Episode 67

Dretphi lifts her arms out to her sides, spreads her legs out, and watches Cideeda circle slowly around. In the open area between the living and dining parts of the large room of the ranch style house, Cideeda inspects the new under armor suit and plating on Dretphi. She pauses, demonstrates a maneuver, and directs Dretphi to mimic it. As Dretphi performs a similar move, Cideeda steps in close to investigate the spaces between the plates, and her ears perk forward, searching for any sounds of problems. After different flexes, stances, and actions, Cideeda twists her mouth contemplatively, and nods with her thoughts. She lightly sketches plating outlines upon the under armor around shoulders. “Okay. I think we got the plate clearance just right. You’ll just need to get the fasteners the way you want them.”

Dretphi nods as she studies the other chalk drawings upon her suit, and mentally reviews the last few minutes. “Did not feel any snags this time. Think I will use magnetic patch keying. Hook loop fasteners in the middle of the plating. Same as before.”

Nearby, Bach quirks his brow as he holds a variety of suit accessories in his arms. “Huh, I always wondered how you could stick those plates in the right place all the time. I just figured you knew it that well by memory.”

Hiding a bit of embarrassment with a smirk, Dretphi plays it off with a slight shaking of her head. “Not entirely. Pairs of keyed magnetic patches help align the plate. Then, you push on to fasten fully. I found it to be faster. Helpful when you are in a rush.”

Cideeda finishes touching up outlines around the plating upon Dretphi’s shin, stands up stretching her arms back, and sighs with a roll of her eyes. “Gods... Does this setup ever beat trying to using strap-on plates in a hurry.”

She grimaces mildly at a relevant memory. “I remember working with one group... VERY BRIEFLY... Who had one idiot with some complicated, ancient set of armor he got from some relative. And, he INSISTED on using it.”

Lowering her furry, annoyed ears out to the side of her head, she rakes her clawed fingers lightly through her shorter, mix of brown, orange, white, tan, and black hair, and expresses to Bach her stale frustration with a long sigh. “It would take him SO LONG to get suited up. By the time he got ready, threats and targets would be LONG GONE before we’d be able to go after them.”

She grits her teeth, snarls her upper lip, and slowly shakes her head with a groan. “I quit that group during the last contract. We were incredibly lucky to escape without getting chased down by some dire bear... And, the MORON wanted to go back to find the armor he had to leave behind. Gods almighty. He kept swearing it had some unique enchantment or something on it.”

Bach furrows an incredulous brow towards Cideeda with an unconvinced twist to his face. Lifting her eyebrow at Bach, she smirks slyly, and rests her hands on her hips with a sway. “Called out his bullshit right there. Since... unbeknownst to him... I had taken time to sneak over to his tent when no one was looking. And... I inspected that armor myself.”

Crossing her arms, she snorts derisively and laughs. “It didn’t take a mage to see anything with that much covered up rust and dry rot on the leather straps had nothing magical about it.”

Bach searches his mind a moment, grimaces at the image in his mind, and nods in total agreement. “Yeah. Even if it did have something, it was probably too weak and far gone to be worth the trouble. Especially, if the material had started to decay that badly. Usually, decent enchantments prevent that.”

Dretphi lowers her arms, gazes to Cideeda, and smiles with a chuckle. “You were hesitant to work with our group after you saw me.”

Bach blinks in surprise and glances over to Cideeda quizzically. Cideeda shrugs holding up her hands to side, and sarcastically groans at herself. “I just didn’t want to be in another group with yet another fighter that needed a pit crew to gear up.”

She quirks her brow to Dretphi, taps on one of her armor plates, and grins at Bach. “After seeing her put the suit and all the plates on herself in under two minutes, I felt I could work with this team.”

Dretphi swells with a bit pride at the comment, and points out a few spots around the edges of the dark red armor plate covers. “Still need to attach helper straps that make it easy to don. A trick my mother taught me.”

Cideeda’s ears perk as her recent memory brings something to her attention, and she sorts through the small collect of equipment in Bach’s arms. “Speaking of... Let’s see... What should we try to fit onto the suit first?”

Stepping over to the coffee table, Dretphi picks up her new transparent face shield helmet, and taps on a connection port around the bottom edge. “The radio?”

Bach studies the devices in his possession and presents a suitable component to give to Cideeda. “I think this one?”

Cideeda nods, plucks it out of Bach’s hand, and gestures Dretphi towards the floor. “Yeah. That would be a good one to start with. Just below the nape of the neck, like you had it before?”

Dretphi lowers down to a seat on the floor, and brings her platinum blonde braids forward out of the way. “Yes. That worked me.”

Studying the clearances and kinematics before her, Cideeda positions the radio unit upon the suit, below the nape of the neck, and holds it in place. “Give it a try here.”

