The Unexpected Discovery
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Rings of Honor -> Forgotten Layers

#1: The Unexpected Discovery Author: Gren BlockmanLocation: The forest, the woods, the trees PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 8:28 pm
Gronnard the Black was a seven foot tall, misshaped brute, of unknown origins. Many said he was a half-human, half-troll, and his black eyes, sharp fangs, and muscular physique certainly made that guess as good as any other. The truth was that even Gronnard didn't know. His earliest memories were of wandering the forest, looking for food and shelter, and taking it any way he could. He wore animal skins for clothing, and his black hair became a long, tangled mess that hung down his back and over his face. As he got older, he turned to violence, and beatings which led to death became a regular occurence. He would find an isolated hut, kill the occupants, take what he needed, and leave a bloody mess behind him. The one thing that aided him in his crimes was an uncanny knack of finding a hiding place until the trouble blew over. So for years, he roamed the deep forests and preyed on those he found. One day he happened across the small tower near a lake. A Mage conducted studies there with his young, female assisstant, and they had been canvasing the local area, looking for plants in order to create better forms of healing potions. Gronnard charged the door with his shoulder down and burst inside. He beat the two so severely that blood shot onto the ceiling. He left their bodies in a broken heap and ransacked the place for food and money. But there was little to be found. This was a research outpost, and neither the Mage or the assistant normally kept anything of value there, and Gronnard didn't know what the plants were for. The only thing he did find was a beautifully and intricately carved staff, made of gold, with a large blue gem positioned at its top. Gronnard took the staff, figuring he may be able to trade it for something, and set off through the forest again. He trekked into a dense section of the forest, so thick that his path became a zigzag as he maneuvered through the trees. After two days of hiking, he knew he should be finding a place to hide. His paranoia was building because he knew the area he had entered was protected by Rangers, and although he could take one or two at a time, he did not want to stumble upon a Ranger outpost. He finally stopped, clutching the staff, wondering if there was some cave or shelter nearby, when a strange thing happened. The blue gem on the staff began to shine brightly, and magical glyphs began to dance across his line of vision. The glyphs should have been unrecognizable, but soon Gronnard heard a voice speak in his head.

How may I serve you, Master? Ask any question and I will answer.

Gronnard's confusion did not last long, as he understood the staff was speaking to him. There was only one thing on Gronnard's mind.

Hide me.

Very good, Master. There is a pocket dimension nearby that should be suitable for your needs. Creating a Temporary Rift, here are your instructions.

The staff showed him a diagram of a person holding the staff upright, then swinging it downwards. The idea was to gently create a crease in the barrier between realms, one that would remain open long enough for a person to pass through. Gronnard, in his brutishness and lack of understanding, slammed the staff downward, and an explosion of blue light ruptured the walls between worlds. Gronnard did not care, and his laughter came out as harsh grunting. Stepping forward into the blue light, he slipped from the world of RhyDin.

#2:  Author: Gren BlockmanLocation: The forest, the woods, the trees PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 8:29 pm
Gren was hiding behind a nearby tree, his grey Ranger’s cloak wrapped tightly around him, and his face covered in mud in order to better camouflage himself in the dense foliage. Gren’s Ranger Guild had been notified of the carnage that Gronnard had wrought, and after surveying the bloody scene, Gren had taken up the criminal’s trail, determined to bring him to justice for his crimes. He had been tracking the brute for two days, and had finally gotten to where he could make visual contact with his quarry. Gingerly, he peeked around the trunk, and with one ice blue eye he could see the criminal fiddling with a glowing staff. He narrowed his gaze, trying to discern what Gronnard’s intentions were, when the thug suddenly raised the blue glowing tip skyward, and brought it down in a vertical slash. It appeared he was going to do nothing but cut through the vacant air, but the trailing blue glow of the gem suddenly became an explosion of light, and the magical rift began to expand until it was wide enough for Gronnard to walk through. Gren heard his evil laughter, as he stepped through and vanished into the magical, blue fissure. Gren gaped in astonishment for a few moments, before realizing he had better follow, and quickly, in case the escape route suddenly dissappeared. Breaking cover, he ran through the tightly packed trees and dove into the glowing crack without thinking.

Gronnard stepped through the crack and found himself behind a tall, green hedge at the border of a large forest. He followed the hedge to the left until he came upon a gravel path. He only took a moment to peer around its side, and he found himself looking at a colorful array of gardens and fountains, full of blossoming flowers, butterflies, and bumblebees busy at work. The gravel path wound its way up to the door of what looked to be a rustic tavern. Gronnard could see through one of the windows, a brown haired woman sitting at a piano, her fingers danced across the keys as if she was playing a song to herself. Gronnard bared his sharp teeth in an evil grin, his previous worries gone now, as he lumbered from around the hedge and up the gravel path. More easy plunder. More easy prey. He gripped the staff tightly in his right hand as he made for the stairs of the porch, ready to knock the door down and take what he pleased.

