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Ouroboros had been more than slightly surprised when the letter of interest from his alma mater arrived inviting, or rather requesting he attend the Mentorship program, a way to give back to the the school.  Farcical on it's face he was hardly a year out of the school himself, on the other hand one did not in general choose to say no to the headmistress.  The short dossier he received on his matched student was somewhat more intriguing and managed to capture some genuine interest from the jaded beyond his years dhampir.


The morning of the appointed day Owain would wake to a raven perched upon his windowsill with a tiny scroll clasped in its beak.  It tilted it's head as it watched him stir awake and dropped the scroll as it let out a caw that to the ears of the knight enchanter rang out, Beneath the most storied tower Destiny awaits! 


Upon the parchment was writ his next clue, 

A lonely wanderer, wounded with iron, I am smitten with war-blades, sated with strife,
Worn with the sword-edge; I have seen many battles, Much hazardous fighting, oft without hope
Of comforts or help in the carnage of war Ere I perish and fall in the fighting of men.
The leavings of hammers, the handiwork of smiths, Batter and bite me, hard-eged and sharp;
The brunt of the battle I am doomed to endure. In all the folk-stead no leech could I find
With wort or simple to heal my wounds; But day and night with the deadly blows
The marks of the war-blades double and deepen.


Let it never be said a Chun-Faretti lacked a flair for the dramatic.

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Tafod bwystfilod said Owain once he had glanced over the note - and in the tongue of ravens, said: "Thank you for your aid, sable messenger. I have nothing to offer you in these walls but there is a fine cache of nuts and seeds in the corner of the roof above if you would break your fast." The winters here were evidently nothing like the winters of Logres (certainly the people ate and lived better, from kings to the lowest beggar), but he had put away several stores for both his wolf and raven forms in case things proved difficult. One never knew. 


When the raven was gone, Owain spent time pondering the riddle. He had read this one before in his father's library but for the life of him could not remember the solution. Whiskers? No, they do not bear the brunt of the battle unless one has been unhorsed and things have gone very wrong... He stroked his chin thoughtfully, closing his eyes as he pictured a mounted warrior astride a magnificent steed, the man's armor gleaming, eyes sharp as he peered through his helm's eyeslits, his sword at his side, his...


"Aha!" He snapped his fingers. "A shield!" Calling upon the form of a raven himself, he flew out the window, wings beating furiously as he headed for the closest thing Claremont Academy had to a shield - the campus security office. 

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The flight from the dorms to the building holding the small, at least publicly facing, campus security office was brief.  Alighting on the steps outside and regaining his human form Owain came upon a much more literal solution to the puzzle presented in the form of the large Security badge on the wall of hte hallway leading into the office itself.  At a touch it sunk back and to the side revealing a twisting stone stair older than the building that housed it.


Descending into the darkness it became difficult to see as the door closed behind him only faint light flickering from below before he rounded the final bend and found himself in some sort of study.  The walls were lined with books and apocrypha from around the world, tables and chairs for a few people were clustered around one corner and the center of the room dominated by a ritual circle carved into the bedrock below the school.


Sitting at the table opposite his entry was a pale young man not many years beyond Owains apparent age.  A disordered shock of raven black hair topped his long and lean features and almond eyes.  Dark clothes and a heavy black longcoat hid much of his build but he was tall that much was clear even seated.  At his wrist hung a deep black gem with almost pinpoints of light in it's depths fastened to him by a looped golden chain.  When a smile touched his lips at the students arrival his lips remained closed but as he spoke just a hint of pointed canine was exposed.


"You must be Owain."  He intoned ceremoniously, "I am Ouroboros, and if you are worthy I may be your teacher."  

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Just who I hoped for - and certainly fairer of face than my last arcane mentor! Men given to the arcane arts tended to be of the aged variety, and while a young man might not be wise, at least he would not be disagreeable to look at. One had to think of such things when one was considering a long-term relationship. Owain kneeled in Ouroboros's presence, lowering his head as he would for one of the elder enchanters of Arthur's court. "My lord," he said without thinking, then pressed onward. "I am honored you have chosen me. How may I demonstrate my worth?" 

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The Dhampir stood suddenly at the question moving in the blink of an eye to stand before the table now.  "I am neither your lord nor master, you must master yourself or the powers arcane will overwhelm you."  he warned eyes flaring with inner power. 


When he was confident his warning had sunk in Ouroboros deigned to answer the boys question, "Your testing has begun, you are no fool to manage to find your way here."  he explained plainly with a satisfied nod.  "It will however take more than mere cleverness to bend the powers to your will."


