infernos, but when he turned around he wore a gentle smile, "No, milord. Just being friendly to my fellow servants of the Goddess." He turned back to Simon. "The horses, are they well behaved?"

"Oh, yessir. They're well broke, never toss a rider."

"And you're the one who washes the carrots?"

"Yessir. It's one of those little tasks; only need done once a week or so."

"Thank you. If the two of you would wait for us in the homestead, this will only take a moment." Marconi and Simon bowed as they exited.

"Milord Solomon, have you ever heard of a horse that didn't have a taste for carrots? If I may, would you indulge an experiment? I assure you Labbry won't eat anything." Without waiting for permission, Egann strided to the bag hung on the outside of the door and fetched a carrot, then walked up to Labbry. She snorted and nipped, missing the carrot, getting a couple of Egann's fingers instead. "Ow. I know. I deserved that." Egann returned to Solomon.

"As I thought. She wanted the carrot. Simon either lied to me or was lied to. The poison is put in the silo for all the horses to eat, but all the other horses receive the antidote via the carrots Labbry 'doesn't like.' Not only that, but it looks like someone's set up Simon to take the blame for it if any investigation ever got this far; he's the one who washes the carrots, he openly admitted it. Of course, I'd have to take a sample of the feed and a carrot to an apothecary to be sure, but seeing this," Egann raised his bitten fingers, the teeth-marks still apparent, "I believe that is a formality. Sufficiently impressed with shoveling shit, milord?"

#10 JRPomazon

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 12:09 AM

Solomon heard everything the sergeant said, and analyzed his theories in his head. It seemed plausible, but there wasn't any proof.

"This problem with authority you seem to have is beginning to irritate me Sergeant." he said, crossing his arms.

"I will not warn you again that will not tolerate this casualness you seem ever so FOND of."

He was serious, he wouldn't let anyone who he deemed to be a hindrance to any investigation get off with just a slap on the wrist, unless there was a scar left behind or the wrist came with him after everything was said and done.

"However, it seems your special brand of 'finesse' has stumbled upon something. I do not believe an apothecary will be needed, the ones harming this horse will reveal their intentions to us personally."

The two of them left the stables and headed over to the homestead, where Simon and Marconi Darius were waiting patiently.

#11 Egann

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 02:08 PM

"This problem with authority you seem to have is beginning to irritate me Sergeant." Solomon leaned back and crossed his arms, letting his downward glare glow.

"I will not warn you again that will not tolerate this casualness you seem ever so FOND of. However, it seems your special brand of 'finesse' has stumbled upon something. I do not believe an apothecary will be needed, the ones harming this horse will reveal their intentions to us personally." He abruptly turned toward the manor house.

Egann snapped off the thrill and terror of being threatened and caught up. "My apologies, sir. May I ask, however, to conduct the final interviews to defend my theory? Up until now I have only been focusing on method, but without searching out a motive my information is incomplete. I believe that with just a few more questions I can find proof of exactly what is going in here."

#12 JRPomazon

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 04:11 PM

"Good then, take care of it."

The sergeant knew what he was doing, his talents were amusing to say the least. The real question was why he was in the military? He was far too crafty for being a simple solider. He'd have to see what he had in mind.

The two of them entered the homestead, where the ranch boss and stable hand were waiting.

"Thank you for waiting." Solomon said, as polite as he usually was when impressions were to be made.

"Not an issue sir, not an issue at all. Please, take a seat here."

A sound echoed from the other room, a clanging noise.

"And who might that be?" Solomon asked, his eyes laying on the ranch boss Marconi.

"Oh, that's just the Mrs. in the kitchen. How's the dishes going Marion?"

"If you did them once in a while, you'd know yourself!"

A pause followed, accompanied by the faint clanging of dishes.

"Happily married I see." Solomon scoffed.

"Yes, Marion has a . . . wit that she likes to share."

"So it seems. Well then Sergeant, why don't you start"

Edited by JRPomazon, 30 March 2010 - 04:11 PM.


#13 Egann

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 09:55 PM

"Well then Sergeant, why don't you start?"

"Immediately, sir." Egann said. "Mr. Marconi, will you permit me to ask you a few questions outside?"

"Certaintly."

No sooner than they were outside than Egann started his questioning. "So, how did you come to be the owner of Romani Ranch?"

"Inherited it. I wasn't much for ranching back in my youth, but when my elder brother got sick'n died, I was the next one in line."

"I see... And how long have you been married?"

"Five years."

"Has there been any, well, friction, here? Between you and Simon, I mean."

"Not really...well, now that you mention it, there has been a little, but none recently. He and I had a row about a month ago over his wages. It got emotional and he threatened to do something to make me pay, but things settled down by the end of the week."

"I see. And how long have you used carrots as a reward for the horses?"

"Not long. Three weeks or so. I found a whole mess of 'em for a good price at the market. You know, an extra incentive, particularly for Labbry."

"I see. And you found out Labbry didn't like them so much, then...after the purchase?"

"Yup. Simon waved a carrot in front of her, she snorted like it smelled of a wolf."

"I...see....well, what about rats?"

"What about 'em?"

