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"Mhm, astute, aren't you? Yes, it does," Ambrose nodded to Shad, drawing a small pull out of the pipe and removing it. He breathed the smoke out his nose, feeling it tickle the inside. "Full name is Ambrose Frederick Locke. So, if you want to call me 'Frederick,' that's fine, too." He turned to the little librarian. "As far as the story goes, I met someone. But let's back up a bit further before we get into that." He pulled a puff from his pipe again, breathing a ring into the air as he searched for the words.

"It seems I'm quite a bit older than you both. I'm thirty six. I'm Bernese, as well. I grew up on stories older than Roy and Zephiel and Guinevere, though I heard them, too. Coincidentally, the stories run near the time of your Marquess Eliwood's youthful adventures. Stories of heroes who were but shadows in the night, who fought for the sake of the common folk. They slaughtered nobility who were cruel to their commons, and kept tyrants in check. They were the Black Fang. Regrettably, they lost sight of who and what they were supposed to be fighting, and Eliwood's company had no choice but to wipe them out.

"I idealized them, and wished to be like them. I picked up sword, then bow as I grew up. Town guardsman, bounty hunter, mercenary. I have always wished to fight for the sake of making the lives of those around me better. It's more difficult than it sounds, however. Have to eat, after all.

"Then, a while ago, I met a fugitive knight in a rundown shit-hole of an inn. One Roland Summers. As it turned out, he had fallen in love with one of Emperor Coran's kin, but as a mere knight, he couldn't attain her. So, he turned his cloak and swore to bring the monstrous Emperor down. I offered to help. As we traveled, we chanced upon a town with a massive cathedral in it, and not much else. We went in, and were surprised to find a rebel-in-the-making. We tried to aid her, and wound up with about eight of us. I brought them to my hideout, and decided to look for a good first target for us to start with, when I found out the Church was trailing me.

"So, here I am," he concluded, drawing a pull and exhaling the smoke with his nose. "I'll travel with you two for a time, if you'd not mind. More protection, the better, I say."
"Frederick is better than Fred...but it is longer to say than Ambrose, so Fred it is," Shad replied to Ambrose's full name. He was surprised he gave his full name, but considering what they revealed, he must feel confident that they won't rat him out later. Paige got him to elaborate to a comment he made earlier, about some sort of guild.

"Thirty six? Your old enough to be my father," Shad blurted out without intending to. That train of thought, however, saddened him. His father was around that age when he died and that depressed him a bit. But he perked up a bit when Ambrose talked about the Black Fang. He read about them, mainly second hand accounts of second hand accounts to the tune that he was talking about. The Black Fang could a useful ally against the emperor, but Ambrose would have to reestablish them.

If I didn't have my own responsibilities to my family and Etruria, I can't say I wouldn't be tempted to join. Shad thought to himself. His family has a bad track record with wanting to do whats best for the individual instead of the family. His uncle almost left his wife and unborn son to adventure if it wasn't for his brother reasoning with him.
Paige listened as Fred recounted the tale of the Black Fang and his intent to build a similar group. She was familiar with the history, as well as the stigma that followed that name. She couldn't say she shared the idealization of that group. Pherae remembered a much different Black Fang. Yet, Fred seemed to simply want to protect others. The fact that he gave his full name was telling to Paige. He wasn't a foe.

Yet she couldn't agree with forming a group to go to war with the Empire. Not when they didn't have all the information.

"It's admirable that you want to help others, but the Black Fang means something much different in Lycia. I fear if you take after them, the Empire will use it against you. No one has fond memories of Bern nationals crossing into Lycia to wage war, even a Lycia as divided as this one."

"As for protection, I'm not exactly a fighter like you two. I'm just a librarian trying to figure out the world we live in. My fencing is generally limited to sport duels."

Paige downplayed her swordplay, not mentioning the brigand fight she recently was involved in. She did not want to be relied on in a fight and fail the others.
Shad's attention turned to Paige when she mentioned her fighting skills. He smirked at that revelation. They seem to have more in common than he first thought. He didn't see her fight last time they were here, Shad was too busy redirected the townsfolk and falling meteors to take place in any of the combat. "Fencing has it's applications on a battlefield, you just have to remember your fighting for your life and not in a sanctioned duel and loosen the restrictions on yourself."

