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You know, I stopped shaving to think of something to write here. That worked out well.

Will Cooper @Coop

36, Male

Author / NG Mod

Old Skool

Vancouver, CANADA

Joined on 4/28/04

Level:
60
Exp Points:
39,190 / 100,000
Exp Rank:
151
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Rank:
Sup. Commander
Global Rank:
14
Blams:
31,767
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98,578
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60%
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Deity
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Medals:
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Gear:
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Coop's News

Posted by Coop - December 26th, 2011


Christmas
Hannukah
Kwanzaa
Xmas
Yule

Lots of people on this planet celebrate something at this time of year. I guess the Muslims also celebrate less queues, when the sales die down, as well.

Happy festive season to you, if you are someone doing something, I hope you received what you want. If not, due to religious reasons or just a general lack of spirit (boo, hiss), take a humbug from the jar, that's all you're getting this year.

It may not have been the best year for me, but I've been determined to make the most of it, so that when we come to 2012, I can really do well for myself and not think "what if..." about anything to do with 2012.

I've got a new canvas hanging in my bedroom now and perhaps I'll accompany that with some new shelves and perhaps even curtains / bed linen, since that would set to rest the redecoration process that I set about with some two years ago. I wouldn't say it cost me my relationship, but it didn't go anywhere towards helping matters. Still, that's behind me and somewhere out there is a new young lady, who will hopefully one day accept the title of "Mrs Coop", though I'll bet she doesn't know it yet... not that I'm stalking her, it's far too cold for that.

Sales start today, I won't be so silly to try and go shopping today, perhaps tomorrow, when we'll see if I can grab a bargain. Who knows.


Posted by Coop - October 14th, 2011


As some of you may be aware, I recently entered the Madness Day Lit competition and I had a whale of a time over three separate days writing a piece about Hank pursuing Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi through his network of tunnels and eventually out of the North African country. I did my part in the judging, ignoring my own piece and was judged to have written the second best piece, so I won $50 for my efforts.

Spectacular!

As I've just spent over £1,000 on parts, labour and other shit for my car, I've had a small hole in my finances that needs something a little more than Polyfilla to deal with. So, after scraping through the change jar again, I was fortunate enough to get the cheque through the post this very morning. It's quite novel, seeing a Newgrounds own cheque appear on one's doorstep and now it presents the unusual problem of having to see if the bank will allow it to be invested in my account. I've never tried to bank foreign cheques before, let alone cheques that have a cartoon tank as the only logo on them.

Still, I'll be spending this money well, as soon as it gets credited to my account.

Thanks to Tom and the guys.


Posted by Coop - July 31st, 2011


COME ON YOU IRONS!

Right, so I'm off to see Maiden tonight at the NIA in Birmingham. I've been reliably informed by Bahamut that this is an awesome show, as he caught their descent through the UK, as they hit Manchester on Wednesday. I'm expecting a subtle blend of their classics (Number of the Beast, Iron Maiden, Powerslave, The Trooper etc), with their new material from their latest album (Satellite 15 - The Final Frontier, El Dorado, When the Wild Wind Blows)

I've got a decision to make in which Maiden T-Shirt stays in the car while I hit the gig - I'll probably keep the Flight 666 shirt in reserve, while using the Nordic Frontier T-Shirt for the majority of the gig, with the UK Frontier T-Shirt that I'll buy tonight halfway through the gig, as I really start to sweat.

All of the band that I applied to join (Shadow of Intent) will be there, most of them in the pit. Not wanting to get any more bruises, as I get plenty from cricket, I'll be happy to stay in the seated areas, though I doubt we'll be using the seats much.

Sure, it's going to be a weird experience, as I'm going with my ex-girlfriend (I got her a ticket as an Xmas present), but with her best friend and boyfriend (drummer from aforementioned band), we should be able to worship at the altar of Harris, Dickinson, McBrain, Smith, Gers and Murray.

IRON MAIDEN'S GONNA GET YOU!

***EDIT***

Okay, I've had about 48 hours to recover and get my fluid levels back up, my voice vaguely normal and reminisce about what happened. We got there at about 6, when the doors opened, despite saying on our way into Birmingham that "it's only Airbourne, we're not missing anything". We found our way to seats, programme in hand and got ready, taking in the spectacle. 24 Marshall Amps and a tiny drumkit in front of the banner for Airbourne was what greeted us. The wait was getting bad, as we were excited and just didn't want to do anything but get on with the show. Dead centre seats, facing the stage, meant we had a near perfect view of the stage, about half a mile away from us, due west.

