Playing with the Toys

The smithy is settled comfortably in a clearing on the far side of a low hill. Built solidly of fieldstone below and timber above, it smells of horse, fresh-sawn wood, and the acrid tang of coal and hot metal. A pair of wrought iron posts, their tops in the shape of stylized horses' heads, supports the long wooden hitching rail standing behind a watering trough which apparently started life as a forty gallon steel drum. Beside the trough, enormous double dutch doors are marked by a neatly hand-lettered sign proclaiming Lucas Maker, Blacksmith.
A spur of the cart track continues around the back of the building, while the main track makes a neat, packed circle in front of the building to double back on itself to return to the farm.

Eos approaches the dutch doors through the early morning mist, head cocked for sounds from within.

The forge is quiet at the moment, the usual ringing hammerstrokes are absent. The smell of clove tea competes with the lingering sting of coal smoke.

Rowan trails in from the other direction, in lupus; Julen arrives a few minutes after Eos, walking determindly on her staff, clearly on Eos' tail.

Eos knocks firmly at the door.

The knock is promptly answered by the smith, who edges open the top of the right-hand door -- carefully at first, so as not to knock over his visitor. Seeing the little gathering, he shuts and latches the top, then opens the door proper. "G'morning! C'mon in, folks," he greets his guests. "Got th' kettle on."

Rowan brushes past Eos as he heads inside. Julen smiles wryly at the wolf, and then back up at Lucas. "Good morning. Tea would be marvelous."

"Always glad to hear *that*!" Eos exclaims. "Tea is welcome of a morning." She slides past Lucas into the smithy as well, making a playful grab at the wolf's tail and purposely missing.

Rowan's tail waves happily at Eos.

Lucas passes around an assortment of mismatched, battered cups and mugs, then scoops an enormous iron kettle out of the banked coals and begins pouring tea. The brew of the morning is a strong black tea, of some kind, strongly flavored with clove, cardamom, and a hint of sassafrass. "Glad you folks could make it," he says. "Tryin' out somebody else's work is always a dodgy prospect, and some of these Starsfire doodads sound extra quirky, if you know what Ah mean."

Eos sniffs her tea dreamily and smiles. "Yep. Starsfire may've been brilliant, but..."

Julen takes a moment to inhale tea smell. "I most certainly do. Could you talk a little more about the ones you brought back? Starsfire was..." She glances at Eos with a faint smile. "Precisely."

There are a pair of stools and a bin to sit on. Lucas himself takes up a leather satchel from the floor, drawing out a length of grayish fabric. Judging by the orderliness of the rest of the smithy, the satchel was ensconced somewhere safer until not too long before his guests arrived. "Well, by the accounts Ah've got," Lucas begins, holding the fabric out for inspection, "This would be the Aegis Mantle. Not by Starsfire, but by a deity Ah couldn;t get a name for."

Eos pages the room: Eos thinks that most everyone high-level would have heard of the Aegis Mantle at some point. Starsfire is most famous for her equivalent of the Umbral Atomic Bomb, but people know she made a lot of other things too. And they're mostly powerful and scary.

Julen raises an eyebrow. "My."

Eos's eyes get a bit larger. "Well, then. You certainly didn't skimp on the haul. We're going to have to have you run all our quests in the future. And I can foresee an entire section of my repetoire devoted to Lucas Maker." She eyes the gray fabric, which can be see to glitter slightly in the morning light. "If I recall correctly, this is supposed to have all sorts of different powers, but the most consistent I've heard is supposed 'True Sight.' Whatever the hell that means."

"Aye. True sight, and protection of the mind," Lucas agrees. "Which is something we definitely could use." He sets down his mug on a nearby shelf and rubs his hands together briskly. "Would one of you like to try it, or shall Ah?"

The Sentinel doesn't skip a beat. "I'd be willing, and indeed quite interested, to do so."

Rowan prowls about underfoot.

Eos indicates her deference to Julen in the trying of the item.

Lucas shakes out the fabric and, deciding upon an 'up' for it, holds it out to the Alpha as though helping her on with her coat after dinner at a nice restaurant.

Julen, for her part, puts it on as if it were the best cloak in town.

Julen then closes her eyes, exhales slowly, grip tightening on her staff slightly.

Lucas watches the elder carefully.

