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malladin.ben

Keeping The Peace

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Hi all,

As much as I'm loving the game for Guild Ball, I'm loving the background. I'd really intrigued by events off pitch, and even outside of the game entirely. I've been thinking about what a Guild Ball novel might look like - a balance of intrigue and violence, and whilst some on-pitch action is an almost obligatory component, I don't think the story should be limited to the "Game."

I've got a few ideas to work out yet, but I thought I'd share with you my ideas and the story. Feel free to comment. I'll keep actual story material in italics so that it's easy to work out what's the story and what's comment...

So let's begin...

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CHAPTER ONE

It was a nice dream. She couldn't quite remember exactly what was going on, but there were trees, hills, forests. Beautiful.

But now someone was kicking her.

"Cipher! Get up" A gruff voice accompanied the thud of a hob-nailed boot into her sensation-dulled ribs.

"Come on you Haze-head! Wakey-wakey!"

She peeped open her eyes a crack and saw the blurred yet familiar shapes of the bunks and pipes of the haze den float around him, alongside a feeling of floating. As her mind began to reluctantly awaken, the floating sensation became more like she was floating on a stormy sea, and she was aware of a constriction around her waist.

Suddenly the dim haze of the den was replaced by a blinding light.

"Time for a bath, Cipher," the voice stated, and her head suddenly felt cold and wet. She was drowning and couldn't breath. She opened his eyes to see nothing but a murky greyness, and the impression of a light somewhere behind her. Her senses kicked in, fighting their way through his Haze-induced stupour. She was drowning. Her atrophying muscles kicked in and she tried to grasp for any sort of purchase, to lift her head.

Just as suddenly as it had begun, it was over and she fell onto the cobbled ground, soaking wet hair dripping across her face as she gasped for breath.

Something gabbed her by her hair and yanked her up, sitting her up against a wooden post. Opening her eyes she saw an enormous face in front of her, blackened teeth exposed by a malicious grin. A hand as big as her head tapped her lightly on the cheek and the giant stood up and moved to the side.

"She's awake, boss." The gruff voice said as its owner moved aside.

"Ah, Cipher." A new voice. A familiar voice. She couldn't quite place it, and her eyes were yet to adjust enough to the light to make out the speaker's face.

A shadow passed over her eyes as the owner of the voice drew closer, and she recognised him instantly.

"Oh no." she mumbled to her self as a feeling of dread twisted in her stomach. She turned to the side just in time to avoid vomiting down her front.

"Oh yes!" said Justicar Magnus Wellum.

Edited by malladin.ben

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"You are a hard woman to find." the Justicar continued. 

"Not hard enough,  it appears."

A momentary ripple of annoyance creased Wellum's face, but it was gone in an instant, replaced by his unctuous smile.

"Oh Cipher,  my dear, what has become of you?" he gripped her wrist between finger and thumb and lifted her scrawny arm as if it was a dirty rag.

"That's not my name," she said pulling her arm back. "Not anymore, anyway. You saw to that."

"My apologies. Juliet, then?"

She shrugged. He sighed. 

"Whilst I concede I make an easy scapegoat, your downfall was not of my making."

"You cost me my career, you bastard!" She spat at him, but it only got as far as her dirty bare feet.

He crouched before her, offering the insincere condolence of a gloved hand on her shoulder.

"Do you honestly believe that I would have been called in to investigate if the decision had not already been made?" She shook her head in disbelief, but Wellum just smiled with faux sincerity as he stood up and turned away.

"It was a bed of your own making." he let the emphasis on 'bed' linger.

"Are you serious? Faraday hired you to sack me because I slept with the team captain?"

"No, dear. It wasn't Master Faraday who hired me." That sympathetic smile again. Juliet wanted to punch him so badly, but her body wasn't up to it."It was Midas."

It should have been a shock, but when it was finall said aloud she realised it wasn't. Figures, she thought, typical man.

"But that us now all water under the bridge, surely?" he asked. "I mean, you were paid well for your service. And look at the fantastic new life you have built for yourself. Surely you can't hold a grudge?"

She looked around at the filthy back yard of a Haze den she found herself in, covered in days of sweat, vomit and excrement.

"Sarcasm? I'd have thought you above such things, Wellum." 

He shrugged. "We all have our vices, dear Juliet."

