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Battlefield Notes 20180518
Akai Nonamme, Cinderland Cmyth, Elissa, Nicodemus

On the way out, more of the mind shattering Qlippoth Gongorinan attacked! Being aware of their strengths and weaknesses now, we dispatched them with less dire challenges, although the abominations are quite challenging.

We decide to recover some, and then spend energies reducing the demon's support staff. First, we returned to the high priest's chambers and searched more thoroughly for information. We learned the abbey consisted of 21 differing faiths working in conjunction (although perhaps not always complete harmony). The eldest of their order was the Abbey's Voice, or leader.

We also discovered a poem of some sort, but we (rightly) deduced it is actually the formula for correctly employing the Doomsday Key. Insert the key then turn it as follows:
2 Left, 3 Right, 1 Left, 2 Right, 2 Left, 3 Right

Returning to the first sublevel, we were determined to deal with the Skulks once and for all. We did so, although Nicodemus nearly slew us with his fireballs. Perhaps we need to employ a Communal Resist Energy Fire from one of these priests we have rescued, or Zubin the random priest who seems to wander in from time to time.

Further along we were jumped by a giant and some more skulks of course. It was fairly brutal fight but we prevailed.

With the skulks dispatched, and our near-death fireball wounds healed, we continued investigating and clearing the first sublevel. We discover a good workshop, a nice view out to the ocean, a freezer room full of corrupted ice golems (yes, actual golems!).

With the first sub-level cleared, and our resources waning, we pushed on to investigate the main stairwell we had previously ignored. It took us down to a large double door that had loud windsong behind it. The source of the song we have heard sing arriving at the abbey!

This is an alter chamber with many differing sized tubes in it that all chime as the wind travels through them! Oh, and a different Qlippoth, a Chernobue! We held nothing back and Tsukyio was with us as we slew the beast before it could wreak havoc.


With some hastily grabbed items in hand, we retreated to the tower of safety to recover and plan our next foray...
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Eric
Posted by the GM
World of Orphel
Intro to the Necromancer's Lair Delve, Part 2
When you reach the House of the Bloodwood Brotherhood, Wyshapura speaks up immediately, “That was a lot worse than I expected, folks. I’m off to the next thing but I’ll see you all later.” He makes to leave quickly, irking his friend Lorisyn, the Gorin who let you into this place at first. Fortunately, Tiklun is in good standing so Lorisyn has no issue with your lot staying in the fourth floor common room.

After you all trudge upstairs, exhausted and not just a bit concerned about your proximity to the dungeon you exited so recently, you can see there are about four other people who have flopped into this space with room for twenty or so on bunk beds and thin individual beds. The windows are covered with shady sheets to block out the light but you suspect the morning sun won’t be defeated by these sheer, makeshift curtains. You stake your team a space on the North End and manage to peek out into the streets. No activity is visible on the streets save for two figures who seem to be making a beeline for the House of the Bloodwood Brotherhood. The one leading the way looks directly up at one point and you pull back from the curtain to avoid its gaze, then thinking yourself silly for assuming anyone could see up through the hazy night and dark. Yet, it *felt* like the figure somehow spotted you up there, peeking out to the street. Was it possessed of some second sight?

As you all settle down, you hear feet coming up the stairs and soon, the door opens widely. The figures from the street is now here, in the room. You are already abed, blanket in place and ready to close your eyes. Might the newcomer just go to bed and not disturb everyone? Will they come and call you out for your quick look at their progress toward the house?

Soon, the figures pull off their voluminous cloak and you realize that one figure is shorter of stature than it appeared just moments ago, while the other is roughly Lodran, maybe Khindran in height. Both wordlessly prep themselves for bed and are soon asleep, with the smaller figure adding to the chorus of snorers in the room.

In the morning, you are awoken by a Phellin servant bringing bread and ale around to everyone in the common room. The gold-skinned fellow is named Ilo and takes coins courteously from those who he serves. Ilo pauses and provides ale and what seems like rather a lot of bread to the individuals who came in last night. You now can see one’s a Tellon with a red beard and that part of what looked so large in the dark was his warhammer slung over his back. He has bright blue eyes, spectacles and an expressive face that he turns your way as he begins to consume his breakfast.

“Ho, adventurers and friends of Wyshapura.” His companion looks over, but his face is obscured by a mask covering all but his eyes.