Spending time dicking about with my camera and Andrea's phone, we pinpointed out friends in the pit - we chickened out and paid for seating, not really expecting them to be used after the lights went out... and the stage was filled with six of my heroes.

So, the lights went down for the first time and on come Airbourne. Yes Bahamut, I know they sound a lot like AC/DC, except for one main thing - I can understand Brian Johnson's lyrics. Joel O'Keefe stepped to the mic and through the racket of bass drums, backing guitars and a Motorhead theory of "everything louder than everything else", he belted us with a few strings of Australian machine gun fire of encouragement. Rather than whipping us into a frenzy, he whipped us into confusion.

Anyway, I'd rather not dwell on that. They got off the stage, I started to get really excited and passed a little more time with watching the crowd, chatting away and more importantly, saving my voice for the inevitable.

The strains of Doctor Doctor, by UFO signalled the start of the main event and the crowd started to get angsty, as the huge black curtain rushed forward. As the four minutes seemed like four hours, we waited patiently, wiping sweat from palms of hands and the Bass-synth kicked in, signalling the start of Satellite 15 - The Final Frontier. The video supplement only helped to set the scene for the massive rush of emotion, screams, applause and music, as we launched into the set proper.

This show is where we see how good the album Final Frontier is. They played five songs from the new material (Final Frontier, El Dorado, The Talisman, Coming Home and their 11 minute epic When the Wild Wind Blows) Not one of these felt out of place, though I might have personally chosen other songs in the mix, we ended up with a very good set.

Setlist:

Satellite 15 - The Final Frontier
El Dorado
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Talisman
Coming Home
Dance of Death
The Trooper
The Wicker Man
When The Wild Wind Blows
The Evil That Men Do
Fear Of The Dark
Iron Maiden

Of course, we were naturally rather fucked by the end of all of this. Summoning up untold supplies of energy, we bellowed out lungs out for more. They answered out prayers and six gods amongst men strode back onto the stage, delivering a fitting salvo of three more tunes to sate the masses one last time:

The Number Of The Beast
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Running Free.

On reflection, seeing Janick dancing around a merry jig at the start of Wild Wind, with a post-apocalyptic city scape as his back drop just cracked me up. The part when Bruce spotted five Santa Claus wannabes in the pit was great - they got what they wanted, to go with their sauna trip. I bet they were fucked after the day was done.

Afterwards, we retreated, watching a circle dance in the pit expand to "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life", before waving goodbye to to tour crew, driving the gear to Cardiff for the gig on Monday night. No sign of the six, who were probably grabbing a pizza and heading to the bar for a beer or two.

Thanks guys, one more thing that means I can now die a happy man.

Here's Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris (and Nicko McBrain) performing either The Talisman of Coming Home... I forget which. We did get over 300 photos of this gig though. Thanks Bex.

Iron Maiden


Posted by Coop - July 6th, 2011


Mounted on Dawn chaser, Coop rode out of town and into the wilderness, towards the battle front that had become the Portal over the past few years. The past winter had been bloody and many valiant defenders of the portal had left, either with injuries too great to continue the fight, or they had succumbed to injury. Those that were left seemed not to have enough fight in them to repel the seemingly relentless invasion forces.

Glad to feel the wind rush through his hair once more, Coop leaned forward in the saddle and urged Dawn chaser on. The town disappeared in the distance and the grassland gave way to more barren looking plains, almost completely devoid of life. A few hours later, dusty and tired, Coop allowed Dawn Chaser to rest as they stopped for water at a stream. The occasional corpse of a fallen submission littered the fields around here, but these days, there was little that could be done to prevent that. The war had raged for over a decade now and with knights and soldiers patrolling the field in dwindling numbers, the peasants had been forced to relocate further afield. Coop remained buoyed by the fact that the decaying corpses would benefit the land once the farmers returned here, though he knew that he must play his part to ensure peace returned to the portal at some stage.

Leaving Dawn Chaser to drink her fill from the stream, Coop wandered a little up the bank, looking at a rocky outcrop, next to a small waterfall, he scrambled up, to get a view over the plains, scouting for skirmishes.

