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Author Topic: Armanitas, Chapter One: A Convenient Awakening  (Read 105 times)
shandromand
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Socially Maladjusted Misanthrope


Armanitas, Chapter One: A Convenient Awakening
« on: December 03, 2006, 07:31:42 PM »

Alright, before I put this up here, I'd like to point out two very important things:

1.  I'm now 30 years old.  I started this story when I was about 12.
2.  This story has evolved greatly over the last two decades - At one point I had most of the story written (some 500 pages), and the original manuscript was mislaid (though I think it still resides with an old english teacher).

So, in an effort to force myself to start rewriting it, I thought I might share with you all.  Please, by all means comment on it!  Smiley

 
      Wake up, little sparrow.

      The voice sounded gentle, yet insistent.  She heard the voice as though it were a memory of someone speaking.  It was a memory that pulled her up from darkness, unbidden.

      Come, sparrow, wake up.

      Her mind swam out of the depths of unconsciousness.  An image of a woman swirled in her thoughts.  The woman was beautiful, but cold.  A smile spread across the woman’s face, but never touched her eyes.  Then, just as suddenly as the woman came to mind, she was gone again.

      Wake up.  The voice seemed more commanding this time, and would not be ignored.  She awoke to the sound of wind in trees, a sigh rustling the leaves.  Her head hurt, and she didn’t want to open her eyes just yet.  Suddenly she realized that she didn’t know what her name was, or where she had been.  Strangely this did not upset her, but it did present something of a puzzle. 

      She had no recollection of anything before the voice.  There was something about a woman, but who that might be was beyond her.  She opened her eyes.  The night sky was clearly visible through the canopy of trees around her.  She could feel the warm breeze that fluttered through the branches.  The sky was peppered with many-colored stars, and a deep blue moon was shining brightly.  Deciding that she needed to do something, she sat up, in spite of her throbbing skull.

      The world seemed to tilt crazily back and forth, and she found herself flat on her back again.  This brought on a new wave of pain, and nausea along with it.  She closed her eyes again in a vain attempt to banish the pounding behind them.  After a few moments, she opened her eyes again.

      Easy, now.  Take it slow.  The voice lost none of its quiet concern or command.  She wanted to go back to sleep, but her head hurt too badly to let her.  When she dared to open her eyes again, the moon had moved about two hands across the sky.  She wasn’t certain how much time had passed. 

      After a moment, she realized that there were no sounds of forest animals, only the wind.  She closed her eyes and pressed the back of her hand against her forehead.  It felt cold as ice, and hard.

      Opening her eyes with a start, she lowered her hand to look at it.  She was wearing some kind of metal glove.  Gauntlet, a voice seemed to say.  She sat up quickly, and was immediately rewarded with more vertigo.  Bracing her hands on the ground, she looked around as much as she dared.

      I’m right here.  ‘Bout time you woke up.  Again she looked around.

      “Who’s there?  Show yourself!” she shouted.  The voice, which seemed neither male nor female, chuckled pleasantly. 

      I told yeh, I’m right here, the voice said with a hint of amusement.  Her hand curled up into a fist of its own accord and jabbed her own finger at her chest.  It made a clinking noise, and she noticed that she was wearing some kind of metal shirt.  Breastplate.  Goodness, did yeh hit yer head that hard?  Looking herself up and down, she saw that she was encased in a suit of armor.  Well, at least yeh aren’t that addled. 

      Oh, Artemius, give the poor lass a break, said another voice, distinctly male.

      For the moment, he seemed to take the suggestion as she continued her inspection of the suit.  The metal was polished to a mirror shine, which reflected the moonlight and stars very well.  She was reasonably certain it wasn't steel – it weighed next to nothing – but she didn't know what else it could be.  The gauntlets were covered in all manner of symbols she didn't recognize.  They weren't etched or engraved, but instead appeared to be part of the metal.  This was no ordinary plate mail.

      'Course I'm not, the voice now known as Artemius growled.

      “Who are you people?  How is it that you’re speaking to me?”

      Well, said the second voice, if you reach your hands up behind your shoulders, you will find me.  My name is Samchar.  She decided that the world had stopped spinning enough to let go of the ground.  Doing as Samchar suggested, she slowly reached both hands behind her shoulders and encountered two handles.  Pulling on them, she found a pair of swords, which were etched with runes that glowed. I was once a great warrior -

      Hah! Artemius interrupted.  That’s what he thinks! he added, smugly.

      Excuse me, I was answering her question, now be quiet.  This conversation, all in her head, felt strange to her – had she gone mad?  As I was saying, Samchar continued, I was once a warrior in the service of the High Seat, a council of wizards and sorcerers.  When my time to pass had come, we agreed that my skills were simply too valuable to lose.  My mind and spirit were enchanted into these blades.  We traded my flesh, blood, and bone for bodies of mage steel.  Artemius was a later creation - Every part of the armor you wear is Artemius, from breastplate to boots.  The enchantments laid into the starmetal were so powerful that he, erm, developed a mind of his own. 

      And a bloody good thing too, Artemius broke in, or yeh’d be lost without me.  Yeh’ see, little sparrow, we’re magic, and we’re bound to yeh’.  How that came teh’ be, I canna’ say.

      She stood there staring at the swords, and the hands gripping the hilts.  “Okay, if I’m stuck with you, then can you tell me who I am or how I came by you?  I can’t remember anything at all.”

      I’m afraid not, Samchar replied. Until a short while ago we had been asleep for a long time.  I awoke with Artemius shortly before you did.  This is highly irregular – we’re both used to being presented with our new charge before the Bonding.

      I don’t have any idea what happened, Artemius continued.  One minute Arrin took a crossbow bolt to the eye…  Feoryn felt a great sadness not her own when she heard this.  Arrin must have been the last owner of these strange items.  The next minute we’re lyin’ here on the ground.  I’m sorry about yer memories, little sparrow, I can’t do aught for them.  Yer wearin’ a couple’a belt pouches though and those aren’t mine.
   
      Looking at the blades of Samchar, she tried to put him away, but couldn’t seem to quite get the blades lined up properly.  She felt her arms and hands turn on their own again, Artemius helping her.  It takes a few tries girl - yeh’ll get used to me helpin’ out.

