FateGuard

A

Ampoule

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The upward climb in the destruction of livestock, homes and livelihoods were dogged close behind by a rise in the inevitable; namely, the rise in crimes both small and terrible. Desperate times made already desperate people dangerous.

”. . .”

While Leonardo’s bandages offered him a sense of expressional anonymity, Mel’s own face provided the same protection, minus the cloth strips.

The woman sat with her bare hands folded neatly on the table in front of her, the calm that surrounded her like the stagnant air heralding an oncoming storm. The lawlessness in their beloved city was rising and soon it would tear itself apart.

Dragons would not be the only source of fire and blood in Gothenheim unless more was done to appease the turmoil within its walls before turning their attention to those without.

Did these highborn fools not see the obvious beyond their own overflowing trenchers and blinding glints of polished silver?

The food in front of her sat untouched. Only the loaf of soft, fine bread before her showed any signs of attention, having absently been picked apart.

”Milord.” Melody spoke finally, her pale grey eyes rising upward ever so slightly, though still focusing on nothing in particular. She had not been witness to the battle, having been still beneath the streets deep within the prisoner’s quarters. The rumbling had caused small showers of dirt to rain down, the deep rumbling of impacts and howls echoing even into the stone depths of her domain. Only later had she emerged to survey the damage and to give aid to the wounded.

”What hands will catch these larger animals…and for whom will you build these stronger homes for…if only for phantoms? The people are uneasy; though not for lack of our trying…but a fighting force can only do so much to ease their fears. They need reassurances by something other than a roaming pack of swords and arrows. They will want to be soothed by their king. The guarantee of sharp blades is not always as assuring as a steady, protective hand. We may be the guardians of Gothenheim…but Gothenheim will tear itself apart from within unless something more is done.”

The woman's fingers slowly laced together, the grip of her hands visibly tightening on one another, her pale eyes seeming to darken to the angry hue of clouds swollen with rain.

“I would not go so far as to suggest leaving these flying lizards to do as they please, but Gothenheim cannot be left unprotected. If anything, it provides us with an advantage. The dragons may be an invading force…but they invade a territory we know like the back of our own hands. We’ve already dispatched one of the beasts, which has given us invaluable information on their abilities...”


The only problem would be that though they MIGHT be able to dispatch a dragon with less difficulty…the reason why their attacks were increasing was another problem entirely.
 

Zen

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Atlas knew that his magic could not rival those under the direction of the Arch Mage. He himself would have become a part of them, but Atlas' own history had drawn him into the Fateguard. He watched the exchange between the bishop and the Arch Mage with narrowed eyes. He felt challenged and Atlas was never one for competition. He was the one who enjoyed intellectual debates and conversation but he felt the need to rise to the challenge of protecting his fellow Fate Guards with his magic.

"I have my own wards Arch Mage Endleweiz," Atlas said, inclining his head. "I will protect my comrades to the best of my abilities. And there are more of us who are gifted with warding. I will not be alone in endeavor."

He tore his eyes off of the Arch Mage after he made his piece. Atlas stared hard into the fire, mulling over what he just said.
 
F

Fel of the Eternal Forest

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Alexander did not sit, his legs sore from the descent of riding a dying dragon to the ground. He knew if he did, he'd be there for a while. It was after Atlas that he had waited to speak. His need to protect this city belied how he would answer.

"I have very little to give in offering of such speech. However, I do believe it would be a boon on the spirits of our people to see the sky again. It's been too long. This winter, too cold. We, the FateGuard, have a people to protect. You have morale to upkeep. I, for one, do not need any blessing. And if I die? Well, that's my job, isn't it?" His voice was solemn, but the twinkle in his eye was the onset of battle lust anew. "Forgive my bluntness, but we are the elite." He raised his hands proffering his palms to the skies. "And we cannot protect a people from the outside world if they are dying from within."
 

Jack Shade

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With the absence of sight, time itself becomes the quiet count of silence. There was no daylight to wake Malwin from the floor beside the bed of his ailing wife. He awoke to the same shadowy nothing he had been granted for bravery a few years before. It was only the smell, fresh bread baking at the corner shop, the sound of murmured conversation and the rare chirrup of a songbird that told him the day had arrived. Slowly he rose, knowing his absence last night would almost certainly have been noticed. The dragons had come, as he had sensed, and now he no longer could fathom their presence. They had been killed, of course, but at what cost?

Malwin took his ivory tipped cane, a gift, and stepped out of the home. The ragged breathing of his wife and daughter were enough to assure him they still were among the living. Although they existed in this life as tortured, bed-ridden, creatures...he could not bare to have them leave him. No potion had cured them, no prayers had offered them solace. They were, as sick now as they had been for years...barely clinging to life and always smelling of death. Outside, the sun was warm on his skin, the sounds of continued existence a comfort. By now, most of the dragon corpses had been brought over the wall. Dragon meat was unpalatable, a waste of effort in cutting, and utterly infuriating to construct armor of. Instead, it was easier to leave their bodies for hungry buzzards. Malwin stopped only briefly by the cooling creatures, pulling out both daggers and jamming them in the spaces between scales, draining what little sluggish blood was left. By night they would be poison, deadly to any of this breed and especially deadly to those who shared a bloodline. From the liquid he would divine their habits, their fears...and into the book they would go.

Perhaps the only reason the Fateguard forgave his daytime disability.

He knew he was late at this point, did not need to be reminded by the tolling of grand bells or the murmur of confusion as he tapped by the citizens. The road to the standing stones wound up through the city and he followed familiar scents rather than sights, a blind mans trail. Once or twice a citizen stopped to assist him, indebted by higher power to assist him if asked, but moved by compassion to assist without his permission. In these times, with the sun on his back, Malwin felt the most powerless. Daylight seemed to weaken him, stealing the vibrancy of motion from his arms and legs, his entire body almost withering beneath the light's gaze. Curse of hubris perhaps...or some deathly affliction passed to him through the blood of his foes, but as with his wife and child...no cure seemed to cleanse him from this living death.

