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Just Old Al
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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Wed Sep 20, 2017 5:26 pm

Chapter 19

After a stop to ground and recharge from the land, Al returned to the great room. John sat, patiently nursing tea from the service that Edward had provided. With Al’s entry he look up expectantly.

“Well, did you find somebody other than Master Grumpy to vouch for me?” His voice didn’t express confidence, and nearly sounded resigned.

“Well, yes, I did. I’ve got someone in mind for the position, at least, and they’ll be meeting me here in a few minutes. I need to explain the situation, and hopefully I’ll do a good enough job to get them to help.”

“You think it’ll work?”

“I sincerely hope so. Hang on here, I’ll be right back.”

Stepping to the kitchen and out the back door, Al arranged himself on the ground in lotus at the edge of the wood, where the shadows were deep and numerous even on a bright day. Again, he composed himself to communicate.

“Safyr, I’m here. Please come and visit.”

”This was hardly a challenge, Ailean. Your choice of position made it far too simple – hardly a difficult task for one who controls the shadows.”

Untangling himself from the ground he stood, facing the dignified indigo presence. Bowing deeply he held the fist of his right hand in the palm of his left. On straightening he said, “Safyr, I regret having to disturb you for this – but the only others who could help me with this task are either too far away or should not be exposed to this danger. Thank you for speaking to me – I know the salamander is no favourite of yours.”

“Ailean, I am more than willing to listen – who is it that requires reassurance on the motives of the salamander and why does he need to speak to them?”

Al pursed his lips – this was going to take a concise synopsis. Ever the gentleman, he gestured to the rose garden and said. “Let us sit and be comfortable. This will take some minutes to describe, and I am not as young as I once was.”

”As you wish.”

Settled on one of the benches grown by Emerauld, Al began.

“Recently, the salamander, Sergeant Howard and I went to northern Minnesota to do a job of industrial salvage. It was initially routine but that changed very rapidly.

In short, we very rapidly found ourselves in the fight of our lives with a wendigo. Hundreds of years old, this creature had hunted the woods bare many times, down to the smallest insect. Hundreds of humans and innumerable other creatures had been killed and eaten by this disease.

The entire area was polluted with the taint of the evil. The power of the earth was nearly unusable for me – John had much the same problem with the dark energy. To use the powers there meant ruin for us both – but we had to.

Through wit, skill and a lot of blind luck we managed to bring the creature down. John incinerated it, but that was not the end.

It turned out that the beast’s lair had at one time been a host willow – which had been turned by the taint of the monster and the blood of its kills. The spirit of the wendigo – a diseased soul – inhabited the willow and brought it to life and movement – a zombie of its original self manipulated by the diseased soul.

Like a puppet’s cross the spirit used the willow to manipulate the other trees in the forest. The Sergeant and I were forced to flee – nothing we could do could have possibly affected these puppets. John was left alone to fight the monster and its minions – and was nearly extinguished doing so.

He prevailed – but at a cost. He was forced to destroy the corrupted willow to reach the evil spirit within and vanquish it.

Now, John wishes to speak to Ialin. He wants to convey what happened, and try and reach the dryad whose tree it once was. He wants to explain what happened, and why he was forced to do what he did – which he did, I might add, to save both Sergeant Howard’s and my lives.”

Safyr sat very still, absorbing the information. Turning to Al, she noted the greyish pallor and the slight signs of infirmity in a man not normally given to such. “You have still not recovered from the evil, I see.”

“No, I have not. I am surprised that did not manifest in our conversation.”

“It did, but I see it now. Regardless of our conversation, you need to spend time with your mentors, or with my sister. This will otherwise leave you slowly, and that would not do you well.”

“I thank you, and I plan to do just that. However, I will survive. Can you help me with Ialin? I’m afraid she thinks me a foolish human – and has discounted my request because of my illness and the experiences in the forest.”

Safyr sat, silent and still for a very long moment. Finally, she replied, “Yes, I will help. I suggest a neutral spot near the pond – this is sufficiently far from Ialin’s grove to safeguard her willows, and close enough that she will have no problems being there in moments. The open field where you and my sister spoke years ago would work.”

Al sagged, relief evident in his manner. “Thank you. I will go and fetch Ialin to the spot, then I will get John.”

Safyr smiled a toothy grin. “Oh, Ailean, please leave the salamander to me. I will get him to the spot and then make the guarantees that Ialin needs. In any case, with me here, he…will not be a problem.”

With that, Safyr stood, stepped away from the bench, and disappeared into the shadows. Al shrugged and walked to Ialin’s grove, the trees welcoming as always but moving a bit slowly, as if reluctant to admit a visitor.

“Ialin! Ialin, are you here?”

Ialin appeared in her majestic summer guise, walking out from behind a tree. Her manner was reserved and somewhat angry, Al noted.

“So, back to talk to me about the salamander? Let me guess, you want me to talk to him and are going to try and persuade me again.”

Al began, conciliatory as he always was when faced by an angry female of any species. “Ialin, no, I am not going to try and persuade you myself. I have one unattached from the situation that will pledge the harmlessness of the salamander – and has the power to render him so should the need arise.”

Ialin stood silent, her body language an implicit invitation to continue.