      “My thanks,” she said.  Looking down, she decided that she couldn’t keep sitting there, so she stood up slowly.  Working the strings on one of the belt pouches, she found that it was filled with coins and gems.  “Well at least I’m not poor!” she exclaimed, pulling out a small handful.

      A low whistle sounded in her mind.  Ar, I’d say yer well off.  I don’t recognize the currency though.  Sam, ever seen this?  Taking one of the platinum coins, Artemius held it up to the moonlight.  It had the picture of a handsome woman stamped on its surface.  The woman seemed vaguely familiar to her.

      No, that’s not a face I recognize, Art.  I don’t suppose you recognize it, do you lass?  She shook her head and instantly regretted it for the wave of vertigo that came upon her.  After a few moments standing stock still with her eyes squeezed shut, she felt safe enough to continue.  She turned the coin over.  The reverse was stamped with a creature that looked like the back half of a lion, wings on its powerful shoulders, huge clawed bird feet for forepaws, and a large eagle’s head.  A gryphon, she realized.  There were some curious runes on either side of its head.

      A sharp, audible hiss came from Samchar, which made her cringe.  House Gethsamene!  Since when do they have currency?  He sounded upset.  Better put it away for now lass.  That doesn’t bode well, but it doesn’t tell us anything about you.  Look in the other pouch.  Pouring the treasure back and tying it shut, she moved on to the other pouch. 

      When she didn’t see anything inside, she put reached in to make sure it was empty.  Her hand encountered some sort of cylinder.  When she pulled it out, it just kept coming out.  The full length couldn’t possibly fit into the whole bag, but once she had it out, it was about three feet long.  It was made of some dark wood, and was capped with brass on either end.  It drew no comment from either of her companions, so she set it on the ground.

      Huh, who’d have thought?  Yeh have a bottomless pouch!  I reckon’ yeh put a lot more in there.  Have a look and see what else there is.  Pushing her hand into it again, she came out with a folded chair, followed by a small folded table.  She put them to use right away. 

      Once she was sitting down, she began pulling out numerous items.  First she pulled out a lantern.  Here girl, open that up, Artemius instructed.  She undid the latch and swung the little door open.  Artemius pointed one of her fingers at the wick, and a small burst of flame leapt from the fingertip and lit the lantern.  This made her jump in shock. 

      “You could have warned me you were going to do that!” she said reproachfully.

      What, and spoil all me fun?  Now yeh’ have better light, so get on with it. 

      Setting the lantern on the corner of the table, she reached into the pouch again, pulling out a sack somewhat larger than her fist.  Looking inside, she saw various odds and ends, bits of wood and string, a few crystals, and tiny bags with dried herbs and sand.
 
      “What do you make of that?  Am I a packrat or something?”  With a shrug, she replaced the contents in the sack and set it aside.  While she dug for the next surprise, Artemius voiced his thoughts.  Yeh might be, but those look to be spell components.  Mayhap yer a witch or a sorceress.  If yeh pull out a spellbook, then we’ll know.

      Next she pulled out a finely crafted stick with a silver handle.  “And I suppose this is my wand?” she said, mockingly.  “I think I’d remember if I could do magic.”  Experimentally waving it in the air, she really didn't expect anything to happen.  When no fireballs flew from its tip, she set it next to the bag of oddments.

      Well look at all these items you’re carrying, Samchar said.  Don’t count it out just yet.  She snorted and pulled out two sets of fine robes and a cloak, all stitched with strange glyphs around the edges.  There was the House Gethsamene seal embroidered on the left breast of the robes.  There were four braided loops embroidered in gold on the right shoulder.  Along with these came some well-made, but plain trousers and a linen shirt.

      Hmm, Samchar pondered, Who are you, I wonder… Are you some sort of military figure for House Gethsamene?  I will say this much, lass, if you’re guilty of atrocities, we will forgive you for your past.  However, we will not permit you to use us for evil. 

      This statement caused her some uneasiness, wondering what sort of person she had been.  She nodded, “I understand, Samchar.  That bothers me, thinking I might be a bad person.  But what is it about this House Gethsamene that has you both so upset?”

      Yer not a bad person now, sparrow.  If yeh were, we’d have killed yeh instead of Bonding with yeh.  As to Gethsamene, that’ll be a long tale for later.  Don’t worry about it too much for now.  Let’s see what else yeh can suss out.

      Nodding her head again, she set the clothes to the side and grabbed again.  This time she pulled out a smooth staff about six and a half feet long, topped with a glowing orange stone.  The light emanated from the stone and dissipated into the air around it like smoke.  The stone itself was slightly warm to the touch even through her gauntlet.

      Now that’s a Magus Staff, or I’m an old rust-bucket!  Are there any markings on it?  Carefully examining it in the lamplight, she couldn’t find anything on the haft or the stone. 

      “Nothing that I can see, Artemius.  Maybe I just collect this stuff?  I haven’t the faintest idea how to use any of it.”  She leaned the staff up against the table and went back into the pouch again.

      Girl, if yeh pull any more stuff like that out of yer bag, I’d wager yer a sorc’ress at least.  No spellbooks means sorc’ry, not wizardry.

      Next came a palm sized granite carving of a horse, complete with barding.  The chest plate even had a word etched into it - Kerulias. 
     
     Lass, that looks like a Chardyan Courser, Samchar said.  No finer magical steed will you find on the face of Myndrallon.

     A bloodstone sphere followed the stone horse. It was large enough that she needed to hold it in both hands, and was criss-crossed with several quarter inch bands of silver and gold.  A closer inspection showed that the bands were marked at even intervals with symbols she didn’t recognize.  When she asked Artemius and Samchar, they didn’t recognize them either.  After fumbling with the orb, she finally set it on the clothing so it wouldn’t roll off the table.

      The remaining contents of the bag held two rolled parchments.  She unrolled the first one and spread it flat on the table, holding down the corners with her other possessions.  Finding that she could read something for a change, she read aloud for the benefit of her new companions.   


      The Geth Magocracy hereby grants the bearer of this document, one Feoryn Khain, formerly of House Gethsamene, special dispensation to perform the following abilities: 

          Any and all acts of sorcery permitted to military officers of the rank of Commander.
          Use of all magic items employed by military officers of the rank of Commander.
          Development of spells and magic items currently permitted by law.

