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Fantasy, scifi, futuristic modern, fantasy modern, Action/adventure, Mystery, Fan-based,

The OOC Thread

The continent of Jedica is divided into seven nations: Stanislav, Thalia, Ufral, the Islas de Abaroa, Midori, Eshil, and Atrea. These countries, albeit different, have generally observed a standing peace, at least since the end of the great war. Now, hoping to insure future eras of peace, the stratocracy of Stanislave has sent an envoy to the theocratic republic of Thalia. The current terms of peace between the military ruled realm and the pacifistic kingdom have been a bit tender of late. Largely the work of several bands of bandits that have been hiding in the wooded foothills and mountains, raiding both sides. Hoping to secure promises of more aggressive action against the bandits by Thalia's High-Council and perhaps the hand in marriage of Princess Reina, the daughter of the Country's mediator, the young Captain Miron travels to Thalia's capitol. He is a promising officer in Stanislav's army. Highly thought of by many...

Prologue: The Threads of Fate

The city of Thalia was named for the country for which it served as capital. It stood tall and proud on the shore some miles below the great circle bay. One could almost make out the distant shore of Eshil if you looked straight south. The city itself was full of grand architecture: tall columns, soaring arches, proud colonnades, and statues on important corners. Multiple parks were scattered throughout insuring that every citizen had access to nature within the safety of Thalia's walls. And that was just the common living areas of the city, the outer ring.


The inner ring, while always open to the public, housed the speaker's forum. Each chancellor had their own large house equal distant from the council building which had been converted from the old royal palace. The Chancellor's houses were each built exactly the same to insure the feel of equality, although the residents were allowed to decorate as they pleased, The residents themselves were chosen by sector election every five years and the houses belonged to the holder of the title.

Only the Mediator had any hereditary power, having descended from the original royal family, and being the line from which the high priestess was always chosen. But the only power the Mediator now held was to break a tie in the forum, and keep the discussions on track. As if to prove it that house was built a foot smaller in every direction although otherwise identical to those of the chancellors'.

It was to this smaller house that Captain Miron had gone and been granted the status of guest. Although it was to the high council that he had presented his case on behalf of Stanislav for more aggressive action again the bandits along the boarder, it was the this house he wished to create political ties. The Portocalis family was descended from the original throne after all. Lord Elias had married into the family and earned the now held the title of Mediator. His wife the Lady Tasia was the current high priestess of the Church of Ages. Groomed for it since child hood, trained by her Aunt who held the position before her. When the time came the princess Reina would follow her mother's footsteps and any man she married would be in a position to be declared mediator... unless her little brother got his act together and showed he actually cared. Unlikely that. This was why Captain Miron was here. Or at least it was why Reina believed he was.

Currently the navy haired cleric stood at a upper floor window, dark eyes watching the man in question speak with her father and several other chancellors in the square below, He put up a good front, all charm and politeness, but she wondered briefly what he would do if he knew she was marked. Her hand moved unconsciously to grip her left bicep where her brand lay hidden by the white sleeve of her tunic. Would it matter to him as it did to so many others in this world? Would he turn from his pursuit of her,or would the captain still seek her hand for his political gain? It was proof of her lineage at least, proof she was descended from the original king and his bride the healer Teresa. Her mother's mark was set between her shoulder-blades, her grandfathers had been on the back of his right hand, her aunt the former priestess had confided once that hers was on the outer left thigh, rumor said her great grandfathers brand had been in his left eye.

It came in adolescence, when it came at all. No one was quite sure why or what the conditions were. The last five members of the line had inherited the mark without a hitch, all manifesting between the ages of 9 and 14 when they had determined the type of people they would become. But it was said her grandfather's sister had never gained one and her brother was 16 now and his had yet to show. Yet in the end did it even matter? the brand was a thing never discussed with the outside world. Reina doubted even those who had served on the High Council had any idea.

The sunlight shifted outside as the clouds moves and Reina started at finding the people she had been watching were no longer there. In her meditation she had forgotten to track their moments, forgotten to hide when the man she was avoiding came inside. The sounds of footsteps behind her was her first indication she had been found.

"My Lady Reina, You never answered my question." His hero's armor shone under his black and purple cloak and Reina's eyes dropped to the sword at his waist as confirmation that the man went armed in in country where only the Sky Knights regularly carried weapons.

"I told you that such a question held no understanding for me. I have no love for you, and I am convinced you hold no real regard for me."

"What has love to do with marriage?" His question was sincere and that very fact shocked her into silence. "Perhaps in time affection may grow, but the question I posed you was more politic than anything else. We would make a very strong force together, solidify our countries' alliance, help enforce the peace."

His blue eyes were shadowed by his fair hair, but the expression Reina found in them terrified her. This man was after power, nothing more.

"When the situation has stabilized I will give your offer serious consideration, but not before." She forced the bow of her head and her pale-teal over vest fluttered as she offered a curtsy.

He frowned at her. "Will you at least walk down with me to the council chamber? The report on the bandit raids is scheduled to come in."

She again nodded and polity took his elbow. But as they walked down and out of her house, and crossed the south square to the entrance of the Council hall, she refused to look at him. She would be polite, she would be diplomatic, but she would not encourage this absurd idea of his.

The council chamber was thriving when they arrived. most of the chancellors were already there and the observation ring was beginning to fill with the people who found interest in political affairs. It was here Reina was finally allowed to separate from the Captain. He entered through a pair of gilded doors on the main level into the speakers chamber, while Reina was left to take the stairs to an upper floor to find a place among the throng of citizens waiting to hear a report. She circled around until she found her mother, taking a seat by her side.

Down below things were being drawn to order. Her father was taking role, motioning the Captain to the Visitors seat, and calling forward a messenger who had arrived a few hours prior. The hearing had been postponed just long enough to let the man eat and gather his thoughts with a bit of rest. The man spoke clearly and concisely, but the news wasn't good. The bandit raids were increasing, growing more bold. They were attacking villages openly now, on both sides of the border. More of the Sky Knights were to be sent in.


But Miron was less than pleased with that solution. He wanted the Bandits eradicated and he wanted Thalia to be responsible for it. It was to be a show of proof of their commitment to peace. Reina couldn't help but scoff. Did the man not understand their country at all?

"I assure you we are doing all we can," her father stated calmly, his voice echoing around the council chamber. "But they simply cannot be found and the very few we catch in the act refuse to talk. They seem more hired mercenary than rouge bandits"

Someone near her shifted in their seat and another coughed. Reina had a hard time sitting still herself. It was a horrible idea. Down below the messenger began the speak again.

"That may be that case, my Lords. Sky Knight General Ioannis confirms sighting a known Mercenary by the name of Papov!" The chamber erupted in murmurs but before the messenger sound continue Captain Miron drew his sword.

"That's enough out of you!" and he slew the messenger where he stood.

The hall erupted in screams and in the moment before her mother grabbed her Reina saw her father grab and nearby flag pole and wielding it as a staff rush for the Captain from Stanislav. Only as she was knocked out of her chair and to the ground did she realize the danger they all were in. Throughout the crown hid the soldiers of Stanislav, their weapons concealed by their cloaks. No one went armed here and so no one had thought to check the crowd!

Several jumped the railing down into the speaker's hall below, others were turning on the spectators. But before she could quite absorb what was happening she was grabbed roughly around the waist by one of the Sky Knights present, and hauled into the hall behind her Mother.

Reina had no idea what was actually happening. Her ears were filled with screams, roars of anger, and the sounds of fighting. She distinctly heard someone shout to grab all the nobility.

"The soup kitchen," her mother called, "we can get out through there!"

Reina was left to cling desperately to the back of the Sky Knight's belt as they carried her over their shoulder like a sack of potatoes. This alone was the reason she saw the archer take aim behind them. Reina cried out barely in time and her Knight turned taking the arrow in a shoulder plate. It glanced off clattering harmlessly aside, but Reina herself was nearly dropped to the ground. She got her feet under her and clambered backward as the knight faced the enemy, reaching for a lance.

"Go. I will buy you time!"

There was no time for words of thanks or warning as the High Priestess grabbed her daughter by the collar and shoved her down the hall until they reached a back stair. Onward and down until they reached a solid door and pressed beyond it. Her mother turned to bolt it behind them and then shove a sturdy work table up against it for good measure.

She sighed and turned to lean against the table panting.
"Reina, I need you to listen to me. You are going to run. we are going to take a back and fill it with as much food as you can carry without drawing attention, get you cloak, and you are going to flee the city!"

"What!" young woman could hardly understand what she was hearing, but her mother was already moving, raiding the food pantry cupboards and filling a small sack with anything that could be eaten while traveling, a wine-skin, a water skin, and the pouch of coin her mother always kept hidden in her robes just in case it was needed to help someone in need.

