A City Betwixt

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by DrowsyPangolin, May 27, 2016.

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  1. Oliver's hand reached upward, grasping hopelessly as the last sliver of moonlight faded above. He struggled, trying in vain to force his limbs to swim as they had done for most of the night, but the water was cold, and his body was tired. Down he sank, his body growing numb from cold and from exhaustion. As the moonlight faded in the depths, he shut his eyes. He could feel a buzzing in his head, his body's last desperate plea for air, but it was over. Panic had left several hours ago, and hope not too long after that. Help was not coming, not out here. As he sank below the waves, a final thought passed through his mind. 'Well then, I guess this is how it ends...'

    As his consciousness faded, everything went dark. Not the earthly sort of dark, no, it was a cold, empty, pit. Oliver stared out into the blank nothingness that surrounded him, or at least he thought he did. He couldn't tell if his eyes were open or closed. Suddenly, a brilliant light cut through the void. The priest squinted, covering his eyes with his hands as the darkness around him seemed to crack and give way. As the light spread, Oliver uncovered his eyes, looking down to see his body seemingly disintegrating beneath him. For a moment he was in shock. Finally, he let out a scream, but there was no sound, still the deathly silence prevailed.

    Oliver jerked as he awoke. He coughed violently, gripping his chest. For a moment, he tasted salt. The former priest looked around confusedly. 'I should be dead... but then this place would be... you're kidding.' Oliver's gaze darted around the room. He found himself sitting against the wall within a large, ruined building. Both the walls and the floor seemed to have been hewn from granite, and various inscriptions and images he didn't recognize covered the room. At one end of the building was a great door, made primarily of some sort of blackened metal. On the other end, a simple, undecorated altar, made of carved white stone, had been erected. Behind the altar, a large chunk of the wall was missing, revealing a cliff's edge and a grey sea.

    Oliver rose to his feet, pacing around the room. He was surprised to find his hat on his head, as he had lost it years ago. At the moment, however, that was the least of his worries. He was curious what this place was, and why he was here. Outside, the sound of a storm could be heard, licking against the stone walls of the apparent temple. The wind howled in through the opening in the wall, and the gate rattled against the storm's wrath. “What the hell is going on here?” Oliver mumbled to himself, though he had a sinking feeling that he knew the answer. As he grappled with the strangeness of his circumstances, a series of lights began to fill the temple. Amongst them, the priest noticed human forms beginning to take shape. It seemed he would not be the only one in this new world.


    There was a moment's hesitation, and then the cruel bite of cold steel. The pain was excruciating, aching and throbbing as the life slipped away from her, but then there was peace. The darkness washed over her, and she took comfort in the all-encompassing silence that followed. The voices had finally stopped. Here, she could rest easily, forever. It was all she had wanted, an escape from the constant burden of her guilt. She spoke softly to the darkness. “Finally, it's over.” Her words echoed into the blackness for a moment... and then another, and another. The echo grew louder and louder. Eventually, the voice began to twist into one different from her own. Anabel tried to scream, but her own cries were drowned out by the cacophony of echoes that ravaged her ears. A crack of light bit through the darkness. As the blinding light washed everything away, Anabel heard the voice change again. “It's never over.”

    The young woman gasped, her eyes darting around the room. This wasn't right. She was supposed to be dead. No, she had to be dead. Her hand went to her throat. Nothing. She was fully intact. She shook her head, tears welling up in her eyes. 'This wasn't supposed to happen. Why?Why?!' Her eyes fell to the ground, and she saw it: The long, slender blade rested at her side. She stared at the weapon with bewildered eyes for a moment, before reaching out a hand, cautiously. Her fingers touched the hilt of the weapon softly, but her head was immediately flooded with a cacophony of voices. It was hard to make out what the voices were saying, but they seemed to be accusing her, cursing her. Anabel yanked her hand away from the weapon, her body shivering. She pulled her hood over her face, her hands still shaking, as tears rolled down from her eyes.
    #1 DrowsyPangolin, May 27, 2016
    Last edited: May 31, 2016
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  2. Red. He had started seeing red the moment the cultist had spoken the words that had sealed his fate: "The Gods work in mysterious ways, Vito. Ka-Alaa is no different,". Hundreds of good men, his men, dead to fickle beings unsatisfied with twenty years of violent slaughter? Red was all he saw, but the red swam with the indentations of men drawing cold, dusky pink knives. His sword and his ax were in hand, and he swung, slashed, stabbed, jabbed, punched, kicked, headbutted...

    He was aware something was wrong. Blood poured from them, and mingled with the blood spurting and spraying from him. He was aware that one of them was on his back, jamming something against his neck, something that was spreading cold fire up and down his spine. He was aware there were at least two blades buried in his guts, and then that fire was everywhere, from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. Despite it, despite the slackening of his fingers and the fact that his spine felt like it was locking up, his spree never stopped. Men fell before him, red mingling with red, until the fire began to fade. Red faded to brown, then to black. He hit his knees, and then he kissed the dirt for the last time. No dramatic visions, no realizations, just silence. He was home, but there was no one present to greet him.

    He floated in what the old priests had called the Prim, the place where the Gods supposedly passed their judgement. Dark, and dark, and more dark, his guts drew tight and his jaw clenched, impatiently waiting for the inevitable. He had spilled much blood, and whether it was for good or for evil, Nis, goddess of dreams, never took kindly to an abrupt end to life, and to the stories she weaved for those who lived it. He was caught off guard by the spark, that quickly swelled into a massive scar of light on the black background. He did not recoil, but instead opened his arms, accepting it with equal parts wonder, fear, and respect. It was finally his time, finally...

    He awoke with a start, sword and ax still clenched in balled up fists, leaping to his feet with a hoarse war cry, arms thrown out to the sides, jerking his head to the left, the right.. He saw a comfortably dressed young man with a wide brimmed hat, as well as a cloaked woman, a massive blade laying at her side. Breathing heavily, he checked his flanks, noting the door, the altar.. The stormy cliff. This was not in the texts, or in the books, this was new. Quickly jamming his weapons back into their respective sheathe and loop, he patted himself down, checking his belongings, before straightening back up, a husky cough escaping his throat.

    "I guess the priests were wrong, after all... Unless I broke the rules so harshly they considered me too harsh for Hell..!" He attempted a chuckle before fishing into a bag on his side for something to drink.
    #2 ArmoredScout, May 27, 2016
    Last edited: May 27, 2016
  3. "If I am to believe Arnold, the Necrophage should be growing in that field down there." Maulnar said to himself.

    Despite the little illumination coming from the moon, the old man could clearly see the fields of thorned plants at the bottom of the hill he stood upon. Were it not for the warning of treacherous ground he had gotten before, Maulnar would be down there collecting the plant's fruits, despite the pungent smell they gave off. He desperately needed them for their unique properties. They were filled with acid strong enough to burn a man's flesh away within seconds, but with careful processing they could be used for a potion strong enough to revitalise even his own weak body. He was desperate for them.
    "No need to hurry." Maulnar reassured himself. "They're not going anywhere." It didn't help alleviate his stress much. He had felt his old body grow so very weak over the past few days, and became impatient for a new remedy. "This worry is killing you faster than time itself, fool. Calm down, already."

    Tired from his trek through the muddy forest, Maulnar decided to get a good night's rest before collecting his precious fruit. He walked back into the forest where the acidic smell would be caught by the trees. Once far enough in, he made camp next to what looked like a relatively comfortable tree. Far from as comfortable as a bed, but that was a luxury he hadn't had in several weeks.
    Maulnar quickly created a campfire and conjured up walls around him, by raising the earth, to protect himself and his tree from most predators. A last check of his pockets revealed nothing but his bag of candy and a handful of strawberries he'd found during the day, enough for a last snack before embracing the comfort of his dreams. He closed his eyes, and everything went dark.

