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Warhammer: Shadows of Empire - Master and Commander (Mikhail)


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{continued form Parliment}

Morning came early for Mikhail. Umma’s Mother Bertha brought him his morning tea and word that the Lord Magister wanted to see him for breakfast. Knowing he wants to be elsewhere doing some real good, he goes upstairs. Breakfast is a meaningless affair, with Markasius rambling on about the state of the weather and how an individual leaf seems to be forming. Then as the plates are being cleared away, he looked strongly at Mikhail saying,

“You have seen the shadows now. You have seen the face of evil that I have been waiting for all these years. I have hung on until now. My time is almost upon me and your time … one of your times … is coming for you. Come with me.”

The Lord Magister hobbled all the way down the stairs, many of the students and staff clearly seeing him for the first time as they stopped and gapped open-mouthed. He stops for a moment and looks around.

“Umma? Have the seeds of darkness taken her so soon?”

He continues on, not waiting for an answer. They travel, Magister and Lord Magister to the basement and on to the sub-basement.

“The stream bubbles up from deep within the good earth. Taal blesses this place. Now move as I move and do what I do.”

He turns and walks up to part of the root system. Mikhail can sense him call upon the Tree-dweller’s Step. The roots and earth move aside and a pathway (another long dark passage through the earth) is revealed.

“This goes to a tree in beyond the Sea of Roses – an old black oak. When the time comes, you will know to use it.”

He pats him on the arm.

“I will not be coming with you. I go elsewhere.”

His eyes get rheumy and he stumbles.

“What am I doing here and were is Conrad?”

Then,

“Who are you again? Are you our new Huntsman?”

Mikhail takes the old man upstairs, pondering what has transpired. He still has to go to the Apothecary Daubler, if he can find him, and show him what he has brought from Widenhoft beyond the Wall. He can stop and visit Hetta before he goes, or check in with Faust, who remains in charge, or Thaddeus, who remains bedridden with his wounds. What is he going to do?

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Mikhail makes quick visits to Hetta first, offering his ressurance that he is doing everything in his power and asking her not to push herself for the fear that she will be to weak to recover.

He visits Faust next and reminds the man of his wishes and the duties that need to be performed. "I trust you to help the tower in its time of need Faust. I know our relationship has started off strained but I have only seeked to remind you of the bounty of life lest you forget it amide stacks of dead wood and jarred samples. I think your work is important, and when this crisis is over I will allow you to return to it, I only ask that you will consider studying these plants in the environment they grow, where life's own bounty can been seen and felt more properly."

Lastly he goes to Thaddeus, the apprentice has been hurt somehow and apparently in the service of Nayobee. He sits next to the younger man's bed, "I would have your story, tell me what happened."

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"Much of the glory should go to Brandt," the once over-proud apprentice begins. "He formulated the plan to discover Lady Nayobee's lost companion. He hired urchins - using my funds - to locate the very sick man at the Three Pear's Inn. His little fiends stalked all over the city for signs of him, and once he moved from his concealment - in the Tallows, we suspect - we were able to stay on his trail."

"Wait, maybe I should start at the beginning. We traveled first to Hallows and visited with the warden and one badly abused elf maid. I did not catch her name and there was not much elvish spoken there. Anyway, her release could be obtained for fifty Karls, which I don't have, so I was able to get her off hard labor and to a nicer cell for five."

"After that, Lady Nayobee seemed desperate to catch up with this shifty fellow. Brandt tracked him down right when his room was being broken into by a band of eight thugs. Brandt and I," Thaddeus's eyes blaze with the memory, "let into them with Magic Dart and Drop. Lady Nayobee went at them with bow and sword. It was glorious, Master. Men fell and by my hand. I know my calling. I am to be a Bright Wizard. I can feel it in my mind's eye, the Wind of Fire!"

"*cough* ahem ... I crossbow took me in the gut, and Brandt stayed with me. Lady Nayobee and a woman I didn't recognize - tall, with long blonde hair pulled back behind her ears, weilding a large hammer with runes upon it - went upstairs. There was the sound of more fighting then quiet."

