• Graded • Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Faith goes into labor under less-than-ideal circumstances

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• Graded • Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Maltruism » Sun Dec 17, 2017 3:54 am

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Missed Carriage

80 Zi'da, arc 717
Crennon looked once again, to be certain. The woman he was watching had all the indications of being the one they were waiting for. Dark of hair, pale of skin, meek of mannerisms as she strolled down the street, seeming to have no great desire to attract notice. Her clothes and cosmetics were flattering but not flashy. She seemed happy but was not imposing any sort of obnoxiously overbearing greetings to those she passed.

Equally indicative of her identity and largely explaining her detachment from others around her was the man whose arm she was on. Love was in every gesture, every laugh, every facial expression, and every step the woman took. The sidewalk was like a dancehall as her steps brought her into repetitive hugs and squeezes with her obvious loved one.

He, for his part, seemed to follow the same general patterns of dress and behavior. Dressed in moderation of color and design, his hair conservatively styled, his mannerisms reserved, save where the woman was concerned. He looked as attentive as one intending to fawn over his companion, yet restraining himself out of respect and acknowledgement of her own ample capabilities.

Crennon cared not one way or the other about the woman's sense of self-sufficiency or independence, nor about her companion's likely sense of responsibility for her well-being. Her well-being was about to change radically, and his interference would not be allowed. What Crennon DID care about was the clearly advanced state of her pregnancy. She could surely not be due in any more than a couple of weeks, near as he could tell.

He anticipated a couple of his men raising a fuss over this detail. They had this old-fashioned notion about degrees of criminality. They all knew she was going to end up dead. What matter the extraneous detail of pregnancy? So an unborn child would never be born. How many orphans spent homeless and loveless nights in cold stone rooms for lack of society's concern. Oh, but if they'd not been born they were suddenly of vast social importance! No one had ever cared about him!

Crennon sneered and waved to Borley, one of the aforementioned men, who took up following the pair none too closely. His actions would hinge entirely upon the martial competency and armament of the woman's escort. And that would surely be focused on Stig, yet another hired thug who was even now departing the inn the pair were approaching. The ringleader of this particular group grinned at Stig's performance.

His sick act was greatly enhanced by his use of "Spots", a pigmentation altering drug made from the pigment nodes of the dermal underlayer of the Oscillus Leopard. Combined with other elements, by someone who knew what they were doing, could result in changing the skin color and tone to whatever served your purpose. The purpose here was to feign the jaundiced look of someone with a serious illness. A nice smear of water on the face to fake the fever-sweat so often accompanying such sickness was a nice touch to which Crennon tipped his metaphoric hat.

Seeing the pair respond to the sudden appearance of such an illness was the last confirmation of this "Faith's" identification. As a healer of the 'Adunny', or whatever they were called, she could not help but to offer aid and comfort. The trick now was to grab her before a crowd gathered. Crennon waved to a horse drawn wagon a block up the street, and the pilot, Crank, slapped leather to flank and the wagon started to quickly close the distance.
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Faith » Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:35 am

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"I'd say," Faith said, holding tightly to Padraig's arm as they picked their way through the snowy streets of Scalvoris Town, "those betting pools we talked about are likely to be in full force, wouldn't you?" There was a moment in pregnancy, Faith had discovered, when it stopped feeling wonderful and started just feeling uncomfortable. It was still a wonder and delight to the young woman, but a full night's sleep for either of them was a long since thing of the past and she had a hundred physical symptoms which, alone, were inconsequential but which added up to a feeling of being out of sorts. Faith was too disciplined to complain, and she certainly didn't let them stop her doing what she needed to do, but they slowed her up, that was for certain. Looking up at him, she rested her other hand on her stomach and said that they both knew was true. "I'm all bump and bosom."

Stopping, she put her hand on his cheek and smiled apologetically. "You look tired. I wish you'd let me sleep in the spare room and get some rest yourself" At night a combination of discomfort and the baby responding to his voice or proximity meant that she was awake, but it didn't mean he had to be. She had to admit, though, "although I do enjoy the time just the two of us and Bun, very much, you need to sleep. Have you spoken to the University about taking some time off when Bun arrives?" The early breaks of the morning, in the darkness when the rest of the world was sleeping, had become a time when the two of them lay together in the bed they shared, talking and planning and preparing for this child.