Gren barreled through the portal, tripped over something, and slammed into the side of the tall hedge. He glanced quickly at what he had tripped on, and it was a rock with a odd blue marking on it that looked like a fish. He flattened his back against the hedge as best as he could, cringing in fear that Gronnard had heard his clamor. Luckily for him, two ravens had been flying overhead, cawing to each other, and it had muffled the sound. He sat, rigid, for a long moment, and then realized he needed to make a move or else he might lose Gronnard completely. He quickly scrambled over to the gravel path and risked a look, and he saw the gardens that the brute had seen, the Inn, the woman in the window, and Gronnard stomping up the steps. A few more moments and he would be crashing through the door. Gren almost cried out in panic, he hurriedly whipped the bow from his shoulder, got on one knee, and aimed a desperate shot at the creature’s massive frame. The arrow whistled through the air in a high arc, and fell piercingly into Gronnard’s rear thigh. Bellowing in rage and pain, the creature crashed onto the wooden steps and its soulless, black eyes shot backwards to see who had been the source of the attack. Gren sprinted up the gravel path, bearing down on Gronnard while he was frantically trying to pull the arrow from the wound. Just as Gronnard yanked out the arrow, Gren was upon him, leaping in the air with his oaken staff at the ready. The brute’s massive knee rose up and caught Gren in the midsection, and sent him flying past him to land heavily against the wall of the Inn. Gronnard was on his feet, and as Gren struggled to rise, he grabbed him by the throat, pinning him against the wall. Weakly, Gren tried to raise his wooden staff, but with his left hand, the creature knocked it aside, where it flew off into the nearby garden. Balling up his fist, Gronnard began to pound Gren’s face with multiple, devastating punches, as Gren fought to extricate himself from the deadly grip. He shoved his boot into the wound on Gronnard’s thigh, and the beast let out a howl of agony. This gave Gren enough leverage to push away from the wall, but Gronnard would not be so easily taken down. The brute pushed the Ranger against the railing of the porch. He caught Gren’s left fist as he tried to throw a punch, and bent his fingers back as they grappled. Gren felt his bones in his fingers bend, and then break, and not all at once. Screaming in agony from the pit of his stomach, Gren made a frantic move, using his weight and the monster’s, he fell backwards off the railing, managing to flip Gronnard over him. Gronnard fell six feet, headfirst, onto a large rock in the garden below, and Gren’s weight dogpiled on top of him, causing his neck to break, killing him instantly. Fortunately for Gren, he was able to roll forward and land on his back, but he cried out a second time at the shock of the fall. He turned onto his stomach and looked with fear and apprehension at Gronnard, then seeing his glassy eyed look and the blood running from his mouth, he let out an explosive breath of relief. His back, hand and face all throbbed with pain, and his vision was blurred. He tried to steady himself by pulling in a few ragged gasps of breath. Then, grunting and wincing, he hauled himself forward with his right arm, clutching his mangled left hand to his chest, and when he made it back to the steps, he heard the door bang open, and rushed footfalls, which made him shift onto his back to see who it was.

The woman from the piano was kneeling over him. The first thing he noticed was her large, deep amber-brown eyes, which looked on him with urgency. Her brown hair fell around her face, and her lips were parted as if she was about to ask him a question. His face, bloody and bruised, shifted from a look of pain to one of awe. Her beauty had taken him by surprise after his brutal ordeal, and he couldn’t help but stare for a moment. In that moment, his awe turned to astonishment as he realized something about her.

“ . . . Izira . . . " he managed a strained whisper, before the pain overwhelmed him and he blacked out.

#3:  Author: Izira NyteLocation: At the Forgotten Layers Inn. PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 4:28 pm
Izira sat at the piano with her fingers moving over the keys. The song she played had no name, only existing in her thoughts prior to the movements of her hands. Occasionally, she would pause, consider the next part before playing on. Nothing else required her attention for the time.

Silas, the large orange tabby cat, slept beneath the piano as his mistress played. An ear twitch timed to Gronnard's arrival through an unnatural tear into the realm. The feline's movements didn't disturb his mistress as he sat up and looked out the window. On padded feet, the cat followed the movements of those outside, leaving the piano behind to perch near a window and watch.

The sound on the stairs called the woman's attention, slowing her hands. The crash against the outside of the inn's wall ended the notes entirely and Izira looked outside. Then her eyes shifted to the cat. Concern etched her brow. "What is it?"

~Wait.~ Silas' response in her mind.

Izira waited, watching the window but unable to see clearly what went on beyond.

~An injured man is outside. He needs help.~ Silas spoke, padding toward the front door.

Izira followed to the front door, opening it. Instantly her eyes found the wounded man there—though had yet to see Gronnard's body. Her steps carried her to the wounded man's side. She parted her lips, ready to ask him what had happened when he spoke her name. Urgency for his well-being fled and she stilled with shock. The man slipped into unconsciousness. No answers would come from him. Izira sought out the cat but instead noticed the other body. Shock left, placed behind the solid wall of her will. She would do as she needed now and get her answers later.

"Jeremiah." Amber-browns flicked to the cat. "Take this one up to a guest room. I will follow shortly."

The cat slipped into his human form and moved to fulfill Izira's command.

#4:  Author: Gren BlockmanLocation: The forest, the woods, the trees PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:54 pm
As time passed and the man remained unconscious, Izira thought about the man knowing her name. It had taken a while, but eventually the memory surfaced—five year ago, this man and another man at the Great Helm Tavern, about to get in a fight. She watched the man rest. Her lips pressed into a line of concern. More for herself than her unexpected patient. What did it mean, this man being here? Izira sat in a chair by the bed the man had been placed on. She'd wrapped his broken hand in a splint, working two spells in the process. One, to keep it from healing improperly before someone with proper training could see it to. The other spell meant to numb the hand and lessen the pain. The staff she'd found outside, now rested across the top of a dresser on the other side of the room. The orange cat sat curled near the pillows and watching the man.

A slow groan made its way through his lips, as Gren groggily began to gain consciousness again. His eyelids parted as he looked at the ceiling, not realizing where he was for the moment, but then soon the pain in his body began to bring his memory back. His back, his stomach, his face, and his hand all caused him to grimace and stir restlessly in the bed. Reflexively, he pulled his left hand towards his chest, and tried to lift his head enough to stare at his surroundings. He saw the cat sitting there, but did not recognize it, then shifting his head in the other direction, he saw Izira staring at him in concern. His face was contorting with pain, but he still managed a small smile. "Hello, Izira." He wished he could have said something more, but the aching of his body made breathing difficult, let alone talking.