"A man identified as Micah appeared with some watchmen. He went up stairs while the Watch was checking out all the bodies downstairs the lured the watchmen outside. Nayobee, this blonde woman, the Shifty Fellow, and a woman we later identified as Von Kritzer's missing daughter came down stairs and ran out the back of the Inn. We followed."

"The blonde women took us to a shop called," he rubs his chin for a moment, "Donner's blades, were she seemed to have much authority. She took us all upstairs then commanded that Lady Nayobee take the Von Krizter woman back here. A few minutes later we elected to follow, seeing as how the Shifty Fellow was taking a bath."

"I don't know what happened to the Von Krizter woman. She was gone whe we got back, and Hetta was just going back to bed. Herr Faust directed me to bed and to tell no one, not even him, what had transpired. Brandt comes up from time to time to check on me and the Apothecary checks in on me once a day to dress my bandages. Otherwise, I'm bored and want to get back to the field as soon as possible."

"Master, what evil is afoot? What other dangers are there to the Jade Tower and ... did we do well? I mean, was retrieving the Shifty Man and the Von Krizter woman part of your plan?"

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Mikhail pinched the bridge of his nose. "Forget everything you did. If anybody asks how you got hurt you were injured by a cut purse. Do you understand? And if Nayobee requests your help again, you will bring her to me first. I would have words with her regarding the actions she takes while under the hospitality of this school."

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Thaddeus pales slightly.

"Umm ..." he licks his lips, "I told this story - as did Brandt - to the other apprentices and Ms. Hetta ... ummm, and Umma."

"We," he squeeks, "were very proud of what we did and the fame we brought to the Jade Tower."

His eyes get wider, if that was possible,

"You think that those men we killed will have others who come looking for us? Or that someone will place us with the Von Kritzer girl? Will this hurt the school?"

Thaddeus sounds definitly concerned.

Bruno is at the door,

"Your horse is ready, Magister. Would you be wanting one of us to be going with you? The city is rough these days. We'd hate to lose someone handy with a bow and an axe," he grins.

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Mikhail was wholly unable to conceal his anger, "Blood and bloody ashes! Are you a child that you need an adult to hold your hand and speak for you?! Fame? You may well damn us all! The nobility scarcely trusts mages of any kind as it is and if they were to learn that we were in any way involved with the kidnapping of one of their own this tower would be put to the torch faster than even your loose tongue could flap!"

Originally Posted By: Adrian Moss
Bruno is at the door,

"Your horse is ready, Magister. Would you be wanting one of us to be going with you? The city is rough these days. We'd hate to lose someone handy with a bow and an axe," he grins.

Mikhail turns and gives the huntsman a withering glare before realizing he is channeling his anger in the wrong direction. "No Bruno, I would not drag any of you further into this mire of a situation. I can take care of myself, I assure you." He set his jaw and turned back to the apprentice. "We will discuss your penance when or if I return." He pivots on his heel and storms out of the room. On his way out of the tower he informs both Hetta and Umma that Nayobee is not to be allowed further access to the apprentices. "If she requires additional help she can come and ask me if I will grant it but none shall be received until you have heard it ordered from my lips." He doesn't wait for further questions instead leaving the tower and getting onto his horse and riding off into the city to locate the apothecary.

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Bertha nods her understanding of the situation (since both Hetta and Umma are bed-ridden).

"I will inform the elf-lass that she has perhaps over-extended our hospitality and is to see you a soon as she can. I would inform you that she has come by looking for you in your absence, with that Dangerous looking man. Also, that Von Kritzer girl came by looking for them, and you when I said you were not available."

"We'll keep the lads close for the next few days, don't you worry Sir."

The Apothecary Daubler's turns out to be very easy to find. Mikhail finds him with the help of the first Watch Sergeant he comes across and produces his letter. The Sergeant assigns a man to the Magister and gives his man an address. They are there within twenty minutes.

