“You will never win this battle, you monster!”
“Perhaps not, but I will win the war!”
“Come at me, then, and show me I am wrong!”
“You want some of this?!?”
“Mike. Really?! Jesus Christ.” Aly snorts, then loses composure completely. She leans over, her entire body shaking with her amusement. “Hold, hold, please… I can’t…” She waves her hand in the air, every word punctuated with snickering.
“Aly, you are ruining the flow!” Mike draws up short, lowering his foam-padded wooden sword. He gives her a long look, unable to hide his own smirk as she works to master her emotions.
“You did this. You monster.” She draws in a deep breath. Then, a second. She straightens, staring at him. She points a finger at him. “MONSTER.” Her lips twitch at the outer corners. She lifts her other hand, giving the sign to start the scene once more.
“Nay! T’is you who are the monster! How dare you strike at us? You have no right!” Mike brings his sword back into position.
“I have every right! This is my kingdom! That bastard of a brother took it from me. I will have it back!” Aly shifts position, drawing a small bag from the pouch at her side. She begins to trace a rune in the air as she speaks. “You will submit or you will feel my wrath!”
“You were never the rightful heir to this throne.” Mike advances, three other fighters ranged behind him.
“I am certain that is what Tarlin tells you.” She traces a second rune in the air. “But, it is of no consequence.” She lifts the small bag into view.
“SCATTER!” Mike yells this as she throws the small bag toward the space in front of his feet.
“Ice Entomb!” Aly yells over him. Her aim is spot on and lands directly in front of Mike. The three behind Mike are diving to the sides.
“Direct Hit. Mike and Dan are encased in ice. Cassie is only unconscious from the spell explosion. Eric, you are thrown back, bruised, but otherwise unharmed.”
“Take the news back to Tarlin.” Aly points at Eric. “Let him know I am coming for what is mine.” She watches as Eric scrambles to his feet and takes off as fast as his feet can carry him.
“Nice work, Aly. Very well done. Okay, everyone. Scene is broken. Mike, you and Dan are out of commission for a day unless someone sends a mage out to thaw you. Cassie, you’ll be out for about an hour. You’d better hope Aly doesn’t kill you in the meantime.”
“Awww, Neil, really?” Cassie sits up, making a face. She looks to Aly, tipping her head to one side.
“Maybe I’ll make you my minion.” Aly grins at her, moving forward to pick up the small bag she’d thrown. Nothing more than a pale blue bean bag, it represented the spell she wanted to cast.
“At least you have a chance, Cassie.” Mike crosses to Neil. “A whole day? Damn, man. That’s harsh.”
“Hey. She wrote the spell and got it approved by the Story Council. I just stand here and make the calls based on distance and role play.” Neil shrugs. A pale-haired man of average height, Neil is a native of the town of Ireland where the game is being played. His accent, however, is not as thick as some of the other villagers, as he’d moved across the pond years ago. He idly tugs at the bright red tunic he wears over his clothing, denoting him as performing storyteller duties.
“Dammit, Aly. Why do you gotta be that way.” Mike sighs.
“Hey. They asked me to be the villain, I wrote a villain.”
“Always a spellcaster.”
“Not always, Dan.” Aly offers the younger man a hand up. The tall, lanky, red-haired man dressed as a rogue, complete with leather hair tie, takes it and hauls himself to his feet.
“Name one time you weren’t a wizard of some kind.” He crosses his arms over his leather-encased chest, staring down at her.
“Two years ago. I played an elven ranger.”
“Wicked good aim, too.” Neil idly rubs his left arm. “She scored a hit to my arm in order to take me prisoner for questioning.”
“Huh.” Dan frowns. “I don’t remember that one.”
“Your brother got married that weekend, so you couldn’t come,” Mike chimes in from the side.
“Oh. Yeah.” Dan shakes his head. “I would have paid money to see you play a ranger. Still would pay money, actually.”
“You might yet. The week’s hardly begun. Who’s to say how long it will take you to deal with the threat of…” She steps back, drawing herself completely upright. A change comes over her entire persona. Disdain and disgust war on her features as she looks upon the group. “Eirlys Winterborn, Heir to the Throne of …”
“Right, right.” Mike reaches out and shoves her.
“Hey!” The illusion shatters, her face lighting up with amusement. She shoves back.