Dretphi reaches her arm back behind her, feels out the location of the small piece of equipment, and practices a few routine actions. She moves her shoulders around, brushes back her hair, and readies her helmet. Cideeda gestures Bach close, and directs his attention to the radio. “Get the radio cable and put the rest of that stuff on the couch. Hold this in place, please. I want to check the clearances from a different angle.”

Bach glances down at the accessories, shifts a cable into his hand, and empties out his arms of the fodder onto the couch cushion. Leaning down to hold the device in place, he passes the radio cable to Dretphi’s waiting hand at Cideeda’s silent instruction. Dretphi connects the coiled cable to the radio unit on her back, and snaps the other end into the port on her helmet. Cideeda narrows her emerald eyes at Dretphi, and analyzes the entire process as Dretphi puts on the helm. Slowly looking side to side, up and down, and rolling her head, Dretphi steps through a memorized routine, occasionally waiting for Cideeda to check certain spots closer. After a few demonstrations, Cideeda pulls the triangle piece of chalk back out from her shorts pocket. She marks out the outline, moves the radio unit in Bach’s hand back, and writes a shorthand label in the middle. “I think that’ll work.”

Dretphi pulls off her new crimson helmet, disconnects the radio cable, and nods with a happy smile. “I do not think we will have to change much. The suit is a similar design to the old.”

Cideeda shrugs with a smirk, and gently scratches her chin contemplatively. “Probably, but can’t help to make sure.”

With a curious perk of her expression, Cideeda wanders to another topic with a casually prying tone. “By the way... What do you plan on doing with your remaining, old armor plates?”

Bach smirks, chuckles lightly, and applies a mild, sarcastic hint to his tone. “Because, I doubt we’re going to try to go back for the missing pieces.”

Dretphi lightly snorts with a dismissive eye roll, and slowly shakes her head. “Oh. No. I do not miss them enough to think of retrieval. I will happily leave them for the history of that place.”

She blinks in thought and gradually shifts her focus inwards as she ponders. “I... Do not know... I have a new suit. New plates. I can not think of what to do with them now. I do not want to wear that old suit anymore.”

An eager, toothy grins appears on Cideeda’s face, and she leans her body to the side into Dretphi’s view with her hands behind her back innocently. “Would you sell the plates to me?”

Dretphi rocks her head to the side, wondering about her options. Soon, she nods partially with a twist to her mouth. “Yes. I would. I can give them to you? I do not need to sell them to you, if you want them.”

Cideeda crosses her arms, shakes her head, and smiles thoughtfully. “I appreciate the offer, but I must insist on at least paying for the materials for my projects.”

Both Bach and Dretphi exchange glances, and shift their collective attention towards Cideeda. Bach lifts an intrigued brow and studies Cideeda demeanor. “Projects? What kind?”

Homing in on a key point of the last sentence, Dretphi scrutinizes Cideeda’s words and searches for further explanation. “At least pay for the materials?”

Displaying a faux guilty grin, Cideeda reveals her grand scheme while tapping her finger tips together. “Well, I’ve got a nice new suit for my usual kind of work, but I’d like to recycle my old suit and the plates to see about crafting a super light armor gear, and probably also fashion some nice inserts for Bach’s new duster.”

Bach rolls his hand with growing interest. “Okay. Go on.”

A spark of excitement slowly ignites in Dretphi’s steely gray eyes, and she studies the new imagery in her mind. Cideeda stands up straight, stretches her back, and points a claw tip towards Bach, grinning. “While I can roughly cut down and trim the old plates, I’m going to need your help to do a bit of refined, magic rework. If I’m right, there will be plenty leftover to help you out.”

She turns her attention to Dretphi with appreciative plead, and presents a convincing smile and posture. “And... I’m hoping if I give you a good price on your old plates, I can put your sewing skills to use. I figure we could use the old suit as a base for the new gear and fashion it to work with my new bodysuit.”

Bach thinks a moment, shrugs his shoulders, and nods simply. “Sure. You’ll have to show me what you want, but I think we’ll figure it out somehow. I got my tricks.”

Dretphi smiles brightly, stands up with a bit of excitement in her step, and eagerly gazes at Cideeda. “Yes! Of course. This is a neat project. My house father had a modular outfit that sounds similar to what you want. Base suit. Slip on padding. I helped my mother repair it often.”

Her focus drifts inwards and her eyes sift through ideas. “Never crafted an outfit this small before...”

Cideeda smiles slyly, and postures with an aura of accomplishment between Bach and Dretphi. “Good to hear.”

Her pride subsides gradually in her body language and a reserved smirk graces her face. “And, thank you. I’ve been wanting something a bit more protective when I’m not having to squeeze through tight, uncomfortable places.”

During the lull conversation, she glances over to Dretphi studying of her figure, and redirects focus with a smile. “Okay, let’s finish your gear first before you start on me.”

