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Michael Hollett began to sweep up the peanut shells and chicken bones that had littered the floor of his family?s tavern. It was another day at Crossroads, and the child had already been working for several hours. If the Holletts had given birth to a second or third child, Michael thought, then maybe his workload would not be so great. Expectations were high for the boy; nightfall saw a flood of new customers enter the tavern, and he was expected to serve almost each and every one of them.

His grandfather, who he loved very much, had grown weak with age. All the old man could do was welcome visitors, and perhaps serve a pitcher of ale or two when he felt like it. While he was a lively presence at the tavern, it was Michael and his father who were expected to keep things in order.

?When you?re done with this,? his father patted Michael on the shoulder, ?There are some new customers who had just entered the tavern. Strange looking ones, too. See that they get something to drink, son.?

?Could you do it I?m still-? He turned around to discover that his father had walked away, ?Never mind, I?ll do it myself. [I]Rotten old man[/I].?

?Such strong words for such a weak boy,? a familiar voice laughed from a few tables away.

?I was only talking to myself, sir. I?d appreciate it if you stayed out of conversations that you weren?t welcome to.?

He knew the man behind the voice well -- Jacob Baum. Jacob was a close friend to his grandfather and a nuisance to his father, but Michael had yet to form any sort of opinion. Every night for the past 10 years (as long as Michael could remember, anyway) Mr. Baum had been a loyal customer to the Crossroads Tavern.

?I don?t think your grandfather would appreciate taking that tone of voice with me,? he took a drink from his mug, ?Or worse yet, your father. You need to learn some respect.?

??and you?re the one to teach it to me?? Michael asked.

Jacob approached Michael with a crooked walk, and put his arm around the young man -- no doubt trying to keep his balance after an afternoon of drinking.

?You?re clever and brash in your age, young Hollett. I promise you that those two things will only get you hurt in life??

[center][font=georgia][size=4][b][i]The Gobblesnout[/i][/b][/size][/font][/center]

This, child, is the story of the Gobblesnout. And as you know, the Gobblesnout is a large, ferocious beast that once lived in these very woods. The Gobblesnout eats all forms of man and beast; it sleeps at day, and lives at night.

One might find this peculiar, given how the thing is attracted to light. But if you've ever seen a Gobblesnout up close, you're glad that you don't get to see the ugly thing in the sunlight. It's not a pretty sight.

The creatures of the woods are terrified of the Gobblesnout, and with good reason. Once the sun sets they hide in their trees, their bushes, or even their cabins. In fact, some were so good at hiding from the thing that they had never actually seen it before.

That was the case with young Roy, and because he had never seen one, he began to wonder if there was even such a thing as a Gobblesnout.

So while his father was away one evening, Roy decided to search the woods for this fabled beast. And you know what happens to people who come looking for trouble like that?

They find it.

Which is exactly what happened to young Roy. He came a hootin' and a hollerin' by the river's edge, where the Gobblesnout was looking at the moon's reflection. Before that kid could let out a scream of fear he was swallowed up by the Gobblesnout's enormous trunk.

But that's not the end of the story, no. Because when you're swallowed by a Gobblesnout, that's not the end of you. At least, not yet.

Roy had plenty of time to sit and think about what he had done inside of that enormous monster's stomach. He had plenty of company, too. Turns out Roy wasn't the only one looking for trouble that night.

Little Molly Brown had also been swallowed up, too. Seems like that night was an especially bad time to explore these woods.

"My father, my father!" She cried, "My father the woodchopper will save me!"

Turns out Little Molly Brown's father was a woodchopper, and this got Roy thinking...

"Oh boy, I sure could go for a woodchopper right now," Roy said loud enough so that the Gobblesnout could hear him, "They sure are tasty."

This, of course, upset Little Molly Brown, but boy, did it make the Gobblesnout hungry! All day long the creature dreamed about having himself a helping of woodchopper stew,. When the Gobblesnout woke the next evening, the first thing he wanted to do was eat a woodchopper.

So he did.

Up the Woodchopper went, through the Gobblesnout's trunk like smoke up a chimney, and it wasn't long before Little Molly Brown was reunited with her father. But that wasn't Roy's plan, for if you know woodchoppers then you know that they aren't easily separated from their axes.

Roy quickly grabbed the Woodchopper's axe and cut himself a great big hole for which he and the others could escape in, giving the Gobblesnout a terrible bellyache.