Situated on Iron Lane in Nordgate, Rusty Remedies is Daubler's shop. He seems to be doing a brisk business with people coming and going. When it is Mikhail's turn, he sits back behind his desk and looks the tall Kislevite over, after inquiring about his name and profession.

"You appear to be in good health, Magister Petrovich. Is this about a comrade of yours, or do you have something else on your mind?" he says, eyeing the papers and the book Mikhail retrieved from Widenhoft's. Like Mikhail, he seems more of a cosmopolitan soul, with a diploma from Atdorph University sitting side by side with a Hochlander woodcutting of a site from the Old Faith.

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Mikhail pulled the blue vial out of his purse and placed it ontoe table with the letter. "There's a plague brewing out there, and this might well be able to stop it. I'm no doctor, no apothecary, but you are. You've got to help me stop this thing before more people die."

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He looks at it, turn a lantern light onto it so he can see it with the light coming through.

"Hmmmm ... How did you come by this?"

Before Mikhail can answer, Daubler holds up his hand and goes to the door to the waiting room.

"I'm very sorry, all of you. Something has come up and I must close down my shop for the day. Please check in on me tomorrow."

He hustles the few protesting patons out the front door and locks it. He comes back into his office and shuts the door.

"As I was asking, how did you come by this? Is this from the City, or from Talabheim, and what else do you know of the Grey Ague?"

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Mikhail relates is past week to the man as succinctly as possible, ending with their trip back into the city. "These rat beastmen appear to be the cause or part of the cause of this new plague. Can you tell if this cure will work? Can you reproduce it?" He pauses, thinking of Hetta and Umma, "There are people counting on you."

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"Skaven ... I've read about them. They have attacked the empire before with diseases and the like. We may be in some serious trouble. The Countess needs to know of this."

He gives Mikhail a fearful, tired look,

"Tell those you can trust. These creatures are insidious and if this is an attack on the city, they may have human agents. Beware."

Taking up the vial,

"I will find out what this is. Widenhoft's work is instrumental. It would take me weeks to get this far otherwise."

He thumbs through some papers, glancing over them,

"Now I can see were he was going with this, I will have a cure soon. I'm sure of it."

"Come by daily, or send someone you trust. I have no messengers I trust. Choose a word or phrase we can use to communicate. My memory is good. I won't write it down."

"Now ..." he dismisses his fear and dives into the scientific puzzle before him. Mikhail can see the wheels within wheels turning inside the man's head and somehow finds renewed hope that THIS man can deliver.

... if he lives.

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"Lock your doors, shutter your windows. Widenhoft was killed to stop his work, these creatures are not going to stop there. I'll send an apprentice. If he doesn't tell you that Vladimir the Hawk sent him do not even reply. I will return tomorrow at noon." Mikhail departed and, reluctantly, headed toward the Countess' estate. Even if he didn't like the possible outcome Mikhail realized that only she had the power to ensure that this would end well.

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Daubler (first name Ulthvas) walks Mikhail out and the Magi can hear the key turning and a large bolt slamming shut. Mikhail picks up his horse and rides back up town on his own distasteful errand.

The Grand Manor has elements of the Talabecander Army encamped on it, their tents just going up and troopers moving makeshift barricades into place. A less informed observer would guess that The Countess feared insurrection. Mikhail sees another sign - the leader of this town is fortifying her home position.

The wait to see the Countess seems interminable ... until Mikhail remembers to flash his papers once more. This gets him on the short list. The total wait is still over an hour though. Once he is let into the office, a spacious affair with many chairs and a dozen people standing about, Mikhail feels somewhat like a country bumpkin. He turns that shame into anger. These people are preening and the city hands on a razor's edge.

The Countess's reaction is a bit different. First she seems indifferent, blathering on a bit about how terrible it must be in Taalagad, and how wretched the refugees must be. She then stands up and announces it is time for an early lunch. The Countess will walk in the garden with ... with ... with ... her pet wizard, if he promises not to bore her with bad news.

