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Dave ST

IC: [Pilot] Hither came...

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She was four more days from Kordova and the Black River.  To the right, her West, the endless Western Sea stretched on endlessly.  The air was damp and the sea spray barely crawled up the cliff face to kiss her skin.  Her read hair was pulled back and tied with a leather thong to keep it away and out of her eyes as her sweat mingled and soaked it into wet strands.

The weather was hot and she'd been moving for most of the day, jogging mostly and bursting into a faster pace from time to time in order to keep make sure that hew quarry wasn't too far ahead of her.  Bithulimon, the man she'd been after for the past four months was not going to escape her this time.  His raids on the Vanaheim coast were legendary as were his appetites for their women.  While the proud Vanir easily could boast proud warriors of either gender, his targets were the young and the weak.  Slaves by the score he'd take from their homeland.  Defile them for years and finally either break them or butcher them.  When properly broken he'd finally sell them for a profit.  Common rumor held that his harem of fiery haired Vanir women was close to twenty and not one had reached her eighteenth winter.

It wasn't easy to get this lead, she knew.  The man who could get her to Bithulimon was, if stories were to be believed, currently on the wrong side of Zingaran law.  She had less than a week to get to Kordova and break him out of prison before they executed him.  How was she going to spring him from a Kordovan dungeon?  She had no clue.  She did have four days to come up with a plan however.

She dashed through the brush and sprang over a downed tree, leaping off she continued her stride and slid in the leaves letting her momentum carry her down a muddy slope.  With a single leap she crossed a small creek and all the while she never broke her stride.

With the caution of a skilled huntress she paused and listened.  The wind carried sounds, scents... steel on steel.  There was a battle up ahead.

She pressed on, keeping her pace slower and the sounds of her movements quieter.  She came upon the battle, one man taking on five.  More to the point, one man was doing an extraordinary job of evading and parrying the attacks of five men.  He was showing signs of fatigue, but still he smirked at them slyly.  He was athletically built with corded muscles and bronzed skin that marked him as possibly Argossian.  His his hands were a pair of long, curved blades, similar to those used by pirates, seafarers, and some of the eastern cultures.

"Gentleman," he said, smiling wide.  "I applaud your effort, I do.  But come on... we both know I'm not going back to Kordava-"

"Alive," one of the men interjected and they all laughed.  They were all dressed in Zingaran finery.  Their blades were long and thin, with basket hilts designed to deflect and parry aside a barbarians broader blade or axe.  Thy appeared to be working for a member of Zingaran nobility.

"It's all a misunderstanding, surely not one worthy of an execution," he twirled his swords about, one of them ending backwards, so the blase ran back up the length of his arm.  He was preparing to parry some more, the banter was simply to allow him to regain his breath.  "How was I supposed to know they were Viscount Cabrera's daughters," he chuckled.  "I certainly know I wouldn't crawl into bed with my siblings... so how the four of them ended up in my bed, I assure you, is a complete mystery to me."

"And I suppose how they all lost their clothes and purity is all a mystery to you as well, hmm?"  Another man snapped.  They all held their weapons firmly, the leather of their gloves creaked as they tightened their grip.

He man chuckled.  "Now, that I actually do remember... I was that drunk.  You see we were all well into our cups and Valentina begins doing this vulgar yet pleasant trick with her tongue-"

The men all screamed in outrage and rushed the man again.  Once more there was the loud clamor of steel on steel.

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The banter covered what little noise Freya made as she crept closer crouching in the bushes weighing the scene before her.. The five Zingaran's were typical of their kind, swarthy, lanky and none to appealing despite the finery of their regalia. The Argossian, for that is what she judged him to be from look, accent, and the way he carried himself , was more pleasing to look upon. Also his movements were calculating and quick. Showing both skill and cunning, he didn't attack but waited using his twin blades to weave a wall keeping the other at a distance. But still it was only a mater of time before one of the five flanked him.

That it was five against one was enough to raise her blood. That it was of no business of hers what happened here mattered not. The Argossian knew his way around Kordova, and she did not, saving him would put him in her debt and slaying the black hearted Zingarian's would be a pleasure she could savor.

All this took but a second of time for Freya to observe. Then the swords clashed and the jungle reverberated once again with the joyous sound of battle.

Her pack slid from her shoulder to lie on the ground, no time to don her mail or helm, Freya set her shield and rose drawing her broadsword. With a lusty cry she charged into the fray at the closest Zingaran

“Stand firm friend! We shall send these Zingaran dogs to hell soon enough!”

 

Spoiler

Frey will attack the nearest one as she dashes out of the jungle

Attack Attack with Broadsword on nearest Zingaran: 2d20u19 1  thats 1 sux and she gets a complication.

If damage is done she does 9 damage before soak and gets an effect

Damage damage: 7d6 27

The Zingaran heard Frya's shout and half spun to meet her but he was too late. Her sword pierced his side and her momentum and strength drove the steel almost through him and out the opposite side. Transfixed the man died with blood gurgling from his lungs.

Freys yanked on her sword but it was stuck fast in the mans body. No time to wrestle it free she continued her charge with shield alone.

 

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The Argossian spun about, whirling his blades.  The northern woman arrived and the distraction she caused gave him just the opening he was waiting for.  That one tick where his opponents took their attention off him opened up the opportunity for his blades to do the work they were meant to.  His right blade swiftly cut low, slicing deep into one of their right thighs, just above the knee.  He screamed in pain and fell to a kneel as the second blade sliced opposite, slitting the man's throat in a single swipe.