"I actually hope you do gold a grudge. If I can persuade you to refocus it away from me. I have a job for you. One I think I can you might enjoy. A real scandal for you to get your teeth into. And something I cold do with your particular skill set and connections to help me unravel."

He paused. He was milking it for effect, the bastard.

"Something, my dear Juliet, is rotten in Guild Ball."

 

 

 

Edited by malladin.ben

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It had been seven years since Juliet Illionis, perhaps more widely known as Cipher, had been forced out of mob football. She had been a student researcher at Annamura University, a master of ciphers and encryption. She had an uncanny knack for spotting patterns in codes and language, and soon learnt that it could equally apply to human behaviour. She had been brought on to the team to read the opponents plays and manipulate their strategy.

She had hoped by now that the name "Cipher" would have been long forgotten. It was inevitable that Magnus Wellum would remember, given his part in her downfall, but if he was going to be dragging her back into the world outside the Haze dens of Boujonte, she hoped that she had been gone long enough to have regained her anonymity.

It had been a month since he had dragged her out of the den. He had thrown her in a carriage and took her to some remote farm, deep in the Valentian countryside. There he had her washed and fed and dressed, expecting her to be back to her old self in just a day or so. It didn't work. Haze withdrawal is a bitch, and she was in no physical condition to cope with cold turkey. In the end Wellum had brought her some sickly syrup that seemed to make the cramps go away - it wasn't that same hit of forgetful euphoria that she got from the Haze, but it at least it stopped her feeling like she was going to die.

It took just over a fortnight for her to recover to be well enough to travel, and then another fortnight at sea. And now here they were, sailing into port at Delenni, her old Ethraynnian stomping ground. A small part of her felt like she was coming home, but it was a home she had fled. The larger part of her understood well her reasons for doing so and didn't feel particularly comfortable at being brought back here.

"Come on." Wellum strode past her and down the gang plank.

Deep breath. "Off we go," she said to herself and stepped off the ship after the Justicar.

Edited by malladin.ben

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A carriage was waiting for them at the dockside, and it wasn't long before Juliet found herself unpacking her limited belongings at their lodgings, a refined suite of apartments in the desirable Clifftop region of the city. Travel-weary and mentally withdrawn, she discarded her outer garments on the floor and laid back an let the bed swallow her up and block out the world around her.

She wasn't sure how much tie had passed, but she was woken by a polite tap on the door.

"Juliet, my dear?" Welllum. "I have something I need you to see. Can you get dressed." A pause. "Something practical. Comfortable."

Practical? Did she own anything else? The only clothes she'd brought with her were her worn out old blouse, jacket and hose (now largely clean, having fought Wellum's wash-maid to a stalemate).

A maid must have come in whilst she was was sleeping and cleared away her clothes. Bleary-eyed and blinking, she located the wardrobe and flung it open with a vague expectation that she would find her old clothes neatly folded or hung, only to find it full of garments for any occasion. What was Wellum up to?

Annoyed, she started to push through the dresses on the rail, looking for something "practical". Rushing past the finest silk and satin evening gowns and conservative, starched cotton day dresses, her searched stopped when her fingers touched the once-familiar texture of linen and her eyes glimpsed a flash of the once-familiar teal cloth. She unhooked the garment from the rail so she could inspect it further.

It was exactly what she'd hoped and feared it would be: scholar's robes, Annamura University. They were a refined linen, crisp and cool, and finely tailored. Her half-waking mind swam back towards a long-forgotten dream of her past: the young scholar, who's only vice was mathematics, who's only addiction was to numbers and patterns. Tears welled up and she hugged the robes close, remembering who she once was. She had been so young, so naive, little Julie. That girl was dead now. Cipher had killed her. The Haze had killed her. She broke down in sobs.

And the, all of a sudden her mind cleared. Steel yourself, Juliet! you're a gown woman. Was this rock bottom? Might this be the straw that drew her back to recovery? Could she be Julie once again, and put Cipher behind her? Carefully, slowly, purposefully, she dressed.

Examining herself before the mirror,, she could see the quality of the tailoring in the robes. They were a fine cut for a woman, more a long dress than the cumbersome scholarly robes of ancient tradition. She tied back her hair with a simple leather cord, looking herself in the eye like she was her own mortal enemy. She took in her full appearance for the first time in years. Her eyes dark and sunken, her cheeks gaunt, and the beginnings of age-lines around her eyes and brow. She had gotten old. A frown creased her brow, but in the mirror it looked more like a sneer - her reflection disapproving of this new Juliet.