"I used to work a stable, too. Perfect place for 'em. Lots of cracks, lots of feed spilled on the ground...I didn't see a single rat today."

"Well...we did have a few, but Simon decided to jump on 'em with some bait yesterday before they could...multiply. That stuff's really potent, and he used it all. I'm a bit suprised rats were even willing to eat poison as concentrated as Simon put out if he really did use it all..."

Egann looked perturbed. "Thank you. Could you send Simon out now?"

"Sure," Mr. Marconi smiled.

Again, Egann got right to the point. "How long have you been working here?"

"Around two years."

"And do you have any intents of going somewhere else?"

"Not for the moment. No real reason to."

"So you haven't had any real friction with Mr. Marconi?"

"...Not exactly. He and I had a bit of a flare-up about a month ago."

"What was that about?"

"Well, Marconi's father hired me on with a contract that's good for another two years. Marconi wanted to cut back on the budget and hire another hand."

"You're on contract?"

Simon nodded.

"In any case, about the carrots. How long have you been using them?"

"Not long. A few weeks."

"I see." Egann leaned back. "...And how did you know Labbry doesn't like carrots?"

"Mr. Marconi told me she didn't."

"I see. What about rats?"

"What about them?"

"I didn't see any in the stable. I didn't even see any signs of them. Once having been a stable-hand myself, I know that's a bit unusual."

"Oh...yeah...I put some bait out. We had a pretty bad infestation a week or so ago. Borrowed some rat-poison from Marion's kitchen. That sure took care of them."

"Well, thank you."

Now for the important one.

"Now I just have to see Marion." Egann sighed as he re-entered the door.

"Well, if ya' wanna see me you're gonna have to come back here!" she called from the kitchen. She was washing a pan with soap and water when he entered the kitchen.

"So...how long have you been married to Mr. Marconi?"

"Two years."

Bingo.

"Shall we drop the pretense?" Egann tried to be cool and soothing, but there wasn't really a cool and smooth way of doing this.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"I think you do. First off, Mr. Marconi told me you'd been married to him for five years, not two. Secondly, you're obviously new to the kitchen; you never wash a seasoned pan with anything besides water."

She dropped the pan. "I'm...I'm actually Labbry's trainer. Normally, Labbry's a nice horse, but about a month ago she bucked me, then kicked me in the head" She gestured to the side of her scalp. "Simon and Marconi had their fight right after that. Things cooled down for a while, but then all of the sudden you guys showed up about the horse. I...I'm the obvious suspect. Everyone would think I wanted revenge on Labbry, but even the best horses have their bad days. I panicked when Marconi told me what the Department of Inquisition would do. When he and Simon offered to pretend I was uninvolved I accepted without hesitation."

"What do you remember about Simon and Mr. Marconi's fight? How intense was it?"

She shook her head. "I don't remember. I had just hit my head and All I remember was being flat on my back and hearing raised voices."

"I see. What about Labbry and carrots?"

"Mr. Marconi said Labbry's last handler told him she didn't like them. I never questioned him."

"What about rats. Do you remember anything Simon might've told you about a rat infestation?"

"Yeah...he borrowed the rat-poison a few days ago; said he'd seen some big ones around the silo and wanted to put some bait out."

Egann started to leave.

"Please believe me when I say I really don't mean Labbry any harm. Every horse has a bad day." Marion pleaded.

"Don't worry. I believe you, and for a very good reason. I would, however, like to see the rat-poison."

Marion shook her head. "He said he used it all. That was a lot. It was almost full when I gave it to him, and it's really powerful.

Perhaps you should have started with this interview....In any case, it's report time.

"Could you all give myself and the lord Solomon a moment? Thank you." Egann smiled as they filed out the door.



"I was wrong all along." Egann sat down at the table. "All this time I thought the carrots were being used as an antidote, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized this couldn't be. That much poison is really expensive. Antidote is far more expensive. Combining the two on such a scale is...impractical. But it fit the facts so perfectly! Then I realized why it fit the facts; we were seeing the facts someone wanted us to see, making conclusions someone wanted us to come to. Once I realized this, the whole picture came into view."

"They're all guilty, but none of the same crime, and none of trying to poison Labbry, at least not to death. There was, however, an attempt to poison her to the point of illness with rat poison."

"It all starts with Marion, who is not Mr. Marconi's wife, she's actually Labbry's trainer. A month ago Labbry bucked Marion and gave her a good kick to the head. The stress of having the Goddess's favorite race-horse involved in such a thing precipitated a long-coming conflict over Simon's wages between Simon and Mr. Marconi, but things cooled down, not because either of them were cooling, but because both were plotting to destroy the other."

"Shortly after this fight, as things started to return to 'normal,' Mr. Marconi introduced carrots as a reward, and told Simon and Marion Labbry didn't like them, then he waited several more weeks for the carrots to become an accepted part of the ranch. After some time, he sent word to the Department of Inquisition that someone would poison Labbry. He then frightened Marion with tales of the Inquisition and convinced Simon to help him hide her. If Marion had been left as she was, you see, we would have bagged her without question, and that wasn't what Marconi had in mind.

