[Setting: Refuser Park, just outside the Bards Hall of Montfort, at the evening of the day before the Festival]<--Back Forward-->
[The Lead Singer]
"The summer wind...came blowin' in...from across the sea...."
The clear, deep voice of the Lead Singer lifted softly over the evening air. He and his band, were gathered around the bonfire, singing songs and playing their instruments. Lily Gammidge and her daughter, Elanor, were playing their flutes to accompany the strangely dressed singer, and some of the other Bards were present as well. Before them the fire cracked and sparked, sending a fragrant hickory wood scent over the cool evening air. The fire's traquility belied the rather explosive method in which it had been ignited. (A rather unfortunate incident involving Elwynn Evindem, a botched flame spell, and a rather spectacular but fortunately contained mushroom cloud.)
Long tables of food had been set out, a huge barbecue feast for the Festival Security Force, the volunteers, and the members of the hall. Some prominent citizens of Montfort were also present, mingling with the performers, mercenaries, merchants, and others.
Nearby, in an open field, a pickup baseball game was in progress. The sport had been introduced by the Ranger, Talia Robitaille, a native of Earth and ardent Toronto Blue Jays fan. The teams had been divided up into elves (more or less) versus humans. On the pitchers mound, Tarrah the Healer was into her windup. Karyn Silversheen was at bat, glaring at Elwynn Evindem, who appeared to be trying to cast some sort of spell on her.
The warrior-mage walked up the sunny path that lead to the Festival. 'The place where adventures are, he said silently to himself. He was tall, fine-boned, darkly bronzed and looked no more than twenty-five years old. Muscular and swarthy, with a wrestler's square stance and of solid build. Dark eyes sparkled above a curling mouth and a formidable chin with a rakishly offset cleft. Black hair curled at his broad warrior shoulders, almost blending with his black tunic that seemed more like a regimental than a shirt, he wore a silver hoop in his right earlobe--and a heavy scabbard at his hip. Had anyone looked at him, they would have thought him just a warrior, but they would miss the swiftness of his hands and the lithe movement of his body that would belong to a mage. His entire clothing was black, save for a crimson sash at his waist that marked him a warrior-mage to his peers. As he arrived at the Festival, he wondered if anyone would need a traveling warrior.
He sighed and resigned to watch a sport he never even heard of: baseball. Interested, he stood a tad too close to the first base where most pop flies occur and decided to watch and learn. The oddest thing was Elwynn's "chant" and he wondered what in the nine hells did that mean.
Sitting by the first base line, Dallan Dawnrider, Commander of the Rangers, saw the strange man come wandering up. Setting down his plate of barbecue chicken and corn on the cob, the Ranger walked over and approaced the newcomer.
"Greetings, friend." he said, "How can we help you?"
It was a perfect day out here in the sunshine, a light breeze blowing through the trees keeping the heat off his back. He smiled in the outfield, waiting for the ball to come anywhere near him. His heart started to race as he saw someone come up to bat. and **CRACK!** the ball and bat connected in a loud explosion, and Rook took off trying to anticipate where the ball might land, but alas, foul ball, and he was forced back to his post at Left Outfield.
The Oriental Man finally made it to the party, though he has seen numerous royal balls and dances, he was, nonetheless, excited to go. He was excited, because it was a, how do you say it..."a different tune" sortta speak.
He arrived at the party in his good, worthy-to-be-rich clothes and bearing none of his weapons. Instead he donned a nice 14 kt. gold braclet, on which 3 charms hung, one charm was a small golden katana, while the other was a small golden wakizashi, and the last charm was a small golden figure of a horse. He had a nice golden, somewhat, dangling pirate-looking earring in his right ear. He wore a very nice belt-like gridle (event though he was 6', 230 lbs. of solid iron tough skin, from his Kung Fu fighting.) Holding the the girdle up, a nice buckle that had a very well crafted picture of a storm giant, flexing his muscles, sparkled in the firelight.