“Safyr Drathmir – one you know well – has volunteered to speak for the honour of the salamander. As you know, her powers can quench the fire of the firestarter if need be, so there will be no danger to you or any of the forest at all.”

Still silent, Ialin looked the old man in the eyes. Unflinching Al returned the gaze, not challenging, not defiant but calm and accepting of her judgement.

“Very well. This will not happen here – ShadowKnight or no, I will not risk my wards to the ire of a firestarter. Where will we do this – I assume you have chosen a spot?”

“Yes. On the upper reaches of the property is a small pond, and next to it an open field. This is the spot I have chosen – away from the trees and away from your grove – which I would risk for no one, as you know.” Al was more than a trifle nettled with the dryad – this irritation was not of his making and her reactions were beginning to wear his tranquility a bit thin.

“Very well. Let us walk, then.” She turned and took the path from the grove, turning once out to head for the spot mentioned. Al followed, catching up in a few steps and walking alongside. As they travelled, Al noticed her outfit changing. No longer a gown, colours matching the season, it turned rough and dark, a polished dark wood armour. Her back had a single wide scabbard with two swords peering out, and a quiver and bow that looked very familiar in design.

Bugger it all. Not good. he thought, irritation rapidly replaced with deep concern.

"Is there a problem?" Ialin asked, feeling fully Al's emotional state.

“Why do you distrust so? I can understand your discomfort with the salamander, but this complete distrust of me…I don’t understand it, really.”

Ialin stopped and turned toward him. “I don't distrust you Ailean, because I see what you have been through with the Salamander, and how the corruption has affected your soul. You're weary, and the darkness and despair has returned. I dislike it, and I believe the firestarter to blame. Forgive my bluntness, but you look like shit, and the sooner we send him off, the better." Her manner grew more agitated as she continued to speak, looking deeply into Al’s eyes and soul.

"I fear for you, and all the growing you have done. I watched my children DIE, one by one, when the firestarters killed them and burned them to make the poisons they sold. I was FORBIDDEN to defend them in the name of the masquerade – the mortals couldn’t be allowed to know they existed, or that I did.

Finally, my tree was destroyed before I could loose my bindings. I lost a part of myself and very nearly all, because those ‘things’ cut down my grove.

Do you still wonder why I do not trust? How can I trust a Firestarter after what those did?

Here, on these pure green, good lands, there are no mundanes to be protected from the truth – and I will NOT let anyone stop me from defending my flock – my friends - my family.” Tears welled from her eyes and ran down her cheeks, falling to her armor and leaving bright streaks of moisture.

Even if it costs me dearly, I shall help you grow Ailean. I swear it on the Lord and Lady.

“Oh, Ailean, I do not mistrust you, or Safyr. The Salamander I do not trust at all but I will listen to him, speak to him because you believe in him, because Safyr believes in him.

Because of what has come before, I cannot – WILL NOT – allow anyone to go quietly to the slaughter. I will not feel that sorrow again. I will defend them with every fiber of my being.


Now, let us go talk to your Firestarter. I do not thirst for the knowledge he brings, but I will listen.” With that she turned and strode off toward the field, her powerful stride eating up the distance.

Stunned, Al turned and followed, but made no attempt to come abreast with Ialin. He had much to think of and little time to do it in.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Just Old Al
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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Thu Sep 21, 2017 3:18 pm

Chapter 20

Where in Hades is that old man? John thought. He’s been gone a while. Hope this isn’t some new screwup to deal with.

John leaned forward, refilled his cup and sat back on the leather couch, trying to get comfortable and exercise the patience that Prroul had drilled into him as part of his training.

“We meet again, firestarter.” A voice purred mere centimeters from his ear. With that, John propelled himself vertically, startled beyond words by the low purr in the voice and the sudden presence of dark menace that had appeared without warning.

Standing, spinning, dropping to stance and narrowly missing the furniture in his rush John turned and stared, noting Safyr’s armor and weapons.


Safyr purred, louder this time. “I have come for you, firestarter.” She smiled with all the implicit threat and malice at her disposal, and her hand crept toward the pommel of her sword.

Hearing her words and seeing her motions John reacted violently, stumbling back over the coffee table and fetching up against one of the support columns.

"I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING! See, no fire, no demon looking stuff, I'm cool, I'm cool! No need for that fakkin sword ok? Ah-ah-ah, No touchy-feely!"

Feeling not a bit sorry for her actions Safyr straightened, hand dropping away from her sword. “You have nothing to fear, salamander. I am here to pledge for your honour and to walk with you to the place you will talk to the dryad.”

“Oh, so Al called YOU? Could he think of anyone else less likely to give me a warm fuzzy feeling? I’m gonna beat that old man for not warning me about this.”

“Beat him you shall not – he has been very eloquent for your cause. It is only his explanation of your needs that has me here at all."

"Figure of speech! It was a figure of speech! I'm sorry," calming himself, he tried again, lightly bowing, hand over fist, eyes never leaving her.

"I'm sorry, I forgot elves take words literally. It's an expression of my own frustration."

"I am here because I can speak for your sensei as to your honour and training – these are the things that Ialin needs to know if she is to trust you. Also, there is the added benefit for her peace of mind that…should there be a problem, I can deal with it.” Safyr smiled again, and the threat was no longer implicit.

