Archive Chapter 2: The Warehouse (Progress Save)

Mage Bastion Ulbrecht unleashed a demon upon Lodoss and now he must hunt it down and send it back to where it belongs.
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Granite Stoneheart
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Archive Chapter 2: The Warehouse (Progress Save)

Post by Granite Stoneheart »

Bastion had fallen into step behind and on Halker’s left, the need for directions overcoming his distaste for the man. “So where exactly are we going?” he asked.

Without turning his head or slowing his stride, Halker responded, “Azune Storages, down at the water. The master keeps most of his trades off the books and away from the warehouses, but that’s where the stuff you want is.”

Bastion nodded, eager to get his hands on the merchandise even as he thought about his new friend. He hoped Granite hadn’t been too horribly offended by Halker’s behavior. Bastion resolved to make it up to her next time they met. In the meantime, he felt his excitement coming back as he and his guide made their way towards the Raiden docks.

* * *

Jenesis continued to follow, looking as casual as possible while she did. She wasn’t sure if she was doing the right thing, but if it would set the dwarf’s mind at ease it was worth it. Nothing unusual or bad seemed to be going down, so maybe this would all end well and the dwarf could go on her way. Or something terrible will happen, she thought. She pushed the thoughts out of her head instantly. It was not a good idea to have such thoughts.

Granite followed along behind the priestess, her white robes marking her out of the crowd like a beacon. At Granite’s distance, Bastion and Halker probably couldn’t see her, but she just hoped they hadn’t noticed the priestess tagging along behind them from the market to the docks...

* * *

The path to the docks from the market was long but straightforward. The only part that Bastion found slightly confusing was when he and his guide reached Azune Storages, marked with a sad eyed blue crescent moon above its main door, Halker led him around the building to a low grey wall that encircled the rear of the warehouse. The place was thick with crates, in many cases forming makeshift stairways over the wall and into the small flagstone yard beyond. Halker led Bastion through the wooden gate, exchanging brief nods with the spare, red haired man who loitered within the yard, presumably a door guard.

“Here we are,” Halker said, turning to face Bastion. “Feel free to take a seat, I’ll go let the Master know you’re here.”

Bastion cocked a eye at the scarred man. “So, Master Rayston calls me down to his warehouse and then makes me wait outside? Have I told you yet that this whole thing seems like a odd way to do business to me?”

Halker made a sour face. “The master’s very particular about who he lets in. Some crooks’d give a lot to go over what’s in there. If you don’t like the way he does it...” Halker gestured towards the gate.

Bastion glared at the man, but made his way to a low stack of crates against the wall and sat down. Halker smiled mock-friendly and went inside. The red haired man went back to staring at the sky, leaving Bastion to take a deep breath, center his thoughts, and prepare for the deal.

* * *

Jenesis came to a stop right outside the warehouse. She was realized that she hadn’t been looked at or suspected of following as she turned her head to the dwarf, waiting for her to catch up.

Granite followed along at a distance until the priestess stopped in front of a warehouse. The dwarf approached slowly and glanced up at the sign hanging over it. It wasn’t a company she was familiar with, but she didn’t deal with many other businesses. “Did he go inside?” Granite asked the priestess.

Jenesis shook her head, “No he went around to the back.” She was getting a bad feeling, like one of those gut feelings. It was probably a gut feeling that led the dwarf to asking for her help in this situation to begin with.

Granite nodded to the priestess. “I’ll go see if I can keep an eye or an ear on him,” she replied. “Thanks for your help.” With that, Granite wandered around the side of the building and snuck up alongside the building. Dwarves were not the best stalkers, but she managed. Granite crouched down as she neared the corner of the building, then crawled behind the stone wall, hoping to be able to overhear any trouble.

Jenesis turned about, ready to walk off, but something inside was stopping her. She didn’t feel right leaving the dwarf all alone now, what if something happened after she left? Would she be able to defend herself alone if it did? She wasn’t trying to underestimate the dwarf’s strength, as she was sure the dwarf could hold her own, but she still didn’t feel right leaving her just yet. Quietly, she walked over to the dwarven woman, crawling up behind her. “Are you sure there isn’t anything else I can aid with?” she asked in a low whisper.

Granite smiled slightly at the priestess. “I might still need you yet,” she replied in a whisper. “Can you heal?”

Jenesis nodded. “Yes I can heal,” she replied back in a whisper. “Do you require healing?”

“No, but he might...” Granite whispered, glancing back toward the wall.

* * *

Bastion drummed his hands on his lap, patience thinning. A calm mind was hard to hang on to, the longer you had to maintain it. This is probably planned out, Bastion thought grimly. If you wanted to put a buyer off his game, making him wait was always a canny ploy.

Bastion sighed and drew his legs up, settling cross legged on his crate. The young mage nodded to the red haired man, who hadn’t left off staring at the sky. “So what’s your name, friend?”

The man jumped, spinning around to gaze at Bastion as if he’d forgotten the mage was there. He blinked, then pointed at himself. “You mean me?”