Dretphi snaps back to awareness and remembers the immediate task at hand. “Oh... Yes... Sorry.”

The older grath man maintains his balance as he steps back from Chad’s practice sword swing, and expertly redirects it away. Recovering from the sudden change of momentum, Chad steadies himself, pivots to face the grath man. “Good gods. Not much must ever hit you.”

With a swift shift of his weight upon the back yard grass, the grath man smiles, and readies the wooden sparing blade in his hands with a smug grin. “No. You do not survive Red Gear ambushes if you let them hit you.”

Chad smirks, rolls the tension out of his shoulders, and checks his grip on his practice sword. “Fair enough.”

He pauses in thought, glances at the older grath man, and quizzically tilts his head of brown, coiffed hair. “By the way, you sure your okay with me calling you by your first name, Trenannin?”

Trenannin furrows his brow, ponders the idea for a few seconds, and scratches his head of graying dirty blonde hair. “It is fine. I am not in the military anymore. Sergeant Hekkinen is not appropriate. It would take a long time to explain grath honorifics. Keep it informal.”

Chad nods understandingly, positions himself defensively, and signals Trenannin with a hand gesture. “When you’re ready.”

An eager smile creeps across Trenannin’s face. His body briefly tenses, and he launches his large, tall frame toward Chad. Closing the distance with his long gait, he fancifully swings his sword around in a dramatic, showy fashion. When he nears Chad, Trenannin power swings right at Chad’s side in a run by attack. Chad twists himself around, absorbs the attack with the practice sword, and steps back from the force of the blow. Trenannin slides briefly in the grass behind the two story house, digs his boots into the dirt, and propels his mass abruptly in a different direction.

Leading the point of his sparing sword forward, he aims the tip right at Chad’s center mass. Seeing the incoming attack, Chad braces himself with his blade at the ready to intercept, and spreads his feet to steady himself. A sly smirk flashes on the smug gaze of Trenannin as his muscles tighten mere moments before getting close to Chad. Right before the swords touch, he pulls his blade back, drops low to the ground in a powerful spin, and swings the sparing sword tightly away from Chad. Sliding upon the ground, he leads the blade into a full, sweeping revolution around into the back of Chad’s knees. Pushing through with the momentum, Trenannin powers into an upwards pull, and yanks the confused Chad’s legs right out from underneath. Finishing with a prideful gaze back, Trenannin watches with satisfaction as Chad lands on his back in sheer astonishment. After Chad regains his senses, he notices the hand extended to him from Trenannin, and takes hold of it with fascinated excitement. “Wow! Okay, you HAVE to teach me that move!”

Trenannin chuckles and nods slightly as he pulls Chad back up. “Maybe. Have to keep some secrets. I can show you pointers.”

Off to the side and next to the back sliding glass door of the two story house, Veevi snickers at scene, rests her hands on her hips, and grins sharply. “Well, that would be a lot more than what I’ve been getting from Trakenthin’s lessons... If you can call them that.”

Tassilda crosses her arms, narrows an accusatory stare upon Veevi, and groans out her annoyance. “You ever think there just might be a GOOD REASON you aren’t taught certain things.”

Veevi flashes an indignant glare to Tassilda, turns her nose up, and rolls her eyes petulantly away from Tassilda’s glower. “As if YOU have any ground to stand on.”

While the Tassilda and Veevi exchange mean stares of silent condemnation, Modoran twists his dusky, bluish gray skinned face as he replays the maneuver in his mind, and mulls over his opinion. “A bit more fanciful and risky than anything I’d want to do. But, I can’t argue with the results.”

He shrugs nonchalantly as he settles to a lean against brickwork of the two story house. “I can appreciate the application of misdirection.”

Deedri releases a long sigh of relief, and slowly shakes her head. “Oh, good. I know they’re practice weapons, but I really didn’t want to fix anything too major today.”

The sliding glass door opens, and Trakenthin steps out wearing a stoic, neutral expression. Turning around to the sound of the door opening, Trenannin gazes over to his son and smirks. “Come here. Spar with me.”

Trakenthin snarls his upper lip slightly, grimaces faintly, and slowly shakes his head. “No. Close to lunch. We should figure out what we are going to eat.”

Furrowing a mildly annoyed brow, Trenannin motions his son over, and twists his tone with some encouragement. “One bout. First to make contact. I want to check your skill before your next mission. See if you remember all I taught you.”

Trakenthin crosses his arms, maintains an unamused stare at his father, and sighs with a muted, irritated growl. Chad brushes stray grass blades off his pants, gives his trademark bright, white smile to Trakenthin, and motions encouragingly to him. “It’s just one match. Plus, I’d really like to see what you two are capable of.”

Veevi grins with a sharp, derisive tinge, tosses her head of pink hair back, and crosses her arms to an antagonistic pose. “Yeah, and I want to see what you are supposed to teach me!”