"Meanwhile, Simon plotted his own revenge. Once Marion was ensconced in the kitchen, he borrowed from her the rat poison to rid some rats. He took far more than he needed, and dumped it into the half-filled grain silo in the back of the stable. The poison isn't of enough concentration over that whole silo to 'kill' an animal as large as a horse, but it would easily make them sick. To a casual observer, it would appear that the horses developed an illness, and then got better, when in fact it was because the silo was refilled at the end of the week. Labbry's life was not at stake, but her performance at the bi-anual circut is definitely suspect.

"So there you have it. Marion is guilty of hindering an investigation, but not of malicious intent. The proof is that she confessed. Mr. Marconi is guilty of using Marion and, more importantly, the Department of Inquisition to dispose of Simon and reduce Romani Ranch's overhead. The proof is that his story over how Labbry didn't like carrots didn't match up with our own experience or Simon's or Marion's. Simon is guilty of attempting to poison Labbry for his own gain, and I'll wager we'll find proof of that by emptying a bag of feed and looking for a rat-pellet or two. We have two witnesses establishing that he had the rat-poison to the exclusion of the rest and that he used far more than was needed.

Edited by Egann, 30 March 2010 - 09:57 PM.


#14 JRPomazon

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Posted 03 April 2010 - 02:18 AM

"Go to the shed, look in that bag of feed I had the hand remove from the horse. I'll meet with you shortly."

With that, Solomon headed back into the house. As he walked through the door, he headed straight for the kitchen, where Marion was sitting by the table slouched with her elbows on the table.

"Get up, your coming with me."

"Wh-What? I don't-"

Solomon placed his hand on his crimson saber's hilt.

"Yes, right away."

The woman got to her feet in a flash, she didn't want to make trouble. And to make matters worse, Solomon had a crazy look in his eye. The two of them promptly headed to the remaining suspects as they sat in the other room.

"You two are coming with me as well. Get off your asses and follow me."

"Where is it we're going and why is Marion coming with us?" Marconi asked.

"You'll find out soon enough. Now, if you will."

The party of four left the homestead and headed to the stables were Egann was waiting with the bag of feed in his possession.

As they arrived, Solomon made sure that everyone entered the stables before him. After that, he closed the doors. It was time for retribution.

"Ms. Marion, please take a place by the sergeant. I'll be dealing with you later. My attention will be directed at you first, Simon."

"And just what have I done Lord Sir?"

"I'm sure you know already. Sergeant, empty the feed bag."

#15 Egann

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Posted 04 April 2010 - 09:57 PM

There was one thing which bothered Egann as he jogged back to the stable; it was...just a little too simple. Not the whole thing, just catching Simon. Simply dropping pellets into the feed randomly sounded too obvious; if anyone besides him looked at the feed half-heartedly, they'd see rat-poison pellets. Even a stable-hand like Simon wasn't that much of a fool; there had to be a trick.

There'd be hell to pay if he were wrong, though. Solomon would see to that.

Egann picked up the bag and filched around in it, feeling for the pellets. He felt nothing except hay, alfalfa, and an occasional oat. He pulled out his hand in frustration and glanced while he wiped off a slick from his hand.

A slick? Since when does hay and alfalfa leave a residue?

Egann looked at his tan-tunic. There where he had wiped his hand was a slight dark gray silvery trail of powder. Simon had crushed the poison pellets. How do you separate it enough to demonstrate this visually, though?

Ah...of course! Your prospecting days have paid off!

Egann started vigorously shaking the bag, but he only had a few moments to shake it, quickly stopping when Solomon drove Marion, Mr. Marconi, and Simon in, closing the door behind him.

Time to finish up. Let's see if Solomon deserves his reputation.

"Ms. Marion, please take a place by the sergeant. I'll be dealing with you later. My attention will be directed at you first, Simon."

"And just what have I done Lord Sir?"

"I'm sure you know already. Sergeant, empty the feed bag."

"Yes, sir." Egann gently spread out the sorted feed, a gentle stream of hay, then alfalfa, then finally a few oats."

"See? Nothing." Simon said, almost smug with his vindication.

"Not exactly," Egann sighed as he turned out a small stream of dark gray powder onto the hay. "Basic prospecting; small and heavy stuff like gold dust sinks to the bottom and light and large gravel comes to the top. Same principle applies to arsenic powder and horse-feed. Just a little shaking and it sinks right to the bottom."

"It's...it's just some iron dust from the hinges," Simon fidgedet.

"Care to eat this little pile to prove that?"

Simon slowly backed towards the door before backing straight into Solomon.

Edited by Egann, 04 April 2010 - 09:58 PM.


#16 JRPomazon

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Posted 04 April 2010 - 10:43 PM

Everything was falling in place perfectly. He didn't trust the sergeant, in fact he went along with his plans because 1. They made logical sense despite how fantastic they may have seen and 2. If he was wrong, Solomon would be capable enough to not only take the reigns but to make sure the Sergeant learned the price of failure. A lesson he was all to pleased to offer. But this man was very capable in his skill of deduction and that made Solomon very interested in this soldier.