It was more than she had ever imagined and she was more content than she had ever been, especially in those moments which were just theirs.

"We still need to get a few things," Faith said. Quite how that might be the case could be a cause for some questions since this appeared to be Idalos' best equipped baby. "But it's a nice idea, stop and have something to eat." It was a habit they'd got into, after the appointments with Galena at the Order where she'd had a medical check. Galena, her mentor and friend, was pleased with how the pregnancy was progressing; her only concern was Faith's slight stature to begin with and the lack of food the young woman was eating. Padraig knew that Faith was doing her best to eat as much as she could, but her already tiny appetite had significantly reduced. If she ate more than a tiny amount she felt, or often was, sick. That was Galena's only worry although she didn't make a lot of it since there was no doubt that Faith was trying her best to eat as much as she could for the baby's sake if not her own.

But, of course, they never got to the door. Because there was a man, his skin the colour of a jaundiced individual and a sheen of sweat on his brow. Faith let go of Padraig's arm, handing him her domain bag. "Grab the medical kit," she said softly, "and stop people from rushing in. Give me space to work." Faith was used to giving orders like that and she moved forward, calm voiced and business like manner. "Are you alright? My name is Faith, I'm a medic at the Order of the Adunih. Can I help?" She didn't touch him until she had permission, but she moved next to him, ready to start the observations needed.
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Padraig » Sun Dec 17, 2017 3:31 pm

"All looking to their ringleader for guidance too, I'd wager," Padraig teased as they walked arm and arm through the snowy streets of Scalvoris Town. The scholar and father to be after all had become convinced that not only was his grandfather one of those betting good money on the timing of the impending birth and other details with it, but that it was him that had personally organized the betting pool. If there was one, and Padraig had no doubt about that either.

"Just more of you to love," he reassured her, referring to her changing shape. It was true after all. He loved every inch of her and the changes meant that their child was growing, and closer all the time to making their arrival. He only worried sometimes that she might topple over forwards before it was done. Gravity. Physics. Science.

He was fine, he reassured her when Faith wondered again if they should be sleeping in separate rooms or beds. Besides, he did his best thinking at night. He only worried that she wasn't getting enough rest, and if he believed that relocating to a separate bed for the duration would ease that problem for her, he'd have been quick to do it.

"They know the time is approaching fast," he said, referring to the university and his work there. "The dean is aware. I'll speak to him, but I'm not asking. I'm simply informing him of what's inevitable." And they'd have to make do without him until he returned to work. There was nowhere else he'd be than home at Faith's side, and with their child.

He laughed though when she worried they didn't have enough for the baby quite yet, and shook his head. "What else will this baby be lacking that we haven't prepared for already?" he asked. "Besides, Cyrus has already complained that we're not leaving enough for others to do, once the baby has arrived." Gifts and such. He was guessing that's what his grandfather had met. "Besides, I'm starving." He could eat. But mostly he wanted to get her in from the cold, off her feet and a good meal put in front of her.

And the last thing he wanted, was to see her dealing with a crisis on the streets. Especially one dealing with an individual who looked for all the world like he was carting around something contagious. It wasn't that Padraig was lacking in compassion. Quite the contrary. But his concern for her in this instance was unique and admittedly selfish. Besides, she might be the best healer in town by far. But she wasn't the only one. Even while concerned for the wretched soul that had stumbled into their path, he frowned when Faith handed him her sack. A clear indication of his thoughts on the matter, though he knew better than speaking them aloud.

But then, on second thought? He did as she'd asked him, and fished around in the bag for her medical kit. And then suggested, "It's freezing out here. Maybe it would be better if we made sure he got to the Order where it's warm and out of the elements?" By flagging down a local guard or someone who was able to do just that, he implied but again, chose not to say aloud.
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Maltruism » Wed Dec 20, 2017 5:11 pm

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There was no real crowd to speak of as Stig staggered his green-skinned way into Faith, sweat and snot seeming to ooze from very pore. It may have seemed that he was managing to keep a semblance of courtesy as he turned away from Faith to sneeze. A spray of what was surely considered to be infectious mist encouraged those few strangers who'd ventured in for a closer look, to cringe back and take up new positions a few yards away.