“Oh, just fuckin’ wonderful. SO, you get to vouch for me, and act as a nanny if I get out of line? FINE. If that’s what this takes it’s what it takes, I guess. Let’s go.”

With that, the oddly mismatched pair – tall firestarter and short indigo knight, both equally menacing in their own right walked gracefully from the room and left the house.

As they walked John hesitated, then spoke.

“Look, Safyr…I do appreciate what you’re doing for me. I know we’re not buddies, and I know this is the last thing you want to be doing. Know I appreciate it, no matter how much I piss and moan.”

Confidence is what he needs after having it knocked out of him, most likely quite literally knowing Master Prroul, Safyr thought to herself grinning, Still, it is good that he has a healthy dose of fear left in him. That shall keep him honest...and alive. How much have you grown, and may you grow always...up toward the Light.

“John, your sentiment is taken as truth, and understood. You are right – I do not want to be here, and speaking to your training and behavior is not my choice.

However, there is a larger truth and imperative here – and helping you become the being you can be is honorable.

Now, let us go – I sense Ialin is on the way to the meeting place.”

John noticed Safyr's body language change as she walked beside him. It was subtle and well-disguised, and a bit ambiguous as Elven minds and nonverbal cues work differently from humans, but his instincts, years of vigilantism, and the grueling, broad, yet detail-oriented training from Prroul all told him something was making her tense.

It wasn't very long before he found out what. The mismatched pair skirted the edge of the forest, with Safyr between him and it, and rounded a bend to look upon the pond, and the other pair. Al was Al, unchanged though his posture was also stressed, and not just from the blight of the Wendigo. Standing next to him was the dryad Ialin.

John groaned inwardly.

She was in a full suit of armor with weapons at her back. They didn't look peacebound. And she herself, from her stance to her expression, did not look bound for any destination vaguely resembling peace, either. The fact that her armor was made of wood puzzled John for a moment, but he supposed metal wouldn't be much better - wood, even charred wood, conducted heat more slowly.

Safyr and John slowed to a stop a fair distance from Ialin and Al. John looked between the other three before focusing on Ialin and going for a short, friendly wave and attempting to smile reassuringly and gratefully. "Uh. Hi. Thanks for agreeing to talk. I know you don't want to do this, so I'll try to get this done and get out of your hair nice and quick. Cool?" He cleared his throat a little awkwardly.

Ialin made no response to the attempted friendliness in the gesture. She turned to Safyr and said, “I see you as his guarantor. If he attempts to harm my children, will you do what is necessary?”

Safyr, somewhat taken aback by the bald question, replied but not in kind.

“I do not come here as his guard or as his punisher. I come as his champion – I will speak to you of his honour and integrity. Is this not what you desired?”

Ialin said nothing. Taking this as tacit acceptance, Safyr continued to speak.

“I know his sensei, as do you – Master Prroul. He was trained, disciplined and is an honorable being and one worthy to wield his power – or Prroul would have killed him to prevent his wreaking malice upon the world.

This alone shows that he has the discipline and honour to not be a threat to you and yours. You need no more guarantee than that, though I can and will do what you speak of if necessary – but it will not be.”

Safyr stared levelly at the dryad, and the dryad stared back. The battle of will continued, the seconds dragging by, till Ialin broke the contact, turning to the salamander.

“Safyr Drathmir has spoken of your honor and discipline, and the quality of your training. The Sergeant-Major has spoken of your honour, as well.

Why do you deserve this? Answer this question, then you may ask yours.”

John took a calming breath and spoke respectfully, carefully, and clearly, as though he were in a courtroom.

You'd think the testimonials of Al and especially Safyr would speak to why I deserve... Wait...

“Uh, I'm not sure what the thing you wonder if I think I deserve is? Their testimonials, an answer to my question, or my power? For the sake of not appearing to try to lie by omission, I'll give my opinion on all three.

"Regarding their testimonials, that's not really a thing someone deserves, it's something one builds through deeds. They aren't giving it to me because I deserve it. I'd say they are reporting their opinion and their perception of me to you.

"I probably don't really deserve an answer to my question. It's not my explicit right to know the knowledge I seek. I want to know so I understand what, if anything, I must blame myself for, what I can learn, and what I can do to help anyone who may have been affected by what happened up north. It is ultimately up to you to decide if you think that will be a good thing for the world. So really it's more of a question of do you think me capable and willing to improve the world. As evidence in favor of that, I present to you Safyr as witness to my character and training."

He paused to cough and catch his breath. "As for my powers? No. I don't deserve them. When I lived as a human among humans, I was a vigilante and I broke laws because others were doing far worse. I became a criminal that challenged the authority of the law of the land because those sworn to uphold it were not doing their job or honoring their oath.

I fought fire with fire.

That is not, strictly speaking, a good thing. It is merely the lesser of two evils. I think someone who truly deserves power like mine would be some incorruptible Boy Scout cop who became a guardian and champion of law and altruism and justice and peace.

But instead I, a vigilante, got the fire and the near limitless power source, and now I'm essentially just an assassin. But I'm doing the best I can. I'm letting someone who is about as close to deserving these powers as possible order me around. I'm working for a law enforcement agency, however unofficial that job is. And I'm doing what I think is right along the way, especially when that opinion is agreed upon by people who have a more or less high moral standing among their bosses, peers, and their subordinates. I don't know if you think that's good enough but it's the best I got for now."

