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Business and preparations
July 20 | Tag Lorelei
Dungeons and Dragons-Forgotten Realms

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#1
Anyone could make a weapon.

This was something that Arjay knew to be true, and would argue to the death should anyone be foolish enough to disagree. What was a weapon, after all? A weapon was a tool that was used to cause someone harm, and it could be literally anything. If you snapped a branch off of a tree, you’d made a weapon. If you sharpened the end of a scrap of metal, you’d made a weapon. You could simply hold an object the right way and create a weapon. Creating and using a weapon needed nothing more than will and resourcefulness.

Crafting a specific weapon, one that could function as an extension of a person’s body, something that required skill and grace to use, though? That was something that took true skill. That was when the craft stopped simply being an exercise in utility and became true art. That was what Arjay practiced in his workshop. He wasn’t one who could craft a sword in a day, he was a careful, meticulous craftsman who would pour over the smallest details. The curve of the blade had to be just right, the filigree in the hilt formed the basis for the runes that were etched along the blade, on which he would lay the magic during the final phases of the crafting.

Today, the blade he’d begun work on such a while ago was nearly done. The blade was elegant, delicate, yet flawlessly crafted and deadly. It was, in short, perfect. The runes along flowed with the curve of the single-edged blade, the basis for the spells he would infuse the blade with. He’d already laid the basic enchantments on it, strengthening the blade, ensuring that it wouldn’t shatter in battle. Now, he was standing in the relatively open area of his workshop testing the blade, moving with it, feeling its motion in his hand, in both hands. There was a journey to prepare for, after all… he would not be caught unprepared for it. It would be marvelous if he could finish this blade before they departed… but then, art could not be rushed, could it?
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Marvel-MCU-2

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#2
Anyone could, yes, create a weapon. But there were few who could create a masterful weapon.

Lorelei knew the difference between a weapon, and a weapon such as Mjolnir and Uncle Steve’s amazing shield, and a crude facsimile of such. Heck, her own weapon, her bow, was a masterfully crafted piece; a gift from her fathers when she’d set her sights on being an Avenger; it was a custom recurve, able to be taken down to more easily carry it, but when it was put together properly, the weapon was study and true, and more than able to be used in melee almost as a staff, which she disliked doing, but had been known to fall back on if she had no other choice.

The bow was strung now, draped over her shoulder, resting easily there as she walked into the tavern her unc… Steve… Had directed her to.

Justin wasn’t wrong; Tony Stark would definitely get her home, no doubt about it, but she needed to get home sooner rather than later. Her family would be worried, and looking for her, and she didn’t want them to spend more than what time had already passed worrying and looking. Not when she was fine and having her own adventures.

So she had spoken to Justin, and then to Steve, who knew someone who could get her home if nothing else.

The tavern was actually pretty neat. Made in a tree, and warm and cozy, Lorelei grinned at her surroundings, then nodded to the server who approached her and informing her that Steve had sent her to speak with his friend, Arjay, who apparently owned this place. She was shuffled off to the back immediately, and Lori paid attention where they went, and how to get back. Just in case.

And when she was left at the doorway, she peeked in, not shy, but cautious, “Hello?”
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#3
The sword had excellent balance and flow, the curve moving along with the path of his slices like he’d expected. It felt good in either hand, he’d wait to see how the magic sat in it before he decided what the purpose of this blade would be. Every sword was different, and every one had a different use. He had a good feeling about what this blade would be used for, and really, it just felt good to be looking forward to using a weapon again.

He spun in a graceful pivot toward the door mid-stroke with the sword, making it look like he’d intended to do that all along, when he heard the new voice in the room. He wasn’t alarmed, per se, but it was unexpected. There were only a few exceptions to the privacy he demanded when he was in his workshop, and this woman wasn’t one of them. Oh, she looked like she certainly had the potential to be one, right off he could spot any number of very charming qualities that he would like to find out more about, but his instructions for his staff were very specific. Why was she here?

In one smooth movement, the sword spun in his hand, and then slipped into the sheath without so much as a whisper of metal, just the quiet click when the hilt met the sheath. “Yes, hello,” he said, studying the woman for a moment. “Not to be an ungracious host, but might I ask how you came to be admitted back here?” He let the girl get as far into her explanation as that Steve had sent her, then motioned her into the workshop with an engaging smile. “Ah, I see, my dear friend Steve has decided that the wicked elf must be vanquished, so he has decided to strike at me with my one known weakness, beautiful women,” he said, offering the woman his hand as he gave a courtly bow to her. Some women would take a very definite hold and force him to simply shake their hands as the humans did, some seemed to understand the gesture and allow him to kiss their hand as befit those of their grace and beauty. He wondered which type this girl would be.

“In that case,” he said, “My name is Arjay Lo’Ran, and welcome to my workshop. Not the place I generally entertain, so I hope you’ll forgive the lack of wine, but make yourself at home nonetheless.” The workshop seemed to have multiple uses, with a forge in one corner, woodworking tools in another. Much of the room seemed to be dedicated to more obscure forms of work, with shelves of books holding magic formulae, boxes of crystals and jewels, and other magical crafting items whose functions needed to be guessed at. One wall held all sorts of works in progress, various weapons in various stages of construction, some musical instruments, even a tall staff that was quite obviously meant as a magical tool and not a weapon, but at the moment, the most complete item in the room was obviously the sword he’d been using.