Simon turned around as he backed into Solomon, who greeted the ranch hand with a very satisfied smile. He quickly grabbed his shoulder and lifted him up from the ground with his single hand pressing the clothing and his muscle into itself. Then, he thrust his arm forward and threw him into the stable wall. As he hit the wood with a loud thud, the horses began to stir violently in their pens. They were frightened by Solomon, but so was everyone else. As Simon slowly crawled up from the hay covered ground, the arch inquisitor turned his attention to Marconi.

"Mr. Marconi, I've reviewed a series of documents previously that have a startling list of suspected heretics that you have reported working on your ranch. How long did you think you could abuse the Imperial Inquisition for your own personal use to scare and remove your disgruntled workers?"

"You misunderstand Lord Solomon, I have never-"

"Your cousin is among one of the highest ranking officials in the Inquisition, that combined with these facts says you like other people to clean your own messes. I have no idea why Lord Darius deals with you in the first place but I assure you that I believe that you'd have your way long enough."

"You have-"

"No proof? I have two witnesses here who will tell me anything I want to know about politics on the ranch Marconi! You have forgotten that this ranch was not something you are entitled to, it was a gift from the goddess! It was a privilege that you have responsibility of this ranch, just as it is a privilege that I hold my status!"

The ranch boss went as pale as a ghost as Solomon walked up to him.

"As of this moment, you are no longer in charge of this ranch for your blatant disregard for your responsibilities. The inquisition will set up a temporary managerial crew to overlook the ranch until a suitable boss can be found. You have 24 hours to pack your things and leave the homestead."

"OUTRAGEOUS! I'll go straight to Arbiter's ground and contest this, my cousin will repeal this injustice at once!"

Solomon grabbed Marconi by his collar and lifted him off the ground.

"Do NOT test me. You should be glad you have relations in the inquisition, at least then you'll have the peace of mind knowing your family has a strong chance of owning this ranch again. But I'll make sure you make amends for what you have done."

#17 Steel Samurai

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Posted 05 April 2010 - 02:30 AM

At that precise moment, without warning or reason, two long, slim needles embedded themselves in Labbry's rump. The horse whinnied alarmedly, then fell over, legs stiff, eyes bulging, tail lifted.

An evil cackle sounded through the stable.

"The cruel and unusual treatment of animals by this heinous woman shall not continue further!"

#18 JRPomazon

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Posted 07 April 2010 - 09:32 PM

Solomon turned to the horse, to Marion and back to the horse.

"Bloody hell, the goddess be my witness I'm going to KILL someone today."

Everyone took a step back, even the remaining horses. He drew his saber from his belt, the cloth wrapped around it torn to shreds as the blood red blade was exposed. Walking to the felled horse and plunged the sword into the swords rump. No one said anything, looking on with disbelief as they saw him do that.

"LORD SOLOMON! WHAT ARE YOU-"

"OH WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP!"

The red sword began to grow darker, the entire sword turning to a putrid black. He drew the sword from Labbry, leaving no exit would behind as blood quickly congealed over. The faint sound of breathing could be heard from the horse's nostrils. The two protruding projectiles were then pulled from the horse as well.

"Now, for our guest."

Marion shrieked as a shadowy figure appeared from the ceiling and grabbed her, promptly leaping back to the darkness.

Edited by JRPomazon, 08 April 2010 - 10:32 AM.


#19 Egann

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 06:41 PM

OoC: Steel, your twists give me some nasty writer's block.

Solomon pulled out his soot-black sword from Labbry's hide. "Now...For our guest."

A figure in a dark gray cloak lept out of the shadows just behind Egann, snagging and silencing a protesting Marion with a single move, returning to the shadows, all in one smooth movement.

Egann found the first four fingers of his blade's forte displayed. His instinct said to draw it and to use lightning-edge to illuminate all the shadows of the barn to expose the assassin, but he knew he wouldn't find anything. An assassin would never stick around. Solomon would probably regard it as showing off.

So many contradictions. The assassin comes in and claims Marion was abusing the horse, then tries to kill Labbry with poisonous darts. Why? He also grabbed Marion, despite her being a large inconvenience. Why?!

Someone in high places knows we're onto them. The whole thing -from the rumor Labbry would be poisoned to the easy tracing of the poisons to finding some in Labbry's food, everything- is someone trying badly to cover their tracks. And for there to be an assassin here, they must have a lot of money.

It would have to be an exceedingly confident someone to be willing to tempt Solomon's ire.

Solomon. What kind of magic did he use to resuscitate Labbry? Revive magic? No, the blood's already congealed. He must use a blood-born magic and absorbed the poison into the sword. That'd be why it's black now.

Ironic. One of the few things Egann could be proud of was that his many years of being passed like a bad-penny from one place to another, one master to another, one craft to another, he had learned the basics -if not some advanced details- of almost every skill there was in life. An impressive resume for only being in his mid-twenties, even if he wasn't very good at any of them. And yet, here before him stood the two greatest short-comings; Egann had never learned the assassin's arts, and he had washed out of mage-school before he ever got past the most basics of elemental magic. And yet, Solomon was wielding a strange non-elemental -and probably quite advanced- magic while an assassin darted around them.

Money...that's it! The assassin -in a slip of the tongue- gave us all we need to know!