    Dark. So very dark. It was frightening just how dark it was. No matter where he looked there was nothing, no matter how close he thought he'd hold his hand to his eyes it wouldn't show. There was no ground beneath him, he couldn't feel his own body. Eventually, Maulnar began to question if he even had a body anymore, if he was even seeing anymore, if he even was anymore.
    "No. I think therefore I am. I must be dreaming, yes, I remember falling asleep against the tree. I remember the taste of the strawberries, I remember the Necrophage. I am so close, but this.. This doesn't feel like a dream." Maulnar reassured himself of his existence. He recollected the times he'd been aware of dreaming, but during those times he'd always been visible, he'd always been in control of his environment, not this time. Was this a nightmare, or was he..
    "Finally." He heard a voice say but was unable to make out if it was his own or not.

    Maulnar awoke, but remained silent so that he wouldn't alert predators around him. It was something he'd taught himself over the years, although he quickly realised it wasn't necessary, as a quick glance revealed he found himself inside of a building. Had he been moved in his sleep? It wouldn't have been the first time. Perhaps he wasn't dead afterall, there was a young man standing there robed in black garments. A priest perhaps? To his left he could hear the sounds of crying. A woman with a large blade by her side. Another man seemed to have gotten up just then, weapons in hand ready to be used, but then sheated as though he just realised he didn't need them after all.
    "Excuse me. Does any one of you know where I am? I don't seem to be where I fell asleep." Maulnar said as he rose to his full height. "And what do you mean by 'too harsh for Hell'?"
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  4. He was tumbling end over end. A tiny scrap of wood carried him aloft through the snow, hurdling straight towards the street below. The remains of the wall flew further than Lain Amelie, fragmenting against the road while he plopped into a pile of dingy urban snow built up on the sidewalk. Everything hurt, but it was better than being dead. The ragged looking man stood up slowly, bloodied splinters falling away from his arms and a general shakiness falling over him as he made sure his legs were still working. Shouts came from the building above, banging against wood as they tried to break through. It was an easier jump now that he'd made a path, and without a second to lose he set off running into the blizzard. The world at street level had become a terrifying haze of gray and white as snow piled onto and obscured everything, including himself. There were teams working the perimeter, pale cloaked ghosts running through the weather in search of him. Every alley he cut through, every street he hobbled across hosted swarms of invisible phantoms. Colorless eyes watched him from the flurries and with each turn he expected to find a sword waiting for him. He threw his hand up against the wall, stopping to catch is breath and panting in the cold air. It seared his lungs, but he needed the wake up. Restored, he flung himself out around the corner and dashed down the sidewalk like a madman. Just a bit more, and he had three blocks between him and the ambush.

    "Ooh," The man exhaled sharply as Lain ran into him, and the two tumbled end over end. Before he even discerned the conspicuous rain cloak on the boy Lain had already fetched the knife from his belt, even if he was innocent, and he wasn't, there was no taking chances anymore. He jammed the weapon down at the stranger's throat but before he struck true a tremendous impact carried him off his mark and spilling onto the road. The kid he'd tried to kill was still rent bad, he was crying out and clutching at a shoulder spurting blood onto the snow. It was about the only color left in the streets, except for his hair which carried a similar hue. Lain was starting to notice things, time was beginning to slow down for him as he realized the severity of his situation. Someone else was on top of him grappling for his weapon. He flicked the lock on his sword and their hands darted away from the moving blade. He turned it in his hand, getting ready to ram it into the writhing mass of cloak and muscle on top of him but the new assailant sprung away from him in a hurry. Lain staggered to his feet while his match righted herself and tore her hood down and out of her eyes.

    It took more will than he should have had left not to just curl up and die right there. He could already hear orders and boot heels through the wind. He had the choice of going to the imposter duo ahead of him, straight into whoever the real cloaked soldiers were, or waiting to get ground between the two. He wasn't spiteful enough to wait for the the third, and so raised his sword. Lain dropped his stance, getting ready to dive into it and holding his blade at the ready, point leveled straight for his opponent's heart. Their eyes locked, the world around them stood still. The worrying noises of pursuit faded away into nothing but his own heartbeat. She tensed as if she were about to go, and he rushed forward. His chest exploded in agony and his legs gave out beneath him. He toppled face first into the snow, crying out and grasping at his chest as his mind reeled. The woman put her knife away and plucked her compatriot from the snow, earning a pained "Watch it," from the injured youth. He forced himself onto his back, clutching at his chest and finding the barbed end of a crossbow bolt jutting from his sternum. He couldn't hear his heartbeat anymore, and the grays and whites of the outdoors were all starting to blur together. A familiar face jut into his vision just in time for the darkening to begin.

    Lain swung about and flailed wildly, waving his arms like a madman and screaming with inane fury as he tumbled onto the temple's granite floor. He was blind, or at least blinded by panic because his spell didn't break until he pummeled his fist straight into the slab beneath him. Pain rippled up his arm, and that reminded him that there were no longer splinters gouging into his back, nor snow searing against his neck.

    "Bullshit," He groaned and fell, from all fours onto his rear, as he clutched at his hand. Things slowly settled into his scrambled mind. Bewildered half to tears he slowly looked up from the alien and dark floor to his ruined surroundings. Wide eyes swept the room, working their way down to the top. His expression slowly transformed as he took the room in, mellowing from gaping wonder to a somber understanding of what had happened to him. The sour look growing on him only worsened when he realized that there were other people in the room, witnesses to his spectacular entrance. Had it been an entrance? He had no recollection of whatever this place was, there was no hope that his sordid life had been all a dream. It didn't feel like an afterlife, but it seemed more peaceful than anything he deserved. Finally, he found his sword, collapsed and on the ground, which was better than being in his hands where he'd have swung it about.

    "Eh," Lain scooted himself back to the wall as he looked between the other shapes in the room, trying to read some kind of mood between the strange crew gathering in what had to be a church of some kind. "'Too harsh for hell?'" He repeated after the giant, having missed the warrior's entrance. "So all of us bit it then. That's at least... reassuring."

    The abbey's doors had been locked ajar, allowing smoke to billow out and the fire within to shine and dance in her sight. Vivian Lenitz knelt in blood, watching her home and everything within slowly burn out. The whole town looked similar, everywhere she could crane her head to see fire leapt up at the clouds and smoke from within Edeur. The sky was lit a terrifying orange on all sides, it was impossible to tell how late the hour had grown. Ashes and cinders fell from the sky, burning petals thrown to usher in the coming war. Consciousness lapsed out once more, and when next Vivian awoke she was on her side. The screaming at the abbey was coming from someone else now. It had become her own hideous clock, each hour counting another death for her heart. The noise was fainter than before, and with the sound of rushing water it came to her that she had been moved. The bridge rose up overhead, and every now and then droplets of water splashed on her from the river she laid by. She raised her bound hands to wipe away the water on her glasses out of reflex, only bumping her bandaged wrists against the glass and smearing blood against the lenses. She sighed fitfully, feeling her breath hitch on some chest wound or another. Before she could sink further, a hand gripped her by the shoulder and pulled her upright. It was the doctor from the reformists, the same man who had told her that she had use to the new government as a professional treasurer, that she wouldn't be allowed to die while she was salvageable. He had said so with a deadpan expression while he took away her hands. Another was with him, one she didn't recognize. He was holding a dagger.