“You really should be an actress, Aly. You are actually terrifying when you do that.” Cassie mock shudders.
“No way. I’m not near good enough for that.”
“Are too.” Dan concurs.
“Where did you get your outfit?” Neil interrupts, a thoughtful look on his face. “Teresa would thoroughly enjoy something like this.”
“Eh?” Aly looks down at herself. “Oh. Well. See.” She pauses, trying to think of the best way to explain it.
“So, you know that movie about the game she plays that just came out?”
“Eh?” Neil looks toward Mike. “Oh. Yeah. Sure.” He nods.
“She started with the mage’s outfit and went from there.”
“Wasn’t he a guy?”
“So?” Aly puts her hands on her hips. “It looked really good, so I started from that. Plus, who wants to wear a freaking dress while running around outside?” She snorts. “It’s fine and well for any banquet hall scenes or the like. But if there’s a fight scene? No, thanks.” She snorts. “Anyway. It’s really just pants, leather boots, a loose shirt, with a vest and overtunic. Cloak. Nothing fancy.”
“Aly.” Neil laughs. “Did you even look at yourself when you got dressed?”
“Well, of course. Do you think this hair does this on its own?” She gestures to the elaborate series of braids keeping a good chunk of her waist length hair back from her face but leaving some of it to trail behind her.
“No. Really look.”
“Aly.” Mike intervenes, resting a hand on her arm. “You did a seriously good job with this. You look like you walked off the movie set.”
“Huh? No. I just bought a bunch of stuff and then….”
“And then you altered it until it was what you wanted. However, the quality of it is obvious. A little angry there isn’t LARP of your game?”
“Maybe.” She sticks her tongue out at Mike, crossing her arms over her chest.
“So, you basically made it yourself?” Neil brings the conversation back to his question.
“Sort of. I had to alter the costume I got because it was made for a guy and was too big. And then I….”
“You made it yourself. Got you.” Neil pulls his phone from his pocket as it goes off. “Lunch break, team. Let’s go see what we can scrounge up, my friends.”
“If Teresa wants help, let me know.” Aly shoves a hand into her pouch, then frowns. “Shit.”
“Thanks. I’ll let her – what?” Neil turns at the curse. Dan turns as well. Mike and Cassie keep moving, in conversation, not hearing Aly.
“I think I lost my phone. Son of a goddamn bitch.” She closes her eyes and mutters something under her breath.
“Did you just curse in your game languages?” Dan grins.
“Yes.” Aly makes a face.
“Where did you last have it?” Neil gives Dan a side look, making the other man shrug.
“While I was waiting for your signal that Mike and company were near.” Aly frowns. “Come to think of it, I think I left my cloak over there, too. Damn! I am way more impressive with my cloak!”
“Focus, fearsome wizard.” Dan comments. “The phone is probably more important than the cloak.”
“Barely. That cloak was expensive! And hand-embroidered! By my grandma!”
“What?” Neil blinks several times. “Your grandmother?”
“She’s really damn good at embroidery. She saw my sorry attempts at doing it myself and literally took the thing out of my hands and told me to go away.”
“Yeah. My grandma is the best.” Aly grins widely. “She took my rather basic pattern and elaborated all the runes. It’s amazing.”
“Damn. Can she do mine?” Dan asks.
“You have a spell caster?”
“No, but now I want one.”
“Pfft.” She shakes her head. “Look. You guys go ahead. I’ll scout around where I was sitting and see if I can find it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, it’ll be….” She trails off, her attention caught by the sound of thundering hooves. Her eyes widen. “Um. Are there supposed to be people on horseback for this?”
“What? No, I don’t…” Neil turns as well. He stares.
“Well. That’s a horse of a different color, isn’t it.” Dan smirks as the rider approaches. A large, gray mare, with a woman of average height sitting astride the horse. Dressed in what appears to be dark pants, leather boots, a loose white shirt, with a dark red tabard over the shirt, she reins the horse to a stop.
“Hey.” She drops to the ground, a small, leather-bound parcel in her hands.
“Damn, Naer. You certainly like to make an entrance.” Dan reaches out for the package.
“Not for you.” She sticks out her tongue at Dan.
“Of course you would come in via horseback, Naer.” Neil chuckles. “I wasn’t aware we were allowed to have horses on the event space.” He also reaches out for the package. “New story info?”