"You are going to go to the temple and take our most sacred treasure, and you are going to flee the country. The majority of our knights are on the boarder dealing with the bandits, this city will not stand. I will find the knights I can and we will hold out as long as possible to buy you and our people time to flee. But we cannot let them find and take the divine weapon."

"So you're going to send me out into the world with it?"

"You will find allies and a place to hide, and when the time is right you will figure out what is best to do. Perhaps in Atrea or Eshil, we are on good terms with both countries... When the time comes, with any luck you will at least find your brother here alive..."

"But mother!"

"I am high priestess as well as queen, do not make me order you as a cleric as well! now, listen to what I say!"

Priestess Tasia pulled a deep green cloak from a hook by the door, hung it around her daughter's shoulders, kissed her forehead, and pulled open the door.

Later, Reina had no idea how she managed to make it out the back doors and across the west square to the Great Temple unseen, but somehow she managed it. Her hands were shaking as she opened the doors and slipped inside. She could still hear the sounds of the battle in the other building, growing louder and panic and fighting spilled into the streets. Her hands were shaking so she took a heal staff from a store-cupboard just to have something to hold onto before beginning the long climb up the center stairs, taking the steps two at a time, hoping there was no one at the top.

Coming out onto the top floor into what the clergy called the sun room for its wide windows that looked in every direction, Reina gripped her staff in both hands intending to use it as a club if need be, but there was no one there. Taking a deep breath she crossed to the great statue of the healing goddess Anhi in the center and set about finding the secret switch in the base. A bit of pressure in the right spot and a drawer popped out, revealing Laennec the Staff of Blessing. It was an ornately carved wooden rod, well oiled and dark in color. The orange focus orb in its setting of gold overlayed steel flickered faintly in the light as she took it out of the case, and snapped the drawer back into place. Only then did she feel the presence behind her.

The woman gazing on her was on the petite side, lean and slender. Reina wanted to place her in her late thirties, but there was a wisdom in her eyes that implied she was far, far older. The woman's long flowing hair was a deep green the color of grass in summer, and her eyes were red.

Her ears were long and pointed unlike any Reina had ever seen before. Those of the statue were human, and yet Reina somehow knew this was the woman the statue had been based on. The clothing was more or less the same after all, and unlike any currently worn in any land Reina was familiar with. a Short pleated, sleeveless vest over a knee length cream dress, knee high boots, and a sorts of strange green and gold over-skirt chained over her hips.
Reina clutched the staff of blessing to her chest and pressed her back against the statue base. Was she in trouble for taking the relic out of it's hiding place? even at a time like this? was the goddess angry at her?

But the woman only reached down to touch her face, tilting her chin up to study her.
"Yes, you will do well, my chosen one. Your country is in chaos so I, Ahni, will let you take the staff... if you follow my instructions you may find one day you are even able to wield it."

"I don't understand," Reina mumbled, a little in awe.

"I have a quest for you."

"My country,"

"Is in peril yes, but the world lies in greater danger still. The ice dragon Isolde has awakened and though still sealed has begun to influence events in her favor. It is her flexing that has lead to the corruption in Stanislav and the invasion of your land. Reseal her prison, reset her sleep, and you save the world as well as your home."

"I don't understand..."

"You will, in time, which we don't have for explanations now. here--"

Anhi took the staff and began to dismantle it, her fingers flying over its form until she had three pieces, as fast as only the maker of a thing can work. And then she did the same to Reina's heal staff. The green orb focus she affixed to the blessed staff where one orange had been.

"There the base has no effect on the working of a thing, but this will serve as a reminder of what I ask of you." The orange staff focus she buried in the bottom of Reina's food bag. "Food is less likely to be lost than money," and the third piece, a sort of round signet that had been hidden between orb and staff, she threaded a bit of string through and hung it firmly around Reina's neck. "This you must not lose, I can remake the rest in a worse case scenario, but this, this is what holds my blessing.You will travel east until you reach the islands. There you will seek out the priestess. ask for her by name, ask for Miha. Her name is the key to finding her. She will explain all. And if by chance you find one of the other divine keys, you must take them with you."

"But you..."

"I? other pieces must be set in motion or reminded to stay in motion as the case may be, but for now I will buy you the time you need to flee this city. You have already wasted too much as it is, girl. Now RUN!"

Run Reina did.

She wanted to crawl into a hole and cry and hide, but she pushed her feet into flying down the stairs as fast as was safely possible. She wanted to run home and find her brother and make sure he was okay, but she didn't do that either. Instead she made herself go the opposite way, into the outer ring toward the main market. There were more places to hide there, more ways out of the city than just the main gate. If she was lucky and timed things right maybe she could get out the Sentry door on the south side, hide in a stand of trees by the river until night fell, and then travel by dark until she found a city, or help or the Eshil boarder-- whichever came first. It sounded easy enough. Reina didn't stop to let herself think about how she had no clue how to make a fire or hide her tracks, or how to find food when hers ran out. She had now been told twice to run, to get out, twice to protect the staff, and that was what she had to do.

She darted from one ally to another, staying in the shadows, and making herself wait until she knew her way was clear. But as she reached the edge of the market she had to clap a hand over her mouth to keep herself from crying out. She could see a contingent of Wyvern riders landing atop the city wall!

But she could also see where the Sentry door was, a hundred yards ahead behind the carpet vendor...
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Eshil, 3 days after the Takeover of Thallia, 100 miles SW of the Eshillian-Thallian Border

The criers had been shouting it all morning. Stanislav absorbs Thallia, for the better security of all nations. It had arrived by courier pigeon and would continue to fly across the nation on those wings as well as the feet of the wandering tribes. Seemed good enough cause for a drink. Sitting in one of the city-states's inn, Korwin Eraventice sipped a weak, watered-down wheat beer. Dressed in a travel-stained, forest green cloak with a mat of dirty black hair and beard, he sat upon a stool, listening to the conversations. Leaned against the bar was a hardwood staff with a steel head wrapped in some read beads. The other end was wrapped tightly in leather, to protect it from wearing against the ground as he used it as a walking stick. If one were to remove the leather, however, they would discover that the staff was, at least, partially hollow. A round tube had been cut into it. Furthermore, if one were to look underneath the cloak, they would discover a plate of unadorned set of black armor in the Midorian style of a strong central plate and greaves, but with strips of metal in faulds and pauldrons with chainmail shirt underneath it all. At his waist hung a helmet with a monstrous, draconic mask. Also at his waist sat a wakizashi, in easy reach of his right hand. Then, going up his back, lay a slightly curved blade that was a foot and a half long. The head and guard of a Naginata. Perhaps that was why he sat so straight, to make sure the blade remained hidden. Lastly, he wore both tunic and leggings that matched with his cloak in color and wear. Those who saw that, would consider him a mercenary, or a bandit that hadn't be realized yet by the local guard. On the outside, however, he merely looked like a man ready for travel with a loaded backpack, sipping beer with his left hand, which was unarmored. Perhaps a traveling monk, given his staff and beads.

The beer was a staple of the many of the cities across the continent. The traveling tribes, however, had a different brew. Their armies differed too. Often from city to city, tribe to tribe. It made for an incredibly diverse force. Which was also incredibly disorganized military as the various heads of tribes often disagreed on strategy. Results varied on success as they warred against themselves and other nations, but when united in goal and agreed methods, they had proved to be a potent force. The last time that had truly happened was in the war against the ice dragon Isolde. However, despite the relative peace after the war, the cultures had remained diverse and segregated. Oh they saw each other often enough, friendly, but the art only blended on occasion and not dedication to being a unified nation.Both were key definers in cultures. Korwin's quick mental thoughts towards the distant and vague history of Eshil concluded on the strange similarity that the tribes and city-states shared. They all love to spread the gossiped news as quick as a beggar grabs a forgotten purse, he thought.

Everyone seemed to have something to say on the takeover, occupation, protection, benevolence, kindness, domination, or saving of Thallia. With so many differeing opinions, it was hard to pick out the truth of the matter, but it was evident that Stanislav forces now occupied the region and had some royal backing. What everyone also seemed to agree on was that the church was keeping quiet about their opinion on it. Not good if Stanislav wants the people to remain calm under this, he thought grimly.

War was brewing, he felt it it in his bones. Now it was only a matter of time before something broke and some country wouldn't agree with, or be cajoled by, Stanislav and everything would erupt. Doesn't even need to be a nation.

Not that it meant much to Korwin, beyond that it was time to move again. Find some tribal group headed towards Atrea or Ufral. Perhaps even make his way back to Midori. That would mean passing close Thallia, but it was manageable enough. He wasn't a fan of cutting his way across the plains to the isles and the desert of Ufral or forests of Atrea would provide better natural protection. He did wish, however, that he hadn't come so far South and West. But, sadly, doing something so extreme and, well, reckless, was what was needed at the time.

