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Each and every coppered tone


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This story takes place in Tyria. Tyria is fully owned and well shepherded by artists. This will be the first story I see through. I will put minimal action to some characters well known to any Tyrian. I hope the brief appearance of them I describe does them justice. This story will describe less of violence and sexuality than already described by the aforementioned shepherds. This story will appear over several days, all hands willing.

He had wanted to be a philosopher only, but was named Buck Valor. The Valor family insisted that every member soldier. Soldier defending a philosophy. He would know philosophy as a quest for truth and truth would be the ancient lineage of the Valor line and the responsibility and complicity of human nobility. Being a Valor described a line that would be held and the eldest son and heir would hold that line. Buck would hold that line and use truth to convince those under his command to spend their lives holding it with him. Everyone at the line knowing his last line was drawn before the Valor stronghold.

This happened every time he held the Commander’s attention; his life, no, his soul and magical command reflected back to him. The Commander's soul and command of magic was born to attack, to push the line, Buck Valor's was built to defend. Buck had paused here to watch the commons of Lions Arch bubble and stood and stared when the Commander stopped and viewed the same vista. He wasn’t sure the Commander recognized him, perhaps in his town clothes he really wasn’t the Warrior the Commander had met in the jungle. Buck put his hand to his chest, fingertips seeking the true million knots of the Valor crest embroidered on his coat and the uncounted but perfectly summed knots his wife and daughter had embroidered on his undershirt. The Commander turned and walked away, seemingly intent on moving forward. Buck brought his magic tightly under command and watched the Commander's. Buck wasn't sure he saw the effects of party magic. Buck wanted to offer himself, to once again follow the orders of someone who drew a line of defense around all of Tyria, but his time serving the Pact had ended. Price spoke and Buck wanted to shiver.

"Valor business is with Evon Gnashblade. Come.”

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His cousin was bonded to his party. Buck watched the Commander for a moment longer, he wanted to give something to this moment. There was strong magic in happenstance and parting. His fingertips still traced the pattern of the Valor crest; pikes flowed to trenches flowed to battlement flowed to a window. Through that window he flowed to the gardens beneath. He could not trust himself with a library and had turned to gardening. His wife was not a tailor. Her designs were homely, flowers looked more like the gears she preferred, leaves were levers trying to pry stems from the soil. His daughter wasn't a tailor either, she was too young to be specific. Her flowers didn't look like flowers. Flowers could look like most anything and she had captured that essence. Buck closed his eyes, focused on the knotting of magic to material, used a leaf to pry free flowers, pulled the bouquet through a window. A dozen strands of thread held together with magic is a tiny thing. The storm of magic caught it and held firm. Price Valor watched his cousin and said nothing. Buck turned from the vanishing Commander.

"All right Paris. Nothing to be gained from sight seeing."

Price of only a month ago would have made a joke here; Buck had caused the delay and was continuing the delay. Price had mastered the only weapon he could use against his older, more powerful, heir to the Valor claim, insistently serious, commanding officer for life, cousin: sarcastic wit. Buck reflexively staged a Misty what-could-have-been-between. According to Price, the most honorable place to wield sarcastic wit was filling the awkward moments Buck created when giving orders to assembled soldiers. Those places appeared most frequently when they both knew Buck put little value to many of those assembled. The Valor stronghold could shelter only so many. In the Misted scene of assembled soldiers he couldn't match Price's wit, mumbled over the joke and went to the common punchline.

{"Sir!" I make myself ready for War!" Every part of me is tribute and must fly!"}

The Misty what-could-have-been-between fades. Buck and Price remain but the assembled disperse. Buck remembers all their names, but many he can say into the storm and hear nothing back. Those people depart the stage first. Then those whose names resonate with the storm. He wears inscriptions from some of them, they are as their names knotted into his clothes, close to him. He knows Paris is the same, can hear his clothes sing echoes of names. Buck resists following the Mist back-in-between. He focuses on the Price in front of him.