     Furthermore, the bearer of this document is accorded the following privileges:

          Rights to draw monies of the Magocracy where available.
          Rights to acquire equipment or materials of the Magocracy where available.
          Rights to use of transportation as needed.
          Rights to enlist regulars of the military where available, not greater than one company.  Sole command of the troops enlisted falls to
           the bearer of this document.
          Rights to replace a commanding officer of any rank. 

The Council expects full cooperation on the part of all government and military officials with regard to this document and all requests through it.   In the event of specific written orders to the contrary, this document shall override all others in matters directly affecting government stability, Factol Council members’ safety, and threat of war.  Failure to comply will result in a full Council Review.

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shandromand
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Socially Maladjusted Misanthrope


Re: Armanitas, Chapter One: A Convenient Awakening
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2006, 07:32:47 PM »

      The document held the signatures of nine people, presumably all the members of this council.  The most prominent name, in flowing script, read Glynrys Gethsamene. 

      Feoryn said her name aloud once, just to see if it sounded familiar.  When this stirred nothing, she read the parchment again.  “Um… I don’t think they give this to just anyone.  The way you’ve talked of this House Gethsamene…  Does this make me the enemy?”  Her question went unanswered for several moments.  “Excuse me, am I so evil that you two just quit talking to me?”

      One moment, Samchar said quietly,  we are talking amongst ourselves.  Look at the other parchment while you wait.  Stunned that she was so quickly shut out, Feoryn unfolded the second parchment.  This turned out to be a map, depicting a forest with cities dotted around it.  North of the Saumvir Wood, as the forest was labeled, were a range of foothills, then mountains.  Her eyes were drawn to a glowing speck near the northern portion of the forest.  She had no idea what to make of that, and didn’t want to interrupt Sam and Art (as she’d come to think of them).

      After several minutes of silence, she set about repacking everything but the stone horse.  She also left out the staff.  With only a little hesitation, she put the cloak on – the armor would be easily spotted in the moonlight.  She reasoned that it might be better for her to shroud herself.

      Well, little sparrow, as we said, we sense nothing evil in yeh.  Likewise, we’re willin’ teh’ leave the past where it is.  Now set that stone horse down and read the word on the front.

      The throbbing in her head had dulled to an ache.  Artemius’ insistence on that particular nickname was making her feel peevish.  “Thank you so much for that vote of confidence.  Samchar?”  She waited a moment for his answer.

      I agree with Art, you don’t seem evil to me.  However, as he said, you may have an unpleasant past.  We’re both willing to set that aside, but for now it would be best not to say too much.  We need to get moving.

      “Oh?  Where are we going then?”  Feoryn asked, “Or is that something I shouldn’t know about either?”  She understood how they felt, but she couldn’t help feeling a little put out by their attitude.  When neither one answered, she knelt down and spoke the word, “Kerulias.”

      At first, nothing seemed to happen.  Then the little horse began to grow rapidly, until standing before Feoryn was a full-sized warhorse, seemingly carved from stone.  It looked very real - she could even see muscle ripplie whenever he moved.  As if to emphasize this, the horse nodded once and stamped a fore hoof into the ground.  The saddle and riding tack had become metal and leather, which was fortunate.  She hadn’t been looking forward to any kind of journey in a stone saddle.

     After a moment’s hesitation, she mounted easily and settled into the saddle.

     Laying the staff across her lap, she took the reins in her free hand.  Feoryn felt that this was familiar, but she couldn’t associate any particular memory to riding.  “All right, you two, which way are we going?” she asked.

      North, Samchar said.  Keep the moon to your back.

      Feoryn turned the horse with knee and rein, and clucked it into a trot.  There was no trail, so she wound her way around trees, glancing up through the canopy every so often.  She continued for about an hour in silence, and then broke through the tree line.  She reined in the horse to take in the view.

      Ahead of her, a broad plain stretched for several miles.  The moonlight was much brighter outside the forest, and she could see foothills and mountains beyond the plain.  To either side, the forest stretched to the limits of her sight.  Keep going, lass.  There should be a road ahead.

      Feoryn nodded and heeled the horse back into another trot.  “Do you think it’s safe to travel this late at night?  I mean, I’m sure that between the two of you…”

      It’s perfectly safe with us, girl, Artemius said.  Besides, we don’t really want anyone else knowing where we’re headed.

      “Including me?” Feoryn asked again.  “Not to be rude, but could you tell me what to expect, at least?”  She tried not to let her frustration show through her voice.  She supposed she could refuse to take another step without an explanation.  Then she recalled how easily Art had moved for her, and was willing to bet that she would get little choice if it came to that.

      Lass, we’re going to where Artemius was forged, Samchar answered finally.  If the dwarves are still there, perhaps they can restore your memories.  If not, then they should be able to tell us what happened after the war.  Those are the Northshield Mountains, we’re certain.  That is where we last knew the dwarves to be.   Shrugging, Feoryn said nothing while she rode on.  A few more minutes passed in silence, and then the road began to edge into view.  Though it looked well used, the road was little more than a wide dirt track.  There were no signs or houses in sight, and the moon was beginning to set now.  She had no idea how long she had before daybreak would come along, so she stopped and pulled out the map.

      Holding it up to the weaker moonlight, Feoryn studied the map closely this time. Again, she noticed the glowing sparkle.  Was it her imagination, or had it moved?  It was now out of the forest, and near the road.  Going west would take her closer to the forest, through a few towns, and finally around to the southern edge.  East would lead her to some sort of way station, after which she could turn north or continue east. 

      The north route would take her to a mountain town called Shield’s Refuge.  If she continued east, she would eventually wind up in what looked to be a large city, Jaedalan. 

      “Are there any arguments for heading to the way station?” Feoryn asked aloud. “We could go to Shield’s Refuge afterward, and continue into the mountains from there.”  It didn’t sound unreasonable to her.

      The question yeh should be asking, girl, is whether or not yeh’ll be recognized.  Artemius was doing his best to sound sly.  If someone spots yeh, yeh might face questions yeh don’t have answers for.  Feoryn had not thought of this, and it was a very real possibility.

