[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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The dark druid scowled as he exchanged blows with the Inquisitor as the hints of an emotion crossed his face. Toussaint renewed her assault as she kept Alexei pressed into close quarters with a series of rapid thrusts. Shifting and blocking with the wooden branch, Alexei avoided vital strikes, but the blazing edge of the blessed blade drew blood in a handful of places. One such strike grazed his cheek and flared as Jane began her next barrage; the shots striking the line barrier, gradually looking like each successive shot got closer to the target's body; Jane could also notice the lines protecting him were radiating out of a ring on his left hand. The scowl turned to a flash of anger. Pushing forward, Alexei entered Toussaint's arm length, grabbed her by the collar, and slammed his forehead against the bridge of her nose. The Frenchwoman buckled as Alexei's face returned to placid indifference, and with a brutal swing he brought the oaken rod down against her head like a cudgel. Toussaint fell backwards and lay motionless.

"You still have a round left, Six-Shooter," Alexei growled as Jane went back into cover, his ringed hand dipped into a pocket before slamming into the stone wall wall beside him. "You're annoying."

Ruarc gave up on subtlety when Toussaint dropped, and had his hands free when Alexei hit the wall. From his counterpart's hand molten red lines radiated quickly along the stone; directly towards where Jane was in cover.
"Turraing!" Ruarc called as he darted forward, firing a bolt of electricity at Alexei; the lines intercepted the bolt and diffused the electricity across the barrier. Grabbing Jane by her collar as he pulled her along the wall and away from the corner, placing himself between her and the corner with space for her to still get a shot. A moment later the savage lines wrapped around the wall and erupted into a shower of molten stone and jagged shrapnel.

"Break time over already, Flynn?" Alexei called, around the corner he began to chant Razor Wind spell again. Ruarc began his own chant.

"K’amu atseliner," Alexei said in his relaxed tone as he quickly side stepped around the corner, leveling his blasting rod at the duo.
"Séideán láidre!" Ruarc shouted, finishing his own spell as Alexei rounded the corner.

From Alexei another savage blade of focused wind flew outward, while from Ruarc's outstretched arm came a mighty torrent of undirected wind blasting down the hall. The wind blade slowed noticeably as it passed through the unstable air, when it reached the duo it still had enough force to rock Ruarc back on his heel and leave a slice in his leather armor; and ruining his track jacket. When Ruarc attack reached Alexei, the other druid braced himself and brought his arms up in front of his face. Squinting against the torrent, his advance was slowed as the wind began to push him back ever so slightly with every step he took.
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Mr. Blackbird Lore
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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Jane smirked at Alexei counting her shots. Not yet, she told herself, and allowed Ruarc to shuffle her away. Although the Black Hammer held only one round, Jane holstered her Lightning by the time the druids exchanged spells.

She pulled free then, still smirking. Two hands hefted dark steel. "The last one has your name on it," she called.

Click. Click. BOOM. The Black Hammer double-cocked and fired.
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Straken
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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The hammer fell, and time seemed to freeze for a moment. The boom did not come from the round leaving the chamber. Instead the bullet carved silently out of the gun, spiraled unbothered through the tumultuous battle of magical winds, drew close to Alexei, and met with the intercepting lines of Alexei's barrier. That is when the boom sounded, echoing through the walls, knocking dust from the ceiling, and making a nearby suit of armor rattle and collapse. What followed, simply put, was chaos. The defensive lines of Alexei's ring erupted into what appeared to be a swarm of angry insects; the ring from which they originated beginning to glow with an intense heat, causing Alexei to shout in sudden pain. The rod he carried lost its fiery appearance, and looked like a long dead coal. Disturbingly, the bisected body of the dead raven trembled before recombining; the ebony bird emitting a hoarse caw. The blast of wind coming from Ruarc's outstretched hand amplified exponentially in a single microburst of chilled air. The wall of air slammed into Alexei like a truck, blasting him off of his feet and slamming him against the wall behind him; in exchange the burst launched Ruarc off of his feet as it flung him backwards, landing hard as he was propelled against the ground. A pain ran up his body. He had landed poorly onto the stack of books strapped at his waist. It lasted but a moment before it felt like a soothing numbness set over him. The rune on his armor had begun to glow, radiating heat of their own, but a comforting warmth rather than unbearably hot. The golden haze around Toussaint grew dingy and settled like smoke. Jane herself felt a sudden moment of vertigo, followed by a sense of hyper focus. The Black Hammer for the time being seemed to be jammed.

"Well well well, what a neat trick for number six," Alexei growled from his position against the wall as he dropped the dead piece of wood in his off hand, the angry lines dissipating. "I may just take that gun too, while I'm here."