Turning away from the mirror she almost ran to the door, a sudden fear gripping her stomach. She pushed it open in a rush, stepped through and closed it behind her quickly. It was only then that she allowed herself to breathe.

Edited by malladin.ben

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CHAPTER TWO

"No way! I am not going in there!"

Wellum had ushered her out of the apartments and into a grand-but-had-seen-better-days carriage, curtains drawn. He had filled the short journey with pleasant small talk, detailing one of his previous assignments that involved a rather humourous incident with a brewer who got a little "frisky" with a high born lady after a night at the brewery tap. The journey had only taken a few minutes as they wound down the broad boulevard from Clifftop into the city's old town.

To Juliet's pattern-spotting mind (already sharpening itself in her new-found sobriety), it was clear that his bluster was an attempt to distract her - whenever she tried to peer through the curtains, his story seemed to up its tempo, or shift to something that demanded, at the very least, a polite smile, drawing her attention away from the window. It was only when they arrived that she realised what he was distracting her from.

In front of her now stood the glorious Stadia del'Luminari, a masterpiece of architecture, showing what could be achieved when the guilds pooled their resources and worked together. Alchemists, Engineers and Masons together had built this place, the greatest Mob Football stadium in the known world.

And there was no way Juliet was ready to put guild ball back in her life.

Crowds were streaming in, and massive mirrors and magnesium-burning torches shone down from the four corners of the stadium, cutting through the darkness of the evening. Juliet, however, was refusing to leave her carriage.

"Dearest, you need to face your fears. You have come so far in the past month, but a recovery can be built on soft foundations, and need very little before the whole house is swept away out to sea. You need to test your foundations. Put yourself in harms way under controlled conditions.Accept your fears, and ensure that they do not send you back to the pipe."

He made sense, she couldn't deny it, despite her heart beating ten-to-the-dozen. Unfortunately he spotted her reconsideration, the softening of her resolve, and took the opportunity to gently take her forearm and lead her out of the carriage.

She leant heavily on Wellum as, arm in arm, he led her into the stadium. How had this man, so long considered the architect of her downfall, become such a rock in her life? She clung to him tightly as they moved towards the press of people.

She thought she saw a flash of recognition as she passed by a fan on his way into the stadium. The thought of being pointed out, of the impending attention, filled her with dread. Fortunately her scholar's robes included a hood. She pulled it up and buried her face in Wellum's side, hoping nobody would recognise her, and plunged into the crowd.

Edited by malladin.ben

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Wellum led her around the edge of the crowd and through a rather grand looking door at the side. A footman opened the door and they walked into a lavish entrance hall. Many of the so called great and the good of Ethraynnian society were lounging, chatting, whilst being served drinks and hors d'oeuvres.

"Perhaps better not to linger here?" Wellum asked her. She nodded silently, her eyes searching for am exit. 

"Let us ascend to our box, then." And he led her across the room to what appeared to be a small alcove, enclosed by a double metal gate. A young woman in an aproximation of a military dress uniform opened the gates, then followed them into the alcove and closed the gates behind them. The attendant then pulled the lever and the floor bagan to move. Her initial surprise gave way to a fascination in the workings of the machinery.

She was still pondering it's workings when it drew to a halt and the gates were opened on to a corridor. Another footman greeted them and led them to their box. It was afforded an excellent position above the centre of the pitch. High up but close to the edge, alowing great overview of the game and an intimate view of where the action was likely to happen. 

Wellum ordered them a tea each before the footman left, but when it came she didn't drink. She just sat there staring down at the centre of the field, flooded by the memories of her past. Happy memories, but now doomed never to be repeated. 

A tear escaped her desert-dry eyes and slowly carved itself a path down her cheek.

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Just a quick author's note for those if you who have been following this:

I have changed the main character's player nickname from Vaylance (a phonetical spelling of the chemical valance, so as to avoid confusion with the frilly bit that drapes down from a bed), which I thought was just a really cool name for an alchemist player, to Cipher.

