Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 33.

- Episode 33 -

Power roared and crackled as it poured out of Baron Samael's staffs tip directed downward to seek out Lady Adriana. He channeled the vicious force with a dark and grisly glee before a cautious query began to form it's way to whisper at him. Curiously it tugged it's way to grab at a measure of his attention before the distraction demanded he consider it.

"How is it that she still lives," he pondered the question aloud, surrendering to contemplate the strange mystery. Now that he actually had spoken the words the idea made him reconsider just how distracted he had been with his revenge. So focused upon his assault he realized that he had somehow managed to actually lose track of just how long his prey had been defying him.

Abruptly the Baron released the spells flow of outpouring destruction and carefully took inventory of his reserves. While he had managed to waste far more than it ever should have taken to remove the dear lady from this world he sighed with relief that he had not allowed himself to further deplete himself.

Baron Samael watched with a cruel pain in his belly as his foe still swam amidst a sea of ethereal swirling strands of power. His teeth clenched and he discovered a snarl waiting on his lips to display his irritation. "Blast her bones," the Baron spat the curse as his fury rose. But already the dark shadow beneath him was spreading like a drawn cloak to cover the very ground as it rippled and flowed like restless waves. The impossible form was slipping from one crude shape to another until without warning it shot away traveling at great speed.

The Vault itself began to shudder a thunderous groan before it erupted skyward in a explosion that spewed forth inky dark forms to inhabit the very sky around the Baron. "Wet wicks," the Baron declared as he began his own hasty retreat. "Whatever it is that witch has managed to pull, she has ruined my plans," the Baron told himself. But a faint blue flicker of light in the distance snared his attention making him once more reconsider what was happening.

Through squinted eyes he could just make out the flying form; it was a dragon! Already his mind began to churn with new possibilities that he could take advantage of to try and salvage his efforts. "With a dragon enthralled no one would dare stand against me," Baron Samael purred once more pleased with his clearly clever wit.

"Indeed, now, where are those two worthless whelps," the Baron mused as he altered his course and allowed his mind to form a working plan. The Baron continued his plotting and planning, resigning the Vault of Echoes as no longer worth exploiting. But as he carried himself into the distance vast nefarious forces were already spreading to delight in their release.

And what had once been Lady Adriana was quickly finding that it had grown so very, very hungry. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 32.

- Episode 32 -

With all this raw evil magic permeating everything Trinity wasn't sure how long before it might start effecting them. But she didn't have to wonder about what would happen if they stayed here much longer. Either the malevolent maelstrom that had been a scaly-hided monster would turn on them, or the source of sorcery from above would change tactics and decide to level everything. Neither were really on her list of 'make-me-happy' options.

No, Trinity had already decided that their only real avenue for escape laid squarely with her magic. She wasn't entirely certain exactly what might happen surrounded by so much dark power. Whatever it was it was worth trying because there wasn't any way she could see Mal or Camden fighting their way clear. And even if the dragon was in better shape she just couldn't see it getting them clear either.

Even with it's wings the silver-clawed sentinel simply wasn't big enough to carry all of them to safety. Besides, even if it could they could never leave Percival behind. But if she could use her magic to somehow allow the stubborn steed to take to the sky as well then perhaps they would have a chance.

Pages ruffled to an unseen breeze as Trinity scanned through her book looking for just the right thing. It wasn't easy, it took her a few moments to concentrate her efforts to focus her search for what she needed. As she hunted with her mind she could sense tangible terrors that eagerly probed at her looking for any opening. Their very presence was frightening enough but Trinity reserved herself to the fact that others were relying on her.

Trinity forced herself deeper into the book, allowing her determined need to drive the pursuit. Answering her a page began to fill with soft and delicate words that rolled off her tongue like the spring scent of sweet honeysuckle. Strands of pearly light began to take shape that drifted over them like a veil of moonlight. As the magic wove itself to life, carried aloft by her song it delicately started crafting gossamer wings upon Percival's sides.

The purity at the heart of her magic defied the tainted energies around them, driving it back with a hiss that punctuated it's displeasure. Even the dragon seemed affected, it's eyes brightening as a small measure of strength returned to it. Percival complained with a snort before Mal settled himself back in the saddle and took hold of the reins prompting the loyal steed to silence.

"I don't know how long I can hold this so we best hurry," Trinity explained, her voice strained. Camden found himself staring up into the blazing eyes of the dragon as a thought occurred to him as well. "We have to get away from here so we can warn people, to help them," he said quietly. "It isn't safe here and I can't leave you, will you come with us," Camden asked nervously, a quiver in his tone.

In answer the noble creature bowed it's neck and offered it's back to Camden. There was no questioning the action for Camden who instantly found a grip and climbed upon the dragon's back. As they left the ground in a chorus of flapping wings it was Mal who raised a concern of his own. "What are we going to do about that," he asked gesturing towards the sorcerer in the sky.

"Trying to concentrate here," Trinity chided trying to not break her focus on the spell. "Less worry, more hurry," Camden quoted at Mal who broke out with a nervous chuckle. With any luck, he hoped Trinity could hold this together long enough for them to escape. Even if she did though, he couldn't shake the worry of what everything that was happening would mean.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 31.

- Episode 31 -

Ancient evil arcane energy was beginning to flood it's way out of the Vault of Echoes, Trinity could feel it building around her. It was beginning to choke her, the vile forces were sickening to her. And then she looked up, and she could see the intimate madness working its way into reality through the creature in front of them.

So much festering maliciousness, it was so ancient and right now it was mingling - weaving itself together until it was assimilating the helpless entity it reshaped. Somewhere inside it, Trinity could see a vague spark of what it had once been, but already it was too far gone to save. The thought made one simple truth become all to clear to her as she recalled all the dragon corpses. Dragons were known as creatures of pure arcane power, the very natural fabric of their being, their innate essence was magical. If all this malevolent dark magic had coalesced together over the ages then it was possible it had grown into some sentient poison, a toxic magical presence that was deadly to anything living. It had proven fatal for the dragons, the very core of their being destroyed from so much prolonged exposure. And yet, a single dragon had survived!

Trinity turned her gaze upon the weakened wonder, the last guardian of the Vault and let her mind process everything as it continued to come to her. The baneful black forces were still struggling to overcome the sapphire scaled sentinel. For some reason it had as yet managed to overtake the beast, while instead it was seizing upon the soul of this other thing. There was some difference there, Trinity could almost make it out as it as it tugged and teased at the back of her mind.

"That's it," Trinity declared decisively her voice muffled by the bursting spells cacophony. Already confused by the strange events unfolding before them, Mal found himself turning to look up at Trinity as he prayed she held some answer for him. He felt powerless against all this sorcery, Mal needed to know where to point his blade and how to fight it. Trinity was his best bet to gain any real understanding, and only a fool would enter into a battle ignorant of understanding what he faced.

"It's the Vault Mal," the majestic little maiden started to point out to him, her eyes almost aglow with the scene around them. "There has been too much dark magic locked away in there for too long, it has become magnified and alive somehow. It wants out, to spread; so many of the things hidden in the Vault was meant for evil purposes and that core element it driving it. The dragons all died from being exposed to so much toxic power for so long."

Trinity raised her finger to mark her point, gesturing at the last of the dragons Mal had tried to safeguard. "Only one remains because it alone had a heart pure enough to fight it with courage." As if it was his cue, Camden erupted out of the deadly magic still pouring down from above to land off balanced from a hard roll at their feet.

"This is very bad," her brother remarked through pants while a strange shimmer made it look like he was smoldering from the magical flames. "We must warn the King," Mal stated, following Camden's lead. "Without warning this could sweep through the kingdom unopposed."

"I think I may have an idea about that," Trinity said with a grin her eyes still shining. And for once, Camden didn't seem to hate those words nearly as much.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 30.

- Episode 30 -

Suddenly pain throbbed on the very air around him, Camden didn't even realize he was breathing again as he fought to keep from screaming. Hot pressure slammed against him and felt like a wall of lava was falling down on him. Everything before him blurred out of focus and Camden had to fight to even find his feet beneath him.

The blade in his hand burned with an intense pain and the band on his left wrist ached against his flesh. Something deep within him seemed to spark to life given form by his courage. A slumbering power from within the small blade rose to spread through him and together with the power of his little shield he could feel it push everything back. The pain lessened and with it his vision became clearer.

Whatever it was that was raining down ruin upon them he could now see was focused in front of him. He could see it now, this strange green spiked blaze of power was blasting the beast from somewhere above them. As he watched the creature melted from one strange form into another and as it did shadowy strands of energy swirled around it. The thing should be destroyed in all that deadly torrent and instead it was shifting, becoming some sinister shadow that was already threatening to slip away.

Something fluttered into Camden's view from the corner of his eye; at first he had trouble making it out before the sickening realization struck him. Things were slipping free from the vault, some drifted into orbit around the creature while others sped their way off into the distance. If Camden could see even this much of what was happening he had to wonder what Trinity was feeling.

He couldn't see things the way she seemed to, he was blind to the ebb and flow of magic. But what he could see though was more of the things he had seen from within the Vault which he figured he shouldn't be seeing out here. What he still couldn't see was Trinity or Mal though, his field of view was dominated by the struggling chaos between them. Even the dragon was beyond his sight, he was truly lost as to if the blast had caught them as well.

And then he heard the scream. It was Trinity, the sound and pitch of her voice was unmistakable to him. Camden didn't think twice before setting out straight back towards his sister monster or no monster.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 29.