Like Buck, he is of judiciously cultivated and trained stock. The noble pursuit of breeding for magic affinity always produced results, magic insisted. Those without magic see what they are and keep their distance. The Valor men stand and the crowd reshapes how it flows around them. Price is a powerful elementalist and an adequate tailor. The invasion ended a month ago. Since then, he has been stuck frigid, unable to cast anything but cold, and wears an undershirt quilted of patches from the undershirts of everyone the regiment lost. He is barely holding together and also collapsing into himself. He sounds and says as a glacier. He was a child a year ago.

"We are taking up space and should move."

He thought he was going to meet Evon Gnashblade, Buck told him that to make him move. They had business with the Charr himself but would deal directly with an agent, the something or someone discovered in Orr. Buck led them north.

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"We're here Price." They stopped and Buck continued. "If we were meeting Gnashblade we would need to be the center of a well armed, efficiently violent squad. It would disrespectful to be unarmed and not everyone considers a kilt a weapon."

"We are here to clean up after dirty work and need to be discrete. Through that door we will find an agent. We follow their instructions and our house is compensated. Gnashblade would be a powerful ally and by choosing to engage our family, shows he respects human jurisdiction and wants to leave a small square footprint on human territory. To his credit, the Valor family is very expensive."Price moved to the door, opened it and stepped inside the vacant tenement. Buck would have to do something about that. The only furniture they find is a desk in a third floor room, no chairs. All the other rooms had been salvaged of any magicly manageable material, the building was down to wood, nails and plaster. The plaster was inert, but the nails and wood were gaining in potential as all the entangled magic of staying a building flowed through them. Buck couldn't understand how the building and most of the neighborhood was vacant. Had so many died or given up and fled?"I am Coin of the Realm and you are Buck Vloar. Acknowledge"The words appeared on the parchment as the disk rolled. Now Buck understood why everything magical had been so quiet. Alone under the plaster cover, the wood and nails should have been gleeful."I would acknowledge me as Buck Valor."The risk rolled, "Acknowledging the weightbetween Buck Vloar and Buck Valor"It is a large disk, five inches across two inches thick, nearly a rod; the parchment is long and narrow and allowed only two lines of text. The disk had started rolling from the top right corner leaving text, made a u-turn off the parchment without leaving any text and resumed writing. It wrote the second line of text last letter first, the meaning of the line appearing when it finished. When it reached the beginning of the second line it made another u-turn began writing again. The disk continued this path. "I hold consent precious, weigh the negotiatedrisk, calculate and deliver reward. Reward to bedelivered will be calculated as mintable bullion. Pick me up and bind a measure of Buck Valor asdefender of the Floor secured."The disk stopped rolling, vibrated intensely and lifted itself, the parchment left the table, went fluid and regained the properties of hide. Inscriptions of holding surfaced. The hide sheet contorted into a bag without an opening. "I think we will discover the way to crack it open," the sound found riding a glacial quake under thunder snow said.
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Buck removed a bag from a hidden coat pocket. He had picked this bag from the armory without knowing what it would hold and had chosen something heavily inscribed, wrought from many materials with a stout cord and a clasp bearing the Valor crest of binding. It was large enough to hold his hand and wrist. He held it open over the bag containing Coin of the Realm and scooped it up without his fingers contacting the hide, cinched the chord and clasp tightly. Buck folded the bag and placed it back into the hidden coat pocket. He had already been briefed on the negotiated mission and one of the objectives was to test Coin of the Realm's command of magic. Besides where it was found, Buck knew nothing. The only direction he received was to treat it as a party member.

"Consider yourself picked up and joined."

Price remained silent and looked at the exit. With the Coin of the Realm secreted, the wood and nails were freed from their respectful silence and began to breathe and sneeze. A fresh moment of magic was forming. Buck had used every valuable chance offered by Tyria, the Six and the Rest to claim responsibility for the steps he had taken to deliver Price back to the Valor stronghold alive and whole. He did not take this one, the clearest moment of any. Price had spent more care on his appearance than he had in months and Buck would not force him to expose any not manicured part. He would worry about the secreted bag being too heavy alone. Buck led the way downstairs, to the avenue and towards Eastern Ward and the gates. A mail messenger reached them before they had progressed 1000 feet, it was unsigned and about the Waypoint system. Buck had been expecting it.

