General Alon stared out at the stars and darkness off the edge of his balcony. He liked it out here, so close to the edge of Creation. He knew that, somewhere out there, there were millions upon millions of enemies, scheming every second to gain a foothold back on a world that was once theirs. At the moment, however, it was clear and calm.
"Do you smell that Feather?"
Feather in the Wind looked at his commanding officer. "Smell what, sir?"
"Peace. Take the time to savor it, Feather. Such moments are few and far between."
Feather stood awkwardly for a moment then turned, puzzled, toward his superior. "Permission to speak freely sir."
"Permission granted. What's on your mind, lieutenant?"
"Peace. I have never known a peace like this. It makes me uncomfortable."
Alon smiled, "I'm not saying to get used to it. Just enjoy it while you can."
"That's not what I mean, sir. I like a break as much as the next man. But when I sniff the air I don't smell peace. I smell change."
The Sixth Element
In the last days of the Second Age, the fae attacked with more force than anyone had imagined they could bring to muster. The Sidereals had seen nothing in the stars. The Lunars standing at the borders were powerless to prevent it. Even the mighty defenses of the Realm were whittled down to almost nothing before the fighting was over.
The attack was halted by five young Dragonbloods as the Fae were taking the Blessed Isle itself. They were heralded as heroes, as the new incarnations of the Five Elemental Dragons. They were given rule over all the Realm, and the mandate to expand its influence once more.
As they sent armies out into the Threshold, they found that it had changed. As the west had been shattered into islands before, now was the whole of Creation. But instead of rivers and seas keeping the lands apart, now there was only void. Moreover, the islands in the sea of nothingness were not on a plane with one another, but scattered through the sphere of creation.
As had been, those islands towards the East were covered in the trees of the element wood, those towards the west flowed with the rivers and seas of the elment water, those in the north covered in the ice and snow of the element air, and those in the south made up of the endless desert plains of the element fire. Down became the element of earth -- those islands that were lowest were covered in the craggy mountains of that element.
As for what lies above, no man has yet returned to tell the tale. It appears the vault of heaven is closed to us, and it is left to dreamers and visionaries to determine what, exactly, lies in the direction of the Sixth Element.
-- From the Chronicles of Adair Westfall, Volume 1: Dawn of the Third Age of Man
Chapter One: Barflies
Artful Counterpoint hated playing places like this. They were so common. They always asked for the same songs that he had played a thousands timed before in places just like this, and they always wanted him to play them over and over again. Sure, it was easy, but he sometimes felt like it was beneath him. All the frustration built up inside him until it drowned out the rest of the world. Oh well, he thought to himself, at least the set is over and I'll be doing something else for a while.
"Change! You forgot it! What are you deaf and incompetent?"
Artful Counterpoint looked out the window. He had maybe another five minutes before the rendezvous. Best to get out of here quickly, no matter how much his wallet would hate him for it later, "Why don't you keep it?"
The bartender smiled, "You sure? There's enough to pay for the whole house worth for the night in here."
Artful Counterpoint squirmed politely, "Yes, keep it. It's been a pleasure."
"Well thank you sir, and sorry about what I said before. You know how it is, eh? Oh, hey, You forgot your Lute too!"
The bartender turned back for a response, but the musician was already gone.
"Some people would lose their heads if they weren't nailed on..."
As soon as the bartender went back to cleaning glasses, a young girl who had been sitting in the corner booth all night grabbed the lute and slipped out the door. Noone noticed her leave but then, noone had noticed her when she was there either.
The lady in green laid down her cards. "Full Boat, Dragons over Dynasts. I'll take your money, gentlemen and then I believe I'll take my leave. No sense in making you all any poorer." She smiled, raked in the pot, and stood up.
"Now wait here a minute," one of the men she had been playing with had started thinking. She hated when they did that. "Seems to me that the last time I played against a bloke did this well, wasn't just luck on his side."
His two friends were starting to grunt with him. "Yeah!" Another one said, "I'll bet your one of them, wossnames, Anathema. Terrorizing good honest people."
The lady remained calm, "Good honest people. Do you know what happens now? First I'll mention you that unliscences gambling is illegal in this part of the realm. Next, I'll remind you that it was you fellows that invited me to a game."
