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 Post subject: The Story of Tadaos
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:51 am 
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Character prefixes (or something)

X Name Kingdom Class Description
Arachide Tier Knight Mhrynn

Belroth Tier Assassin Greyman

Bodie Tier Barbarian Storm Giant – Got first kill with Fog

Brenna Tier Barbarian Storm Giant

Derron Tier Warrior Storm Giant

Earthlore Tier Mage Archon

Earthlore Tier Mage Aratar

Ellie Tier Bard

Fog Tier Mage

Izlude Tier Knight

Gothin Tier Druid

Gremlor Tier Knight Mhrynn

Legolas Tier Ranger

Moogra Tier Warlock Mhrynn

Oobleck Tier Illusionist
Reffus Tier Cleric

Rene Tier Barbarian

Reyven Tier Warrior , Constable

Setzer Tier Cleric

Sirix Tier Bard

Stilicho Tier Warrior

Stroomgald Tier Faerie Mage – dies in an ambush in DDF

Syslaa Tier Assassin Greyman

Tadaos Tier Illusionist Phoenix

Victory Tier Ranger

Walsingham Tier Warlock Mhrynn

Zidane Tier Knight Mhrynn - Zidaan

Zurkov Tier Assassin Ogre

Abagail Kael Monk

Anna Kael Barbarian

Blayne Kael Warlock Mhrynn

Cawti Kael Cleric

Hobbie Kael Assassin Aiel

Kami Kael Warrior Storm Giant

Karoo Kael Illusionist Phoenix

Kruella Kael Witch Archon

Manic Kael Mage Archon

Nessus Kael Illusionist Phoenix

Strife Kael Assassin Shadow

Taejin Kael Monk Mhrynn - He and a mage kill each other

Tam Kael Cleric

Yun Kael Cleric Aiel

Whur Kael Assassin Greyman

x Akuji UM Illusionist Vampire

Ascot UM Illusionist Devil

Baalzamon UM Monk Shadow – Won’t Die

Devlyn UM Druid Succubi

Jin UM Barbarian

Karleah UM Shedaklah

Kazix UM Illusionist Vampire

Klaven UM Assassin Shadow - Die honorably, email when done.

Matrial UM Mage Vampire

x Mern UM Monk

Nerm UM Monk

Niko UM DK Cerberus – Dies in a battle vs Carin

Phellon UM DK

x Smokh UM Barbarian Demon

Taog UM Barbarian

Zaknafein UM Ranger Demon – Solo raid, searching for Gothin

Zuron UM Barbarian Demon

Armadias Cairn DK

Azneroth Cairn Witch Devil, grouped with Prilath and Tybalt

Bardus Cairn Assassin Litch

Braddock Cairn Ranger Balrog

Calis Cairn Defiler

Duryn Cairn Assassin

Grayon Cairn Mage

Linflas Cairn Ranger

Ollie Cairn Assassin Shadow

Pern Cairn Monk Litch, Constable

Prilath Cairn Shedalkah Sith, grouped with Azneroth and Tybalt

Rield Cairn Illusionist Devil, Constable

Tybalt Cairn DK Cerberus, grouped with Prilath and Azneroth

Zanth Cairn Monk

Bahamut All God God

Tonashu All God God

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 Post subject: Re: The Story of Tadaos
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:51 am 
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Chapter 1

As oft happens in time of great peril, Oobleck saw his life flashing before his eyes. He saw himself as a child, barely bigger than a goose, playing with his mates high in the trees in the grove. He had a few friends, but his best playmate had been a small wooden knight, carved from a white wood the name of which he did not know, but always seemed to glow as if the knight were magically protected. The knight’s name had been Vitold, and there was nothing Vitold could not do. Oobleck would lie for hours in the trees, coming up with one fantastic journey after another. Each nick from a playtime indiscretion or tiny tooth had its own story, its own fantastic monstrous imaginary source. Vitold had single handedly slain more dragons and demons than the armies of Tier; Occasionally he would do these masterful feats for a fair maiden, but this was more out of Oobleck’s respect for the stories (which even in his world were known as “faerie tales”, though to his knowledge the only time faeries played any part in them is when they were telling them) than out of any desire for feminine admiration. The knight had been his best friend, his inspiration, and his constant companion until his family had taken and hidden it when they deemed him to old for such childhood toys.

Much later, Oobleck had fulfilled a childhood fantasy when he had been introduced to Arachide, and later Zidane, the first (and only) knights he had ever met. He was saddened to discover that the legions of honorable and holy warriors that he had imagined as a child simply did not exist. Arachide had been a technical virtuoso, practicing his knightly skills to perfection, while Zidane was a clever and very competent leader. Still, neither was the one man crusade that he had imagined as a child. Even considering the fact that they were outclassed by many other disciplines didn’t change his opinion. Somehow, their position as the less powerful class and their scarcity simply seemed to make them even more romantic. He still thought of them as the shining star of Tier.

Not long after Vitold was removed from his company, Oobleck had left the safety of the grove for the city of Tier, far to the west. A gnomish merchant caravan had been passing through, one of only three or four in the past year, and Oobleck simply fell in with them as they packed bags and tents. He managed to slip out with a robe around him and a gnarled staff in his hand, though he didn’t look a thing like them. With their yellow skin and bald heads who would? They were friendly enough, in his opinion, even if they were a bit conceited about they quality of their race. In any event, the gnomish traders had large wagons that could be comfortable, if you could be comfortable sleeping on a crate, and they always were willing to pay a silver piece or two for someone to care for their supplies and mind their affairs. The bodyguards were more than enough protection from most of the everyday terrors that they encountered.

The tall trees had been his home since birth, and leaving them behind left him feeling defenseless, something which had been sure would be remedied when he was inside the legendary white walls surrounding Tier. It was a long journey, though not particularly laced with violence or excitement it was tedious and at times dangerous. When his party had gotten to Corim, a village near Tier, he was told that he was now sufficiently close to make it the rest of the way on his own. In any event, the gnomes said, there were tolerable faerie folk that lived north of Tier if he decided that the city life wasn’t for him. Oobleck naturally had visited the faerie village first, and was thoroughly disgusted by the race there. They were larger than his people, and darker in complexion and skin, but Oobleck had seen enough races on his way into Tier to all but disregard that. What had really bothered him was their attitude. They seemed to view themselves as a royal breed of faeries, a cut above the rest. They talked in airs of superiority and had a bearing that suggested that they weren’t capable of stepping in dung, like everyone else. Oobleck had been greatly amused to discover they had a King, and that he, like all good kings, typified the attitude that most of the faerie in the grove had.

When Oobleck had inquired of this worthy individual the nature of the grove, the king replied proudly “It is the kingdom of faerie and only faerie may live here… You are obviously faerie, so you are free to come and go as you please. Don’t cause trouble though or the trapper will have to skin you.” He had shaken his finger at Oobleck to emphasize ‘skin’ and ‘you’, and the lard on his arm swayed impressively. When Oobleck had inquired upon the possibility of living in the grove the King nearly choked on his own fat tongue.

“Well, as I may have said, it’s for faeries, and only faeries, but faeries of pure blood. I can’t help but notice that you are somewhat…ah…diminutive and light skinned. I must wonder if there is perhaps a ‘dryad in the woodshed’, as they say. I am afraid that one of my duties as the King of all faerie folk is to protect our integrity as a race, and even the threat of there being any…ah…mingling of blood is one I must…consider…”

By this time Oobleck’s face was red and he could feel his temperature rising. He saved the King the trouble of going any further as he left north; it was either that or bury his dagger in the obese bastard’s fat arse, and Oobleck was relatively certain that wouldn’t blow over well.

He was a narcissistic wretch though, and Oobleck vowed that very day that he would find a time and day to personally beat the man into unconsciousness. The aforementioned Trapper was a pompous ass as well, and his number would be coming shortly after the “King’s”.

It had turned out that the walls of Tier were almost visible from the grove of the faeries, and that it was only another half hour or so until he was inside the mighty walls of the City of Light and wiping the dust of a year long journey from his boots. Once he had made it inside he had discovered that not only were there warriors and magic users worthy of kingship, there were monsters just as dangerous and just as evil inside the walls as there were outside them. He was always on his best to tell which was which.

A surge of pain in his legs brought Oobleck back to consciousness. He wished that he could do something about them, but he knew that any movement or action on his part was liable to give away his hiding place. There were at least four darkies following him, the next time they attacked him, he would likely be dead, no matter what he may do. A flash of color caught his attention. One of them was almost directly in front of him. It was cleverly bending green wood poles and tying them down. He doubted it had seen him; it seemed pretty intent on its work. He watched it curiously…it wasn’t often he got this close to one without trying to kill it and he was interested in it in a macabre sort of way. Its pasty grey skin was damp looking, and oversized canine teeth seemed to jut from its top and bottom jaw. Its lip was split under the stubby nose, like some great cats he had seen, and it seemed to be for the most part bald. Small flakes of skin were peeling from the back of its neck and collecting in the black steel collar that ran around its throat.

Once it had accomplished tying down the poles, it unrolled netting from a spool and laid it on the path, edges over the poles. It cut a leafy branch from the inside of a tree overhead and used it to spread a rudimentary layer of dust over the net, and sweeping out some of the larger areas of footprints near the bent and tied wooden poles. Oobleck could smell something vaguely alcoholic; either the creature was drunk or the net had been soaked in something sugary…perhaps to make it cling. Underneath that smell, there was another, fainter and much darker. It was meat, leather, and bile. It was vinegar, feces, and blood. It was as if the thing in front of him was rotting where it stood, and for all Oobleck knew it may have been. He knew the sun blinded them; perhaps it did other things as well. It occurred to him that the peeling skin may just be the start of something truly horrendous.