"Say what y'will about northerners, gents... they sure know how to make an entrance."  He stepped away, blades at the ready.  His grin was a twisted mark of sarcasm, suave, and self-confidence.  "Welcome aboard luv, pick a fool, kill im'.  Repeat as needed, eh?"

Spoiler

Roll(2d20)+0: 5,5 +1 Momentum

Roll(2d20)+0: 15,9 Immediate Spend, Dual Wielding

Damage: (6d6 total dice for both attacks) 6,3,6,1,2,1 = 6 damage +2 effects...(I've no idea what those effects are, yet.  If someone knows, fill me in.)

These dudes are tools.  No real armor, 5 vigor, one wound'll kill em'.  Have at it.

 

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The three remaining Zingarans attempted to recover but the battlefield had already melted into chaos.  With two of their own dead already and now a raging Vanir female in the fray, their tactics melted away as well.

Two went for the Vanir woman.  Screaming in outrage they raised their weapons and charged her.  One swung at her wildly.  With no sword, she punched him in the face and he staggered to the side.  The second was even less lucky.  With his blade still raised in what would be an awkward downward slash, Frey rushed him, slamming into him with her shield and raising him up off the ground several feet where he soared over her and slammed onto the ground with a hard thud that tore the wind from his lungs.

The Argossian continued to twist and parry, his blades a whirling shield in front of him that tuned aside the attacks of the one man he had to deal with.

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"So!" The man said as he parried a lunge for his head with a quick swat of his wrist.  "My fiery rescuer... you come here often?"

The man was lithe and agile, moving around like a man who was less a soldier and more survivor.  Thankfully the arrival of the Vanir had the fools so off balance that he was practically doing all he could to stop from bursting out into laughter.  He could not have planned this any better, which was true, considering before she arrived... he had no plan at all.

Fueled with rage, and possibly some desperation, the one soldier giving him attention was becoming more frustrated with every missed blow that Dracian smirked when he finally saw his opening.  He parried high, knocking the mans weapon away high and wide as he pivoted his body, turning about so his back slammed into the man's front.  The soldier's eye widened as he felt the curved sword slide through him.  While Dracian parried with one blade, he stabbed with the other.  The soldier died, slumping over, his head resting on Dracian's shoulder.  He let the man comfortably fall to the floor.

"I know, I know, that sounds like a line,"  He said, his accent was thick and rich.  He spun his blades until they faced downward, sticking into the soil where he rested on them like twin canes. "What was it that drew you here, hm?  The salty sea air?  The crashing of the waves?  The scent of a real man?"  He waggled his eye brows at her while she fought for her life, a roguish grin imprinted across his lips.

He casually walked around the perimeter of her battle, like it were a pit match.  She shot him an icy look.  "Don't look at me, look at them... they're the ones trying to kill you, luv."  He swatted his finger away from himself and at her and the gentleman, shooing her gaze from him in a gesture for her concentrate on the battle at hand.

Spoiler

Roll(4d20)+0: 9,3 2 successes.  +1 Momentum. (Dual Wield momentum spend)
Roll(4d20)+0: 1,5 3 Successes. +2 Momentum.

Roll(6d6)+0: 5,5,6,5,6,1.  6 Damage. (No effects worth mentioning)

MP = 2  <---- Momentum pool.  Have at it Freya.

 

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Shooting a fiery glance at the mouthy Argosian,  Freya growled and drew her knife from her belt.

Closing on the Zingaran who was still on his feet, she easily deflected his blows with both Knife and shield. Then, with a quick lunge. her shield knocked the thin sword away and she drove the knife into the mans belly, up below the ribs. She pushed in closer, spit in the mans face, "Go to hell Zingaran pig," and slid the knife into his heart.

With a joyous laugh she pulled the knife free, letting the body drop, and spun to face the last Zingaran, who was just regaining his feet.

"Haha! Come dog, now it is your turn. I will even make it fairer for you." She said dropping her shield as she circled the man waiting for his attack.

Spoiler

Freya's attack with the Knife

Knife attack on remaining Zingaran: 2d20u19 2

Zingaran's parry

Zingarans parry: 2d20u8 0

Thats two successes against none. so She hit and generated 1 momentum

Damage

Damage: 5d6 16 for 5 damage and an effect spend 1 momentum for 1 point of damage and kill him.

Here is Freya's Parry roll for if the last zingaran attacks

Parry against the Zingarans attack: 2d20u12 1

 

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"Northern whore," the footman spewed at her with rage.  "You will die for interfering!"

He lunged a her his dueling blade shimmered in the sun's light glimmering brightly.  Freya's battle trained eyes locked onto that shimmer, that tell tale mark on the blade that told her exactly where it was was going to be, and more importantly, when.  The man had drastically over estimated his own abilities and the fiery northern woman swift to remind him of his place.

The clang of steel on steel resonated with a harsh echo as her knife caught the blade's edge and turned it aside effortlessly.  His lunge left her dangerously close to the northern barbarian with out the defense of his weapon...

Spoiler

Roll(2d20)+0: 3,19,+0 Total:22 (Parried)

Freya: +1 Doom

 

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Freya stayed silent except for a low growl only the Zingaran could hear. Her left hand shot out and wrapped around the wrist of the mans sword arm hold it out away from their bodies. Bearing her teeth like some feral creature she pressed in, her knife held low.