Ialin listened impassively, paying attention to every word, every nuance. Her eyes bored into those of the salamander as he spoke, searching for duplicity, prevarication or self-deception. Of this she found none.

As John fell silent she continued to stare, as if trying to peer into his soul and read the truth carved on it for herself. Failing in that, she turned to the two witnesses.

“Sergeant-Major, do you continue to support what you have said to me? Are your words your honest beliefs, or do you say this to repay the life-debt that you have incurred?”

Al was shocked. Up till now it had not occurred to him that a debt was owed – comrades support each other, and the brotherhood of the battlefield prevails. In answer to her question he spoke, his words loud and strong though strangely formal.

“Life debt or no I would not change a word of what I have said. Comrades in battle do not stop to question, do not stop to count cost one for the other.

This man stood at my side in battle twice now – once years ago, once recently. In both cases he was honorable, forthright and noble. I have trusted my life to him twice now – and he has nearly lost his defending it.

I will not change a word – and I call this man friend and comrade and proclaim him honorable.

So be it.”

Ialin turned now to Safyr.

“Uuthli Drathmir, you come here as his champion. Do you still stand so, hearing how he has spoken of his frailties and past?”

Safyr stared back at the dryad, matching gaze for gaze.

“I stand as his champion – and his own words have proven him worthy.

He admits he has done wrong – a lesser man would have said nothing of this to present the best picture. He broke the laws of his land, he defied authority because authority was corrupt. He became outlaw to defend the higher truth.

I stand as his champion because of his truth, not in spite of it. I will not change.”

Ialin stared at the three. Al, grey with the strain of the moment. Safyr, the shadowknight who clove to a higher truth and the salamander, impassive as judgement was passed.

“Ask your questions, salamander.”
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Thu Sep 21, 2017 4:45 pm

Chapter 21

John glanced quickly at Al and Safyr, wanting to thank them both, but decided to stay focused for now.

"In the north, near a small town called West Arrowhead Falls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, there stood a fairly ancient Willow. We believe it was once a host tree to a Dryad. This Willow became the home of a nearly equally ancient Wendigo - I'm not positive but it couldn't have been much more than a small, barely-mature tree when the Wendigo made its first kill. The forest immediately surrounding the tree became the wendigo's hunting grounds for at least decades, most likely centuries.

Upon killing the Wendigo, its soul remained in the realm of the living and... perhaps due to the tree having been repeatedly fertilized by the blood and bones of terrified and tortured prey, and perhaps because of the horrible taint of evil the Wendigo polluted everything with, including myself and Al, and perhaps because the Wendigo hibernated beneath and within its roots... it possessed the tree. Director Oduya thinks it might have exploited the former connection to a Dryad to accomplish this. And the wendigo's soul used the tree to control other trees nearby. I had to destroy a great many trees in the battle, and I had to destroy the Host tree to rob the soul of a body and convince it to cross the Styx.

I want to know if that Dryad is still alive, and if so, I want to make sure she is ok because I hope I did not harm her... and I also want to inform her of her tree - she deserves to know the fate of a loved one. Just like a wife is to be informed of a fallen husband or a mother of a fallen son.

And if I did hurt her, I want to find a way to... do my time for harming o-or killing an innocent... and maybe to better learn how to spot dryads and host trees in the future, so I don't needlessly and accidentally harm one again. And, in case most dryads share your... way of thinking and feeling... regarding salamanders and assassins, so I can avoid them to prevent or minimize causing them distress. I can understand how beings of life and greenery would be uncomfortable in the presence of one such as myself."

As John finally reached the topics he wanted to discuss, his speech became a little faster and plainer, the words spilling out now that he knew he was getting closer to his goal, and he had to stop and pant a little once he had gotten it all out. "Please..." John coughed before continuing. "Please, I just want to do right by her and by your people."

With the conclusion of John’s plea there was silence. None moved, none spoke, and the strange tableau stood at the side of the pond as though statues.

Finally, Ialin spoke, her words ringing clear in the silence.

"No, I do not know of that Willow, nor if they lived, but I do know who to ask. With your help, with Ailean and Safyr's help, we can ask. I know you have not the Faith of the Green, nor do I wish to force a religion upon you, but only the Lord and Lady can answer it, and answers are what you seek, and they answer to what one would call prayer."

Voice almost a sneer Ialin asked, "Would you pray Firestarter, even once, if it gave you your answers?"

John narrowed his eyes at Ialin, not appreciating her attitude, but held his tongue - he had bigger fish to fry. Heaving a sigh, John looked off in a random direction into the forest and spoke. "Gods. Why does it have to be gods... Arright, here we go... Lord and Lady of the Green, I would request an audience with thee, to learn the fate of the Dryad whose grove I burned. I recognize I am not nor will I ever be your subject, though if I must incur a debt, I am..." Here he grumbled a bit before continuing, "...willing to bargain."

Al, Empathy flooding him with emotions, overwhelmed with sorrow at the pain his friends were in, prayed to the Lord and Lady as well, the words ringing in his mind as he listened to John’s simple supplication.

"Please. I cannot bear this. John only wished to learn if he set that dryad free of torment. Ialin is in pain, unable to trust him because he reminds her of those evil men that burned her flock. I brought Safyr into this, and I didn't mean to cause a rift between her and Ialin. Please, forgive me, please help my friends, my family...I cannot..."