As his final words hung in the air without a movement the lanterns lighting the room winked out in tandem.  "Light the room."  The command echoed through the room in the darkness.

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Owain sat for a moment, hand on his chin, in deep thought as he pondered this arcane mystery. He knew spells that could cast a day's light in such a room like this, and a few that would light the corners of the magic circle with glowing flame. But all of those would take time, time he did not have if he was to demonstrate his talents for his mentor. He could transform himself into a wolf and see perfectly well in such light but that would be lighting himself. He considered the relative merits of going from lantern to lantern, lighting them with a spark from his fingers, but decided that would be too obvious an approach. So what then - aha! 


"The men of this age," he said, rising to his feet, "treat magic as if it were beyond the ken of normal men." Slowly he walked to the farthest wall and began to carefully feel around, careful not to make eye contact with the other enchanter as he did so. "But in Logres," he said, fingers dragging along the stone as he hoped he wasn't about to make a fool of himself, "we know it as...something..."


He was sweating now despite the cool of the room, spinning his tale just as he'd seen Merlin do when a demonstration wasn't going exactly right. When he found what he was looking for, it took him a moment to recognize it - it was thick and old, more like what he'd seen in the 20th century rather than the 21st. Before he could delay himself with too much thought, he flipped the switch, and overhead the single old emergency bulb in the room's old-fashioned light fixture flickered to life with a crackle and glow. "...that a man might use, like any other tool." Cast in the overhead glow, he froze, suddenly wondering if this had been the wrong decision. 

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"As is all power."  Ouroboros intoned, "A means to an end."  the silence after his words was deafening until he spoke again, "An unexpected answer is still an answer."  Ouroboros replied to set the boy at ease finally.


"You do not waste your own where another way may be found a hard learned lesson for most."  Not least of all Ouroboros himself though he'd keep that tidbit to himself.


"You have the the mind but have you the temperament." the Dhampir challenged next, "Follow along."  the magus commanded as the circle flared to life and the bulb overhead switched off bathing them both in only the cool grey white light of the circle.  The ritual was no simple thing, though Ouroboros could certainly have completed it himself the weaving of greater magics took time and exacting patience.  This it would seem would be the next test.  Calling on the powers betwixt the worlds and invoking ancient pacts this place would be tied to another not of this world, or this existence.


As the ritual came to a close they stood on floating firmament somewhere else the circle intact on the ground.  The distance was shrouded in deep fog and distant islands floated just out of sight while sounds without echo rang out in the eerie silence.  "This is the Void between."  Ouroboros explained with a gesture to the formless expanse.  "Here your will will be tested and we shall have our answer."  Looking out to the distance the fog cleared between theirs and the nearest island, this one spotted with low grass and a few hardy shrubs.  Amidst them a white hart with a faint glow about it's form stuck it's head up and stared alert in their direction.  "No harm will come to you here in my domain, but there lies your quarry have you the will to bring me it's pelt."

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Owain knelt again, hand on his chin, lost in thought. He could point out to the dhampir-magus that this seemed illusion rather than a true place, and that bringing him an illusory pelt would be challenging. But such talk generally won one the reputation of being a 'smart-mouth', and the wrong sort of intelligence would hardly win him his coveted position at this fascinating young man's left side. In a true hunt at home he would have gone out with bow and dogs and likely emerged victorious, but bow and dogs were far away beyond the veil of ages now - and so was home if he set too much of a mind to it. 


He preferred not to do that. So instead he called upon the shape of a raven again and flew across the void to the hart's island, where he took shelter in the branches of a large tree and pondered his situation. The hart had so far not fled from his approach. He could take a wolf's form and leap upon the beast single-handedly, but he knew from prior experience that such a feat might not catch him his prize and if it did it certainly wouldn't give him an intact pelt. Say! Give -me-an intact pelt! 


Balancing carefully in the tree, he resumed his natural form and called below in the tongue of beasts. "<Great Heorot! One who would offer you a boon comes before you in supplication. May I approach?>" Well there was no harm in being polite, he judged, especially when dealing with powerful magical beasts. 

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As soon as the boy in raven form spoke the stag swung it's antlered head to stare eyes wide and ears twitching listening for sounds of danger.  With a bound it sprung from it's copse and shot across the drifting isle to the nearest edge leaping with abandon into the grey to land on yet another perch nearly entirely shrouded in the thick clinging mist of this place.


From nearby but also everywhere at once Ouroboros voice could be heard, "Cleverness will only get you so far, show me you have the will to be an enchanter knight, it is time to prove yourself."  The fact the Ouroboros not knowing the speech of beasts may have driven the interaction more than the young magician realized, but the point remained.  This wasn't to be a test of skill or intellect but one of will.

