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Death Is My Reward

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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2018 5:42 pm    Post subject: Death Is My Reward Reply with quote

April 15, 2018

". . . Should I keep my eyes closed?" Gren was walking up to the Cafeteria with Izira and Perrigan the next day, holding his hands over his face.

"Gren, you don't have to do that. Just walk inside, alright?" Perrigan explained. Gren lowered his hands as if disappointed.

Perrigan went up to the Cafeteria doors and looked back at the pair. "Are you ready?" When Gren and Izira nodded in the affirmative, he swung the door open.

Inside, the Rangers had hung red, amber, and yellow streamers up on the ceiling, and the same colored bouquets of flowers were placed on the tables. A large poster was hung up in the back that said "Congratulations Gren and Izira!" A similar buffet to the one Izira had served the Rangers was set up, including ham, chicken, roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, macaroni and cheese, and buttered rolls steamed in the back. The Rangers who were attending looked up when the door opened. "SURPRISE!"

Izira had not covered her eyes, but watched Gren with amusement. As he looked slightly disappointed, she hugged him and gave him a squeeze of her hand. Her smile blossomed at the group of rangers that had come out to celebrate with them, turning to see Gren's reaction.

Gren's face brightened, even though it wasn't technically a surprise since they told them in advance. Still he smiled broadly and shook the hands of those that came up to congratulate them. "Thanks, guys."

Haddon came up, chewing on a drumstick. "Enough with the congratulations, we all know why you're here, let's get to eating already!" Haddon and Perrigan ushered Gren and Izira up to the front of the buffet line.

She offered her thank yous to those they passed, having small conversations as she was able. Her light laughter filling the air from time to time before Haddon came over. "It looks like you already got started." Taking the lead at the table, what with ladies being first and Gren being chivalrous, she fixed herself up a small plate, helping Gren load up his own.

Yolene came up to Gren and Izira, wearing a frilly apron and holding a spatula. "I hope you enjoy everything! I took the lead on the decorations, and Crawford helped with the cooking!" Crawford came out of the kitchen, wearing a similar apron, and looked mortified at having to do so. "Save room for dessert!" Yolene gave Gren a little wink and skipped back into the kitchen.

Gren tried some of the ham, and put plenty of veggies on his plate, as well as two of the buttered rolls. He didn't object when Izira put a spoonful of the macaroni there as well. "Boy, everything looks great!"

Perrigan led them over to the main table, where he sat down across from Gren. Haddon, Moriana, Yolene and Crawford eventually joined them as the other Rangers were filing in to get their share of food.

"It is beautiful, Yolene. Thank you." Izira offered the woman a kiss to the cheek. "Looking handsome, Crawford”, she said with a short nod to the apron. Her dress was a flowing soft fabric in black with white flowers. The dress was a wrap, tied at her waist. As she sat, the leg slipped out between the cloths before her hand fixed it back into place.

Between mouthfuls of green beans, Yolene spoke to Izira. "Izira! You just have to tell us the details! When did Gren propose? How did he propose? What did you say? Was it some place romantic?"

"It was someplace romantic, a cave up in the northern woods. There was a pool and waterfall." Izira rested a hand on Gren's back as she spoke. "It was where the map we found led." She looked to Gren, "He got down on one knee and told me all the things in his heart."

"Aw, Izira . . ." Gren turned slightly red, although he looked bashful, not upset. "I was . . . caught up in the moment."

Haddon intruded in the conversation. "You must have been wearing something hot to get Gren that riled up." Moriana punched Haddon's shoulder.

"Haddon, it's not polite to speak about someone's fiancee like that", Perrigan chided him.

Yolene piped up again. “So have you set a date? Where are you going to have the wedding? Have you picked out a dress yet?"

Gren gave Yolene an exasperated look. "I just asked her a few days ago! Give us a little time to get used to being engaged first!"

She chuckled softly, her hand moving from Gren's back to his leg and resting there affectionately. "I think, perhaps at the inn, so long as Gren agrees." She looked aside to him, "The rest is unknown as of yet. But like the engagement, will come in its time."

"The Inn would be just fine with me, Izira", Gren agreed.

"Don't forget to try the rolls, Crawford made those", Yolene interjected. Crawford looked abashed, but Gren tried one.

"They taste great, Crawford", Gren said. Crawford brightened and didn't look so miserable.

Yolene turned her attention to Izira again. "So where did you two meet? How did you meet? Was it love at first sight?"

"We met at the Great Helm, when I served there many years ago. It was only a passing meeting. Gren found me again years later." She smiled softly to Gren.

"She used to serve buffets there, just like this one. I thought she was beautiful, classy, and kind. I've never been very good with flirting so I missed my first chance. But as Izira said, I found her again. When I did, I knew I couldn't miss that second chance. Thankfully, it worked out." He returned Izira's smile.

"Oh, that's romantic." Yolene sighed and looked off into the distance.

"You know, it was my advice that helped Gren win Izira's heart", Haddon said with a mouthful of mashed potatoes. Moriana grabbed Haddon's ear and twisted it, causing Haddon to yelp.

"Do nothing I do. I suspect." She slyly smiled into her glass. Then she set it down, looking to Yolene and Crawford. "I was.... resistant. Gren fought his way into my heart, he was... very persistent and present. I am grateful he did not give up on me."

Yolene listened to Izira with that same distant look on her face, then she turned and looked at Crawford. "You see, he was persistent and present." Crawford rolled his eyes heavenward.

"Maybe I should be more persistent and present with Mori, Haw Haw Haw!" Haddon replied, while Moriana aimed her fork at Haddon threateningly.

Izira lifted a brow at Crawford. Her attention moved away with Haddon's words. Izira shook her head and gave Moriana a sympathetic look. Returning her attention to Gren, "It took the fear of losing him to make me realize how much of my heart he had." She lifted his hand to kiss the back of it adding with a warm smile, "All of it."

"I'd never been so sure of anything in my life. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, and thankfully, that dream came true”, Gren added.

"You two do make a lovely couple", Perrigan remarked.

"Psssh, I tell you what, I'm never getting married. It's the bachelor life for me." Moriana gave Haddon a sideways look.

Yolene said, "Oh, I can't wait to get married. I'm going to wear a long white dress with a veil, and it will be held outdoors, and a hundred white doves will be released into the air when the minister says "You may now kiss the bride"!" Yolene gave another sigh.

"Where are you going to find a hundred white doves?" Crawford wondered aloud.

"I'll make it happen, don't you worry." Yolene leveled a gaze at Crawford that made him gulp.

Leaning in and kissing the edge of Gren's jaw following his response. She turned her smile to the Headmaster of the Rangers, "Thank you Perrigan." Haddon got a passing glance, Izira keeping her smile and tongue in check to his words, but commenting on Yolene's wish for doves for her dream wedding, "I know people."

Yolene looked at Crawford while pointing at Izira. "Told you I could make it happen." Crawford looked at his plate and stuffed a roll in his mouth. Yolene suddenly popped up as if she remembered something. "Oh! I hope you saved room like I said! Crawford, help me get the cake!" Yolene drug Crawford back into the kitchen, and a few moments later, they wheeled a large cake with white frosting on it out to the table. There were words in red and amber icing written on it that said "Congratulations on your engagement, Gren & Izira". "Izira gets the first piece!" Yolene cut a corner piece of the cake off and set it on a plate, handing it to Izira, before passing out pieces to everyone else at the table.

Izira might have been enjoying adding to Crawford's troubles. She had plenty of room for the cake, bowing her head in thanks at the piece offered. She stole a bit of icing off of it and offered it to Gren, "What do you think about doves?" A tease in her tone.

Gren ate the icing off Izira's finger and winked. "I think that many doves flying overhead might be a problem for the people on the ground. We might need to pass out umbrellas."

"They could be released at a distance."Izira offered a way to make it work, though that was not something she had in mind for herself.

Haddon laughed, "Listen to Gren! Making a poop joke! Haw haw! I think I'm finally rubbing off on him!"

Everyone at the table began to eat their cake. "So Gren, I hear you have a Baron challenge coming up”, Yolene said.

"Yes, that's right, I should win a grant for finishing in third place in the DoS Madness Tournament."

Yolene giggled, "What are you going to do with a Barony in the City?"

Gren shrugged, "I don't know, but I'm sure I'll think of something."

"I suspect the Barony would gain a few more trees and recycling receptacles." Izira grinned. "Who are you thinking about challenging?"

"Aludariel Sun'vael, current Baroness of Battlefield Park. All I really know about her is that she's Kruger Allen's girlfriend. I’m picking that district because it is the closest to my area of the forest. I'm sure I can do my part to educate the citizens on proper recycling techniques."

"How long has she held the title?" Izira asked.

"About seven months, and nobody has challenged her for it yet. I've never held a Barony so I'm kind of interested to see what that's like”, Gren replied.

"If you want to be a Baron so bad, you should challenge for someplace fun like New Haven or Seaside. Battlefield Park has got to be the most boring part of the city", Haddon said.

"If this is going to be my first time, I think boring would suit me just fine", Gren disagreed.

"Boredom is easily chased away." Izira brushed her fingers through Gren's hair. She smiled to Yolene and Crawford, "A great meal, you two make quite the pair."

Yolene answered as Gren leaned into Izira's head massage. "Thank you, Izira! I'm glad you liked everything." Crawford merely nodded to Izira.

"Yes, everything was great", Gren backed up Izira. "I hope everyone in the Guild can make it to our wedding, whenever we decide to have it."

"Something for us to talk about on the way home”, Izira added.

"Eh, uh, yeah." Gren looked a little worried like he didn't expect that line of conversation so soon, but hey, he's the one that asked to get married. Gren leaned back in his chair after his large meal. "Man, I'm stuffed."

Perrigan now turned to Gren. "Speaking of where you found the ring, that didn't happen to be Brallin's territory, was it?"

Gren gulped and nodded, "Yeah, it was."

"Did you happen to see any of his Rangers?"

"Yeah, we saw a few of them in an abandoned village."

"You need to be careful if you go out there again. Brallin and I aren't exactly on the best of terms."

"I'll be careful, Headmaster, nothing happened."

Izira bit her tongue, knowing that Gren meant that nothing happened with the other rangers and her making a comment about other things would not be helpful. "We were simply a couple on a stroll."

“Yeah, just a stroll, heh heh." Gren laughed nervously and tugged at his collar.

Haddon opened his mouth to make a comment and Moriana grabbed his ear again.

"The territory there is quite lovely." Izira thought back to the bridge. Looking back to Perrigan, between him and Gren, "I thought I might revisit the area again. Do you think that would be problematic?"

"Maybe", said Perrigan, thoughtfully.

"I took my cloak off so they would think we were just two lovers on an afternoon stroll. I think we'll be alright." Gren answered, hopefully.

"Alright. I haven't had words with Brallin in years. Honestly, I'd prefer to keep it that way."

Izira gave a short nod of understanding, taking it into consideration. "What happened the last time you had words with this Brallin?"

Perrigan set his jaw. "Some of Rangers got in a bar brawl with his. Blood was spilled when one of his Rangers pulled a knife. It wasn't pretty. Neither was our discussion. That type of thing has been going on for years between our two groups."

Her lashes fluttered at the mention of such violence between the two ranger sects. Her hand slipped into Gren's to hold it. Gren was not a violent man, Izira knew well what her reaction would be if one of Brallin's men tried anything with her around. "I understand well why you would want to avoid any other unpleasantries."

Gren squeezed Izira's hand in return. "I haven't had a personal run-in with them. But hopefully that won't happen."

And then speak of the devil.

Last edited by Gren Blockman on Thu Nov 01, 2018 4:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2018 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Grace suddenly burst through the door, and gave Perrigan a quick salute. "Headmaster! Headmaster Brallin is here to see you, I tried to get you first, but . . . . "

Striding through the door and past Grace was a large man with a ragged red beard that could be seen jutting out from beneath a green hooded cloak. Slowly the man pulled his hood back to show a pockmarked face with a cold, hazel eyed stare. That stare landed on Perrigan, and the man known as Brallin crossed his arms. "Headmaster Perrigan."

Perrigan set his jaw again and stood up from his place at the table. "Headmaster Brallin. What is the reason for this interruption?"

"This can't wait, Perrigan. Your Rangers have been intruding in my territory on Double Rock Ridge."

"I can assure you my Rangers know to stay away from that area . . .”

"Then how do you explain the broken bones my men suffered just this morning?"

"I have no idea what you are talking about, but I will look into the matter immediately."

Then Brallin noticed Gren and narrowed his eyes at him. "You", he pointed a finger, "I saw you personally. Two days ago in Persetti Village."

Izira took a drink of her water as the men exchanged words. A brow lifted when he pointed at Gren. "If you saw him, then I take it you saw me as well then Sir." Izira stood up, allowing the man to take her in. "I am no ranger, I own an inn." With a short smile she said,” Is it your intention then to tell a citizen that I cannot walk in certain territories because of my companion?" Tilting her head, "I was not aware rangers had taken to discouraging others from enjoying nature."

Brallin's cold stare landed on Izira. "I have no problem with enjoying nature, woman, I have a problem with other Guilds sending their Rangers to encroach on my territory. How do I know that one of Perrigan's Rangers didn't just bring his 'companion' along with him for a convenient excuse? This argument is not between me and you, it is between me and a fellow Headmaster." Brallin leveled his index finger at Perrigan. "This is my final warning. If I catch any more of your men where they don't belong, there will be more than bones broken. You've own me a debt of blood for years and this time . . . I intend to collect." Brallin swept the Cafeteria with one final glare, then replacing his green hood he marched from the building, slamming the door behind him.

Izira was tempted to scorch the man but remained looking at him with unimpressed amber-brown eyes. She didn't move as he left, watching the door. She glanced back at the table, "Pleasant sort." She said with a thin smile.

Grace rolled her eyes and scampered out behind Brallin to make sure he left the Compound. Perrigan, too, stared at Brallin's back as he left the Cafeteria, then he grunted a bit in displeasure. "I'm sorry you had to see that, Izira, especially today of all days."

"No need to apologize Perrigan. It is information to have, if nothing else. And now I have a face to put to the name." She moved back to stand behind Gren and put a hand on his shoulder. "I apologize that our trip into the territory added to your trouble with the man."

Perrigan waved it off with a hand. "It was bound to happen sooner or later. I'm more concerned with what supposedly happened on Double Rock Ridge. Crawford, do me a favor and go check at the guardhouse to see if anyone knows what happened." Crawford nodded and quickly hurried from the Cafeteria. Perrigan then focused his gaze on Gren. "So I take it you found Izira's ring at Persetti then?"

Gren gulped and nodded. "I didn't have my cloak on, I hoped he would have just seen us as two tourists."

Perrigan chuckled, "Well, it almost worked. Maybe you should stay away from that cave until things cool down, hmm?"

"From the sounds of the exchange, I would not wager on it cooling down within a lifetime." Izira looked down to Gren, "Perchance I should return there on my own to hinder them from making unwarranted accusations?"

"No, I don't think that would be a good idea. Brallin's seen your face, they probably will think we've sent you as a spy. It's alright, we'll think of something if the need arises. I've been in and out of his territory during tense times before”, Gren replied.

"Hopefully that won't be necessary", Perrigan added. "We haven't had a Ranger War in years and I'd like to keep it that way."

"I cannot begin to think why one would even need to spy on them." She shook her head, tucking a length of hair behind her ear. "Brutish foolishness."

"Logic and Brallin don't necessarily go together. He's a very untrusting, combative person. We just need to be cautious for a while." The door opened again, and Crawford walked in with two young men in their twenties with grey cloaks. One was being held up by the other and covering his eye.

"Headmaster, we are here to report on the incident at Double Rock Ridge."

"Go on, Rendrick", said Perrigan.

"Sir, Sorrel and I were doing our patrols on the eastern edge of our territory. We heard cries of distress coming from on top of Double Rock Ridge, so we climbed up to investigate. Brallin's Rangers were waiting for us. They said we invaded their territory and we had to pay. They . . . . they beat us pretty bad, Sir. We were lucky to make it without any major injuries”, Rendrick reported.

The other Ranger who must have been Sorrel spoke, "It looked like a setup, Sir. There wasn't anyone up there other than Brallin's folk." Sorrel was sporting several large bruises and a cut, bleeding lip.

Izira nearly muttered something again at the report the two rangers made but she bit her tongue. Literally. It was ranger matters, best left to rangers. Surely, having dealt with them for this long Perrigan was better versed in how to deal with it. The air was warm around her, however. Izira disliked bullies.

"Yolene, take Rendrick and Sorrel to the House of Healing. The other Rangers and I will clean up here", Perrigan said, then turned back to the two. "Rest and Heal. I'll check in on you later."

"Yes, Sir." Yolene removed her apron and escorted the two wounded Rangers out the door.

Perrigan leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin. "What is Brallin's game? Why start a fight with us now? This is more than just mere guild rivalry."

"Have you heard any news coming out of his territory?" Gren asked.

Perrigan shook his head, "Nothing more than rumors. But a little information wouldn't hurt." Perrigan snapped his fingers. "Bernard. He hasn't seen Bernard's face. I'll send him to ask a few questions. Discreetly of course. Haddon, go let Bernard know what I need him to do."

"Whatever you say, Headmaster", Haddon said, and left the Cafeteria to deliver Perrigan's message.

"I think the party is over." She gave a slow exhale, "Would you accept assistance on cleaning up?"

"Not at your own engagement party. We'll handle everything. Gren, why don't you take Izira home? I need to make plans once we are done here." Gren nodded. "Yes, Headmaster. Thanks for the party. Sorry about all this."

Izira softly nodded. It was hard for her to not start stacking up the dirty plates, but she resisted. "Thank you for the party. I hope this ugly business does not hinder you returning the inn for too long." Izira offered good-byes to those that remained, small nods or a light touch, depending on how she knew them. Perrigan was afforded a light hug.

Perrigan returned Izira's hug and offered her a smile. Moriana waved goodbye, then set about cleaning off the tables with some of the other Rangers in attendance.

Gren gave his goodbyes as well, then ushered Izira out the door. "Hoo boy, let's just hope Perrigan can handle this and everything blows over soon."

"Indeed." Izira stayed close to Gren, thinking of the marks upon the other two rangers. "I fear I have a poor understanding of the rangers... I did not know you could... war with one another."

"Well, that is very rare. Normally, like Perrigan said, it's more rivalry type stuff. 'My Guild's better than your Guild', so it's just bar brawling or petty squabbling. We all realize how unproductive a war would be, the Rangers are stretched thin enough as it is. But that doesn't mean a War can't, or hasn't happened. Usually it’s when things have been pushed to the breaking point for whatever reason." Gren walked with Izira to the gate, and led her out of the Compound and up the forest road.

"I hope Perrigan is able to resolve the issue soon." She ran her hand down his arm to wrap her fingers with his. "We have better things to plan for."

He entwined his fingers with hers and squeezed. "Yes, we have our whole life ahead of us. And speaking of planning for things, there's the Baron challenge coming up."

"I was thinking more toward... how long you wanted our engagement to be." She softly grinned at Gren, "But I can wait until after the challenge. I assume we are not going to need to be married before it."

Gren laughed. "No, I don't think that is a requirement. But sure, after the Challenge is decided, I'm all yours for planning out the wedding. Did you have anything specific in mind, other than having it at the Inn?"

"A couple other things, but they can wait. We need a date first." She leaned over and kissed his cheek. "There is also a honeymoon to think of..."

"Ooohoohoo, the honeymoon! I wouldn't even know where to start with that! Someplace romantic to spend a week or two at?"

"What would you consider romantic?"

"Well . . . . somewhere secluded, private, but also someplace where we could have fun, like dinner and dancing . . . "

"Sounds like the inn." She chuckled softly.

"No offense to the Inn, but we'll be there for the rest of our life. I'd like to go someplace that's . . . different. Someplace where you and me can enjoy each other's company without anything . . . or anyone we know around."

"We could go to a beach." That would be very different from their day to day surroundings, "Sand, water.... swimsuits. Or no swimsuits, depending."

"Hmm . . .” Gren turned a bit red thinking about the possible implications. "That would depend upon how . . . private the beach is. But that would sound nice. A private seaside beach house, near someplace where we could go for a nice meal. I think that might be nice."

She smiled more, seeing his reaction. "Then I put you in charge of finding the perfect private spot for us..."

"Eh . . . uh . . . okay, I'll do it." A bit flustered at being put on the spot, but he liked the idea, so he agreed.

"And be rewarded handsomely for your efforts." Her smile was suggestive.

Gren pursed his lips thoughtfully and suddenly realized the benefits of taking responsibility for that particular task. "Well then, I'll have to do a good job. I see how important a honeymoon is for a new bride."

"Mm... I am looking forward to being your bride, my ranger."

"I'm looking forward to our honeymoon, my innkeeper."

With a soft chuckle, "I am happy to give you a preview when we get back to the inn... help to forget the ugly business with those other rangers."

"It's only natural, I mean there's a lot of planning that goes into a wedding. And maybe we could practice for the honeymoon . . ." Gren tried to look upwards and innocent but he failed miserably.

"I heard it makes perfect." Watching his failed innocent look, her eyes roamed over him as she lightly bit her lower lip. "I would... hate for our honeymoon to be a failure due to lack of preparation."

"Then I think it's our duty to make this the most perfect wedding ever. We could start right now . . . your place or mine?"

"So not right now...” She chuckled up at him.

"Practice, remember? We have to imagine my treehouse is a romantic beach house."

"Lead the way."

And he did.
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2018 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Beltane Full Moon Market
April 29, 2018

". . . Follow the moonstone path and pass under the yew arbor. Why do they have to make everything sound so mysterious?" Walking arm in arm with Izira, Gren was dressed in his usual grey Ranger's cloak, with a brown shirt and pants underneath. He was wearing a backpack in case he had to lug home plenty of goodies from shopping at the Full Moon Market.

Izira's arm was in Gren's and her other hand rested on his. She laughed lightly. "I think that is the fun of Beltane, my ranger, mystery." She wore a simple grey sheath dress under her light maroon cloak. Her black heels did not seem to mind the forest path.

"Well, it doesn't look dangerous . . . " Gren gave a few cautionary peers into the forest as they continued into the market. "So what shop do you want to look at first?"

"Crown of Good Fortune, I think we are not nearly as festive as we could be."

Gren noticed Sapphire run out of the Crown of Good Fortune booth, then he nodded at Izira. "Seems like a popular place. Alright, let's take a look." As Gren and Izira walked into the booth, it seemed the proprietress was already in the Beltane spirit, as she laid a crown of pink flowers on Gren's head. Gren swiveled his eyes upwards to stare at it. "Uh . . . wait, no I'm just browsing . . . oh, um . . . well, that just happened."

Another light laugh from Izira as a crown of blue and lavender flowers were placed upon her own head. Izira paid the woman for both, taking Gren's cheek in her hand and kissing him. "I like the new look." She said, teasing.

"Oh, well if you like it . . . " Gren suddenly smiled a big smile at the kiss and forgot about the pink flowers on his head. "Hey, they have giant turkey legs! I want a giant turkey leg! Where do you find the giant turkeys at?"

Sapphire headed for a turkey leg, taking a detour to eye the pen behind the booth where he kept the turkeys you could kill (or have him kill) if you wanted.

Izira looked to where the shop owner pointed, "Many thanks." Dipping her head, she moved with Gren toward Turkey or Die. The woman offered a friendly smile to those she saw, Sapphire among them. Even a crow got a smile as she spoke softly to her companion. "You must have worked up an appetite."

Ambling away from the pen, she approached the counter as Izira and Gren were just walking up. "Hey Mr. Gren! Lady Blockman." She smiled at them both. It was always tricky remembering who was together in this time and her time.

He recognized Sapphire and gave her a wave, the others he nodded to as Izira did. "I'm suddenly hungry enough to give one a try." He smiled again to Sapphire as they approached the counter. "Hey, Sapphire, how is your mother?" Then he nodded to Ol' Two Hands, and with a finger point, ordered. "I'll have one of the Giant Turkey Legs, please. Easy on the gravy."

