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Author Topic: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Nine  (Read 3255 times)

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Offline Evie

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Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Nine
« on: December 26, 2015, 09:17:33 pm »
Previous chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1639.0.html


Chapter Twenty-Nine

Early afternoon
The Cathedral of Saint George
City of Rhemuth
December 31, 2021


The Duel Arcane began after a short pause to allow the Archbishop of Rhemuth to be carried out of the cathedral for medical attention, for after lodging a feeble protest that had gone mostly unheeded during the sudden disruption of Malcolm Atherton-Haldane’s precipitous arrival, he had fallen into a dead faint sometime between the interruption of his funeral service and the setting of the terms for the duel.

As the four participants took their places, Malcolm cast a disdainful sneer at his opponents. “Shall we dispense with the archaic tradition of pretty rhymes? I’m afraid I’m not really the lyrical sort.”

“I have no objection,” replied Sophia. “It’s not as though we’re engaging in mortal combat just to determine the next Poet Laureate.”

“That would certainly cut down on the competition,” Morgan muttered under his breath, and despite the grim circumstances they found themselves in, his quiet quip somehow helped strengthen her courage.  Trust her cousin to bring up her spirits as much as possible with a flash of humor--or perhaps he also needed to bolster his own. She gave him an appreciative smile.

“Let’s just get this over with, shall we?” snarled Malcolm with an impatient glare towards the Camberian Council members presiding over the duel. Beside him, Caroline remained completely impassive.

Peter nodded. The five Council members who had been chosen amongst themselves to take primary responsibility for arbitrating the duel--Peter Astari, Father Devlin, Lady Violet, Lady Maureen, and Lord James--now took up their position, the latter four taking their places at the four cardinal directions, forming a square around the combatants roughly twenty feet to a side. Into the center of this formation, Peter Astari entered, facing both sets of combatants with a solemn expression before addressing them and the onlookers who watched the proceedings with mingled trepidation and awe.

“Thus saith the Lord Camber of blessed memory, thus saith the Holy One who taught us the Way. Thus it has been written, thus it shall be done. Blessed be the Name of the Most High.”

Kneeling, he traced a sign on the marble floor of the cathedral. The lines he traced glowed with a golden light.

Father Devlin spoke next, raising his arms as he did so. “Blessed be the Creator, yesterday and today, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega.” As he spoke, Peter continued tracing sigils, forming a cross with the Greek letters inscribed at the top and bottom of the figure. “His are the seasons and the ages, to Him glory and dominion through all the ages of eternity. Blessed be the Lord, blessed be Holy Camber.”

As he completed his blessing, Peter inscribed more symbols at the angles of the cross--sigils of the Councilors to signify their protection over the dueling circle. He exited the square then, and Lady Violet took up the ritual incantation, also with upraised arms. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, saith the Lord. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment, and I will not blot out his name in the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”

Lady Maureen continued, assuming the same posture as the previous two corners. “Blessing and honor, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Let the Lord lend His countenance to the virtuous and defend the cause of the just. Raise the light of Thy favor upon this circle, O Lord, that they who stand within shall know Thy majesty and shrink not from Thy judgment.”

As Malcolm stifled a bored yawn, Lord James took up the ritual, raising his arms. As light began to stream between the four Deryni--silver and gold, blue-green and violet--he added “Guard Thy servants, O Lord. Strengthen this circle, that nothing may enter from without, that none may aid the four who stand embattled here. Protect those outside the circle from the terrible powers soon to be unleashed within, and guard us from Thy wrath.” As he spoke the light spread to encompass the space within the four corners, forming a protective dome of mingled colors.

“As it was in the earliest days of our beginning,” all four Councilors chanted, “and as it shall be for all time to come, O Lord, so let it be today. So let it be.”

As they finished, thunder rumbled overhead and the mingled light fused into a hemisphere of pale blue brilliance around the eight councilors and combatants, forming a dome that was transparent but veiled, slightly obscuring the people within. Thus the Outermost Ward was formed. Within this circle the combatants would form an Inner Ward which not even the Councilors would be able to breach.

“The Outerness is sealed,” Peter Astari now declared to all. “The Innerness must follow. Mark well, until the terms of the Duel have been fully satisfied, the Innerness remains. Only the victors will leave this arena. I charge you then to make your peace. Set forth the inner circle and do what you will. On your honor and in the Name of the Most High, proceed.”

