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Tiem

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Tiem last won the day on February 4 2013

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  1. "Mages do that," the foreigner answered back at her disbelief with a solid affirmation, "but not all mages. There are as many ways to practice magic as there are stars in the sky, knight. That is why you must be cautious when dealing with wizards and witches, and even more so when you mean to kill each other." It was a simple, yet truthful statement, and one that was enough to relegate the journey to silence for another stretch. Her simple barbs did not warrant her any more response from the silent, masked man that walked beside her than the biting wind did as it lashed at the both of them. Perhaps it made her uneasy, because he more than once caught her turning her eyes towards him and trying to hide it. Perhaps he needed to explain to the girl yet again why he didn't need her furs. Perhaps she was just unhappy that he wasn't falling behind her horse. Perhaps she was hoping that she would catch him falter in the cold or in the snow and be able to proudly say that she had warned him. Perhaps he was amused at her clumsily hidden frustration over that. It wasn't until they came to the tracks at the edge of the river did the silent trudge through that white haze come to an end. "And you're certain these are not the tracks of your own horse or your sister's?" No, as she went on to explain that they had never gotten this far it was clear that these tracks were either those of her wayward child or those of some other fool who was out in this weather just to make things more complicated for them. The Dormaeus woman seemed as if her frustration and ennui had left her now that there was a sign of their quarry, which was inspiring. He was beginning to wonder if she would have preferred just spreading a blanket over the horse and taking a nap for the rest of the journey with the way that her posture had been slipping bit by bit under the weight of those furs and the whip of that wind. Ouma's hand reached behind him, under a buttoned flap in his bag and after a few seconds of rummaging as they walked beside the muddy tracks he pulled loose a wrapped coil of rope which he quickly unbound and slipped his arm through to carry it over his shoulder. The girl was focused on the tracks, getting hopeful and going on about them well enough that it was clear enough had tracked horses before; though perhaps not in the middle of a storm. "We follow then. I hope you have put some thought into how you plan to get the beast to come along quietly. No doubt you want it unharmed, but that will be far more difficult if it spooks from our approach." Before she had the chance to answer, the trail they were following was joined by another, and by the path of the strides on the second set of tracks and the way that they trampled across the hoof prints it became quite clear that they were not the only things in these woods that were following after the noble Lady's prize. Large feet, long, deep tracks to the point where they left an imprint upon the frozen ground showing that it was a heavy beast and the long, shallow gashes in the snow between each stride showed that it was swinging its feet rather than picking them up as it walked. "How familiar are you with the local wildlife, knight? This looks like a beast on two legs," the masked man turned to her horse, tilting his head slightly as he looked it over from the knee to Johanna's own shoulder, "and judging by the distance between these tracks probably twice the height that you are sitting on that thing." "Let us both pray that my God hasn't sent me on a fruitless errand looking for a dead horse."