He stretched his left arm and stood up, dropping some coins on the counter alongside his unfinished drink. It just wasn't sake, or plum wine if he was lucky, and was, by nature, inferior. Perhaps I'll continue to play as a wandering monk, he thought as he made his way out the door and into the late morning, debating religious scriptures and whatnot. Or maybe I'll pretend I'm some sellsword and see if a trader will hire me for travel. Not that it matters till I find out who's headed north. Just need to earn enough to get off this forsaken continent. Then I'll finally be in the clear.
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Ludivine was seated firmly on her mount’s saddle, Fosc having perched upon the Thalian city wall with the rest of their Wyvern comrades. They had been given word about the attack within the council chamber and each member was given their specific orders. The infantry soldiers would secure the gates so no citizen or dragon escaped and the excess would disarm Thalian guards. The cavalry would roam the streets, assert control over the citizens to ensure no riots, and disarm anyone that was a threat (especially if they were a threat to the fliers). The Wyvern riders were instructed to patrol the buildings to locate a set list of individuals that they needed to capture. Since they could fly, they’d be able to cover more ground than the soldiers on horseback and much faster. If someone they needed to capture was found, the dragon riders would be flagged down or they’d go themselves for the capture. Defeat all that opposed them; no verbal warnings necessary.

She could already imagine the conversations among the denizens about why there were dragon riders in Thalia. Speculations would be spread among the masses, and with it, fear.

She inwardly sighed.

Her father had always told her that becoming a soldier would be the greatest thing to happen to her. “The symbol of valiance and the protector of the Stanislav citizens. Only the utmost respect for soldiers!”, he’d tell her. “She’ll become what the country needs to stay alive. Maybe she’ll become powerful enough to become a political figure!” he’d say to her grandmother, pride lacing his words. It’s what gave her the motivation to sign herself and Fosc over to the military. She had thought that what her father said was true… But this… This was not the reason she had trained day and night for.

Her father promised a happy future the day she signed those documents, but…

Invading different territories, using violence during a peaceful meeting, terrorizing civilians and shedding innocent blood… This wasn’t what she wanted. This wasn’t what she’d been promised. How could there be a happy, peaceful future if this was how Stanislav intended to operate? Nothing good came of this. Battle experience maybe, but nothing beneficial between territories.

Peace would surely come in time... But not like this. Not with these methods.

Ludivine turned her attention to her commander upon hearing him clear his throat.

He was a strong and intimidating man adorned with a sleek and complicatedly designed armor. Ludivine couldn’t see much appearance-wise but only knew that this man was the very definition of a model soldier by Stanislav’s military standards. The only thing that she could see on him was the deep scars on his face that proved his years of expertise.

“Most of the soldiers have taken their positions but we will not waste another moment. Watch the unguarded doors until those deadbeats arrive... You’ve been briefed on your main objectives and assigned paths so I will not repeat myself. Take your positions,” Each dragon rider took their places, Ludivine being on the far right. She and her comrades were tasked with assisting the ground soldiers as well as searching where they could for their capture targets; the royal family, Thalian generals, and any authority figure that could provide information. The commander had been very clear when he said that they were not going to leave empty-handed.

The older man waved his hand to his squadron; a silent gesture that was their cue to fly.

At the call, each dragon spread their wings and taken their respective paths and directions. Fosc flapped his wings quickly, the wind flapping past the two as the search for their targets began. The Wyvern’s red eyes scanned over the tall stone city for any and all suspicious activity, awaiting commands from his rider while Ludivine worked as a second pair of eyes to watch for comrades or foes. Many high arches, buildings, and small homes were most likely hiding citizens.

'Thalia is a stunning city from above... So cool and refreshing,' Ludivine thought to herself. If only she had had the chance to visit as a traveler instead of an invader.

Ludivine sighed inwardly again.

She held her reigns and lance tightly in her hands, doing her best to ignore her guilty conscious and wandering thoughts. If she could just focus on her tasks at hand and leave quickly, maybe the heavy emotion in the pit of her stomach would cease.
Eshil, four days following the occupation of Thailla, seventy-four miles SE from the Eshilian-Thallian Border

Dark clouds hung above the sky from Thailla. It was as if nature was declaring its sorrow over recent events in that land. It was none more evident than to the lone rider on a chestnut colored horse slowly moving north through a series of hills toward that direction. The rider in question was a Eshilian nomad, wearing emerald grab blended with yellow markings, clearly marked his tribal origins. Keeping the right hand at the reins, Jebei scratched with the other limb his newly grown mustache however thin it was, viewing the sight in front of him.

A ill omen.

The young horseman thought. Of course such signs never had stopped him from getting into trouble before he didn’t see any reason to break the cycle now. As a son of the Batu tribe, Jebei had been raised to respect their way of life, especially the spirits of the world they devoted themselves to. Hence why he took the state of nature very seriously. This however failed to prevent him from being a mischievous soul.

A smile formed on Jebei’s expression as amusing memories flashed within his mind.

Oktai is so much fun to provoke. Especially that one time I slapped a fish in his face. By the great Spirits he chased me all over camp, screaming murder until our elder brother Turgen intervened, making us wrestle to settle the dispute. He is always nosing into everybody’s business as if the chieftain himself.

Sighing with pleasure, the nomad’s smile faded as his mind soon drifted back to the purpose of this journey. Weeks ago Jebei had experienced a troubling vision. One of cities and camps ablaze and thousands of men and women in clashing with one another in places familiar and unknown. Worse of all it ended was a roar so thunderous it shook the very earth. At first the youthful plainsman had treated it as nothing more than a terrible dream. Yet it replayed in his mind night after night until confessing it to his family then their clan shaman.

They had too been confused and troubled by the description he gave them but none of them couldn’t provide any definite answer other than it seem mean some kind of war was on the horizon. The night after Jebei experienced a new vision but one of a woman with flowing green hair and red eyes staring back at him and simply said.

“Go to Thailla.”

Once he woke Jebei, decided not to tell the tribe who wouldn’t agree with going anywhere near Thailla. Instead, he left them in the death of night on horseback with enough supplies to last a long journey.

Judging by what was mentioned in that carven I traveled with yesterday, Stanislav has taken over Thailla. It seems the vision is coming true.

Jebei silently concluded as he heard thunder rumbling in the distance. His faithful steed Temujin whined a little, no doubt cornered over the fact they’re heading toward what likely would be a fierce storm. Patting the left side of the neck, Jebei said.

“It’s going to be okay my friend. Trust me like I always have with you.”

Flattered by the praise Temujin neighed with approval, pressing on while his rider still on the saddle as they climbed up the next hill.
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Ft. Besselat, Atrea. A castle built upon a river dam, with gatehouses to the north and south, currently housing Duke Mirchaud and his men. Inside the war room, the duke meets with his advisors, some trusted for their experience, and others for their differences in perspective. None cover their face, for now is a time of great tension, and they are all loyal citizens in the duke's presence.

"Not everyone will simply accept that."

"Agreed. A standing army rules one country, and The Church of Ages rules the other. What common ground did they find, to support merging their legacies."

"At best, 'tis a faulty union. At worst, 'tis a sham. Thallia is our ally, is she not? Though our borders are distant, we've yet to receive sour intent. Yet, were this union not in good faith, would she not have sent for aid."

"Her people are soft. They shall either convert, take up arms, or flee into the night. We should keep watch on our borders for further developments."

"Is the alliance even valid now?"

Faces turned cold at the thought. For what it's worth, a difference in faith was not enough to shake the royal families from working together with the church toward a better existence, but any who'd lain eyes upon a map knew what Stanislav looked like with Thallia under her colours: a fourth of the continent, under one banner, with (in a grim mindset) the desert or Midori soon to share Thallia's fate.

"We should close our borders. Even should refugees make it here, they would be either cowards or weak-willed. Poor citizens at best, but more likely spies in disguise."

"But every citizen should be allowed their chance to live a free life!"

"They are not citizens! They'll come in here, eat all our food, and demand our homes as hospitality while they barge their way into the market with their own goods, demanding our coin. I'll not have it in my Atrea! They need to start fixing their problems themselves, instead of running to us as a first resort!"

"Enough!" The duke's voice clamors over all others. "It's not up to us, in any case. His Majesty will decide how to proceed when we have more information. As for us, we shall start by..."


Meanwhile, somewhere in a non-specific Atrean woodland, at night, a young boy stares down an armored person. Neither have their weapons drawn: the warrior's sword is sheathed, and the boy's bow is slung over a shoulder.

"So, that's it then? Gone, without so much as a farewell?" His question meeting silence, the boy frowns. "I get it. It's just not the same without Loxley here, but to lose you as well? Soon there won't be any of us left."

"I shall return," the armored figure promises, their voice giving off a hollow echo under their helm, "perhaps next year, perhaps sooner. You still have a family, little one. Take care not to lose those who remain."