He ascended the hill in measured, careful steps, Slipping to the back of the Fateguard as the last words were spoken. Despite the prudence to remain silent, perhaps escape the castigating gaze of Corben...the unspoken accusation of desertion, one that Malwin had no words for that he would accept, the poisoner cleared his throat to speak. His child had fallen deeper into her fever the night before and Malwin had spent his evening in her presence, rather than fighting the dragons.

Regrettably, perhaps, his loyalty seemed strongest for his ailing family.

"Greater information is being recorded of the beasts, My King," he said, his rasping voice cutting through the echoes of explanation like a rusted blade, "By nightfall, I will have created a poison we can apply to the arrows of our guards...it will prove fatal to the dragons, I assure you."

He pushed through the rest of his brethren, standing before the king and the council, kneeling and setting his ivory cane at his feet. "We may one day see the last of the dragons hurl themselves against our wall, and from that rubble build our home again. But who can know how many of the beasts live beyond the walls...ten? Twenty? Twenty thousand? How many knights can we beat back such monsters and hope to stand with so little casualties? We, in my opinion, need to gather supplies...bolster the defenses, perhaps construct larger bows or weapons capable of piercing dragon scales from on high. The people need to know that we are still protecting them, that the damages done will not remain as permanent reminders of the horror beyond the gate. We need the supplies, or soon there will be no homes for people to hide within when night falls."

He glanced up to Melody, turning his bound eyes on her with only the slightest frown. He did not disrespect her, but his opinion on the matter could not be more distant from her own. He hoped his lack of participation in the previous night would not be used to soften the blows of his reason. After all, he would hate the love of his family to doom the morality of the city they lived in.
 
L

Lady of the Dragons

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Aloysius jogged up besides Corben, wiping the blood from his forehead. Some of it smeared on his cheek as he watched the explosion of the dragon caused by Atlas. It was truly a sight, seeing it without its lower jaw, gurgling and coughing up blood. it swaggered a bit before falling onto its mate in a greate bloody heap.
"Well, I guess we win." Aloysius spoke, though each word was slow as if speaking was painful. He was aware of a painful buzzing at the base of his back and every time he turned, the buzzing would grow into an explosion of pain. Watching the beasts fall with great defeat was enough to dull for a little while. Taking a small piece of brightly colored cloth out from underneath his breatplate, he threw it high up in the air, watching it tumble around above him.

"For the FateGuards!" He shouted proudly, ignoring the small needles of pain that flew through his head as he yelled.



Aloysius sat still, his food only nibbled as he stared into the fire with cold eyes. He was listening to the words vibrate around him, sometimes with a little heat. The King asked for their opinions and one by one, each of the FateGuards shared them. When it was finally Aloysius's turn, he spoke nothing. Some eyes turned towards him in a tense manner, some even with mild frustration as he simply sat there, leaned forward with one hand rubbing his chin thoughtfully. He observed how the flames of the fire seemed to dance so boldly upwards while tossing up red embers towards the sky, only to have them plummet back to the Earth in an extinguished heap.

Finally, he slowly sat up, his joints cracking as they did. A bloodied bandage was wrapped around his head and the bruise above his eye was still present, but his lighthearted manner did not waver. He took his time to study each expression on the faces of each person sitting around the campfire. Shadows danced across his face and seemed to light up his eyes with an internal fire as he finally opened his mouth to speak.

"I see that many faces here are filled with frustration. Some are tense. Others just want a solution." Aloysius leaned forward again, once again gazing into the heart of the flames. "We do need wood. We need it to survive. But...there are costs. My joints sometimes become sore at night. Blood sometimes escapes my veins. But I am only mortal. And I know that my single life can save many more. I will protect the logging parties as seen fit."

Aloysius paused for a minute, this time looking up to the stars in the night sky. He then continued. "However, I must wonder. Is there a way to combat the dragons without being so big? I observe many times where a small move creates a big effect. Maybe the answers lies in that."

At the mention of the poison to combat against the dragons, Aloysius nodded. "There's a possible way. Good work. I would say, in the meantime, prepare. Gather weapons. Train. But also look for other ways. The answer can be unexpected."

Then he went back to staring into the fire.[/DASH]

Aloysius watches the dragons fall. He cheers. Later, at the meeting, Aloysius is willing to go and protect the loggers. But he advises the king to be open-minded and search for other ways to combat the dragons.
 

unanun

Child is born, with a heart of gold
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Elsewhere, the suit of armour was undergoing a dressing down. It stood in the center of a plain room, arms raised parallel to the ground, eye sockets dimmed and black. In this poise, it looked like a statue. Attendants fussed around the suit. Instead of loosening clasps and latches around the joints, they ran small white daggers at the seams. The segments of the armour sloughed away from the body like rotten flesh, dragon scales and carapace falling to the ground with muted clicks and clocks. Soon, only the helmet remained, the only piece that did not seem to be held together pell mell. The human inside reached upwards and lifted the helmet off:

taha.png


His eye's were glazed over, but they rapidly came into focus as the offending headgear was lifted. The pupils shrank, no longer dilated completely, and semblances of emotion ran across his face in waves and twitches. Scriptures were tattooed almost over his entire body from the neck down. Many of them had faded to a light green. A few appeared to be raw, as if only scribbled in a few nights prior. He stepped down from the stool, pulling some robes over himself. His expression was somewhat embarrassed.

Shortly thereafter, he joined the meeting, immediately getting lost in the sea of people.
 

Woodrat

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While the council members and senior members of the township and FateGuard bickered upon the hilltop, Eric trained below.

Rather, he trained the next generation of Gothenheim’s defenders. In a city where open land was at a premium, the training grounds stood as a courtyards to a larger complex of Royal buildings. The grass that once grew in these open spaces was crushed into the packed dirt by the dozens that trained upon the grounds each day. Surrounding the courtyards were doorways of varying shapes and sizes. They led to training rooms, armories, mini-libraries, etc.