Trenannin narrows his gaze at Trakenthin, concentrates his stare, and chuckles. “You should not deny your father a match.”

Glancing around at the growing attention from the group, his father, and the camera crews off to the side, Trakenthin sighs deeply with a growl, shakes his head, and steps over with his hand out. “Fine. One bout. We eat.”

Chad passes Trakenthin his practice sword, and quickly steps away to join the audience next to Veevi, who promptly leans against him. Trakenthin tilts his head side to side to stretch, rolls his shoulders, and tightens his grip on the sparring blade. Without a word, he readies to a combat stance with both hands on the sword, and levels a silent glare at Trenannin. In response to his sons posture, Trenannin grips his practice sword tightly with both hands, and slowly shifts to a readied stance. An eerie silence looms over the back yard as Chad, Veevi, Tassilda, Modoran, and Deedri watch in anticipation, while the camera crews concentrate their full attentions to the match between father and son.

Seconds tick by with the two quietly studying each other. Cautiously and carefully, Trakenthin slowly steps to the side and gradually circles around Trenannin. His motions purposefully telegraph no significant information. A confident smirk cracks out of the corner of Trenannin’s mouth as he watches Trakenthin move around him, pivoting to keep facing his son. After a few more seconds, he narrows his stare, tenses his muscles, and swiftly swings towards his son. In mere moments, Trakenthin intercepts the attack, diverts it away, positions himself clear of any possible counterattack, and resumes his guard.

Trakenthin quickly lunges forward, driving his blade towards Trenannin’s side. With the same concise, speedy motions, Trenannin parries the attack, sidesteps away, and readies his blade, again. The two trade attack after attack, with each expertly blocking and protecting themselves against counterattacks. As the assault continues, Trenannin’s motions become less fanciful and showy. His counters, parries, and attacks shift to an efficient, serious style along with his expression. Impacts grow louder and more powerful against the practice blades. They fill the area with solid wooden crashes that drown out the hints of cloth padding.

Excitement from the gathered audience decays into a variety of conflicting emotions. Trenannin sneers darkly, focuses his attention, and launches out into a feverish flurry of blows. Enduring the unfolding barrage, Trakenthin deftly and solidly blocks each part of the onslaught. With each counter, the blades crash into a challenge of raw strength near an old scar upon Trakenthin’s body.

Trenannin finishes the volley with a leap backwards, and the two fighters pause to slowly pant out the boiling aggression. Chad stares on in wide eyed bewilderment. Veevi blinks blankly and unconsciously slides slightly behind Chad. Tassilda watches the match uncomfortably as hints of terror creep into her expression. Modoran cocks his head to the side, narrows his eyes at the scene, and grits his teeth. Deedri leans out during the lull in combat, shoots a demanding glare towards Chad.

After a few moments, Chad finally notices the attention from Deedri and meets her stare. Deedri mouths out with fear and anger. “STOP. THIS.”

Chad fumbles upon his response, utterly dumbfounded. He glances over to the cacophony of pitched battle between Trakenthin and Trenannin, and looks back to Deedri to mouth. “HOW?!”

Blade impacts crack out and the sound bounces off the hard surfaces surrounding the backyard battlefield. Both Veevi and Deedri cringe at the sharp noises, but their ears focus on a faint, contrasting, crisp hint in the most powerful clashes. Audio technicians in the crews flinch with each blow and suffer through the acoustic chaos funneling into their heads from their headphones. Meanwhile, camera operators position themselves to capture each wave of the battle from the most dramatic angles. Around the perimeter, Samantha watches with her jaw hanging open and pen slipping out of her hand above her clipboard. Gerald moves his head briefly away from his camera’s viewfinder, and witnesses the spectacle uneasily.

Both Trakenthin and Trenannin slowly pant during a pause between their exchanges, and each glares intensely to the other. A wry, derisive smirk appears on Trenannin’s face, and he directs irritated, goading phrases of grath right at Trakenthin. Grimacing at the words, Trakenthin snorts with gritting teeth, and grumbles back to his father dismissively. Focusing upon signs of hesitation in Trakenthin’s body language, Trenannin spits out another assault of demeaning words. Trakenthin cringes, shakes off the emotions, and brings forth a stoic exterior against his father. Narrowing his stare briefly, Trenannin chuckles darkly, levels a glare upon Trakenthin, and mutters one more grath phrase with a sly, sinister grin.

