Through Perils Unknown

Through Perils Unknown

It was late when he arrived at the city. The sun had long since set and the cool dark shadows that draped the landscape told him that it would be many hours until dawn. He had chosen this time to enter, hoping that his arrival would go unnoticed by all save the one he sought, and had waited, clothed in the dim colors of dusk, until now. A rare quietude had fallen across the city of Stormpoint in recent months, and the vigilance of the guards who stood post at the city wall had correspondingly waned. It was a stroke of good fortune for the traveler--one he hoped would last as he scaled the grey-stoned wall and landed in a crouch on the other side.

Within the city, his movements were swift and quiet, aided by a pair of soft-soled boots and the tread of one who was practiced in the art of silence. Wraithlike, he kept to the back streets and deserted alleys, staying far from the pools of lantern light that rippled on the fog-slicken cobblestone, and wrapped a dark-green cloak around his frame to avoid the scrutiny of any foolish enough to roam the streets after night had claimed the city. Twice, he thought he heard footsteps behind him, and his left hand slid to the leather-wrapped hilt of a blackened sword even as he himself slid deeper within the shadows of the hour to scour the darkness behind him with a pair of sharp-edged eyes. Each time his search found nothing, but each time the well-honed instincts of his trade told him that his eyes were mistaken. His task was urgent, however, and there was little time to waste. If any had known to follow him to the city, they would know also where he would go. His best hope lay in reaching his destination before any who trailed grew bolder. Keeping a hand on the hilt of his weapon, he thus continued, passing no one and hearing little else as he made his way to the merchants' district.

Once within the lines of shoppes and stands that formed Stormpoint's commercial centre, the stranger continued past several establishments, glancing at them only long enough to ensure that they concealed no danger, before arriving at the back of a building that stood perhaps a bit higher than those that surrounded it. A slight alcove existed within the wall of the structure, and the man ducked quietly inside it with an agility that suggested he was familiar with the recess. It was pitch black within the nook of the shoppe wall despite the fact that pale shadows could be seen just beyond its reach. It was a singular oddity, but the man gave no heed to it, using the peculiar coverage it provided to scan the streets once more before wrapping softly at the back door of the Kuriousity Shoppe.

Having attuned his senses to the quietness of the streets, the sound of his gloved knuckles knocking against the plain wooden door sounded deafeningly loud and he glanced out to the streets again to see if the summons had reached other, unwanted ears. He was still casting about for such signs when he heard the hinges of the door glide softly against one another, prompting him to turn his attention back to the shoppe. Within the frame of the now-open door stood an Elven woman of slight build and indeterminate age. Dark hair fell past her shoulders in soft-flowing ripples while equally dark eyes took in the face of her visitor with a keenness even greater than that generally associated with kind. Her examination of the traveler lasted but briefly, and she soon stepped aside to allow him entry.

He wasted little time in accepting her silent invitation and stepped hurriedly into the shoppe, closing the door behind him and taking a more relaxed breath as the Elven woman slid a curiously fashioned lock back into place. He watched her as she did so, noting that she appeared neither tired by the hour nor surprised by his appearance. The former failed to surprise him, as he was accustomed to dealing with Elves, but the later always gave rise to a certain uneasiness, though he had grown to accept it over the many years he had known her. When she was finished with the lock, the shoppekeeper led her guest through a curtained doorway and into a small room furnished with only a table flanked by two chairs and a single oil-lamp affixed to the far wall by an iron bracket.

The traveler had been here many times before and, following the shoppekeeper's outstretched hand, took his customary seat at the table while his host took the seat opposite him. As always, as soon as the shoppekeeper settled a raven-plumed bird swept down from an unseen perch to rest upon her shoulder. Like its mistress, the bird too stared pointedly at the visitor before finally cawing in satisfaction and recognition. Having thus been accepted by both, the man finally began to speak.

"Vil-Gawyn sends his greetings."

One of the shoppekeeper's eyebrows arched sharply in response, "He must esteem his regards greatly to choose so . . . capable a courier."

She was, as ever, to the point, inducing him to remove a small bundle wrapped in rough-woven cloth from beneath his travel cloak. He placed the bundle atop the table and began removed the cloth with care, revealing a small wooden box which he slid across the table to the shoppekeeper. "It was found in the ruins of Rhonak. Vil-Gawyn hoped you would know what it was."

With the mention of Rhonak, the first true flicker of curiosity sparked in the woman's features, and her eyes widened perceptibly as she looked from her visitor to the box he had placed before her. "Rhonak." The word was spoken in a hushed, excited whisper, as if of a thing which could not be shaken from memory, though best forgotten. Her visitor only nodded in response, further feeding her curiosity, and she raised the lid of the box with an anxious hand and an expression that defied categorization, but rather appeared to be a mix of reactions. The expression solidified as the box fully opened and allowed her to look within, but her face remained unreadable, forcing the visitor to speak again.

"Do you know what it is?"

She didn't respond right away. She didn't even look up at her visitor, but stared down into the box as if all outside her vision had vanished--rendered suddenly irrelevant by the revelation that was hers alone. A strange luminescence rose from the box now, bathing the woman's Elven features in an unexpected glow and casting a shadow, long and dark, on the wall behind her. Gaining energy, the radiance began to pulse, responding to some unseen stimulus, as water rippling from a pebble dropped within its depths, save, instead of fading into stillness, the light's pulsations seemed only to grow stronger with the passing of time. Held rapt within its glow, the shoppekeeper closed her eyes and took in the light with senses unknown to her guest. Seconds ticked into minutes, and still she gave no response, seemingly lost within the aura of the box. Her visitor shifted in his chair, hoping to draw her attention, but his efforts were rewarded with only continued silence on the part of his host, prompting him finally to ask his question again.

"Eowyn, do you know what it is?"

She lowered the small wooden lid without comment, and only when the box was fully closed did she open her eyes and respond. "Yes, I know."


"Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


Evening was approaching as Eowyn left the harbormaster's office, climbing down the set of salt-worn wooden steps to the docks below. She had only two more tasks to perform in the few hours that remained of the day. She'd sent Kaered away that morning but kept the package he'd brought, instructing him to tell Vil-Gawyn that she needed some time to find answers to all the questions he no doubt had. It wasn't entirely untrue. The discovery at Rhonak gave rise to several possibilities -- possibilities which she had long since buried in a past remembered by few save as legend and myth -- and she had taken much of the day to consider them anew. There were only two real options, she knew, but each carried with it a host of dilemmas and difficulties that most would rather ignore or avoid. She had the luxury to do neither.

After hours of research, remembrance, and rumination, she finally determined the option she would take and set about making the necessary arrangements to implement her decision. It hadn't been easy. She'd run into several dead ends and at least one true disappointment, but eventually her efforts were successful and she had managed to procure almost everything she deemed necessary. Only two more things were needed, and that was why she had visited the harbormaster's office.

She'd known the current harbormaster, Yarwin, for several years, having met him ages ago before the effects of age had rendered him unable to brave the torrents of the sea. He was one of, if not the, most competent seafarers she had known and she trusted his judgment on nautical matters with a confidence reserved for only a few. Thus, in need of such advice, she had called upon him.

He was surprised by her visit and curious about her request, but in the end had told her what she needed to know without gleaning any information from her in return. It wasn't unexpected. She'd always been tightlipped, and after some reflection he resolved that it was for the best--his days of adventure were long-since past and apart from giving his advice he could offer little aid in whatever task lay ahead. He had thus wished her good fortune and watched her go with an emptiness and longing he'd fought for some time.

She didn't look back as she left. It was too hard. During her uncounted years she'd seen so many face the poetic and literal ravages of time, but it never became easy. It was the price, she knew, of being Human. They were frail in ways--ephemeral--but it was believed by many that this frailty was a gift, rather than a curse, and that something else, something greater was waiting for them after their mortal coil was through. She hoped that it was so and tried to push her further concerns aside as she walked down the docks in search of the ship Yarwin had named.

She found her moored near the end of the docks' length--a three-masted clipper with smartly polished cherrywood rails. Her masthead and flag were unmistakable--the former being a woman raising a star aloft to the heavens in cupped hands while her lips parted in song; and the later bearing a raven-haired woman rising from the water in song and cast against the star-strewn indigo of the night. If any doubt remained, it was resolved by the name, which appeared below the masthead, "The Starstruck Siren."

She was a sound ship to be sure, and if Yarwin's opinion of her captain proved true then Eowyn's preparations would be at an end. She didn't want to meet the captain at the docks, however, having developed a predilection for conducting business elsewhere in such circumstances. As if sensing her decision and desire, the dark-plumed bird that served as her steadfast companion returned to her shoulder and cawed in both greeting and slight complaint at having been instructed to wait outside while she spoke with the harbormaster. She gave it a handful of seed by way of apology, and when it had finished took a wax-sealed scroll from within a pouch that hung at her side. Mollified by the seed and tacit apology, the bird took the scroll from its mistress' hand and flew dutifully towards the ship, disappearing from view as it dipped below decks. It returned a few moments later with empty claws and a self-satisfied expression of accomplishment. Eowyn stroked its feathers and offered it another few bits of seed before sending it back to watch the shoppe while she waited; for now, there was nothing to do but wait.


"Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37



The Captain's steps paused as she turned to look over her shoulder at the approaching man. "Aye, Joseph?"

"Cap'ain.." the man began, wiping a hand across his sweatened forhead. The weather lately had been extremely hot during the days, and it didn't seem as if the heat was going to let up any time soon. "..A bird just flew in and out o'your cabin. I thought ye migh' want to check it out."

The Lady Captain arched a brow, curiously looking at the man. "Are you sure?"

"Aye, Cap'ain. I'm sure." Joseph nodded his head as if to emphasize his point, and as his captain stepped around him, he followed her protectively. Silver descended the steps, long fingers wrapping around the hilt of the sword that swayed at her hip. There was no sound coming from her cabin, and as she approached,she carefully kept her eyes on the crack in the door.

A palm found the polished wood and pushed, Joseph on one side, the captain on the other. "Just a bird? and it left?"

Joseph nodded, and with his affirmation of the claim, Silver stepped into her cabin. A quick sweep of her eyes proved that no threat was in visible sight, but none-the-less she did not let her guard down too quickly. With Joseph at her side, the duo made a quick inspection of the room, only to find a scroll left on her the pile of papers that lay strewn across her desk.

"Do you recognize the seal?" Silver precariously picked up the scroll and showed the wax emblem to Joseph. He shrugged, broad shoulders rising and falling as his face twisted into thought. "Cannae say I know it."

She inspected the wax seal carefully, sticking a finger underneath to unroll the parchment. It was simple enough, asking her to meet at the Narwhal Tavern at 10 o'clock. A business proposition. It was not strange to see this type of "business proposition" on her desk or arriving on her ship, as she (and the crew) knew sometimes things had to be done a "certain way". Yet, a bird delivering a note? The Captain looked down at the signature.

It was a circlet comprised of three intertwining rings, each wrapping impossibly about the other two without beginning or end. Within the center of the triple circle hovered a marking, possibly a rune, consisting of three lines--two running vertically the length of the ring, and the third crossing first two with an upward slope.

Again, she held out the paper. "Know this?" Joseph shook his head negatively. Silver reread the letter once more before tucking it at her side. "Ten o'clock, we are going to the Narwhal." Joseph nodded and stepped out of the cabin to finish his chores before the night fell.

*     *     *

The steps of the Lady Captain fell in a rhythmic pattern, creating a distinctive sound on the planks of the dock. Joseph strolled along side of her, his eyes carefully scanning the area around them. Silver held back a hint of a smile, the man next to her offering an amusing comfort.

"Joseph, I highly doubt a bird poses much threat. The owner of the animal maybe, but not the bird. We've docked here many times..."

"Aye, Cap'ain but you can never be too careful. Especially with everything as of late." He turned his gaze to the woman and she nodded respectively.

"When we get to the tavern, you know to stay near the door but within earshot."

Joseph nodded, and the squeaking of the sign in the breeze told them they had arrived at the Narwhal Tavern. The Captain paused, glancing up at the sign before entering the dimly lit Tavern.

The smell of oil from the wood polishes and lamps assailed her nose, along with the salty smell of the patrons and the barely and hops of the flowing ale. It was a strange comfort to have all those aromas rolled into one giant scent, and with a moment to allow her eyes to adjust, Silver's eyes flickered over the room.

She approached the bar, signaling down the Innkeeper with a flick of her fingers. "Pardon, but I'm wondering who belongs to this?" She withdrew the parchment, and unrolled the letter to show him the signature at the bottom. The keeper arched a brow, eyeing the woman for a few silent moments before looking once more to the paper. Finally, after what seemed an eternity of his mind reeling and debating on answering, he spoke. "The proprietress of the Kuriousity Shoppe...Lady Eowyn."

Two silvers were dropped on the bar in thanks and Silver turned back to the room. She had visited the shop once, and if her memory served her correctly, the owner was a woman, Elven if correct, dark hair and hauntingly dark eyes. Soft spoken but silently wise. Silver began to move towards the back of the room, silver-webbed blues landing on the silent woman towards the shadows.

Seated at the back table, she wore a black cloak, but what distinguished her was the pendant around her neck. It was an exact replica of the signature on the scroll. The Lady Captain tucked the scroll back at her side and approached the table. Tanned fingers fell to the wood of the chair as she offered a hint of a smile. "Evening M'lady. I believe you requested my presence?"



Eowyn had been waiting at the tavern since the seventh hour . . . waiting and watching. She had no firm evidence to suggest that anyone was monitoring her comings and goings, but a lifetime of suspicion and resulting calculation was a hard thing to shake . . . especially when the fickle hand of fate had dangled such a boon before her. It seemed, in the recent vernacular 'too good to be true,' and in Eowyn's experience cherished possibilities that presented themselves so neatly were generally not what they appeared ... and even if they were, they too often drew unpredictable and undesirable competition. She wasn't sure which of the two semi-axioms she most suspected on this occasion, though she knew which one she most feared. She'd thus taken the precaution of arriving early, very early, and keeping a close watch for others who might have a keen interest in her business and a keen ear for the conversation she meant to have with the captain of the Starstruck Siren.

Aside from the occasional argument or brawl, brought about by the combined effects of weariness and alcohol on the generally seafaring patrons, the hours ticked by seemingly uneventfully. Soon after the tenth hour struck, however, Eowyn noted the arrival of two new patrons, a man and a woman who entered with a purposeful step. The woman was blonde, tan-skinned, and moved with the athletic fluidity possessed by many who spent the main of their lives at sea. She thus matched the sketchy description the harbormaster had given of Captain Silver Starblade. Her companion was a similarly tan-skinned, sinewy, and wore an expression of stout concern. He chose a table near the entrance, but kept a clandestine eye on the woman as she approached the bar and showed an unfurled parchment scroll to the keep. Prudent, Eowyn thought, and of good boding.

Having obtained the information she sought, the woman, who Eowyn now knew to be Captain Starblade, thanked the keep with the clink of coin and strode past the tavern's clientele, engaged, as they were, in various states of recreation, relaxation, and inebriation, before reaching Eowyn's table at the far back of the establishment. Wary, her eyes flickered briefly to the pendant that hung from the shoppekeeper's neck, and once satisfied she placed a hand on the back of the empty chair that sat opposite her supposed host.

"Evening M'lady. I believe you requested my presence?"

She spoke with easy confidence that mirrored both her step and her stance. It was tone that Eowyn had heard many times before and one that rang with pleasant sincerity to her ear. Still, recommendations, mannerisms, and inflections told only so much. There was always more, much much more than what lay unscratched upon the surface. A person, a life, or a creed could not be summarized or judged by cursory or indeed even careful visual inspection. No, there was always more, and it was this 'more,' of which no could tell her, that Eowyn needed to know.

She thus stared long and hard upon the captain, focusing not upon her appearance, not upon the ephemeral mask worn by all, but rather upon that which could not be seen by the haze-filled sight inherent to the physical ... upon that which lay behind, beyond, and within. Silence held sway as the shoppekeeper searched. Seconds ticked slowly by into minutes, and all the while the shoppekeeper's penetrating gaze held firmly on the captain, her eyes growing seemingly darker and shaper with each moment that slipped noiselessly from present to past.

Neither knew how long the search had lasted when finally, apparently satisfied by what she had 'seen' in the one who stood before her, Eowyn answered. "Your belief is correct, Captain. Please, be seated if you will. My name is Eowyn, and I have a business proposition for you."


"Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


Silver stood silently, observing the woman with quiet perception. It seemed the lady was doing the same, but it was almost intimidating the way her eyes slipped right through Silver's skin and delved to something deep inside her. The lady captain blinked as the woman spoke, focusing once more as she introduced herself as Eowyn. Silver pulled the chair out and settled into the wood. "Well met, Eowyn. A business proposition is always welcome."

"I hope you find this one to be so, Captain. Put simply, I'm in need of a fast ship, a solid crew, a superior captain, and no questions. I asked the harbormaster for some names. He had only one -- yours."

Silver arched a brow, allowing her arms to fall and drape on those of the chair. The harbormaster recommended her for the job, as a few have done in the past, but some deals held consequences. The Lady Captain had learned the hard way, sometimes a few questions needed to be answered. Those days were too many and in the past to just sail. Silver watched Eowyn for a long moment before speaking once again. "I only have three questions that need an answer. Where is the port of destination, how long is the voyage, and how many passengers." Simply put, they were questions of preparation, and one could be vague in answering as long as the Captain felt she received some information.

Eowyn kept silent for a moment, not moving, not even breathing as she considered the captain's quite legitimate questions and how much of them she was prepared answer. So many things needed balancing, and so many of them were either unexplainable or unknown. It wasn't an uncommon dilemma for her, for indeed a good many of her past actions seemed riddled with such concerns, but this time so much hung in that precarious balance. Oddly, however, it was this very point that clarified the matter and simplified her decision. She needed this ship. She needed this captain. And she needed them quickly. She therefore answered as directly as she could, staring firmly into the other's eyes in an attempt to garner some sense of trust, and speaking with low yet clear voice.

"As to the destination, I'm afraid I cannot say. I can only tell you which direction to head . . . and only that after we embark. As to the duration of the voyage, I have reason to believe that it could take somewhere from one to three months. As to the number of passengers," she paused long enough to allow a brief smirk, "here, I believe I can offer you a somewhat more 'certain' answer. There would be approximately ten, including myself."

The information sunk into her memory with little ease. Appearances were deceiving, but Silver knew of this lady Eowyn. Her name was whispered around Stormpoint, and the woman across from her had a quiet grace, however mildly unsettling, Silver felt somewhat at ease with the answers. "That is fine. I do not know when you need to leave, but my crew and I will need ample time to prepare."

Eowyn nodded in understanding. Yarwin had been correct in his recommendation of captain, and the unrippling demeanor of the woman across from her gave Eowyn some degree of confidence regarding her choice of crew. "How long should it take you make preparations?"

"With ten extra passengers, three to four days. It can be done in less if need be but I prefer not."

Three to four days. It was sufficient. Eowyn had finished all but a small handful of her own preparations, and those could easily be brought to heel within that time. "Three to four days would be acceptable."

Silver and Eowyn


Indeed, three to four days would be acceptable, but time was not the only concern that battled for a measure of prominence within Eowyn's mind. In fact, there were several issues begging for attention and threatening to overwhelm both the thinker and her thoughts unless they received a certain degree of recognition among the shoppekeeper's myriad considerations. One of these, as always, was the welfare of those she would place in jeopardy by involving them in her current pursuit. Generally, she had some measure of certainty regarding what form that jeopardy would take. This time, she did not, and the lack of certainty vexed her. She could not warn against dangers she didn't know, and providing a litany of possible risks would ill-serve her in her attempt to garner assistance. She therefore trod that path she had so often followed, and took the ever-beckoning middle ground.

"From my conversation with the harbormaster I gather that you have a certain familiarity with . . . less prosaic . . . voyages." She waited for some small acknowledgment from the captain, and when it came she continued with a caution born of courtesy. "I've no desire to question your acumen, Captain, but I do wish to be forthright. There is likely to be a certain amount of peril involved in this endeavor."

Silver listened intently, offering a very slow nod in Eowyn's direction. She indeed had a tendency to find and be involved in "perilous" journeys, but the tone with which Eowyn's words fell made Silver sit in silence for a moment before answering. "Yes, you received correct information from the harbor master . . . and every journey requires the knowledge that peril is involved." She was content with the answer, and hoped the woman across from her acknowledged the acceptance of the deal.

Listening, Eowyn took stock of both the captain's hesitation and her ensuing response. The woman had clearly met danger in many forms and had gleaned sufficient experience from those meetings to know not to dismiss risk in a cavalier manner. She knew it was something to be measured, something to be studied, and above all, something to be accorded healthy respect. This discernment mollified the shoppekeeper's concerns to some degree, and she thus continued with a quicker, though no less serious tone.

"Then, aside from your price, which I presume you'll provide upon calculation, I have only two more points. First, if possible, I and one other passenger will have need of private quarters."

Silver nodded, the layouts of the ship she knew like her own body quickly scanning through her head. If certain adjustments were made to quarters, taking into account the crew and the ten extra passengers... "Aye, it can be arranged. It will be a tight room which will be made for two occupants." The Captain nodded again and waited for the second point of negotiation.

The second point was more important than the first, but less amenable to articulation in the buzzing atmosphere of the tavern, where ears and eyes might not be as gin-laden as their owner's expressions suggested. This was the drawback to selecting the tavern, but it was outweighed by the many advantages the establishment offered, and Eowyn was more prepared for the moment than would be readily realized. Keeping her eyes fixed on the captain, the shoppekeeper didn't speak, but instead reached within the dark folds of the cloak that draped about her. She seemed slight and somewhat frail in comparison to the garment, as if she were more shadow than actual substance -- a wraithlike figure from that realm that lingered somewhere between darkness and light and who could disappear into either with equal ease before even a wary eye. She didn't disappear, however. She didn't even flicker in the wavering glow from the hearth as she pulled a soft leather pouch from her cloak, placed it on the table, and slid it slowly across the ale-soaked wooden surface towards the captain.

Silver leaned forward slowly with a creak of the chair groaning in protest of her movements, and reached towards the leather pouch. Tanned, albeit calloused fingers gingerly pulled the pouch towards her to rest at the edge of the table before she turned back towards the woman with a questioning glance.