From Dracian's view it looked like she was pulling the man into an embrace.

The growl grew louder in the mans ear as she closed in pressing her body to his her cheek against his her hot breath on his neck. The pain as the point of her knife slid into his groin. “If whore I am, then blood is my price.” She whispered slowly with the passing of each syllable she pushed the blade deeper and ripped upwards.

Dracian watched as the two seemed to dance, the Zingarans eyes wide his mouth an O of shock. The North woman's muscled back rippling with sure and strong heaving. Then Dracian noticed the blood.

At first it was a few drops, then a steady drip and finally it  pour to pool the ground between the two.

Frey let go of the Zingaran who simple crumpled, disemboweled, eyes staring blankly at whatever hell awaited him and his companions.

She turned to face Dracian, her chest and stomach covered in the blood of her victim, a gleam of excitement in her eye.

Spoiler

Use Adaptive combat to offset the difference in reach,  attack with the knife  knife attack: 2d20u19 2   2 successe which hits and gives one momentum

Spend the immediate momentum for an extra damage  damage roll  damage with knife: 5d6 13  thats 6 damage +1 from momentum for a total of seven

spend one momentum to reroll the two 3 results for damage damage reroll: 2d6 6 same results so no additional damge so she spends the last momentum to add another point of damage to make it as messy as possible

Total damage 8

 

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The slender swordsman raised a brow at the carnage the northern woman left strewn in her path.  "Well," said the stranger.  "That was certainly... colorful."

His lazy way of being concerned was not lost on her as he lifted her sword from the dirt and approached her, spinning it with a grace not unaccustomed to thieves and cut throats, but his technique, like hers, was mastered and flawless, not clumsy and showy.  She made no mistake, like her, this man was a skilled killer.  He offered her her blade, handle first.  "I must say, I'm certainly thankful you came along when you did.  Not to sound ungrateful, but...," he smiled mid sentence.  "You know what?  It matters not.  I am Dracian of Messantia.  Thief, pirate, archer, lover," he delivered that last little with a flirtatious tone that was barely impressive to the northerner.  His bow was almost as unimpressive.  "You seem... a ways from home.  I'm parched and there is a fresh water stream not far from here.  Why not get yourself cleaned up and I'll fill my skin.  While we're at it you tell me what brings you this far south, unless it's because I owe you money, or am the father of your child.  I'm not the father of anything am I?  Although, I'm pretty sure I'd have remembered a night with you."

He didn't wait for an answer, his blades back at his side he scooped up his dropped gear, complete with a bow and a full quiver.  "Come, let us see which of us tried to mug and murder the other first.  It'll be fun!"  He smiled widely.

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Frey washed the gore from he body, she made no attempt to hide her nakedness from this Dracian, no she knew his eyes were  hungrily devouring the sights she laid before him, making it easier she hoped to entice him to her needs. Flinging her long hair back with a flex of her shoulders and strong neck she strode boldly from the river to where her gear lay on the bank.

"I am called Freya and I seek a man."

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"Correction," said the man in a thick accent.  "A man you have found.  Several, in fact.  I remain the only survivor, also another fact.  One for which I'm grateful for."  He certainly liked to hear his own voice...

He drank in her frame and casually as he swigged from his water skin.  Fiery red hair, chiseled muscles, ample bosom... she knew exactly where his mind was.  Men of the southern kingdoms were, by an large, morons and fools.  Decadent men who lived lavishly in comfortable surroundings where nature provided for all their needs.  They weren't hardened by the trials of everyday survival in the harsh cold of the winters of Vanahiem.  In short, her kingdom bred real men, this man was just a scrawny conversation where he talked for hours, but said nothing.

"I've friends in low places, my lovely," she noticed his eyes trail below her hips.  "And I'm even friendlier in low places," he offered a devilish smirk.  "Mayhaps I know of this man.  OR could assist you in finding him?  After all, I owe you for that assist.  Hate to leave a debt unpaid..."

She had a feeling that wasn't entirely true...

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She walked over to where Dracian reclined while she finish strapping her weapons on. She gave a glance pointedly between his legs and smiled with what one could almost say was a smirk. "Yes you are a man," she said with the lilt of the north accenting her words, "but not the one I seek."

She reached down offering her hand to raise him to his feet. "I will however accept your offer of help in finding him."

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"Excellent!"  He accepted her hand and she pulled him to his feet with an ease he was not accustomed to from the women he was used to being in the company of.  He brushed off the dust from his leisure spot.  "Now, simply tell me who this man is and we shall set out to locate him.  Does he owe you money?  Please tell he didn't raid your village and your kill your family... I am so tired of hearing that one."

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Freya gave a deep belly laugh at that and shook her head. "No, we are going to  find the man who is going to help me find the other man whom I will get revenge on.

The one we are seeking, he is in Kordova. I hope you know your way around that cess pool. He is locked away in the gaol and set to be executed.  We have four days to get there and find a way to get him away from the headsman." She started walking in the direction she thought Kordova lay. 

"Are you  coming? " Freya glanced back over her shoulder. "There may be a..reward." with a laugh she continued on almost certain the man wouldn't pass up that possibility

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"Hm," he stroked his chin in contemplation, petting the small soul patch-goatee he had going on.  "Rewards are certainly motivation.  However, luv, the only man fit for the headsman axe in Kordava within the week, was me.  Granted it took me a few days to escape my cell," he looked at her while speaking and laughing at the same time.  "I was really drunk."