As the story begins to form in my head I realised Juliet needs skills that Wellum can make use of as well as her game connections. As such I came across the pattern analysis aspect of her play and thought about how that would also be a really useful detective skill. Ciphers were historically very important to real-world alchemists, and it would seem appropriate that a more open and organised alchemists guild might have specislist cipher expets.

So the name Cipher really fits, both with Juliet's play style, the skills that she's going to be using as an investigator as the story develops, and thw guild that she played for.

Hope those of youbwho are reading are enjoying this. The likes are appreciated!

Ben

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I've also been thinking about what she'd be like in the game. I've very little idea about balance in the game, but this is the sort of thing I was thinking about:

Ethraynnian Human Female Central Midfielder 

MOV 6"/7", TAC 3, KICK 2/6", DEF 4+, ARM 0, INF 3/4

Playbook: < or GB, 1, <> or T

2" melee

14 hp

character plays:

Singled Out

Pattern Recognition (2 INF,  8"): Remove one INF from target model and give it to another model that has not yet activated this turn and is on the same team as the taget model that is within 8" of this model.

Hallucinogenic Concoction (legendary, 8", AOE 3", sustained): Target models are poisoned and take 1 damage. When a model begins it's activation within the AOE, before any other actions are declared, the model must remove 1 INF if possible, and make a jog in a direction determined by a standard scatter roll. If this brings the model into Base contact with another model it makes an attack against the model it moved into Base contact with. The attacking model counts as an enemy of the model that is the target of its attack.

Traits:

Slippery 

Addict: ignore the first icy sponge token this model receives each game.

 

It makes her an interesting control piece,  designed for taking morticians-style influence shenanigans and some good supporting plays, and I think fits nicely with her fluff. The legendary play is there for a bit of fun, I'm. not sure how useful it could be, which is why I made it legendary so that it's not costing you influence or momentum.

Cheerio, 

Ben

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Juliet sat nervously, and silently in her seat whilst waiting for the match to being. Wellum tried engaging her in small talk, but just gave up after all he received in reply were a few nods or shakes of the head, or shrugs.

Instead he busied himself, taking out a notebook and prising whatever gossip he could out if the reluctant footman. She wasn't really listening, but she heard Midas' name mentioned a few times. 

I wasn't until the teams came out onto the pitch that she began to show much in the way of signs of life. 

The stadium had largely filled up. Given that Ethraynne was an archipelago state, and the stadium had been built to house the largest games, it was a surprise to see so many people.

"It's full." She said.

"Yes - a potentially big match tonight." Wellum informed her. "The Shield is only a month away, and the Midas is keen to secure a seeded position. Tonight's opponents are the Brewers, currently occupying the fourth seeded place, with Midas close behind. If he can win tonight, they'll take the Brewer's seeding."

"If he can win? The alchemists are more than just Midas, surely."

Wellum simply gave her a non-committal smile.

"Ah, here come the teams," he said, deflecting. 

She recognised Midas instantly - bastard hadn't changed, despite the years. If anything he looked younger. Well, she pondered, I guess he would. Then good ol' flask chuntered on behind. She started to wonder if any if her old team mates were still in the team. Surely Mercury was still playing? But the team that followed out the captain left her cold. Union players each and every one.

Decimate, the masked swordswoman. Juliet had never liked that mask. No matter what you did to her, that fucking mask just grinned back at you. She could be unconscious and coughing up blood and still that stupid grin.

Hemlocke, the witch. Surely her herbal quackery was the antithesis of the good science the alchemists were seeking to promote. 

Mist. Fucking Mist! That cold bastard was, in Juliet's opinion, the best striker in the game. Yeah, everyone talked about Flint, but that smooth talking son of a bitch had nothing on Mist. Mist was a ghost. He'd appear anywhere, take the ball off you, then he'd be gone and you'd be a goal down. Trouble was, the joyless fucker never celebrated a goal, and played for almost anyone who'd have him, so he went forever underrated. Probably just how he likes it, Juliet thought. 

And finally, Snakeskin. "Snake" was right for that bitch - Juliet ranked her least trustworthy of al the union players, and that says a lot for Blackheart's crew! She was sure Snakeskin had given - sold, more than likely - information on her to Wellum. For a long time she had blamed Snakeskin as much as Wellum. Now she knew Midas was behind it all, could she forgive the snake? No, she was sure Snakeskin was involved. Given how close she now appeared to Midas, they were probably in it together.

