BoneStripper looked up from his ledgers, counting off on his fingertips while his brow furrowed in deep mathematical concentration. Abruptly, the office door burst open interrupting his calculations. A red and white clad figure rushed headlong through, catching a low stool neatly across the shins just before he fell to the floor in a disorganized heap. Slowly the man, though just barely old enough to be considered an adult, regained his feet and attempted to regain some of his composure. BoneStripper merely shook his head, realizing that despite the tremendous progress already made, Waldo would still need a great deal of work. “My lord! I have urgent news to bring you!” He said, bringing his hand up in a clumsy attempt at a salute. “Relax Waldo…this is not a military organization and my position is mostly administrative.” “Sorry Bone. Just..” BoneStripper cocked an eyebrow at him and fixed him with a serious stare. He was, after all, an apprentice. It wouldn’t do to have him getting too familiar. “…um…I mean…my lord…uh…NEWS! Yes! I have news!” BoneStripper waited a moment. “Well…go on with it.” Waldo straightened himself a bit and put on a broad grin. “It’s war my lord…and it looks to be a very profitable one for us! Talk is all over Brit. It seems that the Meer Icans have declared war on the tyrannical Dread Lord Ira Keys. They are calling for soldiers by the hundreds! Soldiers who need equipment!” Waldo stood with a proud look on his face until he noticed that his lord was not smiling. He didn’t even look pleased. Waldo began to get an odd feeling that something was different as the smile slowly slid from his face. BoneStripper put down his pen and closed his ledgers. Without looking at Waldo he began putting items into his traveling pack. “Go to the Skara docks and notify the captain of the Knee Mints to expect us shortly. It’s a good ship and a good crew and should get us there quickly.” Waldo looked questioningly at BoneStripper until he added, “And Waldo…pack. We may be gone for a while.” Waldo was excited. “I will bring my best swords and armor to sell! There is a veritable FORTUNE to be made!” BoneStripper did not look up, “Bring your best, but we will not be selling our swords this time young apprentice. We will be offering them in service.” Waldo’s mouth fell open. He had never heard his lord speak like this. It was almost like heresy! Where was the profit? Where was the gold to be made? Surely, Lord BoneStripper had fallen ill. Whatever the illness, no good could come of it and Waldo resolved to remain by his lord’s side until he found a cure for it. SAM Castle was locked up tight, a simple sign on the door proclaimed “Gone to war. Be back ???” The crew of the Knee Mints had made all arrangements to get underway and shortly after arriving, BoneStripper and Waldo watched as the lines were cast off and the sails set. A large school of fish followed the ship, tempted by a steady stream of food provided courtesy of Waldo as he leaned over the rail, pale and feeling the effects of the sea despite still being within sight of land. Waldo wiped his chin and looked up at BoneStripper, his face hollow with sickness. “I…I…hate…ships.” With that simple statement, he resumed feeding the fish. BoneStripper watched the port of Skara Brae slowly disappear over the horizon. He knew they would wait. They always had. They would wait as long as it took until he returned. He hated to go, but some things were more important. Some things had to be done…and some things were more important than Profit. The house was quiet, the windows dark except for a single candle burning in the window of an upstairs room. The candle would remain magically lit until he returned. Never burning down and always providing light to guide him home. She stood in the room, a small child on each hand. The girl had not even seen her fourth summer. The boy, a bit younger, had just begun using his first words. They looked quietly out the window…waiting. The girl looked up at her mother and whispered in a tiny voice. “How long will daddy be gone?” The mother looked down at her daughter and quietly whispered back. “Hopefully, not long…but as long as it takes.” The little girl thought about the answer for a moment before looking up to ask, “Why did he have to go?” Again the mother looked down at the small child and whispered, “So you and The Boy will never have to.” Some things are more important than profit.