Roy was free, and so was Little Molly Brown, and the Woodchopper, too.

And the poor Gobblesnout? He decided that he'd never take dining advice from his supper again.

?You?re absolutely mad,? Michael lifted Jacob?s hand off of his shoulder, and began to walk off, ?A [I]Gobblesnout[/I]? Our tavern is open at all hours of the night, and you?re the first to ever complain of such a beast.?

?Did you not hear my story I just told you?? Jacob asked, annoyed, ?Would you really stick around if someone had stabbed a hole in your stomach??

Michael thought about this for a moment, ?No, I suppose not, but then where is it??

?Nobody knows. Or more correctly, those who find out aren?t around long enough to tell anyone.?

?Except for the woodchoppers,? the boy replied.

?Yes, except for the woodchoppers.?
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Gwelldyon fumbled with the top button of his shirt, vainly trying to recall the latest fashion trend. As he contemplated clasping the button for a third time (for fairy folk tend to be both fickle and vain) a bellowing voice startled him from behind.

?Porterale!? boomed the voice.

Gwelldyon swiveled around and found himself face to face with a dirty, disheveled boy.

?Pardon me??

The dirty boy sighed an anxious sigh, ?I said ?do you want port or ale??.

Gwelldyon smiled at the boy, half-heartedly trying to recall if he was ever that young.

?So which is it, port or ale? I have other customers to tend to y?know.?

Gwelldyon chuckled. He did remember being that young, he also recalled being that impetuous?maybe more so.

The fairy looked the young boy in the eyes and said, ?you must be the boy that thinks the Gobblesnout is the ?biggest pile of manure that Jacob Baum ever shoveled in here, and he has shoveled quite a few piles of manure??.

The boy looked abashed, ?how did you hear me say that? I was clear across the room and I only muttered it under my breath. Even my grandfather doesn?t have hearing like that.?

The fairy lightly tapped the tip-top point of his right ear. ?You didn?t think these were for show did you??

The boy looked far too embarrassed to reply so Gwelldyon continued. ?Did you not like the man?s story? I myself thought it to be very entertaining, though I have heard it many times before.?

?Heard it before?? questioned the boy. ?So you mean the Gobblesnout is real.?

?Well, sort of real. Like so many stories, the ?Gobblesnout? was an exaggeration that grew out of an event that really occurred. The real story, one far more dark and sinister, goes like this?.

The All The Little Pigs

Along time ago there was an old woman that was particularly fond of her hogs. Although she was a bit eccentric (much like the old ladies you see today that fret and dote upon their cats) she was well liked by the townspeople, and the men of the village often took turns helping her tend to her hogs.

One summer a duke and his men road past the old woman?s house. They rode into the village and gathered up all of the men and many of the young boys making bold proclamations of ?sovereignty? and ?duty? and ?war in the north? and marched them out of the city to fight in some foreign land or another. The war brought hard times upon the village. Women and children now had to hunt and build and farm, the people were no longer prosperous enough to help the old woman tend to the hogs.

The old woman was quite despondent and it didn?t take too long for her farm to dilapidate and her hogs to grow grimy and restless. One day several of her pigs broke free of their pen and dashed into a nearby wood. The old woman chased after the swine and became hopelessly lost in the process. She stumbled through brambles and bogs and finally found herself in a small glade. Sitting on a tree stump in front of a quaint cottage was a small person playing a pan flute. Lined up in front of her were eight happy hogs, entranced by the music.

The old woman approached the flute player and found it almost impossible to tell if it was a man or a woman. Regardless, the tall slender character, with its flowing silver hair and golden cat colored eyes, was one of the most beautiful figures the old lady had ever seen.

Noticing that he/she was no longer alone, the flute player halted his tune and glanced kindly at the old woman.

?I hope you don?t mind that I am playing to your pigs. I haven?t had an audience so captivated in years. Please, sit down and join us, I will play you a song.? Despite the flute player?s androgynistic look his voice was decisively soft and masculine.

Bewildered and somewhat charmed the old woman took a seat. The man put his flute away and picked up a lute off the ground. He plucked a few melancholy chords and then began his ballad. His resonating timbre told of a thousand ships and of the woman who launched them. He sang of how she grew old and fell out of the favor of men, and died old and alone. He ended by singing of the seasons, of singing about how even the warmest summer?s heat is stifled by the winter?s first frost.

