Deus Ex Artificium

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Thought Manifest, Jan 5, 2015.

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  1. [​IMG]

    The world was falling apart.

    For over half a century, Eriston's rulers had been decimating any semblance of balance Verdan had once maintained. To those not in the Fatanen High Royals’ inner circle, it seemed to come out of nowhere. The genocide of the Uialien of Aliudea was the first major blow. In the course of only a few hours, an entire race had been wiped out with only one known survivor, a half-Edhel half-Uialie named Nieri Mahtar. Neither she nor any outsiders understood how something like that could happen, and even fewer seemed to have any idea of why it had been done, but everyone seemed to understand that war had been declared.

    The Edhil of Inen were called to battle against the Fatanen of Eriston. After all, the Uialien had been their closest allies. War was waged on the high seas of Verdan, through the ruins of Aliudea, and even on the coasts of Eriston itself. Neither side could truly gain the upper hand with each winning battles here and there and each suffering both major and minor losses of manpower and supplies. After a while, this stalemate seemed to cause the battles to become less frequent.

    Perhaps that gave the Fatanen the time they needed to rebuild their military might because just twenty-nine years after the fall of Aliudea, many Nogyth traveled far from their mountain ranges to seek refuge in Inen, the land of the Edhil. Eriston's army had destroyed their numbers and had driven them from their homes. This time, the reason behind the attack survived with the Nogyth.

    The rulers of Eriston sought an artifact that was little more than a myth to the people of Verdan: the Bracelet of Lim. Unfortunately, it was no longer just a myth because the High Royals were confirmed to be in possession of its twin, the Bracelet of Duath. With such a powerful artifact, it was no wonder the Uialien were so quickly defeated, and it made sense why the Nogyth could not protect the Stegros mountain ranges from invaders.

    With this newfound knowledge, the Edhil formed a Resistance against the Fatanen, and people of all races and nationalities were recruited. Groups were sent to recover slaves and servants from Eriston, to liberate them from their unfortunate lives. Spies were also sent to Eriston in the hopes of learning more about the Bracelets.

    It was in these ways that Uialien survivors were found, hundreds of them locked away or forced into unjust labor. Unfortunately, there were too few survivors to ever truly rebuild the lost race, but finding even that many survivors gave people hope for Verdan’s future.

    That hope strengthened just a little when the Fatanen discovered what was likely to be the true location of Lim’s Bracelet. The spies situated by the Edhil paid off, and the information was leaked to the leaders of Inen. If the Edhil Resistance could get to the Bracelet before the Fatanen, it was believed that the war could finally come to an end and Verdan could be restored to the peace it had once maintained.

    Nieri Mahtar – Edhil Resistance

    Nieri Mahtar's dark, changeling eyes peered at the ornate, double doors ahead of her. This was the first time she'd entered the Council Building on Enya Tol since she was recovered from Eriston by the Resistance. They'd wanted information, but all she could give them was relief that she had not spilled any of Inen's or the Resistance’s secrets. She shook the memories of that disappointing encounter from her mind, focusing on the here and the now.

    She approached those doors, admiring, not for the first time, the swirling metal work that looked so delicate but had withstood many Edhil generations coming and going. Two guards stood before the entrance. The female with the red-toned skin and ebony hair took one step forward. “State your business.” She said very formally but in the Common Tongue. Many would be arriving who did not speak the Edhil tongue. Nieri produced a letter from her pocket and presented it to the guard. The woman took it, her black eyes reading over the message within.

    Two weeks prior to this day, a message had trickled through the populations, both native and refugee, of Inen. The Council of Four was looking to recruit a group that would serve a specific, albeit undisclosed, reason. Applicants should be ready to travel a great distance and be skilled in whatever class they chose to study. The group would be provided with currency and supplies for the journey. Those chosen would also be compensated handsomely, half before they left and half upon their return.

    There were many rumors about what the journey would entail. Some believed the task would be to assassinate the High King of Eriston himself. Others thought that the Council had some gambit up their sleeve to do to the Fatanen what had been done to the Uialien and the Nogyth. Others believed the Bracelet of Lim had been discovered and needed to be claimed by the Edhil before the Fatanen. Many of these rumors were fanciful with only a few seeming realistic to Nieri, so she paid the call no heed. At least she’d tried to ignore it.

    The same day the request for applicants went out, her handler came to her and told her she needed to apply. The Council had requested her specifically due to the importance of the quest. She hadn't wanted to stop the missions to rescue people from Eriston, but while she wasn't told exactly what she would be doing, she had been told it would end the war, so she applied. One week later, she'd received a letter requesting her presence at the Council Building where she would be informed of her new mission. It had been signed by all four Councilors and stamped with the five seals of Inen.

    The guardswoman at the entrance returned Nieri's letter. “All weapons and imbued items not used specifically for life-support must be left here.” The Edhel said, motioning toward an empty table.

    “I brought neither.” She said. Having been through this before, she understood the rules. The doors slowly swung open to allow her passage. If she had lied, an invisible barrier would have prevented her from stepping over the threshold, but she'd spoken truly, and she moved without difficulty into the building.

    There was a long hallway with elegant décor lining the walls along with tasteful portraits of previous Councilors. Eventually, the corridor ended in another door that had been left open to reveal the main room in which meetings were held. It was large enough to accommodate many emissaries from other nations and the parties they would have brought with them, but today it was empty save for the Four who sat at the end of a large, ovular table.

    All of them maintained a youthful glow of health that belied their advanced ages, but one could not ignore the wisdom revealed in their eyes. Not for the first time, Nieri was reminded of the ever changing seasons when she gazed at them.

    Councilor Glivalwen was like spring with her pink-toned skin, pale green eyes, and violet hair. Councilor Nesteron was like summer with his sun-kissed skin, deep blue gaze, and grassy green hair. Councilor Anarwen was autumn with a head full of fiery hair, blazing amber eyes, and rich brown skin. Councilor Berianir was winter with his snow-white hair, skin as dark as the bottom of a frozen lake, and eyes so pale they seemed to lack irises at all. Nieri could only imagine the fear Fatanen must feel when they looked into his eyes on the battle field, but she held no such feeling when face to face with him. He was her ally, after all.

    “Nieri of House Mahtar.” Councilor Anarwen spoke, and her voice was as smooth and as rich as her skin. “We welcome you to our table once more.” Nieri took her place on the opposite side of the table to the Councilors, and Councilor Nesteron made his voice known. “When the others have arrived, we will divulge the purpose of this meeting and the plans for the success of your journey.”

