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Offline Evie

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Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Three
« on: November 25, 2011, 11:35:04 AM »
   Chapter Three

   Top of Abbot's Tower, Saint-Hilary's-Within-the-Walls
   June 1, 1136

   "What does Ædwige's letter say, Sister Helena?" Princess Rothana asked as she sat in the sunlight with two of her magistral colleagues, her hair uncustomarily unbound like the other women's, for they had just come from bathing and were taking advantage of the sunny afternoon to allow their hair to dry in the warm summer breeze, hidden from others' eyes by their vantage point behind the parapet at the top of Abbot's Tower, high above the Basilica courtyard.

   Sister Helena reached for the letter she'd tucked into the sleeve of her summerweight gown—one of the workaday gowns Duchess Richenda had passed on to her shortly before Twelfth Night—and began to skim over it again.  "She writes that she has had a chance to visit Concaradine at last, and was quite taken by the sights there, although she doesn't think the town anywhere near as lovely as our Rhemuth.  And she expresses her gratitude for the heart cordial, but fears it is beginning to lose its effectiveness, as Sir Gilrae's health seems to be in somewhat of a decline despite his diligent efforts to avoid undue exertions."  

   Sister Therese raised a skeptical eyebrow.  "If the man was trying to avoid 'undue exertions' at his age, wedding a sixteen year old bride was hardly the way to go about it," she observed.

   Helena gave a wry smile.  "I believe she meant his other exertions, Tessa," she said drily, "though apparently those have proven unfruitful as well, at least so far."

   "It's early days yet," the infirmarian said.  "Some brides don't quicken in the first year."

   "Some never quicken at all," Helena noted, her voice soft with sorrow.  The infirmarian, knowing the reason for Helena's sudden change of mood, simply nodded and patted her hand.

   The door leading to the tower roof suddenly opened, and all three women hastily reached for their veil bands and veils, quickly pinning the head coverings back into place before turning to see who had happened upon them.  It was the rector, looking amused as he watched the flurry of activity.  "I apologize for intruding on your privacy, ladies, but you needn’t hasten to veil on my account.  I’ve seen enough maidens with their hair down not to be unduly shocked at finding a bevy of unveiled beauties on my rooftop."  He smiled.  "Brother Everard has discovered that Pouncer has left us a few presents in my study, and I seem to recall at least one of you has a vested interest."

   Helena brightened.  "She's kittened?"

   "She has indeed, or at least she’s in the process of doing so, and in a most inconvenient spot, I might add.  So as soon as she’s done with the business, it would be best if we could convince her to shift her litter to some other, more out of the way location."

   "Oh, dear!"  Princess Rothana smiled sympathetically.  "Where did she decide to settle in?  I hope she’s not in your study’s hearth?"

   Bishop Duncan shook his head.  "No, I’ve little enough need for my fireplace in June, so aside from not wanting her lying in what few ashes are left in the firebox and strewing them about, and trailing sooty paw prints everywhere, I’d almost not mind that.  But she’s decided to kitten in my Transfer Portal niche instead."  He gave a resigned chuckle.  "Right in the very middle of it."

   Sister Helena burst out laughing.  "Oh no!  Hopefully she’ll be done before Master Janos’s next scheduled class, so he doesn’t trip over the lot of them when he comes through from Torenth."

   Duncan quickly thought over the week’s class schedule.  "No worries there; Janos usually arrives via the Portal in the Royal Library Annex, and Father John walks him over here to the Schola.  It’s Bishop Arilan who’s most likely to come in on top of them if we can’t get Pouncer and her new family moved by tomorrow evening.  I’ll see if I can get a message through to him to arrive by way of the Annex instead, at least this week."

   Helena stood.  "I’ll go on down and see how Pouncer is faring, and see if she can be convinced to let us move her."

   Sister Therese stopped her with a hand on her wrist.  "You’re going down like that, dear?"  She grinned.  "Sweet Jesú, poor Brother Everard is likely to trip over his own tongue if you do!"

   Helena’s cheeks turned scarlet as she lifted her hand to her hair.  It was only slightly damp now.  She glanced uncertainly at the Bishop, who smiled back.

