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"I," announced the older woman, "am going to go tend to Mr Octopus and maybe put some soup on. I assume you're inviting yourself, metalman."

She bustled off before he could answer, but not before he got a glimpse of Markath's quarry and the subject of his own very tenuous, ambiguous, not entirely confirmed or legal dealing. It stared at him from the water. He had little compunction about staring back, and with a very great deal of curiosity.

Its half lidded eyes, apparently by nature rather than mood inclination, at first seemed to be utterly black, like in tone to coal or those of a doll; but on better inspection, the limpid orbs had the aural rainbow patterns of oil on the water and sparkling more fiercely than melting snow on a sunny spring morning, surrounded by darkness like that of its ink. They were strikingly beautiful in a truly bizarre manner. Which could just as easily describe many of the octopus' other features, in truth.

Its head was a rather deep maroon, but the tones faded outside the initial bulbous mass into a warm series of crimson and orange tones that were tipped, oddly, with bright cyan tones along the creature's length. Rather than separate massive tendrils, as he had at first expected from the story he had been told, it seemed to have a sort of skirt about its body made of interwoven ones in a rather fetching skein. Its actual limbs didn't appear from under the deceiving shroud until it had looked away, but when they did, he knew entirely well that Markath had not exaggerated.

The tentacle that waved at him, whether in greeting or threat he could not quite tell, was quite as thick as his torso, and he knew without the slightest doubt that he would never be able to kill such a thing on his own without divine assistance. Then it slipped back under the waters and trailed deeper into the grottoes after the woman. Its alien movements, foreign and fantastically coordinated, kept him from questioning after its voice until it was far out of what he assumed earshot to be.  

Myles had not had any hint it would be so big in here when he offered to scout.

Not entirely eager to head out into the night winds again without a decent torch or cloak, particularly after the strange warmth and homeliness of this 'Mr Octopus' grotto, he paused on the threshold to try to eke more answers out of the one the older voice had called 'the girl'. In his defense, he thought, it was sure to sleet out there soon, and the band was safely ensconced in a farmstead, whereas he would be suffering in the weather if he did return to them. And he was not expected back for a good time of scouting- which, if his deal with the pair carried through, would not be required after all. But even so. So, he started up with, "You must be well traveled-"

"Must we?" came the almost now expected sardonic answer without explanation from the shrouded figure that had remained, her arms folding in the robes. The young voice had more of a snarl to it than he had at first placed now. It sent a shiver unrelated to the weather or their behavior down his spine. "Curious."

"More traveled than a squire at an abbey in a northland island at any rate," he amended, and the response this time was an odd sort of chortling before she extended enough mercy to put her humor into words.

"One would certainly have to be. Do you bleed green, Eustace?" she asked mildly, and he felt a twinge of injured pride before reminding himself sternly of his beliefs and the dictates of his religious inclination. There was not to be pride of the self. The stopgap between this and registering that she'd called him the wrong name was quite enough time for the previously lounging and relaxed individual in question to make it all the way across the room to hover uncomfortably close over him in a way that made his hair stand on end.

He could feel warm breath with very strange aftertones on his skin. The smell was not... welcome. Fetid, more than it should have been, if initially sweet. Like a field of vanilla and poppies, but with raw meat savaged out uncleanly and dumped amid the blossoms.

"Why Eustace? That's not my name," he braved despite increasing terror and the urge to crawl back away on his hands and knees from her, "though what is yours?"

"Eustace is because you didn't give me your name," she replied primly and flicked his nose in an overly familiar way that stung a great deal, and then laughed away again after adding, "because, it rhymes with 'Useless' so well."

"My name is Moran," he began. His armor did nothing against her reaction. Nor did his training. It did at least anger him enough to stop quivering, though the urge to lash back at her did not do him any credit in his own opinion. Myles juggled the idea of throwing his axe into her face and running to his Order again to slay the octopus and, later, if God reallllly demanded it, plead for clemency and forgiveness (though the angry young man imagined the Father would surely understand)- but, with so much to gain and the immediate shame at even thinking such things, even of possible witches, he stayed still and tried not to react, instead.

"MORON?!" she screeched ecstatically, throwing up her hands and all but beginning to jig for all the excitable movement she generated, and he instantly knew the taste of regret all that much better. "Oh that's ever so much better, young master moron! Aahaahahahaaa, hehhaaa, it explains so much!"

"Moe-rahn, not moor-on," he tried, but the laughter just got louder before stilling into appeased quiet. "Fair trade time. What is yours, ink smuggler?"

"Smuggler? This is a legitimate job for the southlands, you git," she answered in entirely serious and possibly actually honest tones. "Mr Octopus is a willing citizen. He can't pay taxes in the same way as other folks, so he does what he can, and his friends are happy to help him."

"We're not in the southlands. We're not even on the mainland at all," Moran returned, and gestured to her garb. "Then there's the disguises and all of that... -and your refusal to give any straight information at all..."

There came a scoffing noise and low growl before she went on an exceedingly long rant that blistered the stone and rung in his ears long after she was done, for paragraph on paragraph onward.

"The disguises are because the mother likes her dramatic entrances and it helps me to blend in a good bit more often than not. The information, well, you may go lick a frozen pipe for all the good being a snarling child that thinks yelping and yowling will get him treats will do you, little boy.