"We were used!" Egann growled. "Try getting Labbry into the next bi-annual circuit when you just used magic on her! Someone wants her out of the race, probably because he bet on Labbry, then got cold feet when he caught wind of the poisoning. 'Can't retract the bet, so he's invalidating it by making Labbry ineligible to run. Enough to hire an assassin, perhaps even setting up this whole business." Egann indicated the poisonous gray powder on the hay. "Marion's involved in some critical way, but I can't see how of the top of my head."

Edited by Egann, 08 April 2010 - 06:43 PM.


#20 JRPomazon

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 08:15 PM

Solomon turned to Marconi, his gaze piercing through whatever self assurance the former ranch boss had left.

"I have no idea what's going on! I'm not responsible for a lick of it!"

He turned back to Egann, the sounds of the escaping assailant echoed through the stable. Most likely heading towards the only door or perhaps an intrusion made on the roof or wall. Solomon smiled.

"Sergeant, open the door to the stable. We haven't a thing to worry about."

Egann went over to the door and opened it, revealing the assailant being held down to the ground by a man in full red armor. A Koridian Templar, commonly known as a "Bloodhound", one of Solomon's personal soldiers. He had brought a couple of his own detail along just in case he needed another couple sets of hands to handle problems. Solomon smile quickly left his face when his head count was one sort, the woman was missing.

"M'Lord, the assailant has been handled."

"Where is the woman?"

"Woman? Sir, this man was the only one escaping."

Solomon turned back to the stable to find Marion escaping on one of the through breeds right out the front gate, a smile from ear to ear. THAT BITCH WAS GOING TO PAY.

"Follow her, I want to know where she's going."

Without another word, the templar left with unusual speed. The cloaked man began to slowly get up, only to have his spine stomped on by Solomon. He then thrust his darkened saber a few inches from his face, the blade itself appeared to be festering.

"TALK, or I'll do more than just kill you."

Edited by JRPomazon, 08 April 2010 - 08:15 PM.


#21 Steel Samurai

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 08:45 PM

OOC: Gonna throw a massive wrench into things here, boys.

The man got to his feet, shoving aside Solomon's boot with surprising ease. He lunged for the inquisitor, but was stopped short by the remaining two Templars. The man screamed into Solomon's face, spittle foaming at the corners of his mouth and spraying into the Inquisitor's face.

"THAT BITCH CHIKARA SHALL PAY FOR HER CRIMES AGAINST NATURE AND ANIMALS! WE OF THE PET ETHICAL TERRORIST ARMY WILL SEE THAT NO MORE ARE THESE CRUEL AND UNUSUAL RACES RUN FOR HER PLEASURE, OR ANY SUCH UNETHICAL TREATMENT OF NATURE AND ANIMALS. AND YOU, AS ACCOMPLICES, WILL FARE NO BETTER! AHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA! GET THEM!"

Without sound or warning, five more of the cloaked figures appeared, blowpipes in their hands. A faint *pfft* could be heard just before all of the Koridaians fell to the ground.


* * * *


They awoke some time later, tied together in a shadowy cave. Crates full of animals lined the wall. They looked like rather comfortable crates, padded on the inside and with plenty of food and water. There was a fair amount of graffiti on the roof and sides of the cave, whose only light source seemed to be a single candle on a desk in the corner. The graffiti all seemed to be blasphemous sayings about Chikara and animals. A pitter-patter of footsteps could be heard behind them, and in a couple moments Marion appeared, a small knife in her hands. She began to saw at their bonds, but the knife was extremely dull and it seemed as though it would take awhile.

"You fools." she whispered. "You forced my cover. I've been tracking this group for the last two years for the Eyes of Chikara."

A sudden noise on the opposite end of the cave, and Marion abruptly disappeared. A tall, stately looking man entered the room.

#22 Egann

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 11:05 PM

OoC: Pet Ethical Treatment Army. PETA. Nice touch, Steel. :lol:

The cloaked man walked up to them, Marion now nowhere to be seen, not a one of them yet unbound. Egann continued to play the possum's part, his face numb from being waffled onto the flat of an uneven rock.

"Well, well. It looks like our fish-bait is coming around. I thought it was about time." Egann could tell from how far away his voice sounded from his mouth he was a large man, but so long as his eyes remained closed he couldn't tell any further details.

He must need something from us, else he'd have slit our throats in our sleep. Probably some juicy bit of information from Lord Solomon. That's our only advantage. Unfortunately he knows this, too, and Solomon is the commander of the inquisition. Being straight to the point would get his guard up, destroy any possibility of getting the truth out of him. Still, I doubt a group like this can last without foreign funding...

The man gruffly snagged Egann by the scruff of his neck. "Name! Rank!"

"Sergeant Egann Gauvin, 109th Infantry-scouts."

"Excellent. I read your file, you see. You're exactly the one I wanted to talk to. You spent three years a scout for the old alliance I believe?"

Egann wondered how it seemed everyone had read the file for a lowly uncommissioned officer with no combat experience and a significant disciplinary record. "Three paid years. Actually took me four." Egann opened his eyes and glared back. He wasn't just tall, he was big, with eyes like a razor. "Went off to survey the wilderness for viable resources... Left right before the first dorm-war, came back and found myself swept into the Lost Woods on the tail end of the last War. Then the Cataclysm came. It's all in the file."