   "More’s the pity, but Sister Therese is right, it might be best if you tame those fiery curls before you come downstairs, or Brother Everard’s likely to think he’s seeing a heavenly vision."  He chuckled.  "I’ll let him know you’ll be down in a few minutes."


   Sister Helena, her hair freshly braided and tucked well out of sight under a fresh veil wrapped around her head turban-style, crouched beside the new mother, watching Pouncer lick her latest-born kitten clean.  Two others were already lined up before her, nuzzling at her belly in search of nourishment, and a contraction rippled through her, warning Helena that yet another kitten was on its way.  Brother Everard had attempted to see to the new mother's comfort by offering her an old blanket, but Pouncer had been too preoccupied thus far to take much notice of it.

   Helena attempted to rearrange the blanket in order to provide the newborn kittens with more warmth, worried that they might take a chill from being damp and in contact with a stone-paved floor.  The cat looked up from her work to shoot a green-eyed glare at the magistra, doubtless warning her against interfering with her new family.  Helena heeded the warning, drawing back a slight distance from the laboring cat to avoid agitating her needlessly.

   "It’s a miracle, childbirth, isn’t it?" she mused softly.  "I wonder if cats feel the pain as human mothers do, or if it’s easier for them somehow?"

   Duncan’s keen eyes took in the message conveyed by the mouser’s ears and tail.  "She’s not in the best of moods right now, despite all that purring.  I’d say she’s at the very least not entirely comfortable."

   Helena slowly extended her hand towards Pouncer’s forehead, thinking to use her powers to ease the feline’s discomfort, but was rewarded by a low growl of warning.  She drew her hand back, glancing at Duncan.

   He quirked a smile at her, knowing what she’d hoped to do.  "Too bad Dhugal’s not here.  His rapport with animals is better than mine."

   The magistra’s eyes brightened with a sudden thought.  "No, but Duncan Michael is here, and he's inherited his father's knack.  I suspect any child who could have fish following his commands at age three could probably convince a testy cat that we mean her no harm."  She sat back on her heels.  "Brother Everard, are Lady Sophie’s beginning scholars still in class?"

   The man thought back to the last chiming of the Basilica clock.  "I think they were let out nearly a quarter hour past.  I could check the boys’ dormitorium to see if he’s returned there."

   "Would you, please?" Duncan asked.

   The Servant of Saint Camber bowed his assent to the bishop and hurried off to look.   Duncan shot a glance at Helena's turbaned head.  "Is that your new washerwoman look?" he whispered.

   "Do you like it?" she asked, pretending to preen.

   "No," he said bluntly, making her laugh.  The sudden sound startled Pouncer, who hissed angrily, but another contraction rippled through her just at that moment, pushing another tiny kitten into the world.  Helena took up the damp towel that Brother Everard had held earlier when she'd first arrived, and was poised to assist in cleaning the new arrival should her help become necessary, but the mother cat expertly took charge of the situation, licking the tiny kitten until it was clear of the amniotic sac and its nostrils were cleared for taking its first breaths.  That task done, Pouncer turned her attention to the umbilicus and afterbirth.

   "Whoa!" said a voice behind Duncan and Helena as Duncan's grandson entered the room, half-skidding to a stop as he caught sight of the cat and kittens.  "Ew, is she eating it?"  Duncan Michael wrinkled his little freckled nose.

   Duncan held out his hand to his grandson, inviting him closer.  "No, only the afterbirth.  She won't harm her baby."

   The lad tilted his head at the cat, studying her intently.  "Did she poop the little kitties out?"

   Helena stifled a laugh.  Duncan's laugh lines deepened, betraying his amusement, though he kept his voice serious enough as he answered, "I suppose it might appear that way, but no, that's not quite how it works."  Something moved within  Pouncer's abdomen, and Duncan added, "You're likely to see soon enough, though; I think she's about to have another one."

   "There's a lot of them, aren't there, Papa Duncan?"  Duncan Michael considered the new litter.  "Did I look like that when I was borned?"