  2. "Yes." The masked man answered the knight, beginning to wonder if the man was touched in the head after how many times he'd had to explain this already. For good measure, to ensure the point wasn't lost upon him, the man in red lifted his hands and made a semi-circular woo-woo gesture with them. "Magic." It was nice to see that something he had said had gotten through that frigid helmet, however. They weren't setting out to do battle and any bandits that might have a mind to beset them in this weather would likely have no toes left by the time someone happened along the road. The armor would be more of a hindrance than a help. However, once the knight removed his-- her helmet, the mercenary's chest began to shake as a deep, guttural laugh roiled out from behind that composed mask. "Ha. You did seem like a bit of a cunt." And he turned back to the doors, pushing them open wide enough for the horse to get out. "I'll call you what you are, knight. Don't try to pretty it up, you didn't come to me looking for a roll in the hay." With the doors open, the cold air blew into the stable and carried a flurry of white with it; the other horses turned, stomping their hooves against the dirt as they shifted way from the wind. The knight sat astride her horse glaring daggers at him, and he had given her no reason not to. But there was work to be done, and ground to cover, and they both knew this. "You aren't fond of my title?" Despite the obvious arrogance of his statement, even with the suppression of the mask his voice was clearly making light of her as she rode out on her beast and he pushed the stable door shut behind it. "I am Ouma, and perhaps some day you will be." ----------- The trek was long and uneventful... thus-far. Thankfully the snow hadn't gotten as heavy as it likely would by the time night fell, and with the sun overhead it was still a simple task to use landmarks to set their path. With the worst of the storm ahead of them, the road was still fairly clear with just a few inches having fallen in the last few hours, but as soon as they wandered off of the road and onto the paths that hadn't been beaten down by travelers since the last snowfall, Johanna's horse would be trudging through knee-deep drifts and her mercenary would be striding alongside it, keeping pace with the snowshoes stopping him from sinking in more than a few inches in the light snow atop the more hard packed drifts being crushed by the weight of what had fallen on top of it. The difference was enough that even though the Dormaeus girl was riding atop the tall horse, the foreigner was nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with her in height because he strode atop the snow that the horse was sinking into. Whenever the wind picked up it would strip the top layer off of whatever drift lay in front of them and throw it in their faces, usually prompting a hand to come up and cover the eyes; but for Ouma the abjuration keeping the cold from him meant that the feeling was much more like walking out into the rain on a spring day. Uncomfortable, bothersome, but not dangerous. When they reached the treeline and ventured in through the firs, the journey would become more comfortable for both. Even though the knight would probably have a branch or two to contend with from the back of her mount, the cover of the trees meant that the wind wouldn't lash at them so violently and the dark needles of the evergreens broke up the bright white that they had been staring into until that point. One of the many dangers of long journeys in this type of weather was snowblindness; staring into that field of white for so long that the eyes begin to lose focus and the traveler loses direction. The shade in the trees was a welcome change. "If we are lucky, we will find those tracks again before the snow completely wipes them out. If not... Were they recent? Animals generally don't travel far in bad weather, if the beast found a place to take shelter nearby it likely will remain there until the weather clears or it needs to eat. Without tracks, we should at least be able to search the area nearby." Of course, she would know this because her family impregnated horses. Or bred them. They were similar enough words. But not everyone of the high houses was a skilled woodsman, and truth be told neither was Ouma. But he knew beasts well enough. They would have to rely on her knowledge of the horse and how it was trained once they found it, he was here as an extra set of hands to keep it from bolting on them and to make the little sister feel more confident that "big brother" wasn't going to die alone in the snow. "I've never seen your mages of Umbra." The foreigner said it without turning his head, still looking ahead of them as they headed for the bend in the river. "But likely not. There are some rituals I know that use blood, but as disappointed as you may be to hear this I do not make a habit of boiling children in a cauldron or bathing in the blood of virgins." The man in red raised one hand to shoulder height in front of him, holding it flat like he was balancing a cup of water, and then moved it higher as he continued. "Most types of magic will either make something more--" The hand lowered down to waist level, keeping the same posture. "--or less. Make a man stronger, make a sword sharper, make your armor harder. Or make it dark, cold, dry by taking away light and heat and water. They can make fire from the air or wind on a still day, or cause the earth to rise up, but many magics are complicated ways to use something simple. Many, not all. There is no one rule that applies to everything." Ouma's hand tapped lightly on the center of his mask, where the bridge of his nose would be were it not covered. "I have my magic because my God sees my goals as aligning with his own... and right now he wants me trudging through the snow with a cross-dresser looking for a misplaced gift."