This morning the goal was swordplay. One courtyard was alive with the sound of wooden training swords clashing. Eric walked in among the handful of recruits, a directing hand here and a word of guidance there. He was correcting, refining, and honing their skills. These men and women were the future, and they needed to be ready.

As he reached the edge of the courtyard he stifled a yawn with a bandaged hand, the injury a product of the excitement early that morning. It was not his only injury, covered by a clean shirt were several fresh bruises along his body. Eric fully expected to be sore from the adventure for several weeks. A resounding cheer echoed down from the hilltop, Eric glanced upwards for a moment before shaking his head. Wearily he leaned back against a barrel as the training continued.
 

Hydronine

The Murrstress
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It wasn't exact, the magic and blessings that kept Alyss alive and warm-blooded, it faulted at times, and as she woke, she realized her situation. She was in a warm bath, servants of the healer were working various creams into her skin to warm it up. She felt the icy grip in her bones. As her eyes rolled around the room, they found her mentor, watching from a corner of the room, looking concerned, though as she caught his eyes, he seemed to relax slightly.
"You seemed to have.... dozed off on one of the rooftops while dealing with one of those dragons... Alyss, I'm not sure if you should do this... I warned you from the start... why must you be such a troublesome child? You scared me half to death." He muttered, coming forward to clasp one of her cool hands in his. It wasn't an act of love or parental affection as much as to check her temperature. He seemed to be displeased with it, and in moments, the water became warmer as servants brought in more heated water.

She merely looked away, uncertain why she had lost consciousness.

"I think you're just too... fragile to do this... your time.... near the outer walls must have truly weakened your body as a child." He continued, and patted her soaked and damp head before leaving the room. She didn't reply, there wasn't anything to say in return.

The servants continued to work until her skin radiated heat. Until she felt human to them. Nothing was said by them, and she said nothing to them. No words needed to be spoken. Alyss was angered by her body, by her weaknesses. It wasn't too cold and it wasn't too hot at that time.... temperature couldn't have caused her problem. It couldn't have been exhaustion, she had barely moved and tried to conserve her energy. As she pondered, one of the servants came to her with a tray of food, and she ate until she was certain that she had sustained her body for the moment. They feared her, she knew, but there wasn't anything she could say to remove those fears.

She was guided to her room to rest until she was needed again by the FateGuard.

Soon she was alongside Erilyn and listened to the words that everyone spoke. Venturing from their safe home...

"It's not frightening." Alyss spoke quietly. "If enough of us go, we will be strong in numbers and will be able to defend ourselves. I will go with, my training in close-quarter combat is almost done, I'll do what I can to help and protect my kin and help transport whatever goods we might need.... There are also... herbs that are needed by the outside gates that my mentor requires, so this is... a most fortunate trip.... I've done what I can to strengthen my body to normal climates, though I'm much more at ease in cooler temperatures." She looked up at the king, fixing him with her cold eyes, "I swear to you with every fiber of my being that I will do what I can for our people, or perish in the act."

She paused to rip a piece of flesh from one of the ribs with her teeth, almost in a primal way. She chewed quickly, then continued. "The world outside the gates isn't as scary as it seems. Aside from the monsters and harsh climates, it's nearly untouched for resources, and in that case, they must be plentiful. There are herbs out there that are rare within our walls that my mentor has told me about... they might be useful if I can find them for him." She explained quietly.

She went back to eating, slowly turning her eyes away from the king.

"I swear my life to the people of this place... for if not for them, I surely would have died out there." She murmured quietly, for the first time, acknowledging that she had been outside of the gates. Acknowledging her past.
 

XC

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The first thing Arkavenn did right after they dealt with the dragon?

Go for a shower.

Which consisted of a bucket of cold water poured over his body.

And then he got to the tavern.

"Yep! It was like thrashing back and forth and stampeding along and I was clinging onto his neck and going, 'No you don't, you stinking dragon!'" Arkavenn's exaggerated feats of himself taking down the dragon was punctured with occasional sound effects and further amplified by motions of his arms and body. There was a radius of about two meters where everyone had cleared out, in fear of the swinging arms that were essentially battering rams thrown about by a giant typhoon.

His tale was accompanied by a loud cheer from the raucous crowd, and they called for another round of drinks that Arkavenn gulped down hungrily.

Zip.

That was all Arkavenn remembered before he woke up at the meeting. Even then his head swirled from the alcohol and he couldn't think or see straight, he tried to get up but his body had betrayed him, the faint throbbing of his battered body starting to overcome the numbing effect of the alcohol he had consumed. He had a feeling he didn't just drink the one mug he restricted himself to.

More like one dozen.

The giant tried to focus on the meeting .. But he could only capture brief snippets of the conversation here and there. Wards ,, Infirmary wards? Or did they mean the wards that the city kept, the orphans whose parents died protecting the city?

Anyway, that sounded like a good idea for their next mission. It sounded really relaxing.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Dealing with children? Relaxing? Yeah right. You'd think that this man who will face down armies and demons and gods for his city find taking care of children an easy task. Children was the reason why he isn't planning to get married. I mean, come on, his large body is proportio- never mind.

With great effort Arkavenn got up from the ground, pushing off his elbows, then his hands and finally to his feet. He rumbled, "No, am -hic- not taking -hic- part in the -hic- visit to the -hic- snot-nosed wards -hic- of the -hic city. You, -hic-" Arkavenn raised a meaty finger and pointed at the wizened arch Mage that had been in the argument before, "can let 'em -hic- tug at your -hic- all you -hic-ing want. -hic- I don't give a-"

He didn't finish his sentence before he collapsed to the ground again.

This time he was snoring.

It took the better part of a dozen servants to drag Arkavenn away from the center of the circle so they didn't have to talk over a giant block of a man who looked like he would thrash around in his sleep and crush half the council any moment.
 
