An Agent of Bosch is discovered and dealt with by the Landsknechts
(Buran) (Chronotopia) (Jonas) (Kensington) (Landsknechts) (Nordika)
The City of Clocks. Everywhere in this city of towering architecture, clocks dominate the daily life of the citizens. Decades of work by master craftsmen have overcome the difficulties of technology through tight tolerances, precision and maintenance. Occasionally, a distant explosion of a 'regular emergency' can be heard. The clocks however, from the smallest Chronotopian Egg to Great Gretchen, tick away the seconds dutifully. They are a constant reminder, that following the rules, and doing things precisely and properly will result in a secure, predictable future. The clocks giv eorder to the chaos that surrounds this land.

Yawning as the crack of dawn pierces the tiny room that he occupies, the sky not quite blue yet, Gergesene stretches his wings and bumps into another Korv, who is uncomfortably sharing the same room. Just for the night, of course. Tomorrow, he expects to be gone. The Korv knight kaws at his cousin, half-irritably, then tries to put a good face on it. "Good morning, Kensington."

Kensington adjusts his position on his cot, twisting about and blinking bleary eyes. "Wuzzis? Whudya want? It's barely bleedin' sun-up, Gerry, I got a good four hours of sleep to go." He tugs at his rough blanket, clacking his beak in irritation. "Not that I can sleep on a deck that don't move, mind you. I'll have a kink in my back for weeks."

"At this hour," Gergesene says rather officiously. "A squire would have already been up for a half hour. If you intend to carry out your part of our bargain as long as you are staying here, you should learn to keep our hours. Come on! I want to introduce you to Squire Devon. He's a good lad."

Gergesene shakes out his tunic and slips the leather on, then holds the chitin breastplate up and fastens it around himself with small straps, front and back.

Kensington sits on the edge of his cot for a moment, rubbing his head. "Right, fine, fine," he yawns, his voice still gravely and not quite awake. "The Cutlass is a bird of his word, let's meet this bloke an' get it over with." He tugs his shirt and breeches on, and searches for a reflective surface to smooth his feathers in.

The somewhat larger Korv looks with some qualms at his cousin. "I expect you to set a good example for him," he lectures as he squeezes past Kensington to the door and opens it. "You know that young Cervanis are quite impressionable, cousin. He's had a difficult time and he's just now learning to fit in here."

Outside of the Keep, in the exercise yard, Jonas patiently demonstrates to the young Cervani known amongst the Landsknechts as Devon Rainscroft the strengths and weaknesses of a two-handed blade. Several Landsknecht have compared the Bear's stature to that of the Titanian natives that occasionally assault Chronotopia's borders, and Jonas has used that similarity to demonstrate how t ofight a larger opponent.

Deciding that no morning can be bad enough to disguise a true ladykiller, Kensington gives up on preening and follows his larger cousin with a jaunty step. "No problem!" he caws reassuringly. "I know a kid's impressionable. Why, I'da never learned to drink a bosun under th' table iffen the Captain didn't teach me, eh? I'll do right by the lad."

Gergesene gacks.

"I just hope that the other Landsknechts will be enough to counteract my cousin," the Korv knight mutters to himself as he stalks out of his room and toward the practice area.

Kensington follows along, his head turning this way and that to take in the sights the impressive fortress has to offer. His good humour slowly returns, and he begins whistling a tune to himself.

The practice yard is full already at this early hour, with Landsknechts warming up. Their squires stand ready, listening to their instructions, copying their actions, or helping with the armour. Off to one side the now familiar form the bear highlander is demonstrating for a young Cervani.

Jonas extends the long wooden practice blade out to a full extension. "Ye can see how the long blade, in the hands of a large opponent, kin equal or surpass the length of many of the polearms that soldier soften use. Because o' this, a soldier must take advantage of the slow recovery that a two-handed swing results in."

From one side of the practice field comes a familiar Korv voice. "And this is the infirmary, particularly close to the sparring grounds as you can see. I pray you'll never have a need for it, but you should know where it is." Gergesene steps out onto the grass, followed at some distance by another Korv, and looks about for Jonas and the young squire.

Squire Devon, also know as Jael, makes a similar and more clumsy motion with his own sword. "Yes, I think I see." He tries a few more times, experiencing the delay in recovery.

Jonas swings the wooden sword in an arc that shows his experience with that type of weapon. "With a large blade, ye really have only two swings; left to right, and right to left." He grins, slightly. "'Course, ye can swing down and up, but both o' those swings are a mite harder to recover from."

Kensington calls out merrily as they approach. "Careful lad, ye'll knock yerself right over swingin' that monstrosity!"

The young deer enthusiastically swings, from right to left and overreaching a great deal. His return swing is a little slower. "It's easier to the left side," he decides.

Gergesene rawk! "Be more respectful," he chides his cousin. "Can't you see the Commissar is teaching the squire? But that is Jonas, and that is Squire Devon."

Jonas says, "If ye decide to take to the large blade, ye'll need much practice, and ye'll need to learn something for close in, when thes maller fighter gits inside yer guard … and he will get inside yer guard." Jonas looks up at the shout, seeing an unfamiliar Korv walking with Gergesene.

Devon nods to Jonas' instructions, looking up when his teacher does.

Jonas says, "Good morrow, Gergesene. Who is this?"