- Episode 29 -

Power hung on the air as Baron Samael held a ready word waiting on his lips, his staff in hand and a spell already drawn back like a hunter's bow. His deadly aim trained on the thing that had been Lady Adriana as he watched every moment as his sorcerer senses revealed to him that something else was reshaping her. "How very fitting, my dear," the Baron cooed. Jade light arced, lancing its way down his staff as it began building and focusing into a bright point of illumination.

Baron Samael grimly concentrated the spells building forces, bidding them into being and waited. Already the insidious Lady was wounded and doubling back, the battle completely seizing her attention. The Baron could leisurely allow himself the precious long moments to savor his vengeance before he struck.

Curiously though, Lady Adriana halted her flight to change tactics in mid-stride and began to circle to her left. The beast moved with it's unharmed right side guarding it's left as already shadowy wisps were swirling, attempting to conjure forth fresh flesh. "No," Mal roared, launching himself into motion to intercept her. "She aims to out flank us Camden," he fought to explain their desperate need to stop the beast to the boy. "She will kill Trinity," Mal spat, certain that nothing more might else need be said.

The old knight had been right, that single fear sent Camden surging forward. Everything else stopped existing instantly for Camden, there was only himself and the monster. For him each passing breath seemed painfully long as he closed the distance in a dash. Even the creatures swift motion felt slow to Camden who already was moving in a course of action that he himself had no clue as to what it might hold.

With a hard pounding that sent shock waves up from the balls of his feet into his legs Camden planted his footing firmly into the dirt and pushed off hard. His momentum and speed vaulting him forward into the air on a collision path towards the things face. There wasn't time for regrets or a change of plan as he sailed through the air. Camden kept his left arm tightly tucked up before him and as the unseen force slammed home against the things terrible face threw all his weight into an arced spin. The impact combined with his propelled force to send him swinging around the stunned foe, a flick of his wrist allowing him to bite down and drag his stout blade along it shoulder. Gravity aided the gambit driving the wound downward and slowing his harsh decent.

Camden slammed into the ground thrown completely off balance to find himself strangely searching for his breath. Somehow it had escaped him, lost as he impacted the dirt. Struggling to both find his feet and some measure of air Camden tried to roll aside.

Seizing upon the moment like a gleaming gemstone of opportunity Baron Samael let slip the single waiting syllable of his spell. It's deadly hum exploding to life to race downward in a violent burst of magic that was trained directly upon Lady Adrian.

Mal didn't even have time for a curse to pass his lips before the bright flash of light swept in front of him, blanketing both the beast and Camden from his vision.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 28.

- Episode 28 -

"Half a hammer," Mal found himself cursing once more. "That boy is going to get himself killed, and us with him." Whatever this thing was it was already circling around Camden and was looking for blood. There was no way the last living guardian was in any condition to hold it off on it's own and the boy didn't even help the odds any. "I think lady luck has decided firmly to leave us," Mal quipped, already drawing his blade and studying the scaly foe.

"Stay back and try to keep clear," the valiant veteran warned Trinity as he took to the ground. Claws struck out like flashes of lightning to rend the ground and cut through air as Lady Adriana launched herself into an assault. Gripped by frenzy a savage darkness drover her that no longer needed her mind to guide it. The sudden speed and ferocity forcing Camden to rely on every bit of his reflexes to avoid the blows.

Narrowly the weakened dragon struggled to defend itself as well. Where Lady Adriana moved fast, infused with raw power the dragon seemed to already be on it's last legs. Yet no wound marked its body, there was no evidence to offer explanation. The fact it was even still standing much less defiantly opposing the monster was a miracle in itself.

Mal carefully timed his swing when the beasts right arm shot up to lash out and slid in below it catching it off guard. It's focus turned on the dragon it hadn't noticed his strategic advance and now its momentum was already carrying the blow downward. Sharpened steel met cruel claws in a powerful blow that threatened to shake the very blade from his experienced grip. Mal had to fight to maintain his hold as he set his own might into a twisting sidestep that jerked his edge free, bidden to follow him.

Dark viscous fluid streamed forth from the wound while bright sharp pain blinded Lady Adriana until all she could see was purple and crimson. At the sight of the beasts momentarily dropped defenses the pale light of the dragon's eyes kindled a briefly brighter spark. A coarse roar labored to fight it's way free from it's throat and with it a brief burst of cold fire sputtered forth. The dragon breath even as diminished as it was threatening to wreak terrible havoc upon Lady Adriana. Already dealing with terrible pain she automatically retreated from the blast only to barely avoid the brunt of it.

A broad and sinister grin spread across Baron Samael as he drifted overhead to view the scene now unfolding below him. "Justice will be done," he coldly intoned, his staff a ghostly pallor that now matched the white on the knuckles that grasped it. He would relish this moment for a very long time.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 27.

- Episode 27 -

Lady Adriana seethed with furious rage as her talon-toes touched down. Somehow those pesky children and the old oaf had managed to escape her. And what was worse is they had done so under her very nose. They had to be close, she could feel the growing current of malevolent magical seeping out around her. It had to be the Vault of Echoes!

The power was growing deeper and saturating everything like an abyss made tangible. She could feel it reaching into her, slowly pulling her in like quicksand tugging down a helpless traveler. But she was far from helpless, oh that was certain. Lady Adriana had to be ready, if they reopened the door she could ambush them and win her way inside the Vault. The fools would never see it coming, and then so many precious sources of dark power would be hers for the taking.

Her form twisted and transformed returning to the guise of a muscled monstrosity. This time though the ambient forces infusing the fabric of reality around her wove their way into her shifting form. Scales of pure emerald glistened in the sunlight before shadows clouded their color to form a darker charcoal black hue. Where once her claws had shined like vicious daggers now she found darkened steel-tipped spears eager for blood. Raw strength rippled through her and she drank it in like an intoxicating thrill until it overrode every sense.

As the Vault began to open once more it was cold inhuman eyes that leveled their fiendish gaze upon it. The sight of her prey drove a primal scream out of her, pure animal challenge. What answered her wasn't what she expected however, as another form stumbled forward into the light to stand in her way. A part of her tried to reason how a dragon had suddenly appeared from within the Vault but was quickly lost to a sea of bestial instinct.

"I will kill you," Lady Adriana tried to triumphantly declare but instead found herself snarling through snapping saliva dripping jaws. Weakly the dragon raised it's head and whimpered an attempted roar in reply. Stepping out from the courageous creature was Camden his bright little blade already to hand.

The decision for him had never truly been one, he didn't have to think things through like his sister. He wouldn't leave the dragon behind to die sick and alone within the Vault. And he certainly wasn't about to let it fight by itself to protect him or the Vault. Camden would leave the thinking to Trinity, let her decide if he was right or wrong later. Right now he was going to do what he did best and that was whatever felt right to him.

This felt right to him, it felt heroic, and being a hero was something Camden had always wanted to be.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 26.

- Episode 26 -

Percival's hooves pounded the ground like the thunder of summer storm. Something hadn't set well with Mal since the last attack, it was too restrained. If they had been after the key or the kids they would have been more ruthless and just slain them. No, he decided they're purpose had to be the same as a coachman's whip - to drive them onward. That meant they had to be being followed, shattered shields!

It was too late now for any regrets, they were already nearing the Vault and there wasn't any time to double back and lose whatever was tailing them. The only advantage they had left was the knowledge the Vault might still hold a clutch of guardian dragons and they alone had the key. If they were going to make a stand to defend the Vault, one with dragons on their side was a far better chance than without.

"Trinity," Mal's voice suddenly broke the clamor being made by Percival to pull both children's attention directly to him. "I am going to need you to use the book and when we enter the vale you should be able to call upon the Vault to open itself to us." As he spoke the ground beneath them changed and Trinity realized they already passing swiftly down into a green valley hedged on it's sides by verdant trees.

But something wasn't right, she could feel it but had not the words to express it. Mal had said that the Vault was beyond being located, even by magical means. And yet, as they approached she could feel something dark and terrible seeping like poison from a wound. Trinity wanted to warn Mal but as she opened her mouth to find the words Mal cut her short. "Quickly now, we are being followed!"

Trinity had to try to concentrate, she opened the book and let it's magic fill her mind. "How am I supposed to get the Vault to open itself for us," she found herself asking aloud. Never one to miss an opportunity for a witty remark, Camden was quick to answer. "Try knocking," he told her with a snicker.

Trinity wanted nothing more than to criticize her brother, to tell him that he was in fact not helping her at all. Instead, as strange it sounded the very thought of knocking caused the pages to flutter and land on a passage in response. Perhaps it was, in fact, just that simple. Carefully she began to sing aloud the words that chimed into her ears like motes of a beautiful song.

And just like that the empty air before them took on a sheen in the scattered light of the vale as a singular large ironclad door loomed before them like the waiting maw of a titan. The door opened with a pained groan, it's massive hinges complaining like some old mans knees. They hurried inside, and behind them the door closed itself once more with an equal measure of objection. The sound was almost mirrored by Mal as he immediately paused with a gasp of shock.

Laying before him within the Vault of Echoes were the littered corpses of several young dragons. Only a single dragon limped forward from the shadows to greet them, it's scales like sapphires and it's claws polished silver. Blazing white eyes looked upon them that had grown dim, and the last guardian now stood before them it's strength failing.

The old knight's mind reeled as he fought to grasp what could have happened to leave such a sight awaiting him. And as his gaze looked around to make sense of matters his fear deepened. Much of the Vault of Echoes had collapsed in on itself, burying untold treasures that had been locked away. Even Mal and Camden could see nightmarish magics drifting aloft through the air as they clashed upon each other or the walls around them. He didn't know what to make of it or what he could even begin to imagine happened.