For almost a quarter hour, the creature worked at its trap. Finally it finished its diabolical task and glanced around. It looked pretty tired by now; light green grease that Oobleck supposed was sweat lined its forehead and its nostrils were widely dilated. It took one last look at its handiwork, and trotted south. Oobleck considered healing himself or scanning around, but he didn’t know if he could re-hide himself as well as he was now. He had sent word to Tier that he was under attack over 3 hours ago; he could only hope they were on their way. If they were not, he was in very serious trouble. A slight breeze blew through the brush and Oobleck felt suddenly cold. Looking down, he saw that his entire lower body was covered in blood. If he were out here much longer he wouldn’t need to worry about being killed by anything except for maybe a buzzard.

The exertion of staying lucid this long and watching the darkie trapper finally caught up with him, and he slumped back to the ground. The memories once again surged into his mind. This time, perhaps because of the smell of alcohol on the breeze, he found himself reliving the day he had met Tadaos. Oobleck was shocked to discover that instead of merely reliving the memories in his head, he seemed to be watching himself from a different point of view. He watched in fascination an Oobleck ten years younger and infinitely more innocent, and as the memory played itself out he slid slowly into unconsciousness.

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 Post subject: Re: The Story of Tadaos
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:52 am 
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Chapter 2

He had been in Tier for almost two months, training on golems and killing bears and deer outside the city with the help of his small band of friends. He had arrived with only the cloths on his back, a small dagger, and a map of Tier and had little to show for it. The bounty on bears and the equipment salvaged from golems or found lying about provided him with an honest income, though truth be told he was still closer to starving than not.

It had dawned on him relatively quickly that he would not be able to go into battle like a barbarian and fight, or he would perish quickly. It seemed to him the skills that real fighters had naturally interacted….they learned how to fight with a sword and parrying and dodging came along as a natural consequence. So far as he knew the only real thing that they were actually concerned about being able to do without fail was rescuing others or blinding them. If one could get a kick or two in or knock the daylights out of a magic user, then that was an added bonus. Oobleck was no fighter though; his people were a peaceful race, and his lack of skill with a physical weapon was only accentuated by his modest stature and physical limitations. Faeries were powerful creatures of magic though, and of that Oobleck was no exception. He knew only a few words of power, but they were useful ones. One protected him or anyone he cast it upon from physical attacks, one allowed him to detect a man’s soul, and to tell the good or evil it contained. He could chill a man to the bone with a word. He also knew he had many more to learn and that they would produce a myriad of possible alternatives in combat. He was pretty sure that he would need some help determining when to use certain spells, and what they were best followed with, if he didn’t want to end up dead because of indecisiveness.

When he had asked the guild master for guidance, he had gotten only a terse and ambiguous response, “I can teach you the how, young illusionist, the why and the what. You must learn the when on your own.” He had then cackled madly and turned his ink stained fingers back to his ancient tome. Oobleck had thought about that for a full day. The guild master was a man of great education, bred from a long line of teachers going back generations. He was an instructor without equal, capable of training a young magic user in the way of a spell or discipline in a matter of hours. He wasn’t a practicing illusionist though, and Oobleck though it very possible that the man had no idea of what existed outside Tier’s doors, or even his own for that matter. He was going to have to find a practicing illusionist.

Oobleck had spread the word that he was looking for someone who could teach him, and several weeks later he got a lucky break. There couldn’t have been more than three illusionists in Tier, and one of them would meet with him! Oobleck had eagerly replied and Tadaos had provided him with a time and place; four bells the next day at War’s Tavern. He had been so excited that he didn’t even sleep. Instead he had spent the entire night with a comrade killing imps in the forest west of Tier (and later he did it alone, his power had increased so much!). When dawn’s first rays touched the land Oobleck found his skill with daggers had increased dramatically, and he went straight to the aromorer. If he was going to meet Tadaos, a real baron (years would pass before he would become a duke), it wasn’t going to be like this, in dirty, cut up, substandard equipment.

When Oobleck walked to the door of War’s Tavern he had felt radiant. Gone was the standard issue armor and shabby woolen cloak, gone was the chain mail coif that had still vaguely smelled of the imp and forest from which it had come, and gone was the small and next to worthless dagger that had been worn away to little more than a pointed stick. They had been replaced by a shining steel breastplate and shield, each engraved with a mighty burning sun, both still glimmering with a fresh coat of oil. Around his neck he wore a polished golden torc and an amulet that was surely of ancient origin. He had found it in a donation pit and realized that wearing it increased his durability. It must have been very valuable! Upon his head rested a magical white helm with runes upon it and at his side was a hard-wearing and enchanted blade that was newly polished and still glistening with a light sheen of goose fat. He had found that the most refreshing aspect of having new armor was that instead of smelling like whatever had died in it previously, it had only a light oily scent, not entirely unpleasant. He would have bought an entire entourage of steel if he could have born the weight, but since he couldn’t he deposited all of his money with the town bank. Someday soon he would start to earn interest, a usury fee paid as the money was technically loaned them. Also included in the deal was a storage box that could hold things securely. He didn’t have anything at the moment that was valuable enough to belong in a box at the bank, but he thought that someday he might. Oobleck felt fit to take on the world, and he was going to start in War’s Tavern.

He scanned around as he entered the tavern. It was dark, cool, and relatively quiet; he liked it already. There were several patrons at the bar and a good many more at the tables and darkened booths in the back, but all of them seemed to be of ordinary folk, like him (though without the impressive armor). An incredibly pretty barmaid flashed him a dazzling smile as he passed, and he couldn’t help but smile back. He hadn’t had time for women since he had gotten to Tier, and he hadn’t been old enough for them when he had left his village in the grove. This was the first time he had ever really considered what it was he was supposed to do with one. He didn’t have much time to wonder though, as he was already at the long, oaken bar. He wasn’t sure what to drink, so he picked something at random.

“Black Death, please, sir?”

War the Bartender had been standing with his back to the door, reading from the label of a purple bottle. He poured Oobleck’s drink without seeming to see it, the glass it was going into, or the patron who had ordered it. As he set it on the bar he looked up. He had assumed from the voice that it was a woman ordering it, they didn’t generally go for the Black Death, but it wasn’t entirely unheard of. He was totally unprepared for what he saw.

While the faerie was impressively decked out in armor and felt at least 20 hands tall, the reality was that he was a faerie, and hardly broke 12. That put his head about one hand over the bar top. As he stood waiting for his drink, all War could see were his pink eyes, peering out from underneath the lipped edge of the white helm. A long slow grin spread from one side of War’s grizzled face to the other. He had seen a lot of faeries in his day…hell, he’d seen a lot of everything, but this was without doubt one of the most amusing. This one was fairly small, even for a faerie, and he couldn’t resist.

“Are you sure you are old enough to be drinking this, lad? It’s a powerful drink!”

Oobleck’s face started to slowly turn red, starting at his slightly pointed ears and continuing down to the tip of his nose. As the barmaid brushed by she whispered quickly into his ear “He’s joking, play the game!”

It heartened him, and Oobleck grinned back at the bartender.

“Are you sure you’re young enough to be pouring it? And don’t cut it either, If ‘twas mother’s milk I wanted, I could doubtless find it in prettier places.”

Several patrons chuckled to see such a small fellow with a quick tongue. War himself roared with laughter, tears gathering at the corners of his eyes.

“Aye,” he rumbled, “and doubtless in prettier vessels too! As for mother’s milk, young faerie…we shall see about that…” He touched a flame to the drink and it burned merrily.

This took Oobleck aback, though he managed to keep it hidden. He knew that if he didn’t hurry up and drink, he would lose his confidence. He wasn’t quite sure how to put the fire out, or how much to drink at once, so he ignored that aspect of it and approached the problem head on. The drink went down harshly, flames licking at his lips. There was an awed silence from the entire tavern. This was something that had not been tried before.

He wasn’t sure what happened next, because he seemed to simultaneously go blind and lose all sensation in his extremities, but he knew that he remained standing. He was vaguely aware that he had stopped breathing, and wasn’t exactly sure how he was going to get started again when something tickled the inside of his nose. The faerie reared back his head and sneezed mightily, shooting a red jet of flame from his mouth towards the bar and lifting himself off the ground. As he leaned against the bar, recuperating, his eyes watered and tendrils of smoke drifted from his nostrils. By this time War was laughing too hard to stand and was leaning against the bar, supporting himself. The patrons were cheering, laughing, and clapping. Oobleck had managed to remain calm through all of this…at least he was breathing again. People were cheering and offering to buy him more drinks, provided he did something amusing again.

“He’ll get another when his breath won’t ignite it,” War said, still gasping for breath. “As for this one, well, it’s on the house. We’ve all heard of fire breathing dragons, but I do believe that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a faerie snort flames!” The populous of the bar once again erupted into laughter. Oobleck was still too stunned to reply, so the barmaid took him by the arm and led him to a table.

Even in (or perhaps because of) his inebriated state, it seemed to Oobleck that she may have some interest in him. While she was pretty before the drink, she was ravishing now that it had kicked the sense out of him, and it was probably in Oobleck’s best interest that he wasn’t capable of speech, or he would have said something incredibly foolish. He certainly had an interest in her. She helped him to the side of the bar, a place out of the direct sunlight shining in through the windows and door of the tavern, but still within line of site of the door, placed him in a tall and comfortable chair, poured him a glass of water of water, and patted his head before she turned to walk back to the bar. He watched her walk back, feeling urges that were new to him, and thought they were amplified by the drink, they were also somewhat muted by the warm feeling that it had imparted.

