<center> ~ Chapter Three ~ </center> Will awoke the next morning to an unusual feeling. He passed it off, however, and got up. He never had made it home last night; after his bout of melancholy and the eerie sign, he had decided that it was too late to make a trip to Trammel. Instead he had found an inn for the night. Home? Will wondered about that. He did not think he had ever truly been at home. Even when he was growing up, in Magincia, in his family’s poor tailoring hut, he had never considered the place home. Will had always imagined something more. It was not something material that was lacking, though…it was something lacking in himself, something…missing. Will shook his head to clear his mind. He didn’t need to dwell on such things, not this early in the morning. With a yawn, he stood and stretched out, letting out a relieved sigh as he felt almost every joint in his arms and back pop. He walked over to the simple chair in the room and picked up his chainmail leggings. The mail was light enough to wear so long as he cinched the belt tight, yet strong enough to resist some blows. After putting them on Will grabbed his long-sleeved black shirt off the back of the chair. There were two slits in the back, near the shoulders. Will put the shirt on over his leather sword harness, pulling two straps through the slits in the shirt and buttoning the front. He grabbed a thick loop of leather and buckled it to the shorter leather strap by his right shoulder, then buckled a thinner loop to the longer strap from his left shoulder. Reaching by the bed for his sword, he unsheathed it and placed the sheath through the two leather loops so that it was hanging diagonally, the opening right below his right shoulder. With all that done he finally tucked in the end of his shirt and tightened his belt. Will sat on the edge of the bed and pulled his boots on over the mail, the black leather of the high boots coming to mid-calf. On the nightstand nearby were two strips of black cloth. One was a baldric-like sash, the other a simple bandana. He put the sash on so that it went from his right hip to his left shoulder. The bandana he tied behind his head in order to keep some of his lengthening brown hair out of his eyes. Lastly, he reached for his red cloak on a peg by the door. He fastened the steel tassels to his shoulders, then reached back to pull the top of his sheath through a small slit sewn there for that purpose. His sword slipped easily into the opening--it had taken many months of practice, but Will had eventually mastered sheathing the weapon without looking. Will wanted to laugh at himself. He was no noble or merchant. Growing up the son of a tailor, though, he could not help but appreciate finer attire. Even if it made him feel vain. * In Jux Sanct, * Will chanted. The spell filled the room with a sound like strong wind and glass bells. “Landlord, ho!” he called out as he left the room. The rotund man met him at the front door, wearing his constant beaming smile. “Good morrow, sir. I’ll be leaving now, so I’d like to settle my account.” “A good morrow to you, also, m’lord,” said the innkeeper, “but you’ve already paid your lodging.” “Did I? Well, as always you prove yourself an honest man, master Edouard.” The man nodded respectfully. “But stop calling me a lord! I’m no more noble than you, in many ways less.” “Ah, Sir Lett,” the innkeeper said, slapping Will’s shoulder, “not all nobility’s in yer blood.” Edouard’s face took on a more serious cast as he continued, “Listen here: I know you’re no part of those bloody Chaos-Order factions, but be wary out there today. The two’re going at it somewhat fiercely, and there’ve been more than a small number of bystanders caught up in it.” Will quirked an eyebrow. “Is that so? I wonder what brought that about?” he asked himself. The image of last night’s moon flashed in his memory. Will shrugged it off, saying, “Thanks for the advice. I think I might vacate Britain for the present. You watch yourself, too, master innkeeper--I’d not like to think that I’ll be fleeced when your establishment goes under new management.” He smirked, and lifted his hand in farewell. The older man laughed as Will started out the door. “Aye, don’t worry. I’ll always be here to look after my customers. Safe journeys, m’lord.” The door closed before Will could protest and he let out a frustrated sigh. “Damn old men.” He laughed, and reached into one of his pouches for a rune. He pulled out a handful of the little wooden rectangles, their gilded golden ankhs flashing in the morning sunlight. Selecting the one he wanted, he placed the others back in their place. To Trinsic, he thought. * Kal Ort Por, * he chanted. His mana reached out into the ethereal flows around him, drawing some of the energy to him. He used the rune as a trigger, and abruptly sandstone and tile replaced the granite and plaster. Will stood under his familiar old tree, right next to the western bank of Trinsic. The western gate out of town was just a few streets over. He was hoping to find Fu, but if he weren’t there, then there was still Arturius. Both lived near town; Fu, in fact, lived within sight of the city walls. Fu was a part of the Order faction--perhaps he could shed some light on the trouble in Britain. Unfortunately, these days Fu was just as likely to be knee-deep in the northern snows of Dagger Isle as he was to be at home in his sunny southern clearing. Will was walking past a small stand of trees when he caught a glint of steel. Reflexively he jumped to the side, narrowly avoiding the curved steel blade. “Bad day for a stroll, dandy,” said the coarse-looking man wielding the sword, a sneer curling his mustache. His shoulder-length black hair looked like it hadn't been washed in weeks. “Worthless brigand,” Will replied with contempt, unsheathing his sword in one swift