Trakenthin freezes for a second. The stoic exterior shatters away as Trakenthin bares his teeth. A hazel light briefly flickers in his eyes, his feet dig into the soft dirt, and Trakenthin’s body contorts to vehemently enraged definition. Trakenthin charges forward in a berserk flurry of chaotic, hammering fury upon his father. Trenannin blocks each furious blow, anticipates the next from Trakenthin’s body language, and readies to intercept. With each thunderous, echoing slam, the faint, crisp hint crackles louder into the air. In a powerful overhead drop of the blade, Trakenthin hammers down towards his father’s blade. A loud crumbling snap blasts out as the practice sword in Trakenthin’s hand bends sharply against the defending blade. Trenannin quickly reacts in the sudden confusion from Trakenthin, side steps clear, waits for the follow up opportunity. With merciless precision, he solidly swings his sparring sword solidly right onto his son's chest. Trakenthin winces against the impact, and reflexively drops to his knees.

As the battle finishes, silence overwhelms the awe struck expressions upon everyone. Trenannin extends his hand down to his son and waits. Trakenthin glances up, draws a hesitant breath, and begrudging takes hold of his father’s hand. After helping his son up, he nods to Trakenthin with satisfaction and pride bright on his face, and pats him on the shoulder. “Good to know you remember all I taught you. That was proper fight. Never anything less from you. My son.”

Trakenthin grants his father a silent, rigid nod, and gazes upon the mix of astonished, terrified, and shocked looks from the group and crew. He holds a hand up to the gathering and clearly speaks with a little reservation. “I am fine. Do not worry.”

Chad nods towards Trakenthin, surveys the dramatic tension in the area with an uneasy smirk, and claps his hands together loudly. “Now THAT was a hell of a fight. I always wondered where Trakenthin got his sword fighting skill. Now, I know... That was... Absolutely intense.”

Trenannin walks with Trakenthin towards the sliding glass door with a smug and prideful grin. “Intense. Yes. It has kept him alive.”

Putting up a calm exterior, Chad redirects everyone’s attention inside with a focus on Trenannin. “So... Lunch? How about you choose the place, Trenannin? Since you’ve won the matches today?”

Thinking a moment, Trenannin nods in agreement, and opens the sliding glass door. “Sounds good. What is good around here?”

With Veevi following behind him in an awkward stupor, Chad quickly leads Trenannin inside. “Well, we’ve got menus for a few different places...”

As Chad, Veevi, and Trenannin slip inside, Modoran smoothly slides the sliding glass door closed, steps up to Trakenthin, aims his gaze up at him. “Hey, you okay?”

Tassilda releases a stressed breath behind her cupped hands around her mouth, gazes with concern at Trakenthin, and seeks an answer as she approaches. “My gods, are you okay? That was a terrible hit you took. And, that whole battle... What the fuck?!”

Trakenthin holds his hands up, gestures them in a calming, assuring motions, and presents light smile over hints of strain. “I am fine. That is just how we have always fought. Do not worry.”

Tassilda directs an unconvinced stare up at Trakenthin. Her expression softens and she nods with worry. “Okay. If you say so, for now.”

She lightly rubs Trakenthin’s shoulder, opens the sliding glass door, and slips through. Modoran follows after her, with an acknowledging nod to Trakenthin before he goes inside. Trakenthin breathes carefully, blinks blankly, and notices the hard analyzing stare coming from Deedri’s glowing auburn eyes. He glances inside and through the sliding glass door to where his father is, and meets Deedri’s stern, demanding gaze with a bit of shame. “Can it wait? After my father leaves?”

Deedri crosses her arms, narrows out the glow in her eyes, and grits her teeth. “If it must. Thankfully, nothing is broken from what I can see. It will be painful until I can properly treat it.”

Trakenthin sighs understandingly, grimaces briefly, and carefully flexes his upper body. “Yes. I know.”

With a light pat on his arm, Deedri gazes up with a comforting smile, and motions upstairs towards her room with a whisper. “After he leaves, come to my room. You can talk freely if want while I’m taking care it.”

Bowing is head graciously, Trakenthin reveals a genuine smile and softly speaks. “Thank you.”

Deedri opens the sliding glass door wider for her and Trakenthin, steps through, waits for Trakenthin to enter, and closes up.

Leaning over the dining table, Cideeda eagerly lifts up a small metal and crystal infused frame for a golem arm on tabletop. She slides it over upon a heavy cloth work pad, and settles it in front of Aristespha and Bach. With her tail wagging in anticipation, she grins toothily and gazes expectantly at the two mages. “Okay... Let’s start with this one.”

Bach pulls the mat over closer, briefly surveys the part, and quirks his brow. “Well, it’s definitely an arm... Or, part of one.”

Cideeda narrows a brief, incredulous glare at Bach, rolls her eyes with a sigh, and rolls her hand for more information. “Well... YES. But, does it still work? What did it go to? How does it work? I can guess at how it might work, but I figured you two would know the most.”

She points the various arcane components visible, and guides a claw tip over different parts. “There’s either a power or signal line going to some kind of actuator. Then, it moves the cabling to the hand’s fingers. The mechanical side of things look about the same to what I’ve seen else where.”