The Korv knight gestures to the only slightly smaller Korv, who might otherwise appear identical. "This, Commissar, is my cousin, Kensington. Lately, an airship captain, but it was lost in an accident so he has travelled back home for a while. Kensington, Commissar Jonas."

Other Landsknechts instruct their own squires, some individually, some in small groups. The more experienced youths are granted personal instruction, while the others are drilled in simpler tactics by the Landsknecht who performed the best the day before.

Devon awkwardly holds his long wooden sword by the middle, and bows to Gergesene, and Kensington.

Jonas nods to the other Korv. "Grace upon ye. Jonas MacAllister o' the Black Watch, and Commissar."

"And this is Squire Devon," Gergesene says, completing the introductions. "How are you doing, lad?"

Kensington rasps an aside to Gergesene, "Right, smooth as ice, no worries." Striding up to the enormous bear, he nearly touches the ground with the tip of his bill in a deep bow. "Captain St. Germain, at yer service! Named the Cutlass, an' twice as sharp as the one I wield. It's a pleasure, Commissar. And this must be Squire Devon! 'E's a strappin' lad, ain't he? Whatcha got him wavin' that pole around for, though?"

Gergesene would sweat if birds could.

"Um… I'm fine Sir St. Germain." Devon answers quietly to the Landsknecht.

Gergesene fidgets instead. "Ah. Wonderful, Squire Devon. Well, asyou may have heard, I'll be travelling, so I've asked my cousin to dome a favor and stay here for a while to watch over you. And deliversome small letters as well to my family, of course, but that won'ttake long, I'm certain."

Jonas grunts at Kensington. He looks down at the Korv briefly, before laughing out loud. "If ye ain't a Corsair, friend, I'm a blue trout!" he exclaims. "Well met, Corsair."

The young Cervani shakes his head, "No sir, I haven't heard. Where will you be going?"

"To the land of Bosch," the Korv says with shining eyes. "Where we shall smite that source of evil such a great blow that it may not recover for many years, I fondly hope. Do not speak of it to others, Squire Devon, for that hated country should receive no warning save the swing of the first sword against it, but pray for me and my companions if you would."

"To Bosch!" Devon says in a loud excited whisper, then gazes downward, "but you're leaving me behind?"

Kensington's beak splits into a grin, and he starts to reply to Jonas, but is cut off by Gergesene's outpouring. "Steady on, cousin. You make that sound almost fun."

The young deer nods at Kensington's comments, "All the triumphs in the library, you'll be heroes when you return."

Jonas looks down at Devon. "Lad, that nightmare is no place fer ye. If'n ye decide to go when yer older, then ye'll be free to go, but fer now, let's solve yer … problem. I think ye know which one ye mean."

Kensington shuffles his talons on the turf of the practice field. "Err… a' course he well, m'boy. 'Course he will." For once, he keeps his additional comments to himself.

Gergesene looks surprised at Kensington. "Fun? It is not intended to sound fun," he says. "It will be a time of great tribulations and trials of the soul as well as of the body. But it is for this reason that I have strived to temper myself as fully as I can, to yield the utmost sacrifice for our country." He pats Devon's shoulder. "I cannot guarantee success, but prayers can only help our cause, Squire."

Devon sighs, slapping the wooden sword against his thighs, "I know, you're right. Its just… I want to be a hero too. I guess I'll wait."

Jonas grunts. "If'n that were a real blade, Squire, ye'd be in the chiurgeon's office right now. Respect yer weapon, practice or no."

Kensington nods. "I know me sortsa folks, Squire Devon. I'd lift a mug in th' pub with the Commissar here any day, 'cause he's a fellow with sense." He looks meaningfully at Gergesene as he enunciates the word 'sense'. "You just follow his advice."

As the Korv pats the young Cervani's shoulder, the whole practice yard fades from his vision, and his vision alone. He sees Jael… no, not Jael, someone resembling Jael a great deal, just a little older, also saying, "I want to be a hero." A second young Cervani is patting him on the back, "Don't worry, I'll make sure you come back a hero." The image swirls, another deer resembling Jael, in an older style of armour. "I want to be a hero." The visions keep coming, the dress changes, but the words and family resemblance stays. Then everything is normal again.

Gergesene's beak-edges turn up. "Your time will come, Devon." His eyes seem teary as he kneels before the young Cervani and clasps his hands. "You are born of greatness, but in what way you will find it, I cannot say. We must all play our parts in the Grand Machine."

Jonas nods. "Who knows? Ye may find it back at that school of yers, with all those noisy whatchamacallits." He grins. "Or ye may go elsewhere. The Mother offers so many choices, and there are always Primogen to guide ye."

Devon is nodding to Jonas' warning about the blade when Gergesene's words and gesture take him by surprise. "Yes Sir St. Germain, Jonas… I… " He is speechless.

"You must look to your heart," the Korv says intently. "In the heart is greatness of the soul born. In the heart is where the Star shines brightest." He stands slowly.

The other knights and squire start practicing with more enthusiasm, and noise.

The young Cervani holds onto his wooden sword a little tighter as he watches the Korv stand. He clutches the hilt of it against his chest.

There is a sudden rumbling, low and loud. It seems to be emanating from Jonas. The Bear looks acutely embarrassed. "Yer pardon. I think that breakfast is in order." He grins abashedly.