Bastion resisted the urge to glance around for someone else. “Yes, you. Surely you have one.”

The other man shrugged. “Gandre.” he answered in a vague tone, going back to his sky gazing.

Bastion rolled his eyes and settled back. Clearly this was going to be a even longer wait then he feared.

* * *

Granite could overhear some small talk, and it sounded like there would be quite a wait. The dwarf sighed and slumped against the wall. Hopefully there wouldn’t be any problems, maybe she was just too cynical and distrusting as a Raiden citizen. No, that can’t be it. There was something off about that man, I can’t let my doubts get a hold of me. I must be alert, she told herself.

* * *

Bastion was glaring at the warehouse door when suddenly it popped open. The young mage quickly assumed a more friendly expression as Halker returned with another man, big and heavyset, with a bundle under his right arm. “Bastion Ulbrecht?” the big man asked, his voice cultured and surprisingly soft for his size. “Sorry for the wait. Wade Rayston, at you service.” The man smiled and extended his hand.

Bastion eyed him as he hopped of his crate. The voice seemed right, but the size of the man, which Bastion surmised from his movements came more from muscle then fat, looked more like that of a dockworker then academic. Still, first impressions weren’t everything. Why shouldn’t a big man have a big brain? With this thought, Bastion smiled his most winning smile and shook the offered hand. “My honor, Master Rayston. Any wait for knowledge, though never short or easy, is worthwhile.”

Unseen to Bastion, the man Gandre left his position and sidled to the yard’s gate. Carefully, the red haired man eased the gate soundlessly shut, before turning back towards the proceedings.

After the handshake, Master Rayston gave Bastion a knowing look. “Ah yes, knowledge arcane is what you seek, correct? Well you’re in luck.” the big man shifted the bundle, holding it gently in both hands before him. “These just arrived from a partner of mine. Scrolls, taking from a ruin in the Storm and Fire Desert. They haven’t even been translated yet, but...” he paused for dramatic effect. “...they have the mark of the Art.”

Bastion stared longingly at the simple cloth parcel. Arcane scrolls! Almost certainly dating back to Kastuul! He wasn’t sure he had the coin left for such a treasure, considering the price Rayston could asked for something so valuable. Perhaps he could haggle, or even use his family name to get Rayston to wait until he had more funds. His parents would understand the cost. They knew, or thought they knew, his devotion to his art. “Well, you certainly have my attention,” he said, struggling to keep his voice calm. “Untranslated, you say? I have some knowledge of older alphabets. Maybe I could help...”

A soft breath from behind wasn’t nearly enough warning for Bastion to get clear. Something thin and hard struck him solidly in the back of the head, sending him to the cobblestones in a state of half awareness.

Halker shook his head. “I told you he was simple.”

“And so he was.” The big man nodded. “Still, he’s good breeding. Rayston should fetch a hefty sum for him. After we take our share, naturally.”

Wielding the stick that had brought the mage down, Gandre merely smiled.

* * *

The female dwarf listened to the conversations behind the wall, and when she heard the hard ‘thwack’ of wood hitting a skull, and then a body collapse, she caught her breath. In the breadth of a moment, she heard the voices of the traders, but not Bastion. Granite quickly looked for an entrance, and instead of trying to fumble with the gate, she ran toward a stack of crates near the wall and hauled herself up. Once she climbed to the top, she let loose a fierce dwarven battle cry and leaped into the yard, her mace in hand.

Granite didn’t bother asking questions, it seemed pretty clear that any questions she had were answered. Instead, she barreled toward the closest man, Halker, and as she came close, she swung with her mace, aiming to blow out his knee.

The suddenness of the attack, coupled with his surprise at seeing the dwarf woman again, cost Halker a vital half-second of reaction time. As he attempted to slide away, the mace caught him in the right leg, on the outside edge of his kneecap. He felt the now crippled leg refuse his weight, and he dropped into a awkward crouch. “You!” he hissed, falling back onto his seat as he tried to push himself away.

The big man watched with a confused scowl. “Who the hell are you?” he demanded, taking a step away from Granite as Gandre hovered behind him, hefting his stick and looking nervous. “What’s the meaning of this trespass and assault?”

Sky blue eyes looked on with worry as Jenesis watched the dwarf run ahead to the aid of her friend. She thought of what to do next, to follow her path or stay out there and wait it out? The noir-haired female didn’t feel like right about letting the dwarf run in there alone, no matter how capable she might be, and Jenesis moved forward, following the dwarf inside yard through the gate.

Jenesis came in just in time to see the dwarf attack one of the three men in the yard. Her head turned and her eyes came across the man they had been following knocked out and she ran over to his side to kneel down next to him. For now, at least, the dwarf could handle her own as Jenesis stayed near the only reason they were here in the first place.

“You need to ask?” Granite growled back to the large man as the priestess rushed into the yard. “I’m protecting him from you!” With her mace held at the ready, she moved toward the priestess and unconscious mage. “If you persist, you will invoke the wrath of the entire Stoneheart clan!” Granite barked at Rayston, placing herself defensively near Bastion and the priestess and hoping that the priestess could heal him fast.