When you acknowledge their presence, they come over, fully-armed and ready for the day. “I am Laufran, a friend and sometime traveling companion of Wyshapura. He came to see me last night and said you could probably use my help. I have also brought an important friend.”

Your reluctance is his cue to keep talking. “I’m a war-priest of Castellon and an able fighter that can help heal your men and women when they are injured in combat. Wyshapura said your need for a guide was passed but you could use a healer. I was dressed and ready to head out so I just headed here to pass the night here so we could chat quickly in the morn.

More importantly, sir Paladin, I think you know this man. While he’s changed a bit, you know him as Thelander.”
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Eric
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World of Orphel
Kinguard - The historical doc of Nolan's adventure immediately following World of Orphel 1.0
You could blame the Tellon hospitality or the Jixana who made the wine but you are really to blame. The sea of Purple Feather wine in your stomach lulls you into fitful slumber. When you wake, the light of the suns is not yet in the sky but your room is being illuminated by a misty green light. You look up, expecting King Mallet's chamberlain and are startled when you see a small humanoid with gold skin. Memory delivers that this is a Phellin, a diminutive race of grass-dwellers that are normally silent. This one is not quiet, "Kinguad! You must follow me with all haste. I bear a message from the Almighty."

Knowing that Ollivus works in sometimes strange ways, you stand and begin to ready yourself. The Phellin speaks again, "Belt and arm fully, Kinguard. You will need to be ready." You suit up in full armor and grab Aurelin before returning to the Phellin's gaze. "We must tread like clouds. No sound or we will disturb the guards." You become suspicious and ask if Thelander is ready to go. "He is already on a furious ship, passing through the West Gate. You are alone on this endeavor. Follow."

Although you find the comments puzzling, you follow the little creature out the door. In the hall, he waves a hand and the stone wall to your left begins to shift open. The Phellin walks through the large hole in the wall and beckons for you to follow him. As you walk through, the wall closes behind and you watch the Phellin scurry through the night in Mallet Keep. He walks directly to a hole in the fortification, a hole formed right next to a sleeping Tellon Guard. As you near the hole, following the Phellin, you notice that the Tellon Guard's eyes are actually open but look as distant as the Isles of Vunorr. Passing through, you walk into the thick forest on the side of the mountain that lies behind the fortress. The Phellin slips through the ancient branches and bristling needles towards the edge of the mountainside. He pauses near the edge of the mountain and points a gnarled finger East. The midnight sky is filled with shadow but you can clearly make out the enormous form gliding around the side of the mountain. It is a Nightclaw, a black dragon - and it is flying away. "See..." says the Phellin, "it carries away the final piece in its belly, the hand you seek." Though it seems unlikely, you somehow know that this is indeed the dragon that once held your whole suit of armor in his belly. Now only the right hand remains and you aim to retrieve it, even if it means opening the belly of the beast yourself.

Suddenly, the Phellin breaks into a run around the side of the mountain, following the Nightclaw's laggard flight. You don't know what to do so you run as well, pushing through the branches on the side of the mountain, leaping from rock to rock, hanging on branches closely as you realize again how high Mallet Keep sits on the side of Redcrow Mountain. You run interminably after the Phellin, who continues to chase the Nightclaw as it wings around the mountain. How are you to engage the lizard and obtain your sainted glove? Your progress seems slow, but the Nightclaw moves no faster than a casual breeze and is easy to trail.

As you move swiftly between the foliage, you steal a glance down the side of the mountain and notice that you are now above the entrance to the Valley of R'Shattra. The wisps of clouds that circled the front of the mountain now turn pitch and churn with thunder. The ground below is black but all kinds of activity are taking place; vast flags and banners are waving in the confusing wind, explosions dot the barren landscape and thousands of teeming bodies are writhing or dancing or something throughout the grounds. You look up and then back down only to see that everything is gone and the ground appears a lovely vert with clear skies. You are almost a thousand feet up but somehow you can see everything very clearly.

Turning back to the pursuit, you lose sight of the Phellin, though you can still see the Nightclaw around the bend of the mountain. As you round the corner, the Phellin is standing at the end of the mountain cliff, beckoning towards the dragon. The Nightclaw languidly looks back from its flight path and then lunges from midair at the Phellin. As you run up to help, you feel the sweep of air coming from the Nightclaw's beating wings - only now do you realize it is nearly two hundred feet long and its wingspan is near twice its length. The Nightclaw snatches at the Phellin as you run up and pull Aurelin out. In a flash of movement, you are near the lashing claws when one of them grabs your torso. You shout at the beast as it takes off and flies deep into the Valley. In the distance, you see the Phellin standing on the edge of the cliff, dusting himself off and straightening his hat.