    Zora Gavros – Fatanen Rule

    For twenty-three years, life had not granted Zora Gavros the opportunity to relax and to be the woman she felt she was inside. Her purpose had always become the single most important thing about her, and she was the only one who knew about it. She had had to present a façade to the world, one in which she was completely loyal to the High King of Eriston and his goals, one in which she cared not for the suffering of anyone considered lesser. Even if she did not participate in the brutality herself, her smoke screen demanded she do nothing to ease it, either.

    Many people found her cold and calculating when first met with her quiet, calculating gaze, but she had no other way to cope with the constant necessity to play at pretending she hadn't been raised by mutts as anyone with Calva blood tainting their Fatan heritage was called. None could know that her blood was not pure-Fatan, that she loathed the High King even as she answered the call to warm his bed. It was the position she had placed herself in to further her goals.

    Simply being a skilled Nestad employed by the High Royals had not been enough. She had needed to find a way into the inner circle where she could advise the King, where she could subtly place ideas in his head, where she could find a way to relieve him of the Bracelet of Duath. Apparently, he had a taste for strong women, and it had been easy to offer him warmth during those cold nights where she could help him unwind after those stressful days of ruling.

    In the beginning, it had been internally difficult to feign romantic interest in a man she could scarcely bring herself to like. Even more difficult had been allowing herself to be taken by him sexually, but she had done it, and it had been surprisingly easy to sway him if not herself. Eventually, she'd learned to shut down those parts of her mind that whispered self-loathing when she was alone, the parts that twisted her stomach into knots whenever he touched her. Now, she completed the tasks with ease, and she knew the King enjoyed the fact that while she seemed so cold and closed off to others, in private with him, she was warm and inviting. She considered her part well played as a result.

    None of it truly mattered in the grand scheme of things. All that mattered was doing what the Varnegwaith of old had failed to do. She must take the Bracelet of Duath and hide it where no one could ever find it again. But the question of how to get the Bracelet away from Dwennon in the first place had plagued her for the better part of two decades. The man never removed the thing from his wrist, even to sleep or bathe. He was also a damnably light sleeper, ever alert, ever paranoid. It was almost as if he knew someone would try to take it from him as had been done to Duath himself in the old myths.

    She'd considered maiming him, severing his arm from his body and running off with the Bracelet that way, but she was no Pildae, and she knew she wouldn't get far before she was captured and executed. Then what good would her effort have been? She would have just made it that much harder for any other person to get near enough to him to find a better way. No. Her way had to succeed on the first try or else all hope was lost.

    Now the man sat upon his stern looking throne, gazing out at a nearly empty room save for the woman herself.

    “My King,” Zora spoke, her voice warm and soothing as she kneeled reverently before him, “how may I be of service to you?”

    “Stand, Zora.” He commanded, but there was a strange sort of joy in his voice that worried her almost as much as the grin on his lips. “We found Lim’s Bracelet, and you may help me by collecting it. We have others on their way to discuss the plan now.”

    “Your Majesty, this is excellent news!” She said with a broad smile and joy in her voice that belied the horror of his announcement.
    #1 Thought Manifest, Jan 5, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2015
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  2. Thrydlden Rutt - Edhil Resistance

    They felt the cold, rushing through their skin to settle into the bones of their legs before they registered the difference in their position.

    The sun was gone.

    The air was quiet.

    The stone was cold and silent. But the fingers wrapped around theirs had a caring warmth that curled tighter when they paused, and Thrydlden glanced up at the younger Edhel tasked with keeping them content, and safe, and accompanied. She was concerned, so were they. The building was very tall, and they were standing in its shadow. It had startled them out of their thoughts. But they did not think they were thoughts of any great importance, if they had been lost so easily. So, once they’d oriented themself in this time and this place, they focused faded eyes on her worried expression and offered a quiet smile, backed by more confident encouragement.

    She gave them the bright grin they’d almost forgotten once and continued on, her longer steps carefully timed so she’d avoid outpacing her charge. Thrydlden appreciated the thought, but did not let go of her hand until they came to the high doors, and then, only because she needed it, having only the one, to reach for the letter in her pocket. They didn’t know what words were briefly passed between the guards and Aeda though they did recognise the Common tongue, before all three Edhil glanced down and switched to the island talk Aeda’s mother had taught them. The Uialie offered them all an eye-squinching smile for their politeness before realising that of course they would need to understand if they were the one being addressed.

    “Ah.” Thrydlden patted at their chest and side briefly, before deciding that they should ask for clarification rather than giving the word their own definition. So they pulled out the little knife they used to scrape rocks and trees for food. “Is this a weapon?” They understood the Edhel word to mean a tool used in fighting to harm or protect, but even a simple stone could be used to injure, and the knife could hurt if it sliced skin. Aeda, used to this process of making sure, kept her expression neutral, and the guards allowed only slight twitches at the corners of their lips to give them away. When one nodded, they put it where they’d been told, and absently let Aeda usher them inside.

    She had not been asked to accompany them. Or rather, she had not been asked by any of the Councillors. Thrydlden had asked at least three times, and only just remembered the previous answers before they tried a fourth time. She had promised that she would wait to see them back to their garden hut when this meeting was over, and they knew she would be there. But it was still a little frightening when the doors closed and they were left alone with no trees or shrubs or even grass to feel at home. There was no earth, just dead wood and dead Edhil staring as they walked past their frozen faces. Paintings, they recognised, but they didn’t know any of the Edhil in them, and the effect was rather more harrowing than Thrydlden suspected was meant.

    Still, they tottered down the hall without mishap, trying neither to ignore nor look directly at – a task made admittedly easier by their short stature – any of the silent depictions, and reached the door Aeda had told them would be there.

    The room they found behind the door was more intimidating than the paintings, and they briefly spared a thought for turning around right there, but they knew they had already been seen. It would have been rude to leave without speaking, and to go back on what they had claimed to want. Truthfully, they still wanted to help, but with far less certainty if their success depended on spending increasing amounts of time indoors. At the very least, they were not intimidated by those within the room, and merely blinked somewhat myopically at the four Edhil sitting so far away.

    “Aeda read to me the letter. Very good, she tell me. So, I am thanking you, I think, for hearing what I did say and for not seeing this, ah, meeshma gol, one being as too small, yes.” They had forgotten too many words over the years, just let them sink into the earth they lay on, but so long as the Edhil councillors understood the foundation of what they were trying to say, Thrydlden would be content. In keeping with how they understood important figures, they were respectful in their halting speech, but not afraid that they might be speaking out of turn. A court diviner, even one still learning, even one, yes, who had lost their court, always had a voice.