Julen pages: Blah de blah, attuning.
You paged Julen with 'You see, after a moment, a point of light far ahead of you that slowly grows as you become more "into" the attunement. After a few moments, the light grows considerably and golden light splashes over you. Your mind becomes crystal clear, all incidental worries are washed away, and everything comes into tighter focus.'.

The Sentinel's grip remains steady. "Protection," she says, a bit vaguely. "I would think so." Julen opens her eyes, after another low exhalation.

Lucas remains quiet, waiting for the elder to explain in her own time.

You paged Julen with 'You can see all the lines of magic in the room -- all the protections and such. The forge proper is chock full of energy. You can see the edges of Lucas and Eos's other forms. Everything is very bright and hard-edged, with almost double-images -- which you realize after a moment is you seeing the Umbra overlapped on the real world.'.

Julen blinks slowly. "My," she says, again. "Umbra is overlapping the Realm. And I can see other types of magic, as well. This is fascinating. Lucas, describe your protections on this place, could you?"

You paged Julen with 'There is a sense of being in control of that bubble of golden light all around you that's making these things happen. Like you could extend it, amoeba-like, to selected other people too.'.

The smith does not look overly surprised. He runs down a short catalog of wards, some meant to keep things out, others meant to keep things *in*. There are elementals hanging about as well, invited and evidently treated as honored guests. The forge itself, banked to black coals in the realm, glows hot and alive in the Umbra -- it has its own protections, from within and from without. Lucas also points out smaller things, not protections as such, but little protective charms on a locked cabinet, or a basket of half-finished talens.

Julen nods at what he points out, focusing especially on the forge.
From afar, Julen heh. And extends it to Eos.

Eos jumps, startled, and blinks rapidly. "Dammit, Julen! Warn me before you do that!" She squints, then stares at the forge, then at Lucas, then around her. "Useful. Useful."

"Eh?" Lucas queries, looking from one to the other, to Rowan, in perplexity. "Do what? What do you see?"

Julen pages: So if she tried to extend it over Lucas, would that work?
Long distance to Julen: Eos nodsnods.

The Sentinel looks at Lucas for a long moment.

You paged Lucas with 'You can suddenly see all the lines of magic in the room -- all the protections and such. The forge proper is chock full of glowing energy. You can see the edges of Julen and Eos's other forms. Everything is very bright and hard-edged, with almost double-images -- which you realize after a moment is you seeing the Umbra overlapped on the real world.'.

The smith whistles appreciatively.

Julen's faint smile rises. "I rather thought so. I'd love a look at a mage, with this. In addition to the sight, it feels as if I'm... stronger in my mind, with this on."

"Any way you can think of to test that?" Lucas asks. "Ah'm not much of a mental mojo-man mahself."

Disappointed, Julen says, "Can't affect things." Then she gives Rowan an intent look.

Julen pages: Can she spread it over /him/, too? What's the range? How far can she 'see'?
You paged Julen with 'Anywhere in eyeshot is the range.

Rowan looks startled; in fact, a little angry. "Don't. Take it off."

Julen, looking a little strained by now, inclines her head at Rowan and then both of the others. The sight fades from all of them. "Takes energy to keep it on you folks. It seems, Lucas, to be a line of sight thing. Tried to extend it further, but I couldn't. This is fascinating. But I should not overuse it."

Lucas looks at Rowan, alarmed. "Don't what?"

Rowan says, a little fiercely, "Don't surprise me like that. I trust my senses."

You paged the room: 'It's 2 Gnosis for a power to extend it over however many people she wants in her immediate area. There are three powers: Clear Sight, Strong Will, and Able to See in Both Realm and Umbra. So for 6 Gnosis, one could extend all the powers to everyone one wants.'.

Eventually, Julen doffs the garment. Reluctantly.

When it is his turn, Lucas tries it out for a bit, oohing and ahing. Then he carefully puts it away, pulling next from the satchel a set of four slender silver circlets.

Eos raises her eyebrows.

Julen blinks, almost warily.

"Starsfire's Moonsilver Circlets," Lucas exposits. He looks around the room. "One for each of us, it looks like, although Ah'd feel better if only two of us tried 'em at first. Case somethin' went wrong."
Julen nods, once. "I'll keep watch."

Eos glances over at Rowan. "Shall I, then?" she asks.

Rowan nods, once. "Think I'd be as jumpy as a skinned cat, with any of these."

Lucas looks at the wolf, nods, and places one of the circlets on his broad brow.