He sat propped in the chair watching the people walk by the bat wing doors of the tavern for at least an hour. They were dressed in every color of the rainbow, they came in all shapes and sizes, and watching them must have made Oobleck doze off, because the next thing he knew he was gazing into the green eyes Baron Tadaos.

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 Post subject: Re: The Story of Tadaos
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Chapter 3

Baron Tadaos stood incredibly tall, Oobleck guessed between 18 and 19 hands, and the odd helm he was wearing might have put him a bit over that. His frost white breastplate was gouged and bashed, and blood wept through a gash in his dark green leg plates. He was glowing with powerful protective magic, and his singed face was covered with tiny cuts. Oobleck attempted to rise and bow at the same time, and Tadaos waved him back into his seat, chuckling softly at the faerie’s antics. He removed his gauntlets and helm and dropped into the seat across from the faerie, wincing.

“Oobleck, I presume?”

Oobleck nodded.

“I do hope you will forgive me for being late, I was…unavoidably detained,” he gestured at the hacked armor. Oobleck nodded and asked “Do you need to rest or heal? Because we can meet at a later time if it’s better…”

Tadaos cut him off with a wave. He muttered a word of power that Oobleck had on occasion heard the town healer use. Almost immediately the cuts on his face closed over and smoothed and his eyebrows and hair filled in the places that had been singed. Oobleck felt certain that whatever wound had been responsible for the blood on his leg was either a mere shadow or completely closed over. Oobleck was silently impressed. Although a relatively mundane act, that one spell had probably restored more life to him than existed in Oobleck’s entire body. Tadaos focused his green eyes (even brighter now) on Oobleck and started off the conversation in what Oobleck would come to know as his characteristically straightforward style.

“So what can I do for you Oobleck?”

Oobleck had spent all night considering the answer to this very question, yet when it came his mind fell blank.

“Well, I am an illusionist, but you know that, but should I be one? And can you help me? There isn’t anyone else or I’d ask them…” Oobleck realized suddenly how that could have sounded to Tadaos and rushed to correct it, “No…wait, I mean I wouldn’t have bothered you if there was another person who…ah…curses.”

He glanced over the Baron’s shoulder to see the bar maid. She was leaning against the bar, filling bottles and corking them, and smiled at the sight of him floundering. She pantomimed a drinking motion. Oobleck drank a bit of his still cool water, took a deep breath, and started over.

“ I stayed up all night thinking about what I would say when you asked me that, and I must have had a 5 minute address planed down to the last poetic syllable. Yet for the life of me, Sir, I can’t remember a damned thing.

“It’s like this, Baron. I am new to town, I am new at life, actually, and thus I am new at the illusionist business. I need help to become better, I fear that learning all that I need to know would be perhaps fatal without some guidance from an older and wiser mind,” Oobleck paused to drink again. Tadaos was still looking directly at him.

“I have inquired as to who resides in this town, and most days I am told that you are the only illusionist that Tier has. I wish to learn, and where else but the master would one go?”

Tadaos smirked at the faerie’s attempt at flattery. He knew that his talents as an illusionist could be described as capable; charitably he could even be referred to as good. Master yet…he had to chuckle. Oobleck continued, undaunted.

“I was hoping you could take me on with you, to show me the ways of an illusionist, the when…I could pay you, I don’t have much but…”

Tadaos once again cut him off with a wave, “Nothing you could give me would convince me to train you. I have rare treasures, weapons and armor, from every corner of this land, and more money than I could spend in three lifetimes. I am also somewhat of a minimalist. I would, however, consider doing it for a favor…a payment in kind if you will.”

Oobleck stared at Tadaos, a bewildered look upon his face. Paying money for help was one thing, offering a favor was another.

“When someday you wield more power in your unarmed hand than many will know in a lifetime, when you are the Baron, and a cry for help arises from someone so inconsequential so as to not be missed when he does not return home at night, you must give yourself to him as I will to you. For that, I shall teach you all I know. Is that acceptable?”

Tadaos had been watching the faerie since he had arrived in town, following him unobtrusively, keeping an ear to the ever present gossip in town to hear the type of questions he asked, even following his group and observing the interaction between him and his fellows. The truth was the faerie inspired him, most of the new adventurers in town did. The war between Tier and its neighbor lands had been going on since anyone cold remember, the only thing that changed was the faces on the bodies they buried. People like Oobleck were the only reason Tadaos stayed involved in the war.

For years he harbored some sort of hope that he may be able to help the new faces avoid ending up in a box, and to some extent he had been successful. The people he had helped had grown to be, like him, competent, if not good in their fields. Most of them were still alive, and most of them were better off for having known him. Though he would have paid money to help Oobleck; he was delighted to see him actually considering the deal he had offered. The faerie smiled and nodded.

Tadaos offered his hand, and Oobleck took it.

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 Post subject: Re: The Story of Tadaos
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Chapter 4

Oobleck awoke with a start. Already the memories were starting to fade in their intensity, and in another moment they would again become the faded cloth of dreams. His legs no longer hurt; in fact, he couldn’t feel them at all. This was not a good sign. Soon they would putrefy and things would really get bad. He could already imagine the bright lines of red that were creeping outward from the wounds.

Another realization forced its way belatedly into his head. Any magical aid to his senses had long since worn off, along with his protective magic. Even without the ability to detect hidden or invisible creatures, Oobleck could sense another being…

Something or someone was here.

He turned his attention the trap. It had not been triggered, of that much he was certain. In his mind, there were three possibilities. The first was that the someone or something was the creature or allied with the creature that put it there. Knowing where it was, it would have been sure not to trigger it. The second was that the trap had been disarmed, which meant only that whoever was there was not allied with the darkie trapper. It could have been Cairn or Kael just as easily as Tier. The third possibility and the one the Oobleck would have bet money against, was that the trap had simply failed. Oobleck didn’t find this extremely likely. In any event, he figured that the smartest thing he could do was remain hidden. He wasn’t a religious man by nature, but he inwardly said a prayer to the only God he knew, Tadaos’ One God.

He lay amongst the bushes under his blanket of leaves, petrified with fear and bleeding to death. Magically enhanced senses could pick him out as easily as the best trained dogs could; he was at the mercy of fate. Tadaos had once told him that fate favors the prepared man, and taking that to heart he had practiced hiding endlessly until he had it perfected. It seemed he had been successful so far, he could only hope that streak of luck would continue.

H could hear the unseen someones, they were moving about and rustling leaves. Small puffs of road dust rose and invisible boots trod this way and that. He guessed from the flurry of activity that whoever it was out there, kicking up dust and moving about, was creating another trap of some sort. After what seemed like an eternity, but could have been no more than a quarter hour, the sound of footsteps heading north drifted to Oobleck’s sensitive ears. He guessed there were at least five of them. After only a moment or so, footsteps came running back from the north and stopped directly in front of him. His heart sunk…he had been noticed after all. A disembodied voice whispered a word of power and Oobleck felt someone protecting him. A word later and a warm feeling spread through Oobleck’s body…his legs were once again functional, the deep throbbing pain was reduced to a dull ache. Another word and he was surrounded by a powerful sanctifying magic. He sensed the invisible being lean over him and could feel its warm breath on his ear. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end.

“They’ll not harm you my friend. Be steady.”

The whisper was so soft that Oobleck couldn’t tell whether it was a male or female, and just as quickly as they had come, the footsteps faded away to the north. Oobleck relaxed, taking a deep breath and resting his head. He felt safer now, even though a nagging voice in the bag of his head was telling him that he was bait.

A few minutes later Oobleck heard grunting and something in a foreign tongue. He didn’t speak the language of the darkies, but curses in one languages sound much like curses in another. He looked up just as a band of killers came rushing in from the south. A flash of white marked the discharge of a carefully laid trap. With a shout, a devil in the rear of the party dropped to his knees, suddenly covered in sticky nets. The others spun to look at him, appearing more annoyed than concerned. A tall, thin vampire, an illusionist that Oobleck recognized as Akuji, carefully scanned along the road, and the cursing trapped devil did likewise.

“Nassing nors, nassing soud…”

The creature’s lipless mouth and long tongue were ill-suited for forming the language; its hideous corrupted speech seemed to Oobleck to be somehow defiled. He understood it perfectly well, though. The vampire nodded in consent, confirming what the demon had seen. Oobleck was forced to wonder if his role had shifted from bait to sacrifice. Akuji suddenly looked directly at Oobleck. He closed his eyes tightly, willing the thing to not see him. It knelt in the brush and delicately licked Oobleck’s jawline. With some effort, the illusionist repressed a scream, but just barely. He was preparing himself once again for death hell broke loose.

To Oobleck it sounded like a stampeded he had once heard on the way to Tier, the ground seemed to rumble and the sky darkened. Screams of surprise and pain rang through the air, and Oobleck risked opening his eyes for a peek. The group that had originally passed him by was now wreaking havoc on the Undermountain war party. Of the four darkies, one was trapped and two were stuck to the ground, webbed. There was a magical wall blocking the road to the south, and Oobleck took this opportunity to be useful. He uttered a word of power, and the wall faded out of sight, another word and his eyes were magically in tune with invisible objects again. He armored the wall with another magic, and noticed his friend Zidane beckoning him to follow. All of the darkies seemed engaged, so he ran into the ranks amongst friends, Tadaos to his left and Setzer to his right.