A bell and a clatter of hooves announced the arrival of the wagon, as Padraig focused on the bag. Stig managed to grip Faith tightly enough that his stagger towards the wagon separated her further from her protector without being an obvious plot to do so. He babbled a few incomplete mutterings about "feeling poorly" as he did so. People backed further away with his progress in the direction of the wagon, leaving it now unblocked.

Stig now dropped all pretense and hugged Faith just below her pregnant belly; his head tucked against her for leverage as he hoisted her up to where Crennon could take her from the top. The two made loud, simultaneous comments indicating that she had agreed to accompany them to the medic. It served to give enough pause to those who might have stepped in with suspicions of what the men were really up to, and gave sound excuses to those of a mind to find reason not to get involved at all.

Padraig, of course, was NOT of this mind, and perceived immediately that something was off with this whole encounter. But as he surged forward to intervene, Borley whipped out a bola and sent it wrapping itself around Padraig's legs. As Padraig tumbled to the ground, Borley avoided his outstretched hands at a run, and flung himself onto the back of the wagon as Crennon lashed the horse into a gallop down the lane.

Borley did not realize that a note regarding the timetable for this abduction had gotten caught in the cord of the bola as he'd withdrawn it. It now fluttered to the street just a few feet from Padraig, who knew that he couldn't get the bola untangled in time to catch the wagon as it sped away. But when he found the note, the handwriting was horribly familiar.

It matched the name flaunted in Faith's face, as Crennon, Borley and Stig all combined to tie up and gag Faith in the back of the wagon, which now slowed to a less-noticeable speed after a few turns. They found a back alley with a second coach and quickly transferred their captive, with a new man, whom they called by the name Tork, taking the reins as the four men and Faith climbed out of sight inside. Crennon eyed Faith without mercy and grinned, "Alexander has some unfinished business with you, sweetheart."
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Faith » Wed Dec 20, 2017 6:11 pm

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More of her to love? Faith shot him a glance and snipped back at him. "I don't care what you say, Professor Augustin," she sounded and looked amused as she spoke, "there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. It's all about the center of gravity." But he reassured her again that he was fine and she looked at him and sighed. "I feel like I should say that I'll sleep better if you go to the spare room or I do, so that you can rest." That would mean that he slept at least, she knew, "but it isn't true. I sleep better with you there. When did I become so horribly selfish?" She smiled and nestled against him, contentment evident in every part of her. "Come on, then, we can play footsie under the table to remind me that I still have feet. Famula knows it's been a long time since I saw them."

But fate, it transpired, was not happy with contentment and the prospect of foot-flirting under the table. Faith moved forward and she glanced back at him, just briefly. Thanks to the ability granted via her Vri mark meant that she could literally hear his thoughts, her Famula mark meant that they shared emotions, one with the other. She didn't need either of those things to know what he was thinking, and in this instance she agreed with him. "Agreed. We need to get the gua.... AIE!" The last as she was suddenly hoisted up, lifted by the man she was trying to help. Trill ago he'd been staggering and she was stepping backwards trying to hold him up but now, suddenly, her feet were off the ground.

Faith was immediately afraid, terror hitting her in terms of what was happening, of being separate from Padraig and a cold grip on her heart way beyond terror for the child which grew inside her. She did not think, did not pause, she simply reacted. She was a master of unarmed combat, these trials, and at least part of that was thanks to the undead bastard who had taken her in broad daylight previously. As the one she didn't know was called Crennon lifted her, Faith twisted and struck out, the palm of her hand aiming for his nose, with the aim of debilitating him at the very least, killing him if she could. From the time that she had beaten Theodore Venora with a broom handle, Faith had always dealt with her flight or fight response in this way and, if she could not, for some reason, punch him in the face, she would stamp on his foot and attempt to break his shin with a kick. She was a small woman, but she had no hesitation and she fought like a fury. "PADRAIG!"