Rowan pages the room: Oh, gosh. Yes. He's not speaking in homid. Ahem.

Eos takes one of the circlets from Lucas and temporarily entraps her fuzzy gray halo.

You paged Lucas with 'Lucas gets, in his head, almost immediately, "IS THIS THING ON?"'.

"Ah!" Lucas exclaims, startled. "Yes, yes, it is," he says out loud.

From afar, Lucas says in his head, I mean, yes. Yes it is.

Julen says, mildly, "Do tell."

Eos grins a bit sheepishly. "Sorry."

Long distance to Lucas: Eos says via the circlets, Right. Good. So there's loud thinking and there's loud thinking. Right. Wonder what the range on these things is like?

Lucas pages: Lucas says via the circlets, "One way to find out..."

The smith says out loud, "Gonna take a walk. Check out the range." He heads for the door.

Eos turns to Julen in the meantime. "It's really very clear. In my head, I mean. I can hear him thinking *at* me."

The Sentinel looks at Rowan. The lupus lolls his tongue at her, and follows the smith, silently. "Really," she says. "Do you only get what he sends at you, or background noise, as well?"

Eos frowns and looks off to the side for a moment. "No background noise. Just what he sends. Like, I'm not getting anything right now. Well. A sense of connection, I think, or presence. I can tell that I can send to him."

Lucas leaves through the wide double doors and takes off at a steady loping homid pace down the cart track.

Lucas pages the room: Lucas, from a dockside in Wales: Can you hear me now ?
Rowan pages the room: Rowan cackles.

You paged Lucas with 'Lucas is also only hearing what she sends, but can sense her presence, and even judge her relative distance -- though that might be an illusion from knowing where she is.'.

Julen says, "/That/... is useful. Tell me when he's out of range, hm?"

Lucas pages: Lucas sends, I'm at Farm Road, just at the gateposts. Heading into town.

Long distance to Lucas: Eos sends, Gotcha. Still loud and clear.

Lucas pages: After a bit, Lucas sends, In front of the Diner. Hang on, I wanna try something.

"He's at the gateposts and heading towards town," Eos reports. "And all's well." And then presently, "At the Diner now. He wants to try something. Hmm?"

Long distance to Lucas: Eos sends, Okay, hangin'.

Lucas pages: Lucas tries concentrating on his surroundings -- the Diner, the weather, his physical state -- and sending that, with no words.

Julen says, "Try... what?"

Eos reels back a bit in her seat, blinking and frowning. "Whoa. Whoa. Lots of informa... well, how about that? Hot morning at the Diner. He's sending pictures. And... I think... more abstract stuff. His shoulder aches a bit where the wound was. Wow. I feel like I'm looking through someone's eyeglasses. Everything's blurry and a little strong. But I expect one would get used to it."

Lucas pages: Lucas verbally asks if that worked at all.

Julen raises her eyebrow. "Images. Good. Very good."

Long distance to Lucas: Eos sends, Yes. Yes, indeed. She sounds a little overwhelmed.

Lucas pages: Lucas tightens it up a bit, focussing on the landscape, where the buildings are. As he surveys the streetscape, he analyzes everything strategically -- where the best place to set an ambush would be, the best way to defend against an ambush, where the good cover is, and the exposed places, if there is anything that could be used as a weapon lying around, stuff like that.

Long distance to Lucas: Eos gives sort of mental "uh-huhs" for a while, and then she sends, Okay. This is really going to take some getting used to. I'm starting in with a headache. *laughs* Maybe I should borrow the Aegis Mantle for this.

Lucas pages: Lucas immediately says, "Ooh yeah! Try that! We need to know if we can use them together."

Eos frowns, staring at the floor. "He's giving me good info. Analysis, strategy. I can get whole lines of thought if I have time to parse it out. It comes in *really* fast." She rubs her forehead and the bridge of her nose. "Really fast." She walks over to the Aegis Mantle and picks it up, slinging it around her neck like a muffler. Her brow eases somewhat.

Lucas pages: Lucas says, "I'm going to try something else." THen he concentrates *very* hard on the idea that his leg is itching, that *Eos* leg is itching. To see if he can influence her to scratch her leg.

Julen tilts her head. "You are putting that on... why?"