"You remember me." Said as she kept her place, "I do not recall if I ever knew your name but I'm nearly inclined to believe it's Trouble." The barest of lifts at the edge of her lips to form a half-committed smile. She tilted her head, wondering if he would recall the incident from so many years before as she did.

Gren watched her speaking, his mind was reeling at the combination of injury and shock at seeing Izira again. He glanced down briefly at his bloody, mud-caked clothing and felt a bit ashamed, but his ice blue eyes met her gaze again as she finished. "I do tend to bring Trouble your way, don't I?", he strained at the chuckle that followed. "Gren Blockman. I knew you from the Great Helm Tavern." He remembers his visit to the past just a few weeks ago, and closing his eyes he tries to remember their conversation as best as he can.

"Maybe it is me." Another show of the half smile and she stood up, moving from the seat to the edge of the bed and reaching to gently take his wounded hand. "I'm no healer. I did what I could to keep it straight. There's two spells worked into the splint. One will keep the bones from healing badly before a true healer can tend to you. The other I placed to reduce the pain." A finger moving lightly over the binding as she spoke. Amber-brown eyes lifted to him, questioning if he understood.

His lips parted as he began to remember, but he stopped as she touched his hand, and explained what she did. He produced another pained smile, but the light in his eyes betrayed his true thankfulness. "Thank you. You've done a fine job. I'm sorry for all this." He lower his gaze, weakly glancing over his battered body again.

"You've little to apologize for, unless you planned this. Did you plan it, Mr. Blockman?" Rising from the bed.

"No . . . I . . . " he shakes his head, watching her rise. "I don't even know where I am. I thought you had disappeared. I never thought I'd see you again." He fought the urge to sleep, trying to keep himself awake so he could find out what exactly had happened.

She blinked at his words, but her expression gave nothing away. Izira moved, stopping at the foot of the bed with a hand resting on the bed pole. "You are in my realm. In my inn. This is where I live."

#5:  Author: Gren BlockmanLocation: The forest, the woods, the trees PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:54 pm
He tilts his head slightly to follow her movements. "I remember. Forgotten Layers Inn. I asked you about it." He pauses slightly. "Do you remember the last buffet you gave at the Great Helm? The one I was at?"

Her brown creased and she shook her head shortly. "I do not recall such a conversation."

He thinks maybe he's getting ahead of himself, but seeing her again, he's excited to tell her. "I told you I had stepped back in time five years. That you had been missing for as long. You were a bit upset with me. That's how I remember so well. To me, that buffet only happened a few weeks ago."

The cat's tail flicked behind it. Izira offered Gren an apologetic smile. Telling him again that she didn't remember didn't seem productive, she tried another approach. "Perhaps it was a me that wasn't me."

The smile slowly faded from his face. He didn't want to push it with her, seeing as how she either didn't remember, or as she said, it wasn't the same Izira. "Well. That's how I remember, anyway. I . . . uh . . . " He passes his shaky, right hand across his face. "You weren't hurt by what just happened, were you?" He then gives her a worried glance.

Seeing his smile fade, her look in return is sympathetic—even as he asks after her own well-being. "Not a scratch." Her eyes drifted toward the window, looking at the coming night. She moved around the bed and placed a hand on the staff. "Are you well versed in magic, Mr. Blockman?"

He nods with relief as she confirms her safety, then he glances at the staff as she touches it. "No, not really. Gronnard, that's the . . . man I was chasing, was carrying that. I saw him use it to open a portal to this . . . to your realm."

"Not an easy feat," In response to the mention of Gronnard opening the portal. As Gren said he wasn't well versed she picked up the staff. "I think it best I keep this with me then, for the time. Until you... leave and take it and... Gronnard's remains with you."

"That's fine." He didn't want to cause any more trouble then he already had, so he had no problems acquiescing to her. Gren tried to shift in his bed, and get into a sitting position, but his body screamed in protest, and the soreness showed in his face. He was forced to sink back down into the bed and the pillow beneath his head.

"You should rest," Offered as she stepped toward the door, "there'll be no charge for the room tonight."

"Thank you." He forced himself to smile through his injuries. "It's good to see you again. Wish it had been under better circumstances."

"Good night, Mr. Blockman." She inclined her head to him before stepped through the door. Turning to pull the door shut, she waited as the cat left the bed and joined her in the hall. The door shut, leaving Gren alone to rest.

Gren watched her close the door, and shut his eyes almost immediately. His body desperately needed some rest, and he didn't have much time to think about where he was, or who he had bumped into, before he found himself drifting off into sleep.

#6:  Author: Gren BlockmanLocation: The forest, the woods, the trees PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:56 pm
Gren slowly awoke, bleary-eyed. His body was still registering the hurt from the previous day, but he felt a bit better, enough to maybe get out of bed. He took a few deep breaths, trying to steady himself in case the pain became too much, and he slowly lifted himself into a sitting position, trying not to groan loudly. His back and stomach were bruised and tender, but it didn't look like his internal injuries were that severe. He glanced down at his left hand and cringed. Gingerly he swung his legs to the left, and over the edge of the bed. Pushing himself upward, he got into a standing position. He made his way to the window and looked out over the scenery outside for a few moments. Then moving towards the door, he shuffled over and laid his right hand on the doorknob. Gulping, he wondered if Izira was up yet. Quietly turning the knob, he opened it and peered out.

The door opened to a hallway, lined with the doors of other rooms and ending at the stairs leading down to the main room. Downstairs, Izira sat curled up in an armchair by the Inn's large hearth. The orange cat curled up in her lap. The two ravens perch in a silver cage above the piano. Izira tilted her head, sensing the movement upstairs, but waited silently.
Following the hallway, he made his way down the stairs and into the sitting room. His eyes landed on the orange cat that he remembered from yesterday. The ravens seemed vaguely familiar as well. Then his eyes rested on Izira, "Good morning".