"While I'm loathe to enter that city again anytime soon, situations like these do merit fact checking."  He sighed, a bit defeated at the notion of both rewards and walking away from such a fine bosom.  "Ugh, very well, I know a man in Kordava.  He may be of some help, I'll introduce you.  Besides, breaking out was easy, breaking in will require a lot more work."

We smiled wide.  "...and explosives."

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Together they traveled to Kordava upon the stolen horses of Zingara's noble soldiers.  Stripped of their accouterments, save their saddles, they saved quite a bit of time on their trek.  Now, however, they had the daunting task of confirming whether or not Freya's information was accurate.  The mouthy thief Dracian claimed that he was highly doubtful he could be of any use to her and Freya was not very forth coming with any more information than was necessary until she trusted the rogue a bit more.

It was to Kordava their story took them...

Kordava was nothing like anything she'd seen as Freya and Dracian approached the mighty Black River delta.  The walls were high hewn stone and the port was nothing like the one she'd visitited in the north.  Ships of all kinds were in and out of the river's mouth while other came to port from the vast Western Ocean carrying all manner of trade goods.  The entire city carried with it the architecture of reconquista-era Spain with high towers, steeped rooftops and cathedral-esque stone works everywhere.  She'd heard rumors that the massive palace she saw nestled near the great port had floors of solid polished crystal.

She'd covered herself upon Dracian's request, as the people of Zingara fancied themselves 'civilized' and walking naked in the streets was generally frowned upon.  They waded through throngs of people, so many at times that Freya wanted to just being pushing them off of her.  The market places were packed with all manner of merchants selling all variety of things she found utterly useless.  Clothing, rugs, spices, various pieces furniture, etc... none of which any practical use that were intrisic to the natural talent for survival she and her people had grown accustomed to.  Her people lived spartan, sure, but what amenities they owned were practical and served some purpose other than being pretty.  Asie from trophies won in battle, but those were an exception considering they'd earned it in the gamble of combat by anteing their life.

In a back alley in the slums of the harbor district, under the cover of night they slid through the narrow walkway until they came upon a small doorway whereupon hung a sign above it declaring it to be an 'Apothecary'.  The door creaked open and the rank scent of various dried herbs and incense slammed them in the face.  Only a candle light kept the small abode lit while they entered and ducked under various hanging plants and dried beast parts.  A few jars were scattered about on rickety shelving filled with liquid and a preserved body prat of some form critter neither of them wanted to take a guess at its origins.

"He's a bit eccentric, but he's a decent fellow," Dracian shrugged.  "Just, uh... don't touch anything."

Freya curled her lip up in disgust as something with huge eyes and withered flesh glared back at her from a soupy jar.  "I don't think that will be an issue."

"Simeon!" Dracien called out.  "Simeon, you old fool, are you here?"  He knocked on a plank of supported wood that served as the 'counter' for the Apothecary's 'shop'.  Dracian leaned and addressed Freya.  "This guy can make some strong brew.  One sip and you'll eyes'll blur and you'll wake days later on a strange island butt naked with an erection that refuses to go away.  I don't recommend more than a single sip though... I chugged an entire cup once, blacked out for weeks and was pissing in face for even longer.  Quite embarrassing."

"It's because it wasn't a drink, you ignorant, fool!" Boomed a voice from the back.  "It was a rub."

"Ah," he pointed to the back room and to the voice.  "See, now that explains so much."

All Freya could do was look at Dracian quizzically.  "How have you lived as long as you have?"

"Luck, mostly," he smiled.  "Simeon, get out here you old coot!"

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Whom came out was a man certainly giving some impression of the occult as men imagined it. His hair was bedraggled, black with skeins of gray cutting through from top to beard. Narrowed gray eyes too, with robes of black and red upon his aged but still vital frame. Simeon sniffed as he set eyes on Dracian. "Hmmph. And here I thought you'd finally brought yourself to an end courtesy of the Viscount's daughters."

"So you heard." Dracian acknowledged. "Well, I couldn't let my story end there, of course."

Simeon let out a grunt as he sidled up to the plank-counter and fixed the thief with a stern eye. Then his companion, tall, long red tresses and very much a warrior woman. "And you, lass?"

"Freya." The Vanir introduced herself simply.

"I am Simeon, once of Koth." The old alchemist answered in turn. "So. What brings you here, again in Dracian's case?"

"Well," Dracian began explaining in smooth fashion, "I agreed to help Freya find this man they have locked up-"

"Say no more." Simeon cut him off with an assured wave. "I'll start making the tonic."

"Tonic?" Dracian was thrown off by this. "Well, no, I was thinking-"

"You just escaped from prison and execution, and now you plan on breaking in again." Simeon summed up. "Hence the tonic, to cure your mind of its distemper and madness."

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Dracian waggled a finger, conceding the old man's logic.  Then shrugged.  "Well, okay, you got me there.  Sanity and careful planning are certainly not my two most welcome of bedfellows, but I do sort of have a debt to pay, to the Northerner.  You're more in touch with current events than I, what have you heard?"

"Honestly, I've heard nothing.  Your head was meant for the axe, but after your escape they've been relatively quiet as the man hunt for you continues."  He sorted a few things on a shelf.  "If hell bent you are on going back in there, I must admit, it'll be the last place they'd be looking for you.  Guards would be light.  All the prisoners are logged in the manifest.  Capture that and it will tell you precisely who it is you're looking for."