   "Hm."  Duncan pretended to consider the question thoughtfully.  "You were a good bit less furry, I would imagine."  The boy giggled, and Duncan smiled at him.  "I wasn't in the room when you were born, of course, but I saw you later that evening.  You weren't much bigger than Pouncer."

   The cat began to bear down again, and a moment later another kitten slipped out, this one tinier than the rest.  Duncan Michael wrinkled his nose again as Pouncer began her motherly ministrations.  "My mama didn't have to do that, did she?" he asked, surprising a laugh from his grandfather.

   "No.  I'm sure her midwife cleaned you up the usual way for human and Deryni babies, like Lady Mhairi or your Mama Miri cleans baby Jared."

   Duncan Michael watched as Pouncer nudged her runt towards a spare nipple.  "I think she's done.  She's not hurting so bad now."  He frowned thoughtfully as he looked at the squirming mass latched onto the mother cat.  "Does it hurt a lot when they go in?  When all those kittens first goed inside their mama, I mean."

   The bishop bit his lip, trying to keep a straight face.  "You'd think so from all the yowling, but maybe not."  Helena turned her face sharply away from them, her cheeks warming and her shoulders shaking from the effort not to laugh.  "It's really hard to say, lad, since I've never been a cat."

   That answer seemed to satisfy the boy, but after a moment he thought of something else.  "How did they all get inside her anyway?"

   Helena wondered if Duncan planned to give the child an honest answer, or if a woman's presence in the room might inhibit him from doing so.  She sensed Duncan weighing the question and trying to judge the best way to respond, and tried to think of some pretext for leaving so he and his grandson would have more privacy, but before she could do so, Brother Everard smiled and offered an explanation.  

   "Oh, we think it might have been Hilary's doing.  Either his or Camber's."

   Duncan looked up at the gray-robed Servant, the amusement lurking in his eyes growing.  "Yes, that seems most likely.  Or possibly even Jerome's."

   Helena looked away again, this time to hide her own merriment.  Everard and Duncan were not referring to the saints, as the child undoubtedly supposed, but to three of the tomcats who roamed the Basilica and Castle grounds.

   She heard Duncan Michael's awestruck voice.  "You mean it was a miracle?"

   Duncan chuckled.  "Lad, every new life is a miracle."


   Once Pouncer had finished with her labors, the bishop's grandson was able to charm his way into her good graces long enough to persuade her that a cozy spot under the corner table would be a better location to raise a newborn family.  Brother Everard moved the tattered old blanket accordingly, creating a comfortable nest for the felines, which Pouncer inspected, proclaimed satisfactory, and settled into.  She stopped short of allowing any human or Deryni help with transporting her babies, though, choosing instead to carry them one at a time to her new bed until they'd all been relocated.  Exhausted from her efforts, she curled around them all protectively and was soon fast asleep.  Duncan breathed a quiet sigh of relief and lifted the temporary block he'd been forced to place on the Transfer Portal, allowing access in as well as out again, though he took the precaution of placing a faint ward around the niche, not to keep its usual users out, but to deter Pouncer and the kittens from taking up residence in it and being inconveniently underfoot again.


   The Schola Refectory, St. Hilary's-Within-The-Walls
   June 4, 1136

   Duncan gravitated towards the sounds of laughter coming from his magisterial staff.  Since they had gathered in the refectory for a brief, informal meeting about the Schola’s upcoming exams rather than for one of the regularly scheduled meals, no students were present.  Instead of sitting at the High Table, the magistri had gathered around one of the long tables normally reserved for scholars, listening to a tale Sister Helena was sharing with evident enthusiasm, judging by her broad grin and expansive hand gestures.  Sister Therese sat beside her, looking close to breathing difficulties from her giggles.

   " I'd just finished the book and I was about to douse my handfire and go to sleep, when I heard an odd noise coming from the other bed.  It's Tessa, and she's huffing and puffing as if her bedcurtains are on fire and her very life depends on her blowing the flames out."  Helena demonstrated with a few exaggerated puffs of air, sending her listeners into gales of laughter again.

