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Discussion in 'THE ASCENDER CHRONICLES' started by Effervescent, Mar 4, 2017.

    The large clockwork planetarium was all he could focus on, besides of course, the growing knot in his belly that had everything and nothing to do with the maliciously alleged Eudicia… whatever or whoever it may be. Albeit new to the region, even he had heard the rumors, the small talk of commoners and merchants that spread across the cities that called this land home. And Zahar, a foreigner from the Allied Kingdoms, unwelcome in Estwynd in so many ways, had been caught right in the middle. He racked his brain, wondering just how it had happened, and as if in answer, his mind’s eye replayed a memory of a fluttering sheet of parchment in the breeze, fallen from the grasp of a young woman.

    If only he’d let it flutter on by, left the omen for some other poor soul to latch on to…

    With an aching sigh, Zahar turned from the common woman and refocused on the whirling mechanisms above. His fingers itched to sketch the magnificence, to study the inner workings as he sketched each nut and bolt and made furiously curious inquiries to the workers who maintained it. Fate, it seemed, wanted him to do nothing of the sort. Almost startled out of his silent observance Zahar watched as the Aegis he met earlier swooped down and scooped a noble woman from off the ground. In her grasp was a parchment and without seeing what was depicted, felt himself drenched with a sense of doom.

    He was unsure of what to do; the Aegis took the two women and exited the vestibule and he stood there for a moment before following in his wake. He didn’t have to follow long, as the Aegis rushed back into the main hall, faint screams could be heard from whence he came. A fierce determination graced his face and Zaharin breathed in deep, calling to his magic on instinct, before biting down the urge.

    ”Belhund, at the ready. You. Stranger. We could use the assistance if you are willing. The palace is no longer safe!”

    Nodding silently, Zahar took a defensive stance near the Aegis and his squire, attempting to shield the two women who’d received the insignias. Though he held on to his magic he felt naked knowing he could not use it. He glanced sideways at the Aegis and then at his squire.

    “Perhaps you have a spare blade?” Zaharin inquired determinedly. He was no master swordsman, but he had been taught the basics and he was a fair deal stronger than he looked. For the first time in his extended life, Zahar regretted his hasty decision in letting Inara keep his family’s only heirloom; a hand-and-a-half sword that was out of place among his people. As he desperately tried to keep his magic at bay, Zahar couldn’t help but imagine the worst…

    Tags: @Effervescent @Doctor Jax
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  2. [​IMG]

    She could feel it. Panic. Seeping into her bones like icy cold, her heart pushing harder and harder against her ribs. She felt shaky, her legs suddenly heavy with the weight of all that rested on her shoulders and as she continued to stare at the unconscious woman, several thoughts enveloped her mind, unwilling to relent. The foremost was the uncomfortable differences in her position, versus the woman Marnia was attending to. She was a servant - and the daughter of a blacksmith. Her worth, already, was extremely limited... but the newcomer was a noblewoman - recognizable even by appearance - and at the end of the day, she would always take precedence. Arabella had no delusions that she would be held with the same regard... she shouldn't be, given her position.

    But she didn't want to die, either.

    Tears sparkled in her eyes as she looked around the room. She should have left... made their jobs easier. She was a liability to the noblewoman - just someone to get in the way. Whatever Marnia said, and she wanted to believe the kind-hearted squire, Arabella also knew the way the world around her worked. She was never going to be a priority. No doubt, it was why they picked people like her - she wouldn't be missed. Not until her work began to pile up, anyway.

    She should have left. And she might have. Except as the thought occurred to her, as she struggled to work up the courage to do so, the room beyond them was rather suddenly thrust into darkness, her stomach giving a somersault at the sound of the screams. Balling her hands into fists, she dug her nails into the softness of her palms to steady the anxiety coursing through her with the rush of a river. Gripped by fear, she barely heard the command of the Aegis, but as he started for the stairs they had come up, Arabella urged her feet to move and followed after him.

    When she had caught up to the man, cradling this young noblewoman, she looked back to the darkened vestibule, shaking her head, "I should stay..." She remarked, "If they're looking for us... Maybe they'll be satisfied with one. You can get her Ladyship away, safely... and faster without me."

    "Don't be ridiculous," Alexander responded, and he looked over at her with severity. "Just stick by Marnia and we'll get you to safety."

    Frowning, Arabella glanced back to the others, "It's not ridiculous, Sire. I know my place... I know the worth of a--" Looking back at him, she paused, the words hitched in her throat as she caught sight of his profile - so focused and solemn.

    So familiar.

    "If it comes down to a confrontation, I...I'm not afraid." She continued, but with less conviction, her thoughts revolving instead on that sudden and unnerving sense of recollection, "I'll not put a noblewoman at risk... Marnia should follow protocol."

    "Protocol mandates anyone who receives an insignia is given protection by the High Queen," Alexander stated as he continued to press on down the streets. Citizens still carried on about their business unaware of what was transpiring at the palace, though some spared a curious glance towards the Aegis and the unconscious woman he carried. "And since I work under the High Queen herself, Squire Belhund and myself are in charge of your protection. So. Regardless of social status, miss, you have just as much of a right as Lady Dynagra."

    "...There are some who would greatly disagree Sire." But she wouldn't argue. If it was less fuss for her to follow, then she would. She was, if nothing, good at following orders...

    "But thank you, all the same. I suppose I was lucky to run into you..."

    Her compliance after intending sacrifice gave Alexander cause for concern. He looked over at Arabella to study her briefly and as well as he could while on the move. The last thing he wanted was her death on his conscience, especially if he could see it coming. And so he looked for the conviction in her expression and which way it swayed.

    "You're welcome," he said. "Please... Just don't do anything rash."

    Smiling dryly, with very little actual humor, she shook her head, "I'm not known for it... Rash action. I'll do what's required of me. Whatever that should be..."

    Biting the edge of her lip, she looked away, "I'm sorry, Sire. If I... I didn't mean to speak out of turn. I'm afraid I've grown a bit too accustomed to being so on my own, I forget what it is to have a conversation."

    "You're quite alright," he said, offering her a reassuring smile, though he still did not look over at her entirely. There was so much to consider in this moment, and he spared a glance behind them before turning down another road. Everything seemed completely and eerily normal considering what he had witnessed. It wasn't the first time he had ever come across what they call a Blackout. The High Queen had him investigate and cull a cult of Shadow Wielders out in Neunyor as their antics grew to terrorism. He didn't completely understand it, but he knew well enough to run rather than fight.

    Alexander glanced over to his squire with a thought as he guided the group to the nearest aviary. She had been there on that investigation, and now he wondered if this was related to the investigation they thought they had closed years ago.

    "Go see if Marnia has a weapon to spare," he said to Arabella. "Perhaps one for the gentleman as well. I'm a bit occupied to offer at the moment, but you should all ready yourselves should the need arise."

    "Yes, Sire." It hadn't escaped her attention, that the Aegis refused to look at her fully. That, coupled with the strange sense of familiarity placed him in a strange aura of wariness. Undoubtedly, he knew of her father's occupation. He had assured her that she was in his protection... but was it strictly a code of honor that propelled him to aid her? Would she ever escape that terrible stigma?