Dracian clapped his hand together, "Whelp, there you have it, Freya.  Perchance you could tell me the full story before I break into a prison to rescue someone who may or not be there."

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Freya tried not to touch anything the place stank and it was hot she sweated in the clothes Dracian had insisted she wear. In other words she was miserable. She frowned when Dracian asked her to tell her tale. She pushed past him and the old man and hooked a stool with her foot and planted her backside on it. She could have used a drink. “You Simeon, you have something that can wet a parched throat?”

Yes, water or stronger?”

“Water will do if it's fresh.”

Nodding the man left the room and they could here him bumping around. Dracian found a seat and called after him, “If you have any ale you can bring that too and some bread. Maybe some cheese? Simeon do perchance have any meat?”

Grumbling Simeon returned bearing a platter with a pitcher three pewter cups and some food.

Drinks poured and food grabbed Fraya began her tale “

During the winter months the villages along our coasts are safe but with the spring we go a reaving and there is not many left to protect the villages. But this is seldom cause for worry for we have few enemies who raid along the coasts. Our enemies are the Vanir and the Cimmerian who live further inland and to the south the picts bu tit is too cold for them to strike north for raids. But there is one who does strike fear.

A reaver who comes when the raiders are gone he wit sand seeks out the weakest least protected villages and he attacks. They are ruthless. Killing all bu the youngest and prettiest girls whom they take as slaves. For many years this pirate has stung our coasts and has eluded our dragon ships but this year his luck ran out.”

She drains her cup and pours another.

“ My ship raided early this season and laden with our spoils we headed home while the others drove south. We came upon a ship leaving a burning village it was the pirate. He avoided battle and we chased him but with the added weight of our treasure we could not catch him. My captain and the rest of the men decided to turn back. I refused I had heard the wails of the women, our women taken by this monster. And I vowed then and there to end his depredations. They let me a shore and I found a another village where I acquired a small boat and I set off after the Pirate. Four months chasing a phantom No one knows where this wolf lairs where he takes his slave to break them. But then In a small pirates haven I learned of the man we are going to break. The man who will lead me to Bithulimon the slaver.”

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Dracian listened intently to her story, popping grapes and sipping from his cup as he enjoyed the meat and fruit Simeon paid good coin on so the thief could eat it all.  Why do you always burn everyone's villages down?  No wonder you can't get anything done up there, everyone's rebuilding all the blasted time."  She shot him a scowl and he raised his hands in defeat, vowing silently that it would be the only time he interrupted her.

At mention of the slaver's name, however, the warrioress saw the color drain from his face.  Behind the veneer of jokes, quips, and ignorant care-free whimsy was a coward.  She knew there was no shame in fear, all warriors in her country felt fear, faced fear, and laughed at fear as they simply did what needed to be done.  She knew the fear in his eyes, it was the same she saw in the eyes of slave girls she'd encountered who were sold by her quarry to pirate havens all along the coast.  It was not the fear of a man who gave lip service to another man's reputation or personal legend, it was the fear of a man who'd witnessed first had that reputation and escaped it.

She knew right there in that moment: Dracian of Messantia was the man she was looking for.

"I-I can not help you," he said, tripping on words that couldn't seem to pass his lips fast enough.  "You're on your own.  You court Death, Freya of Vanahien, he stood, so flustered and frightened by whatever was occurring in his mind that the deft coordination she'd seen him possess seemed to bleed away as he tripped of a shelf and stumbled towards the door.  His exit was swift, but as graceful as a drunkard at last call.

She went to pursue him but Simeon's hand grasped her arm.  "Let him go."  He said, releasing her arm as she scowled at him.  "He'll not go far, never does.  We all have demons, my dear.  What you ask him to do is face his.  I've known the boy since he was, well, a boy.  He was a great sea captain once, pirate, corsair, whatever fancy title catches your fancy.  He defied Bithulimon and a traitor on his crew turned him over to the slaver.  He spent some time as his captive but doesn't speak of it, the year was a dark and bloody one.  Of that I am certain.  Give him an hour and he will be at the local tavern drinking himself stupid in an attempt to forget the treachery and nightmarish things he's seen."

Simeon drank from his cup.  "That is, if you still desire his help."

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Freya towered over the old sorcerer, her mein full of menace and purpose. But as the words he spoke sank in her glare softened from threat to resolve. She sat again and drained her cup then held it out for Simeon to refill

"We shall wait then you can lead me too him. He'll help or by Ymir's stones I'll split his skull and leave him for the crows."

 

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"I'd hope that not happens." Simeon drawled. "Silly as it is, I do have some fondness for him." He refilled Freya's cup. "Wounds on the mind and soul run deeper than any physical one, and thrice as hard to heal. And to be honest, you'd need a very good plan in order to take that foe on, Dracian with you or not."

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Freya and Simeon sat in silence for a good while. Frey drinking the wine supplied by the Sorceror and Simeon avoiding making eye contact withthe savage northerner. Suddenly Freya drained her cup and slammed it down rattling the table. Simeon jumped.

"Enough! Take me to Dracian we will waste no more time." She said as she stood pushing her stool back.

Simeon had to marvel they had finished two full bottles and most of a third of his best wine, and almost all of it by her. Yet there she stood not even a hint of drunkeness about her. "As you wish."