Warm and golden, two voices spoke as one, and Al wept with joy.

"John, we hear you, and honour your honesty.

The Dryad is here with us. Long before your presence in the forest she drove her children into the fire to protect them from this evil thing. She then in madness and grief, could not bear the evil she had done, nor the thought of being controlled for evil, and threw a sapling into the fire while binding her soul to it. She and her children are with us. The fire you used to burn the wendigo, and the corrupt treant it became...was pure, and did no harm as all it destroyed was corrupt and evil.

Ialin, Uuthli, John is not evil. We see his struggles, and know that he is not evil. He fights with love, and honour. He wished you to know the Truth, even though he knew you both distrusted him. He did so willingly, even if it cost him his life by your hands."

As the last words echoed, a brilliant spray of green and gold caused them all to blink. As their vision cleared, Al and John noticed they were in the place where they ended the wendigo's carnage. Around them all stretched a scene of desolation. Charred ruins of the forest were all that was left, with the burned and melted rock of the fight with the treant yet another scene in the total desolation that stretched for miles.

On the rock flow where the tainted willow once stood were a couple, regally clad in the colours of Springtime.

Later, each would describe this couple differently, but all agreed on who they were, who they must be.

Also with them was a thin girl clad in brown, with hair a waterfall of pale green and sunshine kissed golds, and eyes mottled like the forest. To this one, Ialin ran and embraced, tears flowing freely.

They spoke, the sound indescribable to the ears of the mortal and paranormal alike.

""We wished you to see what will become of your work here that day. Now, all is gone, but it will not remain as such. The sensitive ones knew, and We agreed that the clearing needed to be done. However, see what will result. From death, life. From chaos, order. And from you, with Our help, beauty."

After these words were spoken, the couple walked along the paths singing, the scent of currant and honeysuckle drifted lazily in the air.

Al immediately recognised the tune as one he heard Fergus sing while banishing the sluagh that had clung to Clara and Alexander grounds and home, and he felt at peace as he quietly sang along.

Everything they touched sprang to life, returning the land to its former glory, with birds chirping, and various animals chittering and scampering away out of sight.

When they returned to where they had begun, a willow tree sprouted, growing until strong and tall, with smaller saplings shooting up nearby, and the unmistakable laughter of children echoed. Both Ialin and the other dryad wept openly at the sound.

The Lady approached Ialin, speaking softly,

""Cha b 'e Ailean an aon fhear a dh'fheumadh fàs òg a-rithist Ialin. Na teagamh gun teagamh gu bheil gràdh agad." (Ailean was not the only one who needed to grow young again Ialin. Never doubt you are loved.)

The Lord approached Al and spoke, his voice a lilting baritone,

""Creideamh anns an teaghlach, creidsinn ann an caraidean. Tha e cho cumhachdach ri creideamh annainn. Tha sinn a 'toirt urram don chreideas an-diugh, agus taing mhòr dhut airson a bhith nar cuimhne gu bheil e ann. Beannaichte gu robh, Ailean mo phàiste."(Faith in family, faith in friends. It is as powerful as faith in us. We honour that faith today, and thank you for reminding us of its existence. Blessed be, Ailean my child.)

They approached John slowly, again speaking as one.

""Know now we owe thee a boon for your sacrifice. Whether or not you consider it one, you were willing to die to speak with Ialin, and while you did not choose Safyr as your champion, you went with her all the same knowing she would gladly end your life if Ialin asked her to."

Safyr nodded her affirmation, shame colouring her dark features.

""We know of your struggles with the deities of your realm. We do not agree with their using mortals or gifted folk such as yourself as playthings to amuse themselves with. We also know of your struggle with your own nature, and how you fight it, and how you have trained to fight it and how you fight and even kill in order to do good for the right reasons.

It is for this reason alone..."

Here they each lightly touched a wrist, causing John to flinch, leaving a tiny, almost invisible rune ("fire") on each one. As they moved their hands away, an ornate sword appeared in each of his hands, with a strange sort of scabbard floating between. As he instinctively sheathed them, they grew and merged to become one larger sword, suited for him. He then carefully moved the sheathed sword in front of himself and bowed in honour, caution still on his face as they began to speak again.

""We know of your concern. However, these runes are not like Emeraulds. They are only there so that should you die, this sword dies with you, and cannot be used for evil. Wield it wisely, and it shall protect you all your days from foolish Gods who think themselves above the rules. Blessed be."/

The runes glowed with an internal fire, making John ill at ease.

"Look at them closely John, I think you will find you can read them. There is a matching pair on your sword as well."

They flickered and rose as a heatwave, and within the sinuous curves of the shifting rune was writing.

"Master of the twins made whole for as long as they live."

The sword said simply, "Bound to this one Master for as long as they live."

John looked dubiously between the sword in his hands, the runes on his arms, and the two gods standing before him, struggling to figure out how to politely ask his question. "...Uh-"

"The answer is yes, they could very well kill us as well, and we could do naught to stop it other than with skills any other swordmaster wields. It would not be a true gift to you if we put conditions or restrictions upon it. Does this ease your mind at all?"

John looked at Safyr, who stood at attention, but showed no expression otherwise.