"I hope I didn't over do it!", he thought to himself, "It's just that, it has been awhile since I went to a party like this, and also it's a force of habit to dress this fancy, when going out to a party." Chuckling to himself, the 39 year-old made his way to the table, and looked at all the food. "Maybe it is like a royal ball!" the thought to himself as picked up a piece of chicken, and started to eat it. Hmmmm..... "This is pretty damn good," he thought, as he finished the once juicy chicken.
After eating what he thought was enough he got up and went to see that peculiar, yet interesting game called "Baseball"?!?. His cat-like smooth movements brought him to a field on which a diamond was drawn. He intently watched this facinating, yet joyous game. He would try to ask any of the spectators any questions about the game. Some either answered him, while others were caught up in the game to notice his asking. Nevertheless, he sat down, and studied the game.
Talia saw Takayosi sitting in the stands. The warrior was dressed rather garishly, even by Bards standards, but remembering his quickness in the fight that afternoon, Talia went over to him and asked, "Would you be interested in playing for our side? We're short a couple of players."
Back at the game, Karyn had fouled off another pitch that seemed to be just a little too close for comfort. The way Tarrah was looking at her, she figured that either the healer had discovered a new and rather violent means of drumming up business for her profession, or Tarrah had finally figured out the fact that she was pretty much stuck playing the supporting lead role for the upcoming musical.
She looked innocently at her friend.
"You're, uh, you're not *trying* to hit me, are you?" she asked.
Tarrah was concentrating on this pitching business. She seemed to have a natural knack for it, considering Talia had just taught her the rudiments of the game a couple of hours ago.
The healer watched the hand signals coming from Jynna, who squatted behind the plate in the catcher's position. She shook her head against the elf's advice, planning to send another inside fastball at the bardmistress.
When Karyn spoke, Tarrah straightened up, a look of innocence covering her impish grin. "Well, that depends. Have you found a replacement for this role you've coerced me into?"
"Well, you see..." Karyn began.
The healer frowned. Tarrah wound up and sent another fastball at Karyn, barely missing her.
Having traded in his Tilly hat for a baseball cap, Sir Connery Walter Owens Hoffman III stood behind the plate, watching the game with great interest. After a few hours of practice, he had learned not to flinch as the ball rapidly approached his general direction. The sight still made him uncomfortable, despite the thick padding draped over his chest and the mesh-like mask covering his nose. The three foot hamester professor, now dressed in dark blue pants and a matching light blue shirt, squinted as he watched the ball sink into Jynna's glove.
He cocked his head from one side to the other, mentally trying to calculate the strike zone. Unfortunately, math was not his specialty. He knew he had to make the call, and these things were usually done immediately... Sir Connery caught Elwynn's impatient look from across the infield, and cleared his throat.
"I believe this to be a strike." He turned to Karyn. "I'm terribly sorry, young lady, but this means you are out." Turning back to the dugout, he called, "NEXT!"
The Warrior-mage had to fight a fit of laughter as he watched some of the game. He was slightly startled that Dallan had managed to walk right up without him sensing him. Controlling his mirth, Valirion drew himself up and offering a warrior's greeting of respect, said, "Well met. At the moment, I am watching this...um, game, I suppose? I have never seen such like. Tell me, what is it called and what is the purpose of this game?"
Ishara Silverblade, a half-elf and member of the Security Force, had already settled into a very tasty meal when she overheard Karyn Silversheen talking to another whose name she did not know and fought back a grin. This place, she mused to herself, is so alive with joy and laughter. Maybe I'll retire here or live here...It'd be nice, she thought to herself, not having to worry about danger. Because when it does happen...there are people like Dallan or the others to join their sides. Taking a bite of some freshly done corn, she kept an eye on the coming and goings to make sure that no one dared to steal a coin purse or a well-made weapon.
Takayoshi was surprised and a little dumbfounded to hear Talia ask him to join the game, "Uh...Umm...er, Sure, why not, but remember I never played this game before, so be gentle with me, and sorry if I over-did it. I mean with the clothes and all, its just that I wanted to look good. Plus, these are the only GOOD clothes, that I have." He gestured to his clothes, and smiled jokingly.
On that note, he got up and followed Talia down on to the field. He then awaited for futher instructions.