"What?!" She couldn't believe it, an alchemist team without a single alchemist beyond Midas. "Midas, what have you done?"

 

Edited by malladin.ben
tidied up due to having been typed originally using phone

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The Brewers were out next, to muted applause from the Alchemist's fans. Tapper, at least, had kept things in-house. The brewers were practically the Maldriven national team: Tapper, Hooper, Friday, Stave and Spigot. Oh, she remembered some good times with Spigot. The man would celebrate a loss as readily as a win - any excuse to for a drink. She was surprised to see him still alive, let alone still playing.

The game moved swiftly to the kick off. Midas had won the toss and made the Brewers kick to him. Stave jogged forward and put his foot behind the ball - just enough to get it over the halfway line and for the Alchemists to come and get it. Then the game degenerated into chaos. 

Midas was obviously wary of the big man, and sent his team wide, spreading the field. Snakeskin took up the centre, recovering the ball and getting it back to Midas. Mist ran forward into a deep position, wide on a flank. It looked like Midas was setting him up to score, but Cipher's old game reading abilities sprung back to life. She knew what he was planning. Mist was a feint, to draw Friday and spigot wide and away from the ball. They fell for his plan, running wide whilst Tapper and Hooper tried to take out Snakeskin. But she was too agile, ducking and weaving and avoiding their blows and drawing them deeper into Alchemist territory. That was when Hemlocke and Midas responded, blinding the brewers with flash bombs.

Meanwhile, Decimate went mascot hunting, trying to take out the scrappy tomcat, Scum. It was another decoy, Decimate on her own wouldn't be able to trap the cat in place, but it would force Tapper to spread his team out across the pitch. Midas himself was studying Stave, reaching into his pocket for his philospher's stone, he crafted himself a heavy barrel, and threw it into the centre of the melee. Stave, Tapper and Hooper were all knocked off their feet as the barrel exploded, while Snakeskin had stepped carefully outside of the range of the blast.

Suddenly, Midas was on them, and snakeskin had the ball. While Midas pounded Tapper into the dirt, snakeskin simply jogged forward with the ball and scored.

"You've fallen for it, Tapper." Juliet whispered to herself, as it was then that the genius of Midas' game plan, the clever strategy Juliet had seen from the kick off, was revealed. 

Tapper was being hauled off for much needed medical attention whilst the goal kick had three options, none of them good. If it went wide to the left there was only Scum available to pick it up, and she was being chased down by Decimate. Similarly on the right, Friday and Spigot would have to deal with Mist, and in the centre, Hooper and Stave were down and Midas and Hemlocke were equally dangerous with the ball.

The brewers opted for the right, where they were at least two against one. It proved a mistake, as Mist was poised to strike and, dropping a smoke bomb he took the ball from Friday and swept in a second goal almost straight from the goal kick. The game had gone from scoreless to ten-nil to the alchemists in a matter of minutes.

Juliet had caught Wellum looking at her, a sly smile cracking across her face.

"I would have thought you'd be supporting the brewers. Or do old allegiances die hard, even after everything that has passed?" He asked her.

"Oh, I am supporting the Brewers." Juliet replied, her smile widening to a grin.

Midas had miscalculated. He needed to have closed up the game by now. Very soon they'd be back to level and Midas would be able to do nothing about it. He'd spent too much of his resources, and had failed to close out the game.

As the events played out, the shift in the momentum of the match developed slowly. Tapper returned to play quickly, and the ball was kicked out to Friday and Spigot, now on their own. The team now ran almost as one at the centre of the pitch, Midas and revenge in their sights. Snakeskin went down to Tapper, and that seemed to rally the team into action. Stave, Spigot and Scum ploughed through Hemlocke, and Friday shot at goal.

It was a looping arc of a shot, swung in towards to goal from the brewer's own half. The crowed were hushed to silence as the ball flew towards goal, and then the small brewer's contingent cheered and jumped about as the ball hit the post. Ten-eight!

Then, finally, Hooper, slugging back a swig of Old Jake's charged in at Midas himself. Midas went down in a crumpled heap, as Hopper kept beating down on him until he stopped moving and the team physician came to drag the Alchemist's captain off the pitch.