    She started to turn away but paused midstep, frowning softly as she looked back at the man, "My father was a good man. Whatever you may think of those in his line of work, he didn't deserve to be judged for what other men have done. Neither do I." Bowing her head, she turned then and made way for Marnia, pausing by her side. Her eyes flickered briefly to the man who had stopped the letter, before they returned to the young squire.

    "Have... have you a spare weapon I can borrow? And perhaps something for him?"

    TAGS || Collab with @Effervescent || @Doctor Jax, @Starlighter, @rissa
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  3. GEIROLF WOLFF A collaboration with: @Effervescent
    Geirolf pushed between the soldier and Abrecan as he made a break for it. Understandable, given all that had just transpired. The soldier had anticipated as much, though he had hoped a bit of trust would have allowed him a little more time before the Wolf of the Valley darted off to his freedom. Unfortunately for Geirolf, the soldier couldn't let him go. There was promise of freedom, yes, but not on the man's terms. Not like this. And so he took off in pursuit through the narrow alley gaining distance with ease. The soldier had at least had a decent meal in him recently, well hydrated, and a calculative advancement with his focused mind. And he hoped Geirolf's was a bit more chaotic and instinctive.

    With the alley set up as a defined path, the soldier took the opportunity to strike with Shadow Magic to try and get to Geirolf before he could burst into the crowd on the streets up ahead. He disappeared in a cloud of black, appearing within an instance at the other end of the alley, bracing for possible impact as Geirolf now raced towards him.

    Geirolf barely managed to skid to a stop when the young soldier manifested at the end of the alley. A billow of sand and dust gathered at the wolf's bare feet as he let out a wild man's laugh. "I knew there was something off about you soldier--yer a fuckin mage boy you are!"

    "I follow no man. Magical or not." As if he was high on the rush of freedom the Prisoner's words became slurred and sloppy. As crazy as he may have seemed the capable man in Geirolf knew that his best chance at escaping the young Soldier was the crowd. Try and poof yourself there boy, he thought with a wide grin.

    The prisoner turned and threw his entire form into a doorway lining the side of the alleyway. He broke through and paid no heed to the older man who owned the room while he sprinted out the next door.

    The soldier rolled his eyes as Geirolf posed his defiance and bolted into the closest establishment. He didn't follow as he rushed through the room and out the other door. It would seem Geirolf was a free man as the soldier was nowhere to be seen. The crowd was of a moderate flow. Ecksoh was a populated city with crowds attempting to flow through streets often too narrow before becoming comfortable for as much traffic as it had. And as he continued on he would feel an unmistakable nagging sensation within his very being he would not be able to fully understand or pin point.

    Geirolf had made his way through three different homes after the first before he finally allowed himself to slow down. From the last home he took a linen cloak to cover his body and chains. While he may have evaded the young soldier there were still plenty of guards and citizens alike who could recognize him.

    Deciding to take to do a full call back to his childhood, Geirolf made his way into the market where--with experience and finesse--he silently plundered two apples and a dagger. Taking a bite of the first real food he's had in months the wolf smiled to himself. Things were looking up.

    Geirolf then decided it was time he'd leave Ecksoh all together. With his head bowed down and his dagger prepared for the worse underneath the linen he moved through the streets. He'd look up on occasion to see his progress but oddly enough Geirolf was making little to none.

    It was odd. The city had not seemed so large when the soldiers paraded him through just weeks earlier but it seemed like it would be hours before he made it to the borders. A peculiar feeling rose in his chest with each step and soon enough the lighthearted joy he felt earlier had been replaced by complete and utter anxiety.
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  4. A Collaboration between Starlighter & Effervescent@Elle Joyner @Doctor Jax @rissa

    The darkness that met Saren's eyes initially seemed exactly the same as the bliss of unconsciousness. Then, sounds began to filter through it. Voices, footsteps, people. She turned her head slightly and her cheek brushed against something, solid, warm. Blinking and searching through the fog still clinging to her slowly awakening senses, her mind was slow to make sense of what the disjointed information should mean. She was moving, rather unevenly.... When she shifted to take a step, she realized there was nothing under her feet.

    A panicked squeak escaped her lips, and she jerked abruptly to lash out with her foot at the person holding her. Familiar terror brought her back to full awareness, and she followed the kick by aiming her elbow at the face of the man carrying her.

    The sudden jolt from the heiress he carried caused Alexander to compensate for the shift in placement within his arms. He halted his movements briefly to fight against Saren's flailing and attempted to calm her as best he could manage. But her kick was a major shift and the elbow smacked right between his cheek and nose. It hurt well enough to cause a reactionary grunt, and he carefully attempted to bring the woman down to her feet gently.

    "I'm an Aegis under the High Queen," he assured.

    The moment he shifted to set her down, Saren scrambled out of his hold. She put several steps between them before whirling about with a ferocious glower, the fire of her anger swiftly chasing out any traces of fear. With her eyes mostly adjusted, she could make out others around them, but she directed her fury at the self proclaimed Aegis.

    "And just what licence does that give you to shamelessly cart about young women?" she demanded, her voice rising to a fearsome shriek. "If you are indeed such an Aegis" she continued to seethe, "I quite assure you, Her Majesty will hear of this. And my betrothed, who, I think, you would do well to fear the more."

    There was complete contrast between their demeanors, but Alexander's concern melted into woeful exasperation as the heiress berated him on his actions. Citizens began to stare curiously as their trek to the aviary came to a halt. He carried himself a bit like a child chided by his mother where he felt helpless to defend his actions, shoulders slumped and brow creased as he watched Saren in her understandable state. This far away from the palace nothing looked amiss. Saren had missed the Blackout at the vestibule.

    Despite the exasperation and slight slouch to his posture, he was still an Aegis and still confident his decision to carry her away from the scene was the right thing to do. "You were given an insignia," Alexander explained calmly. "I am duty bound to offer you assistance. You have the right to refuse it but I need you to state so now as I have another in my care that is to be escorted to safety."

    Saren parted her lips to tell him just what exactly she thought of that, but with her wits more fully about her, she caught herself before she said anything and quickly closed her mouth. Inhaling deeply to calm herself, she responded in a more sedate tone, remembering her propriety.

    "Of course. I do apologize; I shouldn't have spoken to you in such an ill-mannered way. I did come to you for your help, and it was incredibly rude of me to say such things; I beg your forgiveness, Sir." Mildly embarrassed, she looked to the ground.

    Cordiality was commonplace in the higher echelon of Estwynd to which Alexander Vallane was quite familiar. It was an aspect of society he had often found himself running from due to the disingenuous nature of such a facade. He knew this situation was cause for concern for the heiress, and they did not know each other personally. Her downcast eyes triggered a soft sigh from the Aegis's lips.

    "You have every right to be concerned for your safety and care," he said in assurance. "We're headed for the aviary. Are you well enough to carry on without assistance, and do you have any aversions to travel by flight?"

    Gathering her composure and holding up her head, Saren gave a delicate nod in answer. "I believe I can manage on my own for the time being, thank you." Truth be told the idea of flying currently made her feel rather ill. But to portray oneself as assured was much easier than to be assured, and the next best thing to having a desired quality was to imitate it flawlessly.