"Morning, Mr. Blockman. Did you sleep well?" Amber-brown eyes look to him and take in his appearance, she seemed to skim over the dirt and bruises, mostly taking in his face.

"Best sleep I've had in a while." His smile appears, this time full and genuine, not impeded by his body's aches. He looks around the room for a moment. "May I sit down?" Not really sure if he's in her personal room or not, so he asks first.

"I will be sure to mention that endorsement to my next guest." The sitting area is part of the larger main room of the inn. The bar set off to the left. Between the two spaces, several chairs and tables await to accommodate patrons that are not present. Izira lightly nudges the cat from her lap, "You may. No need to ask." Standing even as Gren is asking to sit, "Are you hungry?"

He nods, still feeling a bit nervous, trying to get used to the place. When Izira asks if he is hungry, he suddenly remembers how famished he is. "I could certainly eat something."

"Do you have a preference in what you'd like or dietary restrictions?" Asking over her shoulder as she moved for the bar and toward the swinging door that led to the kitchen. The yellow skirt she wore flowed with her movements and white heels softly sounded against the wooden floor. In her absence the cat hopped onto the arm of the chair.
"At this point, I can eat anything." He watches her walk away, admiring the classy way that she dresses. He glances at the cat, then finds a chair to sit in, and stares absently at the hearth, replaying the events of the previous day in his mind.

"I will choose to be kind and not test that theory." A half-smile as she slipped away and into the kitchen.

#7:  Author: Gren BlockmanLocation: The forest, the woods, the trees PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:57 pm
The cat lowered itself onto its stomach, watching Gren watch the hearth where no fire burned.

His thoughts turned to that of Gronnard. He had no idea how he was going to get his massive bulk to the portal, let alone home, and his broken hand wasn't going to help things. Then he thought about the golden staff, and wondered if its magic could somehow help him. He peeked at the cat, watching him. Instinctively, he reached a hand out to pet its head.

The cat allowed itself to be petted while Izira remained in the kitchen. The scent of eggs, sausage and bacon drifting out.

He smiled gently at the cat, he brushed its soft fur back with his hand and went back to gazing at the empty hearth. Soon the scent of food wafting out from the kitchen made his mouth start to water and his stomach to rumble once or twice. He glanced down at the cat again. "You look pretty well fed. The food around here must be pretty good then." He said that out of jest, not realizing that the cat could possibly be something more than a cat.

The cat's tail flick with amusement.

Izira returned from the kitchen, carrying with the ease of a professional a tray heavy with food. She brought it across the room and set the tray down on the table by the couch. "Scrambled eggs with gruyere cheese and a little hot sauce added for heat. Sausage. Bacon. A bowl of fresh fruit. Buttered toast." Going over the items on the plate, "I gave you a sampling of pumpkin butter on the toast. A glass of milk and a glass of orange juice." Looking to Gren, she handed him a rolled cloth napkin with silverware. "It's a typical breakfast."

Gren looked with wide-eyed astonishment at the platter laid before him. He wasn't used to such well crafted meals. Gruyere Cheese? Pumpkin Butter? He broke out into a big smile. "Typical? Not from where I'm sitting. You had me at scrambled eggs." He takes the napkin with the silverware. "Thank you. It looks amazing." Unrolling the napkin, he places it in his lap, and starts digging in, starting with the eggs and bacon.
"I hope you find it to taste as good as it looks." She smiled at the compliment, turning to head back to the bar.

Rolling the eggs and bacon around in his mouth, the hot sauce giving it a little kick, as was intended, he rapidly shakes his head up and down. "Oh it does, Miss Izira, it does". Blows his breath out a bit, then drinks some of the orange juice to quell the warmth, then he starts on the toast with the pumpkin butter and the sausage. He was hungrier than he thought, but then again, he always had a big appetite.

The cat hopped from the chair, following Izira to the bar. From the floor it jumped first to a stool and then to the counter while Izira moved behind the bar and fixed herself a cup of tea. "Let me know if you want more, Mr. Blockman."

The rest of the meal was quickly devoured. The fresh fruit and milk finished things off. He probably could have eaten more, but he was still a bit self conscious about his imposition on Izira and her Inn. He absently nibbled on what was left of a crust of toast, and waited for her to return, gazing at the hearth again.

She busied herself with tidying things behind the counter of the bar while her tea prepared. The whistle sounding the water's readiness, she took the kettle from the heat and started a cup seeping. Leaving her tea cup behind on the bar, she moved back across the room to collect the dishes from Gren's meal. "You have a healthy appetite. Did you get enough?"

"Yes. Thank you very much, it was delicious. You're very good at what you do."

"Thank you. I've had a long time to practice at it. That's how you get good at doing anything." Picking up the dishes and walking them back to the kitchen. She returned to the bar to pick up her teacup. "Do you need anything else Mr. Blockman?"

"No, that hit the spot. I . . . uh . . . thought maybe we could talk, though. If you want." He glances back at her at the bar.

A dip of her head. With the teacup in hand she returned to the sitting area, taking up a spot in another chair. "What would you like to talk about?" Curious and cautious at the same time.

#8:  Author: Gren BlockmanLocation: The forest, the woods, the trees PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:58 pm
He watched her with a mixture of fascination and bewilderment. His ice blue eyes take in the picture of her sitting there in the chair, sipping her tea, as if it was just a pleasant dream. "You've been missing from RhyDin for five years. I was just wondering what happened to you."

"I've been here." She took another sip, thinking before she elaborated. "This realm is connected to many others and the paths are not always easy for others to find. Five years ago... the path between RhyDin and here, closed." Adding as an afterthought. "All paths closed."

He stares at her sadly for a moment. "Five years. That's a long time to be alone."

"I haven't been alone. I have Silas, Hope, Light and Pascal." A soft smile to that.

He pulls his head back a bit. "Oh. I didn't realize there were other people here. I only saw you and the cat. And the ravens." He looked at the two birds in their cage.

