[Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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Straken
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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"If that's the case, I’ll be sure to make it up to you for wasting your time; but I’m feeling confident about the decision,” Ruarc said in consolation. Wiping his mouth with a napkin he stood and gathered the empty dishes in front of him. As he made his way around to the sink, he seemed as calm and sure in his pace and posture; the sound of his socks making a soft plodding noise as he walked. “The one thing we know is that, ultimately, we know very little about what might happen tonight. Flexibility and adaptability will win the day, I believe. Most all of our li’l clique are surprisingly rigid, myself included of course. Hell, even if Percy wasn’t AWOL I’d still probably have asked you along for this leg of it.”

Turning on the tap, the Irishman began to do some dishes.

***

Later on, the sun had just set on a quiet, but decidedly tense day. Ruarc spent part of it going over a number of maps of the city and building a few times more, even skimming through a couple of brochures talking about the Palace. The latter half of it consisted of going over all of his gear to check its quality and quantity; all of which he had done before leaving Japan, but he wanted to quintuple check. An hour before departure Ruarc began to suit up.

Making his way back downstairs, Ruarc looked a bit different from his usual appearance. For one, he wasn’t wearing any glasses; opting instead for a pair of contacts. Beyond that rather mundane change, he was wearing a dark pair of slacks and some running shoes, and he was wearing a dark red flannel button up. Over top of the flannel however were several pieces of leather armor. He was testing the strap of his cuirass as he descended the last step. He had been quite happy about acquiring this armor, and both looked forward to testing it out while also wanting to put testing it off for as long as possible. It was inlaid with runes that enhanced the defensive capabilities of it, theoretically even allowing him to withstand small arms fire as well as mitigating elemental magic effects. Complimenting the chest piece were a pair of pauldrons, bracers, and a sturdy looking belt.

Opening the closet, Ruarc also pulled out a satchel and a bandolier. Slinging both over his shoulder, the Druid checked in turn each of the small pockets on the bandolier to make sure their contents were secure; each of which contained a number of specific types of runes that he may need to grab quickly. Finally, he grabbed a jacket. A normal jogger jacket. It was still early Spring in France and the night air was likely to be on the brisk side. It also helped cover the leather armor from view, he supposed.

With a final ziiiiiiiiip of the jacket, Ruarc turned. “Alright, all set to head out?”
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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Jane had spent the day absorbing what she could: the maps, the... really just the maps. Otherwise, she waited, passing hours with simple, mechanical preparations: cleaning and oiling her pair of Lightnings; filling the bandoleers on her belts; and sitting. That last was a skill many seemed to have lost. She spent a long time simply sitting, occasionally thinking on the task ahead, but largely letting her mind sit empty.

It was a battle ritual of hers when the struggle ahead was near and yet too far to demand any action. She called it emptying, but if someone had explained meditation she would agreed it was the same. She was emptying when the ziiiiiiip of Ruarc's jacket drew her attention. She unfolded her legs and rose from the couch with a small stretch.

Jane froze mid-stretch and cocked her head at him. "What in the nine hells're ye wearin Mister Flynn? Er the lumberjacks callin all hands?" She had more, but the emptying left her cool-headed enough to pull her punches. No need to get distracted before their infiltration. A little good-natured heckling was certainly in order, though.

"And ye I'm ready; I done forgot m'tracksuit in m'other duffel." Okay, no more, she told herself with a smug smile.
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Straken
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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The moment Jane said something Ruarc clenched his jaw and grumbled something under his breath.
"Look," Ruarc started to say. "I don't have much for urban missions, and a track jacket is less noticeable than rune inlaid leather armor and a bandolier."

Shoving his hands into the jacket pockets with an exaggerated huff, the Irishman's demeanor shifted to a light smile. It's true he was still working on getting combat wear set up for various situations, but in this instant the outfit gave him a fairly standard European twenty-something appearance. He also would let her have some jabs, seeing as he had effectively dragged her halfway around the world for a pet project; when all was said and done he'd let her name her price for reimbursement.