“Target that mage,” Setzer said, pointing at a small devil in the back. It was waving its arms furiously in a manner that under any other circumstances would have been comedic. Oobleck was not nearly as powerful as the other group members, but he could do his share of damage. He called forth magical minions upon the mage, and hastened them so that they moved almost impossibly fast. After a quarter hour, the magic user was knocked to the ground almost continuously, his concentration momentarily broken. Setzer slapped him on the back.

“Good, boy, now just try to stay alive!”

The battle raged for almost two hours, though its outcome was clear from the beginning. Smokh, a well know darkie barbarian, was dealing out damage in hideous amounts, but Zidane was relatively safe; Setzer had provided sanctifying magic that greatly turned the tide in their favor, and Tadaos had webbed two of the three free darkies. He had also been covered in magical webs, and Akuji and he traded blows and spells in a magical dual. What would have been a very even fight under any other circumstances was imbalanced by the protective magic and continual healing from Setzer, and Tadaos found himself with what the gamblers at War’s Tavern called “the upper hand” in this fight. The biggest threat was the trapped mage, who breathed devastating lightning throughout the group, paralyzing those they hit.

Sirix was busy with a darkie monk, it had been blinded and disarmed but was still doing a good amount of damage and occasionally Smokh would stand in its stead, rescuing it from further damage. Sirix ignored the barbarian and kept targeting the monk with his magic.

“We have to kill that mage, he’s going to undo us!” Zidane singled the mage out; though he was too busy keeping his mates alive to do anything about it. A scream rang out, and the darkie dropped to his knees. Syslaa, a Tierian assassin that Oobleck knew only by reputation had circled behind him and thrust his assassin’s blade between the devil’s shoulder blades. The foul beast topped forward, almost dead. A burst of rage and a moment later, the dark mage broke free from Syslaa’s trap. He fled through the group and dashed north, trying to break through their ranks. He almost made it, until Sirix’s longbow dropped him with an arrow through the eye. He fell to his knees, clutching his head and screaming words that Oobleck at first mistook for obscenities, until a blast of frost knocked him to the ground, almost killing him on the spot. Sirix and Tadaos covered the mage with acid, and Syslaa once again had snuck behind him in the midst of the battle. This time, the dagger in the back ended him, and he sunk to the ground with a blood curdling scream. Setzer was on his game, and healing magic spread in waves throughout the group, healing all they touched. Oobleck rose once again to his feet.

Zidane uttered a word of power, and a blinding ray of light shot forth from his palm and sent the barbarian to his knees, clutching at his eyes and screaming. Torrents of acid covered him in a deluge of purple slime as his body was dissolved, and blows from the knight opened deep, stinking wounds. A moment later the legendary barbarian Smokh was dead.

Suddenly all was quiet, and Oobleck looked around at the carnage they had wrought. Weapons and blood lay scattered about, along with three mangled bodies. The illusionist was not there.

“Akuji…” He began, but Tadaos interrupted him.

“North.”

“He’s probably halfway to hell, Gods damn you illusionists!” Sirix cursed. Setzer smiled.

“The only way he is getting to hell is if he walks or we kill him, because I drained every last bit of power he had.”

At this Sirix grinned. Oobleck decided that it was a frightening sight.

Zidane ran north, and Oobleck followed. A moment later, Akuji stood, staring down the group. Zidane paused, and then continued north. Oobleck had seen the same thing, the Akuji creature they had just passed had been a decoy, magically created to be like Akuji in every way; except one…it lacked a soul. Like Zidane, Oobleck could sense the evil or goodness in a man’s soul, and like Zidane, Oobleck knew that Akuji was evil, as almost all darkies were. The fact that the magic exposed the creature as being neither good nor evil had been enough to foil its purpose.

As they topped a small rise in the road, they all saw Akuji at once. He was lying on the ground, a small pool of blood under his head and a stream trickling from a gash above his eyebrow. The other wounds that he had sustained in battle must have been magically healed. Even so, being healed wouldn’t save him this time. The group surrounded him and Tadaos muttered a word, frowned, and muttered it again.

“Hurry!” Sirix exclaimed. Again Tadaos muttered the magical word, and again nothing seemed to happen. He tried one final time, and streamers of sticky webbing covered the stunned illusionist. It had happened not a moment to soon…Akuji stirred, and suddenly leapt to his feet. Almost instantaneously Syslaa pommel butted the illusionist, knocking him out cold. Sirix grinned.

“Fix him.”

Zidane scanned to the north, and headed off in that direction, shouting back over his shoulder, “Don’t start without me!”

Tadaos made short work of Akuji, his coils sinking into him and drawing from his soul. His magical abilities were quickly and efficiently tapped by the Tierian illusionist. He then blinded the dark illusionist and magically slowed him. Zidane appeared from the north, mounted on a huge grey wolf. He was grinning broadly as he leveled a great witchwood spear. Setzer poked Oobleck.

“Better stand back, this is going to be messy.”

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Chapter 5

The news of their victory had reached Tier before them, and by the time they made it to get gates people he didn’t know were cheering him on madly. He caught a glance of a pretty blonde elven girl in the door of War’s Tavern; she was smiling and waving at him. He grabbed a passing child by the ear.

“Ah! Let go, you old bastard!”

This took Oobleck aback momentarily, and he glared at the child. He whispered a word, and the child’s eyes opened widely. He had just heard his father swear at him in two different languages, and it seemed to take the rebellious pep right out of him.

“Now, go to War’s Tavern and tell the pretty barmaid there that her friend will be with her in two or three hours.” The child nodded, and Oobleck released him. He ran off, rubbing his ear and swearing like a triton.

Ten minutes later, the group stood in the Inn, examining the four corpses, which had been dropped most unceremoniously on the floor. Zidane announced that he had an unavoidable appointment and hurried off after lifting the barbarian’s weapons.

Oobleck recognized Smokh and Akuji, but the mage and monk were unfamiliar to him. Sirix seemed to read his mind.

“The monk is named Mern. He has or had a twin, Norm or Nerm, Nrem; something.”

“What about the mage?”

“His name is Hermann…or is it Ziggy? I know, its Rondal!”

At that Setzer giggled. Tadaos and Syslaa smiled and Oobleck felt the familiar blush spreading outward from his ears.

“Well now you’re just being silly.”

“Hell, man, I don’t know who he was! No one important, that’s for sure. If he was, he’d have taught us all a lesson. There are very few things more deadly than a well trained mage. This jackass was an amateur,” Sirix lightly kicked the dead mage’s head, and cracked it open even further. Brains leaked onto the wooden floor with a sickening plop. Oobleck fought back a retch, but only with great effort.

“What about that assassin? Was he one of them?”

Tadaos and Setzer shook their heads.

“Duryn,” Sirix remarked. “Very dangerous. He was alone, and it was a very good thing.”

Sirix examined the corpses with a rudimentary glance.

“I don’t want any of it. Thanks for the kills, boys.” Sirix bowed and walked through the door. Setzer glanced at the corpses, but seemed more interested in the large bed. He looked as if he were about to sleep on his feet. He slumped onto the huge bed, smiling as he fell into an almost immediate sleep. Tadaos pulled some armor from Akuji’s dead body. The golden chest piece was battered, but serviceable. It would increase his power substantially. He slipped the rings from Akuji’s hands and the boots from the dead barbarian, and pronounced himself satisfied. He rested on the bed, chanting healing spells and focusing to regenerate his power.

Syslaa took the monk’s girdle, boots, and helm, and nodded at Oobleck. Oobleck examined the corpses carefully…they all had very good equipment, and he was having a tough time determining what to take. As he rooted through the corpses, Syslaa spoke.

“First time?”

Oobleck nodded.

“You seem to handle it well. I think I vomited for hours when it was me in your place. That was some pretty good evasiveness from a pretty nasty group. It made you look pretty good out there.”

“I lucked out! The had me beaten half dead, and the barbarian slammed into me and sent me flying before Akuji had the chance to web me…from where I landed it was only a roll away from fleeing the fight all together…I just stood up and walked off. I went north, instead of south, since they came from the south and I figured it might have been trapped up, and had enough power left to make myself invisible. So I sent word back to Tier that they were out there and hid, it’s all I could do.”

Syslaa smiled at him and offered advice.

“We all lead lives of chance and choice, just try to have some fun along the way.” Syslaa smiled again, and walked through the door just as Sirix had.

“He knows what he’s talking about,” Tadaos said. “He taught me, once upon a time.” Oobleck peered at Tadaos, surprised.

“An assassin taught you?” Tadaos nodded.

“You have to understand, when I was new to Tier, there were no old masters to learn from. I was the only illusionist in Tier. Syslaa took me in under his wing, and taught me the where’s and when’s, much as I have done for you. He equipped me and protected me as I rose through the ranks; he talked people into including me in hunting and scouting parties. He’s a good man. Thus you see some of my shortcomings explained…an illusionist trained by an assassin!” Tadaos chuckled and rose to his feet, wiping his hands on the dead monk’s black silk shirt.

“Take what you need, and sell the rest, or better yet, give it to someone who can use it.,” He clasped Oobleck’s shoulder, “I’m glad you are safe friend. I will see you tonight.” He walked through the door, leaving Oobleck alone with the sleeping cleric and four dead darkies.

Oobleck carefully picked every bit of equipment from the mutilated corpses, offered the ruined bodies as a sacrifice to Tadaos’ One God, and left Setzer snoring loudly on the bed. He had a woman to meet.

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Chapter 6

The bard stood in the corner of the tavern, blending in easily with the shadows. Oobleck found himself returning to the past. Again his memories played themselves out as if he were watching them from the point of view of some non-existent bystander, a shadowy stalker of memories and dreams.

He and Tadaos had been meeting in the tavern once a day to discuss his progress. It was Oobleck’s chance to ask the Baron question, and listen carefully as the Baron explained things as he knew them. On this particular occasion, Oobleck had a very good question.