"Oh.. ah... Izira.. Nyte." She kindly corrected, a glance to Gren, the subject of... names.. would be a thing to tackle.

"She's okay! Think she was a bit tired after partying last--" she blushed at Izira's correction and then tried to laugh it off. "Oh man! I'm sorry. Usually I'm better about this stuff. You two.." she gestured between them, "in my time.. just different." The blush hadn't faded, but she was grinning at least. "Nice to meet you, Ms. Nyte. I'm Sapphire Ravenlock D'Artanian."

Gren smiled sweetly to Izira, then mouthed "Lady Blockman" to Sapphire with a secret wink. He then took the turkey leg being handed to him with both hands and lifted it like a barbell. "Ahhhhh . . . . " With a noisy chomp he took a large bite of the meat. "Mmmm . . . yummy."

"Didn't realize you ate meat, Mr. Gren. I'll take one please," she requested of Two Hands, struggling to hold both the turkey leg he gave her and the tankard of beer.

"A pleasure to meet you Sapphire." Izira dipped her head, she looked to Gren, "Perhaps you would be Mr Nyte?"

"Well, I prefer vegetables, but I need plenty of protein to perform my duties as a Ranger as well." Then he stopped chewing and gawked at Izira over the suggestion of him being Mister Nyte. "What's wrong with the Blockman name? It's a good, solid, working class name!"

She looked between the couple as she nom'd on the turkey leg, stepping a little to the side to avoid any other customers.

"Among other things..." Izira said to the need of protein, the edge of her smile twitched upwards. Her brow lifted, "Are you implying there is a fault to my surname?" She would let Gren falter over a response, looking to Sapphire, "Is there a stall with wine?"

Gren swallowed his bite of turkey leg and the hint of redness in his cheeks showed the comment flustered him. "I never said fault . . . but it is kind of . . . " Here he mouths the word "spooky".

Sapphire smirked before, "Huh? Oh yeah um.. I think I saw one that way." She gestured with her tankard of ale. "My mom has a booth set up too for faerie stuff. Think you can buy a glass or a bottle or more tonight. Beyond the Veil. That way." This time she gestured with the turkey leg.

"It is my mother's maiden name." She gave a look over her shoulder to Gren as she took Sapphire's directions to Jewel's shop. She thought she would look for a fire wine. "I will return”, she said to Sapphire and Gren.

Tahlia found herself with nothing to do, and nowhere to be. She'd heard rumors about some market that only appeared at Beltane. Restless, she found herself heading down the path, and stepping into something out of ages past, in the middle of the forest. Feeling a little underdressed in jeans and heeled hiking boots, with a light sweater in a green that matched her eyes, she took a moment to look around.

Gren pursed his lips to make a defense of his comment about the Nyte name when Izira said she would return. "Uh . . . okay." He gazed after her worriedly, before turning back to Sapphire and taking a bite out of his turkey leg. "What did I do?" Then he saw Tahlia entering the Market so he gave her a wave and a smile.

"I think you probably should have said you'd be honored to take her last name," Sapphire said awkwardly around a mouthful of turkey. She washed it down with ale before offering, "Hey, we should get our faces painted to go with the crowns."

Gren got a confused look on his face over the first comment, but shrugged at the second one. "Why don't you go ahead and I'll watch."

"Okay!" Sapphire strolled over to 'You Look Glamourous Darling!' and took a seat on one of the chairs. "Nothing garish or childish, okay?"

Izira passed by the Lyceum, her steps slowing as she regarded the books. She had recently cleaned out her library and had room for new books. She was tempted to linger, but she continued on for the 'Beyond the Veil' shop. With a nod and greeting to the proprietor, Izira asked a few questions about the wares. After haggling and discussion, she came away with a small amber hued bottle, a few oils, and a couple of packets of herbs. Her hands were too full to give books any attention at the time and she returned to Gren. "I have goods for your pack."

Tahlia caught sight of Gren, and waved back, heading over in that direction with a smile. She thought she recognized the blue-haired woman who stepped away, realizing after a moment who she had to be, before widening her smile to include Izira. "Gren, Izira...fancy meeting you two here."

Chewing on his turkey leg, he watched in amusement as Sapphire began to get her face painted. "That looks real nice, ha ha . . . You'd never catch me doing something like . . . Hey wait!" One of Jennie's painters snuck up behind him and started painting a red heart on his cheek. "Not me, Her! Her!" He pointed at Sapphire, then dabbed at his cheek. "Aw, heck." Just then Izira walked up, he smiled nervously. "Oh yeah, the pack, heh." He slung it off his shoulder and offered it out to her. Gren couldn't cover the pink flower crown on his head or the red heart on his cheek, because he had a turkey leg in one hand and his pack in the other, so he just gave Tahlia a red faced smile. "Heh, we were just out and about enjoying Beltane together."

Sapphire snickered as Gren got painted as well. "Should have gone with a tree!" She was getting a curving, flowing, swirl of flowers and lines on the side of her face. Her blue eyes landed on Tahlia when she wandered up, but she did not greet her. She just watched the other three and carefully nibbled her turkey leg while her painting was finished.

"Good evening Tahlia." Smiling to the woman, Izira added the items to the pack but left the small amber hued bottle out. Opening it and taking a small sip of the drink from the bottle. She wore a blue and lavender crown of flowers, but her face was unpainted for the time.

"Thank you!" Sapphire chimed to the woman who had painted her face, handing her money over and hopping up from her seat. Her blue hair was held back enough by her crown so the face paint was visible still. "You know, I was thinking. As good as this turkey leg is those animals didn't look too happy in that pen back there. Someone should probably do something about it."

Gren blinked at Sapphire. "Well what do you want me to do about it? He's making a legal sale of legal livestock. My hands are tied!"

Sapphire dug the toe of her sneaker--wearing them even with her dress because that's how she rolled--into the dirt. "Weeeeellll," she strung out the word. "You could help me set them free? Imagine how happy they'd be running around.. wild, like they were meant to be."

"Gren, that heart is ... absolutely you." Laughing, Tahlia looked around the glen, and then turned back with a shrug. "Maybe I should see if one of these shops has something more appropriate to wear? Or...get my face painted? Izira, what do you think?" She wasn't about to pay Sapphire any mind. It worked well enough with the girls mother.

"I was considering getting my face painted as well, I would be happy to sit with you."

"Look, I don't want to cause a scene here. I'm with Izira. In public. At Beltane. You get me? You know how long it took me to be able to get her to come here with me?"

The idea of setting the turkeys free bounced right out of Sapphire's head (for the moment) as her brow furrowed. "Why did it take you so long?"

Gren covered the heart on his cheek with a hand and smiled sheepishly at Tahlia, before he looked back at Sapphire. "Because she's been busy running her Inn. This is a special occasion for us, alright?"

Izira lifted her brow at Gren.

"Hey," Sapphire held her turkey leg up in a disarming gesture.. well, attempted disarming gesture cause it was big enough to be a weapon, "I was just asking. Thought maybe she didn't like to leave the house or something."

"That's neither here nor there. All I'm saying is we're out on a date, and I'd like to avoid trouble. Like Ol' Two Hands getting his ol' two hands on me for freeing his turkeys? Understand?" Gren asked.

"Yeah yeah. You don't want to show her an exciting time, I got it. Gotta keep it very vanilla. It's cool."

"Good, you get it." Then Gren turned around to see what Izira was doing, and how her face painting was coming along.

Tahlia turned a brilliant smile to Izira, trying very hard not to laugh at the back and forth between Gren and Sapphire. "That sounds like a great idea...why don't we do that, if Gren doesn't mind me borrowing you during date night, and leave the turkey saviors to their planning?"

"We're not planning anything chick who works for the bastard." She interjected good-naturedly. "Have a nice time on your date Mr. and Ms. Nyte." Sapphire grinned at them before heading down one of the rows of booth, on the lookout for someone who was more likely to help her free some turkeys just for the hell of it.

"Thanks, have a good time, Sapphire." Gren outwardly breathed a sigh of relief. "Geez. No you go right ahead, Tahlia. I'll wait." He crossed his arms and watched as Tahlia and Izira got painted as well.

"Wow. It's so rare to hear the polite version of my title..." Tahlia sighed, and rolled her eyes as Sapphire walked away.

Izira hadn't yet moved on to the face painting portion of the evening, watching Sapphire and Gren going back and forth. "Perhaps Gren can join us and get something on the other cheek. Nothing spooky though." The last part for Gren as Tahlia had missed that bit. She smiled, offering her hand to the other woman and moving over to take a seat at the face painting stall. Looking over the designs, she smiled and picked a fire flower that would frame her amber-brown eyes. A smile and bow of her head to Sapphire, "Safe travels."

Gren looked upward and grimaced at the 'spooky' comment. "Well, it is." That said to himself mostly.

Tahlia took the offered hand, and smirked over at Gren as they headed to the booth. It only took her a moment to decide: Black and purple diamonds, a set of four at the corner of each eye. She didn't expect anyone to get the symbolism, here.

"I take it the two of you are not friends?" Izira asked to Tahlia of her and Sapphire.

Gren peeked over at the next booth . . . Wegman's mushrooms. He blinked and thought about going over there for a few, but then became afraid they were that kind of mushrooms. He gulped and stayed put.

"Us? No. I work for her least favorite person, and, of course, her mother thinks I'm the worst kind of tramp." Tahlia shrugged, careful not to disturb the artist."

Izira smiled into the mirror at the finished result, a white flower blooming from the outer corner of each eye - red and orange glittered, bringing out her elemental nature and highlighting her cheekbones. "Lovely." She offered payment for herself and Tahlia. "What is the best kind of tramp?"

"Oh! Thank you." Tahlia had been reaching for her wallet just as Izira beat her to it. Glancing into the mirror, her appreciation was cut short with a sharp burst of laughter. "I idea. I mean, I guess I am, if you assume the worst kind are those poor girls forced to work in the streets and alleys..." The diamonds looked perfect, and she grinned up at the artist. "Thank you."

Gren tried to ignore the "tramp" talk and approached Izira when she was finished. "That looks wonderful."

Standing, Izira chuckled at Tahlia's comment about her being the best kind of tramp. She lifted a singular shoulder at the later part, "Some do not get the life they expected to have... or the one they deserve." A look to Gren and it might have been a bit pointed, but the meaning was deep in the past. "Thank you Gren." She kissed his cheek lightly.

"Is there another booth you'd like to visit?" Gren glanced around to see if there was anything else good to eat in their proximity.

Following along, Tahlia nodded slowly, braiding her hair quickly to keep it out of the facepaint. "That's true. For better or worse." A quick grin to both, and she took a step back. "Enjoy date night, and Izira, thank you for the face paint. We'll have to get a drink, or dinner sometime."

"I will look forward to such, Tahlia. Enjoy your evening." A smile to the woman, Izira looked back to Gren, she considered the book stall but kept it to herself. "Perhaps we can walk around as see what we see? I know you have your patrol in the morning, I do not want to linger too late."

"Sure, I'd love to do that!" Gren said in response to Tahlia's offer. Gren put his arm around Izira's waist. "Sure, we can walk around some more. Hey, 'Outside the Shell'. I'd like to get some nuts, that seems innocent enough . . ."

"Was there something that did not?" Izira drained the small bottle, moving from Gren's arm to put it into the pack he carried. The air close to her became warm, the amber in her eyes glowing a touch.

Ebon roamed the Devil's Dell carrying a tray loaded with small paper bags, each filled with roasted nuts of some variety or other. There were almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios... and all seasoned. There were hot & spicy nuts, sugared nuts, salted nuts, barbecued nuts, ranch nuts, and more. To be honest, Ebon was having a fine time just watching folk struggling not to snicker whenever he offered them a bag of nuts.

"Yeah, the 'mushrooms' over there . . . " Gren made air quotes with his fingers when he said mushrooms. He led Izira up to Ebon and smiled. "Hello there! I would like some roasted pecans please!"

"Would you care for any particular flavor? Or just unseasoned?"

"Unseasoned would be fine. Pepper kind of messes with my stomach sometimes." He makes a face and puts a hand on his stomach.

Looking toward the mushrooms curiously, Izira then offered a smile to Ebon.

"Understood." Ebon handed Gren a bag of roasted pecans. "Enjoy!"

Gren took the bag of nuts with a smile. "Thanks! Izira, do you want something?" Then he looked at Ebon. "How much do I owe you by the way?"

A soft shake of her head, "No, but thank you."

He moved on through the crowd. "Nuts! Come get a bag of nuts! Sweet, salty, hot & spicy!"

Gren blinked as Ebon walked away from him and shrugged. "I guess they're free." Then he looked at his turkey leg in one hand, and his bag of nuts in the other. He fumbled with the bag and got it open and dumped some into his mouth. "Mmm, Tasty. Didn't they have a tarot place around here?"

"Yes." Izira looked around, finding the Tarot Card Reading booth. She tipped her head in that direction, "There it is. Are you interested in finding out your future?"

"Eh . . . uh . . . " Suddenly Gren got a look on his face like he remembered something from his past, something not exactly pleasant. "You know what, let's skip that. Can we head back? I think I've had enough fun for one night."

"Me too." Izira gave a soft smile, there might have been the subtle hint of sadness. She slipped her fingers into his and kissed him. Speaking softly, "I love you, Gren." Then she stepped back to the path to head home. "Shall we?"

"I love you too, Izira." Pleased at the feel of her hand in his and the touch of her lips on his face, Gren beamed a smile with no sadness. "Let's go." Finding himself standing in front of the 'Outside the Shell' booth, he perked up. "Oh! One second . . . here's for the pecans!" He dropped off a handful of silver nobles for the nuts from before, then he walked with Izira down the path and back towards his home.
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Walking back from the Market, Gren was still eating what was left of his pecans he had gotten from Ebon. "I wonder what was supposed to be so funny about pecans?"

Izira walked behind Gren, silent for a second, lost in her own thoughts. Her lashes fluttered, registering the question but forgetting the reference. "Hm?"

"Pecans?" He held up the bag that Ebon had given him. "Hey, what's wrong? You've looked a little sad ever since we left the Market."

She gave a slight shake of her head to the offered nuts. She missed the chance to turn the offering into some playful innuendo. "I... chose to take my mother's name, Gren. After her death... after.... what happened to her."

Gren blinked for a moment, then lowered the bag of snacks. "No, Izira, I know that. You've told me before. Is this because of what I said about your name?"

"Yes... spooky as you might think it is... it is my name. It is who I have been for so long. I am... not sure I wish to shed it like a skin I am done wearing."

"First of all, if I really had that much of a problem with your name, do you think I would have dated you for four and a half years, or got engaged to you? Second of all, I know how you feel more than you think I do. Blockman is the only thing I can remember from who I was before. So do you think I want to shed that name and become Mister Nyte? Lastly, your name sounds like Night. Night is spooky. It's just a silly pun, like when Tara calls me Blockhead."

She chewed her lower lips, "Would you... want to share?"

"How about we make a compromise a lot of couples are making nowadays. How about "Nyte-Blockman"?"

"You are okay with me coming first?" She looked sideways to him with a soft smile.

Gren blinked. "Wait, you want me to take the Nyte name?"

"And I take Blockman." She quirked the side of her smile amused. "Why not? We are partners."

"We are partners. Well, there's nothing that says either of us have to change our names. You can be Nyte and I can be Blockman."

She softly laughed, "I take it you prefer to stay Blockman?" She shrugged a shoulder. "Time enough to think on it."

"If you're that attached to Nyte, then I'm that attached to Blockman. Yes, there is time to think about it." He paused for a few moments. "You know . . . Sapphire said you were Lady Blockman in her world. Apparently your alternate version doesn't have a problem with it." He glanced at her to see her reaction.

"Perhaps my alternate version has a living mother and father and was raised by them."

"If that alternate world has Harris and Jewell as a couple, then I guess all kinds of things could be going on there." He sighed. "Look, we've been together as boyfriend and girlfriend for four and a half years. We took things slow, so we could get used to each other. Being engaged is like the same thing. This just kind of happened a few days ago, but there's no rules saying we have to get married right away. Just like with the name thing, we might have to ease into things slowly. Let's just get used to the idea that we're both engaged, and the rest will flow from there. Alright?"

"I can agree to that", she said with a soft nod and light smile. "Perhaps in that alternate world, you were married to Tara before me."

"Oh, don't even say that! Can you imagine the complexes their poor children must have? Oh man, I just thought of something. If Harris' alternate children can invade RhyDin, then what about . . . ?" Here he pointed to himself with a pale look on his face.

"The alternate you?" She looked him over and got a wicked hint in her grin. "Hmm."

"You know . . . cheating on me with alternate versions of myself is still considered cheating."

"Even if you are there too?"

"I have enough problems getting naked myself without seeing multiple versions of naked me's. Geez, how did we get off on this subject anyway?"

"You brought up the idea of another you."

"Yeah, but I didn't say I wanted to be with multiple versions of you. That sounds . . . exhausting."

She softly chuckled, "Good. I have no interest in sharing you."

"Well, I'm glad we've got all the 'alternate versions of ourselves' ground rules laid out. See? This engagement phase of our relationship is coming along nicely."

Her laughter bubbled out, a smile breaking wider. Izira leaned into him, tilting her lips up for a kiss.

Gren shared the laugh, glad the tension had been eased. He leaned forward and placed a firm, loving kiss on her lips. "I'm sorry I called your name spooky."

"You can make it up to me..."

"You know, I feel I might have to . . . right after I finish my giant turkey leg." He pulled the large piece of meat out from his backpack and took a gargantuan bite. "This might take a while . . . " He said, muffled, although he was already starting to smile big.

She picked a bit of meat off the leg and ate it. "Eat up, you will need the energy My Ranger."

As they approached his treehouse, he held his turkey leg up in the air, "Suddenly I feel like one of my alternate personalities, Super-Gren!" He tucked the leg away and swept Izira up in his arms. "Come, my love, it is time to enjoy the rewards of a long day of Super-Gren-heroics!" Opening his door, he strode inside, shutting the door behind them.
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2018 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

May 1, 2018

Izira arrived at the Inn by way of foot. Her light maroon cloak covering the fitted grey dress with black lace on the sides. Her black sling-back peep-toe heels were quiet on the road. Her hair was pulled back into a loose bun. A silver locket with a pearl lily rested on a thin chain about her neck. A silver ring of twining flowers held an amber gem at the center of a larger flower on her ring finger. Approaching The Red Dragon Inn she saw a small collection of beings and a dog gathered outside, but none of them appeared to be Eva. "The... Inn is open, is it not?" She asked into the air, as though the universe would provide her some answer. It had been a while, Izira could not be sure. She looked at those outside the Inn.

Eva felt like she was running late. She may have been right on time, but it felt like she was late. The hovercab slowed at the corner, long enough for Eva to jump out. Tucking her credstick back into her pocket, she noticed some sort of smudge on her black pants and bent to try to rub it away before finally looking up towards the Inn.

Izira bit her lower lip in thought, looking away from those at the front of the Inn. It was then that she spotted Eva and smiled. Her hand raised in greeting.

Eva was looking at the dog. A slight furrow of her brow. But Izira's raised hand caught her attention and she smiled, moving towards her and the stairs. "Izira." Her eyes skimmed the outfit. She was always so well put together. Eva tried to be subtle about tugging the bottom of her gun metal gray blouse, adjusting the fall of her dark hair as she closed the distance between them.

A smile offered to the others outside the Inn, including the dog. Then she was smiling again to Eva and giving her friend a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Eva! It has been a while. Shall we go inside? As nice as it is out here, the drinks are inside."

Eva returned the kiss to the cheek, and then nodded in agreement. "Yes, drinks, please." She laughed softly, then turned her attention to those outside. She upnodded to them each in turn before mounting the stairs and heading for the door. She tugged it open and held it for Izira.

Tucking a loose hair behind her ear, she gave a parting smile for those outside. She was tempted to pet the dog, but she did not. Izira bowed her head delicately to Eva as she held the door open, "Thank you." She stepped into the Inn. In a smooth movement, she undoes the clasp on her cloak and takes it off, "What would you like to drink?"

"Bourbon. A double would be nice. Little ice." It was actually a warmish day which was strange. Eva's boots were loud on the floorboards as she crossed towards the bar. "You want to sit here or...?" The first option indicated with a gesture to the bar, the second waving towards the tables and booths.

"I will be happy wherever." Izira slipped behind the bar, taking little time to adjust to the difference between her Inn and this one. She found what was needed to fix Eva's drink, "So long as I have a drink and good conversation." She set Eva's drink down, looking to the man that followed them in, "I can fetch you something to drink while I'm back here, sir." For her part, she kept moving, finding a bottle of some elemental wine. When she looked back into the room the man was gone without a word... ah such was life at the Inn. She rolled with it with a little smile to herself. The drink she found was in a silver bottle and came out a curious color of icy looking blue. Izira found a thin flute and poured a portion out. She looked to see where Eva wanted to sit.

Eva had looked back as well, then moved to take a seat at a table near the bar. She pulled out a chair for herself, then angled one out for Izira since her hands would likely be full. "Did it take long to get here?" She couldn't recall quite how long it took to get from Forgotten Layers to the city.

Seeing the table selected, Izira grabbed both their drinks, as well as the bottles for refills. Why get up again if there's no need for it? "No longer than usual. I was at Gren's." She set the drinks and bottles down before she took a seat, crossing her legs.

Eva settled too, immediately reaching for her glass, her smile warming. "Congratulations to you." She lifted her glass a bit. "To a long, loving life."

Izira picked up her glass, mirroring the gesture. "With lots of long loving."

Laughing lightly, Eva clinked her glass against Izira's and took a sip. She watched her friend for a moment, leaning back in her chair. "Are you happy?" She might have lowered her voice had they not been alone, but for now, she asked easily, openly.

Glasses clinked, Izira sipped her drink as well. She smiled softly to her friend and nodded. "I am. Gren... brought up thoughts I had not considered, but I have time to sort them out. We have not yet set a date." Izira took another sip, then rested the glass in her lap. "Do you think my surname is spooky?"

In a way, it seemed like an abrupt shift of conversation to Eva. It wasn't, at all, but it still made Eva raise a brow. "Spooky?" She actually laughed. "Not at all."

"Because.... night... evening... darkness..." Izira shook her head softly. "A girl at Beltane, Sapphire, called me Lady Blockman. It seems... she is from a different time line? And in that word, Gren and I are married and I took his name." She offered more of an explanation of the events of a few nights ago. "I made the comment that perhaps Gren could be Mr Nyte, and he said my name was spooky."

Both of Eva's brows lifted now. "Need you have the same name?" She knew Gren well enough. Maybe he'd have been willing to take her name if it was Izira Sunshine. But alas. She twisted her glass on the table, the bottom making a quiet scraping sound. At the side door's opening, she glanced that way, nodded to the girl that walked in and then looked back at Izira.

Amber-brown eyes moved with Eva's at the sound. Izira offered her own smile to the new arrival, speaking as she returned her attention to Eva. "It is not something I have put a lot of thought into. Marriage... was never a goal of mine. Not to say I am any less happy about it, but I love Gren as I love him, with or without the ceremony."

Eva's smile softened as she looked at Izira. "Does he want you to share a name?"

"I think on some level he does. But I know he will accept it if I do not." She lifted her glass, taking a short drink. "I chose to take on my mother's name after her death, I did not think to ever take another."

"Names are pretty important, I think." She lifted her glass for a drink, her expression turning thoughtful. She lifted a hand to tuck her hair behind her ear on the right side of her face. "Names have been complicated for me. I think... I think you should do what's meaningful to you."

Izira nodded, then went quiet and laughed suddenly. She waved an apologetic had to her friend... "Sorry, forgive me. There was a time... when the translation of the name I used was effectively Lady Death. Gren should count himself lucky that period of my life is behind me." She leaned back, "That was so many years ago…” She said with another light shake of her head. Her eyes had watched the movement of the girl in the inn, in that way that movement draws attention. She looked back to Eva, "Did you have any issue with it and Mason?"