"Care to go for a walk, Calamity?"

***

The walk to the palace was pleasant, all things considered. It was a nice Spring night, cool but not cold, and the streets were lively with music coming from the cafes and bars. Early into the walk the two passed a number of other groups, keynote differences being general aesthetic making them stand out from couples out for a stroll. A number of men in passing called over to Jane, while Ruarc got heckled also by men; though in his case they were trying to bum smokes from him.

Soon enough though, they passed the popular streets and left the crowds behind. The last stretch to the Palace had them leaving the close packed building and climbing the quiet hill. There wasn't much in the way of buildings or tall foliage, but a nice line of landscaped shrubs lined their walk. Before long, they rounded a bend and could clearly see the Palace ahead of them in the dim light of the city below them. In the dark, the Palace became readily seen as what it really was; a castle. High, stark stone walls, fortified entryways, and narrow windows; complete with its own compliment of guardsmen.

Stepping off the walkway, Ruarc made his way through a gap in the shrubs, and into the darkened gardens off to the side.

"Alright, first things first. Getting into the courtyard," Ruarc whispered to Jane as he crouched and observed the front of the building. "Perhaps to maintain appearance of being a museum, there aren't a ton of guards. That said, dealing with Catholics and anything even related to the Pope means we needs to get passed some Swiss Guards."

Pointing, two guards could be seen within the shadowed entryway wearing their orange and white doublets, complete with halberds in hand and swords at their waist; and one could assume they likely had firearms somewhere nearby should the need for them arise.

"Thoughts?"
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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"A walk sounds mighty fine, Mr. Flynn," she answered pleasantly and with a genuine smile. She had that familiar pleasing sensation of walking in the right direction- moving toward the Calling. It actually broke her mental peace for a moment, though nothing outwardly showed. Really? Truly? She was meant to be here of all places? She detonated the tracks before that train of thought could leave the station and disturb her level mood. That route was nothing but disaster. So she left her mind empty, ignored rude French men, and took in the scenery passively.

As they turned onto the path that led up to the Palace, her boots scuffed hard, kicking up a small spur of dust. A gentle breeze tugged at her. A tumbleweed bounced past her heels. Oh yes, she was meant to be here. She took one last hard look, then followed Ruarc into the gardens.

"Thoughts?" Ruarc asked.

"Plenty, but they all fit bout as well as a horse in a chicken coop. If I bring the thunder, one I'm fairly certain them's innocent men n women- for the most part- two, I got a feelin these Catholics," she spat the term like an insult, "Wouldn jus live n let live. They'd come fer us. So we gotta be slicker 'ana oiled eel, but that aint really my forte, Mr. Flynn. Prolly not the best time, but I still aint certain why I'm here. This ain't my game.

" Iss yer call."
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Straken
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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"Look at it this way, Jane," Ruarc said in a hushed tone as he let his head sag a bit. "You're here because you're the best person Ah could want watching my back right now. Ah don't know what's waiting in there, and Ah don't have anyone else to turn to."

Turning slightly to face the American, Ruarc put a hand on her shoulder before continuing. "You're here because Ah don't think Ah can do this alone."
Returning to his analysis of the building, Ruarc weighed potential approaches. With luck, having gone a thousand years without trouble had put the palace in a casual mindset about its security. "Alright, we move up along the edge of the palace there; in that blind spot of the gate way. Once we reach that corner, Ah'll use a Silence rune. We'll be able to jump the guards without them being able to raise an alarm by shouting. Hit them hard and fast, knocking them out hopefully so we don't add murder to this whole matter. Once they are out, we drag them into the guard room to the side of the gate on the inside, restrain them, and Ah leave a couple of Illusion runes to make it look like the guards are still standing watch. And in consideration of coming for us..."

Ruarc reached into his jacket, pulled out a face mask, and tied it around his face. He also produced a second mask for Jane if she needed one. "Have a bandanna? Ah'll admit, Ah kinda just assumed you had one, so if not, I have a spare."