"We have to leave this place, now," Trinity pleaded terror clear in her tone. Mal couldn't question the dire wisdom in the notion as he found his mouth now dry and his hand upon his sword's hilt. "Agreed," he confirmed and jerked Percival's reins to turn his trusty steed about. Trinity set herself to reopen the door just as Camden slipped from the saddle to sprint his way towards the dragon.

"We can't just leave him," Camden protested. But Trinity had already begun her song, the magic was weaving itself into motion she couldn't stop now.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 25.

- Episode 25 -

"Enough of this foolishness," Baron Samael spat looking down upon a swirling green mist. The conjured form spun and swam before his gaze to continually reshape itself to show him events transpiring elsewhere. Irritation rising within him as he watched on until it seemed nearly perfectly clear that Lady Adriana might be trying to double cross him. He had never completely trusted her, and on numerous occasions had to dispel subtle attempts to distract or manipulate him. Or at the very least that is what he believed them to be. One could never be too careful, especially with the kind of ambition they held dear.

"Ensnaring my own agents and subjugating them to her own will, this alone I will not stand for. But the dear Lady has also seen to it to restrict them from reporting to me and instead bidden them to drive her quarry like game hounds. They might have failed to retrieve the key on their own but they did locate it and were fortunate enough to witness proof that it has been unlocked. I will deal with Thatch and Cobble later, right now it looks like I must become more directly involved before Lady Adriana is allowed to go too far on her own. If these three are allowed to make it to the Vault the risk is too great that they might seal it forever. It is too vital to our plans, that it cannot be permitted."

Summoning up his will, Baron Samael invoked his power as strange letters and arcane symbols flashed to life to hang in the air around him. Energies sprang to life to cloak him in its flow from all around him, even from the very stones of the tower itself. A long staff of bleached bone ringed with iron obediently answered his call to hover at his side.

Not a single servant could be seen anywhere. In truth no living servant had ever bore witness to the Baron actually taking leave of his stronghold before and gripped with terror instinctively hid themselves. It did them little good, there was a reason none of his thralls had ever seen him leave the tower. As he focused his will he reached out to gather up the very living energy of everyone inside FrostThorn tower and drew it to him. It was merely prudent to not allow anything to be wasted, and in any event it was likely they would have just used the chance to flee. Fear of punishment or not, they would have discovered any of the number of wards or barriers around the tower and perished while trying to escape.

With grim satisfaction Baron Samael measured his magical might and felt it sufficient. A quick series of gestures from his hand and he felt a seal settle over his tower. It was only wise to safeguard his sanctuary even if no one was left behind. "Now, to deal with treachery in kind," the Baron decided aloud, his tone dripping venom. "Then I'll dispatch the others as should have been done in the first place and reclaim that key."

Around FrostThorn tower the air shivered and the ground tensed. Streams nervously rushed with worry as nature itself placed it's hope and faith in three unlikely figures. Already the Vault was failing, and so very much was resting on the decisions yet to be made.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 24.

- Episode 24 -

The ferry made it across to the other river bank, but only just barely before it's bottom surrendered to the weight of it's passengers. Percival expressed his own displeasure at getting his hooves wet when they disembarked. The temperamental stallion shook his head briefly, his ears back and huffed at Mal.

"I know you didn't enjoy that last bit old friend but we had to get clear of those things," Mal tried to apologize to his long time four legged companion. "My apologies," he murmured with a soft pat to the horses side. "Now let's get moving, we need to cover more ground and I dare not presume that our gambit has deterred them completely. If anything we may have just purchased ourselves a brief respite before they discover another way to continue their chase."

"Perhaps it would be wise to make use of this opportunity to share with us a little more about the Vault," Trinity probed. "I think it only fair, after all we are in danger here don't you think we have earned the right?" Mal had spoken of the Vault already but while he had warned them of the danger of it he hadn't really told them everything. She still longed to understand more of the book she now carried but she also desperately needed to know more of what was going on.

"Very well," Mal agreed, his gaze cautiously scanning around them while he guided Percival away from the river. "The Vault of Echoes was discovered ages ago by accident, or so goes the lore as we know it. No one knows who found it or any of the real details but it was decided at some point that it was the perfect place to lock away dangerous magic. For as long as I have served it was a well guarded secret and even when I was young it already held a rather impressive hoard. The Vault is masked somehow from view, even magic seems unable to locate it fortunately. Perhaps that is why it was chosen, I can only guess. But I never felt comfortable trusting in it's own inherent security, it was too much to risk. So on our last visit to the Vault we brought with us a whole clutch of dragon eggs we recovered to place as guardians. It seemed a better fate then leaving them to hatch without their mother and that way if someone did breach the Vault they would face a deadly surprise."

Regret worked it's way into Mal's voice and he had to clear his throat to try and regain his composure. "The Vault had always worried me, I never questioned the wisdom of what we were doing but the fact we were putting all that power in one place never felt right. So I made sure to destroy any records of the Vault's location. I couldn't trust that after I was gone someone else might seek it out or be tempted."

A weariness now draped the warrior like a heavy cloak that Trinity and Camden both could see. "The mother dragon," Camden pointed out as he already decided the old story had been true. "You really did slay a dragon by yourself - you had killed the mother." The statement held a singular pain like a dagger thrust into his chest for Mal.

"To my shame, yes," he answered with his head bowed. "I was ordered to do so, as a threat to a nearby village. It wasn't known that she was merely safe guarding her offspring and wasn't really any danger. The only thing I could do was lock up the eggs, without the mother they would assuredly been seized by any number of ruthless or greedy people and enslaved. I was responsible, so I had to protect them and thought perhaps maybe they might be best kept safe by helping to keep the Vault safe."

It had been Mal's duty to protect the realm form dangerous threats, but it was his own guilt that even now urged him to ensure both the Vault and it's guardians were safe. He had made them orphans after all, just like these two children. Fate seemed to have a strange sense of humor he told himself. These two he would not abandon like he had before, he regretted ever having done so.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 23.

- Episode 23 -

Percival's hooves pounded hard upon the crude dirt path leading towards Shimmer-Stone River. Never one to leave anything to chance, Mal had made sure to have a few escape plans already in mind. It wouldn't be easy but if they were still being pursued then they were going to have to do something. He couldn't risk them being overtaken and something happening to either of the kids.

Mal risked a single glance behind them and cursed under his breath. "Bent blades and nicked edges," he proclaimed through his clenched teeth. He had hoped that fortune might have smiled on them a little longer and Trinity's magic had held them securely for a while yet. Instead, the pack of beasts were hastening towards them at speed followed from behind by the pair of sprinting ruffians.

If Mal couldn't shake them things were going to get ugly quick and his only options would be to try to stand and fight or trust in Trinity's magic again. Neither options was strategically sound to him at this point. While Trinity had proven to be both able at calling on her magic and effective as well they didn't know her full limits yet. If she exhausted herself too quickly again she would be helpless and dependant on both of them to protect her. And while Camden had managed to luckily hold his own against two thugs he didn't want to chance their odds again.

That is where Shimmer-Stone River came in; not the deepest as far as rivers go but it was known for it's rather fast current. It was part of how it earned it's name, the quick flowing water had virtually polished the stones making up it's river bed until they reflected the sun almost as much as the river itself. Only a fool would try to cross Shimmer-Stone River without knowing a trick or two, and Mal knew just the kind of trick for the occasion.

"Come on Percival, let's show them just what your made of," Mal proudly shouted as he urged his loyal steed onward. "Hang on tightly you two," he warned as they burst through some thick brush arriving on the river's bank. Percival never broke stride as Mal directed him straight towards a makeshift ferry that was secured to both banks with a thick rope. In a single fluid leap the fearless old warhorse vaulted onto the wooden craft to land with a series of loud creaks. Immediately Mal threw himself off to sever the rope behind them and then turned to set himself to the task of pulling them across.

Camden had to fight the urge to smile and wave back as they passed away from the river bank, which was difficult for him. Trinity was more concerned with the growing complaints sounded by the ferry underneath them. "Are you sure this thing can hold our weight," she tried to ask as delicately as possible.

"Less worry, more hurry," Mal answered her while his arms flexed in a steady rhythm. Another crack punctuated a bead of sweat forming on his brow. "Let's hope so," Camden found himself whispering to Percival. Without the need for words, the mighty mount seemed to agree with Camden.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 22.

- Episode 22 -

Circling overhead Lady Adriana screeched merrily; everything was going according to her plan. It wouldn't be long now before these fleeing fools led her directly to the Vault. Even now it seemed to call to her, she could almost feel it bleeding out dark magic. All she had to do was be patient and very soon she could reopen the Vault to unleash it's magic.

It did feel so very good to beat her wings upon the air, to soar and drift through breeze. Her eyes narrowed and she could track her prey even at this distance - an always enjoyable perk of this form. They were racing off into the distance heading for Shimmer-Stone River, how interesting. Either they were already on their way to the Vault or that old man with them was trying to be cunning enough to try and first lead them on a false trail.

How delightful, Adriana cooed to herself at such a playful notion. This was becoming more and more amusing. First she would have to deal with those two idiots, who apparently were struggling to free themselves from some simple tangle vines. Frustrated she swooped down to hurry them up before her prey escaped her. It wouldn't do to track them if her pursuing pets weren't able to keep them reminded of the urgency of their plight. They could go to ground and hide or decide to fortify themselves somewhere. That was something that simply wouldn't do, not at all.