Eva tipped her head to the side. One hand dropped beneath the table to rub a fist on her thigh. Her voice quieted some. "I don't recall whether I ever told you that... that Eva isn't my real name."

Izira's eyebrow quirked. She shifted in her seat, leaning closer with a lowered voice. "If you tell me your name was also Lady Death then I will know we were destined to be the dearest of friends." She made a joke to let Eva know there were no hard feelings for not sharing the information before.

She laughed quietly, set at ease by her friend's good humor. Beneath the table, Eva crossed her ankles and tucked them under her chair. "I was born Elinor Drake. I took on the name McCall after I was adopted. Elinor Drake McCall." She twisted her glass on the table, then lifted it for a drink. "I changed it when I left... when I left that life. But it's still my name. It's more my name than Eva Luna ever was." She looked across at her, hazel eyes unwavering. She knew her friend would understand. "I'm not too attached to it, and neither is Mason. But I've been using it so long here... especially in my work... it's hard to change. You know?"

"I do." Izira nodded. She reached out for her friend's hand to offer it a light squeeze.

Her fingers closed over Izira's, warm and dry. "I'd take his name. Sometimes I introduce myself as Eva Harrigan. It sounds a little bit more like me." She squeezed her hand back before letting go. "Anyhow, it's not something I've settled, and I'm not sure I ever will." She took another drink of her bourbon, wetting her lips. "So if you ask me... your name should be... whatever gives you and Gren the most meaning. Whatever feels the most like you."

A light nod, Izira thought on it. She took a sip. "A new name for a new chapter in my life? Mm. But I will point out to Gren that as far as my name goes, it could have been worse." She said with a little sideways smirk. "I hope that when we do have the ceremony you and Mason will be able to attend."

"I don't think anything could stop us." Eva smiled at her, then laughed softly. "I don't know though, Lord and Lady Death certainly has a ring to it."

Izira joined her in the amusement, "I dare say, that would only make him more appealing to that Tara. Though she has not been heard from much as of late. With luck she will stay away until after our honeymoon."

"Tara." Eva shook her head. "I haven't seen her in a while.” She replied, though she didn't seem to be complaining about that! "Perhaps her invite to the wedding will get lost in the mail?"

"Perhaps by way of fireplace." Izira said, noticing the girl in the inn at the fireplace, burning mail. It seemed a normal way to dispose of letters.

Eva laughed lightly, shaking her head. "Do you have any idea when or where you might hold the wedding?"

"When, no. Where, at the Inn. It seems right for those of the realm be able to bear witness." Izira meant those personalities like Jeremiah and the spirits of those who has come before.

Eva assumed Izira meant her Inn and not this one, and she nodded in approval. "I think that sounds lovely." She smiled softly. "Mason and I married at home too."

"I expect many tips and pointers." Izira pointed her glass toward Eva.

Eva laughed softly, twisting her glass again. "I'll do my best, but I confess, when it comes to event planning it's really Mason whose ear you want to bend."

"Perhaps the two of you could come out to the Inn soon. Help me pick a spot in the garden."

"We'd love that." Eva's smile warmed. "I'm sure it's as beautiful as ever."

"I will have you give you a walk through the woods as well. The realm has really come alive these last few years."

"I bet Gren has a hand in that, no?"

"That is more than likely." Izira grinned, draining her glass and pouring a bit more for herself. "Is there anything new in your world?"

"Nothing too much to report on." Which in Eva's mind was most assuredly a good thing. "Clinic survived another winter." Her brow furrowed, thoughtfully. "I feel like we're pretty well set in the community. But you never know, I suppose."

"Indeed." Izira thought about the man that was there, then wasn't. That was just the way of things. "I am glad things are well." She paused, "Did you know that divisions of rangers could war?" This was recent news in her life.

She raised a brow, watching Izira. "Is this something that threatens Gren?"

"The hope, as Perrigan, Gren's leader, assures us, is that it will not come to that. But my recent interaction with the leader of these other rangers? It did not sit well." She leaned back with her drink, "But it is a ranger matter. It is not something I can resolve. And... resolutions were never quite my strong suit." There was a reason she had gone by that other name.

Eva leaned back in her chair, concern sliding into her eyes. "You know if you need us, me, we're here for you. For both of you."

"I know." A warm smile given to Eva, echoing the emotion in Izira's words, "I appreciate the concern and consideration." She shifted, swirling her drink. "When Gren proposed we were in the northern forest, the territory for this other ranger faction. It seems we were seen and the brute has it in his mind that I am a spy." Her annoyance showed. "I desire to return to the cave..." Stopping, she lightly blushed. "Forgive me, I have been in my own thoughts too often…” She paused, going further back for fuller details of the events, "I assisted the rangers in setting up a library. Gren happened to find a book from my father's people... and within it there was a map and a letter... A man... had wanted to marry his love and the map was a means to tell her that. They could not be married... and it seemed she never found what was meant for her." Izira lifted her hand, showing the ring she wore.

Eva's brow quirked and she gave a smile mixed with sadness for that bittersweet story, but joy for her friend. She leaned to look at Izira's hand and the ring there, then she looked back at her friend. "You have found what was meant for you."

Izira smiled her own mixture of happy and sad. "Yes. It is curious. It feels right." Looking at the ring, "It was made by my father's people. There is something of it that is attuned to my gift." Her smile turned sly, "Though, I have to admit, when Gren asked... I did not manage to get the ring on until much later."

"Hesitation about Gren? Or the ring?" These things could be complicated, Eva well knew, and she wouldn't think anything less of her friend, no matter the answer.

"Oh," Izira chuckled and shook her head, "Nothing such as that... I lost my voice for a moment, true, but my body found other ways to tell him yes." A little pleased smile crossed her face.

A light laugh escaped Eva and she nodded. "It sounds very romantic in its way."

"Yes! And I would like to revisit the spot." Izira returned to the beginning of it, "But I am not sure I can do so without these other rangers causing issues."

"Perhaps for a time maybe don't then?" Eva smiled softly. "I'm sure Gren would care most for your safety before anything else, right?"

"It is good I have you as a friend. I was feeling determined enough to go back there myself." Izira drank again then nodded. "You are right, it can wait."

Eva nodded, then fell silent a long moment, her eyes drifting into that faraway place of memory. Then they returned. "How is business at the Inn?" She remembered it being rather quiet, but she thought it was supposed to be her living as well.

"Sparse, but it has always been that way. It is not like here." Izira gestured to the Inn they sat in, "The Inn serves a different purpose, to help those that are lost."

"It certainly served that purpose when I needed it." Eva looked at Izira for a long moment, warmth in her eyes at the memory. "But I think that had more to do with you than anything else."

Izira softly chuckled, "It is my task as much as that of the Inn." It still warmed her heart to hear Eva's words. A tune coming from a patron not going unnoticed, but it remained a background sound that added to the evening.

"You do it great credit." Eva took a deep breath, then glanced at her watch. With a shake of her head, she smiled at Izira. "I'm afraid it's getting a bit late for me."

"Ah yes, I am ever the night owl between us." Izira drained her glass again, standing. "You should head home, I will clean up here."

Eva chuckled, getting to her feet, though she couldn't leave her friend to do the clean-up, collecting her glass and the bottle Izira had brought for her. "I like to get to the clinic early. Need to be there to see patients before the workday."

Izira nodded her understanding. She walked with her own glass and bottle to the bar. She put them up, giving the glass a quick clean and dry, along with Eva's. Clean up accomplished, Izira offered a smile toward the girl on the couch, even if she might not see it. She then looked to Eva, "Are you walking home or do you have a ride?"

"I thought I would walk." The Inn was far from the clinic, but from home it was just across the bridge. "How about you?" Eva too smiled at the remaining occupant, then moved in the direction of the door. The muffled sound of voices could be heard as she neared.

"Perhaps you will accept me walking you home? I can manage my way on from there to Gren's."

"I'd love that." Eva smiled and tugged open the door. "Makes me feel less guilty about being the one to end our evening."

"Then it's decided." Izira slipped back into her cloak, offering a smile to the two outside. She headed down the stairs and off from the Inn with Eva.

Eva too offered a last smile to the pair out front, and headed off to walk in the direction of home with her friend.
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A serene smile remained on Izira's features after parting with Eva for the night. It had been a while since the two had been able to get together and the night proved to be what Izira needed. Now she walked through the evening’s peaceful woods, looking oddly at place despite the fashionable attire she wore. The light maroon cloak drifted with her movement as she headed for Gren's treehouse.

Gren was sitting at his table by the window in his treehouse, looking out at the night sky. He had the green leather bound journal with the leaves etched in the spine that Izira gave him. He had always thought about keeping a journal, so he decided that night to try. Scribbling some things into the pages, he hoped it would be enough of a start that he would want to continue it.

Approaching the tree house, Izira looked up to the window to see if Gren still had the light on. She smiled to herself to see he was still awake. Despite having a key, Izira made it a habit to let Gren know when she arrived, given his previous tendency to attract crazy women that enjoyed breaking into his home. Izira moved up to the door giving it the special knock/whistle combo that would allow her access into the clubhouse without getting water dumped on her.

Gren's head could be seen, peering down at the door to see who it could be this late at night, and his face brightened as he saw it was Izira. He jogged down the steps and to the door, still holding onto his Journal. He opened the door with a big smile. "Izira! What are you doing here?" He stood back enough to give her room to enter his home.

Stepping in, Izira gave him a kiss. There was a curious tingle of chill from the elemental wine still present in her lips. "I thought I would stay here tonight, if you will have me. I was in town to see Eva." Her hand moved to take off her cloak.

His lips pressed against hers as he took her cloak, resting it on a peg near the door. "Well, sure, I'm always glad to see you. Eva, huh? How has she been doing? Wait, why don't we sit at my table upstairs, and you can tell me all about it."

"She is doing well. Mason too. They send their congratulations on our engagement." Starting to tell him as she moved for the stairs, brushing her hand over his arm when she passed. As she walked upstairs she took down her hair, brushing her fingers through the strands to fan them out.

"That's nice to hear. I don't think I've had a conversation with either of them since the family dinner they had a few months ago. I think our fondue was a big success." Gren lightly chuckled at his own ingenuity. He followed her up the staircase and past the kitchen. "Did you have anything to eat? I can get you something if you want."

"It was a success, though I think you were the biggest fan." Soft chuckling. Izira appreciated the enthusiasm in which Gren enjoyed things. It was one of the many things that made her love him. "I had a small dinner at home before meeting Eva for drinks." She stopped in the kitchen, fixing herself a glass of water. "But if you are hungry..." Ice formed in the glass as she moved on to the bedroom and the table by the window.
"Oh, no, I'm fine. I ate a little while ago. Nothing great like you would have cooked, but that's alright." Gren sat down at the table across from Izira. "I was just writing things in the journal you gave me. Or trying to anyway." He briefly held up the journal to prove his point.

"Does trying mean you have not written anything or that you have not gotten far in your writing?" Setting the glass down, Izira slipped out of her heels and tucked them under the table. Her feet finding a resting spot on his lap.

"Well, I haven't gotten very far, but I hope to mmmmm . . ." Her feet in his lap caused him to momentarily lose his place. He nicely recovered by setting the journal on the table, then massaging one of her feet. "I always wanted to keep a journal. Your gift will make that happen."

She was sipping her water when his thoughts lost their place and the glass could not hide the curve of her smile. Her eyes briefly closed as he started to massage her foot. "Mm. I am glad it can be useful to you."

He began working on the other foot as he spoke. "Maybe one day we can both meet Eva and Mason, like a double date. Whether somewhere in the City, or maybe just at the Inn."

She nodded to the idea, "I suggested that they come out to the inn sometime. Given they have already gone through the process, they could lend some pointers on setting up a wedding ceremony."

Gren kind of smirked. "The way I remember it, Eva and Mason had a private ceremony. Not exactly what you would call a traditional one. But hey, every little bit helps."

"As Eva said, Mason is more the event planner... but I thought it a good opportunity to have them visit. Any help with it would be appreciated given it's barely been a week and we already had a hiccup over names." She poked him with a toe, teasing him.

Gren chuckled over that. "Hey, when we're married, we'll argue over lots of stuff, that's what married couples do. So do you think Eva would be your Maid of Honor? Geez, I haven't even really thought about who my Best Man would be."

"Haddon?" Izira chuckled at the suggestion. "I intend to ask her, when more details are ironed out."

"Good Lord, not Haddon. I can only imagine the Bachelor Party he would throw. Maybe Bernard. Or Crawford. I didn't think there would be this many decisions involved in a marriage!"

"Hm. Yes. Though, knowing him, he will use the excuse of you being married to throw one anyway. Be mindful of that." She took another drink of her water, "There is the decision on who will marry us... the... type of ceremony. Are there any ranger traditions?"

"I know one tradition is that we can be married by our Headmaster, considering he is in a position of authority. Several Rangers liked that idea because it was like they were getting the blessing of the guild. We could always get a priest if you prefer that way."

Izira laughed lightly at the suggestion, then shook her head. "No, I can think of no one better than Perrigan to do the honors."

"Great! I think he would love to do it." Gren smiled broadly at that and looked into her eyes. "If only all our decisions were that easy, hmm?"

"The decision to accept your proposal was not too difficult." Izira set her water down, her feet moving back to the floor. Standing up, she moved over to settle in his lap, her fingertips moving through his hair.

"Well, it's one thing to ask it, and it's another thing to plan for it." He rested one hand on her back and one on her thigh. "When I asked you to marry me, I wasn't thinking about who my Best Man would be or what our last names would be or where or when it would take place."

Izira considered telling him about the conversation she had with Eva on the name she once held, a light nibble of her lower lip as the thought ran through her mind. Looking at Gren she saw no need to bring it up, it was a different time. It was her past and this was her future. "I have faith in our ability to weather what comes our way." She ended her words with a light kiss. "Perhaps Alfred would like to be the ring bearer?" She softly chuckled. "Though, if Yolene is the flower girl, Crawford would be best for that role... unless you have him as your Best Man." All the complicated details.

"Unless you want to hear Alfred let out a string of obscenities in the middle of the ceremony, I suggest we keep him on the sidelines. Bernard as the Best Man and Crawford as the Ring Bearer sounds fine with me." Gren sighed. "I hope Bernard makes it back in one piece, so he can be the Best Man."

As amused as Izira was with the idea, it would probably not be as entertaining the day of. Gears switched as Gren mentioned Bernard's mission, "You have not heard anything yet on the matter?"

"No, not yet. Although he's going deep undercover, so to speak. We probably won't hear from him for days, maybe weeks. Everyone seems on edge about what happened. That's the last thing we need is to get into a war with Brallin."

"Weeks?" Izira frowned, "I will keep him in my thoughts." A pause before adding softly, "I am glad it is not you in his place."

"That's the silver lining to the cloud of Brallin catching us at Mannix's cave. I'm sure Bernard will be alright. He's done missions like that before. Besides if he can get to the bottom of what's going on, we may be able to avert any more bloodshed."

"That is good." Izira said, with another brush of her fingers through his hair. "I spoke with Eva about the cave, you can thank her for talking me out of the idea of returning there until after this mess is sorted."

"Point for Eva." He chuckled. Her bringing up the cave made him think about the book again. "Were you able to read any more of Mannix's book?"

Izira lightly shook her head, "Not as of yet."

"Then we won't have anything to worry about for a while." Since they were on the subject, Gren thought of something else. "You said that Alain found the book. Did he find anyone from your past? Your family? I thought you might want to invite them to the wedding."

"I think the wedding will be happier the fewer people from my past are present." She frowned, "I am only Ny'Halian by blood. They would not have me."

"Alright, I was just wondering. I wonder what I'm going to do with my treehouse . . . . ?"

"Perhaps another ranger would be interested in taking up residence?" She was happy to change the topic.

"That could happen. I can only imagine what would happen if Haddon or Moriana took over this place. I can see empty food containers stacked to the roof."

"Crawford? Bernard?" Izira offered other suggestions.

"Now there's an idea. This could be Crawford & Yolene's new love nest. Although Yolene being our Healer, I don't think Perrigan would want her out this far. And Bernard is always on missions. This place might end up in the hands of one of the newer recruits. Like Gerard and Allen, if they ever decide to stop following Brienne around all day."

"I do not see that happening for a while." She kissed Gren's forehead, "There is time to think on it." Her fingers left his hair, trailed down his neck and over his chest.

"I, uh . . . . hmmmmm . . . yeah, let's think about it later. Much later. Right now I'm thinking about you . . . and me . . . oh, man . . ." He gulped as her fingers ran down his chest. "In fact I can't think of anything else right now."

"The good news is... you do not have to think." Standing up, her hand taking his, she drew him to the bed.
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2018 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

May 2, 2018

Gren and Izira spent the night, and then a sunny morning together, eating breakfast and staring out the window at the table in his bedroom. As lunch neared, Gren seemed excited about something, and ushered Izira into the kitchen to show her. "I just found this great recipe that you can use venison in! Listen to this . . . Venison Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onions! I got the Ciabatta and the Teriyaki Marinade ready last night before you got here! This is going to be great . . . "He started rifling through his cabinets looking for frying pans.

Izira stretched lazily, her hair down in a rare moment. In another rare moment, as their plans did not involve going out, Izira wasn't dressed up. She wasn't much dressed at all. Instead, she had borrowed one of Gren's button up shirts to cover herself in, rolling the sleeves to rest just beyond her elbows. Moving into the kitchen as she was ushered, she smiled watching him getting things together. "Mm, does this mean you are making me lunch today?"

"After all those wonderful meals you've cooked me, I do believe it is my turn." He avoided the apron while he worked, but did have a towel draped across one arm. "I have the mustard mixture ready too . . . "It was supposed to be a mustard/mayonnaise mix, but Gren wasn't feeling that part of the recipe. "Okay, I'm going to caramelize these onions . . . . "He put some butter in a pan and melted it on his stove, dropping in the onions and some water, stirring, and covering. Then he took the venison which was already soaking in marinade from the night before and put them in another pan. "What kind of sides would you like? Salad? Some kind of potatoes?"

"You will make an excellent chef someday." A little grin for him, she moved around Gren as he prepped lunch, fixing herself a glass of water. Ice cubes formed in the glass as she sat down. Her ankles crossed and legs curled beneath her. No need to offer help as he appeared to have it all under control. "Salad would be lovely."

"My fiancee being such an excellent cook is beginning to rub off on me!" As the venison and onions simmered on the stove, he took a head of lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots out of his icebox. Some chopping and mixing and he had a quick, simple salad. He then sprinkled sugar and balsamic vinegar over the onions, giving them a stir, and he gave the venison a flip. The salad bowl was placed on the table, along with dishes, silverware, and smaller bowls for him and Izira to put their salad in. "What kind of dressing do you want?" He quickly looked in his icebox. "Italian? Thousand Island? Ranch?"

"I did not know teaching someone to cook was as easy as rubbing against them so frequently." With a soft chuckle, she sipped her water, admiring Gren as he worked in the kitchen. "Do you still have those bottles I bought? The cranberry crisp pear vinegar and jalapeno olive oil?"

"Yes I do, in fact . . . right here, and right here." Gren said, lifting them out of the icebox and holding both up for her to see.

"Perfect. I will use those for my salad." Olive oil and vinegar dressing with a little upgrade. "Would you like it on yours as well?"

"Sure, that'll be great. Whoops!" Gren hurriedly put the vinegar and olive oil on the table and went back to the stove. "You can't cook the venison too long or it'll lose its flavor!" He set the venison on a plate and covered it with foil to sit until the onions were done, which they almost were. He set the ciabatta on the stovetop in a pan to get a little toasty. When the onions were done caramelizing, he set them and the ciabatta to the side, so he could cut the venison into thin slices. He then spread the mustard sauce onto the tops of the ciabatta, and added the venison strips, onions, and lettuce to complete the sandwiches. Placing them on two separate plates, he carried them over to the table. "Anything you'd like to drink other than your water?"

"I am good with the water. Thank you for asking." The response was paired with an affectionate brush of her foot against his leg, admiring him more than the food. The food also looked good, but did not have quite the same effect on her.

The foot brush move always got to him, and he smiled wide and looked more excited than normal. A Broot was taken from the icebox for him, before he sat down across from Izira. "Ah. Now this looks mighty tasty. Are you ready?" He lifted his sandwich up to his mouth with both hands.

She picked her own sandwich up on a mirrored movement, giving in a nod, "Ready." Then she took a healthy bite. One hand moved to wipe the side of her mouth, where a bit of the sauce had escaped. She gave an approving nod to Gren's creation.

Gren took a large bite himself at the same time, and nodded with a grin as well. "Rather tasty. I know most of my recipes include venison, but that's the most readily available meat source out in this neck of the woods."

Once Izira's mouth was clear, she replied, "You will have no complaints from me on it. I enjoy it when you cook for me."

A few more bites of the sandwich were taken before Gren remembered he had a salad too. He dabbed some of the vinegar and olive oil on his salad and forked some into his mouth, although he was eyeballing his sandwich the whole time.

Following suit with Gren, she switched over to the salad. "Did you want to do anything outside of your place today?" Of course, that would mean her having to put actual clothes on and not just walk around in his shirt.

"You know what, I've spent this whole week patrolling the forest, chopping wood, carrying books, and helping set up a Library. So I think today would be a perfect day for a little alone time with my fiancee. Unless you have any objections?" Gren said, while finishing off his sandwich.

"Only playfully." Grinning, Izira gave another loving brush of her foot under the table.

"Mmmmmm" Gren played a little footsie with Izira under the table while he hurriedly finished what remained of his salad. "You know, venison is used in certain . . . romantic recipes created to . . . stimulate the senses . . . " That's as close as Gren will get to saying 'aphrodisiac', but before he can continue, there is a loud knock at the door. Gren's face fell. "Now? Really? Hold that thought, I'll be right back . . . "Gren got up from the table and rushed down the stairs to the door.

Izira had gotten very interested to where the conversation was leading. Her plate nearly fully clean, she gave Gren a pout at the interruption. Her foot drawn away as he left. "I will try not to get started without you." A little joke sent after him, she picked up her water for a sip.

Gren stopped on the steps and held up both hands as if to say "Wait for me!" before running down to the door and opening it. There stood Haddon grinning at him. Moriana was standing by his side with her arms crossed. "Haddon, Moriana, hello, and please tell me this isn't something important."

"It's something important, Gren my boy. Haw! Perrigan wants you back at the Compound, ASAP", Haddon answered.

Gren's smile faded.

"It's Bernard. He's been captured. Brallin has him."

Gren slapped his hand on his forehead and grimaced. "Alright, alright. Let me tell Izira, okay? Sheesh." Gren walked back up the steps with not near the energy he had descended them. "Uhhh . . . Izira, I hate to break the bad news, but its Haddon and Moriana at the door. Bernard's been captured by Brallin. I have to go back to the Compound."

That certainly killed the mood. The implications flitting through Izira's mind, what could have happened to Bernard, what it could mean that Gren had to go. She put her water down, standing up, "Let me get dressed."

"Alright. I'll hold Haddon and Moriana off while you do." Gren ran back down to the door. "Uh . . . Izira wants to come too, she just needs to get her purse, books, shopping bags, you know . . ."

"She needs to get dressed, huh? Gren you casanova, you've been takin' my advice, haven't you? Haw Haw. You don't have to explain anything to us, Gren my boy, we're all adults here." There were two horses and Alfred behind them in the clearing, waiting to take them back to the Rangers headquarters.

She made quick work of it, simple light tan heels. A brown wrap shirt dress, cinched at the waist with a belt, she pulled up her hair into a bun. Despite the rush, when she came down the stairs she looked well put together. A short nod to Haddon and Moriana. "Thank you for waiting."