In the distance, the telltale rumble of combat was evident, though none could be seen. Over a days ride from the front, Coop decided that the time to take a short while off had presented itself. He sat down and took out a cloth from his pouch, wiping the dust from his shield and his armour. In the sunlight, the shield shone once more and suitably impressed, he shook the cloth off and replaced it in the pouch at his belt.

After a brief nap by the waterside, he was awoken by the sound of Dawn Chaser pacing over the nearby rocks, the clacking of her iron shoes on the hard surface snapping him out of his dreamless slumber. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, before stretching. Another quick glance to the horizon and no discernable change meant that this could still be taken. He turned and walked down the path around some of the larger boulders, back towards his faithful steed and stopped, as sunlight reflected off something and caught his eye.

Stepping over towards the large boulder, he glanced around it and was rather surprised to see a bow, seemingly cast of pure gold lying on the floor, unguarded and with no-one else in sight. He walked around the rock, checking to see if there was anyone else, but he saw neither hide nor hair of anyone. Stooping down by the bow, he grasped the surprisingly heavy bow and picked it up, seeing the strand of golden filament that made the string so fine and tough. Almost unwilling to pull it, he feared the bow might break if he tried to pull the string. The metal felt solid enough, yet it flexed when he grasped the string and pulled back gently.

"No arrows... that is careless of the owner to drop something so valuable here." He mused, as he put his weight into the frame and drew the string back properly, checking it for balance. As he did so, sparkles of golden light coalesced into his hand and started to resemble an arrow. Slightly confused by the goings on here, he pointed the bow skyward and loosed the arrow towards his destination. As he did so, the shot was accompanied by a crack of thunder and he rocked back on his heels, regaining his balance and rushing to his vantage point.

He looked up at the sky and saw darkening clouds, rushing overhead, obscuring the sunlight. Turning his gaze to the horizon, he saw them start to gather - creatures, shrouded in the darkness making a mad dash towards him. Their pace was frantic and Coop knew that they would be upon him within the hour. Dropping down from his rocky vantage point, he scrambled down the path to the waiting Dawn Chaser. Grabbing her reins, he walked her close, the bond between rider and mount very close after their many travels together.

"They are coming for us, Chaser. We would not outrun them together. Return to the town and fetch help. Reverend, Haggard, Auz, even Bahamut, if our luck holds. I will stand here and divert their progress. They will know you." Letting go of her bridle, Coop stood there, waiting for Dawn Chaser to gallop away. Slowly, she regarded her master, then she nodded, seemingly in agreement, before wheeling around and trotting slowly away. As she reached the dusty trail, she started to extend her stride and eventually galloped off.

Alone, Coop returned to the summit of the boulder, across the stream. His vantage point was well chosen, being surrounded on one side by the stream, steep sided boulder on two more and the fourth side where he had approached from was easily defendable by one man in a pinch.

The light was fading as he gazed into the distance and the rumbles of thunder continued, as did the advance of the masses of bodies, misshapen and twisted. Coop drew his sword and drove the tip into the soil next to the boulder, carefully balancing his shield against it, ready to grab them in a last-ditch melee defence. Quietly and with great care, he stepped back to the top of the boulder, just as the first few spots of rain started to darken the dusty surface of the landscape.

The many creatures of the swarm seemed to make up a writing mass, rolling, interspersing and constantly changing as it moved, the excited chatter of rabid mouths, controlled by addled brains. They had their eyes set upon a target - the lone Knight, standing atop the rock, with his cape billowing out behind him, rain streaming across his face.

Patiently, Coop waited out the first hour, as the creatures of darkness approached him.

"Back to sniper duty. What fun! I shall be a burning light in this hour of darkness." He declared to himself and drew back the string of the bow. The arrow flew with purpose and another clap of thunder rang out across the land.

28,000 Blams


Posted by Coop - May 18th, 2011


WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARIIIIIIIIIII IIIIIIOOOOOOOOOOOOOORS!

*ahem* sorry about that. I just can't control myself. I'm over the fucking moon.

I've not long returned from Sixways, Worcester, where my team, the Worcester Warriors have beaten the Cornish Pirates, for a place in the Aviva Premiership next season. We've got some great team chemistry there, a great chance to avoid the drop next year and the will to take it on.