"Think about this from my perspective, would you? Here comes an armored stranger, just when you find another one a lot like him dead, and someone you know to be a good fellow hiding out of sight and sobbing in fear in a corner in his -own home- that he had no choice and they tried to hurt him. This stranger is also trying to kill your friend, for very basic financial causes, doesn't even think of him as a person while he's intending to gut him and rip out what he wants from his hide. He only agrees to so much as think about the possibility of doing something else for what amounts to a bribe! Being let in on what the poor tentacle-inclined fellow already does.

"You tell me if you'd want to be chummy if it was a girl of yours and some yellow fellow in a witchy hat was trying to take her heart or something. Or if the likes of a monster was chewing at their guts. Go on! Go on, tell me," she burst out, and he would have conceded the point if her breath hadn't knocked him flat and she wasn't rather larger than she had been moments before.

A finger quite the breadth of his head batted his face to look one way and then the other as the fumes of its breath sapped the energy from his limbs and continued in hard words. "If you must know, I know all about your sorts' knightly antics, that antique little order religious business of yours, all kinds of rumors and all kinds of secrets. Matter of fact, here's one you don't know! You lot are squatting in my summer castle. Two? The mother is an exorcist, you stupid lackstrip yellowbelly. And three for generosity's sake? I was the local ogre before I got made into a tax collector.

"I am Ghirma."

"... do you mean ogress?" he tried to process all of this weakly, and the figure once again seemed to take it with some amusement, snorting. Enough to stop seeming in danger of goring him on those very large and cruel looking nails and the horns on its barely visible massive head. Down dwindled Ghirma and put the rags, now torn, over itself once more, but not before the grayish purple skin and the green highlights had forever embedded themselves in his memory.

Myles Moran was increasingly glad that he had not tried violence as a first solution even as the fear sweat in his smallclothes lent him greater shame that it had been a contemplated one.

"Oh, my, I'll have to tell the mother that she's a humaness. That should be worth getting a face out of her. Hehhhhh.... No, boy, I'm not an ogress. That's a term you lot use to make other people less than you, for distinctions and for downplay. I am a female ogre. Hell, some might even call me an ogre woman!" Ghirma chortled, and spun around at the somewhat human height she'd been when he had first met the pair. "Although some call me a girl instead, who I will not mention politely to company, whether the company is polite or not!"

"Why did you only threaten me with a dagger if you are an ogre? I would expect you to be eating my spleen by now," the squire asked rather more meekly, and she bristled before slapping his face. It stung, if not nearly so much as her true form's talons would have. Given it would have shaved skin from bones and probably pulverized the latter, and all of that.

"How dare you!" she sniffled, and growled in a manner that made his helmet fall off and the leather of his under-chain armor shrivel tightly about him. "How dare you even suggest it? I'll have you know I only eat up pretty people, moron, and you definitely don't qualify. Haven't you ever heard the phrase 'you are what you eat'? Stupid little mugger, coming in here and making demands and pretending he's worth breakfast..."

Moran had been raised to work with a chaste mindset and had never had cause to evaluate his appearance's worth in any such regard, but it was fairly odd hearing her rant anyway. He was rapidly learning that she was very long winded. Very, long, winded.

"You're too pale, moron," she paced around him, poking at will. Knowing what she was, this was less annoying by far, now. So much better than teeth. "Go off to Ancet or Bigal, hell, all the way down to Nam or Heliopolis, get some damn sun in your skin, maybe you'd go decently with eggs. Get some real beard instead of these scraggly sand colored little sad strips," and she looked half ready to rip one out, though his hand inching toward his own axe appeared to dissuade more physical abuse for now, thankfully.

"The gray eyes are nice, but trim those eyebrows better. There's no helping the nose, I'm afraid, it's entirely too short and broad for those cheekbones. The mouth is too chapped and dry, I daresay you're missing... two teeth, is it, on the left side? And you're entirely devoid of anything fun to hold onto, skinnyboy. How you intend to fight in those long battles of yours without any meat for oxygen is beyond me, but I don't do bones by themselves, it's no kind of treat at all.

"You might be alright as a rangy sort if you had a different profession," she admitted finally, with an unsettling clack of teeth, "if, and I do mean if, you had more years on you and better experiences, but you're a pretty pisspoor baby knight, Moran. I don't think I'd be the only one declining your spleen politely. Mmmmnh... I've probably had worse. Maybe. If we scarred up a dramatic mark here, maybe broke that nose just a bit here to be striking instead of disfiguring, yeah, you might have a shot-"

"I would rather not be eaten, thank you all the same," he breathed shakily, and she gave a lopsided grin that he could see quite well as she lowered the hood.

"I suppose if I'm being honest that most Ogres would eat you for the hell of it," she shrugged to herself and stuck her tongue out. "The grosser and messier, the better, too. Your bones for bread and your guts for garters, eyeballs in the stew and your face ground on cheese as they squeezed the pulp out of your arm and fried it with banana rind... heh. Why waste the skull? Could make headcheese out of it to go with it. We're practical sorts."