Gergesene feels certain in his mind. Of course. Somehow the Starhas chosen to guide Jael here… Because he will become a greatLandsknecht. Cherishing the warmth of that knowledge, he turns toJonas. "Yes, that is a fine idea, my friend. I'm sure that Squire Devonhas worked up an appetite as well, and… " he glances over toKensington. "I have never known my cousin to be short of hunger."

"Oh breakfast! Yes." Devon says excitedly, forgetting the awkward moment.

Kensington quietly looks on, regarding Gergesene somewhat differently. A hint of respect creeps into his look, but the Korv's eyes quickly darken again, and he turns away. He turns back around abruptly as the ursine makes a noise he usually associated with hi scraft's boiler-room straining.

Jonas takes the practice sword from Devon. "I'll return these to the armorer. He'll be pleased I haven't broken them, no doubt. And then, breakfast!"

On the other side of the yard, a carriage rolls across the cobblestone heading for the gate. It gives the smaller Korv something to watch ashe glances away from the bear.

Kensington pats his stomach. "Aye, a plate of steaks and a foamin' mug'll do me some good. What's there to grub on around here?"

Squire Devon hands over the wooden weapon to the highlander, "Thanks Jonas."

Jonas pauses, "One last thing on the long blade, Devon. It's not fer everyone. As ye may notice, Gergesene and Fadyr both use other weapons. I kin teach ye those as well. Each weapon has its own strengths, and ye should choose one that suits yers as well." With that said, he turns to return the swords to the armorer.

"Sir Hehner is not one to support inebriation in our ranks early in the morning," Gergesene says, distracted from visions of Jael in glory by Kensington's earthliness. "But I am certain there is substantial provender in our mess hall. Perhaps some slabs of Bromthen ham and certainly bread and cheese."

The young squire tags along beside the Landsknecht and the Corsair.

Gergesene leads the way, droning on to Kensington about the mess hall's provenance – that it along with the practice yard and the infirmary, comprises some of the oldest parts of the keep. He pauses in an aside to ask Jonas, "Whatever became of Feskh? Was he dealt with properly, Commissar?"

Kensington rubs his handclaws together briskly. "Ahh, food fit for a captain! Sure beats hard-tack."

Jonas hands over the swords to one of the armorers apprentices and retrieves his own blade. He slings it over his shoulder, saying, "The Child o' Felis? The Commisars came to the agreement that he's to be exiled. Ye'll have him with ye when ye go to Bosch."

The mess is a large old hall, with high rafters. The dark wood crossbeams are up high enough a Korv could easily wing about the hall, though there has been only one Landsknecht capable of taking advantage of that so far, and he has not. The room is empty as the most of the knights and squires are still in the yard. The cooking staff is setting out the food.

Gergesene blinks, stopping in his tracks. "*He* is to be honored as a companion on our expedition?" he says with dismay. "A guardsman so undisciplined as to shoot and kill Brother Salvatori, is to be rewarded for his grievous actions?"

"Salvatori's Dead?!" Jael asks, horrified.

Jonas turns back to Gergesene. In serious tones, he says, "He is being given a chance to atone fer his actions, Sir Gergesene. He was following orders from one who thought to preserve yer throne, much like ye yerself have been. And Fadyr also takes this journey to atone, might I remind ye."

The young deer looks up at Jonas, holding the cogwheel the healer gave him. "Is he… is he?" His eyes watering.

Kensington pauses at the door of the hall, watching the group curiously. {Hoy… this stuff's complicated.} he thinks to himself.

Gergesene puts his hands on Jael's shoulders comfortingly. "Yes, lit'un, one named Feskh took his orders too far and injured him nigh unto death, so that nothing Healer Buran could do would revive him. I mourn for him, and have lit a candle to his memory. If you would remember him well, you should do the same." He turns his teary eyes to Jonas. "The guardsman will have much to atone for."

Jonas looks down at Devon. "Aye, lad," he says in quieter tones. "He was poorly taken care of after being injured."

Jonas grunts. "He's going into Bosch, Gergesene. I think that's a good start."

"Repentance, like greatness, comes from the heart," the Korv knight says sternly. He guides the young Cervani into the mess hall, hoping that the smell of the food will distract Squire Devon from morose thoughts.

Devon remains silent, his head hanging down, and his small hand tight around the healer's gift.

"Its okay Sir St. Germain, I'm not really hungry anymore." The small stag says as the Korv leads him around.

Jonas turns and wanders towards the sideboards, intent on food. He looks over at one of the servers, smiling as he says, "Still no haggis?" It's a question he's jokingly asked every day here.

One of the chefs, the one that usually receives the question, shakes her head and instead pushes forward a large plate of pancakes. "Perhaps these?" The doe suggests.

Kensington nods at his cousin, as he places a claw on his new charge's shoulder. "C'mon, lad. Some food'll do you good. Hey, you can't black a blighter's eye fer lookin' at you funny iffn yer weak from hunger, eh? Take it from me, y'gotta eat when food comes around, 'cause it don't come around real regular-like, where I'm from."

Gergesene shudders a bit at Kensington's manners. The shipping business sounds very rough indeed.