Sure, Worcester has put the fans through the mill at regular intervals, but we have done what we set out to do nine months ago. I'll leave you with a video of me and my lack of voice, but I will return with a round up tomorrow, when I've had a chance to calm down.


Posted by Coop - April 28th, 2011


Another year, another news post about how great I am. Face it, you all know this to be true.

Experience:
2011 Target: 25,530
Current: 25,530

Well, as predicted, I gained exactly 3,650 Experience, so next year's target will be the same again, but 3,660 as 2012 is a leapyear, thus a total of 29,190

Exp Rank
2011 Target: Top 100
Current: 114

Well, it's really difficult to make any headway when everyone close to you makes the same experience as you every day. Predicting only 14 spaces in a year seems kind of harsh, so I'll up the bar, despite last year's failure and I'll shoot for the top 90, blindly

Level
2011 Target: Level 48
Current: Level 48

Ho hum. Perfect depositing leads to pretty damned good predictions in this case. Level 52 will be the target, assuming that they don't mess up the levels, by adding new ones with the redesign... Maybe I know something you don't, maybe I'm just shitting you up, who knows?

Blams
2011 Target: 28,000
Current: 27,510

Ouch, I was 490 short this time. A shame that I didn't make any more of a gain, but I want to get in the 30k barrier by this time next year, so I'll set the modest target of 30,000 for next year.

Saves
2011 Target: 61,000
Current: 62,813

A missive swing of 1,813 additional saves. Bearing in mind that I pretty much missed Clock Day last year as well, I'm impressed. Now to look to the future and 87,000 Saves for the end of year 7.

Total B/P
2011 Target: 89,000 B/P
Current: 90,323

Blams were not made, but Saves were. That gives me the milestone by some distance, it has to be said. This year will be when I ascend to 100,000 B/P, that you can be sure of. My target will be 107,000 B/P, which is just what I've predicted for Blams and Saves gains, so we'll se how I do.

B/P Rank
2011 Target: 14th
Current: 14

Right, now I'm getting to the sharp end of the stick here, so the only prediction I can give is a whole 4 ranks gained between now and then. That's right folks, my aim is to reach the top 10

Posts
2011 Target: 21,000 Posts
Current: 20,723

Just shy of the goal I set myself - a few weeks posting at 8 per day would have made it. I'll set the goal at 25,000 Posts by this time next year.

Flash Reviews
2011 Target: 2,100
Current: 1,979

Wow, I dropped a bollock here. Mainly because I've haemorhaged reviews in the past few months, plus an unplanned hiatus from reviewing just left me down in the dumps a little. Let's see if I can push for 2,350 Reviews by then, just over 1 per day

Flash Review Responses
2011 Target: 1,250
Current: 1,214

Damn, didn't quite manage to come up with the goods - if anyone wishes to help me by giving me a lot of flash that gets review responses, send me a link and I'll get to work. I'll state a target of 1,400 Flash Review Responses for this time around.

Audio Reviews
2011 Target: 1,100
Current: 1,052

A net gain of 5 reviews. Damn, that sucks. Right, sticking with the same target, I'll see if I can get the musical vibe back sometime this year.

Art Reviews
2011 Target: 400
Current: 283

Not exactly the greatest start to a career of reviewing art, but I just need motivation. I'll get there. I'll set the target to 500 Reviews and I'll see if I can find someone inspiring to review for.

Total Points
2011 Target: 139,000
Current: 139,887

So close to 140k! Alright, I think I can do better this time around. I'll gun for 165,000, which is a gain of 25,000 Points, but not insurmountable. I just need to get myself up there with more of the good stuff.

Until the 8th birthday, gents.


Posted by Coop - April 19th, 2011


Right, I've been beating myself up over being single for too long now. Time to get down to some writing.

Thanks mostly to Andrea for this, as Tanith is her character, but thanks also to Bex, Si, Dave and Gilly, for their input as well, nothing you guys have told me is criticism, they are your characters as well, without your inspiration, this story would not exist.

Plain and simply put, I really need a Literature Portal here on Newgrounds to show off my work with, but a redesign should be near enough for me to lose sight of where everything is, so all is well. Until that point, it's on fanfiction.net, so go figure:

Prologue
Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Go ahead, read it, comment, make me feel happy that people read my stuff. If you want to discuss it in detail, please direct yourself to the story thread, where we can get more in depth and you can pad your post count (and so can I!)