Within the protective circle, Morgan and Malcolm now each took up opposing corners, Sophia facing off against Caroline. Morgan, as first challenger, spread his hands to either side, crimson fire leaping from his fingertips to inscribe a semicircle embracing himself and his Queen, a brilliant arc of light that stopped a few feet short of the outer ring. Malcolm did likewise, his answering fire glowing with a reddish-violet light. The colors merged, forming a magenta dome and further obscuring the proceedings within the innermost circle.

“Pardon me if I did not come prepared to drink a toast to my noble opponents,” Malcolm observed sardonically. “Shall we begin?” Without waiting for a reply, he struck first, sending a testing strike against Morgan Haldane.

The fray began, Morgan easily countering Malcolm’s initial attack. As the men continued to battle, Sophia began to feel the Haldane power rise with her, fully awakening for the first time since her Empowerment. She let loose an experimental testing strike, countered by Caroline, who met her gaze with cool scrutiny, no hint of her earlier willingness to ally herself with the Gwyneddan Haldanes now showing in her expression.  The Queen tamped down her mounting worry that she and Morgan had somehow been deceived despite both Morgan’s and Lord James’ Truth-Reading of Caroline’s intentions towards them. There was little that could be done now in any case; if Caroline had recanted her earlier decision to support them, or if Malcolm had somehow managed to wrest back his previous control over her again, then Sophia would not hesitate to strike the Camberian assassin down if she must. She could not allow her sympathy for the woman to cloud her judgment now.

The duel continued, each round of testing strikes becoming stronger than the last. Malcolm, now satisfied that he had taken both opponents’ full measure, launched a frenzied attack on Morgan, calling forth a vision of the Queen’s Champion’s greatest fear--an image of Sophia lying dead before him, of his failure to protect the monarch he’d sworn to serve. Morgan sent forth a furious counterattack, regaling Malcolm with the image of his own severed head, returned to Camberia as a potent reminder to his brother Aubrey of the fate of Pretenders to the Gwyneddan throne.

Malcolm, incensed, abandoned the fear tactics of such spellwork in order to deal a sudden energy attack against Morgan. Red-violet fire erupted in the Queen’s Champion’s direction, barely parried by Morgan, although he managed to deflect it, sending a singeing surge of energy backlash in both Camberian opponents’ direction. Malcolm, without a moment’s hesitation, turned his fury towards Sophia now, throwing a bolt of energy her way. Sophia managed to deflect this as well, though her opposition only served to fan the flames of Malcolm’s anger. He redoubled his efforts, flaring a fiery blast in her direction.

It was then that two actions simultaneously occurred which deflected the full force of Malcolm’s energies away from Sophia. Morgan darted forward to shield Sophia, absorbing some of the blast of power, but at the same time Caroline launched an attack of her own, apparently in support of Malcolm so far as either Haldane could tell, yet it had managed to glance off his attack and deflect it away from Sophia so that what could have been a killing blast became no more than a glancing blow.

Once the glare of the attack died down enough for the combatants to see clearly again, to Sophia’s alarm Morgan lay sprawled at her feet, gravely injured. Malcolm, allowing himself a smug smile, raised his hands in preparation to finish his challenger off with another blast of power, but at that moment his vassal launched a sudden, violent attack on him, sending him reeling backwards nearly into the roiling energies of the ward behind him. Sophia took advantage of his distraction, sending a volley of power in Malcolm’s direction. In his fury of realization that Caroline had somehow managed to defect to his enemies’ side, he parried Sophia’s blast towards his second, killing her outright.

Now the duel was down to three, Haldanes against Atherton-Haldane, though of the Gwyneddan combatants only one had the strength to remain standing. Sophia, calling upon the reservoir of Haldane powers within her, let loose another ferocious strike against Malcolm, channeling the full force of her fear for Morgan and her anger against the Camberian Pretender into the attack. Faced off against each other now, Rightful Queen and Pretender, blast followed blast as Sophia advanced on Malcolm, determined now to protect her cousin and defeat the tyrant who’d dared to harm him.

Thinking to catch Sophia off guard and thereby throw off her defense, Malcolm called up a vivid image of his tryst with Sybilla, the two entwined in a passionate embrace. Undaunted, Sophia flung an image of Sybilla’s dying moments at him, along with the revelation of Araxelle’s true parentage. It was, for the briefest of moments, Malcolm’s turn to falter.

Thus occupied, the two opponents left standing at first failed to notice Morgan, rallying his energies in the hope of adding some final defense of his Queen, some spell that would throw the duel more in Sophia’s favor. Fighting to remain conscious, he reached deep within himself, seeking to fuel his last effort to protect Sophia with the mingled rage and desire for vengeance that roiled within him against the Camberian Pretender.