Long distance to Lucas: Eos sends, Okay. As she picks up and focuses on the Mantle, Lucas gets feedback off it and the clarity of her sending increases. She sends, Hey, quit that. Scratch it your own damn self. *grin*

"I joked it, but Lucas pointed out that we need to know if these can get used together," Eos says, running the palm of her hand over her forehead. "It does help with the processing." She idly scratches at her leg, then stops with a grin. "Heh. That boy."

Lucas pages: Lucas sends the mental image of the smithy, picturing it in his mind as though he were standing at the forge. He pictures it very clearly and firmly, attempting to project as though he really were there.

"That boy?" Julen seems a cross between warily alert and patient.

"You know," Eos says, amused. "Lucas. Made my leg itchy by suggesting it. Not sure what he's doing now though." She glances toward the forge and shakes her head.

Julen narrows her eyes thoughtfully. "Can he project false thoughts into you? False images?"

Long distance to Lucas: Eos sends, You're not appearing here, if that's what you're trying.

Lucas pages: Lucas sends, No. Just wanted to see if Ah could confuse *you* into thinking Ah was. But Ah reckon the Mantle's helping fight that. Well, Ah reckon these can be tested a bit more later. They don't seem *too* much like they'll up and eat our brains with no warning. Unless you can think of something else to try?

Eos spares a look for Julen. "Not so much *false*, I think, as projecting. His leg itched, so he concentrated on it. I wasn't paying attention, so I scratched. One might learn to... interpret more carefully."

Julen nods. "I see. I was merely worrying about illusions."

Eos shrugs. "I'd hate for these to fall into enemy hands."

Lucas pages: Lucas sends, No. Just wanted to see if Ah could confuse *you* into thinking Ah was. But Ah reckon the Mantle's helping fight that. Well, Ah reckon these can be tested a bit more later. They don't seem *too* much like they'll up and eat our brains with no warning. Unless you can think of something else to try?

Long distance to Lucas: Eos can't think of anything else to try, no. We can try out the range more extensively later, too.

Lucas pages: does what she's saying come through even if she's not saying it to Lucas ?

Julen twitches. "Good gods, no."

You paged Lucas with 'Not really. He has a sense that eventually he *might* be able to pick up incidentals like that, particularly if she consciously opened up that channel, so to speak.'.

Eos half-smiles. "Shall I tell him to come back, then?"

The Sentinel nods. "If this is a sufficient experiment for you, at least."

Long distance to Lucas: Eos sends, Come on back, unless you've got other things you want to try. We still have one more thing, yes?

Lucas pages: Lucas transmits whatever it occurs to him to transmit of his jog back.

Eos nods. "He's on his way."

Lucas returns from his jaunt, a little flushed, though not at all winded. "Yep. One more," he says to Eos, evidently finishing a mental conversation. Once inside, he pauses to take a sip of now-cold tea before doffing the circlet and putting it and its mates carefully away.

Lucas pages: Lucas, teasingly flirtatious, concentrates on the sensual pleasure of the cool tea sliding down his throught. There is an amused glitter under his thoughts.

Long distance to Lucas: Eos sends back amusement and the thought, Sometime, we should try this in our four-legged forms and see how the other feels, eh?

Lucas pages: Lucas sends, Indeed. :^)

From the satchel, Lucas pulls out what appears to be another circlet, this one of gold.

"/That/, I liked," Julen says. There's a pause. "Which is this, then?"

Rowan trots in again behind Lucas and settles down next to the fire.

"The dauntingly-named 'Coronet of Divine Madness'," Lucas replies. "Ah'm sure you can appreciate mah caution."

Julen blinks. "Rather. This one, I have not heard of."

Lucas shrugs. "Assuming Ah've correctly identified it, of course. The descriptions of its abilities were distressing non-specific."

Eos slides her circlet off and stares at the new one in Lucas's hands. "Well then. I've heard a few vague mentions of it. I've heard that the wearer is immune to blade or blow. And, well, that it's because o' bein' a touch... touched."

Evenly, Julen says, "Permanently?"

Lucas studies the Coronet, but hesitates to put it on. "Ah wonder if the Mantle would help with *this*? Or if they'd cancel each other out?"

"The stories never seem to say anything about... duration." Eos scratches her head. "They're all so vague. This is a Starsfire too, isn't it? Makes y'wonder what that woman was smoking most of the time."

Lucas shakes his head. "The Lady saw fit to give it to us -- she must mean us to use it." He looks at the gathered faces. "Shall I?"