"Open it later, in private. It's a sort of . . . boarding pass, if you will. Don't allow anyone who claims to be with me aboard without one. And make sure it looks . . . exactly . . . as yours does." She paused to allow the import of the statement to settle across the table. "You'll find one for you and one for your first mate, as the passengers may have some need to identify you as well."

The captain said nothing in response, but the resolve written within her sea-born gaze made clear that she understood. Satisfied, Eowyn thus continued. "Shall we say, departure in one week?"

Silver's lips parted to speak but her voice held in her throat for a moment as the shoppekeeper's voice rang in her mind.

~Five days, Captain, five days.~

It had been many years since she had heard any voice in her head other then her own thinking. It was strange this woman would be the first to trespass into her mind and make memories of the gift resurface. Silver nodded in understanding again before her voice found itself. "Yes, one week is ample time. I ask only for a third of the payment on arrival, another third on arrival of the destination, and a final payment once we arrive back home."

Eowyn nodded in response, not only to what was said, but to that which remained unspoken as well. She well understood some of the feelings of the other, and a silent note of apology for the necessity of her actions echoed in her gaze as she spoke. "You have but to name your price, and it is done."

Silver settled back in the chair safely tucking away the pouch that was slid to her earlier. Silver settled back in the chair safely tucking away the pouch that was slid to her earlier. "Ten passengers for a month's journey..." Silver did the calculations in her head, figuring out the supplies, rations, and extra linens. With everything unknown on the journey she figured in a bit extra for insurance should they need more supplies. She gave Eowyn a rough figure and satisfied, smiled. The Captain sat back again, turning her gaze towards the sky line outside the window before resting once more on the woman. The blood began to pump through her veins again as the realization of being out to sea again sunk in.

The shoppekeeper listened quietly to the explanation of the requested fare, but the figures and allocations were of only academic interest to her. She had no true concern regarding the captain's price. It was only her ship, her crew, and most importantly her skills that interested Eowyn, and having received adequate assurance of those points she would have paid double, even treble, the stated fare to secure them. As it was, however, she simply stated, "Agreed," in response to the captain's calculations before extending her hand to the woman in a gesture that, in her experience, humans considered to be of some importance.

Silver's hand found Eowyn's in a brief shake of agreement and a slight curve of her lips hinted at another smile. However, she said nothing and simply stayed silent.

Their agreement struck and their plans in place, the two women departed the tavern separately . . . each to their own musings, each to their own preparations, and each seemingly unaware of a pair of eyes that followed them with keen interest and unknown intentions.

((written with Silver))


"Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


Silver shifted ever so slightly as the papers in her hand were lowered towards the light shed from the single lantern in the center of the worn wood table. Three-Fingered Jack almost mirrored her moves, but his were more jittery then calm. His chair creaked and whined in protest to his constant movements.

Jack peered at the woman across from him. Jack didn't think the woman looked so intimidating. The orange and yellow lamplight did nothing but cast dancing shadows on the Lady Captain. The dim light flickered off the tanned, sharp features of her face from the high cheekbones, to the set jaw, and most of all - her eyes. They were lowered at the moment to the papers but he would never forget them. Silver eyed the papers warily. Jack never let her down, but he was twitching more then normal. She lifted her eyes slightly to cast an inquisitive glance in his direction. "What's got'ou so jumpy, Jack?"

Jack sent his beady eyes back and forth into the tavern nervously. "Nothin' lady. Just waitin' for the decision." He nervously twitched again as her eyes set on him again. Broken, shattered they were. Something wasn't all settled inside that woman, Jack thought anxiously. Silver lines weaved through the unending depths of sapphire blue.

Silver lowered the papers to the table, placing a hand on the surface. "For all ten?"
"Aye lady, all ten."

She nodded once before reaching towards her hip for the payment. Jack leaned forward, licking his lips in anticipation of the money. Silver's fingers paused in their descent as she heard it first - unlucky for Jack as he slumped onto the table. His eyes stared lifelessly in surprise as the blood trickled from the back of his neck.

The Lady Captain's chair toppled over as she leapt up, snatching the papers off the table and unsheathing a dagger in one fluid motion. The intruder leapt forward, retrieving the weapon from Jack's back. He lunged across the table, causing the only light in the room to shatter and extinguish on the floor.

Silver cursed silently in her head as she ducked and rolled on the floor, pushing the papers down into her shirt and pressing her back against the wall on the far side of the room. She held her breath, counting silently in her head as she listened for any movement.

A chair clattered on the other side of the room and a muffled curse penetrated the darkness. Silver stayed crouched, one hand resting fingertips on the floor between her squatting legs, the other gripping the dagger at her side. Slowly, her gaze began to adjust as a creak in the floorboard revealed the intruder to be mere steps from her position.

The intruder lunged towards the wall where Silver's moonlight-casted shadow was. The Lady captain rolled once more, rising behind the intruder and sending a sharp blow towards the neck. A yowl of pain escaped, and the Captain dropped to hook her booted foot at the intruder's ankles. The thief toppled to the floor, rolling to throw his weapon at the Captain.

Silver lowered to the floor, and with a deft flick of her wrist sent her dagger slicing through the air into the neck of the intruder. She rose, sliding her fingers over the cut in her arm from where the thrown dagger slid past her.

"Seven hells." She sighed. The door was pushed open and a flood of light from the street entered the room. Joseph trotted in, his brow furrowed in concern.

"Everythin' alright cap'ain? I heard some noises..'

"I don't know Joseph."

The shipmate looked from Three-Fingered Jack's lifeless body to the slumped over figure in the corner. Together, the duo made their way across the room to retrieve Silver's dagger, but what they saw made them pause.

The intruder was a woman.



The last hint of day faded from the indigo sky when Sylvin awoke from her slumber. Tonight was the night she had agreed to give the Lady Eowyn her decision about joining her mission. Rising from her silk-draped bed platform, she walked to her still-glowing hearth and stirred the coals. Lost in her own thoughts, Sylvin smiled slightly as she was rewarded by a small flame leaping up to consume a last bit of unburned wood. She fed the diminuitive fire a few bits of kindling and used a brand to light the many candles strategically, if artfully, placed about the inside of her seamless, heavily draped tent. Again and again, Sylvin's thoughts kept returning to one thing . . . why would a fey creature require her help. Eowyn's kind preferred to keep a good distance from their "cousins" in immortality. This time, however, there had been almost an air of desperation surrounding the elven maiden when she paid her visit those short few nights ago.

'The rumors about her must be true,' Sylvin thought to herself. 'How else could she have known I was back in Stormpoint?'

The moon had passed through its predictable phases many times since Sylvin had set foot in the Gypsy Camps that bordered the eastern fringes of the land considered to be the holding of Stormpoint. At the time, leaving her beloved camps had become a nearly frenzied need to escape. However, her time away had salved her most festering desires to be unfetterd by responsibility. And now, here she was being invited . . . almost compelled to join a fey, and whomever else she may have already recruited, on a task that was not to be taken lightly. Eowyn had said it could be dangerous, which is why Sylvin was granted a scant handful of nights to ponder her response.

Shaking herself out of her ruminations, she walked over to her bedside table and took up the supple leather pouch, a similar shade of cinnamon her own skin once held, that Eowyn had placed on the ebony surface of the low table surrounded by overstuffed cushions Sylvin used to receive the rare guests to her tent. She could almost feel the presence of the dark-haired, dark-eyed woman in the object confinded within the buttery leather of the pouch. For what seemed like an eternity to any observer, Sylvin held the small pouch between clasped hands and contemplated the offer Eowyn made as she placed it on the table.

'Whatever I desire most, eh? I doubt very seriously she has that ability . . . even if all the rumors are true. But since her offer gives me carte blanche to name my price . . . why not?'

Sylvin opened the pouch and looked once again upon the object it held. The deep green stone resembled malachite, but seemed somehow more precious. Surrounded by burnished metal, the pendant had an ancient . . . almost regal quality to it. The simple brown leather cord from which it was suspended belied its true importance and value. However, Sylvin did not choose to wear it. She confined it within its leather holding and set it back on her bedside table while she chose the necessary items that would accompany her.

Sylvin opened the doors to her wardrobe and contemplated her choices. Several shirts of similar, simple cut and woven of linen were set aside. Also several pairs of pants in a sturdy cotton and varying shades of black and grey were chosen. Her simplest pair of black leather boots with reinforced soles would serve nicely. Her favorite dagger with the onyx handle was also set with the clothing. A few ribbons might be handy, since long hair can get in the way. She also added her black leather gloves and serviceable black wool cloak to the pile.

Food, she assumed, would be ample for a creature of her palate. It could be less easy to find a place devoid of sunlight during the day, but that was a chance she would have to take. As an extra precaution, Sylvin also set aside a few packets and vials, which when combined would yield a product designed to sustain her through a brief exposure to sunlight. She had no idea what to expect, but as she packed her knapsack and prepared to meet Eowyn with her answer, she felt ready for anything.

Never mistake my kindness for weakness . . . it could very well be the last thing you do.



Under cover of darkness, with only the barest sliver of a waxing moon shedding pale light on the earth below, Sylvin was able to easily traverse the wall surrounding the main city of Stormpoint. Eluding the night watch had been uncharacteristically easy. Sylvin suspected they had little to watch for these days and wondered briefly about the seeming lack of night life in a city so obviously populated by many who preferred dark to day.

Heading east toward the docks, her thoughts were pushed to the back of her mind as the smell of the sea grew stronger in her sensitive nostrils. Many nights wandering the city alone those many months ago had proved useful, and the landscape had changed little in her absence. She easily found her way to the streets leading to Merchant's Row, passing several familiar landmarks and seeing unbidden memories float before her eyes. Sylvin quickly shook herself of these phantom images, knowing the distraction could prove dangerous. As the rows of shops silhouetted themselves against an inky bluk skyline, an inaudible sigh escaped her lips, and Sylvin was briefly dismayed to see the storefront formerly occupied by her favorite clothing shop had become a bakery, but any further investigation would have to wait. The Kuriosity Shoppe's distinctive profile loomed waiting ahead of her.

The corner of Sylvin's lips curved in a slight smile when she saw the soft beacon of candlelight shining through a west-facing window on the main floor that indicated the shoppe's owner was still awake. Deciding that caution would be best, Sylvin approached the shoppe's rear door. She knocked softly, not wanting to attract untoward attention, and knowing full well that the shoppe's owner had exceptional hearing. After a heartbeat, Sylvin heard soft footsteps approaching the door and waited for it to open..

Never mistake my kindness for weakness . . . it could very well be the last thing you do.



Night had long ago draped its darkened veil over the port city of Stormpoint, and those of greater prudence had heeded its mindful chastisement and retired to the safety and solace of their beds. One by one, lamps were sleepily damped and candles likewise snuffed until only one light was left burning within the merchants' district that lay off the town square. A lone sentinel against the night, it burned in stoic solitude within the lower level of the Kuriousity Shoppe, its quiet flickering accompanied only by the occasional pen scratchings of the shoppe's owner as she sat behind an ink-stained wooden table covered with books, maps, and loose leaves of parchment. The table's occupant hadn't slept in days and knew that it would likely be many more days still before she would allow Fantor's gentle hand to touch her mind once more. Time was too precious now to waste on such luxuries, though even if time were ample she doubted sleep would come. Thus, she had continued her work long past the sun's descent, much to the chagrin of the small black cat that had wisely abandoned its attempts to coax its mistress upstairs in favor of falling asleep within her lap. Curled tight in an ebony ball of fur, the sleeping creature quite failed to hear the soft footfalls in the alleyway behind the shoppe. Its owner, however, heard the sound clearly and twisted her mouth to one side in consideration as she added a final few words to the parchment before her.

After scanning the results of her work, the shoppekeeper folded the parchment into uneven thirds and allowed herself a brief sigh of completion as she stretched a pale hand towards the burning candle. It had grown quite low over the past few hours, but was still sufficient for her purposes. She thus plucked it from its holder and tilted it over the folded parchment. Deep red wax fell in heavy drops onto the vellum below, splattering tiny flecks onto the desk as well. If the shoppekeeper noticed the latter, she wasn't bothered by it, perhaps content with the fact that none of the wax had landed on the cat and woken it from its now-purring slumber. Eager to maintain that status, Eowyn carefully returned the candle to its awaiting holder before pressing her sigil into the cooling wax. It was then that she heard the quiet rapping at the back door.

Regrettably, the previously contented cat heard the knock as well, and it raised its head just high enough to send the shoppekeeper a reproachful glare with a set of round yellow eyes. Though impressive, its admonition earned only a wry smile and few strokes from its owner as she hastily scribbled the name, "Dalia Sorentine" on the sealed missive and tossed it atop a similarly sealed dispatch bearing the name "Calo Digerian." Having finished with the most sensitive of her correspondences, she gave the cat a final, apologetic stroke before lifting it from her lap and crossing the floor of the shoppe to answer the mysterious knocking.

She hadn't been expecting any visitors, but given recent events and future plans it hardly came as a surprise. Still, caution was warranted, if not for her visitor then for those who may have followed in his or her wake. She thus made certain to pull closed the heavy curtain that divided the main portion of the store from the back room, sealing the sole candle's dim light behind her and shrouding the shoppe's back vestibule in near darkness before unlocking and opening the door to the alley.

Only a thin crescent moon hung high above the city, and it outlined the visitor in a pale, silvery light that dappled her near black hair with skittering highlights of blue. Her face was largely hidden by the commingled darkness of shadow and hair, but Eowyn had seen enough to recognize her caller. It was the kindred one--Sylvin. As a rule, the shoppekeeper distrusted her kind, even though her oldest friend now stood among their number. Perhaps if she had been human and felt for herself the grip of mortality, perhaps then their choice would be more clear. But as it stood, Eowyn couldn't understand and still found it difficult to trust. It was thus only after great consideration that she had decided to seek this one's aid, and there was very little point debating the wisdom of that decision now. The shoppekeeper therefore opened the door further and bid her visitor enter the darkened vestibule.


"Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


She saw the ship arriving on the horizon last night. Some would classify it as early morning, but either way it was late. The inky blackness of the sky melted into the depths of the equally dark waves that the ship sailed on, faintly illuminated by the sliver of light that came from the waning moon. The Lady Captain allowed a hint of a smile to tug at the corner of her lips as she slipped the cloak around her shoulders. The autumn air was beginning to get chillingly cold as darkness crept in.

Her gaze fell from her first mate, to gaze out at the ships moored in Stormpoint. As requested, his ship was docked far enough away but close enough for comfort. Silver turned, reaching into the pocket of the navy blue velvet folds and grasped the reply he had sent not but a few days ago. True to his word, her most trusted confidant of the seas has sailed in just in time.

Silver glanced to Joseph and Timothy. "Jasper said he's here, Cap'ain, and waiting."

"He knows?"

The two men nodded. "Aye, from the looks of it."

Silver looked between the two men quickly, noting the indents that flickered on the surface of their skin, at the corners of their mouths. She slid her gaze up to the crinkling of their eyes and watched as the two exchanged looks. Silver could not help but grin herself. "I know what you are thinking."

Joseph and Timothy chuckled. "'ow could we not, Cap'ain. Clover and ye, together, with all this..."

"Mumbo-Jumbo, hocus pocus, hush hush goin' on. We're in for it." Timothy cut in.

"Aye." Joseph bobbed his head. "It means nothin' but trouble."

Silver grinned, closing her fingers around her cloak and tugging it lightly around her shoulders. "What good is a voyage without trouble?" She winked. "Keep an eye out, aye? We dont know exactly what's lurking out there, and keep your eyes peeled to the Destiny. I will be back before daybreak."

The two men nodded. The two Captains had been sailing together for years, and the crews had developed their own means of communicating with signals. Still, Joseph and Timothy shifted uneasily as the captain disembarked, alone, into the unusually dark night. The moment of fun had been swallowed up once again by the urgency of the voyage ahead and the danger that lurked in every shadow. The only comfort was the one she was meeting.



Captain Lucian Clover's legs dangled about a foot above the ground as he adjusted his seat on the stack of crates. Every now and again he took a short pull from his flask, glancing toward the mouth of the alley, waiting for Sil to arrive.

He made no effort to maintain a low profile, passerbys not doubting that a drunken sailor was all there was to the source of singing in the alleyway,

"So over I jumped and she pulled me down,
Down to her seaweed bed
A pillow made of tortoise-shell
She placed beneath my head
She fed me shrimp and caviar
Upon a silver dish
From her head to her waist was just to my taste
But the rest of her was a fish..." **

Despite his mouthy manner, Lucky wasn't drunk. (A decent buzz, sure... but drunk? Nah -- not when something of obvious import was about to go down.) He ran a hand through his mess of softspikes, pausing to scracth behind his head. For not the first time, he wondered what just what was going down. Sil's letter contained no details, or even an overtone of urgency... but after knowing the Lady Captain for so long, Lucky had learned to read between the lines. She didn't need his help in scraping barnacles and raiding taverns... something else was going down. Hopefully it was something profitable. He took another pull form the flask, beginning to feel very impatient...

"Any day, Goldilocks," he hummed, kicking his booted heels against the crate.

((** "The Mermaid Song," traditional sea shanty ))

Captain Lucian Clover


I'm here, papa bear." Silver smirked, her eyes falling on Lucky and his position on the crates. "Or should I say baby bear by the way you look. You haven't been waiting that long have you?" Swinging legs and singing. She arched a brow at him and grinned. At least he was here and not drunk.

A grin broke across Lucky's face as a familiar voice sounded. Slipping off the crates he approached, arms crossed over his chest as he canted his head, giving her a quick once over, "Nah... I'm used ta your fashionably late entrances by now." A quick wink and he moved forward, embracing her tight and lifting her off the ground, doing a quick circle before releasing her again. "Damn Sil, it's been awhile!"

Silver chuckled as she was swung around, her own arms slipping from the confines of her cloak to curl around his shoulders. "Aye, it has. Sorry 'bout that, but you're not the easiest person to get either, Luck." She poked him in the ribs with the last few words for emphasis. "How's things?"

He shrugged, chuckling, "Eh, same ol'... the Ports been busy, beddin' down for winter already. Reg 'as a bit more rheumatism, Cutler pronounced his undyin' love to a surprised Maclene, Lambert's still a virgin, much ta India's dismay, I reckon... ain't the same without ya, though..."

Her eyes widened briefly as he spoke, though the smile never left her face. "It's the same, dont spare my feelings. Yer just missing someone to get arrested with." The jovial demeanor seemed to fade somewhat with the words, however true they were. The words spoken about being arrested triggered the thought of the voyage ahead. She shrugged slightly and eyed him in silence, her expression speaking volumes.

"Fair enough," he leaned a bit against a nearby stack of crates, burying one hand in his pocket. "Ain't the same wit'out m'prison pal..." A dry chuckle and then he sobered a bit, "Got your letter... sounded a bit, eh... urgent..."

"So to say." or not say. She never really did say anything about the trek that lied ahead. Her eyes flickered around the alley before her steps resounded briefly on the short walk to lean on the crates. "We need a change of scenery Lucky." She grinned once again before lowering her voice. "Dunno what to say and what not to say, lord knows whats going on and who's listening." She tilted her head towards the shadows and the people staggering past the mouth of the alley. "Hell, I dont know much. Could be a month or three out at sea, ten passengers who will be met upon arrival...and this." She untucked a pendant that lied strung around her neck. The dark green stone gave a faint glitter as the moonlight flickered off the depthless surface, the burnished setting a stark contrast to the gem.

"Ah, the plot thickens... I knew ya didn't really need me ta hurry over ta Stormpoint in order ta help 'straighten the figures in yer books.' had a good laugh at the thought, though..." Lucky then looked to the pendant and quirked a pierced brow, "Ain't that a bit girly for ya ta be wearin', Sil?" He chuckled, following her as they exited.

"There's one for you too, if you are coming along." She linked her arm in his, out of habit . It was common for the two to be seen swaggering along drunkenly at night or carousing the ports for trouble. It made her feel a bit less obvious, though she knew she was only attempting to calm the few nerves she had left. "It's for identification purposes I was told. They know us by this. There's not much else to fill you in on, a few more things once on board, but Luck..." She paused and glanced at him. "Something bothers me."

Lucky glanced between his friend and the pendant... "Aye, me too... I ain't got a thing that'll match tha' green stone..." A look to the Lady Captain showed something else was up... "What is it, Sil?"

"I was attacked the other night when I was aquiring....permits." She turned her gaze back to the road, scrutinizing every shadow and sound that wasn't made by her or her confidant. "Managed to kill my source, but that's it, luckily. It was just, strange and I dont think it has anything to do with this voyage. I think it was somewhat personal but I dont know who."

For once Lucky didn't make light of the situation, his dark brows furrowing slightly. There was a pause as he mulled over this new information, before saying low, "Had a run-in m'self, not long ago. Figured t'was business related, but usually someone pipes up some sort o' rumor or confession... nearly had m'throat slit, so I did..." He lifted a brow, looking to her, "They couldn't be related, though... not this far apart, aye?" Pause. "Er... could they?"

Silver and Lucky


Silver shifted slightly, her fingers seeming to tighten ever so gently against his arm. This new piece of news sent everything she had been piecing together out the window. "I don't know. This is new news." She resumed her silence again for a good stretch of the walk before her voice quietly interrupted once more. "It was a woman, Luck. That's a bit strange, isn't it? I don't recall any women assassins lately."

Lucky nodded, watching the cobblestones pass beneath their feet as they walked. "Aye... same here, though wit' all these gals callin' for reformation lately, I guess a few femme fatales are ta be expected..." His smile was grim as he recalled the fiasco that nearly took his life. It had been a wake-up call, if nothing else. "Well... who knows, Sil..." He had to shrug, "We both know w've made our share o' both friends an' enemies... coulda been anyone. Freaky coincidence, anyway..."

"Coincidences make me wonder, Luck. 'specially at a time like this. Someone's out there and they've targeted us when they figure our mind is busy." It was the least she thought, and it made her extremely worried. Someone had to know when to target her at that meeting, a night when she would be alone. They had to know she had a meeting, and had to know she was occupied with something else. The thoughts were nothing knew. These kept her from sleep nearly every night. "Are you coming on the voyage? I will fill you in on the rest of the details I learned as we sail in a few days."