It was at that moment that a still small voice deep inside him gently spoke. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

He had to be hallucinating. Morgan tried again, reaching for his anger as Malcolm’s and Sophia’s blasts flashed over him, but this time the voice continued, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.

Or his Queen. But wasn’t that what he was attempting to do?

It came to him then. His anger was not what Sophia needed most from him in that moment, nor was it his desire to be avenged against their attacker for the loss of their family or for his pretensions against Sophia’s throne. No, these violent emotions, potent though they were, could not be summoned up with enough strength by his weakened body to counteract the full force of Malcolm’s will. But there was one weapon Morgan had left, one which Malcolm could not possibly understand, and that was the weapon of self-sacrificial love--Morgan’s love for his Queen that transcended Malcolm Atherton-Haldane’s lust for power.

Sophia, Morgan now realized, had the full potential within herself to defeat their rival; Morgan need not do it for her. But he would gladly expend himself to lend his aid one final time, serving her in his living and his dying as he’d once knelt before her and sworn a holy vow to do. With his remaining strength he reached out to touch her, linking with her to pour out the last reserves of his energy, his greater combat and magical experience, and his sheer will for her survival.

Sophia in that moment sensed Morgan’s choice. Tears of grief stung her eyes, but she blinked them away fiercely, for even at that moment she could see Malcolm mouthing the words and summoning up his energies for a spell against them both. Saint George and Saint Camber, defend us! she found herself praying as she braced herself against what she sensed would be their opponent’s final attack. Lord Most High, help thy servants in our time of need; cast down the oppressor and defend the cause of the just!

Malcolm seemed to transform before her eyes, taking on the illusory form of a dragon looming above her and her stricken Champion. Her response came instinctively as she drew upon her reserves of power and Morgan’s experience and will to summon up an answering form, calling up for herself the image of the Haldane lion, rising up against the threat to her Kingdom. The magical forms thus summoned bent will against will, seemingly evenly matched at first, neither able to subdue the other as they battled each other in a writhing, sinuous dance.

Morgan managed a final whisper. “For Queen and Kingdom. I love . . . .”

A faint flutter of gryphon’s wings merged with the Haldane Lion’s form, launching it high into the air to rip out the throat of the Dragon.

The wards dropped, revealing to all the outcome of the Duel. Sophia stood alone, Caroline’s charred body and Malcolm’s bloodied remains at her feet. Also sprawled at the Queen’s feet lay her Champion. Elation mingled with dismay as the congregation realized what had befallen Corwyn’s Duke.

The Queen dropped to her knees, cradling her fallen cousin--her last remaining family--in her arms. He was not dead, not yet, but she could feel his life force beginning to drain away. In grief and desperation she cried out, “Sweet Saint Camber, please, no!”



Morgan felt the darkness close around him, but just as he resigned himself to his fate, the gloom abated. He found himself floating up a tunnel of light. He’d heard of this before; he was dying, then. He felt no fear, no regret now, just a quiet certainty that at the last, he had not failed his Queen.

The tunnel opened up into a brilliantly lit vision, an expanse of green fields and sunlight. Before him stood his family, smiling their approval of him, though as he attempted to join them, Kelric stepped forward with a staying hand.

Oh no, you don’t! his cousin and dearest friend informed him, an undercurrent of laughter in his voice. You can’t stay here, mate. Your job’s not done yet, I’m afraid. You swore to serve your Queen, now go back and do so.

I
have done so! Morgan replied, startled. I vowed to live and die in her service, and I have.

Yes, well, you’ve got this far, but Sophia wants you back now.
Kelric grinned, love and amusement dancing in his eyes. And you know how stubborn that woman can be!

We’ll wait for you until your time comes,
his father assured him, his mother smiling lovingly at her son as she stood at her husband’s side.

And remember we will always be here for you, watching over and supporting you until you are ready to join us on this side of the Veil, added Simone with a gentle smile, her children Aidan and Araxia nestled safely in her arms.

Well done, Queen’s Champion! Araxelle’s approbation washed over Morgan like a warming glow. I have one final request, hard though it might be for you to hear. Once you return to yourself, let no one desecrate the remains of the Camberian pretender. He stands in judgment before a Higher Power now, but however consumed he was by his greed and lust for power, he was still Haldane, if only distantly, and much more closely related to my line than he ever realized until the end. Take the higher road; send him back to his kin for burial, if Aubrey will have him back. Then let him go completely; don’t allow hatred or bitterness to remain stored away within your heart, for that would only give him lingering power over you. Let his death be final; he deserves no more than that.