The clench of the Nightclaw is sharp and painful. If not for the Armor, the razors of his nails and scaled hide would be digging into your flesh. The wyrm sensibly grabbed you in a way to prevent use of your arms, making the blade in your arm useless. You hold Aurelin firmly, knowing he will play a role when you avenge this indignity.

The dragon begins to dive. Every instinct in your body demands that some action be taken to prevent this plunge but you are powerless to move and too confused to form any spellcraft. The force of wind envelops your body as you plummet through the clouds. In an instant, the claws suddenly loosen their grip and you begin to fall on your own. Anger strikes and you manage a furious swing of Aurelin that swipes off a small toe from the beaste. A rancorous shriek explodes from the wyrm as it changes course and begins to climb into the sky again. It looks back as it sails into the air, blistering fury in its eye. But it turns and lets the distance between its climbing glide and your spinning dive grow larger and larger. As the uneven ground gets closer, you howl to Ollivus, to Aurelin, to any being willing to listen. You cry Selendra's name, fearing she will never again touch your hand, your face. Darkness comes by means gentler than you would expect.

The next thing you remember is not waking but dreaming - although it is the sort of dreaming that transpires in the Valley – lethargic visions of confusion that may or may not happen in slumber. There was no sensation of landing but more of flight - of angling through empty space, space then filled with the faces and memories of your life. The voices are what you notice first; the replaying of countless comments, monologues, dialogues, words, words, words from throughout your time. Voices common and distant begin, finish and tear apart each other's sentences. One moment Selendra's soft voice coos a seduction, the next Claw's sharp timbre pronounces you a wanted man, Misty's cool tenor asks you a sardonic question and then the booming bass of Mire howls at you in combat. Whispers, gasps, lectures, jokes, knowing asides, insults, moving tributes, diplomatic speeches and dying wishes slither around your mind, words washing over one another so that ultimately, nothing is understandable.
Then, the visions. Everything comes at once; violence of the battlefield, pleasures of the bed chamber, ceremonial gatherings in grand halls, raucous laughter in seamy taverns. A Lukezikkar tears flesh off your compatriots, the head of the dark priest Voihav sits in a shallow pool of acid on a cavernous floor, an ancient green dragon merchant laughs at your naiveté, drug-addled Einnick paint words of power on Totorean's back, five dark assassin lords plot against each other and the world, dazed children climb out of a small town well, a tiny sea cave reveals the bustle of a city, followers of the earth god erect the beginning of the East's Sorrow. Sensation begins, heat is first, then cold, pain, titillation, numbness, then tickles, jitters, clamminess, wetness then moistness, dryness then roughness. Discord ensues, with all things, sights, sounds, feeling, sensations going wild. It goes on for hours, days, maybe years. More than anything, you cannot shake the ubiquitous feeling of deja vu.

After some time not known to you, a single unfamiliar voice pushes through the din. It is the sound of an old man, but the tone is reasonably kind, "You are not here of your own volition." You do not know how to respond. Every impulse rises, saying "Yes", saying "No", cursing, laughing, ignoring the voice. He speaks again, "I know you did not ask for these specters. You were brought here." The face of a man appears in the corner of your consciousness. The face is old but unusual; one eye is gold and the other blue, his beard grows white, gray, and black with hints of purple and his hair is long under a hat that looks like a black seashell - there is more, even something quite frightening, but you cannot trust this memory. "Follow this yeoman and do not fret if he should change occasionally. He will lead you out of the Valley. Know him by his violet glow. The impostors will not use this manner to imitate him. You may choose to return, if you wish, but you must make that decision outside our borders..."