“What does it mean when I hear that you are a phoenix?”

“It means that I am a phoenix, just as you are a faerie or Ciena there is elven.” Tadaos nodded towards the barmaid.

“You don’t look like one.”

“And what does a phoenix look like?”

“Well, they are fiery, they fly, and they rise from their ashes.”

“And how do you know this?”

“Everybody knows it!”

“Look at me. Tell me what you see.”

Oobleck looked carefully at Tadaos; he saw nothing new and shrugged.

“Green eyes, Brown hair. What am I supposed to see?”

With a flick, Tadaos reached across the table and swatted Oobleck between the eyes. The faerie’s eyes teared immediately, as happens with a blow to the nose.

“Stop looking at my nose, or my eyes, or my face, and look at me.”

Oobleck couldn’t see any of Tadaos’ features through the mist covering his eyes, and his mind had gone completely blank when his friend had struck him. It had the intended affect, for a moment he saw Tadaos in a new way. He cowered before the visual onslaught; his voice left him and his breathing momentarily stopped. The apparition that he had seen bore very little resemblance to the man whose face he had memorized. His skin seemed to waver and glisten, as if waves of heat were rising from his body. Small flames licked at the air, and a short powerful beak occupied the space where Tadaos’ nose and mouth had once been. Familiar eyes gazed at him, a purer, deeper green than he had seen in a long, long time. Oobleck realized that rather than seeing any physical attributes, he was seeing the illusionist’s essence. He blinked, and Tadaos was back to his old familiar self. Tadaos knew from the young faerie’s reaction that he had been successful. He nodded at Oobleck, understanding what he had seen.

“Now which do you suppose is the real me?”

“The one I just saw?” Tadaos shook his head.

“The one I am looking at? How can that be?”

“I am both. Your reality does not except us all as we are, so we appear to you like this. I am both the beast you saw, and the beast you are looking at now. Look at your pretty barmaid there,” Tadaos pointed at Ciena, the barmaid. “Look at her, not at her.”

Oobleck looked intently at Ciena, shook is head, and looked again. He frowned, and surprised Tadaos by cracking himself on the nose. He gazed at Ciena for quite a while, Tadaos wasn’t sure how much of it was young love and how much was him actually trying to see into her. Finally he looked back at Tadaos, shaking his head.

“It’s no use, I can’t do it. Is there some way I can practice it?”

“Not really,” Tadaos said, “There really isn’t a reason to practice it either. In the old days it was more important, when entering this reality weakened us to certain spells or conditions. It’s still that way a little…you will have to be sure that you are not using a spell that the creature you are targeting is not immune to. There’s no use targeting me with fire or poisonous gas, and my enemies know it, because most of them know I am a phoenix and it has no affect on me. You can always ask if you are not sure, no one is likely to be offended. You will catch glimpses from the corner of your eyes; the first time was actually the hardest. My guess is that someday soon you will be able to catch them from the corners of your vision and from there look directly at them, if it’s something you wish to continue to learn.”

“When I do learn it, is it something I will do all the time?” Tadaos shook his head.

“No, and it’s a good thing too. It’s my opinion that a phoenix is a beautiful creature. I doubt there are many who would look upon us and know fear. We are more likely to inspire amazement or awe. There are other creatures out there, creatures that are a hundred times more horrible than me. The very sight of them is enough to chill the blood in your body.”

Oobleck nodded, trying to digest what he had been told. Tadaos rose and smiled at his young friend.

“I’m going to go, I have an engagement. You’ll find something to do for the day?” Oobleck nodded.

“I am going to pay a visit to the faeries today. We have some things to discuss.” Tadaos smiled; he had of course heard about the faeries from Oobleck, and he knew of his opinions relating to their pompous attitudes. He had a feeling Oobleck would come back with their blood thick on his dagger. Oobleck looked again at Ciena the barmaid, and turned to Tadaos, his eyebrows dropped in curiosity and uncertainty.

“Is she as beautiful…?” He trailed off. Tadaos smiled.

“She is more beautiful than you can possibly imagine.”



The memory should have ended there, but somehow it didn’t. Though Oobleck knew that Tadaos had gone his way and he had gone his, his memories somehow didn’t follow the rules. The unseen stalker of dreams followed Tadaos through the door of the tavern and south through the streets of Tier. It was quite discerning to see this happening; to remember something that he had no part of. He closed his eyes tightly, and in his dream they closed as well. He looked back over his head, and saw the front of War’s Tavern fading from sight, windows blazing gold in the noon sun. He could vaguely make out a small figure working its way east to the east gate of Tier and knew who that figure was. The shadowy stalker of dreams forced his head around as they were walking through the south gates of Tier. Tadaos paused and muttered a word of power, which Oobleck recognized as a spell of far sight. He knew that Tadaos would find nothing, though he wasn’t sure how. They continued; Tadaos was evidently satisfied with what he saw (or didn’t see).

He followed Tadaos to the plains south of Tier, where nomads dwelt and megatherions and wildebeests roamed. Oobleck had been here once or twice in hunting parties, long ago. Back then, it was a tough place to be for someone of limited power, like himself. He somehow knew that nothing would bother him on this day. Perhaps it was because he was but a specter, or perhaps he had some divine hand upon his shoulder, guiding him through peril and risk. He didn’t know, and at the moment, was concerned with other more interesting questions.

Why, for instance, was he was remembering what Tadaos was doing, when in his mind he knew that he had gone to the Faerie Grove and had been nowhere near the elder illusionist? Moreover, why was he following Tadaos when there were more important, influential, and powerful people around? Whose eyes was he looking through…Who was following Tadaos, if indeed there was anyone at all? Was he simply loosing his mind? He would have to consider the questions later, Tadaos was on the move.

They made their way through the plains, ignoring the wild beasts and nomadic peoples that lived there (of course they couldn’t see Tadaos, who had made himself invisible), and soon stood before a cave the Oobleck realized and still feared. Night Stalkers dwelt here; vicious beasts that were half teeth and half mean. Many a young adventurer had found themselves impaled upon the draconian fangs of these beasts, usually before their eyes had even adjusted to the dark. Tadaos waded into the room, unafraid of the fearsome creatures. Oobleck was forced to follow, though he was starting to feel nauseous. As they entered the cave he peered around, amazed to discover that while not as bright as the outside, it was by no means the black pit of despair that he had last seen. Features of the cave formerly draped in shadow were now visible; though this was not an entirely good thing.

Oobleck had never actually seen a Night Stalker in the way he saw them now. The stocky creature had massive arms the dangled almost to its knees, and ended in claws a hand long. Jagged yellowed teeth jutted from its blood covered mouth. Oobleck wondered if the creature had been eating something, and then realized that every time it closed its mouth its dagger sharp fangs sliced its lips apart. There were no discernable eyes on the monster, but huge bat-like ears stuck straight up on the top of its head. Oobleck was glad that he had never seen these foul creatures before, and only hoped that he would never see them again. They seemed to know that Tadaos could annihilate them with a word, and stayed huddled around a group of small figures…what might have been gnomes. He saw Tadaos kneel behind a boulder and knew immediately why he had come here.

The gossip around Tier was that a band of young adventurers had disappeared while hunting rhinoceros on the planes. No one was sure what had happened to them, but it was generally assumed that they had been captured or killed, though hopes for their safe return remained high. Those hopes had been dashed this morning when a lone nym had been found crawling on the road to Tier, bloody and delirious. The giant had been severely wounded, and it took some while before he was calmed enough to tell his story.

It seemed that the hunting party had been engaged in a battle with one of the huge grey beasts when a lone figure had appeared from nowhere. The monk was heavily armored, covered from head to toe, but the giant swore that it was a woman. She had devastated the party, killing one of his young friends before he had even seen her and scattering the rest. Though wounded, the nym (Oobleck though his name had been Verand) had managed to flee from her, and two of his group had followed. Unbeknownst to them, Verand had been blinded by smoke and was running straight from a certain death into a probable one. He never saw the cave, or the terrible beasts that waited within. The Night Stalkers had torn into his remaining group and finished the work the monk had started. Verand had managed to grab the corpse of one of his friends, and fled through the dark cave, ending up near a small village of green gnomes, over the hills from the plains. The young giant had made it back, nearly dead, with one small corpse tied over his shoulder, and it was said that as he was being carried into the city he cried for someone to retrieve the other corpses of his fallen team mates.

It appeared that Tadaos had come for that corpse.

Oobleck watched as the illusionist unrolled a saddle blanket and laid it on the ground. He lifted a small corpse from the crevice behind the boulder and laid it carefully upon the blanket, straightening its arms and legs. The stiffness associated with death had passed, and the body was once again malleable. The dead child (that’s what he really was, a child) looked to be a cleric. He had something clenched in his left fist, and Tadaos pried the hand open to see what it was. The cleric’s holy symbol, still affixed to its silver and gold chain, had been grasped so tightly that it had cut the young faerie’s palm in three places. There was a look of peace on his face, and only one apparent wound on his body. The young cleric had been run through with a fearsome weapon…the skin immediately around the wound was blackened and cauterized, and further in it turned almost white with frostbite. Small red lines ran under his skin at the outside edges of the wound, and Oobleck knew without looking that they would continue up on the way to his heart. He wasn’t sure if the faerie had lived long enough for the poison to make it that far, but it would have eventually. The vision was occurring with such clarity that he was aware of even the miserable equipment the cleric was wearing. He’d probably been proud of the steel armor, the glowing rings of protection…the shiny bracers made of hematite. They would have made him feel invincible.