Upon, walking onto the field, he asked Talia seriously, "So who's playing on our team, and who's idea was it to play against the elves anyways!?"
"Oh, we've been challenging each other to this game ever since I taught the elves of Havenwood how to play it. Elwynn..." here she indicated the blue-clad elf-maid playing shortstop "and I have been setting up teams and playing each other for fun on a regular basis. Anyways, the game is called baseball... basically, there are at least nine people on each team... the object of the game is to score runs by making a circuit of the bases...
Nearby, Dallan Dawnrider was giving the newcomer Valirion his own explaination of the game.
"...the hitter hits the ball into the air and tries to reach first base before someone tags him with the ball. If the ball is caught out of the air, then the hitter is automatically out.
"...if it hits the ground in foul territory, that's anywhere past these lines here, it's called a foul ball, and it counts as a strike against the hitter..."
"...the hitter gets three strikes...a strike is either a swing and a miss, or failure to swing at and hit a ball in the strike zone..."
"..that's anywhere between the batter's chest, and his knees, and the width of home plate..."
"If the ball is outside the strike zone, and the hitter doesn't swing at it, it's called a 'ball', and if the pitcher throws four 'balls', the hitter is awarded first base..."
"...once on base, the runner can attempt to advance when the ball is hit. He must wait until the ball touches the ground before he can advance safely. He can be called out if someone touches him with the ball..."
"...well it's sort of confusing, but there it is. Would you like to play?"
"...just take this bat and try and hit the ball, Takayoshi. I'm sure you can figure it out."
Takayoshi's scar on his face shown as he looked toward the stranger Dallan was talking to and shrugged his shoulders, "Hey, sounds easy enough." Smiling contently the 39 year old oriental picked up a bat and awaited his turn in the "batting order" (so it was called by Talia), which turned out to be the next in line.
He got up in the batters box, and looked at the healer who was on the mound already starting her wind up...He tightened his grip on the "bat", and waited for the pitch...
The hamster cleared his throat with a delicate 'Ahem.' "Strike One!" he called out in a clear voice.
Takayoshi heard the "umpire's" call. A little dumbfounded, because he barely saw the ball coming.
"Looks tougher than it seems," He thought to himself, and smiled. "Alright, one more time, " he said to himself, and out loud to the elven "pitcher". The pitcher complied by started her wind-up again. He tighten his grip on the "bat", again...the pitch came...Takayoshi's keen eyes actually saw the ball coming...so he decided to swing and try to hit it...
"That would be... Strike Two!"
...he heard, as he readied himself again for the next pitch. Tarrah was in her wind-up and the pitch came. He saw this one even better and took a swing at it...
Takayoshi standing there momentarily, looked a bit surprised and startled that he actually hit a small dribbler toward the third baseman...
"Oh shoot, that's right, I gotta run to first base", he finally realized, as he started to run down towards first base...
[Thaddeus the Troll]
The large troll watched the game intently from his position, the ever- present sunglasses perched upon his nose. As usual, Thaddeus wore only his long, golden-brown immaculately combed fur. He may be the infield umpire, but he refused to wear any silly outfit. The most costume Elwynn had convinced him of was a navy blue baseball cap.
Having spent several years on Earth, Thaddeus knew baseball. He even liked baseball. It didn't take much convincing to get him to play the role of umpire in this impromptu game. He watched the game, wishing he could catch a real game. The Blue Jays versus the Orioles would be fun to watch...
The play at first was a simple call. The man was easily out, the ball having beat him to the base by several yards. Thaddeus uncrossed his arms, and jerked his thumb in the direction of the dugout calling...
"OUT!!", Takayoshi heard the "First base umpire's" call. The 39 year-old looked to see that the "first baseman" caught the the ball, which the third baseman has thrown to him.
"Oh, well, until next time," he said to himself, as he headed back toward the bench.
Upon reaching the bench he sat down to Talia and said, "How did I do, I mean I actually hit the ball!"
"By the way, how many outs is it until we go out on to the field...and play their positions, and which position would I play?", he continued asking, with a little quizical look on his face.
"You did fine, Takayoshi." Talia said. "We'll find you a position in a second. We've got one out left, and I'm up."