Ten-Ten. It was close, but the Alchemists goal kick had gone towards Midas, but he couldn't collect, having been taken out.

Suddenly Decimate sprung into life, dodged through a crowd of Brewer's players and picked up the ball. She didn't have a viable target, so she kicked it into space near the Brewer's goal. Spigot jogged back to pick it up, but mustn't have noticed Mist as he flew in from the wings. Spigot disappeared from view in a cloud of smoke as Mist charged in. 

"No!" Juliet cried. Spigot was no match for mist in a cloud of smoke. There could be only one winner, she knew it. Mist emerged from the smoke cloud, ball at his feet. He pulled back he right foot and shot...

Juliet buried her face in her hands, unable to watch. She had hoped against the odds that the Brewers might pull the game back, but it was to no avail.

The crowd erupted as Mist scored, securing the alchemists the win, and the seeded slot at the Skaldic Shield.

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CHAPTER THREE

Danny the Hare edged nervously to the edge of the alleyway. It was a moonless night, but the streetlights of Delenni illuminated the broad boulevard, yet cast shadows everywhere. Shadows can hide all sorts of danger.

He leant briefly out into the street, glancing left and right, up and down the boulevard. It seemed empty. Except for the shadows. Buttoning up his coat collar, despite the mildness of the evening air, he ducked out into the street. 

His face was largely covered by the high starched collar, obscuring the sides of his face, at least, up to his eyes. His hair recently dyed - bleach-blonde, in stark contrast to the flame-ginger it had previously been. He hoped whoever had been following him these past weeks would not recognise him.

To the casual spectator, Danny appeared like a local, striding purposefully down the street. As if on his way home, perhaps. But a more careful observer might notice the flitting of his eyes, left and right; how he stops every so often to cross the street, pausing to look up and down the road, and then cross back again a hundred yards or so further on. They might even notice a slight jitter in his step, or an occasional flinch at a passing stray animal or even a leaf blowing across the cobbles. Danny was not local, but we was purposeful, and he was using every trick in his extensive book to appear as normal as possible as a reached the final leg of the most dangerous journey of his life. 

Danny the Hare was a Raed. Born and bred in a small town called Harton, then orphaned in his early teens, he was too old for the church to take in, and too young to look after himself. That took him to the "big city" where he got mixed up in all sorts or trouble, as he struggled to fend for himself.

Eventually he found himself taken in by a master.  Perhaps not a friend, and certainly someone who wanted Danny for the skills he possessed. But someone he learned to respect, even to trust. And it was that someone who had give me him a specific task - a location to watch. To report what he saw. It was what he saw that led him to flee for his life, and to get the message of what he saw to that master he respected. To Magnus Wellum. 

 

Edited by malladin.ben

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Danny strode on. His path took him out of the centre of the city and the road started to climb. After leaving the outer boundary of the city proper, the road to Clifftop became well kept and lined with bay trees, prettily cropped into spheres, hiding the olive groves that lined the hillside.

As he reached the top of the climb, the groves gave way to housing. At first the houses were modest yet well appointed, single storey houses, but as he strode further into the Clifftop community, the houses started to grow in size and grandeur. In the heart of the township, three and four storey apartment buildings lined perfectly groomed plazas. Coffee shops, cafes and restaurants bordered the streets, and the gentle murmur of the conversations of the well-heeled wafted into the street with the smell of foie gras, olives, wine and truffles.

Pushing on, Danny ignored his aching stomach as it yearned after the aromas coming from the restaurants. These places would be no good to him anyway. He couldn't afford them, and the tiny artisan portions would hardly dent his hunger. His destination was just around the next corner. He was nearly there, nearly safe.

He rounded the corner and crossed the plaza, heading directly for Wellum's town house. He climbed the steps to the front door and knocked. He had made it. He relaxed.

It was then that he felt a slight rush of wind behind him. Then came a strange sensation in his chest. He looked down to see a blade protruding from between his ribs, Blood and black ichor dripping to the floor. As suddenly as it appeared, the blade was gone and Danny's mind started to spin and he slipped away.

Moments later Wellum's footman opened the door to find a crumpled body lying in a pool of blood. Silently he returned to the house, gathered up a large sheet, and returned to the steps. Danny's body was wrapped and carefully carried into the house. Later he returned with a mop to wipe clean the steps.

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