"And last you'll call the magistrate on us? You're as much at fault here as any of us."
"No, see, you're wrong. I'm not going to call the magistrate. What I'm going to do after all that, is this." The lady closed her eyes let her disguise drop, revealing her true lithe, reptillian form complete with a crystal knife that, if looks could kill, would have had all three of them dead the instant it was drawn. By the time she opened her eyes again, the men were gone leaving her with her winnings.
"Humph. You'd think they'd never seen a Dragon-King before." The lady smiled again, this time to herself.
"No, but I have, Sara. Or should I say Cerataur?" A voice from behind her startled her out of her reverie. She turned to see a man who had been sitting in the corner the whole time. Now he was standing up, holding a Daiklaive in one hand and a badge with the five-color insignia of the Wyld Hunt on it. "My name is Agent Ramol. There are ten other agents in this bar prepared to move at this order. Come with me and you won't have to know which ones they are."
The lady in green sighed, "Look, can we do this later? I have somewhere to be." She flipped over the Wyld Hunt Agent and ran for the door, "Oh, and I prefer Sara. My people are masters of a great many things but picking baby names never was one of them."
Fitz sat in the open air in a portside cafe across from the man who was paying for his dinner. Food always tasted better when it was free.
"So you'll get it for me?" The man may have been generous, but he was a bit high strung. Fitz made a point of adjusting his fez with exaggerated nonchalance before replying.
"Patience, friend. I'm enjoying the moment. Do you know how much better food is in the Realm than in the threshold? No, I suppose you wouldn't. Now I've met many who swear by the spicy southern delicacies and the wonderous selection of pickled fishes one can find in the north. But for me nothing quite matches a crisp Imperial summer wine and a fois gras from the Juche region. I suppose it reminds me of my youth." To accentuate his point, Fitz took another bite and smiled.
"I'm a busy man, Fitz. Can your men get it or not?" Fitz' benefactor was getting agitated.
"Yes, yes, yes. If all the information you've given me is in order, and I trust it's in order?" Fitz patted a scroll sitting next to him on the table. "Yes, they can get it for you. But then you know they're the best. You wouldn't have approached me if you didn't. Now relax and enjoy your dinner!"
Fitz caught a glimpse of Sara out of the corner of his eye being pursued by a hoarde of men lit up with the bonfires of Terrestrial Anima Banners just before they ducked around the corner to the rendezvous point. Fitz sighed, "Now, Cathak-san, I'm afraid something rather pressing has come up. I must take my leave. We'll contact you through the appropriate channels."
Sara reached the end of the pier. The Gilded Starlight wasn't there. Counterpoint was late. All the times he'd berated them to be on time and here he was: late when it really counted.
She dodged two batons and jumped around to meet the agents with her knife drawn. She couldn't take down all of them, but she could definately make a dent.
"Stop! Come peacefully and you will be given leniency."
Sara snarled as she dodged two more batons and cut a nasty gash across the arm of the Air aspect closest to her. "I know what leniency means to you people. Life servitude in the Althazzar mining colony. No thank you."
"As you wish." Ramol put his hand to the ground and began to chant. Sara tried to get to him to break his spell but there were too many men around her. She fought her way through, vaulting over as many heads as she could, but it just wasn't enough. She could see the flames streaming up and around Ramol's arms now.
And then she saw them fade. Standing behind Ramol was the impressive bulk of Fitz, his tetsubo gleaming in the starlight with Ramol's blood. "I'm afraid I've just knocked him out. Come quickly, we can rendezvous later."
As if on cue a rope ladder descended from the sky.
"It appears that won't be necessery." Sara motioned upwards to the Gilded Starlight, "Seems like Counterpoint got here in time after all."
A voice boomed out from the heavens, "Damn right I did. Now get on! The Hunt's not going to let you stand there forever."
Fisher in Clear Waters watched the Dragon and the Outcaste climb onto the ship from her vantage point undeneath it's hull. They were good fighters with good natures. She would have to do more research into their backgrounds to find out how they'd ended up in this life.
As the ship flew up and away from the port she climbed in through a porthole she had unlocked earlier, at watched the Blessed Isle drop away from the safty of the cargo hold.
When she got tired of watching she pulled a paper and a brush out from her satchel, and began to make notes.