?Thank you for listening to my song, I hope you enjoyed it,? remarked the man. The old woman assured him that she was truly moved by his song, than she asked him a question.

?No,? laughed the man in reply, ?I am not Pan. Fortunately for me my lower extremities are not that of a goat. My name is Flewelln, come on, I will help you get you hogs back home.?

The Man led the old woman through the perilous wood and back to her house in a surprisingly short period of time. When she turned to thank him, she saw that he was staring at her home with some interest.

?I was wondering,? said Flewelln, ?if you needed some help tending to your hogs. They seem to be fine, noble animals.?

The old woman agreed that she could use some help tending them, however, she told the musician that she wouldn?t be able to pay him.

?That doesn?t matter, I don?t require money. The only thing I require is that you allow me to feed them. I promise that I will do them no injustice.?

Begrudgingly the old woman agreed.

The following several months were some of the happiest the woman had ever known. Flewelln was an immense help tending to the hogs, all of which had grown exceedingly fat and seemed to be the most content. After the morning chores were finished he would often sit and play songs for the old woman and her hogs. At night he would disappear quietly back into the woods (which had grown quite dense and increasingly wild since the old woman first met Flewelln).

While the months happy ones for the old woman, the nearby village had fallen upon dark and miserable times. Since most of the men left the town fell into disrepair, the crops slowly withered, and everyone was over worked. To compound their problems, several of the town?s children had disappeared. Most of the town guessed that they ran away to avoid the hard labor that they had subjected to in the fields recently.

One evening several hungry townspeople decided to take one of the old woman?s hogs. They crept to her home in the middle of the night and stole the fattest of the hogs. Once the villagers brought the hog home they slit its throat, salivating greedily at the thought of ham and pork roast. Their gluttony was replaced with horror when inside the pigs belly they found a small bone with a ring around the finger. The ring belonged to one of the missing village children.

The hog thieves rounded up the town and marched to the old woman?s cottage with torches glaring. Pulling the old woman out of bed they shouted accusations of ?murder? and ?demon? and ?evil?. The woman barely had an opportunity to protest before she was lashed to a stake and set a blaze. The townspeople didn?t stop there. They set the small farm on fire and slaughtered all of the hogs; all save one. One hog, the smallest of the lot, managed to escape the mob and darted off into the wood.

A year or so later the town woodcutter, returning from the war, cut through the wood. During his shortcut he was accosted by a giant beast, an animal that resembled a wild boar but was as large as a bear and three times as mean as a hornet. The woodcutter managed to sink his axe into the beasts stomach, just enough to slow it down allowing him to escape. When he arrived home he told the townspeople his story and that is how the tale of the ?Gobblesnout? began.

?Cor, but whatever happened to the evil magician?? asked the young barkeep.

?Oh I suspect Flewelln went back to Faerie when Oberon closed his gates,? Gwelldyon replied. ?Now, to answer your original question, I would like an ale.?

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A scruffy haired, dirty, crooked and one-eyed man had just finished his slightly drunk sentence and was now looking directly at Lykos. For sometime, an hour or more, Lykos had been in deep conversation with this ?pirate? (or so the man claimed), conversation that Lykos could not understand mostly from the man?s drunken tone. It was still interesting for Lykos to meet another fellow traveller, by the look of the man and his smell he didn?t seem to have slept in a decent place for awhile.

??So if you ask me,? the man continued followed by a hiccup, ?Pirates are treated wrongly? I mean, what?s wrong with stealin???

?It is against the will of the god?s.? Lykos replied bluntly. The man hooted out a howling laugh, almost falling back on his chair, yet Lykos did not see the humour. Suddenly, a boy came over, carrying drinks, and he gave a small glass to Lykos, who smiled.

Before Lykos could even grip his drink the unruly pirate snatched it off him and began drinking it, drizzling the drink down his scruffy beard and ripped coat mostly. He finished, and sighed in relief.

?That was mine.? Lykos growled quite innocently for a warrior.

The pirate laughed. ?Punishment. You never got me one, did you? Before I bought you a drink, di?nt I? I think you should pay me back for it?? He hooted a laugh again.