  3. That turned the blue knight red. The thin ice of his patience seemed to be cracking as the mercenary tread over the subject of the knight's sister, lighting a fire in him that hadn't been more than a candle's flame before that. Good. Maybe he would find out if this prissy little noble had a spine inside of that armor or not. Dormaeus slammed his fist on the table and stood, brushing the hand away with a gauntlet, and the foreigner let his hand hang in the air for a moment before he fell back into his chair and leaned back, folding his hands behind his head and his legs spread out in front of him under the table with nary a care about the sharp gazes that were being cast their way. He was quite accustomed to the hateful glares of others, as Dormaeus may have guessed. As the knight readied himself to leave, his eyes turned from his new employer to the girl at the other end of the room and he tilted his head to her in response to her wink. "Girls grow up so fast, don't you think?" "First you say I look like a woman and then you ask me to meet you in the stables? Why, Sir Knight..." The expressionless mask gave no indication of what sort of face that man might have been wearing as one hand came down, touching his chest with the knuckles on two fingers and dragging it down across the myriad lines of black ink upon his skin until it reached his belt; running over the scar and muscle of a trained warrior while staring intensely at the knight, until his thumb hooked into the front of his pants. "...I'm not that kind of girl." And that was that. The knight stormed out into the storm, and the man in red righted his posture now that he was alone at the table again; though several sets of eyes were still upon him as he grasped the bowl of stew by the side with one hand and the lower edge of his mask in the other, lifting it up halfway as he tilted his head back and drank the stew from the bowl in great mouthfuls. Going out into the cold like that, this might be the last hot meal he would have in the next day or two. There was no sense in letting it go to waste... after all, the knight would wait. When he was done he wiped his chin with the back of his wrist and seated the mask back into place, never having removed it much to the disappointment of some who had been staring at him the entire time. Behind his chair, his traveling supplies had been dumped into a pile against the wall and he retrieved them; several folds of thick, black cloth and a sack with several straps. The first of the cloths he unfolded came out in a long strip, which he wrapped several times around his forearms and hands before affixing it with a metal clasp; the second was the same. The strap for the bag slipped over his shoulder and then tied a secondary strap around the waist to keep it from shifting, and lastly the folds of black canvas were pulled on: a hood that clasped in the front, covering his head and shoulders and draping halfway down the back to conceal his bag as well... but it left his arms and chest as bare as they had been. Hardly winter weather clothing, hardly clothing at all. Dropping a pair of copper coins onto the table, the mercenary grabbed something made of wood and leather from against the wall, and headed... not for the door, but towards the girl who was just scarcely finishing her own stew. He could feel Rosseau's wary eye on him even without looking, but it didn't seem that Ada was casting the same sort of dirty look in his direction as some of the others. A brave girl. Brave girls often got into trouble when left alone. "You're the sister." It was a statement, not a question. Behind the mask his voice boomed, low and hollow and loud enough that even those who were not trying to overhear him would have no trouble doing so. "For the time being your brother has purchased my services, and because I am feeling generous today I will do one job for you, free of charge." The mercenary held up both hands, each with one finger extended out from the black fabric that was now wrapping his hands. "When we return, if any man has made an advance on you I will kill him and the 10 people closest to him." One hand and finger went down slowly as he spoke, hanging at his side. The other stayed raised, until the masked man leaned in closer to the girl and spoke to her in a much quieter voice. "Or I will help you keep it a secret from your brother." The other hand came down, and the mercenary turned for the door, only to have a gruff man with a great, red beard stand up from his own seat. A crusty reminder of the stew lingered in his beard below his lip, and the foggy look in his eye showed that he had been taking shelter from the snow long enough to be deep in his cups already. The man took a hard breath as he cleared his throat and loosened a stiff shoulder to stop the man in red from -- CRASH! -- an open hand slammed into the center of the bearded man's chest in the blink of an eye, sending him toppling backwards into the chair that he had just vacated and the chair over backwards onto the floor between two tables and two men that choked on their ale from the start it gave them. The bearded man blinked, suddenly finding himself staring at the ceiling with one hand clutching at the edge of a table on reflex. "Bloody hell-" "And the ten men closest..." The mercenary's outstretched hand folded into a pointing finger as he walked past to the door without missing a step, that finger tapping the air as he punctuated each word with it. "...to him." ------------ When he arrived in the stable, the knight was hard at work. A pity, he'd