"I know. Right after coming back to the Lost Woods, though, you filed a suggestion based on your experiences in the frontier. Soldiers trained in cross-country skiing, specialized for winter and cold weather combat, I believe. Rapid deployment. Quick recovery."

"Yeah. It got ignored."

"Not by the Old Alliance. They fund the PET Army. My army. They just began a major campaign against Calatia, and the local rabble they aroused just got their asses handed to them. The Alliance can't afford too many failures like that, again, especially if they dedicate their own troops to it. Your little idea could make the war's conclusion a foregone conclusion, and -if you tell some of the details to me- it'd be like stabbing Selena in the back."

"...And your little army would get funded like crazy as the first wave of insurgents in Koridai? I can think for myself, thank you. If the Alliance is coming, they're going to want to take on both."

The man smiled, then gave Egann a brutal back-hand. "We know that you filed the suggestion, and the few details your file gave the Alliance spies caught a few eyes. But they can't find the original report you filed. Now they want to know the whole story from the horse's mouth, so to speak."

Edited by Egann, 08 April 2010 - 11:06 PM.


#23 JRPomazon

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 12:46 AM

"And what good is that going to do you?"

The man turned his attention to Solomon.

"Arch-Inquisitor Solomon, I have to say your appearance here is quite a surprise. One of the most powerful men in the Empire and now . . . this. Can't say this is helping your reputation."

"5 hours."

"I beg your pardon."

"5 hours. That's how long you'll suffer before I finally put an end to your miserable life."

The mysterious man walked over to Solomon and firmly kicked him in the chest with his steel toed boot.

"I don't think you understand the situation Lord Solomon. You're a prisoner of war here, no better than a caged animal. You'd be wise to remember that."

"And you'd be foolish to think that anything has changed since the Alliance fell two years ago in Olimandais. You are living in delusion."

Another kick, this one almost hurt.

"We'll have a chance to speak later on Inquisitor, for now why don't you sit tight?"

In Solomon's mind, he moved the time to 7 hours.

#24 Egann

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 04:24 PM

Egann remained in the crumpled heap on the ground until the man's footfalls were no longer in earshot, only then raising himself back up to glance back around for Marion. Nope. Not there.

He looked around. Astride the stoic Solomon, Marconi was splayed out over a rock in an awkward position, but still clearly conscious. Simon was huddled up in a niche, being very quiet and pretending he didn't exist.

"...All this business about Labbry being poisoned is all your fault," Marconi growled at Egann. "Your damned idea is the only reason they're here."

"Impossible," Egann spat back. "They had no way of knowing I'd take the contract unless..."

They used magicians choice. You haven't read your own file; you don't have access to it. Your impulsive insult to Colonel was a classic example of your impetuousness. If that file contains a detailed record of your disciplinary record....

"...The PET Army's infiltrated Koridai's army."

"Well, no duh," Marconi rolled his eyes. "How else do you think they got their fingers on your file!"

"......."

"Why didn't you tell 'em all about it?!" Marconi snarled. "He's right, ya' know; you giving him the details wouldn't give the Alliance much of an advantage against Koridai; just Calatia."

"Because the Alliance is trying to take out both sides. At first they thought Calatia would be a quick K.O. so they could throw their real forces at Koridai. Apparently they figured out Calatia's a little stronger than they figured and started looking for ways to make that war easier. Then they came across my file. They want to use my idea to take out Calatia quick and easy to save the brunt of their forces for Koridai."

The insider's probably the disciplinary officer in the 109th. My file crossed his desk and he came across my idea. Rather than just demoting me -like he probably should've- he threw in a suspension to make me hungry for cash, hungry for an assignment, hungry for a contract. He couldn't pull the actual report I filed without blowing his cover, so they arranged financial support to the PET Army and arranged the whole 'Labbry's gonna get poisoned' thing just so they could interrogate me in person.

"...Wait a sec. Did he just call us 'fish bait?' " Egann asked.

Marconi gave him a embittered nod. "They're going to feed us to sharks."

Egann smiled. "My file, it seems, doesn't know everything about me."

"Oh?!"

"I'm a lightning mage. Water completely negates my magic...most lightning mages are aquaphobic. They wanna scare me to death with water. Make me talk."

"Not you?" Marconi pried.

"No, not me. My father was a farmer for the crop-season, every spring, fall, and winter...but every summer -when the crops were growing and we were in the height of the annual pinch before the next harvest- he was a spear-fisherman and pearl-diver in the Thressidian Sea. I can't use magic in water, but can swim like a fish."

Edited by Egann, 10 April 2010 - 04:24 PM.


#25 JRPomazon

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 02:03 AM

*SNAP*

A loud noise echoed in the room, everyone looking around to find the cause.

*SNAP*

*SNAP*

They all looked at Solomon, who was forcibly breaking the ropes that bound him. His wrists and exposed skin was bleeding from the rope burns but his face was still the same, like he wasn't exerting a single ounce of strength. Then . . .