Lykos scowled. ?I pay you for your gift? That, my friend? reminds me of a story? Let me say you are the mortal, and I am the god. You give me gifts but I give nothing, and you punish me. You see the punishment as a great thing, but really the punishment you give to me will cause you more pain than anything else.? A sigh escaped Lykos and he closed his eyes.

?I just stole yer drink!? Laughed the pirate. ?How can a little greed hurt me??

A smile sprung across Lykos?s face. ??My good friend? I will explain it all?

[CENTER][B]The Necklace[/B][/CENTER]

[SIZE=1]Back in the times before any war had occurred even near the seas of Troy it was known that items would wash up on the beaches. Gold, beautiful stones, rocks, anything that a Trojan would like. Nearly everyday someone would find an object washed up on the beach, if it were gold or precious rocks they would offer it to the god?s, but if it were rare object not worthy for the sight of the mighty ones then they would sell it on the market or trade it to the stall owners. It seemed most the time only the poor people found gold, for the King tried this once and found only seaweed.

?And one day, I had found my own very special object.

When the sea was lit up by the powerful colours of the sun I found myself stood on the shores of my home, letting the sea wash up against my ankles and smiling at the sun ahead of me. Normally I would never come out to the beaches; I would stay up in the safety of Troy?s walls and train with the soldiers or go out to the countryside with the horse tamers. You could never have enough horses in Troy.

Just before I turned to walk back home, I stopped, and noticed something in the sand. A brilliant gold colour shining out, differing from the colour of the beaches and buried. Curios, I bent down and picked up the gold, dusty off the sand as I pulled it up. When I looked at it, its beauty amazed me. The necklace was a thick gold, the links in the chain perfectly crafted by the hands of its creator. Not only that, but I was amazed by the object that hung on the chain, it was a stone, a ruby stone, bright as the sun itself and swirling with many colours making the stone look more precious than anything I had seen.

I, for one, knew only such things could have been crafted the god?s. I had found myself drawn to it, as if I wanted to keep it. But I looked down at my bronze armour, tattered from sword fights and dirty from battles, and knew that such a jewel would never go with my armour, let alone myself. So, what did I do? I simply decided to give it back to its creator, and leave it in the temple of Apollo.

While walking up the temple just near the shores I was still staring at my new found object in the air, and I awkwardly knocked into a friend of mind. Axon the ?boy solider? fell in a puff of sand to the ground, while I almost fell over him.

?Axon! I apologise,? I suddenly said, surprised, but not as much as him.

He rubbed his hand through his black curly hair and squinted at me. ?Yes? err? yes, why were you in such a hurry?? He looked up at me, one eye closed.

?I was never in a hurry.? I replied followed by a laugh. ?I was just going to take this to the temple.? As I raised the necklace up in the air for Axon to see, I noticed his eyes were already on it and his mouth was dropped open.

?You found this? This? it?s beautiful?? Axon gasped at the necklace and cupped it in his hand while I held it, marvelling at it for a moment. ??Whom are you giving it to?? He asked finally looking up to me.

?The god?s.? I plainly replied. ?Only such a wonderful object, yet so simple as this, could have been from the god?s. I shall give it back to them, for it is theirs.?

??Why not give it to me??

I paused.

?I could have this. People bring more precious to the temple of Apollo; this is nothing more than a necklace. My family, as you know is neither rich nor poor, but I would rather you gave this to me.? Axon explained to me. I still kept silent.

?I?m sorry, young Axon, but this belongs to Apollo and his fellow lords. You may accompany me to the temple, though I cannot give this to you.? I clutched the necklace up in my fist, then walked around Axon and was slightly angered when I heard his heavy and annoyed sigh. Though I knew he was annoyed, I also knew that he was following me.

Upon coming to the temple I felt Axon still lurking behind me, not speaking and trying to keep silent. He knew I knew he was there, but still he kept his lips tightly sealed. I thought nothing of it; he would never steal from me. Even at the time I was known as the brave Lykos. Though? perhaps the necklace had some hidden powers, for I myself even wanted to keep it.

I stopped at the golden statue of Apollo, kneeled on one foot and aiming an arrow over to the beach just below. Staring into those empty golden eyes of a god made me think heavier, too heavy. I even found myself looking at the necklace again and pitying the fact that I was just going to give it away, though I never understood, how could it be so precious to me? I had no need for it. I had no family for it, and surely if I did wear it, it would look awkward and would be lost in a battle. Yet still, the question was never answered: why did I want to keep it?