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A little peevishly, Owain thought for a moment that negotiating with a great stag of the forest for the right to wear its skin took rather a lot of will when you came down to it! Those hooves were no joke, as he knew from personal experience. But eager to please his manly teacher, he was about to leap out of the tree after the deer when he sensed another presence in the forest - something dark and foul, and hunting the stag in its turn. Considering what to do, he hesitated only a moment before leaping down from the tree and briefly vanishing in the grass below before he emerged as a wolf. 


And not just any wolf! Owain had told Neko, though no one else, of how he'd met the wolf as a lad when roaming near his parents' estate. The wolf had been quite simply the largest he had ever seen, long as his mother was tall and as tall as a child when it stood, all thick muscle and grey fur, with an aura of power on it despite what he later found out to have been great age. It had come down from the mountains, where ice ran thick and men still wore fur and didn't shave their beards, a mighty legacy of the time before Brutus had brought civilization to Logres. 

A dire-looking wolf it was that bounded out of the grass and across the void towards the island that held the deer. He could not speak the tongue of a deer with a wolf's tongue in his mouth, so instead he bolted away from the great prey towards what would prey on them both! 

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He nearly lost his quarry many times in the wild chase across the formless void.  Both Hart and Hunter making seemingly impossible leaps from one island of firmament to the next.  Twisted and strange trees from a thousand realities grabbed at fir and feather alike as Owain pursued them through the forest.


When he finally caught up with the dark hunter the Hart had come to rest and drink from a pool below.  A waterfall flowed from the island Owain stood upon and down to till the rocky pool before tumbling off into emptiness.  The Hart was barely visible behind a large boulder and the Hunter stood atop the waterfall on a rocky outcropping peering below.


He was a hulking primal form, clad in dark leathers and furs from myriad creatures.  A great bearskin cloak hung from his shoulders and atop his head stood an antlered helm that hid his features from the nose up.  Only red pin pricks of light visible in the depths of the visor.  A large black beard flowed down his chest and clutched in his hand an ebon bow taller than Owain with sinister barbed arrow nocked at the ready.


The Antlered helm swung to look down on the boy in wolfs clothing and a low voice intoned patronizingly, "Finally caught up boy."  


Below in the clearing by the pool two fauns of the same brilliant coat as their father emerged from the underbrush and hesitantly approached the pool to drink.  The Hunter looked down with a satisfied smile, "We both hunt the same quarry."  the dark one spoke his tone hollow and inhuman.  "Your master bade you fetch it's pelt."  a low laugh emanated deep from the hunters chest, "I have no need of it."  as he shifted the cloak revealed a quiver clad in a pure white matching the quarry below.  "Be a good lad and flush the stag from it's cover and I'll grant you the pelt your lord master requires."  he stared down at the Hart and it's children, "I will take the other trophies for my hall."

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For a moment, Owain was indeed a boy; his ears folded back on his head and his tail between his legs as he froze in fear at the sight and smell of a being that strongly resembled his father. Wherever the Green Knight might be, in such a time as this. For another moment, even as he did his best to master his shamefully shaking limbs, he was about to let the Hunter take what he wanted. Owain son of Bertilak was not soft when it came to killing, not the way even boys of this age so often were. He had hunted from the first day he could carry a sling into the forest after birds, and knew that God had placed animals upon the Earth for the use of men. But he also knew other things - about a man's honor, whether in combat with beasts or men. Still in the shape of a wolf, he shook off his fear and crouched before the hunter. 


"It is a weak hunter that pursues babes-in-the-woods - and a frail one that would let someone else battle the most challenging prey," he growled, not quite in anger but certainly in deep suspicion. "I think thee a sidhe sent to tempt me from my path - or a devil in the same guise. What say you, man-of-the-woods?" he added challengingly. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Hunter's eyes narrowed at Owains defiance and he shifted rising from his haunches as if he might cuff the boy for his insolence.  Instead however he let out a low quiet rumble of laughter.  "I need no one to fight my battles for me boy."  he growled through his thick beard and mustache. 


"We hunt the same quarry," he repeated with a sneer, "If you think you can get the Hart first be my guest."  he snickered with a shake of his head, "Or be a clever runt and work with me to claim your masters prize and let me claim mine."


It was a simple offer, though threatening in it's own right.  "I am no fair folk nor demon,"  he rumbled darkly, "Merely your better giving you a chance to prove yourself to your master lest you disappoint him."  He turned and drew back the arrow, "Now roust the Hart to give me my shot boy."

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