“So what, exactly, brings you to my humble dwelling today?” he asked the woman, once she seemed more comfortable.
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Marvel-MCU-2

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#4
The sword the elf (a real elf, because for real Lord of the Rings was of course a real thing in some world other than the ones she knew, and that was just straight up awesome!) was working with was beautiful. Elegant. The sort of sword that Lorelei would have set her bow aside to use for a little while. She smiled as she watched him sheath it. Yeah, amazing sword. And while Lori appreciated the sword, she could also appreciate the elf who had been wielding it. Damn, but elves were beautiful. Tolkien and the cinema hadn’t done them justice, but then, with no points of reference, then of course they’d fallen short of the mark. A lot short.

When he asked why she was there, how she’d gotten back here, Lori blinked, and then told him the same information she’d told the server that had brought her back here. And of course he recognized Steve’s name, because this was probably Arjay, the elf that was friends with her… Um, with Steve.

That was so entirely confusing.

Dear friend. Yeah, Lori could imagine someone describing Steve like that, be it her uncle or the similar if younger man who had sent her here today. She smiled, then laughed at Arjay’s words, “I’m pretty sure he didn’t think I would be vanquishing anyone today, but thank you.” Lorelei lived in a world where women and men were considered equals (mostly) but she had been born in a world where the manners in how to treat a female were different. Not bad, just different. And she’d watched a whole lot of movies about ages past in her parents’ world, so she understood his offer, letting him take her hand without fighting him, and instead giving him another smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Arjay. I am Lorelei Barton. Or Lori for short if you’d prefer.”

While Lori was technically not old enough to drink, neither of her fathers found it very troubling to let her indulge in the privacy of their home, and she grew up with Thely. or and Tony Stark as family members; alcohol was nothing really new, but it wasn’t a staple, either. She shook her head in response, “This,” she said with a gesture to the workshop, “Is lovely. Maybe not the best place for entertaining, no, but it’s comfortable.” And filled with amazing things. Lori let her eyes wander; if he minded her seeing or looking, he could ask her to stop, and she would, of course, but… She recognized that many of the things in this room would be out of her wheelhouse, but she could definitely appreciate the craftsmanship of the weapons he was in the process of crafting. Those were certainly things she knew plenty about.

What brought her? Lorelei returned her gaze to Arjay, “I came here to Hub by accident a few days ago; a portal just sort of… It opened in the road, but only stayed open long enough for me to come through. And this place is amazing, but my family will be besides themselves with worry. When un… Um, Steve, heard that I was looking for a way home, he suggested that I speak with you.” She shifted, “I was hoping that, maybe, you’d have a way for me to get home and then back? I need to let my family know I’m fine, but this place…” She grinned, “I’d love to be able to come back again.”
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#5
“Perhaps he didn’t, that does seem a bit… out of character for him, I suppose. You’ll forgive me if I don’t discount the possibility of danger or the hope that I might be right,” he said with a charming, playful smile as he kissed the fingers of the offered hand. Perhaps, just perhaps, when everyone decided to go home to their worlds, he would take a vacation in Steve’s world or one similar. There were obviously things there that were very interesting for him to see there, so why not see what these Earth worlds had to offer? So long as there was magic, he wouldn’t exactly be found out regarding his status as ‘not human’…

At the moment, though, the matter at hand was the fact that the girl needed help, and he’d been entrusted in the effort to give her that help. Pulling up a chair, Arjay joined her as she got comfortable and explained her predicament to him. Honestly, he was surprised that it had taken this long for someone to make this request, but here she was, and he was ready. “Well, there are a few things to consider and disclaimers to make before we do this. Obviously, the most important thing, yes, I can help you with this. The process is simple enough. You are a creature that is not on her native plane of existence, I have a spell that can return you to it immediately. As you know where you were when you came through, that simplifies the question of where you’re likely to return. I try to avoid sending people through when they found their portal in a dangerous location. I don’t know that they return to their point of departure, but since it’s a chance, I try to make it a chance that I do not take.” He offered the girl an apologetic smile. “And that is the first disclaimer, I suppose. I’m really not sure where in your world I will return you. I don’t believe that it should be significantly different from where you left, if at all, but… please be aware of the possibility that it could be very different.”

“Once you’re there, I’ll give you a full day to settle your affairs, then I will summon you back. When I cast the spell, it will open a temporary portal to your world for a very brief time, no more than a minute. You will be drawn through it when it was cast, so do try to have everything you need with you. I’ll be careful to not cast it early, though don’t count on any extra time. To do this, I’ll need to know your full, true name.” He was well aware that humans often had several names, he really had no desire to summon the wrong woman. “If you aren’t ready to come back… well, we’ll deal with that then. Just be aware that I can send you back easily enough, but to summon you here is a much more difficult spell. If you aren’t ready to come back, we won’t be able to try again until the next day.”