The boy huffs. "Fine, but where are you going?"

"Where the current guides me, or where it discourages my prying eyes, I cannot say."

"In that armor? You are likely to get swept up in some blue-blood's court the moment you are seen." To this, the armored figure starts walking, and the boy smirks. "To the plains, then. Are you going to hunt, or hide? Or.... to die?"

"Keep your ears open, laddie. And whatever happens, don't let some count conscript you or your siblings into their ranks. They concern themselves with little beyond glory. I shall return. Be good 'til then."

And with that, the darkened suit of armor moved further west, into the night. Nary a word escaped of their goals or methods, but the truth was that an Atrean knight with little experience outside their own country stood little chance of seeing, let alone surviving or stopping, the foulness at play. All this one knew was that to stand idle would play directly into disaster's hand.
Eshil, 3 days after the Takeover of Thallia, 100 miles SW of the Eshillian-Thallian Border

Korwin stepped out into the daylight. His position, about halfway up a long, rounded down, afforded him a striking view of the Eshil plains stretching out in rolling hills and growing farmlands. Farms that fed the city, but outside of the protection of its stone walls. The day was clear and sunny, driving Korwin to pull off his hood. A good day for travel, though it promised to warm up quite a bit. Breathing in the morning air and the babble of people who made their way about the day, he set off down towards the market. In hindsight, going to the inn for news was rather pointless. Everyone out here had the occupation on their mind just as much as everyone inside did. Luckily, drinking gave a point to most everything. Not that he drank much. Couldn’t afford to.

Coming out between two buildings with a cluster of chittering housewives, Korwin entered City-State Aurula’s market. A cluster of booths and goods scattered across it while the more prosperous merchants owned actual buildings in the plaza. All shouting their wares, and the occupation. Wondering how long it would be before he tired of hearing of it, which was a good enough indicator that that moment wasn’t too far off, Korwin set about the square, asking for news on the tribes and who was traveling north. He moved at a slow and steady gate, leaning on his staff, playing his age up and his physical capabilities down and trying to act as a concerned monk for the people of Thallia. He talked of making a pilgrimage north to pray there.

“Yes yes,” he’d say, “pray for their safety. What? No. Don’t know if anyone died, but best pray anyway. Tell me if you know of anyone headed north and east. Why not here? Dullard. You pray closer to the problem for better prayer. Sure, may the almighty ones bless your store and gruel, now how about souls headed back up near Thallia. Or Ufral or Atrea. They work too. Yes, I already prayed for her priestess majestess. Just tell me what tribes came in this past few days you sod…” and hitherto and soforth.

It took an annoyingly long time, but worth it, Korwin thought to himself as he crunched on a crust of bread, looking out from an alley. There was indeed a tribe that would be heading in the right direction. Likely to get news and perhaps offer aid to calm the people along the border. The Edol tribe had that reputation. What was more was that, while wandering around, Korwin had gotten word of a mercenary band that had come in today. A mercenary band with men from Midori. It’s a good stroke of luck, he mused. Not that he wanted a contract with such a band. Either too easy to break or far too binding, but it did mean that it wouldn’t appear too strange to be seen with Midorian gear. After all, men and women fell away and joined up with such bands as easy as water broke and joined. Which means no more being a monk, he grinned to himself. He’d just need to find a merchant who would travel with the tribe. They often did that, for protection from bandits. But just because they traveled with them, didn’t mean they trusted that the tribe didn’t have thieves. As such, it was time to be a warrior.

After making sure he was alone and out of sight, Korwin untied a loop of string that held the lower portion of his cloak shut, which had ensured that no one saw his arms or armor, worked his left arm and shoulder back into their pieces of armor, and locked the naginata blade back into its shaft. After checking to make sure the blade was sturdily in place, he draped his red beads over the circular guard of the blade and pulled on his armored gauntlets. Lastly, with the same string that held the cloak closed, he tied up part of his hair into a simple ponytail of the Midori style. Disguise complete, Korwin swept back out into the market. Straight back with long, powerful strides and a glare from his eyes. His cloak was left open, sweeping apart to reveal his armed and armored body drew Time to find a traveling merchant, he grinned.

Luckily, it didn’t take him long to find one. Or rather, he made certain it didn’t take too long. A quick stop and a bit of a bribery at the stables got him names of the traveling merchants that had came in and had been there long enough to sell their wares. Based off how much they had payed, and how many horses they had, Korwin was able to deduce which ones were rich enough to pay him the gold to make it worthwhile, but not so much that they could hire off a reputable warband. A few more coins to the stablemaster, and he’d learned where these men and women were staying. The only luck involved was that he found one of the merchants in the process of loading up his wagon with barrels of beer, probably of good stock.

“You want to hire me,” he said by way of greeting.

The man, with brown but greying hair, paused in his loading and surveyed Korwin, who had purposely removed his cloak and slung over his shoulder to better show off his equipment. “Why’s that?” the man shot back.

“Simple, I’m cheaper than any in the warband in town, but good enough to keep you and yours safe.”

“Why ain’t you with them?”

“They’re headed a different way than me.”

“How much?”

“750 silver pieces.”

“Yer blood’s too rich, 225.”



“450 and I eat my own food.”

“350 and ye still eat yer own food.”

“425 and I help with loading and managing your wares.”

“Hmm,” the man considered. Almost a minute passed before he spoke again. “Yer lucky you look more trustworthy than those mercs. Yer hired.”

Korwin strode forward, hanging his cloak on his shoulder, and clasped the merchant’s hand.

“Agato Doma,” he said.

“Gonz Horradin,” the merchant replied, “now git helping with the lifting. That tribe is leavin in an hour.”
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As Chaos fell on the city of Thalia, Princess Reina was fortunate enough to find cover in a cart of wheat that had already been inspected by the Stanislav Wyvern Guard. The cart keeper had no clue he had an extra passenger as he was allowed to drive out of the city. Reina was able to slip out of the cart after dark and though she attempted to find the river quickly gave up that plan in favor of staying close to the road. Far enough to remain unseen by casual travelers but close enough to find it as needed to check her direction. The cleric now travels by night, hiding to sleep in the day, and very rarely makes contact with anyone. Meanwhile others travel their own path, unaware that fate may soon bring them together.

Chapter One: Border Crossings

Thalia and Eshil Border, 7 days after Thalia's takeover

The sun was still low in the sky when Reina finally reached the border between Thalia and Eshil on day seven. Low enough that very few people were out, just high enough she was worried about being seen. Of course crossing at night probably wasn't the best idea considering the border patrols that had been set by Captain Miron after her escape. They were faster and mounted and had reached the area far ahead of her, and they would be looking for her at night as well as day. She needed to blend in, or find a place they couldn't see. Of course out here in the flat lands the visibility was clear and sight lines were far. It had taken the help of a farm wife to point that out, among a few other things, and warnings about the guards. Reina was feeling truly blessed to have met that woman, even if it had been an accident.

At the moment Anhi's cleric was up a tree. Stationed near the center trunk her cloak held close to keep it from billowing, and the green color obscuring her among the leaves. From here she could see clearly in the morning twilight. Her initial plan had been to follow the river to the coast and then down to the border but Reina had been forced to give that up in favor of the road after the third time she'd nearly gotten herself lost. She regrettably had absolutely no sense of direction and there were too many tributaries of the river in too many directions. There was only one main South Road and unlike many smaller village pathways the South Road had long ago been paved with hard stone and beaten down with the many, many years of traveling feet, hooves, and carts. It was easy to identify. From her position in the tree Reina could see it clearly snaking through the grass until it passed between two stone pillars that marked the crossing. Legend held that before Eshil and Thalia were nations, two neighboring tribes had set up those pillars as a promise of peace. Now, any road that went from one side to the other between the two nations had a similar marking. Although, in some cases they were just piles of stone.

From her tree Reina could see those pillars ever more clearly with the rising sun's light, and she could imagine the invisible line from them she would have to cross to safely claim she was in Eshil's territory. She could also see two separate fires. Small ones. Like camp fires that had burned low over the night. One was close on her side, the other far more distant.

The ability to see them now should in theory make her crossing easier, make it easier to stay in the shadows, and from the top of the tree she could outline a path through the shadows where the flame's light couldn't reach. A line of rocks, a few trees, a drainage ditch meant to pull water from the road. if she could follow those and stay low and quiet....The sun was higher now and that should make things easier too. The longer shadows cast by those object were in her favor. Taking a deep breath Reina began to climb down.

Twenty minutes later she believed she had successfully made it. Or rather she hoped. Her knees were muddy her cloak covered in leaves and mulch, but she was passed the boarder markers and the first camp fire. The sun was peeking over the horizon now though, meaning the sky was flecked with golds, oranges and pinks, and she could no longer see the second camp fire. Without knowing who they were Reina decided it was best to assume they were mercenaries hired to keep a watch on the Eshil side of the border for Stanislav. Although logic suggested they were a boarder guard set by one of the neighboring tribes to ensure the occupying forces didn't cross over. Still, it was better to wait until she was far enough into Eshil to be sure of anyone she met. That meant more night travel and hiding...