Through grinding teeth, Mikhail can only nod. Two armed guards, full mail armour with antlers on their helms follow at a discreet distance. Once they are well into the gardens, but not too close to the patrolling army troops, The Countess inclines her head,

"Tell me what you have uncovered, Magister Petrovich. As you must have seen, things in the city do not go well. We are reacting, not acting, and that state of affairs we can not allow to continue."

After only a second, she adds,

"I have been warned from questionable sources that we are soon to be invaded, targeting the Tallows, were the rule of law is weakest. This is to be a raid to turn people into slaves. I am not convinced."

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Mikhail inclined his head as though acquiescing to her point, "Perhaps I should have removed the head of one of these 'Skaven' beasts and brought it to you? I imagine that it wouldn't go well with your decor but perhaps you have a trophy room, yes?" Mikhail stops and turns to face the Countess, "I do not care what you think of me. I do not even care that you seek to manipulate your way into the position of the next Elector Count. People. Are. Dying. And more will if you cannot see far enough past your own schemes to save this city.

"If this disease were meant as an attack of its own would it not be more deadly, more communicable, and would it not have started in an area with greater traffic into and out of the city? This ... this pox is meant to weaken and divide us. You've pulled elements of the army to protect your home, and those are now fewer units that can respond to an attack. I have seen these creatures with my own eyes, seen the tunnels that allow access to the city bypassing the walls. Do you need more proof? Is my word not enough? Are the deaths not enough?"

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She turns and stares at him as if he's lost his mind. Perhaps she's not used to being talked this way.

"You think me heartless because I do not save EVERYBODY? No, a leader saves what she can. I leader knows the limits of her authority and acts the best she can within them."

"The plague is strongest in the Merchant Quarters and the Tallows. If I send the army in to face off this raid, I will end up with plague-racked soldiers. I do what I can do. I do things like listen to bombastic outsiders who think they can do this job better than I can."

"In more simplistic terms, I won't be chosen Count-Elector if I can't even hold my own city. Now, I've already sent messages out for assistance - more Shallyan's to fight the plague in Taalagad and more witchhunters to find the human agents of this new enemy."

"Imperial resources are stretched too thin, I am informed, to respond to a premonition of an attack. Apparently we must be in dire danger before help is forthcoming. Still, I have sent appeals to the Emperor and the Graf of Middenland, our closest allies. It will be well past a week before I expect to hear from them."

"As for the plague, what else do you suggest I do? I am considering quaranteening off the worst areas and setting up barricades to limit crossings between the districts. I have summoned researchers for the University to work on finding a cure."

"Which reminds me, there have been vague reports of bodies gone missing. The Priests of Morr say the normal number of dead are not being recieved. It is like less people are dying in this plague instead of more. Would you know anything about that? I would put a witchunter on the matter, but alas, we have none available. Perhaps you could work with the Verenans on this matter. They could use the magical assistance."

"No," she says eyeing him from the side, "you may be rude and bellicose, but I don't need Dandies in the city's time of need. I need people who will keep me informed as to what is truly going on, poorly chosen words and what. Besides, if I do weather this crisis well and become the next Count-Elector, wouldn't you find that useful as well?"

She pats him on the arm,

"First things first, we save what lives we can. We save the city because it is a city worth saving. Politics will wait until we are picking up the pieces."

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Mikhail knuckles pop as his fists tighten. "My Lady, you may call me all the names you wish, it does not change the fact that people are dying. If you wish to help you would do well send your men to protect the city's apothecaries. I believe that the agents of the enemy will attack them to help ensure the plague spreads and no cure is found."

He lets out a long breath, "I do not know why there would be missing bodies. Perhaps once I have seen to my own people I will spare some of my considerable talents toward finding out. Perhaps not. I find that I tire rather quickly of following other people's bidding like some simple apprentice."

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"We can ill afford to send Watchmen to every apothecary ... sigh ... but I see your point. Even without enemy action, some mob might take it upon themselves to sack a few shops. I'll do what I can. It will probably be the militia's job."

