Seventh Son: Chapter 22

Caleb had never considered himself a particularly good storyteller. He could remember most tales he’d ever heard, true, and he’d a fair gift for mimicry of tone, but he wasn’t particularly educated, or particularly good at keeping rhythm, or particularly… well, anything, really. But the Captain’d asked him for a story, so he’d told one.

And then another.

And then another, and another, and another, letting the tales lead naturally one into the other through character and place and theme. And even when he’d stumbled, or been wrong in the details, or forgotten the thread of the narrative, his listeners had followed him through, brushing off any attempts to apologise with laughter and half-joking pleas for the continuation of the tale.

An hour or so into the telling Kitten had emerged from the shadows which hid Talan’s wagon, hovering quiet and unsure on the edge of the circle of firelight until Alak noticed her and waved her over. Her face was wet from crying, eyelids puffy and eyes red and sore, but she managed a small shaky smile at the assembled older members of the company and, once she’d been soundly hugged and tousled and nose-booped by the twins and given a mug of warm apple and a place by Caleb’s knee to sit and listen to the stories, she was almost back to her usual animated self.

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Argentum in Aqua: Blood on the Snow (Chapter 4)

[Chapter 3]

It really was sodding good coffee, she had to admit.

She still wasn’t sure it made up for the company, however. Archer had gone his own way as soon as he’d got them sat down – the arrival of coffee and pastries a few minutes later suggested he’d ordered them their breakfasts on his way out of the door – which meant that she’d been stuck trying to make small-talk with Fest. Or, to be more honest about the whole situation, trying to interrogate him under the pretext of making small-talk.

That… hadn’t exactly worked out. He’d not been reticent – far from it – but pretty much all the answers she could get out of him ran somewhere along the lines of ‘I don’t know’, ‘I can’t remember’ or, most commonly, ‘I’m really sorry, but I don’t know what you’re talking about’.

By about fifteen minutes in, she was seriously resisting the urge to pick him up and shake him – not so much because he was being irritating (which he was), but in the vague hope that it might jar something loose. She’d pretty much exhausted all other options, after all.

“And you don’t remember anything about it at all?”

“Like I told you before, I really don’t know what happened. I know I must have been outside, but I don’t remember waking up at all. Gods, I don’t even know what I was dreaming about.”

“Argh!” She heroically resisted the urge to bang her head against the table – and, with a mighty effort of will, stopped herself doing the same with his either. It wasn’t Fest’s fault he’d been mind-blasted, after all, and giving the poor sod concussion wasn’t exactly likely to make him any more coherent.

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Argentum in Aqua: Blood on the Snow (Chapter 3)

[Chapter 2]

The meeting had, as meetings went, been a fairly productive one. Harrow’s death had cast something of a pall of gloom over proceedings, understandably, but between Mac’s findings from the autopsy and a pair of incredibly interesting reports from a couple of the Order’s undercover agents, they’d managed to put together enough of a picture of the goings-on that night to know at least where to start investigations.

More perplexingly, no-one save Fest had seen hide nor hair of the Foreval girl at the Luciels’ townhouse, including several people who, if the younger vampire’s testimony was to be believed, had been in the same room as her. Which was worrying, to say the least. If she’d somehow managed to add disappearing acts to her already overflowing repertoire of tricks, keeping track of her was going to become damn near impossible.

The one silver lining in that particular cloud, Archer supposed, was that she didn’t seem to have got her hooks into their newest recruit.

He sighed, leaning back against the splintering wooden panels and trying to pretend that he hadn’t noticed the large spider lurking menacingly just above his head. “Are you ready to tell me what all that was about yet?”

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Pride of the Ninth

[Author’s Note: this is fiction for Age of Iron, a larp system I played in several years ago. As such, while the characters in this story are my own invention (and the Ninth Legion and their traditions were mostly mine as well) the world itself belongs to others]

“Do not contradict me, scout sergeant. I am giving you an order, and I expect my orders to be obeyed. Is that clear?”