    "I have no aversion; whatever you deem to be most convenient, Sir."
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  5. A Short Maid, A Tall Elf, and an Ugly Squire Walk Into A Square...

    a @rissa @Elle Joyner and @Doctor Jax production

    Marnia's brain, essentially, shut off the moment the lights in the vestibule shut off. While she had been preoccupied with attending to the young heiress, it had taken her a full moment to totally understand what had happened. It was incredibly unusual -- and there was only one other instance she could think of, when lights suddenly dimmed to almost-cave blackness.

    Her heart felt as if it had replaced her tongue. Her lungs fought to respire at a hummingbird's pace as she looked about the darkened room, her short sword already out and at the ready before Alex could even get the words out to remove her weapon. Animal panic began to creep into her hands as her palms sweat, her sword shaking ever so slightly. With Alex leading them out of the room, Marnie felt a blast of relief pass over her.

    The tall man asked for a sword and Marnie shakily stated, "In a minute, gotta get out of here first."

    As soon as they were in the sunshine, she felt a weight lift off her, but her hands still shook and her eyes still flicked to and fro through the square for some unseen adversary. The young woman -- Bella -- approached her and the tall man at her side, asking whether she had a weapon for them.

    Marnie's smile quirked back into place for all of a second, taking over her stricken expression as she answered, "S-sure, yeah, I got somethin' -- but only the one other sword, sorry, love."

    From a strap at her back, she pulled a secondary sword, this one rather shorter than even her first short sword, though usable for up-close and personal encounters. She handed it, hilt first, to the tall man at her side, though she didn't meet his eyes, her skin pallid and sweating.

    Frowning softly, Arabella watched as Marnia handed the small blade over to the stranger. It made sense. Maybe the squire was above simple prejudices, but she would certainly be more prone to rationality. The man was tall... somehow managed to be taller than Marnia, who already dwarfed the young servant. If it came down to a battle, surely they would be the best to defend the others...

    And no doubt, the man was easily more important than the lowly daughter of a blacksmith.

    More preoccupying, however, was the expression she had seen cross Marnia's face and reaching out, she touched the woman's arm, tentatively. She looked pale and uneasy, her pock-marked face nearly ashen, "...Are... are you alright?"

    It was a strange feeling, being swept up in a tide of fear. Zahar let himself be led by the Aegis, by the squire Belhund and the Ladies Bella and the fallen, Dynagra. He had felt it, the corruption of Shadow, and he had no issue with leaving the palace and striking off as far and as fast as they could. Without magic he was next to worthless, even with his head full of countless memorized facts and figures and dates, without his magic he could not defend himself. He could not defend these people… not against Shadow Casters.

    But as Belhund offered the sword off her back, Zahar accepted, hilt first, and realized he had to try. He listened with vague interest as Bella made inquiries to the squire, his head filled with a thundering silence, prayers and poisons and above all, apprehension. He took a step in front of Bells, shielding her as the Aegis had once said, and waited for further instructions.

    The squire, meanwhile, finally turned to Bella as she realized she'd been asked a question. The tall woman put on a shaky smile as she realized, too late, that she had perhaps been to candid about her....apprehension.

    "Oh! 'S not a thing, lady, I'm just ah....winded. This armor's heavy and m' constitution took a beating a while ago in a back alley," Marnie said, motioning to the scarred part of her face.

    "What 'bout you two? You see the bloody lot that's gone 'n done 'at?"

    She gestured back to the palace, keeping a weather eye out. It was all too possible that the perpetrators had done it to flush them into the square.

    Not one to pry, though her expression lost none of its concern, Arabella nodded,"I'll be fine once we're as far from whatever that was back there as possible..."

    Marnia nodded as she swallowed, pulling on the neck of her breastplate to give herself a little breathing room. Honestly, she wanted to take the whole bloody thing off. The last time, it definitely hadn't helped her any. At least she could be comfortable, but she'd have to lug the thing around.

    "Well, Lady Bella, seems you're in luck, because I think Alex'll be headin' straight fer the Aviary."

    Suddenly realizing that perhaps the stranger who'd gotten wrapped up in this might not want to stick around for such a prolonged journey, Marnia looked over to him and said, " My 'pologies, sir, but we'll probably be headin' farther out. We've got a bird to catch, 'n it'll be a long journey. I've no doubt that we'll be attemptin' a launch with Lady Bella here. If'n you feel like it, you can catch the jump with us, 'n Alex will take care of your expenses seein' as you're helpin' the Crown. Otherwise -- no hard hearts here if you're wont to take off. Though I'll want my sword back..."

    She gestured to the sword in the man's hand with a gloved finger, surreptitiously moving her hair over the scarred portion of her face.

    It took a moment to focus on what Belhund was saying, so wrapped up in his own head as he was. But clarification came quickly, and he waved the notion off. It was safer with the Aegis; if it came down to life or death, at least he could speak on his behalf if his survival instincts overrode rational thought and let his arcane magic free. Besides, he was in the palace when those Shadow Casters, for all he knew, they were aware of his minute connection to those given the insignia.

    “I’ll stay,” Zahar replied firmly, his gaze searching the way they came. “I find long journeys interestingly satisfying.”

    Marnia grinned and slapped the tall man on the back, taking him by the scruff of the neck and shaking him lightly.

    "Aye, there's the spirit! I m'self love a good long sojourn. That said, we'd best be headin' with Alex 'n not stray too far."

    Arabella nodded, as she looked ahead of them to the Aegis and the noblewoman, who appeared to have roused from her spell, "...I've never left the city..." She whispered, barely loud enough to be heard and shifting, she moved perceptively closer to the squire and makeshift guard.

    @Effervescent @Starlighter
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    The insignias. The talk of the town, the mystery that seemed impossible to unfurl. A one eyed girl passing them around? No wonder these soldiers were out chasing her down. But on of them looked strangely familiar, something she couldn't quite put her finger on. He looked rather roughed up. Something seemed off. She was about to comment when the leading soldier spoke.

    “A Blood Mage out in Ecksoh again?” he observed. “Seems a lot of bad things keep happening around here.” Aveline felt her cheeks redden, her hatred of being nothing more than an object to observe entirely distracting her from the uncanny familiarity of one of the men. "Perhaps we enjoy the occasional stroll out from our deep, dark, dungeons." She said curtly with a huff, eyes cast downwards. But that was all that came out of her, and her voice was quiet still. She let the soldier go about whatever business he intended to carry out for the child-snatching farmer, and figured she should probably be on her way.

    But the sudden duck-and-run of that strangely suspicious man kept her in her place. The slightest of smirks came upon her as she watched soldier be shoved into the other who had made the unpleasant comment. And even before that, the farmer had brought out an insignia of his own, another ingredient to add to the mix of chaos. And then, to top it all off, the supposed soldier disappeared in a cloud of inky smoke.

    The greatest, wildest of laughs came from the broad-shouldered blood mage. What a mess! What a beautiful bloody mess. Never had something excited her so, because not only was there the involvement of insignias and shadow magics, she was now absolutely positive the man who was running away was the Wolf of the Valley. Now this was a tale that would offer compensation for her failure of the actual mission for the High Ruler.

    After her laugh, she climbed aboard the farmer's cart, without gaining any permission. "If you want any compensation for your plentiful roots and wagon, I would suggest climbing aboard. And you, good man! Was I wrong in overhearing you promise your life to the fellow who has gone after the Wolf?"