"Any time, Missy." Haddon gave Gren a knowing nod, which caused Gren to grimace again. Haddon and Moriana mounted their horses, while Alfred looked incredulously at Gren. "What, I've got to take Gren too? Look, I'll take Izira, no problem, but can't Gren just jog alongside or something?" Gren gaped. "You're supposed to be my steed!" "Oh, alright. But I want some extra oats for this." Gren frowned at Alfred, then turned to help Izira up onto Alfred's back.

With Gren's help, Izira got on to Alfred's back, petting his mane in thanks. She moved, leaving Gren room to climb up.

Gren lifted himself up onto Alfred's back, in front of Izira. "I guess I'm a damn taxi now. Me, a once proud, free unicorn."

Haddon spoke up, "Hey, Perrigan made Travel Time a priority. That means your workload just increased, pal."

"Just great", Alfred said grumpily.

Izira moved closer to Gren, wrapping her arms around him to feel his solid presence.

They rode the rest of the way, mostly silent. The gravity of the situation was felt by Gren, and he knew something would have to be done to save his friend's life. They made it to the gate, which opened for them so they could ride straight in. Alfred and the horses carried them to Perrigan's house. Gren helped Izira off of Alfred, while the other Rangers dismounted. Going inside, they moved through the foyer and into Perrigan's office. Perrigan and Westerguard were both there, going over a map they had of Brallin's territory. They both looked up as the Rangers entered. Perrigan nodded at Gren. "I'm sure you've been told what the situation is."

Izira knew it was ranger business and therefore technically not her business. But Gren was her business and she would be damned to stand by and wait to find out if he would be sent on another mission. Still, the woman managed to look at place despite the various thoughts that attacked her mind. She stood a little behind Gren and to the side, keeping her silence.

Perrigan noticed Izira and gave her a nod and slight smile, although he was trying to stay focused on business. "Bernard was discovered and captured by Brallin's men. They are holding him here, at the Silver River Bridge outpost. They're most likely trying to get information out of him. Of course, we need to recover him as soon as possible. Gren, I need you to lead this mission. I will put Haddon, Moriana, and Crawford at your disposal. You know enough of that area to find and extract Bernard. They'll be expecting a war party, so try to keep camouflaged and stay out of sight as much as possible."

Izira gave a weak smile to Perrigan before he started talking. His words hit something deep within Izira, reminding her of the fear she had before of losing Gren. Of those she had lost without having any control or say. She was tired of waiting idly by, allowing her fate to be decided by others without her involvement. Izira stepped forward, her posture intent. "I would like to offer my services in this mission."

Westerguard turned his head to stare incredulously at Izira. There seemed to be a pregnant pause before Perrigan spoke. "Izira . . . I do not doubt your courage or your resolve. But this is a mission for trained Rangers. They'll need all of their skill in order to traverse this rugged, hostile territory. I can't risk having a civilian going along and possibly getting captured . . . or worse. Brallin knows what you look like, if you recall."

"He knows what Gren looks like as well, Perrigan." Izira did not look at the rangers other than Perrigan and Westerguard. Her amber-brown eyes burning a brighter amber, she took another step forward. "I am not simply some civilian who happens to run an inn. I spent years of my life with no home, living on my own wits against brutes of equally violent capabilities. I survived them. I am not naive. It is not by chance that there are those that know me as the Lady Death. I am Ny'Halian. Fire burns in my veins." The air around her warming, the aura of the innkeeper brighter, stronger, with more intent. "I will not wait by the sidelines to know whether or not the man I love will return to me."

Gren just kind of stood there, wide-eyed, listening to Izira's speech. If Izira's speech didn't get the Rangers attention, then the warm air certainly did. Perrigan straightened, and crossed his arms, levelling his gaze at Izira. "Fire. Violence. I understand you know about these things. But fire and violence are the two things I am trying to avoid here. I want speed and stealth. I want Gren and his team to go in, get Bernard, and get the hell out of there before Brallin and his Rangers know what hit them."

Gren finally snapped out of his shock and spoke up. "Uh, Headmaster, sir, I believe that Izira might be of use to us on this mission."

Westerguard gave Gren a withering gaze. "What the hell are you talking about, Captain?"

Gren cleared his throat. "Sir, over the years we have heard that Brallin has begun teaching his Rangers in the magical arts. Neither I, Haddon, or Crawford are versed in those areas. I don't know if Moriana is, she doesn't tell me anything." Moriana narrowed her eyes at Gren. Gren soldiered on. "I believe Izira can be a . . . failsafe, should we run into any magic users in the course of this mission. And we'll only use that 'failsafe' as a last resort." The room grew incredibly quiet as Perrigan and Westerguard looked at each other.

The heat around her died down, her eyes returning to normal. Izira added, "I should think that my ability to exist as a simple inn keeper proves that I am capable of acting without fire and violence. Only that, as Gren states, I have a skill set that can be put to use, if needed. Or, if you'd rather a ranger, there is always Malcom." For the time she watched the two leaders, not looking back at Gren. "I would wager I would be less likely to slow them down."

Westerguard pointed his finger in Gren and Izira's direction while looking at Perrigan. "I cannot believe you are seriously considering listening to these two."

Perrigan thought about it for a moment, and shrugged. "They both make good points. Do you really want to send Malcolm on this mission?"

Westerguard lowered his finger and his jaw tightened.

Perrigan turned his gaze to Izira. "Don't get me wrong here. I do this against my better judgement. I will accept this . . . 'failsafe'. For this mission. But this will not become a habit. Do you understand?" Perrigan's gaze shifed from Izira, to Gren, and back again.

"I do." Izira was not without her own concerns, but the most immediate one - assuring herself of Gren's safety - was at least covered. Izira nodded, stepping back.

"Then your mission is clear. Get to Silver River Bridge. Get Bernard. Get the hell out of there as quickly and as quietly as possible. Captain, I leave it in your hands." Gren came to attention and saluted, as did Haddon and Moriana.

With a bit of an exhale, Izira followed suit of the others. The salute might not have been perfect, but she had training to stand at attention at the orphanage and with the Wizard. Removing her hand, she turned to exit the room, her heart racing.

Perrigan slightly smiled seeing Izira and returned the salute to them, before Gren and the others left Perrigan's office. As the door closed behind them, Haddon spoke first. "Jesus, Gren, 'teaching his Rangers in the magical arts'? You sure pulled that one out of your ass. Why the hell would you want Missy to come with us?"

Gren was almost at a loss for words, but he nodded weakly. "She'll be fine. This is just a "Find and Grab" mission. There won't be much danger."

"Yeah, you'll be singing another tune if Brallin's goons find us."

Crawford walked into the foyer at that point. "I just heard, I'm to go on the mission to save Bernard?"

Gren nodded and smiled. "Yes, Crawford, get your gear and meet us at the gate." Then Gren turned to Izira. "Just tell me you're sure about this."

"I need something else to wear." She replied, that being her way of saying she is sure. She might not be entirely sure, but she was doing it.

"You look about Moriana's size. I'm sure she can loan you something." Moriana turned and glared at Gren, putting a hand on her hip. "Hey, she is on the team for this mission, isn't she?" Moriana threw her hands up, and then gestured to Izira to follow her. "Haddon and I will meet you at the front gate with Crawford." Gren put his hands on Izira's shoulders and gave her a deep kiss. "I love you."

"I love you too." A soft smile to Gren before she turned and followed Moriana. Inwardly, as they walked, she went over her speech in Perrigan's office. Lady Death!? She closed her eyes a second. Perhaps the mission would be enough of a distraction and Gren would not follow up with her on that.
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 01, 2018 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gren walked toward his own barracks there at the Compound to secure his gear for the impending mission. He was rubbing his temples and had a paranoid look on his face.

Haddon was chuckling to himself. "I must say, I gotta admire the guts of the Little Missy there."Fire burns in my veins"? "There are those that know me as Lady Death"? Haw haw! She spends all day drinking tea and playing piano! I just hope you know what you're doing, Gren my boy."

Gren didn't say anything back. Part of him wanted Izira on the mission, and the other part was cursing him for being the worst fiancee in the history of romance to willingly let her walk into danger. Finally, he got the nerve to speak. "Haddon, right now, I just want to get Bernard, and get myself and all of us, including Izira, back home safely. I'll deal with the "Lady Death" speech later."

Haddon shrugged, "Alright, buddy. You know I'll watch out for her. And so will Mori and Crawford."

"Yeah, I know."

Meanwhile, Moriana led Izira to her bunk. Her room was a spartan one, just her bed, a table & chair, and a cabinet & dresser with her clothes. Moriana rifled through her belongings, looking for something Izira would be able to wear. She held up a brown shirt and pair of pants. Not very fashionable, but fashion wouldn't be needed where they were going.

"Boots." Izira was not bashful about her body, nor put off by the clothing. Need trumped fashion by far. She was getting out of her clothing and putting on the articles Moriana had given her. "Do you have a tie?" She gestured to her hair, "I need something more secure for this."

Moriana nodded. You have to put on the shirt and pants before you put on your boots. She came up with an old pair of leather boots from beneath her bed. A leather strip was given, enough to wrap around her hair. She also produced face paint in forest green, brown, and black. She waited for Izira to finish changing before she would apply it.

Izira dressed in the brown shirt and pants. Boots, at least, were a familiar thing - even if not stylish. She tied them up. The iconic bun forsaken, Izira pulled her hair back into a ponytail. "If Gren does not recognize me, it is likely the other rangers will not either." With a thin smile, she stood still for the face painting, a far cry from the one she'd gotten during Beltane.

Moriana quirked her mouth at Izira's comment, then applied a base paint of forest green all over Izira's face. She finished it off by giving her brown and black stripes so she would blend in with the foliage. Once the face paint was finished, Moriana opened her cabinet and withdrew a spare grey cloak, holding it out for Izira to wear.

Taking the cloak, she wrapped it around her shoulders. Standing at attention, "Well, Moriana, what do you think?"

Moriana tilted her head, sizing Izira up. Then she made the "so-so" gesture, wagging her hand back and forth. A spare backpack was pulled from the cabinet. Moriana unclasped it to show Izira knives, food, water bottle, fishing line, rope, compass, and bandages within. She pulled her own over her shoulder, and nodded at the door for them to leave.

"Good enough." Izira took note of the contents of the pack, shouldering it in the same way. She marched outward and toward the front gate with Moriana to meet the others.

As Moriana and Izira approached the front gate, they would see Gren, Crawford, and Haddon standing there waiting for them, geared up and dressed much the same as they were. Haddon had a camouflage bandana tied around his bald head to cover the shine. Gren breathed out as if to steady himself. "Alright, let's go get Bernard."

The mission would be carried out on foot, horses would make too much noise. Silently, the group of five made their way eastward into the dense pine forest. "We'll stick to the forest, if we go out on the Silver River, they'll see us coming a mile away." Gren said that more for Izira's benefit. The pine forest got thicker and denser the farther they got into the hills east of Perrigan's Compound. Various birds and woodland animals could be heard, but not seen, as they skirted through the foliage.

Izira gave Gren a short nod to his explanation. Being mindful of her position within the rangers - or lack thereof, she followed their lead. Perhaps it would be surprising to the others how she managed to keep up and move silently.

A few miles went by, and they came to a muddy wagon track. Gren was in the lead. He perked up as if he heard something, and raised his fist. Immediately Haddon, Moriana and Crawford dodged behind a tree, Moriana waving at Izira to follow her lead.

Seeing the others hide, Izira moved behind a tree as well even as Moriana waved at her to do so.

Gren slowly snuck behind a tree himself, then from off in the distance a rumbling could be heard. Over a rise, a wagon could be seen pulled by a team of horses. A single, grey haired farmer was steering them. Crates were piled up in the wagon behind him. Gren slowly lowered his hand to signal there was no danger, then held his palm out to mean hold until the wagon was out of sight. Slowly the wagon meandered along the path, and finally disappeared from sight as it dipped below a hill to the south. Gren motioned everyone forward, and they continued their journey.

Silently, Izira followed behind the group - keeping an eye on them and their surroundings as best she could.

The miles of pine forest went by as they approached the border between Perrigan's and Brallin's territory. As the sun was beginning to set, they came to a wooden split rail fence that divided the forest. There was a cabin in the distance that belonged to a logging crew. Once they jumped that fence, they would be in Brallin's woods. Gren squatted beside it and gestured for everyone to huddle up. He spoke in a whisper. "That's Jorgenson's Lumber Company. On Brallin's side. We can cross here. It goes without saying. Don't speak unless it’s an emergency. Try not to step on any branches. Watch out for sounds, movements. The outpost we want is about five miles due east of here. Is everyone ready?" Haddon, Moriana, and Crawford silently nodded yes.

Another nod followed from Izira, following a weak smile to Gren.

A nod from Gren, then he hopped the fence first, peering down towards the cabin to make sure the coast was clear. He waved them forward, and the three rangers followed, while Gren held out his hand to Izira to help her if she needed it.

Taking his hand, more for the comfort than for the need of help, Izira made her way over the fence with the others. Squeezing his hand softly before letting go, she hoped she had made the right call in coming. It was too late to change her mind. She focused her thoughts on staying light on her feet, keeping herself from breaking anything underfoot that she wouldn't otherwise see.

Advancing through the lumber yard, they could see large piles of logs, freshly cut timber waiting to be transported to the City. They didn't get far when Gren put his fist up again, and they dove behind a particularly large stack. Nothing could be heard for a few moments, then far away towards the cabin, two male voices could be heard.

". . . . . happened again last night. Same as the night before."

"Aw, you're just hearin' things, there ain't nothin' to be afraid of, not with Brallin out there."

"I'm telling you it had to be a ghost or something. I ain't never heard an animal make a sound like that. This place is haunted, I tell you. Too many strange things goin' on. I think Brallin is asleep at the wheel."

"Well you better not say that too loud. The forest has ears, you know."

A long pause followed.

"Hell, let's just call it a night. I gotta get home and make sure Ness is alright."

"Fine by me. See you tomorrow. Let me know if you see another ghost. Hah hah hah."

"Yeah, real funny, smart ass."

The faint sound of footsteps could be heard as the two men went back to the cabin. Once Gren was sure he couldn't hear anything more, he motioned everyone to follow him eastward and out of the lumber yard.

From her hiding spot, Izira closed her eyes and focused on the voices of the two men. She wondered to herself what the one had heard to make him think the woods were haunted. As the steps faded away, her eyes opened, and she scanned her surroundings until Gren gave the signal to move on.

They hopped another fence and maintained their course. Even though the sun hadn't fully set, it seemed murkier than usual for that time of day. The shadows in the trees became darker and the woods became so dense it was becoming tough to find a way forward. Every once in a while they would hear a strange howling sound, and not that of a wolf. After about three miles, they could hear the rushing of a river. Gren motioned them to halt for a moment, then he crept towards the tree line, and he could see the Silver River flowing beneath him. He was grateful to know they were still on the right track. He did a quick weapons check, and the other Rangers followed suit.

Izira had the knives provided to her by Moriana, but they had never been her weapon of choice. Mostly words... and fire. A lot of fire. She felt the ring on her hand warm in response to her thoughts. She was as ready as she could be in the situation.

They kept to the trees as they hurried as best as they could, while still trying to be careful. The sound of the river was on their right. After another mile, they came to the edge of the forest. Gren signaled them to take cover as he scanned the area. The Silver River Bridge could be seen off to the distant right. It was an old stone bridge that looked like it had been there for centuries. Before them stood a series of outbuildings that surrounded an old stone fort, which had moss growing along its walls. They waited a few minutes to see if they could hear anything, but no one could. Gren motioned for Haddon, Moriana, and Crawford to fan out and check the outbuildings, while Gren gestured to Izira to stay with him. As the other Rangers did as they were told, Gren broke cover with Izira and went up the central path. Thankfully the sun had set by now, and the darkness provided them with some cover. As they approached the fort, they could hear voices coming from within. Gren hid behind the nearest building and held his finger gently to Izira's lips.

Izira stilled as he placed his hand against her lips. She remained silent, tilting her head to see if she could hear the voices any more clearly.

Silently, the other three Rangers slipped over to Gren & Izira's hiding places, all of them nodding their heads. Gren pointed to the fort, then held up three fingers, then pointed at Haddon, Moriana, and Crawford in turn. They each signaled their understanding, then crept off towards the fort. Gren gave them a ten second head start, then motioned Izira to follow. They could see Haddon approach the wooden door, brace his shoulder, then break into a run and slam into it, causing it to crash inwards. The faint voices turned into startled cries as Moriana and Crawford pushed past Haddon and into the fort, Gren & Izira made it up to Haddon, who was rubbing his shoulder, but gave Gren a thumbs up and a grin.

They ran after Moriana and Crawford, and found them subduing three of Brallin's green cloaked Rangers. One man was already slumped in a corner, having been brained by a club from Moriana. Haddon ran up to another man that was struggling with Crawford and leveled him with a punch to the face. They then grappled the last of Brallin's men down, tied and blindfolded him. They heard a whimpering from a nearby room. Grabbing the keys from one of the subdued men, Haddon opened the door. There sat Bernard, with his shock of red hair, tied to a chair. It looked like they had beaten him for information, considering the bruises on his face and arms. Haddon pulled a knife, cut his bonds, and removed the gag from his mouth. "Thank God you guys made it . . .” Bernard began, but Gren made the "Shh!" gesture and waved them out of the fort. In the moonlight, they could see a clear path to the forest edge. Gren waved them on, breaking into a jog. It looked like they would get away clean before an inhuman shriek erupted behind them. "OH @#$%!!!" Haddon exclaimed and pointed past the fort. They could see skeletal shapes appearing from the murky gloom, outlined by the torches from the outbuildings, as well as other monstrosities whose details were lost in the night. "GO! STAY IN THE TREES!" Gren broke into a run, while Haddon hefted Bernard onto his back.
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"What the hell were those?" Haddon cried.

"It looked like skeletons! Holy crap . . . we're not going to make it far with Bernard in that condition . . . The river! We'll try to find a boat and paddle back to our territory", Gren replied.

Haddon chuckled. "You're the Captain!"

Swinging southward, they maneuvered down a rocky hillside until they stood in front of the Silver River. Unfortunately, being this far downriver from the outpost, there weren't any boats. Shrill cries behind them pushed Gren to hurry. "There aren't any boats! Either we find something that can float, or we're gonna have to make a run for it!"

"We can't with Bernard like this!" Haddon said.

Izira tried to listen to their surroundings over the pounding of her heart, wondering what those creatures could have been. It would be hard to tell without getting up close and personal, which sounded like the exact opposite of what she wanted to do. Gren's words pulled her from her thoughts, and she looked toward the water. "Let me." She didn't have the time or voice to explain, only moved to drop to her knees by the water's edge. She reached a hand in, touching the flowing stream. From the point of her touch, ice started to form. As it spread, a raft large enough to hold the group appeared within the water. "Get on!" Her command came through near gritted teeth, her posture tense as she fought to keep the raft in place against the current.

They were in too much danger for Gren to argue. "Get on!" Gren helped Haddon to drag Bernard onto the raft, while Moriana and Crawford found sticks to help paddle with. "We're on!", Gren said, holding his hand out to Izira to climb on as well.

A rustling behind Izira, who was still crouched by the water's edge, caused her attention to turn. She was only halfway to her feet to get on the raft, when a skeletal creature moved from the brush toward her. Reaching out with swift movements, it captured her arm in one of its boney hands. There was no thought, only reaction. Izira's eyes flashed red and a wave of deadly heat exploding from her and crashing into the other being.

As the skeleton burst into flames, Gren jumped off the raft, whipping his staff out at the same time, and brained a werewolf that had been approaching. Knocking it back with a shoulder block, he landed another shot to the ribs of a second skeleton, before pulling Izira onto the raft with him. "GO!!" Moriana and Crawford frantically dug their makeshift poles into the water to push them away from the shore, then paddled them down the river and to safety.

She held on to Gren from the safety of the raft, looking back at the glow of the burning skeleton until it was well out of view. Softly, she asked Gren, "Are you okay?", while she focused her energy on keeping their raft solid within the water and warm to the touch for those upon it.

Gren let out a brief laugh before he caught himself. "I should be asking you that. It's alright now, we're going home." He held Izira close to him as the Rangers rowed their way to safety.

The miles went by as Gren peered into the gloomy night, looking for any signs of life, or unlife in the case of the skeletons, but they encountered no one else. Five miles from the Silver River Bridge, Gren motioned Moriana and Crawford to push towards shore. They all filed off their makeshift raft of ice and onto dry land, thankfully in their home territory.

Izira gave a soft nod to Gren's comment, unable to find further words. She offered him a smile, a hand resting against him to take comfort in his presence. As the party departed the ice raft, it melted away to nothing. Izira exhaled from the effort of holding it together. She looked to Gren, then Bernard and Haddon.

Gren breathed a sigh of relief too as they all made it back safe. With his arm around Izira's waist, and Haddon and Crawford helping Bernard, they made their way through the pine forest back towards the Ranger's Compound. Thankfully, the raft spared them from getting too wet, as the night air was chilly. The six of them trudged up to the gate around midnight, went inside, and carried Bernard to Yolene's House of Healing. Yolene found a clean white bed for them to set Bernard in, and she set about administering treatment to help heal his wounds. "I would imagine you probably want to get some sleep", Gren said to Izira. "There are spare cots in the Barracks. They aren't the most comfortable, but they'll get the job done."

It had been the way she lean into him throughout the walk back that had given her exhaustion away. "Are you resting?" Izira cupped his cheek a moment.

"Yeah, now that the adrenaline has gone, I think it just hit me. Let's go find a place to rest, alright?"

"Alright." If he held her she would have fallen asleep on her feet now that they were back within the Ranger's Compound. "Lead the way." She moved her hand into his.

Taking her hand, he walked with her through the Compound, half-lit by flaming lamps hung here and there. Gren knew one of the Barracks rooms was unoccupied, so he led Izira inside. Most of the furniture was gone, but there was a bed and a dresser. Gren pulled the curtains so they would have privacy. Then he turned to Izira and swept her up in an embrace. "I . . . I'm so glad you made it back."

The flame lit candles seemed to move in a slight breeze as they passed. Izira walked, leaning against Gren, her eyes closed while she trusted him to guide her. Opening her eyes when they reached the room, she stood watching Gren pull the curtains. Returning the embrace, though somewhat weaker. "I am glad you made it back..." She did not want to think about what could have happened at that river if she had not been there. Perhaps just a very cold swim, perhaps something worse. She held his face in her hands and kissed him.

He pushed his lips onto hers for a few moments, then rested his head on her shoulder. "I want to make love to you so much right now, but it's going to have to wait until tomorrow." He managed a tired chuckle. "Let's go to bed, huh?"

She nodded, pulling him to the bed without caring what she might have looked like. Another thing to wait until morning. She waited for him to lay down, curling up against him. "I..." An overpowering yawn interrupted her, " you." She was barely awake long enough to hear a response.

"I love you too . . . Ranger Izira . . ." He wrapped his arms around her and fell asleep just a few moments after she did.
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2018 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

May 3, 2018

Gren slept soundly that night, and into the morning. Around 9 o'clock, there was a knock at the door, then another. "Hey, are you guys in there?" The door opened just a little, and Gren awoke in time to see Yolene's face peek inside, then her eye widen and she quickly shut the door again. "Ohmigod! You guys are like . . . together!"

Gren groaned and sat up in the cot. "No, it's alright, Yolene, we were just sleeping. Nothing to see here."

A few seconds of awkward silence followed, then he heard Yolene's voice again. "Um . . . Perrigan wants to see you as soon as possible. To go over what happened last night."

"We're probably going to need a shower and some breakfast, but after that, we'll be right there."

"Okay! Sorry!" Gren heard the sound of hurried footsteps as Yolene ran off, then he looked down to see if Izira had caught the exchange or was still sleeping.

The events of the previous day had worn Izira out in such a manner that she hadn't woken up before Gren, or until midway through the exchange with Yolene. She rubbed her forehead, finding paint still on it. Truthfully, she could have gone back to sleep easily, but instead offered Gren a smile when he finally looked her way. "Good morning."