      Feoryn has neither scrap nor squirt of food or water, Art.  She needs to stop somewhere, and she’s money enough for that.  Shield’s Refuge isn’t that far out of our way.  Samchar sounded a little exasperated.  If we run into trouble, we’ll deal with it then.  Go on, lass, head east.

      The stone horse whickered when Feoryn turned him onto the road.  It sounded odd, like gravel sliding down a slope.  She folded the map, tucked it into the money pouch, and settled her staff, nudging Kerulias into a trot.  Once again, she marveled at the fact that riding seemed to come so easily to her, and wondered if Artemius was ‘helping’ her again.  When she asked, he answered nonchalantly, Nah, any fool can ride a horse, girl.  Why would yeh need help with that?

      Feoryn snorted at this and rode on in silence.  The moon had finally set, and the only light came from the staff she was holding.  It wasn’t really much to see by, but half a dozen feet was good enough to guide her mount around obvious holes and ruts.

     Since the ride was probably a long one, she decided to experiment a bit.  After picturing the blades of Sam for a few moments, she projected her thought at it.  Can you hear me, Sam?

     Indeed I can, lass!  Sam sounded both pleased and surprised.  This will make things much simpler.  We were worried you might be incapable of mindspeak and have to speak to us aloud – not always handy when stealth is needed.

     Yeh know, Sparrow, I can tell you’re chatting with Sam, but all I hear is a nattering.  Whyn’t yeh include me so we can all talk.  She grinned and added herself in the armor to the mental image.

     There, Art, is that better?  She felt, rather than ‘heard’ assent. I wouldn’t want you to feel left out of anything.  Since we’re not making any noise this way, can you tell me some things?  For instance, how did you come to be, and what is this bonding you speak of?  You make it sound… permanent.

     Hmm… Sam pondered a moment.  When Art was created, there was a civil war brewing.  I’ll get into that more later, if you wish.  The short version is that certain members of the High Seat saw what was happening, and created twelve suits much like the one you were wearing now.  They were made for an elite force that would respond to the greatest of threats, dubbed Silverwing Vanguard, but some called them Silvers. 

     There were many enchantments laid on them to aid their bearers, and defend them against mortal dangers that no ordinary soldier could face.  Part of the magic made it so that the armor would be bound to the bearer.  As long as the Silver lives, their armor could only be removed by choice, or by death. 

     Their creation took several months, dwarven smiths toiling night and day alongside powerful human and elven mages.  The final suit, intended for the commander of the Vanguard, took nearly a year.  Such was the power vested in it, that Artemius awakened, much confused.

     Oh yeah?  Yeh’ had a life and a knowing of the world around yeh.  I had teh’ figure it out fer’ meself in little teh’ no time at all. 
Artemius sounded a bit regretful, but Feoryn could hear the wry smile in his thoughts.  I was none too gentle when I first woke up.  Everyone that came closer than ten feet got their minds rifled through fast enough teh’ leave nasty day-long headaches.  Meh’ first victim be the dwarf who had the crafting of me.  Feoryn got the image of a squat, aged dwarf with bushy white eyebrows and a beard that reached well below his waist.  His shoulders were powerful, arms thick as saplings, and hands so gnarled she was surprised he could be a smith at all.

     We think that old Arugal supplied Art with his crabby, irascible personality, whi—

     Oy!  I am NOT crabby!  Yeh old guttersnipe! 

     Oh?  I recall hearing Arugal say more than once that he should’ve tossed you back in the forge.  How did he put it…? ‘Grouchier than me own gran in midwinter.’  This started an argument that quickly degenerated into insults and name-calling.  It sounded like banter between old friends, often repeated, and had Feoryn biting her lip to keep from laughing aloud.

     Several minutes of this amused Feoryn, but she wanted to hear more.  She interrupted, asking for the rest of the tale, which Sam picked back up.

     At any rate, Art finally managed to have most of his questions answered, and the ritual to present the suits to the guardians was begun shortly after.  One of the magicks the mages put on the suits would key them to the bearers.  The ritual was long, complicated, and boring.  It was also rather pointless, seeing how all the lads and lasses needed to do was put them on.  But, all involved were fond of ceremony, and felt the occasion warranted it. 

     When it came to Art, he rejected the man chosen to lead the Vanguard. 
Artemius snorted at this.

     Greedy, that one was.  I’d have naught teh’ do with ‘im.  Oh, the fuss it caused!

     As I recall, Beraul was furious when you shrank the breastplate so it wouldn’t fit over his head,
Sam remarked.  This confused Feoryn, which he seemed to understand.  Yes, the suits were all spelled to conform to the people they bonded to.  Art has control of that, and used it rather mercilessly.

     Aye.  I told the wretch he’d sooner grow wings and fly than me put up with ‘im.  I’d taken what he knew of war long afore that.  He still tried anyway, the fool.
  She got the distinct impression that if Art could spit, he would have. 

     So you chose someone else – this Arrin you mentioned? she asked.

     Indeed he did.  Arrin was Beraul’s squire, and soon to be knighted and given his own junior command.  Poor kit, Art never even gave him the chance to decide.  After he couldn’t get the breastplate over Berual’s head, Art just ‘jumped’ on Arrin.  Tugged the lad over to the rest of the suit and made him put it on.  That was impressive when you consider how hard it is to put plate on unassisted.  The wizards maintaining the spell allowing Art to talk and act while incomplete were stunned – so much so that they forgot to end it when things didn’t go as planned.

     What happened then? 
Feoryn could hardly imagine how angry this Beraul had been.

     Beraul knighted him on the spot.  Then he stormed out of the ceremony and went home.  Sam sighed heavily.  The Council still felt he was a worthy leader, however much Art disagreed.  They made him a field marshal not long after, but he refused to work with the Silvers directly ever after.  He also never spoke to Arrin ever again.

     That
, Art interjected, was the only regret I had.  Beraul was Arrin’s uncle.  The lad did try, for a time, but Beraul never set his anger aside.  Feoryn could feel the sadness like it was her own.  There was surely more they could tell her, but it could wait until later.