A moment before her talons touched dirt Lady Adriana bid her flesh to flow and began to shift her form once more. Thatch and Cobble watched in terror as the familiar bird-like form began to change into that of some hideously muscled hulk of a brute. It stood several heads taller than either of them, a thick scaly hide coated it's bulk and razor edged claws gleamed like daggers on it's hands. With a deafening roar it began to rend at the thick growth restraining them and within moments they were free.

Even though such a monstrous beast shouldn't be able to it opened it's mouth and spoke, a clear reminder that it was still Lady Adriana standing before them. "After them you wretches before I decide to make a meal of you!" For a second Thatch and Cobble had almost forgotten it was Lady Adriana, so terrible was the sight of the colossal creature.

They watched as her body began to swirl and flow like a strange liquid to reshape itself back into it's previous flying form before it leapt back to the sky. Both of them couldn't help by shake with obvious fear. "Thatch," Cobble nervously stammered. "I am honestly scared of this Lady, I don't think I want to be around when those people lead her where she wants them to."

"Me either, Cobb but I don't think I want to be on the end of her wrath should we refuse to help her drive them on their way either." Thatch always did seem to have a way with making a good point. As much as he didn't want to be around at the end he definitely wanted to be alive long enough to have the chance to avoid it. Reluctantly Thatch and Cobble guided the pack of primal predators to follow the trail and prayed they might be fortunate enough to stay on the Lady's good side. They only hoped that she did actually have one.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 21.

- Episode 21 -

Slowly the sun stalked it's way up into the sky. It was now dawn and with it came a wave of excitement that thrilled the beasts that were already poised about Thatch and Cobble. They were already on edge, eager to begin their vicious task. Looming in the distance was a lonely old farm house and inside it were the prey they sought.

"Remember the plan Cobble," Thatch warned his partner. "It's not us I'm worried about forgetting the plan Thatch," Cobble countered eying the grizzly growling creatures that surrounded them. "Let's get moving before these things decide to just eat us instead," Thatch remarked. Cobble wasn't about to argue on that one, and the two started towards the house leading the pack.

Just as Mal had known they would he marked the approach from where he had stood watch and drew his blade. "Get Trinity to Percival Cam," he bellowed, his voice far more effective than any horn. As he stepped out to meet the rushing foes he wore a trusty old leather jacket studded with steel and layered with mail. It was a far cry from his gleaming old suit of plate but it had always served him well when training or traveling. Besides, at his age he figured he both needed the speed and really didn't want to draw any extra attention to himself that the plate would have immediately brought. Knights wore plate and he wasn't a knight anymore, at least not officially.

"We have to get out of here Trin," Camden pleaded, begging her to get on the massive mount. "Mal will hold them off while we make our way and then he'll catch up." Or at least, that is what Camden hoped he had planned to do. "No," Trinity defiantly proclaimed. She closed her eyes and focused her desire to hold back the beasts back, she had to concentrate.

Heedless, Mal slashed and stalwartly slowed his foes progress. Claws swiped at him from all sides as he rolled to avoid deadly maws to keep his defense tight and strong. He couldn't risk going on the offensive against so many, to turn his focus on any single threat meant the chance any of the others might slip past him. Instead he had to settle for making them pay dearly for every inch they gained with a cut hear and a slice there. All he needed was a few more precious moments for the kids to be clear, to be unburdened by that worry.

Twisting to neatly sidestep an off-balanced blow from the taller thug Mal reached out and countered with his left to seize the advantage. Thatch found his own weight used against him as he tumbled over to land in the way of the pack of pets. A wave of triumph rose within Mal as he realized he hadn't lost his edge even after all these years. The feeling quickly changed to one of confusion when a single strange word rippled through the ground behind him carried by some melody he couldn't place.

"Involvet," Trinity softly called to the earth at their feet her tone one of kind request. She was careful this time to measure just how much magic she called to her will and watched as the ground responded. Thick thorn covered vines erupted from the ground to entangle and restrict their fiendish foes.

Mal rolled his sword in a quick arc downward to keep from being rooted to the ground himself and backed away. Already the creatures were desperately struggling to free themselves from the impediment and he was sure they would likely manage it before long. And he was certain that they really didn't want to stick around to wait for that moment.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Luck Of The Claw Episode 20.

- Episode 20 -

"You did well boy, now leave the ground be and help me move your sister into the house." Camden looked up from the cool dirt that felt so good upon his weary back to regard Mal. How was this old man not exhausted like him, he couldn't understand it. "Oh, alright," Camden complained with a groan. "Can't we just wake her up though? I don't see why we have to pack her or anything. We did do all the fighting, she could at least take her own self inside."

When Mal turned to look upon Camden his eyes flashed with a fiery forge of fury, his voice held the edge of restrained thunder. "Your sister just did what nobody else has done in countless ages - she just channeled the raw magical energies of nature itself. She read from a book nobody else ever could to bend the very wind to her service. I could have bested those two with cold steel but she did so with mere words. And without her they might have managed to kill or take you from her before I could stop them. You don't get it boy, what we face isn't a pair of thugs, we face something far worse and they want everything ever locked away in the Vault of Echoes. Those petty trinkets you have are nothing compared to what rests there, and your sister not only has the key but just proved to them that she now is the key. She can tap into the ancient secrets of the book, they will come for her. Our only hope is to get her rested and protect her until we can reach the Vault to ensure it is secure. Then we can deal with what happens next. But until then we have to keep her safe."

It took Camden a few breaths to realize Mal had stopped speaking. He was ashamed of himself, it was one thing to give her a hard time as his sister just goofing around but this was serious. Camden hadn't realized just how dire things were or how lucky he had just been. But one looming question still nagged him in the back of his mind. It centered on everything that had just happened and was promising to continue to happen to them. It was such a simple thing that demanded he ask it.

So he did. "Mal, who are you?" The old farmer turned to lift Trinity from the dirt and heaved her up supported by his shoulders. "Help me get her inside and we'll talk," he said with a sigh, his eyes closed. Mal had to fight to keep the images from flooding back to mind - that was a long time ago and he didn't want anyone still looking to him like he was that legendary figure. The stories were simply too much to live up to, even now.

Camden did just as he was asked though and helped get his sister inside to rest. Once done they sat down into chairs and Mal's face dropped the usual stern demeanor replacing it with a grave seriousness. "I was Sir Malthurion Abardeen, Knight of the Realm, Defender of the Peace, and Earl Marshal." It felt like forever, there was no sound after Mal recited some of his old titles, instead the two just sat in silence while it sank in.

In time understanding lit within Camden's eyes but he felt it best not to say anything. Before, if he had managed to have met THE Malthurion Abardeen he would have exploded with exclamation and glee. But now, after seeing the look on the living legends face he couldn't bring himself to. Mal didn't even have to look to the Camden's young face to be prompted to continue.

"No doubt you have heard some of the stories, most were true but you have to understand - living under that burden is too much for any man. There comes a time that the deeds grow to shadow the man who did them. And when that happens you find yourself being revered like something from childhood tales. I couldn't live with all the expectations any more, the stories told in the streets grew and grew. Until one day I found everyone in the realm had come to believe that I alone could stand between them and invading armies. I am no one man army, I helped to lock up dangerous relics - never use them. I was simply a man who was blessed with a skill of blade and battle. I had only ever wanted to serve the realm as best I could, to protect it, but what it was growing to ask more and more of me was something I never could live up to. So instead of seeing myself become a disappointment to the kingdom I instead chose to relinquish my title and take up a quieter life. My only hope was that in time everyone might forget who I was and that maybe then I might live without hearing my deeds recited every time I passed by."

As he spoke, Camden thought Mal looked so much older, burdened by an unseen weight and tired. His eyes seemed harrowed with guilt as he looked up at Camden. "Haven't I done my duty, haven't I done enough to be left alone in peace?" The question reached down into Camden and he wished now Trinity was awake to answer it instead of him. It seemed like it required such a delicate response.

Camden, never was good at talking, he never could seem to find the right words when it mattered. But he wanted so desperately to try so he simply said what he could. "I may not know all the stories or what it is like to live up to them." He didn't know where he was going with this but once he started speaking his mouth just took off without him. "But I do know that as long as I can remember I have dreamed of going off on adventures to make a name for myself and seek out treasure and excitement. I know now that part of that was just the fantasy of a child, an idle hope that we could make our own way without needing anyone to take care of us. But the truth of it is that I wanted to help people, that is what a hero is deep down - just someone who needs to do what they can to help others. If it is by tending the wounded or repairing things a hero helps by doing what they can. You were a great warrior, even today you moved with a skill far beyond me and if not for you my sister might not have had the time to find her magic. Leave the stories to the storytellers, there are things that need to be done that are bigger than us now and if we have the ability to do something then we have an obligation. Don't we?"

There was a certain truth to the boys words that resonated within Mal, it made him feel foolish for ever having neglected his duty. A ghost of his old resolve sparked back to life casting aside his doubts once more and spurring him to action. Quickly he rose from his seat and set himself to bark out abrupt orders.

"Prepare a bag for you and your sister, and get some rest. We'll leave at dawn. I'll see to Percival and some supplies." And just like that Camden watched as the renowned Malthurion Abardeen seemed to forget all thoughts of living a quiet life as a farmer. He couldn't help but wonder just which stories might have been true though - surely, that one about single handily slaying a dragon wasn't one of them. Was it?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 19.

- Episode 19 -

Awaiting Thatch and Cobble deep in the forest stood Lady Adriana proud and majestic. Surrounding her there was a pack of no less than six strange beasts that looked to be restless and ready to obey her command. They were something unknown to Thatch or Cobble but their own primal instinct told them immediately to fear them as sure as any predator is a source of terror to it's prey.