Shad's signet ring glowed briefly as he unsheathed his sword. He made sure it was visible in the dim lighting he provided them. "Both my father and his father were fencers, and I was trained in it just like they were. My grandfather was so good at it, he took down thirty attacking soldiers by luring them into a narrow corridor so he could fight them one-on-one. This sword used to be my fathers, and used to have a basket hilt to protect the hand. My father modified it so he can be armed at all times, feigning a limp, but there is a reason it's magic-enchanted."

He reached into he coat for a couple of loose pouches. He poured one out a bit, revealing it was filled with dirt. "Dirt, sand, rocks, even broken glass if you don't mind the risk of cutting yourself are all useful allies to fencers. Just get some together and throw it right into the your opponents face and that should give you an opening. I have those handy just in case, but I can just use the wind magic from this sword and blow up dirt right in my opponents face and get the kill."

He laughed a bit, when a sad realization came to him. "Those were some of the only things my father taught me before he died. He taught an eight-year old to throw things in their eyes before he even perfected my form." He paused, staring into the dark corner of the room for a couple of seconds. He turned back to Paige, "It may take a while to learn to incorporate that into your fencing, but it's handy in a pinch."
"I think your point only serves to further highlight how much having folks like us around could protect you from fools like these, am I right?" Ambrose replied to Paige, gesturing at the door to signify who the fools were. The mercenary crossed his arms, slowly, avoiding his vambraces making noise. "Turn down the lights, Shad. Even a dim light is bright in the darkness. We don't need to be discovered right now."

He turned again to Paige. "The Black Fang is a century old, and dead besides. I'll not resurrect an icon of hatred from long past to make it a beacon of hope. I've been running through the names I could use instead. I've come up with perhaps two that I like. The Knights of the Dark, or the Night Blade. The first is more noble sounding, but could easily be twisted, the second is more expedient, and can also be twisted. But I'll decide later."

He took a pull from his pipe and blew a ring of smoke deeper into the cellar. Then he fished out a knobby stick from his pocket and crushed the tobacco and embers into ashen pulp, dumping it onto the cellar floor before crushing it under his boot's toe. He crept to the door, putting his pipe away as he opened his senses.
“Ah, then perhaps a demonstration of your technique after we get out of this?” Paige said to Shad. “I can’t say I’ve seen anyone employ soil into their style.”

Upon hearing Shad’s strategy, she wasn’t a fan of his technique. Throwing sand at an opponent’s eyes was a dirty trick employed by those who couldn’t actually fight. At least, that’s how it was seen in a sport setting. When lives were on the line, one needed to do whatever it took to survive. Paige would have to adjust her sensibilities if she wanted to stay alive.

“Yet, you say your sword is enchanted? I would think the magic itself would serve as enough of a distraction to strike. Not that I have either to draw experience from.”

Meanwhile, Fred was listing off possible names for his band of mercenaries. She shook her head at all the mentions of darkness and night. They were already in a dark period with the Empire in charge.

“Things like ‘darkness’ and ‘night’; people naturally fear anything associated with them. You need a name that reflects the interests of the people. You cannot simply be an assassin out for a man’s head. Another will simply take his place, perhaps a worse ruler.”

Paige approached Fred as he settled near the door. The streets were quiet; even the soldiers had moved on to another part of the village. One could still hear the echoes of the commander barking orders. Paige kept her voice down in case someone outside heard.

“Just as we’ve almost achieved a world where all the countries live in peace, Lycia, once a keeper of that peace, has lost its way. We need to be the frontline in defense of the Lycian Alliance that people died to protect centuries ago. The Vanguard of the Alliance, or the Vanguards. That is a name people can get behind.”
Shad noticed the distaste for that style of fighting in Paige's expression. Made sense, for a person taught in the classical way of fencing and dueling that such tactics were a cowards weapon. But try to explain that to the berserkers of the Western Isles or the brigands plaguing trade routes. "Never said it was honorable," He commented.