    @Effervescent @Shizuochan @Red Thunder @BearEnthusiast
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  7. Maes Harrow

    Maes blinked stupidly as the Blood Mage climbed into his cart sans anything even approaching invitation to do so. And, to be fair, somewhat intimidated by the fact that is was a Blood Mage climbing into his cart. His interaction with magically inclined folk any kind had been extremely limited at best. He blinked, unsure of what to do. The strange foreigner stood nearby, having been just addressed by Aveline, and Maes hadn't a clue whether he should wait for his reply or just...go.

    He looked after where the soldier had ran after the other man. Both seemed in something of a hurry: the man, criminal maybe, to get away, and the soldier to keep him around. He'd offered recompense for not being able to sell his goods, the soldier had, in exchange for what was sounding more and more like an adventure of some kind.

    Maes was open to the idea, sure. If nothing else, the idea of getting to see new kinds of foods and produce from other lands intrigued him. But that would mean more time away from Joy. Yet the soldier's pay could more than cover any income he would have made, leaving his family that much better off than they might otherwise be.

    It was worth the risk. Tightening the reins, Maes glanced at the foreigner before looking back down the road.

    "Who am I to tell a Blood Mage 'no'? You coming, sir?"

    @CloudyBlueDay @Effervescent @BearEnthusiast @Shizuochan
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  8. It was a bad day, at least for Abrecan's posterior.

    The Wolf of the Valley already had much to answer for - bruises, friction burns, and dirtied clothing were just baubles to be added unto the neck of the list. The con-man's snarl stood in stark contrast to his prior facade of eloquent gentility. According to Abrecan himself, there was nothing quite so fearsome and forceful as the elemental wrath of a petty man. And Abrecan, of course, prided himself as being the pettiest of all men. He inspected the side of his audaciously hued garments, patches frayed and ruined where he had landed. He would, of course, return the favor.

    He would gladly watch as they skinned the Wolf alive.

    Blankly nodding at the remarks of Blood Mage and farmer alike, Abrecan - rather ungracefully - extricated himself from the dirt. He was Abrecan Scand! No man, no lady, no mage or farm-boy could see him in such a state, prostrate and unwillingly kowtowed upon the ground. Abrecan could only imagine that, in their eyes, he had been permanently lessened - humiliated, even. And thus, due to no fault of their own, the embarrassed con-man immediately felt disdain and dislike for his newfound comrades of circumstance. Even so, he allowed himself to step onto the cart, fuming all the while.

    "He'll have no place in the city, and I imagine he knows that. Go, go, and go. Run him down if you have to - a crippled Wolf is still a live one no? "
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  9. Ecksoh

    Just as before, a hand reached out and grabbed Geirolf as the nagging feeling snapped in a pang, and he was thrust back into the Darkness and the silent void. It was less than a second in time, but enough to build pressure in the silence before release back in the alley where the chase first began. The soldier had a firm grasp on Geirolf’s arm and collar of his shirt as he leaned in towards his ear.

    “Don't be an idiot,” he hissed, and pushed him forward towards where they had left Abrican only to find him with the farmer and the Blood Mage. They were all on the farmer’s wagon, and had it not been for the inconvenient chase he would have been more exuberant about the convenience.

    “Anyone else wish to run?” the soldier asked rhetorically. He eyed the Blood Mage only briefly where she stood upon the wagon. “As I said, I need a mode of transportation and I can provide safety to anyone who received an insignia. Monetary compensation will be provided for any inconvenience.”

    He shoved Geirolf forward and into the back of the cart. There was some food, at least for the trip. He wondered just how much would be needed to compensate for this amount of loss. The main concern right now was Geirolf, and he chained the man with legitimate cuffs to the wagon, eyeing him with a look of severity.

    “You may be free from Estwynd law,” he whispered, “but you are not a free man. My orders are to kill you if you do not comply.”

    Looking up from the Wolf of the Valley, he looked over at the Blood Mage. “We’ll be on our way,” he said to her. “No sense in bothering you further from your important business.”

    @Red Thunder @Shizuochan @BearEnthusiast @CloudyBlueDay


    The lack of predicted action unsettled Alexander as they continued towards the Aviary. Nothing happened, and despite what he had witnessed it did not travel into the streets with them. But the preparations of arming anyone who could hold their own still felt necessary even as they entered into where the gryphons were kept. It was a grand building that housed both personal gryphons and those available for temporary use. Gryphon tamers were highly valued and few in number due to the risks and demands of such a free-willed beast. The facility carried an unmistakable musty smell and echoes of chirps and calls from the more talkative tenants.

    “Vallane?” A gryphon tamer by the name of Jacob approached the group with a curious look, eyes scanning over the weapons held in their hands. “I received word you and Belhund would be needing your gryphons prepared for journey, but I was not told of any extra.”

    “Plans changed rather quickly,” Alexander explained. “Do you have any extra we could use for a while?”

    “With the airships down, I don't know,” Jacob admitted as he ran a cloth through his sweaty mop of hair. “Respectfully, gryphons aren't just things. They're intelligent creatures and if they reject any one of you I can't let you take it. Too much of a risk.”

    “This is an emergency,” the Aegis said.

    “I'll go check and see if we have any available,” the tamer said with a shrug. “Hold tight. And hide those weapons away or sheathe them or something. Earn their trust first, okay?”

    As Jacob disappeared to a room to the side, Alexander turned to the group that had followed with him. “I understand I had you all come with me without little explanation,” he said. “The void we saw earlier is part of the Dark Magic forbidden in Estwynd. Considering we had two targets for Eudicia within the vicinity, I had to make a quick decision. Both Miss Dane and Lady Dynagra are in danger and what was meant to be their sanctuary is now compromised. My squire and I have other affairs to tend to but I don't believe this city is the best place to leave you. Right now I believe the safest place is with us. We are of the Aegis. We’re trained for situations like this. But this means you have to fly. Anyone with aversions to such travels, speak up.”

    He looked over at Zahar. “I thank you for coming along,” he continued. “You aren't required to come with us.”

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  10. [​IMG]

    Their journey was uneventful, but this made Arabella no less anxious. It was a disquieting notion after what had occurred back in the palace that nothing had actually come from the darkness. It seemed a pause before the fury... a deception to lure them all into believing they had escaped the threat. In her heart she knew all too well the dangers of assuming the storm had passed...

    It was distracting, the anticipation of the breaking violence - knowing sooner or later it would come, and probably without warning. But not so distracting that when the Aegis turned to her and spoke her name, Arabella could miss the subtle revelation that sent her stomach plummeting towards her feet.

    Miss Dane.

    She had not revealed her name to anyone but Marnie... and then, their conversation had not been nearly close enough to Vallane that he should overhear it. She had suspected before that he might have known her father's occupation - and that had been the cause of his strange behavior, but it seemed, to some unnerving degree, things went far deeper than that. He knew who she was... by name.

    Her brows knit for a moment, eyes narrowing as she stared curiously at him - that familiarity had made her uneasy before ... it was terrifying, now. To remember someone, to know you've seen them before, but have no recollection where or why - to know that they know you, too? A shiver coursed through her and Arabella looked away, turning her eyes to Marnia, instead.

    "...Flying? I... I've never..." Swallowing, she folded her hands together, to keep from fidgeting with them, "If it's the only way..."