    He was saying something, reading her title and some gibberish she could no longer comprehend about the people's court. She only saw the fire over his shoulder. Its enveloping warmth, even from this distance, it spoke to her in feverish crackles. She couldn't make a sound, but she writhed with the closest thing to laughter her state allowed.
    "Is this charge a matter of comedy to you, Miss Lenitz?"
    She had nothing left to say. She had resolved not to cry or stammer, not to shake or wail so long as her resistance could buy another second's peaceful living for her sisters. They were all gone, she had died again and again with each of them these past few hours. Her resistance had bought them only the few seconds it'd taken a mob to subdue a frail sister of the capital. So many beds they had used before, but all they really needed was one pit. Tears were running down her face, carrying away the blood and grime but burning all the same. The mask she had worn for so long finally cracked, she was a shaking wreck without an ounce of nerve once more. Every sensation she felt was burning. The petals were falling faster now, whispering as they caught flame in the air. The reformist jumped at her, pushing her down and driving the knife into her neck. She felt it driving into the dirt underneath her. The look of satisfaction on his face lasted only a second before terror struck it off of him. The doctor was already running, and the man with the knife was quick after him. His boot nudged her onto her side as he fled.

    She understood nothing, just looked serenely out across the water. The lights across the river dimmed slowly as crimson trails crept into the water by her face. The fires were beautiful. They were clean, writhing bolts of light that shined so impossibly bright against a back drop of nothing but filth and darkness. Her thoughts were slowing down, something told her she was already long dead. She wished, just for a moment, for that fire to come for her and everyone else, to save them from what they could do. It made her despair more than any abuse of the flesh could, to want such a horrible thing, and then it passed. There was someone on the far side of the river, staring at her. He wasn't running like the others. He looked broken.

    Vivian awoke with a start, bending forward. Her scarf fell, whole once more, into her lap, and she stared in disbelief at its vibrant, unstained color. She was breathing heavily, and then her hands went to her throat, fingers prodding for a wound that was no longer there. She could feel again. What a nightmare, she decided, before looking up. The sounds of violence and rushing water had been replaced by the terrible racket of a storm outside, and she found herself in a darkened temple of some sort. It wasn't the abbey. And this, is surely a dream. There were voices, those of people she didn't recognize, coming from the room. She was, herself, tucked into some tiny alcove and sitting against the wall. Her legs where whole once more, her clothing repaired and, frankly, in better care than any of their uniforms had been in the past few months. The others were gone, and this wasn't the entrance ceremony of any afterlife she had ever heard of. That was no great wonder to her. She poked her head out, looking into the church at the collection of bizarre strangers. Maybe she seemed just as ridiculous to them, it occurred to her. After a second, Vivian stood and stepped out, clutching her scarf by her side. She was moving automatically, still, not quite sure what this adjustment meant to her life. It was a retreat from whatever reality she had come from, at the very least. She didn't know what to say, but refused to hide her presence.
  5. Heat.

    Nothing but sweltering heat surrounded Alana as her knees sunk into the sand. The shifting grains enveloped her dry skin, providing minimal distraction from the throbbing headache assaulting her senses. Every frantic beat of her heart made her entire world pulse. She collapsed onto her stomach and a gust of wind blew more sand onto her back. It scratched at her bare skin and peeled some of it away. She forced her arm to move, slow and creaking, towards the water bottle at her side. One weak shake told her what she already knew -- it was empty. There was still food in her backpack, but she knew it wouldn't do her any good. Her heat stroke was progressing too quickly. She couldn't move. It was over. There was nothing more she could do.

    Any tears her body was able to produce were immediately wicked away by the sand starting to cover her head. She didn't dare open her eyes or mouth for fear of letting some in. Stupid. She was so stupid. Ezra tried to warn her, but she didn't listen. She never listened. And now it was too late. She would die here, never having reached her goal, too weak and insignificant. Perhaps God would have mercy on her in the next life. The thought didn't bring her much comfort, and she couldn't bring herself to believe it anyway. She'd caused her family too much pain. She would never be forgiven.

    Slowly, the darkness behind her eyes gave way to new depths as her vision stopped pulsing and the pain melted away. This was it, she thought bitterly. Permanent rest. It was as if all the sand simply fell away into some bottomless void, no longer surrounding her, and she dared to open her eyes. Not that it made any difference; the blackness she saw made it difficult to tell if she had eyes at all anymore. Was this her fate? Floating in an endless void for all eternity? She felt like she could move, but it was too dark to see herself and tell whether or not she had a body anymore. That is, until a faint light cut through the shadows. Alana squinted at the glow, marveling as it seemed to slowly grow brighter and more vibrant. Was that Heaven? She felt like if she squinted hard enough, she could almost make out the Pearly Gates somewhere in the light. Something tickled at her feet. She looked down instinctively and froze. Her body was falling apart underneath her, turning to the same sand she'd fallen into. No, Heaven would not be her fate. She closed her eyes again and welcomed oblivion.

    Suddenly, she awoke, feeling like she was boiling. Didn't anyone know how to work the A/C around here? "Emelia!" she grunted, hoisting herself off the floor. "How many times have I told you not to touch the thermostat without your father's permission?" She opened her eyes, dimly wondering why she was sleeping on the floor, and the illusion was shattered. This wasn't her home. Granite walls, a massive metal door, sounds of the sea. She looked around, feeling colder by the second and seeing other people she didn't recognize -- and an altar. Everything came rushing back to her. The desert, the void... death. She was dead. But this place looked... suspiciously like a church.

    New life flooded her as she realized she might have been sent to Heaven after all. Scanning the others, Alana found one dressed in priestly garb (@DrowsyPangolin). She assumed he was working for the church they were in and approached him with wild eyes. "You!" Her voice shattered the tense atmosphere, surely drawing everyone's attention. "You have to send me back. I'm not done! I have to say goodbye, Ezra and Emelia are waiting for me!"
    #5 Moogle-Girl, May 31, 2016
    Last edited: May 31, 2016
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  6. Oliver lept back, startled by the sudden arrival of the armored man. His hands flew in front of him, a reflex he had picked up years ago. As the armored fellow relaxed, though, so did Oliver, his hands returning to his sides. The man seemed friendly, though more than a bit boisterous. He seemed a warrior, in the most thorough sense of the word. Oliver waved, chuckling quietly at the man's attitude. "In my experience, priests have a knack for that." A slight smirk crossed his face. If not too harsh for hell, the man was certainly too loud for it. He stuck out a hand to greet the hulking mass of metal before him, but was distracted by yet another voice. An odd looking old man approached them, questioning where he was. Oliver turned, removing his hat and scratching at the back of his neck. "Well, friend, I'm not sure if any of us is too certain where we are, but as for what happened to us, and what probably happened to you..." A newcomer cut in, a roguish-looking young man. 'So all of us bit it...' Oliver motioned towards him. "That, unfortunately, does seem to be the case."

    Oliver looked down at his hat, still curious as to where exactly it had come from. If he remembered correctly, he had sold it, or perhaps traded it, quite some time ago, yet there it was. He began looking over all the people in the room. There was the warrior, the odd fellow with the blue beard, and the dark-haired man who had so eloquently described their situation. There was also the quiet girl with the sword, who seemed to be crying, and a woman wearing a uniform that reminded him of a clergywoman's attire. He wondered for a moment if she was shocked at her new home. His pondering, however, was cut short as another woman appeared. Her clothing was scarce, and she appeared quite muscular. She also seemed convinced he was somehow the one in charge.

    The former priest placed his hat back on his head, raising his hands in a defeated manner. "I'm sorry, miss, but I'm just as confused as you are. I'm afraid I can't be of much help in sending you back." As he looked at the woman, he noticed something odd on his arm. Through the wrappings, he saw a tinge of red. Pulling loosely at one of the strands, he noted numerous wine-colored stains running up his arms. 'Well, that's odd...' He shook his head, motioning at the people around him. "Well then, we're all dead, then. And, judging by how you've all reacted, I'm guessing you didn't expect this either. Regardless, it seems we're all here together, so, um, I'm Oliver."


    Anabel brushed the tears from her eyes, watching as the newcomers gathered together. She still couldn't understand what was going on. Nothing made sense. She rose to her feet, bracing herself against the stone wall as her knees quaked beneath her. She carefully stepped towards the group, her face still partially masked by her hood. Her eyes glanced back to the sword for a moment, and a cold shiver washed through her entire body. She turned away from the weapon and joined the group, standing beside the blue-clad woman with the scarf. The apparent priest introduced himself. He had a point, she supposed. They were all here together, for whatever reason. She struggled out a reply in a soft, strained tone. "My name is Anabel."