He leaned against the back of his chair, unconsciously tracing his fingers over the inlay in the hilt of the sword that he was still holding. “The process won’t be as smooth as walking through a portal, but I’ve heard no accounts that being banished back to your home plane is painful. Jarring perhaps, but not painful, and I can do it whenever you like, my dear. First, though… indulge a proud elf’s curiosity. May I?” he asked, indicating the bow slung over her shoulder.
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Marvel-MCU-2

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#6
Lorelei couldn’t help but to smile broadly at the elf’s playful banter. No, of course it didn’t seem in character for Steve Rogers to send danger or harm into the path of a friend. He was Steve Rogers, and that wouldn’t fit at all. But Lori understood the sentiment of the elf, and it was amusing. Besides, he was being all polite and full of manners with her, and that… That was a bit less common in her world. Okay, it was a lot less common in her world, but no less welcome!

If Arjay had mentioned that Lori was the first person to come to him looking for a way home, she would have frankly been astounded. Hub was great, and Lori definitely wanted to come back and explore, especially if she had a way home via Arjay and her magic, then why wouldn’t she want to return to Hub and all of it’s unique people and the massive amounts of technology and magic and other advancements. And aliens! There were aliens you could sit down and talk to! And elves!!! Real elves that knew magic and made amazing weapons!

So Lorelei might be a bit taken with Hub and its denizens. Just a little bit.

That didn’t mean she listened any less intensely when Arjay started to talk about what it would be like, what this trip, this magic, would entail. Magic had a price, Lori knew that. She didn’t cast magic herself, but she knew some who did. She knew Doctor Strange himself, and that man had made it very clear that magic always had a price. Always. Sometimes it was a tiny price, easy to pay.. And other times it was a big, big price. “Well, obviously I hope to go back to where I was, or pretty close to it. I was pretty close to my home. But I have my phone, so even if I end up on the other side of the planet, I’ll be able to get a ride back home. Ten hours tops and I’ll be standing in my room. Or at least in the living room being hugged by my fathers.” Because yep, that was totally a possibility. In fact it was really damn likely.

Giving a light bounce, Lorelei grinned at the thought of being able to hug her fathers and tell them about Hub. Tell them that she wanted to go back, but that she’d come home. And that she’d come home when she could, of course. Of course she would come home. Because eventually, she knew, she’d miss her family. The Tony here wasn’t her Uncle Tony, and Steve, sweet man that he was wasn’t Uncle Steve. And Clint and Phil weren’t her fathers. And she’d miss her family, and eventually she’d come back to ask Arjay for help to send her home and call her back. Lorelei considered what Arjay was saying, considered her family, herself, and then looked at Arjay, “Could I have two days? My family… They’re all over, and I can get home, but if I show up too far away… I might miss them.” And she didn’t want that. Offering Arjay a small smile, “Two days? Then I’ll be ready to go for sure.” With plenty of things she could use to barter and trade, too.

Arjay asked for her bow, and Lorelei pulled it out, looking at it with clear fondness before she let him take it from her. “Of course. When your host asks to look at your weapon, it’s just bad manners not to let him see it.” It was a very, very finely made weapon, too. Custom, obviously, made from osage with a skilled and careful hand. She smiled, “My dad gave her to me when I became an Avenger. I haven’t gone a day without shooting since.”
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#7
“Hopes are excellent, but planning for the unpleasant realities is the best course of action. But… ah, good, it seems that regardless of your location, you will be able to manage. I do appreciate a woman of means,” he teased. Ten hours… well, it wasn’t as simple as a teleportation spell, then, but they had ways of managing faster than a horse or a ship, it would seem. He would, one day, get used to how things apparently worked on the Earth worlds… but probably not. They were all so insanely different that it made his head spin. “The only thing that I will caution you further, then, is that we make sure that wherever you end up, you aren’t in any immediate danger.” He’d seen those human streets on earth-worlds, as represented here in the Hub, at least, and he could only imagine what would happen if he dropped her in the middle of one of those streets. “I will send you through briefly at first, only a few seconds, long enough for you to know that it is safe. It’s a simple enough matter. I have to focus on keeping you there for a very short while to completely remove you from this plane, if I stop? Right back here you are. Once you can tell me that the place we were sending you was safe, you’ll be on your way for good.” Her request, of course, didn’t meet with any particular resistance. Tomorrow, the next day, it was all the same to him. “Two days is fine, I’ll do my best to mind the correct time. Let us bear in mind, my dear, that I’ll be able to return you for a visit whenever you like. Don’t be sad if you miss anyone, you’ll be able to make it back easily for whatever festivals your world holds to if you wish.”