Jonas takes the plate. "Oh, I suppose, if'n there's no haggis," he says,in tones of mock-dejection. He adds several pieces of ham and a healthy pile of hash browned tubers to the plate as well.

Devon gives a strange look at Kensington as he tries to understand the corsair's words. He even mouths a few of them, before finally saying, "Yes Sir… I'll have some pancakes then." Encouraged, he adds the pancakes, and all the other things Jonas selects to his own plate. It is a much smaller helping of course.

Jonas looks over his shoulder at Devon. "Aye, lad. Ye eat when ye mourn, too. It's better that way."

Kensington grabs a plate for himself as well, heaping several good slabs of ham, and taking half a loaf of bread. "Are you usin' this crock of butter? Thanks, bucko. Hey, hey, hey! Leggo that hunk of cheese, that's mine!"

Gergesene chuckles a bit. "Ah, cousin, you were always a solid trencherbird." He serves himself almost as lightly as Devon, selecting ham, bread, and cheese.

Kensington grumbles something as a knight makes off with a good-sized chunk of cheddar. "Huh! An' they say I don't got manners! Well, looks like there's plenty t'go 'round."

Kensington savors the aroma rising from his well-stocked plate, then surveys the hall for a good spot to sit and commence tucking in.

Gergesene glances toward the doorway. "They do not stint us at the keep, cousin," he says cheerfully. "A fighting man must keep up his strength to fight." He walks by one of the mess hall's windows to see if he can catch sight of who was in the carriage.

Jonas finds an empty spot for four and sits, eating his breakfast with gusto. He pauses to pour molasses on the pancakes, but starts making a dent in those soon.

There are few people in the hall at this time, so many seats are easily available. The carriage has long since vanished, and is not visible through the arrow slit windows of the Hall.

Gergesene kaws, "Hmm. I wonder if Sir Steinhardt's back yet?… "

Devon sits down beside Jonas, and copies him in manners and choice of what to eat first.

Gergesene frowns, but settles in next to the others to try and provide a *good* example for the boy.

Kensington caws, "They don't at that, Gerry." He follows after Jonas, taking a seat on the opposite side of the table, and starts sawing hi smeal into gulpable chunks with a fork and serrated knife.

Kensington pecks a cube of ham off his plate, and tosses back his head. "Gulp!"

Devon, unfortunately, seems more inclined to copy the simple, or absent, manners of Jonas and Kensington, than the more elaborate and almost ritualistic methods Gergesene uses on his meal.

Jonas looks up briefly to reach over and grab the salt cellar. His eyes flick between Devon and Gergesene and a small snort of amusement escapes him.

Gergesene whispers to Devon, "Litt'un, whatever else you learn in the next few weeks… Don't copy my cousin's manners, please." He looks pained. "A good Landsknecht eats politely so that he will not shame his lord if he is asked to the table."

Chastized, the young deer starts to watch Gergesene instead, "I will sir."

The corners of the corsair's beak crinkle in a grin as he places a hunk of bread on the tip of his beak. "He's just jealous, 'cause he could never do this trick. Betcha can't do this, boy!" He holds it there for half a second, covers his eyes, then lofts the morsel upward, snapping it out of the air with a loud *clack*! "Ta-daah!"

Jonas returns the salt cellar to the center of the table, and pats Gergesene on the shoulder. "I'll leave the manners training to ye, Sir Knight, eh? Something to think about when ye get back."

Gergesene finishes quickly, nevertheless, perhaps because he put not as much on his plate as the others did. He dabs at his beak politely with a napkin. "Very good, Squire Devon. Ah – I should go see – " He groans and covers his eyes with his wing at Kensington's antics.

Kensington uncovers his eyes, still grinning and mumbling crumbs around the edges of his beak. "Took me a year t'master that 'un!"

"As I said," the Korv knight says dryly. "I shall see if Sir Steinhardt is back; we'll have a great deal of planning to do for our expedition."

"I… uh… " Devon looks between the two Korvs, "I'd better not, Sir Kensington."

Jonas chuckles at Kensington's antics.

Gergesene takes his plate to the kitchen's window and hands it to a squire on kitchen duty, then stops by the others. "Stay well, my friends. I'll find you again within an hour or so, all going well." He heads out the door.

Kensington laughs, and caws, "I hate t'say it, but Gerry's prob'ly right. Wouldn't be too classy to be sprayin' crumbs at the other lords'n'ladies, eh?" He waves a greasy claw-hand at his cousin. "See ye soon."

With a hearty flagon of the local drink, {Faugh! Tastes like a horrib did 'is business in me mug!} Kensington decides he's had his fill. He wipes his fingers on any available tablecloths, and prepares to depart with the rest of the group.

Devon isn't quite finished however, and Jonas still has an impressive way to go as well. Breakfast continues a little longer, and the young deer soon starts copying the highlander again. As their plates are emptied, the Korv Landsknecht returns.

Kensington greets his cousin cheerfully. "Uuurp!"

Gergesene looks about wildly for a moment, and then his gaze settles on Devon with almost perplexion. He walks over to the others.

Gergesene frowns and then whispers to Devon, "You didn't just get on a carriage, did you?"

"Sir?" Devon asks.

"You have been here all meal, yes?" The Korv knight appears rather confused by recent events.

Jonas wipes his mouth with a large napkin. "What're ye on about, Gergesene. O' course he's been here."