Inside the small beachside temple I found it was empty. Not even the monks were there; there was no shuffling of their feet or the sound and gold anywhere, only the sound of heavy breathing at the back of me. For once, I was afraid of what Axon would do. For his own sake, it was best for him not to touch anything, or he would have felt the power of my blade.

The temple was smaller than the one inside Troy, but it was still a temple. I walked slowly further, into the middle and coming up to another statue with a plate of gold and jewels at its feet. Gifts, for the god?s. Lots of them, and no matter how I felt I was going to add one more gift. I raised the chain in my clutched hand above the plate, releasing it just a little so it hung over, then stopped.

Axon was beside me. Looking at me with dark green eyes and breathing heavily as if he were angry.

But I took no notice and dropped it into the plate. I wanted to walk away but the clanging of the gold stopped me, so I stayed in my place and turned to Axon.

?What have the god?s done for us that they deserve this much?? He asked me coldly.

?They bring the sun, the winds, and they protect us. They give us gifts and therefore, we give in return, as a thanks.? I logically replied.

He laughed. ?So many innocents die. So many die, doing good, who wanted to live and felt their time to meet the high ones was not yet to come, but they were still killed. Winds come and destroy our homes if we do good or if we do bad. If they truly give us everything, then why am I still here? Why am I not a solider??

?Because the time is not right.?

?That? my friend? is not the right answer.? He moved closer to the gold and daringly ran his fingers over it. ?I want to be a solider, now. If I gave them my family, my animals, my clothing, everything, would they make me a soldier now? No, they would not. I have sold things to get precious items for them before, but still I stand before you as a boy.?

?The time is not right.? Even I knew my excuse was incorrect to his explanation.

?I said it was what I wanted. Is the time right for the King to die? No, but he is old and soon he will.? His eyes darted around the room slowly to make sure no one was coming. ?Let me take it.? He whispered down my ear. His hand rushed over the gold and suddenly he snatched a handful up in his hands, including the necklace. Dropping a few worthless pieces back, and shoved the gold into his pockets and looked at me. I was surprised.

I had not dared to stop him.

Before I knew it, he darted out. Then it hit me. The god?s would punish me for not stopping Axon, but not directly. They would punish the thing in which I love, Troy.

Five days later, storms hit Troy. For everyday I could not let my mind rest, for it always hovered over the memory in my mind. The memory in which Axon snatched up a handful of gold and ran out of Apollo?s temple and the image of me, stood in the dark temple, staring at him, but not doing anything. And now, Troy was punished.

Guards yelled for the people to get in the gates through the storms. Everyone ran in, from the countryside and the markets, all with their animals and belongings. I was stood near the great gates, sat hunched in the rain and winds and trying to take my mind off that necklace and Axon. For five days I had not seen him, perhaps the worst had happened. Though I knew myself that my mind was no entirely on the necklace and the temple memory, I actually thought to myself about Axon?s words. He said the god?s did nothing for us? and even myself, a strong believer, felt that Axon could have been right. To stop suffering, the god?s could have just killed him.

?Get in! Get in! Leave the animals if you must ? Siphnos! Leave that horse, it?s too big!? I could hear the shouts of the guards at the gates rushing people in and pushing the big animals back when they blocked the gates, sometime ago I remember seeing a guard being struck by the hoof of a horse; I wasn?t sure what happened to him.

?Axon! What is he doing?? That snapped me awake. I looked over to see one of the chubby guards shouting out over the beaches and turning back to his fellow guard and asking useless questions.

Standing up I looked over the crowds of people flooding in like lost sheep, trying to see. Through the gusts and wind and hailstorms of rain all I could see was a shadowed figure running awkwardly towards the beach, dragging on his back a sack full of items. By his jagged run I could see it was Axon?

?Lykos! You ? no stop! Get away from the gates!? One of the guards yelled at me and clasped his hands tightly around my arm, trying to pull me back. At first I tried to get free by the simplest method, but to avail. Memories ran through my mind, of the floods, the rains, the suffering, the temple. The necklace.

I viciously dragged my arm away pulling the guard with me into the rain, and yet he still gripped tightly. Moments later I found myself hitting him hard on his metal helmet, hurting my own hand and his head in the process. He let go.