    Besides which, they had a question now, a curious thought that they could not have kept silent even if they wanted to. So, encompassing the Councillors' choice of arrangement with the gesture of one long-fingered hand, they raised it. “Now, a question, yes. Is that where the room is warmer?”
    #2 Nemaisare, Jan 6, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2015
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  3. Fatanen Rule

    Pricking her sight on the distant speck of light gave Ama something to focus on, helped drag her mind through the claustrophobic clamour of the mine. She no longer flinched every time a pick found the stone nearby. The grating tumble of broken rock into the cart merely left her blinking away the dust that blossomed from each emptied basket. It had been years since her body quit reacting to these echoes, hunkered into the shadows beneath the heavy air and grimy stone. They’d become muted in their consistency, stretching into every tortured night when that small spot in the distance faded into near-absent grey. The dark swallowed everything.

    It had been days, three nights, since she’d moved from her post. None of the guard bothered with the worry of tying her down anymore. Her chain was soldered to the cart; it was enough. It was more than enough. The entirety of her drooped into the ground, ears brushing the pool of hair collecting about her hands. Breath was all that stirred the depression around her, exhalation gently rattling the chain with each slow collapse of her ribcage. Blackened men, who once stared with wide eyes and stepped in ginger circles around her, used her sides for balance and sat on her tail to chew their supper. When the cart was full, the lead would kick her into the screeching advance she longed for and dreaded. Fresh air was a curse to her soured lungs. Another night… Just one more.

    Shouts trickled down around her, growing closer and tapering into nothing. They barely broke the monotony.

    “’Ey. Troll, they callin’ you out. You ‘ear ‘em, troll? Heh.” He paused to hawk, spitting to the side. “Best get yer movin’. Heh.” Swinging the toe of his boot into her ankle, he was rewarded when she raised her head. “Get goin’ then.”


    “Don’t matter none. Foreman wants you out. Heh. Out you go.” She gathered the chain around her arm, threading the links between her fingers, and pushed herself upright. The leather of her harness groaned stiffly with the motion, chafing. It complained to be strapped to this ungainly creature and not one of the draft horses that worked the other shafts. The collar choked when she walked and the breast strap lay across her arms. She glanced back at the cart, uncertainty hidden in her eyes. But the Fatan kicked her again, so she leant into the traces and strained against the squealing of the wheels on the resistant track.

    The load was lighter; she made good time.

    Blinking into the sunlight, Ama made to continue down the track as she always had, but a sword settled in her way. “That’s far enough, Uialie.” The rumbling in her chest had the foreman running.

    “No need, sir, no need. She spooks quicker than the horses, up here, but she’s broken, see, sir.” He turned to her and spoke in Common. “Collar off, troll. Th’ponies will take it from here.” As she slowly lifted the traces off her body, he waved a team of horses forward; two were needed for her cart. He nodded to the blacksmith, as well, and a solid blow of his hammer signalled her freedom. The man with the sword glanced nervously at the trailing chain, but there was no need. Ama stepped from the horses’ path, the beasts mutually ignoring each other, and settled near the foreman.

    “You’re to come with us, Uialie. The king requires your service.” She understood that. The rumbling began a second time, quietly reverberating through the men around her, and hands settled on pommels.

    “Not king. Shi-” A sharp tug on her chain cut her off as the strange man sheathed his sword and smiled at her before addressing the foreman.

    “She’ll be needing a bath.”

    Ama knew better than to open her mouth a second time.

    He stood on the chain, keeping her head level with his own as buckets of water were emptied across her back. She could feel its caress in rivulets dripping to the ground as the sludge of her carefully gathered life since the Fatanen first bound her with their ropes. It tickled, but she kept her eyes on his feet. He was soaked and she took some small satisfaction in that, but laughter still shivered up the chain from her earlier retaliation. He smiled too much for someone with mud on his face. She should know. Glancing up, she snorted, clearing the mud from the top of her nose. He leant away, widened his smile and nodded. His men scrubbed harder with their brushes. Water sluiced into her eyes.

    “Duath’s beard.” She heard a gasping voice behind her, but could not turn or understand the words. “She’s full of holes, sir.”

    “How many?”

    “Big one on her thigh, sir. Two lower down. Tail’s full of them.”

    “Another one on her wrist here, sir.”

    “Ankle, sir. Left side.”

    He grunted, squinting into the sun. Broken and full of holes, just what sort of gift was the king looking to deliver. Finally, he shook his head and looked back at her dour face. “Clean them up, best you can.”

    Ama had never been so clean in her life.

    Servants had scuttled in and out of sight as she settled onto her haunches. They’d wiped at her feet and hands, rubbed her tail viciously and swept the floor behind her; polishing the road’s dust from her skin. They’d even tied green silk about her chest to replace the tatty fabric there, tutting over the filth caked beneath it. Even the amber hardened about the edges of her wounds sparkled shamelessly. All but one, who knelt with the chain in his lap, had fled at a quiet knock on the door. Ama considered, briefly, the plucking of his life before movement caught the corner of her eye and she shifted to watch a man and woman enter the room.

    The king gestured grandly at the beast before turning to Zora with a smile. “Your gift. Is it not magnificent?”
    #3 Trivia, Jan 9, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2015
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  4. Shialaevar Chiandil

    Edhil Resistance

    A rush of light flooded into the small room in which Shialaevar laid from the window near the ceiling, positioned on the opposite wall of where their rickety, yet comfortable, cot sat. It had been provided by the Edhil after their rescue from the Fatanen, but they did not so much enjoy the upgrade from sleeping on a cold stone floor as much as the chance for healing the cot provided. When recovered by the resistance, Shialaevar was bleeding and broken, hardly able to stand on their two feet without collapsing to their knees. It was on this cot that the Uialie began to recover- both their body, and their mind.

    Still, it did not in their mind compare to sleeping on a bed of leaves in the summer light.

    The sunlight that filtered in through the window was enough to sate their longing, however. Eventually, Shale sat up, stretching their arms and legs carefully as to not test the weary muscles and bone. Each lingering wound held a slight glowing tint to it, as though the incorporeal side of their mother had been inherited in such a way that it lingered beneath their skin, beneath the open slices that, thanks to Edhil skill, were not quite as open as they originally were, but still were jagged enough to glow. Still damaged. It disturbed Shale to see their inner workings, their insides, through such deep lesions.

    The faint light enhanced the glow, a pale blue that made their skin appear semi-translucent. Shale rubbed against the injuries- lightly, as to not break them open and allow them to bleed- as they slid their feet against the smooth floor, stood up, and grabbed the piece of folded parchment that sat on the glossy wooden desk nearby. Shialaevar was surprised that her request had been responded to, and even further that they were accepted for the much-shrouded journey. The letter told that they were to meet in the Council building on Enya Tol, which was not too far from where Shialaevar had been recuperating for the while. Several of the Edhil offered to lead her to the building, and offer support, but Shale declined. The Uialie wanted some time to breath freely, away from the watching Edhil eyes.