Of course, having known her for years Lucky had come to see nearly every facet of the Lady Captain's personality, but it was unusual to be seeing this side. She was tired, that was a given, but there was something more. He could read her concern and immediately wondered what else could be up... "Course I'm in, don't insult me," he put on a chuckle, sending a light elbow to her ribs. "Attempted murders, sparkly jewels, mystery voyages... does it get any better than this?"

God bless Lucky. He could somehow manage to pull her out of her moods, even if for a moment. "Maybe this one wont involve natives and a giant squid...." she paused, rethinking that statement. "Then again, we might prefer that." She chuckled, glancing at him before steering him towards the Starstruck Siren.

"Aye, well," he chuckled, his dark eyes taking in the sight of the Starstruck Siren ahead. "So long as you're breathin' hellfire again an' prancin' 'round half-nekkit, ya won't hear a complaint from me..." Lucky chuckled, his hips bumping Sil's to the side. "Feels good ta be wit' ya again, ugly. Feels very good, indeed."

Silver and Lucky


Somewhere beneath the daily clatter of the city streets, within the labyrinthine heart of the guild, the guildmaster was deep in thought. Seated behind a heavy wooden desk, he leaned back within his chair, placing an elbow on the chair's right arm and raising a dark-gloved hand to his chin as he considered the matters before him. One of these matter took the form of recent ..... unauthorized ...... assassination attempt at the docks. Investigations into the attempt had been complicated by the Rangers' interest in the matter, and had thus far yielded no results. Striker had considered a risky move of contacting a source within the Rangers to see what, if any information they had been able to glean, but had subsequently dismissed it as being too dangerous. Now that another matter had arisen, however, he wasn't so sure.

This second matter took the form of a small, black coin which he turned back and forth within his free hand, watching the torchlight reflect off its smooth-polished surface. In the cant, the coin was known as a dec, and in the trade it represented a significant debt owed to the holder, a favor to be repaid. This particular dec had traveled a long way to make it to the hand of Stormpoint's guildmaster, having started its journey five days prior from the guild in Tulhaven. Its bearer stood silently by Striker's desk, awaiting an answer to his own guildmaster's request.

Striker had little patience for inter-guild politics, finding most of his counterparts to be short sighted and characteristically untrustworthy. The guild at Tulhaven, however, boasted one of the few masters that Striker was inclined to deal with, one Vescal Kyrt. The messenger hadn't given much in the way of details, relating only what Kyrt had told him .... an old patron of Tulhaven's guild had called in a debt incurred two guildmasters ago, a very large debt, and asked for them to intercede with the guild at Stormpoint. Striker didn't like it. Why Stormpoint? Why not seek the favor directly from Tulhaven? Something wasn't right. Something was missing, and Striker didn't care for acting in advance of all the facts.

Still, the request opened the guild to relatively little risk in return for what could be a wealth of desired information .... and in the trade, information was a valuable commodity. Moreover, the idea of Kyrt and Tulhaven owing a debt to Stormpoint's guild held a certain degree of appeal. A new trading route had recently begun to run through the city of Tulhaven, and having a connection therein could prove not only profitable, but also helpful in disposing of items too dangerous to fence in Stormpoint. A final scowl darkened the guildmaster's face as the scales tipped in the direction of his decision, and his gloved hand closed tight around the dec. "Tell Kyrt we agree, but if he's wrong . . . ." he let the sentence trail off, all that needed to be said conveyed clearly in the cold grey stare that accompanied the silence.

The messenger nodded in both understanding and deference, then turned with a sharp, almost military step to face the guard who stood armed and alert by the main door. A dismissive gesture from the guild master set the guard in motion, and the latter steered the messenger to the outside hall where his "escort" awaited to show him out of the guild in the same manner they had brought him in.

Alone once more within his office, the guildmaster leaned back in his chair and considered a list of names in his head, paring it down further and further until he finally settled on two.

Striker Kel

"Power, like a desolating pestilence, pollutes whatever it touches."
Percy Bysshe Shelley


Sylvin entered cautiously, keeping a wary eye on the elven maiden standing to the side of the darkened doorway.

If the shoppekeeper noticed the other's mien, she made no comment, spoken or otherwise, but instead closed the door quietly and reached a pale hand up towards an oddly fashioned lock. The metal workings of the lock slid easily into place beneath the familiar fingers and settled at last with a soft "click." Apparently satisfied with the soundness of the contraption, the shoppekeeper left the door seemingly without concern and pulled back the heavy curtain of the vestibule to let the dying candle from the main floor of the shoppe light a path to a small alcove fitted with only two chairs and a timeworn wooden table.

Sylvin nodded slightly to herself and walked near-silently into the alcove. Taking a seat at the ancient table in the east-facing chair, she looked back and waited for the shoppekeeper to join her. A small amusement at the formality of the situation tickled her brain, and almost elicited a smile, but she quickly dismissed the thought. Her left hand strayed to the leather pouch at her side as her thoughts turned to formulating her response to the distressed shoppekeeper's request a few short nights ago.

Eowyn took the seat opposite her guest, studying the kindred woman in the hope of gaining a clue as to her answer and what she in turn might request for her response. Her life-drained features, however, revealed very little of her thoughts, prompting Eowyn to resort to other avenues. In the end, she chose the most pedestrian, or perhaps the more political option, and said simply, "I trust you've reached a decision."

"I have," Sylvin replied with equal simplicity. "I have decided to aid you in whatever fashion you have need." She paused, trying to gauge the reaction of the implacable fey features. Sylvin seemed to sense a hint of relief, but the elf was as stony-faced as herself when it came to negotiations. Finally she continued, "You promised me whatever I most desired in return for my help. I do not know if you posses the powers attributed to you by the many rumors circulating around this city . . . as well as beyond it . . . but what I desire most is to be able to look upon the sun in more than museum paintings. My greatest desire is to see the sunrise and sunset with my own eyes once again. Can you do that for me as payment for my help?" Despite her attempts to conceal it, a touch of desperate pleading had crept into her tone. Her eyes imploringly searched the shoppekeeper's face for some hint that her request could be met. If she had breath to hold, she would do so. The seconds that ticked by seemed an eternity . . . ironic for a creature who felt as if centuries passed in less time than this brief moment.

"I have decided to aid you in whatever fashion you have need." The kindred woman's words rang softy in Eowyn's ears as she allowed herself to hear them once again. She had accepted. A small surge of excitement rippled through the shoppekeeper's blood. While she might be able to accomplish her goal without the other's help, her presence and abilities greatly increased that possibility. So lost was she in the addictive chance of success that she almost missed the rest of the woman's words, drawn back to them only by the sudden change of the other's tone. " . . . what I desire most is to be able to look upon the sun . . . . Can you do that for me as payment for my help?"

Neither the request nor the urgency of the other's tone were what Eowyn had expected, and they took her quite by surprise, an expression that manifested itself in the form of a highly arched brow, a deep breath, and a prolonged silence that fell heavily across the table. What the other sought presented difficulty, great difficulty in many and myriad ways, and the possible repercussions clamored loudly in the shoppekeeper's mind as she considered the request. Bellow as they might, however, they could not overpower the clarion call of the quest that rang, clear and bright, over all that battled against it, leading the shoppekeeper at last to the answer she knew she would give.

"What you request is within my ability . . . but understand that it cannot come without restrictions. The sun, you may see, but you may neither hunt nor feed under its light."

Sylvin was struck by the condition set forth by woman who sat across from her at the small table. She glanced down at her hands and pondered the implications. What the woman asked was a compromise . . . not something to which Sylvin was accustomed. Her vision blurred as her thought deepened. Finally raising her eyes to meet those of the fey woman, she made her decision. "What you ask of me is a compromise. I ask to see the sun, and you ask me not to fulfill my natural desires under its light." She let out an inaudible sigh at the conundrum in which the shoppekeeper had placed her. "I am not adverse to compromise, but I am not used to it either." Sylvin smiled slightly. "I suppose the condition you ask is fair. I accept the terms of payment for my services."

Eowyn raised a slim dark brow at the kindred woman's initial hesitation, and though it lowered with relief when the other agreed to the offer and the voyage, a certain degree of doubt and concern lingered. 'Natural desires,' she had said, 'natural desires,' in as calm and cool a tone as one might use in referring to afternoon tea. It served as a sharp reminder that although her kind retained much of their former human appearance, they did not always retain the essence of that humanity . . . or, more disturbingly, perhaps they did. Forcing herself to bury the doubt and dichotomy of the issue beneath an implacable expression of her own, Eowyn offered a small nod of assent. "Then we are agreed?"

Sylvin could not decipher the gaze she received after moments of thoughtful pause. Doubt, perhaps? Or relief? Whatever the case, the stony gaze followed by a short nod did little to reassure Sylvin of the elven woman's true motivation. She returned the nod curtly, but with respect. "We are," she said simply. "Now," she paused for a moment to gather her thoughts and properly word her next question. "When am I to be given the details of this mission of yours?"

The shoppekeeper knew that such a question would be coming, indeed, nearly everyone she had enlisted to accompany her had posed inquiries regarding the details of the proposed voyage. They were legitimate, of course, and sought information that Eowyn might have normally given despite her general avoidance of answering. This time, however, caution had prompted her to be even more tightlipped than usual. She was, therefore, relieved that the other appreciated the fact that such information could not be shared openly or immediately. "The city seems to have grown a few extra sets of ears as of late . . . ears which I wish to keep in the dark as to our journey . . . ears which may hear us even now. Once we are at sea, I will explain further. For now, suffice it to say that your talents are needed and that you will know when the time has come."

At sea . . . Sylvin thought to herself. Pondering the ramifications of a sea voyage for a time, she decided it best to raise her concerns with the shoppekeeper now. "I am sure that you are aware a creature such as myself requires certain . . . accommodations. A sea voyage could prove dangerous if I do not have a completely dark area to wait out the day." She paused, hoping to see some sign of assurance in the face of the woman. "I can well appreciate your hesitance to discuss the details of this undertaking within the city walls . . . however, that is one detail of which I must be certain." Sylvin fervently hoped the shoppekeeper had thought to properly accommodate her. Somehow, she thought to herself, it's as if she knew I would agree to help her.

Eowyn nodded with understanding as the other spoke, and answered with a voice that bespoke a measure of compassion that had hitherto concealed itself. "Your needs have been foreseen. You will have private quarters where you may remain undisturbed during the daylight hours." The shoppekeeper paused in a moment of rarely expressed discomfort, and after drawing a small breath continued on in an uncertain tone, "Should you wish, I can arrange for your provender while at sea, but I cannot guarantee that you shall find it to your taste."

Sylvin tried to conceal the amusement she felt at seeing a woman normally so composed seem ill at ease. Even with a straight face, the twinkle of a suppressed giggle remained in her gaze. "Your offer is most generous. My taste is more varied than you might imagine. I'm sure whatever you can provide will be quite sufficient." Her gaze strayed to the window. Though still quite dark, the telltale shift from true black to the beginnings of blue had begun. She still had ample time to make her way back to the gypsy camps, and therefore attempted to satisfy her burning curiosity. "I must ask you, Lady Eowyn, why did you seek out my assistance with this matter?"

Having reached a satisfactory, if still somewhat unpalatable solution as to her guest's needs, the shoppekeeper's discomfort left her features, allowing her usual mien to return. Her answer to Sylvin's question thus came in a calm, collected tone that both left much unanswered and made clear that no further information would be imparted. "I've reason to believe that your kindred abilities will be of use, and your reputation within the city suggests that you may be trusted more than most of your kind."

Sensing from the returned air of certitude, and the vague answer she received to her question, Sylvin knew the fey woman would be unwilling to discuss the matter further . . . at least for now. Nodding, as much to herself as to the shoppekeeper, Sylvin made to rise from the table. "If there's nothing else to discuss at this point, I believe the only other bits of information I require are when and where to meet you."

"Make ready to leave soon," the shoppekeeper responded, sliding a curled slip of parchment across the table to her visitor, "we'll meet here." Released her grip on the paper only after the kindred woman's fingers wrapped about it, she added finally. "You'll know your company by the item I gave you, and you'll know the time by the same token."

Sylvin lifted the paper to eye level and quickly committed to memory the brief content. As well she did, for the paper crumbled to ash in her grasp. "Very well," she replied as she made her way out of the alcove. "I shall be ready when the time comes." She walked softly to the rear door through which she had entered and opened it a crack before turning to face her hostess. "I don't know why you believe I will be of help to you . . . and I know how distasteful it is for you to even ask my assistance." She sighed softly as she opened the door a bit more. "I want you to know that I will do everything in my power to help you. Certain things may be forever beyond my fingertips, but kindness is not one of them." Sylvin slipped out the door and into the still-dark alley behind the Kuriousity Shoppe.

Never mistake my kindness for weakness . . . it could very well be the last thing you do.




"Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


((Later the next day...))

"I be com'in, ye blasted bird." Quig's ogrish bellow was barely heard over the cawing on the huge black raven the landed on the Kuriousity Shoppe's weather beaten sign. Both the shoppe's and the bird's owner was standing by the door, about to lock the establishment for the evening. The Watchman stopped in front of her, huffing a huge pack on the ground next to his leg. Easily towering seven feet over the lithe dark figure of the shoppekeeper, Quig asked, in typical ogre bluntness, "Ye be Eowyn? if'n so call off ye damned bird."

The bird, seemingly offended by the watchman's choice of words, gave a reproachful 'caw' in the ogre's direction before alighting from the shoppe sign and landing on its mistress' shoulder, ruffling its feathers in a huff. The barest hint of a smile traced the shopkeeper's features as she smoothed its feathers in an attempt to calm its mood. She doubted it would be so easily calmed, but she'd learned from experience that the effort was expected, if not entirely appreciated. "Krautech," she stated in greeting, "Pn-grek, sur lectora Eowyn. Ynoskre tark greskut." Few folk outside the northern reaches spoke the language of Quig's land, but the shoppekeeper had traveled long and far ere her arrival in the port city and had accumulated a curious assembly of information along the way.

Quig ignored the bird that had been such a continual pest today and turned instead to give his full attention to the small elven shoppekeeper. Her use of his native tongue surprised him, and a broad smile swept across his rough hewn features as the words settled in his ear. It had been a long time since he'd seen the ice-capped peaks of home. Drawing himself up proud in the memory of that land, he met her greeting. "Krautech, sur lectora Quig, fir ta Gouan, ta Cauv Gret'intag."

"I know," Eowyn responded, switching to the common tongue of the city as she unlocked and opened the door of her shoppe, "the reputations of your father and your clan are well known among the peoples of the North. Won't you come in?"

"Thank ye, and ye be hav'in friends in high places ye self.. Why have ye ask for me?" Quig asked with a bluntness typical of his clan as he bent his stout powerful frame to follow Eowyn through the door. It was larger than most of the shoppes in the district, but it was still hardly designed for one of his size, and he had to squeeze a bit to pass through.

The shoppekeeper frowned slightly at her guest's discomfort. She should have foreseen the problem, but her mind was only half-attendant to events in Stormpoint at the moment, being heavily concerned with the unseen path that stretched before her. Forgoing an apology, for fear of its reception, she opted instead to broach her point directly, waiting only to close and lock the door behind him before answering. "I've need of someone with your strength and skills to accompany me and a select group of others on a trip outside the city."

"I be your man then, see'in that the High justice himself saw fitted to approve me leave until ye are finished with me. Like'in I said friends in high places." Quig glanced around the show, his earth brown eyes hunting the various shelves for anything that might catch his interest.

"I be your man then . . ." The words echoed in the shoppekeeper's mind as she breathed an inner sigh of relief. Another check on her increasingly peculiar list. The ogre's presence on the journey could prove to be a vital one, for few races in the region boasted the strength that coursed through their massive forms. Most creatures thought more than twice before attacking an ogre, and many who made the choice to attack didn't live to regret it. This ogre, in addition, had a certain gift of intellect that, although not unheard of in his people, was somewhat rare. It wasn't always apparent in his words or mannerisms, but it was there.

She had seen it. A certain light that burned in his eyes. She had seen it long ago, though she knew he wouldn't recall, indeed, couldn't recall, the occasion; but it had been there then, and it remained there now, even as he cast his gaze about the shoppe, allowing it to settle upon a singular instrument that lay resting atop one of the shoppe's many shelves. She smiled as she reached for it. It was a solid oaken cudgel capped in darkened iron. A full four feet in length, the weapon was obviously not designed for one of human stature, but rather had been crafted by a race that now dwelt only in lore. "It's a bonnie piece, don't you think?" she asked her guest as she took it from its spot and handed it to her visitor. "Would you like to see it?"

"Please." Quig nodded as his huge hands closed around the handle, easily lifting the heavy weapon into the air as if it weighed nothing, swishing the cudgel around and testing its feel and weight. "Bonnie it be indeed, a glorious weapon. How much r ye askin fer it?"

"Consider it payment for your assistance," she responded, glad to be able to offer her visitor something in return for what lay ahead, "and keep it close at hand. You may have need of it."

"Ye r generous Melady. How long wil'n ye be need'n me since I was assigned ta ye indefinitely,"

"I'm not certain. I can tell you only that we'll be leaving the city soon, and that there may be certain parties who take an interest in our actions. I'd rather they be kept in the dark."

"They not be hear'in a word of it from me lips that I can promise ye. Where does ye wish me to stay til that time?"

It had been many years since she'd taken conversation with any of Quig's race, and she'd nearly forgotten how refreshingly straightforward they were. It was a trait she appreciated, especially now. "Make ready to leave, but keep to your normal routine until the time for departure arrives, and keep this with you," she added, pressing a soft-worn leather pouch into his wide hand, "you'll know your cue and company by its contents." She said no more, but allowed a three small words to spill silently from her mind to his. ~The Starstruck Siren.~

The ogre's eyes widened as the words filtered into his head, and he gave a sharp intake of breath. To his credit, however, he recovered quickly, understanding both the need for secrecy and her use of the Art to ensure only he knew where to go.. a single name.. a ship he had seen several time while guarding Lord Ogrek's Stardancer.. ~The Starstruck Siren..~ "As ye wish Melady, but if'n ye be need'n a guard or someone ta watch out fer ye, ye has just ta call. like I said I have been give'n leave from me duties till ye are finished with me."

Nodding in response, the shoppekeeper said only, "Thank you, Quig, I will," as she unlocked the shoppe door to allow her guest to leave.

"I'll be wait'n on ye word Melady. Ye take good'n care of yeself now." Quig nodded as the door closed behind him. The Ogre stood back up and stretched his frame out, he did not like having to squeeze through such, but he had better be used to it. A ship would be worse.. not something to look forward to. Also as he again glanced at the iron bound cudgel she had given him a .. feeling rose in the back of his mind. Quig could not help but feeling that they had met before and that weapon he now held had somehow been involved. But any exact memory of it was as elusive as mist as he tried to reach for it ... always slipping through his fingers. "It will be common ta me," the ogre mumbled to himself as he started down the street, after all he would have days to ponder it while he awaited her summons.

"If'n ye got a problem.. hit it with a club.
If'n it is still there after then be hitt'n it again!!"



Isa's rations were running low and she just wanted to have a good night's sleep in a real bed, not to mention a nice long bath. Her hawk friend had led her in this direction and she was pleased it led to such a civil looking place. "What was the name of this town again?" She was so exhausted her powers of retention were challenged, "Oh yes, that's right, Stormpoint. That's what the sign said anyway." If anyone had passed her just then they would surely have thought she was out of her mind. Talking to herself had become a habit in her travels. She kept herself company that way.

Very tired from her journey, Isa searched for an Inn to house her wary body. Her funds having been depleted from her last adventure, "Buried treasures my ass!!" The prospect of employment weighed heaviest on her mind. Hopefully her prayers to Myleikki would be answered and an opportunity would present itself.

Heading through the center of town she found the Eventide Inn. Upon entering she headed to the bar. A large man was standing behind the counter. She approached him and made her inquiry about a room, bath and lunch. Finding the fee reasonable, she paid the gentleman and he sent a young man, who she believed to be his son, to take care of her horse. The barmaid grabbed her bag and showed her to her room. Isa thanked the innkeeper and followed the girl to a modest room, which had a small feather bed. Exhaustion flooded through her and she couldn't wait to lie down, but she desperately wanted a bath first. The barmaid gave instructions on where to bathe and to let her know when she was ready and she'd bring the hot water. Isa asked her to wait about fifteen minutes, closed the door, rested her satchel on the bed and removed her clothing from inside.

Having gathered her things she went down to the lavatory and the barmaid had her bathe water ready just as she promised. She told her she'd be back in a while to heat it up again. In the room there was a tub, wash basin on a table, and a full-length mirror. She stood in front of it, not even recognizing herself. She was in brown leather pants, laced boots and a very dirty tan shirt. Her hair was in one long braid down her back, it too was filthy. Her face was somewhat clean, that she did manage to attend to. Sighing she said to herself, "I've got some work to do." She peeled off her dirty clothes, let out her braid and sank into the luxurious bath. She had forgotten how wonderful a real bath felt, the lakes and streams she had used on her adventures were hardly the same. She took the sponge and soap and began to wash away all of the filth. Lathering her hair she started to sing a happy tune, one she loved when she was home, in happier times. The barmaid came back as promised and heated the water again for her.

"Everything is to your satisfaction milady?"

Isa purred, "Very much, thank you."

Leaving her to the rest of her bath, "Just ask for me if you need anything."

Looking up as she closed the door and sinking deeper, "I will."

Having decided she'd soaked long enough, Isa got out of the tub and toweled off. "Now let's see how things measure up." Naked in front of the mirror stood Isa's 5' 9" lean yet toned frame. "That's much better. Everything still seems to be in the right place." Her chestnut brown hair hung in waves down to the middle of her back and now that the dirt was gone she saw her own golden hazel eyes. Getting dressed she began to sing that favorite tune again. She pulled on a red dress and black shoes, made the appropriate adjustments combed her thick hair and put on her favorite perfume. It was a very pleasant yet intoxicating fragrance that to her knowledge was only available where she came from. She turned the bottle to read the inscription, "Adrianna", she heaved a great sigh, this particular bottle was a gift from her father; she'd put it in with the dress when she left. Pleased when she looked in the mirror again, Isa returned her things to her room and headed downstairs.