    Outside, the storm seemed to be slowly fading. The winds no longer whipped against the temple, though the sound of a soft breeze could still be heard. The sky still appeared overcast and grey, though it seemed calmer. As the sound of the storm's raging faded, a new sound took its place, a sound like soft singing. The voices, if they were voices, seemed muffled and distant, and one could scarcely hear them within the temple's walls. In time, small whispers seemed to join the singing, those too, though, were unintelligible. Anabel's eyes darted toward her sword for a moment. No, these voices were far too calm. They didn't sound angry, on the contrary, there was a deep sort of melancholia to their tone. The blonde woman looked toward the door of the temple as the sorrowful choir continued outside.
    #6 DrowsyPangolin, Jun 1, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2016
  7. Vito seemed oblivious to the reflexes of the priestly type, nodding in acknowledgement of the towering ancient before him. "Of course! Don't you know who I--" The realization slapped him so hard in the face that he cut himself off, hand finally digging out the old flask jammed deep into the pouch on his side. None of these people would know who he was, and it was perhaps best to keep it that way, considering the company. He took a cursory glance about the room, taking a step to the side, towards the Priest, as more newcomers seemed to materialize from nowhere. The cloaked one was approaching from her darkened corner, and a strong, older woman had just popped in from nowhere, heat still radiating off of her form. He was certainly dead at this point, though none of the folken around him seemed fit to be in Hell. So then where was he?

    Quietly, he lifted a hand and unclasped the small clip that attached his metal mask to the well worn coif that was wrapped around his head, tipping it up just enough to slide that flask to his lips. Beard hair tumbled its way out, as it was wont to do, neatly hiding his scarred visage from the rest. One draught, two draughts, and his throat and guts seized up, nearly sending him to his knees, coughing and sputtering violently, dropping that flask, spraying the salty contents onto the stone floor.

    "Vinegar! VINEGAR!" He cried, angrily stuffing his beard back into place and shoving the mask back on, stomping forward and snapping the flasks seal back into place. He took a few breaths, looking at the priest and the woman, both having introduced themselves. "Oliver, and Anabel? Fantastic. I used to know an Oliver, he had a hell of an arm!" He reached out and clasped that mans grip, firm and strong, before turning his head to the rest of the group. "My name is Vito, son of the Bythas family of Khull, pleased to make your acquaintances!" He stuck out one boot, and dropped into a condescending half-bow, head remaining upright, gaze cast along the remainder of the group from inside that cage of iron and chain wrapped around his head. "And your names would beeee?"
  8. "Right." Maulnar softly as he dropped his head. His death had been so peaceful, part of him still wasn't convinced it had happened at all, but all the others were so certain of their death. He must be dead to be among them. But how ironic was the timing. He was but one day away from preventing this to happen. He had comforted himself into sleeping before going through with it! Had he worked through the night, he'd still be alive. How the old man wanted to hit himself for his foolishness. More people appeared, each only confirming what he already knew at that point.
    Again, he sighed. It happened. It had to have happened eventually and he shouldn't complain about that. He's certainly lived quite the life, unlike the rest of this gathering of people. Given their youthful appearances, their deaths probably weren't because of natural causes, apart from perhaps the priest and the muscular woman making the last entrance so far. Armed, violent, or feeling for wounds not there, most of the others were probably killed.

    Maulnar removed his hood so that others may know what he looks like. "Maulnar Davion Evermead." He then said in response to introductions being made, while assessing the others. Oliver, a tall young man. As a priest, people naturally will be more reespectful and trusting towards him. Will he become the temporary leader for this party? That would be fine. Next came Anabel. A tiny girl who seemed almost hesitant to share her name. She was crying just then, but had a sword about her own size, if you could call the crudely shaped piece of metal a sword. He didn't believe her to be a fighter.
    Then the warrior spoke up. Vito, son of the Bythas family of Khull. Not a name he had heard before, despite the man being confident people would know him simply by appearance, even if he caught himself before finishing that statement. While his armour was unique and definitely notable, it wasn't something Maulnar had ever seen before. A known warrior rarely was a good sign. It would be best to remain vigilant around that man.

    The old man reached a hand underneath his cloak and retrieved an orange and a red piece of candy. "Would you like a sweet?" He asked with a gentle smile, his hand extended towards Anabel and the dainty girl clutching her scarf.
  9. "B-But," Alana stammered, "you're a priest! You are a priest, right? And this is Heaven, riiight?" It had to be right. It just had to be. Nothing made sense if it wasn't. She'd lived a good life, taking care of herself and her family (where possible) and getting everything she could out of life. She never slacked off, never faltered, never gave up until the last possible moment. She would never be sent to Hell. Not to mention the fact that finding a clergyman in the fiery pits was the least likely thing she could think of.

    While pointing accusingly at Oliver, Alana realized that something was missing -- her spiked gloves. She always wore them on dangerous treks in case she encountered some deadly wildlife that would need fighting off, but now her hands were bare. After a moment of panicked searching of her person, she found her backpack still on her shoulders, swung it off, and dug through it. Everything was still in there: her water bottle, her food, and her bedroll, with the addition of her gloves. How did they get there? She supposed it didn't matter. Maybe it was for the best that they weren't on her hands; she could avoid tipping her cards to the others until it was necessary.

    Alana's conversation with Oliver was interrupted by a boisterous man about her age, clad in a full suit of armor. "Alana," she said, frustration clear in her tone. "Listen, I need to go back, as soon as possible. My husband and my daughter don't know I'm not coming home. And if you can't help me"--she jabbed a finger at Oliver--"then find me someone who can."
  10. Lain could only sigh into his chest as the slightly dressed woman plead her case to the priest calling himself Oliver. The afterlife meant for him wasn't full of tearjerkers and the kind of people who had loved ones to leave behind. He hadn't, not anyone he deserved. The presence of the others at least made some kind of sense. The boasting warrior with the metal mask, unnerving and seemingly ever watching, had to be swathed in blood no matter what cheery exterior he was trying to show the group just then. He had added to Lain's list of woes in a way he didn't think possible, as the overwhelming stench of spilled vinegar washed in over the musty interior of the run down reception area they'd been dumped into. As the introductions ran on in the room he scratched at his jaw, deciding for himself if it was better to introduce himself or bolt out before a room full of people with more swords and armor than him fell into whatever postmortem mania his own psyche felt like it was gradually grinding towards. Everything was too natural, too neighborly, and every part of him screamed that some breaking point approached where it would all come back to them.

    Lucky for him, someone made the choice for him by continuing to petition their white haired pastor. He brushed at his forehead in frustration as her finger came up. What's he going to do, call his manager? "I think that priest's retired, lady. Give the man a break." Oliver appeared to be caught in a journey of rediscovery from his hat to his arms, the same as the rest of them, and what he had said so far only placed them all in the same boat. They in weren't any heaven he'd ever heard of but he gave that one the benefit of the doubt. "Lain, by the way," he added after a moment, looking over the rest of the group to make his introduction. He felt completely outclassed as a stranger in the presence of a blue bearded giant and a tiny girl bearing a sword her own size. It was beginning to give him the impression that ordinary people didn't get selected for whatever fresh hell they were in.