almost hoped that his jab earlier had accidentally found some truth to it so he would have another reason to mock this highborn. For now, the knight's earnestness would prove an asset in moving things along quickly. He had no desire to be out chasing strays longer than necessary. He raised his hand to his shoulder as he walked into the stable, brushing freshly fallen snow from the cowl before the relative warmth of the stable gave it an opportunity to melt. As the barman had said earlier, the mercenary had already been out seeking audience with the nobles, and the protective spell he had used to shield him from the cold was still in effect. Though his breath still came out from the mask in white clouds, the thick flakes of snow that clung to his skin were not melting as they would on any other warm body. The magic kept the cold from getting to his body, and it kept his body heat from getting to the snow. It was a basic spell that many travelers should have been capable of, but the man from Dormaeus hardly seemed like the type to dabble in the magical arts. "Keep them for yourself or your horse. I have no need of them unless this storm will sever my magic. My boots will be fine as long as we stay out of the river. And no." He answered all of the knight's questions at once, standing there with those wooden frames slung over his left shoulder. "I've never ridden a horse, and I doubt you intend to waste time showing me how." He pulled the oblong wooden rings down and separated them, taking a seat on a bench beside where the grooming tools were hung and stepping his boot onto a leather pad at the center of one; bending down to begin lashing the snowshoe to his ankle and foot with the leather straps. "Your advice is appreciated." His head was down as he worked the straps, not looking up at Dormaeus even once as he spoke. "There are not many in this part of the world that look upon my God with favor, if they even know anything beyond their own faith. I will keep the... zealotry... of this region in mind." As his hands finished work on lashing the second frame, it was obvious that the knight had completed his own task of saddling the horse. The mercenary stood, brushing a bit of straw from his breeches and striding across to the wide doors of the stable with the expectation that the knight was anxious to get on their way. "Pfah." The man in red scoffed when the armored man asked his name. Generally this sort of thing was handled at the outset, but this employment negotiation thusfar had been anything but commonplace. "The Blue Knight, was it? Very well, call me The Red King." @Narcissa
  4. "Never heard of you." The man's tattooed hand lifted from the table as if batting a fly away from his stew when the knight introduced himself. He had no interest in what noble house in which far away land this canned horse wrangler came from, only in that just when he had been looking for an audience with the wealthy and powerful of this land the knight had appeared in front of him going on about runaway horses. It was a gift from the Gods, and one does not look a gift horse in the mouth. "However, I will aid you. I have no desire to be waiting around until a thaw for the locals to unbar their doors, and you have no desire to bring your Lady a frozen corpse as a gift." The masked man leaned forward in his chair, placing his elbows on the table just as the blue knight had when he had first sat down. The warmth of the fire was starting to remove the chill from that well-polished armor and the bits of snow and ice that had nestled themselves into the grooves of the armor were beginning to slide slowly, turning into droplets and creating trails that captured the flickering orange light of the fire. "You say the horse threw her, can you ride in this weather? There will be a lot of ground to cover even before we find your horse and no guarantee the beast won't be spooked and bolt. MY God will protect me from the cold, but perhaps you should trade that steel weight of yours for your sister's coat if you want to move quickly out there." The foreigner turned his head towards Ada, who seemed overtaken with bliss at putting something warm into her after coming in from the biting wind. They had made quite a scene when they entered, and there was more than one pair of eyes looking at the young woman from among the travelers and mercenaries that had taken shelter with a bowl of hot stew and a cup of cold ale. The same sets of eyes that followed the swaying end of the barmaid around the room as she made the rounds with her pot and ladle. His hand gestured, beckoning the blue knight in a little closer -- if he obliged the stranger would lean across the table -- if he did not the stranger would lurch forward and put a hand behind the knight's helmet to pull it close to his mask; the man's rust-colored eyes staring down into the thin slats in that faceplate with intensity. "She might do better with your armor, as well." The words were low, almost a whisper. "Two dozen men cooped up in a lodge like this with nothing but ale and time... And only..." His eyes turned, and his hand on the knight's helmet coaxed it to follow them back to the serving girl as she bent over another table to pour a ladle of stew into an empty bowl, then to his sister at the table closest to Rosseau, and then to a wealthy looking merchant sitting beside the hearth with his family; a small girl probably no more than eight and a sow of a wife covered in furs and sweat. "...two women between them all? We'd best move quickly, or you might come back an uncle."
