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Welcome to West Luna - Chapter IX

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Only a few hours of rest, and the guard captain wakes. Time to start another day, but first, he prays.

The room had been used for storage before it became his own. He was told to move everything out except for one bed, blanket, pillow, and a clothing chest. The bed was large, and the room could easily fit eight of them. Any extra furniture must be paid for separately, with a ten percent discount at the House of Furniture of course. Stark, however, preferred the emptiness.

As he prepares himself, the stillness of the early morning allows his mind to wander. As always, images flash through his mind. Images he can't ever forget.

Focus on your duties.

He shaves, and then puts on his armor. Not the full plate, just the chain mail. He doesn't have the luxury of the Luna teleport spells anymore. One guard for all of West Luna. Mobility is important. Dressed and freshened up, Stark focuses on the new day.

Still asleep, the guard captain takes note as he moves past the merchant vendor's room. Exhausted from stonework, she wouldn't get up until midday. Her shop is fully stocked, and her vendors would arrive before the shop opened. She sold an impressive amount of items each day. For impressive amounts of gold. It was amazing what people would pay for just a small change to their homes. And it was more amazing that she could keep up.

As for the Lord of West Luna, it seemed he often spent his nights elsewhere, as an honored guest of one Luna noble or another. He could be anywhere. Those nobles would probably love to know secrets of this pair.

He eats a quick breakfast in the kitchen, and prepares a simple sandwich to take with him. The food is always excellent here. Far better than he's used to, but he hardly notices. Breakfast is just another chore. After cleaning up, he steps outside.

The stillness of the morning is unsettling. The sounds of trade and crafting, the sounds of life, are absent. In this place, at this hour, there is silence.

But the air was crisp, and training would feel fresh. He unsheathes his sword, and performs the exercises that have been instilled in him. Starting slowly at first, he maintains perfect form as he moves faster and faster, becoming a whirlwind of motion. The sword sings to him. A song of Justice. Of Valor. Of Honor. There is no doubt that the Order is his true calling.

A blur of motion one second, still as the air itself the next. His breath still at a steady pace. Training his breathing is part of training his sword. The breeze caresses the dampness on his face and he wipes away the beads of sweat and begins his rounds. Rounds in the open to be seen by all, and hidden from sight to watch and observe.

At this time of the morning, no one else is awake. No witnesses to deter criminal acts. A vulnerable hour. Of course he thinks the same of every hour. That's his biggest obstacle. He can't be vigilant every hour of every day. The best he can do is vary the time and place at which he guards, trains, explores, and eats. Even sleep is scheduled to have no discernible pattern.

Hours pass, and rounds are completed. Time to explore. Stark heads northwest, past the boundaries of West Luna, until he reaches the shore. Learning the surrounding area is as important as learning West Luna itself. There's so much I've never seen, he thinks to himself as he stares out into the sea of black. The distant view from Luna's walls were incapable of preparing him for this close up look at the vast nothingness before him. It looks like the night sky, full of pinpricks of light, yet empty of substance. It was too much for him to comprehend how the sun could rise at the horizon, the same as above land, and the sky would still melt from red, to orange, to blue, and back to black as the sun rose and set, yet the ocean would remain a constant black. And West Luna stood as part of a penninsula surrounded by it. Even now he could see the sky begin to lighten, and distinguish itself from the ocean.

Lake shores would gradually slope away and transition from land to water, but here, at the ocean shore, the land was there and then abruptly stopped. It makes no sense. Stark dips down to one knee, needing to touch… it. His arm flinches as it passes through exactly what it looks like - nothing. He runs his fingers along the edge marveling at how it doesn't crumble away. Smooth, like a polished blade. Looking at his fingers, he can't find even one speck of dust clinging to the tips. History and legends talk about bodies of water, roaring and teeming with life, but now… It's all gone.

He walks along the shore for several minutes before cutting inward toward the forest that populates most of the peninsula. Still a stranger to him, no one will be able to hide once he and forest become acquainted.