As he said the word, a lithe male Einnick with a wide wingspan appears with a small torch. The violet glow about him distinguishes him from the hundreds of exact duplicates that appear a moment later. As he begins to walk to what is presumably the way out, all of the impostors walk in different directions, every one of the hundreds of thin faces casting you a wan eye and a waved hand pointing in the direction he is going. You gather yourself and focus on the one violet glow amongst the infinite mirrors of guides. You crawl at first, through swamp and grass, some badlands and hills but it is not seemingly very long until the Einnick holds out a hand to pull you towards a brightly lit grove beyond the present dusk. You are at the base of the back of Redcrow Mountain, at the very edge of the Valley. You want to walk forward but the tiny pleasures, the comfortable nothingness of the R'Shattra pull at you. Stay! Lie down and not be counted! Sit amongst your past in the endless convolutions and suppositions of nostalgia! This is joy! This is bliss!

You turn back, sizing up the value of remaining in the Valley. Was Selendra there? Was she somewhere amongst those visions? The Einnick pulls on your shoulder, yanking you towards the outside. You fight some, looking back at the comforts you enjoyed in the Valley - the confusions and images were often pleasant - but he throws you into the Bolborine sunlight.

"Wait!" you cry. "What is the day? How long has it been?"

The Einnick smiles. "You have heard too many tales, friend. Time in the Diss Crater may move slower, but here we use time efficiently. Every passing day to you was only moments, maybe half-moments to the world outside the Valley..." He stands with one foot in the Valley and one out in the sunlight. You can now see he is a most handsome Einnick, but unkempt. His wings have suffered many wounds and his clothing is nothing more than scraps strategically hanging about his body..

"Do my companions know where I am?" you ask.

"They are scattered to points here and there. Much has been transpiring in their lives."

"You know them?"

The Einnick betrays a small smile, "No, but my sire was a seer of some power. I have the gift, too. Mostly, I have wasted it away on Midrese, Otyn and the various substances of the Valley. But I can sometimes see where things are going on."

"Please let me know where they are. I will be in your debt."

The Einnick sits down and cross his legs, beckoning for you to do the same across from him. He puts out his hands, taking one of each of yours in his. "Close your eyes and empty your mind of other things. I will show you the faces of those you hold dear..."

The first one almost destroys you - it is Selendra's face, rivulets of tears making paths down her cheeks. She is standing on the bow of a large ship under the flag of Khindros. Sitting below her is Ulliana, who is knitting a long blanket with a pattern of black roses. She looks up from her handiwork occasionally to check on Selendra. The sorrow is clear on Ulliana's face but she is a warrior and knows she is supposed to hide pain. The course of their trip is entirely unclear but you can see that the ship is moving at an amazing clip. As the vision fades, you catch a glimpse of what looks like the East end of Windbane in the distance behind them.

The next vision is worse - Thelander hangs upside down, with all of his limbs tied in ceremonial fashion to the floor or the ceiling. His face is a mess; he has been badly beaten and none of his wounds have been attended. There is little blood, however. A scruffy looking Tellon sits in the corner, leaning his chair up against the wall, a hatchet at his side. The room appears to be moving very slowly, weaving to one side and then the other. A door bursts open, waking the Tellon who then runs over to meet the two hooded humanoids that enter. Both wear red garments with cowls over their heads and black sashes around their waist. Each carries a sable-wood bow and impossibly silly looking pole arms. "Cough up the gold, miscreant," demands the Tellon, "I've got to get back to the mountain before tomorrow. I ain't no fan of the high seas."

One hooded head turns to the Tellon, "You would not care to live in our homeland then, Tellon. It lies on the ocean floor now."

The Tellon looks away from the others, "Whatever, hand over my bounty on this guy and I will be on my way."

"Give him what he deserves, Brother Xuchen." The second hooded man pulls out a crossbow gun and fires at the Tellon, who takes it in the chest. The gruff old Tellon falls, cursing as he dies. The first hooded man walks over and looks over Thelander. "You will soon pay for the thing you bound to your flesh." He brandishes a knife and kneels to hold it in front of Thelander's face. Thelander is now awake and clearly frightened. "The Tellon was happy to merely turn you upside down, but I want more proof." He sticks the knife right into Thelander's chest, causing a furious howl. When the knife is pulled out - there is no blood, no stain. The hooded man laughs. "We have him. Take him to our ship and make sure the Brethren tie him down accord to Kadd code. It is a long trip home."