Isa returned to the dining area and had a seat at an open table. The young barmaid took Isa's lunch, which consisted of a bowl of stew and a slice of bread, to the table. After finishing her meal Isa returned her dish to the bar. She spoke to the keep, "Thank you for the fine meal. Could you direct me towards the area of town where I may buy a few supplies?"

He stared at her for a moment, as if he was having a hard time placing where he had seen her before, "Go back towards the center of town and there is a row of merchant shops. You should be able to find what you need."

Thanking the keep again she retired to her room for a bit. After a much-needed nap, Isa rose, freshened up and headed for merchant's row. As she walked through town, people took notice of her. Maybe it was her constant smile, the way she carried herself, her striking beauty or perhaps all these traits combined.

The first shop she encountered was a dress shoppe. Isa's eyes lit up as she looked through all of the gorgeous fabrics, this she truly missed. In the window there was a splendid white wedding dress.

The clerk approached her, "This dress has been promised."

Isa replied, "Oh, I was only admiring the workmanship. It truly is a work of art. It is a lucky lady who will adorn this dress." Isa had begun to feel very uncomfortable and with a quick smile she left and pressed on to the next shoppe.

Across the street there was a quaint storefront. Upon closer investigation it appeared to be a clinic with an assortment of items for sale. She entered and looked around.

The girl behind the counter asked, "Can I help you?"

Without turning around Isa requested, "I'm looking for a bottle of very good hand lotion." A few moments passed and the girl returned with a small bottle. Once again Isa began to feel very uncomfortable; she paid for the lotion and moved on. Before she could ponder the feeling that had seized her, her attention had been shifted to an image across the street. A man she thought she recognized now stood on the walk just outside the clothier she had just visited. She was taken aback when she realized who she thought she was seeing. He looked the same, yet different, almost as if he were lost, not the confident man she once knew. Trying desperately to contain the feelings that welled inside of her she just stood there and stared at this man who she knew so well from long ago. Could it be him…………..

Isabella Solestra


Her eyelids fluttered slightly with her effort to shake off sleep. It was not like the past, when sleep had been elusive . . . sometimes nonexistent. In this new form, sleep came unbidden with the disbursement of night by the rise of the sun. And so, too, must she rise with nightfall. Looking reflexively at her bedside table, her silver gaze fell once again upon the mysterious medallion bestowed upon her by an equally mysterious elven maiden. Nothing. Not a spark, not a sound . . . nothing to signal her that departure on this strange journey was imminent. With a heavy sigh, Sylvin pulled herself out of her bed platform and went about methodically lighting the candles strewn about the inside of her heavily draped tent. Her ears detected the sounds typical of the camps . . . boisterous music with loud, sometimes bawdy, vocal accompaniment. Her nose picked up on the scents of hearty stews and fresh breads baked on earthenware platters directly over the hot coals. Though she could no longer consume it, the food smelled delicious.

Sylvin shed her sleeping attire and began a search for something more suitable for public appearance. Tonight, she would be teaching the young ones some basic dances so they could join in during the next celebration. Looking through the pack she had set aside for Eowyn's journey, she decided to leave it packed. Best to be prepared for departure at a moment's notice. At the thought, she glanced again at the smooth surface of the opaque green stone. Still nothing. With another small sigh, Sylvin opened the doors of her modest wardrobe and poured over the contents. She selected a black sleeveless top and an inky-blue full skirt that fell to her mid-calf. Best to allow the little ones to see her movements and copy them. She closed the doors and speculatively eyed the opening to her tent before crossing the short distance to it. The evening breeze was balmy on her face as she emerged from her tent. Almost immediately, Sylvin was bombarded by at least a dozen small faces pleading with her to "show me first".

"Alright, ten calma little ones," she said gently. "Voy a mostrarles todo!*" The small crowd erupted into applause and delighted shouts could be heard as they ran off to the designated meeting area away from the bonfires and potential injury. Sylvin smiled and shook her head at the boundless exuberance of youth. Waving and nodding in acknowledgment to those who where socializing outside, she made her way slowly to the practice area. She couldn't help but wonder if the implacable fey woman was having trouble recruiting a crew for her mission.

~*~I agreed readily enough, but perhaps she is having trouble persuading others that have talents she may require.~*~

As she arrived at the practice area, still well-lit but far enough away for small twirling bodies to avoid serious harm, Sylvin planned another visit with the enigmatic Lady Eowyn.


Walking around the gypsy camp in the moonlight, Sylvin bade goodnight to those retiring to their tents and checked with the ones on watch.  She had a bad feeling, and wanted to make sure the men on guard would be vigilant until her return.  Sylvin made her way quickly to the city gates that surrounded Stormpoint.  Eluding the guard was particularly easy yet again.  They'll grow complacent if this keeps up, she thought to herself.  Quickly dismissing a nasty thought to cause some trouble, she snaked her way though the side streets toward Merchant's Row.  Upon emerging from the shadows, Sylvin quickly spotted the distinctive features of the Kuriousity Shoppe.  Her disappointment was evident in her face to discover the proprietor was not in.  Now where could that fey woman have gone?  Selecting a shadowy spot with and excellent vantage point of the shoppe, Sylvin decided to wait for her return . . . at least until just before sunrise.

~*~Never mistake my kindness for weakness . . .
It could be the last thing you do~*~

*Calm down, I will show you (all) everything.



It was small at first ... so very small that it escaped her notice, leaving her instead to float like driftwood in the throe that had claimed her. Waves of sight and sound followed one upon the next ... a great tempest that swallowed conscious thought in an ever-spinning abyss. They had grown steadily stronger, feeding on an unseen source of strength that gave no heed to time or place, existing instead an in eternal now that reached beyond the borders of reality. But in the oneness they claimed as their own, something else was emerging ... rising ... growing.

Was it the light ... the erratic flickering of light that tugged at the edge of the waves, pulling them flat, siphoning their strength? Perhaps. Yes, perhaps it was the light. It grew brighter, clearer, continuing to wax even as the squall waned until the former grew to a near blinding level while all that remained of the latter was a shallow handful of dying eddies.

Afloat in that now calm pool of light and stilled thought, she blinked. It too was a small movement, one that might have gone unnoticed by the casual observer, save for the fact that she hadn't moved for what seemed an eternity. She blinked again ... an involuntary attempt to block out the steady glare that now lit her face in its curious glow. But the light was too insistent to be stayed by the simple veil of flesh that covered her eyes, and scant moments later a thin, pale hand raised as if on its own accord to shield those eyes from further pain.

This motion, slight as it was, was enough to rouse the shoppekeeper from her prior state, and with a start her eyes flew fully open. They didn't stay that way for long, but instead drew into a squint against the pulsing light which seemed to be radiating from somewhere below. She glance downward, still disoriented, and saw a small wooden box perched atop her lap. Ah, yes, it was becoming clear again. Pursing her lips in a small expression of exasperation, she closed the lid of the box, plunging the room into a shroud of pitch.

The darkness was a relief, and the shoppekeeper sat quietly for a moment, wrapped within its warm embrace. Much time had passed. She could sense it. She hoped it wasn't too much time and that the risk she had taken had been worth it. She had seen much in the visions she'd been granted, but she hadn't expected to be held so long in their grasp. Sighing, she allowed the visions to wash over her once more, hoping to glean more in reflection. There had been a vast, unbroken expanse of watery depth, followed by looming mountains; barren, wind-carved canyons; and unending plains of white. Strange creatures too, she had seen ... some with powerful forms, others with graceful strength, and still others ... amorphous in shape and seeming to glow in a light of their own creation. She shook her head as more sights and sounds filled her mind. They were visions of the future, but whether of a certain or an uncertain one she could not say and, as of yet, could attach no specific meanings beyond the obvious.

There were two other visions, however, separate from the rest, and not of the future. They were of the present, or at least, the near present. These were sharper, mercifully, and though their meaning was clear, their importance remained to be determined. Two people ... two ... friends, had returned to Stormpoint; and though their returns might prove fortuitous, they were, at the moment, tinged with alarm and sorrow.

It grieved her. These two had suffered much during the brief time they had yet known, and to Eowyn's mind they were due some small amount of peace. Whether she could grant this peace, she did not know, for her visions had not reached that far and such peace was often an elusive quarry that could be gained only by the one it evaded. Still, she would offer what aid comfort she could. She owed them each that much at least. Much she owed to another as well. One who also stood nearby ... one who had already agreed to face the future that lurked ahead.

They were all nearby, and so she risked calling them, letting her "voice" ripple out in silent echoes through the darkened streets of the Merchants' district to be heard by three, and only three, sets of ears ... one human, and two kindred ... the healer, the bohemian, and the gypsy.


"Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


Mist hung over the water like a great wall in the late evening hours beneath the gentle starlight. The sound of breaking water moved gently through the fog as the darkened bowsprit of a vessel appeared, accompanied shortly by the rest of the boat, great canvas sails tied up and the yards of the mainmast swinging back and forth gently. She was unearthly quiet; if there were calls being made in order to dock her, they went unheard, but still she crept into the harbour like a ghost with down-shot eyes. She was an unobtrusive construction of humble stature, but her creaking masts and worn shrouds spoke of extensive use. The brig seemed to appear, really, more so than move into the harbour, but once liberated from the heavy fog, her crew went about their business docking her. The crew appeared more humble than the boat herself, and soon she was moored. The group was surprisingly small, but then, the vessel was of no great height or width either.

The lights from the wharf flickered against her proud hull and smooth decks, gently washing over her name which had been newly repainted upon her side in a queer lapis-blue, red, and gold script: Ahemait. Amongst the flurry of movement to drop the plank onto the dock, drop anchor, secure the riggings and recheck the stays, three figures remained stark still, shrouded in an eerie light as if the mist had clung only to them when they'd passed through it. The meagre crew hustled off the vessel, slowly dispersing on the docks after a nod from one of the figures, whom now moved towards the plank.

The second of the figures, not quite as tall as the first, sliced the dusky air with a feminine voice. "It is customary for a captain to follow his crew off the boat?"

The first figure paused but did not turn towards the woman. "Firstly," came a masculine voice, threaded with distaste for the question, "It's not a boat; it's a ship." The word "not" came out as if he'd said "naught" and had left the 't' off the end; his accent was thick and it saturated his words. "Secondly, lady," he turned now to glance at her. "If the crew hadn't been so kind as to let you get onboard with that feral…thing," the disinterest rolled off his tongue. "Seeings as how such things are supposed to be bad luck on'a boat, we wouldn't have made it to this bloody port at-all." When he smiled, there was a gleam in the moonlight off of a gold tooth and a matching gold hoop in one ear. The large hat he wore shadowed the rest of his face, and he turned once more and to leave the vessel, boots clumping down the plank.

The woman he'd been speaking to bristled at his humor but moved to follow him, moving from her position by the mast. She wore a thick cloak, but eyes of an unnatural blue gleamed from beneath the hood, along with a familiar amulet inlaid with green stone 'round her throat. A sizable, but not massive, sheathed blade hung at her side and she carried a worn leather pack. An owl sat on her shoulder; it seemed to have a look of contempt on its face, but owls are hard to read. Her boots, also, clumped down the plank.

The third and final figure, silent as death, rose and moved so gracefully from the decks that her long cream-colored cloaks barely rustled. The moonlight washed over her pale skin; her eyes were an exotic almond shape and of a similar color, mixed with flecks of silver and olive. There was no sound to acknowledge her footsteps, and no expression lay upon her flawless face. She did not clump down the plank.

Once upon the docks they were met with a flurry of activity, although it could be inferred that come morning the tension and excitement. would be even more palpable. Each figure headed off into a different path towards a more peaceful sleep where the lull of the ocean would not be so strongly felt.

In the morning, they reconvened without any particular intention to. The copper-headed woman looked the most disconcerted, while the pale, unearthly woman held no expression. The captain had plopped himself upon the docks, resting his back against a mooring post. He had clearly been drinking the night before. The Ahemait drifted quietly, her shrouds rustling in the daytime breeze off the water.

They waited.



The harsh smell of sea air filled his nostrils as he rested his arms on the splintered rail spanning the breadth of the pier and took another deep breath, staring out the dark blue expanse that rippled off into the horizon. Though he'd lived in the port town of Stormpoint for several years now, Brextyl had never before sailed. He'd read about it, and had been on a few ships before in a "professional" capacity, but had little idea what to expect once they were aboard and asea with the city growing smaller and smaller in their wake. It might have helped if he'd known why they were going. Hell, it would have helped simply to know where they were going. Such luxury, however, was not afforded

Behind him, the quiet sound of measured footsteps across the salt- rotting walk told him that Jaryssa, clearly ill-at-ease with the prospect of their voyage, was still pacing. She was more concerned than he was, though she'd never admit it. He smiled. She'd always been like that, even when they were children, and he was glad that she had been assigned to this curious task as well, if only because she'd worry less if she could keep a protective eye over him. He wasn't sure why she felt that she needed to, but accepted it with the patience he had cultivated over the years.

The steady pacing behind him stopped at this point, almost as if she knew what he was thinking, but it resumed shortly with greater gusto. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply again, allowing his mind to wander as they waited. Without direction, his thoughts and hand drifted to the amulet he now wore around his neck. It, and its twin, had been given to them by Striker. It was one of only two times he'd ever been summoned to the guildmaster's office, and he prayed that it would be the last.

"Get packed," he had told them with little explanation. "You're going on a trip." They'd started to ask for details, but his grim expression led them to hold their tongues, lest they lose them. The directions he'd given had been clear, if clipped. "Keep your eyes open, your mouths shut, and your hands to yourselves."

It's what he hadn't said though that concerned them most. Where were they going, and why? They'd managed to learn that a favor had been requested, but by whom, and for what purpose? It didn't sit well with them. It sat even less well with Quaralyn when she'd learned that two of her team were being temporarily reassigned. Brextyl had never seen her so angry and was sure that she and the guildmaster were finally going to come to blows over the matter when she stormed off to his office. He didn't know what happened, but she emerged a few hours later wearing a dour look and having little to say other than, "Watch yourselves."

They'd accepted her advice and Striker's commands without further question and made ready to leave for the unknown. They'd been told that they'd know when to leave. The strange rune appearing in the center of the amulets they'd been given seemed as good a sign as any, and so they'd made their way to the docks, hoping that all would soon be made clear.

Now, waiting with a thin pretense of patience before a ship bearing the name of the "Starstruck Siren," they continued in that watching, one pacing, both wondering.

Brextyl and Jaryssa


Silver rolled over, throwing an arm across her eyes with a groan. She'd been docked for a few days now and was ready to set sail, yet nothing had happened to show her it was time. Her sea legs were getting restless and thoughts of acquiring other shipments in the meantime had found their way to her desk in forms of parchment offers.

The knock at the door sounded through the silent brooding of her thoughts. "Enter."

Jesse, her latest cabin boy who seemed to want to do anything to get out of his current situation at Stormpoint, stuck his head in. "Uh, Captain, just thought you'd wanna know there's a few people milling about outside on the dock."

The Lady Captain pushed herself up on an elbow, arching a brow at the young boy. He shrugged, pointing a thumb over his shoulder before heading back down the hallway. Silver tossed her pillow behind her and rose, glancing towards the papers and maps haphazardly strewn on her desk. She reached under her bed, clasping the small oak box and lifted the lid.

Inside, the amulet glowed green, three lines illuminating the small contents of the box. She repressed the urge of nervousness for one of sheer joy. Finally it was time for them to get going. She slipped the amulet over her neck and tucked it safely underneath her shirt, despite the very faint glow that slipped past the material.

Her footsteps carried her up and onto the deck, pausing at the rail as she looked down to the two on the docks. The woman was pacing and the man was intently looking up at the ship. She shot a sidelong glance over to one of her deckhands, who was standing guard at the gangplank. She grinned, crossing her arms loosely as she looked at the six foot seven man, stacking about a wide as a tree and just as strong. He shook his bald head at the captain, giving a wink before turning his stoic glance back down to the dock.

Silver looked back to the duo. "Can I help you?"



Brextyl had heard the woman approach the railing of the towering ship before he had seen her. The water beneath them made everything louder, bits of sound otherwise lost seemed to float atop its surface and rise to the ears of the wary. He wasn't certain he liked it. It was far too easy. The woman, however, appeared untroubled, perhaps having become accustomed to the peculiar acoustics of her trade. Her sure and straight carriage suggested a degree of command, as did the deference given her by the other who stood nearby. She might be the one they were looking for.

Her voice fell clearly down to them on the dock below, but her question did nothing to clear the mist of uncertainty surrounding them. "Can I help you?"

Brextyl gave an inaudible snort of empty amusement as he considered the question. He certainly hoped she could. No one else had been able to thus far. Information was always given sparingly within the guild, but this was .......... this was different. He opened his mouth to reply to the woman, eager to learn anything, but his companion was the first to speak, as usual.

"We'd like to speak to your captain, if we may," Jaryssa began, speaking just loudly enough for her voice to carry to those above. "I believe we have a mutual patron," she added in brief explanation, reaching beneath her blouse and pulling forth the strange amulet she'd been given. It wasn't as heavy as it seemed it should be. Indeed, it felt quite light in her gloved hand, so light that when she held it aloft it felt almost as if the amulet was lifting itself and gently pulling her arm along. She found it unnerving....very unnerving.

Dangling from its leather cord, the amulet and the rune now visible within its center glowed with eerie and unknown purpose in the vaporous tendrils of fog. This too, the thief found unsettling, and she glanced sidelong at her companion before redonning the item and concealing it once more, lest it draw unwanted attention. The amulet offered no resistance, a fact for which Jaryssa gave silent thanks as she called out to the woman above, "May we come aboard?"

Brextyl and Jaryssa


Silver's arms fell to rest her hands on her hips as she leaned against the rail. She eyed the two on the docks warily, noting some hint of amusement? Contempt? They hadn't even set foot on board and already judgments were being made? She was about to tell them, rather abruptly, that they could turn around and go home, when the woman spoke up.

The Lady captain's eyes befell the woman. "We'd like to speak to your captain, if we may," Jaryssa began, speaking just loudly enough for her voice to carry to those above.  "I believe we have a mutual patron," she added in brief explanation, reaching beneath her blouse and pulling forth the strange amulet she'd been given. 

She wasn't one for politeness when it didn't count, more used to dealing with the underhanded thieves and cutthroat business owners then amiable patrons. Silver resisted the urge to gape, and simply made a wave with her hand to hurriedly usher them up the plank to the ship. She caught the slight glare from her crewmate as he tucked his arms behind him and turned to allow the duo entrance onto the ship.

Who was this woman waving this amulet around in sheer sight of anyone on the docks? If it was anything but that amulet, Silver might have turned her away with words that would make a pirate blush, but she trusted Eowyn, even if the details were sketchy.

"I'm the Cap'ain, so you best get used to that. This here is the ship, *Starstruck Siren*..." She absently waved a hand at the main sail and the figurehead on the front of the ship as if she had done this a hundred times. "If'n you be so kind.." she glanced at the two before her. "Please don't go wavin' that around. There are many hungry eyes out there." Her booted steps fell silent on the polished wood of the deck, a few deckhands pausing on their way past to eye the newcomers.

"Now, you can call me Silver or Cap'ain. Whatever floats yer boat, if you excuse the cliche'. And who might you be?" Her hand fell lightly to rest on the sword hilt at her side as she warily joined her crew in keeping an eye on the shadows of the docks, before turning to look back at the woman and man in front of her.



"I'm the Cap'ain, so you best get used to that. This here is the ship, *Starstruck Siren*..."

The first thing Brextyl noted was that the woman's voice didn't match her demeanor. No, perhaps it wasn't her voice so much as it was her tone. It didn't carry the same confidence her movement did. Perhaps she didn't know anything more about this mission than they did. He glanced at Jaryssa, noting from her look that she felt the same. Great, just great. Hoisting his pack over his back and cradling an odd shaped package against his chest as they headed towards the ship's gangplank, he risked a rough whisper to his companion, "Why'd you hold the damn thing up like that."

"I .... I don't know," she whispered back, carrying her own pack and striving to get ahead of him. She succeeded in a few steps, and as she passed he saw that she wore an expression he'd seen only a few times before, "I didn't. I mean, it just ...... I couldn't stop it."

She was becoming visibly shaken, and he let the matter drop, though he continued to mull it over silently. She couldn't stop it? Couldn't stop what? The amulet? A stray hand reached toward the amulet that lay hidden around his own neck. It felt warm against his skin, but was issuing no unheard commands. Jaryssa, however, was not prone to flights of fancy, and he'd learned to take her at her word. His lips tightened into a grimace as his hand fell back to the package he carried. What the hell had they gotten themselves into?

It didn't take them long to reach the top of the plank and board the ship proper. It was a well-maintained vessel with what seemed, as far as they could tell, a capable crew....that boded well, but their presence was met with more than idle curiosity, again suggesting that they weren't the only two in the dark. Things just kept getting better and better.

When they were fully aboard, the woman who had identified herself as the captain spoke again, "Now, you can call me Silver or Cap'ain. Whatever floats yer boat, if you excuse the cliche. And who might you be?"

At least she had a sense of humor, Brextyl thought as he finally beat his companion to the punch in answering, "I'm Jaden. This is Brielle," he tilted his head towards Jaryssa who nodded by way of greeting as she shifted her pack to a more comfortable position. He considered asking the captain if she knew where they were going, but decided to let her reveal or conceal facts as she saw fit. It didn't matter either way. They had their orders and those were unlikely to change regardless of their destination.



The dark shrouded figure had slept most of the day huddled unseen among the boxes and crates waiting to be loaded aboard a ship not scheduled to arrive for at least two days. He had rested here for the better part of the morning, but then again the elf had given him a task that had taken most of the night to accomplish. The first part had been easy enough, deliver a message from Lord Calo to the harbor master ordering the sealing of the harbor for the next days. Only ships with the direct permission of the High Justice could leave port. He had briefly wondered what reason was given for the closure, not that it was any of his concern. He even wondered if the papers were forged, but he doubted Eowyn would have needed to resort to that. From what he understood, she and the city's current Lord had a long history ... one that preceded even the founding of Stormpoint. She had taken him to meet Lord Calo once long ago. It was a very odd meeting, and one not easily forgotten.