Small drops of water landed upon the cleric’s face, and Oobleck instinctively looked to the ceiling, to see where they were dripping from. A moment later he realized they were tears. Tadaos knelt over the body, shoulders racking as he wept for the child he had likely never even met. Oobleck wanted to turn his head, but he could not. Seeing the man who had been like a father to him in this state was more painful than anything he could remember.

Oobleck screamed for mercy in is mind, but whatever had him in its thrall, whatever foul spawn of evil that was forcing him to watch this was refusing to release him. He could only weep himself, and though he knew that somewhere his body was raining tears, the stalker of dreams was not. He could feel something though…something that tinged his consciousness like a drop of blood in a pool water. He couldn’t identify it with certainty, but it seemed almost like despair.

They knelt there for some time, until Tadaos quietly rolled the blanket over the dead faerie and tied it carefully at the feet, the waist, the neck, and the head. He rose, lifting the small corpse as if it were no more than a bag of twigs and carrying it over his shoulder. When they stepped into the brightly lit plain again, he uttered a spell of far sight. This time he paused. As before, Oobleck knew a moment ahead of time what Tadaos would see. This time a voice rang out in his head, one he almost recognized as his own.

“LOOK OUT TADAOS! SHE’S BACK!”

Tadaos was oblivious to Oobleck’s warning, and broke into a trot in the general direction of the great wall of the plains. Just to the west of it he came upon the stunned monk.

She lay in a small pool of blood; the wrist thick log that had hit her on the back of the head was lying across her back. Through the purest of luck, she had stumbled upon a trap that had been there since who knew when. Tadaos had no way of knowing how long she had been unconscious, only that she was alone in the area. With a word he covered her with piles of sticky webbing, and magically blinded her. She was wearing a magical girdle that had nearly infinite space, and was almost surely loaded with magical potions to cure poison, blindness, curses, probably even a few for curing critical wounds. It could be serious trouble. Had she been wearing it, there would have been little Tadaos could have done, but she had the slung it over her shoulder like a sash and he delicately removed it from her. He took the small vials she had tucked under her belt, and turned his attention the girdle. He pulled out all the potions he could find, stowing them in his own. He uttered another spell and she seemed to move in slow motion. A few more took what magical energy she had. He ran to the east and conjured a wall to the north, making it invisible and armoring it. He than ran west of the monk and placed another wall to the north, ran west and placed one to the east, and circled to the south and around the walls, back to where she lay. He mentally checked himself, making sure that his protective magic was up and that his armor was all strapped tight. She was beginning to stir. Oobleck cried out in his mind.

“Kill her Tadaos! Kill her now, while you have the advantage!”

Instead, Tadaos sat and watched the monk as she gradually recovered from the blow to the head, and rose to her feet, immediately starting to struggle with the webs and waiting for the blows to start. Even unconscious she had been aware of some of what was going on. When she spoke Oobleck was surprised.

“I know you are there. Why do you not attack me?” Her voice was deep for a woman’s, smooth and commanding. To Oobleck, it sounded very dangerous. Tadaos must have heard it differently however; he remained seated and spoke calmly to the struggling monk.

“I have the corpse of the child that you killed. Would you that I add to this tragedy by taking more lives?” She seemed to ignore him and blindly searched for her girdle, and noticing that it was gone, the vials under her belt.

“You won’t find them. I have taken the liberty of removing them. I’m not completely stupid.”

“You must be, or you would be attacking me while you still held the advantage. When I break free, I am going to destroy you. Kael is already aware of my whereabouts and they’ll be here any moment. You will die today.” She continued to struggle with the tenacious webbing.

“You won’t be destroying me but for the simple fact that you can not see me, and I will not attack you. As for Kael coming to destroy me…well…I have heard word that at this very moment we have a party waiting outside your gates, and as of yet you are the first Kael face any Tierian has seen all day. I’m afraid you’ll be on your own today.”

She roared and leapt at his voice, but the netting still held her firmly.

“ATTACK ME!”

“No.”

“ATTACK ME!”

“No, and you can’t make me.” Tadaos sat upon the ground, legs splayed as if he were watching children at play. She sighed, thoroughly exasperated.

“You are acting like a little baby. Now do what you are supposed to be doing and attack me.”

“I’m acting like a baby? You are demanding that I try to kill you!”

“It’s your job. Now fall too it and let me kill you and get it over with.”

“I’m sorry,” Tadaos said, “I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

“Who in hell are you, anyway?” She stopped struggling for a moment. Tadaos sat silently, watching the monk. She was fairly attractive, in that dangerous female sort of way.

“Who do you know of from Tier that is capable of webbing you, blinding you, and slowing you down on his own?”

“I was stunned as well, in case you didn’t notice. Did you do that as well?”

“No. I have no idea how long that trap was there. I don’t even know if it was one of ours. Do you believe that I am by myself?”

She tipped her nose in the air, smelling carefully, and cocked her head to the side. After several moments she nodded.

“That would make you an illusionist. I don’t know of many illusionists from Tier, and even fewer who would dare stand toe to toe with me without fighting. Are you extraordinarily brave, or just a foolish ass?”

“In truth,” Tadaos said, “I’m not sure myself most days. Why don’t you rest a moment? You have my word that I will not harm you or summon in others to harm you.” Abagail laughed at this.

“The word of a Tierian? You honestly expect me to take the word of a Tierian? Not very likely!” Oobleck noticed that even though she spoke harsh words, she seemed to have stopped struggling, if only for the moment.

“And I would be foolish to take the word of a Kaelian. How about I give you my word as Tadaos, son of William, and you can accept it as Abagail, daughter of Duncan. We could forgo me being a Tierian for the time being, if that would help you trust me.” At this she stopped struggling completely and dropped all pretences of machismo. Tadaos had truly mystified her.

“What do you want?”

”I just want to talk. I am sick of killing. I am tired of fighting. Do you realize I am more skilled at covering people with acid or sticking them to the ground than I am at doing something as mundane as ventriloquism, something that any illusionist should be able to do as if it were second nature? I don’t understand why we always have to fight. Neither one of us is particularly evil, why must we attempt to kill each other every chance we get?”

“Because you know that we will both kill again. Did it not occur to you that your refusal to attack me is treason to your city? Your promise of amnesty is more of a reason for me not to trust you than anything...what can guarantee me that a man who betrays his city would not think twice of deceiving an enemy?”

“I have no allegiance to the city. I serve the people. At this moment I carry the corpse of a cleric, a mere boy, back to his family and soul surviving friend. Does that seem like the action of a traitor?”

“If you were to kill me, you would save the lives of countless Tierians.”

“Perhaps if I were to talk you out of killing Tierians, I will have saved the lives of countless Tierians, as well as yours.”

“You are an odd person.”

“We are killing Kael to be just, Kael is killing us to be free, Undermountain kills just to watch us die, and Cairn is because they can. Who’s odd?”

She broke free from the webbing, but instead of fleeing as Tadaos and Oobleck expected, she simply stood, face to the sky.

“You know,” she said, “That this could be considered an affront to the Gods. We are meant to fight, and you know it.”

“Damn the Gods,” Tadaos said, though not as loudly and assertively as some Oobleck had heard. “Do they fight amongst themselves? No. Do they suffer as we do? No. They aren’t even capable of dying. What do they know of loss and pain? It’s easy for them to make rules like that for us when they themselves are above them.”

Oobleck felt a slight urge to reach out and touch Tadaos, to slay him in cold blood. He didn’t know where the thought had come from, but it frightened him, both because he knew Tadaos would kill him dead, and because he had never had such an idea in his life.

“The Gods will do as they please, when they please. Like it or not, questioning their methods is as pointless as fighting them. We are all pawns, Tadaos. Remember that. The next time we meet, I will have to kill you.” She prayed for transportation, and vanished in front of him. Tadaos sat for a few moments, then rose slowly to his feet and headed back to Tier. Oobleck’s vision started to fade, but he knew the body had been returned to Tier and the family; he remembered hearing about it. Tadaos had never said anything to him about the dead cleric or his conversation with the monk, however, and though Oobleck was concerned, he couldn’t say that that he was surprised.

The memory faded to blackness, and Oobleck shook his head, clearing the final residue from his mind. The shadows clung in the deepest corners of his consciousness like cobwebs. He had been having these flashbacks at an astounding rate; they’d come and go without warning, like a thief in the night, leaving him wondering what the significance was. He dearly hoped that he was not loosing his mind, but he could no longer say with certainty that it was not the case.

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Chapter 7

Oobleck had indeed mastered the trick of looking into people, as Tadaos had predicted, and he could see from Sirix’s semi-transparent outline and shadowy features that he was a greyman, bred for stealth and elusiveness. Designs in gold thread traced through his dark coat. It had a long collar set with onyx and rubies in the shapes of card suits; diamonds, spades, clovers, and hearts. A gambler would have fit him well, by reputation he was someone who took great risks. His appearance was almost humorous, a small stub of hair on his chin, bushy eyebrows, and dark black hair that was short and wild, out of style for Tier but fit him well. The sword at his hip, held by a rather plain sash and sheath, was a thing of legends. The handle seemed ancient; though it still glowed with a certain aura of power. Gemstones incrusted the bottom, while angel’s wings progressed up the grip. The blade itself was almost certainly carved with ancient figures. He wore dark leather attire, and a harp slung across his back, gold gilded and priceless.