    After the girl next to her introduced herself in a strained tone that threatened more tears, Vivian smiled down at her. "Hello, Anabel," she said, clasping her hands in front of her waist. That didn't seem to be the kind of meet and greet they were performing, however, as they continued down the list of names. She found herself plainly intrigued by the people around her. The warrior named Vito felt like someone out of the pages of a history book. She did not find bloodshed or prowess in battle endearing but there was still something novel about meeting something so removed from the customs of her former life. The old one, Maulnar, was the only person she felt unequivocally positive about the presence of. He was proof that the system worked in some way, that there were still natural deaths in the world. Added to that, he was the only one present with the wisdom of old age and in death he was surely free of any decay of the mind that brought. If they were to become lost, someone without the haste of the youthful was there to guide them. It was unfair to draw such conclusions based only on what she saw, and so she held him, but it made a starting point for the humongous amount of learning laid out before her. The woman named Alana was saddening to watch, but she couldn't help but feel relieved that she had gone to the other clergy present, as there was certainly nothing Vivian could do for her. They suffered opposed kinds of loss, she realized. Vivian knew exactly what happened to those she loved, and there was finality in that. The woman trying to get home would probably never know, there wouldn't be an end to her ordeal.

    Her eyes were drawn away by the glint of candy. She looked at Maulnar's outstretched hand a moment, and as the orange hit her eyes she found tears welling in them. "No, thank you," was her answer, and an encouragement on her part for Anabel to take the sweet. She smiled again, this time for herself, and decided that it was time for her introudction. "I am Vivian Lenitz." It was surprisingly easy to drop the habit of appending her job title to that name, probably because she was properly freed of it. "It is a pleasure to meet you all," she said, speaking up after Lain. Lenitz had little to add after that, as she found herself watching and waiting. There was what Oliver would do next, of course, but there was also the assembling voices outside. It was a sound somewhat familiar, and that made her nervous. By degrees her stare mimed Anabel's, settling on the doors.
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  11. Oliver chuckled at the warriors unfortunate mishap. It appeared, though, that not even a belly full of vinegar was enough to curb his bravado. He introduced himself as Vito. Oliver had already taken a liking to the man. He was a warrior, which meant he had likely spilled quite a bit of blood, but the priest wasn't exactly in a position to judge him for that. Killer or no, he seemed a jovial fellow for the time being, and it couldn't hurt to make friends. The old man introduced himself as Maulnar. He was odd in comparison to the others, and not only for his appearance. He had evidently lived a long life, and if his story was to be believed, he had died rather peacefully. Oliver nodded to him as he introduced himself, still wondering what had brought them all together.

    Oliver shook his head as the muscular woman continued her questioning. "Miss, I'm sorry, but I have no idea what this place is. Also-" Again, the roguish fellow had the perfect words for the moment. Oliver motioned to him and nodded. "Retired may not be exactly correct, but yes. I'm no priest, not any more at least." He threw an appreciative glance to the man beside him, who had introduced himself as Lain, before returning to the confused woman. He frowned for a moment. Her desperation was understandable. She had left something behind, and she clearly had not expected to die. He, however, had been expecting death for a while. Not that he had been chasing it, but it hadn't exactly come as a total surprise. She mentioned her name and continued.

    Oliver sighed, placing a hand on Alana's shoulder. "Look, Alana. I'm sorry that I can't help, I really am." He paused for a moment. "This place is a mystery to all of us. For all we know, maybe there is someone out there who can help." He pointed toward the door of the temple. "But for now we need to focus on figuring out what this place is. To do that we're going to have to work together." The words fell from his lips without much thought. It was true, the best course of action was for them to work together to unravel the mystery they had fallen into, but he didn't particularly like being the one to propose it. He wasn't much of a leader.

    Outside, the voices seemed to grow steadily louder. Oliver turned, listening closely to the eerie choir outside. "You can all hear that too, right?" He looked uneasy for a moment. The sound seemed human, but he wasn't entirely sure if that was good or bad. With a sigh, the ex-priest took a step forward, his boots clacking softly on the stone floor of the temple. With every step, he felt the nervousness in his stomach build. Finally, he reached the door. His hand rested on the door's iron handle for a moment, before wrenching it open. The hinges creaked, echoing through the temple as the gateway was opened.

    Oliver stepped outside. The sky was still masked by a blanket of clouds, and a chilly breeze brushed across his face. The temple had been built upon a steep bluff, consisting mostly of thick stone. Deep crags and gullies cut through the stone in jagged patterns. Most of the cracks were thin, but some were wide enough for a man to drop down if he weren't careful. There were few plants, save for a bit of moss and a few particularly resilient shrubs, and the whole environment struck Oliver as rather desolate. Once he was outside, the singing became louder, though no more intelligible than before. Stepping out from the temple, the priest laid his eyes upon the source of the otherworldly music.

    Above the temple, and seemingly all about the bluff, shapeless figures of foggy grey mist drifted aimlessly. The strange wisps emanated with vaguely human voices, though their words were as undefined as their forms. Oliver watched as the strange beings floated around him. For a moment, one stopped a few feet in front of the priest. It had no eyes, but he couldn't help but feel as though it were watching him. It remained motionless only for a moment, before joining its brethren in their meandering. Oliver waved towards the doorway. "You all may want to see this."


    Anabel smiled slightly as Vivian greeted her, at least as much as she could muster. The introductions continued, and the girl tried her best to remember the names that were mentioned. Truthfully, she was still in shock. Her mind was slowly beginning to make sense of things, but the fact that anything at all was happening still confounded her. Still, maybe this place wouldn't be so bad, after all, no one here knew who she was, or what she had done. It was an opportunity for a fresh start. Her eyes fell on the sword again. No, she hadn't completely escaped. Her burden had followed along at her heels, not content to let her get away so easily.

    The old man, who had introduced himself as Maulnar, approached herself and Vivian offering sweets. Her eyes drifted back and forth between his extended hands and his face for a moment, as if confused by the prospect of his gift. Vivian politely refused, but Anabel reached out, gently taking the candy from his hand. She unwrapped it carefully, placing the small red disk in her mouth. It was delightfully sweet, and a smile crossed the young woman's lips as she savored it. It reminded her of one of the treats her father had given her when she was younger. The memory was a warm and happy one, and evoked feelings that felt so out of place in the current environment. Still, the warmth was a comfort, one she had desperately needed.

    "Thank you, Mister Evermead, it's a pleasure to meet you." She turned towards Vivian. "And you too, Miss Lenitz." She cleared her throat, which was rather sore. "This whole thing has me a bit shaken up, I'm afraid. It's just so... strange." As she spoke, Oliver pulled open the door, opening them up to a world which no doubt held even more strangeness. The priest called for them to come outside, and so she went, making sure not to be the first or the last through the doorway. She tried to keep from looking back at her sword. She had no idea what to do with it. Bringing it with her might have been a safe option, but merely touching it and terrified her.

    She stepped through the threshold, looking out over the environment. Her bright blue eyes followed one of the formless creatures. It seemed to whisper, but she couldn't understand its words. Its voice was small and distant, and had a softness to it that almost generated sorrow, though the girl couldn't place why. "What... are they?" She continued following their trails with her eyes. "Ghosts?" The suggestion seemed absurd, even as she spoke it. After all, they were all basically ghosts, weren't they? They had died at least. Still, something seemed deeply human about the strange creatures around them.
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  12. He adjusted his mask, his gauntlets, his breastplate, hands doing their best to remain steady, back still as stiff and as straight as ever, but behind that mask his jaw quivered slightly. Death had been expected, Death had been an old friend riding alongside on his pale horse with him and the rest of the Bythian Rout for battles uncountable. And yet, Death had never turned his keen, merciless gaze upon him. Ka-Alaa, he thought somberly, you son of a bitch. Had the harvest not been enough? Tens, hundreds, possibly even a thousand bodies crumpled to the dirt by his hands, his blade and his ax, and a thousand souls transferred was not enough to ward the cold embrace of the reaper?