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A

Abracadabra

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{ ELAYNA ADRIACA AURORA }



– at the meeting –


E
LAYNA DID NOT
respond to the king's challenge. The others had voiced her opinion perfectly. Erilyn's response was closest to her heart. I do what I must to serve. If it was in Gothenheim's best interest that Elayna pass past the Wall, then by Dagian she would. Being a FateGuard did not mean merely following orders; it meant doing what was right. Still, privately she was uncertain whether this was the case here. There was a reason for the Wall, after all. There was a reason the FateGuard didn't go charge into the night looking for trouble. They defended Gothenheim when necessary and otherwise left the night to its demons. It was easy, as a FateGuard, as a citizen of Gothenheim, to see things in black and white, right and wrong, good and bad. But the Dawn Paragon had taught Elayna to think beyond these narrow margins. There was evening and dawn, twilight and dusk. There were always places in between, shades of gray. Even the most ferocious of beasts might know emotions of love and pain. Why, several of them mated! Killing monsters was in the end no different from killing another human. It was important to keep that in mind.

Was she frightened? Laya wondered as she began to eat silently, brooding. Few things made her feel afraid, but when they did she sought it out and faced it and froze it to a hard, solid core until it was so numb and small and dense that she could feel the cowardice no more. Courage was called for to go beyond the Wall. Fearing what she might face on the other side would not do. And yet she felt that, while she wasn't outright scared at the thought, it was still deeply disconcerting to her. She was still young for her position. This would be her first time past, if it should occur and she should be chosen. Only a fool cast aside his defenses in the name of bravery. Everyone had their armor. Elayna was lucky – hers was three blessings, an elite position, her own skill, the divine support of a goddess, and her weapons and armor, but even with this and more, other FateGuards had not been so lucky as their scantily equipped companions. Laya had a good idea of why. Sometimes being a walking shield makes you cocky. And you forget to watch your back.


– the next morning at the training grounds –

S
HE REACHED THE
training grounds early today. Despite her recovery, Laya had found that she still didn't have much of a stomach for the fatty, sumptuous foods of the feast, and even though she never drank alcohol, the others certainly did, as was soon plainly apparent by the roaring singing and incoherent rambling, and even the occasional squabble. Elayna had gone home early and slept deeply. She felt refreshed and ready to hone her skills. She would need them if she were to travel past the Wall. A sudden curiosity seized her as she prepared, stretching. Perhaps there were fabulous beasts out there that never came close to humans. After all, what had she ever seen but monsters who attacked the town? Were there other magic-borne creatures of the night that were benign?

She decided to work on speed, then agility. She had a lucky combination of strength and stamina, but was often too slow for her liking. She'd gotten that nasty quadriceps sprain trying to leap over a pile of rubble in the last attack she participated in. It wasn't even that far of a jump. Elayna exhaled with annoyance at the memory and chose a nice, large courtyard to train in. Since it was so early and barely anyone seemed to be around, she had her pick of training areas. So far all those she had seen had been empty. Elayna suspected many FateGuards were asleep with a horrible headache waiting to attack them the moment their mind escaped from the murky depths of their unconsciousness. Laya didn't mind training alone, but she preferred having people around. Their noises and movements were distracting to some but interesting to Laya. It was something to observe while she trained. It was another matter when she was reading or praying or otherwise concentrating. She wondered when the others would arrive, if ever.

 

Asmodeus

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As Arkavenn was hauled away, it was to the din of laughter and mutterings. A voice untraceable in the darkness mocked, "Drunkards, narcoleptics and blind men!"

Corben's voice boomed back as he came to his feet. "And dragon-slayers, all!" A cheer from the FateGuard and their squires drew the debate to a close.

The Arch Mage, Endleweiz, folded back into the crowd of mages, his small black eyes flashing their last. "So be it! The Guild will focus their magic elsewhere. I pray your Alchemist is proof enough against the Outside."

"We shall gather the loggers and huntsmen," the Bishop spoke over the Arch Mage. "They shall leave within the hour."

Corben nodded but before he could move the King's voice cut the crowd anew. "Your place is here, Reimar. We need the smithys hot and the corpses cleared." The lord's eyes shifted to Derek. "Vermillion will have his wish. Take five of the Fateguard along. The rest will aid the marshall and his poisoner." He gestured to Malwin then rose from his stone, shrugging off his cloak of fur, which was scooped up by a servant. "The rest of you, get to your beds and pleasure your women. I've kept the Queen too long."

There was another peel of laughter and raucous shouts as the King and his retinue departed. The Mage and Cleric parties were also dispersing. As they did so a few gazes lingered, ambiguous looks shot back over shoulders or under hoods. Erilyn was being watched, and so was Alyss. Corben saw the glances and felt as he always did - a faint shiver of dread and powerlessness. With each Council Meeting he attended came a reminder that there were many in the FateGuard who inspired distrust and resentment.

Some of the looks were also for him.

"The King has spoken," he said as the rising sun broke the horizon behind him. He looked to the FateGuard around him. "Get some sleep. Tomorrow will be long."
 
C

Cosmic Orion

Guest
Each of the others he listened to in silence, resuming his place beside the bishop immediately after speaking his small piece. From the way it sounded nearly everyone planned to head out on this expedition. Very few appeared willing to take on what some regarded as 'clean-up' duties. Yet there were still some who chose remain behind the walls. Melody appeared a touch more concerned with internal affairs and morale than the others, which pleased him. At least there was one among them whom he could depend upon to fight by his side during the daylight. Though she had a tendency of abstaining from aiding the sick and wounded. Just the thought of her presence in Gothenheim might ease his thoughts. Hopefully there would be no beasts brave enough to cause chaos during the daylight hours while Gothenheim tried to recover from the draconic duo's destruction.