Her stomach growled but Reina ignored it. She had to safe what little food she had left as long as she could.

What she couldn't ignore was the twig snapping behind her.

Reina turned and wasn't even given a chance to scream before a hand clamped down over her mouth.

"What's this? step away to take a leak and come back with a trophy aye?"
Reina struggle to no avail. The rouge had wrapped an arm around her shoulders as firmly as the one he kept clamped over her mouth. His face was difficult to see in the twilight, but he stank of alcohol as well.

"Here! Boys! Give me a hand!" he called to his camp as she tried her best to step on his toes as he dragged her in the direction of the second fire she had seen.

There was stirring among the camp as another man came forward. He seemed to be in command, sterner, more collected.

"Here boss! look what I've found!"

As they dragged her into the dying fire's light, a hand reached out to yank down the hood of her cloak, catching her hair in the process. Reina winced and gave a muffled cry of pain.

"Hold her toward the morning sun so I can see," the leader grumbled. "Well, Rothgar, you've done some good work here... blue hair, the marks here, at her temple are indicative of consistent wearing of a circlet or chain... hold out her hand--"

Another bandit grabbed her palm, forcing it away from her body

"Boss Ludgren, there's a healer's staff poking out of her pack," a voice called from nearby, "that's consistant with the stories too!"
"So it is--" Ludgren murmured as he studied her hand as the other held her wrist. "Soft... all the cuts are new, she's not used to hard work... I'd say we caught ourselves a run away royal! And I be I know which one, too."

The rest of the men seemed to cheer. Reina cried out and tried to bite the hand that held her quiet, but her teeth only scrapped over rough skin and callouses.

"Well now, you are in trouble aren't you?" Ludgren's hard fingers motioned for her mouth to be released and then grabbed her chin firmly before she had a chance to say a word. "There's nothing your Thalia can do for you now and sources say Stanislav's got a hefty price on your head. I think we'll keep you while tensions grow, and then hand you over. My source says by that point Captain Miron will pay a hefty price."

"Any chance you'll let up play with her a bit before we hand her over?"

Before their leader could reply Reina found herself screaming in outrage. She pulled away from her captor enough to bring her foot up behind her aiming low and hard. Twisting she aimed a second Kick at the back of the knee belonging to the man who held her wrist.

The grips of both loosened and they growled in pain and she was able to tear free, turning and running as hard and fast as she could into Eshil.

Her feel pounded the road and her cloak streaked behind her, but the sun was up now and she was a clear mark. More than that Reina knew there was every chance in the world she would be caught again. But she had to at least try to get away.
Thalia and Eshil Border, 7 days after Thalia's fall.

Walking slowly to the ancient pillars, was Jebei and his horse. The journey to the border had taken longer than he had anticipated. It had been due to a furious storm that lasted a whole day, forcing him and Temjiun to seek shelter at a minor town. Fortunately, they were able to continue onward without much further delay. Now Jebei could merely grin as he spotted the massive stone columns in the distance not too far away.

Just some more steps we will be in Thailla at last.

While he had heard some tales of the nation but Jebei had never been there in his life. They believe in one deity, a healing goddess apparently and had plenty of winged horses called pegasuses. The latter interested him more than the former in all honesty. Of course the nomad had to remind himself that his purpose coming here was greater than any personal curiosity. Some form of spirit had directed him to this destination however mysterious it was. Before the young man could dwell more on the possibilities of the visions would entail Jebei heard a woman’s scream yards away followed howls of pains and running steps.

Alerted, Jebei looked and saw up ahead a blue haired girl with cloak running for dear life. Behind the fugitive there a number of men obviously, bandits pursuing her. Without hesitation the Batu tribesman galloped toward the chase. Mid-run, with one hand to the reins Jebei brought out a bow on the side. In the suceeding moment he drew an arrow, aiming for a shot while Temjiun continued sprinting with full haste.

Suddenly the arrow flew forth from the bow and swoop past Reina, striking a bandit in the chest who was gaining behind her. With a dying cry the highwayman fell face first to the ground.
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Meanwhile, on a path leading out of the Atrean forest four days after Thalia's fall...

"Thank you again," came the somewhat timid voice of the caravan driver. An older fellow, definitely in his middle ages, with a severely balding hairline and a pencil-thin moustache that almost seemed like it had wilted over the years. "With the bandit raids increasing in number recently, I've been absolutely mortified of cross-country travel. It does much to ease my fears, having such a capable fighter as you on my side."

"Just part of the job, friend." Another voice, this one originating from the young man garbed in red who walked alongside the wagon. Caeden Forrester, known to most simply as 'Cade', had gained some minor notoriety amongst the smallfolk of the Atrean woods as a skilled axe-fighter and mercenary. As a result, Cade usually encountered little opposition when it came to selling his services. This also meant that he had been approached by various unsavory types as well, promising untold riches if he joined up. They received his axe in response, but not before he honestly considered it. The thought ate away at him, that he'd gotten so desperate to even consider ransacking the very people he grew up with. Even so, after his refusal he couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched, followed, or both. On his worst days, there was even a dreading feeling sunk in the pit of his stomach, like something terrible had happened or was going to happen. That was neither here nor there, however, as his current responsibility was to Rudolf, the merchant who had hired him to protect the caravan on its journey into Eshil. The path Cade had recommended was a lot more dangerous, but it was much faster - only a week's journey - when compared to the alternative of avoiding the mountain pass altogether. Bandits were numerous in the Atrean range, but Cade was confident he could fight off any danger they came across.

· · ·

Three days later...

The mountains, once a distant landmark on the horizon, were now looming close. The trip so far had been uneventful, almost suspiciously so, but Rudolf was still relieved to have been unharmed. Cade agreed with the sentiment, but they weren't out of the woods just yet. Figuratively, of course. Despite their relatively peaceful journey thus far, Cade still couldn't seem to get rid of the niggling feeling that they were being followed, or walking into a trap. He glanced over his shoulder at the road behind him, but other than their own caravan, there was nobody else on the trail. He then turned his eyes forward, scanning the mountaintops and ledges for any sign of life, but once more there was nothing. The feeling brewing in his gut put Cade ill at ease, but at the very least they were safe for now. They wouldn't be at their destination for four more days at the very least, so there wasn't any point in being too overly cautious at this juncture. Once they'd entered the mountain pass and fully into bandit territory would be when he would have to be much more alert. He adjusted his axe's position on his shoulder and jogged up to the main wagon.

"There doesn't seem to be any sign of bandits so far, but they're famous for coming out of nowhere at the most inopportune times," Cade advised, causing the middle-aged merchant to swallow nervously. "Be wary, be cautious, but no matter what, don't stop moving. Even if it means leaving me behind," he added, giving Rudolf a meaningful look. The merchant started sputtering, trying to protest, but Cade silenced him with a hand. "You'll be out of the worst of the danger once you get past the pass," he explained, gesturing toward the road ahead with a tilt of his axe handle. "I can handle myself, but my number one priority is your safety. It's harder to attack a moving target, after all." Rudolf gave Cade another worried look, but eventually nodded his understanding. Cade smiled at the man and nodded in return, before lagging behind to tell the other wagon drivers the same information. Once everyone was up to speed, Cade returned to his regular position up by the front.

"Sir, I..." The merchant started, but lost his nerve somewhat as Cade looked over at him, already prepared to deflect any further protestations. Rudolf swallowed again, and resumed speaking. "Thank you, again. There are not many who would risk their own necks simply for the safety of a... of a fearful merchant like myself. Less still of those would do so without demanding extra pay. You're a good man, Caeden, which is why... If we..." Rudolf slips over himself again, but eventually regains his track and forges onward. "We will wait for you. If you have to stay behind, that is." As the man finished, Cade couldn't help but chuckle to himself, shaking his head a little as he turned his head back to face forward.

"I'll make it out of here alive, don't you worry about that."
Hungry eyes scour the train of wagons from behind the brush, never close enough to risk an alert, but actively enough to keep a wary traveler on edge. Yet, as the travelers draw closer to the forest's border, curious parties take more interest in the caravan. A man clad in leather armor with a longbow strung over his shoulder practically salivates at the sight before him, caution keeping him from signalling the ambush just yet.

"Paydirt," he tells one of the people at his side, "What fools are these, to traverse my forest with a single guard? Could they not afford better?"

"Perhaps he is skilled," a buck-toothed brigand offers, hand upon the hilt of his axe, "You've heard the tales, have you not? If that man is who he looks like, he's responsible fer cripplin' Grey's crew, and icing the Taliver brigade's fifth-in-command." He ponders a moment, frowning. "We should send for some help."