*SNAP*

The woven bonds were shattered into nothing, just scraps on the floor. He rubbed his bleeding wrists as he slowly got to his feet.

"Sergeant, it seems that this mess goes a lot further than a simple matter of livestock."

He walked over to Egann with his bloody hands and as if it were nothing the thick rope was . . . cut? With his hands? He walked over to the two templars that were captured as well, severing their bonds easily.

"You two, you're coming with me. We've much to make up for after being so easily overtaken.

"M'LORD!" They said sternly, saluting Solomon as they got to their feet.

"Free the other bastards if you wish, I think it's about time we ENDED this farce."

He motioned to his two men to go to the door, where they bashed it open with blunt force and subdued the guard standing by. Solomon smiled deviously, he'd waited far too long to slaughter these pigs.

#26 Egann

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 06:34 PM

"Sergeant, it seems that this mess goes a lot further than a simple matter of livestock." Egann's binds shrivled and snapped at Solomon's touch, seeming to react less to his physical contact than to the metaphysical morbidness.

"You two, you're coming with me," Solomon waved his fingers at the Templars. "We've much to make up for after being so easily overtaken."

"M'LORD!" The templars saluted.

Solomon turned back to Egann. "Free the other bastards if you wish, I think it's about time we ENDED this farce."

The Templars broke down the door, quickly silencing the guard.

"Risking acting a bit stupidly, milord?"

Mind your manners, kid!

"Just charging in swords slashing will fix PET up real fine, but in the end they're just being used by the Alliance to get intelligence. It's not smart to just cut down the PET; they'll just raise up another front in the next month or so...or find a ready-made one like I'll wager PET was. This is a chance for us to compromise the Alliance's intelligence network in Koridai and locate whatever other spies there are. We could even feed the Alliance false intel, if we played our cards right."

I'll wager the intel network is why the Alliance is going for Calatia first. Calatia is too small to infiltrate easily; too little room for strangers. Koridai is much larger. It only looks like they're trying to attack Calatia first; in truth, they're putting a spy network into Koridai. A spy in every batallion and our army couldn't move a muscle without them knowing about it.

Egann turned to leave the cell. "I'm going to try and find Marion and The Dude's office. See if I can figure out their communications."

#27 JRPomazon

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Posted 15 April 2010 - 01:26 AM

"Then I will offer you a distraction." Solomon said, looking around the corners for other guards.

He turned back to Egann as his templars secured the area.

"To be frank sergeant, I've had quite enough of this whole mess. The man in charge seems to be fond of you, for the life of me I can't possibly see why. So, I will entrust him and the woman to you. If they escape, I'll know whose head to stick on a pike. Understood?"

Solomon clenched his fists, a subtle cracking noise coming from his palm.

"M'Lord, you sword sir."

Solomon quickly looked back to see his subordinate holding his sword, which had seemed to regain it's former color. He snatched it from his grasp.

"Much Obliged." he said heading out the door.

Egann did not seem to understand the ways of Koridai. There had been numerous spies, traitors and prodicals who stumbled into the goddess' lands and one of two things have happened to them: they were discovered and killed or they chose the goddess over their former cause and became members of the faithful. Such was the way of the goddess, her divine grace a beacon of hope for weary souls, it's light showing men what is truly worth fighting for. Worth killing for.

As the man holding the reigns of the inquisition, sniffing out traitors was he livelihood. He knew their behavior better than anyone in the Empire.

#28 Egann

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Posted 16 April 2010 - 03:33 PM

"Then I will offer you a distraction."

"Much obliged," Egann began off down the cave, cutting through the veil of darkness as the light of the candle faded around the corner.

Looks like you don't have any choice anymore. You have to use it now. Lightning edge: on.

Egann drew his sword and saluted, drawing his energies into the blade. A few large arcs groped out like fingers, humming like a deep set of tuning forks, waving like forked tongues of serpents until the magnetism around the blade drew them in, bending them around the blade, flattening their energies into a thin blue film of cold plasma, scintillating a hair's breadth from the flat of the blade, humming gently, illuminating the cave with a bluish-white light, the dark cave walls absorbing the harsh light, only allowing the closest details illumination.

So...what kind of cave is this?

Egann arrived at a large cavern. He could here the flow of water from somewhere nearby. He raised his sword above his head and powered the charge up to increase light. Time, erosion, and water had all done their tolls, but this kind of vertical shaft with surface water flowing into it in a small waterfall could only be a mine. A very old mine at that. PET had probably discovered it and retrofitted parts of it for their needs, leaving an un-navigatable labyrinth for those who weren't with them.

No wonder it was so easy to get out. It wasn't their primary defense. Do mind the water, though.

Egann shuddered at the water. Because Lightning-Edge was self-containing and all the lightning energy was right around the blade, it didn't matter if he got wet, but the blade...last time that had happened, the plasma film fractured, detonating like a small bomb. Yeah, cutting people with lightning edge on posed a bit of a problem.

Of course, there's an easy way to find them. Mines have dirt on the floor, leftover dust from the mining. Just follow the footprints.