Kensington nods, flicking an errant crumb of cheese off the table. "Aye, the boy's been with us the whole time."

Gergesene rubs his head with some confusion. "Because Sir Steinhardt just gave me some rather distressing information. And I cannot fathom what has occurred, unless there is magic at work… "His feathers ruffle. "Jonas, if you would, we should hurry to the Parliament and see if we can catch the carriage that left some time ago. Kensington, would you mind keeping our young Squire Devon busy for the day?"

"And, out of sight," he continues in a lower whisper to his cousin.

Jonas says, "Eh? Magic? Damn. I knew this day was going too well."

Jonas considers, and says, "P'raps we should give Devon over to Fadyr instead. He's more familiar with the lad's … problem."

Gergesene glances over to Jonas, and then to Squire Devon. Well, yes indeed. And Sir Rainscroft is in fact the lad's protector in name. "All right, let's do that then. But we should hurry."

"Well, Sir Rainscroft is my uncle… " Devon offers helpfully.

Kensington crosses his wings indignantly. "Well, yer not just gonna leave me 'ere with all these armoured stiffs, are ya?"

"The thought had crossed my mind," Gergesene says. He watches his cousin, remembering that Kensington is as hard to shake as glue if h egets wind of something interesting.

Kensington taps the bell of his cutlass. "C'mon, cousin! I 'aven't had a chance to show you what I learned since you knocked me out by the church all those years ago!"

"If you're to come with us," Gergesene insists as he takes hold of Kensington's shoulder. "You must take all of what we do in utmost secrecy." He dredges his mind for that old oath that they used long ago when they still played pretend together. "Blood Rover's Promise?"

Jonas says, "Ye might as well, Gergesene. If'n I'm any judge o' character, he'll just follow us if we leave him here. Or, barring that, git into an argument with yer fellow knights."

Jonas grins.

Kensington hesitates for a moment, then clenches his cousin's opposite shoulder. "May Blood Rover catch me if I break me word. Let's be off."

Something tenses in Gergesene's body, and then relaxes. "All right, cousin." He grins wryly. "Almost like old times."

The night passed uneventfully for Shem and Buran. There were no disturbing dreams, and no unexpected nocturnal visitors. It is still quite early, and the convalescent Cervani is still asleep. Buran is finding herself some breakfast when she is interrupted. A Landsknecht, one she met yesterday, is striding towards her.

"Excuse me." The knight says, "I was told you were a healer and could be found here. Someone is hurt."

Buran unbars the door, having set down her food on a small table. "Where?"

"Out in the street." The Cervani replies, "She fell from a moving carriage, it is quite serious."

The healer takes her duty very seriously, even if it could put her own life in danger. She looks briefly at the sleeping Shem, then nods. "Show me where." Quickly, she follows the knight into the hall and closes the door behind her.

The Landsknecht leads the Healer through the barracks. Once again the few people they pass seem uninterested in their presence. The strange feeling of being watched remains, along with half-seen motions at the corner of the eye, as the Sphinx follows the Cervani. In front of the Palace is parked a carriage, blocking the road, a little further up in the opposite direction, other vehicles are starting to collect. Between them, a doe lies on the cobblestones, bleeding.

"She may be delirious." The Landsknecht whispers to the healer as they approach, "She was frantic in the cab, and is likely worse afterthe fall."

Buran surveys the scene, taking in the disorder. Her sharp eyes soon catch sight of the doe, and her equally-keen ears catch the sounds of distress. Carefully, she steps around the carriages to kneel beside the doe. "Did anyone see what happened?" she asks, looking around at the crowd.

The small crowd that had gathered takes a moment to respond to Buran's question. Murmers of 'Bosch', and 'Twisted Beast' are heard, and the ones in front have expressions of genuine fear. Finally a panther answers, her eyes avoiding the Sphinx's. "She just leapt out of the cab sir… they were going quite fast."

The doe lies awkwardly on the road, still conscious. Her left leg is twisted, a broken bone erupting from her shin. She has other scrapes and bruises from her short roll down the street. More disturbing than these wounds however, is her hollow pallor.

As always, the winged cat takes note of the looks, disliking them, but knows that there are more important things to worry about. As she gently runs her fingers over the injured doe to inspect the wounds, Buran directly addresses the panther. "The carriage ran over her?"

The doe herself might be drawing some of the comments from the crowd. Her eyes appear sunken, her pelt dull, and her whole body frail. Most disturbing of all, she is spreading some of her own blood in arcane patterns; she marks a small circle on the road, limited to the area she can reach by only moving her arm.

The Khatta shakes her head, "No sir, she jumped far clear of the wheels. It was when she hit… " The panther definitely prefers looking at the Healer, than the doe.

The doe is oblivious to Buran's touch, she continues… chanting? Her eyes are unfocused, and her voice weak.

The Landsknecht looms behind Buran. "The conditions inside the palace are probably better for treatment, if she can be moved. It would also let theses people continue on their way."

Buran nods, and turns to the doe. "Do not worry," she says. "I'm a healer. I'm here to help you." She gently examines the broken leg, quietly talking to her patient all the while. Addressing the crowd, she shouts, "I need some rope and a few pieces of wood about this long." – she holds her hands about a meter apart.