He gave her a rueful smile. "Sorry to wake you, but it seems Perrigan wants to talk to us. Sooner rather than later. There's a shower through the back door there and to the right. When we're finished, we can get something to eat."

"Are you showering with me?" With a tilt of her head, she smiled to him in that way despite her exhaustion.

"As tempting as that is, I'm afraid if I tried that we'd make Perrigan awfully upset over the . . . long delay. Let's go get this over with Perrigan, then we can have all the long showers you want."

She lifted herself up, another touch to her head. "Mm. Scratch shower. A long soak in my tub." Standing up, Izira looked around as though trying to piece together Gren's simple directions to the showers before heading that way.

"I wouldn't argue with that either." He watched her walk away, before standing and going over to the window. The Rangers were going about their daily chores. Here and there he saw someone he knew, like Moriana hurrying over to Perrigan's house. He stretched his arms and tried to piece together what all happened the night before in his mind.

Halfway to the showers, Izira thought to suggest to Gren that he get the food while she showered so she could eat while he did the same. Grimacing at her lack of focus she moved on, hoping the water would help in making her more alert. Finding her way, Izira showered. She used her gift to deal with the coolness of the water's temperature. Spirals of steam lifted from her. She tried not to linger, but with or without Gren she wanted to stay under the water's flow. Forcing herself to keep the shower short, she stepped out and used her gift for a speedy drying. She pulled her hair into a makeshift bun and made her way back to where they had slept the night before. Izira felt only slightly more alert than she'd been before.

Gren turned from the window and smiled as he saw she has finished. "Alright, my turn. No peeking." He gave her a playful poke as he walked back to wash the grime, sweat, and paint off from the night before. He let the cold water run on his face for a while, before using plenty of soap and shampoo. Turning off the water, he dried himself and went over to the dresser. Thankfully there were still some spare clothes there. He got a brown shirt and pants for himself. "Are you in the mood for anything in particular for breakfast?"

While Gren showered, Izira had pondered laying down again. That sounded like a bad idea if Gren intended them to leave soon. She looked through the room, exchanging the old clothing for an oversized shirt that she turned into a makeshift dress. There was little to be done about the boots. Gren would find her leaning by the window when he came back. "Anything. I find myself unusually famished."

"Hopefully there's some food left for us at the Cafeteria. It probably won't be as good as something you'd make, but it'll get the job done." He smiled as he put his arm around her shoulder to walk out the door. "Love your new dress."

"It is the latest fashion." She put her arm around Gren's waist as they walked to the cafeteria. She watched the coming and goings of the rangers around them.

Gren was still in a bit of a haze from the night before, but he made it to the Cafeteria, rubbing his eyes here and there. Because it was later in the morning, there were few Rangers there enjoying their breakfast. Gren walked over to the chow line and grabbed a tray, handing one to Izira. As they set them down on the counter rails, Gren peered at what was being offered. All that seemed left was a few pancakes and some unappetizing looking eggs. Gren sighed. "I thought there'd be at least something left. How am I supposed to eat this?"

"You got a problem with my cooking, buster?" The voice came from beneath the counter.

Gren at first looked stunned, then leaned forward a bit. "Eamond? Is that you?"

"You're darn skippy it's me!" Suddenly a three foot six inch gnome popped up, climbing onto a stool to be eye level with Gren. He had a long, grey beard, a bald head, and was wearing a bright red pair of overalls with a plain t shirt underneath. "It's bad enough I have to cook for all you ungrateful gluttons, but you could at least show some appreciation for all my hard work around here!"

Gren gulped a bit and tried to smile. "Sorry, Eamond, I didn't realize you were there. I didn't mean any disrespect. This is my fiancee, Izira. Izira, this is Eamond, our head cook."

Unlike Gren, Izira had no issue with the food. Being famished had not been a lie. By the time Gren was introducing her, she had picked up two pancakes, holding them together with a hand to each side, in the middle of another large bit. She smiled apologetically. She tipped her head to bow because her hands and mouth were full.

"A pleasure, my lady. See? She likes my cooking just fine”, Eamond observed.

Gren looked a bit abashed. "Hey, uh Eamond, Izira and I were on a rough mission last night. Do you think you might have anything left? Other than the last two pancakes?" Gren gave Izira a little look, even though he was smiling as he said it.

Eamond sighed and crossed his arms. "Weeellll . . . I might be able to scare up a few more eggs. And some pancakes."

"With blueberries?" Gren asked hopefully.

"Don't push your luck, kiddo." Eamond hopped down from his stool and waddled over to the stove to begin cooking.

Izira managed to look a little ashamed. That did not, however, stop her from continuing to consume the two pancakes. When she found a moment with her mouth not full, she asked, "If you happened to have any lingering bacon or sausage or ham you would be my hero, Eamond." She then finished off the pancakes in a quickness that was not typical.

A string of grumbles came from the kitchen. "Fine, fine. Just have a seat and give me a few minutes. I swear, the young people these days . . . "Then the sound of frying could be heard.

Gren shrugged and gestured to the nearest table.

"Thank you Eamond." Izira's eyes lingered on the remaining eggs and likely would have dug into them were it not for Gren moving them to a table. She sat down, watching the kitchen with ravenous interest.

After a few minutes, Eamond ambled out of the kitchen, holding a plate in each hand. They both had two large buttermilk pancakes, a helping of scrambled eggs, and a grilled slice of ham. "Bacon and sausage are the first to go, but this should fill your bellies." He set them in front of the two. "Say thank you, Gren."

Gren smiled big for Eamond. "Thank you Eamond."

"Crap, forgot the coffee. I knew I forgot something." Eamond went back into the kitchen, and return with two mugs, a silver coffee pot, cream and sugar which he sat down on the table in front of them. "That mission better have been something important. Impatient ruzzamuzzawuzza . . . "He continued to complain as he shuffled out of sight.

"Thank you, again." Izira said almost off handedly as she started eating in such a fashion that it would have given Haddon a race for his money. Easily as fast yet managing to be tidy at the same time. Izira ignored the coffee, it not being her beverage option of choice. Moving her coffee toward Gren allowed her an opportunity to steal a bit of the food from his plate.

"Hey, leave me some! I'm as hungry as you . . .!" He redoubled his efforts, putting away the pancakes and eggs as fast as he could, then finishing off his meal with the ham. He made himself a cup of coffee and sipped on it, giving his meal time to settle. "Ah. Not bad for a grumpy gnome, you think?"

"Do you think there is anything more?" She looked back to the kitchen and the leftover eggs. "Might not be too bad...."

"Hey, knock yourself out." He poured himself another cup and gave her a sideways glance to see if she'd go through with it.

Picking up her plate, Izira moved to the leftover eggs and put them on her plate. Eating the eggs on the way over to the table, her plate was empty by the time she made the short distance.

Gren kind of gaped at her. "I've never seen you so hungry before."

"I..." There wasn't really anything she could say to it. She at least felt more alert. "We should not keep Perrigan waiting any longer, Love."

Gren raised his hands defensively as if he wasn't trying to argue, and stood up from the table. They moved out of the Cafeteria, and back east towards Perrigan's home. Walking up to his door, Gren let them inside, then over to the office door, where he knocked. "Headmaster, we're ready."

"Come in then."

Gren opened the door, and there was Perrigan sitting behind his desk with a concerned look. Westerguard stood beside him with his arms crossed. Bernard sat in the chair immediately across from Perrigan, while Haddon and Moriana sat off to the side.

"Have a seat", Perrigan told Gren & Izira. There were two chairs next to Bernard, so Gren sat down in one.

On the walk, Izira chewed her lower lip, trying to suppress a lingering hunger. Walking with Gren and touching their hands together was something small to distract herself with. She released his hand when they reached Perrigan's office, following Gren inside and taking the remaining seat.

"Alright, Bernard. I want you to tell us what you can about what happened", Perrigan said.

Bernard still looked shaken, but at least he was cleaned up and bandaged. He rubbed his head and started. "I went to the Silver River Bridge outpost, trying to see if I could get any information on what was being planned. The Rangers that were stationed there all seemed afraid. They said that they heard weird noises and howling in the forest, but whenever they tried to track the noises down, they would disappear. No one there had seen Brallin in months, he's always out on patrol, they said. They think some kind of . . . dark power has taken over their forest. But they can't be sure about it."

Perrigan took a breath, then sat back in his chair. "How did they catch you?"

"I was shadowing two of the Rangers who were on their usual patrol in the forest. A bear found my hiding place and jumped out at me . . . I couldn't help but scream. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, the bear alerted the Rangers. They grabbed me and tried to interrogate me, they thought I might have had something to do with the strange disturbances."

Perrigan rubbed his forehead, then looked at Gren & Izira. "Do you two have anything to add?"

"Do you think it is possible that the Brallin we saw was not truly him? It would be curious that he storms into your territory when his own men have not seen him." She leaned forward, picking up the dish of nuts from Perrigan's desk and eating several. She paused, then explained why her mind went there, "I... such a trick was used on me." Eating again, Izira glanced sideways to Gren as she chewed, looking to see if he had anything to add.

"That's a possibility, or else Brallin is not himself." Gren cleared his throat. "We did see skeletons and werewolves at the outpost. They didn't seem like they were connected to the Rangers, but on the other hand, it felt like . . . they were waiting for us. Like this whole thing was a trap. I mean, if Brallin wanted to keep Bernard for questioning, or even as a hostage, why would he keep him in the outpost closest to us?"

"This whole affair feels like someone's playing a game with us", Perrigan agreed. He then glanced to Izira eating his snacks. "Did everything go alright with you last night, Izira?"

With an apologetic smile, she put the dish back, nearly empty. "I was... touched... by one of the skeleton creatures. There was... a sort of magical element to it, but I could not read it. I did not get the chance before it was..." She looked to Gren, then unconsciously took a few more nuts. "Set aflame." The creation of the ice raft did not seem important to her. "It did not seem to enjoy it."

"At least you came back to us in one piece. This is why we don't want you going on missions. This is dangerous work, and I'd rather not have you getting hurt or worse on my conscience."

"Headmaster, sir, she did help us. We were cornered at the river, and she created an ice raft with her powers to help us get away", Gren said.

Perrigan paused for a moment. "Be that as it may, I don't think Izira should go on any more missions. At least until this . . . situation is resolved."

She had taken the remaining nuts as Perrigan spoke, likely why there was not an immediate disagreement. Her thought was much that as foolish as it might be, she would go where Gren went. She looked to Gren.

". . . For now, maybe that's for the best. Until we figure all this out." Gren gave Izira's shoulder a little squeeze, and a pointed look. Having been with her for almost five years, he hoped she would take his hint that they should play along for now.

"Speaking of figuring things out, I believe I should have a talk with Brallin, face to face."

Westerguard immediately spoke up, "Do you think that is wise? Considering all this trouble going on, you might be walking right into a trap the way Gren and the others did."

"At the end of the day, I believe Brallin respects me. I believe I can talk to him. I will take some of our Soldiers with me, and set up a meeting at a neutral location. This might be our last chance to avoid open warfare", Perrigan added.

If Izira looked less than pleased at Gren's agreement, she could barely suppress the look she gave Westerguard. For love of Gren she bit her tongue and schooled her face. A glance to the dish, having not noticed that she emptied it. "Is that all then?" She looked around the room after asking if the meeting was at its end.

"You may go." Perrigan released Gren and Izira.

"But don't go too far, Captain", Westerguard added.

Gren nodded, and led Izira out into the foyer. "I was just trying to play it cool in there. I can tell Perrigan and Westerguard are upset and on edge. They're just looking out for you."

"They should consider watching out for themselves." She looked back toward the building, then offered another apologetic smile to him. Her hand lightly brushing his arm.

"Before we get in any more trouble, maybe we should go back to the Inn. I know you'd have to get back soon anyway, plus you can finish curbing your hunger."

She shook her head, despite the fact that she was biting the knuckle of her other hand. She took her finger from between her lips, "Perhaps you have a point. Very well."

"Perrigan will take care of it. He always does." His arm hooked around her waist as he led her to Moriana's barracks so she could get her clothes. "Thank you for your help last night."

With a soft smile, Izira kissed his cheek as they moved on to get her clothing. "Anything for my ranger."
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2018 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

May 4, 2018

Laying in the enormous bed in the master bedroom of the Inn, Gren stared up at the ceiling with a half pleased, half exhausted look on his face. The night before, Gren had gotten Izira back home, where she had eaten more than he had ever seen, then watched her almost immediately after go to bed and sleep like the dead until noon. Then when she woke up, they engaged in some of the most passionate 'relations' he ever had. Listening to Izira in the shower, he wondered what had gotten into her since they had gone on the mission. Not that he was complaining at this point. He finally rolled out of bed and got dressed. Now he was hungry for lunch, already. The day just flew by. He hurried down the hallway to the bar, where he found a seat. Rubbing his fingers through his hair, he wondered about Perrigan and if he would be able to calm things down with Brallin.

The redwood of a man came out from the kitchen, a cheerful smile featured in his weathered face. Green eyes sparkled in their way, bright amongst the copper-brown of his hair and beard. He wore his usual off-white linen tunic over loose tan pants. "I went ahead and did the honors of fixing you up something to eat." With a knowing twist to his grin, Jeremiah set a plate before Gren, a shank of lamb with seasoned potatoes and roasted beets.

"Thanks, I . . . . uh . . . " He was going to say how winded he was, but he suddenly became self-conscious as he usually does about such things. He picked up his fork and tasted the lamb, giving a pleased smile. "Hey, that's really good! I didn't realize you were a cook too. Usually you're either smoking your pipe, or running around as Silas."

"Someone had to get the girl fed when she wouldn't feed herself." He wiped his hands off on a nearby towel, the chuckle that rumbled from his chest only one of partial amusement. "And you learn things from always watching." His smiled widened, "Dare say, I learned a number of new things today." His voice carried the implication of what Gren did not voice. He paused to look at Gren and then Jeremiah broke out into a loud, full roar of laughter. His hand lifted to soothe Gren, "Only a joke."

Gren turned red as the beets on his plate and shoved a potato in his mouth to cover his embarrassment. After he swallowed, he tried to change the subject. "So . . . is everything going fine with the realm these days?"

Jeremiah leaned over, resting his elbows on the bar. "Flourishing." He shifted to scratch his beard, looking back at Gren, "How is Ranger business?"

"Tense right now. We're having . . . difficulty with a rival guild of Rangers. We're hoping to avoid an all-out war. But other than that, I can't complain."

Jeremiah's jovial features took on a concerned look, though the man didn't say anything. He stood up, turned around and put the kettle on for Izira's tea. Eventually his voice filled the silence again, "I hope you are taking care of yourself, Gren. Izira is part of the Realm. You are part of Izira. I would not like see the results should anything happen to you."

Something about Jeremiah's tone of voice led him to believe he shouldn't mention the fact that Izira went on the mission with him. That was probably a conversation better left between the two of them. "I understand the concern. Luckily I've only had one mission pertaining to the recent . . . trouble. My Headmaster is going to arrange a meeting with the other Headmaster. Hopefully they'll come to an agreement, and this will all blow over."

After a long look at Gren. Jeremiah settled on a short nod. "Good then." With a lightness that was unexpected for his size, the man hopped over the bar to the patron side. He straightened to offer Gren a pat on the back, "Izira should be out shortly. I think I will take a walk. See what new things there are to see today."

"Alright, you do that. Have fun, hope you catch a fish." Gren tried to keep things light and joke with Jeremiah so as not to concern him.

Jeremiah moved to the door, vanishing through it and unseen on the other side. One did not need to use legs to take a leisurely stroll. Several minutes later, Izira came out through the kitchen. Daintily she licked a finger, having gotten a small nibble from what was left there by Jeremiah. Her hair pulled back into an easy bun, she had on a cream colored blouse with a green-gray skirt. The collar of her shirt cut in a V shape, showing the place where her locket rested against her skin. She smiled to Gren, looking to his plate, "I see Jeremiah took care of you." She leaned over the bar to give him a kiss before she took the kettle off and poured the water for her tea.

Smiling after the kiss, he went back to polishing off his lunch. "Yes, apparently he is concerned for my well-being. Are you feeling better now after your shower?"

"I feel wonderful." Izira smiled widely. "How could I not?" Looking pleased, she stood at the bar, opposite Gren, once her tea was ready. Her hand reaching out to touch the back of his, "I do not fault Jeremiah his concerns. He knows how important you are to me."

He took her hand and rubbed her fingers in his. "You know . . . now that the excitement is over, maybe we should talk about you going on the mission. I hope you see now how dangerous missions can be. It's not that I don't want you to go with me, but I'm worried about your safety as well."

"I worry about your safety as well, Gren." Abandoning her tea, she held his hand with both of hers. "I know I am not a Ranger and it is not my place to go with you on these missions.... but... I cannot bear the waiting to find out if you are okay or not, if you will come back or not." One hand lifted to brush through his hair, "Not now." She glanced to her ring, "I do not want..." The thought of the possibility of losing him overwhelmed her and silenced her voice, her eyes giving up the level of emotion by going watery. She smiled apologetically.

Gren lowered his head, trying to think of words he could say that would comfort her. "Izira . . . I know what it means to marry you. I know that I will have to strongly consider giving up my life as a Ranger. But I'm more ready to do that than I've ever been. I hoped that I might still learn something about my past. It has also not been easy for me to want to leave the only job I've known behind. However, I know what it puts you through. I have the best future I can think of right here at the Inn with you. So I don't think my decision will be a tough one, once we are married."

With a soft nod, she went back to holding his hand in hers. "I do not want to keep you from doing what you feel you must." Her fingers trailed over his hand, "Perhaps, when you retire, we will have time to pursue uncovering your past. It would be easier to dedicate the time to it, if you are not patrolling or on missions."

"That sounds like a good idea to me." He smiled then. "Did Jeremiah make you something? Why don't you sit down and eat with me?"

"I picked at a few things in the kitchen." Even so, she accepted his invitation, taking a seat beside him and bringing her tea closer from across the bar, "My appetite seems to have wandered off."

"That's probably more exercise than you've had in the last ten years." He laughed.

She smiled, leaning against him, "Mm. I would not mind a repeat."

"As much as I would like to have that second chance, I need to get back to Headquarters and see what's going on. I'm probably not needed, but I should make an appearance."

"Likely. Yes." She didn't sound thrilled about the idea, but that was his life. She offered him a gentle smile for any harm her tone had done.

"We need to have faith in Perrigan." He finished off his lamb and beets. He took her hand and kissed it, then kissed her on the lips, holding it. "I'll be back soon. I miss you already."

"I miss you too." Izira touched his arm and face, feeling him there with her.

He gave her another kiss, letting it linger like the first one, and before he got too frisky, he stood from his stool. "I should go now. I love you."

Pulling her hands from him so as not to cling, she nodded to his words. "I love you too."

Gren moved to the door and took his grey cloak from the peg, whipping it on over his head. One last smile, and he pushed out the door, moving towards the portal back to RhyDin.

As Gren left, Jeremiah was there again, offering a hand to Izira's shoulder for comfort. "He will return. He always does."
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2018 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

May 11, 2018

Izira sat at the piano in the large main room of the inn. Her fingers, traveling the keys with ease, produced a sweet melody that warmed the heart. The ravens and cat were out of sight, and the bunny had not escaped his hutch recently, so the innkeeper enjoyed playing in the serene solitude. A simple navy blue shirt dress, belt with a fabric tie at the waist, paired with simple summer heels of dark brown. The lady had her hair down for the day.

Gren came walking up to the door, having spent most of the day on patrol. He dusted off his cloak and wiped his boots on the mat before walking inside. He had heard Izira playing as he was approaching the Inn, and now he stopped and smiled as he listened to her playing the sweet melody. He waited until the music finished so he could hear the whole song.

The song concluded, Izira turned and offered Gren a smile, "Did you enjoy it?"

He clapped as she finished. "Oh yes, very much. I miss not getting to hear you play when I'm away."

"All the more reason for you to keep returning." She slid off the piano stool, moving over to Gren to kiss him. Her arms wrapping around his neck, fingers toying with his hair as she pulled away, "How was your day?"

He gave a pleased little grunt as she kissed him. "Better now. Just a usual day of trekking through the forest, looking for danger. Thankfully today was a slow day."

"I enjoy your slow days, I get to see more of you."

"You know, I hate to break up your romantic greeting, but you wouldn't have something special made up for a weary Ranger who's spent all day protecting the forest, would you?"

"Hm. Did you propose to me only to solidify your source for good cooking?" Pulling away from Gren, she headed toward the bar. "I might be able to find something." Slipping behind the bar, Izira set out a Broot and a glass. Frost covered the glass as she set it down.

"No, it was to solidify our relations. The good cooking is just a bonus." He smiled and sat down at the bar across from her, pouring some of the Broot into the glass. "Would it helped if I told you how appreciative I am of all your good cooking?"

"Perhaps. If you show me later." With a playful grin, she went through the kitchen doors to rustle him up some food.

"Sounds good to me." He watched her walk through the door, admiring the way her butt swished back and forth in the blue dress. Then suddenly he got self-conscious and cleared his throat, taking a long drink of the Broot. Wiping his forehead, he glanced around the Inn to see if anything was different.

Nothing appeared amiss at the Inn. The scent of the honey-soy-glazed salmon filled the air as Izira exited the kitchen. Several thinly cut portions of salmon sat on the plate along with roasted spears of asparagus and mixed rice. A small basket of rolls with a dish of butter in the center was in her other hand. She set these before Gren, then handed him a cloth napkin holding silverware from behind the bar, "Did you get any news of what is happening with Brallin?"

"Oh, man, what a wonderful looking meal." Taking the silverware from Izira, his hunger took over as he started eating the salmon. He almost forgot to answer her question. Taking a quick drink of Broot, he replied. "Yeah, Perrigan got a messenger through to Brallin. He asked to meet him at the Jorgensen Mill cabin. You remember, that's where we were when we crossed into Brallin's territory during the mission to rescue Bernard. They both agreed to bring ten Rangers with them for security and protection. Perrigan said they have a lot to talk about, and I don't disagree."

She nodded, taking the information in. Several responses came to mind, but were not voiced as she got herself a glass of water. Finally, "I hope the meeting goes well for Perrigan." Water in hand, ice forming as she moved, Izira came around the bar to sit beside Gren.

He buttered a roll as she sat next to him. "I hope so too. I kind of thought they'd be past the point of talking after what happened with Bernard, but I think Perrigan realizes the consequences of a Ranger War, not just in lives lost, but what might happen to the forest if we're not there. If Perrigan makes a good enough case, Brallin should see that too."

Izira slightly worried her lower lip, but nodded in support. Lifting the water to drink, she stroked Gren's back with her free hand.

"They'll have the meeting tomorrow evening. I didn't get picked to go, so I'm in the clear for this mission, at least. Hopefully there will be some Rangers on hand on our side if things go bad." Gren stuffed the roll in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully.

"Do you know any of those that were picked to go?" She felt slightly relieved that Gren was not part of the mission, but was concerned still for Perrigan's sake.

"He agreed to bring faces that Brallin knew, like Rendrick and Sorrel from the Double Rock Ridge incident. The rest are rangers that patrol the territory on the border. Westerguard said he'd stay behind and look after things."

"Will you want to be there the day after, to know how it went? I could stay at your place tomorrow night to be closer."

"Yeah, sure, that'd be great. Since you're coming over, I'll have to . . . oh, wait, I have an even better idea. How about we have that fancy dinner we talked about before you stay the night?"

She nodded in approval of the suggestion. "I will pick out something special to wear for the occasion."

"That sounds awesome. Hah. Now I have to actually think of a nice restaurant in the City. I might have one or two in mind . . . unless you had someplace you'd like to go?"

"Anywhere with you will be perfect."