Egann lowered his sword's tip and followed the top-most tracks, the set which stood out most clearly against the heavily trafficked floor. It led him down winding passageways, down sloping descents, and finally to a tremendous underground lake, a yacht barely visible on the opposite side, illuminated by torches on a dock. A V-shaped ridge had been cut into the soil; a tell-tale sign that a boat had recently shoved off from this side.

Looks like we're going swimming after all. Lightning edge: off.

The blue iridescent glow and tuning-fork humming faded, going from a stark light to a gentle glow, the light no longer obscuring the glow of the blade, finally, the blade ceasing to glow at all. It was very dark.

Egann sheathed his sword and slowly waded into the water, gingerly beginning a side-stroke to slowly and quietly swim towards the opposite side.

And then something brushed his side. A cave-fish? It came again, this time sliding across the bare skin of his hand. It was large. Really large. It was fast. Really fast. It had skin with no scales, but like sandpaper.

SHARKS!


#29 JRPomazon

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 10:50 PM

The templars moved quickly despite their full armor, silencing guards before they realized what was happening. Their blood was splattered across the cave walls as the bodies were rested gently down and out of the way. Solomon then marched through, intent on clearing the entire place of vermin. No more room for protocals or reserved natures. He just wanted to KILL each and every bastard here who thought they could just hid away in a hole, pretending they could hide from the might of Koridai.

"Passage secure m'lord. Orders?"

"Keep up the good work."

The templars continued to move swiftly through the rocky passages, clearing out anyone who could pose a threat. Solomon just enjoyed the occasion, a smile perking on his face.

#30 Egann

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 09:46 AM

SHARKS!

Bits of advice flashed through Egann's mind. Give them their due. No sudden movements. Don't panic; sharks have a sixth sense for panic. But above all the other thousand things his father had beaten into Egann's mind,

Sharks are the supreme masters of the sea.

Don't panic. It was so hard not to panic. Egann couldn't see a thing in the darkness of the cave, darkness which glued the otherwise confident swimmer to the surface, fearing if he dove deep he would never find his way back to the surface, cursed to writhe in the breathless inky blackness of the deep. Even at the surface, the light from the torches on the far bank left only the faintest light on the water, a red glint on the crests of waves, a crimson highlight to ink in the inkwell.

Egann began simply treading water, forcing himself to remain still, remain calm. Sharks don't sense panic, the way his father thought they did -that'd been one of the many things he had learned in mage training- they sensed faint lighting impulses, conducted through the salt-water. If they could sense it, so could Egann. He repeated to himself the mantra the mage instructor always chanted incessantly.

Let the energy inside you go. Reach out, don't hold back. Out, not back!

Then, he felt it, felt it with a clarity he could never have imagined. It was as if his skin were touching the sharks from twenty paces away, intimately caressing them under the skin, through the muscles, right down to their very organs, pulsating with life. They weren't hunting. The aura was all wrong. They were just curious. Egann's residual energy illuminated their world, stepping into the water had been like a lighthouse flashing a ship out at sea in their eyes. Of course they would be curious.

Egann dove. The surface was like a mirror, his image perpetually touching his back, constantly saying 'here I am,' always reminding him just how far away breath was. Swimming was so much easier underwater; no need for the hands, just with a few light kicks, he glid effortlessly through the water. Swimming underwater had always been this way for Egann, less like he was swimming, more like...his soul was being conducted through the water.

He came to the shore, surfaced, and pulled himself from the water, trying his best to suppress the splashes, silently mourning his lost second sight in the darkness as he set to wringing out his clothes, concealed in the complete blackness of the shadow under the dock. Men were talking on the planks above, betrayed by the faint shadows through the cracks as well as their voices.

"The Sergeant didn't give me anything." It was the big man from before.

"That might just be because there isn't anything to give."

An Alliance liaison?

"Please. Just give me more time."

"Time? We're paying you in gold -which is rather hard to come by these days- and you want time? Time for you to make another screw-up, perhaps. Like you made with Solomon. Soon as you knew it was him, you should've killed him. And his templars. No more mistakes. I want that Sergeant on this ship and Solomon dead. Now. If that guy knows something useful, I'd rather an Alliance interrogator extract it. We'll pay you all the same soon as he's aboard, and sail soon as the low-tide opens up the cave enough to sail in...five hours."

The big man made an uneasy grunt, then walked down the dock, off into the depths of the mine.

The liaison stepped onto the yacht, walking towards the main mast. "You, my little traitor, just might come in handy." A woman grunted.

Marion?

"Sir." Another man walked up the dock.

"Did you set the charges?" The liaison asked. "Good. PET, you've been useful, but you're nothing but a bunch of imbeciles. Forget waiting for low tide. Soon as the Sergeant's on board, we're gonna blow this place and set sail through the newly widened opening. Hopefully that'll take out Solomon and the PET in one move. Swap the gold advance we gave that idiot out for that chest of guilded lead coins like we discussed, and eliminate any evidence the Alliance was ever here. Oh, and no loose ends this time. Hole that dingy the PET uses to cross the lake. I don't want anyone to escape who isn't on this yacht."

What do I do now? Marion's on the ship, and the Dude's off into the mines. I can't possibly be in two places at once!




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