    He watched the old man, Maulnar, offer a sweet to the long-sworded youth, who had introduced herself as Anabel. He watched the older woman, Alana, struggle with the concept of the end, clearly in shock similar to himself, though she was far more vocal. She was not soft by any means, he could tell by her body, her quick movements, but she had clearly not been ready. He wondered if he'd feel the same if his brothers, his mother, even his father were still alive. The roguish type had interjected, not unkindly, but bluntly. He smiled a bit at the kids brashness, brasheness seemingly bred from panic and paranoia of his newfound company. The boy was struggling to grasp that death made for strange.. Grave-fellows, he assumed, with a small chuckle, before turning his attention to the woman.

    "Ma'am," He softened his voice a tad, making firm eye contact with her, "Mister Oliver is correct in his.. Assumption of our situation. None in this chapel know of this world, its inhabitants, its dangers.. Help may be found, but for now we must keep our wits about us, stand guard against the Dark until.." He trailed off, head tilting down slightly. Until what? Gods above, he was horrible at this. He had always written his own speeches, and while he was well versed in getting the blood of men boiling and a battle fever spread throughout his ranks, reassurance was not his forte. He drew in a breath, and continued. "Until we find out why we are here."

    He watched Oliver make his way along the ruined old church, stepping about loose stones and cracked cobbles, pulling that large door open without much effort. He had certainly heard the singing, growing in intensity outside, but he had shoved it out of his mind. Now, as he moved to follow the priest, it was all he could think about. He had never been a particularly reverent man, even though he killed in the name of an aspect of Death, but the incessant, mumbling singing was tightening his already overdrawn guts into a lump. Ghosts swam into view from the fog, and he hesitated a single step as he neared the door, breath quietly hitching in his throat. Ghosts! Spectres! Mist-Stalkers, said to draw bad children into the heart of the woods and sacrifice them to heathen beasts of folklore, tales weaved by his older brothers in moonlight to terrify him when he was young! And yet here he was, seeing them, and he had been horrible, oh so horrible throughout his long, angry life...

    "What.. In the world..." He managed to wheeze out, feeling as though he had been kicked in the guts, that his lungs couldn't fill. "Myths, taken new life in our afterlife.. Just where in the hell are we?"
  13. In the midst of all their conversing Oliver finally took notice of what was surely ailing all of them. It had taken him longer to notice it than it rightfully should have, but Lain could do nothing to shut out the singing going on outside. It had taken Anabel and the one newly introduced as Vivian both staring intently at the door for him to start paying attention to the world again. They had all been retired, for a few seconds, but the eerie ensemble outside seemed to be telling him that he wasn't done living like a man on the run. As the priest walked off he slowly brought himself to his feet. It had been a few minutes but his limbs creaked and ached as if he'd been propped against that wall for centuries. With a few prods he refitted his sword to the fastening on the back of his belt, feeling its familiar dangle once more. What good could it do him in the land of the dead and wicked? Worked well enough for the living and wicked.

    It didn't take him long to find his feet. Nursing along a yawn, he trailed behind Oliver to the doors. He wondered, briefly, about more than just the singing. Lain had never even started trying to grasp the full breadth of what it meant to be dead, and so faced with a very literal and mundane portal found himself dwarfed by the sheer possibility of what could lay beyond. Even the afterlives he had heard of in life were rarely anything like terrestrial lands. Or, there was nothing and the afterlife was the lot of them rotting in a secluded church for the rest of their days. Compared to what it could have been, that actually didn't sound too bad. The screech of the temple doors and the rush of light inward put an end to his musing. The world outside was hardly blinding, as a matter of fact its gray on gray palette was dim and neutral on his eyes. It was barren and fractured, though the first word that came to his mind was unfinished. It felt as though whatever divine powers were responsible for this plane had just gotten up and left in the middle of their job. The clay had been left to dry, crack and crumble.

    As it turned out, the landscape wasn't the only thing to strike him as incomplete. As Oliver beckoned, he followed the priest out through the doorway to see better. It was obvious that noise was coming from... blobs of fog? They drifted about, vague approximations of life that he wasn't entirely certain could be called either decayed or grown. His skin crawled, but he certainly didn't feel threatened. Not like the warrior did, at least. Vito was having a much stronger reaction, and Lain didn't spare an instant putting his thoughts into words. "You know something about these?" He asked the man, looking back and forth between the group and the specters. Anabel called them ghosts, and he felt himself that hesitation that was in her voice. It didn't fit. If he had been in any way able to rely on the afterlife making sense, he could have called the presence of ghosts pointless, but it was entirely possible they were in a place that cruel. Whatever they happened to be, they did not seem whole. That was when it struck him, a squalid observation he chose to keep to himself. His jaw set as he looked out over the dead landscape, a frown came soon after. Some were sung gaily and others merely whispered. They were deeply human, and died just as easily. Now that they were all blended and dumped together it was difficult to tell, but he was certain that he was looking upon dead wishes and dreams.

    Vivian stayed as more and more of the group scurried off towards the entrance. It was not that she was already disenchanted with the new world, she was simply happy to observe a while longer. Without knowing any of what made Anabel herself it was difficult to know if the girl was, or ever could come around, but even being able to smile was good. As they moved away, she sighed to herself. It had taken less than an hour for her to go back to being Miss Lenitz. If she had indeed found her way to a hell, it was one of the insidious, indulgent ones. in that case, her lesson would come eventually. She had seen that road once and no longer found herself impressed by possibilities. The result no longer mattered, it never had. The only important thing was that even here, especially here, there people who would need help. She cast her eyes down the sword that Anabel had left. If it had accompanied her into the afterlife, it surely meant something to the girl. Vivian's own scarf had done the same, and that was something she would never abandon. She knelt down, reaching out towards the weapon, but hesitated. Anabel surely had a reason, and young women weren't supposed to be carrying weapons around either. She withdrew her hand, standing and brushing off the front of her dress.

    There was some commotion at the door by the time she was done. She glanced around, her eyes switching between Maulnar, Alana, and the sword left behind. Oliver had called the group over, and she found herself curious as to what lay outside the temple. "Shall we?" she offered, before walking off towards the doorway and the strange shapes that drifted beyond. She listened to the speculation among the others, but for her part only watched the whispering shapes in the sky. There was something deeply familiar about them. They had to be formerly human, or at least life on the same level. That was something more atypical of religions from where she came from, and while she lacked participant familiarity her books had still talked of the strange celestial species believed in by faraway lands. It was an exciting possibility, but only because it meant they were still in charted territory, so to speak. Despite that possibility, she held no belief that such an easy ending was the case. A cold sensation tugged at her, and she looked down from the sky to see one of the tiny, singing clouds swaying about in front of her. After a moment's consideration Vivian stuck her hand out, slowly, to pet the swirling little creature. Unsurprisingly there was nothing much to touch, as her hand sunk into its misty body without resistance. It didn't seem to notice, as after a moment of turning in place it departed. She didn't notice at first, but found herself smiling at the strange new companions they had found. Perhaps they were thoughtless, but it also made them carefree. Their wandering was innocent at a glance, without discernible agenda or desire. The noises they made were faded and doleful, but their actions didn't reflect pain or suffering. They were like little lost children, endearing and tragic.
  14. Alana's face slowly fell as Lain, Oliver, and Vito explained the situation to her and the realization dawned on her that everyone else in the room was just as confused and dead as she was. They were all in the same boat, so none of them would be helping her return. Oliver put his hand on Alana's shoulder, and she winced slightly. Not because she thought he was going to hurt her; it was an involuntary reflex honed by years of intense combat training. She couldn't help it even if she wanted to. Slowly, she nodded and tightened her hands into fists. "Thank you, everyone," she said. "I won't give up."