"Ruptură, carne sfințită," Alexei said softly as he leveled his gaze at Jane. It was a chant. Alexei pushed away from the wall in a sudden burst. Leaning low, his eyes were locked on Jane's body, watching for any tell of what she was going to pull next; whether it be a boot knife or a wrist derringer. The chant had no noticeable effect, until Alexei drew closer. With his right hand, he threw a hard punch to Jane's ribs. He raised his burned left hand, and his palm radiated what looked like arcs of electricity; he moved to grab Jane by the throat as he brought his other hand in.
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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Jane had another moment of strange contemplation, puzzled as the gun fired but made no sound. And then the bullet erupted. The result wasn't as final as she had hoped, but it knocked Alexei down a few pegs, and she couldn't complain.

Then the dark druid charged like a mad bull. She backpedaled to buy just a few moments, which was all she needed. "Ye can have it," she taunted, hurling the Black Hammer at Alexei as he committed to the lunge. Again, just something to buy a few more inches, another moment. She borrowed the momentum to enter a freefall. Inches. Moments.

Because her left hand was occupied and cross-drawing takes time. But on her left hip was a fully loaded Lightning. Her right hand pulled it. At this range, accuracy was guaranteed, she just needed the speed. The quick draw of a Gunslinger.

The fastest hand in the West bet it all on zeroes. All or nothing. The trigger spasmed fast as Jane could work it. There was no pause to correct for recoil, and the barrel rose with each shot. They came so close together the reports became a single crescendo, an iron roar.
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Straken
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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Rage crossed Alexei's face as the Schofield struck his forehead, and the look grew more intense when he saw Jane drawing a third revolver. His hand changed course trying to grab her right hand with his left before she could fire. The first shot blew right through his hand, throwing blood and bits of flesh up his arm. She was fast. The next round passed his arm and pierced his abdomen, the next the side of chest, a round in the arm, the fifth grazed his neck, and the last carved a gouge along his cheek and taking with it a part of his ear. Rage. Alexei wrapped his charged hand around Jane's forearm, and a sharp electric pain arced up Jane's arm. Still under the effect of the chaotic magical field, the druid's spell malfunctioned. Rather than destroying her arm, Jane was subjected to the nerves in her arm all screaming at once, and the sensation of razor blades being drawn across her skin. Gritting his teeth at this newest insult, he yanked Jane forward and slammed his fist into her jaw.

The next punch came from a different source. Ruarc had sprung back after being thrown and tried to cast another spell, but whatever lingering effects where in play caused it to simply fizzle. Sprinting forward to back up Jane, he felt excitement that perhaps she had managed a crippling shot, but once he grabbed her arm and activated his spell Ruarc snapped. He wasn't going to lose another friend to him, and certainly not over something as silly as these books. This time around Ruarc had filled out his once lanky figure, and the Irishman wound up an arm tempered by years of physical labor. Alexei's rage focused him on watching Jane suffer he didn't see the bare knuckle boxer overhead punch coming his way.

"Ag mo dhroim...!" Ruarc began to chant as he slammed his own fist into Alexei's nose. The other druid released his grip as he stumbled backward, blood beginning to pour out of a broken nose. "na gaoithe!"

As Ruarc finished his chant he pivoted and wrapped an arm around Jane's midsection, and his next steps carried the duo quickly down the hall; the chaotic field having either faded or come up neutral. Alexei's rage was not to be ignored however. Echoing down the hallway came a chant filled with hatred and a lust for blood.
"Asttso sep’akan atseli k’amin!"

A roaring swarm of razor sharp blades of wind tore down the hallway seeking to make his opponents unidentifiable. Gouges and canyons in the walls and floors indicated their approach. The end of the hallway approached quickly. "Síneann an domhan...," Ruarc began to chant as he skid he did his best to redirect without slamming into the wall Jane first. The exit was straight ahead. Flashing lights and sirens indicated the approach of local authorities, and supposedly Church reinforcements. "os mo chomhair! Hang on to your hat!"

As Ruarc moved to step, the wind blades caught up, and the time it took for Ruarc to put his foot down felt agonizingly long. Three blades slashed, gouging deep into his enchanted armor, before tracing across his back and tearing through Jane's duster and shirt tracing a scarlet line over her stomach. Just before Ruarc's foot met the ground, a trailing blade caught Ruarc in the leg, cutting through denim and muscle. A strained cry of surprise and pain were only beginning to form as Ruarc realized there was a shifting weight. The blade had swept across the bundle of tomes belted to his back. The tomes were enchanted to protect them against damage, but the belts binding them were not. His free hand was close, he could catch them before he stepped down and the duo got carried away on a leyline. So close. So damn close. He refused to let everything that had transpired be in vain. His fingers brushed the edge of the tome closest to him, but he missed the mark. Instead of catching the tome, he pushed it away. Then his foot hit the ground.