"But I am trying for more classy standards than the lummoxes that knock over castles with their crossbows and make candles from their earwax, thank you -very- much. I happen to like being on the right side of the law. You can save slug dinners and chewing squeaky, inquisitive little boys in metal to the green oafs on the other side of the archipelago," she finished, and tapped her nose with a kerchief.

Her diet appeared not to be lying to her insofar as far as the 'are what eat' portions were concerned. The Ogre's human form was very fair, herself, even if the creature's behavior and demeanor weren't. Although- admission of being a maneating monster aside, which, in a strange and confoundingly confusing way, really seemed like it should be a bigger issue than she was making of it and something someone like him would normally be trying to smite her for- from her perspective, she really was being entirely more than fair as regards the entirety of the situation. Where to distinguish myth from reality was going to be difficult if these things constituted people, real people, one had to interact with, here.

The brunette looked very much human, smelled it in a way he hadn't been quite aware of in more innocent yesterdays, moved like it. She palmed and showed the dagger again as he imagined a lady might, though he hadn't worked with enough Sisters in the order to know well. Her own features seemed the sort that might go on a statue in an attempt to preserve them to the everlasting, though it would probably be a vain effort, and her rather large brown eyes were laughing quite as constantly as her mouth when she wasn't on a venting rage.

She might well have been a great beauty if she hadn't had more muscle tone than one generally expected from a social creature and somewhat alarming teeth of her own, sharp in one moment, and like great grindstones in the next. Too large for the mouth or head containing them, really.

Ghira sat and the robes indicated that the tax collector was crossing her legs. "Well then. We've got that out of the way, moron. What'd you want to know about the news, now?"

Setting his axe on his lap in easy reach and placing himself out of the same as regards to her, Myles Moran asked, "Anything. I don't hear much out here. No one does..."

"Where to begin?" she asked herself, then clapped her hands. "Well, firstly, world news, I suppose. Yagren Njuilchao got maimed and almost executed recently. The World Gov- you'd know them as the ones that run the mainland and a lot of the islands south of its northmost shores, I expect- hired Tiberius Morstrife to take him in despite the bounties on that merc's head. So he and an unknown elfy type go in alone, against the Slayer and Slaver himself, and they actually pull it off. The man who Breaks was struck down after a long battle and they took his arm clean off before dragging him back in chains."

Unfamiliar with the articles of her report, he frowned at her apparent expectation that he -should- know, and opened up his mouth to ask. "Who is this man that was almost executed again, and why did you say it like that? Is there anything special about this .... mercenary? Is that what merc means? Or did you say murk?"

"Yagren. You don't know Yagren? You live up here, and you don't know- Yaag like stag, ren like yin? Oh, sweet Sargon, if I have to explain every name in the headlines we're going to be here for days. Everyone knows these things. What do they teach you about the world you live in at that cloister, anyway?" she responded, and shook her head. "Nevermind. If you don't know about threats like that it can't be worth knowing. Poor, poor moron. No wonder Captain Redscales has your Order of Lazarus up in Huukleburgh besieged."

The words he did take significance from made this an entirely more dramatic and world shifting announcement than the previous one she'd clearly cared about more. "WHAT?"

"Oh, you didn't hear? That pirate bard that manipulates nations and plunders cities is at your door just across the big water from here," Ghira answered, and took a swig of a drink. "It's a bad time to be a WorldGov tax collector up here trying to make an honest living. So far there haven't actually been any casualties, but that's because the damn dragon's been converting all the militia and reinforcements that come out to play with his armada over to his side with sweet words and honeyed spellcraft. Musics of the mind and all that malarky. From the knights, though, he demanded a surrender, a ransom, or a wholesale slaughter. Apparently he was going to leave it at the first two options but took offense when a priest began lecturing him on morality. So, he says, to be fair, they need time to get something valuable to him, and he lets out trios of knights in every direction to the wind. Because, and I quote, as I heard it, 'It makes it a better story that way, do you not think, my dear ladies and gentlemen?' Frankly, he's quite as bad as Yagren and vice versa, but they're two different shades of nasty."

"B- but," he tried to process, and recalled that Markath had only discussed the ink's value to religious institutions and places of the mind, not actually claimed that his Order meant to keep it. A spellcasting bard with as much power as she implied would surely need quite a lot of the stuff to work scoresheets with. Which meant that if he spared Mr Octopus for being a person, he might just condemn his Brothers and Sisters in the other Order to death. "Why?"

"Why? Why anything, really. Why did the Jarl of Draam Harbor way up north even from here send an Vikingar fleet against the WorldGov again? Some people say it was to let Yagren escape in the confusion again because of old favors and shared kin. Some say it was to try to take the north shores of the mainland herself. Some say it was something Razaan doctored to get both big powers out of his way while he did this,  and I wouldn't put it past the lizard to let his enemies kill themselves for him.

"Whatever the reason, the Jarl did send that fleet, and a lot of good folk in the WorldGov Fifth Fleet died because of repelling it. Very, very recently. If it weren't for the war golem prototypes our Navy has been developing, the Rangers even say that a band of those Norsemen might have gotten back alive with plunder after a foray they made into the continent. Fortunately, almost all hands were lost, and their ships are all scrap in the yards now.