As the one called Borley flung himself on to the carriage, Faith reached out a hand to him, grabbing him. She didn't care where, so long as she touched flesh and the trill that she did, if she did, then she would use the Famula-granted burning blood and, unless he happened to be a Yludih, she would boil the blood in his veins. "GET OFF ME!"

She didn't stop fighting, not for a trill. As they tried to gag her and bind her, Faith kicked and bit, punched and head butted. Whatever she needed to do, at the very least they would be bleeding and broken, she vowed. The links which bound them meant that Padraig felt her terror, she felt his, but when the man put her into a second carriage, changing tactic, Faith kicked more, and harder. If these men were, as the ones who had taken her previously, inordinately strong and did overwhelm her, she would continue to kick and make sure that somewhere along the line, one of her shoes came off. Or a glove. Clues for him.

But the name Alexander? That caused her to go cold. Burning cold fury struck her and Faith's thoughts suddenly solidified. No longer in the throes of panic, she thought about what she was doing. What they could do together. Even the air changed flavour and the light changed colour. There was a distance she had already travelled and she knew that she was doing herself no favours by fighting in panic. She attended to where they were, what route they were taking. Then, cursing herself for not thinking of it before, she realised something and she used the ability, granted to her by Famula. Beck and call, it allowed her to call him to her and that was what she did. He would step through Emea and appear at her side, which was the only place he wanted to be in this moment, she knew.
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Padraig » Thu Dec 21, 2017 1:19 pm

Just one hack and a sneeze from the stumbling stranger made Padraig all the more determined that Faith shouldn't touch him. Or be anywhere near or downwind of him for that matter. And he was only begrudgingly looking for the kit with that in mind. He'd prefer that she hadn't even taken that step forward, though she seemed to think better of it. But ultimately too late as it turned out.

Wagons and horses traveled up and down the streets all the time so at first he didn't think much of what he'd been only vaguely aware of in the first place. If he had been thinking anything of it, it would have been that maybe he could convince the driver to take that poor sod to the healers for them. But as soon as the man grabbed hold of Faith's arm and pulled on her, and she cried out in response, his gaze shot up, he dropped the sack where he stood and lunged forward in order to get at them. Too late, and he found himself tangled up and stripping over his own feet in a heap on the ground while a carriage raced away with his wife inside.

Padraig's curses filled the frigid air while he fought to untangle his feet, and he called after Faith. The longer it took to get up on his feet again, the greater the distance between him and Faith. Much more and he'd never catch up and lose track of the carriage. He found the note quite by accident when he was finally free of the bola. It might even have been just a cast of piece of paper having nothing to do with anything but some old woman's shopping list. But for reasons he couldn't quite explain, he shoved it into his pocket in favor of dashing off after the carriage first And he ran, and ran, unmindful of those he passed, bumped shoulders or not.

His lungs were burning and he kept going. But ultimately a team of horses at a good clip moved much faster than he could, and he lost track of the carriage. It was only then Padraig pulled the note from his pocket to look. What exactly did it say? Was there a signature and was it a familiar one? The nature of the parchment and the ink did seem a little familiar. Fine parchment, and a black ink that wasn't truly black at all...He knew that ink. He preferred it and only one shop In Scalvoris sold it. There was a greasy stain too, at one corner of the note and Padraig lifted the thing to his nose and smelled it. It was unmistakable. Bacon and a hint of maple and bourbon.

Shaking his head and putting the note back in his pocket, he took off at a run again in the direction the carriage had gone. If he couldn't find it then he'd have to take other measures. But it remained that tracking it down now would be quicker if successful than having to retrace all the steps that might lead to the abductors themselves. And as he ran and desperately hoped for another glimpse of the carriage, the strangest thing happened. If it had ever happened before, Padraig would have recognized that distinct pull that he suddenly felt. Like a strange, unseen cosmic tug. Instead, he just assumed it was his own desperate need to get to Faith, that was pulling him always forward.