A dip of her head and a soft knowing smile. "That cat is Silas. Hope and Light are the names of the Ravens."

"Ah, I see." He beams down at the cat, then the birds, as if remembering their names. "And who is Pascal?"

"A rabbit. He has a hutch out back."

A rabbit, he thinks. "So . . . you haven't seen a person in five years?" He gives her another concerned look.

"My companions are very personable." Smiles despite his obvious concern, "It is... a state of solitude I am used to."

He watches her for a few moments, waffling between being upset over her five years of isolation, and the thought that he might have interrupted her tranquility. He lowers his head and glances out the window. "I'm sorry if I've disturbed your peace and quiet."

"I run an inn, company is expected to drop by from time to time." Her smile remained. She took a sip of her tea.

He glances back at her and returns her smile, he absently flexes his left hand, looking down at the splint. "Why did you decide to be an innkeeper? I mean, why did you choose this profession?"

"It chose me." Settling back into her chair, "What do you do, Mr. Blockman?"

Purses his lips to object, then remembers Izira doesn't recall their conversation. "I'm a Ranger. I serve and protect the forest, as well as the people, animals, and plants who inhabit it."

"How does a ranger end up with a magic possessed staff and... Gronnard?"

"Well", he sighs, "Gronnard is a thief and a murderer. He had been on a rampage for years. His last crime was killing a Mage and his assistant. They contacted my Guild to help track him and bring him to justice. When I caught up to him, he had the staff on him, I assume he stole it from the Mage he murdered. I was going to go for help, but he used the staff to make a portal to escape. I didn't want him to get away, so I followed him in. He saw the Inn and was . . . Well, I stopped him."

"I suppose I owe you a debt of thanks." Curiously said. Izira knew her own power and that of her home. Though the thought that Gren had no idea was not beyond her. She put on a smile for his heroism.

#9:  Author: Gren BlockmanLocation: The forest, the woods, the trees PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:59 pm
He lowered his head again, embarrassed by the gratitude. "I just . . did what needed to be done. I'm used to jobs like these by now. It makes me feel good to know that I've helped people." He closes his mouth then, afraid he's rambling.

A nod of understanding, she sipped her tea quietly before asking, "Does Gronnard have family?"

He leans back in his seat and gazes upwards slightly, accessing his memory. "Not that I've heard. All the stories about him say he just wandered the forest alone for most of his life. I'm not even sure what he is exactly. He seems more than human, yet too intelligent to be a monster."

There is a sorry smile for the dead man, monster though he might have been. Izira knows her history isn't without its dark marks.

Gren notes her look. "I didn't mean to kill him. That's not the way I do things. I wanted to bring him back alive so he could answer for what he did. But when we were struggling on the porch . . . " he remembers what happened and holds his left hand to his chest involuntarily. " . . . we pitched off the railing and into the garden. I fell on top of him and he broke his neck."

"A sad end." Sympathetic tone. "Maybe kinder than his own acts deserved."

"Yeah. It makes you wonder what would drive someone to do the things he did. It's hard for me to understand sometimes. I wish there was something else I could have done, but . . . " He just trails off, and leaves it there.

"Cruelty." Answering his question, though it was likely just a thought.

"Right." He manages a gentle smile. "But now it's over. The victims can rest in peace. Hopefully I'll get a nice long rest after this." He tries not to expose his own weariness, so he glances back at the hearth again.

She doesn't pry. Quietly sitting there and drinking her tea. A glance given toward the hearth. After a moment, "Would you like a fire?"

"That would be nice. I don't mean to stare, I just . . haven't sat next to a fireplace in a long time. I used to enjoy it."

"I have a fireplace in my private quarters. I well understand the enjoyment." A smile. The logs were there, waiting. As she spoke, a fire kindled and came to life.

"Uhhhh . . . " His mouth went agape, he pointed slightly. "How did you . . . " He glances rapidly between Izira and the hearth. "Did you do that?"

"I did."

Long sideways glance. "Was that . . . magic?" He wiggles his fingers as if he were casting his own spell.

"What is magic is different for everyone. There are those that might think a light bulb is witchery." Comfortable and not at all put off by Gren's response to the way she kindled fire. "You might consider that magic, I consider it natural."

"*Well* . . ." There was a long pause as he considered what she had said. "I've never meant anything bad by the word "magic". I really wouldn't know how else to describe it if someone had powers . . . abilities . . . if they could do something like that." He gazes at the fire in the hearth, the flames growing stronger as they consume the wood.

"I am a half-breed." Said simply enough and without emotion attached to it. "I have... elemental blood from my father's line." A nod toward the fire. She looked back to Gren to see if that answered his question.

He looks back at her, a bit surprised. He didn't expect her to reveal something about herself like that. "Elemental . . . that's interesting. To be given a powerful gift like that. I wish I had abilities like those sometimes."

"It has not always been an easy gift to carry." Her look told him to be careful what he wished for. She took another drink from the teacup.

#10:  Author: Gren BlockmanLocation: The forest, the woods, the trees PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:59 pm
He appears slightly abashed. "Well, I guess it's easy for me to say that. I haven't had the responsibility of powers like those. Me being just . . . " he pauses, then looks back at her. Since she revealed her heritage, he thinks it's only right he tells her something about himself. "As far as I know, I'm just an ordinary human. I can't remember anything about myself prior to about . . . " Here he squints at the ceiling for a moment. " . . . going on seven years now?"

"You appear of an age that that would be a lot to forget, even for an ordinary human. Does it bother you much?"

He stares at Izira for a long moment. "I . . . uh . . . " Part of him wants to find a way out of the particular subject, but another part of him urges him to continue. "Not knowing who you are, where you came from, it's like you've lost yourself. I have trouble being confident. Certain social situations leave me . . . nervous and overwhelmed." He glances back at the fire, trying not to hang his head, the admission was a difficult one for him.