  5. The man in question was certainly not hard to find among the other sleepy-eyed patrons in the lodge. In the middle of a storm like this there wasn't much to do other than slide their chairs closer to the fire and wait for the weather to clear. Locals wouldn't be holed up in an inn like this even with the storm, but even among the other travelers the man sitting in the corner stood out like a sore thumb as someone not from this area. While other travelers, like Ada, were covered from head to toe in thick furs that man wore only cloth and little of it. An open long coat of deep red trimmed in gold, frayed at the shoulders and missing the sleeves as if they had been torn off of it, and underneath that bare chested save for stone-gray sash tied around his midsection and dark, loose-fitted pants tucked into knee-high black leather boots that looked sturdy but ill-suited to trudging through waist-deep snow. If one were to judge the weather based on his clothing, they would think it was the height of summer and not the dead of winter. Though even more-so than his inappropriate style of dress what seemed to have caught the tavern girl's attention was the man's mask. While it was not strange for others like Dormaeus himself to be wearing a helmet or hat in the great room, the conservatively carved wooden mask this man wore gave him the mysterious air of a traveling performer rather than the wandering mercenary that Rosseau had labeled him to be. One arm resting across his lap, another upon the table beside him slowly tapping at it with a fingertip like a ticking metronome, precise and deliberate, while the man stared quietly into the fire. Perhaps it was that sense of mystery that had intrigued the tavern girl. Perhaps she was looking to see if a stranger from afar had more coin burning holes in his purse. Perhaps she was looking for something else. For whatever reason, she came to slop another spoonful of hot stew into the untouched bowl beside him that had started to grow cold and thick, and as she did she saw that she caught his eye and his gaze left the fire for a moment. Encouraged by this, she bent over a little further with her spoon, feigning the need to reach across the table, deftly sliding her feet back a few more inches to more deliberately craft the angle of her back, and after taking a slow breath her lips parted to say-- --nothing. Startled, she scurried away at the knight's insistence, and the mercenary's eye returned to the flickering fire in the hearth. "Chasing horses, is it?" The man's voice sounded deep and hollow from behind the mask, a trait that Dormaeus no doubt shared. The slow tapping of the man's finger stopped when the knight sat across from him, but his gaze had lingered much longer upon the hearth; until the knight spoke the name of the councilwoman. He may have been a stranger to this land, but the wealthiest and powerful in this region was things that he taken special consideration to know and that was why he had already approached them and been turned away in the storm. So now, like many of these other travelers, he was forced to wait until the weather cleared. A ticket past the gateman was something that pried his interest away from the relentless tedium enough for the mercenary to pull his feet in from the relaxed slouch against the chair and lean forward more onto the arm beside his stew bowl just as the knight did when he clapped his own armored limbs against the worn wood. "And just who is this knight who would speak on my behalf?" The stranger in red stared at the frozen blue crustacean in front of him, the flickering orange hue of the fire glinting in his eyes from behind the mask. The knight wore the crest of a house that he had no reason to know or care about, but he wore a crest and that meant someone else did. Someone like Thaladred. The stranger wore no such crest, and he represented no such house, but he had far more markings than the knight's armor. Down the man's arms, across his chest and shoulders that were bared beneath that loose clothing, even on the hand that had stopped tapping and now simply rested there with the fingers curled in and knuckles pressed to the wood; tattoos of interconnecting shapes and patterns in black against his otherwise fair skin. Similarly, the white paint of the mask the man wore was streaked with sharp red lines in angled patterns, save for an etching of a hearth and fire on the brow. "Your woman has the right idea. Even if the cold doesn't slow you down, soon enough you won't be able to see a horse-length in front of you much less find a wayward mare in the countryside." The mercenary cocked his head slightly to the side, looking over the knight's frosted armor. "You don't look as if you are desperate for payment, which means you either want recognition or have some debt of honor to prove with a foolhardy deed. I certainly hope it's the latter, because my interest lies in the first two things."