"And split this haul? Are you daft?" The bowman's hushed whispers turn sharp. "He is but one man, stretched across many miserly cowards, no doubt looking to gouge their wares to the needy across the plains. We need not an army to overpower him. Just call in the scouts, and don't charge ahead on your own."

"We ain't heard from Arvis all day," a bearded swordsman chimes in with a grumpy tone, "he said he was gonna shake down that other idiot wand'rin' in on 'is lonesome."

"I told him not to engage!" Eyes furrowed with fury, the bowman quickly hushes himself, eyes turning from his accomplices to his quarry in case they'd heard. Hopefully not? "That lout. Go find Rey and tell him to regroup. We'll head them off at the... No, too predictable. We should run them into a pincer at sundown."
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Ludivine scanned the patchy trails of the forest with her wyvern sniffing the grounds not too far from her. She searched for anything that could point her in the right direction; the royal princess's specific scent, hair, or any other traces that looked it could belong to her such as blood or broken grass. There were plenty of paths that her target could have gone through, but the most obvious ones were being checked thoroughly.

Seven days had passed since the takeover of Thalia, and with each passing hour, she felt just a little more horrible. None of what happened to the people of Thalia was necessary. The bloodshed, the trauma, the invasion in general... It could have ended with peace and perhaps an alliance...

She sighed. This was not the mindset of a true Stanislavian soldier. 'Think with your head, not your heart.' Ludivine told herself, trying to shake off the weighing emotions in her stomach. She was just following orders; there was nothing that could have been done to protect the citizens who suffered or the children that became orphans... But that made her just as liable, even if she had not drawn innocent blood, didn't it? She was there, on Stanislav's side while the carnage ensued. It was just as much her fault as it was the soldier who murdered the opposing forces for game.

After the takeover, it had been discovered that not all members of the royal family were present. The King had been killed; his son and his Queen both incapacitated and in their custody, but their daughter... Reina was the name? She had disappeared during the chaos and was being sought after by the Stanislavian commanders.

Ludivine had been part of the squadron that was dispatched to return her, breathing or a maggot-infested corpse. This was now her third day tracking the girl and she was proud that she and her wyvern were able to cover so much ground. With minimal breaks and sleep, she was quickly closing the distance between herself and her target. The purple-haired woman supposed that she would not have to request more time from her commander if that were the case.

Fosc gave out a small growl, his claw tapping at the dirt around something that he had found. The wyvern caught his rider's attention instantly, making her drop what she was doing then jog over to him.

"What is it, dear?" Ludivine asked her mount, her eyes to the large black wyvern then down to the dirt he had been tapping. It seemed to be nothing at first, but a distinctive color caught her gaze. She crouched down, running the silver tips of her armor claws around in the dirt that Fosc had set for her to pick up the piece she had seen.

A single blue strand of hair caught in the dust. She wiped the bits of dirt off of it to remove the weight, revealing its wavy shape and proper length. Brown eyes scanned the perimeters further, giving her the subtle footprints that had passed. Small and thin, looking to belong to a woman or a young boy of 7 to 12 years old. The heels of the print were still prominent and the toe area still seemed in tact. The trace was still relatively new. If the blue hair hadn't been found, then Ludivine would have passed the footprints for a traveling merchant who lost their or had no wagon.

She was getting closer.

"Great work Fosc!" Ludivine praised and stroked the wyvern's horns with both hands lovingly. Fosc nuzzled his head into her hands, crooning at the affectionate touch he received. After a moment she pulled her hands away so Ludivine could retrieve a piece of animal meat she kept in one of the carry-on pouches. The wyvern looked to his rider curiously, but once the meat came into view, he visibly grew excited. She tossed the food into the air which he promptly caught in his mouth. Fosc only needed a few seconds until his snack was chomped and swallowed.

Ludivine stopped to think about her options, though she would need to finish quickly if she wanted to avoid any hostile run-ins.

How close was she to the princess if these traces were recent? There were no horse or beast tracks accompanying her footsteps, so she must not have gotten too far. Did Ludivine need to send Fosc to the sky by himself and track the princess by foot the rest of the way? Was Reina close enough to hear Fosc if they started flying?


She took note of the direction the footprints headed towards then grabbed her lance from her mount. Ludivine tapped Fosc a few times, giving him the command to fly away without her.

"Stay close Fosc. If danger finds you, come to me no matter what. Call if you need to." Ludivine told her wyvern before he flapped his wings and took off.

Ludivine wanted to have her mount with her, but a wyvern just wasn't stealthy. She knew Fosc would stay within ear-shot, so she had that to comfort her at least.

With that, her investigation further within the forest could begin.


Ludivine swiped the bushes to the side, crouched low to try and search for any more hairs that might have dropped or trace from the same young woman. So far the tracks were a mix of everything, only making her life just a little bit harder. Heel prints of larger size next to moderately and significantly smaller sizes with paw prints to mess up what was left. Areas that smelled as if they were covered with dry excretions; human or animal, she wasn't sure. There were no broken branches, leaves, or grass within this area. Had Reina gone further off path or did she stay with the main one a little bit away from Ludivine?

Ugh, if only she could tell. Tracking would be so much easier.

A sudden scream startled her, though she didn't stand up. She peered through the bushes and listened intently for the source of the noise. Ludivine squinted, crouched low and used her free hand to quickly detach the wings in her hair from her neck armor. She would rather not have the glint of her Wyvern rider symbol give her away.

A girl with a green cloak and the distinctive blue hair raced passed with a group of bandits chasing her. Young and rather frail. That was definitely the princess.

Ludivine stayed within the tree and bush heavy path to help camouflage herself from the unwanted attention, keeping pace with the group easily while keeping an eye on Reina from the distance, so she wouldn't lose her again.

The soldier would help the girl if she was captured, of course. Stanislav wants her alive after all.

She controlled her breathing, staying up to speed with the princess that ran for her life. Ludivine switched her attention often from the path in front of her to Reina then back. Her lance was strapped securely to her person so she would not fatally injure herself in case she did trip.

Thalia's princess was fast, just fast enough to narrowly outrun the bandits.

Ludivine had been under the impression that this girl had been training for battle since the day she could walk. Had she been disarmed by the bandits? Hmm...


Her ears barely caught the sound of the arrow piercing the winds, penetrating the bandit that had been closing the distance between himself and Reina. Ludivine looked ahead, searched the forest until she caught sight of a man in green on horseback.

The man who was wielding a bow and arrow...

Ludivine inwardly swore to herself at the sight of the cursed bow. If this sudden ally became a companion to the princess, the purple-haired woman would have to be very cautious of bringing Fosc nearby. She'd be damned if she let anyone hurt her dear wyvern.
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((collab with Falcon and @Nomad-22 ))

Reina gave a start of freight as the arrow rushed passed her. She didn't miss the fact that it struck the man behind her or that he fell with a dying cry, but what she was unsure of was who the man had been aiming for to begin with. Her luck had been running south too long for her to believe he was trying to save her, not without some sort of clear indication. She hesitated a step and then turned, veering off an an angle but still running deeper into Eshil's territory. There was no way she could outrun a man on a horse, but perhaps he was an enemy of the bandits and the two would keep each other busy.

As the girl now fled to another direction the bandits who had been chasing her now stopped in their tracks upon the death of their comrade.

“Run! Don’t stop!” Jebei shouted hopefully loud enough for Reina to hear, as he now turned his horse to the side. To be perfectly honest the nomad had not expected to do it, much less intervene on a complete stranger behalf in the first place.

Nonetheless his course was set and combat was only beginning. One of the bandits, an archer on the left side fired an arrow toward Jebei but only mange to grazed him across left arm. Grunting, he pulled another arrow of his and let loose, striking the foe in the side, causing the highwayman to cry out, newly wounded.

She heard more men cry out, but more then that Reina also heard the words shouted after her. It was encouragement to run. That meant this new arrival at least was going to help her! The Cleric's feet pounded in the grass as she pushed her self harder, her lungs screamed for air, but her only chance was to keep going.

Rothgar, the bandit who had originally caught Reina, reached for his sword with a growl, but stayed close to Ludgren who was unfastening a large battle ax from his belt.

"Do you have any idea who you're messing with boy?" Ludgren, the leader of the bandit group growled, "do you have any idea who's bounty you're trying to steal?" He motioned with a hand and another man, this time wielding a small sword and carrying a set of lock-picks on his belt took off after the girl. Rothgar moved with him, intending to shield the faster man from any attacks if possible.

Bounty? What’s that cutthroat talking about? Jebei thought but ceased all pondering on the matter when he saw two thugs heading for the direction where the girl had just went. He raced after them to the side. Galloping at full speed and his heart pounding the nomad saw Rothgar shielding the thief from him. Realizing their intentions, Jebei drove his faithful mount toward them in a charge at their small party as if to run them over. Suddenly at the last moment before he was upon them a few feet away he let loose at close an arrow aimed for the thief behind his guard.