The beasts resembled something akin to a massive wolf almost as much as it did a hulking cat. Their eyes seemed to shine a reflection of the diffused forest light as they paced back and forth without taking their gaze from the approaching pair. While Thatch looked to the Lady as a he tried to riddle out what was going on Cobble settled for keeping his attention on claws and jaws.

Lady Adriana took pleasure in the fear presented before her. Everyone prioritizes threats differently she supposed, and it always amused her at how different people did so. A dark power shivered to life within her and she let it work it's way into her voice before she spoke. "Report, you worthless worms!" She gave the command with a voice that sounded like steel being honed. It carried to Thatch and Cobble's ears and she grinned with a certain sinister satisfaction as she watched her own subtle magic take hold.

For a split second Thatch had been only thinking of The Baron, and then this mysterious Lady was standing before him. He couldn't help but feel like he was missing something but as she spoke he felt compelled to answer her. It seemed so very important. There was something vital he had to tell the Baron, they had found the key! And yet somehow all he could think of was he had to tell this Lady, all of a sudden it was she whom he feared.

Before either of them knew what they were doing they both gave Lady Adriana a detailed report of how they had found the Key. Especially making sure to punctuate the discovery with the fact of how it had been used to expedite their escape. While they spoke Lady Adriana watched with the gaze of a night hawk that never wavered from them. Had she even blinked? Thatch wondered but quickly discarded the notion.

"You and my pets will strike them at dawn," the Lady declared icily. "When the sun rises in the sky you will attack, but make no mistake; you are only to harass them. I don't want them killed - yet. You're only to speed them on their way, I will follow them to what we seek and deal with them personally."

In a swirl of ghostly flames of blues, blacks and purples the Lady shifted and spun to take on the form of a vicious bird like creature. As it flexed it's wings it turned to regard Thatch and Cobble with the eyes of a ruthless hunter. "Understood?" it asked in a inhuman mimicry of speech.

Thatch and Cobble both gulped down a deep understanding of what might await them if the didn't agree and nodded. And with that she took flight off into the trees leaving the two to look around them at the strange creatures that they just now realized they would be spending the night in the company of. A second round of shudders and gulps was certainly in order.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 18.

- Episode 18 -

A strange scene unfolded before Mal and Trinity as they rounded the corner of the farm house. There, facing down a pair of oddly mismatched thugs was Camden and he was fighting for all he was worth. The taller of the two was slamming and swinging a club around savagely while his shorter partner grappled to grab Camden. It was amazing that these two had not yet managed to seize the brave boy who defied them like the swirling wind.

"He can't keep that up forever," Mal remarked, his tone was level and firm. He drew forth his sword and studied the fight before him, measuring for just the right moment. It never paid to charge in blind or you might actually cause more harm than good to who you sought to help. "I'll try to lend him a blade, you see if there is anything you can do as well."

Trinity didn't even get a chance to agree, or ask any number of the questions that leaped to mind at that plan. What was she supposed to do in a fight? But Mal was already stomping his was directly into the melee and she was left to think of something herself. Where Camden had been a whirlwind of instinct and reflex it was obvious that his strength couldn't last. Mal was a stark contrast, his movements were fluid and he parried with a strategic skill. It was like watching a chess master demonstrating himself, he somehow even seemed to be able to predict Camden's almost random movements.

Witnessing Mal in his own element was truly a sight to behold. Trinity had never seen anyone who seemed to be able to fight like that and this old man wore no armor and wielded not one item of magic. How did she know that? The question rang a bell within her mind, it brought her back to her senses and allowed her to focus. Mal had told her that only she could look to the book for help.

And she really could use some help right now. Trinity closed her eyes and seized on that thought riding it down to a calm place inside where she tried to concentrate on it. "Please, I cannot let them take him," she compelled the empty air for aid. "I can't let him be hurt, he's my little brother - he is all I have."

A single tear formed to roll down her cheek as Trinity's mind wrestled to think of anything. While she watched on Camden barely managed to throw his left arm in the way of Cobble's face to stun a desperate charge and halt what would have been a crushing tackle. There was no more thinking about what to do, no more helpless worry left for Trinity. She opened the book and her necessity transformed into action as pages ruffled of their own accord. Words danced to life on the page like leaves falling from trees and caught on a breeze. Trinity could hear them whispered into her ears as she felt them flow out of her carried upon her voice.

It was the most beautiful song she had ever heard, the melody of it lifted her up and washed through her while a single purpose drove her. She could not allow them to hurt her brother or take him from her. Trinity refused to be separated from Camden, it was something she had always feared. The magic had given form to that desire and shaped it into life. Answering to her call was the very wind itself that blasted to life to rush past her as it delighted in her song.

Camden was breathing hard from behind Mal who stood resolute with his guard raised in the boy's defense. Thatch and Cobble were preparing for another assault when a column of air swept around their foes to slam into them. It was like a massive sledge hammer had connected with them square in the chest, driving their breath from them and propelling them backwards. If not for a rather thick trunk of an old tree the two might have been carried far off into the distance. Instead, Trinity could just make out two figures as they struggled against the force of the wind to get to their feet before fleeing.

With the threat to her brother gone she could feel the driving force fueling her song leave her. And as it did a terrible exhaustion rose to grip her turning the world around her into darkness. Relieved, a smile marked her face as Trinity collapsed to the ground still clutching her book. Without her doing so, it had managed to become closed.

Too tired to think Camden let his legs lower him down to the ground. There would be time for someone to explain what had just happened to him later he figured. But for Mal, he now found himself even more worried about the Vault.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 17.

- Episode 17 -

Mal already felt vastly out of his depth. He had only just begun to try and talk to Trinity but he had immediately found himself grasping for what to say. The triumphant veteran had been victorious in countless battles, he had reclaimed and locked away untold scores of dangerous relics. But when it came to trying to talk to a young lady he wasn't quite sure how to handle the matter.

"The book you carry, it is quite special," Mal struggled to explain matters. This had been so much easier with the boy! "You said you had already read from it, right?" he decided to change his approach and asked.

Trinity looked up at the old knight's kind eyes and saw how nervous he was behind the mask that even now seemed to be failing him. She wasn't sure how but she could feel a subtle flow in things around her, kind of like how she had somehow felt the agitation in Percival. In some way she had started to realize she had altered or shifted some aspect of the animals mood. At the time it didn't make sense but now it had all started to come together.

"Yes," Trinity lowered her head as she answered not completely sure how what she wanted to say would sound. "I was cleaning some dirt off the book since my dress was still damp I was just going to wipe it down. We had fallen into the Pool of Tears before we had stumbled onto those two sleeping guys. They had thrown some of the stuff they were carrying aside into a pile like they were sorting through what to keep and what to throw away or something. Anyway, Camden had grabbed the discarded items and we ran for it."

Mal had already heard the story once but he let Trinity tell it again, she seemed to need to. "The pages were blank, I had opened the book and it was empty." Trinity looked up at him and this time he could see the confusion that had plagued her. "It was blank, and then all of a sudden the writing just started to fill itself in on the pages - it was even glowing. How could it do that?"

The question was more of a plea for understanding than one to merely seek some arbitrary answer. "The book is very special," Mal let his voice drop down to as soft a tone as he could. "It is an ancient tome that legend says was a gift given freely from a Unicorn to repay an act of selfless kindness. But it was locked away because it was too dangerous to risk it being sought out by the wrong hands. The legend claims it required a pure heart to unlock it's secrets but nobody knows for sure. I don't think anyone has ever managed it except maybe who it was first given to, that is if the legend is true."

"If you have already managed to read from the book then you have been allowed to do something truly precious." Mal wasn't sure how and had no explanation to offer, he was a man of blade and battle. This wasn't exactly within his realm of expertise. "All I can say is that it is very important that we keep this book safe and try our best to ensure the Vault is secure. The only advice I can offer is that the book has opened itself to you and you alone. Only you will be able to look to it, but if it really has deemed you worthy - perhaps then you will be able to use it's secrets to help."

A sudden clamour interrupted the conversation and both Trinity and Mal spun their heads to redirect their attention. It was coming from behind the farm house. "I sent Camden back there to practice," Mal stated absently. "And that doesn't sound like him practicing," Trinity added.

Worry gripped both of them heavy in the pit of their stomach. Neither of them had to say another word as they both rushed out the door to investigate.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 16.

- Episode 16 -

"Hey, Cobble," Thatch made sure to keep his voice low and pointed over to an old farm house. "Look, there is a boy over there, all by himself," he whispered while rubbing at his chin. Cobble was quite used to the gesture, it generally meant to him that his vertically gifted peer was deep in contemplation. "Didn't the farmer say it was a pair of 'little thieves' that stole from him?"

Cobble had to try really hard to remember what the farmer had said but he couldn't seem to. So he just shrugged his reply at Thatch before deciding to add a simple; "I dunno, I forget." As usual Thatch responded with a groan of exasperation before chiding Cobble. "You know, if you paid just a half a grain of attention some times we might not get into these messes!"

After a few long moments the two watched the boy draw a small weapon and begin hacking and bobbing around some wooden poles. Whatever he was doing was lost on both of them but there he was out here alone. "Even if this isn't one of the two the farmer spoke of, this farm is too close to not check it out," Thatch asserted. "We'll grab the brat and question him. Either they have the key the Baron needs or they at least maybe know something about who might passed this way."

Arrogant and assured of their superiority Thatch hefted up a makeshift club. "I'll give him a good whack and you tie him up," instructed Thatch. Cobble pulled out a long length of rope and nodded, he did so prefer these simple plans. "Ready," Cobble grunted.