motion. “If you’re man enough then, come at me. From the looks of you, though, I’d say you’re not too skilled at your chosen trade.” With teeth clenched the rogue launched himself at Will, swinging his scimitar. As it neared him, Will could feel that it was a magic blade, but had no idea what kind. Regardless, it would not be enough. Bringing up his broadsword Will caught the scimitar blade and parried it downward. In the same motion he thrust his arms forward, smashing the pommel of his sword into the man’s face. He cried out, and stumbled back a step, but caught himself and swung again. Will spun to the right to dodge, then brought his sword around, straight through his attacker’s unguarded midsection. Stunned, the brigand stumbled further backward, gasping in pain. Will remained in a ready stance. He could not be sure whether this man was a healer or not. The wounded man grabbed for something behind his belt, pulling out a small vial of yellow liquid. Healing potion? he noted, somewhat contemptuously. How many does he have, I wonder? As the sloppy fighter poured the potion down his gullet, the wound began to close itself, and some of the color returned to his face. His arrogant sneer returned. “You’ll not get so lucky a second time.” “You’ll not drink a second potion when I do. Last time offered: be on your way.” “Hah! Why need I fear a petty noble? Just because he has a sharp sword?” “Probably because that ‘petty noble’ just gave your guts a glimpse of sunlight. Both Monty Ryan and Arturius Lightbringer have trained me in the use of a sword. You really want to contend with that?” The man spat. “Keep your fancies and legends to yourself, dandy, for I'll not be taken in by them. You shall die swiftly.” “Come on, then,” Will said impatiently, “Let’s see a little less talk, and more action.” The cocky grin returned to the brigand’s face. He reached down and picked up a round metal shield that Will hadn’t noticed. He laughed and lifted his shield. Will’s vision filled with white. A mage? Will asked himself in disbelief. The lightning bolt was reflected back on the caster. Will laughed as the robed figure stepped out from his hiding spot. “So, it’s to be two against one, eh?” The two both glanced at something behind him, then his first attacker spoke. “That’s life, dandy.” He brandished his sword and began charging. Will thrust his sword into the soft ground, then activated the ring he wore on his right hand. With a thought he teleported twenty feet behind where he’d been. The young warrior pulled his belt knife and thrust it into his third assailant’s lung from behind. The woman dropped her heavy crossbow and tried to cry out but couldn’t. Will pulled out the knife then thrust again for the heart. Leaving the knife where it was, he took a firm stance and shouted out the incantation, * An Ex Por. * The spell paralyzed the first attacker where he stood. Following that Will cast his weakest attack spell, Magic Arrow: * In Por Ylem. * He aimed it at the mage, but as expected there was a bright flash of white and the spell reflected back at him. The spell dispersed harmlessly, too weak to harm him. * In Jux Sanct. * Magical Reflect. By the time the mage managed to cast a counterattack, Will had successfully reactivated his mirror. Wisely the mage released the spell, then tried to recast his own mirror. There was a burst of black smoke and a fizzling noise: his enemy's mirror could not be recast that quickly after being broken. * An Ex Por, * Will chanted again, this time targeting the mage. “Anything goes. You lived by that license; now you will die by it,” he said coldly. Then he smirked, saying, “I guess I forgot to mention that I’m also pupil to Fuerand Ryan and Lord Wayland Tinsdale.” He then entered a meditative trance, trying to replenish some of his mana. He did not get to meditate long. “Now you'll get yours!” The paralysis had dissipated, and now an enraged swordsman was rushing at him. Will activated his ring again, teleporting back toward his own sword, still stuck in the ground. He again planted his feet firmly and began casting while the foolish brigand was still turning. Enough of him, Will thought. * Vas Ort Flam, * followed by * Corp Por. * Explosion, Energy-Bolt. The delayed detonation of the Explosion spell caused the two spells to strike simultaneously. Will just barely finished casting the E-bolt before his first attacker reached him; the bolt struck him point blank at the same time as the fiery explosion gave off its deafening boom. As body parts rained down, Will grabbed his sword from the ground and dashed over toward the mage. The paralysis wore off before he reached there, and the mage began desperately trying to cast Recall: * Kal Ort P--. * The former Blackguard’s thrust sank home, silencing the mage. Will pulled his sword out, quickly wiped the blood on the robe of his attacker, and then sheathed it. He turned, intending to go grab his knife, and stopped in confusion. Her body was still there. She couldn’t still be alive, could she? Impossible as it seemed, he couldn’t leave her there. * In Vas Mani, * he chanted, casting the heal spell on her. The blue and yellow sparkles swirled around her, but nothing happened. Dumbfounded, Will strode over to her. He pulled out his knife, then rolled her over onto her back. Will jumped back in fright. She was dead--that was for sure. Why, then, was her body still there? It should have decayed by now, usually before it even hit the ground. With a chill running down his spine, he turned to look at the other two. The mage lay as he’d fallen, still as solid as in life. The first attacker…was a large starburst red stain. He remembered last night’s full moon. Feeling as though he might be sick, Will quickly left the scene, hurrying on his way. He hoped Fu would be there. He could really use the old man’s advice.