Except that it was strangely to the side and before he could think to recognize it, it was like the air took on a distinctly electric feel, grew hazy and then that charge passed right through him, just as he passed through it. He'd later realize just what was responsible for it, just who was. But in a blink he wasn't running through alleys anymore. Instead he reappeared atop a carriage hurtling through the streets and fighting to keep his balance and stay upright. He didn't have time to wonder if it was her carriage. In the spirit of efficiency he assumed that it was.

And so whether the driver was ready for him or not, the man would have to turn round to get at him. Padraig would use that bit of inconvenience to his advantage and throw a left hook aimed for the man's jaw. And then use that element of surprise to his advantage, by grabbing the man by the collar and attempting to throw him off the seat, off the carriage and onto the street.
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Maltruism » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:47 pm

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Although this wagon was an enclosed type, commonly employed for sight-seeing, it was not a fancy coach, and lacked glass in the windows. Borley did not consider what this could mean. And if any of his fellow thugs did, or indeed if they knew exactly what capabilities their victim possessed, they did not think to warn him. Borley was not the type to test how tough he could be. The moment the pain began, it gave him the motivation he needed to climb like a monkey to the top of the wagon with a shriek.

It was cut short by the realization that there was now a third man in addition to himself and the driver, Crank. His jaw dropped open with shock as he recognized the fellow as the one he'd left ensnared back at the 'grab point'. Crank, hearing the shriek, turned his head to accommodate Padraig's swinging fist, and gave it a nicely flush cheekbone to crack, as the impact dazed him and sent him slumping in the buckboard.

Padraig would have surely followed through on his intent to spill the villain onto the swiftly passing cobblestones, but for Borley, who leapt upon the intruder's legs and wrapped his left arm around Padraig's upper torso, as he scrambled to find his knife with his right. The strain on his newly scorched chest was nothing lethal or truly debilitating, but pain will always show in the gasps that accompany any movement, and they would be clearly heard by his adversary now.

Moments before, as Borley had shrieked and climbed out of sight, Stig grabbed the arm with which Faith had inflicted...whatever it was...and used both arms to pin it to the bench inside; hissing at Crennon to do the same. Crennon seized the other flailing arm, letting Faith's largely ineffective kicks batter his stout back. It took only one of his arms to pin his victim, and he added emphasis to his sneer at her to 'Knock it off, bitch!' with a dagger to her throat.

When she quit her struggling, the thumping and scraping above could be heard. He looked out one of the apertures to see random citizens pointing at the wagon and calling to each other as it sped past. "Wot the bloody ruttin' pecker pus is goin' on up there?" he shouted. He gave a warning glare at his captive, "And none o' yor tricks, Miss." He kept his glare fixed on Faith as he added, "Stig, lean out and see wot the sard."

There was a brief tableau of unchanged positions, and Crennon now turned to emphasize his order to his thuggish underling. The order stopped on his lips when he saw a look of genuine horror on his green-skinned partner's face. He followed his eyes to see a new stream of liquid break to soak bench and britches alike.

"Sarding...sarding suck...sick lickin' Imp shat balls o' fire, Cren, her water's broke! What do we do?? Make her stop! Wait...wait...we need to boil water! That's what me Ma always said." he stammered in terror.

Cren scowled with a grim chuckle of disdain, "We're on a fuckin' wagon, you bloody idiot! Boil water!! Where you gonna build the fire, you pecker-head? Calm down, she'll stay in labor long enough to get us to Alexander. Then he can kill the baby, turn it, and have it eat its way out of her, like he wants."
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Faith » Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:58 pm

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That was one of them, and Faith promised herself that all of them who tried to harm her this trial would find themselves dead, dying or deeply regretful. Enough, the young woman had promised herself, enough of this. So, she kept fighting, kept struggling and waited for the next opportunity. Which presented itself as the one called Crennon both pinned her arm and put his knife to her throat. Looking in his eyes as he spoke his vileness to her, Faith used her Vri-granted ability "Lament's Judge". He touched her, that was all he needed to do and as he did, Faith looked at him and she gave over her sorrow. She didn't even think about what sorrow, she had no need to consider it. That moment when she had fallen to her knees, in the streets of Scalvoris Town ~ forty trials ago ~ and seen her best friend die. The grief and sorrow she felt at that was with her still and in that moment she gave it all to him. Overwhelming, debilitating grief the like of which the young woman had never experienced before. Then, it had only been her immense discipline which had allowed her to stand back up, but even that could not stop her from falling to her knees and sobbing. Now, she could only give it and hope that Cren, as his accomplice called him, might take it even worse.