A few of the crowd back away under the direct gaze of the healer, but others nod, after a moment. They dash into shops and emerge, with rope and wood, and bring them over.

The healer looks up at the knight. "I'm doing what I can. But moving her now could cause more trouble than it would solve." She thanks those who have brought the requested supplies and sets about making a splint for the doe's left leg. From somewhere under her robe, she brings out a chitin knife, which is used to remove a strip from the doe's tattered clothing; Buran uses it to cover the doe's scrapes and cuts. All the while, she talks soothingly to her patient.

The doe keeps chanting, and shows no reaction to the healer's words. Her leg is by far the worst of her wounds. The splintered bone has opened a long cut in her shin, causing a pool of blood to spread beneath her. The other scrapes are quite minor in comparison.

The Khatta kneels beside Buran, "Do you need any help, and what is she doing?"

Buran inspects her rope-and-wood creation, then sets about fastening the splint to the doe's leg after first wrapping the leg in some of the cloth. "I believe it's a healing spell," she says distractedly, adjusting the fit of the splint. "She's some kind of a mage, it looks like… hold that, yes, there. Thank you." The splint creaks a bit as it falls into place. "She isn't going to have too much luck in the condition she's in."

The priestess studies the blood-drawn symbology on the ground.

"A mage? Magic!" The panther jumps up. The crowd echoes her surprise, and there is the sound of weapons being drawn. "Bosch!" echoes through the assembled people. That word seems to bring a focus to the doe's eye. It rolls around as she takes in the crowd, the Khatta, the Sphynx and the knight. The wounded mage screams "BOSCH!" and tries to crawl away.

Two black dots hover in the sky. One of them kaws to the other and begins to dive downward to the ground, seeing the gathering. "That's Talia!"

Kensington beats his wings several times to settle into an easy glide as he approaches the chaotic scene. With an elegant wingover maneuver, he lowers himself in a series of circles overhead before slowing himself enough to land without any unseemly running. He glances over his shoulder to see where his cousin is.

"A Luftritter!" someone in the crowd says as Kensington lands.

Gergesene glides in just after Kensington. "Healer Buran!" he says with consternation. "What are you doing here?"

Gergesene glances over at Kensington as the crowd calls him one of the Korvish air force. Well, it will do no harm if they think so, and who knows, perhaps his cousin will enlist.

The healer moves two heavy pieces of wood on either side of the doe's head. "Please, don't move," she says to the patient. She addresses the Korv. "I was told there was someone hurt. I heal. I came."

"A Landsknecht! Sir, that ones from Bosch!" The Rath'ani speaking points directly at… Talia, though Buran could be included in the gesture.

Kensington trots after his cousin, one eye twitching as he looks at the fallen doe. "Ugh!" he rasps, a touch of distaste in his voice at the sight of the squiggly patterns.

"We'll deal with the matter," Gergesene tells the Rath'ani authoritatively. "You can all go about your business. Clear the area! The healer needs room to work."

Gergesene makes shooing gestures. The sooner the traffic jam is undone, the sooner Jonas will get here. "Kensington, give her a hand with that."

Talia continues to weakly struggle, trying to escape. "Bosch." Is all she says in a frightened whisper.

Kensington nods wordlessly. His eyes widen a little at the sight of Buran, but apparently, whatever he's thinking can wait. He kneels on the opposite side of the doe, rasping, "What do ye need me to do?"

Standing behind Buran, momentarily unobserved in the commotion of the Korv's arrival, is another Landsknecht. Sir Steinhardt in fact.

Buran strokes the doe's forehead, trying to calm her down. "Please, don't try to talk." Looking up at Kensington, she indicates the doe's injuries. "I've stabilized her. She must be moved out of the street to a safe place. But she will recover completely. Can you help me lift her?"

Gergesene looks back from where he's directing the crowd. "Kensington! Ask her who was in the carriage with her – Sir Steinhardt!" He looks amazed to see the Cervani here.

Kensington's talons inadvertently smear a little pooled blood by the circle and sigils as he plants his feet beneath himself, and takes hold of the doe beneath the knees. "When yer ready, healer."

"Yes?" Sir Steinhardt turns to look at Gergesene, with no flash of recognition in his eyes. In the next instance he steps around Buran, crouching down to pick up the wounded Doe.

Talia gives a terrified gasp and grabs onto Kensington.

Kensington barely looks up as a shadow crosses his back. "It's alright, mate, I got her… ngk!" He looks rather startled as Talia grips one of his wings.

Buran stands, her eyes showing anger and her ears flicking back. Her whiskers twitch as she says in a low voice, "What are you doing?" An angry Khatta, especially a winged Sphynx, is not a pretty sight.

"How did you get here so quickly?" Gergesene says as he moves in closer. Something about Steinhardt's actions ruffles his feathers.

Buran glowers at Steinhardt, ignoring the reactions of the crowd.

The Cervani Landsknecht wrenches Talia up in one swift motion. The doe is either as light as a small child, or the knight stronger than he appears. The Sphinx's protests are ignored, the knight raising his other arm to shove her into Gergesene's way.

Kensington's lower beak shifts to one side uncertainly. "Rest easy, lady, you're going to be all right," he rasps at an attempt at a soothing tone. He's interrupted rather rudely by the Cervani.