"You have considerable talents, or you would not be standing here, believe me. I do not suffer fools willingly. I suffer enough foolish burghes and nobles because it is part of my job. Now, if you need to, go out and get drunk. The Cup Tax has been repealed. Go feel sorry for yourself. Not everyone of us can walk away from this fight."

"If you are done in the service of this city, return my papers to the Chamberlain on your way out. Thank you for your service, it shall not be forgotten," she says, feelings hurt. "For whatever reason you seem to view me in a bad light. So be it. You are no one's apprentice and I take personally the insult that I have treated you as such."

"Good day."

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"Bloody hell woman. If you want me as an ally stop treating me like a buffoon and stop manipulating everything. I don't care if its habit or not. I'm the son of a Kislevian woodsman, I don't color my words and I don't spare the rod. I've spent the past week growing enough crops to count for an entire harvest season, tracked down a potential cure for this pox, and tried in vain to ensure that the people under my care, directly or otherwise, do not suffer needlessly or unduly. Do not insult me by questioning my commitment to the PEOPLE. And I need not remind you that without the people this city is little more than stone and mortar."

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"Most people who hate politics think the political opposite of manipulation is truth. It's not. It's violence. While there are some individuals I meet that I would like to kill, I don't because others would then find it acceptable to kill me because I have policies they disagree with."

She slumps slightly.

"There are going to be children that die in this mess because they are poor and live in a bad neighborhood. I do not have the resources to fight it. The plague is already here. Now I have to save what I can. I know. I'm repeating myself, but I want you to realize I'm not heartless."

"I am also aware that you have asked for nothing while doing what you have done for the people of the city. If you need something, and it is within my power to grant it, it will be done. It is in the city's best interest to preserve such individuals like yourself."

"Tell me, have you heard from any of the other people on your commission? Friesch reported back his initial findings. It was the prime reason we closed off the city. Von Kritzer has been rallying support amongst the nobles to have them commit their private forces toward the militia's efforts. Fraulein Ironwight and Von Taaben have been absent. I can send another message to Von Taaben - we are allies. Would you make sure Heln Ironwight is okay?"

"Sorry," she blushes, "I have lain another task at your doorstep."

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"Aye, an apprentice's work is never done," he said sourly. "I'll check on your blacksmith." Mikhail ignored her offer but filed it away in his head as a note. She owed him one, and he would be damned if he would waste such an opportunity no matter how despicable all this glad handing could be. "If you are done with me, I have apprentices to punish, sick colleagues to tend, and a cure to ensure is able to be created and given out." He offered no formal good bye but simply turned and made his way out once more into the city. He needed to check up on the apothecary first before he could go and ensure that his people hadn't decided that they wanted to foment rebellion after having been involved with the kidnapping of a noble.

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Daubler was so long in coming to the door that Mikhail feared that he might be dead. When he did come, he asked for the password as a careful Agent of Change should. Sadly, there was little advancement since this morning. Science took time, he said, though he almost promised it held the answers. At least his best hope for dealing with the pestilance was was playing it safe.

On the road back Mikhail saw more armed men with green and white armbands bearing the coat of arms for the city were marching around. The militia was beginning to hit the streets. He arrived at the Jade Tower without incident. He handed his horse off to Victor to lead off to the stables next door.

Once inside, Bertha met him.

"What does the Master require? The house has been quiet. Journeyman Faust has the Apprentices up on the fourth level going over the principles of magic. Even Mister Thaddeus has attended today."

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"How are the sick? Hetta? Umma? I would like to see them and then take a meal." He sighed, "And then I must go once again, there is a great deal more to do." He rubbed a hand over his face realizing how tired he was. He followed Bertha up to the makeshift quarantine area and, after tying a damp cloth around his face, entered.

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"Umma has come down with a cough, but I saw fit to isolate her. Her symptoms have since progressed," she says sadly. It is her only daughter she's talking about. "Only the apothecary and myself are dealing with her or Hetta - with masks of course."

A few more steps up,

"The disease seems to progress so that on the second day the person feels better for a few hours, but we now know this to be a false hope."

