A steady sea breeze blew across the island of Magincia. The smith was dimly lit, casting a deep shadow across the walk way leading to the steps. On the main floor of the Magincian estate a pair of roughed up leather boots walked softly up the steps ascending to the private chambers of Lynne Zellinous. The man who had eased his way into the place wasn't ordinarily the sort to leave tracks, but it was no ordinary night, half tripping over the top step and the trail of wet footprints behind him was less than inconspicuous. The prowler moved quietly across the floor of the small walkway. By Magincian standards the place was ordinary. A Smith on the lower level, much of the place seemed fit for storage. Stepping into the small office, a quaint yet efficient area, the shrouded figure stepped upon the teleporter heading to the balcony. A open loft that took up the side of the building allowing a view of the beauty of the gazebo and beach beyond. walking through the arch, he looked around slowly. It was dark. The only dim illumination came from a single crystal ball that held the image of Magincia as it was originally built, sitting upon a table in a corner. Yet in the half-light the man somehow took in every detail around him, his attention lingering on the placement of personal items: books sealed and placed neatly upon the bookshelf, a well stocked bar with glistening multi-colored glass bottles upon the counter, in the opposite corner. The soft shadows of a dieing fire within the hearth. As he continued to scan the room, the back of his right hand absently stroked the thick, wood of one of the armoires that made up the bar. His left hand hung straight at his side, was clenching tight around a herbalists pouch. Moving across the chamber, the prowler picked up a known book to him. Scaning its contents he came across several familiar names... Family names... those of long lost to the art that is considered outlawed through out the Sosarian continents. Staring absently to the rest of the books contents, he became lost in thought, he could almost hear her voice speaking with the words written within, imagine the characteristic sounds of her movements replacing the night noises in the old estate as she would pace while researching her past. Then, looking up, he was struck by his own pained expression reflected dimly in the surface of the Magincia globe. He contemplated the face for a moment. His name was Valek Typhoon, Captain of the Pirate Ship Chimera, but not many knew that last part about him. She did. She knew him as friend, a lover and secrets of the man known as Valek that few could dream about. And she, or anyone else for that matter, would have found the expression on his face this night - anxious, vulnerable, a strikingly unfamiliar one to say the least. Valek moved toward the other side of the room. Looking down at the empty, unmade bed. Turning towards the archway entrance he began peering outside, suddenly aware that his mouth was dry, the taste of ashes. The room was heavy with her scent. A normal person would not have noticed it, but to Valek, a trained killer and well at detecting those things that are hidden to others his senses were some what folded over the normal humans. To Valek, this scent was nearly over powering. He let the scent draw him into the room, and there he stood but for a moment, delighting in the complex beauty of it. There was a range of perception found in nature that people were simply oblivious to, entire levels of sensation reserved for those trained, animals, certain tamers and himself. Here was a part of Lynne that no one else had the capacity to understand, to appreciate as thoroughly as he did. So acutely focused on his reverie were Valeks senses that he was unaware another person stood in the room with him until the curved blade of a kryss reached a point very close to the main artery at his neck. He wasn't ordinarily the type to be taken by surprise but, again, this was no ordinary night. Instinct jolted him into action, his right arm went for is the katana at his belt while he began chanting the two words that would send a bolt of energy rattling through his opponents bones, and with barely a thought he spun a quarter turn bringing the point of the katana to a stop his opponents chest. That Valek managed to neatly stop his strike the instant he perceived the identity of his target was a tribute to his tense reflexes. That he had been caught flatfooted in the first place was, to him, an in-excusable failure. The first rule in his line of work, he would tell you, was to never, ever let your guard down. It would get you killed. At the very least it could get you caught standing in a frail's bedroom, looking like a fool. The woman holding the blade to his neck, as Valek abruptly realized, was Paytience Fawn, at 5'2 and long black hair, her beauty was abstract to the poisoned blade pressing against the skin of his throat. She hadn't been here when he had first arrived, was she? Obviously she was here now, and apparently not in the mood for a stray visitor. He peered over the length of their arms, blades pressed against one anothers body, and into those deep brown eyes that just screamed for blood. It was clear they recognized one another, but for the time neither was willing to stand down. It was almost picturesque as the two stood there - the blades sparkled with the reflection of dieing embers from the hearth, in that enduring moment each knew the other was capable and even willing to shed blood this evening. The dangerous scenario of that instants potential held them fast: two stubborn egos suspended in confrontation. In the end; it was the compromised nature of his position which forced Valek to break the face-off. He was an unannounced guest in this home. She had found him in the Smiths house, her bedroom, and regardless of their present relationship. Once the initial shock of the encounter was over, he began to feel a rising embarrassment. Carefully, Valek pulled away, the katana vanishing into the shadows of his robe, his other palm open and front while taking a step back showing no signs of intent. "There is no need to get violent here, darlin`" The pirate spoke evenly. Paytience' wrist snapped as the kryss moved half an inch closer to its destination. "Say's you, it could be fun if you ask me." A brief moment of doubt flickered in Valek's mind. Paytience could be a hard case to figure, when she wanted to be, and he didn't think she would slice a fellow man down in his lovers house. Even though he and Paytience weren't that close. What did he know about her state of mind? Normally he could trust his instincts about people, but lately he didn't seem to trust anything. "Lady, the way things have been going, you use that thing, I'll more than likely come right back to haunt your pretty lil ass." Since Paytience was friends with the Smith and kept an ear to the movements of the powers that be, Valek assumed she would realize he was telling the truth. Even if she didn't seem to understand it for the time. The unexpected and indifferent reaction to her holding of the weapon to his throat seemed to break through that edge of intensity that gripped Paytience. She relaxed, at least visibly to a point, flipped the kryss over and placed it in the sheath. Valek could tell something had her a bit keyed up, something besides his unexpected presence in this place. "Just tell me what you are doing here, you damn dragon, and it better be good" Before Valek could say anything, there came a soft dropping sound and a clink of glass against glass. They both looked down. Forgotten in his left hand was the small sack he had brought with him, and in it the source of the noise. He held the sack up so that she could make out some of the contents. "Gifts, champagne and a rose." he said. As good an answer as any. A few minutes later, the fire in the hearth at blaze and the tension further dissipated, Paytience contemplated the small pouch tightly wrapped around its contents. Which Valek had set down in upon the make-shift corner bar. "A rose and some drinks? You're saying you came into Lynne's house to drop this pouch of drinks and a rose off?", "Yeah, that's `bout it." Valek replied, scratching the back of his head a bit uneasily. "And perhaps check in see how she's doing" "And this pouch required such covert measures because..." Valek intently picked at a loose thread from his cloak "It's a gift. You know, for Lynne. To help her through the ... eh.. the times she's having...and with me being at sea for days..." "Uh-huh ... you're rambling" "It's just an gift to the woman I love. Of course, I never expected to get my head nearly sliced off deliverin` it." "Next time knock?" Paytience' replied as she lifted a glass of Magincian Rum in one hand and the other resting comfortably against the hilt of her kryss. she took a hard long look at Valek letting out a soft laugh. Valek's hair bristled hearing the hidden chuckle. "What's so blasted funny? "Come on. You, Valek, Dragon and Pirate - Bring Lynne, a rose and champagne as a simple present? Admit it, you're worried about Tarrant..." "Well it isn't any o`ye concern." Valek snapped, the accent from his dealings at sea starting to show through his uncomfortableness. "Became my concern when I come upstairs and find you waltzing around in the dark. Became my concern when you let one of "them" walk free. You're lucky I didn't cut your throat open." The strain in Paytience's voice convincing Valek that she had more troubling issues crossing her mind than she would let on. An explosion of senses rang out, Valek came to his feet and rushed to the balcony's center. Clearly they weren't the only ones about, and it seemed that the gypsy and the pirate would not get to finish their conversation. Climbing up over the balcony swarmed several figures hooded and clad in the tattered loose fitting armor that dangled from undead limbs. Brandishing an assortment of rusted and archaic weapons - they shambled silently through the air towards their prey. Half a dozen pale figures in rotten leather armor began swarming the balcony. The first assailant's sword traced a deadly arc over his head as he dropped down on Valek from the roof garden. The pirate quickly sidestepped the strike, gripping the killer's shirtfront, and propelled him hard across the stone floor and over the balcony edge, the sickening thud of undead flesh splattering into goo hit his ears. In his line of work, he came to learn these things. Living flesh and bone made a distinct sound as it hit hard ground. This sound was moist and soft, the sound of a decaying body hitting head first upon dirt road beneath. In a brief moment the