<center>~ Chapter 02 ~</center> Dumas removed his pack and set it on the ground, to take inventory of what he had left. The weeks that he had spent with GMX had been taxing, and though he had paused to restore his supplies several times, they inevitably dwindled away. The same was true for his strength. Though he had gotten rest every now and then, between fights, he didn’t think he had ever felt so tired. When he thought about what he’d said to Will moments ago, Dumas felt slightly ashamed. He had given off the impression that he’d decided to take a break. In actuality, Fu had told him he needed to. How bad do you have to be, Dumas thought, to have a man nearly twenty years your senior tell you to get some rest, while he stays behind? The former Blackguard was one tough customer. Dumas liked to think of himself as a formidable opponent. In the short run, he could handle himself admirably; apparently, however, he couldn’t keep up in the long run. Dumas couldn’t help but chuckle a little at his own vanity. He was not so much upset that the old man had told him to take a break -- he was upset that he needed to. After tallying up the remaining supplies, and making a list of new ones to purchase, he hoisted up his pack again and was preparing to leave when he heard a low wailing nearby. He turned and saw the ghost of the hapless thief crying out for aid. At first Dumas intended to leave him -- it was, after all, a position the thief had gotten himself into. In the end, however, Dumas gave in to pity. Besides, he told himself, you need the practice. Reaching into the leather pouch at his belt, Dumas pulled forth a strip of clean cloth. The bandage was one of his last three, where before there had been over a hundred. He walked over to the shrouded spirit, then passed his arm through it. Doing such was a bit cruel, he knew, but it got the thief’s attention. It was likely that the thief had never died before, and didn’t know what to do with himself. Dumas couldn’t remember the first time he had died, but he knew that it was a frightening experience. “Stay still,” he said to the thief as he focused on the power within. He remembered now, the first time that he had died. Or, more to the point, the first time he had been resurrected. The man who had brought him back -- a healer by trade -- had spoken softly to him, probably to keep Dumas calm while he worked. ‘All people’, the healer had said to him, ‘have a force within themselves. It is what our body uses, unconsciously, to heal cuts and bruises. This power flows through the entire body at all times. Healing is a slow uncertain process -- if left to the body.’ At that point, the world of color returned, and Dumas had found himself again a being of flesh and blood. The healer said no more on the subject, but bid him a good life. As he had done so many times, Dumas drew all that power to a point. He took the strip of cloth, and wrapped it around the mortal wound in the thief’s chest. With mind focused, his hands did not pass through the apparition, who stared somewhat confusedly at the wrap of cloth. Dumas turned his healing energies, from his own body, from his own life, over to the wound of this stranger. Slowly, the wound began to heal, and the bandage began to turn dark gray. At the critical point there was a shower of blue light as the wound passed from mortal to serious. The bandage changed from dark gray to red. The spirit changed from ether to flesh. And, as Dumas pulled his hands away, the immaterial shroud solidified into a light gray robe. A death robe. Dumas merely smiled at the youth and then went on his way. There were two good provisionary shops in Britain, but both of them were by the western bank. There was a third shop nearby that had a more limited selection. This last was Dumas’ destination. He didn’t really need any special things anyway -- just the basics. It was not long before Dumas was on his way back to the bank. His pack was now nearly stuffed full of supplies, and he had furthermore put in an order to supply the rest of GMX. The merchant promised it would be ready in two days, which suited Dumas just fine. Two days would be good for him, and he wouldn’t come back to the fights empty-handed. Before the bank came into view, Dumas heard someone call for guards, followed by the sound of teleportation and the subsequent thud. It was a common enough occurrence, especially here in the capital city. The guards here, though, were the best -- as long as they were called, they never failed. The only hope for committing a crime lay in not getting caught, nearly impossible with so many people. Yet there were still those who tried. People too desperate or too lazy to earn what they needed. He’d once been one of them. When he arrived at the bank, he walked inside and asked the banker to bring out his chest. There was little enough inside it, anyway. It took only a moment for the banker to return with it; Dumas reached in and pulled out the rune he needed, then thanked the man and asked him to return his chest. Before Dumas could pull out his Recall scroll, he heard the muted wailing of a spirit. When he turned to look however, he saw that it was the same thief from before. This time, there would be no pity. Dumas firmly shook his head, then gave a little grin, saying, “I don’t do thirds unless you make use of your second. You’re on your own.” The ghost wailed at him, its words lost between planes, nothing more than noise. It was easily ignored. With his scroll in hand, Dumas opened it and recited the words. * Kal Ort Por, * he chanted, then focused on the rune in his hand. Quickly, Dumas closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he was outside, near the ocean. He smiled. This place had a peaceful feel to it; it was something he imagined a home might feel like. The sun was just touching the edge of the horizon, casting its glow across the waves. There was something he had to do. Dumas turned around and looked at the large, two-story house: Will’s villa. Dumas jogged over to it, and pulled the key out of a compartment in the bench on the patio. He opened the door and tossed his pack down inside, then closed the door. Then he ran along the edge of the small cliff by the water. At first the cliff was only a foot above the water, but it progressively grew taller as he traveled the length of it, and by the time it turned to the north he was standing nearly twenty feet high. The woods grew in close here, and the air was filled with the scent of wildflowers and pine. After several minutes, Dumas came to the waterfall. The water cascaded from the lake above into the inlet of the ocean. The warrior sat down and caught his breath, watching the falling water. He had gotten there just in time, as the sun sank to just the right angle. The sunlight filled the water, making it look as though it were cascading light, bathing the rocks below in sun. In the mist of the waterfall, there was the slightest hint of a rainbow. Dumas just sat there, with