He checked the wall by the sconce and noticed it had a way to put it out handy. He grabbed the coned stick and placed it over the torch to put it out. As he waited for it to die out, he replied to Paige's question, "The wind magic that the blade employs isn't particularly powerful. It worked wonders on the smoke and flames at the school, and was useful in deflecting that last meteor spell, but against a foe with stable footing and balance, it's not as effective. It may be able to launch me through a doorway mid-jump, but it would probably not even faze a knight in full-plate mail."

The other topic of discussion was about Fred's planned spiritual successor of the Black Fang. Paige brought up the logical fallacies of just killing a noble. Shad sheathed his sword and sat down a little further away from the door than the others. He pulled out the lock and set it down next to him and decided to practice picking the lock before he returns the lock to the outside of the door.

Paige was giving suggestions for what Fred could name his group, giving suggestions that were very based in Lycia. "Calling it the Vanguard of the Alliance makes it sound like its a band of revolutionaries trying to restore the old government," He said as he fished for the sweetspot with the lock.
(08-01-2015, 03:39 AM)Swift_Assassin Wrote: [ -> ]"Calling it the Vanguard of the Alliance makes it sound like its a band of revolutionaries trying to restore the old government," He said as he fished for the sweetspot with the lock.

"Maybe that's what we need," Paige replied to Shad. She paused having realized that she just suggested having a revolution. She was trying to stay neutral in dealing with empire, but hiding from Imperial forces changed her perspective.

"The Alliance had never been perfect, but at least power was divided among the marquess. No one could rule absolutely, not even Ostia. With an emperor with absolute power, everyone else is simply a pawn. We're seeing that now with the church occupying Castle Pherae."

Paige checked back at the door to make sure no one else was passing by.

"Lycia is going down a dark path. We need to take a step back before our plight becomes worse."
"The Vanguard, hm?" Ambrose said thoughtfully, "Sounds good to me." He peered out the door, opening it just a crack. No one was in the streets. "Coast's clear. Now's as good a time as any to get out of here." He carefully opened the door, keeping low to the ground as he got out of the cellar. No soldiers in sight. Excellent. "Hurry, hurry," he whispered, ushering the two out.
Shad hid a smirk at the that comment as he unlocked the lock. Having Paige on board would certainly help their cause. Hell, perhaps she could help influence the Marquess Pharae to aid them when that time comes. "So long as Etruria's freedom is guaranteed, I'll lend my aid," he commented as he was about to close the lock once again.

Ambrose speaking up and the sound of the door stalled that action, thankfully. He grabbed some gold and left it next to him. It was the least he could do for renting his lock for practice. Shad got up first, "I got point," he whispered as he handed Ambrose the lock, hoping he would infer the meaning. He took a few steps outside of the door and looked around. He turned and nodded back to Ambrose to affirm his words. He pulled his hood up over his head and put a hand to his sword in case trouble shows up.


That boy was hardly as sneaky as he thought he was. The Etrurian never seemed to know when she was watching him. She had been following him for weeks, but he never knew it. The church being here had complicated things a bit. Their respective targets were holed up together, but they had different goals. The church was there to apprehend that attacker, she was there to observe and report. She couldn't let the Church interfere with her operation. She didn't want to step on their toes either, but her mission was more important to her than some self-righteous zealots chasing down a 'heretic'.

She chased down the church soldiers in a different part of the town. A couple of soldiers saw her and tried to stop her, but she reached into her bag and took out some forms, ignoring them. She marched through the group to the commander mounted on horseback. "Greetings Commander. Alice Richter, Ostian Intelligence Corps.," she called out as she approached. She handed her identification papers to him to reinforce her claim. "I have scouted your target leaving for Pharae a few minutes ago. Under orders from General Arthur Richter, I am forbidden from taking on secondary objectives when my target in present in the vicinity. Regrettably, this was best I could do within the grasp of my assignment."
Paige followed Shad out the door and waited for Fred to lock up. The streets were dead silent, but that didn’t mean they could walk out of the front gate unnoticed.

“We’ll take the back way, just like we said,” she whispered to Shad and Fred. As far as she could tell, they had not found the broken fence.

The commander looked over the papers and listened to Alice’s claims. He had no reason to doubt her. In fact, her news didn’t hinder them in any significant way.

“Pherae you say? We already have a unit in Pherae. If he’s heading there, he’s as good as captured.”