"I know some friends in New Haven. The Rockinghams, to be exact. I made their acquaintance when I was Overlord for a while. I'm sure they can point me in the right direction. They know all the classy spots."

"With a nice private table?"

"Yes, indeed. Nice view, excellent food. It'll be great. You'll see."

She smiled widely and took another sip of her water. Her other hand moved from his back to his thigh, "How is dinner? As good as it looked?"

"Oh, it's amazing. The salmon . . . I love that glaze. Really tasty." He hurriedly ate the rice that was left to make sure his plate was clean. "Ahhhh that hit the spot."

"Glad you enjoyed it." She grinned a bit more, "Now... there was some talk about relations and thanking me for dinner?"

He pushed the plate away from him and smiled. "Well . . . I have to do something to repay you for this fine meal."
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2018 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

May 12, 2018

Walking down a posh street in the district of New Haven, Gren and Izira were headed to meet Misses Rockingham so she could recommend them a good restaurant for a lovely, romantic dinner at. The cobblestone street was lined with lampposts that lit up the dusky evening sky. Gren was wearing a navy blue suit that had red and white lines, along with a pale blue shirt and a blue tie with red and white stripes. With Izira on his arm, and being in this part of the city, Gren felt like he was a well-to-do citizen out on an evening walk with his fiancee. "I like this district. Very upscale and romantic." Gren smiled over at Izira.

"It is nice enough", she returned Gren's smile. "The view would not be half as nice without you." Outwardly, Izira fit into the posh surroundings easily. The way she carried herself added to the view of the fitted red dress with a plunging neckline, paired with strappy heels. For the evening, Izira wore her hair down and the tresses framed her amber-brown eyes.

"It's the suit", Gren said with a little grin. "I look handsome in blue. With little red and white stripes. You look beautiful tonight. This is going to be great." He patted her hand that was wrapped around his arm. "Now Margaret said she'd meet me outside the Lemon Wedge Cafe. It should be right up this street."

"You look handsome no matter what you wear. Even in a grass skirt." Her smile was just for him. She kissed his cheek, then looked ahead to seek out their dinner guide.

"Well, I did that as a favor for you, let's not talk about it in public." He cleared his throat and adjusted his tie. As they moved further up the street, they could see a cafe with tables set out front, and a sign that had a big lemon wedge displayed out front.

"YOO-HOO!!!! Mister BLOOOOCKmaaaaaan!" A chubby, middle-aged woman stood up from one of the tables and waved a kerchief at the couple. She was wearing a long, red dress with way too many flowers on it. Her hat looked like a bouquet it had so many.

"Hello, Margaret! It's good to see you again."

"Oh, Mister Blockman, it's been SUCH a long time! And who is this lovely lady on your arm, hmmmmm?"

"This is my fiancee, Izira Nyte", Gren replied.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Nyte", Margaret extended a white gloved hand.

Margaret saved Gren from Izira's comment as the woman's greeting cut her off. Taking in the flowers covering the older lady, Izira thought the woman could easily blend into the gardens back at the Inn. She took the offered white hand with a delicate touch and bow of her head, "A pleasure, Margaret. Thank you for helping us this evening. I hope we did not draw you away from anything important?"

"OH, not at ALL!" Margaret waved off Izira's comment with a hand. "I'm ALWAYS glad to help a friend in need." She giggled girlishly. "Oh MY, Izira, you are gorgeous! Look at us both in red, we could be on the cover of a fashion magazine, don't you agree?" Margaret stood next to the much slimmer Izira as if they were posing at a photoshoot.

"You are too kind, Margaret." She smiled warmly to the woman, "I would have to agree, though I think you have out-styled me. Wherever did you discover your hat?"

"You have a good eye, my dear! I found this TREASURE over at that WONDERFUL women's fashion store down on Granite Avenue! D'Lorenzo's! Ten percent off on Tuesdays for his . . . ", and with another girlish giggle, "VIP clientele. Oh, but enough about ME, I'm sure you're both FAMISHED, am I right?"

"Oh, yes." Izira looked to Gren and then back to Margaret. "Where would you suggest a recently engaged couple go to celebrate?"

"WELL! There is a SCRUMPTIOUS place right around the corner from here. Wallingford's on Ivory Street. Just DIVINE! Oh! But I don't want to spoil the SURPRISE for you! You two lovebirds." Margaret held out what looked like two tickets to Gren. "Here you are, Mister Blockman. Two reservations just for you and your bride to be. Just tell the Maitre D that Margaret Rockingham sent you. Oh hoo hoo." Margaret laid a hand on her chest. "This reminds me of when my husband Blake proposed to me. Oh, he looked so handsome."

"Generous as well as fashion savvy. Thank you Margaret. I am sorry I did not get a chance to meet Blake this evening. Perhaps another time you two can tell us of your engagement?" She glanced to Gren as she spoke.

Gren looked a bit nervous at Izira's suggestion but managed a smile for Margaret.

Margaret gushed, "OH! That would be OUTSTANDING! You two MUST come over to the Manor someday! Oh, look at you two. To be young and in love again, ohhhhh" Margaret pressed her hands to her face.

Gren cleared his throat. "Well, Misses Rockingham, thank you for the Reservations. We'll be going now."

"You stay in touch now, Mister Blockman! You too, Miss Nyte! Tah!" Margaret wiggled her fingers at them both.

"Send our thanks and greetings to your husband." Izira added onto Gren's words as they moved away.

Margaret continued waving as the couple left the cafe and continued up the street. Gren wiped his forehead. "Misses Rockingham is nice, but if she got us at her Manor, whew, I don't think we'd ever get out again. But it was nice for her to get us these reservations."

"I am sure a ranger as capable as yourself would be able to figure out an exit strategy. Scale some vine covered walls?" She patted Gren's arm, "She is a sweet lady."

"That doesn't sound like a gentlemanly thing to do, but I just might be desperate enough to do that." They rounded the corner onto Ivory Street. As they walked through the throng of people on this well-maintained street, they came upon a large white building with marble pillars out front. A fancy sign written in cursive had the name "Wallingford's" in large letters. Gren led Izira up the marble steps and in through a pair of carved oaken doors. The waiting room had plush tapestries hung on the wall, as well as seats for those waiting for a table. There was an older man with a slicked back haircut and a tuxedo standing at a podium near the entrance of the restaurant. Gren gulped, absently ran his hand through his hair, and moved toward him.

The older man, who was apparently the Maitre'D, looked down his nose at Gren. "Can I help you, saaaahh?" He questioned, drawing out the 'sir'.

Gren tugged at his collar, then quickly shoved the two reservations out at the man. "Misses . . . um . . . Margaret Rockingham sent us. With reservations. To eat." Gren managed a nervous smile.

The Maitre'D looked at Gren, then Izira, then Gren, then the two reservations. "Very well. Right this way, saaaahhh." He gestured towards the open doors.

Izira quirked a brow at Gren, mouthing the Maitre'D's saaaaahhhhh to her companion while the other was not looking their way. Her hand wrapped in Gren's arm as they followed the man through to a private table. At least this part suited Izira, more so than the overly opulent waiting area. The table was set more privately into a corner, potted plants offering a sense of solitude from the others in the restaurant. A waiter stood at the ready, pulling her chair out for her when they reached the table. A younger man poured two glasses of water for the table as the Maitre'D waited for them to be settled.

Gren looked like he was going to bust out laughing at Izira's impression of the Maitre'D, but he gently put a finger to his mouth. Following the way to the table, he noted the plants and the private setting. He sat down in his chair and gave his water a sip. He smiled at Izira as he looked to the waiter for their menus.

The waiter handed Gren a wine list before handing them each a menu to look over. As they looked he went over the night's specials, his accent present but not as snooty as the Maitre'D's - "Tonight we have featured a roasted bone marrow with baguette and shallot confit to begin with. Our entrees are beef cheek ragout tortellini or our sous-vide duck breast served with a plum and fennel salad. Would Sir care to select a wine?"

"I . . . eh . . . uh . . . " Most of the words that came out of the waiter's mouth went directly over Gren's head. Before he stammered any more, he replied. "How about a red one?" Then he realized he was holding the wine list, and after fumbling with it for a minute, he was relieved to see the word "Merlot" at the top of the list. That was a wine he was familiar with, having bought a bottle for Izira. "Merlot! Uh, Merlot Pride of RhyDin Vineyards Vintage 2012. That's a good year, I've heard, uh heh heh." Gren really didn't know that, but he was trying to act like he did.

"An excellent choice, Sir.” The waiter bowed, leaving them to look over the menu in peace while he went for the wine.

Under the table Izira comforted Gren with her foot, offering him a supportive smile from behind her own menu.

He smiled back and gave her a little wink as if he had everything in order the whole time. Glancing over the menu, his face began to slowly fall. "This food looks awfully rich." His eyes finally landed on the first entry. "Roasted Free Range Chicken. That sounds like something I'd be familiar with. No antibiotics either. Does anything look good to you?"

She looked over the menu, setting it to the side, "I think I might try the beef cheek. It would pair well with the wine." Izira picked up her water and took a sip.

Gren looked confused for a moment. "Tell me something . . . is that an actual . . . cow's cheek?" He pointed to his own cheek for emphasis.

"It is." She took a pause, "It is similar to a pulled pork or brisket in texture."

"Huh." Gren didn't look like Izira's explanation either disgusted or enticed him, more like he was rolling the information around in his mind. "Eh . . . do you want to share an appetizer?"

"I could be convinced to share. What looks good to you?"

"Hmm, let's see . . . . I'd ask him what the Soup Du Jour was, but I'm afraid I wouldn't understand his answer . . . . Oh, a cheese platter! Brie, Cheddar, Gorgonzola, Walnuts, Apricots, and Apples. That sounds good to me."

"Perfect." Izira offered her hand across the table to hold Gren's hand until the waiter appeared again with two glasses and their bottle of wine. The glasses were set down on the table, the wine bottle opened with a pop, he poured a small portion into each glass.

"Have you decided?" He looked to Gren for the order.

"Uh, yes!" His menu slipped out of his hand after his other had held Izira's, and he spun it in a 360 degree angle before finally getting it reopened. "We'll try the Cheese Platter for an appetizer. And for the entree, I think the Lady should order first." Manners and all.

The waiter looked surprised but for a moment, but bowed his head, looking to Izira, "Mademoiselle?"

"The beef cheek, please."

The waiter nodded and looked to Gren, picking up Izira's menu and the wine list.

"I'll have the Roasted Free Range Chicken, please." There, that was painless. He smiled and handed the menu back to the waiter.

"Yes, Sir." The waiter bowed his head, taking the menus and his leave.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, 2018 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Well, what do you think so far? This place is beautiful. And . . . . Large."

"It is nice." Agreeing in her own manner, she smiled across the table to him. Picking up her glass and taking a taste of the wine, she ran her foot against his leg. "The company makes the evening, however."

Content with her answer, he raised his glass of wine to give it a taste. Her leg rubbed him in mid-sip, and bubbles appeared on the wine's surface. Gren swallowed and cleared his throat. "I do love the company as well. I could get used to this." Trying to steady himself after, he tried to change the subject a bit. "Do you think we'll get salads? Bread?"

She smiled into her own glass before setting it down. "Perhaps? I am not well versed in fancy dinners outside of my own establishment."

"Well, nothing beats your cooking. If there was such a thing as a six star restaurant, that's the ranking I'd give you." Gren gave her the love-struck eyes with a big smile on his face.

"I much prefer the current ranking system." She grinned, then covered further comment with her wine as the waiter returned with the cheese tray. Bread accompanied it. "Do you require anything else at this time?" He picked up the wine bottle, allowing Izira to set her glass down before filling it. He then added more wine to Gren's glass.

"No, this is fine for now. Mmm, Gorgonzola." Gren snagged a piece of cheese and put it on one of the little crusts of bread. "Not bad. It's not fondue, but hey."

Once more the waiter bowed out. Izira picked up a bit of pear and cheese, tasting the two together.

"They caramelized these walnuts too, mm that's good." Gren started taking a little of this and a little of that from the plate. "I better save room for my entree. Especially after what I'm about to pay for it." He added that last part with a slight rueful smile.

"Perhaps they do that thing with the leftovers.... ", Izira gestured, "I saw someone at an inn once, with leftovers wrapped in foil and it was in the shape of a swan."

"Hey, that's a neat idea." He thought about it for a moment. "Well, if we're going to do that, I'd rather take the cheese and apples home, since I don't have to reheat that." He took another sip of the wine. "Wooo. I haven't had this much alcohol since . . . ", he blinked and mused, ". . . . I can't remember, really."

"The Great Helm?" She recalled that Gren would order Ales so that she would not think less of him.

He nodded in agreement. "That's probably right. Although this time, I'm not drinking this wine to impress you. I'm trying out this whole 'Fine Dining' thing." He waved his hand around a little, and took another little sip of the Merlot, making a face afterward like he sucked on a tart lemon.

"Does that mean we will splurge on dessert?" Izira picked at the cheese plate as they spoke.

"If I have room, then certainly. I want to get the full experience here." He breathed deeply as if taking in the restaurant's ambiance.

The waiter appeared, bringing out plates of fresh salad that he placed before each. The salads were tossed in a light housemade vinaigrette.

"Thank you! I won't argue with veggies." Taking a fork, he took a bite of the salad. "I like the vinaigrette. Light on the oil, but enough to give it some flavor." He at first reached for his wine glass, then thought better of it and took a drink of water instead.

"You might look a bit foolish if you argued with them." She took up her own salad fork and enjoyed the salad, as well as her wine.

"Oh, I could have argued. I could have asked if they'd take back the salad and bread, and could I get a dessert instead? I don't think I would have won that argument, though." After another sip of water, he asked, "Have you ever been in a restaurant this fancy before?"

"But that is not arguing with the vegetables. That's arguing with the staff." Izira grinned playfully. Sipping her wine before answering his other question, shook her head, "I have not... you?"

"I don't think I've ever tried arguing with a vegetable." He looked at the carrot on his fork. "Why can't you be a radish?" When he didn't get an answer, he shrugged at Izira. "No, not that I can remember. I went to Margaret Rockingham's Manor for a fancy meal when I was Overlord." He shuddered at the memory. "She put aioli on everything." He mouthed the word 'mayonnaise' afterward as an explanation.

Izira's delicate chuckle filled the air at Gren's antics with the carrot. "You poor thing. However did you manage?"

"I threw up a lot", was the simple answer. "But I forgave her. It was her great-great-grandmother's special recipe."

"Oh my..." She gave Gren a concerned look, then took a sip of her wine again. She patted his hand.

"I . . . survived." He gave her a tragic look after the hand pat.

"And I am glad you did, otherwise I might be here with myself with noone to talk to but for the vegetables." And not even that as her salad plate was cleared.

"Yeah, I wouldn't suggest you talk to vegetables in a public restaurant." He finished right behind her, nibbling on some more cheese while he waited for his entree.

"I have done worse." Picking up her wine, she looked to the waiter as he approached. His timing was spot on, setting the entrees before each guest. He topped off the wine glass for each. Picking up the empty plates, a hand to the cheese board, "Shall I box this for you?"

Gren gave Izira a worried look when she said she had done worse, then he snapped out of it when the waiter spoke. "Uh . . . Yes, please! Very tasty. Oooh." He looked at his chicken and it appeared, as well as smelled delicious. He had his fork and knife ready but he waited for Izira to start first.

The waiter took the board away with the plates, leaving them to enjoy their main course. Izira picked up her knife and fork, cutting a small piece from the pasta to try it. She nodded her approval, offering Gren a bite from her fork.

He reached forward and ate the tortellini from off of Izira's fork. His face brightened as he chewed. "Very good." He cut a piece of chicken off and nibbled on that next. "I can taste the Thyme, awesome." He washed it down with a little of the wine. Then he risked a look at Izira. "Uh . . . what was it that you had done that was worse?"

She ate a bit of her food, thinking. Truly Izira could not recall all the things she did in her altered state of mind when her gift had affected her. "I went to an inn once in nothing but a towel..."

Gren got a slightly paranoid look on his face, but that didn't sound horribly bad. "Well, you were still covered up . . . uh, why were you wearing nothing but a towel?"

"Come to think of it... I do not know. I suppose I must have gotten out of a shower when the need to explore hit me."

"Pommes Frites . . . . Wait, these are just french fries . . ." Momentarily distracted, he gulped, then ate another slice of the chicken. "Wouldn't the need to put clothes on be stronger than the need to explore an inn right after you got out of a shower?"

"Oh, I was exploring the city of Rhydin.... I happened to end up in an inn. Not the Red Dragon..." She pondered, "I do not recall what the place had been called." She took a sip of her wine, casual about her exploits from a prior time.

"Huh." A strange story indeed, but since there was no nudity involved, Gren decided to move on. "How does your cheek taste?" He was eyeballing that particular item of food on her plate.

"Quite good. Would you care for a bit?"

"Certainly. I've never ate a cheek before."

Taking a bit of the cheek, she paired it with the pasta for a full bite for him. "Trying new things, maybe later you will be wandering in a towel." teasing him playfully.

He leaned forward and scooped the cheek and pasta into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. "I'm pleasantly surprised." Then he went back to eating his own meal. "Heh, I wonder what Haddon would say if he found out I ate cheek. As much as he likes to eat, he's probably never heard of that one before."

"Knowing him, I would wager he would take the opportunity to turn it into something colorful." Clearing her throat a bit at the suggestion, she smiled to him. The fork set down, she picked up her wine glass. "I believe a proper fancy dinner calls for a toast?"

He smiled, then raised his glass. "Far be it from me to be so ungallant as to refuse a toast."

She paused, waiting to see if he would begin one. Chuckling softly, "Uh... to our engagement, since that is why we are here. To past and future discoveries of one another."

"To me having the courage to ask, and you having the courage to say yes." He smiled. "And here's to the rest of our lives with each other."

Chinking her glass against his before taking a sip, she leaned around the table after to offer him a kiss.

Mimicking her actions, he took a mouthful of the wine, before returning her kiss. "This is a public place, remember." He gave her a mock wave of his finger, then laughed.

"Do not tempt me ranger." Sitting back with a smile, her foot brushing his leg under the table. She took another drink of wine, looking from him to their surroundings and back again.

He jumped a little at her foot running up his leg. "Hey! I hope cheek isn't like oysters or avocados or whatever other romantic foods there are . . . . Well, I at least hope its effects won't kick in until we're home again."

With a soft chuckle, she looked back into plants around them, "Or we find a quiet secluded glade?" Still, her foot moved to more innocently touch his ankle.

"We haven't even had our dessert yet. I was looking forward to the blueberry and pear cobbler." He popped the last of the pommes frites in his mouth, holding up the last one before he did so. "I still say these are french fries."

Izira had not cleaned her plate, long gone was the curious hunger that had taken her. Her smile turned appreciative for Gren, she spotted the waiter and lifted a delicate finger to gain his attention.


As he stood there seeking her need, he topped off the wine in their glasses. "I believe we are ready for dessert. If you would box the remainder of this for me?"

"But of course, Mademoiselle. Would you like to see tonight's offerings?" Izira glanced to Gren.

Gren had the last bite of chicken in his mouth when Izira looked at him "Yufffa . . ." He swallowed and smiled sheepishly. "Yes I would. Pardon me." He lightly tapped his chest with his fist.

"I will have them sent your way." He bowed his head as he took Izira's plate, a moment's pause and the he took Gren's once sure he was done with it.

A moment later another waiter arrived with a small tray of expertly laid out desserts, each looking more tempting than the next: The blueberry and pear cobbler, a slice of layered chocolate cake, a thin decorative glass filled with swirls of decadent mousse, a small fruit tart topped with seasonal berries, a dark souffle topped with powdered sugar, and a ceramic dish of creme brulee. "Any questions?"

"What are those two?" She pointed between the souffle and the creme brulee.

"Chocolate Souffle with an Orange Sauce and a Caramelized Honey Creme Brulee."

"That one, please." Izira indicated the Souffle.

Gren eyed the desserts, which mostly looked too rich to him, so he settled on his first choice. "I'll have the Blueberry & Pear Cobbler, please." When his choice was placed before him, he took a scoop of it with his spoon. "Mmm, this is great. Especially with the vanilla ice cream."

The waiter bowed and left, leaving them to enjoy their desserts. Izira took a taste and made a soft, if somewhat guttural sound of enjoyment. "If nothing else, and your company aside, the dessert has made the meal entirely worth the venture. I would happily visit with Margaret for an afternoon to have this again."

He chuckled. "Be careful what you wish for. But I'm sure she and her husband would like to be invited to the wedding." His cobbler rapidly disappeared into his mouth. "Well I'd say this restaurant has been a more than pleasant experience. If I was a critic and could give them five stars, I would." He set his spoon down on his now empty dish.

"You could write to the post?" She offered once her own dessert was gone.

"Gren Blockman, restaurant connoisseur" He thought that one over. "Nah, I'm more of the blue plate special type." Just then the Maitre'D sidled up to the table, and set the bill down in one of those fancy plastic trays. Gren looked at Izira, smiling, and picked up the paper bill. Then his eyes got big as saucers, and he coughed into his hand. The Maitre'D looked down his nose and raised an eyebrow. "Eh, um, yes . . . just give me a minute." Gren frantically dug through the pockets of his suit, letting silver noble after silver noble drop into the plastic tray. "Twenty percent of that would be . . . " Gren muttered to himself, then after turning his pants pockets inside out, he held up a finger, then took off his left shoe, and deposited the silver noble he had in case of an emergency in with the rest. "Excellent meal, my compliments to the chef."

The Maitre'D had not dropped his eyebrow, but glanced down at the plastic tray, before gently lifting it in his left hand as if it would need to be hosed down afterwards. "Do come again . . . . saaaahhhhh . . . " His tone of voice made Gren doubt he meant that as he walked away with his nose still in the air.

Izira watched Gren's reaction to the bill with curiosity, wondering how prepared he was and if they'd end up doing dishes. At least it was a skill she had well underhand. She sipped her wine as he found the silvers to cover the meal. "Mm. I daresay next time you might be better prepared." There was amusement in her smile. "I hope that was not our wedding fund..."

"Let's just say I hope you don't want to stop for drinks on the way home. Unless it's from somebody's garden hose." He stood up from his chair, and offered her his hand. "Shall we?"

"Noted." She chuckled softly, taking his hand as she drained her wine glass. "Since there's no stopping on the way." She stood up with a little wink for Gren. "Thank you for the lovely dinner Gren." She kissed him there by the table, one chaste enough to not get him concerned.

A gentle kiss and a little squeeze was given to Izira, enough to be romantic without causing the Maitre'D to get his feathers ruffled any more than they already were. "It was my pleasure, Lady Izira." As she curled her arm around his, he walked her back towards the waiting room. The Maitre'D was there, still giving Gren an odd look, but Gren just nodded and smiled in return as they exited the Restaurant. "I think that went well for our first five star restaurant experience."
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2018 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

((cross posted in Arresting Offences))

"Indeed. And we have plenty of time to prepare and save for the next one", Izira replied.

"Right. Maybe . . . in another year or so. Have I told you how much I love your Honey & Soy Glazed Salmon?" He gave her a little wink as they walked down Ivory Street.

"It is because you do not have to use... shoe money to pay for it?" She paused, "Are you often hiding money in your shoes?"

"Well . . . ", Gren turned a bit red, "It's more . . . I always try to be prepared in case of emergency. I mean, say somebody mugged me and stole all my money. I would at least have a silver noble in my shoe for just such a crisis."

"Should I be searching you for other coins?" She glanced over Gren's suit.

"Right now, you're not going to find anything. I mean, I've searched every pocket . . . " Gren fumbled through both outside pockets, then peeked within his jacket and saw an inside one. He curiously reached within, and pulled out a folded piece of paper. "Huh . . . I wonder what this is . . ." Gren unfolded it, and to his shock it was a picture of his fellow Drow Ranger, Moriana. It looked like she was in the shower, completely naked (except for some well placed suds), her grey skin otherwise fully on display. She had an angry expression on her face, as if she was in mid yell, and was aiming a fist at whoever was holding the camera. Gren gaped for a moment, then turned beet red and quickly hid the paper behind his back. "UH . . . it's NOTHING."