"I didn't know who I was or where I came from for a very long time." A soft smile of understanding. "Perhaps, when you need to know, you will know. Perhaps you will never know. But you know who you are in the present, yes? That is really all that is important Mr. Blockman."

His eyes soften as she speaks, her understanding helping ease his fears and insecurity. "I try to do the best I can. I take a lot of my self-worth from my job, and protecting others. Maybe that's not the best way to go about it, but it's worked so far. And you can call me Gren. I'd like it if you called me Gren."

"I do not think it the most harmful way to do it, Gren." Pointedly adding his name as requested. She leaned forward, setting her cup of tea down now that it had gone empty. One of the ravens stirred from its slumber before settling back to rest. Izira looked that way and back to Gren as she stood. "You're welcome to continue to enjoy the fire."

"I would. Thank you. And thank you for your kind words." Right now, he doesn't feel like going anywhere just yet. Something about the place, something about his circumstances, or maybe it's Izira, he doesn't quite know. He turns and watches the fire dancing in the hearth again, as if watching the flickering flames is calming his mind.

An inclination of her head, she picked up the tea cup. "You are welcome, Gren." Teacup in hand, Izira moved off to vanish behind the kitchen door.

#11:  Author: Gren BlockmanLocation: The forest, the woods, the trees PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:59 pm
Gren sat and stared for a few hours. Over the course of them, he mentally took stock of his bodily injuries and tried to think what his next move would be. He knew he needed to move on, the Guild would want to know of Gronnard's death, and his hand needed to be properly taken care of. After his reverie, he began to glance around the Inn, seeing if he could discern where Izira had gotten to.

The lady wasn't in view, after vanishing behind the kitchen door. The ravens slept on in their cage. The cat sat curled on a stool by the bar, dozing.

Grimacing slightly, he rose from his seat and quietly made his way to the bar area. It still seemed quiet, so he imagined she must still be in the kitchen. He wondered if he should be so bold as to go back there, she might not appreciate the intrusion. He decided to knock first. Walking up to the door, he lightly rapped his knuckles on the wood and called out, "Izira?"

No answer came from the woman. But the cat woke-up, stretched and hopped down to the floor, padding to the door of the kitchen and pressing through the swinging door with feline ease. Beyond, the kitchen was designed to the standards of a professional chef. Stainless steel counters, a large sink, several ovens, ranges and even a griddle top. The dishes had already been cleaned from earlier. Further back, in the wall to the right one door stood open, leading to a hallway. Another door, placed to the left in the wall straight ahead led directly outside and to the kitchen's garden. The cat went to the door leading directly outside, escaping through a small pet door and out in to the garden beyond.

Gren watched the cat push through the door, and getting a glimpse of the empty kitchen, and the doors beyond, he figured she must have went out that way. He gulped, then made his way into the kitchen, walking past the ovens and counters. Apprehensively , he followed the cat, trying to keep his eyes open just in case. He opened the door that led to the garden and stepped outside.

A decent sized garden sat near the inn, growing vegetables and herbs. The cat bounded through the path and out into the greater gardens beyond, disappearing beneath a large hedge. The rabbit hutch sat off to the right, closer to Izira's private quarters. Izira sat in the grass, feeding the black rabbit bits of carrot.

Gren stared at the beauty of the gardens, meandering up the path to where Izira sat with the rabbit. "Wow, this is . . . Do you keep all this up yourself?" He gestured vaguely to the vast gardens surrounding them. "Seems like quite a task."

She doesn't startle at his arrival, turning to him as she speaks. "I only need worry about the kitchen's garden. The rest... takes care of itself."
He forms an 'O' with his mouth, wondering how that could be. Then he remembers the 'magical' aspect of his surroundings, and figures it's all just part of this realm. "I should get going now. I need to get Gronnard back, and get my hand looked at."

"It would be best not to leave it." She agreed, picking up the rabbit and returning him to his hutch with the rest of the carrot. A short scratch to the orange spot on his head that almost resembled a flame before shut the door to the hatch. "I'll fetch the staff from my quarters. Gronnard's remains are in the shed." She nodded toward a large red gardening shed, "He's on a sleigh, that should make the transportation easier on you."

"Uhhhh . . . thank you." He watches her a bit bewildered, wondering how she got Gronnard's massive bulk onto a sleigh and in the shed. He remembers her lighting the hearth through her powers, so he thinks maybe it's just another ability she has. He wasn't conscious when Jeremiah carried him into the house, so it doesn't dawn on him that's what could have happened. He makes his way over to the shed, and opens the door. Taking the steering rope he pulls it with his good right hand out through the entrance. He grunts as he does so, and realizes this isn't going to be easy, but it's better than him trying to drag him back.

#12:  Author: Gren BlockmanLocation: The forest, the woods, the trees PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2013 8:00 pm
Izira heads to a door, different from the one leading from the kitchen. A large glass door set into floor to ceiling windows. The light seems to shine on the glass and hide the room beyond. She returns with the staff in hand, moving over to Gren. "Will you be able to manage?"

"I'll be alright." He smiles and takes the staff from her. "I sure wish there was an easier way to do this though." Almost immediately after he says that, the blue gem at the top of the staff glows brightly, and the magical glyphs appear before Gren's eyes, as if he is looking at a computer screen. The glyphs, which at first appear to be in a foreign language, begin to shift into words in RhyDinese that Gren can understand.

How may I serve you, Master? Ask any question and I will answer.

"Uhhh . . . " Gren drops the rope and stares at the words dancing before him. He realizes this must be how Gronnard activated the staff. Maybe he can put it to some good use. "Can you help me carry this body?"

Izira was about to warn Gren about the staff's magic but found herself too late to do so. She stood by, watching curiously.