Aristespha studies the device near her, tilts her head to the side, and blinks her violet eyes to a glow. “For the most part. A lot of golem workings borrow heavily from robotics with some magical liberties taken.”

After examining it closer, Bach’s eyes light up blue and he scrutinizes the golem arm overall. “Well, I don’t see anything too dangerous. Let’s see if it can work after all this time.”

Holding his hand out close to the base of the forearm, thin magical threads materialize and reach out to exposed arcane conduits. Bach’s face twists in thought as he concentrates upon the task, and his hand reflexively flexes and moves as he mentally explores. “Alright. I’m feeling some signs that the lines are connected. Just don’t know to what really. Well, let see what THIS moves.”

Faint illumination flickers from inside the arm, and weak flashes of magical light pulse along different components inside. Moments later, the wrist shudders briefly, and the middle digit of the five fingered hand curls slightly. Cideeda’s emerald green eyes widen in sheer, absolute fascination, and she leans over further to watch every motion, her tail obviously twitching with her thoughts. “Try the other fingers!”

Bach grumbles as he searches his mind, and pulses of magical energy trace down the magical threads into the golem forearm. He grits his teeth briefly, twists his mouth in mild frustration, and sighs. “I’m trying... But, I think there’s something down the pathways that’s getting in the way of the flow. Or, I’m just poking around the wrong spots.”

Aristespha taps upon the middle section of the forearm, squints her eyes as she lowers her gaze closer to the device, and hums in thought. “I see some degradation to your flows here. I would imagine that there’s probably a magical conduit that has decayed significantly over the years.”

Briefly disheartened, Cideeda’s furry ears flick with her thoughts, and her attention shifts away from the golem part towards Aristespha and Bach. “Could it be repaired or replaced?”

Bach exchanges a glance with Aristespha, gazes back over to Cideeda, and shrugs his shoulders. “Well, I can’t think of a reason it couldn’t. First, we’ll have to see what we got going on here. Let’s see if I can manage to...”

Holding both hands near the arcane arm, Bach flows streams of magical energy out upon the golem part. He closes his eyes, twists and turns his head with a grimace, and concentrates. “I think I got it figured out... Now... Will it come apart easily?”

Carefully and slowly pulling his hands away from the device, the arm stirs and hovers up into the air. Gradually, the framework disassembles in logical, sequential steps, and the pieces release out into subsections as the binding bits release themselves. Soon the individual components of the magical device float above the table in a functionally exploded arrangement. Aristespha narrows her violet illuminated gaze at the smaller parts of the piece cloud. She follows along a path of bundled magical cabling, and stops at an intersection between wiring and sub-components. She points out a darkened, cloudy section of crystal, and nods her head of long, silvery blue hair towards the oddity. “There. If nothing else, that’s the best place to start checking.”

Bach tilts his head to the side, and notices the piece Aristespha identifies. As he gradually brings his hands back together, the individual components of the golem arm reassemble themselves into larger pieces, and reattach in a meticulous process to reform the golem limb. After the rebuild, the arm floats back down upon the cloth work mat. Bach blinks his eyes back to normal, and curiously studies the array of other magical parts upon the dining room table. “Probably shouldn’t be too hard to replace it. If we can find the right size and type of crystal.”

Cideeda perks up, searches around the collection of arcane devices, and hoists over a wooden box. “Well, there’s this box of different crystals I found.”

When the box settles in front of them, both Aristespha and Bach scan over the contents before plucking out choice pieces to examine closely. Aristespha smirks slightly, slowly shakes her head, and hands over the piece to Cideeda. “These aren’t the right types of crystal to use as a replacement for that, but...”

She smiles to Cideeda, and retrieves another one for herself. “They are flow reactive movement crystals. If I remember correctly, they are very easy to move around with simple energy flows.”

Bach nods in agreement, holds out his hand upwards, and his blue eye illuminate. The movement crystal in his palm hovers up to a few centimeters, and freely spins and pivots. Bach continues to demonstrate the possibilities as his outstretched fingers twitching slightly to the movements of the small, faintly glowing object. Cideeda widens her eyes in absolute fascination, and gazes excitedly at the magical mineral in her hand. “That’s amazing! How do I move it!?”

Bach blinks, glances over to Cideeda, and uneasily stumbles around his words in an awkward tone. “Well, uh... I move it in a particular way that I’ve learned... that’s similar to my current means of magic use... And uh, it’s not easy to reproduce...”

Signs of disappointment trickle into Cideeda’s face. Bach dons an encouraging grin, and glances over to Aristespha hopefully. “But, I know there’s more typical spells that you should be able to do. That, um, I think Aristespha might be far more familiar with than I am right now...”

Aristespha presents a confident smile, nods to Bach, and gestures for Cideeda’s attention. “That I am. And, I can certainly teach you a basic helper spell to help you move this type of material.”

Cideeda snaps her full, undivided attention to Aristespha, and awaits further instruction. “What do I need to do?”