"You possess an artifact that stresses the magic of probability. We can not accept the risk of transporting it by waypoint. We encourage you to carry it by gate. We are eager to document the effect."

"Follow me to the Grove. It will be me, you and Stillence and Coin of the Realm. I will explain our quest when we are together."

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Buck didn't notice anything unusual about the trip through the gate, he experienced the usual brief forgetting that he existed and then at arrival to the Grove, a blink of terror. He became saturated with verdant pollen and could hear a massive plant mind thinking with every branch and root. The Grove wasn't cultivated thoroughly enough to tame wild jungle magic. This would cause anxiety for them both and he had prepared an obviously failed attempt at a joke to calm and possibly provoke Price.

"At least it's a soaking heat."

Price didn't say anything, he just started breathing. Memories of the invasion never threatened to Mist, Buck was too infatuated with the Sylvari. He had been built hard, his instructors commanded magical chisels and carved his magical soul into a game piece. The game was the death agreement shared within a group, that group sharing a measure of space. Buck was taught to compare dignity and honor. All Valors are taught to kill. Any Sylvari, given a moment to think, could offer a sophisticated approach to the ethics of killing with dignity before honor. His family had needed to build institutions of intergenerational indoctrination to supply such motivated humans. Buck's secreted goal was to retire here, he would not save anything toward it but would steadily make the move easier to achieve. He knew Price loved them as well, but worried he had been to young for what war with the Sylvari had taught him. It was easy to be dignified and kill a Sylvari opponent, making honor easy to secure. The Sylvari, to a seed, understood consent. Mordremoth had defiled something born of powerful truce magic and seeing so many of them alive and doing business near the Asura gate filled him with hope. He wanted to catch even a glimpse of the Pale Tree. His secreted Misty what-could-be-between was a household with her.

"Let's go downhill"

"No, Price. I asked her to meet us here at dusk." Buck stepped close to his cousin so only he would here. "We are going to stay here tonight and Stillence lives near the Garden of Dusk. Look around. I already see Sylvari we captured. We will cause stress and will wait for her to escort us."

Price nodded, started shivering and said, "I'm hungry."

Buck bought food with him and followed him into the shade where Price stopped shivering and hurriedly ate. Buck didn't know when Price had last eaten and shared his meal and brought more. He was just finishing a heavily spiced roast bird when Stillence arrived. He was excited, had found something new with her. She was pen pals with him, his wife and daughter. His daughter kept every letter bundled together and sealed in a box to keep her pollen safe, it somehow smelled like the first snowfall in Queensdale. Stillence kept finding ways to avoid the invitations to visit. Buck feared he now saw the reason. She had appeared with a phantasm and it had remained with her even after she had hugged both of them. The phantasm moved a few feet away, squatted and began poking the moss and lichen growing in the spaces of a stone wall. It looked like the moss and lichen agreed to a play session and were working together to claim the phantasm's finger. Price and Stillence looked at him and waited.

"I am eager to see your home."

"I am eager to show it. It is my favorite damp hole in a stump."

Price suggested they take the most direct path. Price was silent and Buck tried to keep up a conversation with Stillence, but the phantasm remained, following at a distance, stopping to inspect something then hurrying to catch up. Buck needed her help and he worried she was in trouble. They settled into a quite march. It was dark when they reached Stillence's home. In her home there was a damp hole in stump, but was not itself one. Her home pod hung in a cluster and her neighbors used the overlapping roof as a common area. The pod was at least twenty feet in diameter and almost thirty tall, many platforms extended from the interior walls. A few were large enough for a large Sylvari to lay down, the rest where small, only large enough to sit on. Most of them were empty. One was piled with books, another with food and drinks, the rest blankets and pillows. The phantasm climbed platforms until it was high up and able to sit looking out of a window. Stillence poured a round of wine and stood close to Price. They looked at Buck and waited for him to speak. Buck sat down and they moved to platforms closer to him.