"There were survivors we couldn't track... but there's only two of them, viking or not, they say. And the Jarl is definitely not one of them. It was a crushing blow to his people when they learned the outcome, and the other five are in Moot right now deciding who his successor is to be. He didn't leave any family or heirs. It seems he fully expected to be alive laughing at the ramparts of Fort Toleran by now, not float headless in the muck."

He found it very hard to share her pleasure at this concept. In part because of the tragedy and scale, in part because he was still reeling from the news of assault on church lands, in part because now he had no idea what he was going to do, and in part because he knew nothing about any of the players in this bizarre political conflict.

She went on talking, oblivious to the fact he was barely registering the new words for the old ones. "Moneio repelled an attack by savages recently, and apparently the cheerful young pair of women that popped up there house and all last year had a little one somehow. Local wizards are still trying to copy 'how' and 'why' without intruding too much. The Lady Gray's aegis is over the whole place, of course, but I get the feeling that she's particularly keen on keeping that little family safe.

"A young man named Maric has been hunting up and down the breadth of the entire Pangaea for his own missing girl, supposedly, working with anyone that will help. She went missing, then the temple she was apparently sequestered in went missing, then half his folks helping did too. It's a wonder he's not crazy.

"There was an alien landing in the Hjinn mountains just outside Yimmenfall, though they tried to cover that up as best they could. Supposedly the Malachai thing got its ship working again despite the Sky Elves' attempts to study it for the space program, and escaped with a local criminal known as the Revanent. Most people say it's just a story, but we know for sure there are other worlds, or people like you wouldn't keep turning up out of portals. That they could come out of the sky isn't too big a stretch after that.

"Emmateyr Trost started the rebuilding of Ancintine, after all these years. She's given her remaining funding from previous government grants for biological theory and applied sciences to the reconstruction, and her whole village is working with the Dwarves and whatall. I have no idea if the Norsemen are going to try to torch it midway to preserve the reputation, or if they'll get behind the idea, but the WorldGov doesn't like the thought of their pet Giant geneticist going off and possibly getting herself in trouble on a mercy mission.

"Khan Caetzyr put a whole city to the sword recently. Carved that poor guard Captain's face clean off when she was trying to give a hello. I don't think they're in the mood for diplomacy anymore."

She went on, but he passed out.

"-didn't do anythi-" droned a half heard voice in the darkness. "Not my-"
Northern Tales of Terra- #4- Reasons and Rumors
We will here tie together many subplots and declare a date at some twenty years prior ZFRP plotline, eighteen prior the first L stories posted, and current prior Rahat and affairs as such. 

Next time, there will be violence. 

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"The beast seized Gheris after his mighty stroke, and strangled at him as he hewed it with his shield, for his axe was still embedded in its thick and sucker-filled hide, and I could not pry it loose; where it touched, it affixed itself with such a will and strength that it crumpled the very plate about his face, and yet he did not scream. Then it smashed him first gainst the wall and then into the bottom of the pool, and he floundered in his heavy gear, and I dropped my own lance and tried to unlace his helm and drag him up- but I could not, and I had to void the cave, lest it kill me and no report return at all. The very last I heard of Gheris was the cracking of the bone below his drowning screams."

Myles, now almost a knight on his own merit if still technically a squire for the moment, peered around the table as the Knight of Lazarus bowed his head and made as to pray over his removed gauntlets on the table, only to begin to cry. "I am," the man continued when he could, "Ser Markath, of the Knights of Lazarus. I regret fleeing, I swear by all that I hold dear, I am no coward, but the thought of dying alone without a purpose- sweet lord, I could not do. I am not man enough to overcome the creature without aid. I doubt any man here would be. But I beseech you, assist me, bring back Gheris' body to mine own Order. At the very least his armor. It should rest in a place of honor, not the sewage of a monster."

"Ser Markath," an arborist for the fruit orchard began gently, "I am not certain with our own difficulties that we can spare the men. We have been repelling raiders all along the coasts on request. There aren't even proper officials to receive your petition at the moment."

"Ser Markath," Myles inquired less gently in a tone that made the weeping man look sharply at the armored adolescent, "what were you two doing in this cave? How did you come to fight this creature?"

"Your loss is unfortunate," an Arbalest, not at all akin to an Arborist but certainly as proficient.... if with a crossbow and not with trees... addressed around his own queries. "When we can we will ask about assisting. Why did you not go to your own Order about it, however?"

"Who are you?" Markath peered at Myles. "Will you help?"

"I am still a Squire, ser. I do not have leave to make decisions."

"Will -you- help?" the grown man asked the stripling once again, and a small fire burned behind his eyes. Markath's mustaches bristled as his face tightened after asking.

"Ser," Myles dared, "I will undertake this quest with you, but only if you will tell the why of things. You have been asked questions that you have not answered."

"Loss is a hard thing, and I hope my brother in the service of the True God will forgive it me that I took more time for thoughts of the dead than the living," Markath answered in what was, to Myles, actually a very even tone with all things considered, though a bit of an edge was there to be sure. "We sought to slay an octopus in a cave, some three steadings hence. It lay closer to your own lands than my own Order's, and I came here, rather than across the gulf again, to seek aid so his.... his body will not be desecrated more."

"An octopus? The small calamari that the locals fritter? They are harmless scuttering things, if a little unnerving at times. The suckers can be painful, to be sure, but..." the disbelieving youth gaped.