Happy reading!


Posted by Coop - March 13th, 2011


Sitting at my desk on the 13th of March 2011, when I consider what's happened over the past few days, I'm not sure I can find the words to express myself. I'm listening to the local radio station, broadcasting the rugby match between Worcester and Bristol, as I try to come to terms with those feelings within me.

After many tense discussions with my girlfriend, we've decided to call it quits. This split was a lot more amicable than the last time we did it. A heated argument gave us the messy split last year and we patched things up, only to meet the definitive end here and now.

Clichés abound, mainly because they hold true. We have agreed to try and stay friends. It would be difficult otherwise, due to the fact that we enjoyed RPGs and games of Magic the Gathering with mutual friends. I've never been here before and it's a strange feeling to come to terms with.

When we broke up in the first place, I was relieved, as there had been a lot of buildup for all the wrong reasons. Reasons for breaking up tend never to be right, but as I think about this, we were just moving away from one another. I don't think that either of us was committed to the relationship and making it work out, which is sad, but when you've not made much progress towards setting up a home together in four and a half years, which eats away at someone who is looking for this, such as me.

I can't have a go at Bex, because she is a free spirit and certainly enigmatic, with the way that she wants to live her life. I guess that I wasn't compatible with how her plans have become apparent since we got together. I think that she has become a lot more of a person in the few years that I've known her so well.

Where do I go from here? Well, I've got my pastimes to keep me going, but it's going to be strange being about without having to worry about the other half for a while. Perhaps Miss Right is just waiting for me and things will happen, who knows what the future holds? I think I'll just try to relax, as I don't want to go diving into another relationship with my emotions as they are at the moment. I'll have more free time to get on with the things I've enjoyed over the past few years and perhaps my cricket will improve because of it.

I'm happy that we've sorted it out, but there is more than a tinge of sadness there, as it wasn't what I felt that the result would end up being. I've got a decision to make as to whether or not I hop on the train in August and head for London for a Newgrounds meetup alone. I can do it, so long as the money permits, which is a big problem, not just for me, but for everyone. I've got tickets to Iron Maiden in July with her and some friends, so for the sake of a damned good night out, I hope that we can stay friends at least that long.

She said that she would miss my family - the sad thing is that I'm not entirely sure if she will miss me - the clingy boyfriend who tried to get her to do stuff that she didn't want to. I'm still the only one that is (was) close to her that doesn't like the dog she acquired. Sure, I did some stuff that she wanted me to, but her patience with other aspects of my life had waned and her curiosity for other things had intensified.

I've been writing this for hours now - sitting in front of the computer, going away, trying to distract myself and then coming back for another shot at it, but it's really hard and I still can't find words to express it. Partially happy for the fact that neither of us was going anywhere as we were, so we're both taking a step forward. But partially sad for the fact that I've got four and a half years of memories with this young woman who I fell for and who fell for me. They are mostly good, but there are sad ones there as well. We were an item at my best friend's wedding and the holiday that we took in the Lake District in 2007 was unforgettable, to focus on the good.

Yes, I can go on and live my life anew, without her companionship as a lover, but it remains to be seen as to how I'll progress now regarded as a friend. Can it really be that simple a transition, as we both know each other intimately? This is a new chapter in the book of Coop and 2011 hasn't started too well, with the car crash and this hanging over my head, as well as trying to be the white knight, which also backfired on me.

I've had friends calling me, since Bex has arranged that we don't go Role Playing tomorrow night, since being thrust into the friendship situation, as opposed to being a couple might open old wounds. She knows that I wear my heart on my sleeve and that busting into tears at a friend's house isn't the way forward. I just wish that they would give me a little space, since after the messy split, they got me around to talk about it and after listening to me for five minutes, it was just them slagging off people I knew, which didn't help. I'll take my time and will come to terms with it. It still feels too weird, too fresh.

This time yesterday (10.30 pm), it was me being all pissed off, because so many things had come between us as a couple and no allowance was made by her for quality time spent with me. Some say that I have the patience of a saint. I disagree. I know that my temper has let me down more than a few times in this relationship and that is something I do regret. I don't regret standing up to her father, since he is just a bully and from my own personal experience, I won't tolerate it. At the end of the day, there were mistakes on both sides and if either of us sit back and look at it honestly, it was never going to work out entirely. Dysfunction is a dynamic of relationships tat you just have to work around, to a degree. There was too much in this one, as our interests were not shared to such an extent that we wanted such a different life each.