I pushed my way through the crowds and herds of people, knocking some down and pushing horses into others, but I cared not for them. My blonde hair became wet in the weather and began to run into my eyes, but I cared not. As I came to clear ground and no people in front, I ran as fast as I could, being careful not to let my own balance be lost in the fury of the god?s. Even as carefully as I tried, my legs slipped to the side, but I recovered all the time. Axon had helped caused all of it, therefore I intended to make him help fix it, by giving back his stolen objects to the god?s.

My own rightful will power allowed me to battle through the winds and soon I came onto the beach sand. My feet sank in and out of the sand as it was so damp, but as a warrior I had been battling in worst condition, whereas Axon had not been. I could catch up; it was logical in my mind.

I saw him, and yelled out. ?Axon! Axon, stop this now! Give me the necklace!? I bellowed as loud as I could, and he turned to look at me, but continued his awkward run through the thick slushy mud. He was a fool? I ran to get him, still having trouble, but was much faster when I got the hang of things. Soon the winds would stop and I, Lykos, would restore Troy.

I saw the clear figure of him right at the edge of the beach, panting and panting like a dog and trying hard to push a boat into the sea. His hair was no longer curly, it was damp and horribly messy from the winds and his clothing was damper than the walls of the city. Seeing him in my sights I ran forward, faster and faster as I moved and finally I leapt.

My hands managed to grip onto his clothes, so I pulled him back and forth until I lost my balance and we both plummeted into the sea. Raging salt water rushed over my head, even as I was crouched in the shallow parts, yet still Axon managed to jump out at me and push me into the waters. I over powered him and managed to rise from the seas.

?It is mine! Not theirs! Mine! Mine, I swear it! They will not steal from me again! They stole my life before and I shall punish them by stealing their necklace!? He shouted over the winds at me. I took no notice and pushed him over into the waters, gripping his neck and trying to stop him from getting to the boat.

?They stole nothing from you!?

?They stole my family! My brother who lived on breath, my mother, my father, everyone! They even stole you by poisoning you with that nonsense! They will not steal the thing I stole from them, it is their punishment for so many they gave us!? I found his argument convincing, but nevertheless I wanted to get the necklace back.

I clutched my hands around him neck and found the necklace, but he resisted. I growled at him, and pushed his head under. He fought me, but was too weak. Before he drowned, I pulled it up, but he fought still, weakening me in the cold, cold seas.

I tried to drown him again, but I brought him up.

[I]?All suffering stops with this boy?[/I]

He struggled again, and again, and again, and I brought him up.

[I]?For Troy?[/I]

I grew angry with myself and this time wanted to kill him?

[I]?For Troy?[/I]

Though the chants in my head went on, I brought him up yet again. He breathed heavily, and I realized I could not kill him. But then, I thought of something else?

[I]?The necklace?[/I]

When all cleared in my mind I opened my eyes, only to the shock of Axon. My hands, around his neck and shoulders, holding him lifelessly under the waters. And what did I have clenched tightly in my fists? The necklace. Dishonesty and shame ran through my heart and mind then, just staring at his body caused pins to crush through my heart. I was going to cry, but I held it back and got up, running, running? to the temple. The temple? to end it all.

Necklace? that word was what I had thought and used for strength to kill my friend, Axon. Not Troy, not defending the innocents, but that silly little item on the chain. It was when I came into the temple, sheltered from the winds and rain, I realised that I did not kill Axon to take the precious chain back to the god?s. I knew so. Axon was right, they had done nothing for us over the years and they needed a punishment, therefore Axon gave it and I had helped the god?s?

Strong beliefs? I had them. Slowly I walked, my sandals damp and my heart racing from hatred of my self and fear of the god?s. I walked, with my hand clutched around the cold necklace and I stopped over the gold, waiting for my own hand to drop it.

Yet it still hung there.

Dangling. Beautiful. The raging winds stormed in reality and in my mind, and I simply stood there, forgetting about the tears and forgetting about everything but that one, beautiful necklace I held clutched in my hand. I wanted it, such beauty made by only a master lord deserved to be in the hands of a Trojan. It was the gift of the god?s, for everything we had given then, it had to have been. Axon had punished them, and I had killed him.

I think I deserved something.

But my harsh upbringing about my immortal saviours didn?t let me, so I stood there, my heart half filled with greed and half filled with the fear of their wrath. My legs grew weaker and weaker, yet I still stood there, remembering Axon and filled with pain.