"Yes... Though I was not planning on using your gift as such. I am merely nervous about... Strings. I relish not the idea of being a puppet." He bowed deeply once again. "I will endeavor to honor you, my Sensei, and my champion with my use of your gift and in all other deeds." He paused for a moment, straightening. "You are not like most of the gods I've met or dealt with. While I am not one for worship... I do want to make it known clearly that you have my respect... And my gratitude. Thank you."
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Just Old Al
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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Thu Sep 21, 2017 4:47 pm

Chapter 22

The same green and gold that brought them into the magical vision accompanied them once more, guiding them back to reality, and the tranquil pond where they began this very odd adventure.

Safyr bowed respectfully to the fading visages of the Dryad and saplings, as well as the Lord and Lady, then leaned slightly to lend her friend support while not seeming to lend support.

John barely noticed. It wasn't until Al crumpled to a seat on the ground that John managed to tear his eyes away from the blade. He hastily belted the sword to his hip and, after glancing at Ialin, who seemed a little shell-shocked herself, crossed the distance to his old friend in a few powerful strides, kneeling in front of him. "You alright, Al?" He snapped his fingers in front of Al's nose and peered at Al's eyes, checking for a glassy or vacant look.

A glassy look is what he got, till Al’s synapses caught up with the experience he’d just had and reason re-entered his eyes. Catching the salamander’s wrist before he snapped again, Al shakily said. “Give me a minute lad. It’s not every day that a manifestation of the forces of Nature comes along, gives you a pat on the head and says ‘Good lad. Keep it up’.”

John turned toward Safyr. "I think this is a good time to have some tea, seated in poofy chairs by a non-magical fire. I'm not gonna let Al or Ialin have to recover from some religious experience out here on the ground. Are you still mostly-conscious? I've got Al if you can help Ialin." John's old instincts and new training clicked back on: Ensure safety and health and administer first aid now, existential epiphanies later.

Smirking merrily, Safyr replied, "L'faer fades. Jal zhal tlu al ulnin Abbil John."("The magic fades. All shall be well soon Friend John.")

“Yeah, well….let’s get out of here. Al’s still twitchy and Ialin looks half out of it. I think the sooner we get ‘em back to Castle Alexander and settled down the better off they’ll be.”

“Understood. Let me rouse Ialin – she is not quite with us.” Safyr leaned in toward Ialin, still dressed as for battle.

“Ialin, there is no danger here. It is time to put away the tools of war – no one will come to harm.” After the third iteration Ialin shook herself, dispelling the enchantment of the Lord and Lady but not its message. “I…understand.” With a shudder she changed to her dryad form, the weapons and armor rapidly fading and being replaced by her usual raiment.

Safyr nodded in satisfaction. "Agreed, friend John, I surely could use a cuppa. Give me a moment to put up my armour."

She slipped into the shadows and returned a few moments later clad in a soft mottled green tie-dyed t-shirt and blue jeans with black lace up boots. In her hand was an ornate necklace, which she then slipped on, becoming a pale skinned, flame haired woman. Her piercing ice blue eyes, however, remained the same.

"I totally do not wish to give anyone a total freakout, that would be not groovy at all," she said, smirking cheekily at John.

John blinked owlishly as his mind boggled at the near absolute change from the cold, hard, deadly Safyr to... Whatever this character is supposed to be. I think I'm more comfortable with the blue scary version...

Safyr wondered when he was going to ask about her attitude change. Until then, she would keep tossing subtle hints while she carefully ran through the topics she wished to discuss with him in her mind, trying to guess as to how he would react.

His changes and choices were well-made, very honourable, so she decided to see if he would speak with her, then she would take it a step at a time.

Changes made and settled the odd party returned to Alexander House. As they entered Edward met them at the door. Disconcerted, he looked to John and asked “John, sir, what can we do?”

“Long story. I think right now tea – that swill Al drinks – would be a good idea. Something calming. We don’t need it fancy – we just need it fast.” Edward nodded and scurried off to the kitchen.

“Swill indeed…heathen salamander. Wretch. Last time I cook for you!” Al, humor returning, settled into a chair at the firepit, facing a small table. Looking to the side Al said, “Safyr, very nice look for you. If it hadn’t been for your eyes I’d have not recognized you.”

“Thank you. If you remember this is how I gathered intelligence among the humans.”

“I remember it well. Ialin, are you with us, lass?”

Ialin shuddered, looked vacant, then transformed into her pixie form, her attire mimicking that of Safyr. “Yes, I’m here. Just…got a lot to think about. Not complaining…not a bad thing, but a little…intense.”

“I think we all do. It’s almost a dream, though I have no doubt it happened witnessing what John has hanging from his hip.”

Now that everyone was showing signs of recovering, and nothing too reminiscent of ptsd or any other negative symptoms were presenting, John relaxed and followed everyone’s gazes to the sword at his hip.

Reaching to his side and unbuckling the belt, John examined the sword, drawing it a few inches from the scabbard to peek at the blade. Reaching to his side and unbuckling the belt, John examined the sword, drawing it a few inches from the scabbard to peek at the blade.

The blade, lower and upper guard, hilt, and pommel seemed to be forged from a single billet of a platinum-bright metal, with an iridescent sheen of reds, oranges, and yellows. The blade, crossguard, and pommel were burnished in a swirling sort of pattern, making the colors shift in the light, much like the swirling patterns that glowed beneath John's skin when he was hot enough.