    They stepped out from the room and left the building in which they were living without so much as a second thought, and followed the growing-familiar paths towards the building. Shale had visited Inen several times as they grew up, and had traveled around each of the islands and the main land. Although they'd never been into the Council building, they knew what it looked like from the outside, and could see it in the distance, like a beacon. They walked towards this beacon as a leisurely pace, ignoring the dull ache in their leg that throbbed with each step.

    Inen truly was a beautiful place, although not as beautiful as Aliudea. It was hardly fair to compare the two, but Shale could not help but do so, feeling an anger towards Inen and the Edhil that they did not deserve. After all, the resistance was housed here, and it was through that resistance that the Uialien people had any chance at all. They ought to feel indebted.

    Edhil stood by the entrance, and she offered the parchment to one of them, who looked it over before returning it. Then the Edhil looked the Uialie down, eyeing the small blade that was perched on Shialaevar's hip.

    "Weapons, and any imbued items please," one of the Edhel by the door said. "They are not permitted inside the building." Shale nodded and unstrapped the dagger that always clung to their waist, and placed it gently on the table the Edhel gestured to.

    "That is all I carry with me," The first words they had spoken in days.

    "Very well. You may retrieve it when you return." The door was opened for Shale, and they stepped through at the same slow, yet steady pace that favored their injured leg.

    The interior of the building was also rather magnificent, with a hall of art and paintings that they stopped to look at before continuing to the doors that stood ajar at the end of the hall. The doors lead to an open room, where four figures sat at a table. The councilors, they had to be. Each one had a peculiar and largely different appearance, but Shialaevar paid it no mind, used to seeing peoples of varied attributes. It made them feel slightly more at home in Inen. A few others had arrived in the room already- these people Shale also paid little mind to, instead more preoccupied with finding a place to lean against or to sit to rest their straining leg. They were unsure if it was disrespectful or not to take a seat, and so they stood, shifting their weight from leg to leg.​
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  5. Ajani
    She kept the pace. Her steps fell no sooner than the sixth spoke of the cart's wheel made a full revelation. She chose that one in particular because it was cleaner and less battered than the rest - likely replaced recently. Thoughts like this kept her occupied on the long road. The caravan's guards were all surly and kept to themselves - one side was the band she'd signed up with, the other were soldiers from Eriston. She had no doubt in her mind they would be attacked on the road - nobody hired a band of thirty mercenaries and took twenty more soldiers with them to protect three carts of Tax and tariffs without expecting blood.

    She stood at the middle cart - the last to be attacked. It always was - bandits always leapt from cover at the rear and the front, cutting off advance and retreat. Most attacks were chaotic, but the ones that knew what they were doing, always closed in a tighter, and tighter circle around the prey. She'd know, having walked away from a few already.

    The resistance had grown more and more desperate in recent times - delving deeper and deeper into fatanen territory - harrying caravans and tax collectors like the one she guarded now, breaking into prisons and internment camps and freeing their own. Not just their own, though - they were reckless at times, criminals escaped in the chaos, murderers, thieves, rapists, all loose again and drinking in the chaos that the edhel sowed. It may've all seemed worth it, to them, but she couldn't know - she was just a mercenary. Everyone expected her to care only for coin, sex, drinking and fighting - in that order.

    Ajani didn't have to look to know that they were being watched - as always - the infrastructure of any kingdom grew in simplicity the farther away one traveled from the capitol. Most of the pavement of the road they followed was now hidden under dirt. Road markers were faded or gone entirely - and the road narrowed, and lead through a forested region - convenient for anyone looking to attack. Thousands of miles away from the capitol - nobody had either the money nor the time to waste cutting a forest clear for safety's sake. A large tree had fallen right across the road up ahead. She thought fallen - for its roots were worn and withered - she saw the indentation where this ancient living thing crested a hillock on the side of the road. Perhaps this wasn't planned. That flicker of hope was extinguished, for after the caravan stopped, and people called to get axes to cut the obstruction out of the way, Ajani paused to listen. Her ears twitched faintly, trying to catch any sounds traveling upon the wind. There was nothing - the forest was silent. The birds had fled their nests, because intruders had taken their place. She closed her eyes, remorse filled her - for she knew blood was about to be spilled.

    She could not recount the men's names, and not all of them were decent men worthy of note - but her eyes saw keepsakes, her ears heard stories shared by fireside, of beautiful wives and beautiful sons and daughters, and the faint sound of the quill upon parchment - writing letters to places farther than their reach.

    Ajani was still walking. The air grew heavy, stillness overtook the forest - a second of trepidation. She stopped mid-step. The whirring of wind through fletching was heard for but a fraction of a second - before an arrow meant for her throat imbeded itself in the cart beside her. It started. In an instant the stillness of this peaceful wood was broken, as battle-cries and screams that made the Edhil tongue sound savage and crude echoed through the trees, and they descended upon the flat-footed caravan. The veterans were prepared, and each reached for a shield strapped to the side of the caravan, circling around the carts, standing shoulder-to-shoulder. She reached for one, herself, and took her place. The uniformed soldier that took the place to her right was barely even a grown man. He trembled, and she could see frightened eyes like a startled doe peering through the underbrush seeking enemies he could not see. And he did not see the arrow that struck his throat, his shield lowered too-far so he could seek out his foe. He fell back, leaning against the cart's wheel, choking on his own blood.

    An arrow struck her shield - but it held. A second. She shifted it to her left. A third. Silence. The barrage of arrows had stopped. Perhaps they did not expect them to survive it. Another war-cry, a call for blood and vengeance. They poured from between the trees, the bushes, like a flock of ravens upon a fresh carcass. They carried weapons and armor that seemed akin to works of art - elegant, beautiful, each held a legend, a story, a myth. A shame to let them taste blood.

    Chaos ensued, as the inexperienced panicked and broke their ranks, some turned to flee to be cut down or shot from afar. She stood her ground, though, and pulled free the weathered blade from her back, gripping it firmly. Her hand was relaxed, though, it needed to be.

    A warrior with a shield and spear, cowled and hidden beneath his armor charged at her, trying to thrust the tip of his weapon at her face. He was fast. She raised her shield and canted her head to the side, the edge collided with the shaft of his spear, and pushed it away, his momentum carried him into the cart, and his spear was imbeded there. Before he could lurch it free, she lunged at him - it was an elegant motion, side-stepping the warrior, running the blade along his throat as she went, turning to face the next threat. After a second she heard him slump to the ground.