"Nothing?" Izira slowed, curiously taking in Gren's redness.

"Eh . . . uh . . . Haddon said he got me this suit from the Lost & Found, he must have put this in here! It's just a . . . uh . . . It's nothing really!" Gren frantically tried to fold the paper back up although he was flustered.

Izira could only guess at what it was, but there were few things that would have turned Gren that red so quickly. She looked around, spotting a trash bin near a cross walk. There were people nearby enjoying an evening of walking, and a watch officer keeping the peace. "There." She pointed at the bin for Gren, "We can toss whatever nothing Haddon's given you."

"Yes! Yes, that's a good idea!"

Unfortunately for Gren, as they approached the trash bin, the picture went flying out of his hand, the wind blowing it right into the face of the Town Watchman. Angrily, the officer tore the paper away from his face and glanced at what it was. His jaw dropped, and he aimed his finger at Gren. "STOP! Stop right there you sick pervert!" Gren threw both his hands in the air as a reflex action. The officer put one hand on his hip and held the picture up to Gren imperiously. "Do you mind telling me what you are trying to pull with this disgusting filth, HUH?"

Now seeing what the picture was, Izira's eyes widened slightly, "Oh my..."

Gren stammered mightily "Uh, eh, umm, Officer, I can explain!"

"Go right on ahead, punk, I've heard it all before! This is illegal solicitation of adult entertainment! And it's a DROW on top of that! Degenerates like you shouldn't be on the streets! I'll see you get the limit for this! Turn around you Deviant!" The officer twisted Gren's arms behind him and slapped cuffs on his wrists.

"Gren!" Shocked as the officer handcuffed Gren, she looked at the man, "What are you doing?! That image is hardly an offense to arrest someone over."

The Officer glared down Izira. "Oh, so you're an ACCOMPLICE, eh? Let me guess, this is your pimp, right? Well, young lady, you can just come right down to the station with me. You're lucky I've only got one pair of cuffs. I swear that I won't rest until I've SWEPT these streets of SCUMBAGS like you!" The Officer finished by yelling right in Gren's face.

"No, no please! This is just a big misunderstanding! This isn't even my suit!" Gren cried, squirming around in the cuffs.

"Oh, give me another one! Let me tell you, you better have a good lawyer, pal, because they're going to throw you into a deep dark cell and you're not going to see the light of day for a good long while! COME ON!" He started pushing Gren down the street. "You too, young lady! Breaks my heart to see a woman gone bad."

Izira followed, not because the officer asked her to, but to stay close to Gren. Thinking while Gren protested, she felt herself warming up. Stepping around and cutting them off, "You can't arrest him! You... you... You have no proof!"

"Think again, 'Working Girl', I've got all the evidence I need right here!" The Officer held up the mostly naked picture of Moriana as proof.

Izira bit the inside of her lip as she focused on the picture that the officer held up. The amber in her eyes warming and barely a heartbeat passing before the picture went up in flames. Even the lady looked surprised as she gasped and stepped a bit back.

"WHOA!" The Officer quickly dropped the picture as it went up in flames, sparing himself any burnt fingers. Then he narrowed his eyes at the pile of ashes on the ground. During all the commotion, a crowd of people had slowly surrounded them, curious as too what was going on. The Officer looked around at the citizens, and then gave Izira a mean look. "A dirty trick, eh?" He then frantically stuck his hands in Gren's pockets, looking for something suspicious, but he found nothing. "I ought to haul you two reprobates in anyway, but they'll just dump you on the street in twenty-four hours. You got lucky this time." He reluctantly uncuffed Gren's wrists. "Alright, PUNK, get out of my neighborhood. You better hope I never lay eyes on you again or you'll be sharing a cell with a seven foot orc that'll give you a loooong night of hard lovin'. BEAT IT." The Officer roughly shoved Gren away from him, and then stared down Izira as if daring her to have a problem with that.

She would like to have a problem with it, certainly, but she found herself tired. She moved to catch Gren with the shove, the pair of them looking like nothing more than a nice couple on a date. "It is unfortunate that the Watch has nothing better to do than harass innocent citizens."

"I'm sorry, did you say something?" The Officer replied, putting a hand to his ear as if incredulous at Izira's rebuttal.

Gren took Izira's hand, "We're going! We've taken up enough of the Officer's time!" He then said in a lower tone to her. "Let's go while the gettin' is good, huh?"

The officer got a look, but whatever she had tapped into before was out of her. Else the officer might have found himself with a real hot foot. She nodded to Gren, pulling her eyes away. "Only because I adore you so much...”

Gren quickly led Izira down the street, away from the Officer who was still glaring them down. After a long, awkward pause, Gren said, "That had to have been a prank by Haddon. That wasn't mine." He said after another pause, "Honest."

"Do you truly think I thought that was yours?"

Way too flummoxed at this point for words, Gren merely threw his hand up in exasperation.

She patted his cheek, kissing him. "I think that is more than enough fun for tonight."

"I didn't think eating at a five star restaurant would leave me broke and almost arrested!" Gren lamented, rubbing his forehead.

"Could be worse?"

"Yeah, at least I'm going home, with my fiancee." He gave her a look. "Would you have come to visit me if I was locked up?"

"Of course." She kissed him, "Though it sounded like I would have been sharing a cell with you."

"No, I don't think they'd put males and females together, I would have been with . . . " Then he stopped and gulped.

She patted his arm comfortingly, guiding him along. "Best not to think on it."

"Seriously." Gren blew out a breath and continued up the street with Izira, out of the City, and straight on to the safety of his home.

Gren and Izira found out once they got there that the meeting between Perrigan and Brallin had been postponed until the next day.
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2018 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

May 13, 2018

Noira's tired feet found their way to the Forgotten Layers, knowing better than her that she needed the rest and that this sanctuary was closer, and better, than any other. The familiar tree-line and the shadow of its roof beyond tipped her off, and she smiled at the sight and trudged down the track a little faster. She was armored but lightly, dressed in a hauberk, leggings and boots better suited to travel than a siege. Much of her once-grey cloak was several filthy shades of brown, much the same as her boots, and mud and ichor spattered her face and torso as well. Far noisier than the mail that shifted under a padded layer was her heavily laden backpack, filled with rations, cooking supplies, climbing gear, a torch and lantern, and numerous carefully wrapped ancient tablets, urns, and coffers. She tugged one of her filthy gauntlets free with her teeth (blech!) to push open the front door with the much cleaner hand underneath.

Even with the daylight shining in through the windows, the candles and fireplace of the inn were aglow. Their light offering more comfort than warmth. Given the summer season, the additional heat was not needed. Izira sat on the couch by the fire with a glass of Fae Wine. The liquid swirled in blues and silvers. A book of poetry, written by her father's people in their native tongue, sat in her lap. She read through the verses, occasionally looking toward Gren with a warm smile. Silas, curled up on the back of a large armchair, slept soundly. The sound of the door brought Izira's eyes to the entrance.

Gren read an Arachnid Man comic while sitting in an easy chair near Izira. Concentrating on the panels, he looked at Izira now and again as well. Trying to keep his own thoughts to himself as he read the comic, he didn't want to disturb Izira as she studied her poetry book. He looked up as the door came open, and smiled as he saw it was Noira. "Noira! It's been a long time! Come on in, it's good to see you!"

The past year had been kind enough to the elfess, with few new scars to show from her adventures since that unlucky night at Crosswych. Her left ear was still notched from the claws of a beast and a trio of lines curled out of her collar, but none of it was new, and the mud and ichor were familiar in their own way. "Hallo, Gren," she half-sang in his direction, and grunted as she slid the heavy pack off into one hand, keeping her filthy gauntlets pinned under one arm. "It is good to see you, and Izira as well," she added, seeing the woman rousing in her armchair. She made her way towards them. "It has been... ten months? Longer?"

"I'd say it's been more than a year. How've you been? It looks like you've been . . . busy." Gren eyed Noira up and down, seeing her dusty traveling gear.

Izira set her book and drink down, standing up as Noira approached. Izira wore a cozy white dress, her hair up. The heels were a soft gray. Moving to Noira and greeting her warmly with a delicate, mindful of the mud, hug and a soft kiss to the elfess' cheek. "Noira, it has been too long.... what can I get you? A meal? A drink? A hot bath?" The last bit offered in caring and not judgemental tone.

Noira suppressed a soft laugh at the daring gesture, however delicately she executed it. "All of them, all of them sound lovely," she replied, and set her bag down carefully to dig through it. She removed an old urn wrapped in oiled leather, and now that it was exposed to the light, it shone with the flecks of silver and gold that had been mixed into the dark clay many centuries ago, giving it the appearance of starlight. The rim was etched with phases of the moon, set with remarkably intact white stones, minus a few chips and cracks. "I think I was meant to come here, as usual," she said, holding the urn up by the base as she examined it, "and offer this for your mantel. Taken from a shrine to a three-winged wheel worshipped by ancient aasimar, and guarded by a rather nasty troll," she added with a wry smile.

Izira's smile warmed at Noira's response. Stepping back, she gave her room to remove the artifact. Amber-brown eyes admiring the craftsmanship of the piece. "He had his work cut out for him..." She looked to the mantle, "Would you do us the honor Noira?" A gesture of her hand offering Noria to place the artifact where she thought best.

"That looks awesome, Noira. Hope the troll didn't cause you too much trouble." Gren admired the craftsmanship of the old urn.

"Clove the nose right off my helmet when he tried to bite me," she murmured, this for both Gren and Izira, "but I do not think he was prepared for a diet of distilled starfire..." She placed the urn carefully, adjusting it so that the full moon was about center, and let her feet fall flat again as she stepped back to admire her handiwork.

"It looks lovely." Izira admired the urn now upon the mantle. "I think you are right, it was meant for this place." She glanced to the cat, finding he had vanished during the greetings.

The elfess turned her head, her ears twitching at the tips as she looked at the back of the armchair, now empty.

Izira got right down to business. "I think... a bath would be in order, first. You can have a glass of wine or a cup of tea, coffee, to enjoy as you freshen up" She moved from the fireplace toward the box with keys behind the bar. "Gren and I will fix you something to eat."

"Yeah, take your time and relax. Is there anything special you'd like to eat or drink?" Gren asked.

"Something that is not dried, salted meat or stale bread would be perfect," Noira smiled at Gren. "I think wine to accompany my meal, and tea and brandy for my bath, if that can be done." Her gaze turned distant, borderline misty-eyed, as she stared off. "Six weeks since my last warm bath... I have almost forgotten the feeling..." She sighed wistfully and overdramatically, managing to follow Izira to the bar as she rambled.

"Tea and Brandy it is." Izira first went to set the kettle on, then she took out a small tin, setting it before Noira to pick which she wanted. She then moved on the get the brandy.

Gren chuckled at Noira. "I'll go in the kitchen and start cooking. Enjoy your bath." He pushed through the door, letting Izira finish mix the drink.

Noira let the bag dangle ponderously from one arm as she bent to inspect the tea, too distracted by luxuries and the promise of them to respond to Gren. She sniffed carefully, then selected one that reminded her of honey and ginger with its aroma. "Is there a room open that looks out on the gardens?" she asked, looking up from her selection at Izira as she placed it beside the tin.

"That was just the room I was intending to give you." Izira grinned, taking the tea and the tin. She set the tea to seep. Moving back to the box and the key, her fingers pausing in the air as she found it missing.

"A room with a view." Jeremiah's voice came from the top of the stairs, holding the key up that Izira had been reaching for. The redwood of a man seemed to fill the stairway. Brown hair flecked with copper was cut close to his head, but not enough to hide the would-be curls that fluffed up his beard. Bright green eyes sparkled in a merry, if weathered, face. He wore a long cream tunic over tan slacks. Tan sandals adorned his feet as he moved down the stairs. "I took the liberty of starting up a hot bath. Even set the oils out."

Noira's freckled cheeks turned pink as Jeremiah spoke and descended the stairs. She gave him a warm enough smile, though it flickered uncertainly as if nervous, and dipped her head to him and to Izira in turn. "Thank you," she said to the innkeeper, and turned back to the rather woodsy man at the base of the stairs, managing to meet his gaze as she held out a dusty, scraped hand for the key, palm-up (and quietly cursing her filthy, road-weary state).

Izira looked curiously at Jeremiah before moving to finish fixing the tea and brandy. "Noira... this is Jeremiah... he is a..."

"Very dear friend." Jeremiah dipped his head, moving to take the hand that awaited the key into both of his. "Well met." He drew his hands away, leaving Noira with the key. "It is my personal opinion that the corner suite has the best view of the garden. You can even see the pond. There's baby ducks now." He grinned, apparently not put off by the road-weary state of Noira.

Izira came up from the bar, carrying a mug for Noira. "Shall I show you up?"

Gren curiously peered out the kitchen door at the 'Very dear friend' comment, then shrugged and popped back inside.

Noira's smile stretched a little wider at his grin, and she held his gaze for a beat before Izira's question seemed to startle her out of her... state of mind. "Yes!" she replied to Izira and flashed a somewhat tamer smile to Jeremiah as a farewell. She then fell in behind Izira, ducking her head to conceal the deeper shade of red now burning her cheeks.

Leading the way up the stairs, Izira went down the hall to the last door on the left. As Noira had the key, Izira would leave her to explore the interior. The suite was open and the windows extended around two walls of the room, offering a view of the garden and the pond Jeremiah had mentioned. The first room is a small sitting area that also contained a desk, chair, and chest. Through a door, a medium sized bed could be found, curtained to keep light away if needed. The bath sat just off of the bedroom, a large clawed foot tub that could comfortably hold two Jeremiahs... if that was a thing someone wanted to do. A silver tray had been placed by the bath with a selection of oils. Steam rose from the water. Izira followed Noira in only so far as the main room, setting the mug down on the desk for her friend and guest.

"Thank you," Noira said to Izira as soon as she had stepped inside, dropping her bag in the sitting area. She wasted little time in unpinning her cloak and unbuckling her boots, but looked up from her work to smile at the innkeeper again. "I am lucky to have found this place... today, and before."

"We are happy to have you return." Warmth showed in Izira's smile to match the words, "I will leave you to it." She gave a tip of her head to the bath. "See you downstairs, Noira."

Meanwhile, Jeremiah had moved to the bar, taking a seat.

Gren peeked back through the door, seeing Jeremiah sitting there. "Joining us for dinner . . . 'Dear friend'?"

"I think I will." Jeremiah beamed. He tilted his head, looking to the kitchen, "Need a hand 'Chef Blockman'?"

"For once, I think I can manage it. I've got this great recipe for Crusty Dinner Rolls I wanted to try. Let me see if all my training is paying off." Gren smiled, then went back inside the kitchen, kneading dough for his recipe.

Noira took her time with her bath, though not so much to be unmindful of her company. It was less than an hour before she descended the stairs, her hair twisted into a much neater bun, and dressed in a soft white tunic with pretty red, black and gold trim, and soft grey leggings. The mud and ichor was gone, which was a definite plus. She hadn't taken anything with her downstairs except for a small wooden pipe, stained a deep, handsome red, and a black leather pouch of pipe-weed tucked into the thin black belt that cinched her tunic.

Gren was casually chatting with Jeremiah when he saw Noira appear. His face brightened as he saw her cleaned up and looking refreshed. He quickly moved back into the kitchen to get her meal. Not long after the door opened again, and Gren had two plates, one for her and Jeremiah. "Here you are! A seared porterhouse steak, a baked potato with sour cream, and fresh steamed broccoli. You need your green veggies!" Gren wagged a finger at Noira like a parent teaching a child. He also had brought out a basket with his Crusty Dinner Rolls, and a glass of wine. "Red Merlot. I hope you enjoy the rolls, I baked them with my own special recipe." Gren smiled, then suddenly looked nervous as if he had said too much, and sidled back into the kitchen.

"If I do not mind my greens, I may never reach my seventh century," Noira replied to the wisdom Gren offered, and couldn't help a grin and a quiet chuckle at his nervous look and the way he backed off. "Thank you, Gren! I am sure it will all be lovely." She set her pipe and tobacco aside, a dessert of sorts to go with her second glass of wine, and settled in for her meal. When she brought the wine to her lips for her first sip, she shut her eyes and savored it for a long moment, as if committing every note, every aspect of it to memory.

Jeremiah nodded his approval at the plate. He watched with silent amusement, as he enjoyed his large tankard of ale, Gren's interaction with Noira. Those bright green eyes taking in Noira enjoying her wine. "Izira does have the selection."

Noira's eyes slitted open to look aside at the large man. Sometimes there could be a dangerous sort of cleverness about her gaze, and this was one of those times. "Jeremiah, yes?"

"Yes, Noira."

"I know how I feel about this wine, but I fear the words elude me." Noira frowned delicately, swirling the wine in the glass as she clutched it in her slender fingers, and turned her head to look at him a little better. "Tell me... what do you like about it?" She set her wine down, neatly cut a piece of steak, and bit down while she listened to him.

"It has an alluring spirit to it. Somewhat subtle, but still bold." There was a sparkle to Jeremiah's look that suggested he maybe spoke of things beyond the wine. He picked up his silverware and started to cut into the steak before him. "But I'm a simple man of simple tastes." He pointed to his tankard with his knife.

Noira chuckled warmly and enjoyed another sip of her wine to accompany the flavor of her steak. Their initial interactions had thrown her off balance, but the elfess had gained confidence over the course of her years in RhyDin. "Cheers," she murmured, and settled contentedly into the rest of her meal. A smile was never far from her lips.

"Cheers." He agreed easily, lifting the tankard and taking a drink.

Izira looked up at Gren as he returned to the kitchen, she had taken over doing dishes since he had done the cooking.

Gren walked over to Izira at the sink, and after a look towards the door, he kind of waved his finger in that direction and asked her, "What's all that going on out there?"

Izira shrugged, looking upwards. "I have long since given up trying to guess at Jeremiah's actions. Are we... staying in here?" Izira dried the last of the kitchenware, putting it away and looking to Gren curiously.

"Well . . . I . . . "He rolled it around in his mind. "Maybe we should check on them. I want to know if they tried my rolls yet." Gren tiptoed over to the door, opened it just a smidge and peeked out.

Jeremiah had not touched the rolls yet. He was enjoying the steak and the ale and the company.

Gren shook one fist downward in frustration, then looked back at Izira. "He's too busy flirting!" He whispered at her.

"Flirting?" Izira's tone asked if Gren was sure that was what was happening in the other room.

When someone decided to poke their head back out, Noira seemed to be in the middle of discussing the proper way to enjoy the aroma with Jeremiah, and had her fingers against his on the base of the glass, moving it in a slow circle as he took a whiff. She had, however, eaten one of the rolls.

"He's giving her the moon eyes and drinking alcohol", Gren looked back out and noticed Noira fingering her wine glass. "Crap. I should have given her Cherry Kool-Aid instead."

"They are adults, Gren." Though the idea of Jeremiah.... it... well it was a new occurrence in her long time there. Izira heard Jeremiah chuckle from the area of the bar, "They might need... something?"

Noira appeared to be whispering something to Jeremiah, and when she did, her lips curled.
"I think they are spying on us."

"I agree." The large man taking in the planes of her face.

"Something. Oh, alright." Gren stopped spying and walked through the door, plastering on a smile. "So . . . are you all enjoying your dinner? Can I get you anything else?"

Izira followed Gren out from the kitchen, moving back to the fireplace to fetch her wine.

Jeremiah winked to Noira as he leaned back and smiled at Gren. "You've outdone yourself, Chef."

"This was wonderful," Noira said to Gren, smiling up at him from her empty plate. "I seem to have developed quite an appetite."

"Uh huh." A few quick glances between Noira and Jeremiah. "Well, thank you for the compliments. There's seconds if you'd like to have more."

"Wouldn't want to ruin my figure." Patting his solid stomach, Jeremiah reached for a roll, now that everything else was gone.

Izira returned with her wine, taking a spot on the patron side of the bar beside Noira.

"Could I have seconds of wine, please?" Noira asked Gren with a small smile as she started carefully packing her pipe.

Gren's eyes went from Jeremiah, to the roll, back at Jeremiah, then Noira's empty wine glass. With a perturbed look, he took a bottle of the Merlot from under the counter and poured some into the glass. But not too much.

Setting her own glass down, Izira cleared the plates. Standing again, she eyed the amount of wine that Gren poured and lifted a brow at him.

Noira thanked him with a smile as she bent a few fingers over her pipe -- not a matter of rote, but of evoking a feeling, one that produced a spark and lit the pipe-weed with a soft glow of embers.

Gren looked back at Izira as if he was going to put a stop to this. Right at that moment, however, the door of the Inn burst open. Crawford, Gren's fellow Ranger, was standing there. The young man's eyes swept over those assembled and landed on Gren. "Gren, we need you back at Headquarters right away. It's . . . It's Perrigan. He was ambushed at the meeting with Brallin." Crawford again looked at the others as if wondering if he should say more.

Noira doused the embers with her thumb, seemingly unharmed, as she abruptly stood to stare between Gren and his fellow Ranger, alert and attentive.

Izira had made it to the kitchen doorway and now stood frozen, looking from Crawford to Gren with increasing concern.

Jeremiah, ever the watcher, watched. Though, his brow creased and he regarded Gren with a level of concern all his own.

Gren's face flashed also with concern, then determination. "I've got to go everyone." Coming out from behind the bar, he went over to the pegs at the doorway and began to hurriedly pull on his cloak. "If you want to come, we'd better go now."

"I need three minutes for my armor," Noira said, already moving to the stairs as any previous expression she had held was replaced by the cold, grim determination of a soldier. "Less," she added with a glance at Izira, "if I have help."

Izira set the plates down at the end of the bar, looking to Jeremiah. He nodded, waving her on.

Quickly she moved to follow Noira and help her get her armor on. Jeremiah in turn looked to Gren and Crawford.

Gren nodded at them both, then looked at Jeremiah. "We're just going to the Headquarters. I'll bring Izira back as soon as I can." His grey cloak on now, Crawford went out to secure the mounts. Crawford had his own horse, and he had brought Alfred for Gren.

Noira was good to her word, well-trained in the fine art of rolling out of bed at some ungodly hour, scrambling into her gear and getting right down to marching or killing. In less than three minutes she was hurrying back down the stairs, tightening a belt across her hauberk, taking with her a smaller pack of her gear and a long, jagged knife at her hip.

"I trust that you will." Jeremiah had stood, taking up the plates. He now stood in the kitchen door, "Safe travels, Noira." He simply nodded to Gren and Izira.

Izira moved, getting her own light cloak from the hook beside where Gren's had been.

Noira's gaze lingered on Jeremiah for a fraction of a second, allowing herself a quiet, wistful sigh at an evening that could have been. "Thank you," she said with a flicker of a smile; her cloak flared out as she fastened it quickly, stalking over to the door to join Izira and the Rangers.

"Noira, you can ride with Crawford, Izira and I will take Alfred." Walking out the door with the other two, Crawford was waiting there with the two mounts. Gren helped lift Izira onto Alfred's back, before climbing on himself.

Alfred grunted. "Have you put on a few pounds there, Gren?"

"Not now, Alfred." Gren hissed.

Crawford was already on his horse and offered Noira a hand up.

Without hesitation or ceremony, Noira took Crawford's hand and climbed onto the horse behind him, settling in like a capable rider.