The next vision is a startling contrast. Totorean's face looks calm under a new beard and mustache. He kneels in a simple white robe in a line of fifty men. As the image becomes clear, you can see the row is merely one of hundreds (thousands?) lined up on a great verdant field that goes on for as far as you can see in all directions. You cannot hear the hum of words they chant (their mouths are all moving slowly) but you can see where the prayers are headed. The very god Gorinnar himself levitates above them in silence. He turns and seems to notice you watching. You panic but he laughs loudly. His eyes are kindly and they convey peace and good feelings - you know that Totorean is protected and content. The penitent worshippers below, Totorean included, do nothing differently, do not react in any way. You see Totorean's face up close. There is, indeed, nothing but piety and peace. The land they stand on is not Orphel but some heaven beyond the walks of normal men.

The face of Birch Silverwood is as still as Totorean's, but it is somewhere very different and covered with white powder. As the vision expands, you can see that her entire nude body is covered in the powder and that she is lying amongst the rubble of a wall, part of the wall itself. There is no emotion on her face and her eyes look vacant. Stone walls and rocks are all around her, as are others who look like sages and mages. Some are like her, naked, powdered and lying about the floor, in the walls and ceiling. Others are fully clothed and look to be more consciously wandering among the ruins. One of the sages sits down on what may be a body or perhaps a portion of the crater. He places a writing quill and sheets of parchment on Birch's hip. As he begins to write, you realize she is nothing more than scenery to him. Perhaps even to herself.

The last vision is just a sea of skeletons, of the dead on an enormous field under the expanse of darkness known as Gloomsbourough. No shift of bone and skull seems different from another - everything is broken up and empty of any of the attachments of life. There are no left over clothes, no weapons, no identifying characteristics. There is only a world of death piled high and wide on this darkened plain. Somehow, though, you know that the body of Misty is among the carnage, though you cannot pick her out by her lithe bone structure because none of the skeletons are complete.

You cry out as you feel your hands drop. The Einnick stands, having broken your link to the visions of your comrades. "My name is Tox. Actually, that's just the first syllable of forty-three. But it is the only one you need remember. You owe me for my services. I know that you do not have money now and I would not need it if you did. What I will want for this debt is not clear to me right now. But when I find out, I suspect you will know, too."

He begins to take flight, causing you to cry out, "Wait! Wait! I don't know what to do." He smiles and stays low in the sky, "That is a question that plagues all things, ituini. You're seen many of your options. You can walk back into the Valley, if you wish. Or climb back to the Tellon fortress above and find out what is happening there. Chase your friends, your lovers, whatever. Do nothing. It won't matter. The world has already fallen under the wings of the night." Tox continues to let his wings wave slowly in the calm wind.

Despite your expectations, he stays and waits for you to respond, "Are you going back to the Valley?" you ask. "No," says Tox, "I am ready for a change. Why? Are you seeking a guide?" You weigh in your mind the value of this faerie as a guide: his powers would be helpful in your quest to find your friends and undo the recent strange turns of event. But his reliability is largely suspect: you come from a background that derides the lazy, morally bankrupt attitudes of the Einnick - the faerie have little regard for Lodran values. But he is the only person on the empty plains around you. Most of Bolborine is desolate these days and you may not see another person for miles. Normal folk do not like to live near the Valley.

"Can you at least take me to the nearest coastal town? I need to pursue my wife." Selendra first, you say to yourself - you can find the others once you see her again.

"Well, we cannot travel down to the coast of Bolborine and Torn Daastraal. There are armies of the Night throughout the region and I know enough about you to think walking into that would be the end of us both."

"You know who I am?" you ask.

"Well, I know who I think you are but I don't see any reason to confirm it. But I can see the death-aura on your head. Anyone with the slightest touch of magery can see the mark they have sent you." You look up at your head and see nothing. "It is there, ituini, trust me. Any mercenaries with the power to notice that would tie you up but quick."

"Let them try," you say, regaining your composure at the promise of a threat to come. "Where can we go, then."

"Down to the Rhandony. It is one of the few regions in the area to not be occupied. It is protected from the Nightlords due to its close proximity to the city of Nyr. The Nightlords aren't ready to take on the Nine, or their army of Dylcyrin - some of whom live in the Rhadony. We should be safe there."

"How long will it take to get there?"

"Two days, if I fly with you as my cargo," says Tox.

"Will you be able to carry me in my armor?"

"With these, I will," says Tox, as he pulls out a large jar of what look like sharps spores. Before you can react, Tox pops one into his mouth. "They hurt going down but they give me the strength of a Malin." Tox senses your revulsion, "Well, I hope you aren't too squeamish that you won't take a little something because you will need to eat one of these..." As he speaks, Tox pulls out a thin reed of brown grass.