The High Justice had greeted him with a surprising familiarity, but it quickly faded into an uncomfortable silence when he expressed nothing but confusion in response to Lord Calo's questions. The High Justice graciously thanked him for his time, wished him well, and asked to step outside that he might speak with Eowyn alone. There was something in Calo's expression and voice that he could not place, and he marked into his memory so. He would think of it every now and then, like one looking at a puzzle piece several times before placing back on the table, still unsure of its place.

Nearby, a sharp squawking sound broke his chain of thought and he jumped and reached for his blade. He chuckled silently to himself when he realized the sound came from a gull that had perched atop one of the crates sheltering him. With a slight shake of his head and a silent self-chastisement, he tossed a bit of uneaten bread from last night's dinner to the clearly starving seabird. "Yeah, yeah I know, keep my mind on business."

He looked back over the multitude of ships that filled the port, some tied to the various docks and some anchored in the natural harbor that made Stormpoint so important. The second part of his task had not been so easy. Lord Calo's edict was only enough to keep an honest man honest, so to speak, and since the Eowyn wished to avoid any complications in her secret endeavor, she had ask him to provide a little "extra insurance" to make sure things began smoothly. Last night he had thus gummed the ropes of the moored ships with sap, and hand-fouled the anchors of all save one. Nothing serious, but if any ship aside from the one Eowyn had chosen tried to leave suddenly, they'd find they'd be in for a serious delay. The Starstruck Siren would suffer no unwanted escorts as she left the harbor.

His tasks done, he continued to rest, watching the ship from the shadows of the crates, unobserved by anyone aside from the gull which gobbled down another piece of proffered bread. The long coat he wore flapped lightly in the breeze that carried the smell of saltwater and fish. His face was hidden in the shadow cast by the wide brimmed hat he wore to keep the sun off his face while traveling. The sun was on its way down now, and when it fell completely he saw the two figures, a man and a women, appear on the dock. They waited there sometime, and though he had no clear indication, he thought it likely that they too were connected with Eowyn. As if to answer his unspoken suspicion the woman pulled out and displayed an amulet that recognized as Eowyn's.

"Well now, that settles that," he whispered up to the gull as his eyes traveled the water front to see if anyone else had taken notice. "Do you think anyone else saw, my friend?" Seeing nothing that stood out along the cluttered, crowded docks, he shook his head with a sigh. He had not truly expected to see anything, for much the same reasons he had chosen to hide here. But, you never knew if someone would be careless and make a mistake. His gaze drifted back to the ship as the pair were ushered aboard. Having them flash the amulet like that was a risky move, but hopefully one that would pay off. Eowyn's judgment was never far off the mark -- something he had learned from experience. His thoughts drifted to the elven woman who had become his patron as he continued to watch the ship resting calmly by the dock.

He had been the elf's agent for a couple of years now, ever since he had awoken without name, past, or memory in the second story of her shoppe. The first thing he could recall was opening his eyes and seeing the elven woman kneeling over him, looking fragile and worried. He knew of nothing else before that day, as if he had been born in that moment, naked and full grown. After seeing some of the magic Eowyn could wield when she had a mind, or a need to, he tried not to think of that possibility much. The few times he had asked her about it, a touch of sadness had crept into her eyes, a fleeting expression that would be gone if you blinked, and she'd said something about stepping twice into the same river. The words were cryptic and spoken in the damn unfathomable tone he'd come to know meant no further answers would be forthcoming.

He thus quit asking, and in time he quit wondering about it as he focused on the tasks she had asked him to do -- going places she could not, collecting or delivering items, watching people, or making certain that events transpired according to some design he could not understand. Occasionally he could make out a reason for this action or another, but the rest left him confused, trying to understand pieces of a puzzle without knowing what the final picture would look like. But he never questioned Eowyn, nor her reasons, even if he did not fully understand them. At least, not until now.



Isa made her way to the docks at an even and determined speed.  It had only been two days since her arrival in Stormpoint and things were moving along at a fast pace.  She procured employment, which was the one thing of utmost importance on her list.  However, she had hoped to be able to take up residence in town and stay put for a while, it had been too long that she was on the move.

  Her first jaunt through town was where her fortuitous encounter took place.  While perusing merchants row, she came across a storefront that beckoned to her.  As she opened the door there was the jingle of chimes floating across the air in a sweet simple song to signal their keeper.  She pondered the barrage of items that were held in this strange and wondrous vestibule.  Upon further entry, other items came into view.  Items never before seen by her golden hazel eyes which, at the moment, were wide with wonder and amazement. 

A slight tingling of her senses made her realize she wasn't alone in the room.  In the corner on its perch sat a large black bird.  It made no effort to acknowledge her presence other than the turning of its head.

Not knowing how long employment would elude her, she caught sight of the bound volumes of text and decided that literary comfort would suffice until opportunity knocked.  Little did she know, opportunity was about to rap with the resonance of canon fire.  While attempting to choose her printed companion for the next while, a woman of great and exotic beauty approached and asked if she needed help.  Startled, Isa turned, introduced herself, then explained her situation to the exquisite woman.  The enchanted female said to call her Eowyn.  Their two arms extended in a formal greeting and without hesitation, Eowyn made reference to the ring on the hand that she now held.  The ring was a token given to Isa a long time ago, when she was someone else, not the woman that now stood before the Lady Eowyn.  The ring was made of silver and cast in the form of a vine, a semblance of the ever-growing passion for life.  She wore it to remind her of her life before she made her fateful decision.

 Eowyn seemed to take little time in considering Isa for membership in the endeavor at hand.  Perhaps she knew what would be the mission of the one that was before her, where in the coterie she would fit.  Eowyn spoke little of the actual purpose of employment but assured her all that need be known would be revealed.  Preparations were being made and her employment would begin on the deck of the "Starstruck Siren." Being ready at a moments notice was a condition of the deal as well as other things not yet mentioned, she was sure.  We would know members of our entourage by the amulet that was given.  She would know what to do when the time came.  

The time had come, the second morn after meeting the Lady Eowyn.  The amulet concealed within Isa's cloak glowed a green hue, the signal that hastened her movements toward the docks.  Standing in front of the "Starstruck Siren" was both exhilarating and terrifying.  Isa had seen ships like this before but this one was in an unfamiliar land and she was about to embark on a journey with complete strangers.  She trusted her own instinct and there would be "others" around to help her determine when danger was near.

Two had just boarded the vessel and she believed another traveler of a rather large stature was headed that way as well.  Having watched the others board and disappear onto the deck, Isa contemplated her next move.

Isabella Solestra

What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Silver watched the two and listened as they introduced themselves. She noted the whisper that was spared between the man and woman, biting her lip to keep from smiling. Apparently he wasn't happy she broadcasted the amulet either.

The Lady Captain shrugged her shoulders and loosely crossed her arms. "I'm afraid with the extra passengers, quarters are a bit tight. I have managed to clean out an old storage room as best can be done and throw a few bunks in there for the passengers coming on. You'll keep in mind it will be men and women sharing that room. Crew sleeps down at the end of the corridor, your room with the others is the door before it on the right. My quarters are the first door ya pass, on the left. You can go throw your things on a bunk and come up to help on deck. "

She threw a thumb over her shoulder showing the small descent down below. "The galley's down there - stay out of the cook's hair. She doesn't take lightly to strangers. Meals are in the galley or up on deck. Whatever suits you. There will be nothing that'll hurt m'crew or m'ship tolerated. As far as the journey, I suppose Eowyn should be along shortly with the rest of the passengers. I'm on the same page you are so don't ask questions because I don't know the answer. "

The Captain, finally, offered a smile. "Welcome aboard and be wary of anything you think is out of the ordinary."

Silver noted Ty's look again as he motioned his head towards the docks. A lone woman stood there, her eyes nearly popping out of her head as she looked up at the Starstruck Siren. Silver waved a hand towards the woman motioning her to come aboard. "Ahoy there! Don't just stand there inviting thieves, come aboard!"

She noted Eowyn's message earlier about sending over a woman who could be used as another crew member. Silver seemed to figure a lone stranger just standing there was probably her. Anyone with a glowing pendant and invited on the adventure would probably scurry onboard quicker then that woman below was.

"I'm the Captain, and who might you be?" She arched a brow and eyed the woman coming up the gangplank.



Quig gave a ogreish curse under his breath for the fifth time as he looked about his quarter, trying to make sure he had not forgotten anything he might need later. He noticed the amulet that Lady Eowyn had given him had changed as evening was approaching and now he hurried, sure that he was holding up whatever mission the mysterious elf had in mind. "Blast.. If'n it be forgot I will have ta do without then," Quig finally decided with a final longing glance at his bed, certain that the previous night would be the last time he would have a comfortable night's rest till he returned. He slung his ogre-sized pack over one massive shoulder, lifted the ironbound cudgel to the other, stepped out of his quarters, and bolted the door.

A small section of the city next to Stormpoint's main castle had been built to accommodate his kind, whether they were volunteers for the Watch or merchants from Ogrekvannia. It was no more than a block, but the oversized buildings clearly stood out from their human-sized counterparts nearby. Quig sighed as he moved down the street, nodding to a few of his kind as he passed. He was not looking forward to this voyage as few ships were built with ogres in mind. Standing over twelve feet tall, he towered over the humans who filled the cobblestone streets of Stormpoint as he made his way down to the docks. The only time he paused in his journey was as he passed in front of the Stardancer, anchored in its special berth along the docks. He watched the magnificent ship for a few moments, his mind wondering about the man he called lord and king. He had seen Lord Ogrek only on a couple of occasions and never up close, mostly when Ogrek gave speeches of thanks for those who had come to serve both his vision and the city of Stormpoint. Quickly, he knelt in front of the ship, his head bowed as he spoke softly in his native tongue an oath of loyalty that was Lord Ogrek's due. "Quif'tal rasel ber nilack hendal Ogrek'von hesh- nel."

Finished, he stood and continued down the dock till he reached the ship Lady Eowyn had told him to find. He frowned, looking at the Starstruck Siren, again sure that he had gotten his last bit of comfortable sleep for some time. In a motion not of his own volition, he reached inside his hard leather jerkin and pulled the amulet out, the strange rune that had been Lady Eowyn's signal softly glowing in the center. In his normal booming voice, Quig called to the ship, ignoring the rash of stares he received from the astonished crew on the dock as they saw the ogre.


"If'n ye got a problem.. hit it with a club.
If'n it is still there after then be hitt'n it again!!"



"The galley's down there - stay out of the cook's hair. She doesn't take lightly to strangers. Meals are in the galley or up on deck. Whatever suits you. There will be nothing that'll hurt m'crew or m'ship tolerated."

They listened to the captain's instructions impassively, hoping that they might learn something about their purpose and destination, but the details were all routine ...... sleeping quarters here, galley there .......... It didn't take much effort to commit them to memory, and so they used the opportunity to note an array of other details that could prove more useful:  areas of possible concealment, distances between doors, the give and corresponding sound of the deck beneath their feet, features of interest about the captain and those members of the crew currently visible, and dozens of other points ticked off a subconscious list.  Not that they were planning anything, but what had become instinctive wasn't easily cast off.  Besides, while they'd been ordered to keep their hands to themselves, they'd also been told to keep their eyes open.

"As far as the journey," the captain continued, "I suppose Eowyn should be along shortly with the rest of the passengers. I'm on the same page you are so don't ask questions because I don't know the answer."

The pair exchanged quick glances with this statement, but remained silent.  The captain didn't realize it, but they weren't on the same page at all, and the information she'd just provided cast their situation in an entirely new light.

Finished with her instructions, the captain finally offered a smile, adding, "Welcome aboard and be wary of anything you think is out of the ordinary."

Brextyl was about to ask what wasn't out of the ordinary so far when his attention was drawn by the arrival of two other would-be passengers.  The first was a young woman, unremarkable from her current distance save for a cascade of red hair that reminded him briefly of Quaralyn.  The second, however, was far more marked.  Standing at what had to be at least ten feet tall, possibly more, and holding the same damn amulet that'd gotten them into this mess, was the largest ogre Brextyl had ever seen.  This had to qualify as "out of the ordinary," but there was no need to point out its presence to the captain ... it had already draw the attention of the entire crew atop deck.  He looked over to Jaryssa, who shared his thoughts, and they both sighed and shook their heads before shifting their packs and slipping quietly away their new quarters.

They found the room where and how the captain had described it.  It was clearly a converted storeroom, but it was well-swept and filled with a number of cots that had been temporarily anchored to the floor.  They chose the two nearest the door, closing it behind them.  It took only a moment to stow their packs beneath the cot, but they took more time to examine their new abode.  When their search revealed nothing of either interest or concern, they began to speak in quiet whispers.  Jaryssa started, as usual.

"Eowyn?  Please tell me she didn't say Eowyn." 

"I'm pretty sure she did," Brextyl responded, trying to make light of the matter.  It didn't fool either of them.

"Are they insane?"  Jaryssa continued, struggling to keep her voice to a whisper.  "Do they know who she is?"

Brextyl didn't reply.  They both knew the answer.  While their motives were certainly debatable, Quaralyn and their Guildmaster were sane enough, and they both knew who Eowyn was.  By its very nature it was the guild's business to know as much as possible about the more notable inhabitants of the city, and personal friends of the High Justice merited extra attention.  But it wasn't just this.  There was also the matter of the last three thieves who had tried to break into the woman's shop.  They'd yet to be found, but their tokens had managed to find their way back to the guild, each now indelibly marked with a glowing "E."  It was enough to earn the shop keeper a place on the proc list ...... her store was strictly off limits.  It was hardly necessary though.  No one without suicidal ideations was likely to try again.

The pair now brooding on their bunks had no such intent, and they now took Quaralyn's warning thoroughly to heart.  With a final shared sigh of frustration they rose to their feet and returned to deck per the captain's instructions.  Neither having sailed before, they didn't know how much help they'd be, but they didn't want to draw attention by refusing.

Brextyl and Jaryssa


Still silent and hidden behind the crates, the shadowed figure continued to watch the docks and ponder the orders of his patron. He couldn't remember exactly when she'd sent him to help Vil-Gawyn. It was just another task in a long list of assignments that he had executed without question. Admittedly, it had taken longer than the rest .... several months, in fact .... but when he returned to Stormpoint, bearing both Vil-Gawyn's message and the strange object found in the ruins of Rhonak, little had changed. The trappings of the city were much the same as before and Eowyn remained as enigmatic as ever. She'd told him nothing about the object, but he could sense its import. She was moving quickly now, gathering to her those she deemed of use. Most of her plans she kept to herself, but some she had shared with him as she gave hurried directions. Having just finished two of the final three, he considered the third.

She had told him to return to Vil-Gawyn. It didn't seem possible, but she had. He could see no reason for it. Surely he was more needed with her. Surely he could aid her in whatever lay ahead. For the first time he could remember, he'd actually argued with her, and for the first time he could remember he'd seen a dark flash of anger in her eyes. She'd brook no further discussion, he realized, and he had verbally acquiesced ... verbally.

What he intended to do was something completely different. For the first time, he was going to disobey the elf. He had a feeling, little more than a whisper in his ghost, that for once she was wrong. Whether Eowyn liked it or not, he was going to be on the Starstruck Siren when she sailed. He had already hidden his belongings in a barrel that had been loaded on board the ship during the morning. Now all that was left to do was find a way to get himself on the ship, preferably unseen. He wasn't sure when he'd make his move, as the crew was keeping good watch of the ship, when fortune stepped in. Curiously, it came in the large from of an ogre who marched along the docks, stopping to hail the Starstruck Siren and producing yet another one of Eowyn's amulets.

"Well, if anyone's watching that'll surely give them pause, don't you think, friend?" He chuckled softly to the gull that had been his companion for the day, rising from the ground and tossing the bird the rest of his bread. He saw the deck of the ship clearly as the captain's crew came to a stop and stared at the twelve foot creature who had called to them. Not wasting the opportunity, he was off in a sprint to the opposite side of the ship. Leaping from the dock, his gloved hands caught the anchor chain and he began to quickly pull himself up. In a flash he was over the rail and hiding in the shadows of the ship's forecastle.



The sun had finally set, but Sylvin had been awake for several hours already.  Her last visit to the Kuriousity Shoppe having bared no fruit, she returned to the gypsy camps just before daybreak.  The enigmatic shopkeeper had promised some sort of signal, but Sylvin had grown tired of waiting.  Preparations for her departure had been in place for some time.  She had asked her friends Victor and Gabrielle to watch over the camps. Sylvin trusted them, and the others respected them.  She had her bag packed, and kept constant watch over the smooth green stone of the amulet handed to her by the elf-woman.  When nothing had yet happened, she decided to pay a visit to the Lady Eowyn to see if her mission was still to be carried out.  After a night of waiting outside the Shoppe with no sign of its keeper, Sylvin had to return to the solace of her tent.  Her sleep was not restful, and the soft glow that began emanating from the amulet penetrated the darkness of her tent like a beacon.  Rising from her bed platform, Sylvin hurriedly dressed and arranged her travel gear.  Not being able to contain her nervous energy, she paced the length of her tent uncountable times before the last rays of the golden orb finally faded below the horizon.  Sweeping her beloved tent with a final gaze, Sylvin could only hope Eowyn held true to her promise of isolated quarters on the journey.  After a final word with Victor and Gabrielle, Sylvin was off to the docks and her rendezvous with the Starstruck Siren.

Not being the sort to rush into unfamiliar situations, Sylvin waited patiently in the shadows near the Siren.  She noted the man and woman waiting with growing impatience.  Her hand went involuntarily to the leather pouch she wore at her waist when the woman so casually displayed an amulet identical to her own in response to the hail of a woman from the deck of the ship.  She raised an eyebrow at the pair and examined them with renewed curiosity.  Siblings, perhaps?  Or spouses?  It did not matter a great deal to her what their relationship to each other was, but Sylvin gleaned as much as she could about them from her observations.  Another woman approached the ship, and she could not have been more obvious had she been wearing brightly painted sign.  A faint, evenly spaced vibration could be felt in the salt-weathered wood beneath her feet.  Sylvin looked to the end of the docks, and her eyes widened at the sight of the largest ogre she had ever seen.  Carrying a large pack, and an even larger club, she was not at all sure what she had gotten herself into if this ogre was to be a shipmate on the mission.

The ogre hailed the ship, and as the crew aboard went to the rail to investigate, Sylvin caught a movement out of the corner of her eye.  Her sharp gaze caught the would-be stowaway scurrying up the anchor chain and over the rail on the far side of the ship.  Taking that new wrinkle into account, Sylvin decided now might be the best time to make her presence known.  Walking more confidently than she felt up to the ship between the unfamiliar woman and the ogre, Sylvin called out after the ogre..."I also seek permission to board, if I may have a word with the captain."



Calloused hands absentmindedly inspected repaired parts in the shrouds, cascading down from their connection at the mizzen top mast, as a gentle breeze sent his short, dark hair flying every- which way it pleased. He worked absentmindedly, because he had done it much more profoundly just before, and secondly, because of the arrival and embarking of new passengers, including what seemed to be an ogre, which was, so to say, somewhat out of the ordinary.

Having boarded the *Starstruck Siren* at the former port where it had moored only shortly before, Thrim was still getting used to his new temporary 'home,' though he knew most of the names of the crew by memory already. Captain Silver's ship was by far the most impressive one he had worked on, and he had been more than happy to be promoted to 'Able Seaman'; being sent aloft to what to a layman's eye looked like an excessive amount of rope and strings tied from one place to another. He recalled his days as a Landsman and 'Powdermonkey' with little enthusiasm. Not to mention that many of the other lads that had carried the explosive substance to the Gun deck had not seen the next day after battle.

Many of the ship's crew was still roaming around Stormpoint, but the youngster felt no need, well, no insuperable need, to spend all of his hard-earned money on worldly pleasures, which mostly consisted of offerings by women of easy virtue and cheap rum. Even so, Thrim had no doubt that every single one of the men would be back well before the ultimatum Silver had stated upon their return at giving a few days leave. His short stay had thus far left a memorable impression of the Lady Captain. With the way she handled the crew and ship, it was easy to see why they rewarded her with a fierce loyalty and trust.

He liked being aboard the *Startstruck Siren*, lovingly keeping her in top shape and helping to guide her in her travels over the vast waters. He could hardly wait to set sail, and, in idle time climbed up just because he liked the feel of being high up in the rigging and putting his nose windward. And so his eyes had fallen upon the newcomers. He didn't judge, but decided to keep eyes and ears open. Three of the four passengers had shown something to the Captain, though Thrim was up too high to be able to see what. And in a way he considered it rude to pry. Silver let them put their feet on the gangway, and she was more than able to decide for herself who she took aboard. Then, the young sailor's attention turned to the commanding voice of the Boatswain, as his feet rapidly took him to where he was needed.



Silver motioned the two towards the makeshift room and as they slipped below she waited for the other woman to finally set foot on the ship and speak. There was too much to do for the Captain to be caught waiting, and soon enough her voice was shouting over the din of the already working sailors with more orders to accomplish before they could shove off.


The Lady captain was in the midst of receiving an elbow in her ribs just as the voice boomed over the rail. Ty looked at her and motioned over the rail. Her crew all paused for but a moment to glance over deck, but seeing nothing extremely troubling, they were soon back into their routine of preparing the ship for sailing. They had seen the near depths of hell sailing with this captain, and an ogre, strange as it might be, wasn't anything they would consider completely outlandish. Now if it was an ogre in a dress waving a handkerchief, they might reconsider.

Silver looked over the rail and groaned inwardly. She had not received word they would be taking on any passengers that needed "specific accommodations." The ship was already full and this would be something she'd have to sort out soon before they could shove off. She at least tried to be hospitable to those that boarded as passengers. Silver glanced once more at Ty, who simply shrugged his big shoulders.

"Ahoy! Permission granted to board and speak with the Captain."

With a slight grin to the large, bald man that still stood guard by the gangplank, Silver was about to take up her post once more when yet another voice shouted over the rail.

She glanced down and waved a hand, motioning the woman aboard. She returned to her post once more and waited for the three new passengers to set foot upon the deck. Her mind was reeling as she counted off each passenger that had arrived, noting the time and arrival of each. Eowyn was not kidding when she said they would all arrive within the same time frame.