"Hetta has become noticalby weaker and prone to some delirium. It is a pity to see such an intelligent mind becomes so wracked with fever."

Mikhail came to Umma's room first. They had placed her on the Journeyman's level. Faust had been moved up to the Master's level to keep contamination to a minimum.

Umma looked profoundly embarrassed and sat up on bed.

"Master, I am so sorry. I wasn't careful enough. I think that I caught this when I was watching Miss Hetta's sheets - her night sweats."

In Hetta's room, Mikhail could see that she was much worse. Her skin was shallow and grey. She had a few white blisters on her arms and throat. She was feverish and defintely weak, which she showed when she tried to sit up and failed.

"Master ... not sleeping well ... need to get to my lessons," she grins" ... going to make Master before winter comes."

Her voice was weak and ephemeral, as if she was talking to herself as anybody else in the room.

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Mikhail shook his head helplessly, "Just rest, there will be time enough when you are well." Finally he returns to his own quarters and washes up while Bertha brings him a quick meal. It takes little time to fill him, his appetite seems to have fallen by the wayside in light of the spreading illness. At last he leaves once more. There are errands to run and he suspects that things will only get worse before they get better. He heads for the craftsman's quarter first figuring that the walk there may give him time for further reflection.

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What most concerned him is how the Law Quarter, the central hub and heart of the city, seemed to carry on as if nothing was going wrong. Court cases were still being tried and litigants still stood around arguing wether one law held precident over another. It was as if they didn't know the city was in danger of sinking, or in this paticular case, dying of the plague.

Even in the Schwartzhold-Nordgate center things went on pretty much as normal. A few extra militiamen were on the streets, but that was it. Only as he approached the end of Iron Lane did he hear the pounding of hammes on heated metal, the sounds of industry and industry was good.

Donner's Blades was easy enough to ask about. As he approached, Mikhail saw Heln sitting down, her left arm bandaged from what looked like a nasty gash. Her hammer was in her lap and a mug of ale (to dull the pain) was in her right hand. A younger blacksmith was standing before her, stretching out a suit of leather armor, the underpinning of heavier mail. A Mail coif was on the table with the mug.

Heln looked up as the Magi approached. She looked to be somewhere between Devil-may-care, and put out.

{Continued in Stoking the Coals}

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Returning from the forges of Donner's Blades with a somewhat sour taste in his mouth and a bitter headache, Mikhail went into the Jade Tower. Bertha met him at the door.

"Master," she said excitedly, "there are Magister here to see you."

Imagining how much this could make the situation this day had become, the Magister went up the stairs to confront his fate. On the fifth level, he found his guests waiting and his heart lifted. There were two mages.

One had purple robes on with celestial symbols sown in silver across it. She was hauntingly beautiful, with pale skin and long, raven-dark hair, held back with a silver comb. Sitting down eating some sausage and some cheese from a knife blade, he could see she has on white under-robes and blue boots with a silver buckle. She has a sword at her waist. She had to be a Celestial mage and might be trouble.

The second one had an aura of real power. What eased Mikhails troubled mind was the man's cast. This Magi hand light brown robes of rough cloth and leather in a patchwork, a long beard more grey than red, and long, unkempt hair. He had a knife with a antler handle at his belt and was sharing the meal with the female. He wore a necklace of boars teeth and had other animal bones and teeth about his person. Of all the Orders, only this man's order held less to politics and the subterfuges of man than did a Magi of the Order of the Beast!

The older man stood.

"I am Alwin Bergen and this is my wife, Elfrieda. The animals of the forest are disturbed and the city is the reason why. We have come here to aid the Jade tower in getting to the bottom of this of matter. We are both Magisters of our respective Orders. I was going to ask if you can help us, but by the looks of this place, you are already on it. The Question that remains is - What can we do for you?"

His tone was rough and uncultured, if polite. He certainly smelled like a man more used to the deep wilds and not the courts of nobles. His much younger wife merely studied Mikhail intensely with her fanthomless eyes, which was somewhat unnerving since she was a Fate Mage.