The hilt was knurled with a similarly intricate pattern for grip. The binding runes on either side of the smoothly tapered blade at the forté matched the rune on the outside of the locket on the scabbard, all three of which glowed faintly. John noted the hilt was perfect for him - just long enough to fit two hands but short enough to wield one-handed as well, and the subtle curvature of the grip fit to his hands like it was made for him. The length was perfectly proportioned to his stature, too. To most humans, it would have been a great sword or a claymore. Perhaps it was made for me, John thought. They're gods, who knows.

The overall shape of the sword was functional - the upper and lower guards were both sturdy disks that flowed into the longer arms of each guard. The pommel, which would have normally been riveted in place, simply flowed from the upper guard. The colors and the finish of the metal made it look like a small, whirling mushroom cloud.

The overall shape was smooth and flowing and plain. Devoid of unnecessary spikes or sculptures or other ornamentation, it was far from ceremonial. It was meant for battle, not for being a piece of hip jewelry, and even though it was apparently created or at least given by two deities of life, it was plainly obvious it was nothing more than an instrument of death. Its beauty and ornate nature stemmed more from the sheer craftsmanship and the effectiveness of the weapon than from anything purely decorative.

It was heavier than it should be - not quite as dense as Prroul's favorite weapon - it felt as though it were made of lead. It wasn't much concern to John, the weight merely gave the weapon more momentum and cutting power. Just from holding the blade, John could feel it was balanced beautifully. He didn't draw the blade fully, out of respect for Ialin. He figured drawing a godslayer right in front of a nervous Dryad wouldn't be smart.

Continuing his examination, he found the scabbard was made from what seemed to be very heavy and very hard wood - but upon closer inspection, was revealed to actually be petrified wood. Wires of the same iridescent metal wound around the stone scabbard, following the fine grain of the fossilized wood, sunken into grooves between the grain to keep the scabbard smooth, flowing seamlessly into the locket and chape, as well as two rings at the third-marks of the scabbard's length. The locket and the two rings featured complicated locking clasps that clipped into a chainmail belt, which was itself adjustable to fit either around John's waist or diagonally across his torso - the locket was to be used to mount the scabbard to the waist while the rings were for when John chose to wear the blade at his back.

It was beautiful.

Al had been following his examination closely, as had Safyr.

“Incredible weapon, John. Amazingly beautiful. You’ve indeed garnered the favour of the Gods – and they’ve proven it.” Al gestured at the sword and its sheath, now lying on the table in front of them.

“Seems to me that you got your answers, and then some – as did all of us in one way or another. You know that your actions caused no harm to innocents and that the dryad will heal in the fullness of time.

Ialin learned…that not all who wield fire are evil, I suspect, and that she has some growing young to do. I’m going to have to equip myself with a flyswatter to help her along with that, I suspect.”

“Now, see here old man-“ Ialin began, and Al, seemingly deaf to her sputtering, continued.

“I learned…much. Not sure of the extent of it, but having your gods manifest is a bit…jarring. Safyr, you?”

“I too learned that those who appear enemies may well not be – and I need to learn to recognize that fact.”

With that, Edward arrived and John hastily snatched the sword from the table lest it suffer the ignominy of having a tea tray set upon it. Setting out cups (and a demitasse for Ialin, Al was amused to note), a large teapot, cream, sugar and a selection of biscuits Edward withdrew, with a barely heard mutter of “things were simpler in the old days”.

Al reached to serve, only to find Safyr there before him. With deft economy of motion she poured tea, and with that those who desired it adulterated theirs.

The rest of the refreshment was taken essentially in silence as far as it went. Nibbling, sipping, each was enmeshed in his or her own thoughts, with the realization of what had happened between them but unspoken.

While he was enjoying his tea Al felt a presence in his mind. “Safyr?”

"Ailean...might I ask you a few questions in this manner, or will it tax you too much?" Safyr thought-spoke to Al, concern flooding Al's senses.

"I will do so as much as I can, and let you know if it becomes an issue meduck," he replied thoughtfully.

"The, John..." she began.

Internally, Al was shocked at her quiet embarrassment, though he kept his mind and emotions as blank as possible. He could feel her mind at war, trying to beat down her personal biases in favour of Truth.

"Go on lass," he encouraged.

"John has changed from the arrogant, sour creature he was when first we met. Since his training, and now this encounter, I sense a new purpose, one akin to my own when I first cast off "Fathers" influences. I...I wish to assist in helping him attain balance, in as much as one can wielding such a weapon.

Master Prroul is good...very good at many fighting styles, as is his Master, but...they lack mastery in such bulky I believe was the word Prroul used weapons as I wield, and now John."

"Compensatatory parcels perhaps,"
Al added cheekily.

"Yes. For one, it is truly unnecessary, and for the other...his form suits polearms or hand blades if weapon he must have. He is a truly magnificent weapon without any extra tools to hinder his speed and agility."

Al mentally chuckled, and Safyr narrowed her eyes at him.

"Do continue, and please, tell me how you really feel about him...erhm, the situation."

Nettled, her frustration flowed through her thoughts until her composure was regained, Al's obvious amusement colouring it.