"This octopus stands as large as three bears on their hind, and broader than two carriages," Markath answered without any trace of hyperbole. Fear. But not exaggeration. "We meant to slay it on hearing of its bulk to harvest the immense amount of ink the creature must generate. I've no doubt your own abbey is well aware of how precious that material is to any work of the mind."

The arbolist looked from one to the other before fondling her trowel and sighing. "And instead it slew your own Ser Gheris. Tis pity. And a shame should we let it stand. Did not our  Lord give man dominion over beasts?"

Markath nodded piously before trying to describe an answer. "He certainly did. Though with that one we may well have need of many men to enact it. The creature's cave is filled of water, with few avenues to aim and hit it despite its girth from vantage points it cannot reach. We scouted that much first, and tried to bait it, moreover, out of there; but the thing is either damnably clever, or insufferably stubborn, for it fell for nothing. There were three in our party at first, not the two; Gheris, I know for certain fell in combat, but of Winston, I have heard no sign. He left to talk with merchants about the fish that these octopuses-"

"Octopi." Silence reigned for all of a moment before the arbolist coughed into her hand and motioned for him to continue after her interruption.

"Would prefer, in case we simply offered things it didn't care for. I expect if he lives he will be mortified at the very least. We should have waited," Markath intoned, and turned over his gauntlets over and over as if looking for a hidden message. A secret. It was only with a few moments of this odd behavior that Myles realized the man didn't know that he was doing it, that it was some manner of tic, probably a physical manifestation of the shock that must surely still be reeling and resounding through the older knight's core. Failing a battle brother was not an everyday occurrence, god be praised, but being unable to so much as return their corpse, especially in the order named for the corpse that walked and revived on the command of their messiah...

"It were for shame," Myles Moran agreed, "if we should fail you in this time."

Although no Knights were available to aid, Myles knew a group of fellow Squires with little to do but lessons and routine tasks around the abbey, and knew moreover most would leap at the feeling of adventure. At least until they got to the animal. He was able to quickly organize a posse and to beg some ponies from the stablemaster for a favor owed to him, and when they roused Markath to getting his face dried and his armor on, the arbalist offered her own services as well. "Provided it ever comes to a clear shot," she added dryly, her own opinion of the likelihood of that quite evident.

What Myles did not tell the man was that he and his intended to seize the creature themselves. They would return the body- of course they would, with full honors and respects- of Gheris, but the monster was on their island, and, as Markath had said himself, ink was invaluable. No doubt good faith and charity would see it to the other man's order anyway-a part at least- but not the whole or certainly the majority. The distance to drag it would be shorter and the home entirely more receptive than sailing a rotting carcass that size to Bulmak and the monastary of the Order of Lazarus.

Not entirely trusting that the grieving Ser Markath would have his wits about him in his state, young Myles took general directions and then scouted personally from the Steading Rolan, some two and a half from home. He would see this beast's lair for himself and, provided he was not himself caught up and killed, return to plan out strategy with the assorted group of twelve-and-one. They would do the farmstead a credit themselves with extra security, which in these hills riddled with caves, was itself a blessing enough to overlook the extra dinners that would have to be put out during their stay; fish and such were not the only dwellers in the deep dark dank burrows around, and more than once the knights had been called on to prevent them becoming barrows instead from some venturing soul gone into danger.

The risk of bandits had lessened in recent years, traded, some natives would say, for the increased risk of raiders with entirely different ideologies than their current self elected but usually welcomed protectors.

When not-quite-Ser Moran arrived at the cave, however, it was to find his way barred by a pair of women, one seeming to be young, one seeming to be old, both cowled and heavily cloaked. He would scarcely have taken them for female at all from the bulk of their attire if not for their shouts and the glimpse, however brief, of the condition of their faces. A torch was thrust almost into his arming cap itself and he stumbled backward with his hands up to display he held no weapons and meant no threat. It did not seem to ease their demeanor. The elder coughed warily, perhaps a bit wearily as well, teeth flashing in the smokey firelight. It failed to pierce even the cave entrance, but threw wild shadows into the ridge face and the smell of pine and ash smoke against his armor. "Who are you? What are you doing here?"

"I am a knight on an errand," he answered in even tones, because true names had power even if one was not a deity, and he did not know that this pair would not be the sort to call on them. Or other powers for that matter. If there was a more witch business than their apparel in a place with a terror lurking, the squire had yet to see it. Although he had yet to see much magic at all, to be entirely fair, and certainly had no idea what witches dressed or looked like. Like anyone, he assumed. "And yourselves?"

"I am here on business and the girl is here to prevent bad business," the elder woman, not an old woman, certainly not a crone, answered, and her teeth appeared again, with many more visible this time in a baring of the face that approximated a smile but more resembled a dog's threat. "Are you going to interrupt it, or be about your own?"

"Perhaps we share an enterprise," he suggested, unable to lock eyes with them and grateful for the visor on the arming helmet being down. "Is it what lies in there that concerns you?"

"That is no concern of yours," the woman, certainly with decades on him, answered back in some degree of challenge. "It will never be."