"What is that?" you ask.

"When pulled from the ground, farmers in this area call it ghenn. When sold on the streets in Orphel or Kaggoth, they call it nightstick. Either way, it is harmless. It just puts you into a sleep."

"Why would I take that?"

"Because you are easier to carry as dead weight than when you are awake. Also, it will dampen the death aura and we will not be detected."

You weigh the concern over this course of action and your trust of this Einnick. You realize you have no choice but to trust him. You pick the stick out of his hand, start to eat it and hope you will wake in a better place than this last time.

When you wake, you find that Tox has dropped you into a tavern called the Door In The Cloud, back in Mallet Keep. There is a small note in your hand, written in clumsy Khindra, “Rhadony is almost overrun so I just brought you back to Mallet. Better place for you to begin your next adventure. You can probably pick up some companions from here...”
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Crocodile Tears
Blaze could see the dark shape of guilt slowly gliding under the surface of the water. He knew it was coming for him. There was nothing they could do, their raft bobbed in the river as the massive submerged shape drifted underneath them.

The agonizing memory of Meena circling that small island in that horrid bubbling, fetid swamp, immediately flooded his head. Mirilda, savagingly killing the great white. Her body transforming from shark to the misguided young woman they all adored, slowly sinking into the murk.

The water erupted and their raft was thrown into the air, they along with it. A huge set a jaws, but set in an elongated snout. Not a shark, but some other kind of nightmare. Blaze swam towards shore, grabbing at rocks or roots, anything to help lift him from the mucky river water.

That’s when the incredible vise like grip of the teeth and jaws clamped down upon him. Its skin was like stone as Blaze flailed his fists against it. It barrel rolled to the bottom of the dirty river. To make matters worse, dozens of fish with razor sharp teeth began picking at his flesh, driven to a frenzy from the blood gushing from his wounds. He tried to push several away with his shield, the weight of the water making it a difficult attempt. His shield! What a fool he had been, helplessly thrashing about like a salmon caught in a bear’s mouth. Blaze said a silent prayer and released the power of the Shield of the Dawn.

The brown murky water erupted with a yellow glow, creating a silhouette of the monster and Blaze from above. Boudica flying above spotted the sudden luminescence and gracefully, in a perfect arc, dove for the water.

One moment Blaze was drowning while being crushed to death from the pressure of the creature’s toothy mandibles, the next he was on shore surrounded by Elaran, Leon and Mirilda. He looked to the river. Ghyra was hovering above the churning water, blasting the beast with her magics when suddenly Boudica propelled by her fly spell, shoots from the water straight up like an arrow. And then an incredible sight, the monster pitches itself behind her, like a colossal breaching whale, jaws wide open and snatches Boudica with those nightmare teeth. Blaze and the others gasp.

Mirilda has had enough. She seizes the moment of the monster surfacing to strike it dead with her axe. Boudica is injured but alive. Blaze collapses on to his back breathing hard and closes his eyes. But all he sees is Meena’s laughing face.
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Epic!
Night of Nostalgia
Deep within filthy streets of Nar Shadaa at a seedy, bustling bar, sat a humanoid; short yet broad in stature. The smallish man paid no
heed to the cantina's cacophony, for he had his eyes fixed upon a creature opposing his side of the bar. This being was unlike most: Trandoshan; large lizard-like people that have a culture largely based on hunting, earning points for their god; the Scorekeeper, to increase in rank. The greater the kill, the greater number of Jagganath points.
From what the little observer had gathered, this was a particularly cunning and hardy life-form. A veteraned adversary with many Jagganath to his name.
But right now, he was a tad innebriated. And, considering that he and his cohorts had just scored on a big swoop bike race, it seemed likely to escalate. The suspicious figure watched and waited. He ordered one drink which remained untouched. The hood of his robes cast well over his brow.
Uproarious laughter erupted from the party across the bar. A slight smirk broke the hard lines in the silent watcher's face and a low chuckle emitted, almost a grunt, inaudible for the din of the establishment.

"I'd sure like to avoid a fight;" he thought. "Though, given how boisterous these fellows are, it would seem my prediction will come to pass."

Yet, despite a near-complete sense of certainty, something nagged at him. As if there was a scenario that escaped his fore-sight. As he sat pondering, his target and company stood to leave.