    #30 Elle Joyner, Apr 15, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2017
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  11. Marnia Belhund

    The squire followed her mentor dutifully, her eyes darting around them. Now that she knew -- and knew for a fact -- that those blasted Shadow Wielders were involved, she felt doubly on edge. For all her confidence and bluster, Marnia knew that Eudicia was a serious threat, one that, thus far, had not been mitigated despite the Aegis' best efforts. The older Aegis were just as lost as their squire counterparts, and the fact that Alex was as baffled as she was gave her a moment of pause when considering the fact that they two -- alone -- would be escorting Lady Dane and Dynagra. If she were honest, she would have considered holing them up in the middle of the barracks and passing the whole kit-and-bunk to a handful of Aegis.

    But, Alex was an honorable man who took responsibility for those around him, and she knew he would not have considered for a moment seemingly leaving behind either woman. While Marnie disagreed a bit on execution, she knew that he had the more experienced (and grayer) head upon his shoulders.

    As they neared the Aviary, Marnia smelled the typical aroma of droppings, hay, and wood. Every now and again, there was a bird call, and Marnia felt a bit of a weight lighten as she realized that they were now far, far away from the goings-on in the palace. Hopefully, the other Aegis would attend to that swiftly before things got out of hand there. She'd have to pay Clark, Torin, and Regle a beer or two and get the story out of them when she came back...

    As soon as they walked in, a tamer waylaid Alex, and Marnia looked about the long Aviary. It was a handsome building, and it was perhaps one of the nicer parts of Thol (at least, to her). After a few moments, Alex came back to explain what had happened and why they were in the Aviary.

    Hearing Bella's worries, Marnia clapped a hand on her small shoulder and stated, "Flyin' ain't half bad! Long as y' stick in the saddle 'n don't squirm around too much, it's downright a trip!"

    With that out of the way, she decided to go ahead and see about a ride. After all, this place was first come, first serve...

    "In the meantime, I'm gonna see if I can't snag m'favorite boyo. Anyone interested can head over with me. If not, I suggest y' stick with Alex," Marnia stated, jerking a thumb over her shoulder. With a lanky stride, she headed down the hall of tall cages and stalls, passing by tamers dashing back and forth with all sorts of baubles, food, and paperwork. Many of them avoided her upon seeing her face, and while she didn't miss it, she did her best to ignore it.

    At last, she reached the stall she was hoping to see still filled, and sure enough, she saw a snowy head poke up, a young man with broad shoulders and beard carrying a bucket of chops inside the enclosure. She walked over to the door and leaned on it, grinning as the young man handed a hock with the bone in to a graceful beast with white and black plumage. The gryphon gingerly took the hock before it threw its head back and snapped its beak shut on the piece, shattering the bone and swallowing the whole thing.

    "Mornin' Destry! Mornin', Snowy!" Marnie said, and the man looked over.

    "Marnie! Here for your trip?" Destry asked as he unlatched the smaller door to let Marnia in.

    "Yeah, though we ended up with a few, uh, extra pieces of baggage," Marnie sighed as she walked in, slowly approaching Snowy. The gryphon's head was about as tall as she was, around the size of a large horse, and its yellow eyes locked onto Marnia. The tall squire put up a hand, and it rubbed its beak against the flat of her palm.

    "Baggage?" Destry asked, wiping his hands on a rag, his brow furrowing.

    "Yeah! Just a few passengers," Marnie said, turning around to look at the man. He was quite a bit shorter than her, coming up to just under her nose, but his presence made him seem much taller. It was perhaps why he was a gryphon tamer.

    "Well, I hope there's enough for the day, then, or your passengers are out of luck and you'll be grounded. We've been hard-pressed, what with the airships being on hold. Snowfall here was nearly purloined by another noble on some business to Manatten, even though you've got the earlier booking," Destry said with a wry smile, and Marnia put a hand to her chest as if offended.

    "My Snowy? That man would get a hiding!" Marnie stated, crossing her arms.

    As if to punctuate the statement, Snowy took a hold of Marnie's hair and pensively began chewing it, yanking up a bit as Marnie leaned away.

    "Ow, wha-- Snow! Gerrofame, you overgrown sparrow! Go chew on your wheel or somethin', not on me!"

    Destry smiled as Marnie tried to free herself, the gryphon hardly fazed by Marnia's pleas to stop.

    "If you've trouble with finding another ride for your passengers, Snow here can take at most two people, though I'd imagine it'd have to be someone he really liked. He's a calm one, but even then he's awfully choosy," Destry warned. "He'd be easier on a first-time flyer, too, just because he's not too prone to buck. I can see if we've others, if Jacob hasn't already."

    "Nah, Jacob's already run off to see. Alex'll shout for me if we're to be grounded a few days," Marnia assured.

    In the meantime, she pet Snowfall as he picked up a piece of meat that had fallen into his bedding, and she sighed. Had she not been squire to an Aegis, the life of a gryphon tamer would've appealed greatly. A gryphon didn't judge by looks -- merely by character, and there was plenty where that came from on Marnie's side. If only that were so with people...

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    #31 Doctor Jax, Apr 15, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2017
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  12. Maes Harrow

    "The offer still stands, sir."

    Maes watched as the soldier secured the runaway into the wagon. He frowned; this was a food cart, not a paddy wagon! But the thought of what he'd seen kept him silent. The soldier wielded Shadow, and Maes wasn't about to raise complaint against someone who could do that. His eyebrows raised in concern; though he was promised compensation for both time spent and produce lost, it still irked him to have his crop ruined or outright lost. Yet he'd already made up his mind. Now to get things in motion.

    It wouldn't be a fast trip. Though the small crowd of market goers and other such travelers had scattered when the prisoner had taken off running, gasps and shouts cutting the usual buzz of conversation off harshly, it had soon regained composure when the perceived danger had continued on. The chatter of confusion and gossip filled the air, with only the occasional gasp from immediately local denizens to break through when the soldier and his prey suddenly reappeared in the alley near the street.

    He lifted the reins, ready to snap them downwards, but he paused. Where- ah, Redden. Right. His own original destination. If they made good enough time, perhaps he could still salvage some of his produce enough to sell it. Or maybe he wouldn't even have the chance. The soldier inferred that anyone with an insignia would need safety, which he could provide. Was this a racket, 'protection' offered in the way of not being roughed up? Is this what happened to the prisoner? It was a distinct possibility; the soldier had asked whether anyone else wanted to run rather maliciously. So...he was being held hostage? And his cart being forcibly commandeered, with the promise of payment to alleviate suspicion?

    Concern filled his mind as he listened to the solider all but dismiss the Blood Mage. She'd been uptight with him, but Maes felt at least he could trust her. Clearing his throat, the farmer spoke up, fully aware that he was about to contradict the soldier.

    "Of course, you're welcome to come if you want. There's plenty of room, and my horse can pull the extra weight just fine..."

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    Zahar bowed his head respectfully as the Aegis turned and spoke to him. That he knew, but as his journey to Lahlo had been intercepted by rough seas, the foreign elf had taken to… adventures instead of his studies. Of course that wasn’t entirely true. He’d seen much of Estwynd since he’d arrived and his knowledge of the foreign land grew each and every day. Shaking out of his reverie, he glanced over at the Aegis, stubborn determination lighting up his green eyes.