The bow, he was pleased to see, was wood, as a bow should be, and not some contraption of metals and plastics like so many other things that the humans made. In this, it seemed, they maintained the proper state of things. It was an unfamiliar wood at that, but very suited to the task. “So good to see that even on an Earth, there are people who feel that there’s no situation that can’t be solved by an arrow,” he joked, turning aside from her and drawing the bow back. It did have an excellent spring to it. “I do have a request for you, my dear. This wood… whatever tree this came from, it’s not native to my world. If you could- and it needn’t be in this visit, mind you!- I would appreciate a few of its seeds, nuts… whatever it grows from. The druids back on my world might be able to make something of it there if it grows easily.” He was not, admittedly, an expert on archery, but he had a reasonable knowledge of trees and the wood from them, enough to know when something was alien. Perhaps this would help the bowyers on Faerun would be able to make something wonderful of this… perhaps not. It wouldn’t hurt to try.

Finally, handing the bow back, he had her stand still in the middle of the room, clearing a space free of any other objects around her. “Again… this won’t hurt, but be ready for it to be jarring. I’m afraid there’s nothing to be done about that, at least for the first trip. Are you ready?” When she answered the affirmative, Arjay’s demeanor changed, the carefree elf gone, the serious, commanding sorcerer stepping forth. The gestures were delicate as he traced the circle around her, chanting alien words that slipped from the mind even as the mind tried to follow their melodic pace. He could see the forming spell in the air easily enough, and then, at the climax, he thrust his hand forward, never touching her, but pushing her out of the reality they both stood in, leaving only an empty space where she had been, and a quiet whooshing sound as air filled the space she had vacated. He focused on the spell a few seconds, then let it fail, bringing her surging back into the hub. “Was it safe? Were you all right? There’s no danger there?” When she answered that she had been, the elf looked relieved… then began the spell again. “My best wishes to your family,” he said as he thrust her out of reality once again.

Two days later, Arjay pondered over exactly how humans told time. He said that he would call her back in two days, and he had made it seem that it would be exactly two days… was Lorelei one of those humans who lived by precise strikes of the second, as measured by their little glass oracle phones? Oh, he knew this was roughly the right time of day, his sense of time was excellent, but it wasn’t like the elf told time with a clock. He used the position of the sun, the moon, the stars wherever he was to measure time, and while it was surprisingly accurate, it wasn’t precise like the clocks the humans used. As he began to cast the spell to open the gate and draw her through, he was somewhat amused at what sort of position he might find her in if he were a little early by her reckoning, and thus somewhat unprepared for the summons. There was nothing for it, though… it was time for her to come back. The outline of the gate melted into being as his voice pierced the barriers between planes, carried with the magic to open when the spell found its target. “Lorelei Jane Coulson Barton, come forth!” he thundered, the portal shimmering fully into being before him, and however many planes away, before Lorelei as well, compelling her irresistibly through it.
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#8
Ah, a realist. That was actually sort of nice, and completely unexpected. Weren’t elves supposed to be all mystical wisdom and druidic optimism? Or maybe that was Disney. Yeah, that was really probably Disney more than any sort of real thing. That’s a thing the movie company would do, make elves into tree hugging hippies for Uncle Tony to snicker about. Just like making Robin Hood into a fox of all things. (He was so obviously a wolf. OBVIOUSLY, Disney, WTF. Foxes weren’t to be trusted, how could you make the hero into an untrustworthy, egg stealing, charlatan?? She liked foxes, they were pretty, but… Yeah.)

There was magic in the world Lorelei was from. She knew magic users, even. Doctor Strange being chief among them, but… Lori was not so well versed in it. But she’d learned how to pilot a quinjet when she was twelve (thanks Daddy and Uncle Tony! - Seriously though, those two could be dangerous if they ever got together with less than heroic intentions), and Friday and Vision both loved her, so she’d be able to get home no matter where she found herself. That wasn’t as much of a problem; “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” she agreed easily; that was Papa’s mantra, more or less. He spoke of immediate danger, and Lorelei nodded slowly, considering where the portal had opened up. Which was in the middle of a road, not a highly traveled road or anything, but still, a road. “Yeah. Getting caught in traffic would be less than fun.”

She asked for two days for a few reasons. One, to make sure she had time to get home, get the things she’d need, and to tell the Avengers where she’d been. Two, to see her family and spend some time with them. Three, because she had no idea how long it would take Thor to get back and she wanted to see everyone before she came back if she could.

He liked her bow. Well that was sort of awesome. She took it back from him with the same amount of care and reverence for the weapon as she had handed it to him with. “Oh, sure. It’s called Osage, or bowood, for the obvious reason. I’ll look to see about getting seeds, like you said maybe not this time, but next.” She could, however, find out what they needed to do to get the seeds and what sort of care they’d need, how to plant them, all the necessary things. She’d be happy to get enough for groves and groves of osage trees if he wanted; what he was doing for her? She couldn’t even put a price tag on it. Not even close.

When he pulled her back, she grinned at him, eyes bright; it wasn’t exactly where the portal had opened up, but she knew the road she could see, and she’d been able to see the compound’s walls looming not far away. “It’s safe. I can see home from there, Arjay, thank you.”