No. I knew it. The god?s did everything. I didn?t care about Axon anymore, they did everything and therefore it was theirs.


As Lykos finished he sat back in his chair and ran his hand through his tough lion hair guiltily, while the pirate half laugh half coughed.

?Neva knew that could happen,? the pirate said. ?I guess you gave the necklace back? I think I got what you said mostly??

?Let me explain it better? that necklace was indeed a gift from the god?s. But you see, our greed blinded us from that and we stole the necklace over and over, from the shores, from the god?s and me, and finally I took it from Axon and gave it back?? He paused, but continued. ?Troy was saved a few days later, five more days. They punished us for our greed, just like you took my drink? I was tempted to punish the god?s myself after that, for hurting Troy... perhaps I did, I won't say. In some way, you will be punished to remind you of what you did. And in some way, it will stick with you.?

?How will it stick with me, lad?? Asked the pirate. Lykos did nothing but shrug. ?Alrigh?, I better be going. I have a long way. I?ll pay you back for the drink? umm? someday? yeah I will. Urgh? it?s going to be a long road? I think I know what you mean about this punishment?? the pirate grasped his fat belly as he got up, groaning at the pain. ?I won?t remember your story, but what the hell? if I do, I?ll think twice.?

If only he had something to remember it with?

Then, Luther remembered. He searched down his armour, around his neck or around his shoulders for something he had tied around, quickly, so he could catch the pirate and teach him a his morale that would not be forgotten.

?Wait!? Lykos shouted to him before he hobbled out of the door on his one wooden leg. He ran over faster than the night he chased Axon, and handed the pirate a necklace. He clasped it in the dirty hands of the one eyed man, and smiled brightly, then nodded and walked away back to his seat.

The pirate stared for a moment. He did nothing but smile back at Lykos, rubbing the chain in his hands and? laughing. When he looked down at his gift from the man he stole from, he noticed that it strangely matched the necklace in the Trojan?s tale.
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  • 3 weeks later...
It... was revolting. The music they played in this tavern was unlike anything Rail had ever heard before, and thankfully so. The low, almost monotone drones of the oboe barely drowned out the rhythm-less drumming, and the violin was handled so masterfully that Rail thought his ears might bleed. It was, Rail thought, the worst music in existence.

His companion though, a man roughly 30 years of age with a fat face and sinister stench, seemed to be enjoying the... [i]noise[/i] heartily. His foot tapped and his head nodded along to the barely-there beat, a fact which, quite frankly, sickened Rail, but he daren't say anything, lest the oaf started talking to him.

Eventually though, others in the tavern grew tired of the cacophony, and after a short while the musicians were led away, a long look on their faces. Rail's companion snorted and spat at the ground, obviously disgusted by the fact, and turned to Rail to express his outrage at this turn of events.

'You know, these people don't appreciate true art,' he grunted. 'That was a symphaney, ya know wot I'm sayin? A blinkin' sympaney, and they was led away. 'Tsa darn shame.' Rail smirked at the man, who was obviously lost in an ale-fuelled haze. He wasn't going to say anything, but the man had talked to him first. It was only fair to respond.

'I think you're the one who doesn't appreciate real music,' he said bluntly. 'In fact, I'm willing to bet I appreciate music in ways you've never even imagined.'

The man raised a bushy eyebrow and assumed a dumb look on his face. His eyes became glazed for a moment as he considered alternative ways of appreciating music, ways that didn't involve dry comments and feet tapping, but came up short. Rail waited patiently for a response, confident he hadn't killed the conversation.

He knew the man would respond. It was in his nature too.

'Err...' he said finally. 'Care to enlighen' me then eh?' Rail smiled.

[b]Music of Life And Death[/b]

I was 15 when I first discovered music. It seems like it took me years to find what so many others have sort in melody and beat, and, in truth, it probably did. Truth was, in those first fifteen years of my life, I was ignorant. And I suffered for it terribly, but that's another tale for another time.

Regardless, when I was 15 I discovered music and all the wondrous things that go along with it. Suddenly I was at every concert, I sweated with the rest of them in the moshes, and nothing on heaven and earth was going to stop me making a band.