"Our family has been charged with stopping a counterfeiting ring. I want your help, Stillence."

"When do we leave?" Stillence responded.

"4 am. The ring is operating from a ship last seen in Ocean's Gullet. I have a ship and crew waiting in Lion's Arch." Buck paused, he had to impress upon them the delicacy and seriousness of their mission without revealing too much. He did not expect Stillence to keep her home secure from eavesdroppers.

"We must account for everyone connected to the ring."

Buck saw Price and Stillence shrink and lower their eyes to his chest.

"Look at me." When he had their attention he continued, "I will do all of the accounting."

Stillence's eyes wavered from Buck's. The grimness of the moment fled, Buck looked for the phantasm and found it watching Price intently. Stillence got up and refilled their cups and began sharing items of food she had bought for the occasion. Besides the persistent phantasm, Buck could see no other signs of stress. She was subdued, wore a straight lined long sleeve dress of thick woven wool that was a deeper gray than the deepest gray Buck could imagine, but he had expected that. Her letters often contained strange poems about rain, but he had hoped that was a healing metaphor. She couldn't be in trouble, she had kept so many calm, saved so many of the Sylvari released from Mordremoth's hunger. He needed to be outside.

"I am going for a walk. When I get back we will help you pack. I will be to the Garden of Night and back."

Stillence nodded, "Yes sir."

Buck walked down the steep curling ramp that connected the interior of the pile of pods. The bridge leading to the Garden of Night was to his right, he went left towards the water. The Garden of the Night was on the opposite shore, he wanted to see it but also wanted to stay near his friends. He needed to think of them as friends and staying close helped. When he told them he would do the killing he knew he could deliver. Bern Swood's crew were week. Bern Swood wouldn't have survived a Valor childhood. Buck heard someone approaching, it was Stillence. Buck realized it was the phantasm and began approaching it, Stillence came into view following. The phantasm shimmered and reformed as a male Sylvari who had served with Price and Stillence under Buck's command. He stopped twenty feet from Buck, Stillence continued past him, took Buck's hand and tugged him back towards the water.

"Ignore him. I will explain but you need to tell me the truth. Why do you need me?"

Buck submitted and answered, "I don't want Price to kill and I must bring him. I want your help insuring he doesn't."

"Even if I have to kill? I don't want to but will join to protect Price." She looked back towards her home. She had left Price with some samples of embroidery, he had responded to talk about the inscriptions she had been practicing.

"I can't ignore the phantasm Stillence."

Stillence made another. The second stepped out of the first. Buck recognized the second phantasm, a captive that had been found murdered. Buck had investigated the murder and executed the murderer.

Stillence began explaining, "After I returned to the Grove, I collapsed and just dreamed of Hijxx. I would sit and listen to him theorize and forgot time passing. It was only days but felt like a season. When I returned, he was with me. I could summon him."

Buck moved a step away from her and faced her, pointed at the phantasms, "Those are not ghosts. They are pictures of your mind"

Buck almost panicked when he thought of Price, "Have you shown Price Hijxx?"

Buck saw she was insulted and was grateful and apologized, "I'm sorry."

Stillence continued explaining, "Have you ever known me to be careless? I have this under control. I know the risk, but I can make convincing echoes that help my people say goodbye." She did not know how to continue describing how she used the Dream to find strands of memories and entangled them with her phantasms. The process was all feeling and resisted words.

Buck wanted to believe her but didn't. He asked bluntly, "Do you what what psychosis means?"

Stillence nodded, "I am Sylvari and of the Dream."

Buck didn't completely understand. "You are building people from pieces of your mind and I am afraid for you."

Stillence brought the phantasms together and reshaped the one into the image of herself. "Since then, it is easier to keep one active."