Absently the captain stroked at her neck before crossing her arms loosely and turning a skeptical gaze towards the gangplank. She cataloged each name with references and little observances from each passenger that had boarded. The inherent secrets that passed between the two that first arrived, the hesitance of the young girl walking ahead of the ogre, the apparent casual attitude the ogre seemed to carry in his swagger up the plank, and the way the last woman seemed to materialize out of the shadows she was hiding in near the docks.

This was a misfit passenger crew to say the least and she could tell Ty was thinking the same thing as he rubbed his bald head before crossing his arms over a barrel of a chest. He glanced at the Captain as if to say "I sure hope you know what the hell you're doing this time" before he turned and made way for the passengers to board.

As they all neared, Silver raised her voice loud enough for all three to hear. "Welcome aboard the Starstruck Siren. I be the Captain. What business ya have here?"



To the more experienced adventurer, Isa looked obvious and unimpressive, standing there gaping at the ship and the enormous ogre that just requested permission to board. Blinking, she came to her senses and realized how she must have looked to those who had noticed. As she ascended the gangplank, Isa heard, "I'm the Captain, and who might you be?" Before being able to reply, a woman put herself between Isa and the ogre, and called out, "I also seek permission to board, if I may have a word with the captain."

Isa was a little taken aback by the woman's actions, but hoped that her haste had purpose. The woman now commanded the captain's attention, so Isa simply proceeded her walk up the gangplank. Upon reaching the deck, she waited to make herself known to the captain. The amulet within her blouse still glowed and seemed to make her need to speak to the captain. Isa knew the amulet was the mark that would identify her as one of the chosen, but it seemed so much more than that. It was if the amulet somehow justified her very existence at this place and time. Being respectful of the two who boarded before her, she waited patiently for the opportunity of being acknowledged as one of the group.

Not knowing how long her wait would be, Isa surveyed the ship's deck, making note of what she felt was of importance. Having seen ships of this sort not far from her home, she knew the general layout but had never actually sailed upon one. It had been a while since she thought of home. Home was definitely much different from this place. She wondered how her family was and what happened in the wake of her departure over six years ago. Most importantly she hoped they were happy. She followed her heart and they would just have to live with her decision. Isa had seen and participated in more than life at home could have ever given her. 'Enough of that,' she thought, and continued noting the things around her. She hoped she would be of assistance to the Lady Eowyn. What part she played in this she did not know, but she was sure she would find out all in good time.

As Isa played with her ring, she felt a shudder come over her. Her senses alert. Very few times had it happened this intensely. Something was afoot. Instinctively Isa looked skyward and her goshawk was circling, telling her to be aware. It could be at anytime, today, tomorrow, or next month. It didn't matter, Isa still made ready for whatever could be coming. As ready as you can make yourself for the unknown!

Isabella Solestra


Dusk had already faded into night when the traveler finally passed through the gates to enter the city of Stormpoint. She'd never been there before, and didn't know what to expect. At first glance, it didn't appear all that different from any other port city of its size. The streets were crowded with buildings, but, given the hour, sparse of inhabitants. The inns were doing a fine business though, if the sounds of revelry that floated from their doors were to be believed, and she considered entering one for a quick meal before she made her way to the docks. She'd been on the road for several days now, and today had been the longest. She hadn't planned it that way, but the storm she'd passed through three days ago seriously delayed her journey, forcing her to add extra distance to her daily treks in order to reach her destination in time. Judging by the amulet that hung concealed around her neck, she'd just barely made it. There was no time to stop.

Sighing, she continued past the inns, placating her growling stomach with a bit of hard-crusted bread she drew from her pack. The warm glow and sounds of the taverns and pubs faded as she passed into the merchants' district, now awash in shadow save for the flickering glow of the street lanterns and their paler reflection on the crowded shoppes that lined the path. The street was wider here, probably to allow for merchant carts and stands in the fair seasons. She chose to follow the row of stores to her right, noting the types of businesses as she passed. There was a toy store, a bakery, a clock shoppe, a clinic ... she paused at this last one, wishing it were open, wondering what remedies it might have in stock. Wishing, however, was unlikely to make it so, and she thus pressed forward, passing a haberdashery, a weapons smith, and a peculiar establishment called "The Kuriousity Shoppe." She recognized it at once as Eowyn's -- it could belong to no other -- and reached out a hand to knock on the closed door. She stopped, however, before her knuckles met the wood. Eowyn had said to meet at the docks. She'd have a reason for this, she knew.

She thus passed the Kuriousity Shoppe as well, and soon the wide avenues of the merchants' district were left behind her as she neared what her senses told her was the docks--the smell of brine was unmistakable. The end was in sight, she shifted her pack higher on her back and quickened her step, her every muscle aching, but her curiosity buzzing with anticipation. She didn't know why Eowyn had sent for her, but felt that it must be something important. Her father had told her many stories about the elven woman and the times he and her mother had traveled with her. She'd always relished those tales and wished she'd been a part of them. Her father was too old to travel now. It saddened her greatly to see him age, but he still had a strength of spirit that buoyed her heart and to which she clung in times of doubt. Was she now to take his place on this journey? She could only imagine so. Why else would Eowyn's message have been so secretive?

She was still pondering the matter when she reached the ship mentioned in the elf's missive. The Starstruck Siren stood tall and proud, unmoved by the gentle waves that lapped beneath its bow. A small group was gathered by its side, some of its number were in the process of boarding. It was an odd group to say the least -- a woman of quiet yet certain comportment; another woman, darker and more assertive; a man and a woman, studiously quiet and apparently traveling together; and, most curiously, an ogre, bearing the same amulet she herself carried. It was, without quetion, a motley crew. Through the midst of it, however, she could see a tall, fair-haired woman who appeared to be in command. She could tell that the woman was speaking, but couldn't make out her words. The mere sight of her, however, sparked a reaction in the amulet she wore. Without warning, the talisman grew suddenly warm and tugged insistently at her neck. 'All right, all right, I can take a hint,' she thought as she too began to climb the gangplank and pulled the amulet out from under her leather vest.

Arilyn K.


For the better part of the day, the bard felt a strange compulsion to go to the pier. Many a time she had been warned from wandering into this area of town during the night, but she had an obligation, a debt to be repaid. Darvydia crouched in the shadows of one of the buildings at the end of the pier. It was time. Her amulet, a "gift" from Eowyn, the elven shop owner, warmly glowed through her tunic. She nervously pulled her cloak taught and clutched the amulet tightly.

Darvydia absentmindedly stroked the enchanted flute presented to her by Eowyn. She accepted the instrument graciously in return for a favor to be named at a later date. Eowyn did not, could not name her cost at their meeting, but shortly thereafter, she sent the amulet. Darvydia would know when it was time to repay her for the unique instrument.

A very large orc lumbered by, close to her position. Drawing herself into a crouched position, Darvydia tugged nervously at the cap that concealed her strawberry-blond hair. He approached the boat, muttered something incoherent and then bellowed, "AHOY ABOARD THE SIREN. I BE SEEKING PERMISSION TA BOARD."

Shortly after the ogre's bold entrance, Darvydia noticed a shadow slip over the rails of the boat. She decided that someone should warn them of the intruder. Biting her lip, she stood. 'I guess now is as good of a time as any,' she thought. Darvydia tread lightly along the pier and stopped at the gangplank. Mustering the strongest, richest voice she could gather, she shouted, "Capt'n Silver, I was summoned to your vessel and I seek permission to come aboard."



This was turning into a rather whirling headache.

The three, the hesitant girl, elven woman and the ogre, now stood in front of her, yet not speaking. Not a moment later, a fourth was approaching the deck, and a fifth voice shouted over the rail. Silver stroked her neck again, suppressing the urge to allow a loud curse to slip past her lips, both at the heat that was making her neck hot and the motley crew of passengers that was gathering all at once.

She glanced at the rail and yelled "Aye, Hurry it up. Permission granted to come aboard!"

Ty simply cast a sidelong glance at his captain, knowing full well when she got agitated things could take a turn for the worse. No matter how many cargo runs, passenger crossings, or adventures they had been on, strangers on her ship always made her nervous, especially when details were so scarce and the strangers were... well strange.

Silver ceased rubbing her neck and tried to contain the foul mood that was threatening. She was eager, more then anything to get sailing and test the strengths of these passengers. If they couldn't handle it, she'd have to speak with Eowyn and drop them off at the next port. Despite the urgency of the matter, she'd be damned if she had clumsy people getting in the way of running her ship. Seasickness was one thing, the cure was to be bed ridden and out of her hair at least.

She carefully noted the amulets, or faint glow of where one lied, on each person that boarded. Waiting for the last person to arrive on the deck, the lady Captain eyed all five warily. "I see you've been instructed to board the Starstruck Siren. Welcome aboard." She waved a hand around her as the men busily worked to prepare her for sailing.

"Don't bother asking me questions, because I do not know any answers. Unless you have any useful information for me, don't bother trying to make small talk until we're under way and out of port. We have the arrival of one more to wait for, and then we make way."

She nodded, glancing towards the docks once again to wait for Eowyn's arrival so they could shove off. "Names, if you please, and I will tell you where everything is and your instructions. As for you.." She looked to the rather large ogre. "I was not informed I'd have any passengers needing special accommodations, but I am hospitable. If you don't mind waiting a few minutes, m'crew will find you suitable quarters where you can hopefully stretch out."

Silver allowed a hint of a smile to play over her lips. Apparently something about the ogre struck her as amusing, or somewhat comforting. Perhaps it was the fact she was used to ogres being some of the best able seamen ever to sail. She snuck a glance at her first mate. He was a rather large man, not nearly ten feet tall, but his quarters were also quite big... As if fearing she was going to give away her plan, she turned back to the crew and waited.



Isa stood in amazement as yet two more requested to come aboard. Permission being granted, they now numbered five. The captain asked for names. Seeing that many now solicited the captain's attention, Isa stepped forward while opening the top of her blouse to display the amulet, "I am Isa Solestra." If the captain would oblige by pointing me in the general direction, I'll stow my belongings so I may return to where my help would be most useful."

Isabella Solestra


Interrupted at her chance to catch the captain's attention, Sylvin ascended the gangplank and assembled on the deck with the rest of the would-be crew.  One of the captain's remarks caught Sylvin's attention sharply..."I was not informed I'd have any passengers needing special accommodations..."  'Great,' Sylvin thought to herself, 'that blasted fey-woman forgot to tell the captain about my unique needs.'  A foul mood was on its way to developing as she quickly took in her surroundings and her possible accommodations.  Taking mental stock of her belongings, Sylvin calculated exactly how much of her sunlight potion she had to see her through the journey...hopefully it would be enough.

The captain spoke to the assembly again after instructing yet another passenger to board, perhaps more harshly than she meant..."Don't bother asking me questions, because I do not know any answers. Unless you have any useful information for me, don't bother trying to make small talk until we're under way and out of port. We have the arrival of one more to wait for, and then we make way."  'Apparently I'm not the only one in a foul mood,' Sylvin thought and smiled wryly to herself.  In her quick catalog of the ship, she could see and noted some possible areas to avoid sunlight for her daily repose, but she would still require to speak to the captain to see if any other arrangements could be made.

The captain turned back to the assembled crew, now including two more women, one of whom had the aura of the fey about her as well.  The captain was asking for their names, and Sylvin saw her chance to jump forward.  "I do not mean to be rude, Captain Silver, but I do require a word with you in private...soon."  Sylvin's pewter gaze fell on the captain and met her blue eyes in an effort to convey the urgency of her request.  She must conserve as much of her potion as possible, for even Eowyn could not know for sure what was to come.



Darvydia hesitantly grabbed the first rung of the ladder, quickly ascended, and gracefully dropped to the deck with barely a noise to mark her presence. The captain stood before her with a motley crew lined before her. Darvydia sensed that the five had amulets not unlike her own. Biting her lip, she slid in line with the rest and fought the urge to greet her fellow travelers with one of her winning smiles. Loosening her cloak, Darvydia allowed the faint glow from her own amulet to radiate through her tunic.

The captain was indeed in a sour mood. Would this be the time to inform her of the castaway? Perchance, she awaited Eowyn's arrival; his presence may be better explained.

Darvydia proudly stared the captain in the eye. "My name is Darvydia. I am a Bard. I was summoned to your ship by…" Darvydia started to pull the amulet's chain, but a glare from the captain stayed her hand. "I guess you already know why I am here." And she dropped her hands to her sides.


"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man


Absently running her fingers through her hair, her hands settled on her hips once more as her voice found a less harsh tone. "Welcome aboard the Starstruck Siren." She looked to Sylvin. "Aye, Give me but a few moments to make sure everyone is somewhat accommodated."

Looking back to the others, excluding the ogre, she threw a thumb over her shoulder. "Down those steps are the corridor of Quarters, as I like to call 'em. I cleaned out an old storage room as best can be done and threw a few bunks in there for the passengers coming on. Be courteous as it will be men and women sharing that room. Crew sleeps down at the end of the corridor. My quarters are the first door ya pass, on the left. You can go throw your things on a bunk and come up to help on deck."

Crossing her arms loosely she continued with her given-too-many-times speech. "The galley's down there - stay out of the cook's hair. She doesn't take lightly to strangers. Meals are in the galley or up on deck. Whatever suits you. There will be nothing that'll hurt m'crew or m'ship tolerated."

With that said, she looked to Ty and took a few steps away from the passengers. After a brief exchange and a slightly curious look from her first mate, he let out a loud, bellowing chuckle. The large giant of a man walked towards the ogre and reached up to slap him on the shoulder. "Welcome aboard mate!" He grinned a toothy grin before waving a thick arm towards the corridor. "Looks like you'll be bunkin' with me." Ty shot the Captain a look of amusement before turning and thudding his way towards the hall where the rooms were. He was used to having company when passengers were involved but this would be a first – bunking with an ogre. It would be a tight squeeze for two such big people, but they would have a little room to spare to make it somewhat comfortable.

With everything said and done, she smiled, somewhat more relieved. "Feel free to put your bags down and claim a bed. Then come back up on deck." She turned her attention to Sylvin, noting the hood still covering the woman and the heavy cloak. "You wished to speak with me?"



The dark figure watched the group assembled from the shadows of the forecastle, taking their measure. The bard who called herself Darvydia was an interesting combination of timidness and pride. There was something about the way she acted around the ogre too that he couldn't quite put his finger on, and he filed it away for later consideration. Another woman, who introduced herself as Isa Solestra, moved with a confidence and experience that her clothing belied. Then, there was the pale woman dressed like a gypsy. 'A vampire,' he thought quietly to himself, and a very intriguing choice. And lastly there was the ogre, who brought a smirk to his lips. While his strength was without question, the newcomer could already see a tint of green beginning to color the ogre's cheeks.

So far, the stranger's presence had gone unnoticed, but he knew that his luck couldn't last for long, especially on board a ship. It was only a matter of time before he was discovered and that would cause more problems. He figured best option was to bluff his way past the Captain, since he lacked the amulet Eowyn had given the others. It shouldn't prove too difficult as Eowyn's own tendency for secrecy meant no one knew exactly who was going to be here. Further, no one was demanding to see the amulet since all seemed compelled to show them without question.

His plan set, he listened to the captain address the people who would be his fellow passengers on this venture, giving instructions on where they would be staying and their expected conduct, and waited until he saw an opening to make his presence known. When she paused to speak with the pale woman who too grimaced in response to the news that ship was not ready for passengers with special needs, he stepped out of the shadows of the forecastle and coughed softly. The great coat he wore billowed around his legs as he stood there confidently with his arms folded across his chest, his face completely hidden beneath the shadows of the hat he wore as all eyes turned to him.

"Pardon the interruption, but you were waiting for two before sailing, now you're awaiting just one, and she should be here shortly."



Ty looked at the ogre, thankful he was friendly rather then someone that would knock him in the head for the amiable slap. The big man grinned again, tugging at the gold hoop in his ear. "Welcome aboard Quig, I be Ty, first mate of this here beaut." He gave the rail a loving pat before he stepped towards the doorway leading down to the quarters.

"I'm sure ye heard the cap'ain's speech mate, so I'll spare ya hearin' it again. M'quarters are across from the cap'ain's, just go in and throw yer stuff down..." He looked back up at Quig. He seemed a bit uneasy now and then. "Rest a few if ya wish. Come back on deck when yer settled and someone'll throw a bunk in there for ya. Gonna be tight but better then sleepin' with the fishes, eh?" Ty chuckled again and waved a hand for Quig to go down. "Warnin' though mate, Yer a bit too tall so yer gonna have to walk a bit hunched. Sittin' or layin' you should be alright."

Ty chuckled again and gave the Ogre's arm a camaraderie pat. He would've showed him the way but a rather sketchy fellow made himself known at that moment.

"Pardon the interruption, but you were waiting for two before sailing, now you're awaiting just one, and she should be here shortly."

He glanced to the Captain who paused in her speech with Sylvin to arch a brow at the man in the hat and coat. Silver's fingers instinctively fell to the sword at her side as she placed her other hand on her hip. Ty kept this thick arms crossed for the moment and eyed the stranger warily.

"And how do ye know such business?" Silver asked, excusing herself for a moment to move towards the stranger. "What business do ye have here on m'ship that you could not board as the rest of those assembled?"

She shot Ty a glance before looking back at the stranger. She didn't take lightly to people who thought it necessary to sneak on board. Her crew was sharp, having docked in some of the most dangerous ports, and how he managed to get around totally unseen with all the commotion of preparing the ship was beyond her. Her lips fell into a tight, thoughtful line as she eyed the cloaked figure. He hadn't offered any name, any regard to her or the crew, nor had he shown or mentioned the passage they were preparing for.

"Name, business, and reason for sneaking on board, if you please."



Sylvin watched the large man who appeared to be first mate lead the ogre below deck. She turned her attention back to Captain Silver.  

"You wished to speak with me?"  

"Yes, I need to speak to you regarding my accommodations for the voyage.  I need a room with--"  

Just when Sylvin thought she had gained the captain's attention long enough to make her needs known, yet another interruption aborted their conversation...

"Pardon the interruption, but you were waiting for two before sailing, now you're awaiting just one, and she should be here shortly."

It was the same man Sylvin had noticed board the ship via anchor chain rather than gangplank just moments before.  If the fiery look in Sylvin's eyes could really touch him, he would be a mere pile of smoldering ashes at the moment.  She noticed he also seemed to be lacking the amulet everyone else had previously received from Eowyn. 'Curious,' Sylvin thought to herself, 'how could he know about this mission if he were not a part of it?'  He also seemed to know that the most notable absence among the crew was Eowyn herself.  'I wonder where she is...'

Sylvin thought as she let her dour look pass from the new commotion of an unannounced passenger to the organized chaos of a ship preparing for departure.  Her features slowly took on the look of appreciation for the smooth rhythm of the crew.  Captain Silver obviously ran a tight ship, and her crew seemed fiercely loyal.  Despite the great attention they paid to their tasks at hand, each crewmember also kept an eye on their captain.  'Ready to spring to her aid at a moment's notice, no doubt.'  This led Sylvin to spare a wistful thought for her beloved encampment, and a silent prayer to whatever deity was listening that they would see the coming time well.  Since the captain seemed to have the new passenger in hand, Sylvin decided to at least stow her gear below and out of the way.  She knew very little about ships, but she thought it only right to offer whatever help she could.  A small thought, like a stone in her boot, crept into Sylvin's consciousness...'I hope that elf knows what she's doing...' With a sigh, Sylvin ascended the short staircase back to the main deck and sought out the first crewman who might show her something she could do to help.



"And how do ye know such business?" Silver asked, excusing herself for a moment to move towards the stranger. "What business do ye have here on m'ship that you could not board as the rest of those assembled? Name, business, and reason for sneaking on board, if you please."

The stranger took note of both the hand that drifted to the hilt of Silver's sword, and the fiery glare the vampire had given him. It caused a smirk to find his lips within the shadows of the wide brimmed hat that continued to hide his face. His eyes danced over the crew as they edged closer around him, and he knew that with one false move they would be upon him. Not that the odds truly bothered him all that much. He had faced worse before, but, being on the ship, on their home ground, would give them a definite advantage as it would restrict his movements. More importantly though, he was not looking for a fight. He thus slowly lowered his hands down to his sides, palms held outward, well away from the sword that was strapped across his back, and bowed his head in deference to the good captain. With a calm and hopefully disarming voice, he began to speak.

"My apologies for the theatrical entrance, but since I work directly for our mutual patron we thought it better if I was not seen boarding your fine ship here. As for the business that brought us all here, I know as much as any of you do, just where and when, but no answers as to why. As for my name, well for the time being you may simply call me Avathar."



Quig leaned his hand against the door frame leading into the ship where Ty had pointed. The ogre could not help frowning as he was reminded of the cramped space that awaited him for the length of the voyage. Also, there was the soft rolling of his rebellious stomach, which he tried to ignore by focusing on the first mate's words instead. He met with only marginal success as he debated in his head whether the fishes had better accommodations than he had at the moment. His debate was drawn short, however, by the sudden appearance of the dark one, and he let the large pack slip from his shoulder onto the deck.

"Bloody hell, we haven't even left port yet," he muttered under his breath as he hefted the grand club Eowyn had given him to his shoulder and stood tall, making sure this stranger understood the price of trouble. He appeared peaceful enough, but Quig had learned one thing from his time in Stormpoint .. Never trust appearances..

"If'n ye got a problem.. hit it with a club.
If'n it is still there after then be hitt'n it again!!"



Darvydia decided to take heed of the abrupt dismissal from the captain. She started to make her way down to her new quarters, and then the stowaway made his presence known.

"Pardon the interruption, but you were waiting for two before sailing, now you're awaiting just one, and she should be here shortly."

She paused, unsure of whether she should slip away or stay and listen.

Tension hung thickly in the air, as the captain and the mysterious stranger faced each other. The ogre appeared to be agitated. She knew well enough that it was not wise to get in the path of an angry ogre. The other guests were dispersing and Darvydia did not want to appear to be lurking, so she quietly slipped away and deposited her bag on an empty cot. Gliding quietly back to deck, she decided to climb the mast and offer assistance with the rigging.