  6. Tiem

    The Knight, the Mask, and the White

    The man in question was certainly not hard to find among the other sleepy-eyed patrons in the lodge. In the middle of a storm like this there wasn't much to do other than slide their chairs closer to the fire and wait for the weather to clear. Locals wouldn't be holed up in an inn like this even with the storm, but even among the other travelers the man sitting in the corner stood out like a sore thumb as someone not from this area. While other travelers, like Ada, were covered from head to toe in thick furs that man wore only cloth and little of it. An open long coat of deep red trimmed in gold, frayed at the shoulders and missing the sleeves as if they had been torn off of it, and underneath that bare chested save for stone-gray sash tied around his midsection and dark, loose-fitted pants tucked into knee-high black leather boots that looked sturdy but ill-suited to trudging through waist-deep snow. If one were to judge the weather based on his clothing, they would think it was the height of summer and not the dead of winter. Though even more-so than his inappropriate style of dress what seemed to have caught the tavern girl's attention was the man's mask. While it was not strange for others like Dormaeus himself to be wearing a helmet or hat in the great room, the conservatively carved wooden mask this man wore gave him the mysterious air of a traveling performer rather than the wandering mercenary that Rosseau had labeled him to be. One arm resting across his lap, another upon the table beside him slowly tapping at it with a fingertip like a ticking metronome, precise and deliberate, while the man stared quietly into the fire. Perhaps it was that sense of mystery that had intrigued the tavern girl. Perhaps she was looking to see if a stranger from afar had more coin burning holes in his purse. Perhaps she was looking for something else. For whatever reason, she came to slop another spoonful of hot stew into the untouched bowl beside him that had started to grow cold and thick, and as she did she saw that she caught his eye and his gaze left the fire for a moment. Encouraged by this, she bent over a little further with her spoon, feigning the need to reach across the table, deftly sliding her feet back a few more inches to more deliberately craft the angle of her back, and after taking a slow breath her lips parted to say-- --nothing. Startled, she scurried away at the knight's insistence, and the mercenary's eye returned to the flickering fire in the hearth. "Chasing horses, is it?" The man's voice sounded deep and hollow from behind the mask, a trait that Dormaeus no doubt shared. The slow tapping of the man's finger stopped when the knight sat across from him, but his gaze had lingered much longer upon the hearth; until the knight spoke the name of House Moray. He may have been a stranger to this land, but the wealthiest house in this region was one that he had made it a point to know and that was why he had already approached them and been turned away in the storm. So now, like many of these other travelers, he was forced to wait until the weather cleared. A ticket past the gateman was something that pried his interest away from the relentless tedium enough for the mercenary to pull his feet in from the relaxed slouch against the chair and lean forward more onto the arm beside his stew bowl just as the knight did when he clapped his own armored limbs against the worn wood. "And just who is this knight who would speak on my behalf?" The stranger in red stared at the frozen blue crustacean in front of him, the flickering orange hue of the fire glinting in his eyes from behind the mask. The knight wore the crest of a house that he had no reason to know or care about, but he wore a crest and that meant someone else did. Someone like the Morays. The stranger wore no such crest, and he represented no such house, but he had far more markings than the knight's armor. Down the man's arms, across his chest and shoulders that were bared beneath that loose clothing, even on the hand that had stopped tapping and now simply rested there with the fingers curled in and knuckles pressed to the wood; tattoos of interconnecting shapes and patterns in black against his otherwise fair skin. Similarly, the white paint of the mask the man wore was streaked with sharp red lines in angled patterns, save for an etching of a hearth and fire on the brow. "Your woman has the right idea. Even if the cold doesn't slow you down, soon enough you won't be able to see a horse-length in front of you much less find a wayward mare in the countryside." The mercenary cocked his head slightly to the side, looking over the knight's frosted armor. "You don't look as if you are desperate for payment, which means you either want recognition or have some debt of honor to prove with a foolhardy deed. I certainly hope it's the latter, because my interest lies in the first two things."
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