* * * * * * *


The first thing that Lori did was run home. She didn’t walk, she didn’t job, she ran, hauling ass to where she knew her family would be. She smacked her phone to the ‘lock’ at the gate and slipped through while it was still opening, waving to Friday to let her know she could reverse the movement and close the gate. Lori didn’t slow down till she reached the residential area of the compound, and she never hesitated right up till she got to the door to her parent’s apartment.

She didn’t live here anymore. She was ‘always’ welcome, but let’s face it, her parents were in love, and she wasn’t gonna walk in on that. Still, when Papa opened the door, Lorelei threw herself into his arms and hugged him as tightly as she could.

And then she’d done the same with her Dad, and then her uncles. Of course Uncle Steve wanted all the stories, and Uncle Tony checked her leg and gave her something like ten hugs.

She had two days. She ate dinner with her family, shot with her Dad, chatted with her Papa and reassured all of them that she was okay. And that she could come back when she needed to. When she grew to miss them too much or on the holidays. She’d be back. They couldn’t come to her, so she’d check back in when she could. She found information on Osage, where it would grow, and that it gave fruit, you could eat the seeds, but the fruit itself wasn’t so good for eating. How to plant it… It was a lot like yew, but more fragrant and a more golden color instead of yellow. She sparred with Aunt Nat, and had dinner with the family again. Even Thor came from Asgard. It was GREAT.

The last hour before she had to go, she went back to her room and sat and talked to her fathers and packed up the last few things. Then it was just a matter of waiting, but she wasn’t doing that alone. Pete and Harley came, her fathers, her uncles, her aunt… She was far from alone when she could hear Arjay’s voice say her name, her full name, and call her. She gave them all a smile, kissed her dads, and then stepped through the portal back to Hub. The moment she was back, she smiled brightly to Arjay, “Thank you. So, so much, thank you.”
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#9
And today, Arjay had made a lady happy. This was a good cause, he decided, and he smiled in return as the gate vanished from existence. He wasn’t concerned about the missed opportunity to step through. He’d touched the plane once, he could shift himself (and anyone else, which was the most likely use now) there whenever he wished much more easily and directly than the little round-about they’d been forced to use the first time.

“You know,” he remarked apparently offhandedly, “It is so desperately undervalued these days, but I find that there is rarely a reward so fulfilling and enthralling as a bright smile upon a lovely face.” He gave her a mischievous little smile, giving one pale cheek of hers a demonstrative brush of his knuckle, before turning back to the work, still in progress, at his crafting bench, the better to not belabor the point to the point of making the girl uncomfortable. “Apparently, my little good deed here has won me great approval for the goddess to bless me so.”

He picked up the sword, slowly drawing it from the scabbard, revealing a blade that glowed gold with the power of delicately laid magical script upon it. A pleasant, audible ringing filled the air as the blade came into sight, as if someone had struck a tuning fork that rang softly somewhere. “I need the first not-me opinion,” he mused, letting the sword flip into a back-handed grip so that it lay extended toward the floor as he held it out. “What do you think?”
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Marvel-MCU-2

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#10
Two days with her family had certainly improved Lorelei’s mood. They knew she was safe, and she knew they were okay, and both sides understood what was happening, which was a big step up from her previous situation. And now she had a way to return home when need be, which was fantastic, because Uncle Tony had already started muttering about portal machines and ‘damn magic’ when she’d stopped to explain that she could get back on her own now. Well, not on her own, but without help from their side, anyway.

And Arjay had seemed to be a good sort. She had started on getting the things he had requested, but the first thing she’d done was get some information on Osage, which was a fruit producing tree, and one that was even (mostly) edible. She had a thin folder tucked away in her bag that had all the information that Arjay or his people would need to plant, grow, and nurture the trees. The seeds were coming, but not even the niece of Tony Stark could rush something like that and have it done right, so those would be waiting for her when she returned again.

Arjay was also flirtatious as well as goodly, and the flattery as well as the smile earned him a lighthearted and good spirited laugh, “If only more people felt as you do.” The touch earned another, softer smile, but she didn’t stop him from going back to his work, even if she didn’t take that turn from her as a dismissal. It might have been, but she had spent far too many hours with Tony Stark than to make that assumption. People in the throes of their craft could gain a certain sort of focus, just like how she and Dad could get ‘in the zone’ while shooting. “Well, I shall take the opportunity to reward you with such whenever I can.” The words were spoken brightly, but Lori was actually being somewhat serious; she was grateful, “My uncles and parents thank you, and so do I. When I first arrived, I wasn’t entirely sure I had a way home.” And now that she did, she wasn’t in nearly the same hurry to leave Hub!