A familiar disorientation washed over Ruarc and Jane as Ruarc's magic carried them out along a leyline at incredible speed. It didn't last long, as whenit came time for Ruarc to step again, his injured leg buckled. Yanked out of travel, Ruarc lost his grip on Jane and couldn't find his feet. Tumbling, Ruarc fell into tall grass. They found themselves in an open field, likely a pasture in the countryside. The night was deep and the stars were vibrant in the chilled spring air, and the hints of life were singing after waking up from a sleepy winter. Everything was tranquil, save for Ruarc's shout of pain and anger.

"Damn it!" the Irishman shouted into the darkness as his hands wrapped around the deep gash in his legs. "Damn it damn it DAMN IT!"
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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Even if it did not buy his death, Jane's gambit brought her grim satisfaction wiping out the man's smug self certainty. And then there was pain. It froze her thoughts, paralyzed her limbs, and ensnared all her senses. She'd never endured its like and once finally free of it, wished to never suffer it again.

Unless it meant finishing this fight. She'd let him torture her a hundred more times if that's what it took to rid the world of his shadow and memory.

Instead, they were running again, and Alexei pursued with violence. The American gritted her teeth against the newest set of wounds and focused on keeping the two of them upright.

Ruarc's chant was familiar: he was about to jump them out of the castle. Something nudged her hip. She twisted reflexively to--

Stumble into a grassy clearing. Cold air nipped at open cuts. Jane grunted, dissatisfied with the results of her latest escapade. All those innocent folks dead, and a madman still free.

Jane tossed a lone book and struck the druid in the gut. "Ye better find some stronger spells, Mr. Flynn, er ye ain't gonna cut it, I think.

"Frankly, ye shouldn'ta pulled us out. Point blank, we had em dead te rights." The gunslinger sighed. "Nother time I guess." Then she knelt to help Ruarc dress his wounds.
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Straken
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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"What we should have done was rushed passed that woman since my spells aren't geared for close quarters like that," Ruarc snapped, regretting his flash of anger as soon as it showed. "Trying to fight Alexei was an unnecessary risk."

Ruarc always wondered how he'd fair going up against Alexei again. They'd encountered each other another time before, but that one hadn't involved a fight. Whenever he imagined it it was squaring off in some field, duking it out. The Irish hero striking down his mainland nemesis. Childish fantasies. What he'd got was a close quarters brawl with several other people involved. And Ruarc had been scared. Whether it be attributed to almost suffocating in an ancient crypt, the added variables of the Church and Jane, whatever it was that had happened during the fight that had made his magic go haywire, or the moment when he thought he was about to watch Alexei kill Jane right in front of him. The fact in the matter was that Ruarc was scared of Alexei. In him, Ruarc saw all of the grief and pain and frustration that he'd been trying to come to terms with for the last decade.

All the while, through the last decade and even the fight with Alexei, Jane had been at his back. Jane had proven to be a great help to him during this mission, and was the reason he'd gain even one of the books. The book landing on him was a relief, in it's own way. It meant the mission wasn't a total wash, and that he owed Jane for quite a lot.

"Ah'm sorry," Ruarc said, his accent peeking through. He didn't say exactly what he was sorry about. "And thanks."
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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"When a bull rushes, ye take him by the horns," she said, explaining her stance on the matter. "Now he's kickin free and I reckon he'll be even more dangerous the next time." Jane pulled the bandage- just spare cloth really- tight around Ruarc's leg and cinched a knot. She picked up the book again and pressed it to the druid's chest. "So you better learn yerself some'in good, cuz ye know he ain't takin a snooze."

Back on her feet, she sighed. "An he has the chaos stone." She studied the lay of the land a few moments then turned back to Ruarc.

"We gotta hunt. He's wounded. Dunno what his resources er like but those wounds take time er tons o Mana." She paused briefly to recall just where she'd hit him. "He's lost half a hand and suffered three other major wounds. Gotta strike while the iron is hot."

There was a fire in her eyes now that he would recognize from the various fights they'd fought together. She was setting herself on the warpath, and if she committed her heart, she would go on with or without assistance. "He is a dread evil, Mr. Flynn. I have to."
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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"A great adage, but if you were to take a bull by the horns the bull would win. He's injured, but so are we," Ruarc griped through a wince as his leg was tended, nodding towards Jane's own nerve fried right arm and the savage bruise growing quickly on her cheek. Ruarc stood, placing his weight on his good leg. "The only battle lost is the battle you acknowledge as lost. With Toussaint down for the count, any reinforcements that would have shown up would have trapped us and considered me and by extension you a target. I'm sorry about the gem, I didn't realize you had thrown it. But, we had the books. They were the only objective. Even with us losing the others, that still mean Alexei failed to retrieve all of them; for whatever reason he would possibly want them."