The two inept minions charged up and out of the brush towards Camden crunching twigs underfoot as they went. Like a lightning bolt Camden's head jerked around to notice two figures racing towards him. One with a club in and hand and the other rope - it didn't take a scholar to guess the pairs intentions.

Without a moment to lose, Camden threw himself into motion deciding to trust in his own instincts. He knew there wasn't time to stop and think about what to do. Thatch slammed down towards him hard with his club trying to knock the boy to the ground. But he didn't expect the resistance of some unseen force from Camden's left arm. The moment of confusion was all he needed to roll aside.

Immediately Camden spotted the rope and slashed at it with his blade severing it in two. It was Cobble's turn to be bewildered as a short "huh?" escaped him. Seizing upon the opportunity Camden grabbed at the end of the rope pitched his momentum into a wide slide that carried him behind his attackers.

Thatch and Cobble fell hard on their backs to land in the dirt. Furious they fought to regain their balance and stand. "You're gonna pay for that kid!" snapped Thatch whose face now began to burn red. Camden knew he had managed to get lucky so far and as he watched Cobble set his jaw it became clear. These two were determined to take him, and without some help soon they might just succeed.

Surely Mal or Trinity had heard something and would be here any minute Camden figured. Right?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 15.

- Episode 15 -

"We must be ready," Mal's voice was clear and resolute as he stood across from Camden in the morning sun. He had replaced his thick oaken cane with a sturdy steel blade and wore the stern face of a Knight once more.

"If someone has managed to locate the Vault then we have to be prepared. They may look for you two to reclaim what you now hold, and even if they do not we have a duty to make sure the Vault's guardians still defend it." Mal had roused them from bed just before dawn, every it the old veteran knight ready to put his charges through their paces.

"Attack me," He ordered Camden who was still trying to wipe the sleep from his eyes and stifle a yawn. "But all I have is this dagger, that really doesn't seem fair," Camden protested. "Boy, I have served the realm for many years and there are a few simple truths I can tell you. For one, nobody every waited for me to get a equal footing or arm myself before they attacked me. Two, you have at your disposal more weapons than that you wield in your hand. You have a mind in your skull, breath in you, and a beating heart. Make use of everything you have - use your arms, fists, feet, everything. Don't limit your options to only think of the weapon in your grasp, to do so is foolish. But you also should not discount what you carry; I have seen them before. That blade was borne before you by a worthy friend, he died most unfortunately when we placed the guardians in the Vault. It is more than an equal for any sword you will find and I don't think he ever even found it's full potential. We had decided to leave him with it both to honor him and to ensure it never fell into wicked hands."

"Now, I don't like wasting time or repeating myself - strike at me!" This time Camden reluctantly charged forward and thrusted straight ahead at Mal's middle. The cunning and experienced knight only waited for him to close the distance between them before he spun with a grin. With a pivot he twisted his own arm at the elbow and angled his blade down. The two shafts of forged steel sang as the connected and the force startled Camden driving him to the side. He had to fight to regain his footing as well as halt himself, his momentum threatening to continue to carry him forward.

"Defend," roared Mal as he raised his sword to arc downward toward his student's unprotected back. Camden had little time to even think of how to react and instead had to resort to pure instinctive reflex. He twisted swiftly and threw his left arm up to try and block the blow only realizing at the last second that it was a sword that now moved towards his forearm, not a club or some such. The only thing that stood between his tender flesh and cold steel was a simple leather band with a dull silver stud. Camden couldn't hide the panic from his face and even as Mal pulled the blow to a halt he knew it was likely to at the least leave a nasty cut upon the boy.

But instead of seeing blood flow a blue arc flashed to life with a pale flicker that stopped the oncoming assault. The impact deflected Mal's old blade to the side almost as readily as thick strong shield of worked steel. Luck truly had blessed these two young orphans indeed! He made sure to note to himself how Camden had reacted to the attack, it had been some time since he had seen anyone that young with such good reflexes. With further training he might one day be able to hone the boy into a worthy knight himself.

"Very good," he congratulated Camden without dropping his serious demeanor. "There are some old pells out behind the house, go back there and practice striking at them and I will come check on you shortly. You need to get used to swinging that blade of yours some."

"But what are you going to do?" Camden asked impulsively. "Don't question me boy, go on and get to work, now!" Mal barked with every ounce of authoritative tone he could muster. The result was always the same, even now after all these years; Camden took off as fast as his feet could carry him to obey.

Mal waited a few breaths to make sure the lad was well out of earshot before he allowed himself a quick chuckle. "Now," he told himself decisively, "to check on the lass and prepare her." That was going to be both more difficult of a task in itself but also just as important. Because if he wasn't mistaken what she was carrying now was the very key to an ancient magic few dared wield. It was powerful enough that it could unlock the Vault itself but it required a pure heart. Supposedly the legends had said it was a gift given freely from a Unicorn to a repay an act of kindness made by a benevolent traveler.

Hopefully she could unlock it's secrets to help them keep it safe until they could return it to the Vault. And if anything had happened to the guardians of the Vault then it alone might be the last chance to reseal it permanently. There simply was too much at risk to even chance anything else being removed.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 14.

- Episode 14 -

"Those two neanderthals will never manage to accomplish the task you set them on, you know that right?" The Baron immediately recognized the voice that drifted through shadows and delicately brushed his ear. It was both soft like a stray beam of moonlight and yet it also held a carefully veiled razor edge. There was but one person capable of being both a thing of beauty and coldly vicious as any predator - Lady Adriana.

As sinister as they come the Lady had been a strong supporter of Baron Samael, providing him with key information. Even now she seemed to purr advice in his ear. "And what then do you propose, my dear?" The Baron let the question effortlessly roll from his tongue without looking up. He knew better than to allow her to distract him as she often easily did.

"I think the solution should be obvious," she declared casually. "If the obvious result is that your servants should fail then we must be prepared to consider taking action. When that happens I think it save to presume that whoever has the key will endeavor to seek out the Vault. All I propose is to position myself to follow them to our prize and then reward them appropriately for their hard work."

The Baron couldn't argue with her logic, not really but he also felt like he detected a certain glee creep into her tone. It wouldn't surprise him at all to think that she might possibly enjoy her little plan, much less personally dealing with whoever now troubled them. "That does sound prudent," The Baron agreed. "We have worked too hard for too long to let our plans be ruined now."

"Very well then," Lady Adriana whispered with a course before stalking out of FrostThorn tower. There was a dark joy in her step as she echoed across the tower's stone. She was determined to keep everything on track, and so very happy to do so.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 13.

- Episode 13 -

"Hit him again, he has to know something," Thatch said firmly. Cobble held aloft in his left hand a battered farmer whose face already sported a few bruises. He raised his right hand, a big meaty and calloused thing almost the size of a mallet to threaten his helpless victim.

"I told you, the only thing I know is there was a pair of little thieves that stole some chicken from me, but they lept into the Pool of Tears. There is no way they made it out and they are the only ones I have seen besides you two lately." The farmer had the look of desperation in his eyes, he had already taken enough of a pounding that he would do anything to avoid any more.

"Please," he begged, "I swear that's all I know." Cobble didn't really want to hit him anymore but he wasn't sure what to do so he waited for Thatch who he figured was thinking about what to do. After a few long moments of silence Thatch finally spoke. "Alright, we'll take your word but if we have to come back this way, my friend here won't bother to pause for us to ask any more questions. Understand?"

The pummeled farmer nodded as he fought to keep his feet under him, he had been sure these two had meant to leave him dead. "Let's go Cobble," Thatch declared as he turned to look around. Which way was this Pool of Tears again he wondered. "Is that Pool the one where people say you never come back from?" Cobble asked sheepishly. He looked up to see Thatch nod in agreement. "Isn't that the one that's over that way by where we had the nice nap?" Cobble continued while pointing off towards the woods.

"How do you even possibly think you might know where the Pool of Tears is?" Thatch snapped as his head shot around to look down at Cobble. His cohort merely shrugged back at him. "I seriously doubt that your right Cobb," Thatch told him. "But I guess we best go have a look just the same."

"What are we going to do if it was two kids who found those things Thatch?" Cobble inquired as the two headed out. "Hope we find them hiding at some nearby farm or something and they still have them," Thatch stopped to explain. His face had the expression of dire earnest as he muttered quietly to add; "We both know what awaits us if we can't find them."

Cobble swallowed hard at that thought, and hurried to follow Thatch. It was a frightening thing to even consider, even for his simple mind.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 12.

- Episode 12 -

"Well I can see the two of you are both in one piece," Mal pointed out as they approached the door. "Either you haven't met Percival, or you know some secret trick nobody else ever has. I don't think I have ever seen anyone other than me that he would tolerate, quite frankly - period." Curious, Mal arched one eyebrow up and narrowed his gaze right at the children. "Mind sharing with me just how you managed it?"

Camden had no clue how his sister had pulled that little miracle off. Actually, he had been betting his sister would have been limping her way out of the barn. He was sure there had been zero chance of him not getting mangled by that muscled monster of a horse. "Yeah, how did you managed that Trin?" Camden decided to ask as well. Now even he was getting curious.

Trinity opened her mouth to answer them but something in her face must of given her away. Mal seemed to be able to read the doubt written on her, the very fact she herself wasn't even sure was somehow obvious. "I am not really sure," Trinity stumbled to explain. "I think I might have sang him a little song."

Apparently Camden thought the answer was hilarious, but then again he had often made fun of her singing. Mal though, he just nodded and told them to hurry in and eat before the food was cold. It was her turn to notice the look of deep contemplation etched on his brow.