Morgan expected her command to sting, but to his surprise his thirst for vengeance and the fiery core of anger that he had previously clung to for strength was now gone, replaced by a sublime peace, easing what remained of his grief. He bowed deeply, kneeling at the late Queen’s feet to kiss her hand.

Go now, said Stefanie. Sophia is calling for you.



A hubbub arose from the crowd, and someone called for a Healer, but at that moment Sophia lay a loving hand upon Morgan’s brow, seeking to restore him by pouring her own life energies back into him. Suddenly she caught a glimpse of a grey-robed figure before her, laying ghostly hands over hers as she fought for Morgan’s life, guiding her as Healing power welled up within her, washing through her into her fallen Champion. With her inner sight she Saw the extent of his injuries, external, internal, and psychic, addressing them all with her Healing touch.

Morgan felt himself being tugged back through the tunnel as if swept along in an inexorable flood. The tunnel narrowed once more, fading to a pinprick, until he found himself cocooned in his body once more.

A ripple of awe swept through the crowd as Morgan took a deep, almost convulsive breath, and then another, opening his eyes. He reached up to cup Sophia’s cheek in his hand. The Queen, weeping tears of joy and relief, cradled him in her arms.



The Kingdom of Gwynedd
Later afternoon
December 31, 2021


The jubilation and relief of Her Majesty’s safe deliverance and her Champion’s survival and restoration to good health spread quickly, not merely within the Cathedral and its environs, but throughout the entire Kingdom as well, for it had been centuries since the right of sovereignty had last been challenged by a pretender to the throne, and certainly never before in an age of electronic technology and instantaneous communication. Within minutes, the crowds of Rhemuth citizens and visitors who had thronged to mourn the passage of Queen Araxelle and her young family now swelled in number to celebrate their new Queen’s victory over Malcolm Atherton-Haldane’s attempted coup.

Within the Cathedral, however, the bodies of the slain had been removed. The Archbishop, recovering from his swoon not long before the end of the magical duel, now sought to restore some semblance of order over the proceedings, noting with vast relief that not only had his Sovereign survived the duel but the Cathedral’s medieval tiled floors had remained unscathed as well. As Morgan Haldane regained his feet, escorted back to his seat by the Healer who had been summoned as Sophia had worked to bring him back from the brink of death (for Sophia wished to ensure there was no area of injury left unnoted due to her inexperience with her newly-discovered Gift), the victorious Queen now stood to face the congregation who had turned out for what had been scheduled to be a state funeral but had unexpectedly turned into a battle for the Kingdom itself. She addressed also those people gathered at the public screens in the Rhemuth city squares as well as those well outside the area, to the far reaches of Gwynedd’s borders and beyond. Raising her arms to gather their attention, she signaled them to silence before speaking, and the loud excited babble of voices became a hushed murmur as the people waited to hear their Sovereign's words.

“My beloved people,” she began, “we stand now not simply at the brink of a new year, but also of a new reign. But let us not forget now the reason we have gathered here today. We celebrate this day Our victory over the Camberian Pretender, yes, and also the restoration of Our beloved cousin and Champion, but also we gather to celebrate the lives of those we have but recently lost. Malcolm Atherton-Haldane was ultimately responsible for the deaths that brought us together here today. He sought to wrest even the solace of this day of remembrance from me--from all of us--but he has lost this day and now we shall take it back.”

She resumed her place by Morgan’s side, taking his hand in hers, and together they waited for the Archbishop to resume the memorial service for their loved ones.

“I am the Resurrection and the Life . . . .”



Next chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1653.0.html
« Last Edit: December 31, 2015, 06:09:22 pm by Evie »
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Offline NavaWazr

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Nine
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2015, 10:02:57 pm »
WOW!
I realized that I wanted to be Deryni, would have loved to be another niece of Uncle Azim, perhaps living on a Fianna vineyard.... but I'm a never wazzer

Offline Elkhound

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Nine
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2015, 10:16:42 pm »
I loved it.  The Atherton-Haldanes will thinh twice and a third tme before trying anything.


Offline revanne

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Nine
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2015, 01:28:12 am »
Although I was lucky enough to read this as it was being written it still makes me cry.

Beautiful.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2015, 05:53:40 am by revanne »
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And one man in his time plays many parts."
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Online Demercia

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Nine
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2015, 02:35:02 am »
I have the feeling that our beloved author is not that impressed by the Archbishop.  Seriously, wonderful at all sorts of levels.  And Morgan is healed in more ways than one.
The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

Offline revanne

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Nine
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2015, 03:29:02 am »
I can understand the Archbishop although that doesn't stop him being a pain of the first order. Like everyone he is still shocked and grief -stricken and unable to cope with the enormity of it all he focuses on the little things he can control.
"All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts."
As You Like It.