"PADRAIG!" She cried as she felt a sudden, sharp pain in her stomach and felt the release of her waters breaking. No, no, no. That could not happen Not here, not now. She couldn't go into labour here in a carriage, being kidnapped by Alexander again. It was too much.

All the way through this pregnancy, Faith had come to realise that the pregnancy she had experienced with Rose had been nothing more than an illusion. It was what she thought and believed about pregnancy, what Aelig did. But now, in that moment and as the first birth pain hit her, Faith was in no doubt at all. She had assisted in numerous births and her labour with Rose had been her expectation but this? Oh, this was a whole and entirely different kind of pain.

But in their words, in their panic, Faith saw an opportunity and she took it. "Oww, oh, oh!" Looking at them wildly, the young woman said what she prayed to Famula, Vri and Moseke was not true. "No... no time." She panted between breaths, not because she needed to but because it would add weight to what she was saying. "No time. Now.. baby is coming now." Please to Moseke, that was not the case, Faith prayed as she took what she hoped was advantage of the situation. Hopefully, Crenn would be a blubbering wreck and the other one was half way to panic as it was. "RIGHT NOW!" Faith looked between them with a wild look in her eyes which was entirely not faked and a feeling of dread that she was, at best, exaggerating only a little. But hopefully, it would at least keep their focus on her and so would allow Padraig to do whatever he was doing up there.

Off Topic
Sorry, millions of abilities. This is:
Sorrow is the domain of Vri and his marked hold a special relationship with the emotion. Lament’s Judge is an ability which can only be used when sorrow has manifested. The marked contains the ability to reach out and pluck the sorrow from the heart of another, taking it into themselves instead. They can allay the sadness of the aggrieved by imbibing their emotions through touch and experiencing them firsthand. This ability can be dangerous for a marked as Sorrow is an endless chalice and to drink too deep of it is to invite madness. That said, the marked have been known to bring momentary relief to those stricken by despair. When a marked chooses to take sorrow, they remove the ability for the target to feel sorrow over a specific subject for the remainder of the Trial. Instead, the marked will bare the weight. They will grieve the dead as ardently as a lover, even if they never knew them. At the end of the Trial, the ability ends and the target can once again feel the emotions. The reverse of this ability allows a marked to conjure up deep sorrow from their own life and then pass it to a victim. This ability works the same way, one Trial of sorrow over a specific subject while the marked would feel calm and peace.
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Padraig » Sat Dec 30, 2017 12:32 pm

There was no doubt about it. Once Padraig had surprised the driver with a sucker punch with most of his own strength and weight behind it, at least what he didn't need in order to stay upright and balanced atop the carriage, he'd planned on grabbing him by the shoulders, tossing him into the street and taking his place on the bench. Borley's arrival was an inconvenience to say the least.

But the scholar had more than determination on his side. And much more than self-preservation at stake. Faith was inside that carriage. His unborn child was inside that carriage, and those were the only two things that mattered.

Rather than someone who meant them harm, it could have been the local fishmonger or librarian between him and them. It changed nothing. Staying on his feet though and contending with Borley at once was a struggle. Close quarters would have made drawing and using a sword awkward at best. The same for getting to the knife that was stored inside the edge of his coat.

But Qylios had been good to him. In an instant Padrag extended his hand, reaching for daylight. And the bands round his arm glowed brighter as he grasped for a dagger made of pure and golden light. And as soon as he wrapped his hand round it's hilt, he intended to bury the blade deep in Borley's side. He had all the motivation he needed, those shouts and screams from inside the carriage.