"Now hold, mother. If you'll both stop beating the poor bush to death with the roundabout, I have no real patience with dramatic little boys and cryptic ladies," the younger woman held her hands up, and tilted her head. He assumed. It was hard to tell in the half dark dim and the hood did not much reveal positioning well. He wasn't even entirely certain of their species any more than he was that they didn't merely sound like females. "We're here to harvest from a generous friend. Mister Octopus has always been good to us if we've been good to him. But he mentioned murderers in strange shells trying to break into his home and ravage him for no reason, recently."

"That would be you from where I'm viewing, metal man," the woman- her mother? Or her Mother, in the styling of an Order or cult or Coven?- slurred, and pointed with a long finger, one he wished were bonier in some ways to be more threatening and less accusatory, at where his face would be if it were visible. "You've an axe on you that's never touched to wood and a spear besides that ain't for hunting pig."

"Excuse me, madams, but you said he 'mentioned' it. How? You don't expect me to believe that you talk with animals, I trust," he replied, and tried to keep from lunging for his dagger. There were commandments against witchery and the hunting of it, but the distinctions on this strange world where magic seemed to be more common than candlewax were difficult to interpret at best. He didn't know for certain what they were as it was.

"No, no, no, Mister Octopus is a proper sort, a talking animal. You have heard of them, right? Have the same rights as humans, generally a wee smarter if you ask me?" the middling to older woman answered impatiently and stamped a foot. "He's been cowering in there for a week because of the attempts at murder, and we didn't hear a damn thing from the militia. We did find a fool man trying to raise a mob to kill a monster, but as soon as he said where, that man got a good dunking from the yokels."

"Locals, mother," corrected the younger woman.

"That's what I said, isn't it?" chuckled the older.

"I have... not... heard of talking animals or their rights. Are you putting me on?" the young man asked, suddenly entirely less certain of himself and his view on this affair. In the old world, man had been granted dominion, but who knew how that applied here? Especially if the animals had their own feelings on the matter? "Where is this 'Mr Octopus' now in there?"

"I'm not about to help you finish him when he's nursing such wounds. I know what you're here for. You're here to slaughter him same as the rotter in the water," the maybe or maybe not elder witch bit out very loudly, and a scraping noise like curious tentacles releasing rocks came from the cave path, alongside a massive splashing noise and burble. "If you intend to try, my girl is going to dissuade you while I get what we need."

"Hold a moment there. I don't believe I heard the whole story when I came here, but he killed a man. Whether it was self defense or not, I need the body and its equipment back," Myles negotiated, trying to figure out a better solution than earning the apparent anger of the villagers if the pair were to be believed about the reaction to Winston's effort. Especially one that didn't involve killing the strangers here. The Church did not need to lose their public sympathy, not with so many marching engagements going and their majority of military forces engaged elsewhere. "Perhaps we can talk about a way to get in on that ink milking and to achieve my goal without Mr Octopus coming to any risk."

"Perhaps," the younger answered, and extended a hand. "Perhaps. We don't much need money, but I hear the orchards are blooming well this year. Fruit and honey you can pay us with, and get ink the longer permanently as long as we're left alive and alone to our own devices, all of us. I don't believe Mister Octopus has ever had a honeycomb."

"If I find someone with authority to treat with you I will certainly forward your suggestions," the squire answered, a little more bravely, and shook her hand. She promptly flipped him onto his back and had a dagger in his neck seam before he could react with more than a ragged gasp, the blade's point tickling his windpipe uncomfortably between chain links. "Wh-"

"You will tell them, and they will listen. Or there will be more bodies to attend to. We are not gaming with our livelihood and our friends. Not now. Not ever. Do you understand me?" the weight on his armor asked breathily, and he nodded as best he could in his stunned state. "Good boy. Who's a good boy? You are!"

Quite as easily as she'd thrown him down, the obscured figure in the robes helped him back to his feet, showing no sign of discomfort with the lighting or the weight of his gear, and pushed him forward to the cave mouth. "Before you go," she continued in a confiding tone, "let me show you what we're defending, little man. You may understand a bit more of beauty in the world if you see Mister Octopuses' garden in the shade without a blade in your hand or blood in your mind."

And when he did, he could not understand so fully anymore why Gheris and Markath and Winston had not paused in their duty, despite the command to hold duty to his Lord first with all his heart and love and soul.

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-Making Example-

Early lessons had begun for the day when Moran noticed Master Gyles Thon the Third watching Master Johann Strong with an increasingly severe frown at the latter's interpretations of the subject matter. The knight was all but glaring at the scholar when they left verse again. The young man on the cusp of choosing could hardly believe the degree to which his superiors could disagree on the same simple religious content, but between three Orders and two religious institutions between them, they were at heads more often than the squire- squires, considering his brethren around him- would be entirely comfortable with.

Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim.

2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.

3 And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.

4 And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.

5 And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.

6 And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.

7 And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.

8 And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me.

9 If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us.

10 And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.

11 When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.

"But they needed a champion, and so humble David fought the giant, a defenseless babe that our Savior empowered, and-"

"For shame. Remit yourself to the castigation chamber until you are fit to recite lessons to the students properly, Johann. Let the flagellation restore your memory, and by all that is holy, do not soften the Word. It is to be their sword and their armor against the wickedness of the worlds; do not then dull it. Now, Friar Strong."

"I- yes, master Thon," the teacher murmured, and stepped out. Thon raised his hands and recited, "1st Samuel 17:34-37:

34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:

35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.