Very well, Master. An anti-gravity field would be suitable for this task. Creating an Anti-Gravity Field, here are your instructions.

A diagram of a person holding the staff and drawing a circle around a prone body is shown to Gren. Gren scratches his beard and looks over at Gronnard. "I can do that." He goes over to the sleigh and slowly makes a circle around Gronnard's body, holding the gem downwards, just close enough to where he lay on the sleigh. A blue field appears below Gronnard, and gently lifts him upwards, where he hovers, as if waiting for Gren's command.

Gren turns back to Izira and smiles. "Hey, not bad."

"Interesting", she says, taking in the floating body. "Does it... need the sleigh?"

"Let me see . . . " Gren walks forward several paces, and the floating body follows him, as if the blue field it sets on is tied to the magic of the staff. "I think it'll be alright. Man, that's a load off, I thought I was in for some serious labor there." He gives Izira a laugh.

"Labor builds muscle and character", she jokes with a smile. She leaned down, taking back the cord to the sleigh. "You won't need to worry about returning this to me... Safe travels, Gren. I hope you get the rest you seek."

"Uhhhh . . . Izira . . . Thank you. I know I said it before, but . . . for patching me up, for the room, and for the breakfast. And for the talk. I needed that."

"It is... what I am here for. The job of an inn keeper. But you are welcome."

He watches her for a moment. "I'd . . . like to come back. See you again. If that's alright. Maybe we can have another talk by the hearth."

She quietly considered his words, she inclined her head to him. "If you are able to find your way back, I will welcome you."

Gren smiles, a large, heart-filled one. "I'd like that. Until then, take care of yourself, Izira."

"Safe travels, Gren."

He nods, then moves through the gardens, and around the side of the Inn, the body of Gronnard hovering behind him. He squints and tries to remember where the portal is that got him there in the first place. The memory of him tripping over the rock pops into his mind. "Rock with the blue fish . . . rock with the blue fish . . . " He makes his way down through the hedges and peers around at the stones lining the path. After a while, he sees the one he is looking for. Gulping, he leans the staff on his shoulder and steps forward a few paces, and suddenly he is surrounded by blue light, and both he and Gronnard vanish from the pocket realm.

#13:  Author: Gren BlockmanLocation: The forest, the woods, the trees PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2013 8:03 pm
Gren trudged through the dense forest as he made his way back to his Headmaster's quarters. The magical staff still rested lightly on his right shoulder, and Gronnard's body floated obediently behind him, surrounded by the blue light of the anti-gravity field. Gren's mood was a mixture of discomfort at his aching body, bewilderment over the events of the last two days, and pleasent surprise at the discovery of Izira. Her kind words, her understanding, her beauty, and the peacefulness of the Inn, had filled him with a startling sense of warmth and hope.

"If you are able to find your way back, I will welcome you", she had said.

Having something positive to look forward to, he began to forget about his troubles from the past few months. His step quickened, his face brightened.

She wants to see me! Now if I can only get this body back home.

As if on command, the magical staff burst to life. The glyphs danced across his vision.

How may I serve you, Master? Ask any question and I will answer.

Gren thought for a moment. "Maybe it's not such a good idea right now. I'm not exactly sure what the consequences of using your power too much may be."

Consequences, Master? There should be no side effects. I am a fully functional magical apparatus, designed to be used by the most novice of magic users.

Was that a hint of offense Gren heard in the staff's tone? Gren smiled in spite of it. "Alright then. But I would prefer to walk the rest of the way. I have a lot to think about."

As you wish, Master. Then the blue gem's light dimmed again.

#14:  Author: Gren BlockmanLocation: The forest, the woods, the trees PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2013 8:04 pm
(Several hours later . . . )

Gren stumbled up the wooden steps of the Headmaster's quarters. The trek had taken more out of him than he had thought. Using the staff, he negated the anti-gravity field, and left the body of Gronnard on the wooden porch, while he went inside to report to Perrigan. Going into the lobby, he saw Bernard sitting on one of the benches outside Perrigan's office. The young man with the shock of red hair peeking out from his grey cloak was one of the Rangers assigned to the Recon team that Gren was in charge of. Bernard had a sketchpad in his lap, and he was furiously drawing something with a set of colored pencils. Just then Rhett came out of Perrigan's office, and strode up to where Bernard was sitting. Rhett usually refused to wear the trademark cloak of the Rangers, instead wearing a maroon shirt with brown pants. He had a handsome face, dimpled chin, and well groomed blonde hair. Rhett had been rivals with Gren for years, for various reasons. Peering down at the paper, he quickly yanked it out of Bernard's grasp and studied it. It was the face of a woman with blue skin, bright emerald eyes, and violet hair that fell in curls about her shoulders.

"What the hell is this? I can't even begin to put into words what I'm looking at here."

"HEY! Give that back! Come on, Rhett!" Bernard yelped, frantically flailing his hands at the paper. Rhett merely lifted the page up a foot or so.

"You've been messin' around with mutants again, haven't you? Damn, you *must* be hard up." Rhett answered sarcastically.

Gren watched the exchange, and his face darkened. He marched up to Rhett and snatched the paper from him, handing it back to Bernard. "Why don't you lay off him, Rhett?"

"Why don't you make me, 'Dreamboat'?" Rhett answered back angrily, using his derogatory nickname for Gren, shoving his face forward in a glare-down. The two stood like that for several seconds before Gren heard Perrigan's voice from beyond the door to his office.

"Gren? Come into my office."

Gren glared at Rhett for a few more seconds before turning his head and making his way into Perrigan's office, shutting the door behind him. Rhett snorted in derision at Gren, and gave Bernard a scowl, before stomping outside.

Perrigan was sitting behind his desk, casually glancing at a parchment, when Gren stood before him, setting the staff down, then placing his hands behind his back. Perrigan's wizened gaze rested briefly on the golden staff, before lifting back up to Gren. "Do you have something to report?"