a serene smile on his face, idly wondering when it was that he’d last had time to watch a sunset. When had he last had time to enjoy the ocean breeze? When had he last had time to sit back in the forest, among the trees, and just let time slip by? It had been a long time, indeed. There were always other things to be done. Whatever the case, whatever the circumstances, Dumas didn’t really care. Let the rest of the world do as it will -- right now, right here, Dumas would take this time he had. Moments of peace were all too rare. He sat there until the sun dropped below the horizon. At last, though, he stood up and began making his way back to the villa. He stepped into the darkened room. Though the house was expensive, and quite large, it was a simple design. The bottom floor was all a single expansive room, while the upstairs held a bedroom, a tiny kitchen, and the hallway. Dumas used a flint to light the lantern right inside the door, then used the lantern to light the others before returning it to its holder. In the corner, beside the stairway, was Will’s study area. There was a bookshelf and a writing desk. In that area, too, was Will’s golden chest. Dumas had discovered that Will used that chest, worth tens of thousands of gold coins, to hold moonstones, both Trammel and Felucca. His excuse was that he could sell the thing at any time, but that he didn’t need the money so he might as well use it until he did. Will was the kind of person merchants either hated or loved. When he had to deal with them, he did not barter. He would state his price, and that was it. The way Will figured it, either they want it or they don’t. Dumas pulled off his boots and set them next to his pack. He then took off his shirt and doublet, folding them and laying them on the floor beside his boots. The warrior dug in his pack until he found the bag of whetstones he’d purchased. With them in hand, he went over to the anvil in another corner of the room. He began to unsheathe his weapons, laying them all to the right nearby to be repaired and sharpened. First off were his two kryss swords. Their wavy, serpentine blades were effectively deadly, but easily dulled. Next was his war fork; the two heavy tines easily pierced armor, but the weapon was rather unwieldy. Following that was his broad array of daggers; he pulled out a dozen, laying them all out on the floor nearby. Dumas then reached to the last strap behind his back, and unsheathed one last dagger. The gilding on the dagger set it apart from the others. More than that, though, was the symbol worked into the base of the blade. How many answers did this blade hold? Dumas took the dagger and reached forward to plant it in the wooden block on the other side of the anvil. The fencer stared hopefully at the weapon, but as always before, it left all his questions unanswered. With a coarse whetstone in hand, Dumas picked up his first kryss and held it against the anvil, running the stone along the edge of the blade. Being sure to maintain sure and even strokes, he slowly worked the nicks and scratches from the edge, and began to fashion a semblance of a blade on the over-used snake-like weapon. The next time this kryss got into such a condition, Dumas knew he would have to get a new one -- a blade could only endure so much punishment. As he worked, his eyes kept returning to the gilded dagger. Once the coarse edgework was finished, Dumas set the kryss to the left and picked up his other one, beginning again. It was a slow process, surely, but necessary to any warrior worth his salt. Once he had finished the coarse work, he would move up in textures, one by one. By the time he was finished each of the blades would be sharp enough to shave with. It was several hours before Dumas completed his task. He placed every weapon into its proper sheath, laying the weapons, straps, and belts with the rest of his stuff by the door. As late as it was, it was unlikely that Will would be showing up. More likely than not his younger companion had holed up at an inn for the night. With a loud yawn, Dumas stretched out and popped his joints. His arms were sore from the honing, and he was drenched in sweat, both from the work and the heat of the many lanterns. Dumas opened the door, stepping out onto the patio to cool off. He looked up at the two moons; Felucca was a new moon while Trammel shone bright and full. Just as the cool breeze and the lapping of the waves were beginning to get to him, off in the distance Dumas heard a cry of some kind. He sighed, then went back inside and began dressing. Monsters this close to a shrine were rare, but without doubt one was near, and it needed to be dealt with. It better not have armor, Dumas thought to himself, I just sharpened these damned weapons. As Dumas buckled on his last strap, he suddenly froze. He turned to look out the open door. Why is Trammel full? Almost as if to correct its mistake, the night sky darkened as the moonlight was obscured. Rather than the world casting a shadow on the moon, however, a shadow stood between the moon and the world: a shadow in an unusual pattern, with geometric forms and shapes. Three circles in a triangular arrangement, with two equilateral triangles touching the outer edges of the circles. There was a smaller circle in the middle, touching all three of the original circles and around it all was a larger circle. Dumas felt a wave of icy dread. Quickly, Dumas turned and began to douse all the lanterns. He reached into Will’s golden chest and pulled out one of each stone. His fatigue forgotten, Dumas grabbed his pack and ran outside, locking the door behind him. The winds began to pick up and Dumas threw the Felucca moonstone into the soft dirt. His eyes kept nervously looking upward; he felt as though his time were quickly running out, and all he could do was wait for the stone to bury itself and open a gate. At last there was a thrumming noise and an ovoid red gate appeared. Dumas was stopped from entering however, when the gate began to flicker like a dying flame. Somehow, though, Dumas knew this was now or never. He would not get another chance. Bracing himself for whatever might happen, he leapt through the flickering oval. A harsh sizzling sound filled his ears, and for a second he feared he had been too late. The next second however, he landed on his knees on the other side, in the other facet. His eyes turned upward to see not Trammel full but Felucca. Instead of the unrecognizable symbol, this time there was the all-too-well-known sign of Chaos. The shadows lifted, drifting away like smoke, almost before the recognition could be noted. The confused warrior flinched back in fear as the entire world plunged into blackness. Almost immediately, the light returned, but the seconds of pure absence made the night seem painfully bright. Dumas frowned, unsure of what to do, of what to think. Dire though the omen was, however, one thought kept overpowering the others. I need to find a bed, Dumas said to himself.