Brandishing a genuine Louisville Slugger(TM), the Ranger strode confidently to the plate.
Melyda dashed around the park, passing near the bonfire and its attendant musicians. She'd be joining them later, but right now she was taking Ari and Khale for a romp before leaving them at the kennels for the night. She and the two animals ran circles around each other in a free-for-all game of tag.
They approached the side of the baseball field, and Melyda slowed down to watch a bit of it. She's never seen such a game before, and she wasn't sure it was active enough to suit her tastes. She heard a loud "Crack" and saw the ball flying toward the side of the field she was on. The player nearby ran toward it, then stopped as the ball evidently carried past the line.
Suddenly Ari took off, tongue lolling out of her mouth. She leaped up and caught the ball squarely in her mouth, then continued running.
From her place in the on-deck circle Talia Robitaille cried, "Sign that dog up! We get the dog!"
"Oh no you don't!" Elwynn hollered back, "No doubt she is an elvish dog, therefore she belongs on our team!"
"Ari!" Melyda called sharply. Ari stopped and looked back, tail wagging, mischief clear in her face. "Come back here, Ari." Melyda continued. "That ball isn't yours and you know it."
Ari trotted back woefully and dropped the ball at Melyda's feet. She picked it up and grimaced a bit--it was quite slobbery.
"Sorry about that," she called as she threw the ball to the player nearby. Ari looked up at her. "I'll get you one of your own tomorrow, Ari." Melyda smiled down at the woebegone dog. "Right now we'd better head back to the kennels. Khale? C'mon!" The cat, who had been dividing her attentions equally between Ari's antics and the game, stretched slowly and rubbed herself along Melyda's ankles before walking with them toward the Hall.
The little blonde kitten crouched in the bushes as the dog approached. Her father, Icarus, and her mother, Lionette, had warned her about dogs. They said to stay away from them. But when she found a smell-pool that just *had* to be dog, Cassiopia could not control her curiousity. She had wondered if the animal was as fierce as her parents had said. She also wondered if it were as dumb as they had said. This dog did not look particularily fierce, but she did seem rather slow, going after that round notfood object the way she did.
Cassiopia readied herself to spring. If she could stand up to this beast she'd have a great story to tell her litter mates. Gathering herself up she sprang out into the path and stood right in the dog's path, hissing and growling and showing her claws and teeth and arching her back like a true fighting cat. She met the eyes of the great dog, and she was not afraid.
Melyda started as a small kitten leaped out from the bushes lining the path. Its arched back and hissing, spitting demeanor indicated that this was a kitten aching for a fight. Melyda dropped her hand and stroked Ari along her head and neck. There was no tension in the muscles; that told Melyda that Ari could be trusted to handle this on her own. As she stepped back, Ari swiftly turned and licked her on the knee before turning back to face the enraged kitten.
Ari put on a very convincing show; her hackles rose as she crouched down, and she emitted a low, continuous growl. For a few minutes, though, it was the kitten who had the upper hand, driving Ari back and forth along the path with leaps and paw swipes. Ari dodged just fast enough to avoid damage, but slow enough to encourage the kitten to keep coming at her. Melyda and Khale stood by and watched, Khale radiating intense interest...and amusement.
Finally, Ari decided it was time for a lesson. She leaped up and over the kitten and, while still airborne, reached down and grabbed it by the scruff of the neck. Her teeth pricked the kitten's skin just a little bit, as if to say, "Yes, I've been playing with you, and yes, I could hurt you." Ari then set the kitten down softly and licked it a few times, as if to say, "But I won't. And you aquitted yourself well."
Khale, now that the fuss was over, strolled over to the former combatants. She gave Ari a passing sniff and a lick, then walked over to the kitten and gave her a more formal greeting.
A worthy opponent and and honourable one. This was most unexpected. Her breath was hideous, however. Cassiopia wriggled free from the dog's grasp and wound her way between her legs in a sign of respect. Seeing the other cat approach, she greeted her in the formal nose-to-nose fashion, and was just turning around to let the older feline acclamate herself to her scent when she saw her father come walking up the road. He did not look particularily amused.
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