Talia moans, and her grip on Kensington's wing fails.

Kensington angrily caws, "What in blazes… ?!"

Gergesene kaws! "Kensington! He is not the knight he appears! He is the tool of Bosch!" He puts a hand to a saber, but realizes that Tali ais a hostage; instead he tries to step to the side and move in.

Buran sees the Cervani's arm swinging toward her and nimbly dodges, jumping back a few paces. She barely manages to avoid falling, using her wings to regain her balance. The wings, being as broad as they are, come very close to some of the bystanders.

The Landsknecht, or tool of Bosch, bursts into a sprint. He runs down the street towards the carriage, with Talia slung over his shoulder like a sack.

Gergesene kaws, "Kensington! We must stop him!"

Kensington's cutlass leaps from his scabbard, the Korv in hot pursuit. "Come back here and fight like a man, you bloody freak of nature! Get back here! Coward!"

Gergesene takes to the air, drawing his blades as he leaps. Twin slivers of metal gleam like gray ice. He sets his course for the carriage, trying to pass the false knight.

The priestess shouts at the top of her lungs – which is louder than you might expect – "Stop him! Kidnapper! Impostor!"

A shout of "Commissar coming through! Step aside!" comes from the back of the crowd of bystanders. Jonas appears at the edge of the crowd. "What the … ?"

"BOSCH!" A Rath'ani in the crowd shouts helpfully beside Jonas, pointing at Steinhardt.

Kensington calls over his shoulder, "Hurry, Commissar! After that Cervani!" He flips his cutlass around to ridge his right wingbone, and with a few more ungainly strides, jumps into the air.

Gergesene flaps hard! Speed, speed, speed… And he is unencumbered by a heavy burden.

Jonas grunts. In an instant, he barrels through the crowd.

The impostor knight runs faster than he should, but still not as quickly as a Korv flies. The two arrive at the carriage simultaneously.

Gergesene calls to Kensington, "Threaten the beasts! The carriage will be useless without them." He assigns himself the task of guarding the door to the carriage, dropping to the ground and turning about with a warning slash of blades.

Talia bounces helplessly as she is carried, her eyes wide, with spittle and blood flecking on her lips.

The milling crowd, the ever-increasing distance between herself and the rogue Cervani, and the need for haste are too much. Buran runs for the largest nearby relatively empty area and takes to the air from there. Bits of debris in the street swirl in the downdraft from the healer's quick takeoff. Moments later, she is chasing after Gergesene and Kensington.

As Gergesene slashes his blades in warning, Steinhardt heaves Talia into their deadly path.

Jonas tears forward, a roar issuing forth as he builds up speed.

Gasps and words of alarm spread through the crowd, at Jonas' passage and Buran's launch. Some scatter, others draw weapons tojoin the confusion.

Gergesene gasps at the fiendish trick. "You scum," he calls as he tries to pull the blades up and back so they won't touch Talia, but knowing that he can't hope to catch the doe without being knocked helpless. "You would sacrifice an innocent old woman for your fell ambitions!"

Kensington shouts, "I'll do what I can, Gerry!" Folding his wings, he dives at the Drokar drawing the carriage. With a loud *fwoop!* he suddenly opens them, bringing his feet beneath him to land on the rump of a Drokar. With several quick swipes of his cutlass, the leather bindings and harnesses attaching the creatures to the yoke fall away.

Talia passes under the sharp sweep of Gergesene's rising blades to impact against his waist, slamming the Korv back against the door of the carriage. The jolt knocks one saber from his hand, and before it, or the mage hits the ground, the Cervani has his hand around the winghand holding the remaining weapon.

Behind Steinhardt, Buran settles to the ground in another one of those downdrafts. A few loose items fly about, though nowhere near as many as before. She still looks rather angry.

Gergesene draws in a breath at the suddenness of the pounce, and glares at the faux-Cervani. "You've lost," he challenges. "No Drokars, no help, and no prisoners." He tries to peck at the impostor's face with his beak to further demoralize him.

Up close, the Korv Landsknecht can see nothing in his opponent's eyes. It is like looking into a deep well, or at the stone orbs in a statue. He doesn't react to the peck, instead dragging Gergesene like a limp doll, he throws him by the wing in Jonas' path as the bear barrels forward.

Kensington hops down from the spooked Drokar, circling the carriage with the tip of his blade extended, his off-wing held behind him in a classic fencing pose. He steals a glance at Buran before shouting at the… thing. "All right, whatever in sixteen hells and and nine fruit carts you are… unhand my kin before I… hey!"

Gergesene awwWWwwks!

Jonas grunts in surprise. In an attempt to avoid trampling the smaller, and more fragile, Korv, he shifts his angle of approach to bounce off the back of the coach, hopefully rebounding into the fray.

Gergesene's wings flap outward as his feet scrabble at the ground, trying to regain his balance. Hie clutches his one saber, intent on regaining the other and then the chase quickly.

The hollow knight scoops up Gergesene's discarded saber as the highlander slams into the back of the carriage. The vehicle jumps, knocked forward by the bear's mass. The Cervani ignores Buran, stabbing forward at the bear.

Out of the corner of her eye, Buran sees a few guards from the palace waving at her, and coming forward. They point at Talia.

Kensington dances around the fray, watching intently for the soulless Landsknecht to expose his back.