    Another - this one with a crown of fiery hair, and copper skin, he paired a curved sabre in each hand. A flurry of slashes came at her, quick, but they lacked substance. She brushed them away, slowly retreating to give him the illusion of an advantage. He grew frustrated, and angrily drew too close for a kill that was uncertain - her arm shot out, and the shield slammed against his chest, taking the breath from him and sending him stumbling back. She swung at his shoulder, and he desperately raised both blades to defend himself. His balance was shaken, however, and the force of the blow sent him to the ground. She wasted no time. She drove the edge into his chest, catching his heart. He peered up at her. Her features must've been monstrous to him. Her beastly yellow eyes, the animalistic appearance. It was a sad thing to leave a man with in death. She did not show her remorse.

    She took a moment to survey the battle - and it was drawing to a close. Bodies were strewn around the caravan, mostly those of her fellows, and panicked horses stomped their hooves and neighed. The edhel cut their reins, and they took off. This was it, it seemed.

    One last opponent approached her. Maybe she would even have the chance at a fair fight, before someone stabbed her from behind or slit her throat. This one was a woman - she had ivory skin, and hair as dark as midnight - her eyes were cold silver, and they stared right at her. She held a longsword in hand - etched and adorned in their writing. No-doubt it was a weapon tailor-made for her hand. And the armor she wore, interlocking plates, neatly folding into each other, perfectly articulated - shaped with the visages of howling wolves. Clearly - this one was in high standing.

    The edhil approached her, her gaze dismissive - clearly she felt herself superior, more than a match. Ajani dropped her shield, and strode forth to meet her. She was nearly a head and a half taller than this woman, but she felt like they stood on even ground. She decided to initiate their dance - testing her defenses with a swipe at her free arm. She almost smiled as the woman's posture turned, almost imperceptibly, and she interposed her weapon in a practiced fencing motion. It was like writing - she just did it naturally. They continued to step around each other, jabbing and testing each other's skill - and soon enough the dismissiveness in the edhil's eyes waned. She was intrigued.

    There was a pause - an unspoken agreement that their duel would begin in earnest now. And they leapt at each other. A smile tugged on Ajanis' lips. The edhil feinted, trying to draw her defense to her shoulder, when she struck at her ribs. Ajani swiftly corrected, and the blade collided at the base of her own - a narrow escape there - but she followed through, and took a bold step at the edhil, ramming her shoulder into the other woman. It ached from striking the steel of her armor, but she was taller - and stronger, and the charge made the edhil stumble back with enough force to knock her down. She was ready to leap to her feet though.

    She expected her to strike a downed opponent. And normally - Ajani would. But she was dead anyway, she didn't have to see the rest of the edhel watching their battle to know that they'd already won. She nodded at the edhil and raised her voice.

    ''Egwenno'heim.'' - she called for her to rise again. There was a beauty to this edhil that she took a moment to appreciate as she took to her feet. Beyond the physical - she was a warrior, like her. Only she had a purpose, and conviction that Ajani lacked. A cause.

    Before they could resume, an arrow struck her. Ajani's frame was rocked by the force of a broadhead striking her lower back. She grit her teeth and took a step to keep herself from falling. Even wounded, she'd have a good fight. As she snapped the arrow's shaft, another struck her in the back of her right thigh. She fell to a knee. A guttural growl escaped her throat, as searing pain pulsated through her with every quickened heartbeat. The arrow was likely serrated - she felt the warmth of her own blood as it started pouring out intensely.

    ''Na'ach melorn!'' she heard the woman shout. No more arrows came.

    Ajani raised her features to peer up at this warrior. Her expression was unreadable. She couldn't quite tell why she was to be spared, but she chose to respect this warrior's wish to let her live. She bowed her head, and let the battered old longsword fall from her hand to the ground in submission.


    ''Weapons remain here, calva.'' - the edhil guardswoman chimed at her, her brow somewhat creased. Edhil had long memories indeed. So did Ajani. She remembered that face, those eyes. She was there, years ago, when the caravan was attacked. One of those she struck down was likely dear to her. Without a word, Ajani left both her staff and her sword in her care. There was no regret that she could offer that would not be insultingly dishonest. The calva did not regret fighting for her life.

    The Resistance likely did not regret it either. Their leaders knew Ajani did not share all of their views, but her skill was undeniable and they took every use of it that they could. In the end, all she had to offer for them was a useful resource. A warrior that fought as if she knew death intimately. Only someone like that would agree to putting their shoulder to the wheel of such a gambit. A rush for the second bracelet that meant either death, or swift victory.

    The doors parted, and she stepped through. Though disarmed, the guards watched her warily - still. There were a few tales of her among the resistance's soldiers. How her body was as deadly a weapon as the sword she brandished. They were wary of her strength, wary of the beast that she appeared to be. It reminded her of Vonga. How her tribe were feared as savages and murderers. It took more strength than they knew, not to let their fear turn her into the monster they thought she was.

    The second set of doors parted, and within waited the council, and those that arrived before her. Ajani clasped her hands behind her back, and met the gaze of each person in the room. She never bowed or lowered her gaze, even when staring into the dark pools of councilor Berianir's eyes. She always thought he approved of this, the few times they had met. He seemed the sort to enjoy a challenge that was not unfounded.

    ''Please - enter. Be seated if it pleases you. There is much to say.'' - he invited her, and Ajani took her place beside the others who'd been called, and answered.

    She was still uncertain why the Council approached her. The Edhil were not known to trust easily - and on their terms, she had joined their cause for but a moment. Five years were nothing to them.

    Perhaps they finally realized that time would not stand still for their kind. And neither would the King of Eriston.
    #5 Firewombat, Jan 12, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2015
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  6. Hue Syrus - Edhil Resistance
    Of all the uncertainties that floated through Hue's mind, this was not one of them: he was far, far from home.

    Hue Syrus was a born traveler-by-land and spent many days venturing the forests that surrounded the cabin that his family eventually called home. Though many nights he had the warmth of a hearth and the protection of a roof over his head, as much of his childhood was spent outdoors, pushing the boundaries of the land further every day. But to sail a vast sea to another continent was something else entirely. He learned that his sea legs were, well, weren't. He learned that the forests of Inen were much like and yet nothing like the forests along the southern part of Eriston. Mostly he was beginning to learn that in a place like Enya Tol, to be Calva was no threat. Though it was a secret well guarded, seeing others who were not Fatanen was a relief to him. In fact, his fatanen heritage made him more of an outsider here than he realized - but there was no helping that.

    He clutched the invitation tighter in his hand as he made his way down the street toward the great Council Building of Enya Tol. He had never seen so many buildings in one place, and no building as grand as the one that stood before him. He knew the stones that held it together were beyond time, and the grace by which they were carved was an art long lost in the countries of the west. The doors were wooden with ironwork bars that shined so brightly Hue suspected they were not iron at all. The beauty of their making made him wonder how such a thing could ever meant to be used. He removed his cap and shoved it into his pocket, mussing his hair so it stood on end. His black hair did one of two things: stand on end or plaster to his head haphazardly. Standing on end at least looked clean. Hue had left most of his things back at the inn, but he was never without supply and his pockets were filled with items one might need in an emergency. As he walked up the steps, he held the invitation so tightly it began to wrinkle under the tension. He released his grip and smoothed out the envelope.