With that, Ruarc touched a bracelet around his wrist springing forth one of his staves, and began to slink through the gardens, staying low as he moved. Near one corner of the building, the hill continued to rise and an elevated ramp wound up the side of the castle to another gate. Ruarc used the embankment as cover to block line of site as he crossed the open space before hugging the walling and working back towards the planned point of entry. Stepping carefully, he moved up the slope hoping he was a flat as he could make himself, and stopped a dozen or so feet away from the gate; any closer, and the guards' could get an angle on him. They were inset a short way, so he and Jane would need to move quick. Gesturing, the Irishman signed that he would take the left, and for the American to take the right and stay on his heels so she would keep inside the zone of silence. Counting down with his fingers, when he reached one there was a rune pinched between his thumb and forefinger. After that, the world around them became impossibly quiet as not even the sound of their breath or beating hearts could be heard.

Then Ruarc was moving. He couldn't stop to make sure Jane also started to move, but trusted her to be close behind. All things said, he wouldn't fault her for bowing out of his two man posse, after all, the two of them could end up on INTERPOL's shit list with this stunt. His long legs carried him around the corner and down the entryway. To the credit of the Swiss guards, they reacted almost immediately. By the time Ruarc closed the distance they had lowered their halberds and the one directly in front of Ruarc lunged.
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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"Fair nuff," she conceded with a nod, then rolled her eyes as she withdrew a plain black kerchief from her duster to tie it over her face. "Incognito bandito," she joked in a whisper before they crossed the yard, and immediately had a sour taste in her mouth. This wasn't her style.

Calm yerself. There was no reason for her to feel so anxious. In fact, when had she ever felt anxious? The feelings were beginning to frustrate her more than the mission itself.

Empty.

Jane cleansed her mind. She took a deep breath, and flexed her fists. Then she rushed the corner with Ruarc.

The gunslinger's mind filled the gaps in her senses left by the silence rune: the soft thump of their boots; the shifting of cloth and metal as they were noticed; The swick of air as a halberd cut the air as she danced by to engage the second guard.

In their little pockets, like living statues, they were also at a severe disadvantage with their long halberds. So, Jane brought the Calamity uncomfortably close to the Swiss guard. The guard went to kick, reflexively, and Jane caught it, then lifted. Off balance, the guard hopped, then silently clattered to the floor as she swept out the other leg. A knee strike bounced his head off the wall, and he was down for the count.

She spun to check on the Druid's progress.
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Straken
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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Silence made for complete focus on the matter at hand. The halberd thrust forward in what felt like slow motion, and Ruarc swung his arm in a parry as his leather clad forearm swat the blade aside; the inlaid runes glowing faintly as they activated in defense. Turning his attention back to the guard, the man was just as focused. The moment it became clear the first line of defense failed he had released the halberd and pulled a combat knife before adopting a CQC stance. Gritting his teeth, Ruarc readied his staff to swing.

The guardsman thrust forward in a closed stance. Wincing, Ruarc felt the knife cut into the fabric of his jacket before connecting with the leather of his chest armor. To the guard's credit, even with the armor the strike felt powerful, and Ruarc made a mental note to enroll in some martial arts classes once he got home. Dropping an arm, the Irishman locked the guard's arm in place before swinging his other arm forward with the rune. The damn guy caught him by the arm before Ruarc could connect and wrenched; yup, definitely enroll in some sort of martial arts.

"Fuck it," Ruarc said soundlessly. Releasing the guard's arm he flung his free hand forward, caught the guard on the side of the head, and pushed his head against the wall. The dazed guard staggered before falling to the ground. Looking over to make sure Jane was alright, they made eye contact, and the silence rune was released.