The blade was gorgeous, and Lori knew it. Her gaze was appreciative, but critical as she looked at his work. She didn’t touch it, but she came close to doing so, taking a good, long look, “Beautiful. Absolutely. And fine lines, too.” She looked up at him, “May I?” There was only one true way to know how well balanced a sword was, and that was to hold it, to wield it, and thanks to her family (her Dad knew how to use a sword, but she counted Thor Odinson as part of her family, and she knew weapons of all sorts thanks to him) she could wield it well.
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Dungeons and Dragons-Forgotten Realms

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#11
Gods, what was it about redheads, even ones who likely were using some sort of glamour or dye to gain the effect? Arjay pushed the thought aside, knowing he wanted to be on his best footing. “Your family is quite welcome. I much prefer my neighbors in this place to be here by chance. There’s much less of a chance of someone I grow fond of disappearing in a hurry that way.” The smile lost a bit of its sparkle at that, though his lips didn’t waver a bit, but he quickly pushed past it. “I could even draw one of them here for you if you really need it, although it’s not always considered in the best taste to do so. Best to wait unless it’s necessary, so we’ll just remember that it’s an option in a pinch, yes?”

At Lorelei’s request, the blade twirled in the air, settling back in his hands, the hilt offered to her. “By all means,” he said. “By any chance, are you either-handed? It should be as easy to bear in either hand, but of course, a sword is untested until it sees its first battle.” The blade, while looking delicate, felt surprisingly solid when held. The blade curved slightly along the path of the most likely slashes to be delivered with it, and most importantly, as soon as it began to be used… it sang. A melodious tone rang out in the air, a beat suited to fight to, helping dictate the pace of the strikes one might use, at the same time making the heart race, adrenaline rising in preparation for battle. “The tune should only sound on-beat for the wielder or anyone else they wish. For everyone else, it should be a few steps off to keep them off balance.” He smiled, as he watched her test the blade. “It isn’t quite finished yet,” he admitted, “But close, very close.”
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Marvel-MCU-2

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#12
Naturally, Lorelei was still a redhead. Ish. More brown than red, but she had red lowlights, and those ended up becoming highlights when she dyed her hair. But she’d dyed her hair every color under the sun; red, green, blue, pink, white… Lori didn’t see how the color of her hair mattered (seriously, the ‘Redheads, of course’ comments and looks were getting old) other than to show what color she liked her hair. Also, that she liked fun, bright colors. The smile that she returned to him was a somewhat serious, gentle one, “I like it here. But I like being able to go home when I need to, and being able to come back after, even more.” She had no intention of just disappearing. She liked Hub, liked the people here. It was nice to know she could stay, but not have to miss out on a weekend at home or a holiday. “It’s good to know you could do that, but yeah, emergency last resort sounds about right.”

Taking the weapon from Arjay, Lorelei gave it a few careful swings to test the balance and weight, and grinned. She switched hands as he mentioned being either-handed, making a face that indicated that… “Sort of? There are things I can’t do with either hand… But shoot or swing, yeah. My parents made sure of that. My fathers are sort of paranoid.” And considering her family, they had been determined to give her every possible advantage.

But the music… Lori gave a soft laugh when she first heard it, and then only continued to swing, thrust, and parry to keep the song going, because it was beautiful. That she’d been trained to be quietly competent with a sword was evident in her motions, and Lorelei was graceful as well. She stopped only reluctantly, giving Arjay a happy smile, “A weapon that anyone would be honored to wield, Arjay.” She looked at the sword, “Does it have a name yet?”
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Dungeons and Dragons-Forgotten Realms

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#13
“Yes, it is quite a pleasant place, isn’t it?” Arjay agreed, giving the girl a smile. “I thought the same way when I came. Lately… the means of going back haven’t seemed quite so important,” he admitted, considering that for a moment. He paused, then shook his head. “Then again, I suppose that the means don’t ever seem very crucial to the one holding them, do they?” he suggested, brushing the subject off. He wasn’t a fool, he knew a maudlin subject when it slammed into his mind, and he knew to avoid them.

He wasn’t quite convinced at her either-handedness, but he wasn’t going to argue the point with her. What would be the point, after all? “Either paranoid or wise. I’m sure that they would say they were being the latter. I can’t quite say I’d argue with them, either, it all depends on how you let your life lead you.” Still, that made him curious. The girl came to him from Steve, she came armed, she appeared capable…

“A sword can’t have a name until it’s tested in battle. Naming something you make before it’s been tested… that’s the height of arrogance.” Oh, he had a name in mind, but he wasn’t going to actually put the name to it until he knew the sword would serve. “You could help me with that, though, couldn’t you?” He offered her a sly smile, then walked over to an armory closet, opening it. “Choose, and choose carefully, if you wish.”

Unlike the weapons on the wall, these ones were all complete, and all battle tested, most of them by himself. There were a selection of swords of varying lengths and weights, a silvered broadsword at the heaviest, a slim, curved shortsword at the other end of the spectrum. A selection of daggers of various shapes were all lined up on one edge of the chest near them. A few staves, spears, and other heavier and longer weapons were in the corner where they could all be stored together. While he wasn’t a dwarf, there was an axe as well, a brutal looking, heavy thing toward the back, covered over with a heavy cloth as if to hide it. “Help me test it,” he said. “Name your reward for if you win, if you like, and I’ll do the same.” He considered it a moment with a mischievous smile. “Or we could decide when we see who’s won. It could be more interesting that way.”
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Marvel-MCU-2

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#14
Lori nodded her agreement at Arjay’s words; this place, Hub, was fantastic. With so many places connected to it, and so many people that came through from those places and even others that had no portals, like herself, the city was astonishing. And really, if she didn’t have her family back home, waiting and worrying, Lorelei wouldn’t have been in the hurry to get home that she had been. “Well no, of course not. But knowing you? Knowing I have a way back if and when I need it? That’s good enough for me.”