And for a while I lived like this, caught up in the rhythm of the music industry, avoiding life's problems. I became semi-famous around The Valley, with the rest of my band. Do you know what we were called? Cloak and Dagger. Such an 80s rock name, but we didn't care. We were young and restless.

It didn't last forever though - it couldn't. This bliss, this... escape I'd found through music was a temporary fix, and it would never solve the issues I had to deal with. I went into a shame spiral for a while, and it was okay because our band was distinctly gothic and it helped our sound or whatever, but then the worst happened.

She died. Before my eyes. My mother - a long time Speed user - was fucking MURDERED before my eyes! Do you have any idea what it's like to watch your mother die? She was shot repeatedly before my eyes by the single biggest men I have ever seen. And then left to bleed to death. And why?

Over a drug transaction. A fucking drug transaction. She was three hours late with the payment, and they killed her. Shot her in cold blood before my eyes, left me to deal with the mess, the police and the deep seated need for revenge that had settled deep in the pit of my stomach.

I didn't act on that need straight away though. I had to deal with the after effects of everything first, the shooting, the police, life in general... but I didn't. I escaped to the music again, let it consume me. I became flotsam on a sea of melody, useless to all. The band broke up, but I hardly noticed. My friends never talked to me anymore, I became nothing but another drifter wandering from club to club in the wee hours of the morning.

All good, and bad, things must come to an end, however, and I distinctly remember waking up one day, in an alley full of junkies, vomit down my shirt, eyes blurred, and thinking 'This isn't right. Nothing is right.'

These people, they'd had their lives stolen by drugs, just like my mother had. They were alive but dead, zombies of the night kept alive by a useless addiction. And I swore to myself was going to do something about it if it, or die trying.

And the first stop was my mother's murderers.


I spent two weeks tracking them and their drug overlord down. I must've talked to a thousand junkies in that week, and burnt through $10 000 for information. And my efforts paid off, for one night I found myself in a underground club, my ears ringing as I stood next to massive speakers, my eyes constantly scanning for him, the drug lord who'd ordered my mother killed.

He was meant to be here tonight, working out some insidious deal with some ravers. They were hooked on E, addicted to the anti-glamour of it all, thought word was he was trying to swing them into morphine as well. And, quite frankly, after all I'd seen in that week, and everything I'd seen before, I wasn't going to stand for it.

I found him just as he was finishing the deal, a big gloated grin on his distinctly Spanish face. He was oily and greasy, fitting the stereotype perfectly, and was now $1500 richer from extorting kids who didn't know any better. When he saw me approaching, his grin widened.

'Eh, senor, you want some morphine?' he waggled the small bag in my face, as if to tempt me. I smirked at his offer.

'No thank you.' The grin turned to an angry snarl as he realised he wasn't getting a sale out of me.

'Then fuck off, kid,' he grunted, protecting the flame of his lighter with his hand as he lit a cigarette. I raised an eyebrow, but didn't move.

'Didn't you hear me? FUCK OFF.' I mouthed the words no, and stood rooted to the spot, the need for cold, emotionless revenge giving me strength.

'Get him boys,' the dealer grunt, gesturing at two heavies behind him. The very heavies that had killed my mother. I knew them so well, it seemed, but not at all. There face was imprinted into my consciousness.

They both pulled out switchblades and started to advance on me, taking quick steps so they could take me out quickly. I wouldn't have that though.

I reached into my jacket and pull out the gun I had bought earlier in the week and dispatched them both with shots to the chest. The bang of the gun, or thud of their impact, wasn't heard, or even noticed, by the clubbing crowd.

The dealer paled. The cigarette fell from his mouth. I grinned and aimed, finally fulfilling my revenge.

I didn't even stick around to see if he died or not. I just ran, dropping the gun as I bolted through the night club, bursting through the fire exit and setting off overhead sprinklers and a siren as I did so.

And I haven't stopped hunting down drug dealers since.

The man gaped at him, eyes wide.

'H-how does that mean you appreciate music more than me?'

Rail smiled and shook his head. 'Music is a release, not just a pastime. It's cover, it's a life, it's everything and more. Not just something to nod your head to.'

Standing up suddenly he dropped some cash on the table.

'Have a drink, you look like you need it.' The man nodded feebly and took the cash as Rail walked outside to get some fresh air. [i]It never got any easier telling that story to strangers[/i], he mused. [i]But damn, the expression on their faces afterward make it worth it.[/i]
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