Oobleck wondered what he was in the tavern for; it wasn’t one of his usual haunts. Oobleck knew this, because he was there almost every night, talking to Ciena and developing their relationship. Looking around, Oobleck saw many of the other Barons and dukes of Tier. Tadaos sat to his left, talking to Setzer who in turn was at his left. To his right was an empty seat, Ciena would be there in a few minutes, and at a seat further down sat Syslaa. He was drinking something cloudy, and to Oobleck he looked worn out. Fog, Earthlore, and Belroth sat at a table to his right. A tall, muscular warrior stood next to Sirix. Oobleck knew him as Stil, or Stilicho. He had been around since before the original Tier had fallen…Some even considered him the father of Tier. Oobleck had no opinion of him whatsoever, except that he no compunctions about defying people or gods alike. Whatever his personal proclivities were, he was a mighty warrior, one you were better off standing behind than in front of.

“Gentlemen,” Sirix started. His voice was very deep and very melodic. “Gentlemen, we have an opportunity tonight that may be too good to ignore. Syslaa, our intrepid assassin, has brought word that Kael is nearly empty. The gates still stand guarded, but no one of any consequence seems to be inside.

“Look around you, we have enough people to take this opportunity. We have a cleric to keep us all healed and sanctify us. We have warriors who devastate everything they hit, and an illusionist to hasten them and offer support. We have mages who can destroy an entire troop of black guards. We must strike tonight, and we must do it quickly. We need Setzer, we need Fog, and Stilicho and I will go. That leaves us room for two more. We have a knight, a mage, an illusionist, and two assassins.”

“You don’t need assassins,” Syslaa said, “I have cleared the traps from the road all the way there, and left them some of my own in return. We don’t hit exceptionally hard, and we don’t use much magic, so assassins would be of little use in a raid, anyway.” Sirix nodded in consent.

“Zidane, are you up to it?”

“Am I ever not up to it, Sirix?”

“No, in fact you are much like a small dog; you never stop biting and you never shut up.” Setzer giggled.

“Belroth? We could use another mage. And Taddy…We may not need you to go, but if you could help us prepare I would appreciate it.” Tadaos nodded.

Stilicho raised his hand to motion for attention.

“I’m going to get some equipment that we may need, meet at the fountain in a quarter hour.” The men rose, chatting amongst themselves as they went about their preparation. Stilicho left the tavern, and Oobleck turned to Tadaos.

“When will I be able to raid?”

“Rank has its privileges, when you have become a Baron or Duke, expect to be asked along. It’s not that impressive though…its about the most dangerous thing you could do.”

Ciena had arrived, and was looking at Oobleck.

“I don’t see why you want to do it at all! It’s dangerous, violent, and this is a pointless war. There are people here who want you around you know.” She poked him in the ribs. Sirix had wandered over and he overheard this.

“It’s glory, pretty barmaid. It’s love of the city and the need to be a hero. Someday, if Oobleck is lucky, he may be a hero.” He excused himself and headed to the bar, aiming himself towards Fog.

“It’s a death wish, it’s exhilarating misery, and if you are smart you will listen to Ciena.” Tadaos slapped the faerie on the shoulder and nodded bowed to Ciena. “Keep your ear to the wind, Oobleck. Succeed or fail, you will hear the news.” Zidane tapped Setzer’s shoulder.

“We’d better get moving.”

As the raiding party stepped out into the street, the sight of Stilicho screaming to no one in particular greeted them. Streams of obscenities flew from his mouth, and veins in his forehead and neck stood out prominently as his face grew redder and redder. Oobleck, who had been following the group, looked to Setzer.

“He dragged enemies into the guards of the east gate,” Tadaos said.

“Who is he arguing with?” Oobleck asked.

“The Gods,” Tadaos said.

“Which ones?”

“Bahamut. Maybe Tonashu.” Oobleck nodded. He had never met Bahamut, but he had seen Tonashu once or twice before. The immortal was fond of games. At times, he would have great contests, awarding the wisest in the land with fantastic armor or weapons. His voice would spread across the land like a breeze, and a question which most people had no inkling of how to answer would work their way into the head of every soul in the land. The questions dealt with both this world and others, and they ranged over many topics, guaranteeing that only the wisest would do well. Tadaos had won, from time to time, and Oobleck had been lucky enough to be with him on a few of these occasions.

Stilicho shook his fist at the sky.

“You don’t scare me! Do you hear me? I’m not afraid of you! YOU CAN’T SILENCE ME!” The massive warrior cursed, kicking at a large tailless cat who had wandered too close. It hissed and fled down a dark ally.

“If they don’t want to get dragged into the gates, why would they stand so close?”

Setzer nodded. “That’s a valid point, one that many people share. Regardless, it is the policy of Tier not to do it. That’s not what they are arguing about, though.” Tadaos looked up, now interested.

“He has a problem with some of the Immortals. No one is quite sure what, but he has made it clear his displeasure. This particular God does not take criticism…well…”

“That’s an understatement,” Tadaos interjected, “but regardless, speaking against them can’t lead to anything good.” As if on cue, the Immortal Tonashu arrived in a swirling mist. Bahamut appeared a moment later. Tonashu looked as Oobleck had remembered him: Tall, thin, fair, and attractive. Bahamut was taller, darker, and heavier than his divine counterpart, but like Tonashu, he was inhumanly beautiful. Oobleck found himself attracted to them, though not in the same way that his pretty Ciena made his heart thump and mind scream. He had no idea what they were saying; he could only hear their voices as the faintest of whispers. It quickly became apparent to him that it didn’t matter what they were saying, Stilicho was not going to be swayed in his opinion, whatever that was, and this incident did not look likely to blow over. Bahamut and Tonashu spoke at length with Stilicho, who only became more belligerent and vocal. He was practically screaming now. Oobleck watched with equal parts amazement and anticipation.

He was amazed the Stilicho would act like this, and anticipating the Gods putting a hasty stop to it. Bahamut finally said something loud enough for Oobleck to hear.

“You are too stubborn an ass to shut up and listen. I have pleaded with you, I have begged you, and I have warned you. Now I am simply going to inform you of the facts. There are other gods, Stilicho, beings beyond our comprehension. Do you think that I answer to no one? The idea is laughable. No…They are there my friend, and they are very displeased with your actions.”

“I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU OR ANY OTHER GODS!” Stilicho roared and leapt at Bahamut. Oobleck was a little hazy about what came next, because his mind wasn’t prepared to handle it. Stilicho seemed to fall apart, bits of his flesh dislodging and falling free of his body. Smoke or steam began to rise from him, and the parts of him that been dislocated seem to vanish with a barely audible pop. Without so much as a whisper, one of the greatest warriors to walk the streets of Tier evaporated in front of Oobleck. Bahamut and Tonashu glanced at eachother, and at the gaping crowd. They both faded into nonexistence as one.

The raiding party stood, stunned by the spectacle that they had just witnessed. Finally, Sirix turned to Tadaos.

“We are going to need you.”

Tadaos nodded and followed Sirix. He turned to Oobleck.

“I’ll tell you all about the raid when I return, if you still want to know. For now, why don’t you just take it easy for tonight? Spend time with Ciena. Think about life. Sleep. Eat. Drink. You will find in the future, when you are destined for greatness, and I think you are, time to rest comes rarely, if at all.”

Oobleck nodded and watched as the group headed out of town, fading out of sight prematurely as Tadaos worked his magic. He took Tadaos’ advice and spent the night with Ciena, drinking wine and talking with her into the small hours of the morning. The stars were beautiful, twinkling like every precious gem he had ever seen, and he felt himself seduced by the moment. He launched into a long winded tail of a faerie who left his home in the grove to become a mighty warrior, only to be seduced out of his rightful place by a pretty barmaid. Ciena giggled and snuggled closer. Oobleck found himself escaping momentarily from the reality of the war. Victory’s death momentarily took a place further back in his mind and he was able to relax. The first rays of the moon found them in an embrace at the pier overlooking the ocean. Before Oobleck knew what he was doing, he asked her to marry him, and before Ciena knew what she was doing, she accepted. They fell asleep in each other’s arms, wrapped in a blanket to ward off the cool night air, and shared blissful obliviousness to the city, the times, and the war.

At dawn, Oobleck awoke with a start. Ciena was still asleep next to him, her warm body pressed against him and her arms around him tight. He had heard or dreamed something awful, something that had sounded like the death of a hero. A moaning arose on the wind, a sound that quickly progressed into a full-fledged wail, and in it Oobleck heard a shriek the chilled him to the bone. It was as if cries of agony had arisen the world around; Kael had been raided by Tier.

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Chapter 8

The raiding party made it back to Tier almost three hours later. They were beaten and bloody, every man among them looking as if they had been face to face to face with death. Sirix, Setzer, Fog, Belroth and Tadaos slumped in a heap, mentally and physically exhausted. Crowds of Tierians had gathered to cheer them on, and brightly colored banners and paper lanterns hung everywhere.

It struck Oobleck that Zidane was not among them.

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Chapter 9

Obleck tossed uneasily in his sleep. He was having another dream that wasn’t a dream, a memory that wasn’t his was working its way into his mind. This time it didn’t start with him, in fact insofar as he knew he was not involved in any way. He wasn’t even sure when whatever he was looking at had taken place.

He was following somebody, from the looks of it a woman of medium height. She was vaguely familiar, though without seeing her face Oobleck couldn’t place her. He wasn’t sure if he was seeing through the eyes of someone who was there, but from the lack of conversation he guessed that he was once again either non existent of invisible. Time seemed to pass at an odd rate, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, and it left Oobleck disoriented. It felt as if he were dreaming inside the dream. He was following over a well-used road, which eventually turned to dirt, and after that was little more than a worn path. After what seemed like several hours, they finally stopped at a spot that Oobleck knew. They were just making their way out of a deep and dark forest, at a junction near the desolate plains to the north and east of Kael. Oobleck had been here once or twice. They were not far from the banks of a quiet mountain lake. There were shorter ways than this, he knew, so why had she gone to all the trouble to travel so far to the east, then north, and then back west and south again? Oobleck could only guess that she wanted to be alone.