Offline Laurna

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Nine
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2015, 11:16:02 am »
AWESOME! ****breath****AWESOME!

Love Kelric telling Morgan "Oh no, you don't....you're jobs not done here..."
Love, Love Morgan turning from the power of the Dark to find greater power in the Light!
Love, Love, Love Queen/Doctor Sophia Haldane discover a true Healer's Gift!

Perfect!
« Last Edit: December 29, 2015, 12:05:29 pm by Laurna »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Nine
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2015, 12:11:30 pm »
Wonderful outcome!  I knew Morgan would do something heroic, but never guessed Sophia would become a Healer, probably through the Morgan that married into the Haldane line.  This does make for an interesting dilemma for Her Majesty - she has a kingdom to rule, but finds herself not only doctor but Healer.  She will want to find some way to do both, I suspect.
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Offline Evie

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Nine
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2015, 02:12:49 pm »
WOW!

Close to how I felt after writing it, though that was more like WHEW!   ;D

I loved it.  The Atherton-Haldanes will thinh twice and a third tme before trying anything.



Yes, Aubrey fortunately seems a more cautious sort, although Malcolm has some grown sons who might wish to avenge their father's death.

Although I was lucky enough to read this as it was being written it still makes me cry.

Beautiful.

Thank you.  It made me cry when I was writing it, so it's good to know it had that effect on others as well.

I have the feeling that our beloved author is not that impressed by the Archbishop.  Seriously, wonderful at all sorts of levels.  And Morgan is healed in more ways than one.

LOL! Yeah, I feel a bit sorry for poor Archbishop Drummond.  He's not a bad sort, really, just well out of his element and not the type to deal well with the unexpected and not being in control of all contingencies.

And I'm a Healer at heart, especially when it comes to emotional/spiritual healing, so that's a recurring theme that crops up in my stories.

I can understand the Archbishop although that doesn't stop him being a pain of the first order. Like everyone he is still shocked and grief -stricken and unable to cope with the enormity of it all he focuses on the little things he can control.

Yes, the poor guy has a need for everything to be settled, orderly, neat, and tidy--everything that a national emergency is not--and while he's not anti-Deryni, he's also not used to major magical workings taking place in his sphere, much less full-blown Duels Arcane, so he's been rather overset these past few weeks.   ;D

AWESOME! ****breath****AWESOME!

Love Kelric telling Morgan "Oh no, you don't....you're jobs not done here..."
Love, Love Morgan turning from the power of the Dark to find greater power in the Light!
Love, Love, Love Queen/Doctor Sophia Haldane discover at true Healer's Gift!

Perfect!


So can I take it that you liked the chapter?  ;)  I'm glad!  I was half afraid you might throw the computer across the room if I killed Morgan off for good.  ;D

Wonderful outcome!  I knew Morgan would do something heroic, but never guessed Sophia would become a Healer, probably through the Morgan that married into the Haldane line.  This does make for an interesting dilemma for Her Majesty - she has a kingdom to rule, but finds herself not only doctor but Healer.  She will want to find some way to do both, I suspect.

Actually, Morgan is descended from that line of the family, but Sophia is not.  Her Healing gift comes from a previous Haldane (mentioned very briefly in passing early on when Sophia is asking Elspeth if it might be possible for a Haldane to become a Healer), who probably inherited the gift from a mother who married into the Haldane dynasty. It has probably cropped up in the Haldane sovereign now and again, which would help to inspire rumors of the King's/Queen's touch being able to heal certain maladies, and of course some descendants through more junior branches of the family might have passed on the gift also. 

I don't think Sophia would be able to manage having a medical career while being Queen of Gwynedd, but being a Healer herself means she can at least use those powers within Court circles, not to mention she might pass those genes on to one or more of her children and/or grandchildren someday, and that descendant might be freer to pursue a professional Healer's career.
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Nine
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2015, 06:34:24 pm »
Sorry she couldn't send his head back in a vat of vinegar, but a satisfactory end anyway.

Offline TKnTexas

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Nine
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2015, 12:54:55 am »
I have experienced a full range of emotions.  That is the highest compliment I can pay.  I have fallen in love with these people ('characters' is so 2-dimensional).

Now I am wanting more of their story.  Please ask them to share.
Thomas Hill

Offline drakensis

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Nine
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2015, 06:22:23 am »
Splendid.

I hope everyone is having a good holiday season.

 

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* Board Stats

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* Calendar

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