36 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.

37 David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee."

"David," he continued after, "was not defenseless by any means. By this point, children, he was already a trained guardsman and killer. He had already overcome large and deadly beasts in his daily life among Jesse's flock. The story of David and Goliath is not one of innocence meeting terror, but of faith, and skill, overcoming where all else failed. David did not drop Goliath with a single stone and hope alone- he took the giant's blade after stunning him, clove his head off, and then returned, intimidating the Philistine army."

"He refused Saul's armor, didn't he?" Moran asked somewhat tentatively, and was rewarded with a solemn nod instead of a shout. Gyles locked eyes with the young student and came perilously close to approval. For all of a second.

"He did indeed. He said he had not proved them; and he had not, yet, though he would eventually. Continuing on to the confrontation itself, however-"

"42 And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.

43 And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.

44 And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.

45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.

46 This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

47 And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands.

48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.

49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and felled him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.

51 Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. "

"What lesson you should take from this is simple: The Lord helps those who hold their faith, hone their skill, and help themselves. No man of Israel there, no matter how much a veteran or great his boasting, dared do more than cringe or whine at the heavens, save for David. David did not go to battle green, and did not go to battle with any illusion that his power was apart from god; apart from our god we are nothing. With him, and with the strength to kill, we stand a chance of destroying such monsters and magics as dwell about us. Israel is far gone and away; but let the anointed guide your way."

"David could lift Goliath's sword?" boggled Danse, next to Myles, and Gyles gave a crooked half smirk. "Blessed God on high. That's... goodness. A man like that would have proportionate weaponry, so-"

"It said so in the verse," Myles Moran answered quickly before the Master could grow irritated. "If the spear's head was six hundred shekels then it weighed fifteen pounds on its own, and the armor about a hundred and twenty five pounds with five thousand shekels. That's only the iron of the head, though. A weaver's rod would be enormous. The spear would probably weigh a good thirty seven pounds or so. If he did have a sword, even a short sword, to height, it might be closer to forty, fifty pounds, and likely more if it was built like our broadswords."

"When it is said that faith gives strength, do not take it for a euphemism," Gyles grinned away, old scars stretching the tissue around the lips that did so. "With as much as a mustard seed you will move mountains. Kingly feats are our expected norm in the service of the most High, but only when He calls for it. Never believe it's you that manages such things... or you will be lost."

The young Templar remembered Goliath's tale when he met his own first giant, a native, under very different circumstances, in many years to come, when he was older than Gyles was now.

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"Let us be honest with one another, friar. We have one soggy copy of our holy text between the hundred of us, no idea where we are, and only a few aging scribes' memory to suppose a new rendition off of. From what I recall, it never mentioned anything in particular about other physical worlds, either, only the dangers from the Prince of the Airs. God did not see fit to divulge about the Wood Between."

"Unless," Friar John answered the Master meekly but firmly, "He did. He spoke of parting the sea above and the seas below, and then making the land. He spoke of a Garden where lay the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which were forbidden man. Perhaps those were the pools with worlds and the great trees about them."

"The natives and their faiths-"

"The Vikingnar are no more native than we are! Those Norse have only been settled here longer. And even they are at a standstill explaining Yggdrasil having hundreds, maybe thousands of cousins with waters of worlds and possibly worlds in the roots and branches like their own faiths depict. The gods of this place are equally silent."

"There are no gods in or of this place, Friar," Master Thon rebuked. "There is only one God, and He is in His heaven, even if we are not in His world any longer."

"I misspoke, forgive me. Kyrie elision. There are powers and principalities of spiritual natures here in abundance, rather, that have not elected to enlighten those who migrated- or were stranded- such as ourselves. We will have to bring back the knowledge of them, if we ever return home, though we are commanded to spread the Word and drive out the heathen. It may be difficult to dispense of all the magic in these strange and unnatural demesnes, Grandmaster."

"Our first order of business is to rebuild our Orders, I should think. Recruit, and fill the rites and customs back to par, barring a way to bridge back home. Then, when we have enough, we resume the march. We have no Pope, nor Bishops, so we will have to look to our own ranks to supply them. We have no Knight-Elect or Grandmaster, so we must choose one from the Knight-Captains and Masters present. And we must learn the politics of this place, for our battles are not with men, as the Book says, but with the powers and principalities of this world. This world, now."

The time is two and a half centuries prior to events listed as 'current' in other works, and members of the Knight Hospitaller, Knights of the Band, Order of Saint Lazarus, Knights Dracule, Umberance Ordinate, and Knight Templar Orders have just plunged into the Northland shores of Terra of Perilious Alpha boots-first after a muddle through primordial spaces. They are not the first visitors to this world, nor the first bearing foreign gods, but they will be, as they often are, a surprisingly influential party in histories to come after their part in things. This is not truly their story, however.

Still, as they do bear a large role for some part of this tale, it is just as well that you know that from this humble beginning, the hundred knights religious founded six monastaries- one each, all over the islands about their place of landing- and populated two villages of their own in the years to come, and, with converts added, total three and a half thousand men and women at arms by the modern period. To safevouch against pride and protect their vows in case of ever returning to Earth, they permitted themselves only Cardinal as their highest rank, and that with great debate; many feared to appoint so much as a Bishop. None would dare to install themselves as Pope to this very day.