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Sigmar's dying breath, this is getting out of hand. Mikhail paused a moment, he needed to compose himself. The blacksmith woman had aggravated his mood, he half expected to see the living trees of the tower thrashing about in response to his agitation but luckily trees were far slower to anger and far less likely to ever reach the kind of anger that could stir them into action. "Excuse me, if you would, for just a moment. I would be in your debt if I could spare just a few moment to compose myself."
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Elfrieda nodded and Alwin spoke these few words.

"Everything comes in its own time, Brother Mikhail."

They continued to eat their light lunch, Elfrieda walking over to a window and looked out over the Manor Distict. She held two carrots in her hand. Alwin turned halfway in his chair and opened a book that had been left out. He flipped through a few pages, stopped at one and began reading it. Alwin chuckled at something he had found then moved on content in his study.

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Mikhail moved to the more private side of the room and took a moment to both compose himself and refresh himself. After a short while he emerged. "I thank you for coming and for your offer of aide. I wish I had better news but I will tell you what I know." Over the next half hour he laid out all the information he had though he was unspecific regarding the cure. At last he settled back, a freshly brewed honey mead in his hand. "That is the situation. At this point any assistance would be welcome."

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They didn't ask for information that was not freely given, nor doubt his words or his sincerity. Alwin seemed like a rock in a stream of troubles, unmoving and resolute ... or maybe a bear waking from Winter's slumber. Elfrieda seemed prepared to ask questions occassionally, but deferred to her husband's silence. Finally, at the end of his information outlay, she steps forward.

"My husband is best in the woods, or in the heat of battle, but stays away from all but the most simple human pursuits. I am used to dealing with those who are vain and self-important ... as well as essential. If you need my aid, you have but to ask."

She seems genuine in her offer, and with her elegent looks and smooth mannerisms, she can clearly be an asset to the work the Jade Tower needs done.

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"Perhaps." Mikhail considered the two, he was well out of his league already and things were only getting worse. He sighed. "I'm out of my league here. Honestly I've no idea how you can help, I'm not even sure what I can do anymore. You can read the fates, you can see the way that things will go. Can you tell me what must be done?"

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{meanwhile}

Finding a Baron with the name of Fehringer turned out to be harder than they had supposed, mainly because noble families were moving in and out of the city in the panic of the plague coming to the city. They asked around and found his home, but there was no family in residence. They confirmed this the first night by sneaking into the house and searching around. They found the house recently vacated and the few servants seemed in no hurry to get things done around the house. This was certainly a sign of no one coming home soon.

A keen ear to the ground gave her the rumor that an ancient law amongst these humans that their nobles were being forced to lend their blades to the city’s defense – as if real nobles needed to be coerced into defending their homelands. Of course, the nobles were fighting this, the cowardly lot. This initiative also gave them hope. To defend his position in the aristocracy he had to come back to town and aid in its defense.

All that took was finding out where their Baron Fehringer was serving in the militia. Surprising, you couldn’t just ask and have the local watchmen tell you. They tended to look at you strangely and tell you to move along. Worse, they attempted to recruit Nayobee and Ioriona into their militia. The ladies dodged out artfully thanks to a crowded street.

As a last resort, they had to return to the Jade Tower and Mikhail’s help. Hetta might be able to help, or more likely one of those useful apprentices. It would even be good to see her traveling companion.

*****************************************

At the Tower,

"Rest for the rest of the day, Master Mikhail," growls Alwin bear-like. "The city won't perish in your absence ... and if it does, could you really have saved it?"

Elfrieda smiles knowlingly,

"MY mastery of the fates is more mystery than reality. I can read a fate about an hour into the future with some effort, but life fortelling often takes days. I'm more of a weather-witch. I love storms and feel somewhat less than full away from a thunderstorm."

"Be at ease knowing you are not alone in the Arts. We will each do what we can."