"Sir, I have caught Gronnard. Unfortunately, in my struggle to apprehend him, he died accidentally."

"Maybe not so unfortunate. But continue."

"Sir, I tracked him to a remote location, way up in the Northwest Hills. He had this staff on him. He used it to create a portal to . . . ", here he paused, wondering if he should tell Perrigan about Izira. It wasn't that he didn't trust Perrigan, but he wanted Izira to remain safe and hidden, if that is what she wished.

"And?" Perrigan prodded, noting the awkward pause.

Gren cleared his throat and pressed on with his story. "He created a portal to another . . . world. There was an Inn and a woman there. Gronnard charged the building, and I had to stop him. I caught him on the porch, and in the struggle we pitched off the railing and he fell and broke his neck. I broke several of my fingers in the exchange." Here he showed Perrigan his hand, briefly.

"Where is Gronnard now?"

"I brought his body back, using the staff. It has powerful magical capabilities. It must have been owned by the Mage he killed at the Tower."

"Interesting. The woman from the Inn. Was she hurt?"

"No, sir." Gren tried to remain as tight-lipped as possible.

Perrigan, experienced as he was, knew Gren was holding back. But as long as noone else was hurt, he didn't feel there was a need to push the matter further. "Very well. Excellent job, Gren. I was beginning to worry about you out there. You can have Yolene look at those fingers, I'm sure she can help."

"Thank you, Sir."

"I can leave the staff in the hands of Malcolm, maybe he can . . . Oh, that's right, he's at the Academy for the week. Would you hold onto that staff until Malcolm gets back? I want our Mage to give it a good looking over. I don't think the Mage Gronnard killed had any family, so we may have to keep it for a while."

"I-if you insist." Gren felt a bit nervous having such a powerful magic item in his care, but he didn't want to argue.

"Very good. I will have someone take care of Gronnard's body. If anything else comes up, I will summon you."

"Thank you, Sir."

"You may go, Gren."

Gren turned and walked out the door with the staff. Bernard was waiting for him in the lobby, the paper clutched to his chest.

"Thanks for standing up to Rhett, Gren. I don't know why he has to be so mean to me."

"You know how Rhett is." Gren replied.

"Where are you going now?"

"To Yolene's, I have to get these fingers looked at." Here he held up his left hand, with the splint on his three central fingers.

"Gross. Well, I'm going back to my room to draw more. Thanks again!" Bernard gave him a cheerful wave and dissappeared out the door.

Gren sighed and stood in the lobby for a moment. His weariness was getting the best of him, but he knew he needed to see Yolene right away. It was then that he looked up into a mirror that was on the wall, and saw his face for the first time in days. To his horror, he saw it was a harsh mask of the mud he used for camoflauge, the blood from his fight with Gronnard, and a series of greenish purple bruises.

God, I look horrible. And Izira saw me like this?

He immediately felt overwhelmed by embarrassment and fear.

But she was kind to me anyway. She said I was welcome back.

For Gren, it was hard to muscle down those feelings of insecurity. He tried to cover them by treading quickly out the door, and towards Yolene's cottage. Once he had healed himself, he would decide what to do. But he knew that the next time he visited Izira, he should look nice. Presentable. Cleaned up, at the very least. His thoughts turned to what he would wear and what he would say as he made his way to Yolene.

#15:  Author: Izira NyteLocation: At the Forgotten Layers Inn. PostPosted: Sat Oct 19, 2013 1:08 pm
Jeremiah stood before the portal created by the staff wielding Gronnard, a hand reached out to sense the air around the tear into the realm. Izira stood, to the side and back a couple steps, waiting for what the man would say. The man heaved a sigh, lowering his hand and looking to Izira.

"This remains the only way to RhyDin."

Only the slightest frown graced Izira features. She turned, looking into the far distance. "You opened the rest of the paths..."

The man turned his back to the portal. His bright green eyes took in Izira with sympathy. "Izira..." Once he had her attention his hand lifted to the portal again. "There is a path open for you to use."

"You said it feels wrong."

"Blockman and the other came through without harm."

"Blockman and the other are not bonded to this realm. They are not bonded to you." Sadly, Izira shook her head before offering Jeremiah a weak smile. "It is not worth the risk, to either of us." She let the weight of her words sink in. Since Jeremiah had created a bond with her to help alleviate the power of her gift, the breaking of their bonds—between her and the Guardian, between inn keeper and the realm—could be disastrous. Slowly the thought sunk in that the tear proved a new threat. Unlike the original path, this tear offered no safety guards. If the Guardian had been sleeping... if she had been less aware... if Gren had not been there. Izira frowned.

He accept the truth of her words, though his sorrow matched her own. "What will you do?"

"I will do as I have always done. I will survive."

The pair stood there, silent, with gazes connected. Their thoughts their own until Jeremiah spoke again, "Blockman could return. If this tear is closed the other might open."

Blockman... Gren... could return. Izira waited for Jeremiah to say more, her head tilted curiously. Despite Jeremiah's admission and repentance for his attempts to play match maker before, they had been alone and Jeremiah left without any would-be suitors to draw her attention to.

Jeremiah stayed silent.

"Should Gren return, I will request that the tear be closed."

He dipped his head to Izira's words.

"Is there anything else?"

"Not from me, my lady."

Izira felt suspicious of the Guardian, even with him remaining true to his oath. Her amber-brown eyes flicked to the tear beyond the man and thought about the Ranger. She could not help but note the kindness she saw in Gren's face. The concern she'd caught in his gaze wounded her. She did not deserve it. Trouble, indeed. She flicked a final look at Jeremiah and turned away, returning to the inn.

Jeremiah watched her go, his wide smile a match for the brightness of his green eyes.

Rings of Honor -> Forgotten Layers

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