*        *        *
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shandromand
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Socially Maladjusted Misanthrope


Re: Armanitas, Chapter One: A Convenient Awakening
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2006, 07:33:41 PM »

      After riding for what must have been an hour in total silence, Artemius’ warning made her jump.  Ware!  Armed men ahead.  It was probably too late to hide the light from her staff.  She rode ahead at the same pace for a few more minutes, and then torches flared just past her pool of light.  She was glad she hadn’t flinched.

      “Halt!  State your name and business!”  a gruff male voice shouted. 

      Feoryn reined in and held up her staff, which flared brighter.  Without thinking, she threw back the hood of her cloak and shouted back, “Commander Feoryn Khain, on Factol Council business!”  She was a bit surprised at the coldness of her own voice. 

      Feoryn could just make out three figures a dozen paces away.  Two looked like young men barely off their mothers’ apron strings, while the third had the appearance of a grizzled old man.  His beard was pepper-grey and his eyes flashed darkly from beneath his helm.  His cloak bore two golden knots and the House Gethsamene emblem.  A name leapt to mind with such stunning force she nearly recoiled.  Captain Keris.

      The Captain snapped his right fist up to his right breast in salute, “Commander!”  She briefly returned the salute.  “Your papers, if you would, Commander Khain?”  He said it more as a matter of course, rather than a request.  Feoryn dismounted and fished out her document.  She moved forward, and handed it to the captain.  The two soldiers stood at the ready while he read over the parchment.

      “Very well, Commander, everything appears to be in order.  Will you be staying for the remainder of the night?”  While the captain sounded very businesslike, there were unasked questions in his eyes.  He returned her parchment when he had re-rolled it.

      Feoryn decided to take a chance.  “I think not, Captain Keris.  My business is pressing, and the sooner I’ve finished it, the sooner I can get home.”  This seemed to satisfy the captain, who nodded once.  “I will, however, take the opportunity to re-supply.”

      Captain Keris nodded again.  “Very well, Commander, this way.”  He turned and walked to the way station.  “You two,” he said to the soldiers, who snapped to attention, “back to your posts.”  They saluted and returned to the darkness. 

      The station wasn’t much more than a small house with a four-story tower.  Feoryn started to tie Kerulias to a hitch post, which earned her a reproachful glare.  She felt as though she had insulted the magical steed, and draped the reins around the pommel of the saddle instead.  The horse blew out a rattling breath, approval, she supposed.  She turned and followed the captain inside.

      The room was probably the largest in the entire building, which held a fireplace with coals banked for the night.  Near the entrance was a desk - the captain’s first stop.  Removing his cloak and helm, he set them on pegs and held out his hand offering to take Feoryn’s as well.  She waved her hand and took a seat across from the desk, leaning her staff in the crook of her arm.

      Captain Keris eyed the glowing stone atop her staff warily as he pulled out a thick book and began writing in it.  “I don’t suppose you’d care to tell me what brings you out in the middle of nowhere this time of night, would you, Orry?”  The way he seemed familiar suggested that they knew one another somehow.  Trying not to let her nerves show, she answered him.

      “Sorry, Keris, not this time.  Sometimes even I’m left to wonder what I’m doing running around all hours of the night.”  At this, Keris snorted and rolled his eyes, jotted a few more lines and closed the book.

       “Huh.  Sounds like the usual Council huff and puff.  Not that it really matters up here, I suppose.  You look like hell, Feoryn.  You sure I can’t convince you to stay the night?”  She shook her head while he looked on. He shook his head also.  “Well, at least a hot tea and something to eat while I get your supplies then.” 

      Feoryn nodded her assent.  “Someplace to wash off the trail grime would be good too.” 

      Keris pointed to a door behind her.  “You can use my quarters for that.  The water’s gone cold, but I imagine that’ll do to wake you up some.”  He got up and went through another door as she made her way to his quarters.

      Good bluff yeh’ve got so far, little sparrow.  Let’s hope it lasts.

     I don’t know, Art, it smells fishy to me.  You wake up not knowing who you are, and the first person you run into is someone you know? 

     Yeah, mayhap ‘tis more than it seems teh’ be.  We’ll just have teh’ play it out fer now.  She found herself agreeing with both.

      When she opened the door, she wasn’t much surprised to see the room sparsely furnished.  There was a smaller fireplace here, a cot and bed table, writing desk and two chairs.  There was a small chest, as well as a washbasin with a mirror above it in one corner.  She made her way to it, pulling off the gauntlets as she went.

      As she approached the washbasin, she was startled by her appearance in the mirror.  She was a plain, dark-haired woman with brown eyes and a sharp nose.  What had her attention were the mottled scars crisscrossing her right temple and cheekbone.  They were an angry-white color, as if she had borne them for a long time.  Her hair had gone white by the scars, but she really couldn’t tell how old she might be - middle age was her best guess.  She supposed, if not for the scars, men might find her handsome.

      Feoryn began washing her hands and face.  The water was cold, as promised, and she dried off with a towel hanging from the side of the basin.  “What do you two think about all that?” she whispered.

      Orry??  This Captain Keris seems to be a friend of yours - the way he talks to you alone, Samchar answered.  How is it that you know him though?  Did you remember anything else besides his name?  Oh, and put your gauntlets back on - Artemius can’t talk when he’s in pieces.

      “Nothing at all, Sam,” she answered as she put the gauntlets back on.  “I’m not sure how I remember him, but I feel he’s trustworthy.”

      That’s a nasty bunch of scars yeh have.  Wonder how yeh got them…  Artemius broke in.  He’s a trustworthy one, all right:  He’ll do ‘is duty, but never betray a friend, that one.  I like ‘im, and it probably weren’t a bad idea if yeh were to talk to him a bit, before you go.  No point in bluffing friends. Be wary though, sparrow; it does seem too convenient teh’ me.

      A knock at the door interrupted their conversation.  After a moment, Keris stuck his head in.  “All set, if you’re ready to go, Orry.”  She shook her head and pointed at one of the chairs by the writing desk.  Keris squinted his eyes at her a moment, then let himself the rest of the way in.

      “Close the door, Keris.  Are we going to be interrupted for a bit?”

      A mischievous grin played across his face.  “Nah, daybreak is a couple of hours off.  We’ve been pulling ten hour watches up here - gives the lads an extra day to themselves that way.”  He took a seat at the desk while she unpinned her cloak and tossed it over the back of the other chair.  “Barmy, woman!  When did you start wearing heavy armor like that?” Keris said in shock.  “And since when in the hells do you use swords??”