And so ends a shitty week. Let's hope for better things next week, eh?


Posted by Coop - February 18th, 2011


Answer me this - why do arguments centred around one's family always happen over the smallest things?

This evening, I was in a pretty good mood, having left work for the weekend. I grabbed a change of clothes, slapped on my shoes and headed for my girlfriend's house. Nothing new there and while I knew we were expecting a full house (her dad, brother and his girlfriend had returned from London with a van loaded with gear and that took up most of the driveway, as he can't seem to comprehend how long my car is. Perhaps it's a dominance assertion, who knows?)

All was going swimingly, people had conversations to share and we were all getting on like a house on fire. We'd slapped a film on, as the sky box was broken (again) and we were getting around that little issue. Then the man of the house (present for about 3 days a month on average) decides to get his curry out of the take away box and all hell breaks loose. Why? Because Bex had all of the bowls in the dishwasher at that moment in time. Personally, I'd have thought that was alright, as there were plenty of plates and you can slap the madras and rice onto there and Bob's your mother's brother.

But no.

As her dad launches into a tirade about the fact that all seven bowls are in the dishwasher, I interjected. I was sick of hearing over the various conversations with Bex about how her dad gets when he starts rolling, so I decided to take a bullet for her. After all, there is no point in arguing or losing one's temper over something so trivial as this. We weren't deliberately stopping him from eating, we hadn't purposefully stacked the dishes to one side and all of a sudden decided to throw them in the dishwasher on Friday afternoon as an afterthought. But that's what he thought.

I received the brunt of the attack and even a brief lecture on how members of the house of Islam wouldn't even stoop so low as to insult someone in their own home. I merely retorted, stating that I was "protecting my interests".

Yes, perhaps I did overstep the mark and from my point of view, it's high time that someone did. It worked for the Egyptians, after all :P I just hope that he got the message that I am not a man to be crossed. I wouldn't speak to Bex like that and since he's treating people like adults around here, I'd hope that he wouldn't either.

Sure, I may have stirred up more trouble than it's worth, especially when I've got to go out for drinks tomorrow night with them, to celebrate a family birthday, but if he wishes to play tyrant, then I can show him that this sort of "domestic abuse" will not be tolerated, especially when my nearest and dearest are the victims.

I half expected him to throw me out and I'd have quite easily have walked away, though I would have offered Bex the chance to escape with me at least for a while, until the smoke cleared - possibly in the nearest pub.

I've no idea how I kept my cool there. Especially when I sat there less than six feet from him and listened in as you could hear him metaphorically break his shotgun, remove two smoking cartridges and replace them with two more, before cocking it once more and taking aim. I took it like a man and I'd do it again if I have to.


Posted by Coop - February 11th, 2011


"The man appears to have an aura about him. You will know who it is, when he walks through your door. He will show you a shield, for which he requires a coat of arms. I shall not interfere with your work, save for telling you to include this on the coat of arms." The hooded figure standing before the herald pulled a small piece of parchment out of a baggy sleeve and handed it across. "You will of course be reimbursed well by both myself and the party involved."

"How do you know these things, Ma'am?"

"We have our ways, as do you with your craft, no doubt." The woman within the robes pulled out a coin purse and placed it on the herald's book, before turning and heading for the door. "You will know, when you see him." With that, she walked out of the door, leaving the dumbfounded herald to peek inside the purse, gasp at the contents and hurry to hide them away. In his confusion, he looked at the insignia that had been presented for his next commission.

"This looks strange. I wonder what she wants him to have that for."

After a tumultuous night of dreams, visions and disturbances, Coop emerged from his room at the inn. He breakfasted and made his way to the stables, where he tended to Dawn Chaser, brushing her down and feeding her well, before tipping the stable hands, to make sure she was kept happy. Looking over his belongings with his saddlebags, he spotted the shield, which looked like it had seen much better days. Chunks of metal had been cut away and holes had been punched in the body of the shield, by crossbow bolts, reducing the effectiveness of the guard dramatically.