At the sound of Malwin's voice, the bandaged hands of Leonardo tensed around the handle of the Combat Crucifix. Even with the bandages hiding his deformed expressions. . . Bishop Wallstein of all people quickly surmised what ignited such tension in a normally calm man. Possibly blueish ocular orbs glared at his bastard half-brother no matter what words spilled from his mouth during the entirety of the small speech. Saint found no surprise in how one who had been sired through grief and mead had grown up to fill a role as none other than the Fateguard's poisoner. Even if Malwin had taken on the surname of his wife it only kept his existence a secret to those who did not listen to gossip. Everyone else in Gothenheim knew the true circumstances of his birth.

Yet while the bandaged blond kept his lips sealed. . . his thoughts were not restrained.

How can YOU offer advice? You who can hardly care for his own family. You should watch over them always. Find a cure for their illness which keeps you so busy. Not create poisons for the Fateguard. But right now is not the time to tell you any of this, is it? Disrupting this meeting would do none of us good. The King will decide what advice to follow. He is wiser than most. Wiser than I. Wiser than YOU.

Dismissed at last, black boots adorned with strategically placed steel plates hurried down the hill toward the hospital. Not a speck of dirt sullied his image. One might have believed a demon chased him rather than angels watch over him the way he made his way down the hill. Gazing out across the city he saw that people had already started to rebuild. It brought a sort of peace into his heart to witness the people not giving up. Given the few supplies they had. . . the need for Derek's supply search party to succeed came in crystal clear.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Saint found more people than he could imagine. Healers were everywhere yet spread so thin they could hardly do any real good. People were injured by flames and left burnt. Charred. Memories of the flames came back. The burning flames set by demons who sought to make an example out of him. To kill him as they chanted strange words. Pain spread across his body until it engulfed him completely. Now Leonardo found himself in the past once more. Claws that marred flesh which bubbled from the intense heat of their hellfire. Monsters that surrounded him on every side. Nothing on earth could save him from such a fate.

"Leonardo! We need you at once! A woman with child is injured! Comfort her while we get one of the healers."

"It will be done."
 
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unanun

Child is born, with a heart of gold
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As the meeting adjourned, the man sitting next to the bishop stood up. Having received no reply from his comments, he only assumed that the Bishop was not keen on being seen having conversations with him, for reasons he himself understood perfectly. Never the less .. he squinted and searched the dispersing crowd, attempting to look for ..

Ah. He was there, a shock of ashen-red hair falling around his rather blank face. His pupils were focused - good - showing that he was at least paying attention to his surroundings. Tahan had other problems that he would have to fix ..

The man glanced around, eyes set behind the harsh glint of steel frame spectacles. Someone who would help him acclimitize ..
 
K

Kitti

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The meetings was drawing to a close now that everyone who needed to speak had spoken. The party that was venturing out was not as large as she might have hoped, but plenty large enough if there were no major issues. Erilyn prayed that there would be nothing of the sort, for they had lost so many people this night already and a larger death toll would be devastating. The attacks from outside seemed to have grown more vicious as of late, or was it perhaps just that she had only started coming of age to know about the severity of the attacks?

Pondering her youth and the attacks brought back unpleasant memories barely formed in her mind of a woman who would laugh as she held Erilyn. She knew who the woman was, of course, this shadowy presence called "Mother", but in such a town it was not uncommon to have orphans being raised by others. This was no cause for lingering or tears - Erilyn had been lucky to be adopted by a family who took care of her and even still her brother from this family toiled to help her and worried endlessly. As he would this night and nights after, for her duty was a dangerous one.

The food seemed to have vanished from the plates, filling the stomaches of warriors who had done a good night's work and also some who had been absent in the attack but still joined the meeting. Those who had not been present yet were eating the food, she hoped at least they had contributed to ushering the townsfolk to safety or rescuing them from burning buildings, else they hardly deserved to feast with the king. Plans had been finalized and the parties were set now, the bishop speaking loudly that the loggers and huntsmen would soon depart. Everyone was preparing themselves to leave in whatever direction pulled them, waiting only for the king. They would not leave without his permission.

At last, the king spoke, ending the feast with a prompt to laughter. It was a welcome diversion, temporarily lightening the burden on the shoulders of those present. The king made to leave and Erilyn could feel the familiar eyes of those upon her when the retinues of the bishop and arch mage made to depart. She was not the only one who drew her glances and by now, it hardly bothered her that they did. More, she was uneasy about their thoughts. The king was a powerful man still, once a warrior himself even, and now he was gray, long in the tooth. Still he and his wife had bore no child, despite his attentions to ensure that her bed did not stay cold for long. These whispers made her feel ill with the thought of something happening to the king and the eyes that followed her she could not begin to think were all merely curious. Some contained glimmers of hostile suspicion that, despite her lack of impure thoughts, still made her feel dirty.

As the king passed, Erilyn lowered her head deferentially, her eyes trained on her hands. They would be leaving within the hour, then? She wondered if she had time to tell her brother of her departure or if someone else would have to relay the message. It was a pity that the Fateguard was splitting up in such a way, she mused. Leonardo was remaining behind, which was not unexpected but was indeed a shame since his skills with tending to the ill were more than impressive.

When the king had finally passed out of sight, Erilyn got to her feet and lifted up the shield which had been resting near the chair. "This means we're departing within the hour as well, then, hmm?" She would likely not have time to tell her brother of her next mission and perhaps it was for the best. If he knew that she was going to the Outside... Likely he would be opposed to her going and try to insist that she remain in the town.
 

Delnoir

A Relic of a Bygone Era
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As the king passed by, Derek brought his fist to his chest in salute. When His Highness had passed, he removed his helmet and held it under his left arm and placed his right on Corben's shoulder. His smile was tinged with a hint of disappointment.

"I wish you didn't have to stay here, Corben. Good luck with the clean up. I hope all goes well. I promise I'll bring our comrades back alive."