They walked through the shadowy streets there path not unnoticed but none of the thieves felt eager to attack the Simeon who was known here or the large woman bearing arms who was not. Soon they found themselves in a filthy tavern that reeked of stale ale and vomit and even worse. Eyes watched gauged and looked away. Simeon studied the crowd and then pointed  "There."

Freya crossed the room giving little or no thought to those she passed. They were scum, but even though she gave them the disdain most of them deserved she was not a fool, and she took note of those that could prove dangerous.

Finally she stood behind Dracian and placed her hand on his shoulder. "It is time to go, friend."

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Dracian was already plastered.  Three sheets to the wind... was not enough sheets to come close to accurately describing how hard he'd hit the sauce that evening in the time they were waiting.

"Oi!"  The bartender approached Freya from his side of the counter.  He waved Dracian away as he spoke.  "Get this sorry sod out of 'ere an'on'is way!  To d'street wiv'im!"

Freya practically had to carry him, he could barely stand on his own.  His face and beard and mustache were slick with alcohol and traces of other foul wafting aromas.  He didn't put up much of a fight until she'd made it out side with him, mostly because she was pretty sure that's when he'd realized he was being moved.  He could squirm well enough, even this drunk, and broke her hold on his tunic within a matter of moments by slipping out of it.  She wasn't sure if it was by some thief design or just plain dumb luck that he fell right out of it.

He stood up like a shot, wavering a bit to catch his balance.  "No!"  He shouted at her.  He attempted a backhand but Freya didn't even have to move, his had flew past her nearly a foot off it's mark.  "Only I know the way, and I'm never going back there!"

He pushed Freya, hard.  She didn't move, he did however.  He threw himself backwards, literally pushing himself into the refuse of and trash piled up in the alleyway.  "You don't know!"  He scrambled to his feet, as best he could anyway.  He managed more to scramble along the ground away from Freya than actually stand again.  "None of you know!  I've seen it.  I've seen what he does to people.  He's a monster, no, a demon!"

Freya approached him and hoisted him up by his wrist, back to his feet.  "For a year I sat in his cages!  Watched as he butchered and tortured and... only I made it out...," his eyes met Freya's and she saw in him the eyes of a warrior.  Even among her people the men and women would see terrible things that broke their resolve and shattered their spirits.  There was no shame in fear, or failure.  To live through it was the opportunity to set it right.  Set themselves right.  What this man had seen or done, it had broken him.  "Only I made it out," he said to her, more softly and she saw the tears well up in his eyes.

He collapsed into her chest, crying like the shattered man he was.  He pounded a fist against her shoulder and she barely moved, the sound was akin to a hammer striking an oak.  "...all of them.  I left them there.  My crew... I was their captain, and I left them to save myself."  The sobbing came deeper as he used her for balance, occasionally striking her shoulder to punctuate how pathetic he'd become.

Simeon only looked at Freya, shrugging sorrowfully with a mournful expression writ plain on his face.  "I... I never knew.  He never spoke of his time there."

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 Freya let him blubber for a few more moments then caught his wrist the next time he was going to hit her shoulder. Gently she stood him straight as she could so she could look him in the eye.

"Your right we don't know, how could we. You lived through it. You are alive, here right now. But you left them, your crew, and you left part of yourself there too. Now it is time to go back and find what you lost there, to make yourself a whole man again. And to gain vengeance for those others who died so you could live. I saved your life, you owed me, Not anymore. You fulfilled our bargain you brought me here and showed me the what I needed. You owe me no more."

She let go of him and he swayed but stood on his own. "But you do owe them, the ones you left. And we will help you pay this debt."

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"While, I agree, Northerner," Simeon said calmly.  "Were we to make this voyage, we'd need a ship."

The bronzed thief pointed and nodded his head lazily, barely able to keep his composure through the spirits in his system.  "A ship!  Yes.  A ship!  We no ship.  So... welp... we tried."  He shrugged and attempted to stagger away from the two of them only to make it a few steps before falling over into a pile of wicker baskets and discarded refuse.  Neither made any real attempt to catch, or stop him.  By the time he hit the alleyway ground he was already passed out.

"...and perhaps a good night's sleep, hmm?"  The old alchemist amended his previous statement.

The following day...

It was well into the late afternoon when the drunken pirate-turned-coward rose from the pallet of straw and linen he'd been set upon the previous evening.

He still reeked of booze and stale vomit.  His hair was a mess and he'd looked liked gone one to many rounds with an angry shaleback.  Simeon and Freya had spent most of the afternoon and morning planning how they were going to go about collecting the things they'd need for their journey, and how they would afford them.  Neither of them really heard the Messantian rogue wander in.

"Well, I'm afraid that won't be enough," Simeon told Freya calmly.  "Provisions, crew, the vessel itself.  Even were I to sell this shop, we'd not have enough for all of what we'd need to make a sea voyage."

Freya slammed her fist on the counter.  "I refuse to believe that it's not possible.  I will make it possible."

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Dracian gripped his head.  "I require water, food and for the love of Bel stop pounding on things," Freya was unfamiliar with the name he intoned, but a small smirk bent to Simeon's lips.  There would be only one reason he'd have for invoking the name of the god of thieves.  Neither could deny, he looked like hell.  "I considered your words, Freya.  Wasn't much to do as I lay there in a puddle of my own piss and vomit.  Allow me some time to make myself presentable, eat, and rinse the taste of bile from my throat... and we will have a vessel and provisions."

"What about a crew?"  Freya asked.