"I would... try the Mantle, yes. /Then/ the Coronet," Julen says, eventually.

Eos looks over at Julen. "You feeling up to taking him down if something goes wrong?" It's *mostly* a joke.

Julen stands slightly straighter. "Oh, you never know what'll happen," she murmurs.

Lucas obediently dons the Mantle. "You ready?" He takes a moment to move a particularly large hammer to a self on the other side of the room before he returns and sets the coronet on his head.

Lucas says, sounding a little astonished, "Ah'm, uh, feelin' kinda godlike here. Wow." He holds perfectly still.

Julen watches him intently. "Expand."

"In that invulnerable, utterly powerful, completely unstoppable kind of way," Lucas obliges. "Feels pretty good, really." He hastens to add, "No urges to rampage yet, though."

Dryly, Julen says, "How comforting."

Lucas informs the room, "Ah'm thinkin' it's the Mantle that's keeping me together. Wouldn't want to try this sucker without it." He pauses. "So. Ah reckon we ought to find out if this thing is actually *doing* anything, or just makin' me *feel* like it is." He pulls a slim knife out of one of his boots and experimentally prods at his forearm with the sharp point.

The point dents his forearm, but does not pierce it.

"Huh. Did that hurt, Lucas? Care for me to try a claw?" Julen's formality has dropped somewhat, as she gets both more nervous and more intent.

The smith pokes a bit more forcefully, then turns to Julen. "Sure. Go for it." Lucas shakes his head. "Sorry, almost decided to go for a nothing-can-stop-me cackle there, but figured it wouldn't be funny, under the circumstances." He grins ruefully.

Julen changes nothing but her hand, as it slowly twists into a claw. She rakes quickly and strongly at his arm.

The claws strike squarely and just slide off his skin. There may have been a small glimmer of gold along the line of the claws.

"Huh." Lucas regards his arm thoughtfully. Then he strides over to a stack of steel scrap, neatly stacked in a bin, selects a thick bar even someone with his strength should not be able to affect, and tries to bend it, barehanded.

Julen looks at her claws in fascination, and then runs one of them lightly down her arm. She bleeds. "Ah. Good," she murmurs, and then watches Lucas.

Lucas strains at the bar a moment, pauses, closes his eyes and tries again. This time, the bar bends like putty, the metal groaning in protest. A steel bar that thick should *not* bend like that. Lucas' face is still as marble.

Julen murmurs, "My my."

The smith remains utterly still, eyes closed. The bent bar in his hands is steaming gently with the heat generated by its deformation.

Gently, Julen says, "You there?"

Eos raises her eyebrows nearly to her hairline.

Lucas' brow furrows, and his grip tightens on the bent bar, not to bend it further, but as though he were clinging to it for safety. After a looooong moment, he opens his eyes. Something not Lucas is just fading from their blue depths. "Not good," he rasps through a throat suddenly gone dry. "Need to --" He claws the circlet from his head with one hand, while to other clutches the Mantle closer around himself. "Hoo boy."

Julen takes the circlet from him. Presuming he allows it. "Overwhelming, in a sudden kind of way?"

Eos gets him a cup of water. "Sounds rough. Oooh, I'd hate to see what that'd do through the other circlets."

Lucas lets her, but his eyes follow it. "No. Ah chose. And trusted. But..." There's a haunted look in his eyes. "You can feel the madness," he explains, almost clinically. "It's all around you, but the Mantle keeps it at bay. But to bend that bar, Ah had to... let it take me." He rubs a hand across his face. "And it did. The Mantle was still there, like the tiniest thread. Ah had to choose to follow it back, and Ah thought it might break..." He shudders, his massive frame fairly rattling under the Mantle. When he speaks again, his voice is stronger. "It can't be used without the Mantle," he says. "Even *with* it... there's not many Ah'd trust with it."

Lucas takes the cup gratefully, huddled under the Mantle like a flood victim, which in a way, he is.

Eos lays a comforting hand on his shoulder. "So. We've got two good ones and one... use in desperate circumstances. Right?"

Julen nods. "Rather." She lays a hand on his other shoulder, briefly.

Lucas smiles gratefully, returning to his usual composure. "Yeah, borderline," he agrees. "It's okay, with the Mantle, if you don't push it, and you're stable to begin with. Ah *do* want to test it more - test them all some more. But later." His face creases into a grin. "Thanks, everybody. Ah reckon we got ourselves a fighting chance."