Derek turned to his fellow FateGuard, "Atlas, Alyss, Erilyn, Elayna, Alexander, and Aloysius. You all seem to be willing to head out and get some work done, am I wrong? Rest up and get your gear together; You'll be riding with me. Let's get out there and kick some arse! I'm counting on you all."

Derek looked out over toward the wall, an odd air about him. Or perhaps it wasn't so odd? "How about that, eh, Dad? I'm finally getting to do what you used to do. Lead my allies in the defense of the town," Derek smiled to himself. He was a constable in town and helped Eric with training recruits, positions that came with responsibility. Had the king's orders let a dormant flame to the surface? Whatever the reason no one present could really shake that Derek had been waiting for this moment for a long time. He had never been this happy in front of his comrades before. Perhaps it was a bit twisted to be happy about charging headlong into unknown danger, but for Derek that only added to the excitement. He realized he'd been daydreaming and staring out at the wall for almost an entire minute. Surely he looked weird.

"Erm...sorry...I was thinking about what my Father might say if he saw me now."
 

Zen

The Bartender
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Nodding to Derek, Atlas rose from his seat in the council. They spoke of getting some rest, but he doubted his mind would stop thinking. He kept running spells and potions through his head, repeating ingredients he knew existed outside of the wall. He especially tore into his wards, murmuring them under his breath in a slow incantation. However before he left to gather his things from his home, he laid a reassuring hand on Erilyn and Alyss. He knew times were getting harsh and now was not the time for their group to grow apart.

"Erilyn, come fetch me when we depart. I fear I may be too engrossed in my thoughts to care about the time."

He gave her another pat on the shoulder, his smile thin.

The man was worried. After all he basically told the council not to worry, that a single man could take care of the expedition. He was trying to show his worth, both to himself and to his city. His research into the curse proved nothing and no new evidence brought any hope. At the moment Atlas was the laughing stock in the mage guild.

Perhaps slamming the door closed to his home sent the wrong message to his neighbors. Regardless, Atlas shoved whatever necessary and vital things he could find into his rucksack, along with his enchanted tome. He would rid himself of his worries even if it meant taking one of his own potions.
 

Hydronine

The Murrstress
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Alyss nodded in reaction to the orders that had been given, and ate a bit more before rising from her seat. She was deep in thought when Atlas has laid a hand upon her, and flinched at the feeling, shrinking away from his touch. His skin was too warm to her, and it sunk through the fabrics of her clothes and settled into her already cold flesh, the feeling was unwelcome and unpleasant to her. She shook her head, trying to dislodge worries that the enchantments and her pendant were unable to help her body anymore.

She walked away, heading home to pack her things, though it seemed like she had arrived at an unfortunate time. Her mentor seemed to be busy researching, his head buried in a huge tome. She had wanted to talk to him, let him know that she was leaving, but he seemed so focused that she walked by and started packing her things- having one of the servants fetch her a full quiver of arrows, while she told another to fetch a book on the herbs that her mentor required, to help her identify them. She was nearly done packing when one of the servants lead her mentor into the room.

"Alyss, where are you going this time?" He spoke softly, though his voice held a tone of authority. Within moments, the servants had left the room and they were alone. "You're still recovering... there's still a lot to do to make sure that these enchantments are working... do you have a death wish, child?" He muttered, on the edge of anger, while Alyss continued to pack her bags and made sure she had everything she needed. "You need to stay... I can feel the cold radiating off of your body... you can't go out like that." He continued, and though Alyss frowned, she made no comment, sitting on the edge of her bed.

"Alyss?" He questioned.

"Am I even human? What if this is all some ruse to cover up the fact that I'm a monster from outside? What if you just can't face that the child that you saved may not have been as innocent as you thought? Nothing... nothing's working anymore, everything's temporary... the people look at me like I'm a monster, and.... I'm starting to wonder." She spoke quietly. "They won't admit to it.... not to my face... but it's easy to see in their eyes... I'm... not sure anymore if I will die without these blessings.... I'm..... worried that I'll... just..." She trailed off, confusion clear on her face.

"Of course you're human!" He sputtered, caught off-guard by her sudden attitude.

"If I'm human, where were my parents? How did I survive out there? Why can't I maintain my own temperature?" She lobbed the question, fixing the man with cold eyes, searching for answers. "If normal people can't survive outside, how could a mere child? Just admit it, sir, I'm.... not what you thought I was, and now you're just trying to cover your tracks..."

"No.... I would never..."

"I'm going outside the wall with a few other FateGuard members... I'll take the time to fetch a few herbs that you've said that you've needed..." She explained, keeping it short and simple, pulling the bag and the quiver onto her shoulder while fixing a knife to a sheath on her thigh, then grabbed her bow and moved for the doorway. She had said what she had needed to and had asked her questions. His responses were just as informative as she had expected them to be. Soon she had rejoined the others, her expression held little clue of what had happened at her home, or her fears that she wasn't like everyone else.
 

unanun

Child is born, with a heart of gold
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The doors to the hospital opened to admit the man and Tahan. The bespectacled priest, hands placed in the sleeves of the opposite arms, glanced around the place while removing his hood. His hair was a steely grey, and the way he carried himself suggested agitation and a general sense of hurriedness.

"Come along."

He searched the rooms door by door, not being very familiar with the layout of the place. At times he was forced to wrinkle his nose from the stench, either from burnt flesh or gangrenous wounds. What he saw in the rooms only strengthened his own faith in his research programme. Soon, there would be no unnecessary risks of life.

Finally, near the end of the hallway, he found what he was looking for. A heavily bandaged man stood near a hospital bed, his calm and clean demeanor giving him sufficient idenfication for his needs. Without preamble, he strode into the room, hand held out for a handshake, the other pulling the necklace from within his robes:

"Good day, Leonard (his memory of names was not the greatest, and he fully expected to mispronounce or miss it)."

"My name is Father Gregory. I am a member of the alchemical runes chapter house under the Bishop. I have a favour to ask of you."