    Though he knew that his passage and invitation were taken care of, he could not help but feel nervous. The Representative, a freakish woman that belonged to the King, had arranged for him to be here. His purpose within this group was to get the bracelet and return it to her. It was a job she had requested of his father, Tonawk. It was a job his father had declined. It was a generous offer, and one Hue couldn’t resist. If He could return the bracelet to her for the king, The duchy of his great grandparents would return to his father. It was a dream of the family and an honor besides. Hue met with The Representative later that night and offered himself for the job. It was his time to bring security to his family, and once his family had that security he could make his own way in life. His parents and siblings never knew the true purpose of his leaving home; it was safer that way. Now he was here, at the gates of the Council Building of Enya Tol, about to be dropped into a team of accomplished recruits who all want the same thing - find the bracelet. The only problem? They were working against the king. He would have to execute his duty and double cross the Edhil resistance in the process. Hue had never considered taking a side before. His side had always been that which kept his family safe. Now, however, he was knee deep in his King's shit, so to speak. It was success or death. But he'd do what he must, for the good of his family.

    Two guards stopped him at the door, and the female of the two said, “State your business.” Hue handed the crumpled up envelope to her, which she took and opened, reading it with a frown. When she finished, she nodded, and the male guardsman demanded his weapons. Hue reached down and pulled a knife from his boot. The female guard took it and gestured for him to enter.

    When he walked toward the door he smashed into Something and bounced backward. Hue shook his head, bewildered, and then the other guard held his hand out. “All weapons,” he said, and Hue frowned. He reached into his jacket and pulled out two more daggers, both larger than the last and all three shaped with a different blade. He handed them to the guard with a shrug of his shoulders and his hands up in questioning. The guard shook his head and pushed Hue through. Luckily that was truly his last weapon, or he would have been slammed against whatever invisible force had stopped him last time. Instead, he fell through, stumbling on the threshold as he went.

    There was another set of doors, and he found himself in a grand chamber. There were four members of council that sat slightly higher than the rest across a great round table. Each of these members was embodied the color of a season and looked ageless. In fact...just about everyone in that room looked ageless. He glanced at the seats before him, some of which were filled. He had a feeling in the pit of his stomach that he was the youngest person there. Everyone else had the timeless look of an edhil, Or…well, Hue didn’t know what he was looking at. He’d heard of the Uialie, a race that once existed that was annihilated. Could it be that not all had been killed?

    Hue belatedly realized someone had said something to him.

    “Uh, what?”

    The councilwoman with the firey red hair smiled without humor. “We welcome you to our table. Please. Sit.” She gestured.

    “Oh, right.” Hue took the seat that had the most empty seats on either side of it. He sat with a ‘plop’ and put his arms up on the table before realizing that was rude and his mother would have killed him if she saw him doing that. He jerked his arms back off the table and placed them on his lap, twiddling his thumbs against the silence.

    Vahnulitz Aer - Fatanen Rule

    Vahnulitz Aer had ridden into the king’s keep only just that morning. Dwennon Ulmer had many tasks around the kingdom and beyond it, tasks he entrusted very few to execute. She was dirty from head to toe, though her armor still shined. She had ridden back to the castle by Dwennon’s command. There was to be a meeting of great importance.

    Vahnulitz made her way to her chambers. They were small, and sparse. There was an armoire for her clothes, a stand for her armor and rack for her weapons, a bed with a chest beside it for her few other possessions. Off to the side was another room about the same size as the first, and it was in here that she stored all of the instruments of her work. Back in Hyarya Tol, she’d had a room thrice this size and called it her Laboratory. This was some small version of the same, though it was rarely used. Many of the bottles remained untouched on dusty shelves. However, this room was also a room she used for bathing, which is what she needed to do and why she had bothered opening the rusty door.

    It took over an hour to scrub the grime away, and clean through the length of her hair. Though it reached down her back, no one ever saw it do so. She always had it braided and twisted at the nape of her neck, and often wore a hood.

    She chose a simple pair of black trousers to wear with her riding boots. She buttoned up a white tunic and wore a sleeveless robe over it, placing the hood almost reverently over her hair. She picked up a bottle of perfume, something Dwennon had given her all those years ago. He did not give her gifts any more. She sprayed the perfume on her neck anyway.

    Vahnulitz made her way to the throne room as the sun was setting. It was the first time that she would have seen the King in many months. Few things made her heart race anymore, but she felt it flutter slightly. Perhaps he wanted her again, like he did back in the beginning, when he first came into manhood. Perhaps he had called her tonight to profess his love for her. Perhaps…

    But no. He was not alone. and when he walked in, his eyes did not meet hers. They were on his new love, Zora, who stood beside him to his left. To his right, a master holding an uialie, one that was unseelie court. That was something that she had not seen in many years. The creature was battered, yet the king presented it to Zora as if it were a grand jewel, gesturing toward it with mace that she had created for his grandfather, so many years ago…her greatest creation, the mace was created with a blackened metal. The top had four spiked arms that formed around an ever glowing amethyst. This mace was not meant to be used as a melee weapon. It created a formless shadow that would defend the bearer against any foe. She used to feel great pride for that creation, and had been anxious to create more great items of magic. For some reason, she never did create anything else.

    Seeing Dwennon with Zora made the flutter in her heart turned to a flame, and then promptly burned out. What woman her king was using at the time was unimportant. The important thing was to do as she was bid, for the good of the kingdom, and her king. She accepted Zora and worked with her in any way the King commanded.

    “I hope I am not interrupting,” Vahnulitz said with a bow of her head as she entered the room. She stood across from the king, and awaited explanation.
    #6 Beckett, Jan 14, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2015
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  7. :Adalwolfe:Fatanen Rule, orange “I wish to see the king.” Adalwolfe’s voice was soft but not frail. He did not seek to bring a great deal of attention to himself at this time…at any time. His light eyes pierced the shadows that danced around him and lit upon the guard’s dour expression. “I seek to offer my services.” The Pildae kept his hands neatly tucked behind his back and under his cloak. Adalwolfe had come to discover that he was a bit bloodthirsty in this form and his hands tended to float to the grips of his daggers quite often.

    “No one sees the king because the want to, whelp! Now off with you!” The guard’s face twisted in a disgusted snarl as his eyes ran up and down the young man. True, the adventurer had been on the road for weeks but a little dirt shouldn’t offend royalty. It’s not like he wanted to wrap his arms around the Royal Windbag. Adalwolfe exhaled slowly through his lips allowing the soft rushing sound to calm him but was interrupted by a strong jab to the shoulder. The guard’s partner had stepped up and used the bottom of his polearm to illustrate the point.