All he needed to do then, firstly, was to rid himself of Borley, toss both him and the driver off the carriage, take his place on the bench and get hold of the reins. He had to stop the carriage. Didn't matter that he'd never driven a carriage before. He knew how to ride and guide a horse. How hard could it be?
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Maltruism » Fri Jan 05, 2018 7:38 pm

Image
Although Faith could not possibly have known it, her choice of divine afflictions to inflict upon Crennon could not have been better fitted by a master tailor. The rationalizations that had dominated his psyche the last several arcs were torn open and unleashed upon him in a hurricane of horror and denied grief that overwhelmed his defenses. Faith would only see the color drain from his face and his mouth drop open trembling as tears quickly massed and overflowed.

But his glazed eyes saw nothing of the present; only the realizations of the past, made all the more crushing by the blissful love on which it was all founded. The glory of their shared interests, so perfectly matched; their priorities always for the other's benefit; their delight in each other's little eccentricities. But as much as anything, it was the way she had graced him with the desire to curb the black streak of anger that had always plagued him. She had shown such pride in his increased ability to let things slide off him; and he had basked in that pride.

How joyous the decision to have children, how blessed the perfect health of mother and child. They both knew the anger was behind, and all was bright and joyous ahead. How unexpected, then, to find murder invade their little storybook. Tears, rage, madness and frustration. How gladly he would have traded his life to have Shaylien and little Beverly restored. Let it be horrible; let it be slow and agonizing; let all the world taunt him throughout the ordeal; he'd have signed the contract in his blood.

But there was no recourse, no hope of fulfilling at least the closure of knowing who. Not until...Alexander!

No, it was not he that did it. At least, not that any would ever have cause to suspect. But he said he knew who did; he provided proof, names, dates, motives, trinkets torn from the dead grip of his beloved. There was no doubt in Crennon's mind. And the black anger surged in vengeful rebirth. He swore his allegiance in ready eagerness. Never did he question the deservedness of the man who all things proved had slain his wife and child; nor any target of Alexander's accusations thereafter.

He told himself Shaylien would understand, were she alive. He rejected the voice that reminded him of her many words praising his newfound restraint. "That was different!" he suddenly shouted into the faces of Stig and Tork, who were now watching him with apprehension. Tork having just leaned out to shake Crank back into awareness before Stig's cries brought him back into the cabin.

Whether Vri's Judgement had been oriented in such a way as to bring a man more than the symbiotic sharing of loss, one could not say. But for Crennon, the Loss, the grief, the rage, the vengeance, and the sense of duty to Alexander followed a single conduit of purpose. And now, staring down into Faith's, he saw Shaylien, and the face looked upon him with loathing, and disappointment, and turned away. All the wrong came crashing down on him and he wailed in despair, "NOOOoooo! We have to release her! We MUST!"

Stig's panicked voice cut through with shock, "Cren! Are you mad? You know what he'll do if you don't deliver!"

And Crennon knew...

All too well he knew; knew the dark room into which the man who'd killed his family had been lured; all too well the necessity of staying out of sight until the trap was sprung; all too well the burlap-sack-like bundle the man sat upon as Alexander lulled him with small talk; all too well the stark terror in the man's voice as the bundle suddenly absorbed him into its midst as it became the massive swarm of undead spiders it had truly been, all too well the muffled croak of a voice gone silent as spiders accessed and devoured his voicebox through his wide shrieking mouth; all too well how wrists and ankles had been the next to be devoured, so the man could not even crawl away as the little undead monsters now devoured him as much from within as without.


At the time, with raging vengeance singing through his veins it had seemed so right. but now the look on the woman's face stripped him of his rationales and denials. And he knew what Alexander would do to him. The knife, limply forgotten in his hand found new purpose as he took a long resolute breath. "Then there is no hope. Don't let him use my body."

Stig and Tork both echoed cries of shock and disbelief as Crennon drew the blade across his throat. Stig whined and retreated in confusion and fear. Tork however was not one given to panic, and immediately saw a use to which Crennon's dying body could be put. He shoved him over to fall on top of Faith, further pinning her, and blocking much of anything else she might see to use.
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