He pulled the young adult behind him to the fore front. The male was tall, and the robes around his body gave no hint to his physique underneath. It was unlikely that he was fat, and likely that he was muscular. "This is Tahan." Tahan blinked at the mention of his name and turned to acknowledge the source of it, eyes flickering over his ward and Leonardo. "He is in need of a little .. social rehabilitation. Can I trust you to teach him good morals and principles?" As he said so, he tucked the necklace back into his robe, his voice suddenly a little grave.

"This is necessary for certain aspects of the programme I am currently engaged in. The details, if disclosed to the general public, may be not elicit the most favourable reaction. However, the Bishop is, although not completely understanding, privy to the details, and as we both fall under the same jurisdiction I may also disclose the results to you, if you wish."

He narrowed his eyes.

"Bear in mind that there are many people who would find this sort of work offensive. If you simply wish to assist in the manner without knowing, this is also possible."
 
C

Cosmic Orion

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Calming a woman who was with child did not come without challenges.

For nearly ten minutes the poor woman found herself almost utterly ignored despite the wound in her arm. A tan patchwork of clothes covered her entire body save for the wounded arm, though they were not rags. Merely from observing the roundness of her belly, one could easily surmise that the brown haired mother-to-be only had a month or two before the 'joyous' day would arrive. Yet new life found itself in danger should the wound get an infection. Already it had gone a few hours without any treatment at all which did not bode well for the expecting mother. Left sitting on the floor near other villagers who had suffered the dragon's wrath last night and survived, she could hardly turn one way or the other given her current condition. Green eyes darted around frantically searching for someone who would listen to her cries.

"Someone please! Help me! I cannot die! For the sake of my unborn child I cannot die! Can somebody find my husband?! We were seperated during the attack! Please! Why are there not enough healers?! You sir! Will you leave me here as well on this dirty floor?"

She had meant the words for a passing healer, but another voice answered instead.

"No. I will not. I'm here to help you milady. My name is Leonardo. What is yours?"

A soothing voice of confidence came from the woman's right, in the direction of the main doorway. Immediately her hopes soared with the highest expectations for whomever had the kindness to answer her lamentation. Without even looking at her 'savior' the praise started to flood from her lips. Perhaps that was for the best given how so many reacted upon their first time meeting Leonardo in person. At that very moment people still parted from his path out of one irrational fear or another. Perhaps it was the fact he had entered while carrying the Combat Crucifix over his shoulder one-handed. Gazes of recognition and recollection came from all around. Some still remembered the day he had been brought back inside the gates of Gothenheim clinging to life by a few threads of sheer will. After witnessing first-hand what had been done to his face. . . no soul could forget it.

"Katherine. Oh thank you sir! Leonardo! May you be blessed a thousand times! Can you heal my arm? Are you one of the healers?"

Hopefully those with trivial bruises and cuts knew enough to let their families tend to them. Saddening as it was to witness, the hospital now revealed itself under equipped to handle such an overflowing number of patients. Only with the arrival of Leonardo had there been enough 'staff' in the hospital to give even a fraction of the time and care deserved.

"I can only promise my best efforts. For I am a member of the FateGuard first and a healer second. If I may ask, do you know where your husband is?"

". . .I don't know. I pray that I did. We were seperated last night when our home came crashing down in flames. Luckily the thud of that Dragon had awoken us, for if we had not started to flee more than my arm might be in peril. Oh god! I hope he is still alive! Could you find him for me please?!"

"I shall do my best. God willing, your husband may appear before you yet."

Bandaged hands had chosen their placement strategically on the woman's body to avoid further harm. Lifting with all the care one would expect from Katherine's own husband, Saint helped the woman up off the ground. Once proper adjustments were made Leonardo picked up the Combat Crucifix in one hand as he helped Katherine toward the back of a hallway to an empty bed. Though the vacancy only happened recently, what with the previous inhabitant having just finished getting an adept healing ward placed on the bandages surrounding his foot.

All the while she kept stealing glances at the bandaged knight beside her, with an expression of unbridled uncertainty. The woman had no clue who the man was other than his name at first. Irrationality from fear had left her memory a tad jostled for a solid minute. From appearance alone she worried that he might very well be a leper. Wheels turned in her however, sifting through his words despite her panic. Logic took a firm hold once she pieced together the words 'Leonardo' and 'FateGuard'. This left her feeling safe with him. . . for she had heard of legends surrounding this man and hoped in her heart of hearts that if he watched over her so would those who watched over him.

"Please look for him soon."

"I will soon. But I must tend to you first. For he must have a wife, and child, to come back to."

Underneath all those bandages, one might say that Leonardo smiled at Katherine. Just a glance at the 'smile' awaiting in his eyes served proof positive for such an optimistic assumption. Without another word he had started to tend to the woman's wound. Luckily her immune system had held back any truly fatal infection. Any likelihood of amputation went sailing out the window. Grabbing a few vials of a bright blue color around the size of a grown man's finger, he poured half of the contents onto Katherine's arm. Bubbles of soopah doopah white came to the surface, fighting off infection with a magic only science could produce. Katherine closed her eyes to rest, as the pain had left her tired body.

It was then, a voice came from behind him.

"Good day, Leonard. My name is Father Gregory. I am a member of the Theocratic R&D division. I have a favour to ask of you."

At first the pair only saw him from behind while the Combat Crucifix had found itself resting up against the bed. Perhaps that royal blessing alone had been what made Father Gregory choose him above all the rest. Saint turned quickly to face both of them with a speed befitting a member of the FateGuard, extending his hand without hesitation to the priest. Given the conversation that followed it was fortunate that Katherine had allowed sleep to take hold of her body.

"Greetings Father Gregory."

Out of respect he ignored the error with his own name. Bandages may have made this particular knight appear weak, but the strength in his handshake proved otherwise. Not a surprise really. If one expected him to wield such a heavy weapon into battle he had to maintain peak physical condition in spite of his deformity. How else could he keep his position in the FateGuard and still have enough stamina for his hospital work during the day?