"What do you think, my girl? Should we see if they can repair it, or is it finally time to give in and have a new one?" As much as a horse could, Dawn Chaser looked to shrug at the knight, who sagged back at her. "Fine, I'll make my own mind up then." He turned and walked out of the stables, muttering about talking to a horse.

Coop walked into the armourers smithy and the warmth of the forge hit him. A few people stood about chatting idly and they nodded in his direction as he approached the anvil. A heavy set man pulled a set of tongs, holding some glowing metal out of the forge. A young lad rushed over from the bellows and took the tongs, holding the metal on the anvil, as his master commenced beating the metal flat. Sparks flew and the conversation stopped momentarily, muted by the strikes of the hammer on the metal, clinker falling off the slow-cooling metal and the smith's tool, as he stuck the metal block between purposeful strikes on the metalwork he was fashioning.

Some minutes passed and the smith returned the metal to the forge, he finally looked up at the knight. "Good morning, sir. What can I do for you?" Coop lifted up his battered shield and presented it to the smith, who looked at it critically. "This looks practically beyond repair, sir. Might I ask what you've fought to do this kind of damage to the shield?"

"My story is long and not very interesting. At least, not when told by me. Sir Zendra is in the tavern - perhaps you would ask him, for he has the gift of a natural orator. I can see that you are a craftsman of fine pieces of armour and weaponry. Might I enquire if you have any shields as a suitable replacement?"

"I might have something that interests you, sir. Come with me." He nodded to the two older men that had gathered in the forge for warmth and a brew and made his way out of the room, followed by the knight.

The armourer shut the door to the back room and made his way over to a chest at the foot of his bed. "Forgive the surroundings, sir, but I prefer to keep this sort of thing reserved for the attentions of those befitting such pieces." He pulled a key from under his vest and opened the lock, before sliding a bar to one side. From the other side of the room, there was a click from the wall. Satisfied, the armourer shut and locked his footlocker, before pushing a part of the wall aside and walking into a concealed back room.

He lit a few candles within and beckoned Coop closer. "Here, is my masterpiece. Dragonhide alloy, I call it. A skin of dragon scales is overlaid with thin sheets of metal on either side, to make it better reinforced and lighter too. I have put more of it into the edges, to prevent shearing, but it is still lighter than a wooden heater shield." Hefting the large sheet of metal, the armourer passed it to Coop, who picked it up, uncertainly.

"It is so light. Surely something this light could never push aside a well aimed sword blow."

"My craft is far from precise, yet we do not make these claims willy-nilly. Here, I'll show you!" The man picked up a crossbow and pointed it at the shield.

"No! If you're so confident, can we try it on something that might not kill your customers?"

"If you insist. I am confident, I have seen it work." He took the shield and stood back, holding the shield, confidently. Coop levelled the crossbow and sighted for a spot that would not be fatal to the armourer.

"Just so you know, I'm not entirely comfortable with this." He squeezed the trigger and the bolt flew into the body of the shield. As it struck, the bolt collapsed on itself, splinters of wood scattered left and right. The crumpled flight and the bolt head fell to the floor and the force of the impact rocked the large man back towards the wall.

"There, you see sir! It works and hardly a mark on the shield!" He pulled a cloth from his belt and polished out a scratch.

"I see. This is highly impressive, but I must talk price with you. After all, fine craftsmanship such as this doesn't come cheap."

"Indeed not, sir. Ordinarily, there would be a charge of thousands, if not tens of thousands of Grounds Gold. However, you have caught a few eyes out there and as such, the price has come down quite a bit. Care to make me an offer?"

"I always hated this - either I overpay for the merchandise, or I insult the craftsman."

"No risk of that today, sir." The armourer smiled pleasantly at Coop, who looked at the shield in his hands, placing it on his forearm and feeling the weight and balance.

"It seems so light... So strange that it could do what I saw with my own eyes. How long did it take you to craft?"

"Two days to prepare the hide, a further day to craft the metal veneers and about a half day to assemble it all. I have made shields quicker, but those would be for the masses, as opposed to those such as yourself."

"For that time spent alone, you would be talking a thousand, plus the materials involved... two thousand Grounds Gold?"

"If you pay me three thousand, I believe we will have an accord, sir." The armourer smiled as the knight flexed his arm with the giant sheet of reinforced steel on his arm, as if it were made of papier mache.