      Feoryn sat down and looked at Keris for a minute.  Go on, girl, might as well.  If it gets ugly, we can take ‘im, Artemius assured her.

      “All right, Keris, I’ll spill, but I need your word that it stays with us in this room.”

      With no hesitation, Keris soberly answered, “My word on House Keris, oath upon my father’s blade, honor upon my mother’s wand, I, Tomas Keris shall speak no word of what I hear in these walls this night.” 

      Keris reached for a drawer on the writing desk and pulled out a small bag.  “Just to make sure nobody overhears us,” he said, shaking the bag suggestively.  Feoryn grunted and nodded.  He stood and walked to the door, and took a pinch of something from the bag.  Muttering a few words under his breath, he spread some kind of sand in front of the door. 

      Good, a Silence spell, Sam noted.  Not a bad idea, considering the circumstances.  Just because I somewhat trust this one doesn’t mean I trust any of those others.

      Keris walked back over and put the bag away, then sat back down.  He looked at once intent and concerned.

      “Tomas, I woke up several hours ago, not knowing who or where I was.”  Feoryn went on to explain about how she must have had some sort of head injury.  She paused, fingering the scars on her face, and Keris shook his head.

      “No, that was a long time ago.  Go on.”  Apparently Keris wanted to hear what she had to say before he said much himself.

      “Anyway,” she continued, “after a while, I managed to come around.  Then I saw this,” holding up one of her hands.  Then it talked to me.”  Feoryn thought she sounded fairly calm as she went on to explain those next moments.  Neither Artemius’ or Samchar’s name sounded familiar to Keris, so she finished up her story quickly.

      “Orry, that’s a lot to swallow in one shot.  I’m not saying that you’re lying or anything, but…  I don’t know what you’ve been up to for almost two years now, when we’ve stayed in touch every few months before then.  There hasn’t been anything in the monthly dispatches about you, and nobody from the Council or the Generals’ offices has come around looking or asking about you,” Keris paused.

      “I’d just assumed that the Council had you busy in the South or some such.  No idea where you’ve been or what you’ve been up to?”  Feoryn angrily shook her head.  “No matter for now.  Surgeons used to tell me those lads who took knocks to the head needed to remember on their own.  I always thought that was dung, so I’ll tell you somewhat about yourself.  Wait just a moment.”  Keris got up and went to his chest, where he opened it and produced a small leather flask.

      Coming back to his chair, he unscrewed the lid and took a long pull from it.  He offered her the flask, which she took.  Feoryn sniffed it, smelling some kind of brandy.  She decided that a little probably wouldn’t hurt.  A warm peach flavor rolled down her throat and settled nicely into her stomach.  She screwed the cap back on and set the flask on the desk.

      “We met at the academy about 18 years ago.  I’ve never heard where you came from, which is about par for most first-years.  What I do know about you before you joined was this; even then you had special dispensation from the Council to work sorcery.

      “See, in this day and age, sorcerers are still little more than second-class citizens.  That’s more, so they say, because they’re an unpredictable lot.  Its better than it was fifty years ago - used to be sorcerers had their abilities burned out of them, or they were killed outright.  Now that the Council has control collars, it isn’t like it used to be.”

      I really don’t like how this is sounding, no more killing or not.  Samchar said.  Artemius grunted in agreement.

      “So during our first year, we both managed to get into a little trouble now and then, but you were all high marks in everything.  I guess I was just lucky being your friend.  Anyway, in our fourth year, the academy was pulled to quell a riot in the Jaedalan slave quarter - That’s the capital city.”

      Slaves?? I become less pleased with this as we listen further.  Samchar was beginning to sound angry.  Feoryn wasn’t exactly pleased either - the idea of slavery seemed wrong to her.

      “The whole thing got started because some little nobleman’s brat took offense to an elf-girl.  The boy’s manservant beat the girl to death in front of dozens of slaves.  You can imagine what that must have been like, even if you can’t remember it.”

      “The riot started right away, killing the boy and his groom, and it just got carried away after that.  The Council decided to use the academy instead of the militia regulars, so it was up to us to do the quelling.  We thought it would be a simple matter of show of force, maybe a little fighting.

      “Sadly, the instructors had other ideas.  You see, the academy doesn’t want docile, order-following soldiers - they wanted bloodthirsty monsters.  They proved it that day, too.  I remember it like yesterday, Orry.  We were under Marshal Durchen, forty of us.

      “It started off about like we thought it would, early that afternoon.  There were some skirmishes with elves who'd had made weapons with pitchforks and tree branches.  They were trying to kill us, and I don’t think any of us were wrong to defend ourselves.  The slaves didn’t stand a chance though - we were mopping them up in less than an hour. 

      “The worst came after we had captured the rabble.  We had them all penned up in a public square at the edge of the elf quarter.  Marshal Durchen pulled out a boy who couldn’t have been more than fifteen.  Tied him up and whipped him with a bullwhip, he did.  Then he made some of the cadets do it.  Some of them did it because they liked it; others because they were afraid of what would happen if they didn’t. 

      “Then it was your turn.  When he pointed at you, you just stood there and said no.  You didn’t call him sir or anything remotely sounding respectful.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of you as I was that day.  Called you a coward, he did, and you shot right back calling him the coward to beat a defenseless child, and then have others do his dirty work for him.  After that, well you called him every filthy name I’d ever heard, and a few I hadn’t.  Set the Marshal off, it did, he got so frying mad.

      Keris’ face took on a dark look of smoldering anger.  “Durchen dragged you out of formation, and made a speech about disrespect and slave-sympathizing.  The he beat you, and you stood there and took it.  Not one word or cry out of you, and he just kept beating you.  Later on, you told me it was better you than the slave, because you could at least defend yourself.

      “After he pounded on you for a few minutes, you apparently had enough of it.  Surprised him in mid-swing, you did, broke his leg at the knee.  Four of the cadets jumped you then.  Bad ‘uns, that lot - they had more fun that day than anyone else.  They fair beat you senseless before we could stop them, and somehow or other the Marshal got knocked out too. 