A member from the Chapter House of Alchemical Runes? Here? Now this is interesting.

Leonardo fixed his gaze intently upon this man of cloth and secrets. Each word carefully examined to the best of his abilities for any sort of hidden meaning. Many understood his faith in God as an unshakable part of his personality. Yet a glimmer of suspicion hung in those pristine blue eyes for just a few moments.

What did they do to you Tahan? Something in this carries a foul stench. Clearly you are old enough to know enough already. Why has the church not yet taught you morals and principles?

An affirmative nod came from the blond as his soothing voice responded calmly. Yet his gaze fell upon Tahan rather than the priest as he spoke. Knowing first impressions were important, a bandaged hand was extended toward the young adult. If the gesture was returned or not Saint would eventually retract his hand a few moments later so that it hung down loosely at his side.

"You can place your trust and faith in me Father Gregory."

"This is necessary for certain aspects of the programme I am currently engaged in. The details, if disclosed to the general public, may be not elicit the most favourable reaction. However, the Bishop is, although not completely understanding, privy to the details, and as we both fall under the same jurisdiction I may also disclose the results to you, if you wish."

Father Gregory narrowed his eyes.

Saint's own fashionably blue eyes shimmered with a touch of suspicion.

"Bear in mind that there are many people who would find this sort of work offensive. If you simply wish to assist in the manner without knowing, this is also possible."

"Normally I would have enough faith in the church to let sleeping dogs lie. But by placing Tahan under my tutelage, understand my wishes that I be kept informed of the results of your programme. I take my responsibility for others seriously."

Calm as it was, his voice contained an undeniable tone of conviction for his own ideals and the courage to uphold them. Anyone with ears could tell that to deceive him would not end well. Especially with the health of a young man hanging in the balance. Perhaps that alone made him the most dangerous foe for any who threatened to harm or corrupt the child in any way.
 
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unanun

Child is born, with a heart of gold
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Father Gregory stared into the blue eyes of the man standing before him. The look was very analytical, and gave no impression of being bounded by silly things like appearances or worldly traits.

He pulled a stool underneath him and sat down on it, leaning forward, elbows on knees, hands clasped and in between his legs.

Tahan stared at the raised hand, and just as it went down he raised his own to meet it. The timing gone, he seemed to realize this and slowly brought his own hand back down. He gave the saint a small, mechanical smile. It was what he had been told to do if the situation when dealing with people was uncertain.

"The Bishop," he began in a low tone, "has always disliked the methods of the arcane." At the behest of some cue, Tahan had already left the room.

He raised his head, which had previously been staring at the floor. A bright gleam shone out from his eyes, the spark of one who was motivated by curiosity about the natural world, who was not swayed by incantations and rituals. "Do you recall the last major siege laid upon the city?"

The monsters had come at dusk. Dusk was when the city was transitioning into night patrol mode, and when they were the most vulnerable and not well nested or fortified. Monster was a rather large exageration for what they were: a band of approximately one hundred or so skeletons. They had fought with human-like tactics, with a clear chain of hierarchy. After they had been dispatched, their bones were left in a large pile outside the walls.

"There was one skeleton warrior who seemed to be able to command the rest. Whether or not it had animated the rest as puppets or was able to think, I do not know." He produced a scroll from within his robes and unfurled it. It was a large, detailed sketch of the helmet Tahan wore. Notes were scrawled across the entirety of the skull. In particular, a view of the inside had been reproduced, and it was completely covered with various scriptures from the bible and runes.

Before Leonardo had time to react, he had already squirreled away the schematic. "As you may know, my chapter has been looking for ways to forge effective armour. An obvious place," he adjusted his glasses, "to start was obviously the carapace and skins of the monsters left behind. However, despite our best efforts we have not been able to keep them from rotting." His eyes narrowed in thought, or perhaps memory. "If we sew them onto leather, they will slough away by dawn. If we nail the scales onto chainmail, they will simply crumble."

"However, the presence of the skull seems to have some sort of preservative effect. Just by keeping it near our initial sets of armour, we have been able to stay the rotting long enough to run tests on their hardness and other properties. As of right now we are unable to tell if it has any other effects." But he was not telling the whole truth. It seemed to be having a bad effect on Tahan's psyche and social mores. Coughing into his hand, he continued.

"But do you realize the possibilties?" His voice picked up tempo. "You may have noticed last night," and his voice had a certain undertone of superiority, "that Tahan was able to breach a dragon's scales where the best steel we could forge was not able to." He smirked. "The sword Tahan was wielding was crafted from a dragon's tooth. Obviously, you would expect a dragon's tooth to piece dragon skin. However, we have not perfected the sharpening process .. bone is very brittle, although it is very llight compared to a similar weight of metal."

He shook his head and continued.

"We got too confident. We crafted a suit out of troll skin and placed it on a dog."

He shook his head.

"The dog's head completely rotted. To the bone. We had to smash the dog's skull and scoop it out to retrie .. "

"The only way to store the skull safely is to wrap it completely in linens with the Holy Word and to submerse it in a tank of blessed water."

He produced another large scroll from inside his robes and unfurled it. It was a neat 1:2 anatomical drawing of Tahan, spread eagle. Nearly every inch of his body, save from the neck up, was covered in scriptures from the holy bible. "At present the only way to hold the miasma back is with faith." He smiled wearily, one of a worldy man who in the end had been forced to resort to things beyond his control. His irritation rang through his voice. But he soon restored the grim enthusiasm in his voice.

"Only the simplest of minds are able to resist the corruption. Mind you, a simple mind does not mean stupid. A man of simple, yet great faith is also a good candidate."

"Or one who has both attributes."

He stood up and brushed his robes off. Most of his confession had been conducted in low undertones, and the woman in the bed nearby would not have been able to hear much. He left the implications of his statements for Leonardo to interpret.