“With all due respect, sir-” Marius began, spitting the words through gritted teeth in a way that left no doubt exactly how much respect he thought due to this particular officer, “I don’t-”

Something flickered in the corner of his vision – the fingers of Gaius’ left hand, tapping out an urgent message on the worn leather of his sword-hilt.

Stop. Agree. AGREE.

Well. That made things a whole fuckton better.

Fighting back the anger burning in his throat, Marius bit his tongue, squared his shoulders and tried grudgingly to pretend he hadn’t been about to tell his Officer Commanding exactly where he could stick his pisspoor excuse for a battleplan. “Yessir. Crystal clear, sir.”

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Seventh Son: Chapter 21

“He’s not waking up.”

It was evening again, and the company still hadn’t moved from the clearing where they’d camped overnight. There’d been a few mutterings about setting off later into the day, when they’d recovered enough to start making plans, but the light had gone faster than they’d anticipated and Dana had point-blank refused to drive Rethan’s wagon until he was conscious again.

Kala and Tam had got a fire going, with Caleb’s help, and Alak’d set a pot of stew cooking over it, but the cold darkness around the camp seemed to press in closer than it had before, stifling the laughter and companionship of the previous evening’s meal. They’d eaten in near-silence, broken only by muttered conversations, and it hadn’t been until Talan had stepped out of their wagon and addressed the assembled company that anyone had raised their voice.

Dana was the first to reply, getting to her feet with hands clenched tight against her sides. When she spoke, there was a low, growling tone to her words. “What d’you mean, ‘not waking up’?”

“Just that.” The apothecary ran one hand through their short, fair hair, and sighed. “He’s stable, and not likely to get much worse, but he’s still unconscious. And I’ve not been able to remove the blade.”

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Seventh Son: Chapter 20

Dana reached them first, dropping to her knees beside Rethan’s still form and pushing back his sleeve to press her fingers against one bloodied brown wrist. Her hand was shaking, Caleb noticed, but when she spoke her voice was calm and steady, pitched to carry to the others who’d yet to make it to the mid-point of the tree. “He’s alive.”

Caleb let out a breath he’d not realised he’d been holding, and hugged Kitten tighter to him. The girl’s face was buried in his shoulder, her small hands tangled in the rough material of his shirt, but she seemed calmer than almost any of the adults there (with the exception of Rethan, who was unconscious and thus didn’t count).

“Don’t touch anything,” Talan warned, leaning heavily on their staff as they made their way towards the group. “Not until I have had a chance to examine him, at least.”

Dana growled something under her breath, the fangs in her lower jaw seeming suddenly much more prominent for a brief second, but did as she was bid, sitting back on her heels and watching the slow almost-imperceptible rise and fall of Rethan’s chest, an unreadable expression on her broad, scarred face.

Tam, walking close behind Talan and burdened down with what seemed like half the contents of the apothecary’s wagon, muttered something to her companion. Caleb didn’t hear what was said, but Talan’s expression softened a little and they raised their voice again. “You’ve done all you can for him, Dana. And I’m sure he will thank you for it, when he’s awake.”

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Seventh Son: Chapter 19

Rethan looked up as Caleb approached, the lines of his mask catching the light in a way that horribly mimicked the shard of metal protruding from his belly. “Don’t worry. It’s not- ngh! -as bad as it looks.”

Somehow, Caleb doubted that. But he wasn’t about to argue with the other man right at this moment. “What happened?” Daft question, probably, but if he could keep him talking until Talan got back then he’d at least know that he was still conscious. It wasn’t as if he could tell from his face, after all.

Rethan laughed, or at least, made a sound in his throat which was probably meant to be laughter. “I got stabbed.” He nodded downwards towards his abdomen. “You’d think- ah! -they’d be able to afford swords which didn’t break.”

Caleb winced, his over-active imagination all-too readily providing him with a mental image of exactly what might have happened to cause that particular wound. If he was right, he was surprised the older man was able to carry on a conversation, let alone make sarcastic remarks.

No time to wonder about that now, though. Keep him talking, that was the key. “Who’s ‘they’?”

“Couldn’t say for sure.” He shifted position slightly, hissing in pain as he did so. “I’ve a damn good guess, though.”

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