At that range it was impossible to miss. The thief fell and Rothgar turned unsheathing his sword intending to face the mounted horseman. But even he knew it was an uneven battle and his attention wavered between Jebei and Reina who was getting even further away. But Reina was tired. She'd been traveling all night, eaten little, and now ran further than she had ever had reason to run before. The girl tripped and pulled herself up to keep going, but it was clear she wouldn't last long on her own.

"After her!" Ludgren roared at his remaining men. "She'll tire long before we do. It's only a matter of time."

Instead of combating Rothgar, the nomad turned away. He drove his mount away from the swordsman while hearing the gang leader’s declaration. Jebei sighted, knowing its true. The young lady won’t last for long not in her condition and he won’t be able to kill all these bandits before it’s too late. He thought there had been a chance to aid her escape then continue onto Thailla as he had intended. Regardless of his plans and the command of spirits he couldn’t bear the idea of leaving someone to die if there was still a chance.

Though tired Jebei whispered to Temjun, the horse. “C’mon friend, she needs our help.” With that two raced toward the direction of Reina had gone. It wasn’t long before he spotted the poor woman struggling just to keep moving. Putting up his bow, Jebei came up to the side of Reina and with one arm pulled her up. “Hold on.” The nomad said as he galloped toward Eshil.

Reina clutched his belt tightly in her hands, and hugged the horse with her knees. She rode well even if she didn't get the chance often, but she was more than grateful for the added support of having the nomad in front of her. He knew the horse and more importantly he knew the way to safety.

"Ahni be praised," she whispered softly into the wind, and then a bit louder so her savoir could hear, "Stranger, I think I owe you my life, but I'm afraid I'll only bring you more trouble..."
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The day had started to drag on, and with it Cade's attention had begun to slip. With how warm and uneventful the day had been so far, it was easy for the fighter to fall into a bit of a bored daze as he trudged through the rapidly-thinning forest. That is, until the faintest echo of a shout reverberated in from behind them. With the sudden noise, Cade's ears perked up as he spun in the direction where he thought he heard it from. Though he was unable to spot the source, the sound was definitely not some kind of animal call. He slowed to a stop and lowered his axe from the shoulder to the ground, leaning it against a nearby tree as he stretched out his arms in preparation for combat. After giving a long, hard glance back at the underbrush in the forest behind them, Cade reached over, lifted his axe back up into both hands, and jogged up to the front coach again.

"I don't mean to alarm, but I've caught sound of the bandits," he warned, hefting his axe back onto a shoulder. Rudolf grew visibly nervous at the news, but didn't say anything further. "We're within a few hours of the mountain pass, but I didn't expect them to make themselves known so soon. Whether or not it's an accident, we can't afford to take chances. Speed up and try to clear the forest's edge, we don't want to be outmaneuvered." While Cade was familiar with the Atrean forests, that didn't change the fact that combat would be much tougher in the thickets where he had less room to swing his axe. Rudolf nodded shakily at the instructions, whipping the reins to get the horses up to a quick trot. Cade waved on the other coach drivers to do the same, and one by one the wagons started moving faster through the woods. Once Cade saw that the rear wagons were following suit, he jumped onto a protruding segment of the next cart to pass him and hung onto the wall of its bed with his left hand. He lifted his axe from his shoulder and let it hang at his side as he scanned the forest for any sign of an attack.

If those bandits wanted to secure their haul, they'd need to act quickly before the caravan entered the open plains and into the mountain pass, which would make it that much harder to follow undetected. However, with Cade's wary gaze covering the area, it would be much more difficult to stay hidden regardless unless they stayed in place. Of course, this was discounting any surprise reinforcements they might have, but as long as Cade had his axe he was confident in his ability to, if not completely defeat them, then at least scare them away from attacking the caravan again.
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Twilight, several hours before Reina, Jebei, and Ludivine encounter the bandits. Currently some twenty to thirty miles south of the Thallian border.

Korwin sat facing north at the edge of the camp. Traveling along with the merchant and tribe put him in anything but a celebratory mood. Which the tribe seemed to almost do every night. The drinking, laughing, and eating would take them long into the evening. He supposed the point was to keep family and friend bonds strong and to build a sense of community. To him, it seemed like a luxury that he neither needed nor wanted. At least they move quick enough during the day, he thought as he drew upon a pipe. At day, the whole tribe migrated in a ceaseless, formless group that, despite the lack of organization, made excellent time. So, while they reveled, Korwin had no reason to complain as to the progress made. Leaving the bearded man as content as he could be, sitting with his back to the fires and his face to the open plains.

He would have stayed that way until the caravan fell asleep, if it weren’t for the fact that he sensed someone approaching. Turning his head, he saw Gonz walking over. Korwin looked away, wondering why the man had decided to turn in early from the drinking. Instead of getting into the wagon, the man came and sat next to Korwin and mutely offered him a clay jug. The alcohol stank off both him and the drink. Korwin raised an eyebrow.

“You look like you need a drink.”

“Not if it’ll cost me.”

“Won’t charge you nuthin. Didn’t charge me nuthin, it felt right to return the favor.”

Korwin couldn’t well say no to that, although he knew full well the old merchant hadn’t merely come to offer a drink. So he drank and ran off a mental string of curses at *MERCHANT’S NAME* for offering. Once a drink was shared, company was guaranteed. They sat in silent for a few minutes, passing the jar back and forth with sips.

“Why’re you out here?” Gonz asked suddenly.

“I like my solitude,” countered Korwin.

“Nah ye idjit. I mean, why’re you out here!” the merchant gestured around, “out wanderin, than at home.”

“Left home for the roads. See the world. Adventure,” Korwin deadpanned.

“Bah! You sound like ye only just believe it.”

“Sure. Why, then, are you out here?”

“Plyin my trade.”


“Ha! Only five people have seen it so far. What gave me away?”

Korwin rolled his eyes. “You drink as much as a beggar, but dress as a merchant, yet give like a devout nun. Sure, you trade goods, but you’ve have no want of money.”

“Heh, if yer so astute, maybe I shouldn’t share my drinks.”

“Too late for that,” Korwin said, yanking the jar back to him and taking a drought. “You dodged the question.”

“So did you.”

They were silent for a few more minutes, passing the drink.

“I missed my callin,” the aging merchant began.


“Open ye ears, boy! Or I’ll box them like yer father should have.”

Korwin stared at the man, holding the jug.

“Now, I missed my callin. My callin of home. I was like you. Young. Wandering. Hopin to make my mark on the world and earn as much coin as I could.” He was staring straight back at Korwin. Strangely lucid despite how much drink he’d taken in. “But one day I was sellin my goods off in a village. Good day too. Good enough that I reckoned I had time to celebrate before buyin up and movin on. So I stayed awhile. Stayed and enjoyed my time, kept bein friendly with people. Began to fall sweet on a girl. She might have been fallin sweet on me too. I realized I had enough to be able to stay there, if I wanted. Not a rich life. But a life. A good life. But you know what I did?”

Korwin could guess, but he figured he might as well let the man tell him. “I left. I left cause I still sought the profit and the wonderin when I should have stayed and married that girl. Stayed and been content than scrabble at the pointless mountain of searchin for what I just found. A place for happiness. A place called home.”

Korwin remained mute while Gonz continued ranting. “And you, boy. I see part of me in you. Always looking towards that distant horizon. Not appreciatin that, at any moment, you’ll feel the call. Fact, yer goin out of yer way to avoid hearin it. Yer sittin here by yerself to avoid it. Cause you don’t want to hear it. But boy, I’m tellin you. If you do hear the call, the callin of home, listen to it! Or you’ll end up like me. Wanderin around, doin some good or being too bitter or somethin of both. Listen if you hear that call, boy. Go seek it out, and not whatever the hell yer lookin for out here.”

Korwin stared at the man. Took another sip of the drink, some sort of barely wine which dreamed of being a good beer he realized. Then said two words. “You’re drunk.”

“Damn straight,” the aging man replied before he yanked the jug back and took a long drought. Korwin continued to sit there alongside Gonz, staring into the night. Far from any disquiet, the only real thought Korwin had was that, if the call of home was anywhere, it was sure as hell not on this continent. Despite that, Korwin stayed awake long after everyone in the tribe had gone to bed. Only the night watch remained when he finally went to sleep.
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Minutes passed after one of the bandits had left to call the scouts in for the planned ambush. The archer shook his head, pacing back and forth in the trees while he waited. At the pace the caravan was going, they would most likely be nearing the forest's edge around that time: a little close before any pursuit ran the risk of gathering witnesses, but long enough for the riders to get nice and cozy after a long day's ride. Nice, cozy, and lazy! It would be worth the longer walk back to the camp, even if another group decided they wanted in on the haul. But if the horses were intact after the attack, would it even matter?