Beneath the forest canopy, the paladin bends down to pick up a water shard to help quench his growing thirst. During the fabled fall of Britain, when factions splintered into smaller nations, the oceans vanished and the world burned, and crystal growths of water began sprouting forth from the ground when none had existed before. Crystals that are both hard and translucent as ice, yet only cool as glass and will not melt at the touch. These shards liquefy into drinkable water at the touch of saliva, specific vibrations, large enough pressure, and extreme heat. And somehow they still evaporate to make the clouds.

Stark looks off into the distance as water tickles his tongue, and a glint of light catches his eye. A few steps closer and he can make out a giant mass of water crystals sprouting from the ground.

A crystal well, he thought.

Stark takes careful note of his surroundings. Landmarks would make things easier than an endless monotony of trees. All of a sudden, a paralyze spell strikes him in the shoulder. He recovers and takes cover behind the closest tree. Developing resistance to magical attack through repeated exposure was part of training as a paladin, but he still feels a slight tingle in his shoulder.


The guard captain clears away all thought, allowing the smallest sound to reach him. Then he hears it, a steady sweeping along the forest floor. Robes scraping the ground? Too close. He dashes to the next tree, turns, and gazes back to where he stood, ready to take in who and how many.

He watches shamefully as a crystal elemental makes its way toward him. Looking almost exactly like a crystal well, these elementals sit still, waiting to attract unsuspecting prey. It paralyzes its victim, then takes its time to drain it dry. Small animals, children, and in some cases, adults, have fallen victim to this creature, but any half-decent warrior can handle one.

Stark steps out from behind the tree and bows with a closed fist over his heart. The hum of his sword as he unsheathes it sends a tingle through his spine.

"Now we end this."

The creature seems to feel the same, as it tries to paralyze him once again. He watches as the air wavers and attempts to roll his shoulder with the force of the impact, attempting to evade its affects, as the spell makes contact. The sword sings his reply. Each swing strikes with precision, attacking the joints in what is both the creature's camouflage and armor.

A few moments more, and the battle is over. He honors it once more with a bow. "You have taught me well this day." He picks up proof of his kill to redeem for gold.

Stark cleans his blade and walks back toward West Luna. He breaks for lunch at the forest edge then meditates. He kneels down, in a different manner than when praying, with his body bent at the waist, and sitting on his heels, and clears his mind. His sword isn't the only weapon that needs to be maintained.

He returns to West Luna, and round after round, he watches and learns. He counts the steps in between buildings, and walks with eyes closed. He takes in the sounds of saws, chisels, and hammers, and takes whiffs of the odd smells from outside the House of Poison. He will know West Luna as well as he knows the Book of Chivalry when he is done.

Night falls, but he remains on watch. It would be only a few more days until the full moon, but he hardly notices. It was more important to know when the moon was waning towards the shadow moon, and light visibility would be low. West Luna needs to be guarded by night as well, so his rounds continue.

The lights go out early at the House of Poison while those at the Magic Arts and Crafts burn on. Merchant Vendor Melfina seems to stay awake at the oddest hours at times.

With the moon well overhead the sound of laughter drifts in from the east, and Stark can make out a pair of young men making their way west, almost on a path that would cross West Luna. He opens his mouth, ready to hail them, but as soon as they see him they angle away and go silent.

Such a distrust of strangers out here.

Another pair walks by later on that night, this time keeping hidden beneath the hoods of their cloaks. These two move with nervous glances, and Stark would prefer if they stayed clear of West Luna. He stares at them in the moonlight with his hand on his sword hilt. They get the message and hurry on by, making sure he doesn't follow.

I hope the other two will be safe. But I can't leave with this many people about.

When the guard captain finally judges that his shift is done, he heads back to the manor house of his lord. He eats a simple sandwich, then heads back to his room to remove his armor. After a quick bath, decides what time to wake the next morning, writes down in his journal and knows it will be easy to wake up in only a few hours. The paladin then kneels by his bed and begins to pray.

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