With a calm, teacher’s tone, Aristespha guides Cideeda through a series of hand gestures along with the vocalizations for the incantations. During the explanation, Bach pays attention, and occasionally twists his face as faded lessons resurface back into mind from college semesters long forgotten. After following along a few demonstrations from Aristespha, Cideeda readies herself. Carefully reciting the incantations and slowly articulating her hands into the gestures, Cideeda wills her magical flows towards her hands and holds them to either side of a small movement crystal on the tabletop. Tense, still moments pass. Then, the crystal rattles and shifts suddenly a few centimeters in one direction. A bright smile flashes upon Cideeda’s face, and her whole demeanor flushes with absolute joy. Her focus elsewhere, she remains utterly fascinated on the motions of the magical mineral, completely unaware of her the flicks of her ears and long tail.

Aristespha and Bach watch with satisfaction and amusement as Cideeda continues her magical exercises. After a few minutes, Aristespha and Bach exchange thoughtful glances, and silently ponder at the development.

Deedri guides the tail of long strip of gauge around Trakenthin’s chest, tightens up the slack, and presses the very end upon the bundle of medical wrapping. She turns a nearby adjustable lamp back to lighting the top of her desk. She stops in front of Trakenthin, and gazes right into his eyes. “That treated pad with reduce any swelling. It’ll also make the bruising heal quicker. The ointment I put on there will dull any pain, so you’ll be able to sleep without it bothering you.”

Sitting upon a stool in the middle of Deedri’s room, Trakenthin meekly responds with a gracious tone. “Thank you. I appreciate you waiting until later to treat me.”

Deedri crosses her arms, stares sternly at Trakenthin, and draws in faintly frustrated breath. “You are the one that suffered the most. Still, I don’t like withholding treatment when it is needed. But... I know you had your reasons...”

She twists her mouth during the awkward silence, sighs as concern overtakes her attitude, and relaxes her arms to her side. “I know I’m prying into personal things, but... What the hell was that about?”

Uncomfortably grumbling as he reluctantly approaches the subject, Trakenthin grimaces,and eventually relents with a long exhale. “Long story. Short version. My birth father has issues. It makes him difficult at times.”

Tilting her head to the side, Deedri contorts her face incredulously, flicks her tufted ears, and gradually nods at the obvious. “Yes. We all saw.”

Trakenthin grits his teeth, gently hisses an uneasy breath through, and slowly shakes his head. “It would take days to explain. I have had long conversations with my birth mother about him. I can go on for days. She could go on for weeks.”

He sits up straight, sadly draws in air into his lungs, and frowns longingly. “He can be great. He has helped when I needed it greatly. Taught me useful skills. Unfortunately...”

Narrowing his focus into his mind, Trakenthin’s face contorts as he searches for the words and his discomfort grow more obvious. Deedri presents a reassuring smile, rests a hand on Trakenthin’s shoulder, and shakes her head. “It’s okay. I’m overstepping personally and professionally anyway. Fathers can be... difficult.”

Trakenthin slowly lifts his head back up, gazes at Deedri, and smirks appreciatively with a light chuckle. “Yes.”

Deedri reaches over to the desk, picks up Trakenthin’s shirt, and hands it to him. “Here. I’ve done everything I need to at the moment.”

After Trakenthin pulls on the t-shirt, he resumes his previous thoughts, ponders a few seconds, and concentrates on the phrase in his mind. “He... He... He has had expectations. The same ones for years. He still has those exact expectations of how things should be.”

With a sad tone, Trakenthin releases a long sigh, shrugs his shoulders, and shakes his head. “The world does not... will not meet them. He refuses to see it otherwise. I wish I knew how to make him accept it.”

Deedri silently nods as sympathy colors her gaze. Trakenthin chuckles lightly, rolls his eyes at the same old situation, and smiles to Deedri. “I will not solve it today. He was good the rest of the day. That was nice. We leave for the mission tomorrow. I doubt he will remain in town for long.”

Crossing her arms, Deedri hums in thought as she flexes her clawed fingers and wags her long tail in deliberation. “I don’t know. The fact that the Next Adventurers of Nexus people got him here makes me think they’re hoping more happens.”

Snarling her upper lip, she narrows her eyes off to the side and growls irritably. “Gods damn that Howard. I’m sure he’s behind this... Along with that scheming Samantha. Only two people I can think of that would arrange something like this.”

Trakenthin stretches out his arms as he stands up, carefully stretches his upper body, and snorts with a humored smirk. “I hope they are paying him. That way he has steady income for once.”

As Deedri follows Trakenthin to her bedroom door, she grins lightheartedly, and gazes up to Trakenthin. “Well, that’s certainly one way to look at it.”

Trakenthin shrugs as the two exit out into the upstairs hallway, and laughs. “Find humor where you can.”