"Not needed.  The three of us can make the journey, and should we fail, I'll not be delivering more victims for that inhuman wretch.  I shan't lie," he shrugged.  It appeared he was too hungover, hungry, dehydrated and exhausted, to execute his typical bravado.  "This time anyway.  Capturing the ship will not be easy.  It will be bloody, and loud, and a lot people will not be pleased... but oh, will it be glorious."

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Freya took a deep breath and savored the scent of the sea then let it out with a heavy sigh as she planted hands on her hips and shook her head saddle. "Ymir's stones Dracian, dammed good thing you don't want to take a crew, that thing will barley hold the three of us."

The boats wasn't really all that bad much smaller that the dragon prowed ships of the Vanir but it did look sturdy and was rigged for the open water, it could sit only four oars though and they would have to do with just two and only half the rowers needed at that. Freya peered down at the markings on the ships aft, she recognized the letters these civilized men used to scribe words but had no knowledge of the reading. "What do those runes say?"

Simeon glanced up from where he stood near there gear and stores where he had been taking account of the things delivered to them. "It is the boats name, it says Look-Far."

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"Eh," Dracian shrugged, still feeling well and good hung over from earlier.  "It's for the best.  Stealing a boat is easy, stealing a crew?  That would take way too long."

The ship was a cog, a merchant ship with a single mast.  The Look-Far possessed both a fore and stern castle with a single deck.  This was a larger model with a mast length of 80 feet and a beam of 26 feet.  Between the merchant and his crew there were nearly ten men to distract and or kill if they were to commandeer it, but thankfully at the late hour they were either well into their cups save for a few who were still attempting to unload and sort all manner of crates or wrapped bushels of cargo.

Several were on the ship while a few kept rotating from the pier to the ship to unload the cargo while the vessels Captain of the vessel stood on the dock arguing with a local dock official or fellow merchant.  Neither looked like they's missed a meal in quite some time.  Stealing a ship was not the wisest plan, but like most things from Dracian's point of view: it wasn't wrong if there were no witnesses.

A distant scream caught the trio's attention as two scantly clad women were pulled up from the hold.  They both looked like they'd only endured minor mistreatment, but they were young and certainly attractive.  Two of the Captain's crew drug them don the ramp to the pier and thrust them at the feet of the large man the Captain had been arguing with.  It was easy to see they were being offered up as some sort of a bribe.

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Simeon sighed. "Did you actually have a plan here?" Before Dracian could answer, the old alchemist cut him off with a wave of the hand. "Rhetorical question. This is why I have to take care of you like this. Fortunately, I do have an idea. Wait here and don't do anything stupid - no, no, what am I saying. Do nothing." The old alchemist plodded off back into town. Some time later, as the negotiations looked like they were finishing, that was when the roaring blond hulk of an Aesir charged into the scene.

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He came striding along the dock, a blond giant of a man fully head and shoulders above what was considered 'full-grown' here in the warm Southlands.  Stripped to the waist against the heat, his pale skin inked with barbarous runes and wearing a harness from which hung an array of cruel weapons he was an imposingly vital presence, a slice of the savage northern tundra given life and purpose.  The footpads and ne'er-do-wells who frequented the docks in search of drunken prey noted the icy blue of the northron's gaze and the easy way one hand tossed, spun and caught the heavy-looking hammer, and slunk from his path.

"Cap'n!"  One of the sailors paled and called urgently, waving to attract his master's attention as he saw the giant approach.  The ship's master also paled at what he saw, quickly motioning to his men to take up arms.  Daggers, boathooks and cutlasses were readied, even as many of the ship's crew silently mouthed prayers to their varied gods.  The northerner did not slow his approach, though his eyes narrowed over a grim smile and he ceased the careless tossing of his hammer at the sight of their preparations.  He came to a stop at the foot of the dock, his eyes searching out the captain and alighting on the two girls beside him as he stood there, saying nothing.

"What do you here, savage?"  The captain called from the deck, his bluster increased by the readiness and numbers of his support.

"I am come to collect my prize."  the Nordheimir rumbled in a voice like distant thunder, speaking Argossean with a barbarous accent.  "'A dark-haired Ophirean lass, lithe and sweet' you promised me for my winnings.  And lo, I see such a lass there."  He motioned with the head of his warhammer at the brunette lovely on her knees beside the two fat men, her pale skin paler still as she beheld the giant, her dark eyes wide.  "It is lucky that the tavernkeep knew where you were berthed, Master Menaus."  The blond giant stroked his braided beard, still smiling.  "I know you would not wish to be forsworn on a debt, after all."

"Debt?"  The captain glanced at the richly-dressed man beside him, then cleared his throat. "I know of no debt I owe you, barbarian.  Certainly not one as expensive as this young virgin.  Now begone, else I shall have my men dump your fetid carcass in the harbor!"

At the captain's words, his men tightened their grips on their weapons, though their eyes betrayed uncertainty.  The Aesir laughed, a booming sound with little mirth in it, and slipped the round shield from his back.  "Merchants."  he spat to one side.  "This day you learn that there are costs that cannot be counted in gold, fat man."

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Freya frowned then looked sideways at Dracian "So when you said you could get a boat, what you really meant that you could find a boat I would have to kill a bunch of people so we could use it?" She shakes her head as she steps away from the Massentian.

Hand on the hilt of her broadsword red tresses flowing in the wind, Freya pushed past  Dracian to stalk boldly out onto the quay leading to the ship, which she already considered hers, and the merchant, his slaves and his goons and now the yellow haired Aesir, one of her peoples most hated enemies. "Out of the way you tow-headed cur, I've business with this fat fop," she said coming to a stop aside the giant barbarian.