“Well well, good samaritans in Raiden. Who’d of ever thought?” the big man sneered as he dropped the bundle and drew a wicked hunting knife from inside his coat. He jerked his head at Granite. “Stoneheart, eh? Didn’t think dwarves needed to be taught not to meddle. What must your father think of you, poking your nose where it’s not wanted?”

Despite the man’s arrogant tone, he made no aggressive move beyond drawing his knife. Gandre shifted his weight from foot to foot behind him, eyes darting rapidly from Granite to Jenesis and back again. Halker was now in full crawl, hauling himself along on his belly towards the nearest wall. Neither of his two companions so much as glanced at him.

Come on priestess, hurry up and heal him... Granite thought to herself. The two men were prepared to fight, and Granite took a position to watch them both. She didn’t know if she could honestly take them both, at least, not without getting hurt, but she would have to listen to her dwarven pride. There was no backing down from this fight, she just had to hope the priestess could heal Bastion enough for him to get on his feet so they wouldn’t have to drag him out of here.

* * *

A finely dressed man strolled up to the entrance of the warehouse, crystal-tipped cane tapping in rhythm with his steps. He stopped on a dime, twisted on his heel to face the men at the door. “Good friends, I am here to see a mister Rayston. Would you be so kind as to show me in?”

“Master Rayston is currently... busy,” the hulk replied. He was decently armed. A maul sat on his back. Dreadful, the noble-looking man thought to himself.

“Then you must forgive me for my current rudeness,” he replied, bowing his head.

“Huh?”

When he looked up, his hand whipped into the air and released a handful of dust into their faces. Taken a back for a moment, they coughed, stumbled back. Within a few seconds, both men were out cold, slumped against the wall. “Sorry, chaps. Business is business.” He knelt in front of each and pulled their heads up to look at their sleeping faces. His eyes skimmed their facial features. “Sweet dreams, love.”

As he rose from his place before them, the air rippled and reformed. When he stood straight, he had assumed the appearance of the guard. “Master Rayston says you can go in now,” the magician said in the perfect replica of the guard’s voice. “Thank you,” he said in his own, chuckling.

The guard came around back to find Rayston and his new combatants. As he came around the corner, he drew his maul. “Drop your weapons!” he yelled, his voice hoarse and low. The man was beastly big looking. Around the corner swept the second guard, an arrow knocked in his bow and aiming at Granite. “Two choices, drop em or die!” the other yelled. The man with the maul made an effort to make eye contact with Granite, enough to give her a wink in the hopes that she would pick up on something.

“Marfa mother of the earth, please heal this poor man wounds,” Jenesis said as she hovered her right hand over the man. A white light glowed from it to heal the man's wound. Her head then turned as she saw the entrance of the two other men. Now what?

As Granite stood guard over Bastion and the priestess, she saw two more men who apparently belonged to to the same group of thugs. However, one winked at her, which seemed to make no sense. Were they really on the same side? Granite debated for a long moment, glancing between the men surrounding her. Should I take such a risk on a wink? she wondered, but then realized that even she probably couldn't find her way out of this with a priestess and unconscious mage—unless the priestess's healing would wake him shortly...

Reluctantly, the female dwarf lowered her mace, though it pained her to do so, and set it on the cobblestones.

With the sudden appearance of his other guards, Rayston smirked broadly. “Well, well...” he hissed, mock-approvingly, as Granite dropped her mace. “Nosy, but not stupid. Maybe you'll be going back to your father after all.” He gestured at the maul wielding thug. “Broun, get over there and take 'em. Make sure you get any weapons.” Then to the archer. “Kierland, cover him. Feather any of 'em that try anything clever.” The big man threw a disgusted glance at the crawling Halker. “Gandre, do something with him. Then we all go inside and...talk.”

Bastion slowly crawled back to awareness, helped along by a feeling best described as a clear cool light. Mastering the pain that still throbbed in the back of his head, the mage opened his eyes to see a young woman kneeling beside him, dressed in the robes of a priestess. “Hello,” he said softly, still slightly rattled from the blow. “Have I died and gone to heaven then?”

The two thugs moved up. Broun, as Rory learned his new name to be, came up behind Granite and hefted his maul back onto his back. Pulling up rope from his rucksack, he began to wrap it around her wrists, behind her back. He leaned forward to the side of her neck, grinning rather evilly, as if he were saying something rather frightening into her ear. “Don't move your hands, love,” whispered a voice that did not belong to the thug, though it certainly came from him. “The ropes are not real. Play along and you'll be home for supper.” His voice was graceful, higher, like an actor's rendition of a noble. Sure enough, Granite couldn't feel a thing on her wrists, though rope certainly appeared to be there in a tight knot.

Broun repeated the same thing with Jenesis, passing the same message as he worked the intangible rope around her wrists. “It's done, sir.”

(To be continued...)
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