    “He said move, filth!” This man’s breath was enough to melt solid stone. Adalwolfe had no issues taking a few steps back but not before casting baleful glances at both men. A twinkle appeared in the corner of his eye and while a sneer crept over his lips, his tongue flicked the tip of his upper right incisor.

    If that’s your game, gentlemen, prepare to look like fools. Adalwolfe bowed deeply and allowed his hands to extend out to each side. It was a grand gesture and the guards inside the foyer took notice causing them to move forward to the doorway. The captain of the guard also took notice and made his presence known by almost filling the space of the entryway and folded his arms across his chest. Adalwolfe rose and took a few steps off to the side where a deep shadow was creeping along behind some of the landscaping.

    Staring down at the shadow while he moved his foot against it, Adalwolfe smiled and began to speak in a clear voice that all five of the guards could hear. “I wonder how the king would feel about his guards sleeping on duty.” The statement caused several priceless expressions from the men protecting the west entrance to the castle. They turned and looked to one another before turning to look towards the Captain. This was exactly the reaction Adalwolfe was anticipating. With a thought, the shadow he was connected to swallowed his form making him nothing more than a wisp of darkness. The Captain looked back up from his men to see the stranger had vanished. The layout of the courtyard would not allow for someone to be out of sight that quickly and his experience kicked in with a booming command.

    “Pildae! To arms!!” His voice rumbled behind the thick breastplate and all of the men dropped into a stance of bent knees and weapons in hand. Five sets of eyes scoured the area but saw nothing. One of the younger guards began to sweat almost instantly and he could hear his own breath echoing against his helmet.

    “Where did he go?” He whispered to his companion. A soft rattle was reverberating from his gauntlet as it bounced against his sword.

    His partner was white-knuckled around the staff of the polearm and his eyes were wide as a Meer cat’s. “Shhhh!” He hissed and continued to search for his prey.

    Adalwolfe moved unseen in the shadows towards the first set of guards. The polearm would be slower in close combat so the initial strike would have to take out the sword. The trick was going to come in his second Shadowmeld once his sneak attack was done. He walked as if he wasn’t touching the cobbled stones for no sound echoed from beneath his boots. Behind the first guard, he stood and drew his dagger. He gripped the weapon ace, that is the blade and thumb pointing in the same direction, in his right hand and raised his arm. Adalwolfe stood for a second staring at the Captain with his back towards his target. He brought his right fist down back with great force landing the butt of the hilt against the man’s brain stem. The sound was that of a man almost choking on his tongue as he collapsed to the ground.

    The contact Adalwolfe had initiated broke the spell and he was now visible. However, the instant he felt his attack connect, he launched his second strike. The man with the polearm was turning to slice him but he had to turn his whole body. The Pildae leapt forward with his left hand palming the face of his opponent. With his entire weight behind the push, the clang of the man’s helmet against the pillar was enough to drop him. The Captain was not a slouch. As soon as Adalwolfe had appeared, he roared and charged with his blade high. Two bounding strides and then a downward arc with enough force to chop a horse in half was almost instantaneous. Unfortunately, he was just too slow for Adalwolfe went past the pillar and into the shadows once more. Furious, the Captain swung wildly in the area around him as a means to prevent a hidden attack on his person.

    “Come out and fight, coward!” The man was beet red in the face and saliva flew from his lips as he spat out the words. His eyes trailed to his men. Both seemed fine though they were definitely unconscious. The Captain ground his molars together and began to stalk back towards the doors.

    “Sir, had I been an enemy your soldiers would be dead.” Adalwolfe called quietly from along the edge of the castle’s wall.

    The Captain stopped and turned in the direction of the voice. He still could not see the man but he was beginning to understand. “Speak.”

    Adalwolfe watched the tip of the man’s blade slowly lower and replaced his own dagger back into the sheath. There was five feet of space between the two and so Adalwolfe stepped out of the shadows with his hands up to show they were empty. “I simply wish to swear fealty to His Highness. If you agree to take me to him, I will surrender my weapons.”

    The other two guards moved cautiously out from the open doorway with their swords drawn and shields braced. The Captain thought for a moment and sheathed his longsword. He narrowed his eyes at the character that had attacked his men. While he would like nothing more than to feign agreement, he could sense that this one would be trouble if he didn’t play along. Besides, the King’s guard had casters among them and once in the depths of the castle, this man’s parlor tricks would not be as effective. “Your weapons first and then I will escort you to the Great Hall.” The Captain turned to one of his men. “Go fetch a healer and an escort.” The guard sheathed his blade and scurried way into the castle.

    Adalwolfe smiled and bowed and set his axe, his scroll daggers and his band of throwing knives on the ground and then sidestepped away keeping his hands up in a resigned pose. The Captain nodded towards the weapons with his eyes on the other guard who scampered over and gathered the arsenal up. Once he was back by the door, he sheathed his sword and got a better hold on the pildae’s weapons.

    Five armed men marched through the door only seconds later accompanied by a well-dressed woman. She went to the slumped bodies of the sleeping guards and began to tend to them. Adalwolfe walked forward at the beckon of the Captain and stood amidst the four new faces who eyed him with great suspicion. Adalwolfe drew his hood back then clasped his hands in front of him and fell into step as the group proceeded forward. The Captain fell into step behind them and snatched the weapons from his underling. As they passed through the high archway Adalwolfe heard him mumble. “I’m too old for this shit.”
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  8. Alastair Locke – Fatan Rule

    A challenger. That’s what stood before Alastair Locke in the small ring. The swordsman, a citizen under his rule, challenged him to a duel without reason other than to undermine their lord’s strength. Throughout his short reign, many noble families of the region dueled him, purely in disbelief that a peasant was given power over them, and chosen by the king himself. They all fell to his sword, of course, all of them aristocrats who had little business holding a weapon. After defeating them, Alastair spared them of the blade pressed against their throats and sent them home; these duels certainly earned him no allies in Eriston, but he was slowly gaining respect among the noble ranks. Perhaps this foe would fail like the rest; or maybe not. Certainly, the peasants he lorded over enjoyed the fights; watching nobles being made fools of by a lowborn gave them immense pride.
    The two duelists took the swords, identical in nature, from Alastair’s guards who stood by the rotting wood fence that encircled the arena. Alastair nimbly spun the sword in his left hand, carefully analyzing the weight and feel of the weapon as he had done so many times before, his eyes never leaving his foe. The swordsman was dwarfed by Alastair, whose shadow completely consumed them, but these were the enemies that he feared the most; they were quick, darting around him like mosquitos, targeting the weak spots in his armor while he was left spinning in circles just to keep up. Luckily, he was unburdened by heavy plate today, though Alastair was unsure how much this added mobility would help. Alastair carefully watched as his opponent moved; even the slightest nuance in their body language could provide insight into their fighting style. The swordsman adopted an aggressive stance, with one foot in front of the other, and a double-handed grip on their weapon; quite a strange choice for one so outmatched in size. Alastair didn’t have long to dwell on this peculiarity, though.