Buck looked towards the bridge, he would walk the Garden of Night and prepare himself for solo combat. Perhaps a way to keep both Price and Stillence here would resolve from the Mist. Stillence stood ready and made her willingness to be commanded by him obvious. The small flowers of her faced him. Buck had learned from Stillence how to read a Sylvari's unconscious reactions. She did not look stressed. Broken or weirdly evolved, she wanted to join them.

"Go inside and prepare with Price. Outfit for long range support. Price will catch on that you are here to keep them out of combat but should play along. Make it easy for him."

She nodded and left for her damp hole in a stump. Buck walked towards the bridge.

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Buck was making good on his commitment, two of Swood's party of five had been killed and he had killed them. This Warrior commanding two commoner refugees would be the third. Swood's helmsman was first, then his bodyguard. After three days of sailing they had finally overtaken Swood's ship, the Brittle Sea. She was spotted the first day and the ship Buck had hired, Often Overlooked was faster, but the change in routine had proved too much for Stillence. Price found her holding a conversation with her phantasm as Hijxx. The three of them had made strong party magic. Buck always kept them together and at the end asked them to hold a position where the death of one of them was likely and had stacked the odds in Price's favor. Cold overtook Often Overlooked, the sea became thick around her. Buck had no choice but to command Price to direct his cold toward the Brittle Sea. Buck stayed by his cousin's side and helped him focus on the sea around the ship. They gained within bow shot and Buck splintered the Brittle Sea's mast. Swood split his party and put a longboat in the water, loaded it with over twenty people and rowed hard towards an island a mile distant. Price moved his attention to the longboat but Buck directed him towards turning the Brittle Sea into a prison. The longboat was overloaded and fragile, Buck would follow it alone after taking the ship. Every member of the crew and Swood's party were human and, excepting the helmsman and bodyguard, commoners. Most turned out to be indentured refugees. They described the hideout Swood was heading for, a small underground maze. Price fashioned cells for them and Stillence kept them dulled and cooperative. Buck left the Often Overlooked alone.

The Warrior guarding the door lost patience and shouted to attack and even her week command of magic was enough to propel the commoners towards him, clubs raised. Buck spoke through his horn, told them to sit out of the way and they did. She was afraid but believed in Bern, she charged and Buck killed her. Bern Swood had developed a method of condensing a flesh golem into a counterfeit Black Lion Chest key. The key didn't work but he had convinced a small following that he would bring them riches and depose Evon Gnashblade. Bern Swood stole everything he could from them. Her body blocked the door and Buck moved her away and arranged her respectfully and with her wounds covered. He stood over her and contemplated the situation. Between him and a room with Swood were 500 feet of tunnels and chambers guarded by twenty or so commoners held enthralled by Swood's Mesmer bodyguard.

He looked for the path of dignity through his opponents. He could think of nothing better than using his horn and his voice to compel the commoners to turn on Swood. They would likely all die. He wanted something better, it wasn't enough to just keep Price and Stillence from killing. He started a Misty revelry and relived the most powerful lesson he had learned about defending the stronghold. His childhood weaponsmithing instructor had trained a mother cat to climb and retrieve her kittens when they were placed on Buck's head. He stood naked, the cat digging her claws into his skin as she played rescue her kittens. His instructor told him to use this lesson as a way to entangle himself with the magic commanding the walls of the Valor stronghold to stand. He was the wall and the mother cat was the family. The lesson would change when Buck formed a request for the family weaponsmith. Buck asked the weaponsmith to craft knives with the blade turn 90 degrees. If the cat had to climb with claws out then he would prefer turning the claws 90 degrees. His instructor changed the lesson to demonstrate to Buck the importance of working with what is in hand. Killing to secure honor was at hand. Buck couldn't find dignity here.