   "Well, I was done reading also, and how was I to know you couldn't put out handfire that way?  I'm not Deryni!" Therese exclaimed, although her continued giggles showed she didn't mind in the least being the cause for everyone else's merriment.  

   Duncan paused beside her.  "Let me guess...Sister Helena levitated a ball of her handfire inside your box bed so you'd have light to read?"

   "Yes.  And in hers as well, like she generally does.   I usually use a candle to read by, but her way's safer, you must admit."

   Duncan smiled.  "Quite so.   We wouldn't want you catching your bed on fire, especially with you still in it."  He struggled against a grin and lost.  "Tess, didn't it occur to you that you could have simply asked Helena to put the light out once you were done with it?"

   The nun pretended to look affronted.  "Well, what fun would that have been?"

   The rector shook his head in pretended dismay and took his seat at the table.  "So, magistri, what business have I already missed?"

   Princess Rothana exchanged a look with Father John.  "Well, we attempted to name the new kittens, but I don’t think we’ve succeeded."  

   Duncan looked up from the wax tablet of notes that he held.  "Wouldn’t their eventual owners want to be the ones to name them?"

   "Oh, most certainly," Brother Everard agreed, "but as Sister Helena pointed out earlier, it would be nice to have something to call them in the meantime besides descriptions like ‘the big, red, fluffy one’ or ‘the dainty little runt.’  

   The Royal Librarian spoke up.  "I figured, since they’re Basilica kittens, they’re wards of the Schola, right?  So if they’re wards, why not call them Primus, Secundus, Tertius, Quartus, and Fiat Lux?"  Father John laughed at Duncan’s groan.  "Yes, that’s pretty much how everyone else reacted too."  

   The bishop buried his face in his hand briefly, his shoulders shaking.  "Right," he said once he looked up again.  "Now, on to slightly more pressing business...."


   The Rector’s study, St. Hilary’s Basilica
   June 7, late afternoon

   "Here is my list of intermediate-level scholars who have mastered this term’s coursework," Princess Rothana said, setting an open wax tablet book before Bishop Duncan and pointing out the first page of text, "and here are the scholars who still need to work on their skills before they can move up.  The notations beside each name show which areas they require extra study and practice in."

   Duncan perused the two sets of names, glad to see that the list on the second tablet was much shorter than the list on the first one.  "All right.  Are they far enough along that we could remediate them with a few extra practice lessons, or do you think it would be advisable to hold them back for a full term in those areas?"

   Rothana leaned over his desk, pointing out the top two names.  "These two are almost ready to move up.  The other three have made satisfactory progress in most areas of their training, but they’re really struggling in their few weak areas.   Take Oswin, for instance.  He’s mastered basic meditation and visualization, he can Mind-See and Mind-Speak effortlessly, but when it comes to scrying of any sort, it’s like he’s stuck.  He’s approaching it correctly, but it’s like his efforts to do so on his own are almost blocked.  I can establish a link with him and see what he’s trying to do, and if I’m in his mind when he’s focused on the shiral, he’s able to visualize then, but not on his own yet."  She sighed.  "It’s frustrating.  I feel like I’m doing something wrong in my instruction of him, but I don’t know what."

   Duncan traced the boy’s name with one finger, looking thoughtful.  "And it might have nothing to do with your instructional method at all, you know," he attempted to reassure her.  "Scrying, even if Oswin eventually learns to do it on his own, might just be one of those things that never comes naturally for him.  After all, some Deryni have particular areas of unusual giftedness; maybe he simply has a particular area of greater weakness.   But I can check around, see if any of the other magistri have encountered that sort of problem and found a solution for it.  If not here, then maybe in one of the other Kingdoms.  His basic skills are fine, though?"

   "Oh yes, no problems at all with those."

   "I don't imagine he's been exposed to much ritual magic yet, at his level of training?"

   "No, not yet.  Not unless you're counting his own Naming Ceremony and the rudiments of using Ward Cubes.  No problems with that either."