And then for some strange reason something came to mind, it was the name of something that she had seen in that book. As they all began to set down to eat she could hear herself ask the question before she even knew what she was doing.

"Have you ever heard of something called the 'Vault of Echoes'?" Mal's heart skipped a beat and his plate fell to the floor. His voice became a coarse whisper that barely slipped from his lips. "How do you know of that place?" the old knight implored of them.

When Trinity answered him, he could hear it in her voice this child had no idea what she was asking about. "I read about it in a book," she stated before repeating the little rhyme. Mal recited the passage along side her word for word:
Virtue is the key for any who desire to enter me.  The Vault of Echoes shall mirror forth that which is within and weight your worth.

Memories flooded back to the retired hero, he could still see clearly the dangerous things he himself had locked away inside the Vault under the orders of the King. It had been a long standing mission of the Knights to seek out anything too dangerous in power that was out there and lock it away for the safety of the realm. Mal himself had even seen to removing all the records of the Vaults location so no one might seek it out. It was one of his greatest reliefs that the kingdom could rest easy knowing that so many terrible threats were buried never to trouble them again.

"This could be very, very bad," Mal said more to himself than anyone else. "You are going to have to tell me everything." Camden and Trinity wasn't sure why but they did as he asked and told him everything. It took awhile, since they started with as far back as they could remember but they did eventually work their way up to how they found the strange items.

Long before they did, Mal had already decided two things. One was that it looked like he was going to come out of his retirement. And the other was that these two kids needed someone to look after them. In fact, they deserved it. Well, Mal figured he still had a few more adventures left in his old bones and it looked liked duty was calling once again.

Monday, April 8, 2013

How I Managed To Get Caught In The Rain: A Review Of The Dresden Files.

First, allow me to lay a brief foundation for you. Sort of set the scene if you will.

I have always been a voracious reader, especially when I was younger. I used to read constantly almost any chance I had, and the only thing that was anathema for me was the idea that I might run out of things worth reading. Even by the time I was in college and working I always made sure to have a book or at the very least two with me. Whenever I had a break or a lunch I would turn to a book(or a notebook to be fair) so that I could give my mind something else to do.

Honestly, I caught a lot grief and quite a few questions over my odd habits(as many coworkers referred to them). I would get to work early routinely to avoid being late or unprepared and settle myself to read a bit first. It was like my little bit of 'me time' I could relish. But as I got older and found myself disabled my habits changed. I still read, don't get me wrong but some days my time is filled with my children and other things. So I have recently found myself with a rather long backlog of books in the 'to read' category.

Which brings me to my current ironic situation; a great friend decided to ask me if I had ever ready any of the Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher. Sadly I admitted that I had not while completely forgetting that I had a folder full of them that I had been meaning to try out a few years back. He insured me they were worth checking out and that he was certain I would enjoy them. I politely promised to try and get around to them eventually, thanked him and that was the end of it.

Curiosity though has never been very kind to me though and later that evening I found myself looking over a Wikipedia article about the series just to get a feel for it, to see if it might really appeal to me. In it I noticed there was a series based on the books that oddly enough was available through Hulu. So I told myself I would just try out the first episode, see if it was any good at all. I figured I might satisfy my curiosity and then it might be the end of it.

I should have known better.

Next thing I know, one episode led to another, and then another. Soon I was telling myself enough was enough and I was cracking open the first book. After the first chapter I was politely asking my wife to give the first chapter a try and I already knew I had inadvertently pushed everything else in the reading agenda aside.

The first book is titled 'Storm Front' and is written from the point of view of the main character - Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, who narrates his own tale in a style reminiscent of a classic detective film noir. It really is quite fitting and I almost instantly found the character endearing to me. He is a powerful wizard in his own right but greatly lacking in fine control. He, in a way is best described as a middle class hero. While he has some great talents and ability he doesn't have the high society clout or privilege. No, our hero works for a living and struggles with the day to day grind of trying to keep up on the rent.

Harry is a good guy to the core but he is also one with his share of demons. A weight still hangs on his shoulders from the past and with it comes a burden of distrust among others in the magical community. Basically, he's the local go to guy for them to blame when just about anything bad happens.

In short we have a good guy, who is a wizard, has terrible luck, is a scape goat for the magical authorities and did I forget to mention is a consultant for the local police as well in matters of strange cases? Yeah, and that last bit, it could never cause issues for him... But when the chips are down, and something nasty howls in the night you have to call someone. So give Harry a call, he's in the book. Only listing under Wizard.

I could praise this book for hours but all I will say is this(and it should be more than sufficient); it's elegant and simple. The story is fun and pulls you in, the characters are fun and witty enough to keep you interested. And if nothing else, the beginning and ending alone have beautiful symmetry. If you give this book a chance I can guarantee you will not only enjoy it, but others will hear you giggle to yourself at times as you find yourself amused at Harry.

I never planned to be reading it yet, and I can honestly say I never expected to already have finished the first book. But I can say I am charging straight into the second and don't foresee me stopping anytime soon.

Join me, won't you?

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 11.

- Episode 11 -

Old Mal was already busying himself fixing breakfast for his guests. He hoped some of his livestock wasn't in a particularly grumpy mood today, especially his cantankerous old steed; Percival. That grumpy old horse was often ill tempered and prone to never behaving himself for anyone except Mal. As he lit the the stove, Mal made a gesture in the air and wished his visitors luck.

"So what is your glorious plan for today, oh wise and magnificent Camden?" Trinity mocked her brother while she picked something out of her hair. She would love to know what he figured on doing about this new turn of events. Especially considering it was his idea to stay here for the night when he refused to listen to her.

"As much as I can't stand doing actual work," Camden began to speak as he watched the sun rising in the sky. "I hate hearing your I told you so's as much as your offers to solve the problem for me. So, I reckon we'll just bite the bolt and do a few silly chores for this old coot. He did offer a meal and then we'll be on our way."

Trinity had to blink for a second as it all sank in. Did Camden just seriously agree not only to actually doing real work, but also just think it over? Oh, wait, it quickly occurred to her that he had also pointed out that he despised hearing her say i told you so. With a sigh of relief Trinity realized her brother hadn't changed overnight on her - he just wasn't about to admit she had been right.

"I'll start with the feeding Trin, you see if you can find a shovel," Camden told her with a laugh. He was already out the door and heading towards what had to serve as the barn. Trinity groaned with frustration, she wasn't about to let him get off with the easy work. She had to sprint to catch up with him and managed only just to do as the both of them reached the barn door.

This shouldn't be too difficult they both thought as they looked around them. Most of the stalls were empty, save for a handful of chickens, a tired cow that almost looked ancient, and a massive horse. Camden had never seen such a strong looking horse before, at least not up this close. He was sure it had to be able to easily carry at least two maybe even three knights in full armor and then some. But as he reached up to touch the majestic creature it stomped it hooves and jerked it's head angrily.

"On second thought, you can feed them Trin," Camden said shakily. Let her deal with the temperamentally thing, he certainly wasn't about to get himself kicked by anything with legs that huge. He didn't wait for his sister to agree before he started looking around for the shovel.

Trinity was about to say something to pick on her brother but instead found herself curious at what had changed his mind. She looked up and into the horse's big dark eyes and felt a strange tickle from where her pendant now hung. Something strange and far away seemed to be trying to tell her something and for a second she thought she could hear the rustle of pages.

But when she opened her mouth to speak it wasn't words that came out. Instead, Trinity found herself still gazing up at the creature as a soothing song flowed out of her and washed over the animal. Where moments before it had been agitated and reluctant to allow anyone to touch him, now it seemed calm and friendly. How had she done that? She had sung many a song over the years but never anything that caused any manner of reaction like this.

"Hurry up Trin," Camden called to her. "How long does it take to toss some food in there anyways?" The question made her wonder just how long she had been standing there as well. Trinity quickly shook it from her mind and tried to quickly finish up. The thought of a good meal sounded wonderful to her, which meant Camden was probably starving too. And he was never known to be the most patient person in the world. If she wanted to make sure that he didn't try to eat both their food then she best finish.

Once they were both done the two raced straight for the house. But for Trinity something else was weighing on her mind other than just a fresh meal.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 10.

- Episode 10 -

Old Mal never had been one to wait for the rooster to inform him it was time to start the day. In a way he figured anyone who used to know him wouldn't be surprised, he had always had a knack for getting things done even before it was readily known they needed to be. But back in those days he had been a bit of a legend, everyone knew the name Malthurion Abardeen. Or, rather Sir Malthurion Abardeen.

Mal had served the kingdom honorably for many years and championed many great causes. He had never truly been bested in battle nor had his courage ever really been questioned. As far as any knew he had been one of the greatest knights ever to serve the kingdom. But as he had seen the years pass by Mal had found less and less that he looked for glory or renown. In truth he had never accomplished anything while seeking such fame or reward. Yet by doing all he had it had came pouring in. It wasn't something that had ever truly set well with him and as his legend grew he came to be burdened by it more and more.

Eventually, Mal decided to turn his back on his life of service and seek a quieter life. He took up some old farm land offered to him for his years of dedicated duty and set himself to working it. The truth of it all though was that still, deep down, Mal had never changed. If ever he saw a good hearted person in need his old fiery dedication would roar back to life and drive him to do whatever he could to help. You might say compassion had always been a weakness that drove his courage.