He sheathed his sword and studied his horn. It was inscribed with magical commands invoking Balthazar. His instructors had steered him away from commanding the magic of the Six. They did not respond clearly and it was easy use their magic and mythology to defraud commoners. He commanded the god's fire to spawn and the horn warmed. Fire was not a defender's magic and he had never been compelled by flames, but the heat settled him. Price had grown so entrenched within his glacier. For armor, Buck was wearing a kilt only, wrapped over his shoulder and around his waste. He held the horn against his chest and thought of his wife and his home. He absently began tracing the inscriptions invoking Balthazar. The inscriptions responded, threads of Godness magic entangled with Valor magic. He wanted to be home guarding the stronghold with his friends safe within tended by Valor healers. He could make that a reality faster with one blast of the horn. Bring down the cave, leave it to others to dig Swood's body from the rubble and confirm his death. Perhaps leave them nothing to find. Call lava and earthquake, make sulfur seep. Make this island a tribute pyre to melt Price's mood and burn Stillence's tormentors. There were so many Sylvari corpses ripening for fire. He could give them a home. Now he understood what the Pale Tree was missing. A tap root of stone and feeding roots of running lava....

Buck had moved Coin of the Realm to his sporran. The sporran held many items in suspension and he shouldn't have felt the weight or presence of any of them. He could feel the distinct shape of the disk. He reached inside and drew out the disk. The hide pouch was gone or had been reforged into the yard long ribbon of fabric that passed through the disk. There was no hole, the ribbon just passed through. Buck barked an incoherent command, furious at having his violent revelry interrupted. He heard Coin of the Realm speak. Its tone was flat but it spoke the words as though in time with a melody. The ribbon waved.

"I am about place and used out of place.Where is the floor, where my others?I am mintable thing, make me ever over again.I am people and am a person lost.Securely bound to you I must use youto weigh my mote."

"Poetry burns" Buck growled.

One of the commoners squirmed, broke the silence with sounds of dry scraping and damp clinging. Coin of the Realm continued with a different melody.

"Yes. I am relearning to speak. For centuries, I have been my only company. I am sentient currency and command the magic of negotiation. I bind persons in contract and protect the flesh of people. After the negotiated contract is fulfilled, I take possession of a limb and transform that limb into mintable bullion. In our binded case, the originators of our contract intended for Bern Swood to provide the limb."

"Bullion melts."

"Yes. When I transform flesh, I must calculate the reward precisely. I use consent as my most finely parsed measure." Coin paused then continued with a different melody, "My people-self is shaped by that calculation and I would share Buck Valor instead of Bern Swood with my people-self. I have negotiated with gods before, minted soldiers of the floor before. I speak now, early, to defend your consent. Acknowledge."

Buck Valor was a small thing rendered in a cauldron of brimstone. Coin of the Realm's words were confusing but the flat tone of its voice anchored his attention. He let go of Balthazar's magic and squeezed Coin tighter, his arm felt dead and looked to be miles long. He squinted and watched as Coin lay flat in his palm and wrap the ribbon about his hand. Coin of the Realm squeezed and commanded magic, wrote an inscription describing their people-self onto the air. Buck could not translate the minutiae binding the theme together. The themes where obvious: cut stone, mountain, scales, wind. These themes established the field magic of Valor rampart magic.

"I am Valor..."


Coin of the Realm used the ribbon of fabric to climb Buck's main weapon arm and tied itself around the bicep.

There was a fourth killing, Bern Swood infused his bodyguard's flesh and magic into a golem. He was desperate to prove he could make a working key, guarantee his infamy. Coin was willing to share control of Buck's main arm, but not enough for him to wield a weapon. Buck left his sword sheathed and relied on his horn. His voice and words resonated with Coin's precise hummed melody. He convinced the enthralled commoners to arrest themselves and paid them most of this two smallest fingers. He convinced the golem to melt and Bern to climb into a box. Price and Stillence found Buck Price in the largest chamber, he had collected all the written material and magically infused artifacts found in the cave system and was cataloguing them. They had heard Buck's voice from Often Overlooked. They stared at his arm, at the intricate band of inscriptions circling where flesh became bullion and missing fingers. Coin was pointing to one pile, Buck to another, obviously debating over an artifact. Price started laughing and Buck joined him. He didn't know what Price found funny but he wanted to join the sounds of river ice ringing with horn.

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