      “That was an ugly brawl, seeing how it was about half and half mixed up against one another.  Before we knew it though, some of the elves had jumped in and seemed to know which ones were good and bad. 

      Keris paused and took another drink from the flask.  “After it all settled down again, we had the elves clear out, and we chuffed off to the Academy.  Turns out that the boy the Marshal had singled out was a woodshaper.  How he missed it is still beyond me, the tattoo was plain as day.

      “What in the world is a woodshaper?” Feoryn asked.  Tomas stared at her a moment as if he couldn’t believe she even asked him.

      “Elves have a gift for shaping living wood into virtually anything.  Chairs, tables, harps, weapons…  You name it, and they can probably do it.  I always thought it was a bunch of nonsense until I saw it for myself.  You don’t see much of it unless it’s at some fancy lord’s or lady’s home, or at court.  A table and chairs for four costs more than I earn in a year.”  Keris shook his head.  “You really must have taken quite a ring to your bell, Orry.”

      “Back to the story then, you were out of it for almost a week in chirurgery.  While you were out, there were lots of hard questions to answer, but as soon as your name was mentioned, in comes half the Council.  Even the First was there, and snapping mad she was.  She heard what everyone had to say under truth spell, and then she turned scary-quiet. 

      “The next day, everyone was called out to the Quad.  The elf-boy that got the beatings was there, next to the First and the rest of the Factols.  Marshal Durchen and the four cadets who jumped you were up front too.  Durchen’s leg was still broken, and the First made her announcements in a shivery cold voice.

      “She said that the Factol Council had unanimously voted to allow Magocracy slaves earn the opportunity to purchase their freedom.  Then she told the elf-boy that he could have his freedom if he did a few things.  She made him spit in Durchen’s face, and whip the four boys.  I think she magicked his strength for that - he drew blood from the start. 

      “She put some sort of bracelet on the elf boy when he’d finished.  Said it was enchanted to not come off without her say-so, and gave him special status.  Once he finished so many years as a woodshaper, he was free to go. 
 
     “Anyway, after she finished with the boy, she lit into the Marshal and the cadets about discipline and honor.”  Keris paused, and grabbed the flask again.  “The last time I told you what happened, I just left it that the five of them got their licks with Durchen turned out.  I think you’re far enough on now to hear how it really went.” 

      Keris took a long drink from the flask and offered it to her again.  Sensing that this was a good idea, Feoryn followed suit.  She might not be able to remember any of it, but she could easily picture it.  All of it disgusted her, even moving the elf-boy up a peg or two.  It all felt… slimy to her.

      “The First pronounced Marshal Durchen unfit for duty, and stripped him of all his lands and titles.  Then…” Keris closed his eyes and sighed.  He paused for a moment before he continued.  “She broke his good leg with her bare hands and Compelled him to crawl out of the Academy.”  Keris shuddered.  “I can still hear his screams…” he trailed off.

      Feoryn took another drink of brandy and handed it to Keris.  “I’m almost afraid to ask what she did to the four cadets.  Is that the kind of people we serve?”

      Bloody well better not be doing like they are, that’s for sure - Artemius sounded outraged. 

     What year is it?

      “Samchar wants to know what year it is.  I don’t know,” Feoryn said.

      Keris blinked and tried not to look incredulous.  “Ah, its 933:  The calendar was changed when the Magocracy took control.  They say the First has cheated death for a lot longer than that.”

      Well isn’t that just wonderful? Artemius asked, sarcastically.  After all that effort we all put into it, and we lost the war anyway!  Hasn’t anyone fought back since then?  What about the churches?

      Feoryn asked Artemius’ questions aloud.  “Hmph,” Keris grunted.  “Supposedly there’s been a resistance movement for the last couple of decades.  Mostly it’s been raids and skirmishes, and a few disappearances every so often.  The Council and the Adjutant’s Office haven’t been able to catch anyone high-ranking.  The churches haven’t had a deity talk to them in centuries - not since the gods sacrificed themselves to reinforce the Godshield.  The Council won’t let them gather in large numbers, just the same.”
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Re: Armanitas, Chapter One: A Convenient Awakening
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2006, 07:34:08 PM »

      “What do you suppose, Orry?  Did any of that jog your memory?” Keris asked.  Feoryn shook her head.  “Well, I suppose the last of it won’t help, but you should hear it before we move on.

      “What the First did to the four cadets wasn’t as bad; just a dismissal after they took their licks.  When they let you out of chirurgery, you were decorated with Honors.  That always seemed a little odd to you, but I never paid it any mind.  When we both got alone again, we swore an oath to never abuse whatever power we might come into. 

      “I think it’s safe to say that you don’t have a choice now,” Keris indicated the arms and armor she now wore.  “You went on to a field commission of Lieutenant and shot through the ranks.  I stopped at Captain because I don’t have much in the way of magical ability.  Now, here you are, a Commander, second only to Generals and Marshals.  Last I saw of you Major was your rank.” Keris paused for a moment.  “Not only are you now a commander, but apparently a greatly trusted one, at that.  I doubt anyone has a set of papers like the ones you're carrying.”

      “Tomas, I’m not so sure I’ve been up to any good the last few years,” Feoryn replied.  “I just don’t recall.  To be honest, I’m glad to have found an unexpected friend out here.”

      Keris stood up and went back to his chest again.  After a moment, Feoryn realized he was packing clothing and his other possessions into saddlebags.

      “And just what do you think you’re doing, Captain?” she said quietly, but hoping that she was reading his intentions right.  “Do you plan to abandon your post for a… friend?”

      Keris glanced around with a grin.  “I’m not doing anything of the sort, ma’am.  I anticipate that the Commander will be enlisting my service, and giving my lieutenant command until such time as I return to post.”

      Feoryn grinned for the first time since she woke up.  “Second-guessing a superior officer, are you?  I bet there’s a punishment for that,” she chuckled.

      “Yeah, I get to eat your lousy cooking,” Keris laughed.  She joined his good humor for a moment with a laugh of her own.

      You’ve got a nice giggle there, girl, Artemius said. 

      Yes, and I’ll bet Tomas isn’t kidding about her cooking either.  Samchar sounded amused for the first time.