Calling herself either-handed didn’t feel quite right. Yes, she could shoot and fight with either hand, but she had always bat with her left and written with her right, and… And those were things she wasn’t so certain she could do with either. But swords? Oh yes, her fathers had made absolutely sure she could fight with either, or both, hands. Not to mention her beloved aunt, who had taught her how to use a variety of weapons, even more than her parents had taught her. “Oh, of course they would say the latter. And I might even personally agree with them, considering the lives we lead, but most people would say it’s just paranoia.” Then again, most people weren’t Avengers, didn’t call some of the most dangerous people on the planet (and then some!) their aunts and uncles. She shrugged, “I follow the adventure, mostly.”

Arjay had the most beautiful of things! Lorelei had an appreciation for weapons of all kinds. Guns were fine, she preferred her bow, like Clint. But swords and knives? She was absolutely good with those. She’d watched her Papa use a spear once, and that had been awesome. Looking at the wealth of fine weapons that Arjay offered her to spar, Lori was very obviously experiencing a very specific sort of bliss. She dragged long fingers along the weapons, choosing carefully, taking a curved short sword and a longish dagger. She hefted both, gripping them, swinging them, checking their balance, how they flowed, and smiled before she shifted, the short sword held properly in her left hand, the dagger in a reverse grip, the blade facing outward, her thumb capping the pommel of the weapon. That this was a pairing she was familiar with showed in the ease of her grip; Lori didn’t clench or choke either weapon, and instead wielded them with the same amount of training she showed with the sword Arjay now held.

Reward if she won? Lori blinked, frowning. Winning usually was the reward, at least in her strange family (and really, how often did she really win? Against the Black Widow or Hawkeye? Against Iron Man or Captain America?). She shrugged, “Let’s figure it out once one of us has won.” As he said, it could be more interesting that way. And interesting was good. And fun.
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#15
Arjay found himself somewhat glad she’d passed over the dagger that was enchanted to secrete acid. Yes, he could heal away any cuts, stabs and burns they gained while they were sparring, but acid brought back bad memories and old hurts that no amount of healing had been able to erase. Compared to that, he practically enjoyed the touch of the searing sword she’d claimed whose blade glowed a telltale orange while somehow never losing its silvery sheen, or the bite of the darker adamantine dagger she’d drawn.

Her momentary blank look made him smile for a moment, he couldn’t help it. “Yes, your prize,” he mused. “When one wins a battle, a real battle, one gains from it. In the simplest form, you gain right over your opponent’s life and liberty, his possessions, and the right to ransom those things as you see fit. Battles may be fought for many reasons, but always they can be simplified down to that. If you don’t gain from your victory, you haven’t won, or else the battle was not real. If I’m to name this sword, this needs be a true battle, so you, my dear, need to do your level best, whatever the cost, to render me unable to fight back.” He smirked slightly. “And please, remember: Magic elf. Don’t be shy with the blades because you’re squeamish about drawing blood, although yes, I’d prefer it if you didn’t kill me. I can’t raise myself from the dead.”

He slipped the sheath of Starwind from his belt, kissing the moonstone pommel before he set it down on top of the workbench, then picked up another shorter, curved blade from the chest, drawing it out and smiling at the blue glow of the keen blade as it joined the hum of the nameless blade. “Very well. The price of victory will be decided by the victor, as it should be. I’m impressed… so very few in this place have the nerve to insist on their demands only when someone lies physically at their mercy.” And, from the way he said it, he actually meant that. “Come, then, Lorelei,” he said, that slight, unearthly accent adding a musical lilt to her name as he indicated the door.

He led her outside where, despite his words, the fact that they were behind the Moon meant that their exposure to the general public was fairly limited. He flourished his blades, bringing them to the ready as he stood ten feet from her. “On the field of battle, lives and bodies are put to the risk. Despite the fact that I have the ability to heal any wound we inflict here, you enter this battle knowing that you will be hurt, and you will be forced to harm me in turn. Your reasons for entering this battle are your own, and for only you to know until you choose to make them known, as are mine. If you disagree? You may lay down your arms right now and leave the field of battle unmolested. If you agree? Then make my life yours.” That was, probably, the fantasy version of ‘come at me, bro.’
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Marvel-MCU-2

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#16
Lori wasn’t one to flinch from pain; she had trained with Thor and Captain America, she knew she was in for a pound here. After all, the blades they were pulling out to use weren’t dull, and the sword he was putting through its paces certainly wasn’t. But if she was worth her salt, she figured she’d be able to stay away from the worst injuries, and the really, other than dying, the worst case scenario was being put off her feet for a few days or weeks, so…