    “Prepare to taste my steel, old man.” The swordsman descended upon Alastair without warning, launching a flurry of thrusts and swings that he barely managed to evade, clumsily parrying a few with his own sword. The blows caught Alastair off guard, but he quickly recovered, striking back with equal ferocity. Yet, everyone watching the fight could tell that the knight was reserving his strength, pulling his blows. Could this be some new trick to fool his opponent? The two locked blades, putting all their weight into the other to gain ground; the challenger’s heels dug into the soil, slowly forcing Alastair back until he was forced to retreat. “You’re getting tired, aren’t you?” the swordsman taunted as they circled each other. Alastair took this as an opportunity to launch another attack, bringing his sword over his head to cut his opponent in two. The telegraphed attack was quickly evaded by his foe, who swiftly knelt down and struck his ankles with the flat of their sword, sending Alastair to the ground. He rolled onto his back with his sword raised, but he felt his enemy’s blade gently rest on his throat. This is it.

    Alastair dropped his sword and looked up at the victor, whose face was one of pure pride. The knight couldn’t help but smile as the small crowd surrounding them erupted into cheers. Despite Alastair’s loss, his guards seemed to enjoy watching him be bested by his nine year old daughter. “I beat you!” Telys cried triumphantly, thrusting her wooden sword into the air.

    “Aye, but now comes the hard part; helping your old father off the ground,” Alastair said with a laugh as she struggled to pull him up. The knight sparred regularly with his son, Barrick, but it was just recently that his daughter took interest in combat, and the young girl picked up on the basics quickly. Some days, he would let them win, if their performance was satisfactory, but he always made sure their skills were tested; Alastair did not want to see his children become warriors, but he knew the day might come when they would be called to battle. As Alastair returned to his feet, he spotted a gatekeeper sprinting towards the arena.

    “Sir Locke! Sir Locke! A rider approaches from the north, bearing the royal standard!” the man shouted as he approached. Alastair felt a familiar feeling wash over him, but it was not a welcome one. He’d been waiting for this day to come, and it was almost a relief now that it was here. The King gave him several weeks to settle his affairs at home and see to his family, but those few short days were burdened with the thoughts of what was to come. Fifteen years ago, the dread and anxiety in his stomach would instead be excitement and joy, but he felt nothing of the sort.
    “I think that’s enough for today, my love, you’ve worn your father out. Why don’t you go find your brother?” Alastair said to his daughter, who held her sword in anticipation for another battle.

    “Hah! Good idea, maybe he’ll want to fight!” The sprightful girl scrambled off to the castle, still grasping the wooden weapon; Alastair watched his daughter, a weak smile flickering across his lips. The two children were finally growing used to having their father present. When he arrived home, the two would barely leave him alone, even sleeping in his bed. He savored the sight a little longer before turning his back and heading towards the main gates, though he already knew what awaited him.
    “But father, you can’t leave! You promised!” Barrick sobbed into his cold breastplate. It was good he put his armor on, Alastair decided, so his son wouldn’t feel his body trembling. Barrick was typically the more reserved one, rarely letting his emotions take control. This was different. His daughter remained silent, standing next to her brother, content to enjoy her father’s embrace for as long as she could. He looked down at the two, running his gloved hands through their golden beige hair; the same locks that belonged to the woman he loved.

    “I’m sorry, my loves, but I must go. The king needs me,” he barely managed to say. It was true, the king did need him, but he could find other men. No, Alastair volunteered. He trusted no others with the task, and knew just how important it was. It was always easy to give the blame to the king. Lim’s Bracelet had to be retrieved, otherwise, legions of Amlugan, massive scaled beasts, would swarm Eriston, killing all in their path. Stone walls could protect one from men, but not dragons. Alastair knew he had to secure his children’s future, even if it meant giving up his life. They may grow up orphans, but it was better than never growing up at all. Alastair looked up to see his mother, watching them at the gates. Despite her years, the woman stood tall, her posture never failing. She joined the embrace, and whispered into her son’s ear, “Your king has already taken one of your children’s parents. Don’t let him take the other.” The woman locked eyes with him and he nodded. “Come now children, your father must go now.”
    For most, the king’s keep was a symbol of hope. Those who labored beneath the tall towers saw it as hope to one day walk through the halls as nobles, treating themselves to whatever they desired. For others, it meant strength, stability. No matter what hardships they faced, the strong walls and valiant soldiers of the keep would protect them. Alastair once felt this way, but not anymore. Each visit to the keep just brought more problems he had to confront, more corrupt aristocrats he was forced to work around. The king, it seemed, was the only truly noble being residing in the keep, and Alastair even questioned that sometimes. And yet he kept returning, like a moth to the flame. He passed through the guards with ease; they all recognized him, as he visited often enough. Upon entering the courtyard, just before the throne room, he was met with several of the king’s guards scattered about on the ground, with a healer attending to them. His hand instinctively grasped the pommel of his sheathed sword, and the knight quickened his pace to the throne room, his heart beating faster by the second. Assassination attempts on the king were common, but they rarely attacked with such ferocity.

    Alastair burst through the heavy doors of the throne room, expecting a fight, but was met with a stranger sight. The two women by the king’s side did not shock him. Vahnulitz Aer and Zora Gavros were both close allies of Dwennon, and were also known to frequent his bed chambers, but this was of no importance to Alastair. What did interest him was the enormous creature that stood before the three. The king was known for possessing a number of exotic pets, but this one seemed the strangest. Uialie he thought. His father had told him stories of the creatures; some were five times the size of men, shaped like trees, while others were as big as a child’s thumb. If his suspicions were correct, then the being was quite exotic, the race almost entirely wiped out. He noticed the heavy chains restricting the creature’s limbs, and was reminded of another somber fact; the Uialie were a sentient race, and this was no pet, but a slave. This thought left the knight feeling sick, but he pushed it out of his mind. It did explain the unconscious soldiers outside, though, and Alastair let his guard down as he approached the group.

    “Greetings, my king,” he said with a bow, giving a curt nod to the others, even meeting eyes with the Uialie. He remained silent, unsure if this was the party that would be sent to retrieve the bracelet; he certainly didn’t want to compromise their task before it even started.
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