      Feoryn sobered for a moment, “Is my cooking that bad, Tomas?”

      “Absolutely wretched, Orry,” he answered, mock disgust on his face.  “I’ve watched you burn water.”  He handed her a few gold braids.  “Just give me a minute while I go wake Lieutenant Fyenn.  You know what to do, right?”  She nodded. 

      “Should I have him ask for a replacement captain?” she asked.

      “Nah,” he answered with a wave of his hand.  “He’s been under me for the last couple of years up here at the arse end of nowhere.  He deserves a chance at his own command, and he can get another grunt from one of the camps down the road.”  Keris slung his saddlebags over one shoulder and went out the door. 

      Feoryn took her staff and cloak, and followed Keris out to the main room.  She stood behind the desk and pulled out her orders while Keris disappeared into the other doorway.  The desk held another set of saddlebags with what she guessed was food. 

      A few moments later, Keris returned with a sleepy-eyed blond man in his late twenties.  She straightened and put on her best official-looking face.  The lieutenant snapped a fist up in salute, and Feoryn returned it.

      “Lieutenant Fyenn, I presume?”  She waited.

      “Yes, Commander.  How may I serve?”  Feoryn handed him her orders and told him to read them.  When he handed the parchment back, she continued.

      “I’m taking your captain into my service for an indefinite period of time.  On his recommendation, I’m promoting you to the rank of Captain and giving you command of this post.”  Feoryn handed the new captain his braids.  “You are to requisition a junior officer from one of the camps and include a status update when your next dispatch arrives, understood?”

      “Perfectly, Commander.  Thank you, ma’am,” Fyenn replied.  He looked a little dumbstruck, but otherwise held his composure. 

      “Congratulations, Captain.  I’m sure you’ll do well with your first command,” Feoryn said.  “Now go ready your former captain’s mount while I make a note in the watch log.”

      “As you order, Commander!”  Fyenn saluted again and went outside.  Feoryn sat at the desk and opened the logbook.

      “Not bad for someone who can’t remember anything,” Keris muttered.  “Here, use the other pen,” he said, opening a drawer in the desk.  He pointed at a red-feathered quill.  “That’s for official orders and whatnot.  Just put something like what you told Fyenn under my last entry - copy the date, and then let’s get the hells out of here.

      Feoryn wrote down her entry and closed the book.  She put her cloak on, took her staff in one hand, saddlebags in the other, and went out the front door.  Kerulias hadn't moved a single step; she tied her saddlebags on and mounted.  A few minutes later, Fyenn came around with a sturdy looking black.  He shook hands with Keris and said a few words as he handed over the black’s reins.  Then he faced her and saluted again,

      “Commander.”

      “Carry on, Captain,” she saluted back.

      “As you order, Commander!”  Fyenn turned and walked back into the station.

      Feoryn noticed that it was getting light outside, so she put her staff back into the magic bag.  Keris mounted and the set out, following the road around the corner of the building and northward. 

      They rode on in silence for a while, presumably until they were out of earshot.  Feoryn gave her new companion the thumbnail sketch of the plan Samchar and Artemius had come up with.  At the mention of dwarves, Keris went a little green around the edges.

      “Orry, not only did you lose your memory, but you’ve been robbed of your good sense as well.  Do any you have the slightest clue what the Clans do to outsiders, let alone two Geth officers?”  Keris looked positively ill at the prospect.

      “No, I haven’t the faintest,” Feoryn replied hesitantly. “I’ll bet these two don’t either.  Should we be worried?”  Suddenly, she felt less confident about this idea.  It didn’t help that Keris had gone pale and thin-lipped.

      Finally, Keris regained enough composure to speak.  “You know, I don’t think the Clans would react quite so badly if the Magocracy held to the old ways.  Instead they made slaves of the dwarves.”  Feoryn could hardly believe her ears - dwarves too?  “You see, dwarves might have accepted this as a matter of course - treating it like their brethren were prisoners of war. 

     “Back then, those captured in battle were to serve a day and a year, then return to their own lands if they wished.  The war’s been over for generations, and most of the dwarves we… the ones still captive are the original ones from the war.  That isn’t even the worst - what insults them the most is the fact most of the slaves aren’t allowed a single lock of hair or whisker anywhere on their heads.”  He shook his head in disgust.

     “They hate us almost as much as they hate orcken, and I don’t blame them one bit.”  Keris’ tone was unreadable, and he said nothing more as they rode toward the mountains.

      Do you think the dwarves will recognize us, Sam?  Artemius sounded doubtful.

      Let's hope so.  Feoryn silently echoed her companions.
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shandromand
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Re: Armanitas, Chapter One: A Convenient Awakening
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2006, 12:12:01 AM »

Is this a case of tl;dr?
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Nephtys
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Re: Armanitas, Chapter One: A Convenient Awakening
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2006, 02:25:32 PM »

Whoa, this is quite a lot to read... Cheesy Didn't read all of it, only the first two posts, but it sounds interesting so far. Actually, I like it. While reading nothing really caught my attention - as far as criticism is concerned, I mean. Is this the result of many previous drafts? I'm asking because it looks quite polished to me already.
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Re: Armanitas, Chapter One: A Convenient Awakening
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2006, 12:50:57 AM »

Yes, this chapter has quite been through the wringer.  At this rate I'll be ready to publish by the time I'm 80. 
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Re: Armanitas, Chapter One: A Convenient Awakening
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2006, 05:13:46 AM »

Well, putting prose "through the wringer" as you put it, is in fact always a good idea. Nobody can expect to sit down and write good prose in one single go. Polishing, working and reworking passages, is the essence of creative writing. Or at least, that's what I've been taught, and also what I've found to be quite accurate in my own experience.
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Re: Armanitas, Chapter One: A Convenient Awakening
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2006, 05:35:22 PM »

this should be in stories & scripts..Smiley
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Re: Armanitas, Chapter One: A Convenient Awakening
« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2006, 07:29:09 PM »

Oops, my bad. Thanks for pointing it out, mouse.

EDIT: And here we are.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2006, 07:34:40 PM by Nephtys » Logged

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Re: Armanitas, Chapter One: A Convenient Awakening
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2006, 06:52:51 PM »

no prob Smiley
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