One welcome reward Mal was grateful for was that with the slow passing of the years his name had passed from everyone's memory. At least in his retirement he could rest without hearing everyone recount his various exploits. Every time he used to hear the tales of his deeds they always used to sound bigger and bigger than the reality of the matter. It was the kind of thing that made him feel like he never could have lived up to the image everyone had of him. So, instead of letting everyone down he just quietly stepped aside. He had done his duty, and more than a few good deeds. But in a way he had always felt that he owed the kingdom more.

As he walked towards the granary however his thoughts shifted slightly as a grin threatened to show on his face. Someone had left the door cracked open, just a hair. Any other farmer might not have even noticed or bothered to care. But old Mal was never short on caring, and if someone had been desperate enough to sneak into his granary for the night then he figured the least he could do was show them some hospitality. Even if it wouldn't exactly be free.

He firmly tapped the tip of his thick oaken cane on the old granary door allowing the sound to echo up and around inside the aged building like a bell. "Rise, now," Mal snapped the order like he was commanding young recruits once again. "You can shovel out the stalls in the barn and feed the animals, and then meet me at the house for a meal." After a short pause he slammed his cane to the door once more. "Hop to, and don't bother trying to sneak off. I have the eyes of a hawk, ears of a wolf, and know every member of the watch from here to the ends of the kingdom."

Mal had to fight doubly hard not to giggle aloud as he walked back to the house. At least he was going to have a little break from some of the chores this morning but more importantly he felt good about helping whoever was hiding in his granary. It wasn't the best of places to spend the night and he figured at the very least they might be hungry.

Camden refused to even look over at his sister, he was already certain she was leveling her best 'I told you so' stare at him. And, to be fair, she was.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 9.

- Episode 9 -

"It'll be getting dark soon Cam, we really should be finding a place to bed down for the night." Trinity was right, of course, but it didn't mean Camden had to like it, or make it easy on her. "It isn't dark yet though Trin, we could still make it a little further before we do." Trinity begrudgingly nodded to her brother and the two continued on through the forest.

"Why can't you ever just accept that sometimes I am right?" she asked Camden's back. "That is an easy one; it's cause your always playing it way too safe. If we only listened to you then we would never have any fun or find half the opportunities for adventure that we do. Besides, you would of never even picked up these things, would you?"

Trinity did have to stop and think about that one. She honestly couldn't say she would have just picked them up, even if they had been left there without anyone around. Who knows who they had belonged to or what kind of trouble they could bring. But Camden had already taken them and something told her there wasn't any returning them now. Not that she could really bring herself to consider parting with them now. They had kind of grown on her already and felt important to her. She couldn't resist the idea now that they belonged to her as much as she might belong to them.

"Do you wonder maybe why these things were tossed aside like they were? Or, I don't know, get curious what those two were even doing with them? It doesn't seem like something normal, does it?" Always worrying, always asking question - that was his sister for you thought Camden.

"Quit being so concerned! They were asleep and had thrown these things away, it is that simple. This was just stuff they didn't want any more or something, why would that be a problem? Probably they should of thanked us for taking it for them." The sun was starting to pass behind the hills to the west, making Camden secretly have to admit to himself that his sister had been right.

"Hey, Trin, it looks like it is getting dark already. I got an idea, maybe we should head over there to that old granary to hide for the night." Camden didn't want to bother thinking to hard about the matter, to him it just seemed like a good idea. They would need shelter for the night and that right there was obviously some shelter they could make use of.

"And you honestly don't think the farmer there will mind when come morning he finds two strange children asleep in his granary?" Trinity pointed out. "Details, details," Camden complained with a groan. "I doubt that thing is even used much anymore, and besides we'll be awake and long gone before some old farmer finds us. That is if there is even anyone still working this farm at all."

Trinity couldn't agree with her brother on this one. He obviously wasn't even really thinking anything through but the last light of day was quickly fading so arguing seemed pointless. They needed a place to sleep and here was a place, regardless of what it might mean for them come morning. With a sigh she motioned for Camden to lead the way.

"Let's get some rest then," she admitted. "And I hope that for once your right." "Trust me," Camden replied as they slipped inside. "What could possibly happen? It'll be fine." Trinity hated it when he said that.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 8.

- Episode 8 -

The very ground itself shook as Baron Samael's voice echoed like thunder. "What do you mean you didn't bring me everything you fools?" He was genuinely furious, so much so that the stone tower was threatening to come crashing down. All his plans, all those years of carefully positioning everything could be ruined.

"Tell me again, you ignorant wretches, what is the fate of the key? Where is it right now?" the Baron asked them while still rubbing at his forehead.  Sheepishly, Thatch was the first to open his mouth. "Uhm, gee Baron, there wasn't any keys that we found. I looked over everything real good, and I couldn't find anything that looked like a key at all."

After a moment Cobble decided to add to the explanation as well. "Yeah, Baron, we did toss a few pieces of junk out for you though. But it was only a blank old book and some other stuff that we left in the woods. We figured you would be proud of us, wasn't that smart of us? Huh, Baron?" Before the Baron could even turn on his heel to gaze at his blundering minions, Thatch had already nudged Cobble for mentioning it.

"A book you say? You complete blunder-heads! Was I not crystal clear? Did I not give you the utterly simplest of instructions? You were to go there and recover every single thing and return to me with all of it. And what of my crow? Why wasn't I even informed to expect your return, as instructed?" By now even Thatch and Cobble could feel the power that was hanging in the air as it built upon the Baron's rage.

"It was killed by a starving hunter, Baron," Thatch scrambled to explain. Cobble opened his mouth to protest but Thatch quickly stomped on his foot to try and mask his cohorts objection. "After we obtained your items we were set upon by an armed hunter who took us by surprise. We barely made it out of there with anything but he managed to strike the bird with a lucky arrow." Desperately Thatch prayed the Baron believed the tale, that and that Cobble had just enough sense left to keep his own mouth firmly shut on the matter. This could very well be the only chance they had to not end up as specimens in a jar, or worse.

The Baron's mind raced and riddled over his next course of action. These two might have just completely destroyed all his plans in a single moment of stupidity. But then again, he had chosen them for the task but he was never one to let blame set on his shoulders. There was always the chance that this whole matter might still be salvaged. Perhaps the book was still safely setting within the forest and had yet to be found by anyone else.

"I shall spare your miserable lives but know this; your fates are now bound to my plans. Should they fail me even in the slightest the both of you can be assured to feel the full measure of my displeasure." A voice from deep with Baron Samael warned him that this wasn't a good idea. Both Thatch and Cobble had screwed things up terribly so far, odds were they would only make matters worse.

However, he really didn't have too many other disposable assets to send forth at the moment. Plus, only these two maggots for brains knew where they had left the book. A second thought occurred to him before sending them on their way. "Do make certain that should the book not be where you claim then it might be wise to not return until you locate it. And if it has fallen into another's hands, then do whatever necessary to recover it."

Emerald flames burned behind the Baron's eyes as he peered straight through Thatch and Cobble. "Bring back that book - no matter what it takes!" Neither of the two waited to be asked if they understood, it was obvious to them both. They both scurried down the tower as fast as their feet could carry them.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Luck Of The Claw - Episode 7.

- Episode 7 -

After traveling for what seemed like forever Camden and Trinity finally decided to stop and rest. And just to be safe they tucked themselves under an old fallen tree that was partially hollow. At least that way if the two sleepers had tried to follow them they wouldn't be easy to spot.

"You're still doing it, Cam!" Trinity fussed at him. He didn't even seem to hear her as he dumped his bundle down on the ground. Camden smiled one of his big silly grins as he held up two of the items. "Look, Trin, I got you a present," he proclaimed as if he had just returned from the city market triumphant. She was about to correct him but when the light caught what he was offering her she lost her train of thought.

"Oh, thank you Cam," she said with a squeal as she accepted his pseudo-gifts. It was a simple book with a faint etching of a horn on the cover and a silver and ivory pendant. Trinity had always adored both books and jewelry but they were the kind of gifts one gave to a noble lady or someone wealthy enough to purchase them for themselves. It wasn't something a kid on their own would ever have.

As she inspected her new-found treasure she couldn't help but spot a smudge of dirt. Those two they had come across most likely had pawed over this prize with their dirty hands before throwing it aside like garbage. "Uneducated mongrels," Trinity muttered to herself. The very notion that anyone could treat a book in such a way was utter insult, at least to her.

The hem of her dress was still partially damp, she was certain she could at least wipe it down and get some of the dirt off. While she set herself to cleaning her treasured little tome, her brother was already scrutinizing his own preferred prizes. It may not have seen like much to anyone else but to him his heart was already awash in wonder.

Two items out of all the bobbles called to him, catching his eye. One was a rather plain long dagger that wasn't quite big enough to be a sword but clearly wasn't a typical dagger either. He had heard stories, even seen a few on the sides of knights, this had to be the kind of dagger they used to defend themselves when they couldn't use their swords. The blade was thick and sturdy, clearly made more for use instead of looks.

The other thing to interest Camden was a leather bracer, it didn't have a match but it did have a shiny silver stud on top. Or at least it would have been shiny, it was a little tarnished from not being taken care of in a while. Camden didn't care, he finally had something that let him feel more like a adventuring hero.

"Cam," Trinity called to him, her voice while quiet had an edge to it that grabbed his full attention. Her book was glowing, and as her eyes poured over the first page it was slowly changing from a blank one to becoming covered in strange words. When next she spoke her tone was musical and different.

"Virtue is the key for any who desire to enter me.  The Vault of Echoes shall mirror forth that which is within and weight your worth." Trinity closed her eyes as she shut her book. "Cam," she began, "I think we're into a different kind of trouble."

"Not trouble, Trin, adventure!" Camden corrected with eyes that burned full of excitement.