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"Well, I certainly can't kill that many men..." Dracian said matter-of-factly.  "Although, I was not aware Siemon knew one of the northern mountains personally, crafty old fool."

As she stormed away to do whatever it was she as going to do, the rogue smirked and began moving, opposite the ruckus on the docks and the direction all the men were currently facing.  Sure, he didn't technically have a plan, but having a plan to come up with a plan while working within everyone else's plans?  Well, that was positively genius.  One day those around whould come to, hopefully, understand the lengths at which he went through for them.  It wasn't everyday a man was willing to allow others to flex their cognitive abilities and muscles in the service of someone, or something greater.  And id he ask for anything in return?  No!  He was ever the consummate giver.  They were damn lucky to have him.

He had no idea where Simeon had gone off too, or where he'd retrieved his northern frost giant from youngling from, but it was of little consequence.  Freya had all the manners and intellect of a typical trousers on head northerner and the frost giant?  Well, he wasn't too far off, plus he talked funny.  If he was lucky those two would kill everyone and each other and he'd have a new ship and a lovely prize to help him break it in.

With a wicked smirk, he disappeared into the shadows...

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"CUR?!" The huge Aesir turned towards Freya, plainly bridling at the insult, the ire in his blue gaze increasing as he laid eyes on her.  He spat at her feet, booming invective in his native tongue.  "Fegh!  Only a piss-reeking ginger slattern would confuse a man with a dog.  Tis no wonder, though.  All know how much the women of the Vanir like to lay with beasts!"  For a moment, the ship, crew and (for Eingar) the girl who was his prize were forgotten, washed away by the savage enmity as old as Nordheim.  For even as the Picts and Cimmerians hated one another with a deep loathing, so too did the Aesir of Asgard and the Vanir of Vanaheim war with one another gleefully.  It is truly said that man hates most those with whom he shares most in common, and that enmity between neighbours can far outstrip rivalries between distant foes for sheer spite. 

Freya and Eingar glowered at one another, hands tightening on the hafts of their respective weapons as the ship's crew looked on in bemusement.  Finally, the master's voice cut through their confusion.  "Aiiee, scum!  Kill both these savages - a purse for each of their heads!"  With that the spell was broken, and with roaring cries the crew of the ship rushed along the pier at the two northerners.

To be met with a furious gale of steel and woe, for the interruption of the pair's hostility was possibly the worst tactical blunder any man could make.  Had the ship's master left things alone, the two Nordheimir would have torn one another apart, leaving the survivor likely wounded and thus easier game.  Instead, just as a tall tree draws the lightning, so too did the reckless charge of the southern sailors provide a focus point for the pair's aggression.

Freya spun on one heel, lopping off an upraised arm from one sailor before cleaving open the breastbone of another.  Eingar was less graceful, but no less effective as the boss of his shield caved in the face of one man, even as the weighty stone head of his hammer carried through an upward arc, driving the shattered remnants of another luckless man's jaw through what was left of his brain.  Another man, armed with a boathook, tried to snag Freya's arm with the cruel gaff, only to have the returning downward plunge of the hammer flatten his head like an overripe orange.  Eingar began to sing lustily in his native tongue as he fought, the thunder of his voice ringing in the ears of all nearby.

In a matter of heartbeats, the wooden decking of the quay was awash in blood and worse, and the two Nordheimir showed little sign of stopping as they carved and smashed their way towards the boat's gangplank.  Red and gold hair flying, faces alight with the thrill of battle, and with their weapons and clothing splashed with gore, Freya and Eingar were a terrifying sight to behold even if one were an uninvolved bystander.  For the hapless sailors in their path, the gods alone know what they felt, though several of those quicker on the uptake than their fellows began to jump into the harbour rather than stand their ground.

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The barbarian advance stalled as it reached the gangplank, both were covered in gore, that of those they had maimed and killed and their own from dozens of cuts and gashes that they were unable to avoid. It wasn't the sailors they had fought on the way to the ship that stopped them, but rather the sudden appearance of and arrow shot through Freya's thigh.

They looked up to see lining the ships deck some half dozen archers as they took in the sight the bowmen let loose a volley but neither Eingar nor Freya where still where they had been.

In a rush the two has lept like panthers to either side of the gangplank their backs against the curved hull of the ship, the arrows piercing the planks of the spaces they had occupied a second before.

Freya shoved the arrow the rest of the way through the fleshy part of her leg and after breaking off the fletching pulled the cursed thing out with a fresh spray of blood. She made no sounds except a few grunts which drew Eingar's attention. If she noticed his gaze while she tended her wound she gave no indication of it. While this was taking place the archers kept trying to get shots at them to no avail, but it did keep the two of the under cover. They could hear the sounds of more sailors on the deck and the clank and clatter of arms, as the ships remaining men prepared themselves to exact vengeance against those who had reaped such carnage among their crew-mates.

Frey tied off a bandage she had ripped from the shirt the sorcerer had made her wear and wrapped around her bleeding leg. “We need to kill the bowmen and get on the deck if we are to take the ship,” she said in her native tongue which Eingar could understand and those above could not,”this leg will slow me down, you will have to lead the charge I will follow.” She looks back at the docks, “Where the hell is Dacian and that thrice damned sorcerer?”

 

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