   "All right.  Let's just keep an eye on his progress then, encourage him in the areas where he's doing well, and I'll scout around and see what I can find out that might help him get past whatever is hindering his scrying abilities."  He called up a picture of the gangly young scholar in his mind's eye.  "Oswin's hit a growth spurt recently, hasn't he?  I keep seeing flashes of ankle under his robes."

   Rothana laughed.  "Yes, I think he's shot up at least half a foot this term.  Those same robes were slightly too long for him back in January.  Sister Helena even offered to let the hems out, but Oswin said his mother's ladies would tend to it when he returns home for the summer break."

   Duncan smiled.  "Perhaps his current difficulties are something he'll outgrow as well.  Master Janos says that some areas of the mind seem to develop more quickly than others, and I would imagine there's a lot of individual variances as well."  

   Rothana wandered over to where Pouncer lay nursing her litter.  The mother cat cast a tolerant glance up at her before turning her attention back to her kittens.  The princess glanced back over her shoulder at Duncan.  "Have all of the kittens been claimed yet?"

   "I'm not sure," the bishop replied.  "I know Sister Helena wants one, and Brother Everard said something about reserving one for the Queen.  I don't know if the other three have been promised to anyone yet.  Why, would you like one?"

   "Me?"  Rothana shrugged.  "I hadn't really thought about it, though now that Albin isn't sharing my chamber anymore, I suppose a cat would be nice company.   But I was thinking of Ædwige's letter, actually.  She could use a little mouser or two, if there's some way to get them to her once they're weaned."

   Duncan pondered the problem.  "Hm.  I would say that Helena could drop them off on her way to visit her family in Llannedd, but they won't be fully weaned for another couple of months, and I imagine she'd be on her way back here by then."

   Rothana looked surprised.  "I thought Helena had canceled her trip, or at least postponed it for another year?"

   "Postponed?"  Duncan looked puzzled.  "Why?  She was quite looking forward to the trip when we last talked about it."

   "Hm."  Rothana leaned back against the corner table, looking thoughtful.  "When was that?  Several months ago at least, I should think?"

   Duncan thought back.  "Yes, now that you mention it, it's been a while since the subject came up.  Has something happened to make her reconsider?"

   The princess paused, looking as if she were pondering how to reply.  At last she offered, "I don't think anything in particular has come up, aside from not having quite enough saved up to go this year."

   "Not enough?"  The rector looked puzzled.  "Isn't her dower money sufficient?  For that matter, I know her Schola stipend isn't all that large, but I don't think she's spent all that much of it."

   "That's the problem, though, Father Duncan.  She draws her full support from the Schola, and even though we provide her room and board and she's saved most of her stipend aside from what she's needed for basic personal necessities, she hasn't been able to set enough by yet for the trip home and back."

   "But...."  Duncan frowned.  "Her late husband's brother hasn't been sending her any support?"  

   Rothana raised an eyebrow at him.  "Baron Gaspard?  Do you think she'd apply to him for it?"

   No, he realized suddenly as he thought back to her reaction to her brief encounter with her former brother-in-law at the last Twelfth Night Revel.  She wouldn't want any contact with him, even if it meant cutting herself off completely from the financial support that was hers by right of marriage to his late brother.  He wondered how much of Helena's story the princess knew; surmised she must know some of it, if not all, to make such an astute guess about Helena's probable reason for avoiding contact with her former relations.

   "She would have needed her dower when she initially went to the Convent of Saint Jerome, though, wouldn't she?"

   "Oh, doubtless," Rothana agreed, "though I know that when she came here, she asked the abbess not to tell the Baron where she had gone.  She may have meant for her dower money to be forwarded on to here, but if so, her instructions were misconstrued.  Any continuing payments have probably been sent back to Baron Gaspard.  I doubt he'd have felt very motivated to search for her, given how much not knowing her present whereabouts must have enriched his coffers."

   Duncan's lips tightened.  "He's known since Twelfth Night that she's here in Rhemuth, though.  If nothing else, he could have sent her dower to the King and asked him to forward the payments to their rightful owner."

   "He could have, yes.  Though from what little Helena has shared with me of her earlier life, I got the impression that the man is a bit...self-centered."