He could see an island in the middle, and he knew that huge demon locusts lived there. They were incredibly deadly, and he hoped that wasn’t where they were headed. Thus he was relieved when the woman he was following (or was it stalking?) stopped, and hunted carefully for any signs of intruders. Satisfied that she was alone in the area, she rested on a log that had fallen, and was partially submerged.

Oobleck now recognized her as the monk that Tadaos had been speaking to: Abagail, if his memory served him. She was scanning the area carefully, checking for intruders one last time. Satisfied that she was alone, she pulled a small flask from the magical girdle slung over her shoulder and set it on the ground at her feet. She drew an odd-looking knife, and set it carefully beside her. Oobleck’s curiosity turned to a numbed shock as she began to disrobe, first removing the girdle and equipment that was slung or tied to her, and then the outer armor she had been wearing. She continued removing articles of clothing and instruments of destruction, folding or wrapping them carefully and placing them on the ground beside her. Oobleck felt his eyes widen as she stripped to a sheer, tight fitting leine and leaned back, enjoying the slight breeze. Oobleck had no idea what she was up to, but he had to say he didn’t mind watching as it happened.

After a few moments in the breeze, Abagail uncorked the small jug she had earlier set aside. Oobleck suddenly realized he could smell in this memory, and the scent of lightly perfumed oil drifted to him on the breeze. She spread this carefully on her left arm, and scraped the peculiar knife (which Oobleck now realized was made of wood) along her arm, as if it were a razor and she were shaving. The oil rolled slightly and Oobleck could see the edge of the wooden knife was pushing along a film of oil and dirt.

She was bathing!

Oobleck could see the benefits of this form of bathing right away. He had heard that there were people of the desert who would go months without seeing fresh water, so to keep themselves clean they would cover themselves in scented oil and scrape it off, along with all of the dirt, grime, and dead skin. In his own village, they had used a sauna, and he supposed the sauna used a similar process, except it used the heat induced sweat instead of oil. He had never seen such a thing as an oil bath before, though, and he though it remarkably sensuous. He watched her for nearly a quarter of an hour before he noticed the other figure standing behind her. He couldn’t bring himself to draw his eyes from the remarkably curvaceous monk, but then again he didn’t have to.


She shrugged. “I don’t think like that, it is not in my nature. You are the thinker. So tell me then, mister thinker, why do we fight?”

“If it were only that simple! I think we fight because we love, or because we fear, or both. It all comes down to the same thing. I fight because I love wisdom and knowledge. You fight because you love something…what…your comrades?” she nodded quickly once as he continued, “What I don’t understand is why we must fight. We all seem to want the same things! None of us wants to die and certainly very few among us actually want to kill! Can we not solve our disputes as the Gods themselves do, as a forum of men among men?”

He offered her his hand, more of a gesture than anything; she was the stronger and more agile of the two. She accepted it anyway and he leaned back and braced her as she gracefully rose to her feet. Her armor and weapons clinked lightly as she rose, sounding almost musical in the cool, still, and misty morning air. Though most of her charcoal black hair had been tied back in a tight braid a few strands had escaped. These rose in fell in the gentle breeze of the morning, seeming to snake through the air.

“That,” she said, “I cannot answer. I would like for it to be so. I have friends, even blood in Tier. But until the Gods change their minds, if indeed they have any, we must play by their rules. Whether its punishment, entertainment, or the working of some cosmic machine I know not, you if anyone would. But I do know this: The next time we meet I will have to kill you.”

Tadaos nodded as he dropped his eyes to the ground and shuffled his feet aimlessly. Abagail sighed, “You know I must. We must all abide by the laws; you, I, Sirix, Nessus, everyone. To snub them is to risk spitting in the face of the Gods. I don’t know about you, but I am not up to divine retribution. That sort of thing tends to be hard on your body. I have lost friends, dear friends, to Tier’s steel, and I know you have lost comrades to Kael. You should want this to happen.”

“Fools wish for death. Brave fools wish for a glorious, honorable death. I am neither.” The sound of voices drifted on the faint breeze. Abagail cocked her head slightly, ear to the wind. Tadaos muttered under his breath, and a greenish glow spread outward from his pupils.

“Whur and Nessus. That’s my cue for a rapid exit.” Tadaos bowed his head and stepped back. He muttered again, and the light seemed to briefly bend and converge into a large shape, a beast of magic. Tadaos whispered into its ear, calming it perceptibly. As he mounted the flaming steed he looked back at Abagail. She was no longer looking at him, she had turned towards the voices. A voice in the back of Tadaos’ mind was saying that it was unwise to do this…they were still enemies in spite of the small moment of amicability between them. He knew that they would both kill again, that he could potentially prevent the deaths of many Tierians by killing her now. He wasn’t sure if he could do it alone though, and certainly not before the others showed up. Could there be such a thing as killing an enemy in cold blood? Tadaos though about this as he gigged the steed into a run. The day, formally bright and fresh, somehow seemed tainted.


Oobleck shuddered and leapt from his bed. The dreams were gone now, or perhaps they had skipped this night. Either way it was a welcome respite from the deluge of what Oobleck was beginning to suspect was insanity. His old friend Tadaos had been right once again, the answer had come to him in the middle of the night. Oobleck sat for a moment upon his bed, gathering all of the dreams, memories, and flashbacks together. He didn’t doubt the accuracy of the visions; he was certain that everything he had remembered was the truth, as well as everything that had been remembered for him. He had resolved days ago and was certain now that he was seeing something that had happened, and that the memories he had of the events were not his own, but an accretion from some force unknown. He wasn’t sure how or why this burden had been laid upon him, but as the gamblers would have said, he had an “eye up his sleeve”.

It had occurred to him that he had seen the stalker of dreams.

This time Oobleck summoned the memories, bidding them to enter his mind and dissolve the outermost layers of his consciousness. He would maintain the lower ones as best he could, attempt to retain at least some control this time. Though he knew that he couldn’t recall that which had not been shown him, he was certain he could go back over the details of what had been revealed by the dream stalker.

His mind flew through the memories in rapid succession…It seemed whatever had granted them to him had enabled him to remember them with an accuracy that was nearly eidetic. The images flashed through his head with rapidity and a certain clarity that frightened him. For a moment he felt totally aware, seeing all, knowing all, feeling all. He recalled exiting War’s Tavern, then seeing Tadaos leave to the south. He knew what was coming and was prepared. As his eyes turned to catch a last glimpse of the young Oobleck hurrying off the faeries, he focused on the windows on the front of War’s Tavern. Time seemed to slow, then stop. All noise was silenced, all motion ended. The dust that had hung lazily in the air was stilled, and from the corner of the memory he thought he could see a blue and white bird suspended above the ridge of War’s Tavern, wings flared and legs sprayed in preparation to land. The bright noonday sun had turned the glass of the tavern into mirrors, and they contained a gold tinted duplicate of the Main Street of Tier. There were two figures in this world; the one with his back to the glass was Tadaos, tall and broad shouldered, and as familiar to Oobleck as anyone he had ever known. The other figure was almost a complete stranger.

The face of the Immortal Tonashu gazed back at him.


Abagail’s brown eyes met Tadaos’ green ones. They knew that the next time had finally come. With a suddenness that surprised them both, she leapt at him. He had beaten her to the first blow though, and she was suddenly covered with magical sticky webs, this fight would be to the death. Tadaos flinched under the onslaught of blows that seemed to rain upon him…for each blow he landed she would land four or five and she hit much harder. He was blasting her with acid as fast as he could, and each time she hit him, cuts would open upon her, mirroring the damage. It was powerful magic, but barring a miracle, Tadaos knew that it would not be enough. He feebly parried what he could, and occasionally attempted to heal himself. He knew he wasn’t harming her enough, so he had to continue with his onslaught of acid, though he could feel his life draining from his body. An air shattering blow obliterated his left shoulder, and his left arm was bitten by the chill of a frost giant’s war axe. His shield slipped from his numbed grasp, leaving him almost defenseless. He groped for a potion of healing, only to discover they had frozen and burst. He tried to backtrack quickly, and ended up sliding in a puddle of blood. He felt momentarily sickened as he realized that it was his own. Looking up, he saw the edge of her axe and then a flick of silver, and a voice was yelling at him.

“FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MAN, RUN!”

Tadaos tried, but he managed only a few steps before his legs gave out on him. A foot slammed into the back of his head, and he tumbled forward. Even though he wore a helm, the monk had almost knocked him out. As Abagail turned to see who had rescued Tadaos, Zidane kicked a cloud of stinging dirt into her eyes, temporarily blinding her. With practiced and fluid motions, he dropped the tip of his flaming blade under the head of the axe, and with a flip sent it flying through the air. He was upon it almost before it had landed, grabbing it and stuffing it into his belt. Abagail was skilled in barehanded fighting, but she was left with the blue and grey sword in her off hand to parry, and she would have to do it blind. She was injuring Zidane severely, and Tadaos tried to do what he could to help him; but in spite of his efforts the knight looked halfway dead. Around him, the world was quickly fading in intensity…The bright world and sounds converging into a monotone of silence and darkness. He uttered a word of healing directed at the mighty knight to whom he owed his life on so many different occasions, but he was so far gone that he couldn’t tell whether it had worked or not. Already the clashes of metal and clinking of armor was growing quieter, and the world’s colors were fading to grey.

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