"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man


Mutual patron and simply call him Avathar? Silver had her share of mysteries but this was straight out of those damn novels her friend India so often read. You know, the ones with strapping young lads and ladies being rescued from bad guys who said things like mutual patron and had simple one word names.

Repressing the urge to laugh (out of amusement at her thought) she shrugged a shoulder and keeping her hand on her hilt, eyed the man with caution. "Mutual patron?" This sparked little interest. She noted Quig's entrance back up on deck, mentally filing way the fact he was already showing his protective side toward a captain he just met. Good sign. Silver glanced over at Sylvin for a moment, frustrated she was interrupted.

"Sir…Avathar, if you don't mind waiting up on deck until this mutual patron arrives, I'm sure we can settle this matter easily. Until then, I'm sure you'll understand that I don't want you wandering m'ship unaccompanied if at all. I do hope you don't mind staying on deck until then."

With a brief nod to the crew she turned back to those gathered. "Well, it seems we wait on one." She smiled a small smile before looking back around for Sylvin. "Sorry for the interruption. As you were saying?"



Ty rubbed his bald head, an absent minded reflex. He grumbled something before crossing his arms and tilting back on his heels to watch the scene unfold. Everyone seemed incline to follow orders so far, stowing their things and making way back on board.

That was always a good sign - at least if it held out for a few days before laziness set in. But there would be none of that.

Ty Rigsword was not one for laziness and the Lady Captain appreciated him for that. You were onboard a ship for a purpose, and if it didn't suit ya, you'd get tossed overboard or left at the next port.

The man grunted quietly, watching the interaction with the man who appeared from the shadows. Shifty characters like that always made him nervous, as if an ogre, a man and women who whispered like the whole ship had gone crazy, and the handful of other passengers didn't make him nervous enough. Ty had heard of Eowyn and nearly choked with Silver suggested taking up the offer.

There was a reputation to uphold! There was safety to consider! There was....the fact the Lady Captain had respect for the often-gossiped about shopkeeper. That basically outdid anything Ty could come up with and he had simply shut his trap and agreed. He trusted his captain, whole heartedly. It was just these crazy people she associated with that he was skeptical about.

But then again, without crazy people, she wouldn't look so normal. Ty knew better, having often heard the ideas she came up with and the adventures they had encountered on one of her many jaunts, which all started, by the way, with some crazy idea.

"Alright lads and lassies!" He grinned sheepishly, his voice booming over all the noise on the ship. "It's almost time to shove off and that means no idle hands! If you're just standing around, offer some help! There are no freeloaders on my ship!" He began his pacing of the deck to inspect what was going on. He saw the woman, Darlene? Darshyn? Daria? Blast it! Whatever her name was, she was climbing the rigging with grace. He made a mental note that she was not to be wasted on this journey. The sailors, already working, seemed to become even more focused as the first mate's voice boomed over the ship.

He spotted the Ogre, club over shoulder, glancing between the captain and Avathar. Ty puffed out his chest and straightened. "Quig! Could use yer help pullin' up the sail line!" It was true, plus Ty hated to see a newly scrubbed ship become subject to a seasick passenger, especially one so big. With the task at hand, the two men could easily keep an eye on the captain, not to mention the hundreds of eyes of the crew that were constantly taking turns on watch. Handpicked they were, and grateful for the opportunity.

He grabbed one of the lines and heaved, watching the sail shift slightly. "Get yer lazy landlubbin' arses in gear ladies and gents! One more passenger and we're off!"

"I'll give ya lazy!" "Landlubbin' this!" "Sea-scurvy barnacle, callin' us no good!" The crew jested in good cheer as they readied the ship to be off. Finally, she was set and gleaming, awaiting the lift of the anchor to feel the waves beneath her. The ship groaned in slight protest as the sails began to catch a bit of wind and the Captain couldn't agree more.



Sylvin reemerged on deck to discover the sneaky interloper indeed had a name.

"As for my name, well for the time being you may simply call me Avathar."

'Avathar,' she thought to herself, 'interesting...' Sylvin continued to observe the by-play between Avathar and the lady Captain. She noticed the ogre Quig seemed ready to step in should the situation become heated, and spared a small spot of sympathy for Avathar should he make a wrong move. Sylvin was grateful to hear the Captain had her suspicions of him as well, and her orders to keep him where she could easily find him did not escape her notice.

Captain Silver turned with a curt nod and walked back to where Sylvin was now standing about to ask a crewman if she could assist. "Sorry for the interruption. As you were saying?"

Sylvin led the captain to an out-of-the-way corner of the deck before making her request. "Captain Silver, when I agreed to accompany this mission, I was told I would be provided with accommodations to suit my particular needs. To make matters brief, I have a particular aversion to sunlight and I require a single cabin with none so much as a pinhole of sunlight showing." Sylvin took a breath to gauge that captain's reaction. "I have a potion that will allow me to tolerate sunlight for brief intervals, but as I am not sure how long this journey will take I would like to conserve it as much as possible." Sylvin glanced around the deck. "I hope you will be able to make accommodations for me. If not, I may not be able to make this journey after all." Sylvin folded her arms across her chest and waited for the captain's response.



Silver listened to Sylvin, catching a faint glimpse within the hood as she nodded to the words. She had received special orders from Eowyn a while back when things all....started. Silver straightened and offered a smile. "Yes, yes."

She motioned to the few stairs leading down where everyone else was going and coming from. Lowering her voice, though it was barely needed with the crew carrying on and such, she answered Sylvin's inquiry. "Eowyn sent me specific orders that she and one other, which I'm presuming to be you, needed special accommodations. The best I could do, to find a room without a window was small storage closet. Luckily, it hasn't been used for much and it fits two cots comfortably so you and Eowyn should be alright."

She glanced back towards Avathar and the others before looking to Sylvin. "I do hope that is alright."

With a look over her shoulder, she tried to spot the new crewmember she had picked up at the last dock. Perhaps he was up in the rigging? She looked towards the horizon where the sun threatened to start its ascent. They'd have to get moving very soon in order to leave port before dawn. Silver looked towards the docks, awaiting the one last passenger.



Sylvin followed the captain down the short flight of stairs leading below deck.  "Eowyn sent me specific orders that she and one other, which I'm presuming to be you, needed special accommodations. The best I could do, to find a room without a window, was small storage closet.  Luckily it hasn't been used for much and it fits two cots comfortably so you and Eowyn should be alright."

Sylvin inspected the room, feeling along the seams of the wall for any nooks or crannies that might allow light to penetrate.  

"I do hope that is alright."

Finding the room in sound order, with two cots in good repair available, Sylvin nodded her approval.  

"Aye, Captain," Sylvin smiled slightly, "this will do nicely."  Sylvin followed the captain out of the room.  "Thank you for taking time away from your busy preparations.  I shall see to myself for the time being while you see to your ship and crew."  

Taking the captain's distracted glance over her shoulder as a dismissal, Sylvin went to the guest's common room to retrieve her belongings.  Glancing up at the sky as she passed by the stairwell, Sylvin felt the horizon beginning to turn from inky blue to blood red.  What was that old sailor's saying about a red sky? Sylvin wondered to herself as she stowed her packs in her new quarters.  Whatever it was, Sylvin hoped the omen was for good rather than ill.  Her deft hands reached into her smaller pack and retrieved a packet of her potion.  Stowing this away in a pouch at her belt, Sylvin made her way back on deck to see where she could best lend a hand in the preparations for departure.



Neither Jaryssa nor Brextyl much cared for the look of the shadowy stranger, and they exchanged a conspiratorial glance as the captain conversed with him. Their thoughts were similar. Fervent attempts to hide actually revealed more than they concealed, and the man couldn't look more suspicious if he tried. 'Amateur,' they thought simultaneously. Still, his air of mystery was odd, given his apparent wish to avoid either scrutiny or conflict. It simply didn't make sense, and though captain seemed at least partially appeased by his explanation, Brextyl and Jaryssa weren't as sure. They thus made sure to take positions nearby, from where they could keep eyes on the stranger as they heeded the first mate's bellowed orders.

The pair had never worked aboard a ship before, but they learned as fast as anyone, and faster than most. They possessed extraordinary dexterity and agility, facts which they too might have thought to better conceal had they not been so intent on the stranger whose billowing coat and oversized hat still drew their attention. Was he trying to look suspicious,' Jaryssa wondered. 'Was he purposely diverting attention away from something else?' With renewed suspicion she took careful measure of the rest of the ship and the dock, she saw nothing more than the rest of the crew and many of the passengers bustling about the deck as they made ready to sail. 'Was he working with someone already on board?' A furtive glance at Brextyl and the telling look she received in return told her his thoughts lay along similar lines. When he finished his current task and cracked his knuckles before beginning the next, it was decided. They'd take their usual parts. He'd keep an eye on Avathar while she checked out others.

If he was working with anyone, it was most likely one of the passengers. The information they'd read on the captain before they left the guild depicted a woman who picked her crew with both care and skill. She wasn't likely to have anyone aboard who planned to betray her, and judging by the size of her first mate the sword that hung on her own hip, anyone who tried wasn't likely to succeed.

Jaryssa thus focused her attention on those who had just recently boarded. She started first with the dark-haired woman speaking with the captain, recognizing her as one Sylvin Bordeaux. She'd never met the woman, but knew her by reputation as the leader of the gypsy camps following Rianna Ashkeveron's much-anticipated departure. According to guild sources, she was fair-minded and took an active, familial interest in those she led. As a result, she was well-liked by the camp and had managed to provide a stability it had lacked under earlier supervision. Why she was here, Jaryssa couldn't guess, but she didn't seem to be involved with Avathar.

She turned her attention next to the woman who had introduced herself as Isa Solestra. Jaryssa had never seen her before, but found her an interesting study. She had the bearing of one highborn, but her hands told a different story. Her nails were clipped close to her fingertips and her palms were hardened from use. Their callous line, along with a partially flattened middle finger, suggested that she had some experience with a bow. Further study might reveal more, but it would have to wait for a more opportune time. It was sufficient for now that she didn't appear to bear any conspiratorial connection with the latest arriver, Jaryssa's eyes thus swept on to the next member of the curious assembly.

This one wasn't hard to miss. Standing well over ten feet tall and brandishing a cudgel nearly the size of the average quarterstaff was the ogre named Quig. Jaryssa hadn't had that many dealings with ogres, but knew enough about them to know she didn't want to be on their bad side. They were unquestionably one of the strongest races in the surrounding areas and some clans had a reputation for using that strength in an indiscriminate manner that many found disturbing. Jaryssa's limited knowledge was insufficient to determine the clan of Quig's origin, but the fact that he was following the captain's orders and taking what appeared to be a protective stance behind her suggested a measure of control not possessed by those of the more troublesome clans. Moreover, Jaryssa had clearly seen the amulet around the ogre's neck ..... the same amulet she and Brextyl wore, and the same amulet which the newcomer had failed to produce. No, Quig didn't appear a cohort of Avathar, a fact for which Jaryssa gave quick and silent thanks along with a wishful hope that he would prove reliable on whatever lay ahead. Having an ogre's strength on their side would afford them a great boon.

She turned her attention next to the woman who had failed to give a name. Clad in traveling leathers and looking road-weary, the woman's appearance gave no clue to her purpose. Boots splattered with deep red mud suggested a long journey, as Stormpoint had no such earth within its immediate surroundings, and, despite her silence, the woman had shown one of the amulets. Deciding that it was exhaustion rather than duplicity that stayed the woman's lips, Jaryssa moved to the one named Darvydia.

This one was high atop the rigging now, having set herself to work prior to the first mate's call. A sudden sinking feeling in her stomach corresponded with Jaryssa's realization that she should have examined this one first. The woman's current position would give her a distinct advantage in a scrape, and her self-selection of that position and task was suspicious. 'Damn.' Moving faster than she cared to, given the desire to avoid attention herself, Jaryssa made her way over to the mast the woman had claimed as her own and began to climb with uncommon ease, slowing only as she neared her target. She found the woman cheerfully humming a spirited tune while her nimble fingers and strong hands worked deftly at the ropes. Well, she had said she was a bard, and if her humming was any indication, she possessed a voice of exceptional clarity and a well-tuned, if rather pointed, ear. She was elven then .... no, half-elven, Jaryssa decided as she looked closer.

Half-elven .... elven ..... Avathar. The name had a distinctly elven ring to it. The hairs on the back of Jaryssa's neck rose suddenly as she considered the possible connection, and she decided to watch this one for a while. She ran one gloved hand through her hair, pulling it back from her face, and then hazarded a quick glance down at Brextyl who stopped working long enough to stretch and remove a kink from his neck. Knowing that he'd thus seen her signal, she moved closer to song-filled woman and spoke. "Darvydia, wasn't it? I'm Brielle. Need any help?"

Brextyl and Jaryssa


"Sir...Avathar, if you don't mind waiting up on deck until this mutual patron arrives, I'm sure we can settle this matter easily. Until then, I'm sure you'll understand that I don't want you wandering m'ship unaccompanied if at all. I do hope you don't mind staying on deck until then."

"As you wish, my captain," he answered easily, giving her a small bow before she turned to see to her other passengers and crew. He was certain her gaze would not wander far from him, so he did not make the task difficult for her. He thus sat crossed-legged on a chest stacked next to the wall of the forecastle, leaned back comfortably against the wall, and pretended to sleep. He enjoyed playing the overly flamboyant character, sometime in purposeful contrast to his more somber employer. He considered himself to be quite good at it as well, even though he had yet to reach Lord Ogrek's level. Somehow the regent had turned it into a true art form. Though it seemed that it was all his life was now, the stranger mused as he watched the men on the deck going about their business, playing a character. Each man had a life and memories that defined who they were, that reached much further back than the mere two years he possessed ... memories of family; of loves both, found and lost; of pain and pleasure; of all the things that make a man a man. He envied them so much. He was still inventing himself, all he had, indeed, all he knew was his job into which he threw himself wholeheartedly. He hated the moments in between, when all he had was his thoughts and little else to keep him company.

"Avathar," he whispered to himself softly. How fitting that it was elven for "shadows," for that was how he felt so often... a shadow of a man without any real substance... He brooded in silence, pretending to sleep, as he awaiting his employer and, more importantly, his friend who had given him the singular purpose that kept these thoughts at bay.

"What defines a person? Memories? Experiences?
If so, what happens when you lose them?
Is such a second chance to start over a curse or a blessing?"



Nebanazer paced the deck of the sloop anchored in a hidden jetty just outside of Stormpoint's harbor, one used quite frequently by smugglers seeking to avoid the notice of the Harbor Master. His reasons for being here, however were much different. He was waiting for a ship ..... a particular ship ..... to sail. Glancing at his sister ship anchored just a few hundred yards away, he felt reassured that two sloops should be more than a match for the Starstruck Siren when the time came. They were faster, more maneuverable, and, most importantly, boasted twenty new Revinland cannons. The crew could have been better, consisting mostly of cutthroats and pirates hired from Bogger's Fen. Still, they were willing to do anything for the right price, and the Cornera Rei had been more than generous. He found their presence distasteful at best, but they were a necessary tool to ensure that the intrusive elf did not meddle in affairs better left alone. He and his kind had watched for generations, protecting, guaranteeing that forgotten shadows of the past remain just that ..... forgotten. Many had tried to walk the path the elf now dared to tread, and their fate had been sealed just assuredly as if they had begun the long, last journey to the gallows. Nebanazer wondered if he would be given the honor of also ending the life of Vil-Gawyn as well, but he doubted it. The Cornera Rei would have already sent someone to properly deal with that trouble.

"Blast it. She should have sailed already," Nebanazer muttered to himself softly as he pulled open the long golden tube of the spy glass. He was scanned the burgeoning horizon for some sign of his prey, for the reason he had been waiting here for the better part of a week. Idle time had already begun to take its toll on the dirty, ill-mannered crew. Boredom had given way to restlessness and, with men such as these, restlessness led to violence and all manner of vice available. He had already broken up countless fights, and had buried several who had found the wrong side of both old grudges and a dagger. Once he'd even had to forcibly prevent an excursion to capture some 'entertainers' for the men. Unable to risk drawing the attention of Stormpoint's authorities, he'd killed three of the men himself.

Soon, however, the waiting would be over. His contacts within the port city had been most adamant that the ship was readying to sail today. Now, as the moment was so close, and all they awaited was for the Starstruck Siren to venture forth, time had taken a decided edge. Every action and task carried the tension of expectation, the poignant lull before battle when even the air seemed to be holding its breath for what would soon come.

Almost as if an echo of his own thoughts, the crew's appointed first mate stepped next to the Cornera Rei and cleared his throat lightly before speaking. "Things be happening soon, Capt'n? The crew be need'n action soon ..... They be losin' their edge just lally-gagging about all'n the time."

Nebanazer gave a silent sigh as he closed the spyglass to look at the man standing next to him. Bara grinned back with a nearly toothless maw set in to a flat, scared face that carried all the degenerate ugliness of close inbreeding. He was a short man, coming barely to Nebanazer's chest, but so powerfully built he that commanded instant respect from his lowly sort who only answered to a kind of raw power. When they were gathering the crew he had watched this dirty man murder another for some slight that had occurred during a tavern game. Bara had closed his grossly oversized hands around the poor man's neck and slowly pushed, not straggling the man, but bending his head back till the snap of bone was heard. It was out of that fear that the crew had picked Bara to speak for them. They were little more than animals following the strongest among them, Nebanazer thought to himself.

"Soon..." He answered the squat dirty man. "...soon as I see the Siren we will sail and not a moment before. Till then, keep the men ready and sober. I do not wish to miss this opportunity."

"Of course, Capt'n. Old Bara knows his duty, that ye can be knowin' fer sure. Must be some prize for us to be wait'n out har like this, eh Captn'?" Bara pushed that the man who owned the ship and hired them as he leaned on the rail next to him.

The two could not be more opposite if they had tried, Nebanazer was tall, neatly groomed and well-dressed. Many a woman would call him handsome, with his well defined features, dark tan skin, light brown hair that rested against his neck, and piercing brown eyes. He was graceful when he moved, a much more subtle promise of power then Bara carried, not unlike the big cat the leisurely strolled through a herd of gazelle.

Bara wanted to know what it was this man sought here, knowing it promised much more wealth than they were already being paid, but Nebanazer had been fairly tightlipped about the whole matter. "We'll be see'n soon enough though right, Captn? Spoils will be nice. I heard that Silver is a fair look'n woman ... nice spoils indeed," Bara continued when it was clear Nebanazer was not going to answer his other question, hoping to bait him into saying something. He saw the look of disgust on the taller man's face and misread it for something else. "Of course, as capt'n, ye be get'n first with her fore the men of course.. so try not ta ruin her fer the rest of us." Bara amended quickly with a thump on the rail and a nasty laugh at his own joke.

"Of course," Nebanazer answered dryly, looking away from the animal who disgusted him so ... no, not an animal ... far worse than any animal. He had no intention to let Bara or any member of the crew know that he didn't plan on boarding the Siren. No, he intended to sink her outright and allow the elf and the others rot at the bottom on the sea. Then what should never have been found would be lost again and the Cornera Rei could return to its silent vigil. After that, he had another task he dearly looked forward to. He considered it as he smiled at Bara, who assumed it to be in response to his wit. The Cornera Rei always cleaned its weapons when it was finished, and he and his brother agent on the other sloop were to blow the bottom of both ships once they were done with the Siren, sending this scum to the fate they so richly deserved. "Soon Bara, soon we will get everything we desire." He stated softly as he once again looked to the horizon and the ship he awaited.


Ascending the mast, Darvydia carefully kept an eye on the crew below. They were a motley group to say the least. The shadowy man who snuck aboard conversed briefly with the captain. She decided to stay clear of that one. Humming to herself, Darvydia straddled the main beam and worked deftly to secure the rigging, but watched her cohorts warily through the corner of her eye. A woman made her way to the mast and started to climb. Darvydia pretended not to notice.

Darvydia heard the scuffle along the mast as the woman called Brielle sidled up beside her.

"Darvydia, wasn't it? I'm Brielle. Need any help?"

She looked friendly, although she did accompany a very shady looking character. Darvydia stopped humming, not pausing in her work, and gave her one of her winning smiles. "Hello, yes I am. I think I'm just about done here," she said as she sidled along the beam and fed the rope down to the crew on deck. Standing agilely on the beam, Darvydia smiled and said, "If you are up to climbing some more, we need to secure the rigging on the next level."


"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man


Still curious about Darvydia's possible connection to the shadowy stranger below, and considering herself more than up to the task of climbing, Jaryssa gave a friendly smile and nod. "If you can show me what to do, I'll climb and lend a hand."

She climbed with unusual skill, keeping an even pace with her subject as they neared the level, and noting that bard possessed more than a fair amount of elven agility. She also appeared to know her way around a ship. This last point struck Jaryssa as a bit unusual. Most bards devoted so much time to their craft there was scarcely room for anything else. This one had a few extra skills .... skills that might come in handy should she plan to do something other than hum a merry tune. But then again, the woman was elven, Jaryssa reminded herself, and was thus likely older than she appeared. She might have had time for many occupations and many skills. A troubled smirk twitched at the corner of the thief's mouth. That line of thought wasn't helping, and she filed it neatly away for later consideration as she continued to watch and work.

It was darker atop the level where they currently balanced, the lantern light from the deck fighting its way feebly through the shadows and sails that surrounded them. In contrast, the pulsing of the waves against the ship's base was amplified by their present height, rocking them back and forth in a steady, swaying motion. The bard showed no concern, but kept her fingers busily working despite the dimness and the rolling, her half-elven abilities no doubt compensating for the both. Accustomed to the dark and possessed of poise by trade if not by nature, Jaryssa followed the woman's directions without difficulty, grimly amused by how many of the knots she had plied in other pursuits had nautical counterparts.

They worked in silence for some time, and Jaryssa's suspicions of the woman began to fade as she noticed that Darvydia never once glanced down to the man named Avathar who lounged on the deck below. In all likelihood, she was simply what she claimed to be .... a bard, who for some reason or another had been co-opted into sailing blindly into the night by the numinous, and noticeably absent, owner of the Kuriousity Shoppe. Even so, however, Darvydia might know more about their impending journey than either she or Brextyl did, and since she couldn't leave suddenly without arousing the woman's suspicion, Jaryssa decided to fish for information.