    “I am aware,” Zahar said with a dip of his head. “But I worry I’ve gotten myself too far involved.” He glanced over at the Ladies and nodded towards them. “If Eudicia is in league with the Shadow Casters, then perhaps I can be… of service.”

    With a deceptive shrug, Zahar walked over to his squire. Concern was palpable in his eyes. The gryphons were magnificent, surly, but they were wild creatures to be sure. Belhund was busy scratching a gryphon she seemed to know dearly, and hesitantly, he cleared his throat.

    “Do you know much of these beasts, Miss Belhund?” Zahar asked uncertainly. “If I may ask, the one tamer said we should sheathe our weapons… May I carry your sheath until we get to our destination?”

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    This was, simply, too good to miss. Despite not getting the chase she had expected, she knew that there was too much good here to simply walk away from. Shadow magic, The Wolf of the Valley.. the High Ruler would have to have some interest, any interest at all, anything to distract her from her great and miserable blunder of coming up entirely empty handed.

    Aveline rested her gaze upon the soldier, the slightest of smirks upon her face. Despite the glowing blue gaze that might mask any emotion, there was a hint of mischievousness, clear as day. No, she would not disappear so easily, despite his distaste for the mage. She was about to speak when the farmer interrupted, earning a look as unhappy as the ones the soldier had been giving her.

    "Are you saying I'm fat?" She leaned forward intimidatingly, eyes narrowed at Maes. "Quite unkind, child snatcher." She brushed her hair behind her shoulders and the smirk returned. "Yes, I do think I will stay aboard. " Her attention was turned back to the soldier.

    "As an escort. I am sure the High Ruler will be interested in your passengers and the investigation of these insignia, as am I. And I am sure my presence will be most helpful." There was no option to say no. It was not an offer. It was a demand with sweetened words.

    "Shall we go, then?" She glanced at the man who had tried to run away, at the newly placed cuffs around his wrists. "I do hope you are comfortable, Wolf. Are those cuffs too tight?"

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  15. Saren Dynagra
    Redden, the Aviary

    Saren stood silently behind the others, listening but choosing not to speak. She was in no state of mind to be making any sort of proper impression. Truth be told, the sooner they could leave here, the better she would be. Sending a message to Javin and her family be screwed. She wasn’t about to purposely leave a trail for users of forbidden magic to be following her. That thought sent a shiver through her. What could they possibly want with me? I look pretty and I do what I’m told… well most of the time anyway. And even when I don’t, it’s not as if I do anything remotely significant.

    Of the two other women in their miniature party, the taller one looked the part of the Squire, leaving the shorter one to be ‘Miss Dane.’ She gave the woman a brief appraisal. They didn't appear to be far apart in height, but Miss Dane had a look about her that reminded Saren of a timid servant. I can’t even begin to imagine what we could possibly have in common that would make us significant to Eudicia. Perhaps that’s just it. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It's all random.

    She mentally forced aside her brooding thoughts, instead turning to the moment and the Gryphons. While when the Aegis had previously asked her if she would deem flying acceptable she had answered with as much intentional ambivalence as possible, she rather looked forward to the idea. She had travelled by gryphon with a certain degree of frequency in her lifetime, and had come to appreciate both the convenience and character of the creatures.

    She offered a weak smile to Miss Dane, unable to muster anything more convincingly indicative of being at ease. "If they accept you, Gryphons are wonderful companions. There is no reason to be concerned - but I will admit I felt much the same way the first time I flew. But I’m sure you can ride with a companion if it would help.”

    With ever so slight of a sigh, Saren turned away to examine the gryphons she could see from her current position, taking a step further into the aviary. Whenever it came to Gryphons, she harbored a slight reservation that one would see her unfavourably and react in some drastic way, or even attack her. Thus far nothing even remotely so dramatic had occurred. But of course, this of all times - fleeing from some mysterious danger that might strike at any moment, fleeing from the compromisation of the only source of safety there was - would it not be the perfect occasion for just such a thing to happen for the first time? But it won’t. It never has. And it certainly will not now. She lifted her chin slightly, mentally reminding herself that she was above such silliness.

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  16. “Should shackle his legs and feet, truly.” Abrecan remarked, amused by the Blood Mage’s ‘concern’. “I’ve heard they used to drive rods of metal through the ankles of men who tried to run away from justice. Can you imagine that, Wolf? So many brittle bones in the foot, shattered and pulverized to dust. And the toes; some say you can cut through them as simply as carrots and turnips. But the guards - they loathed simplicities in matters such as this. They would cut, with blunt implements. It would take hours for each toe.”

    Abrecan took a seat on the base of the cart, adjacent to the mysterious Soldier’s quarry, “And the knees, they used to bind them in irons. Tightly, mind you, far more tightly than those simple binds upon your wrists. So tight that the very blood would freeze, and one would lose all feeling. They would then find the strongest men they could gather, and these men, colossuses - ALL of them - would clasp unto the leg with their calloused, seasoned hands.”

    “They would twist at the knee, until the kneecap was on the opposite side of where it was supposed to be, and the foot would point backwards, and - if you can even believe it, Wolf - that’s when the poor soul would regain feeling. And he would scream. And the men - vile men, oh so very vile to be invigorated by these screams - would keep twisting, to teach the runners the follies of what they had done. They would twist and twist, entire revolutions. And then they would wrench the very legs off, but no blood would come from the stumps - because the irons were wound so tightly, remember?”

    He broke into a hearty bout of laughter, face red and jolly even as torturous words dripped from his mouth, “Of course, I jest. It’s likely all you have to worry about is decapitation. A relief, I am sure. Smile, my friend!”

    Abrecan smiled to himself, a petty man well-satisfied.

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  17. GEIROLF WOLFF @Effervescent @CloudyBlueDay @Shizuochan
    Well if there was anything that the Wolf learned over the course of the past few hours it was that shadow magic had a way of making him nauseous and the kid casting it on him was a prick. A prick who kept him alive twice now—even when he had no reason to.

    Geirolf may have been headstrong, impulsive definitely, but he acknowledged the the soldier’s grace this time around. After the initial confusion wore off, the wolf mounted the farmer's cart with little more rebellion than a profanity filled grumble. He frowned as the cuffs were pulled out and his expression only lightened up when the woman of the group asked him a question.

    “Oh I think I’ll be fine, miss.” He replied, the shift in his mood almost immediate. Geirolf shot her a grin that could’ve been considered handsome had he not spent the past few months imprisoned. “I wouldn’t mind you scooting a little closer and loosening em' for me though."

    Now that he was at least free from the pit, Geirolf thought he’d willingly enjoy any form of repartee he could get but the man he shoved earlier proved him wrong. The Wolf of the Valley's held his gaze as the other man went into vivid detail of what the Geirolf very well might have deserved.

    The Wolf's grin faded and an unimpressed sneer took its place. Geirolf leaned forward, his shackles clinking with each movement and his voice dropping down to nearly a whisper. “Tell me, storyteller...have you ever seen a man beaten to death by metal cuffs? Have you heard the sound of his skull being crushed by swings alone? Because I sure haven't.”