pirate brought his cutlass up, evading the next two sword thrusts coming at him with uncanny ease. Using their momentum that carried them forward he let them close in, just close enough to decapitate both opponents with precise cuts. Out of the corner of his eye, Valek was surprised to see Paytience deflect one of the undead brigands' sword with one hand. And the other chopping into the assassins skull with the curved kryss, rolling the dead body into the strike of a second attack in one swift move. Valek caught her attention and she gave a slight smile. It would be a night full of surprises. The assassins kept coming, swarming into the main floor, dropping noiselessly out of the night through the open sliding doors. In fluid motions, Paytience' pulled out her staff of the dryad and leapt backwards, narrowly eluding a sword cut herself. Landing on one of the chairs, balanced on foot the seat cushion and one behind her, tipped the chair backwards bringing the front end up to deflect the attacker's blow. The maneuver left her hands free to strike up with the lower end of the staff to the man's chin at the same time a bolt of lightning shooting forth from the staff tossing the man back down the stairwell he came from. Convinced Paytience could now hold her own for the moment, Valek threw himself into the thick of the Undead. "Well someone has apparently been pissing off Umbra again haven't they?!" These were the killers of the old families - silent, fast, and invariably deadly. Brigands who dug to deep into Khaldun and found madness and death in living bodies. Their mindlessness and lust for death controlled by the necromancer families for decades, and had been perfected. But nothing could prepare them for a target like this one. The next brigand Valek reached scored what would have been a critical strike to the man's side. To the assassin's amazement; his target kept coming. Valek could, and would, sacrifice his body to overcome an opponent, after all it was all just meat and bone to him. And with a regeneration rate for life that the Pirate had, That gave him an edge. Unprepared for the abandon of his attack, the assassins fell with a cutlass blade up through the jaw protruding from the skull. Caught up in the attack Valek was barely able to parry a mace blow coming down to his head. Metal shrieked and sparked against metal as his cutlass caught the large curved blade mere inches from his face. The larger undead holding the weapon bore down heavily on the pirate, pushing the man's strength to the limits. The living dead muscled in close, its dark red pupils glaring into the eyes of its opponent. As their numbers thinned by the critical attacks from Patience, the assassins were losing their carefully cultivated air of surprise. "She is going to die mortal. And so will you." the large brigand spat through black lips and rotten teeth. A voice that echoed from within the body rather than from the man itself. "My death has already been foretold. And her life is well protected." Valek hissed back. "Today I prove you wrong!" The large man countered, reaching with his free hand he pulled a thin bladed dagger driving its point into Valek's thigh. The roar of pain that erupted from the pirate was startling, non-human, that it shook even the seasoned undead before him, if but for a brief moment. But a moment to long, before he could recover. The essence within the assassin heard the brief sound of a object flying through the air, then the hard impact of a blade at the base of the neck. Spinning away from his collapsed target on the ground. Valek quickly retook his surroundings. The blade of the Kryss spiked through the undeads skull and had come from Paytience. Though he was injured Valek was still annoyed that she had taken out his kill. The clash of assassins, murderous though it might be, was just what he needed. A good fight focused him. And at this moment he craved that battle focus. Valek was tempted to change his mind about the holistic benefits of combat as a volley of fireballs erupted down at them from the roof. One clipped his arm singing deep into the skin. Another burned itself in his shoulder. For the second time that night he howled a rage of pain. Paytience reacted to this new attack quickly. Pushing off from the side of the table on the balcony with one foot, she threw herself out into the room behind and slid on her back across the section of stone floor. As Paytience rolled behind a wall to find a new weapon. He leaped up the wall from outside, hitting one of the bone magi with full force. Knocking the skeletal mage to the ground he proceeded to rip into the undead with the curve of the cutlass until into was a pile of bones. He was pissed now and wanted a target. Paytience rolled sideways and came up on one knee in full view of the open balcony, warfork in hand. Though this time, she had no target; nothing moved but Valek making his way back to the base of the balcony below. The quiet was broken suddenly by the blowing of a soft wind that wiped around the open pouch they had both forgotten about. The rose laying in a puddle of champagne a stray leaf falling from the bloom. Valek approached the pouch with the carefulness of a snake and knelt down pulling gently on the draw-strings as he closed the pouch back. After a quick sweep of the building to be sure they were