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Mikhail nodded and slumped into a chair suddenly exhausted. "You will of course be guests here, and take dinner tonight with my guest and I." Mikhail felt suddenly very tired, as if the great weight of duty were dragging him down.

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The constant delays and distractions was getting on her nerves again but at least she wasn't alone on her quest now. Ioriona proved to be a very able and reliable companion - a true Ghost Strider and she knew when to speak and when to remain silent.

But again Nayobee had reached the limit of her abilities within the confines of this big city. She would have preferred hunting Swamp Trolls then finding some bloated noble who'd sell his own mother to save his hide.

Reaching the Jade Tower Nayobee briefly knocked and announced her return to one of the apprentice's who answered the door. She hoped that Mikhail had returned so they could exchange news... and ask for his help. She wasn't looking forward to the latter but it seemed there was no other way to solve the problem she had.

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Nayobee barely recognized the older woman who answered the door. It didn't make her comfortalbe to hear the leaves rustle at her approach and the trees groaning their warnings. The Jade Tower had become less welcoming.

Once inside the mood had definitely dampened. There was a hush from above.

"This way, Lady Nayobee ... and friend."

"I'm Ioriona," corrected the other Ghost Strider.

"Lady Ioriona," Bertha staggered through the elven name, "this way."

She led them both upstairs. In the third leve Nayobee's keen eyes noted only three apprentices with the Journeyman Faust (though she barely remembered his name). Two were missing, Brandt being one of them. Thaddeus half-waved then stopped himself.

There was no sign of Hetta, which was troubling, since the place seemed to revolve around that woman. On the fifth floor, Magister Petrovich and two guests awaited. One was a scruffy looking elder with a penchant for bones and teeth in his jewelry. The other was an attractive (for a human) woman in rich blue robes ... and an elven sword attached to her waist. At least the scabbard was enscribed with Elven Runes. The three looked at the two elves as they were presented by Bertha.

"Magisters, Ladies Nayobee and Ioriona. Magisters Alwin, Elfrieda, and the Master of the Tower, Mikhail."

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Mikhail didn't speak. He looked Nayobee over and saw no obvious signs of injury. Her companion he was not sure if he recognized in her the woman they had seen at the gate more than a week ago. It felt like a lifetime to Mikhail. He was tired and irritable and angry, he simply waited with his guests, waited to see what it was she wanted.

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Nayobee narrowed her eyes hesitating for a moment if she should disclose any information infront of any unknown guests. Then she noticed Mikhail’s expression which was unquestionably angry. Something she had done wasn’t received well by her friend but she wasn’t sure exactly what. This was dangerously close to drifting into political territory and that was one of the reasons for her self-imposed exile.

Instead of sharing any information with people she didn’t know Nayobee briefly nodded to Mikhail.

„I’ll be at my quarters with Ioriona. We talk later I suppose?“

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"Lady Nayobee," Elfrieda said bowing slightly to Mikhail, "we shall retire and let you get to your business. My husband and I have somethings we wish to purchase in town. We shall be gone a few hours. Magister," she directs at Mikhail again.

Alwin stood and stretched, more like black bear shaking off a midwinter's nap than a man.

"Shopping," he muttered unkindly to the word. He got up and moved to his wife.

"Mik, see ya later."

The two of them left the room, walked down the stairs, and got out of the way of conversation.

Ioriona leans in to Nayobee,

"Should I wait in your quarters?" she whispers in the Elven tongue.

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Nayobee barely shook her head and answered without looking at her new companion, <This concerns you as much as it does me, there is no reason to leave unless the Magister asks you to.>

To the Nobles Nayobee simply stared back without acknowleding their words. Either she didn't understand or she didn't care. The latter was the more obvious choice.

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Mikhail stood and offered small respectful bows to his peers as they left. After that he moved to his writing desk and sat down, either Hetta had been busy or Faust had actually stepped up to fill in her roll properly while she was ill, either way his desk had a small stack of papers on it needing his review and signature. He pulled the top one off the stack and started looking over it silently. After a minute he said, "You came to speak to me? Then speak."

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