"While now I know that the...that John has achieved great control over his inner fire and would now trust Eme to meet him properly, her skills are with two blades and bow. She is also good with a pair of war-staves and various pole arms. As such, I feel that unless he plans on separating those blades, he would be better off training with one...familiar with such."

"Like yourself? You wish to offer him training with his new sword?"

"I do. If for no other other reason than giving olives...I believe it is?"

"Offering an olive branch. Making Peace."
Al thought for a second or two, having a sip at his cup.

“Very well, meduck. I for one can think of no better teacher for him…though I do suggest that you curb certain of your…enthusiasms. Let me arrange to clear the space here so you and he can have a proper conversation, and I trust you will not miss your cue.”

Safyr glared at him with exasperation mixing with gratitude, and he merely looked back blandly, smiling as he did.

Al closed his eyes and sat back. “Ialin! Ialin, luv!”

Ialin, sitting on the edge of the condiment tray, turned startled eyes to him. “Al? I forgot. Mage. What’s up that you want no one else to know about?”

“Shut up and listen – I’ve had a rough morning and my power is low. I need you to vacate – yon Drow and Salamander need to have a heart-to-heart talk.”

“True enough. He seems her type – a good ‘sparring partner’.”
She grinned evilly over the edge of her cup.

“None of that, now. This is not what that’s about at all – and you keep your mind out of the gutter. I’ll give you the details later – now amscray.”

“Your wish is my command – and forget the flyswatter – I have more reach.”
Al smiled quietly – mission objective gained.

Ialin rose from the table’s surface, and fluttered to John’s knee.

“Salamander, I hope you got the answers you wished. I had questions answered I did not know I needed answers to – and I thank you for this. Take care, and be well.” With that she rose, touched his hand, and flew away, disappearing as she went.

“Uh, You too... and thanks.” John watched the pixie depart, then his gaze returned to his cup as he poured himself a refill. People are suddenly being nice. I mean I guess it makes sense for Ialin but Safyr is freakin' me out... He drank from his cup (he didn't have to worry about it burning his tongue) and glanced covertly at the Drow over the rim.

Al rose as well. “You will both excuse me, I hope, but I must see to my dam. She has been peering around the door of the kitchen for the last ten minutes, and I can feel her concern. Please, take your time, be comfortable – as always my home is yours for as long as you wish.”

With that Al rose, returning to himself despite the disability of the wendigo’s poison. Straightening his shoulders, he marched to the kitchen, through the door and disappeared.

John immediately smelled fish and shifted in his seat. Dammit. Shouldn't have refilled my cup. He took another, slightly larger gulp of tea.

Safyr smiled at John. “So, brave warrior, to what will you turn your hand?”

John blinked, hurriedly finished swallowing the mouthful of tea, and choked on it. Once he finished coughing, he hoarsely replied “Argh, uh, well... step one is to find a forest fire or maybe a para foundry with a big crucible or something where I can purge the wendigo's crud from my system. After that, I guess I'll spend some of the money I got for killing the thing. Not much else planned. You?"

Safyr hesitated, then answered a question with a question. “What kind of training for sword handling did you get with Master Prroul?”

John frowned as he thought back. "Not much with weapons like this one. Some two-sword, and lots of polearm and staff work. You know Master Grumpy – his style is more... hands on... or with that big damn horse chopper of his, and his formal swords. He’s good and he’s fast, but he’s not built for sword and shield.”

Safyr nodded – his evaluation was much the same as her own.

“You’ve seen the weapons I carry. I have an offer for you – work with me for a while, and I can instruct you in single-sword combat techniques. It’s not the same as Master Prroul and his pudao – there’s a very definite technique to it.”

John thought, then answered slowly, as if forming his thoughts as he spoke. “Safyr, I have to ask. Why? You and I aren’t exactly best buddies, and especially after standing as my champion, you owe me exactly jack shit. I owe you. What gives? And what's with the attitude change? I don't claim to understand whatever effect those two gods had on you but something tells me it's not just that."

“Because it is I who owe you. I did not speak falsely when I spoke of learning that friend and enemy cannot be easily told apart at first glance. I offer this because I have wronged you. Since your time with Master Prroul you have changed – your nature is held firmly in your grasp and you have shown yourself as a being of honor.

I offer this as an olive branch.”

John looked into the crystal-blue eyes. Long seconds passed, then he broke the gaze.

“Well, I don't really feel wronged, for what it's worth. I accept – on one condition.”

“Name it.”

John smirked over his teacup. “No touchy-feely.”


John took a moment to drink. "Not an unprincipled slut, no. The pain fetish part, on the other hand..."

Safyr muttered under her breath, "Vel'bol l'Phlith? Follu'oh, Usstan tlun khruste l'Jallil d'Jiv'undus lu'La'xero zhah baiting uns'aa yallt."("What the Hate? Somehow, I am certain the Lady of Pain and Torment is baiting me today.")

What she said aloud was, "Ves droll. Udos zhal kyorl ka dos k'jakr inbal nindel filut d'humour rena plu'dakin."("Very droll. We shall see if you still have that sense of humour while training.")
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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Just Old Al
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Re: Trespass

Post by Just Old Al » Thu Sep 21, 2017 4:47 pm

And that, as they say, is all they wrote.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."

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