Dr. Dawkins slowly walks into the well decorated sitting room, ambles over to his aged leather recliner, and settles down into the seat with a satisfied tone. “As much as I do enjoy a good session of academic exploration, I think I need a break from the books.”

Following shortly behind Dr. Dawkins, Isaac rubs his gray eyes into to a pinch of his nose bridge, nods slowly as he wanders over to the other recliner, and plops into the couch chair. “I must say, I would have to agree. Give my eyes a well deserved break from reviewing all my notes. Gods, I have forgotten how much I’ve written.”

With an amused snort, Dr. Dawkins reaches over to a bottle of dark liquor on a small end table, uncorks the top, and starts to pour a healthy portion into a glass on the tabletop. Isaac blinks a few times, glances over to Dr. Dawkins filling the glass, and narrows his gaze upon a wall clock. “Good gods, sir. It’s barely the afternoon.”

Dr. Dawkins slowly raises his humored stare to Isaac, smirks dryly, and snorts. “Oh hell, it’s Saturday. You, of all people, aren’t going to deprive an old man his vices in his own home?”

Isaac cracks a sly grin, chuckles to himself, and taps on another empty glass next to the filled one. “So long as you don’t leave me out, Dr. Dawkins.”

Nodding with a smile, Dr. Dawkins shifts the bottle over and pours another ample amount into the other container. The two men pick up their drinks, sip them in silence for a few minutes. Dr. Dawkins angles his gaze over to Isaac, lifts an intrigued brow, and points to him. “I’ve been thinking about how we are going to get to Malkav’s stash.”

Isaac meets Dr. Dawkins’s gaze, cocks his head to the side curiously with an interested cadence. “I’d love to hear it. Because, truthfully, all I’ve come up with is to just walk in there like I own the place, grab it, and hope no one cares.”

Pulling a devilish grin across his face, Dr. Dawkins laughs, and slowly nods. “Actually, my plans is pretty close to that...”

Blinking out his surprise, Isaac narrows a scrutinizing gaze towards Dr. Dawkins. Perking his brow, Dr. Dawkins draws a long breath in, and carefully explains. “It’s actually quite the ideal time for a simple, calm approach to this problem. We may have been gone from the Grand Library’s normal operations, but I doubt too much has changed. It’s the tail end of June, in the middle the summer sessions... Which means not a damn much is happening right now.”

Isaac’s eyes widen as his mind processes these details, and he ponders his thoughts out loud. “That’s right. There will be hardly anyone around. But, just enough with summer classes and students working on research that it wouldn’t be unusual to see new people in buildings.”

With scheming smile and glass in hand, Dr. Dawkins nods and focuses his attention on the presentation of the plan. “Exactly. The only real problem is those that know who should and shouldn’t be in certain places. Which is usually the administrative faculty and their subordinates.”

Slowly processing the dilemma, Isaac narrows his inquisitive gaze at Dr. Dawkins, and cocks his head to the side. “So, how do we handle them?”

Finishing a long swig of his drink, Dr. Dawkins grins brightly and laughs with a dark tinge. “Take them out to lunch.”

Isaac’s expression blanks out for seconds, before he shakes his head back to awareness, and leans closer to Dr. Dawkins. “Okay... Go on?”

Settling back into his plush recliner, Dr. Dawkins rests his drink on the table, and taps the finger tips of his hands together with a plotting tone. “Exactly what I said. I’ve recently spoken with both the heads of the computer sciences and archaeology departments. They’re good young men, and I wouldn’t mind seeing if they would update me on the latest internal affairs. I figured I would visit and treat them to a lunch. And, I’d also offer to treat any of the graduate students that happen to be around for the day.”

Putting his glass down, Isaac scratches his chin as he plays out the scenario in the mind, and slowly rocks his head as his eyes sort through the internal play by play. “Yeah... That could work. It’d give me a good hour window to slip in without any of the regular guard around to notice anything.”

Dr. Dawkin lifts an incredulous eyebrow towards Isaac, snorts in ill-humor, and rolls his eyes. “An hour? I’m taking them to an all you can eat buffet. You have two hours, at least. Academics and free, plentiful food are hard to separate.”

Isaac reflexively snickers out in laughter, and agrees heartily with Dr. Dawkins. He ponders a moment, and his eyes light up as the pieces of the puzzle fit together. “You can drop me off near the campus before you go in to meet with them. I’ll head on into the campus once you head off with everyone to lunch. Go in quickly, get Malkav’s notes, and casually leave the area. Once you finish up, you can pick me up at a point some distance away from campus, which would grant you plausible deniability.”

A delighted smile appears on Dr. Dawkins’s face, and he picks up his glass. “I think we have something quite resembling a viable plan.”

He holds his glass up, and waits for the Isaac to do the same. The two men clinks their drinks together, and enjoy healthy portions of the dark liquor.