“Not for you, either.” She hands the package to Aly. “I got a special dispensation to use Maddie for delivering the mail.” She moves back to the horse, patting her side, then her nose.
“Only you, Naer. Only you.” Dan laughs.
“What’s this, Naer?” Aly inspects the package.
“Special delivery. Someone said you needed it.” Naer shrugs, rubbing a hand over Maddie’s left foreleg.
“I do?” Aly frowns, obviously confused. “Other than losing my phone, I don’t think I forgot anything.”
“If you don’t want it, I’ll take it.” Dan offers.
“No. Mine.” Aly jerks it away from his questing fingers.
“Well, open it, then.” Dan puts his hands on his hips. “You are delaying my lunch!”
“No, you are delaying your lunch.”
“She has a point, Dan.” Neil points toward the front of the field. “You could go back to the food tent.”
“And not find out what Naer galloped over here to give to us?!” Dan is aghast. “You must be joking.”
“Okay, let’s not exaggerate. It was more of a trot. MAYBE a canter.” Naer interjects.
“I’m opening it!” Aly shakes her head. An arguement on semantics between Naer and Dan could go on forever. She undoes the leather lacing, opening up the parcel. She tips her head to one side, then to the other. “Someone sent me a – necklace?” She frowns. “No, not really a necklace, I guess. More of a….”
“Dan!” Aly gives him a shove. “Too close.”
“Well, you were taking too long.”
“Get back.” She narrows her eyes at him. He takes two steps away from her. “Better.” She pulls the item from the palm of her other hand, idly stuffing the leather packaging and lacing into the pouch at her side. A large circle, about the size of her palm, the medallion is many strands of metal, intricately woven together. Gold, silver, copper, and something she could not identify twisted and turned in a devious knot pattern, encircling a pair of tear-drop shaped jewels. One light colored, one darker colored.
“You got a yin-yang?”
“It appears I did, Dan.” Aly lifts the medallion, suspended as it is on a sturdy, silver chain. “Looks like a moonstone and… I’m not sure.”
“Onyx, maybe?” Neil offers.
“Looks more like hematite to me.” All three look to Naer. “What. It’s supposed to help with stress. I have a lot of stress.”
“Not quite, but close, yes.” Aly nods. “Thanks, Naer.” Aly loops the necklace over her head. She inhales sharply, her body lurching to one side, her eyes closing.
“Hey!” Dan steps forward, balancing her out. “Aly?” His dark eyes center on hers. She lifts a hand to use as an anchor on his arm.
“I’m okay. It’s passing.” She takes several more deep breaths. She opens her eyes, finding Dan staring at her intently. “Why, Dan. I had no idea you cared.”
“Liar.” He snorts, then lets her go. “Let’s get back to the food tent. Someone forgot breakfast before romping around in the forest for hours.”
“Dan, you have never forgotten breakfast in your life.”
“Ah. No, not me either.”
“What was that, then?”
“I don’t know. I felt light-headed, and then really warm.” She shakes her head. “It’s passed. I’m fine.” She waves her hands at them. “Go on. I need to see if I can find my phone and my cloak.”
“I don’t know, Aly.” Naer frowns. “Dan had to catch you.”
“I’m fine, really.”
“I really don’t want to leave you here by yourself.”
“No. If you need to find a phone, then you take one of the boys with you. I’d do it myself, but I have to get Maddie back to the stable.”
“Go ahead, Neil. I’ll go with her.” Dan ignores the groan Aly emits.
“You sure?” Neil looks between the two warily.
“It’ll be fine, Neil.”
“Sure?” Neil looks at Aly.
“It’s fine.” Aly makes a face at the three of them, then exhales loudly. “FINE. C’mon, chaperone. Let’s be quick so we don’t starve.”
“Ahhh. A woman who knows the way to my heart.” Dan puts a hand over his stomach.
“Haha.” Aly snorts, heading toward a small copse of trees.
“It’ll be fine. You heard her.”
“Better be.” Naer shoves him.
“Jeez.” Dan gives them both a look, then lopes after Aly.
“This is a terrible idea, Neil.”
“Don’t I know it. But, they are adults. What are we going to actually say?”
“Don’t be stupid.”
“I’m not be – oh. Yes. That’s pretty much what I tell Dan on the regular.”
“Don’t we all.” They watch Dan catch up to Aly as the two disappear into a copse of trees.
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