He then turned to his troop to give orders.

“To the gate. Prepare to move out.”

The other soldiers acknowledged, forming up and heading to the front of the village. Instead of leading the way, the commander turned his horse around in the opposite direction.

“I’ll be taking the scenic route back. Do not leave until I show up.”

After one last order to the troops, the commander trotted off through the streets for one final check. The pitter-patter of hooves echoed through the silent streets once more.
Ambrose quietly shut the doors, locking them with the padlock Shad had given him. He had an ominous feeling, but he ignored it. Still, a little care wouldn't do the three of them any harm. "Keep to the shadows, and move slowly, so as not to draw attention to yourself," he whispered, pulling his hood up. He raised the shawl so that his mouth was covered, but his beak-like nose was still visible. He looked rather like a large owl.

Following his own advice, he kept to the deepest shadows, where the moon's pale light did not touch. He every step made him wince, though the sounds didn't carry far enough that Shad or Paige said anything. He kept his hand on his bow, ready to draw and fire if it became necessary.

Suddenly a sound reached his ears, repetitive and adrenaline-inducing: the steady clip-clop of a horse walking down the road. It wasn't going fast, so the rider was looking around, probably a last sweep of the area. Still, best find a place to hide, and quick.
"Lead the way, Paige. I never made it there last time," Shad whispered to Paige after she came out. Shad knew of the escape route, but never physically saw it himself. He was a bit preoccupied derailing a falling meteor spell to follow them out.

Shad didn't particularly keep to Ambrose's advice, but he rarely had to worry when it came to stealth. He was usually light on his feet and people tended to completely ignore him in this coat for some reason. He hugged the shadows frequently, but kept about the same pace. He turned around frequently, half to make sure Ambrose kept up, half to watch their flank from the church.

He noticed the rider approaching during a turn and ducked down, still watching him. He was going at a leisurely pace, which could prove problematic. He also saw a glimpse of someone approaching behind the rider, but couldn't make it out. He looked again and it was just the lone rider.


Alice received her papers back and slipped them back into a pouch. This didn't turn out like she wanted it to, but if she needed to take out the commander, then she was prepared to. She stood and watched as the church's soldiers left for the front gate. She looked at the ground beneath her, contemplating her next move.

Shad and Paige would be safe from the commander's wrath. Ideally they could come up with some lie to persuade the commander from involving himself further. But, they still had the marked man in their company, and he would probably slow them down a bit. They would be marked as accomplices and forced to be brought in or slain unless they sold him out.

They needed a distraction, she figured. She began following the commander, almost blatantly. She didn't really care if he noticed. He did head down the way she came, so she could claim she's heading back to her safe house if he thought it was an issue.

Suddenly she was grabbed and pulled around a corner by an unknown figure. Whoever it was was better at her job than she was. Alice stayed calm however. The hand attempting to muffle her voice she was able to identify as belonging to a woman.

"Let them figure this out for themselves. A little adversity is needed every now and then," her captor whispered in a feminine tone. Alice reluctantly nodded before she was released. She turned around to see no one. She looked into her palm, having swiped something from her captor. It was a piece of paper. She opened and read it. It read 'Nice Try - CH'. She approached the wall and leaned against it. She could only wish them luck now.
Initially, Paige followed Fred and his path in the shadows, noting the irony of following in the footsteps of an alleged assassin. He seemed to know best about stealthy escapes. When Shad called her to lead the way however, the librarian quickened her pace to bypass Fred. She knew the way, it was so close! Her confidence led to her to speed up, stepping out of the shadows as she crossed the road. By the time she heard the clopping of hooves, Paige was already in the middle of the road.

This left her completely exposed as the horseman approached.

"Hold there!" the commander warned. Paige quickly regretted not keeping in the shadows as he dismounted. The commander circled around her and grabbed the back of her hood to reveal her identity.

"You shouldn't be walking around alone miss. A killer is on the loose."

"Ah, yes," Paige replied, a bit nervous of the encounter. "I just wanted to check up on my parents. They live right up the road. I promise I won't leave their house until morning."

The commander pondered the situation. She wasn't the one they were after: they needed to get to Pherae if they were to get any credit for catching the fugitive. Her pleading swayed his decision.