    With that cleared up, the conversation moved to the subject of a growing collection of voices coming from outside. Alana hadn't heard it as quickly as the others due to her age, but the sound was steadily getting louder and now it even had Alana furrowing her brow in confusion. They sounded impossibly sad, like they'd gone through ten times more pain than everyone in the room put together. "Something tells me it's not the welcoming committee," Alana said to Oliver as he walked across the room to the imposing metal door at the other side. With a heavy groan, the gateway was pulled open. Outside was a rocky bluff, split open by cracks as if an earthquake had hit the place long ago. It almost reminded Alana of the desert she'd just been in -- harsh and dead. Any other time she might have been excited to explore the place and see what could be found deep in the crags, but now she was more shocked at how the desolate environment barely resembled Heaven or Hell. Where in God's name were they?

    Oliver waved the group over and Alana gladly pushed past him to see outside for herself. There were dozens of floating clouds of fog, devoid of shape or color, no features to speak of but nonetheless singing in that melancholy tune the group had been hearing. "What is this...?" Alana mumbled. Anabel suggested they could be ghosts, but Alana was quick to shoot down the idea. "No, there's no such thing as ghosts." It probably sounded ridiculous to the others, but she was resolute in this belief. Demons and angels maybe, but not ghosts. Lain asked Vito if the armored man knew something about these... creatures, and suddenly Alana's eyes were on Vito, hoping it was true. The gray whisps made her uncomfortable, somehow.
  15. Maulnar nodded at Vivian's answer, and smiled even wider at that of Anabel. "Likewise." He said in response to Anabel, then popped the remaining candy into his own mouth. A delicious sweet, bringing in even more delicious memories of a childhood long lost to time. While they are incomplete and fading, they still manage to warm the old man's heart.

    Then, the group's attention was turned towards the door, as Oliver walked over to it. Apparently, something could be heard coming from outside, but Maulnar couldn't really hear anything. Of all the senses, his hearing was the one to have grown the weakest over his years. It was only when Oliver had opened the large door of the church that he could heard what the priest was so infatuated by and truly they were strange noises.
    As the others made their way towards the outside, Maulnar stayed behind a little with Vivian. Seeing as the group would likely depart soon, the old man wanted to take in the inscriptions and images covering the room. Some seemed familiar, others were completely alien to him, but despite his best efforts he couldn't gather any information from them. It was a little frustrating not knowing anything about any of this, but he couldn't possibly hope any of the information from this realm to make it back to the land of the living. The thought did little to calm his curious spirit.
    Eventually, his gaze fell on the large sword left behind by the small girl. Anabel. Why would she own such an unwieldy, unfinished thing, let alone carry it along to the other side? If it was so important to her she wouldn't simply leave it behind like that, would she? Perhaps..

    "Hmm? Oh, uh, yes, we shall." Maulnar said and followed behind Vivian. Maulnar listened intently at what the others had to say about the strange shapes he could see behind his fatefellows.
    "So that's where the rest is." The old man spoke up once he had rejoined the others. "I was wondering why there were only seven of us in that church. Every day hundreds of people die of war, famine, sickness or, ahem, old age. It was impossible for just us to have crossed over at this time. They must be every other human to have died in the not so distant past." Maulnar explained, although he was thinking out loud more than anything else at this point. "But the question remains, do we appear to them as they appear to us, or are we the only ones to have kept our physical form, but then why us? They seem to be floating around aimlessly, unlike us. Have they lost their will to live or sense of purpose after countless years in these lands? There should be more normal folk if time were the only variable in this conundrum. Could it be we're not ready to die? Or is it something which was troubling us in life that we have to resolve in death?"
    Maulnar could go on for a while longer, comparing the various religions he had come across in his travels to what they could see here, but he found himself to have shared his thoughts enough for the time being.
  16. Oliver walked along the edge of one of the larger crags. He peered down into the chasm, but his gaze was met with a thick blanket of darkness, shrouding whatever might have been down there. He turned, watching as the grey creatures floated about. The discussion of what exactly they were had already begun. Vito seemed quite concerned that they were mythical creatures of some sort. Anabel had suggested they were ghosts, which seemed a bit too simple to be the whole truth. Maulnar had a more comprehensive theory on the origins of the creatures. Oliver watched as they floated along. Maybe they were people, or at least they had been once. He wondered briefly if this was the fate that awaited them, to become little more than clouds. Perhaps being a cloud wasn't so bad.

    One of the swirling grey spirits, larger than its brethren, came to rest a few feet in front of Vito. A low humming noise emanated from the sprite as it floated near the warrior. It made no effort to move, simply floating in place. Oliver watched the creature for a moment. Whatever they were, they didn't seem dangerous. The clergywoman, Vivian, had touched one without incident. "I believe it likes you." Oliver chuckled a bit as the wisp continued its staring contest with the armored man. As he watched the spectacle, however, the singing began to grow louder. He turned to the cliff's edge, and watched as more and more of the ghostly figures rose from the sea. The ex-priest wondered for a moment why they were gathering together. Were they greeting them? Or perhaps they were curious about the newcomers to their world. The storm also could have drawn their attention, Oliver supposed.


    Anabel raised herself up onto a nearby boulder, trying to get a better viewpoint of their surroundings. There was a fair amount of fog, and it was quite hard to see very far, but she thought, in the distance, she could make out the shapes of trees further down the slope. The thought that perhaps this entire world wasn't rocky and barren made her feel slightly better. She turned to see Vivian petting one of the wispy creatures. It seemed friendly enough. Maulnar was hypothesizing on the creatures' identities. His suggestion seemed to make sense, more so than her own had, at least. Anabel watched as one of them floated by. If Maulnar was right, she envied them in a way. They didn't seem all to concerned with the world around them at all. Some of them sounded sad, but they seemed peaceful. The young executioner brushed her hair from her eyes, wishing that she had the same peace. "Maybe it's not just us. Maybe there are more people here." She looked back at the temple. "Someone had to have built this church, right?"

    She motioned to Vivian, squinting at the base of the sloping bluff upon which they stood. "I think I can see some trees down there." She pointed into the mist, hoping she wasn't imagining things. "Should we go look for other people? Maybe there's somebody out there who understands this place." Perhaps the idea was wishful thinking. Maybe they were all alone. Not completely alone though, the girl thought. The people around her seemed kind enough, but then, she had few experiences to compare them to. Still, Maulnar's words made her think. Surely there were others out there. The only question was if they were just as confused as the people around her.

    Anabel continued, trying to pierce through the dense fog, to little avail. She stood up on her toes, trying to remain balanced on the boulder. Suddenly, the ground shook, and the girl came tumbling down. She braced herself as she struck the rocky ground. "What was that?" As she spoke, she noticed the world around her had gone deathly silent. The floating spirits were completely quiet now. Again, the ground shook, and a low, bubbling noise could be heard, though it's source was uncertain. Anabel looked about, panicking. The bubbling grew increasingly loud. It reminded her of boiling pitch, and for a moment she thought she smelled smoke. The ground shook again and again. The wisps maintained their silence, and some even began floating away, albeit quite slowly. Anabel's eyes flashed about, looking to anyone who might have an answer.
  17. Maulnar brought up his own theory on the gray spirits, one that Alana found a little easier to believe. If anything, it cleared up everyone's current location: not Heaven nor Hell, but in-between. Purgatory. Alana bit her lip. If they really were there, then there was absolutely hope of returning to the mortal world to finish her unfinished duties in life. She couldn't help but cling to that theory for the time being lest she lose all hope and potentially become one of the gray creatures floating in front of them. More and more of them were starting to rise from below the cliff, perhaps drawn to this group of newcomers that hadn't embraced their fates just yet.

    Alana was debating on trying to communicate with the wisps when Anabel suggested that they might not be alone. "I don't know about that," Alana said, crossing her arms. "We're in the afterlife. Maybe this church has always been. You're right in that we can't be the only ones here, though." She walked up to the edge of the bluff and squinted into the fog. There were definitely solid shapes down there, but Alana couldn't tell whether they were trees or other buildings.