    “But I must admit my friend, that the more you let words like that roll out of your mouth…the more I feel that particular desire growing.” Geirolf leaned back, sat up straight once more, and spat a big one at the other man’s feet. "Do you and your robes a favor and piss off, yeah?"
    #37 Bears, May 2, 2017
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
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  18. Maes Harrow

    "Please don't. My cart doesn't need urine on it." The farmer shook his head, incredulous at the prisoner's suggestion. Piss off? Right there? Prison must be an awful place, that he would think it okay to suggest just relieving himself then and there. He pointed toward a small alleyway nearby. "If you really have a need, do it over there. We're in for a long drive to Redden, and the less we stop, the better. Er, that goes for everyone."

    Redden. After hearing that the airship was not available, Maes had pretty well forgone any hope of getting there. Yet now, the thought thrilled him, as it did each year: to see the innumerable waterfalls dash themselves upon rivers below and cast clouds of spray toward the sky; to see sunlight reflected and refracted through that spray and glitter amongst the outmost crystals of Julienna Skyport, each one of which had the uncanny and seemingly unnatural ability to draw the rays farther in, casting a strange multicolored tone upon the peoples and vessels of the carefully crafted cave; and to listen in rapt attention to the Forward Thinkers debate philosophies too perplexing and, honestly, impractical for Maes to give much of his own thought to, but which was nevertheless astonishing to listen to the sharpest minds whittle out themselves. It was an exciting prospect, one he hoped to share with his Joy in perhaps a few years. Even the thought of the strange Blood Mages crawling about the place couldn't diminish his excitement. Besides, he'd already met one. She was hard and harsh, certainly. But she was bearable.

    It was more than could be said for the foreigner and the shackled man. Picturing a disobedient daughter in his mind, he stared each of them down.

    "And no more fighting, do you understand me? I will shove you right off this cart and make you walk the rest of the way to Redden, gods help me. Don't think I won't. We're going to have a pleasant ride. Period."

    With perhaps a less than pleasant ending. He tried to embrace the rapture of Redden, but the threat of the letter, unappreciated fully though it was, still nagged at him. Pushing it aside, Maes smiled.

    "Now. Everyone ready?"

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    Marnie turned to the voice that had spoken near the door of the enclosure, surprised to see the tall stranger who'd approached them to help. Here was a man of character! Someone who took hold of adventure with both hands -- someone who went after what they wanted. Those were qualities Marnia could admire, though his accent did mark him as a foreigner here, which sent twinges of suspicion.

    As he gestured to the sheathe she held, she grimaced as she realized that she'd left him to walk around with a weapon in the Aviary. Gryphons didn't take well to unsheathed blades-- honestly, who would?

    "Oi, you've my 'pologies, sir. Here you are," Marnia said as she walked over, handing him the scabbard of the sword in his hand.

    "You ever seen a gryphon before?" she asked curiously, crossing her arms as behind her Destry brushed the beast down with a strange looking instrument.

    He contemplated his answer as he sheathed the borrowed sword and rigged it to his leathers, similarly to the way Belhund had done. He’d never seen a gryphon, no, not with his own eyes and not in the flesh. Zahar had read accounts and even sketched his own copy from one of the many tomes in the Magic Academy, but he doubted the squire, with her suspicious eyes, wanted to know that. So he sighed softly and shook his head.

    “I’ve not,” Zahar said, eyes migrating from her face to search the enclosure she so daringly stepped near. “They’re magnificent creatures… a bit unnerving as well, if I may. Have you ridden often, Belhund, squire that you are?”

    Marnie looked over at the tall man, who seemed to be hanging a bit back. That was normal for those who first encountered Gryphons. They were indeed imposing creatures, but maybe that was what she liked about them.

    "Aye, sire, many a time. Enough that I know Snowy prefers lamb to beef hocks, and shoulder scratches to face."

    With a small smile Zahar searched the face of the woman squire in front of him, a flicker of admiration shining in his eyes.

    "You seem well versed in their ways," Zahar said, taking a curious step forward. "Perhaps after our flight I can make some inquiries. For documentary reasons, of course." He said with a motion to his shoulder bag. "I'm something of a scholar where I come from."

    "A bookworm! No, there are few o' that type 'round my home hearth. I think Uncle Brunsven were a scholar, aye, but my father called him daft for thinking he could grow wheat in the winter," Marnie stated.

    "Where are you from? You've not the tongue of an Estwynd man," said Marnie, raising her eyebrows. Her scars stretched with the motion, perhaps exacerbating a bit of the edge in her voice. It could hardly be considered conscious -- Marnie held no ill will, but her people were cautious by nature.

    Her style of speech brought a small, confused smile to his lips. In truth, he couldn't help it. His way of speech was as odd to her as the squire's was to him. Two different people, born in two separate parts of the world, experiencing the same thing, at the same time. The thought was exciting, unnerving, and oddly, made him think of home.

    As did her next words.

    He cringed slightly, not sure how to answer without betraying himself. He did not like to lie. In fact, the last time he lied he'd spoken the wrong words and alienated his sister's trust in him. With a sigh he shrugged his straight-backed shoulders and cleared his throat before speaking.

    "Northlyn, Miss Belhund. I hail from the Allied Kingdoms."

    Marnie raised her eyebrows appreciatively nodding with a hum.

    "Ooooh....not a bloody idea where that is. Me, I'm from Neunyor, so I'm 'bout as odd as three sided dice round here. '''Tis a walk and a way over the other side of the continent."

    Marnie patted Snowy's hard beak, and the creature gently nipped her hand, flicking out a hard tongue for a moment.

    Zahar let out a small, sad laugh. "It feels like a world away, Miss, it truly does. Do you miss it?" He said appreciatively, noting uncomfortably however, how easy it was to talk to her. "Your homeland, I mean to say."

    His question almost took her aback. No one in Thol would have asked such a thing. Her motherland, by the accounts of all Estwynd, was one of two things: farmland as far as the eye could track, or the mines that spanned its surfaces and curves, exploited for the coveted crystals for their fool machinery.

    She thought a moment.

    "Aye. I know the feeling, of being a world away. My part of Neunyor is mountainous, full of rills and great peaks to the nor'easter. Not many venture there-- too close to Drasa and it's Orc kin, with little prize by way of farming -- but it is home."

    Her hand drifted to rub her neck and face, as if to cover the scars that crossed her skin.

    "What is your home like?" She asked, losing the somber edge to her voice.

    "It's quiet," Zahar mused, his half-smile having blossomed into something larger as he reminisced. "As well as small."

    The Sur elf was unsure, for about the first time in his life, on how much he should convey. For a brief moment all his worries flashed across his face. Were the Aegis and their squires required to arrest foreigners of elven blood, simply because of what they born as? Or was it once he used his magic? Paranoid thoughts crept into his mind and Zahar bit them down quickly, refusing to let himself fall into that trap.

    He swallowed before continuing, the nervous shake to his voice working itself out.

    "The Cliffs of Anova are a wondrous sight, Miss Belhund, much like your gryphons here..." He trailed off, his eyes darting over his shoulder. "I hope there are enough gryphon's to ferry us away, I would very much like to be as far from Shadow Casters as I can."

    Marnia grinned as Snow leaned against her, nibbling a strand of dry, wavy brown hair, and she said to the man, "Aye, no doubt 'bout tha'! You'll make sure we've enough by way of mounts, aye Destry?"