As on their previous level, the bard had once again lapsed into song as she worked, this time humming a modal tune that Jaryssa had heard once or twice before, and letting the rocking of the ship provide a slight cadence to the strain. Here, as it had so often, fortune favored the thief, for she studied and employed a good amount of music herself as an aid to her craft. She thus joined the bard, humming a soft counterpoint that lilted quietly beneath the melody. Her voice wasn't as lyrical as the bard's, but it displayed a keen talent in the art nonetheless, and she continued working and humming until they reached a natural break.

"I've always liked that one," she began in the silence that followed. "My mother used to say a song before travel brings luck. Of course," she added with a smile suggesting fond memories, "it probably helps to know where you're going too. Any ideas where that might be?"



Darvydia smiled. She enjoyed singing and loved when people joined in. Brielle was turning out to be a surprising woman. Darvydia did not expect a lyrical note to pass from the woman's lips, let alone an entire song.

She paused briefly from her work and shook her head. "No. I haven't a clue as to where we are going. The adventure is in the journey and not in the destination." She stood and deftly walked to the end of the beam. She stood in silence; her gaze cast across the endless sea and then said distantly, "It has been a long time since I have sailed on a fine ship." She offered no other explanation, because it was not a story that she wished to tell while balancing at such a height.

She turned and faced Brielle. The woman was clearly digging for information and thought that Darvydia might share any secrets Eowyn may have told about the journey. Brielle was wrong. Darvydia did not have any information about the journey and even if she did, she would not share it haphazardly.

"I think our work is done here. After you?" She gestured that Brielle should climb down first.


"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man


The trio had been waiting far too long for Nemina's comfort. She tugged idly at one leather bracer and cast an uncertain glance around. Her linen slacks and tunic rustled in the breeze. She realized her mouth was dry.

She directed her gaze towards the snoring captain, his legs and arms sprawled out as his back was slouched against the post. A filthy, ancient pack lay next to him. A few old broken barnacles were lying on the pier and she kicked one, with halfhearted frustration. It bounced once upon the wood, once upon his knee, and once upon his chest, leaving a powdery trail behind it. He started, coughing and swinging a fist blindly before opening his eyes and squinting. He pulled down his hat as she spoke. "Weren't you informed of the ship we were supposed to board when we arrived?" She glanced around again. The port was bustling.

The captain looked disconcerted; his haze was turning in a headache and the wide bandana he wore around his head was lopsided. He adjusted it, and Nemina thought she would see the grimey old gears in his not-so-old head start creaking to life. "Aye," he mumbled, searching the sandy and unreliable banks of his memory. "Aye, I was told." He stood unsteadily and took a very long, slow look around.

"-Tha'- one!" he declared, pointing to a proud vessel not entirely far from where they'd been wasting their time. Nemina silently sighed, and the owl that had reappeared on her shoulder ruffled its feathers with contempt.

The tall unearthly woman of their company had remained silent the entire time, and a gentle rustling of her cloaks--now of an extraordinarily pale forest green hue--was the only indication that she was still alive. The starlight bounced off her nearly-white hair, securely pulled back at the base of her skull; it would be convenient to think that her hair suggested her age, but the woman's long, slender face was free of any imperfection. Her expression was still empty. The captain grabbed up his worn leather pack and took a few uneasy steps in the direction of where he'd pointed, while the two women, after exchanging a short glance, followed with their own packs; Nemina's large, the other's small.

The docks were positively alive with commotion, and the captain recognized the description and name of the ship given to him. The two women came up beside him and passed him, heading closer to the vessel in search of its captain. He paused there, collecting himself, as he was far less of a drunkard then his companions would believe. In one pocket of his long, dark captain's coat, his fingers smoothed over the green stone of an amulet. A grin tugged at one side of his lips and his other hand wandered to bother with his short, kempt moustache and accompanying goatee. He hadn't "stolen" it, per in Valhalla would the owl wear such a thing anyway? He'd get onboard with that feisty copper-head, no problem; what a bird doesn't know can't hurt him, he supposed to himself.

He looked up again, hazel-green eyes slightly more disturbed as he gave the destination vessel the once-over. Then a twice and third- over. He'd demanded, pleaded, and finally begged (but would never tell a soul) with the mysterious woman who'd requested his transport of the two women to Stormpoint to allow him to bring his own vessel. The captain glanced back at her, gently bouncing in the waves. His heart sank, and briefly the look of a disappointed seven-year old passed over his sea-weathered features. He looked back, breaking his loving gaze from the brig. For a moment he decided he couldn't manage being under the command of another captain, and had just about turned back when his fingers found the amulet in his pocket again. No, he thought to himself, and suddenly his curiosity (and lack of anything better to do) overwhelmed him.

He strode, chest out, towards the vessel and passed his companions. He licked the pads of his index fingers and smoothed out his moustache.

"Captain Silver!"



Darvydia had said she hadn't a clue as to where they were headed. She was probably telling the truth. At anyrate, Jaryssa felt pretty sure she wasn't a threat and was about to say something about just having rely on the song for luck when the bard added that she hadn't sailed for some time. The words were spoken with a pang of emotion Jaryssa couldn't quite identify. Longing, perhaps? The uncertainty piqued her inquisitive nature and she wanted to know more. Sadly, the woman, offered nothing further on the subject, but instead stood pensively balanced atop the wooden beam, looking silently across the black expanse, focusing on something beyond the sight of her companion. The thief let her muse in relative quietude, not daring to press her luck even as she wondered what thought or memory held the woman's mind.

"I think our work is done here," the bard chirped once more, suddenly snapping from her reflections, her voice floating easily across the distance between them. "After you?"

Jaryssa didn't move. Having obtained an enviable vantage point atop the mast, the thief was less than willing to part with it so quickly, and she thus sought an excuse to remain.

"Actually," she began with a note of tire in her voice, "I think I'll give my legs a rest before heading back down. Maybe we can share another song later?"

Though her first statement was pretense, her question was sincere, and she hoped that the bard would agree. Wherever they were going, they were likely to have a long voyage ahead of them. The idea of learning few new songs made the prospect more palatable, especially since her current repertoire was getting a bit stale. Few things distracted an unwary tavern patron quite so well as a new story and a new tune. And few pockets were quite so easy to pick as those of a distracted tavern patron. Yes, music was good for the soul, but it was good for the purse as well. She smiled in her own quiet reverie as she moved closer to the center mast, holding it for apparent support.

Several yards below, Brextyl smiled as well ....... inwardly. So she was going to stay up there? Good plan. Good line of vision. Nearly finished with his current task, he took only a few more moments to ensure his work was sound before he began to cast about, ostensibly in search of another chore in need of an extra hand. Had he truly been looking for a task, he would have been sore pressed to find one. Everything and nearly everyone appeared to be working with skilled precision, the few exceptions came from him and the rest of the passengers who were either unfamiliar with the working of ships in general, or with this ship in particular.

The man who called himself Avathar was still perched casually atop a chest. His eyes were closed, but his breathing had remained steady and unmarked by sleep. Brextyl thus judged him to be awake and found his feint odd. Jaryssa, however, now had a literal bird's eye view of the stranger, leaving Brextyl free to survey some of the other passengers.

The dark-tressed woman from the gypsy camps had disappeared below deck with the captain, wearing a furrowed expression of concern. He wondered why and what business she had, but couldn't think of a way to follow unobserved. Whatever was passing between the two, it would have to be discovered later, if at all.

His gaze slid briefly across the ogre ......... very briefly. He was a daunting creature, immense, and no doubt powerful. Brextyl didn't want to find out how powerful and accordingly didn't allow his gaze to rest too long on the ogre for fear of attracting his attention. It only took the few seconds that he had permitted, however, for a sudden sinking feeling to swell in the pit of his stomach. He'd seen the towering figure before. He was a member of the city watch. Now doubly certain that he wanted to rouse neither the behemoth's suspicion nor his anger, Brextyl transferred his attention to a potentially less dangerous, and certainly more attractive traveler, the ambiguous Isa Solestra.

The woman who had initially reminded Brextyl of Quaralyn hadn't spoken since the captain's initial introduction and was still standing atop the main deck with belongings in tow. Having already stowed his own gear, Brextyl knew the way to the makeshift quarters; and having a desire to learn why a woman of apparently noble birth was sailing with the same odd assortment of characters in which he now found himself, he eased towards her and offered a sympathetically bewildered grin.

"Bit overwhelming, don't ya think?" He began, gesturing at the frenetic choreography of the crew's preparations with a tilt of his head. "I think I've passed my point of usefulness up here . . . startin' to get in the way. I can help you with your gear if you like . . . show you where quarters are. Oh," he interjected suddenly with a look of chagrin, "sorry . . . forgot. I'm Jaden."

He'd just finished his offer when he heard a new voice cry out for the captain from the dock below. A brief glance in its direction revealed three figures standing expectantly beneath the prow of the ship. Damn! Bad timing, but there was nothing to be done about it. Jaryssa still had a keen view of the ship and the surrounding area, and she'd let him know if something went awry. Satisfied by this assurance, he reluctantly turned his back to the newcomers and waited for Isa's response.

Brextyl and Jaryssa


Brielle didn't move from her perch on the mast. Darvydia doubted that the woman was tired and need to rest before "descending," but decided to accept her word.

"I'll share a song anytime," Darvydia responded in a sing song voice. "Maybe after we have left the harbor…"

Darvydia smiled and then edged her way over to the mast and started to descend. Brielle did not move from her perch. Darvydia wondered what she was up to. Shrugging to herself, she climbed silently and swiftly towards the deck.

Below, she noticed that three more passengers requested to come aboard. They were a motley lot. The man looked drunk and the women… She decided that it would be best to steer clear of them. Something did not quite feel right about the trio, but Darvydia could not figure out what. Silently dropping the last few feet to the deck, she made her way to the opposite end of the ship.

Back to the water, she slowly scanned the deck. Where could she help now? Darvydia wondered why it was taking so long to push off. Not that she was anxious to be stuck on a boat with this strange lot. Where was Eowyn?


"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man


Silver raised a hand to her head as she silently sought refuge in her quarters. Her head was throbbing, something that was highly unusual for the Lady Captain as she was used to noise and crowds. However, this was not a rowdy tavern or the organized chaos of her ship. With a few exceptions, she noted not many of the passengers would be helping out around the ship. They would no doubt wander, finding something to break or get in the way. She would soon give them each a specific task for the remainder of this journey as it was not so much a vacation as a passage with a certain destination and objective. Therefore, able passengers would be put to use.

Her silent brooding was cut short as she faintly heard her name being called. With a grunt, she rolled up the map and stashed it on her desk before moving back up onto above deck.

She noted Ty had quickly wandered back up on deck too, warily eyeing the trio standing on the decks. Silver groaned at the man below. She had dealt with his kind numerous times before. Slimy little men with beady eyes and an open palm. However, she paused to note the two women behind him. Keeping an eye on them both she nodded. "Aye, what do you want?"

Her hands fell to her hips as she coolly looked below. She would allow the women on board as they looked like passengers, but drunk businessmen had no position on her ship.



The reply from the captain seemed haughty, frustrated--Lolindir perked an eyebrow gently. She hoped, in her most detached of ways, that this type of conduct was not typical of someone that Eowyn had so highly recommended. She shifted her gaze to examine the vessel that the Captain was perched on and was quiet.

Nemina was no less taken aback than the elven woman. Her eyebrows too arched up slightly and she readjusted her pack on her shoulder. The owl ruffled a bit, then stuck its head out towards the captain, peering with curiosity. The captain that had brought them to port was sidling up towards the vessel, mouth open, but with a deft movement of her arm Nemina caught him by the wrist. She held him there firmly and turned her gaze back up towards the lady captain.

"We are here on orders from the Lady Eowyn. I am Nemina of Elocin, and this--" she glanced towards the captain, who shot a quaint smile towards the lady captain while prying his fingertips beneath Nemina's grasp. Nemina paused, having lost any words to desire to introduce him.

"Blacktip," he said in her hesitation, pulling his hat from his head and tucking it against his chest momentarily, slowing wriggling himself free from the copper-headed woman. "My name is Blacktip; a pleasure, to be sure." Nemina released his wrist and wiped her hand against her slacks. He replaced his hat and peered up towards Silver; the distaste she felt for him already enveloped him like a cold morning wave. He said nothing, just peered back, placing his own hands on his hips.

Nemina eyed the two captains, steely knives seemingly tossed between them and cleared her throat. "Captain Silver," she said, taking another step forward and retrieving the exotic amulet from beneath the cloth at her throat. "We mean you no inconvenience, and have the proof that the Lady implied you would request." Nemina gazed back up at the feisty woman, her words suddenly removed from her mouth by the sheer presence of the captain. "What would you have us do?" was the best she could conclude with, reaching up to push one wild strand of hair behind her ear. The owl hooted quietly.



Silver caught the uneasiness of the woman named Nemina and bit her tongue. She glanced at the other captain, Blacktip, and turned to glance over her shoulder. Ty, the first mate, simply shrugged, although the apparent grin on his face did nothing to appease his amusement.

The lady captain shook her head to stop herself from laughing before looking below. "I received no instructions on another captain seeking passage..." She waved her hand to board. "However, we can discuss this. Please, come aboard."

She settled back on the deck, crossing her arms loosely and waiting the trio to board the ship. She eyed them warily, mentally calculating the number of passengers, supplies, time suspected for the voyage. She'd have to talk to Eowyn later, whenever she made herself known.

Silver looked at the three now boarded. "I'm Cap'ain Silver. This is the Starstruck Siren as I'm sure you've figured out. You say you have business with Eowyn...?" Silver tilted back on her heels before standing upright again, now somewhat more relaxed but still wary of the man that called himself Blacktip.

Uneasy, she cast a glance back towards Avathar, noting the crew still watched him and hadn't let him slip away. Satisfied, she turned back to the three.



Blacktip stretched his lips in, what he thought to be, his most charming smile upon hearing Silver mention that she'd expected no other captains on board. He kept quiet.

Once they trio had boarded, Nemina took a long, hard look around the vessel. She realized Lolindir hadn't yet been introduce to the Captain, but Nemina and Blacktip had grown quite accustomed to her unnerving silence. Introductions would be met on their own time. The ghostly woman seemed satisfied to be on board without any major objections from the Captain, and she turned her gaze towards Nemina upon Silver's query.

"You say you have business with Eowyn...?"

Nemina flicked her blue eyes back to the woman. "Yes," she said with a degree of uncertainty; she was under the impression that the Lady Eowyn would have informed the Captain of their intended arrival. "We received word to make for Stormpoint as quickly as possible for a journey with no other detail." She studied Silver's face. "That's our only business."

As Nemina conversed with the Captain, Blacktip was busy exploring. He'd made his way to the mainmast and placed his ear against it with quite a contemplative look upon his face. His thin moustache twitched, making his goatee twitch along with it; he raised one hand and knocked his knuckles against the towering piece of lumber. Satisfied, he moved on, tugging on the shrouds and tapping his boots here and there on the deck. He peered upwards towards the sails; licked a finger and raised it into the wind. "Captain Silver," he called, adjusting his hat and trying wholeheartedly to swallow the desperation he felt at being subordinated to another captain on another ship other than his own. (He was beginning to contemplate running right back to his beloved Ahemait.) "There's no need to worry about having me aboard;" he was trying to console himself moreso than her. He smiled as best he could, eyes shining as usual. "I'll be of much help."



Silver noted the woman's actions and tones as she mentioned the journey with no detail. Of course, it had been the same for the other passengers on board. She gave an abrupt nod, not meaning to be rude, but rather she caught sight of Captain Blacktip running loose on her ship.

"Yes, understandable. There are other passengers on board in the same circumstances." She glanced towards the hooded figure. "I wasn't aware there were any special accommodations necessary. Those I received have already been claimed."

Silver paused again as she glanced over her shoulder. The new cabin boy was furiously following Captain Blacktip. When he pressed his ear to the mast, the boy spoke up "Sir, I wouldn't do that..." and the young man nearly cringed when he knocked against the wood. "Sir, please don't..." Frustrated and nearly crying, the young man wrung his hands in absolute helplessness. "Sir, please keep your hands off..."

Thankfully, the man called out to his Captain and the boy's shoulders slumped as he regarded the exchange. Silver's brows furrowed, creasing the tanned forehead as she nearly scowled. She'd definitely have to talk to Eowyn before they set sail. She was not about to embark on a three month voyage with Captain Curious running rampant on her ship. "Yes, Yes, I'm sure you'll be of much help, but for now do you mind staying up here? We are still waiting more passengers and sorting a few minor details out."

Silver regarded the two women, almost apologetically that they had spent any amount of extended time in that man's presence, before thumping over towards Ty. The bald man beamed in amusement, his burly arms crossed. Silver arched a brow and repressed the urge to give him a good punch. "Stop smiling! It's not funny and I expect you to keep an eye on him."

"!" Ty sputtered, his arms falling as he looked from Silver, to Blacktip, and back again. With a quick nod, Silver smiled at seeing now he was Ty's problem for the moment.

Stretching her arms to relieve the tension that was beginning to root in her muscles, she eyed the docks. Everyone was milling about, a good sign they were becoming acquainted with the ship and each other. She turned to Nemina and the other woman again. "Sorry for the interruptions." One thing she hadn't noted, was the appearance of the necklace. "You said you were here because of Eowyn but no other details? Did she perhaps give you anything to distinguish you from other passengers seeking to board?"



Across the night-clad city, above the thin halo of lantern light that washed the streets in ebbing waves of fading gold, a bird of deepest pitch sat perched atop a window sill which came and went at the whim of its owner. Silhouetted against the inky sky, it turned its sharp- beaked head and squawked twice ... once when a salt-laden breeze drifting up from the docks ruffled its feathers, and again when it heard no response from the figure that sat unmoving in the room behind it.

"I know," the figure said finally, preempting yet a third squawk from the watchful bird, "I sense them too."

Rising with a weariness unrelated to years, the figure beckoned to the bird with an outstretched hand and stroked its feathers with long pale fingers when it perched obligingly on her shoulder. Its avian occupant now gone, the window facing the western edge of the city vanished without reason or flourish, sealing the woman and the bird in velvet darkness. The room was well known by the woman, however, and she needed not the aid of light to find her way as she crossed the aged wooden floor, pausing only to lift two small, unadorned boxes from an equally bare table. With the boxes held close against her frame, the woman strode resolutely towards the far wall of the room. When she was but a few steps from the wall, a door appeared before her, seemingly of its own accord, and opened in silent invitation.

She stepped through it without concern and emerged on the other side atop a small landing that overlooked the main floor of the Kuriousity Shoppe. It too was without light, but the lanterns from the street did their best to tame the wayward shadows clinging to the shelves and cases that lined the floor. The result was a patchwork of light and dark towards which the shoppekeeper now trod, descending the stairs as the door behind her closed and became one with the solid wall once more.

Row by empty row, the shoppekeeper passed by the cabinets that had once held her wares, and which she hoped would do so again. She didn't stop to think about it, but continued across the floor until she reached the front desk, barren save for a ledger book, a black quill pen, a small silver bell, and a dark cloak that laid in wait for its owner. She took only the last of these items, and replaced it with three sealed letters before draping the cloak about her lithe frame and raising the cowl over her head. The bird, having had only brief warning of her intention, squawked irritably as it alit from her shoulder, only to resettle itself in a huff on the heavier fabric of the cloak.

It was time.

Without further pause or appraisal, Eowyn swept to the main door of the shoppe, crossed the waiting threshold, and entered into the night beyond.


"Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


All was quiet within the mist-wrapped night as the shadowy form of the shoppekeeper stole through the pools of lantern light that glistened on the fog-slickened streets. Her figure differed little from her normal appearance, aside from an exceedingly impenetrable expression and a long, slightly curved blade that hung almost casually at her left side. Like her appearance, her sable-vested stroll was not unusual. Indeed, many a member of the watch had had occasion to notice her curious midnight excursions, for she rarely had need to keep such wanderings secret. Tonight, however, were any of the watch at hand, they would not have seen the allegedly elven woman as she whisked past them with sweeping eyes and ethereal step. Tonight, she would not be seen . . . not here . . . not now.

She had only one stop to make before going to the docks . . . one brief, quiet stop to a portion of the city scarcely visited by the living. Fallen leaves blanketed the ground and untamed vines clung hungrily to timeworn walls. It was place of forgetting, a place of death, though it was once something more. The final member of Eowyn's assembly was waiting here, ready to follow the enigmatic figure on paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. No words fell from the shoppekeeper's lips as they met, and no measure of warmth flowed between them to ward off the chill touch of the wind as it whispered sullenly through them. There was only soundless appraisal and finally understanding as the last wary traveler followed the shoppekeeper, silent and unseen, through the undying night.

The two arrived at the docks with the swiftness and silence of thought, two shades amidst a sea of shadow. The salt-eroded planks that led past sleeping vessels echoed no sounds of protest as they passed, and the sea mist struggled desperately to cling to unseen flesh. Sensing what she had before, the arrival of all her chosen, the shoppekeeper gave the mist its due, allowing it to brush across her face and carry stray strands of dark hair on an errant breeze. A hint of a smile rose in her eyes, but failed to reach her lips. They were all here . . . all . . . and more. A thin dark brow rose high above an even darker eye. One of the additional voyagers came as little surprise, but greater vexation. So be it, though. The other? She would let the captain decide.

Her pace remained unslowed by the discovery, and a newly risen fog followed thick in her wake, rippling behind her cloak like an extension of her shadow taken physical form. It was a risk, yes, as were other decisions; but Stormpoint was a city steeped in the arcane, and within its hush-filled borders many risks of such nature went unnoticed. But it was more than a mere throw of the dice that inspired the shoppekeeper to tip her hand, for it would have taken a far greater force than chance could deal to move the woman from her long-standing wont of secrecy. No, not chance, but caution guided her actions this eve . . . a peculiar, risk-born caution oft employed in nature's lair. If she and her party were being watched or followed, she preferred to know now, while their feet still rested upon solid earth, rather than later when only a few feet of wood stood between them and the vast fountains of the deep.

If there were any to see, let them see now. If there any to act, let them act now. If there were any to hinder, let them try.


"Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


Continue to Part Two . . . .

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