As the rogue knight concentrates his attention on Gergesene and Kensington, the healer sees her chance. Quickly, she dashes forward and scoops the injured doe into her arms. Another few seconds and she is running down the street and leaping into the air with her precious cargo.

Gergesene windmills around a few more times, a few black feathers whipping away in the wind, and drops to his knees, gasping for breath, his ribcage heaving. "Star," he whispers. "Give me strength to fight this abomination!"

Jonas steps forward, slapping at the saber with one arm. Jonas knows he's resilient enough to take a slash. With the other hand he reaches and grabs for the Cervani's antlers.

Jonas says, "C'mere, you! "

Up above the battle, Buran circles once before landing a good distance away relatively near the party of guardsmen. She holds tightly onto her burden, however.

Kensington's crest rises as he circles the fight and gets nearer the carriage, his head suddenly turning. A cry! From the carriage! Taking one last look at the fight, he curses and leaps onto one of the steps on the door, looking inside.

Buran turns toward the fight once more, still cradling Talia in her arms.

Resilient he may be, but Jonas is not expecting the sheer strength behind the thrust, and the metal blade bites into his flesh. This is minor, and forgotten in the next instance. Jonas grabs the Cervani's antlers, and pulls. They snap off the knight's skull like dry twigs, and then the bear is headbutted in the chest. It feels like a battering ram, and the highlander is pushed back three steps.

Inside the carriage a young Cervani cowers in a corner, screaming his lungs out at the scene outside.

Talia moans quietly in Buran's careful embrace, "My son… "

Jonas snarls and roars in pain. He staggers, but puts his weight behind a body block into the Cervani. With a smashing blow, he drives the broken antler into the Cervani's shoulder like a knife.

The winged Khatta gently brushes some matted hair from Talia's face. "Where?"

The antler disintegrates almost as quickly as the highlander brings itagainst the Cervani. In a dry puff, they crumble, and the bearsempty fist crashes into the side of the Knight, knocking him backagainst Gergesene.

"Carriage." Comes the faint whisper from the doe's lips.

Kensington grimaces at the shrieking. He flips his cutlass over in his handclaws, sheathing it. "Easy, son, easy! Calm down, I'm a friend!" rasps the Korv, holding his arms out.

Gergesene calls out, "Jonaaas!" He forgets the twinging pains in his stressed wing-arm, getting to his feet, wobbling, then forcing strength into his saber-arm. It shall not be said that he watched someone die before him when he could have acted! As the faux-Cervani comes his way, he tries to put all his strength into one great cut…

Buran mutters something under her breath, barely heard even by her patient.

Jonas snarls and reaches for the Cervani again. All he needs is to get both hands on the faux-Knight, and it'll be as good as over.

The young deer leaps forward into Kensington's arms.

The priestess, still cradling her precious cargo, looks toward the carriage and the shouts audible within; her ears prick forward to better hear them. To the doe, Buran murmurs quietly and calmly.

Oof! Kensington clasps the deer in his wings, and kicks the door on the other side of the carriage open, a few splinters of wood flying from the catch. He lifts the child up and hops out, his gaze casting about for any signs of trouble nearby.

Gergesene's blade slashes down, crashing against the back of the faux-knight. The steal blade gouges across armour, ripping deep into it. The mass that the Cervani once had, seems gone, as the blow fling sit forward against Jonas. The higherlander's hands catch knight's arms, halting him. The deer seems as light as a feather.

Gergesene gasps, looking at his blade for a second, then over at the creature. From terrifying menace, has the creature suddenly become a fledgling's toy? "Cold steel," he rasps in sudden realization. "Steel has always had power against things of Bosch."

Jonas brings the Cervani into a lock, immobilizing his arms and head in what other cultures would call a full nelson. He snarls as the move causes the wound on one arm to hurt even worse. "Fight's over, laddy."

There is a clatter as the armour falls in a pile between Jonas and Gergesene, leaving the bear holding two empty pieces.

Meanwhile, Buran gestures desperately for Kensington to come to where she is, quickly!

Gergesene pants for breath and then calls, "Kensington! Where are you?"

Jonas steps back in surprise. "What in the name of St. Wyrm?!"

Kensington steps out from behind the carriage, holding the sobbing Cervani child, whose arms are around the bird's neck. "It's all right, healer! The danger is past, I think."

Gergesene's eyes immediately slit. Is it?

Jonas clamps a hand around the wound on his arm almost unconsciously, applying pressure. With the toe of one boot, he nudges the armor, searching for some evidence of the mock-Steinhardt that wounded him. A look that might be construed as shock passes across his face, and then looks over at the others. When he sees the young Cervani weeping, he blurts out, "But if that is the lad, who is with Fadyr?"

As things settle down, Buran seems satisfied that nothing more will happen – for the moment, anyway. Cradling Talia like a child, the priestess approaches Kensington and his own burden. "Your son?" sheinquires.

The empty helmet holds no answers for Jonas.

Gergesene reaches for his other blade and takes it up, then looks over to Kensington. "What's the name of the litt'un you seem to have picked up?" He tries to sound casual as he sheathes it.

"My son." Talia says, before she faints. The child bears no resemblance to Jael.


GMed by John

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Today is 26 days after Candlemass, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)