"Off my game," came a thought.
"When did they pay?"
"Did they even pay?"
"They're rushing out."
"Follow them."

In an attempt to quiet the voices in his head he reached for the milky, blue Luke-warm beverage yet to be sipped and tossed it down his gullet. And with that, hastily pursued his prey.

Out in the smoggy night air four friends staggered through some street of the lower city. Unbeknownst to them, they had gained a stalker and he was closing the gap even more quickly now. With calculated steps and knowledge of each passerby's path, no thing present could halt such movement.
Another turn, deeper into the labrynthian alleyways. None else walked on the tight passages hunter and hunted now tread. In the dark, the shapes of the blundering buffoons were clear, as if highlighted by shadow. Mal intent began creeping as Darkness gave new focus to sight. But in so doing lost hold of the Light within him. Without further hesitation drawing the Ancient Sword beneath his robes.

"What if all these guys were in on it?"
"Then they're dead."
"Master wouldn't approve."
"This is our personal business."
"It's not our way."
"To hell with the Way."
"Because of bastards like that Sono-"

A cry interrupted spiraling notions. Beacon of distress, shining glimmer of hope; someone was in trouble. All other things fell away. Weapon once in hand was sheathed in a fluid motion. Rising with augmented speed our hunter turned helper sprang into action. Discerning the cries direction proved easy and the source not afar off. His enhanced abilities provided for expeditious arrival. An obvious miscreant with it's back turned handled a blaster at two diminutive silhouettes standing against a dead end. One shrank behind it's protector, who was postured up, staring back with head held high. All this perceived whilst leaping purposefully between victims and assailant; left hand on the hilt of a metal cyllinder attached at the hip.
But before he drew a true weapon, something struck him like a Sludge Panther biting you in the ass. A long-distant memory of a helpless young boy who wanted nothing more than to protect his family. Brave but still terrified. Understanding and renewed motive was recognized in an instant and, while cracking a smile at his opponent, drew his old, yet familiar, sword.

"I have been guided here by the Force," said the blade-wielder. "My name is Leenk Lavnik, Knight of the Jedi Order. And while I am here no harm will come to the innocent. Now be on your way."

Leenk assumed opening Soresu stance and with his outward hand; reaching up and motioning to lower the blaster trained on him. But the man simply guffawed.

"That's rich, a Jeedaii Knight! Well, I'll be! Listen, frien: I dun't reckon you're from around here, is ya? See dem collars?"

Leenk didn't move a muscle as the rapscallion gestured at the children.

"Dem's kids is mine!"

"Shut up!!"

A defiant shout from the girl.

"We just wanna get this medicine to Mams; she's real sick and--"

"Aww, you shut it, runt."

"Friend."

Leenk's playful demeanor absent.

"I must insist you move on, lest I become...unfriendly."

More guffawing.

"Shhheeeeiiit, whachoo gonna do? You's a runt, too! Bout da size of that li'l fella over there. And ya'llz just got a dull knife while I'm sportin'
ol' Spitfire.
"

"Try me."

"Alrighty then, shrimp."

Red light filled the passage as the menace charged a shot in his weapon. Leenk steadied himself, sunk into his stance and blocked high, narrowly deflecting the bolt. It hit the wall above the adolescent's heads. Meanwhile, someone else's head did not feel good as the power of the charged shot caused Leenk's Ancient Sword to bludgeon his face. Dazed yet undeterred, the Lannik leapt forward. A much quicker, less-powerful blast came next and
was redirected with much more ease. Confused and blatantly concerned, the sleazy slaver leveled his firearm once again at Leenk's head. Shakily, words took shape from trembling mouth.

"D-don't come aa-any closer, now. Ya hear?"

"As you wish."

Little did he know, Leenk was already well within range for what came next. With a quick step to off-set his facing and an upward slash, the Jedi Knight removed Spitfire's barrel; it fell with a clatter. Hardly missing a beat, the attacker was gone and the audience cheered. One set of hands applauded while another was tapping on Leenk's shoulder. He turned to see a bright smile radiating from a young and dirty little girl.

"Hey, can you teach my bro to do that?"

"Perhaps, in due time. If I'm to teach him we must start with basics. What are your names, brave ones?"

The younger responded again, "My name's Aryll. That's my older brother, Link."

Leenk could not help but grin.

"Well, then, Aryll and Link, shall we go take care of your mother?"

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Epic × 2!