    Before anyone could formulate a plan, the ground heaved under their feet. Anabel was shaken off the boulder she was perched on and the cracks in the rock seemed to stretch wider. "Earthquake?!" Alana shouted. "Don't panic, everyone stay away from the church walls! Get on your hands and knees!" She followed her own instructions immediately, knowing that the most dangerous place to be was near exterior walls and anyone standing would be knocked over too easily. Crouched down on the rumbling ground, Alana heard some sort of bubbling noise and started to smell smoke. It reminded her of the active volcanoes she'd been near, and for a moment she worried that the entire bluff was going to come apart underneath them. Even the gray wisps seemed worried, floating away from the group.
  18. Vito ignored the old man for the time being, his own mind racing, and running, and trying its damnedest to flee. The singing was new, not in the old wives tales, and though it sounded peaceful, orchestral, he could feel in his bones the sorrow buried in more than a few of the wisp's 'voices'. Hundreds of campfire tales recounted as one, and he touched a hand to his mask to steady himself.

    "We called these creatures Wisps," He started, stiffening as one of the larger ones landed plainly before him. "Fairy tales, so I thought. Children who misbehaved, or stole, or ran away were abducted by the Wisps, dragged deep into the forests and inducted into a new, horrifying family for eternity." He lowered his hand, hesitantly reaching forward to touch the creature, only to lose his nerve and step around the misty thing. "I've split skulls and been buried neck deep in gore, but never in all my years.."

    He chuckled a bit at the Priests short quip, relaxing his stance as he strode forward. "I see that while fate may have taken your life, it hasn't taken your humor." He clasped the man's shoulder, and peered over the craggy cliff, to see more of the haunting things rising up from the stormy sea. He didn't see the trees the girl had mentioned, but his eyesight had never been quite as keen as most of his subordinates, and these newcomers were certainly proving to be hawks compared to him. A fortunate thing, to be thrust so violently into the afterlife with such varied and skilled company! He wasn't entirely sure what he would've done were he alone in this desolate place, even if he was a born survivor. It didn't seem dangerous, but the innate paranoia the Rout had already bred into him coupled with a lack of understanding might've driven him over the brink long before he even found a trace of another human.

    He nodded at the girl, approving of her train of thought. "I highly doubt we're the only ones--" An upheaval of stone interrupted him, coupled with an incessant blurbling from within the stone. He kept his feet, steadying the Priest alongside him, and dragged the man and himself away from the edge. "Now now, preacher, the sea's no company to have tonight!" Ears perked and listening, he dropped to the floor as Alana had ordered, again pulling Oliver with him. This was a good one, an excellent candidate for the second Rout that was already scheming its way into his head. And what an attractive idea! He let himself drift in thought as the world shook itself to pieces around him, head bowed in innate concentration that might be mistaken for a cool head.
  19. Vivian couldn't take her eyes away from the wandering blobs. One after another approached, their gliding either soundless or masked by the gentle noises each made. If she tried long enough, she figured, maybe there was one that would speak a complete idea. While she watched the clouds she kept track of the conversation behind her. Maulnar was thinking at length about their situation, and he certainly made sense. There were plenty of others dead that should have been standing behind them. If their worlds ran parallel there were certainly more to appear in the coming minutes, as they spoke, even. The groups' suppositions were actually only good as proof that they did not come from the same place or time at all. There was no telling how deep that fissure ran, she decided that it would be unwise to assume without fact on that matter. "There are some faiths in the world that insist there are many hells, Mister Evermead. Others still which say that in order for their torments to truly be everlasting they must persist outside of our time," She said softly, then bowed her head a moment. She cleared her throat, then continued. "But I have never been witness to any god's work. I think, now that I am thinking, that worldly knowledge is only miscoloring my understanding of this world." She brushed her hand against another passing wisp, pushing at its side and wondering if they could perhaps be manipulated. If they swirled within the air they ought to move with it, but that didn't seem to be the case. It simply repeated its chime-like squeak and enveloped her hand for a few seconds before flowing onwards.

    Her head turned with Anabel's pointing, searching for the trees she had mentioned and spying some slightly darker shapes within the gray walls surrounding them. It certainly seemed as if there was more to the world than a crumbling temple on a seaside cliff, and as if to punctuate that hope it all started coming down. The ground shook beneath her and Vivian wobbled uncomfortably. She took a step towards the falling girl out of some vain hope, but her boulder as too far away. Instead, all she managed to do was lose her balance. She would have gladly followed Alana's advice but Vivian had already toppled to the ground. Minding the crags and wondering what in the soil could possibly be bubbling, she picked herself up and moved away from the temple. A few more meters away from the threatened building, she stopped to look around and make sure the others were doing alright.

    He had gotten every answer he wanted and more, Vito's explanation and an informed rant from Maulnar. Vito had even been so kind as to clarify exactly what Lain's gut had told him outright on his arrival. In an astoundingly surprising turn of events, the armored up and armed warrior was drenched in bloodshed. There had been a long talk about that, in the hours before his death. A girl who was insistent about a kinship among killers, or some other high strung bullshit that he hadn't exactly subscribed to at the time. He had nothing in common with his competition in life, and such a deduction was simply common sense in the presence of someone like Vito. He wasn't entirely sure which explanation between the three was a proper blend of depressing and nonsensical, and that primarily what kept his mouth shut as he leaned back against the temple's outer wall.

    No sooner than he had found some kind of relaxation surrounded by the dead and their wispy new underlings they were assaulted by what felt at first like an earthquake. As he was told to move away from the walls he looked up. Already, he could see the loose parts of the structure ready and waiting to rekill him, and so he left. He noticed Vito getting Oliver away from one of the crags, and everyone else seemed on their way. That was, if the giant old man wasn't getting himself out of there, attempts to move him were only going to be discourteous ignorance of his height. Ignoring the shaking ground, Lain skipped his way down the front steps and out amidst the crags. It was a decision he instantly regretted when he heard bubbling beneath them. The action had already gotten his mind racing the way it did on the hunt. There was no sulfurous odor, and that spoke of only one other possibility in his mind. He crept a hand behind his back, making sure the lock on his blade was firmly engaged before returning it to his side. Only then did he slowly look about for an open flame in their surroundings. Death by immolation was low on his list, death by drowning even lower, and with the threat of the bluff simply falling off added to the list he decided it was time to leave. Alana had things under control, or Oliver would in a few moments. It was good when everyone already had a job sorted out, and he'd known his before he arrived. He kept moving away from the temple, slowly over unsteady land.
    #19 Epsir, Jun 7, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2016
  20. Most of the young'uns seemed to have accepted his theory about the grey shapes. Not that they were worried about them in the first place, apart from Vito. Wisps, yes, Maulnar has heard of those things before and what they did to you coincided with some of the folklore he's heard about them, although it varied so much any explanation that was malicious in intent could be considered valid by some.
    Vivian was the only one willing to speak more on the subject of this world compared to the one they found themselves in before their untimely demise. What she said was interesting and led to many other theories, but now was not the appropriate time to philosophise about life and death, perhaps once they've made some sort of camp. Although this place existing outside of their time could mean they hadn't died simultaneously, only arrived together. That would explain why Maulnar didn't know Vito, or know what a thermostat is.

    Then, like curious children, the group explored however far they could explore. Good. It meant Maulnar wouldn't have to do that, he'd only have to keep up with them whilst taking in whatever information they'd share with everyone. Such as trees, even if they were unsure due to the mist obstructing their view. A collection of water vapour in the air. Nothing a mage couldn't handle. Maulnar raised his hand and made a few fluid motions as he muttered to himself. The fog would've been cleared had his spell not been interrupted by a sudden earthquake. Maulnar's fluid hand motions turned into short quick motions and his muttering changed in tone as well. Rather than moving the water in the air, Maulnar used his mastery over earth to keep the ground beneath him stable. Alana warned of the danger of a collapsing building, thus he kept an eye on the church so that he may interfere should it indeed collapse. However, he walked away from the building, too, just to be safe.
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