She’d have had worse, most likely. Arjay didn’t seem quite as cutthroat as someone like Dr. Doom or Whiplash, so… Yeah, Lori was fairly relaxed. A few cuts, a new smattering of bruises, and she could go whine to Dr. McSexyPants. And show off her new battle scars, and… Well, hey, she’d never claimed to have shame or anything. “Usually,” she spoke the words cheerfully, not offended or bothered in the least, “When we spar back home, the winning is its own reward. But I think I like your way of thinking, Arjay. Always nice to walk away with something after a battle, even if it’s just a souvenir.” Harley was huge on momentos, more than she or Pete, but hey, he wasn’t entirely wrong, and it wasn’t like Avenger’s Tower didn’t have a trophy room that was full-to-bursting of pretty much exactly those sorts of things… So yeah, no, she wasn’t going to feel greedy or ashamed of being happy to claim a reward for winning if she did, either.

Maybe she just didn’t have a sense of shame. She was the daughter of Clint Barton, after all. And she was almost, pretty sure that Daddy didn’t really have any shame, either.

“Yeah, I’d prefer to stay breathing myself.” She gave Arjay a small smile, because no, the idea of dying wasn’t thrilling to her. “Especially in a friendly fight.” She laughed at his mention of being squeamish, “You’ve not met my family… But pretty sure Steve here is like my uncle back home… In that blood just sort of happens sometimes. I’ve watched him and Bucky go at it when they’re both in a completely pissy mood. And I’ve watched him throw Uncle Tony off a roof. I mean… Uncle Tony was in the suit, so there’s wasn’t any real danger, but… It’s a thing… Being thrown by Uncle Steve. It’s…” she made a face before she giggled, “It’s like being on a roller coaster in a runaway elevator.” Because yeah, that’s about what it felt like, and she knew it from experience. Of course, she had landed on her feet anyway, thank you, Aunt Nat.

She arched a brow, “Hard to made demands if you’re the one at someone’s feet, though, so… Sort of makes sense.” She liked the way he said her name, it made the name (which she already thought was pretty) even more musical. She followed him out the door. She wouldn’t have balked at the idea of being watched - her fathers had always watched her training, or at least one did, if she were training with the other, so an audience was nothing knew.

Unlike Arjay, Lorelei made no flourishes as she fell into a ready stance, but neither were her movements inelegant. She knew how to move, how to be fluid and ready to move in any direction necessary. He offered to heal whatever injuries they suffered, and that was… Huh. That was sort of nice, to know she wouldn’t have to take home any injuries she didn’t decide to keep. You know, to give Dr. McSexyPants something to do. She’d hate for him to be bored or lonely, cooped up in medical.

Usually, when sparring, Lorelei let her partner make the first move, making them commit to an attack, a strategy, before she moved, but… But this was Arjay’s home, and they were trying to test his weapon, so she nodded to him, agreeing to his terms, and then she moved, with all the fluidity and grace she had, to attack.
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Dungeons and Dragons-Forgotten Realms

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#17
There were so many things Arjay liked to do as soon as an opponent attacked him. A simple cantrip to send a thunderclap ringing through their body was a frequent favorite of his, as was simply drawing them into a small, contained thundercloud. He’d been known to overwhelm them with illusions as well, but this was a battle of blades, and he was going to keep it that way. How else was he to give his new sword the battle it deserved to prove itself? So when Lorelei attacked, Arjay’s blades spun in what seemed to be an unnecessarily showy display at first, until both of her blades were batted aside by the shorter of the two swords and Arjay continued the motion, spinning into a thrust that dragged the singing sword along her waist as he moved in past the reach of her blades, parting her clothes there and drawing a thin red line of blood. Oh, he could have gone deeper, but he didn’t want this to end quickly, not at all. Besides… she was young, she could learn something from a protracted, if hopeless, battle. All the same... “You could just yield now,” he taunted her, before giving her a good shoving blow with his elbow and hip to drive her back, gaining distance between them again (and probably a few cuts from her blades as they passed him).
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Marvel-MCU-2

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#18
Lorelei preferred to let her opponents attack her first, at least, in the situation where she was fighting in melee combat, which didn't happen all that often. Usually, Lori was a ranged asset, using her bow to pick off targets, or a rifle if need be. And if she were sucked into close quarters combat. she used her bow still. Here, she was at a disadvantage, using unfamiliar albeit finely-crafted, weapons.

She kept the dagger close, the back edge of the weapon riding along her forearm. This lent it strength as well as stability, and allowed her to use it to block and Parry blows closer to her, while allowing her to use it if and when she could get close enough.

Hell, she knew she was going to lose eventually… Knowing when your opponent out striped you had been an early lesson. The problem was twofold; she had no team to call in for assistance, and she absolutely refused to cede the fight so quickly. She would lose, unless she got lucky, or he got sloppy, but she'd make him work for it. "Already?" The wound across her stomach stung, but it wasn't lethal. She could keep going. He shoved her back and she pressed forward before taking the necessary step back, forcing him to earn the reprieve. "I mean. if you want to call it... You yield." The smile she gave him was friendly, teasing but not mean spirited.
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