"All good? Good," the words sounded painfully loud as noise returned to their world. Crickets, wind, and distant music; all flooded back and sounding oddly bizarre. A quick scan of the hallway showed no other guards moving in, no visible alarms, and the doorway to the guard post off to the side a short ways back. Patting down the guard, found some handcuffs on the back of his belt, and cuffed the guard's hands behind his back before pulling him over to the door. After getting it open, he pushed the guard in and left it open for Jane to do the same as he went back to the entrance, and after pulling a couple of runes out of his bandolier he focused on them for a few moments each before setting them on the ground where the guards had been standing. Moments later, images of the guards appeared to be standing watch.

"That should buy us some time, unless we take long enough for change of guard," Ruarc called in a hushed tone to his partner as he moved down the entryway they had passed through the other day. At the connecting hallway, he checked his corners and looked down the hallways leading towards the courtyard; the way was clear. This continued for a couple of hallways with the only obstacle being a patrol walking passed them at a T intersection, but nearby columns let the intruders hide while they passed by. They had a close call further into the palace as a patrol entered the hall the two were about halfway down with no nearby cover. From the other side of the patrol the sound of something clattering came. Alerted, the guards went the other way and around the corner. Moments later a rat ran around the corner and under a doorway, and the guards simply cursed the rodent but kept going the other direction.

A couple more turns and the duo reached the the entry to the courtyard. More guards. Four of the colorful bastards. Two standing along the wide entry, and two walking around the edge of the garden. That's a good sign about the garden, at least. Turning back to Jane, he signaled about the guards and held up two more silence runes. "I don't have a lot of these," he mouthed. "Hit fast, I'll pass this one to you. Follow my lead."

Fingers crossed

Like before, Ruarc activated one of the silence runes and bolted around the corner. The distance to the first guard was shorter than the entry and Ruarc made it before the guard could turn and look at the peripheral movement. Simply passing by, the Druid shoved the rune into the guard's chest and making him stumble backwards a bit. Continuing the sprint in silence, he activated the second rune as he left the first zone. The second guard started to stir as Ruarc neared, and as he reached for his sword while trying to call out the big man reached him and landed a punch square to the man's nose. Before the guard could fall to the ground Ruarc pivoted, saw the patrolling guard approaching from the far side beginning to notice the commotion. Whipping his arm, Ruarc pitched the silence rune at him. The coin connected with his shoulder just as he was about to shout. Sprinting, Ruarc jumped over a hedge as he booked it to the guard who had registered that he was up against a mage. The guard charged, but Ruarc met him before he could leave the zone of silence, his staff swinging to push back against the Swiss guard's broadsword. The other guard would be obscured from this part by hedges and statues, hopefully giving Jane time to take out the first guard caught by surprise, and the second before he could reinforce this one or raise the alarm.
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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Cleaning up their first mess was a simple chore. Sneaking through the palace? Less so. Tackling four opponents scattered across the gardens? Foolishness, she thought to herself as she swung into the gardens and realized their predicament. She didn't hesitate, though, that would have been the most foolish thing of all.

On the contrary, Jane was fully committed with a flying kick to the first guard. He bounced off one of the massive marble pillars with a mild concussion. While he contemplated the meaning of the stars swimming in his vision, Jane drew her gun and pointed it at the second guard. To his credit, he didn't even flinch. After a few seconds of exchanging fierce stares in synthetic silence, she gestured with the gun for him to put down the halberd. The Swiss Guard gestured for the gunslinger to drop her weapons. Stalemate.

A movement in the corner of her eye spurred her into action, spinning away and to her right, narrowly avoiding the decapitating arc of the first guard's polearm. He staggered, clearly still dazed by his close encounter of the stone kind. Knowing not to waste an opportunity, she swept in and pistol-whipped him. Finally, the man crumpled.

To her surprise, the other guard had wizened up to the situation, and was running away from her. It was the smart thing to do: clear the silence rune, then screech like a bat outta hell. Jane snatched the rune then the halberd, and then threw them each in turn. She wasted no effort in aiming the former, it just needed to keep proximity to her target. The latter she threw butt-first like javelin, and caught the Swiss Guard in the back of the knee- silently.
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