alone, Paytience brought bandages from the bathroom and began to bind Valek's arm, leg and torso. "You'll be alright?" she asked. The concern seeming forced. "I'm use to this kinda thing," He nodded at her arm. Her armor ripped in several places. I could ask the same about you" She sat back and pulled at the sleeve. There wasn't a mark on her, no blood, not even a breach of skin. Paytience tugged the sleeve back down. "The Gods might have made me, but I have learned to adapt." "Lots of training..?" "Yes." The answer was cold, as she half sighed and looked around the damaged floor. "I was raised on the streets, learned to survive on my own." "Well, seems like we got somthin` in common" Valek said with a glance down to the burns on his body, the skin slowly knitting itself back together. "Suppose we all got our sob story to tell". He jerked his thumb over his shoulder "What about the welcoming crew there? You behind on your vendors rent or something?" "I wish." Paytience' stepped to the nearest of the assassins to check his rotten armor. "They are zombies you know, looks to be the same that survive within the Dungeon Khaldun." Valek interrupted the silence as he watched her fumble with the clothing to no avail. Valek winced at the pain in his side. Now, as the adrenaline rush and mana drain of the fight subsided, his uneasy mood was returning. It was a mood he was starting to get sick of. The rose, the trip to see Lynne, it was all suppose to be a nice... romantic gesture. As if by reaching out, making an honest effort to let another in for once, he would find some release from the anxiety in his mind, and in his heart. Instead, what did he find? Another fight... more pain... and death. Like there was no possible action he could take, nowhere on Sosaria he could run to, to escape the violence that seemed to fill this life. Starting to calm now his senses began to return to normal. A small sparrow quietly made its way through the arch perching delicately within a circle of tattered skeletal bodies. Realization coming to him, that he was the cause of this trouble his gaze rose to meet the gypsy's "Paytience' .. I... " The sparrow suddenly fluttered into the air between them, breaking the intensity of the moment. They both realized to late that something was wrong. And Valek would once again never finish that sentence. The bird dropped to the floor, the scent of broiled feathers filling the air. A half-dozen more of the energy bolts through the air around them. One seared itself into the base of Paytience's staff, Valek threw himself infront of her, a momentary spot of insanity or perhaps a lost act of chivalry. He took bolts to the chest and thighs, but was unable to stop a third. The ball of energy ripped through Pays armor but she was agile enough to evade any true physical harm. Standing on the ledge outside the balcony, the assassin who had thrown the magic surveyed his results with hollow black eyes. He was not a brigand, but skeletal, larger. Its bones blackened from age. Charred black flesh hung in scraps along its frame. "Soon..." The hollow voice echoed from the skeletal lich. Seeing the final foe standing there, Valek sprang to a run to reach his ultimate target, a warfork whirled from behind him towards this new menace, Paytience, but it merely tore away chunks of the dead flesh that hung from its bones. The Pirate, the Dragons senses were working perfectly now, and Valek was sure he heard the assassin hollow laugh in the face of the two. He bared his teeth and leaped across the final distance onto the balcony. "Valek wait! You can't go alone!" Valek looked out into the open air. He could just make out the figure retreating across the beach. "Send a pigeon to Circe to help with the clean up" he grunted. And then he was gone, out into the night, on the hunt. Nearly half an hour later, Valek was pressed up against the marble wall of the building. He could recognize the glisten of the red fire from the hearth through the open balcony of Lynne's room and the familiar shadows of the Magincians who helped clean up the mess. The leader of the assassins had managed to evade him like he was a rank amateur. Given his injuries and amount of stamina and mana drain, it shouldn't have come as any surprise. The rest of the cadre had put into a pile as servants drug the bodies onto the lawn by the time Valeks rage burned itself out somewhere on the lower south side of the island, near the docks. Afraid of what he might find if he went back, he lingered by the gazebo a moment longer. At least it wasn't raining. His relief that none of these people he called friend, family, were harmed quickly dissolved into shame and regret. All the strength drained out of his battered limbs. His long violent life, he could not remember being so completely exhausted. The silence that followed was broken only by the slow sound of Valeks ragged breathing, force of habit. He leaned his head back, and for a long time gazed numbly into the empty darkness overhead. Slowly at first, but then with increasing consistency, the wind started to blow. He pushed away from the wall and steadied himself on his feat. As the wind whipped around his robes he took one last look at the smithy. Then, hunched over against the weather, Valek turned around and silently walked back towards the docks retracing his path.