After the customs of the world in which they landed, 'Sir' was replaced with 'Ser', as women were equally applicable for military service, something of which the locals could not be dissuaded by the Europeans and which the men soon came to find to be fairly handy in its own right when they adjusted. Laymen and nurses, rather than clerics and priests, made up the majority of the personnel within the fortifications, while trained soldiers and clergy headed the efforts. The Knights and Paladins themselves were actually fairly rare as compared to those that supplemented and supported their efforts, despite the names.

For that matter, they, unlike the catholic church of their former demesnes, did not approve of symbology, considering it sacrilege against the Commandments and a form of graven idolatrous blaspheme; there were very few tokens made indeed, let alone statuary and worship windows, and only the emblems on their respective armors much depicts their scripture. Moreover, and truly, utterly curious to them, they refuse to teach the names of their God until such time as a student is fully knighted, and even then only one of three until the Knight has reached such a rank as paladin. There are members of the Orders Religious that do not even know who they serve at all beyond Mother Church and the title of the One God.

It took more than one surviving member gone off-world themselves elsewhere to realize that it was a variance of Christianity they were in, on encountering other articles and sects of it; most squires and below never so much as knew his name. It defended utterly against the use of it in vain. It also made their attempts at recruiting their neighboring natives that much more... complicated at times. Still, with ubiquitous titlenames instead of true ones, they still managed to convey many lessons, even some in the original formats; "The Lord", "The Father", "God Almighty", and such, rather than, perchance, the Ievhah or Jehovah or Yaweh/Yawveh or I|Am or, for the son, "The Son", "The Messiah", "The Redeemer", "The Carpenter" or "The Savior", rather than Jesu Cristo or Jesus Christ. Very few laymen of the abbeys knew more than such titles to call on in prayer or supplication, and that suited the teachers quite fine.

Whether there was more or less truth to their teachings because of their refusal to risk names in vain is as big a query, of course, as the validity of their teachings in the first place, particularly when seeing the motions and machinations of other foreign deities; but that is another affair entirely.
Northern Tales of Terra- #1- Arrivals
A different angle from the Masques. This is more a... abbreviated note than anything else. 
Things to do when time reacquired:

+Catch up on galleries viewed
++_Write out commissions {CW, Panda, Kiahl art trade, as soon as parameters recovered}
+++_Now that search function is a thing, reconsult AteMozzerala about notes
++++_Write out The Fall of the Apple's Glory again
+++++_Elucidate notes and rambles better
++++++_Tie up loose ends
+++++++_New focus characters
++++++++_Write out RP fragments from past endeavors as full stories
+++++++++_Write out It rains when you're gone: literally village story in head
++++++++++_Write out The Golem's Teeth Sparks When It Smiles (Because It Is Made Of Iron) And Other tales from head

+Write out comic illustration detailing for if money reacquired and good-willing partner's services retained:
-"Broken"- Yagren the Slaver
-"Yimmenfall Rising"- Elf woods early days (grounds eat people, elemental negotiation, spirit meddling, other fun things)
-"Lucky Meetings"- convert Rahat/H'astra story into graphic novel style for first encounter and see where it goes
-"Bloody Mercy"- Pay $$$$$$$$ like no one's business to eventually get all the Big Bar Brawls on alternate site done in glorious hi-def, but particularly #5

Say hello to people more often

/Maybe sub projects and characters
//Maybe some degree of poetry
///Fallout fanfic?
////Complete Topios' request at some year onward
Not that I expect most anyone will take notice or care, a few old dears aside. But this is the ugly mug. :U If you're petrified, I know it's working, and that's why those crickets are chirping. 

Also, Grey Wardens, because DA OBSESSION NEVER REALLY DIES

  • Listening to: Attack on Titan
  • Reading: Dragon Age comics
  • Watching: cat sleep
  • Playing: VID'JA GAIMES
  • Eating: pens
  • Drinking: No, sir!


DarthVengeance0325's Profile Picture
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
Hear me, O ye listener,
And know this to be true-
My pleasure comes from listening
To each and all of you.

"The day my words mean something is the day my words have meaning."

Current Residence: San Antonio, Texas, at the moment
Print preference: Large, well done.
Favourite genre of music: Classic Rock/Progressive Metal/Instrumental
Favourite style of art: Sci-fi.
Operating System: Windows XP
Favourite cartoon character: Edward Elric
Personal Quote: "The best defense is a good offense"

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Camara-san Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy birthday, friend!
LeSieur Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2015
VariableNature Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Happy Birthday Darth!
LeSieur Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2015
Thankee. Been too long. I need to catchup sometime. How've you been, friend?
VariableNature Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Been doing alright. Vague attempts at writing outside of OCT's having really panned out. But since it's NaNoWriMo, I've kind of been inspired to do at least SOMETHING this month. I guess we'll see.

Hope things have been excellent with you!
LeSieur Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2015
Mm, mostly workdead. I need to head onto the Darth account and read you sometime, mate, it's been entirely too long.
Camara-san Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
LeSieur Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2015
kiahl Featured By Owner Edited Nov 22, 2014
hey, sorry i missed your birthday man, hope it was good
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