   Concern radiated from the magistra, but not the sort of fury Duncan suspected she'd have felt if she knew exactly how uncaring of Helena's well-being both her late husband and his brother had been.  'Self-centered' was a gross understatement at best.  No, Rothana must not know the whole story behind Helena's precipitous departure from her former barony.  Either that or she believed he was ignorant of it and was being extremely circumspect in shielding her emotions from him.  He doubted it, though.  The princess had matured in the years since she'd first arrived in Rhemuth as a fiery young novice so moved by her righteous anger at the atrocities that had been visited upon the nuns at Saint Brigid's by the Mearan army that she'd over-shared her memories of those outrages with the young King Kelson in her fury.  But despite having greater control over her passions now than she'd had as a young maiden, she was no less susceptible than she'd ever been to being moved by such abuses as Helena had endured, and some of those feelings would have surely been evident had Rothana known Helena's full story.

   It was up to him, then, to redress Baron Gaspard's failure to continue the dower payments which were Helena's due.  That would hardly atone for the harm Gaspard had done to her already, but a dowager baroness had a right to such support until such time as she chose to remarry, and if Helena had no such intention, then mayhap it was Baron Gaspard’s own damn fault if his behavior towards her had played any part in putting her off the idea of remarriage altogether.  If Gaspard’s baronial coffers were to suffer as a result of needing to divide his barony’s wealth with his brother’s widow, Duncan certainly wasn’t minded to feel any sympathy for the lout.  He wouldn't divulge Helena's confidences, of course, but the matter of the withheld dower was a matter that could be looked into and, if necessary to ensure Baron Gaspard's compliance, a grievance could be filed on her behalf with his overlord, the Duke of Joux.

Chapter Four:
« Last Edit: December 02, 2011, 09:42:19 AM by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline Jerusha

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Three
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2011, 02:24:35 PM »
Why do I have the feeling that securing Sister Helena's dowry re-payments is not going to go smoothly or easily?   ;)

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Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Three
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2011, 02:50:15 PM »
We'll just have to see how the dowry issue plays out.  At least Pouncer's litter arrived safely.
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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Three
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2011, 04:18:21 PM »
:) at Duncan Michael's questions about the kittens and at Duncan wriggling his way out of them!

Offline Elkhound

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Three
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2011, 04:19:19 PM »
We'll just have to see how the dowry issue plays out.  At least Pouncer's litter arrived safely.

I liked John's suggestion for names.

Hilary a name for a tomcat, though?  I thought that 'Hilary' was a feminine name.  As in La Clinton.

Offline Evie

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Three
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2011, 04:39:39 PM »
Hilary is just one of the many male names that got shifted over to daughters beginning sometime in the 20th century.  The St. Hilary the basilica is named for was a man, according to the Codex, and I believe the real world's St. Hilary was as well.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2011, 04:42:04 PM by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Offline Alkari

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Three
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2011, 04:43:39 PM »
LOL at 'heavenly vision' for poor Brother Everard.  And Bishop Duncan on the warpath about Helena's dower payments does not bode well for Baron Gaspard, I suspect.    :D

Elkhound, Hilary is one of those names that can be either male or female.  There was a RL fifth century Pope Hilary (whom I assume was a man!!), and also a saint.  It's probably more common as a girl's name these days, and of course can also be a surname (e.g. Sir Edmund Hillary).  
« Last Edit: November 25, 2011, 04:57:40 PM by Alkari »


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[October 28, 2020, 10:59:28 AM]

Re: Lady Kyri by DoctorM
[October 28, 2020, 10:57:25 AM]

Re: Technology by DesertRose
[October 28, 2020, 10:54:24 AM]

Re: Technology by DoctorM
[October 28, 2020, 10:51:02 AM]

Re: Technology by whitelaughter
[October 28, 2020, 06:07:55 AM]

Re: Two Kingdoms: Knives by DoctorM
[October 26, 2020, 04:40:44 PM]

Re: Two Kingdoms: Knives by DerynifanK
[October 26, 2020, 03:49:15 PM]

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