"Have a good evening mam," the commander said as he got back on his horse and trotted away in a hurry. Paige held her chest, catching her breath as she successfully lied to the authorities.

She was already building a criminal record.
Shad stared at the situation that unfolded before him. Of all of them, it was fortunate that the Lycian member of the group was seen, instead of the two foreigners among them. He held his breath till the commander left the immediately vicinity. He muffled a sigh and slowly approached Paige. He brought this on her by his urging.

"You did good," he said encouragingly. She must be a bit anxious at the turn of events. Something must have urged his actions to make him go easy on her. He wasn't sure what it could be when he heard a familiar noise in the distance. It sounded like a bird, a nightingale. A smirk could be seen on his face after that call. "We should get going before he decides to double back."
"...I'm having trouble comprehending the fact that he bought that," Ambrose announced, emerging from his hiding spot in the shadows. He thought he saw a twitch in the shadows further up the road between two houses, but dismissed it. "I was getting worried I'd have to shoot the bastard."

Walking by the stunned woman, he whispered, "Come on. Let's go."
Paige nodded and led the others to the broken area of the perimeter fence. She remembered the villagers taking this same path to protect their homes. Now she would be taking it to protect herself. Their path was noble. Was hers?

As they exited the village (unseen as far as Paige was concerned), the landscape of Elibe stretched out before them. The flat lands that made Pherae's cavalry so threatening seemed endless. The only thing stopping the plains from reaching infinity were the distant peaks that bordered with Bern. All of this was given a faint orange glow from the new dawn.

Paige's trip across Elibe had barely started and already took an unexpected turn into potential fugitive status. She wondered how she could continue when she was traveling with an alleged assassin and Etrurian noble. Could she still walk into the libraries of cities with some authority anymore?

"Where do we go from here?" she asked her companions. She needed time to adjust to the new status quo before she could figure out where to go next in her research.
Shad followed the path to the fence, with Fred's comment sitting in his mind. Why did he accept that somewhat flimsy excuse? What would have happened if he offered to escort her there? Perhaps the commander was just being lazy, perhaps they had new information, or it could have been that they were looking for a grizzled man instead of a bookish girl? He still warned of a killer, but not enough to actually ensure her own safety in the matter.

"We could head west towards Santaruz and Caelin, or head north to Tania. Orica might be able to help us if she returned home after we saw her last. If not, at least we won't hear her yelling while we are there," Shad suggested, as he took out a Lycian map that Marcus left him. His expression soured a bit though. "Although, I don't know just how loyal those marches are to Emperor Caron. Pharae may be the only safe bastion for us here, but the Church has increased their presence here."


Alice followed them out through broken gate. She thought that one of them noticed her begin to stir, so she needed to let them get a larger lead before following them. She looked back to the town and sighed. No more warm beds for a while. Alice was going to miss that. But the mission comes before her own comfort. Little did she know that as she was following Shad, Alice was being followed as well. Her mission has been getting complicated since she met him here days ago, and it was just getting worse.
"That cu--er, woman? I think I have new information for you regarding Tania," Ambrose replied to Shad's suggestion. "New ruling family. Orica is in hiding, assuming she didn't act like one of those idiotic fantasy knights she thinks all should be. If she did, she's probably dead. In either case, Tania is firmly under Coran's thumb now. Santaruz and Caelin might be the only solid options... assuming he hasn't gotten to them, too."
Shad turned to Fred a bit wide-eyed at that discovery. Great! One of the few internal allies he may have had has been deposed of and possibly eliminated. "Orica's possibly not dead. She acts almost like a member of my family," He joked before turning his gaze downwards. "Then again, the same thing more or less happened to them." That was a depressing realization. For all her bravado and boasting, she had Satsume during the fighting, even if he didn't want to be there, to watch her back. She was almost as reckless as a Hyperion. Maybe there is a common ancestor between them.

"Nice to get an update about that though. Guess that's what I get for taking too long to recuperate," he replied, scratching the back of his head. "Hopefully the Church doesn't try to overthrow Marquess Pharae."

"Well, guess we head west then. We can iron out the details later," Shad sighed. Hopefully the rest of this trip won't have such bad news attached to it.
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