    "Don't hold your breath," the trainer grumbled as he put down fresh bedding. "Some Senator may walk in to snag your dear Snow before the head manages to say whether you've enough mounts or not."

    Marnie shrugged at the foreign man.

    "No worries. I'm sure like to hear more of your hearthland. It seems a nice place. M'self, I don't do much of the travelin'."

    Zahar's smile grew wider, despite knowing there was much and more to come in the growing hours, growing days... Most of which looked bleak and hopeless, with Shadow Casters and this... Eudicia running rampant. But with the squire's quirky speech, inquisitive smile, and forthright disposition, there were worse things Zahar could think of.

    “After our flight, then, Miss.” Zahar said, leaning against the stall. He was a little more than curious as to how the flight would commence but waited patiently, comforted by the presence of a kind soul.
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  20. Ecksoh

    The bickering masked the subtle shift in the air almost as if the faint existence of a breeze shifted its course. The soldier, Ender, could feel it sinking into the pit of his stomach. A churn of the abyss as it threatened to burst from its confines within an otherworldly cage. And it prickled at his skin like a chill in the Summer heat of Tildash as he secured the Wolf of the Valley to the cart of a simple farmer. They could never know what was to come. He knew what he had to do, yet there was a brief moment of hesitancy before his gaze shifted about the streets.

    Crowds sifted around Mae’s cart like sand parting around an obstacle. It was no thought or matter to them as their focus was held elsewhere. No one seemed to care but those engaged around and within the farmer’s cart.

    The smirk given by the Blood Mage only added to Ender’s annoyances. She would have, no doubt, felt his use of Shadow Magic even at his distance. She was a dog of the High Queen, and a loyal snitch at that as she wore the title proudly. It was, however, intriguing to him that she kept referring to her as the High Ruler. Perhaps she was one of those who did not vote for Jashyr’s reign.

    It was a long ride to where they were headed. A long ride to keep up appearances and wrangle four individuals to keep on and focused on Redden as a destination. With Abrecan spouting concepts of torture, it seemed there would be some likely to bail.

    “Listen to the farmer,” Ender said as he sat back in the cart. A sigh escaped him, exasperated and long winded. “The two with the insignias need far more attention than the Wolf of the Valley. I am to keep them alive at all costs. And I am sure the Blood Mage will agree to that as it would also fall under her duties to the High Ruler.”

    He stood up upon the covered produce and pointed out past the buildings that blocked their view of the road ahead. “We need to cut through the Old Route in the Winded Woods. I might be able to get us some horses at Hadoume before then.”

    The Summer heat only made the near barren terrain of Ecksoh more dusty as Maes’ cart kicked up red dirt in a cloud behind them. It was stiflingly dry with few trees for hours. Miles of flat land stretched as far as the eye could see, and very distantly through the horizon’s mirage one could possibly see a distant set of cliffs like a dark line. But their journey would require them to travel Northeast allowing them to eventually pass into grassier lands and farmsteads.

    The road was finally more discernible, albeit a rough ride. Ridges were formed into the plains from local trade traffic. Cicadas buzzed through the heavy heat in their constant call. It took hours to reach the nearest village where a trough was set for horses. It was a small little pit stop with only a cluster of homes and businesses surrounding a monument square. The monument looked like a shard of rock impaled the earth.

    “Sell what you can from your cart,” Ender suggested as he unchained Geirolf from the back. “The Blood Mage should be suitable protection. It is her duty after all, and she agreed to come. So pull your weight. I don't want to stay here any longer than we have to, but supplies are in order. Farmer, Watermelon, I want you two to have a weapon on you at all times. Be on the lookout for anything suspicious and meet back at the cart in an hour.”

    @Red Thunder @Shizuochan @BearEnthusiast @CloudyBlueDay


    Jacob returned with three gryphons, one of which was Marnia’s preferred Snowfall. They were large creatures with beaks nearly the size of human faces and talons as long as human hands. Their heads turned to peer at the group of possible riders as they clacked their beaks and chirped in conversation. The middle was Alexander’s own Escovet; a rather mellow gryphon in comparison to the other two.

    “This is all we have,” Jacob explained. “Zaddi is getting a bit old so only one rider to him.”

    “Belhund, see to Miss Dane,” Alexander commanded as he approached Escovet with a hand raised. It was customary when presenting one’s self as a rider. On their backs rested their leather saddles that harnessed between their wing span, and so the gryphons knew what it meant. Escovet gently nuzzled Alexander’s palm to signal acceptance after a brief once over. Having been his personal gryphon for years she had grown quite fond of the man.

    “Lady Dynagra,” he continued, and looked over to the noblewoman. “If you would please ride with me so that I can insure your safety on this trip.”

    “What the hell is going on anyway, Vallane?” Jacob asked as he eyed the three strangers. “Anything we should be concerned about?”

    Alexander placed a hand on Jacob’s shoulder as he conveyed a solemn expression in the matter. The truth would only incite concern and perhaps worry the others in his party far more than is needed. “Nothing you need to worry about, Jacob.”

    The flight above ground was kept low. Airships typically took the higher altitudes, but then again they rarely had passengers falling off the machines. The gryphons flew just high enough above tree tops on the clear sunny day. Thol was a beautiful land filled with the greenest of pastures and thickest woodlands. The further they traveled away from the waterfall city the homes dappled out on the greenery like the stippling shade of a well crafted drawing.

    Gryphon riding was not an easy feat for the inexperienced. Winds made it difficult to see and hear, and the beasts did not always obey commands if they were still new to the rider. Beneath their saddles the joints of their wings had to be kept exposed and away from the leather and from their legs to keep from irritation and chafing, to which was the usual cause of them ejecting their riders from their backs with a barrel roll.

    But having a gryphon, let alone three, at their aid was going to be a blessing for where they were headed. While Marnia and Alexander were the only ones entirely privy to their destination, it would be clear to the squire they were taking a detour. Their orders were to travel to Tildash, Ecksoh and retrieve the murderer Geirolf Wolff to bring him to Redden for his trial. And yet Alexander led them further North still.

    It was always known that they would need to traverse through the haunting Winded Woods. Hours traveled and the Winds were still unseen on the horizon. Not that he was eager to enter the forsaken forest. What was within was sadly a better foe to face than the illusive Eudicia, for at least they could fight off the unsavory or hide from what lurked within the fog.

    Alexander landed them in a patch of woods just a few miles away from the town of Soper. He only had supplies enough for two, and so as he dismounted from his gryphon he sighed, hands pushing through his now tangled hair as he contemplated just how he was going to pull of this endeavor. But before he lost himself in the thought he offered to help Lady Dynagra down from the saddle.

    “Marnia,” he called over, and then lowered his voice. “I need you to scout Soper and see if it can be accommodating. I'd rather hole up in an inn than out here. But we also need to make sure the Northfold Gang isn't about the area. If you don't think it's safe then come back here with some extra supplies of whatever you can manage to snag.”

    He looked to the others and raised his voice. “We’ll rest here,” he continued. “Sunset will be in a few hours. We’ll need to collect firewood so I can fix us something to eat. I would prefer it if the two ladies not leave my sight, however. We’ll not need to venture far from this location I feel.”

    @Doctor Jax @Elle Joyner @rissa @Starlighter
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