"A deal we have then. Do you have them decorated, or should I seek someone else for that?" Coop fumbled for a piece of paper at his belt and scrawled out a note. Sealing it with wax and his own seal, he turned to the armourer and shook his hand.

"Across the street is a herald. He will sort you with a design and he can also find a craftsman capable of decorating the shield for you."

"I will return when the money has been paid to you, then." Coop left the armoury and paid a courier to take his note to the nearest depository, before crossing the street to the herald's study.

A small sign above a doorway was all that gave indication of the herald's location. Coop opened the door between the butcher's shop and the apothecary, making his way into a hall, leading to a flight of stairs. As the door shut, he noted how quiet it was within, as if all of the noise of the street had been sucked away by the wooden finish of the walls. Following the only path available to the top of the stairs, he arrived at a second doorway, marked "Tobias Entwhistle - Herald" in flamboyant gothic script. He tapped politely and waited a few seconds, before opening the door and stepping inside.

Seated behind a desk, pouring over various tomes and grimoires was a young looking man, who was bearded and wizened. As Coop entered the room, he looked up over the manuscript that he was working on and removed his glasses.

"Can I help you, sir? It is unusual to see visitors in my line of work, yet you seem confused."

"I was sent here by the armourer, across the way. He said that you would be the man to speak to, regarding a new design for my shield." As Coop described the size of the shield, the herald stood up and walked over to the knight standing before him.

"I can see that you are a man of many facets. I know the armourer, so give me a day or two, I will discuss it with him. When you turn up to collect the shield, it will be decorated to your liking. Payment upon delivery of say, one hundred gold?"

Taken aback by the generosity of the herald, Coop looked at him questioningly. "Are you sure?"

"Absolutely certain, sir. Rest a while and you will not be disappointed." Confused by the sudden waves of generosity, Coop walked back down the stairs and headed for the tavern. As he shut the door, the herald pulled a scroll from a stack on a shelf and unfurled it. "Yes, you have purpose now, my friend." He collected a few small boxes and made to leave his study.

For the next few days, Coop spent his time honing his archery at the butts, allowing him enough time for his more serious wounds to recover. He was not an idle man by nature and the inactivity frustrated him somewhat. A few friendly faces came and went and bidding farewell to Zendra, who rode off in the direction of the king's fort, his thoughts turned to the next day's trials and tribulations.

As the sun rose on the second day, Coop rose from bed and washed, checking his bandaged wounds and their dressings. He ate sparingly and made for the armourer's forge, where quite a crowd had gathered. Catching sight of the approaching knight, the crowd parted and allowed him passage into the forge, where he greeted the armourer, with a firm handshake.

"Come, Sir Coop. It is prepared for you." The craftsman led his customer into the back room, where the herald stood, next to an easel. There was a large object balanced atop the easel, covered in a sheet and Coop could only assume that it was the shield, balanced there for painting.

"Greetings! I have finished the work and I am sure you will not be disappointed." With a huge grin on his face, the herald pulled the sheet off the shield. Coop was confronted with a green shield, upon which was a lion, standing proud over the vanquished corpse of a unicorn. A script wrapped itself around the legs of the lion, bearing the inscription "Tutela quod Scientia"

"What does that mean?"

"Protection and Knowledge. You protect us all by removing those that would seek to harm us. I felt it was the right thing to symbolise you, plus the lion being a noble beast and the unicorn being primal and mythical, more chaotic than someone of your stature. Does it please you, sir?"

"It is dry?" The herald nodded towards Coop, who stepped forward and picked up the shield, striking a pose. Suddenly remembering himself, he pulled a pouch from his belt and passed it to the herald.

"This is not the right amount, sir."

"You do not trust me? I will sit here and let you count it, if you please."

"Sir, you misunderstand. It is far too heavy for one hundred gold."

"Indeed it is. You work is worth far much more than that, so I have paid you five times what you asked for. My reflection of your craftsmanship." As Coop turned to walk out, the armourer stood there with a massive grin on his face as the herald tried to come to terms with his windfall.

The crowd stood subdued as Coop exited the forge, each man eager to catch a glimpse of the man and the shield that news of had spread through the town like wildfire. Coop whistled and Dawn Chaser trotted over, so he could mount, giving one and all a glimpse of the shield's design. Raising the shield aloft, Dawn Chaser reared up and Coop let out a mighty bellow, as the crowd cheered.

"FOR NEWGROUNDS!"

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