"Hey boss, sundown might be too late." The buck-toothed, balding axeman keeping watch suggests to the leader.

"Nonsense, it is tactically the best course of ambush running the least risk of casualties for us. They won't camp in the open field for fear of becoming too visible, it will take them too long to flee wth their goods when they do make camp, and the mountains are another issue entirely. They'll be sitting hens."

"I mean, they're startin' t'run."


The two take a quick survey from their roost, frowning when they both realize the scouts won't be back in time, and they'd just sent the swordsman off to retrieve them. It was a grave miscalculation on the boss' part, but all it takes is a shared glance before they draw their weapons and charge forth, the axe-wielder ahead of the archer, who isn't firing just yet: better to get up close and secure at least one of the wagons before they get too far, rather than alert them too quickly.
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Reina clutched tightly to the Nomad's belt as they rode, her knees keeping an equally tight grip on the horse. It was hard not to cry she was so relieved. for a while there she had truly feared the worse and now she was safe, well as safe as she could be riding into the plains with a man who's name she didn't even know...

Now there was going to be the trick. How much should she tell him? true he had saved her life, but he probably thought she was just a local village woman. If he knew the truth would she still be safe? or would he turn her over for the reward that was no doubt on her head? but he had saved her...

She was so tired it was hard to be rational. She'd been traveling all night and the adrenaline she'd picked up from the fight was be ginning to drain. It was hard to hold her eyes open, never mind make a rational decision about a safe amount of information to share with the plains local. Maybe after she got some sleep...

"Where are we going?" Reina mumbled as her head nodded forward. For a brief moment her forehead came to rest against the back of Jebei's shoulder before she jerked herself awake remembering she was still on the back of his moving horse.
Islas de Abaroa

How long had it been since the chaos that erupted in Thalia? Seven days? Even so, the news still buzzed throughout the island nation as if it happened yesterday. Many merchants gossiped of possible war and the effect on trading. Many saw it as an opprotunity to possibly sell for high prices while others saw it as a very difficult time to even make business. Like a buzzing nest many of the people would voice their concerns or opinions on the matter as they tentatively went about their daily routines, while those of the council would speak amongst themselves on what could be done if a war were to occur. One young man in particular simply observed in the past few days. Occasionally, he would sit on the deck of a locale Pirate ship and people watch, occasionally glancing up from a book he was reading, gloves at his side as the sun warmed his skin and the breeze occasionally greeted him.

Like today, with calm waters and a slight breeze, he sat on a crate and simply observed. He didn't quite get it, either. Nothing really changed here on the surface-as far as he could tell everything was as it always was. Perhaps he wasn't looking hard enough?

"Oi, kid."

Maybe he wasn't-

"Kid! Ye head stuck in the clouds or what? Get off the crate and sit o'er there will ye?" A gruff voice grunted, causing the redhead in question to blink and look up, as if just now noticing the person present.

"Sorry about that, was just thinking." He chuckled sheepishly, standing with his book in tow. The man before him rolled his eye, bringing a hand to scratch at his bearded face.

"Yeh, and it's somethin' ye been doin a lot of. If ye worried 'bout what happenin' in Thalia, then push it to the back of yer mind for now and worry about it when ye gotta use that there Fire Tome of yer's, got it?"

Arell studied the man's tired and grizzled face quietly, before nodding slowly. He understood, to a degree. Despite his sickly nature, Arell was a decent mage when it came to his skill with his Fire Tome. At least, that's the praise he got every now and then when practicing with a few of the fighters on the ship when he had a good day and didn't feel queasy from very rocky waters, or got chills from a particularly cool breeze despite his rather thick cloak.

Almost startled by the giving a light-but still rather rough-clap on the shoulder the man in question simply shook his head in light amusement, yet kept a sharp look in his tired eyes as he wordlessly went to the crate Arell had been sitting on a moment before.

Sighing softly, the young man held his book under his arm and glanced up towards the clouds briefly, as if to determine if the weather would change anytime soon with squinting amber eyes and a soft frown on his features. It may not have been literal, but there was a big storm coming no doubt.
“Don’t worry yourself about it. My actions are of my own and I will live and die by them.” Jebei repiled when the young woman remarked recusing her will bring trouble to himself. Granted he knew nothing about this lady other than the bandits were after her. Then there was the fact the leader mentioned a bounty.

If it is true why she did do to deserve such a price? Wondered Jebei in the back of his mind. Meanwhile Temujin, his faithful friend and stead slowed his flight to a more comfortable pace for the added rider. The nomad slightly grinned at the horse’s consideration. Temujin had a way of knowing what others needed.

As their escape continued Jebei can feel Reina holding tightly unto him. The fact it was a woman not of his kin doing it caused him to blush for a moment, grateful she couldn’t see his face right now. Of course he quietly reminded himself the girl was only trying to stay on the mount. Subsequently, Reina asked about their destination in a mumble. That is a good question Jebei concluded.

Well I can’t exactly turn around now and continue on toward Thaila, at least not until this situation is resolved.

Keeping hold on the reins Jebei was collecting his answer while his new charge rested her head on him for a brief moment.

“There is a village half a day from here. It has walls with guards so you should be safe there for the time being. We will be there by nightfall.”

Suddenly the horse grunted at his rider in a way that sounded it was scoffing him for something. Rolling his eyes the nomad then added. “Forgive my manners, I am Jebei of the Batu and this stubborn ass is Temujin.” The latter snorted in respond, understanding the comment but did not retaliate. They were comrades through and through.
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Village of Abelsol. 20 miles south of Thalia.

Korwin passed the palisade with a grimace. Most of the wandering tribe remained outside the walls, the town not large enough to even hope to contain all their number. That said, the place seemed to be a regular stopping point for them, given the variety of dried foods that the people were hawking in obnoxious voices. But it wasn’t the sound that made him frown. No, it was the banner of The Brotherhood, flying high above the rooftops upon a pole. Almost gaily it fluttered in the breeze, calling men and women of all walks to join the almost secular sect of beliefs that united the members beyond the dream of adventure and success through effort. While there was some truth, Korwin knew that reality would not be anywhere near so respective with them. He had no intention in getting caught up in their infernal dreams. Sadly, he couldn’t avoid them either. Not while he played the part of mercenary. Already he saw a woman approaching wearing a tabard that heralded their ilk. Despite staying close to Gonz to try and convey to the idiots that he wasn’t for hire.

“Greetings and salutations my good sir!” she smiled. Her cadence was of sweet cherries and of sunflowers. “Have you ever considered seeking a life of fame, fortune, and purpose?”


The sheer deadpan caused her to falter for an instant before she picked up her pace again, drawing alongside him, ignoring Gonz.

“Well, now is the perfect time to do so, wouldn’t you say?”

“Not really.”

“Sure it is! After all, we all search for a purpose. And The Brotherhood can give you that purpose. Through work and effort, you’ll soon see yourself a hero from the glory days of yore! Just imagine it.”

“I’d rather not.” What the hell is it with everyone being so scale-set on giving me a purpose. Deciding that pondering the matter wouldn’t serve anything, Korwin almost settled for a glare. Almost. There was something familiar about her singsong voice. An image conjured to his mind. Grimacing further, he deigned to not look at the woman. The situation had become remarkably fragile.

“Well, at least think on it,” she chirped, turning away. He wasn’t sure if she’d figured him out, but that didn’t matter. It was, a complication. The woman was a complication. One that had to be solved. Well, his grimace mutating into a smile under the noon-day sun, this trip is going to be entertaining after all. Complicated, but fun. It would be best at nightfall. Hopefully before she sent any messages. Or realized anything.

“That’s a twisted smile there,” Gonz commented.

“Yah, just thinking of payday,” Korwin lied.

Gonz shot him a glare, but let the matter drop. Not that Korwin would have let the matter be pushed.
Reina sighed a little when she heard the man, Jebei, say he knew a village they could reach by nightfall. That was a relief.
"My name-" she started hesitating a moment, "I was going to say you might get into trouble for knowing my name," she continued softly, "But you've already saved my life so it hardly matters. If you want to leave me to fend for myself once we get to the village, or even here, I'll understand... My name is Reina from the city Thalia. Daughter of the High-Priestess Tasia, and a cleric of the Goddess Anhi..."

She kept her voice low, not wanting to be overheard. Part of her whispered that she probably should have given a fake name, but another said this man had a right to know exactly what he had gotten himself into. He had saved her so she would to her best to do right by him in return.

There was a chance he'd make her get off the horse then and there, but that would still be better than being across the boarder with those bandits. She tried to keep herself coherent as they road, at lest until Jebei indicated what he wanted to do with her.

It would be nightfall soon. Reina thought she could see the town that was their destination in the distance.
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