"Tell me where you need me, and I will follow your lead," Noira said to her companions, simply, as they headed out.
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2018 6:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thundering through the gate of the Ranger's Compound, the two horses carrying them did not stop, but went straight down the main thoroughfare, past the log barracks, and up to Yolene's House of Healing. Crawford hurriedly ushered them through the doors and inside. Yolene was a barely five foot tall, pale skinned elf with pointy ears and long white hair. She was standing over a bed with a muscular man in his late fifties, with short grey hair and deep blue eyes. He had wicked looking cuts running up and down his face that looked freshly stitched, and a look of anguish on his face. "Hold him down! I've got to reset Perrigan's shoulder!" Haddon, the bald, portly ranger stood on one side, and Moriana, the surly female Drow was on the other. With difficulty, they sandwiched him onto the bed, while Yolene pushed a wooden stick into his mouth. "Bite down on this!" Perrigan did as he was told, then Yolene pushed with all her might onto Perrigan's arm. Perrigan screamed through the wooden stick, then a sickening pop could be heard as his arm was put back into place. Haddon and Moriana stepped back when the job was finished. Perrigan was pale and sweating, breathing heavily.

Noira watched this without much change in her expression, taking a count of the people in the room with her and their state, and then turning to mind the door. She kept her hands free, arms out from her side and fingers splayed apart, and her ears twitched to pick up whatever she could from their surroundings over Yolene's orders and Perrigan's muffled screams.

Crawford and Gren went over to Perrigan's side once Perrigan had caught his breath. "Gren . . . "Perrigan gasped, ". . . the meeting with Brallin was a setup. Wait . . . who is that?" Perrigan weakly pointed his finger at Noira.

Gren answered, "Her name is Noira, she's a friend of Izira and me."

Perrigan nodded and continued. "I was trying to engage him in discussion, but Brallin practically said nothing. I realized something was wrong, but before I could call it off . . . these robed men . . . sorcerers . . . they appeared in the tree line. They had skeletons . . . undead creatures . . . "He took a shaky breath. "My men are all dead. I barely made it out. They cut me to shreds."

"Take it easy, Headmaster", Gren replied.

Perrigan continued, "Westerguard is getting everyone ready. We're on high alert. We need to find out who these sorcerers are that Brallin has allied himself with. And we need to be ready in case they attack."

"Did he speak at all?" Noira asked, taking her gaze off the door to look at Perrigan.

Izira stood there, to the side and out of the way. She gave an appreciative look to Noira as she asked the question.

Perrigan turned his head to look at Noira, and hesitated for a moment. "He said something like "It is time". Three times. I just thought he was calling the meeting to order. But he wouldn't say anything else to me, he just glared at me with an arrogant smirk on his face. God . . . "Perrigan turned to look at Yolene."Didn't even Rendrick make it?"

Yolene bit her lip and shook her head, "No, Headmaster, he lost too much blood. I'm surprised he even made it back to Headquarters."

Perrigan laid a hand over his face, "Oh, my men, my men . . . ."

Noira waited quietly while they spoke, but as Perrigan trailed off, she asked another question: "Did you get a clear look at his face?"

Perrigan stayed with his hand over his face for a few moments, then slowly uncovered it, a dawn of recognition appeared. "His pupils . . . they were black."

"They must have enthralled him," the battlemage said, turning to look from Perrigan to Gren and Izira. "He may have already been dead by the time they met."

Izira grimaced, looking from Noira to Gren, then a passing glance to the other rangers and the headmaster. Momentarily she regretted not speaking up when the idea of the talk had been suggested, but she knew even if she had it would not have changed events.

"That would explain a lot", Gren said, nodding at Noira. Perrigan took a steadying breath. "It would indeed. Even though Brallin and I had our differences, I find it hard to believe he would give himself over to the black arts willingly."

Yolene had moved over to another bed. A young man in his twenties lay with a vacant stare at the ceiling. She gently closed his eyelids and pulled his sheet over his face.

Gren watched her, then turned back to Perrigan. "What do you want me to do?"

"Find your troop members. This was a planned setup. It means they have something in store for us. God only knows what. But I want to make sure our territory is on alert and protected."

Gren nodded firmly, "I'll do that, Headmaster."

"Be mindful," Noira added, looking to Perrigan and Gren again with a dark frown. "If you see one of your troop, they might be... like Brallin. Do you have a way to call to each other, a call and response?"

With Noira's words, Izira looked toward the blanket covered body.

"Normally, if a Ranger is in peril, there's a certain whistle they would give to call for help." Gren gave two whistles that started low and ended high. "That should be enough of a call that we would recognize one another." He laid a hand on Perrigan's shoulder. "Rest, Headmaster."

"Who is Brallin?" the battlemage finally thought to ask.

Gren got up from Perrigan's side and came back over to Noira and Izira. "Brallin is the Headmaster for the Ranger's guild that patrols the territory to the east of here, and north of the City. Brallin and Perrigan have known each other for quite a while."

Noira's frown deepened. She glanced aside at Izira and back, not understanding her attention to the dead man -- her own experience with zombification had been more ritual-based, not passed by infection. "Do you know where their headquarters are?"

Izira traded spots with Gren, resting a hand on his shoulder as Noira spoke. She sat by Perrigan's side, moving to where she could take his hand without causing him trouble. She cast a soft spell to ease his pain and hopefully help him rest. Though the covered body was not spared her attention, having dealt with 'husks' that were puppets before.

"Vaguely. I haven't been there myself for obvious reasons. But I could find it if I had to. They call it the Iron Grove. There's an old oak forest in the center of their territory. It's a village in the trees that serves as their Headquarters. Few of Perrigan's Rangers have been there", Gren replied.

"If I had just ambushed and killed the leaders of two military companies in an ambush, or thought I had, I'd attack their bases next while they were leaderless and confused..." Noira mused, her eyes darting to the windows in this place.

Perrigan had begun gently snoring. Gren gulped and thought. "Well, would they go straight for the main Headquarters? Or attack the outlying posts first? I kind of think it would be the latter. Perhaps we should strengthen our outposts near the border."

"We've sent riders to Outpost Blue and Outpost Green. We should hopefully hear back soon on what their condition is.", Haddon offered helpfully.

Quietly listening, Izira kept her hand on Perrigan's. "Are they coming back here?" She looked to Haddon as he spoke of the riders being sent out, "Those at the Outposts?"

"That would depend on Westerguard. If he felt they were worth defending, they'd stay and try to hold out. If it looks like they're going to be overrun, he might have them retreat back to Headquarters. I should probably report to him and find out what the plan is."

"Where is Westerguard?"

"He's probably over at the guardhouse at the gate, giving out orders. It should be alright for you and Izira to come with me, she's been there before."

"I will stay with Perrigan."

He nodded to Izira, then looked at Noira. "Looks like it's just me and you then."

Noira looked at Izira, then at Gren. "Just me and you and a dozen necromancers. For the record, this is not what I had in mind for dessert tonight..." She said as she fell in with Gren and made their way to Westerguard.

Gren shrugged as he led Noira out the door and down the street towards the guardhouse. "I was looking forward to lemon crumb pie myself." The street seemed busy with grey cloaked rangers hurrying back and forth. As they approached the guardhouse, they could see a throng of Rangers crowded around the door. "Excuse me, excuse me please . . ." Gren pushed his way through, trying to make a path as best as he could for Noira. There was a table just inside the door that a man in his fifties with long grey hair was sitting at, he was shoving papers at some of the Rangers and barking orders at them. When he saw Gren, he motioned him to the table.

"Captain Blockman. It's about damn time. Here. Take these orders to Outpost Blue. Tell them to hold as long as they reasonably can. If they can't, tell them to fall back here as soon as possible. We're getting reports of skeletons rampaging through our easternmost woods. This is a s*** pie and we're all about to eat a slice. You have your orders."

Gren saluted Westerguard.

Noira looked over Gren's shoulder at Westerguard, which was difficult because she was probably shorter than most people here, very short for an elf at barely over five feet. "Can you spare a mace or cudgel?" she asked him directly.

Westerguard peered curiously around Gren, noticing Noira for the first time. "Who the hell is this?"

"Uh . . . . " Gren began, "This is Noira, sir, she's my . . . friend. She's a battlemage."

Westerguard gave Gren a disgruntled look, then back at Noira. "I'm too busy and pissed off to argue." Reaching behind his desk, he pulled out a gnarled old oaken club and handed it to Noira. "Knock yourself out."

"I will endeavor not to," Noira couldn't help but quip back as she tucked the club in next to her long knife. She looked to Gren and gave him a curt nod. "Have you fought skeletons before?" she asked him, moving to walk and talk.

Gren sighed, tucking the paper beneath his cloak. "Yeah, a few times. Nasty business." He quickly took a scrap of paper from Westerguard's table and scribbled a note on it. Taking his cue from Noira, he grabbed a similar looking club from a weapons rack on the far wall, before pushing out of the guardhouse. "You have any tips before we head off to Outpost Blue?"

"Keep your arrows ready but save them for the necromancers. Most skeletons are a little slow," she grunted as she handled the reins of one of their mounts to get it ready, "so use that split-second to check your periphery. They don't breathe or scream, which can make them deceptively quiet. Ready?"

"One moment." Gren grabbed Crawford who was milling around with the other Rangers at the guardhouse. "Crawford, take this note to Izira. She's at the Let her know we're going to Outpost Blue, alright?" Crawford nodded, then went off to find her. "Alright, let's go." Gren mounted his horse, and went with Noira out of the gate at a gallop.
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Gren Blockman
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

They followed the main road until they crossed a wooden bridge, then turned abruptly east, following the river towards the border of the ranger's territory.

Crawford, meanwhile, went up to the Houses of Healing and entered. He handed Izira the hastily written note. It said, "Izira, Westerguard has sent me to deliver a message to Outpost Blue. I have taken Noira with me. We will be back soon. Love, Gren."

Reading the note, Izira squeeze Perrigan's hand gently. She offered a soft thank you to Crawford.

Noira urged her horse on along with Gren's, riding low in her saddle. She squinted hard through the trees ahead of them, searching for any sign of trouble, ambush, anything at all out of the ordinary.

Most of the land they passed was grassy along the riverside. As the miles went by, the countryside turned more hilly and forested. Slowly the track pulled away from the riverbank and headed up a high ridge. There at the top was a structure that looked like the Ranger's Headquarters in miniature. It had the same log wall and gate, but much fewer buildings. There were a few grey cloaked forms patrolling the walls. Pulling to a halt at the gate, Gren called out to the gatekeeper. "It's Captain Blockman, here on orders from General Westerguard."

The gate swung open, allowing the two entrance to Outpost Blue. "Captain Rodan is over on the far wall."

Riding through the small collection of buildings, Gren dismounted at the stairs leading up the wall. He hurried up and noticed a man with long black hair, staring out over the forest towards the east. He had studded leather armor under his grey cloak. Gren waved to him and approached. "Captain Rodan, it is good to see you."

Rodan smiled "Captain Blockman, to what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Perrigan was ambushed at the meeting, I have orders here from Westerguard." Gren pulled the papers out from his cloak and handed them to the Captain.

Rodan read over them and turned pale. "How am I supposed to hold this outpost? I have barely ten Rangers here. We cannot fight an army of undead. Gren, we must withdraw. I have heard all afternoon strange sounds coming from these woods."

"What sounds?" Noira asked. She hadn't dismounted yet, and wasn't going to until she had to. "Friend of Gren and Izira's, adventurer, battlemage, at your service," she quickly added, in anticipation of a question.

Rodan looked at Gren and pointed at Noira. Gren said sheepishly, "Sorry, her name is Noira. She's with me."

Rodan shrugged. "Low moans and a few shrieks. Crashing of trees. Considering what I've just read in this letter, I think it's obvious what's going on out there now."

"How many Rangers did Perrigan have with him when he met Brallin?" Noira asked, frowning at their surroundings from her relatively high position atop her horse.

"Uhh . . . . I think he said 10 . . . “Gren gulped and looked back out at the forest.”This doesn't look good. Maybe you should evacuate now, while you've got the chance."

Rodan frowned and rubbed his chin. "Well, I don't know . . . ."

Suddenly, far to the north, they heard an explosion, and a ball of fire and plume of smoke rose into the air. Rodan turned paler than he had before. "That . . . that's where Outpost Green is! Holy . . . . GET THE HORSES READY!" Rodan called over his shoulder.

Noira cried out something in Elvish as she steadied her horse, spooked by the explosion, and urged it on towards the north wall of the compound. She jerked her head to find Gren in the confusion in the camp, then called out to those few manning the walls: "Sentries! What do you see?!" She was a stranger among them, so she might be ignored, but her voice carried the practiced authority of an officer.

The horses were already being pulled out of their stables when someone called down to Noira. ". . . . Jesus . . . . There's skeletons! Skeletons pouring out of the forest! North, East, and South!"

"We need to go!" Gren urged Rodan, while running back to his mount.

Rodan didn't look like he needed any encouragement and followed Gren down from the walls. "EVERYONE EVACUATE! GET TO YOUR HORSE NOW!"

Noira snapped her reins in response to the sentry, and seemed to be one of the first out of their small fort, galloping her horse through the gate to the west, ready to race back to the compound -- but as soon as she was through, she wheeled around to the north, angling herself towards the northeast and the hissing, clacking shapes clambering through the treeline. Her head bowed and her eyes flared an eerie, unearthly black lit by countless stars, one hand clenched around the reins while the other circled through the air and pushed straight out. What looked like swift, angry heat waves rippled through the air, landing among a cluster of the nearest undead shapes with a low hum and a concussive blast, scattering searing dust in the vicinity. The plants caught within withered instead of burning. "Captain Blockman!" That was how she thought she had heard him addressed, earlier. "I'll join the rearguard!" she shouted over her shoulder. Hopefully she would be heard.

Gren had leapt upon his horse, and turned his head, hearing the blast from Noira's spell. "Alright, Noira, be careful! Back to Headquarters, everyone!" Rodan was not far behind him, and the other Rangers began spurring their horses out of the main gate, following Gren and Rodan back home. Gren looked into the treeline and saw the vague shapes of the undead creatures as they shambled towards the abandoned Outpost. Here and there, he thought he saw a black robed figure who must have been the sorcerers who were leading them. They look familiar, he thought.

Noira's face twisted into a scowl as she dug deeper into the passion, the energy that connected her to the magical power of the stars, forming cold fury into a blast of void-like energy that whipped into an advancing skeleton and exploded its ribcage. Immediately over its collapsing form was a similar flare, a blast of necrotic power that disintegrated tree branches and cracked through a trunk as Noira ducked low in her saddle. Somewhere behind the advancing minions, one of those sorcerers was giving her a malicious grin. She snapped her reins, dug her heels in, and joined the last of the Rangers in their desperate retreat, galloping away from the fallen Outpost. It was her and two other Rangers bringing up the rear, one to either side, racing to break line of sight with the sorcerers mixed in among the undead. She looked behind her as much as she dared as her mount plunged ahead, waiting for a surge, a flicker, any sign at all... There. A flash of angry red in the distance, and she threw her hand out behind her and cried out in Elvish, and the sorcerer's nascent spell fizzled out.

Their fast mounts soon carried them out of range of the undead horde, and they sped through the hilly region into the grassland surrounding the river. In the distance, Gren could see farmers and workers fleeing west from the advancing horrors. After they had gone a mile, they heard a similar explosion to the one that claimed Outpost Green, and looked back to see a pillar of smoke where Outpost Blue had been. They reached the river bridge, and found it guarded by a handful of Rangers. "Get back to Headquarters as soon as you can, you won't be able to hold here!" Gren told them. "Yes, sir!” they replied, and began to pack their things as the group from Outpost Blue rode on to the gate. There was a flurry of activity at the gate now, as scared refugees began seeking the safety of the Ranger's walls.

The strange light had faded from Noira's eyes by the time she reached the gate with the last of the Rangers. Her gaze danced over the stream of refugees, frowning at this troubling new factor. She had usually been on the other side of sieges. "Someone should task the able-bodied to man buckets -- and find every healer among them!" She turned her horse about, anxious to get inside, but there was a whole mass of people ahead of her.

"Clear the road!" Rodan bellowed, and some of the Rangers at the gate began pushing the crowd back, giving them room to maneuver their horses into the gate.

Westerguard was still inside, barking out orders at his available soldiers. More and more Rangers began to appear on the walls as they ushered in the refugees. Westerguard's eyes landed on Gren and Rodan. "What the hell happened?"

Rodan approached Westerguard and saluted. "Sir, Gren and his friend arrived just in time. We saw Outpost Green explode, and the trees became filled with skeletons. There was no hope of a proper defense, we evacuated immediately."

"Damn, I was wondering why I hadn't heard from Green. Alright, Rodan, get your men to the main gate, you'll be in charge there."

"Yes, sir", Rodan replied, and wheeled his horse, waving his Rangers to follow him. "General, Noira said we could get the refugees to help, man buckets & help with the healing."

"I won't argue with that. If she's got any more advice, now would be the time."

Noira finally made her way into the fort, catching the end of that conversation as she handed off her reins to a younger Ranger who seemed to be handling the stables. "Any task that is not fighting, find someone else to do it -- three farm hands to keep control of the horses in the stable, keep them from bolting. Set up bucket lines in," she looked briefly around the compound, "three places, and name a foreman to each. Any timbers that can be spared should be brought to the gate, and a few bodies strong enough to brace with them. Take legs from tables, anything big and flat, and put someone in charge of using them to brace gaps -- these are wooden walls, they will make gaps. And everyone who is not helping should be under cover. Now where do you want me?" she added, looking to Westerguard. She did not salute or call him 'sir,' she was not in his army, but he was still the man in charge.

Westerguard looked at Noira for a long moment, then looked at Gren.

Gren smiled sheepishly. "She is my friend." He seemed to be repeating that line often, as if that explained everything.

"Well, since these are your bright ideas, why don't you organize the refugees?" Westerguard replied.

"Give me a Ranger. That one," Noira nodded, pointing out a girl who looked more squire than full Ranger, currently making a valiant (but inefficient) attempt to distribute arrows, while most ignored her.

Westerguard looked over at the girl Noira had pointed to. "Miella, get over here!" The young woman fumbled with the arrows she was holding, then ran up to Westerguard saluting. "Miella, do whatever she tells you." Westerguard finished, pointing his finger at Noira for emphasis.

"Um, yes sir", Miella agreed.

"Miella, I am Lieutenant Sibreth, and I am here helping Captain Blockman," she said as she strode away quickly, forcing Miella to catch up. "When I ask you to do something, I need you to say 'yes, lieutenant.' Your job is to see that every task I assign is getting done, and tell me anything I need to know. Is that clear?" Noira paused for only half a step, looking sharply at Miella, before she heard a stammered, "Yes, lieutenant." Good enough. Using the added authority of having someone in uniform next to her, she made her way down the list of tasks, in order of the time they'd take: moving people inside, moving timbers and breaking down furniture, bucket lines, healers, and stable hands, with Miella keeping an eye out and pulling aside those best suited to the tasks. It meant splitting up families, more often than not, and it darkened and strained Noira's expression, but she kept herself pushing forward as fast as she could. There was no time for anything else.

"For a minute there I thought she was going to ask me to relinquish my command", Westerguard said to Gren with a pointed look.

Gren rubbed the back of his head. "She has been a help, General."

"As much of a help as one bossy battlemage is, an even bigger help are the sorcerer's guilds I have converging here. Those pansies owe us and now its time they make themselves useful. The Order of the Flaming Crow", Westerguard stopped reading and rolled his eyes, "are coming from the north. The cadets from White Cedar Academy will come up from the south."

"But sir, they're mostly younger children", Gren protested.

Westerguard continued, "They have enough older pupils to get this job done. Our job is to hold these walls long enough for them to get here, then their magic will do the rest. Let's just hope we can hold out long enough. Good job bringing Rodan and his boys back."

"Sir, can I go to the House of Healing before you assign me any more duties?"

"Fine. Your troop are mostly here anyway. Just be sure you report to your section of the wall as soon as possible."

"Yes, sir!" Gren saluted, then hurried up the road to the House of Healing. He pushed through the door and looked around to see if Izira was still there.

The panic of the situation had quickly moved throughout the compound. Haddon and Moriana had left with the other rangers as well as Yolene to help tend to those that needed it. Izira has promised to all that she would stay with Perrigan and watch over him. The sleeping man's hand was still held in her own. When the door opened, Izira eyes burned with ready fire but relaxed the moment she saw it was Gren. "Noira?"

Gren blew out a breath and moved over to Perrigan's bedside with Izira. "She's out there taking charge of the refugees. She seems like she was born for this type of thing." He managed a nervous chuckle. "How's the Headmaster doing?"

"By the bones of the elders, if you put that hand on me one more time, I am keeping it!" the elf's raised voice could be heard through the windows of the Healing House as she strode past, followed by poor Miella and a couple of burly lumberjacks she seemed to have recruited for one task or another.

Looking up, Izira was momentarily distracted by the call that was obviously Noira. A light smile of appreciation touched Izira's lips. Her eyes lowered down to Perrigan, "He rests, that is good. How are things out there?" She looked in the direction of Noira's voice.

Gren opened his mouth and pointed his thumb at the window at the sound of Noira's voice, but then he sighed and shrugged. "Things are getting taken care of, by the sound of it. With an army of undead this size, Westerguard has called in the local mage guilds to help out. The Order of the Flaming Crow, and White Cedar Academy. You remember Arillon and Shann, right?"

She nodded, her hand reflexively squeezing Perrigan's gently. "Yes." Looking over Gren's features, she continued. "I will stay here and keep Perrigan safe."

"Magic students?!" "Yes, lieutenant!" "Will they be arriving before or after we are set upon by an undead horde?!" "I, um, I don't know, lieutenant!" "Then find out." Noira was rather small, but she was also rather loud, and more so in the event of a battle.

"That's good. I'm sorry about this." Gren knelt down next to Izira and kissed her on the lips. "I better go, they need my help. Stay alert and be safe."

A brief touch of passion was offered in her kiss back. "Be safe my ranger, and return to me."

Gren nodded and smiled, before moving back out of the House of Healing. Dodging the rush of people, he moved over to his section of the log wall, just to the left of the main gate which faced south. He patted the members of his troop on the shoulder or back as he moved to his place in the line. "Keep a sharp lookout, call out those skeletons when you see them. Everyone have their bows ready? I don't know how much good the arrows will do on skeletons, but there are robed sorcerers out there that you should aim at first." Gren watched the road leading up to the gate, as well as looked out over the fields to the east.

Miella scurried off to see to the distribution of what maces, clubs, and other cudgels could be spared, and as she did, Noira turned to Gren. "Izira?"

"She's alright, she's watching over Perrigan. That's as safe a place as any for now. How are you doing with the refugees?"

"They have found cover, except for the people we'll need. And so far they seem to be attending to their tasks," Noira said while looking over her shoulder at the two burly men from earlier, who were currently in the process of moving broken tables and crates where they could be easily reached to reinforce breaks. "Miella tells me we're getting reinforcements. Mages?"

"Yeah. The Order of the Flaming Crow. They're about as colorful as they sound, but they know enough Black Magic to be of use. White Cedar Academy, mostly neophytes, but Masters Arillon and Shann will be of great help. The former is coming from the north, the latter from the south. Westerguard said the plan was to hold out until they get here, and hopefully their magic will tip the scales in our favor."

Noira nodded, turning her gaze in either direction as her lips thinned. "The trick will be holding our attackers at enough of a distance to benefit our reinforcements. Combat magic is less effective when you have walls, buildings, and people you'd rather not set on fire within a hairsbreadth of your enemies. What can you tell me about the lay of the land? Any choke points?"

Gren swept his gaze from north to south, getting a thoughtful look on his face. "The only one I know of is the bridge to the south, but that won't help us much if the attack is from the east. If you notice, though, the eastern side is not forested, and slopes low and away from the wall. We should have an unobstructed field of fire. Plus, Westerguard supposedly has built some kind of traps out there for defense."

She nodded, and breathed a slow sigh. "Then we shall hope they attack from the east." She was not sure how long they had until the attack came, but from the sound of things, most of the tasks had already been attended to. Additional weapons and ammunition had been placed at strategic locations. The bucket lines were ready to put out fires. There was a low murmur of conversation in the air, though far more from the refugees than the Rangers. The calm before the storm.
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