Limping forward to square of with his partner, the druid hefted the tome. "I know as well as anyone what that man is like, and if you are going to go then I've got your back; but I do not think we should press this without a better advantage."

Hopping slightly, Ruarc shifted awkwardly as he tucked the hefty book under his arm before sighing. "So are we taking No Name? I'm not really set for running at the moment, and it's a bit of a hike back to the Palace."
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Re: [Prelude] In the Pursuit of Knowledge

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The duo rode through the night; across fields, pastures, streams, and creeks. For Ruarc the ride felt like it took an eternity. Between his injured leg and inexperience on a horse he was painfully aware of every passing moment. Every hoofbeat resonated through the slice in his thigh, and bruises had begun to form across his body; and likely Jane's as well given some of the punches she took, to say nothing of the spell Alexei had lanced up her arm. Yet they still rode on in grim silence. Like the eventual dawn, the lights of Avignon grew on the horizon before it became a glistening hilltop steadily taking up their view.

Their second ride through the city was drastically more somber. Shops were closed, windows were dark, and a grim air hung over the city. In the hours between their departure and return it was announced that there had been an attack made on the Palais de Papes. Revelers and merry-makers were instructed to return home. The hill upon which the Palace sat was lit up bright, and the road upward was lined with official looking vehicles. Jane and Ruarc would need to make their way past a police cordon. The climb was meant to deter an army, but for the two treasure hunters it would be possible to do in secrecy; although Ruarc lamented climbing with his leg, and Jane would feel the effort in her nerve fried arm.

It was slow going, but they were able to pick their way through shaded brush and conveniently unwatched rock faces. At the apex of their ascent, they could see the full view of the aftermath of the earlier assault. Police had set up a perimeter, but a number of officials in black suits made up the majority of activity. A careful eye could spot an identifying mark on each of their lapels; an emblazoned, blood red cross. Templars. An investigation was underway, but the entirety of their attention was focused inward. More to the point, Alexei was either captured, or more likely escaped. Near the entrance, there was a couple of drying pools of browning blood that had not been there previously.

"We should return to the safe house," the hushed sound of Ruarc's voice sounded in the darkness.

A careful descent led to the somber return to the cozy safehouse. A day passed in quiet contemplation as the two considered their next step. A local newspaper the day following revealed the public story. As it was reported, terrorists had made an attack on the palace, a number of the guards had been murdered, but sadly none of the culprits had been apprehended. The population was instructed to remain cautious as the terrorists were still at large, and to report any suspicious activity. In their downtime, Ruarc poured over the newfound tome. He himself had had a purpose for searching for these books, but now he read with the intention of figuring out why Alexei may have wanted them. It was dry, but easy enough for him to finish within a day. While he was unable to discern why Alexei would have possibly wanted to retrieve the tomes, he was able to find what he was looking for. Recorded within:
The First Day of the Month of the Holly Moon

...Once again we arrive to the celebration of our good Lughnasadh. Members of the decree hast traveled across the many territories, yet alas the days hast appeared dark, as of late. Miring the nonce of this years harvest, the remembrance of First Circle Captain Pádraig's actions earlier this year still loom over the decree. Marry, it remains to be seen what effects the banishment of our friend, the Great Faerie Caoranach, and Pádraig's defection to Rome may hast upon our decree. I fear we shall see anon enough, the culmination of our blindness and complacency...
Closing the tome, Ruarc sat back. With this tome he would be able to make a case to exonerate Caoranach should further attempts be made to apprehend her. In an exhausted slump, Ruarc reclined back and massaged his wounded leg. The trip wasn't wasted, he thought to himself. Although he was unsure whether or not Jane would see it that way.

A few days past, and some of the heat had died down. At last, they felt the time was right to head out. With his leg still convalescing ley line travel was out of the question. Ruarc suggested getting a wire transfer and paying for flights home, but Jane pointed out that with a recent attack and terrorists at large two odd foreigners would likely get guff unless they traveled a distance away, and at that point they may as well just ride all the way back. Grumbling, Ruarc agreed, and the two rode out at dawn. Time dragged on as No Name trot through the French countryside. Before long Ruarc found himself dozing, and eventually fell asleep as his head slumped against the back of Jane's shoulder.

Groggily opening his eyes, Ruarc was certain he was dreaming. They were riding through Osaka. He was sure he hadn't been dozing for to terribly long, much less long enough to ride from France to Japan. Shaking his head, he determined he wasn't going to think about it right now. Settling in, Ruarc tried to enjoy the ride up to the mansion, and was grateful when Jane dropped him off at the front gate.

"Thanks Jane," Ruarc said as he back away from the horse and looked up at the cowgirl. "If you need anything, just let me know. I owe you."
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